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Religion: Classical Theism, Part 7 (Atheistic Arguments from Evil)

Often it can seem like the existence of evil is incompatible with a good and omnipotent God. This video present an argument for that claim put forward by J.L. Mackie, and it examines the different ways that Classical Theism and Theistic Personalism respond to a version of it that concludes that there is no God.
Speaker: Dr. Elmar Kremer, Emeritus Professor, University of Toronto.

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  • leaf orange style avatar for user Robyn Hansen
    So, am I correct then in summarising the 7 parts by saying, as God is not human as we, we can not assume to understand his 'thinking' and should therefore not judge Him by our standards, limited understandings, moral code, limited perspectives and egocentric beliefs?
    (6 votes)
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  • piceratops seedling style avatar for user jciolkosz
    God allows evil because if there was no evil there would be no need to follow God.
    (2 votes)
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  • female robot grace style avatar for user tw486364
    I think human judgement is the issue. With God ALL is GOOD. We label life based on our limited understandings. We don't have foresight as well as our hind sight. There are no mistakes with God. Not even Adam nor Eve. If God is all that we assume Him to be, then all of this was a part of His plan.

    Personally I believe God is the Substance of all in all. No Him. IT. We have Universal Laws in place and life unfolds accordingly. No One is watching us. We face ourselves. Our authentic Spirit Selves upon judgement. We learn on this dimension.Each time you fail the lessons for the evolution of your Being, you're thrust back into rotation to get it right.
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

Hello, my name is Elmar Kremer. I am a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. This is the 7th in a series of talks on classical theism. Since the 1950's, philosophers of religion have spent a lot of time on an old question, whether the evil in the world is consistent with the existence of a good and omnipotent God. In 1955, JL Mackie, a follower of David Hume sparked new interest in the question when he developed the following argument: 1: Good is opposed to evil in such a way that a good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can. 2: There are no limits to what an omnipotent thing can do. 3: Therefore, the proposition that a good omnipotent thing exists, and that evil exists, are incompatible. Mackie did not assert in the article that evil exist, but if you are prepared to make that assertion, you can continue the argument. 4: evil exists. 5: Therefore, there is no good omnipotent thing. Classical theists and theistic personalists alike reject the first premise of Mackie's argument. But they do so for different reasons. Reasons which reflect disagreements about the nature of God, which I have explained earlier in this series of talks. First, is their disagreement about whether God is a person in the same sense in which you and I are a persons. Second, their disagreement about whether God's goodness is moral goodness. As a result of these underlying disagreements, they respond to Mackie's first premise in quite different ways. Theistic personalists say that the first premise is false. Because God might have a good reason for permitting evil. They do concede something like one, namely that a good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can, unless it has a good reason for permitting the evil. But that concession does not save Mackie's argument because they argue it is possible that God has a good reason for permitting the evils that are present in the world. Indeed, it is possible that lowering the amount of evil in the world would only make the world worse. That would happen if lowering the amount of evil required eliminating goods, like the good of human free will, which are so great that any world which lacked them would be overall worse than the actual world we live in. But the argument does not end there. Atheists objected that there are certain evils which no morally good person would permit if he or she were able to prevent them. Take the intense of innocent children. God could prevent that suffering without any difficulty. So his failure to prevent it would be contrary to our basic moral principles and therefore would be unjust and morally bad. Faced with that sort of objections, theistic personalists could only say that as far as we know, God is justified in permitting such suffering even though in many cases we cannot see exactly how he is justified. Turning to classical theists, they reject Mackie's first premise in a more radical way. In their view, god is not a person in the same sense as you and I are persons and so we cannot reason from our experience of how good persons act to conclusions about how God would act. The goodness of God does imply that the world is a good world, but that is consistent with its containing evil. Classical theists also reject the idea that God is justified only if he lives up to our moral standards. On the contrary, God's actions are good and just because they are in agreement with God's knowledge of his own goodness. Therefore, theistic personalists are mistaken when they say that if God exists, his permission of intense suffering must be justified by its agreement with out moral principles. The same mistake appears in a famous tombstone epitaph. Here lies Martin Ingleblod. Have mercy on my soul o God as I would do if I were God and ye were Martin Ingleblod. Classical theist never tire of repeating that God is not just another person. Not even the nicest and most intelligent one around. Subtitles by the Amara.org community