If GAE were true, the God of the OT is worse than Dawkins and Hitchens describe

If GAE were true, we have a God that let humans evolve (guided or unguided) in an world full of disease, famine, and death for millions of years on a planet with evolving life of 4.5 billion years old. Many species of humans die off but a single species - us - homo sapiens advance create argriculture and then cities and grow to seven billion people today with medicines and culture and everything else pretty much due to human ingenuity.

Meanwhile, God, a few thousand years ago, creates a special garden, for a de novo couple - GAE. They stay in the beautiful garden until God kicks them out into the cruel world occupied by millions of humans. God then sets out having GAE spreading the stain of original sin to the rest of humanity.

With GAE, God is worse than the most unpleasant character in all of fiction, He is the guilty of the most crimes against humanity in all of history.


I don’t think you have made a good case here. Certainly there was death, but death is an essential part of the cycle of life. How can death be a crime in this setting?

I am reluctant to venture into the related theological arguments, but I should think that “spiritual life” beyond a physical death is going to get a few mentions.


I am just saying if God can make a nice comfortable place for newly created newlyweds a few thousand years ago, He could have done a lot more for the millions of humans who had to just get by on a meager existence for hundreds of thousands of year. It seems like God had some kind of Star Trek prime directive - don’t give these humans any new technology, let them figure it out by themselves. Not very nice. Then He lets GAE infect humanity with original sin. Again rather creepy God and petty, vindictive. GAE, if true, is not a good story about God. He is worse than He was in the entire OT.

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Patrick, your reasoning reminds me why philosophers largely abandoned “the theodicy problem” about a century ago—because it’s a non-problem. Is a creator under moral obligation to treat all organisms “equally” and/or to their maximum personal advantage based upon Patrick-based criteria? Also, is it possible that an omniscient deity could have decision rationale that are unknown to finite humans?

The following is only vaguely analogous but I’ll share it solely because it somehow came to mind. Years ago I knew a farm family whose youngest child made a pet out of a runt pig. It was the only one repeatedly spared whenever they took each season’s shipment of hogs to the auction barn. (That’s where the buyers for the pork packers made their purchases.) Was that family evil for choosing to make preferential decisions about that one animal over others? Just wondering. That family certainly had it within their power to “do a lot more” for those ill-fated animals.



@AllenWitmerMiller glad to see you back. Missed your fine wit. I hope all is well with you and glad you back.

Christian philosophers abandoned “the Theodicy Problem” because they don’t have a good answer for it.
And yes, any God that I find worthy of calling God has to meet my moral standards or He isn’t worth it.

Christian thought is so low now getting picked off from every direction. It is actually fun to watch.

Ham, Ross, Gauger, Rana, Behe, Haarsma, WLC. If this is the thought leaders in Christianity now, it is over.


(1) Thank you for that welcome. My health has recovered to the point that I have taken on several new projects, some of which involve pressing contractual deadlines. So my participation here now has significant competition for my time.

(2) I didn’t say that “Christian philosophers abandoned the Theodicy Problem.” I said philosophers. Yes, philosophers in general. That was first explained to me by the atheist chairman of the Department of Philosophy during an interesting faculty lounge discussion back in the 1980’s. Years later I heard William Lane Craig make virtually the same points. I’m not a trained philosopher myself but their reasoning makes sense to me. Perhaps there are noted philosophers who would disagree with them but, of course, philosophy is a very broad field and I don’t know if most are familiar with the historical trends of the scholarship related to this topic.

[By the way, nobody should be surprised that even atheist philosophers make excellent observations about standard academic definitions concerning God and what would and wouldn’t be problematic for such a being. Is there anything inherently illogical or immoral about a transcendent and omniscient deity making the kinds of decisions traditionally associated with the theodicy problem? Not from what I’ve read of the topic.]

(3) As to:

. . . I wasn’t talking about “Christian thought.” I was speaking of the so-called “theodicy problem”, which is a topic predating Christianity (though certainly of great interest to many centuries of Christian philosophers.)

Even ancient philosophers recognized the errors in your argument. I’m no expert on this topic but I do remember a little bit of Plotinus and his reflecting on theodicy misunderstandings a few centuries before Christ.


Considering your list, it is interesting that none of the first six are philosophers or theologians. Of course, one doesn’t have to be a philosopher or a theologian to be described as a “thinker”—but to be a “thought leader” (your term) on theodicy, one would surely need training and qualifications in one or both fields.

It is also interesting that William Lane Craig is both a philosopher and a theologian, having earned Ph.D.'s and copious peer-reviewed publications in leading academic journals in both fields.

I guess I’ve never thought of Ken Ham as a Christian “thought leader.” Yet, as a major thought influencer among some segments of the Christian community, I can certainly see your point.


I once shocked (I think) a YEC by suggesting that death might be even be good, as in “God saw that it was good”, in this same sense that an essential end to life is natural and necessary for new birth.


When someone tells me that “evolution can’t be true because God would never ever use something as evil as death to accomplish his will for his creation”, I immediately express my astonishment and ask them if they are unaware that the Bible says that God chose to use animal sacrifice under the OT Mosaic Law and the cruel death of Jesus in the NT in order to establish a redeemed people for himself out of his fallen creation.


It is generally accepted among philosophers of religion (atheist or theist) that Plantinga defeated the logical problem of evil back in the 70s with his free will defense. That’s why the discussion shifted to the probabilistic problem of suffering in more recent years.


Ha! You mean that it’s a problem for which there can be no solution and thus no profitable engagement.


No. That’s not what I mean nor is it what I wrote. I indicated that I respect peer-reviewed scholarship and the general consensus of the philosophy academy. @dga471 cited the peer-reviewed Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Did you read the theodicy article at https://www.iep.utm.edu/evil-log/#H8 ? I would be very interested in your analysis of why the philosophy academy is wrong and how you came to such a confident and opposite conclusion without even the benefit of graduate studies in philosophy.

I do realize that not everybody on this thread respects peer-reviewed scholarship and the conclusions of the academy. Nevertheless, I find that perspective particularly fascinating in a scholarly venue like Peaceful Science where so many participants have earned doctorates. Sometimes irony abounds.


I respect it well enough, but faith in scholars must be subordinate to actual argument, and I find that wanting. Plantinga’s free will defense, the preferred explanation in your source, can account at most only for human evil, not natural evil. Would you argue that malaria, river blindness, and so on are for our ultimate benefit? (I would also argue that free will is a weak defense of human evil too, but that’s for another day.)

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So if GAE is not true, are you more content that YECs find NO way to reconcile their views with the science of Evolution?

Or are you just making your mandatory atheist swipe at Fundamentalism? Wow… who saw that coming?!


Yes, and Yes

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You should read the linked article fully, for it actually talks about this very problem:

Plantinga, however, thinks that his Free Will Defense can be used to solve the logical problem of evil as it pertains to natural evil. Here is a possible reason God might have for allowing natural evil:

(MSR2 ) God allowed natural evil to enter the world as part of Adam and Eve’s punishment for their sin in the Garden of Eden.

(Those familiar with Plantinga’s work will notice that this is not the same reason Plantinga offers for God’s allowing natural evil. They will also be able to guess why a different reason was chosen in this article.) The sin of Adam and Eve was a moral evil. (MSR2) claims that all natural evil followed as the result of the world’s first moral evil. So, if it is plausible to think that Plantinga’s Free Will Defense solves the logical problem of evil as it pertains to moral evil, the current suggestion is that it is plausible also to think that it solves the logical problem of evil as it pertains to natural evil because all of the worlds evils have their source in moral evil.

I also don’t think you have to believe in a simplistic YEC picture of the world where there was no natural evil before the Fall - you could believe natural evil as a “retroactive consequence” for human sin both before and after the Fall.

Plantinga also suggests that natural evil could be the work of non-human agents such as “Satan and his minions”:

Plantinga extends the Free Will Defense to natural evil by holding that it is possible that all natural evil (destructive floods and earthquakes, for example) is really moral evil, because it is possible that it is evil resulting from the free actions of non-human agents, namely, Satan and his minions. Many philosophers object to this extension (wrongly, in my view) on the grounds that it is implausible, but it is possibility not plausibility that is relevant here.

(emphasis mine)

Of course, I’m pretty sure you don’t buy this explanation as likely to be true in the real world (and neither do I), but while the explanation is implausible, it is not logically impossible. Thus, it is not logically impossible for God to co-exist with evil. This is why philosophers have largely turned to a different problem of evil - the evidential problem of evil, where evil counts as evidence against God but not a logical disproof of God.


Nonsense like this is why I don’t respect philosophy of religion. I respect moral philosophy in general, but theological gobbledygook, not so much.

What is the idea here, that after Adam and Eve ate the magical apple, their sin traveled backwards in time and made countless sentient beings before them suffer?

Grown men are paid money to come up with this … I have no word for it that this forum allow me to use.


Sure it does, but it’s only tenuously linked to the free will defense. And aren’t both those defenses absurd? The first — result of the Fall — makes God evil himself, punishing all of nature for the single sin of one couple. The second — actions of Satan — makes him incompetent, unable to deal with a being he created. This is not plausible, despite the claim to the contrary, and while I suppose it’s possible, the unavoidable implication needs to be addressed. It is indeed logically impossible for the God who’s omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent to coexist with either of those explanations.


Yes, this thought has certainly occurred to me in terms of other organisms, but I don’t even think human death is necessarily bad. I know there aren’t many fans of Tolkien here, but I still remember from the Silmarillion that humans were given the blessing of death. That struck me as a teen about 35 years ago. On the other hand, it seems that YECs feel that even microbial death is something too ghastly to have occurred before “the Fall”.


That was my former position before I became a Molinist (although Molinists are not the only philosophers to recognize what I’m about to describe in this paragraph.) Nowadays I recognize what I somehow missed in my youth: a deity who created the space-time universe thereby created time itself and is thereby not bounded by it. That is, just as the standard definition of God in philosophy includes spatial-geographical omniscience and omnipresence, it also entails temporal omniscience and omnipresence. Thus, to put it in anthropomorphic terms, God foresaw the fall and chose to “program” its frustration into the world in what is commonly described as natural evil. There is no need for the consequences of sin to travel backwards in time. Instead, Molinists (and many non-Molinists) recognize that a sovereign deity can choose to create a world where a fallen race lives in a natural world which is also “fallen” and not always conducive to the thriving of that fallen human race.

I’m not saying that this is the only possible explanation nor is it a philosophical and theological hill I choose to die on. I’m simply saying that there is nothing illogical here. Peer-review in the philosophy academy has not failed us on this topic.

I will also personally confess that as a young professor I was naively scornful of a lot of philosophy debates. And the first time D.A. Carson explained Molinism to me over a casual dinner after an academic conference back in the early 1980’s, I all too easily and reflexively considered it “theological gobbledygook.” I was an excellent Dunning-Kruger Effect illustration while those two scholars were still many years away from their academic collaboration. The passage of time has tempered me. I hope.