Problem of Evil ~ a lot different than you think. Please Help. Seeking Truth. Very important!


(Ephraim) #1

I’m trying to bring my best friend to Christ. I know you get a lot of questions, but I hope you wouldn’t mind prioritizing this one. Either way, Thank you.

I’ve rewritten my friend’s statements/questions here:

Theologically, humans are inherently prone to sin, and in this case, I’m referring primarily to cheating, deceiving, and acting in such a way which benefits a person, perhaps also groups, to propagate their culture and genepool. Any sin more or less could be within this framework, but I’m trying to refer to actions, which are rewarded by evolution primarily.

If nature operates under God’s rules, why do they favor the wicked? To clarify more, someone who cheats on their spouse, can spread their genes further. Women who submitted to conquerors in ancient times, their genes were past on, but those who resisted or committed suicide with their children to protect them from a worse fate and in a way "remain loyal to their slain husbands,” did not pass on their genes. I’m not claiming all behavior is genetically predetermined. But there can be no doubt that many people are prone to screw anyone they can to get ahead or otherwise put their own survival before morals, if they think they can get away with it. These types of behavior are common throughout nature where survival is the only law, and so my friend believes the game is “rigged” to favor “wicked” behavior.

It is difficult for him to accept that God exists (the Christian God) when the laws of nature / evolution itself seem to put good at a disadvantage. This isn’t the Problem of Evil exactly as we normally think. It’s NOT about why God allows evil to exist, since there are good answers for that, but why the physical world which God created seemed rigged in favor of evil. Wickedness, being beneficial simply due to evolutionary pressure / laws of nature, aren’t related to Satan or free will. Basically, this isn’t about Freewill or the influence of Satan and other evil divine forces, but the rules of nature and biology itself, which humans must operate under.
“The World is Fallen” because of Adam and Eve’s sin, is simply not an acceptable answer. He will not accept it, and I think on this forum we usually do not regard Adam and Eve to be truly literal. It is this question that must be answered to bring him to the Lord. I have tried desperately to seek answers, but I have found none.


(Randy) #2

That is a great question!

The Bible quotes that “Why do the wicked prosper” frequently–Psalms, Proverbs, and especially Ecclesiastes come to mind. That’s one reason I think it’s not an effort of God to gloss things over.

Psalm 73: 3-5
For I was envious of the arrogant;
I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
For they have no pain;
their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not plagued like other people (etc)

(https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%2073) The snarky, Eeyoreish type Christians among us (Pete Enns; I enjoy him too) really like Ecclesiastes, for example. “There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless”

https://peteenns.com/?s=ecclesiastes--see “Struggling With Faith in the Somber Book of Ecclesiastes.”

Some believe that God gave us a better idea of right and wrong at some point, and that’s what bearing His image is. I’m not sure that it came all at once.

There is evidence that goodness is actually evolutionarily beneficial. The model that God is slowly drawing us to Himself over time would fit with this slow movement, to some extent.

Steve Pinker’s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPqkhNbjzGM address implies that we are finally finding that altruism and peace are evolutionarily beneficial, and he examines the reasons why our evolutionary “better angels” are improving things.

However, I agree that I don’t know the answer to evil. The fact that there is horrid natural reality is a tough one.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #3

Hi, Ephraim - you raise good questions (on behalf of your friend) here; and it sounds like you are on a great mission to see him known by Christ. Before you feel self-induced panic over needing to get all the “right answers” delivered to him, keep in mind that none of us will save somebody else through our cleverness, brilliantly triumphant debate (even on those occasions when our cleverness might rise to any such heights), or by having every challenge successfully answered and gift wrapped. It may help that we do try to do some of those things (I like to think of it as stumbling block removal). But in the end it will be the Spirit moving in their hearts to bring them into a living relationship with Christ that will silence all argument - good or bad.

So, in that Spirit … what about some of these stumbling blocks?

Ahh - but does it, though? If this were overwhelmingly so then how does your friend explain the presence of any good left in the world at all? All this naive, vulnerable, survival-diminishing good ought to have been evolutionarily vanquished long ago, right? I think the distinction can be made between short-term gain, and long term investment. I may build up a relationship with my neighbor or community at my immediate and maybe even long-term expense. But when community is built, many including myself may also enjoy the fruits of that. So when I do things that tear down community for the sake of my own short-term gain, I may be momentarily better off, but probably not for long, and certainly not on behalf of any progeny to which I would hope to bequeath a better world. So even without invoking any religious law at all, one should still have considerable reason to question whether or not the wicked really are always better off. Still … they are (and sometimes through generations) enough of the time to disturb us.

This all gave much consternation to the psalmists of old (See Psalm 73). And they, even more than any of us had a strong “Deuteronomist” thread to cling to (meaning that the covenant they knew from Moses literally promised them reward or catastrophic punishment for their obedience or rebellion respectively). So your friend’s concerns about this are time-honored indeed. But with Jesus coming and raising our eyes to a much closer view of God’s program reveals to all of us that the psalmist’s clear-cut line between good and evil (us and them) was not nearly so clear-cut as he supposed. Or rather, that we are all pretty much on the same side of it anyway. So that’s a whole 'nother important facet of the Christian message in that it does away with the whole attitude of spiritual stratification or aristocracy: (“well, at least I haven’t [fill in your most despicable sin here]”). Because until we get that blown out of the water on that count we don’t feel compelled to spread grace around. That isn’t to say what we do doesn’t matter. Far from it. But you’re hoping to just bring your friend to Christ, and that is the glorious starting point to keep in mind. All this ramble here is just to say that being a friend to him and in relationship with Christ yourself as you relate to him is probably the best thing you can show him. So even if some of your answers have to be “I don’t know, but we can sure look into it”, that will be better than giving quick answers that don’t endure.

Sorry that my thoughts above aren’t more organized, but maybe there’s something in there of value.


(Randy) #4

@TheStruggler That is a great point. Emulating Jesus’ command to be a friend to others, to treat your neighbor as yourself, is more important than proselytism–so even if nothing ever came of it salvation wise, who are we to judge how God views him? If he is honest, God’s going to meet him there. We have gained a friend, and God is just. He is “as a father;…He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” And he isn’t ready to bang us on the head if we don’t know the answer, either. I’m going to have to call @Mervin_Bitikofer “George Macdonald,” because of your talent of getting to the human heart of the matter.


(Phil) #5

What you may want to examine is why “having your genes spread” is held out as beneficial. To the philandering husband whose mistress gets pregnant, I suspect there might be a little difference of opinion. If you look to it the situations you cited, I suppose you might say it is of evolutionary benefit, but even that is questionable as do those children really have any evolutionary advantages? I suspect their lives are harder and shorter in many cases. In any case, they are still valued and loved by God. So, in any case, I would say the premise that spreading ones genes far and wide is positive, is ultimately based on a selfish and egotistical premise that is evil itself.


(Dominik Kowalski) #6

I think this would only hold up if we purely see humanity as driven by the desire to spread their genes. Is this really what drives someone when they´re cheating on their spouse? I wouldn´t say that we can judge animals by our standard of morality, so it seems perfectly logic for animal groups to keep the privilege of propagation to the strongest/leader. But it´s also the reason why I don´t see the comparison with us really applicable. Other than in nature you see (often, not always) massive consequences for the cheating partner in the social environment, and not in the kind of appreciation to have taken the opportunity to spread the own information even further into the gene pool.
This is also why I put marriage in such a high regard, since we humans are capable to make the choice to stay our whole life with one chosen partner, rather than spending this time to try to have as much descendants from as many partners as possible. Of course, you could take that view, but it seems merely Neo-Darwinian and undermines all meaning in your relationship and can, in my opinion, be pretty easy refuted if you point to the majority of people who stay true to their spouse their whole life. What may seem beneficial in a biological way, can be devastating in the social one.

To this point it seems that way, in my opinion, if you see natural selection as the driving factor of evolution, as proposed by Dawkins. On the other side there is the great biologist Lynn Margulis who has argued her whole life for symbiosis as the driving factor of evolution. It´s easier to see Gods fingerprints in there isn´t it?

I just want to add that I will give the link to a video from Pastor Tim Keller about how to look at sin in a way, that his skeptic friends also understood it. I just have to find it.

Got it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mK65lpveSM
at around 32:00, although it´s Keller, so its worth listening to it completely


(Phil) #7

By the way, welcome to forum, Ephraim and Dominik!


(Randy) #8

Welcome! We’d like to learn more about you, if you can.

I’m listening to the video now–you’re right. Thank you! I haven’t heard that one yet. Tim Keller is great. :slight_smile:


(Dominik Kowalski) #9

Thank you both very much. I wrote a bit on my profile and I would add something over time. I don´t want to open a thread on it, it doesn´t seem important enough.


(Randy) #10

Quote:

“I´m from Germany and am a Christian alongside my brother, growing up in a pretty secular household with an agnostic father and a believing, but no-christian mother. I stumbled about missing knowledge about my faith in University and became an agnostic tending to try to desperately find God or reasons for him anywhere I could. I came across this site and it has helped me in incredible ways with finding reasonable Christians in all disciplines. It encouraged me to study Jesus, his words and the evidence for him. My personal views:
•Church in Germany is missing Jesus and the bible in their lectures and aren´t providing enough to keep young Christians encouraged. I think the theology is still too much into the Bultmann-school. Pointers to the historical Jesus are helping to provide a rational faith.
•Natural theology isn´t a way to get non-believers to Christianity, but it provides pointers to a higher reality so rather than converting it is the first step, as it raises the questions what? and why?
•History is the best way to convince people from the truth of Jesus and his resurrection. Bultmanns way hold theology hostage for way too long as it made Christianities arguments and history look weak. If this were the views of the apostels, Christianity would never have expanded.
•Thinking about God himself is hard, the argument that religions weakness is to not have defined God is a straw-man, since it would need for humans to understand eternity, and neither theologians, nor philosophers or the disciples were or ever will be able to do it. I don´t spend much time thinking about God himself since I don´t even really understand the Trinity and think that Hinduism adds a reasonable viewpoint on God himself. Our best chance is to look at his revelation in Jesus
•Loving humanity is way easier if one doesn´t read comments on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube”

Good thoughts. Thank you. It is good to learn.
I admired some German missionaries when I grew up as a missionary kid in Niger. The Christian Blind Mission was one institution that sent some out.


(Jay Johnson) #11

Your friend knows a little about human evolution, but just enough to confuse himself.

Primate society is based on deception and manipulation to climb the social ladder. Because of fear of kidnapping by other females or infanticide by males, mothers are the only ones to hold, feed, and care for their infants during the first 2-3 years of life, which translates into about 4 years between births. Things took quite a different turn in our evolution. Sexual division of labor and “cooperative parenting” by the extended family (grandparents, aunts, etc.) freed the mother from sole responsibility to feed and care for her infant, which allowed humans to reproduce twice as fast as the other great apes. As well, we developed a communication system – language – that relies upon cooperation (general agreement on what words mean and how to use them) and the truthful sharing of information. The evolution of this sort of “cooperation” is one of the central puzzles of current evolutionary theory.

So, in the case of human beings, you could say the game was “rigged” to introduce cooperation and sharing, but deception, manipulation, and personal advancement remain always in the background. From the beginning, we have been pulled between these poles, a fact noted long ago by Blaise Pascal, who wondered, “What, then, will man become? Will he be equal to God, or the brutes? What a frightful difference!”

As God told Cain, “… sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” The question for all of us, not just your friend, is this: Do we move in a Godward direction, or remain rooted in the soil from which we sprang?


(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #12

You bring up a good point. Even worse, Jesus said that people should NOT resist an evildoer and to turn the other cheek, which would result in an evil conquering over the good unless someone successfully resisted the evil.

I’ll stop right there, as I’m not a Christian so as to not derail this thread.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #13

@TheStruggler, Ephraim, Welcome.

I commend your friend for his/her sharp mind to see the problem for Christians accepting Darwinism as is. It puts sin into the enter of Creation instead of the Logos, Jesus Christ. O have pointed this out for some time now and it is the basis of my book, Darwin’s Myth. which I highly commend to you and your friend.

The truth is “survival of the fittest” and the Selfish Gene are myths, not scientific facts. As E. O. Wilson has pointed out in his new book, The Social Conquest of the Earth,, evolutionary advantage is gained by positive social behavior, not negative. As God promised the Jews, “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long in the Land YHWH your God promised you.”

Love is more effective than selfishness in strengthening societies. This is what Trump is a threat to the USA and the world.


(Ephraim) #14

I want to thank everyone for their responses.

I need to add something which is rather important. I think most of you are forgetting that reproductive success is not the same thing quality of life. I hate to retroactively add a condition, but my efforts have no met with success. Please keep in mind, he WANTS to believe. But he is unable to do so. It is not so easy as “choosing” to believe. You have to have reason to believe. A man who impregnates dozens of women by unethical means (i mean we’d all say anything but strict monogamy is immoral) is repoductively successful.
Rogers, I’ll look up those books.


(Randy) #15

Hm @TheStruggler, thanks for this. I think that reproductive success in the long run does not go with unfaithfulness/promiscuity–children born in wedlock, etc, are more successful and able to pass on their genes; peaceful societies are in the long run more numerically successful as well, I really believe. I agree with @Relates that there’s a lot of criticism of the selfish gene as a concept as being really helpful.

However, regardless of whether the wicked win or not, our concept of good and evil transcends anything; even if good does not win in the end, it’s still the right thing to do. And we seem to need a transcendant judge to fully understand that, in my opinion.

@SuperBigV, nice to see you again.

This is a question that is part forked stick-- one gets to criticize Christianity in 2 ways. GK Chesterton pointed that out in Orthodoxy. For example, one could say that by supporting monogamous marriage, one is either for oppression of women, or against it; or for sexual freedom, or against it.

In regard to violence, it’s a universal struggle as to what the right thing is to do

One can criticize Christianity from 2 angles: for taking up the sword to fight the oppressor --as some do, especially when Jesus told us to take another sword with us; and many kings and oppressors have used this to unfair advantage, from Constantine to some in the Great Wars.

Luke 22:35-38 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 36He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” 38The disciples said, “See, LORD, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied.

And then there are the peaceable interpretations, which supposedly let evil win. Amish and others, such as Eric Seibert, Greg Boyd and Brian Zahnd, take Christ literally to say not to even defend oneself (this is not just a Christian view; I understand some Buddhists believe this, too)

The context, in my opinion, of that spot is hyperbole–to seek the kingdom of God, which involves submitting all our wants and needs to God’s desire. As a father of young children, I would agree that the evil of having my children killed by a marauder (and of hurting his soul by letting him do that) would outweigh the burden on my conscience of violently resisting him.
Thanks.


(Ephraim) #16

Can an argument not be framed relying on collective success.


(Randy) #17

Maybe I’m misunderstanding you. Most of current evolutionary thought for success is based on collective evolution, I think. Please accept my apologies and clarify.

Thanks.


(Dominik Kowalski) #18

I have to admit, that I´m a bit perplexed by this points, since your friends problem doesn´t seem to be the problem of evil in the world of a good God itself. If I am allowed to exaggerate a bit, his problem is that a rapist is evolutionary successfull if he impregnates as many victims as possible, because he spreaded his genes wider than the regular married, monogamic man. Am I right with this objection? If so then I´d think that it´s a bit of an one-dimensional view, since it doesn´t look at the non-beneficial consequences for the individual that lives this kind of life. I´d argue that this viewpoint would only be right if we solely life under the rules of natural selection and don´t take advantage of our ability that we can be more


(Christy Hemphill) #19

Does your friend honestly believe that the meaning or point of human life is merely survival? Where did he get that idea? Maybe he should take some time out and study literature and art for a while, hopefully get a better grasp on the concept of “humanity,” and then revisit some of these questions with a less reductionist perspective on what makes human life valuable.


#20

Evolution works at the population level and not on individuals. So what one man does makes no difference in evolutionary terms. And when you look at humans it is apparent that it is social organization that makes the difference between us and the other apes.