Wednesday, April 2, 2014



By D. Adams
Originally on Oct 23, 2006
Updated April 4, 2014

The hypothetical dilemma
There seems to be a common story or hypothetical situation used by skeptics to play on our emotions that seem to drag God down to our level of understanding of him. This story entails of a young girl who is abducted and contained against her own will. This kidnapper is about to commit an unlawful physical sexual crime to the young girl, and the Christian is asked why God will not step in to help the girl, this is a form of gratuitous evil (evil that isn’t warranted—serves no purpose).

Before we address this question, first we have to understand God in his sovereignty and his immutability. When we are asked this question, we are basically pulling God down from is omnipotence or equating ourselves to God (in his shoes). We cannot answer this question without placing God below the arch (equal with time, space, and matter). We know that God’s ways are not our ways. With that premise out of the way let’s address a few things that we do know about God. We cannot know all of God’s thoughts in this particular situation, so let’s work on the communicable attributes of God.

Communicable attributes
#1 We know that God can do all things, however we know that he cannot violate his will or his goodness, or character (cannot lie). God has given us the choice to choose good or evil. We know this to be true because of the fallen nature of man during the time of Adam and Eve, which brings good and evil into the world.

#2 God cannot interfere with man’s freewill to choose to do good or evil. This would mean that we would not have the freedoms to choose on our own. We know that we cannot approach God on our own without the Holy Spirit drawing us to him. God can step in at any time, however he knows eternity now and eternity future; we do not have that attribute. We are only limited to our own views of a situation.

Often times the skeptic will describe the concept of God as all loving, good (omnibenevolent), all knowing (omniscient), and all powerful (omnipotent), yet not have a Biblical concept of those attributes of God. This should be taken into account. Can an omnipotent God do absolutely anything? The answer is no, and that wouldn’t take away or erode any omnipotence of God, it also would not erode his being omnibenevolent. Thomas Aquinas separates what is a physical or logical impossibility. Logically, God cannot lie (Heb 6:18).

Does God being ultimately good always eliminate evil completely? Would eliminating some evils cause even worse evils to occur? All that is needed is a logically possible reason for removing such evils.

Alvin Plantinga’s Deductive Theistic Set:
1.    God exists
2.    God is omnipotent
3.    God is omniscient
4.    God is omnibenevolent
5.    God created the world
6.    The world contains evil.[1]

Free Will Defense by Plantinga:
1.    God is omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly God.
2.    It was not without God’s power to create a world containing moral good without creating one containing moral evil.*
3.    God created a world containing moral good.
4.    Therefore, God created a world containing moral evil.
5.    Therefore, evil exists.[2]

*For premise #2, all that is needed for it to be possibly true.

Two types of evil; moral and natural.

Moral evil
  • ·      God will eliminate evil and has promised to do so when the fullness of the time arrives.
  • ·      Failure of inaction
  • ·      Failure to do something
  • ·      Brought about by human choices and actions

Natural evil
  • ·      Earthquakes
  • ·      Tornadoes
  • ·      Diseases
  • ·      Not resulting from human choices

A little deeper look of the situation (moral evil)
We must look at all aspects of this scenario, not just the dilemma itself. At first glance, what we have here are two people and a third variable that oversees the situation. However, let’s start with the young girl. Apparently the girl has been left unattended at some point in time. We must ask where her parents or guardians were to allow this situation to take place. There seems to be some negligence on the parts of the parents, which allows for this situation to unfold or take place. The girl seems to be the victim of a parent’s oversight.

Let’s take a look at the perpetrator. Ostensibly s/he has some issues that have been ignored by his friends, his/her family, his/her parents, and society in general. Somewhere someone has seen the potential for this scenario to unfold and simply ignored the signs. Our society seems comfortable at times to accept this behavior by shifting the blame from the perpetrator to his parents, his childhood experiences, or any situation that seems to trigger this type of behavior. The perpetrator himself is a victim, which excuses his actions or gives him a necessary motive for his behavior patterns.

A deeper understanding
When we take all these things into account, we seem to see the whole picture as maybe God would. We must recognize another characteristic of God—his love. God loves the parents of the girl, the girl and the perpetrator and his parents. If God steps in he violates the mans freewill to do evil. Before we go any further we must ask the skeptic/agnostic what is good and what is evil and who or what the standard is for both. As Christians we say Christ is good, and Satan is evil. The Skeptic does not have this option, they may answer that Mother Theresa is good, and Stalin is a portrayer of evil. But the problem is that Stalin (skeptic) did not consider himself as evil, and by the same token Mother Theresa is not the absolute definition of good (due to some of her methodologies). These terms now become relative to each individual—not universal.

Let’s return to the scenario taking into consideration all these attributes. Can God step in and violate freewill? From our perspective we would want God to step in and stop this from happening—but it isn’t such an easy decision. We now have variables and attributes of God’s character that God cannot violate because they are against his character.

In the Old Testament God gave Moses 10 commandments, and then expounded upon these laws to add 613 Laws for a theocracy for the Israelites. The Israelites could now judge and give capital punishment for disobedience of these laws, just as our court system does today. Granted some of the laws may be harsh by today’s standards, but they were not for the time they were given.

Should we dismiss God because of evil?
So should we throw out these Laws, God’s trust in us to carry out capital punishment? Should God change his mind, which could change his immutability status? I personally think it is unwise and unethical to assemble a hypothetical situation and place ourselves in God’s shoes or at his level of understanding. We do not have an exhaustive knowledge of God. What we would do in our lives via choice may not be what God would do, or how he would react in a certain situation. Because we may disagree with God’s choice does not mean that he non-existent, but our knowledge is limited by what we know now and what we have seen in the past.

We cannot know the future outcome of this scenario. Maybe there is some good that becomes of this scenario; maybe the young girl becomes a spokesperson that helps many other women or girls that have undergone this situation. Maybe the perpetrator finally recognizes his error and becomes a changed person that helps others that have this same problem. Maybe he becomes a wise counselor that will stop many future occurrences. Maybe the parents of the girl speak out to other parents to the dangers of not watching your children or leaving them in the care of others. Maybe the perpetrators friends or parents speak out against the warning signs or potential signs of this behavior pattern.

Without trying to dismiss the scenario, or the question, we must look at all variables, and fully recognize who God is and who he is not. (Communicable and incommunicable attributes). Is this scenario being properly represented by the skeptics and do they really know God’s will and attributes? This seems to be equivalent to a reader response of scripture; the--what does that verse mean to you mantra. I do not believe the skeptic is looking all sides of this situation in its fullness and therefore does not have a full understanding of who God is, just who they want God to be.

The problem of succumbing to the Skeptic mindset.
God is not dependent on us to exist, nor can we fully understand who God is or what he would do in every situation because we do not exhibit any of his spatial traits. We must know the sovereignty of God before we can begin to understand him. The Open Theists tend to have an explanation of this so-called problem of evil. They assume that God does not know the future. They seem to think that Orthodox theologians have redefined eternality or adopted this view of eternality from Greek philosophy. They also say the same with Omniscience and Omnipotence of God. I think these assumptions paint a picture of God that goes against scripture. This is not a viable option for Christians to succumb to.

In closing
So when the Skeptic answers according to their emotional state, he or she can paint a distorted picture of God in his sovereignty, his immutability, his omniscience, his omnipotence, and his love because they do not have a working relationship with him on such level. They do not seem to have a moral standard that is comparable to God, nor good or evil. This becomes relative to a personal opinion, which is no longer, an objective truth. If God does not live up to their image of a god, then they dismiss any claims, or reason to believe in God. It’s really a straw man argument sprinkled with ad ignorantiam. I understand this to be a very weak argument based upon their knowledge and definition of God. Placing God into a human perspective and definition based upon a hypothetical scenario, which does not fully look at all the variables.

[1] God, Freedom, and Evil (book)
[2] God, Freedom, and Evil (book, pp. 54-55)