Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jerry Coyne's vexing connundrum: If you think God is possible, how is it there are PAIN + SUFFERING??

Jerry Coyne's silliness is evident as he takes advantage of the tragedy in Japan to reiterate, for the Nth time, his supposed problem-of-evil smackdown of theism. He writes:
This—the presence of horrible things caused not by humans, but by other features of nature—is the Achilles heel of theistic faith.
"Concern troll Jerry" likes to tell us that our omnibenevolent god would not allow bad things to happen to good people. Therefore, he regrets to inform, our god does not exist.

If that argument held water, Christianity could not have survived the first-wave of first-century persecutions, or the unimaginable slaughter of friends and loved ones resulting from the Jewish rebellion against the Romans.

Of course Jerry—like people who aren't too bright are habitually doing—likes to imagine that his simpleminded argument a) possesses a slam-dunk quality and b) humanity had to wait millennia for someone of his unique intellect to introduce it.

His argument is on par with the nitwit antievolution argument: God made man in his own image, god is not a monkey, therefore evolution does not exist. Or the famous bad antievolution e-argument about "PYGMIES + DWARFS??" that explains the title of this post.

Yes, attempts to develop a satisfactory theodicy have been spectacularly unsuccessful. But the failure in that regard does not constitute a demonstration of Gods nonexistence. It only indicates a failure in that regard.

Jerry always employs, even if by implication only,  a crude strawman: the strawman of an omnibenevolent god. But Christianity does not teach that God is omnibenevolent. There are countless examples in the bible of God acting in a manner that is anything but benevolent. Not to mention the supreme act of non-benevolence: consigning some to eternal torment.

God  does not promise, anywhere, that people will not suffer.  Indeed God, at times, at least in the past, directly intervened to cause, by divine fiat, the suffering of some. And God could always and can always, at the very least, prevent the suffering of everyone.

For Jerry to imagine what we have always read and acknowledged about God is proof that he doesn't exist is only proof that Jerry don't know jack. God promises the inevitability of suffering, not its absence.

For Christians, "God, why did this happen?" is our heartfelt, natural, human, emotional lament when we are faced with personal suffering or human suffering on such as scale as we see in Japan. But it is an emotional appeal--a prayer if you will--not an insoluble theological question. In the theological classroom, when our emotions are in check, we know the unfathomable question is not: "why do bad things happen to good people?" but "why have you shown mercy to me?"


  1. Thanks. I don't suppose that Coyne will read this, though.

  2. Great post.

    Just the right amount of sarcasm.

  3. So that means that God is, on occasion at least, evil? Or are the acts that are evil from our perspective miraculously converted to good just because God did them? If so, I think I'm with Ivan Karamazov on this one.

    BTW, Jerry C can (wow that was pretty damned clever of you Marcus!) and did read this, I found it through a link on his blog.

  4. Eddie Easterling,

    "So that means that God is, on occasion at least, evil?"

    Gee, is that supposed to make my jaw drop, and now I'll turn and run away?

    No it doesn't mean that. It means what it says in the post, God is not omnibenevolent, using the usual definition of benevolence: characterized by or expressing goodwill or kindly feelings; desiring to help others; intended for benefits.

    There are about a gazillion examples in scripture where God is expressing anything but goodwill or kindly feelings, or where he is showing no desire to help some, or where his actions are not intended for the benefit of all.

    There are not many things easier to demonstrate.

    But Jerry has his strawman that he continues to knock down--to the hearty backslaps of his chukleheaded followers.