Why I Rejected Christianity Review: Natural Evil

I had some time ago done a review of John Loftus’s book “Why I Rejected Christianity.” I promised when I got my paper graded, which did pass very well, and I edited the corrections suggested, I would put up my paper on natural evil based on his book. That time has come. Over the next few blogs, I am planning on touching on emotional problems with evil which is where this lies. If you are suffering right now from a calamity of natural evil, this is not the time to read this. I ask that you come back when you think you’re in a better state of mind.

I also want to thank the fine staff at my Seminary for all they have done for me in this past semester and their constant friendship as they are like a new family to me. I also want to thank J.P. Holding of Tektonics for his endless support of me throughout everything. Definitely thanks to my roommate who is an English Major and constantly went through my paper and suggested ways to edit it prior to turning it in.

And of course, thanks to Jesus Christ who saved my from the personal evil I’ve done and will do in the future and who enabled someone like me to make a difference in this world through apologetics. He uses the foolish and the shameful indeed.

If anyone sees this paper being used without due recognition, please let me know also.

And now, my argument.

Why I Reject John Loftus On Natural Evil: A Current Apologist Explains

The title of Harold Kushner’s book “When Bad Things Happen To Good People,” is a question that is on people’s minds often. Humanity lives in a world where pain and suffering are a reality. Yet at the same time, many people today believe that a God exists who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving. If that is the case, why does this God not do something about this evil?

There are two aspects to this problem. The first is moral evil, when the evening news and find that a school shooting has taken place. This kind of evil is traced to free-will beings. The other kind of suffering is that which does not seem directly tied to free-will beings.

This is the area that the atheistic writer John Loftus, writer of “Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains,” will be approached at in this paper. Loftus lists several conditions and a preliminary word is needed on some of them. It’s also interesting that while Loftus gives many statistics, he never gives a source for his statistics. What parasite, for instance, kills one person every ten seconds? [1]

In his list, he also mentions birth defects and scoliosis. It is this writer’s personal experience to have birth defects and the one particularly of scoliosis. This is important since this is a topic that cannot be approached from a merely cerebral level. Those who write on suffering ought to have real experience of it.

This leads to the preliminary word in dealing with this topic. The topic of natural evil is one that tends to arouse emotion. It is so powerful that many a person can get so gripped by emotion that it overrides their rationality. It must be remembered that discussion of this topic has to get past the emotional level and the problem of evil in the end cannot simply be the atheologian saying “I don’t like X.”

Also, the reader must note the words of Alvin Plantinga in saying, “Neither a defense or a theodicy, of course, gives any hint as to what God’s reason for some specific evil—the death or suffering of someone close to you, for example, might be. And there is still another function—a sort of pastoral function—in the neighborhood that neither serves.” [2]

It must be stressed then that this writer is not speaking as one who is aloof from suffering, but has entered into it and faced it head-on. While atheists in America are complaining about suffering, if one hears about the experiences of third world countries where suffering is highest, it seems that these people accept it as a reality of life and it does not stifle their faith. In fact, their faith is stronger.

For now though, attention needs to be focused on giving a rational answer to the case at hand, which involves natural evil. Loftus says about natural disasters that, “God should prevent all natural disasters too, like the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed a quarter of a million people.” Interestingly he follows with “If God had prevented it, none of us would ever know he kept it from happening, precisely because it didn’t happen.” [3]

This is quite odd coming from someone complaining about the amount of evil in the world. How is it that Loftus doesn’t know that any number of tsunamis or other natural disasters were prevented? One cannot make the charge that God is not doing anything when he could well have done things that we know nothing about by Loftus’s own admission!

Also, these natural disasters are avoidable. There were people who avoided the tsunami simply because they understood the way nature acts and knew that something was coming and got out of the way. Could it be as a consequence of our own abuse of the world that we are suffering the consequences?

Natural disasters are also essential for life. Hugh Ross writes, “Without earthquakes, nutrients essential for life on the continents would erode and accumulate in the oceans. However, if earthquake activity were too great, it would be impossible for humans to reside in cities. On Earth, the number and intensity of earthquakes is large enough to recycle life-essential nutrients back to the continents but not so intense that dwelling in cities is impossible. [4]

Gonzalez and Richards, writers of “The Privileged Planet”, confer saying “Without earthquakes, we probably wouldn’t even be here, and if somehow we were, we would know far less about Earth’s interior structure.”[5] The same could be said in other ways for other disasters like lightning and hurricanes.

Ironically then, these disasters turn out to be an argument for God’s existence rather than against it as they indicate a fine design on our planet for life. Again, Loftus may not like it, but not liking it does not mean that it is not good. The Christian could simply ask Loftus “Why do we have these disasters that just happen to keep our planet flowing smoothly?”

The other question that can be asked is “Why should God prevent every natural disaster?” Does Loftus know what kind of world he is asking for? It is quite likely that if natural disasters were removed, that something else would be complained about. If that was removed, then it would be something else. Ultimately, it would not be a world God created unless it was perfect which simply boils down to a type of argument where God doesn’t exist because the skeptic is not happy.

It could also be that Loftus is asking the wrong question. Mark Whorton explains in describing a personal conversation he had with someone on the topic. He writes, “Perhaps Adam is not responsible for all of the suffering in this world. After all, didn’t God anticipate that Adam would fall? Of course he did. Otherwise, his original plan failed in the garden. What if God had a bigger purpose for creating this world than merely preventing suffering? What if he had a ‘master plan’ to deal with sin and rebellion once and for all eternity, and then take us to an eternal home that really is, ‘very good?’ [6]

Such is the thesis of Mark Whorton’s book. If the skeptic expects this world to be a five-star motel, he is going to be disappointed. The theist is not though as the theist expects this world to simply be a pilgrimage. The purpose of this world is to decide who will be where in the next world. It is as if a game of sorts is being played. If God shows too much, then the choice is forced. It is the same if he shows too little. Could it be God has just the right balance?

Loftus also has much to say about predation in the natural world. Why was it created this way? Unfortunately, this seems to be the kind of argumentation that comes in modern times where one can turn on the Discovery Channel and see lions in the wild and think that every day they tear into a gazelle.

First off, the Bible actually affirms this situation. Psalm 104:21 says “The young lions roar after their prey and seek their food from God.” The entire Psalm speaks of the wonder of the natural cycle and how man fits into it. Instead of viewing it as an evil, the Psalmist views it as a reason to praise God and views all of creation by acting according to its nature as praising God.

Second, Philosopher Glenn Miller of the Christian-Thinktank has shown that animals do not really suffer as much as we think they do. In fact, when studying the evidence, predation in nature actually shows the fine handiwork of design. [7]

To begin with looking at this problem, there is no evidence that animals suddenly went from herbivorous to carnivorous or omnivorous. Thus, the Christian cannot say that animals suddenly changed at the fall as there is no evidence to back that. This would indicate then that this was intended from the beginning.

However, nature really is not as predatory as Loftus makes it out to be. Animals that are even carnivorous have only a small part of their diet often being that of a wild animal. In fact, even when they do kill a wild animal, the meal is such that it can last for a long time. A shark, for instance, can go for a month on a kill.

Also, if the theory of this writer is true as to the purpose of the universe, then we can expect death to occur in it. What happens in predation is the way of nature balancing itself out. If one species is allowed to persist too long, it can do tremendous damage to the ecosystem. A balance must exist.

Loftus writes “And creatures do experience pain in proportion to their central nervous systems.”[8] Loftus brings this out because this writer in a debate with him in 2005 brought out this point. If a person wants to know how much pain an animal is likely experiencing, the central nervous system of that animal needs to be examined.

Many a young boy has cut an earthworm in two and watched the pieces squirm. While it may be thought that the earthworm is experiencing pain because of that, it actually is not. The earthworm is showing more irritability in that the cells are responding to something, but the nervous system is not developed enough to feel pain.

This can be seen easily in some higher animals due to the fact they cause internal damage to themselves. A dragonfly, for instance, will eat its own abdomen, which is hardly something that it would do if it was feeling intense pain while doing that activity. This kind of activity is hardly rare in the animal kingdom.

Loftus is correct in saying that the central nervous system determines how much pain an animal feels, but then he makes the mistake of not looking at all at the central nervous system. Instead, he points to how it looks from a human point of view. It is an emotionally appealing point, but the facts of the way the bodies of animals are designed just do not match it.

Consider if time travel became possible and someone from medieval times came to modern times and saw a movie being filmed. They see a dummy knife being used to stab someone and packets of fake blood open up on the victim and the victim acts as if they are in intense agony. The time traveler would think that the actor was really in intense pain and dying and might even try to interfere. He would think that, but he would be wrong.

This would be counter to what Loftus says. “If it looks like pain, it is pain, despite Rene Descartes’ claim that animals don’t feel pain![9]” One wonders how Loftus could back this claim. Could he do the same on a Hollywood set? If he is in a hospital seeing a patient treated under anesthetic, does he say the patient is feeling pain when they are being cut up?

Loftus also believes that all animals should be vegetarians. Apparently, it is fine then for a plant to be eaten, which is life just as much, instead of an animal. Does Loftus consider all the ramifications of this idea? It is simple for the atheist to say “It should be like this.” Do they have any idea then how the universe should be designed and how nutrients should be developed?

Loftus uses this to ask why animals should suffer, which just curtails on his earlier incorrect point. His only way of saying that they suffer is that they look like they suffer. There is no attempt to try to understand the physiology of the organisms that he is dealing with.

One also wonders how this would work anyway. An elephant is an herbivore, but that does not mean it cannot leave a wake of destruction in its path when it walks through a forest. If all animals were vegetarians and constantly eating plants, would the size of the planet have to be adjusted to accommodate for all the plant space? Would then the entire solar system have to be altered if humanity is indeed on the privileged planet?

Also, Loftus is treating animals as if they were moral agents. This raises a number of problems for his view. First off, if a lion kills a gazelle, does Loftus suggest we capture the lion and bring them in for a trial? Should we try to train these animals so that they do not eat other animals?

It must also be asked where this idea of deserving comes from. Would Loftus prefer that the world be the type where animals would never die? How long would it be then until the animal population overran the planet? If bacteria never died out, it would take little time for them to cover the entire planet. Is Loftus aware of the kind of world he is asking for?

By what criteria then would he suggest it be determined when the time has come for an animal to go? How many years is he going to allot to the zebra? Does he have a plan for how many offspring the mayfly should leave behind? Or, is he just wanting to make arguments and not consider that maybe what he’s asking for is not feasible given the reason God created this universe?

Of course, this would also mean that he does believe in an objective moral law that is a standard of justice that says “innocent beings shouldn’t suffer.” Never mind that if there is no objective moral law, there is no problem of evil to be dealt with anyway. However, even Christians who believe in an objective moral law can wonder about “natural evil”, so it needs to be answered anyway.

If Loftus has no basis for this idea of deserving and not deserving death, then he has no problem of evil to deal with. If he keeps the problem, then he admits moral standards and thus, he admits a theistic universe and the only question then is why did God create this kind of universe instead of another? If he denies the problem of evil, then his strongest argument that he uses against theism is gone and he gets all the problems of moral relativism along with it.

Loftus brings up natural selection as a better explanation. It is interesting to note that he uses the term explanation. The belief then is that things are such a way that they ought not to be if a God created the world. The idea relies though on a specific idea of how and why God created the world and it is proper to call that thesis into question to see if it is accurate.

This is the entire thesis of Cornelius Hunter’s book, “Darwin’s God.” As Hunter states, “Darwin’s theory of evil was very much a solution to the problem of natural evil—a theodicy. The problem had confounded thinkers for centuries. They needed to distance God to clear him of any evil doings.” [10]

For Hunter then, evolution is not accepted because it is shown to be true. It is chosen because the other option of God could not, in the eyes of people, explain the predation that was in nature. When God is ruled out, then natural evolution is all that is left and that just has to be the case simply because God just would not create a world like this, which again begs the question as to the purpose of the world.

Loftus also makes claims that he has no way of backing in continuing this argument. He says “God additionally needs good moral reasons for allowing for pain,” [11]and “There is no good reason for God to have created animals at all.”[12]

How could he back these claims though? For the former, he would have to know that there are no good moral reasons since obviously, in his worldview, God is lacking them. The only way he could know this is if he knows the reasons behind why God has done anything he has done. Loftus is simply assuming a world the way he thinks it should be, saying the world does not meet that standard, and then saying that since his standard must be correct, there can be no moral God behind the universe.

For the latter claim, he would have to know God’s reason for creating the world, which if the view of the writer is correct, he does not. Loftus can only sustain his objections given that his view of the world and the purpose for it is the correct one. If that view that is the foundation shows itself to be faulty though, then the entire castle he has built on it collapses.

As Loftus goes through the list of things God could have done, this becomes more apparent. Loftus complains that our bodies to not give a reasonable measure of wellbeing for us. Loftus says this though while he himself is apparently in good health. Is he being inconsistent with this argument. This writer is one, on the other hand, who does have health problems, yet is pleased with the well-being of his body.

Loftus also says that God could have created all human beings with one color of skin to end race wars. If it was not race though, it would be something else. People will fight over any difference and the only way to avoid that would have been to make people identical in every way.

Loftus also argues that God could have created people with much better immune systems or at least given them cures for the diseases they have. However, is the cause of every disease really known? Is Loftus an expert in any way on pathology that he can make such claims? With a lack of information, it would be better to see just how many might be traceable to something man has done.

Also, who is to say that the cures are not here? However, there is much more impetus today for a scientist to discover the cure for AIDS and other STD’s than there is for him to discover other cures. It could be that in humanity’s goal to conquer nature, they have not learned all the secrets of nature to realize that the cures they seek are right under their noses.

Loftus also says that God could have made us to have self-regenerating bodies at a much faster rate. However, what kind of world again is he asking for? If such was the world, would we really learn to care for our bodies at all? Would we treat anything physical in a serious manner?

Loftus goes on to suggest giving people wings so they could fly and not fall off of cliffs or gills that we shouldn’t drown. At this point, one wonders if Loftus is really doing philosophy or writing science fiction instead. If Loftus was continuously pressed on this point, it seems a point would inevitably be reached where God does not exist until the world is exactly as Loftus wants it.

Loftus concludes this series of suggestions by saying “Only if the theist expects very little from such a being can he defend what God has done.” Either God isn’t smart enough to figure out how to create a good world, or he doesn’t have the power to do it, or he just doesn’t care. You pick. These are the logical options given this world.”[13]Instead, it could simply be that Loftus is wrong about his view of God’s purpose in creating this world and is in effect, faulting a screwdriver because it is not a hammer.

After these arguments, Loftus is ready to deal with theistic responses. He is going to grant the biblical worldview with God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence. He believes that these are grounded in Biblical statements and an Anselmian philosophical consideration, to which the orthodox theist would agree.

However, if he has conceded these, then can he really say there is a problem? If God is omnipotent, is there any reason to believe he is incapable of conquering evil? If he is omniscient, can he really say that God does not have a good reason for allowing evil? If he is really omnibenevolent, can he really say that God will not deal with the problem of evil?

Of course, none of that entails that the theist has to know the how, the when, or the why of God’s plan. It is not a requirement of the theist to possess omniscience in order to answer the problem of evil. It is a requirement of the atheist to possess omniscience to state his view of the problem of evil. Of course, if he had omniscience, he would be God and atheism would be false. The only one who could legitimately claim that there is no good reason for the evil that happens is God himself.

Loftus first brings up C.S. Lewis’s response saying that a moral standard is needed to make a judgment. A person cannot say what is evil unless they have some criteria by which they recognize it, which is the good. How can a line be called crooked unless there is an idea of a straight line?

Loftus calls this equivocation though. Loftus states that it is using it to describe the suffering and then whether or not that suffering is bad. One wonders then if Loftus is willing to concede that not all suffering is evil. If that is the case, then it simply must be asked “What is suffering that is evil?”

Loftus says the suffering that is bad is the pain that turns stomachs. Again, because it turns stomachs, it does not follow ipso facto that it is bad. The patient with leprosy would often love to have that pain. Let it be kept in mind that by Loftus’s own admission, he is one that has not known much pain. [14]

Loftus also complains about the amount of evil in the world. In an interview by Lee Strobel, Kreeft indicates the error in this kind of question:

That’s like saying it’s reasonable to believe in God if six Jews die in a holocaust, but not seven. Or sixty thousand, but not sixty thousand and one, or 5,999,999, but not six million. When you translate the general statement, ‘so much’ into particular examples like that, it shows how absurd it is. There can’t be a dividing line.[15]

He goes on to show the crux of the issue which drives at what really drives Loftus’s argument. “That’s the subjective ‘too much.’ That’s a classic case of anthropomorphism. If I were God, I wouldn’t allow this much pain; God couldn’t possibly disagree with me; God did allow this pain; and therefore there is no God.”[16] If Loftus wants to argue “so much” he needs to show how much is too much and how he reached that decision. This point of his will also imply that there can be evil in the world and God still exists for there is too much as he says. Were they completely incompatible, any evil would be a problem. One wonders if he knows how that “too much” evil has not been entailed since on page 243 of his book, he did say God could stop some of the evil it would never be known.

Loftus goes on to look at an argument of “Good cannot exist without evil and/or pleasure cannot exist without pain.” [17] Unfortunately, he gives no reference to this argument. This is an argument that would appeal to a dualistic worldview, but not to a Christian worldview. Since this is not an argument the Christian worldview makes, it need not be answered. It’s worth pointing out though that Loftus has chosen as his first argument one that is not against the Christianity his book claims to answer and that his blog claims to debunk.

The second is that evil is necessary as a means to good. This is not entirely true however. If it is meant for any good whatsoever, it is clearly false as the greatest good exists and always existed without evil. If he means though that as soon as finite beings are introduced who are capable of choosing good from evil and they must make a free-will choice, then yes. God is allowing it for a greater good.

As he continues with this point, he first says that God could have created a world with fewer evils. Going back to the question Kreeft answered, what needs to be asked is “How much?” If there is a set amount, then evil is not a disproof of God. If there is not, then Loftus is simply anthropomorphizing again.

This brings him into animal suffering and asking what animals get out of it. Again though, Loftus has yet to show that animals do truly suffer. If there is suffering going on, it is most likely at the hands of human beings and this is the free-will defense then which is not the topic under discussion. Also, where did Loftus get this idea that suffering is not fair unless there is some reward for it?

Loftus also raises the question involved in the Plague. If this suffering is the means to good, then who are we to resist it? Contemporary Philosopher Norman Geisler answers this by saying that “The theist may respond to this argument by pointing out that certain evils are only to be permitted but not to be actively promoted.”[18]

In a theistic universe, all evil is allowed only for the greater good and in allowing a specific evil, it could be that God is having the greater good result by the response to that evil. This would also depend on what is meant by evil. A Christian can take Tylenol for a headache, but that does not necessarily entail that the pain from that headache is an evil. The unpleasantness of something is not necessarily the same as it be evil.

If Christian theism is true and God knows the end from the beginning, he allows things to happen then knowing how the people will respond and knowing that that will indeed lead to the greater good. By allowing the lesser evil to occur, God is bringing about the greater good that would not have occurred otherwise.

Finally on this point, the atheologian still needs a way to tell the Christian that they are doing good or evil by fighting against the plague. If there is no moral standard, then there is no point in saying that the Christian should or should not fight against the evil due to the lack of a standard.

However, what if the problem can be eliminated without making it worse off for us? The only problem with this objection of Loftus’s is that it would require his omniscience. How does he know man does not have some good that he would not have had unless he had the evil? When the World Trade Towers were struck, for a time, there was a unity that might not have happened unless the tragedy had struck. This does not make the attack good, but it does say that some goods came as a result that might not have come about otherwise.

The next argument is that it is not God’s fault that we bring a great deal of suffering on ourselves. Loftus says that when Katrina struck, it was said that a city should not have been there to begin with. Loftus wants to ask where a person can go to avoid all the potential evils or natural disasters.

At the time of writing, in the Southeast portion of the United States, there is a drought going on, but there is not one to the extent that people are begging for water. There is no fear of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and many other natural disasters and this writer suspects that the same is in effect where Loftus lives.

Loftus paints a picture of this world that is full of evil and suffering on every side. To show this, in the debate he did with this writer, he quoted another member of Theologyweb saying:

Let’s say I create an elaborate maze with trapdoors, falling blades, faulty walls that collapse on a whim, etc. Then I place human beings in there. I put them in this dangerous situation. Now if a blade falls on them or any other disaster, do I have any blame for putting them in a system that has such hazards? I could have made a better system that was less dangerous. But this is what we find in this world. And this is the situation in which you think is compatible with a kind, caring omnipotent father/creator God? I demur. It ain’t so. [19]

Is this really an accurate view of the world though? Does Loftus wake up in the morning and put on Kevlar for fear of what will happen? Does he really have terror when he starts his car every day and leaves that he might not make it home that evening?

Instead, he lives in a world where he can get a pill to deal with the headache, he can plant a seed in the ground and expect food to come up, he can go to the faucet and get a glass of water and not have to worry about it being contaminated, and he can walk down the street and not have to worry about being attacked. Many people in third world countries would consider such existence a paradise of sorts, but even they are not complaining about the problem of evil like Loftus is.

Loftus also says that humanity has created some diseases through chemicals, but our reasons are benign.[20] First off, it would be good to know what diseases he is talking about that have been created. Second though, a good reason for doing something does not entail that the action is therefore good. As Kreeft puts in the mouth of Socrates in one of his dialogues and referencing it from Aquinas, “There are three things that make a human act good or evil, not just one: the nature of the act itself, the motive, and the situation or the circumstances.” [21]

It is hard though to tell with Loftus in this case which it would be as he has given no example of what he’s speaking about. Note that Loftus sets the blame on God though for this if we misuse the good things that he has given us and asks why God does not control our choices? Does he really want God to control his choices?

His next argument is that evil is punishment for wrongdoing and only one point touches on natural evil. Loftus wants to know why Christians today do not say natural disasters are all the result of God’s judgment. Oddly, Loftus goes to the appropriate text, Luke 13:1-5, and yet somehow draws out of that text that everyone deserves the disasters that occur. One wonders what kind of apologist it was that had this kind of exegesis.

In his fifth argument, he brings up the idea of soul-making. He asks though how this deals with animals. Again though, this assumes the animal suffering is what Loftus makes it out to be, which he has not. Also, Loftus speaks of senseless evils. Again though, he would have to be omniscient in order to know that there was no sense in allowing a certain evil.

The sixth argument is that God’s allowing of evil makes people turn to him. Loftus says that God’s not doing a good job then, but this is doubtful. Most people in the world are theists and many cases of suffering do cause people to turn to God. Suffering makes people look at life and determine what is really worthwhile to do “under the sun.” Because a few do not follow the conclusions rationally, the problem is not in God but it is in them.

The next argument is the argument from free-will. The free-will aspect will not be dealt with but only the aspects that deal with natural evil. Loftus argues that Christians say God does sometimes intervene to prevent human agents from doing wicked things they could have done. It is doubtful that Loftus would have a problem with this applying to natural evils as well so the objections he raises to that will be addressed here as well.

The first is that this is unfalsifiable, but that is irrelevant. Because a theory cannot be proven false, that means that it is not true? What of Loftus’s own claim that God does not intervene to prevent evil? How would someone go about attempting to prove that wrong aside from divine revelation of some sort? (Which Loftus would not accept.)

The second is that there are obvious cases of senseless suffering in this world. For this, the theist only needs to ask one question: “Name one.” How does Loftus know that a suffering in the world is senseless unless he himself is omniscient? If it is not senseless, then it does not go against omnibenevolence.

The third argument is that this is the fallacy of the beard whereby asking people to draw a line is like asking whiskers to be plucked out of someone’s beard and ask at what point he no longer has a beard. It is amazing that Loftus raises this argument about not being able to quantify the problem when repeatedly throughout this chapter, he has made arguments about “too much” evil. It appears Loftus can make the fallacy of the beard, but no one else can.

The fourth point is that it does not say anything about this particular world and the suffering in it. For some reason, he asks what penalties would be deterrents. This is not about deterrent though but actively blocking a person’s free-will. Loftus also misses the point that punishment is not about reformation but about doing justice.

Finally, Loftus does concede that “If there was no intense suffering or there was an adequate explanation for suffering, my whole argument would fail.”[22] At this point, the burden of proof then is on Loftus. If he wants to say there is no adequate explanation for the suffering he sees, then he must show it, and again, he can only do such by being omniscient.

Loftus also brings up the suggestion that bullets could turn to butter and baseball bats to tissue paper when used to cause harm. In the Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis deals with this argument. Such a world would be a world of chaos where there would ultimately be no freedom. There would be nothing a man could rely on and thus, no reason to do evil, but at the same time no reason to do good. As Lewis concludes about it, “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you will find that you have excluded life itself.” [23]

The next objection is that evil is a necessary by-product of natural laws. Loftus wants to know why create this universe then? The problem with such a statement though is that if Loftus does not know why this universe was created, then how can he say it’s inadequate at fulfilling its purpose?

He brings up how conceptual possibility is by no means sufficient for metaphysical possibility. Loftus says that if that is the case why create anything at all? Again though, this depends on God’s goal and without knowing the goal of God, Loftus is not in a position to criticize the means of that goal.

Second, Loftus says “I see no metaphysical impossibility for many of the suggestions I’ve made, even within our particular set of natural laws.” [24] One wonders if the theist is supposed to stop at this point and say “I guess that settles it.” Because Loftus sees no metaphysical impossibility, it follows that one does not exist?

With that, the ignorance defense will be looked at. Loftus’s complaint with the idea that we have to trust God that he will bring good from evil, as is stated in Romans 8:28, which is again the right verse to go to, is that this presupposes what needs to be shown.

How it is though that Loftus can complain about the Christian doing this when Loftus himself does it constantly in speaking about there not being any good reason for evil in the world? Also, if God is arguing against the theistic concept, then he has to accept the theistic God in the solution the theist gives. Is there anything in the theist’s use of Romans 8:28 that contradicts the theistic worldview? While there is not for the theist, for the atheist like Loftus, he has the problem that he has no grounds upon which to presuppose that there is senseless suffering in the universe.

Loftus also compares this world to a victim on a torture rack being told that they have a luxurious spa waiting and that there is a good reason for what they’re going through. Such a claim shows the emotional nature of Loftus’s argument. This writer, even undergoing intense suffering of a physical nature and an emotional nature will state that he does not compare it with torture even though he still doesn’t understand the reasons for it, but is quite thankful that those sufferings happened.

Loftus says also that even if the sufferings are compensated, that cannot justify them. How can Loftus reconcile this with the statement he made on page 250 that if there is an adequate reason for suffering, then there is no problem? Loftus apparently wants to have it both ways or else he is so caught up in his emotion of the problem that he is not realizing that he is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

When speaking about Plantinga Loftus says:

Theists are indeed correct that we can’t understand the reason why God allows the intense suffering we experience in this world. But are they correct to say that if theism is true, we should expect that there would be these particular inscrutable evils? I’ve already argued that God could’ve easily done differently. [25]

To begin with, it seems Loftus says that while it is correct that there will be suffering we don’t understand, why should it be X particular sufferings? What does Loftus really want here? He’s saying that if theism is true, there will be an inability to understand, but then his argument against theism is that there is an inability to understand. He can’t have it both ways.

Secondly, while he has argued that God could have done differently, he has yet to show that God should have done differently. This would imply a moral standard that he does not have in atheism. Also, it would require that he understand the reason for the creation of this particular universe.

Loftus also argues that God is not bound by the same moral obligations that we are. God is only bound by his nature, as the theist will agree. The moral obligations we have though are based on that nature. Why then does God not stop suffering everywhere it is? It is because God, unlike us, is omniscient and omnibenevolent and knows when it would be better to allow an evil than to stop it.

In arguing this, Loftus brings up the argument of philosopher John Stuart Mill that everyday, nature brings about various sufferings on men that if humans did them, they would be considered monsters for. Why is God let off the hook when his creation is that which is bringing about so much suffering?

The reason still remains that maybe this world is not all about avoiding suffering. It could be that God has a higher goal in mind in order to get to a world that does not have suffering. One also wonders exactly what kind of world it is that Mill would like us to have.

Does he want a world where death never occurs? Then how is he to deal with over-population and depleted resources? The Earth can sustain a lot of people well, but there is a point where the supply runs out. While that point has not been reached yet, if we had continuous reproduction and no death coming, then that point would eventually be reached.

Does he want the world also C.S. Lewis said would be chaos where God intervenes every time to stop an evil action? If that was the case, then would Loftus have ever been able to even voice his complaint? Would Loftus still be a man if every time he was to make a decision, God would override his free-will?

Also, exactly what sufferings are being talked about here? If one goes mountain climbing and does not bring adequate equipment to make the climb and falls to their death, God can hardly be blamed because of that. It is not God’s fault if someone decides to swim with sharks and becomes the next meal.

Loftus decides that either God is not bound by the ethical standards he set for Christians or his code is absolutely mysterious to us. For Loftus, God’s goodness means nothing to us at all. Loftus seems to think he has the Christian in a dilemma, but it is not an either/or situation. The way out is to go between both horns of the dilemma.

To illustrate his point which will lead to the proper response, Loftus quotes Beversluis saying:

If the word ‘good’ means approximately the same thing when we apply it to God as when we apply it to human being, then the fact of suffering provides a clear empirical refutation of the existence of a being who is both omnipotent and perfectly good. If on the other hand, we are prepared to give up the idea that ‘good’ in reference to God means anything like what it means when we refer to humans as good, then the problem of evil can be sidestepped, but any hope of a rational defense of the Christian God goes by the bounds.[26]

The answer is that goodness is applied to us finitely and to God infinitely. This is also taken in accord with what was said earlier, that God knows the beginning from the end. This is what leads then to the purpose of this world and if this view is correct, then it seems the problem of evil has been greatly deflated.

If God is omniscient, and Loftus is ready to grant that he is for the sake of the argument, then he knows the end from the beginning. If so, then he was not surprised by anything at all. He created the world knowing that Satan would rebel, that Christ would be slain, that Columbus would discover America, and that John Loftus would apostasize and write his book.

Knowing that then, God would create a world that he knew would not be perfect in itself, but would be perfect for the purpose that he created it, and that purpose would be to deal with the problem of evil. The problem of evil does not begin with humanity but begins with Satan.

God, in allowing free-will decisions to be made that have evil, is showing his value of freedom. He is also showing that he is greater than evil and that no matter what evil does, his purposes can never be thwarted. If the problem of evil though begins with the fall of Satan, then it seems the problem of evil is not what Loftus makes it out to be.

Instead, there must be some differentiation going on. We can talk about the problem of suffering and the problem of death and the problem of pain and still not really talk about the problem of evil. Suffering, death, and pain can be included in evil at times, but is there any reason that they must necessarily be so? Again, because either of them is not liked, it does not follow that they are evil.

With a world of human beings in a physical world, they are capable of choosing evil and then choosing the good. An angel, being simple in its essence, is incapable of changing its nature once it has made a choice. It is locked into a permanent state so there is no hope that one of the demons will ever come before the throne of God and beg forgiveness.

Humans are different due to the constant changing of physical nature that they are tied to. The body for humans is necessary to being fully human but not sufficient. Christian doctrine does state that the person can be separated from the body at death to await the resurrection, but until the resurrection, they are lacking in what they are meant to be. For Christianity, the body is good and essential.

If this is true and what has been said about the sufferings not being necessary, then why are they here? An analogy can be found in Paul saying the law is a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ.[27] These are teaching schools for this type of world God has created to lead us to him. As C.S. Lewis says, pain is “God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”[28]

This world is not perfect without suffering because it was never meant to be. It was meant to be the way to that world. The problem of evil then is not nature. It is free-will agents. In other words, evil is the problem for everyone and every worldview has to give an account for it. For Christians, the problem though is sin. Sin is that which is evil in this world. In this case, Christianity does not necessarily need a theodicy. Christianity is the theodicy.

God’s answer to the problem of evil is the cross. The problem is only dealt with by dealing with the wickedness that is man and the cross is the way to do that. God is working in a way also to allow the most of human freedom. He is not providing so much evidence of himself that people will be forced to choose him. He is also not providing too little that he can be found. As has been said before, God wants to be wanted and he is found by those who do want him and earnestly seek him.

Loftus uses the quote of Ivan Karamazov asking if a world could be built where man could be finally happy and have peace and tranquility, but that required the torture of one innocent person, would you do it? God’s answer is “Yes.” He did do that in that the innocent person that was tortured was his own Son. God dealt with the problem by taking it on himself.

In the final conclusion then, it seems that Loftus’s thesis is still lacking. He is ready to deal with all manner of evil that he sees here, but the question should be asked of him and everyone else “What is each person doing with the evil in their own heart?” It is a question to anyone who is struggling with the problem of evil.

Loftus concludes his book by giving the reason he does not believe in Christianity. As he says “The arguments just weren’t there, period.”[29] The same can be said about his case concerning the problem of evil and why it is not successful. The arguments just are not there, period.

[1] John W. Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains [Victoria, British Columbia: Trafford, 2007], 234.

[2] Alvin C. Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil [1986; repr.,Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1974], 28.

[3] Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains, 243.

[4] Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos [2001; repr., Colorado Springs, Colorado: Navpress, 1993], 183.

[5] Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, The Privileged Planet [Washington D.C., Regency, 2004], 45.

[6] Mark S. Whorton, Peril in Paradise [Waynesboro, Georgia: Authentic, 2005], 6.

[7] Glenn Miller, “Does The Savagery of Predation in Nature Show That God Either Isn’t, Or At Least Isn’t Good-Hearted?” http://www.christian-thinktank.com/predator.html (Accessed May 10, 2008.)

[8] Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains, 244.

[9] Ibid., 244.

[10] Cornelius G. Hunter, Darwin’s God [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2001.], 16.

[11] Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains, 244.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 245.

[14] John W. Loftus vs. David Wood, God & Suffering: A Former Christian and a Former Atheist Debate The Problem of Evil. [Virginia Beach, Virginia: Active Imagination LLC, 2006.]

[15] Lee Strobel, The Case For Faith, [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000], 43.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains, 246.

[18] Norman L. Geisler, The Roots of Evil [1980; repr., Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1978], 69.

[19] TheologyWeb, GYM DEBATE: Katrina and “natural” suffering as a problem for the faith- Nick vs. DJ, [http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showthread.php?t=61432], accessed May 10, 2008.

[20] Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains, 247.

[21] Peter Kreeft, The Best Things In Life [Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1984], 180.

[22] Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains, 250.

[23] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain [1986: repr., New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1962], 34.

[24] Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains, 252.

[25] Ibid., 254.

[26] Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity: A Former Apologist Explains, 255.

[27] Galatians 3:24.

[28] Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 93.

[29] Loftus, Why I Rejected Christianity, A Former Apologist Explains, 278.

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