Bambi in the Fire
Throughout my discussion with Chris, I have been explaining that, on the Christian position, God may utilize evil in order to further His ultimate will for mankind; that is, our eternal salvation. I wrote:
God’s ultimate desire for us is not our “temporal” happiness, but our “eternal” salvation. Therefore, if God brings us eternal salvation (or deeper dependence) on Him, by allowing pain and suffering in our lives, perhaps then we should be thankful.
Chris responded to this, stating that his argument “focuses on evils that are apparently pointless”. He then offers a helpful analogy of a suffering fawn, as an example of one such “apparently pointless” evil:
“…imagine a fire where “a fawn is trapped, horribly burned, and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering”… As far as we can tell, there is no point to this suffering; “it is not a necessary precondition of any greater good, it is not a means of avoiding a greater evil”
I have two distinct responses to this scenario: 1) If the fawn’s suffering is “evil” then theism is true 2) We are not omniscient, and therefore we do not know if the fawn’s suffering is in fact pointless.
The Existence of Evil Results in Theism
If God does not exist, then the fawn’s suffering would simply be one organism’s biochemical reaction to external stimuli; nothing more. In fact, the death of the fawn may even be evolutionarily advantageous. Those deer that had the wherewithal to escape the flames will survive, and they are therefore more likely to pass their superior genes on to the next generation. However, on atheism, this entire event was not “good” or “bad”, it just was.
In the absence of God, there is no moral standard by which we can deem something to be ”good” or “bad”. Therefore, if God does not exist, the suffering of the fawn cannot be thought of as “evil”, because there would be no standard of good.
However, if the fawn’s suffering is objectively “evil”, then there must exist some standard of good, by which we can measure morality. My primary contention then is: If the fawn’s suffering is”evil” then an objective moral standard must exist. Thus, theism is true. Subsequently, if the fawn’s suffering is not “evil”, then the scenario fails to be an indictment of God as it lacks any moral dimensions. Thus theism is not challenged.
The entire argument from “apparently pointless evil” borrows from theistic capital – objective morality. Chris states that, “the argument of evil begins with the assumption that God exists”. Precisely. Atheists who argue against Christianity by employing an objective moral standard in this way, are sitting on the lap of God in order to slap Him in the face.
Does All Suffering = Good?
“Should we believe that every case of apparently pointless suffering is to have people acquire eternal salvation? What about animals? Are we to assume that the cases of apparently pointless suffering of animals throughout the history of evolution…is so they will acquire eternal salvation?”
I doubt that every case of suffering is enacted by God in order to bring salvation. However, I do believe that God actualizes situations out of the evil done by man, to bring about His ultimate purposes. God has created a world of free creatures and therefore evil is inevitable. But God may utilize (not initiate) those inevitable evils.
I don’t believe God’s atoning sacrifice covered the sins of animals since animals cannot sin. They are not moral agents, and I don’t believe they can inherit salvation. Paul states that “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:28). However, animals don’t have the capacity to love the Lord. Therefore, I don’t think that all things are worked out for their good.