problem of evil

a question of logic

I have an odd request: I need a mediator, perhaps a logical referee. I am a Christian theist with an on-going debate with an atheist over the relationship between the Omni-max Christian God and human free will. The argument has devolved into a stalemate over a dispute regarding formal argumentation. I suggested obtaining an outside opinion in order to resolve the dispute, and I also suggested it be an atheist opinion to allay any concerns of bias. I am comfortable with this as most atheists consider reason more important than winning an argument, and based on a quick tour of your site I see no reason why that wouldn't be the case here. I am hoping you will be willing to invest a small amount of time in an effort to resolve this question. In fairness to my opponent, we should remain anonymous, until at least that time that he wishes to identify himself. Thanks in advance.... The point of order that needs to be answered is whether a contradiction between omnimax and free will can be proven deductively, or whether it should be approached evidentially or probabilistically. Whether the argument is true or not is unimportant at this stage, though you are more than welcome to comment on it after providing the primary answer. I'm sure I can predict where you stand, but it would be fun to hear anyway if you have a mind to. At any rate, here's the issue: P1) God is omni-max. P2) Humans have free will. P3) The existence of an omni-max God precludes human free will. C) Therefore, an omnimax God and free will humans cannot coexist. Let's assume my quick formulation of the argument is free from equivocation (we could argue definitions of free will and omni max), and is logically valid; that is, if the premises are true, the conclusion necessarily follows. Setting aside my defeaters for P3, I contend that your example supporting P3 is an expression of your limited, finite perspective. You cannot know all the potential supernatural factors surrounding omnimax (OM) and human will (FW). If you can't know all the factors due to your finitude [or for whatever reason], there may exist an OM/FW harmonizer in the supernatural realm, or the natural realm for that matter, that you are unaware of. Therefore, you can't know with certainty that OM precludes FW, and if you can't know with certainty, you can't demonstrate P3 to the level required to execute a deductive argument. But if something is logically contradictory, it's false in all possible worlds, right? We could argue that, though I tend to agree. Please note, though, that my contention here does not disavow logic, it only claims that the mechanics of logic are working with insufficient data based on your finitude and limited knowledge. With additional data, the OM/FW harmonizer for instance, the conclusion driven by the logic would change. The POE deductive argument fails for the same reasons as listed above: P1) God is omnimax and omnibenevolent. P2) Evil exists. P3) God does not have a morally sufficient reason to allow evil. C) Therefore, God does not exist. In the same manner, your limited perspective precludes you from demonstrating P3. But what if I substituted the following for P3 of the POE argument? P3) God does not appear to have a morally sufficient reason to allow evil. I have now transferred my claim to an inference to the best explanation. The argument is weaker propositionally, but it more than compensates by virtue of the claim I can now maintain, especially since I can now defy any theist to demonstrate the morally sufficient reason for allowing babies to be tortured. The same is true for our current argument. If I substitute P3 thusly: P3) The existence of an omni-max God appears to preclude human free will. I now have a defensible argument for my contention that OM and FW are inconsistent concepts. Thanks again. Sorry to put you on the spot out of the blue, but I think your answer will be interesting.
Atheist Answer: 

I'm honoured to help. I think I can be properly impartial, because I don't agree with either of you; I don't believe in free will at all. We can do what we want, but we can't choose what to want.

Just a quick note before I begin - isn't "Christian theist" partly tautological? Is it possible to be a Christian and either a deist or an atheist? How would a person of either combination reconcile the supposed miracles of Christ?

Plus, a quick glossary for those not used to this kind of discussion: omni-max means omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and omni-benevolent all at once, as Christians claim God is. P1, P2, etc. are premises from which conclusion C is derived. If the combined P doesn't lead to the C, it's a bad argument.

You can do better than an unknown hypothetical OM/FW harmoniser. There are known hypotheticals out there. For free will to exist, let's go large and say it must be possible for any human to make any choice at any time, even if that choice may not agree with a god. One solution which also allows an omni-max god is that all choices agree with that god; the nature of benevolence is that all human choices, regardless of the suffering they may cause, are ultimately beneficial. The god has used its infinite mind and intuition to predict all possible futures, and has found (or declared) all of them to be good. This is a potential solution to the Problem of Evil as well.

Therefore I don't think there's a deductive path to a contradiction between an omni-max god and free will, so if you're going to argue it anyway evidential and probabilistic arguments are the way to go.

To add my own spin, the fact that there are answers to the tough questions like supposed free will and the Problem of Evil does not help Christianity as much as you'd think. The problem is that there are too many answers coming from the one religion. The PoE is the better-known example. Answers to that can involve exempt demons, free will, "mysterious ways" and the nature of evil itself. It would sound better if Christians settled on one answer, because the current multitude demonstrates that nobody actually knows.

- SmartLX

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