Monday, March 21, 2011

Bashir's Dilemma (Pt. I)

Last week we posted an interview with pastor and writer Rob Bell in which the interviewer, MSNBC's Martin Bashir, pressed him with the ancient dilemma long favored by skeptics:
Since evil exists, it seems that it must be the case that either God is able to eliminate it but doesn't want to or that He wants to eliminate it but is not able to do so.
Bell never really answered the question which made it seem, perhaps, as if there is no answer to it, but there is. Philosophers have long pointed out that there's an obvious third possibility, i.e. God both wants to eliminate evil and is able to eliminate evil, but has good reason for not eliminating evil.

Of course, although the answer deflects the logical force of the dilemma, it raises the further question of what possible reason God could have for not doing something that any parent who sees his child suffer would do if he could. If human parents would alleviate their child's suffering, the question goes, why doesn't God?

Most philosophers prefer to break this question into two parts. They make a distinction between two kinds of evil, moral and natural. Moral evil is evil (or suffering) that results from human volition. Natural evil is evil that results from natural forces like, drought, disease, tsunami, earthquake, etc.

So the question bifurcates into why doesn't God prevent evil like the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan recently, and why doesn't God prevent the kind of evil in which one person treats another cruelly?

One possible answer to the latter question goes back to Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) and is called the Free Will defense. It says essentially that God desires to end evil and is able to end it, but the cost of doing so would be to override or strip us of our freedom to make our own choices.

Well, why doesn't God do that? What good is free will if so much misery results from it? The answer to that question goes, perhaps, to the reason He created us in the first place.

God created human beings to live in a love relationship with Him. Such a relationship, in order to be satisfying and meaningful, requires that both parties be free to choose to requite the love of the other. Thus God invested us with free will to enable us to choose to love Him or not. It is that freedom, the existentialists remind us, which makes us significant, which makes us different from everything else in the world. It's also that freedom that people abuse when they exercise it for the purpose of hurting others.

God could strip us of our freedom and compel us to love Him, but not only would that defeat the purpose of a loving relationship, it would essentially dehumanize us. It would make us less than human and it would drain God's relationship with us of any real significance. This is, in God's mind, apparently too high a price to pay.

Thus He tolerates evil in order to preserve His romance with His creatures.

There's much more to this question than what I've outlined in this short post, but this is at least a start of an anaswer. What, though, of natural evil? Why doesn't God prevent that? We'll take a stab at that question in a day or so.

In Casey's Shoes

We received a number of replies to our post titled Rough Justice, the account of how a boy named Casey who had been constantly picked on by the juvenile hyenas at his school, finally got tired of it. The following is typical of several of the stories we were sent:
This post hits far too close to home for me. I remember growing up in a public junior high school and always being taunted for the way that I looked and also for my weight. Ever since I can remember I have been a big boy. My mom would always tell me that I was just big boned, which I still hold to be true today. I found myself in junior high being like Casey, being harassed by the same group of kids over and over again. I can’t tell you how much that affected my self-image and even my self-worth.

Sadly I wasn’t like Casey, I never had the guts to stand up and punch that punk in the face, I was the kid however, that would walk different ways home and even take different hallways making myself late for classes so that I wasn’t harassed.

I am glad that Casey wouldn’t take it anymore and taught that kid a lesson that he would never have learned from school discipline.

The nonsense that surrounds bullying is all a joke anymore. School districts spend thousands of dollars to fund anti-bullying campaigns and yet never stop bullying or punish the correct kids. This is the same turnout in Casey’s case. Casey was punched in the face and punched in the stomach multiple times by his ignorant tormentor, and yet he is suspended for protecting himself? This is complete idiocy on the school official’s part. What are you trying to promote when you make these kinds of decisions?

I don’t understand it, and I didn’t understand it back when I was in Casey’s shoes. I think there are times when you need to stand up for yourself no matter the cost, and that’s what Casey did, and if he needs to do it again, so be it!

Better People

Deroy Murdock documents the awful behavior of the progressive left during the Wisconsin budget brouhaha. It's good that someone has documented it because it's awfully hard to find any mention of it in the major media which seems to have imposed a news blackout on anything that makes the Left look bad.

There have been literally dozens of threats against the lives of Republican legislators and their families during the weeks that this crisis unfolded. Many of those making the threats have been identified although no criminal action has as yet been taken against them despite the fact that their threats are violent, grisly, vile, and ugly, not to mention grammatically atrocious.

Here's Murdock's opening:
"We will hunt you down. We will slit your throats. We will drink your blood. I will have your decapitated head on a pike in the Madison town square. This is your last warning."

Is this a passage from Bram Stoker’s Dracula? A snippet from al-Qaeda’s latest missive? No, this e-mail reached Wisconsin state senator Dan Kapanke (R., La Crosse) on March 9, after he voted for GOP governor Scott Walker’s controversial budget and labor reforms.

Kapanke is not alone. While the mainstream media generally yawn, leftists threaten top Wisconsin Republicans with murder.
He goes on to provide lots of examples. The language is vulgar in many of them which you would expect considering the source, but I recommend that you read the rest of the article anyway so that you understand the nature of the people who comprise much of the base of the Democrat party.

It's also important to read this so that the next time someone complains about the "extremist rhetoric" of the tea party and their allies you can, after you've politely chuckled at their naivete (or blind prejudice), challenge them to produce even one example of anything that is a tenth as reprehensible as what you'll find in Murdock's piece.

Here's his close:
[W]here is the condemnation against the anti-Walker Left for its criminal behavior?

In the Battle of Madison, and perhaps beyond, death threats appear to be a virtually exclusive tool of the pro-union Left.

That suggests two possibilities:

Pro-taxpayer rightists would love to issue death threats, but resist temptation, knowing full well that the slumbering mainstream media would arise, showcase such a development, and discredit conservatives.

Or, maybe, free-marketeers have not issued death threats, because — compared to their left-wing counterparts — they simply are better people.
Actually, either way they're better people.