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Evolution and Creation. Where did we come from? How did we get here? What is life all about?

What is God's criteria for the best possible world?

Postby Regnus Numis » Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:30 pm

Leibniz's theodicy The Best of All Possible Worlds simply begs the question: Why is our world the best possible world? There must be a specific criteria by which God has evaluated our world to be the best possible world. Why doesn't God consider a free world without natural evil (i.e. natural disasters, diseases) the best possible world? Or why doesn't God consider a world without any suffering the best possible world, even if it lacks free will? Evidently, the minimization of suffering alone isn't part of God's criteria for the best possible world. And by world, I mean timeline of all existence, not simply individual dimensions like Heaven or Earth. God's criteria apparently requires the existence of evil and suffering, but what exactly is His criteria? Any ideas?
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Re: What is God's criteria for the best possible world?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:41 pm

First, free will is necessary for science, reasoning, love, forgiveness, and many other traits that define us as sentient human beings.

Second, a dynamic world is superior to a static one. Variation and change within a multiplex of systems are essential for life. Chaos systems such as weather patterns, electrical impulses, ecosystems, and even natural "evils" like drought, earthquakes, and volcanoes all play a part in contributing to life on the planet. For instance, since both our circulatory system and nervous system are beneficial chaotic systems, there is strong scientific evidence proving that dynamical systems are beneficial to life. The heart can recover from occasional arrhythmias; the body can create new arteries; our brains can recover from some injuries because neurons can sometimes create new paths. Not only that, but if the brain were static, creativity wouldn’t be possible. A state world, by contrast, would eliminate all reason, creativity, and scientific inquiry.

Third, suffering and evil are necessary factors in life. Science would be meaningless if buildings didn't fall during earthquakes, if lava flows went around people, or if when we fell from cliff edges we didn't get hurt. Engineering and science would be meaningless pursuits because there would be no rhyme or reason to them.

And if we as humans were prevented from using our free will in any direction, it wouldn't be free will, and we would be robotic, not coherent. Good and evil can be a good state of affairs as long as there is ultimately in the universe a preponderance of good over evil, which is what the Bible claims.

Odd as it is to ponder, without the possibility of evil and lacking the benefits of a dynamic world, life would not and could not exist. Evil is necessary. “Evil” makes things happen that would otherwise never happen: conquering nations, moving people and cultures around the globe, creating trade and interaction between people groups. Assyria and Babylon judged Israel. Greece moved culture and a common language around the world. They gave us philosophy and math. Rome gave us law and transportation. The Apollo 1 spacecraft never left the launch pad, but instead ended in a fiery disaster. The information gained from that horror, however, paved the way for a totally redesigned Apollo spacecraft, eleven successful Apollo Space flights and six lunar landings. The evil and the good actually thrive together. While God didn’t create evil, he sometimes uses it as a necessary part of the plan to make life work. Habakkuk 1.6 lets us know that God tolerate wickedness to accomplish his purposes, and his purposes are good. He actually uses wickedness to limit wickedness.
At other times evil is perpetrated by the wicked for their sinful ends, but there is still a preponderance of good in the universe. Despite that the Holocaust was an unspeakable evil, for instance, countries banded together with moral courage to conquer those who were guilty to extinguish the abomination. Evil and good, therefore, are a good state of affairs. Together they give us the cycles of life—a symbiant circle, the ebb and flow of life, the rises and falls of everyday moods and experiences as well as of cultures, empires, and eras. We need evil. We see it in the balance of nature: Animals eat each other—it’s not a punishment from God, or a weakness of his. We need light and dark, awake and sleep, cold and hot. Corrective measures maintain equilibrium: earthquakes and volcanoes relieve pressure. Rain and snow cleanse the air.

Those are the thoughts that immediately come to mind. There are probably more.
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Re: What is God's criteria for the best possible world?

Postby Regnus Numis » Thu Sep 28, 2017 3:34 pm

From my perspective, this seems more like an argument for the beauty of evil (whilst retaining a preponderance to good) rather than the necessity of evil. I'd say your portrayal of God is akin to an artist or novelist devising a personal masterpiece. However, wouldn't this imply that we are serving God's purposes by doing evil as much as good? In addition, I imagine people would have mixed feelings about realizing their suffering wasn't necessary beyond suiting God's "tapestry of beauty". How is God going to build a relationship with people who've become embittered by tragedy?

I'll grant you this though: A dynamic world like ours has endowed us with numerous opportunities to be "gods" ourselves, especially in the realm of science, literature, and the arts. That being said, I doubt God wants humanity to forget its place and start abusing its creative talents for the sake of self-worship, hence why He interfered with the construction of the Tower of Babel. He is only willing to let us "play God" to a limited extent.
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Re: What is God's criteria for the best possible world?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Oct 19, 2017 11:46 am

Interesting comments. Thank you. My view is not that evil is beautiful, but it has its place as a necessary force to make this the best possible world. I don't consider evil to be a thing (as if God created it), but more of an option for a free agent. The entire concept and gamut of evil is difficult to capture under a single umbrella. There is the evil perpetrated by choice by humans, and there is perceived evil in the destructive qualities of natural disasters as well as that of disease that have nothing to do with the choices of humans. Some would conclude that any suffering is "evil" because it involves pain endured by people; and therefore even accidents with machinery are "evil." There is also societal evil, like the Holocaust, political evil (in oppressive regimes), and spiritual evil (Satan and demons and whatever other spiritual forces try to wreak havoc on the planet).

I can at least carve a distinction between moral evil (evil that is the result of people's choices) and natural evil, though natural "evil" is only generally considered such if there is collateral damage. In other words, a volcano that doesn't kill anyone is an event of scientific inquiry, but if a person gets killed or injured, it is interpreted as natural evil. This is a mistake, because for the latter to be truly evil, there has to be an immoral intent from a personal cause in creating the lava flow with the specific objective of bringing about suffering. Therefore "natural evil" is a misnomer, and if people get caught in natural events as circumstantial victims, we cannot accuse the volcano, or nature at large, of being evil. We can only attribute the title of "evil" to that which has been perpetrated by a personal force against what is understood as "good." Therefore moral evil is the only true kind of evil.

At its purest, then, evil, in my opinion, is the outworking of a conscious and personal will in opposition to an objective standard of "good" and "right." (After all, if everything in the world is just natural, and we are nothing more than the current end of an evolutionary sequence, the word "evil" is meaningless because matter, chemistry, physical laws, and biological structures assembled by chance cannot be deemed evil, but only "existent." Events either are or are not, that's all.) By the same token, natural "evil" can only be construed as evil if one assumes (or can prove) a moral agent perpetrated the action without the possibility of there being a greater good at stake.

> However, wouldn't this imply that we are serving God's purposes by doing evil as much as good?

At times God uses those who are perpetrating evil to serve His purposes. This is unquestionable in the case of the Babylonian Empire destroying Judea in 586 BC (the book of Habakkuk shows how God used the Babylonians to accomplish his purposes, for instance). I would not, however, contend that God is behind all evil, that God causes evil, creates evil, or perpetrates evil. He is free to use it on occasion to suit his purposes. Your statement argues a general truth, and it's that generality with which I would disagree. Nor do I feel it's generally true that we serve God's purposes by doing evil as much as good. According to the Bible, the perpetration of evil is contrary to God's purposes (though, as I said, at times God uses that to bring about, for instance, a judgment). That just means God sees it there and makes use of it, not that he was in any way instrumental in it.

> I imagine people would have mixed feelings about realizing their suffering wasn't necessary beyond suiting God's "tapestry of beauty".

I never claimed that suffering was just a tapestry of beauty. Suffering is hurtful and at times outright horrific. What I claimed is that God is able to bring good even out of the most horrible things. That doesn't mean God planned them, it doesn't mean "God had a purpose in it" (because He didn't perpetuate it), nor does it mean "Suffering is good." What it means is that God's goodness is able to redeem even the worst of awfulnesses.

> That being said, I doubt God wants humanity to forget its place and start abusing its creative talents for the sake of self-worship, hence why He interfered with the construction of the Tower of Babel. He is only willing to let us "play God" to a limited extent.

I agree. In the exercise of our wonderful gifts and blessings, we are never to forget their source and to where the ultimate credit and honor belongs.


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