God and Evil: My Answer for Michael Savage

SellwynThumbby Selwyn Duke6/2/15
Torture, pain, beheadings, the murder of children…. If God exists and is all good, how could He allow such suffering and evil? This is a common question, and a lament often an impediment to faith. It also was addressed recently on the Savage Nation radio show, where host Michael Savage — exhibiting his versatility and talk virility — will sometimes broach that certain thing we’re supposed to discuss even less than politics. His answer to the question was contained in his newsletter and is:

I actually believe that God has no effect on a moment-by-moment basis or a person-by-person basis.

If I did, then I’d have to stop believing in God.

If I were to believe that God controlled everything on earth, then I’d have to believe that God is evil.

I believe God is not omnipotent. He is omnipresent.

That’s what saved me from atheism.

It certainly is good to have an answer that saves one from atheism, but is the above the answer?

God undoubtedly doesn’t micromanage our lives, controlling matters on a moment-by-moment basis; this reality is called His “permitting will” in theological circles, as opposed to His “ordaining will.” But why is God, as some might say, so “permissive” (He isn’t, really)? There is an answer, but before addressing it let’s examine the matter of God’s omnipotence.

God is known as the “Creator” because the belief is that He created the whole Universe, the heavens and the Earth and all living creatures — out of nothing. He is the first cause. In this case, however, it would seem fanciful to suppose that He could create life but not control that life. After forging the wonders called the Universe and its denizens, controlling man would seem small potatoes.

To suggest otherwise is to say that God is not really “God” — by definition all-powerful and perfect — but a different kind of being entirely. For He then either created something He couldn’t control (which certainly can be a fault of man) or didn’t create it at all. If the latter, though, where does that leave us? We can’t say something else created the Universe, for that entity would then be above what would merely be but a cosmic middleman, and it would be God (the “Immovable Mover,” as Aristotle said). The only other possibility is that we believe in something and call it “God” even though it would just be some spirit being formed as a cosmic accident via some evolutionary process wholly unknown to us. But this would just bring us back to atheism and its inherent relativism and meaninglessness — with the twist that, for sure, we’re not the most powerful cosmic accidents in the Universe.

This is why philosophers have long explained God’s tolerance of evil by way of “free will.” Yes, I know it sounds clichéd now to some, but my explanation won’t be. So why is free will so important that God would allow profound evil in its name?

Imagine you could have a computer chip implanted in your child’s brain that would control his behavior (something perhaps possible in the foreseeable future). No more terrible twos or toddler tantrums, no disobedience, no crying, no frowns, no shirking of responsibility — just a perfectly agreeable Stepford Child. Would you implant away?

This would defeat the purpose of having a child. Sure, we want our kids to mature into moral beings, but that is impossible if you’re merely a controlled being. For being moral involves making moral choices, and this cannot happen if you have no choice. The chipped child would have been dehumanized, reduced to automaton status via the negation of his free will. You might as well just purchase a cute robot and be done with it.

Think about what is being said here, however: You’re willing to tolerate sinful acts in your child — and the possibility of truly horrible behavior — in the name of his being fully human.

God is no different with respect to us, His children. He could completely control us with the snap of divine fingers, but we are then reduced to mere organic robots; we are not then His children, but His things. Note, when it’s said we’re created in God’s image, this does not refer to our physical being but that, like God, we have intellect and free will. Remove either quality and we’re mere animals.

(Speaking of which, it’s hard to imagine even a pet owner chipping his dog; we’d likely feel that this would eliminate his “dogness” and wouldn’t want to use perverted science to accomplish what training should.)

Then there is the matter of love, which is represented in action: Loving attitudes beget loving acts. When someone serves us — whether it’s a spouse bringing home the bacon or serving it, or a child doing chores — we’re by far most pleased if it’s done in a spirit of love because the person wants to make us happy (yes, much to expect in a child!). It doesn’t touch us in the same way if the work is performed out of a mere sense of obligation; worse still is if the person is acting as a slave, compelled to labor against his will. Most of us wouldn’t even want to be served under those circumstances.

God is no different. He wants us to serve Him as a representation of our love (not because He needs our love and service, but because we need to love and serve Him), and trumping our free will would defeat that purpose. It would reduce us to not just slaves, but those organic robots.

Some may now say that this is all well and good, but aren’t there limits to free will’s abuse? When people are being burned alive and children massacred, don’t you draw a line? The answer is that God is far more logical and consistent than we are.

We talk about “freedom of speech” but then set limits on what can be said; we trumpet “freedom of religion” but then draw lines at certain practices (e.g., human sacrifice). I’m not implying that such lines aren’t sometimes necessary, mind you, only pointing out that once they’re drawn, it follows that we aren’t actually allowing true “freedom of religion.” But God means what He says and says what He means. Free will is just that: free will. It’s absolute. Besides, He makes the rules, but their application and enforcement are our business — in this world.

This brings us to the last point: worldliness. Too often we analyze faith-based propositions while coupling them with atheistic corollaries. We may wonder, for example, how a just and loving God could allow the deaths of large numbers of children in free will’s name. But He doesn’t.

He gave the children life, and upon leaving this fold they pass on to eternal life.

I know, this sounds like a handy rationalization to modernistic ears. But we are discussing matters within the context of the Judeo-Christian world view, no? In other words, people could question the data — that God and the afterlife are real, etc. — but that is a different question. The logic when operating within this data set, however, is unassailable. To wit: What is this temporal life as compared to eternity? It’s as a grain of sand in a desert or a drop of water in an ocean. It’s eternity that matters. And if slaughtered children pass on to a far, far better place, God has done them no disservice.

I don’t want to seem unfeeling; I react to worldly horrors much as does everyone else. And it’s understandable: This world is all we know firsthand. The hell we so often create on it we see and hear, as it accosts our senses; we feel it. Heaven is generally just something we try to apprehend intellectually. And the heart has seductions the mind cannot match.

There is something we can do, however. Even if we don’t feel certain truths on an emotional level, we can choose to believe them. That is a proper exercise of free will — one that lends much happiness and meaning to the life God gave us.


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21 Responses to God and Evil: My Answer for Michael Savage

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Anthony Boucher had a priest making much the same points in his story “We Print the Truth” (in the collection The Compleat Werewolf). In essence, we love our children even when they disobey us, but we don’t love (say) a chess piece (I believe that was the actual example) even though it always does what we make it do. Of course, this doesn’t explain natural catastrophes (which doesn’t mean one can’t come up with an explanation for them).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I think I know people who love their cars. 🙂 But maybe no one loves their chess pieces (unless they’ve made them themselves).

      But the question is, would you allow your 4-year-old children to play with butcher knives? That’s the question here. Not even parents allow their children complete free will (perhaps unless they are libertarian parents for whom “non-coercion” is the reigning influence). Why then does a purported benevolent and omnipotent creator allow, say, Hitler?

      That’s the problem…a problem not answered by Selwyn Duke (0r anyone else, for that matter). And I didn’t expect he could because the greatest minds of the ages have grappled with the problem. And the best answer is usually “free will.” And yet I find it to be an inadequate answer.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        And I didn’t expect he could because the greatest minds of the ages have grappled with the problem. And the best answer is usually “free will.” And yet I find it to be an inadequate answer.

        Trying to know God’s mind can be a thankless and maddening task.

        I have given this question some thought and see the point of free will as only part of the equation.

        In my opinion, the only logical and defensible reason for God to have put humanity on this earth with its warts and all, is to give humanity a learning experience in which everyone has the chance to grow. To realize there is good, one must understand there is bad. To note there is darkness, one must also see light. To make choices of free will, one must, in the first place, understand that there are actually choices which one can make.

        In such a scenario, God is giving human beings a chance, first to have consciousness and second, to expand their consciousness in order to have a better understanding of and closer relationship with him.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Good thoughts, Mr. Kung.

          As I read Selwyn’s excellent article, I kept thinking how nice of lipstick he was putting on the pig. And I don’t mean that as an insult. But many aspects of reality seem to be inherently harsh and nasty. So one thing we do, often via our religions, is put lipstick on the pig.

          There are several “outs” to the problem of evil. One is free will. Another is we can’t see the whole plan from our perspective. Another is that evil isn’t what God makes, it’s what we make.

          And I think it’s likely there is truth to all of these. And yet we get this ominous and eery silence from the Almighty when the innocent are butchered by the beasts of Islam, for example. We’d cheer lightening bolts from heaven. Many of us are left bewildered at the lack of them. The inaction seems evidence for a God who is less involved in human affairs than we think.

          On the other hand, maybe God’s a libertarian. There’s a thought for you.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            There are several “outs” to the problem of evil

            To my mind, it is more about “suffering” than evil. I do not think an earthquake is evil, but it can certainly cause a lot of suffering. I think this is what bewilders so many people. Thus my thoughts on learning, growth and consciousness.

            If a parent does everything for a child and keeps him locked in a room to avoid danger, that child will remain a child.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Earthquakes and stuff are categorized under “natural evil” or what most of us call “shit happens.” And good point about the child. As our nation relinquishes the idea of the adult and we all join the Nanny State, we will be mothered to death, put in a proverbial plastic bubble to avoid harm. So anyone with doubts about God’s Plan in regards to evil and suffering can at least see what happens when we hit the other extreme. It puts it into perspective.

              Another aspect of this is that you take part in the good, no matter that you can’t know all the details. And certainly there is very little about nature herself that gives any indication that this would be the thing to do. And this is why all pagan philosophies and metaphysics tends toward barbarism, if not just outright silliness.

              Even so, having Christianity spread through Europe did not stop their persistent wars among nations. This is why my first reaction is to take with a grain of salt when someone calls themselves “Christian.” No, it’s not for me to judge. But the world is full of posers and those who simply approach Christianity (or Judaism) as if it were a club you join, and once joined, the mere association is all you need.

              Well, I’ve seen real Christians and I think they are few and far between. That doesn’t mean the rest of them are going to hell. That’s not for me to say. We all fall short. But that always brings me to Matthew 7:14: “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way.” As much as libtard Christians want to say that everyone is good — inside or outside of Christianity (or Judaism) — just because you believe in the higher truths of diversity, multiculturalism and social justice, that doesn’t make it so. Maybe this stuff is about more than posing, about more than just reciting bible verses, about more than bending the knee at the right moment, about more than feel-good vibes of narcissism.

              And your comments, Mr. Kung, remind me of that very well known quote from Paul: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” If that is the template, there are many Christians (particularly yutes) who don’t measure up. Here’s how I see the hierarchy:

              + Infant (helpless and dependent)
              + Child/Teenager (less helpless and dependent)
              + Adult (self-sufficient and an asset)
              + Disciple (measures by a different yardstick the meaning of success and failure)

              One can, of course, jump stages or even regress…or combine more than one. But one of the things we’ll see (which might prompt more Germans or others to ram airplanes into the ground) is a generation of these secular “adults” formed by these bland social democracies who hit the age of 50 or 60 and have nothing left in their life but endless distractions. And ultimately distractions are just that. It’s mindlessness. Some would say soullessness. Some will turn to crank cults as they always have to get a sense of meaning (environmental wacko-ism, for instance). Others might actually have a change of heart.

      • Rosalys says:

        “Why then does a purported benevolent and omnipotent creator allow, say, Hitler?”

        Perhaps God allowed Hitler, because He also allowed people to allow Hitler. Hitler could have been stopped at any time by people actually deciding to stop him. Eventually he was stopped, but because it took so long for people to get their collective head out of the sand, it took WWII to do it. In my reading of the Bible I haven’t much noticed God honoring complacency, sloth, or fear.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          That could well be, Rosalys.

          There’s another aspect of this that, although esoteric, I think is central to the problem of why God allows evil.

          And it’s certainly related to the free will question. But I don’t think “free will” is an expansive enough concept. Reality is. And consider that for reality to be reality, it has to be consequential or else it is something very different. It would be the equivalent of an ant farm. It’s not so much that we are free to act (and thus to act badly). Its that for reality (as we know it) to have the quality of actually being real, this may in some way require the no-holds-barred universe we find ourselves in.

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I read this over at American Thinker the other day. And I’m glad that Selwyn shared it with us here.

    It’s a good piece. But I have to say, I sympathize with Michael Savage as well. I suppose it always depends upon how deep you’ve stepped in the excrement in regards to what you think the ground is made of.

    It’s hard to begrudge even atheists their views if they’ve been given a tough break (although I think it’s more often a kind of emotional narcissism that is the root of atheism…sort of a person stuck in the terrible twos stage of life who has never progressed beyond being needy).

    Still, Selwyn does lay out well the Christian apologetic, story line, or narrative. And whether God is omnipotent, omnipresent, or whatever, I again find such concepts to be merely words. If God is God, good luck pinning him down to our human concepts.

    Certainly we wouldn’t be what we are if we were automatons. And an interesting intersection on this topic (in order to put it into perspective) is that I keep reading about the topic of transhumanism over at Evolution News and Views. It’s the idea that soon computers will be intelligent enough to then increase their own intelligence and sort of create a Big Bang of machine genius that then either leaves us behind or we somehow join in.

    The problem (as the above-linked article, or others I have read, point out) is that there are fundamental hurdles regarding machine intelligence that show no signs of being leapt. And that got me to thinking about intelligent design and human intelligence. What makes human intelligence different?

    And the only thing I could think of is consciousness. Without it we would likely forever be trapped in little more than uncreative algorithms, fancy and powerful they may be. And that seems to be the fate of material computers. You can write for them fancy algorithms, and achieve some amazing things via number-crunching alone due to vast data sets (such as face recognition), but trying to eek out any kind of free-thinking or creativity out of a computer program has thus far failed miserably (or wonderfully, however you want to look at it). There seems to be an extra dimension that is needed to break out of a sort of materialist determinism.

    So perhaps we can see the “mind/brain” problem not as a problem, but as a design solution for kicking us over the hump of being mere automatons…and having some sort of free will. So I do think free will is central to this question.

    But still it’s interesting that a Creator would allow things that we, as civilized human beings, would not. Who among us would not blink out of existence every single person involved in ISIS if we could? After all, there may be a precedent for this if the story of Noah and the Flood is at all true.

    So although the idea of free will is surely central, I think it has to be more than free will that explains the presence of evil. It’s a jarring thought that the Creator of the universe would allow a sort of chamber of horrors to unfold on the earth, especially given that much of our own meek human energy is about trying to set limits and constrain the evil. Would a God do no less, at least regarding big-picture stuff?

    But a chamber of horrors is often what we have. You can thus give a nod to atheists and deists. It sure often does not seem as if some all-powerful benevolent God is with us.

    One can have faith that all this will just work out somehow, that “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” What else can one do? But I think tight and convincing explanations of the problem of evil still escape us.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s an interesting article by Michael Flannery: The Death of Darwin.

    One of the things they say is that right ideas bring right practices. If there is ultimate good, then following it should, by and large, bring Goodness (I won’t say “happiness” because I don’t think that’s the be-all end-all). We eek out what understanding we can about these things.

    And we can take note of things that tend to hollow us out…such as Darwinism, as Darwin himself found out. The gist of this article is that in his younger days he used to love music and poetry. But after delving not into science, but scientism, his core was eaten out. Darwin writes:

    My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of fact, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive….The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.

    Trust me on this (as I’m sure you do), you’re going to see more and more of this. In fact, I’ve noticed (as surely most of you have) that those who have been taken in by the doctrine of secularism (which usually includes the big three: Darwinism, Freudianism, and Marxism) become angry, unhappy people. Humorless as well.

    Cause and effect. So perhaps we can’t prove God is good, we can show that its opposite is bad. Perhaps circumstantial evidence, but evidence all the same.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A very interesting article. I don’t know if the fate of Darwin, in and of itself, can be considered a proof of the undesirability of anti-religion (he was a special case). On the other hand, if “by their fruits you shall know them”, we can judge the militant secularists as harshly as the Islam jihadists.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think the guy made the point that it wasn’t science that made Darwin a bit decrepit (at least in regards to the enjoyment of the finer things). It was his scientism, his ratcheted-up, narrow, dour (as it must be), materialist view of pointlessness down to the very core. It’s one thing to question ancient myths and such. It’s quite another to replace the tried-and-true philosophy of theism with the kind of rat poison that atheism always has been and always will be.

        I’ve known people online who I had gotten along with for years. But then they started getting politically rabid, and of the Leftist variety. It changed them. I’m the same smart-ass I always was. But they became dour, cynical, and obviously unhappy.

        Leftism (or atheism or materialism) poisons everything it touches. And I think with Islam it isn’t so much that it is religion that makes them evil. It’s that their ideology is a supremacist one…it’s basically Nazism in another form. You wonder today if these same libtards who swear there is a “moderate” Islam we’re not all seeing would have said the same thing about the Nazis. “Why, there are moderates like Hess, for after all he did try to make peace with the English?And there are moderates such as Albert Speer who doesn’t believe any of the rubbish. He just want to build things.”

        I’m not sure how Speer ever escaped with his life. He was famous for using (and using up) tons of slave labor for his projects.

  4. Rosalys says:

    “…worse still is if the person is acting as a slave, compelled to labor against his will.”

    There are those who enjoy being served by slaves, who love playing the puppet master – they are called psychopaths. I’m happy to know the God of the Bible isn’t a psychopath. Now it seems to me the god of the Koran – and a good number of his most faithful followers – is!

  5. ronlsb says:

    I appreciate your attempt at explaining why there is so much evil in the world if God is “good” from a Christian viewpoint. I would like, however to add a couple of thoughts. First, man does indeed have a “free will”, but he exercises that will only according to his nature. The Bible teaches that man’s nature is fallen as a result of sin, and that as a result, from God’s point of view, all that we do is an affront to him, not because we don’t do much “good” (from a human point of view), but rather that it is done with the wrong motives. As to the nature of evil and why God would allow so much to exist in this world and who is responsible for it if God is sovereign, it is a tough thought to get one’s mind around. The Bible helps us here, however, with the supreme example of evil in all of human history, which was the crucifixion of the Son of God. Scripture tells us God ordained the whole thing and yet it was evil men who were totally responsible for the heinous crime. And as a result of their evil actions an untold amount of good resulted–ie, the possibility of salvation, reconciliation with our Creator, and eternal life for all those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, I appreciate your article. Keep up the good work.

    • Rosalys says:

      Very well put. I shall try to remember this very phrasing, “First, man does indeed have a “free will”, but he exercises that will only according to his nature.” In fact I could have made use of it earlier today, but only just read your comment. Thank you!

  6. Nate says:

    I’d simply like to cite a recent podcast from a prominent Christian philosopher on this very topic, though his response was to the video of Stephen Fry, the nature of the disagreement is nearly identical:

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/a-viral-video-on-the-problem-of-evil

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks for the link, Nate. I listened to the audio version.

      There are two problems here: One is the problem of evil. The other is the problem of why Stephen Fry is such a self-righteous prick.

      I sympathize with the conundrum, even injustice, of bone cancer in children and things like that. But to work up the kind of preening outrage that Fry does shows that it’s much more about him being addicted to his self-righteousness and being seen to do so.

      Let’s remember, the side that is so outraged at bone cancer in children routinely approves of disposing of them by the millions in the womb. So let’s just get some perspective here.

      The Christian apologists make some good points, the best one being basically, “We can’t be sure of the reasons that these things are allowed.” And, for sure, we cannot.

      Fry is a fraud, another liberal flake who is part of a destructive cult. It’s one thing to point out the horrific aspects of life. But this must be balanced with the trillion-and-one amazing and good things. To do a proper accounting, only the moral preeners (whose real purpose is to be seen as a moral do-gooder and/or to vent their well-practiced grievance) would not balance the books and obsess only on the bad stuff.

      This is a moral sickness that people such as Fry show. Again, no problem with stating the horrific things such as bone cancer in children. We can all wonder about the injustice of this. But we also should remark on the billion other children who don’t have this disease (or any major disease). And it is quite likely that many of the diseases children have (but certainly not all of them) are due to our bad behavior, including eating junk food during pregnancy, the father or mother doing drugs (well known in liberal quarters), abandoning children to poverty so that we can sleep around, etc.

      Isn’t it at least reasonable to assume that to have any level of freedom (freedom to do stupid libtard things to our bodies) that some degree of free will is necessary and thus God can’t fix everything? This may or may not be why the way things are the way that they are. But isn’t the a starting point for a reasonable discussion?

      But pricks such as Fry don’t want a reasonable discussion. They want to morally preen.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Fry is a pompous queer who has written some horrible books. Try reading his book, “The Liar”.

        He’s a poor man’s Oscar Wilde.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          There really is a separation of species when talking about those for whom “God” is not a punch line and those whose lives are grounded in little more than the secular religion comprised of a chain of populist conceits. It matters what we live for, how deep our thought and hearts go.

          The secular man lashes out at “God” because in some way he knows he has divided himself from any kind of deeper nourishment of his soul. So he must whistle — nay, shout — as he walks past the graveyard. The vulgarity, anger, and self-righteousness are his way to howl at the moon in despair and suppose he is doing something noble.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        This is how liberals handle religion in general. I think it was Christopher Hitchens who said there was nothing good that ever resulted from religion. But this apples to much more. They judge those they like by their best examples and those they dislike by their worst examples. (In some cases, such as Tea Party racists, they even have to fabricate the worst examples.)

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          This is why I roll my eyes whenever one of these fellows dies and the conservative press is rolling all over themselves to praise these guys. Hitchens has some good points but he was a great example of intelligence being badly used, separated as it was from wisdom.

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