Evolution and the Problem of Evil

One question that human beings come face to face with time and time again, as they face the trials and struggles of life on this earth is the question of evil.  Why would God – an all good, all powerful, and all knowing creator – allow evil and suffering to haunt His creation?

As we travel life’s road, we work hard – sometimes too hard – to feed ourselves.  In our families and communities, we see illness and accidents take the health and lives of those we love.  Sometimes violence affects us in terrible ways, whether that violence is inflicted by chance, or by the intention of others.

Why?  Why does life seem so hard?  Why does death come too soon?

Through all of these challenges, throughout history, people have turned to a being (or beings) larger than themselves for the answers.

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Message to the Sick; Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II gave his “Message to the Sick” in 1999, in Mexico.  Diagnosed in 1996 with Parkinson’s disease, he did not write words of mere platitudes, he wrote with real meaning in his life.  He would have had a taste of the progression of his own illness and the words were borne out of his own painful experience.

The pope’s questions, “Why do we suffer?  For what purpose do we suffer?  Is there any meaning in human suffering?  Can physical or moral suffering be a positive experience?” were not rhetorical for him…he asked real questions and they had real meaning in his life.

This man, the most visible religious figure on the planet, did not  hide from life or to live a life of complaint…his suffering pointed him to the basis of his faith – Christ, who died for the sins of the world, was now with His servant who suffered.

Each person who suffers, whether physical pain, or emotional or mental, has the opportunity to use their suffering in positive ways, or to wallow in negativity.  The pope chose the positive, ever pointing to the source of his hope.

A man, dying of cancer, had spent years turning away from God.  He found hope in the Psalms of David and turned to Christ in the last days of his life.  When he wrote his own funeral, it pointed others to the source of his hope.  After that funeral, his widow found comfort in the message that her brother, who had also spent years in rebellion, had returned to the church because of the way her husband’s suffering had pointed to Christ.

That widow looks back at life, seeing years of infertility, the losses of pregnancies and the pain of her premature child…she finds comfort in the knowledge that beyond the grave, there is peace and fullness of life.  She understands now that she would not have the strength and compassion if she had not felt the suffering in her life.

Pope John Paul had a greater understanding than most people – when we suffer, we partake in the sufferings of Christ.  He died in April, 2005 – 12 years after his diagnosis.  He spent those years pointing others to the source of his hope.

It is in this pointing to Christ that we find meaning of pain and suffering in our human existence.

With these thoughts, I have wanted to arouse in each one of you the feelings which will lead you to live your current trials with supernatural sense; discovering in them an occasion to see God in the midst of darkness and doubt; and to gaze at the broad horizons which are visible from atop the crosses of our everyday lives – Pope John Paul II, January 24, 1999

On Free Will and the Sovereignty of God

1. Explain the difference between a libertarian and a compatibilist conception of free will.

My study of compatibilism, will, free will and libertarian free will goes deeper than the readings from the textbook…and I believe that how a person defines these terms (and how that person feels about those definitions) affects how he or she views the sovereignty of God.

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Philosophy reflection paper:

January 19. 2010

Is Religion Necessary?

John Piper once said, “Words don’t mean things…definitions mean things.” In order to answer the question, “Is religion necessary?” we must first define “religion”. Some definitions say that “religion” is “the service and worship of God or the supernatural” (Merriam-Webster) or “the belief in a god or gods and the activities that are connected with this belief” (google dictionary).  Others define “religion” as "a set of symbolic forms and acts that relate man to the ultimate conditions of his existence” (Robert Bellah, professor at the University of California, Berkley).

Huston Smith noted that the oldest artifacts found by archaeologists have religious significance.  In ages past, before more recent scientific advances, the world around us must have seemed far beyond human comprehension…and yet creation got here somehow…and so did we.

All (or nearly all) cultures around the world, past and present, have had some sense of “religion”. Even today, many cultures do not have a mandated religion, yet most people have access to at least one belief system called “religion”. Whether the worshippers wanted salvation from the physical world around them or whether they wanted access to an afterlife, it seems that human beings are programmed to seek something (or someone) larger than themselves.

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Something can "matter" without "making a difference"

Having something "matter" is just an means that you care.

The question then, becomes "do you care enough to act on the emotion?"

If so, then the the thing that "matters" also "makes a difference".

It matters to me that my daughter would be very upset if I had her cat put to sleep...but even though it matters, if the time comes, I cannot let that emotion of "matter" also "make a difference."

If there is no action, no change...then whatever it that "matters" does not "make a difference"...and there is little that "makes a difference"

I was just re-reading a couple of articles...

Barack Obama said during his presidential campaign that Reinhold Niebuhr was one of his favorite philosophers.

I've been reading "Mere Christianity"

Niebuhr said, "we use evil to prevent a greater evil"


“There are historic situations in which refusal to defend the inheritance of a civilization, however imperfect, against tyranny and aggression may result in consequences even worse than war”

Lewis said, "There is no evil without good"

What is evil?

some would say that "evil" is the opposite of "good"

Lewis says that evil is not the opposite of good, but rather it's the perversion of good.

There can be no evil without good.

Unless we have the ideal to compare an action to, there is no concept of what it means to violate God's Law.

is having food to eat "evil"?  No, it's a good thing, but to have it because you stole it is a perversion of the good thing (having)

Unless you have a concept of what "truth" is, the term "lie" has no meaning.

Rest is a good thing...perverting rest into slothfulness is not.

Wine is a blessing, drunkeness perverts that blessing into something that is not good.

Back to Niebuhr...

there is a concept of "just war".  Some buy into it, others don't.

When Niebuhr said, "we use evil to prevent a greater evil", he was referring to war.  If war is always "evil", then protecting a nation against attackers is using evil to prevent greater evil.


If evil is not the opposite of good, but rather the perversion of good, what is the good that war is the perversion of?

If war is used to protect and prevent evil, is it "just war" evil?

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (ESV)
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (NIV)

It occurs to me that the "narrow path" may be envisioned as not only a road with forks and corners (as many of us envision the "straight and narrow") -  but also as a sort of "foot path" - a straight and narrow foot path, making its way surely and carefully along the ridge of a mountain.

In the Badlands, and similar places, on one side of a path you will find a flat place - filled with cacti, sharp growing things, and maybe a few snakes and creepy crawly things.  On the other side is a steep and slippery slope.  If you step off the edge, you do not know how far you will slide.

In Michigan, on a Lake Superior cliff, I found a path.  On one side was a deep and dark woods, complete with poison ivy - a lot of it. On the other side, a steep slide into the pounding waves.

The path is there for a reason.  Somebody wise knew it was safe there.  The One who created the path gave us the Way.  Those who have gone before traveled the path safely.

On the path is safety.  Off the path is danger - and a slippery slope.

In a debate, "slippery slope" can be a logical fallacy (see here for "In Defense of the Slippery Slope")

It may also be a pattern.

The thing is not a debate and there are slippery slopes that are real.  And have real dangers.

For example...any guess where the likes of Todd Bentley might end up?


From "Howdie's Theories":

Some people believe that intelligence is innate. You are either gifted or you aren’t. Smart is a property of who you are. Others believe intelligence is malleable.

The first crowd is scared of tasks that cause hard work because expending effort implies you are dumb. If your intelligence is innate, and you want to be intelligent, then you will tempted to be defensive about the state of your intelligence. Not only will you tend to avoid tasks from which you could learn (because the effort expended might make you look/feel dumb) but you may also handicap yourself from success by purposely not putting forth all of your effort. If you tried and failed, but didn’t really care, then you cannot be faulted for being dumb.

I've always thought of it like this:

"Intelligence" is what you have; "smarts" is how you use it.

A person can have a very high IQ, score high in standardized tests, but have so little skill at applying that brain power that he/she ends up being not-very-smart.

on the other hand...

A person can have a very average IQ, hate standardized testing, but have so much "common sense" that she/he grows to be  one of the wisest people around.

It's not what you've's how you use it.

This being Independence Day...

The British military was the pride of the king.  One of the most feared on earth.  Well trained, well supplied...and up against the colonies.

Admittedly they were far from home...but they were fighting a "home-grown" militia.

The minute-men.

Well-trained and skilled members of the military up against farmers who would grab their hunting rifles in a minutes notice.

The "red-coats", using time-honored military "intelligence"

The "militia", using ad-hoc "sneaky" techniques.

It's not what you've got, it's how you use it.
(This post is set for all comments to be moderated until I return from vacation)