Friday, December 17, 2010

Argument that Goodness and Omnipotence are Incompatible


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Another argument that atheist put forth is one of so-called self-contradictory qualities that are attributed to God.  The most common is the the qualities of Goodness and Omnipotence (all-powerful).  The argument goes something like:

1) If God exists then He is all-good
2) If God exists then He is all-powerful
3) A good being corrects evil if it is in their power to do so
4) Evil exists and has always existed in the world
5) God has not acted (from 4)
6) If God unable to prevent evil He is not all-powerful
7) If God does not prevent evil, He is not good
8) Therefore an all-good, all-powerful God does not exist (From 5-7)

Remember this is an absurd argument from an atheist's perspective.  It is absurd in that they are assuming a priori something that they don't believe.  "If a non-existent thing exists."  So the first and second premise falls apart in the atheist's logic.  Arguing from absurdity makes any conclusion suspect. 

A second problem is what is good.  Goodness for the theist is a quality of God that extends to His creation (albeit imperfectly).  That is there is a standard for objective morality (goodness) that is given by God.  By what standard does the atheist use to determine what is good.  At best goodness is an opinion of the person making the judgment.  The first statement becomes "if God exists then he must be good according to my opinion."  The third statement becomes "a being ought to take what I think is good and correct what I think is evil."  The seventh statement becomes "If God does not prevent what I think is evil then He is not good in my opinion."

A third problem is in the assumption that God is impotent to do anything about the evil that exists making Him not all-powerful.  "If He can do something about the evil then why wouldn't He."  That a good being does not act in the face of evil does not automatically mean they are not good nor that they are powerless.  It could be that the being has another purpose, intent, or reason for evil to exist.  It could be that evil exists that goodness might be understood and appreciated.  It might be that evil exists that the good that comes from freedom can be fully realized.  It might be that evil exists because the fullness of time and ultimate goodness has not yet arrived.  There are many more missing bits of information that would lead a good being to not act or to delay their action. 

A forth problem is that it puts the arguer in the position of judge.  In one sense the arguer attempts to place themselves above God.  They are judging what is good, what should be corrected, and that God has not acted.  Let's assume that this person was justified to go where angels fear to tread. Then the arguer must be all-knowing themselves to make the determination that God is not good or that He has not acted.  But in fact they are making an argument from an incomplete understanding of the facts.  God may have acted imperceptible (or not in a manner our arguer expects), God may act in a time yet to come, maybe what we have judged bad may actually turn out good and so on.  The arguer cannot know all things so to make this argument without all the facts is giving one's opinion. 

Fifth, not really a problem more of an observation.  Often someone making this form of argument will have a deeply personal (often painful) circumstance, situation, relationship, and/or event that heavily influences their conclusion.  I believe that Christians would do well to not dismiss "the feeling that..." until they have "fully understood the underlying reason that..."  Even theist struggle with doubt about God's dealings with humanity in general and in our own lives specifically.  Shrill dismissals will not win a person over, but a compassion and an understanding heart just might.  Even great men of God have their moments of doubt.  Humble expressions of doubt will not make you seem weak, but rather it will make you honest. 

Lord, why do You stand so far away? Why do You hide in times of trouble?
Psalms 10:1 (HCSB)

I will say to God, my rock, "Why have You forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy's oppression?" My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, "Where is your God?"
Psalms 42:9-10 (HCSB)

In conclusion then we have an atheist who makes an argument which essentially says, "In my opinion God does not exist."  For an atheist to state their opinion in logical form is not a very powerful argument.  On the other hand we also need to recognize that we can minister to a hurting person if they let us.  Let us be mindful that we might not add to another's pain, but could possibly bring them from spiritual darkness into The Light.

God Bless You

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