Qu9ke

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Good out of evil & free will question
« on: May 23, 2014, 03:15:44 am »
This will be my first post on this site, and I will say now I am not an expert in philosophy or the different sciences. Having said that, I apologize in advance if I make errors in my logic or reasoning. I thought I would raise two questions that, while they are only indirectly related to Craig's work (whom I'm a big fan), have been bothering me all the same. They are the questions, "How can good come out of evil (suffering)?", and "Is free will only that when you choose against your desires?"

1. After watching a few debates and reading one and a half books (God? A Debate... and On Guard), one big argument Craig gives against the "suffering making God improbable" issue is him saying that it is suffering that apparently helps stimulate growth in Christianity and can help make people better in the long run. While I believe that to be true, I am still left with the question.... Why does that happen? In the way that out of nothing, nothing comes, shouldn't I also expect that out of natural evil (suffering), evil comes? This idea has plagued me since before I even knew about Craig. Why is it that the best way to grow (and to grow the fastest) spiritually is the way that causes the most pain? The way to be the most good... Is to undergo the most evils. Why couldn't the path of being most good be filled with.... I don't know... Good things? I am probably going to get an answer saying that I am asking this question with the attitude that God's purpose in life is for me to happy instead of knowing Him, and that it is my disappointment that drives this question. You are probably right, but that won't help much to alleviate this itch. Even if someone were to explain how the taking in of evils and turning them into goods worked (which would be nice to know), my ultimate desire for this question is knowing why that had to be that way in the first place. Alas, I fear that might remain a mystery.

2. The way I worded this question probably made it confusing, but it was the only way I knew how to word it. I'll hopefully help by giving an example(s). I'll start be asking this question. Is free will only free will when we consciously practice it? A huge example would be a small child who is just now being taught about Jesus. Of course his natural inclination is to accept Christ due to his emotions and psychological state. Even well known atheists such as Richard Dawkins was (supposedly) a believer until he was 15. Rather than free will, it seems the children simply act on feelings, and if they really wanted to practice their right to choose they would consciously go against those feelings and reject Christ (I am in no way saying that is a good idea I am only bringing that up for the sake of the argument). It feels strange that for a God to cherish the idea of free will so strongly, yet when it comes to the biggest question in someone's life (accepting Christ or not), they are more inclined IT SEEMS to me to accept because of their emotions that God put into them in the first place. So.... It seems if it were to be truly and 100% free will, then we should have absolutely no influence thrust upon us whatsoever other than our own decision making to make our life decisions. Craig's debate with Millican comes to mind as I type. Millican says (and I paraphrase immensely) to the audience that if he were to give everyone the equation 2+2=? and tell them that everyone who gets it wrong gets excruciating pain, they would pick the right answers (which is obviously 4). Now he ironically goes and says the opposite of where my thought process is going and says that does not invalidate free will in any way or something along those lines (pardon me I am speaking from foggy memory). I, however, ask... Why doesn't it? AT BEST, I think it makes free will a foggy and ambiguous concept when you are to be controlled under your own feelings and desires.... Desires like not wanting to be in pain.

Anyways... Hopefully I can get some good answers and feedback. These have been killing me for a long time. Thank you.

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Vimbiso

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Re: Good out of evil & free will question
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2014, 10:23:41 am »
1. After watching a few debates and reading one and a half books (God? A Debate... and On Guard), one big argument Craig gives against the "suffering making God improbable" issue is him saying that it is suffering that apparently helps stimulate growth in Christianity and can help make people better in the long run. While I believe that to be true, I am still left with the question.... Why does that happen? In the way that out of nothing, nothing comes, shouldn't I also expect that out of natural evil (suffering), evil comes? This idea has plagued me since before I even knew about Craig. Why is it that the best way to grow (and to grow the fastest) spiritually is the way that causes the most pain? The way to be the most good... Is to undergo the most evils. Why couldn't the path of being most good be filled with.... I don't know... Good things? I am probably going to get an answer saying that I am asking this question with the attitude that God's purpose in life is for me to happy instead of knowing Him, and that it is my disappointment that drives this question. You are probably right, but that won't help much to alleviate this itch. Even if someone were to explain how the taking in of evils and turning them into goods worked (which would be nice to know), my ultimate desire for this question is knowing why that had to be that way in the first place. Alas, I fear that might remain a mystery.

The assertion of the probabilistic problem of evil is that the existence of evil makes it improbable for God to exist. The reasons given for what makes it improbable for God to co-exist with evil are that:
1. If God did exist, He would prefer a world with no evil.
    1a. If God is loving He wouldn't want people and animals to suffer.
2. If God did exist, He would not have any good reasons to allow evil to exist.
    2a. There is so much gratuitous evil in the world such that it is improbable that there is a good reason for its existence

The assumption with point 1 is that God's purpose for us is to simply live in blissful lives. This is presumptuous on the sceptic and far from the truth. God having created us as free willed moral agents demands that we are morally responsible and pursue to know Him. To know God and to be morally responsible entails having to learn obedience. Such a process is never going to be smooth for a creature endowed with free will. You then ask the question, "Why couldn't the path of being most good be filled with.... I don't know... Good things?" The problem here is that you assume that God could have achieved His purposes another way. If there were only good things, as you put it, how would you learn to show mercy, compassion, sympathy, generosity, justice etc. Only in a world infused with evil and suffering can we learn to build those character traits.

Point 2 carries an enormous burden of proof for the sceptic. How does the sceptic know that God does not have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil to happen? Some of the examples Dr. Craig uses are merely suggestions of what these morally sufficient reasons could be. He doesn't claim that they are the actual reasons but merely posits them as potential reasons. The key thing here is that as long as it is possible that there are morally sufficient reasons, then it is reasonable to conclude that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil to happen.

2. The way I worded this question probably made it confusing, but it was the only way I knew how to word it. I'll hopefully help by giving an example(s). I'll start be asking this question. Is free will only free will when we consciously practice it? A huge example would be a small child who is just now being taught about Jesus. Of course his natural inclination is to accept Christ due to his emotions and psychological state. Even well known atheists such as Richard Dawkins was (supposedly) a believer until he was 15. Rather than free will, it seems the children simply act on feelings, and if they really wanted to practice their right to choose they would consciously go against those feelings and reject Christ (I am in no way saying that is a good idea I am only bringing that up for the sake of the argument). It feels strange that for a God to cherish the idea of free will so strongly, yet when it comes to the biggest question in someone's life (accepting Christ or not), they are more inclined IT SEEMS to me to accept because of their emotions that God put into them in the first place. So.... It seems if it were to be truly and 100% free will, then we should have absolutely no influence thrust upon us whatsoever other than our own decision making to make our life decisions. Craig's debate with Millican comes to mind as I type. Millican says (and I paraphrase immensely) to the audience that if he were to give everyone the equation 2+2=? and tell them that everyone who gets it wrong gets excruciating pain, they would pick the right answers (which is obviously 4). Now he ironically goes and says the opposite of where my thought process is going and says that does not invalidate free will in any way or something along those lines (pardon me I am speaking from foggy memory). I, however, ask... Why doesn't it? AT BEST, I think it makes free will a foggy and ambiguous concept when you are to be controlled under your own feelings and desires.... Desires like not wanting to be in pain.

Anyways... Hopefully I can get some good answers and feedback. These have been killing me for a long time. Thank you.

Let me start by defining free will. Free will, per the Oxford Online Dictionary, is simply the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion. To paraphrase, it is simply the ability to autonomously make a decision that is not externally determined. The key bit is the one that I have placed in bold. Understanding external determination is very important. External determination does not include things such as duress and influence. For example if a person puts a gun to your head and tells you to jump off a cliff to certain death, if you jump off the cliff, your decision to jump off the cliff was not externally determined. You were simply forced to make the decision but you were not externally determined to make the decision. You still could have chosen to be shot by refusing to jump off the cliff. An act that is externally determined, is one that occurs as a result of a process that is outside of your free will such as instinct and physiologically determined actions such as the five senses. You don't make a free will decision to breath, you just breath by default. Therefore the scenario of threatening people with excrutiating pain if they get 2+2 wrong does not disprove free will. I am assuming in the scenario the answer to the equation is also supplied. In that case people have the option to either give the right answer (it's already been supplied and they simply need to give it) and not suffer pain or give the wrong answer (a willful decision on their part since they know it's wrong anyway) and suffer pain. Either way they exercise their free will.
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Soyeong

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Re: Good out of evil & free will question
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2014, 11:05:10 pm »
Quote
suffering that apparently helps stimulate growth

It's not desirable to go through persecution, but persecution does highlight our need to rely on God, while being successful makes it easier to forget that.  The Church was at its best when it was under persecution and at its worst under Constantine. 

Quote
Why does that happen?

If someone lived in a stasis field where they had no change in experience, then they could experience neither good nor evil.  It is only through contrast with evil that we can overcome it with good. 

Quote
It seems if it were to be truly and 100% free will, then we should have absolutely no influence thrust upon us whatsoever

Again, I think you would have to be in stasis field in order to have absolutely no outside influences.  So free will does mean freedom from outside influences, but freedom to choose how to act.
"Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it.”

Yeshua answered them, “The reason you go astray is that you are ignorant both of the Tanakh and of the power of God. - Matthews 22:29 (CJB)

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Winston D Jen

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Re: Good out of evil & free will question
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2014, 11:18:46 pm »
If god ordered William Lane Craig to rape children for a "morally sufficient reason," you would be obligated to do so, even if he didn't give you the reason.

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Winston D Jen

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Re: Good out of evil & free will question
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2014, 11:21:25 pm »
Vimbiso, I would gladly surrender my free will if I could live a life without suffering. It's an easy calculation to make.

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Qu9ke

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Re: Good out of evil & free will question
« Reply #5 on: May 25, 2014, 04:03:42 pm »
Quote
The assertion of the probabilistic problem of evil is that the existence of evil makes it improbable for God to exist. The reasons given for what makes it improbable for God to co-exist with evil are that:
1. If God did exist, He would prefer a world with no evil.
    1a. If God is loving He wouldn't want people and animals to suffer.
2. If God did exist, He would not have any good reasons to allow evil to exist.
    2a. There is so much gratuitous evil in the world such that it is improbable that there is a good reason for its existence

The assumption with point 1 is that God's purpose for us is to simply live in blissful lives. This is presumptuous on the sceptic and far from the truth. God having created us as free willed moral agents demands that we are morally responsible and pursue to know Him. To know God and to be morally responsible entails having to learn obedience. Such a process is never going to be smooth for a creature endowed with free will. You then ask the question, "Why couldn't the path of being most good be filled with.... I don't know... Good things?" The problem here is that you assume that God could have achieved His purposes another way. If there were only good things, as you put it, how would you learn to show mercy, compassion, sympathy, generosity, justice etc. Only in a world infused with evil and suffering can we learn to build those character traits.

Point 2 carries an enormous burden of proof for the sceptic. How does the sceptic know that God does not have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil to happen? Some of the examples Dr. Craig uses are merely suggestions of what these morally sufficient reasons could be. He doesn't claim that they are the actual reasons but merely posits them as potential reasons. The key thing here is that as long as it is possible that there are morally sufficient reasons, then it is reasonable to conclude that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil to happen.

1. My question wasn't about the compatibility of evil in the world with the existence of God. I actually agree in that there is nothing logically incoherent with evil and the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful God. The point I was trying to make was that I did not understand how something can come out of its total opposite. Good out of evil. I don't have a problem believing God is good. Such a statement would in my mind NORMALLY carry implications that perhaps He too has undergone many evils or appreciates evil, for it contrasts good and makes it all more apparent. I don't believe either of those implications however. I believe that just as He is good, He is also THE good. He is what good manifests from. Just as the "meter" defined by the French defines what the distance of a meter is, so too God defines what good is not through His words, but through His very nature. To ask why God is good would be to ask why the meter standard is a meter long. It IS the meter. How foolish to ask why something is intrinsically what it is. Just as the meter standard can't be an inch, centimeter, or a foot, so too God cannot be evil. It simply is not compatible. This raises another question I just thought about recently. Is Satan by his very nature evil? Let's take it a step further. Is he he evil in the same way God is good? The implications would be Satan was always evil from eternity past, but that is simply not true. Yet, he is arguably the epicenter of evil or at least the one that takes all the blame for it. Is evil itself an abstract thing that exists even outside satan, for he technically fell into evil. It seems the concept of evil has always existed from eternity past, even before the fall of man, but Satan was the first to fall into it. Since that's the case, surely he isn't intrinsically and naturally evil but a confused being so polarized in his thinking that he refuses to change. Back when he was Lucifer, he must have been glorious beyond comprehension (aside from God) to be able to get full of himself enough to try to rebel. I read that angels, beings who people said don't have free will, do indeed have it but are in such an environment that their thoughts of rebellion are simply non existent. Heaven is just THAT good. Lucifer must have been (aside from God) the most beautiful and incomprehensible being to exist to get so conceited.  This relates nicely to the idea of free will and that influences and inclinations toward one decision do not invalidate free will. Before that and coming back to there being evil so we might learn virtues etc... If there were no evils or at least the possibility of evil (tree of knowledge of good and evil), we wouldn't have to learn such things because the concepts of good, love, justice, etc would not exist. Those things would still exist, but the concepts of them wouldn't.

Quote
Let me start by defining free will. Free will, per the Oxford Online Dictionary, is simply the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion. To paraphrase, it is simply the ability to autonomously make a decision that is not externally determined. The key bit is the one that I have placed in bold. Understanding external determination is very important. External determination does not include things such as duress and influence. For example if a person puts a gun to your head and tells you to jump off a cliff to certain death, if you jump off the cliff, your decision to jump off the cliff was not externally determined. You were simply forced to make the decision but you were not externally determined to make the decision. You still could have chosen to be shot by refusing to jump off the cliff. An act that is externally determined, is one that occurs as a result of a process that is outside of your free will such as instinct and physiologically determined actions such as the five senses. You don't make a free will decision to breath, you just breath by default. Therefore the scenario of threatening people with excrutiating pain if they get 2+2 wrong does not disprove free will. I am assuming in the scenario the answer to the equation is also supplied. In that case people have the option to either give the right answer (it's already been supplied and they simply need to give it) and not suffer pain or give the wrong answer (a willful decision on their part since they know it's wrong anyway) and suffer pain. Either way they exercise their free will.

2. After my long winded first bullet point (which probably should have been multiple points), I can say I am content with your answer. I'm not 100% satisfied though considering that you have to take the very idea of free will as faith. As far as I know, there isn't anything anyone can say to refute the idea of an externally determined world just as anyone can't refute free will actually existing. Because there is a definition of "free will" doesn't mean to me that it actually exists. I like to believe it does though.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2014, 08:09:29 pm by Qu9ke »

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jayceeii

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Re: Good out of evil & free will question
« Reply #6 on: March 03, 2020, 10:08:56 am »
q9: This will be my first post on this site, and I will say now I am not an expert in philosophy or the different sciences. Having said that, I apologize in advance if I make errors in my logic or reasoning. I thought I would raise two questions that, while they are only indirectly related to Craig's work (whom I'm a big fan), have been bothering me all the same. They are the questions, "How can good come out of evil (suffering)?", and "Is free will only that when you choose against your desires?"

jc: Jesus gave a facile and in the end insupportable answer to (1), that the reward would be great in Heaven. This is one of the central props of Christendom, inspiring many, but is also one of the logs to be cast into the fire on Christ’s return. Instead of rewards to come later, we want to know about its usefulness to us now, if any. Had Jesus been after friends instead of followers, He’d have asked people to stay quiet in among persecutors. He came close to it in, “Cast not your pearls before swine,” but I am filling out the idea.

As for (2), yes, it is free will only when one is free from desires, but in the case of pure souls there is no struggle because these are in a desireless condition. Any choice a pure soul makes is good and wise. They can’t even make a bad choice if they try. It isn’t in them. So the real question of religion is how to attain this pure state, a question unasked.

q9: 1. After watching a few debates and reading one and a half books (God? A Debate... and On Guard), one big argument Craig gives against the "suffering making God improbable" issue is him saying that it is suffering that apparently helps stimulate growth in Christianity and can help make people better in the long run.

jc: This is the watered-down answer, given to the struggling souls. Human sorrow is generally because of thwarted desire. In an advanced way it could be called a form of whining, but they don’t have the power to cease this whining because the desire is deep within them and they are not masters of their minds. So Craig in wisdom tries to help them build upon their condition, rather than tearing them down, as Jesus said “the thief” would do. In the longer run it is better that humans try to come to grips with their state.

q9: While I believe that to be true, I am still left with the question.... Why does that happen? In the way that out of nothing, nothing comes, shouldn't I also expect that out of natural evil (suffering), evil comes? This idea has plagued me since before I even knew about Craig. Why is it that the best way to grow (and to grow the fastest) spiritually is the way that causes the most pain? The way to be the most good... Is to undergo the most evils. Why couldn't the path of being most good be filled with.... I don't know... Good things?

jc: This is perhaps the core issue of spiritual growth, that the paths of righteousness are experienced as anguish by souls still plagued by desire. Furthermore, work is usually more efficacious than suffering, so the path forward for them is not necessarily the harshest one they can possibly endure. All require at least some joy for daily function, even if these joys are drawn in an impure fashion. Yet humans will benefit, in the longest run, by seeing the higher standards enacted on this world. It hasn’t been done before now.

q9: I am probably going to get an answer saying that I am asking this question with the attitude that God's purpose in life is for me to be happy instead of knowing Him, and that it is my disappointment that drives this question.

jc: This is about the gist, the “good things” a growing soul expects, are not really good. In general they rejoice in material value, unable to find meaning in personal interactions.

q9: You are probably right, but that won't help much to alleviate this itch. Even if someone were to explain how the taking in of evils and turning them into goods worked (which would be nice to know), my ultimate desire for this question is knowing why that had to be that way in the first place. Alas, I fear that might remain a mystery.

jc: This thread is so old I can’t answer it personally, but in general someone asking these questions is exhibiting uncommon profundity, and might be pleased to know the paths of righteousness taste sweet to the wise. As I say, the paths have not been shown yet, so they don’t know where to turn for a better way of life. I’m coming to the conclusion the guidance for the rising souls is best dispensed from near their echelon or level. A higher teacher will always sound too harsh, his requests too demanding. Perhaps eventually these souls will “catch on,” that a harsh teacher can mean rapid progress, but at this moment in history there is no taste for it. The trouble is that once established in perfection, the imperfect look ridiculous. Why can’t they just see things the right way?

q9: 2. The way I worded this question probably made it confusing, but it was the only way I knew how to word it.

jc: The initial wording was, “Is free will only that when you choose against your desires?” A new set of desires comes to those who have been “born again,” that Christians have misinterpreted as minor experiences. Formerly the desires were selfish, meaning they were attempts to grasp joy APART from the good of the whole world. Now all the desires are selfless, which means these are attempts to grasp joy ALONG WITH the good of the whole world. In this of course, “the good of the whole world” must be interpreted objectively, so that others in a similar desireless condition would sympathize.

q9: I'll hopefully help by giving an example(s). I'll start be asking this question. Is free will only free will when we consciously practice it? A huge example would be a small child who is just now being taught about Jesus. Of course his natural inclination is to accept Christ due to his emotions and psychological state. Even well known atheists such as Richard Dawkins was (supposedly) a believer until he was 15. Rather than free will, it seems the children simply act on feelings, and if they really wanted to practice their right to choose they would consciously go against those feelings and reject Christ (I am in no way saying that is a good idea I am only bringing that up for the sake of the argument).

jc: Children and young adults too have a very limited perspective. It is hard or impossible to survive without making a presumption the elders know what they are doing, that they have done the best for their souls and world, and are not jeopardizing the entire planet having neglected their souls too. So it takes time to move away from this phalanx of contrary opinion surrounding oneself, particularly as they keep clinging and demanding.

q9: It feels strange that for a God to cherish the idea of free will so strongly, yet when it comes to the biggest question in someone's life (accepting Christ or not), they are more inclined IT SEEMS to me to accept because of their emotions that God put into them in the first place.

jc: I don’t think children are responding from emotions, but from a limited perspective under intense peer pressure from adults who conceive them to be types of possessions. I’d also say this act of “accepting Christ” is empty regarding salvation, although it helps the individual walk a straighter path in human society. To accept Christ would mean accepting His living Word, but no Christian rises higher than crucifying Jesus over again.

The souls have their own emotions. God isn’t putting these in, otherwise the world would be perfect. Where the emotions go deeds follow naturally, and humans hate the good while loving evil, contrary to God’s intent and desire for souls in these bodies allowing intelligence. As Christians attest, the Holy Spirit can add supplementation to emotions, but these effects are short-lived and partial. It can’t make an impure soul delight in good.

q9: So.... It seems if it were to be truly and 100% free will, then we should have absolutely no influence thrust upon us whatsoever other than our own decision making to make our life decisions.

jc: The discussion has turned from the original sentence, now speaking of “emotions” where formerly it was “desires.” I’d be recalcitrant to say a craving should be counted as a mood, but would admit possibly humans never rise above continuous cravings and would regard these to be their emotional base. The truly poignant or profound emotions require detachment from the senses. You won’t ever find human children free from the oppression of possessive parents, wanting these children to reflect their own worldviews.

q9: Craig's debate with Millican comes to mind as I type. Millican says (and I paraphrase immensely) to the audience that if he were to give everyone the equation 2+2=? and tell them that everyone who gets it wrong gets excruciating pain, they would pick the right answers (which is obviously 4). Now he ironically goes and says the opposite of where my thought process is going and says that does not invalidate free will in any way or something along those lines (pardon me I am speaking from foggy memory). I, however, ask... Why doesn't it? AT BEST, I think it makes free will a foggy and ambiguous concept when you are to be controlled under your own feelings and desires.... Desires like not wanting to be in pain.

jc: The threat of pain would only eliminate hecklers, who would give the wrong answer to watch the speaker squirm. It would not influence knowledge. For instance if the audience were asked to outline Einstein’s general theory of relatively, most would fail.

Christianity does use the threat of pain to increase its ranks, but they do not really offer relief from the threat of hell as they pridefully imagine. Choosing between the painful and the non-painful is not really free. It is just basic to avoid the painful. In the case of physical analogies this is obvious, but since humans feel mental anguish to choose what the angels define as good, they go the opposite way from dharma or righteousness. The nature of this anguish is generally frustrated desire, that they wanted something selfish.

q9: Anyways... Hopefully I can get some good answers and feedback. These have been killing me for a long time. Thank you.

jc: A good question does not lose its value with time. The freedom of the pure souls is not exercised in reaction to pain. Nonetheless such souls are well-ordered, which means emotion comes into the service of reason. The intellect declares what is good, and then the person feels good about it, as they feel badly about what the intellect declares to be bad. This is not a reactive condition, but a positive state extending into degrees of good.