John Loftus: Amateur Hour on the Problem of Evil

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While browsing atheist blogs today I ran across a recent post by atheist, John Loftus, entitled “Do You Want to Be a Christian Apologist? Part 13.” This is part of a series blog posts in which he has been “highlighting how Christian apologists defend their faith.” Now I haven’t read parts 1-12, but I did read part 13 which was on the infamous ” logical problem of evil.”

Loftus on Omnipotence

Loftus begins by stating that when Christian apologists are pressed on why an omnipotent God does not prevent “so much suffering,” they automatically revert to God’s omniscience saying “we cannot understand his ways enough to judge them.” Now, one wonders what Christian apologist has been responding that way to this objection? Either Loftus is unfamiliar with the apologetic literature on the problem of evil or he is simply ignoring it.

As has been oft repeated by Christian apologists, God will not prevent suffering in the world if he has a morally sufficient reason for permitting it. Morally sufficient reason  can take two broad forms: 1) Bringing about a greater good that will eventuate from the suffering (i.e. a man turning to God because he is terminally ill) or 2) Preventing some worse evil that would have happened if the initial suffering did not occur.

Furthermore, Loftus has neglected the Free Will Defense which is so prevalent in apologetic literature that to ignore it is to stop doing serious counter-apologetics.

Loftus on Omniscience

On omniscience Loftus writes, “When it comes to God’s omniscience they conveniently ignore it when dealing with whether God knows how to create free-willed creatures who never disobey.” Here, it is evidence that Loftus misunderstands the issue. The question is not whether God knows “how” to create free creatures who never disobey (whatever that actually means). Rather, the question is, “Why didn’t God create a world of free creatures in which those creatures always chose the good.”

This is a very good question, but it has been thoroughly addressed, time and time again. Christian philosophers have indicated that it may be that there is no such thing as “a world of free creatures who always freely chose the good.” That is, it is possible that any free creature will sometimes choose evil in whatever world he finds himself. This is referred to as transworld depravity, and it seems that Loftus is unfamiliar with it.

Loftus on Omnibenevolence

Finally, on omnibenevolence Loftus writes, “…they conveniently ignore it when dealing with the problem of gratuitous suffering…by focusing instead on God’s omniscience, that God, like a father, knows best.”

Here, Loftus seems to equate God’s omnibenevolence to His willing  temporal happiness and comfort to all at all times. But, why should we think that? Is is not within God’s purview (and our best interest) to lay us out on an early death-bed if that dire situation is what it takes for us to freely turn to Christ?

We may not see the actualization of God’s omnibenevolence in this life. And thank God for that; for if God’s omnibenevolence extended through this life only, then we are of all men most miserable (1 Cor. 15:19).

I was surprised that Loftus, who has a fairly strong atheist following, was so pedestrian on the problem of evil.

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  1. Eric, you seemed to overlook a powerful argument against the claim that free will necessitates evil on earth: the concept of Heaven. Either there is free will in Heaven (as most suppose) and yet God somehow assures only good choices are made (or no harm comes from bad choies, or else there is not free will, and yet someone people can be happy withotu it. Either way, it refutes the apologist claims about free will and evil. It also begs the question of why God would place us on a problem and pain filled place like earth, when he could have just put us all in Heaven to begin with. Of course, I am not assuming Heaven exists; I am saying that because apologists DO, they cannot have it both ways: claiming that one reason for pain and suffering is free will, while believing in a place where that is not the case.

  2. Greg, this is a thoughtful objection. However, heaven (on my view) is not a place where evil “cannot” happen; rather it is a place where evil “will” not happen. In other words, those believes who will enjoy eternity in heaven are exactly those people who God knew would not sin if they were to enter eternity with Him. This is my (Molinist) perspective on the matter and I think the biblical one as well.

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