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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Dembski's Theodicy

Posted on: May 31, 2006 1:57 PM, by Jason Rosenhouse

I have written before that I regard the problem of evil as essentially adecisive refutation of Christianity. It's not quite logically

impossible to reconcile an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God with the
sheer quantity of evil and suffering in the world, but it's pretty
close. So when William Dembski posted a 48-page essay
entitled "Christian Theodicy in Light of Genesis and Modern Science," I
was intrigued. The word “theodicy,” pronounced to sound
like a certain epic poem by Homer, generally refers to the problem of
reconciling the existence of God with the existence of evil.



The problem of evil is easily stated:



  1. An omnipotent, omnibenevolent God would not permit evil and
    suffering to exist unless that evil and suffering were logically
    necessary to bring about some greater good.
  2. Evil and suffering exist.
  3. At least some of that evil and suffering is not logically necessary for bringing about some greater good.
  4. Therefore, there is no omnipotent, omnibenevolent God.


Now, this argument is logically valid. If you accept the three
premises you must, as a matter of logic, acept the conclusion as well.
So the task of theodicy can be viewed in part as the task of showing
that at least one of these premises is false.



There are theodicies that proceed by rejecting premise two. Humans
falsely perceive certain events as evil beause of their limited
perspective on God's purposes. I suspect, however, that most people
wouild not choose to go down this road. It certainly is not a very
satisfying rseponse to the problem of evil, and really amounts to
little more than an unwillingness to grapple with the facts of the
world as we know them.



Some theodicies proceed by
accepting my argument as sound, and concluding that God is not
omnipotent after all. God would like to curtail evil and suffering, but
for whatever reason is unable to do so. This certainly solves the
problem of evil, but only at the cost of seriously compromising
Christian orthodoxy. A God limited by something other than an inability
to do that which is logically impossible is not the God of traditional
Christianity.



If you're inclined to reject premise one outright, then you will
have to explain to me what the words “omnipotent” and
“omnibenevolent” mean. Premise one, it seems to me, can be
viewed as a definition of those terms.

The Christians with whom I have discussed this issue generally take
refuge in premise three. They do not deny that genuine evil and
suffering exist, but they do deny that any of that evil is ultimately
gratuitous. I find that hard to accept, and to make things concrete I
like to focus on birth defects. The day a Christian theologian can
explain to me the greater good that can only be obtained by afflicting
babies with torturous diseases and horrible deformities is the day I
will consider Christianity a live possibility.

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read the rest......
Dembski's Theodicy

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