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For many centuries and even today philosophers have been debating the question over the nature of the good life. Many people believe that ethics is subjective and solely dependent on one’s mental states and beliefs. Others believe that it is objective and that ethics are independent of what one believes or desires. This paper will examine these two views and argue against the hedonist view and in favor of an objective theistic view of ethics which is grounded in God.
One classic subjective view of ethics is hedonism. Hedonism is defined as the view which states that happiness or pleasure is the only intrinsic good. Something that is intrinsically good means that it is good within itself. This view was originally created by the Greek philosopher Epicurus (Shafer-Landau 21). At face value, this view seems correct. We, for the most part, generally want to be happy in life and we consider a life filled with happiness a good life. But the hedonist says that happiness is the only intrinsic good nothing else is intrinsically good. This view is wholly subjective because happiness depends on personal mental states. Also, happiness could be loosely defined thus allowing for multiple contradicting views. One criticism against this view is based off of a life’s trajectory. Let’s say we have two hypothetical lives both with the same amount of happiness. In the first life, seventy-five percent of the total happiness is gained within the first twenty-five percent of the person’s life. In the second life seventy-five percent of the happiness is acquired within the last twenty-five percent of the person‘s life (Shafer-Landau 34-35). It seems that when compared these lives are not of equal worth. The life that gains happiness later on is better because it has an upward trajectory. There must be something more than just happiness if this is true — the trajectory of one’s life. This argument counts against hedonism and shows its falsehood. The second criticism of hedonism comes from Aldous Huxley’s work A Brave New World. The setting of the novel takes place in a utopian society that is controlled by the elite governing forces. These governing forces prevent the society from having any type of unhappy experience and thus, they limit the decisions of humans. These people are medicated and are prevented from any new ways of thought that might cause types of harm. One character named Savage fights for the freedom and liberty to have the ability to do things that might not cause happiness. He believes freedom of choice is better than a society solely determined towards happiness (Huxley 25-30). Freedom and autonomy must also be important in having a good life. Is one happy if they are forced to be happy? If this criticism is sound then hedonism is false. A subjective view of the good life cannot be true and thus we must examine a proposal of an objective theistic view.
An objective view of the ethical life is one that is not dependent on the human mind. For something to be objective means that it must be mind-independent. An objective set of ethics are not created by society nor are they based on any type of human thought for if they were, they would be subjective. This leads us to the view that ethical moral commands and standards come from God. Since the foundation of ethics must exist outside of us, they must come from God. The common title of this view is known as the divine command theory. This theory states that “an act is morally required just because it is commanded by God, and immoral because God forbids it” (Shafer-Landau 61). This whole theory hinges on whether or not God exists, but let’s assume He does. If the divine command theory is true, then actions are good or bad depending on God’s commands. Plato created an argument against this view in his work Euthyphro. Plato asks two questions: Are ethics based on God’s commands? Or are God’s commands based on an objective ethic (Shafer-Landau 63)? If ethics are based on God’s commands that would make all ethical law wholly arbitrary for God could command anything He desired. But if the ethical standard is outside of Him God is no longer the creator of morality or ethics and thus the theist is left with a problem. Plato seems to show that the divine command theory is false. But there is another way out of this dilemma that Plato has created. If God Himself is the source or foundation of ethics it would seem to spilt the horns of this argument. In the western world, God is typically thought of as being all-good and morally perfect such that His essence is good. God’s very being or ontology is good. Thus, if His actual character is good then His commands will follow through in accordance with His character. This rids the idea of God’s commands being arbitrary while grounding the ethical standard in God Himself. God never created ethics because His being is the standard of ethics. If God’s commands are good and if they are morally binding like the divine command theory states, then in order to live a good life one must obey and follow these commands. If God, the Creator of the universe, is good Himself and commands things which are objectively good and forbids things which are morally deficient, we then must follow these commands in order to live in accordance with this standard. Again, all of this presupposes God exists and if He exists which god is He? But that question is for a different time in another paper. It seems plausible that if God exists then we would need to follow His commands in order to have a good life. Obeying His standard leads to a good life.
So what should be concluded with regards to the hedonist view and the objective theistic view of the good life? The hedonist view seems utterly false with the two criticisms brought against it. Not only just the hedonist view but it seems that all subjective views seem to lead to absurdities or some type of contradiction. Ethics must be objective and mind-independent. It seems that they must also be grounded within God Himself. One must live with God’s commands in mind in order to have a good life with human flourishing.
Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
Shafer-Landau, Russ. The Fundamentals of Ethics. New York: Oxford UP, 2010. Print.
For many centuries theistic philosophers have been formulating deductive arguments to prove God’s existence. One type of argument is called a cosmological argument. The cosmological argument “looks at chains of causes” and “asks how the existence of [the universe] could be explained” (Stairs 57). It is different from other arguments for God’s existence such as the teleological argument or the moral argument. The specific version of the cosmological argument that will be examined and discussed in this paper is the argument from contingency which deals with explanations rather than specific causes. The argument is heavily influenced by the principle of sufficient reason which the rationalist philosophers all held to. This essay will examine the principle of sufficient reason, the argument from contingency, criticisms, and counter arguments and will ultimately argue for God being sole explanation of the universe.
The principle of sufficient reason plays a tremendous role in explaining the argument from contingency. Rationalist philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz defined the principle of sufficient reason. In his writing Monadology, he says that “no fact can be real or existing and no proposition can be true unless there is a sufficient reason” (Kolak 170). This is to say that everything needs some sort of sufficient reason of its existence. This principle applies to the question, “why is there something rather than nothing?” And from this, the argument itself hinges off this principle of extrinsic or intrinsic explanation.
The argument from contingency is a formal argument and it is worded like this:
- Everything existing has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
- If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
- The universe is an existing thing.
- Therefore the explanation of the existence of the universe is God. (Moreland 466).
This argument is different from the other cosmological arguments particularly because it does not need to appeal to a temporal universe. It can fit perfectly with an eternal universe.
The first premise appeals to the principle of sufficient reason. It seems perfectly reasonable to think that everything that exists needs some sort of sufficient reason of its existence. For something to be necessary that would mean that it could not not-exist. It must exist in every single possible world. Something that is necessary has an explanation within the necessity of its own nature – as premise one shows. If some existing thing were to have a cause outside of itself as an explanation of its existence, that thing would be a contingent thing. Something that is contingent means that it is neither necessarily true nor necessarily false. This means that its existence is solely dependent on something else. It seems reasonable to accept premise one on these grounds.
Premise two takes the first premise and says that if the universe has an explanation then it would have to be God. The universe does not seem to be necessary but rather contingent. We can imagine a world in which the universe does not exist. It also seems to be comprised of contingent things. The expansion of the universe seems to be wholly contingent based on the initial big bang. It seems that if the universe is contingent then it would need an external cause because of premise one. The explanation of its existence cannot be found in the necessity of its nature because the universe is contingent and therefore dependent on another explanation. This premise really gets to the question that was mentioned earlier: why is there something rather than just nothing? Some necessary being must exist that is the explanation of contingent things. If there is no necessary explanation, then contingency goes onto an infinite regress. This necessary being does not need an external cause because it has an internal explanation of its existence.
Premise three seems to be blatantly obvious. There is no good reason for denying the external world outside of ourselves. Solipsism seems quite absurd. The conclusion of the argument follows from the premises that followed it.
There have been some criticisms of this argument. Philosopher Bertrand Russell has responded to this argument by saying that the universe does not need an explanation. The universe is just static, eternal, and has no explanation according to Russell. He also says that because things are contingent within the universe does not mean that the whole universe itself is contingent. He believes the theist commits a fallacy of composition (Cosmological). The fallacy of composition says that because individual things have certain characteristics that does not entail that the whole group of those things have all those same characteristics. This criticism still avoids the question “why is their something rather than nothing?” and instead tries to show that the theist is merely applying his intuition to the universe based on individual contingent parts of the universe. Russell does not want to face the fact of why the universe exists at all so he does away with its need for an explanation.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant objected to the argument because he thinks it will lead to the ontological argument ultimately and since according to him the ontological argument does not work, therefore the cosmological argument does not work either (Cosmological). This seems to be a red herring – an irrelevant criticism of the current argument. The ontological argument has no bearing on this cosmological argument whatsoever. The ontological argument is a different proof meant to prove God’s existence by the definition of God Himself. Kant is trying to show that the ontological argument explains the definition of a necessary being because the ontological argument argues for a being who’s fundamental nature is existence. This does not seem to be the exact type of meaning of the word necessary that is shown in this argument from contingency. This criticism from Kant seems to fall flat on its face.
Some people have objected to the argument based on the validity of the principle of sufficient reason. If the principle is false then that might possibly undermine the argument itself. If the explanation for the universe is contingent then another explanation is needed, but if the explanation is necessary, then the universe is also necessary (Moreland 467). Christian theism says that God’s actualizing of the universe was a completely free act. That act was contingent on God’s will. God could have existed by Himself in some possible world. But if that act is contingent that would make the explanation of the universe contingent and thus in need of another explanation. William Lane Craig says that “one must ultimately come to some explanatory stopping point that is simply a brute fact, a being whose existence is unexplained” (Moreland 467). It seems that even if one were to deny the principle of sufficient reason as Leibniz formed it, one would still need to get to some sort of transcendent explanation of the universe. It also seems that these critics seem to be defining the word sufficient as something stronger than Leibniz wanted it. Leibniz might have meant sufficient in the sense of “adequate” or something weaker than what these critics think the word sufficient means.
So what is one to think of this argument? This argument seems be a tried and true argument and is ultimately convincing that God exists and that He is the necessary explanation of the universe. The principle of sufficient reason seems at the very least highly likely rather than necessarily false. And even in the general use of the word reason, the universe still needs some sort of necessary explanation. The criticisms of the argument do not work to explain the argument’s premises as being false or the conclusion itself being false. As Kant and Russell have shown, it is very easy to deny or just swerve around a certain premise of this argument.
“Cosmological Argument (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 11 Sept. 2008. Web. 24 Mar. 2011. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/>.
“Fallacy: Composition.” The Nizkor Project. 2009. Web. 24 Mar. 2011. <http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/composition.html>.
Kolak, Daniel, and Garrett Thomson. The Longman Standard History of Modern Philosophy. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2006. Print.
Moreland, James Porter, and William Lane. Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003. Print.
Stairs, Allen, and Christopher Bernard. A Thinker’s Guide to the Philosophy of Religion. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007. Print.
The Moral Argument
1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.
When I speak of something being objective, I mean, something which is independent of our minds.
It seems that premise (1) is agreed upon. Atheist existentialists have for the most part denied objective moral values in the world. They are at best things which we create.
Nietzsche, for example, thought that the death of God would destroy all values and meaning in life. He says “there are no moral facts, only interpretations.” We must be our own god and create value for ourself.
Australian philosopher and atheist, J.L. Mackie has been quoted saying, “If . . . there are . . . objective values, they make the existence of a God more probable than it would have been without them. Thus, we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a God.”
According to Mackie, ethics and morals must be invented. They are not mind-independent.
What do the logical positivists of the early 20th Century have to say about ethical statements? The positivists believed that there are really only two types of meaningful statements – tautologies and empirical truths. These statements must be verified in order to be meaningful. Ethics is not *in* the world, though and Ludwig Wittgenstein has said that “Ethics cannot be put into words. Ethics is transcendental” (Lawhead 513).
A.J. Ayer also said, ““The statement ‘It is your moral duty to tell the truth” means nothing more than ‘I recommend you to tell the truth’”(Lawhead 509).
Richard Dawkins would agree with all these radical claims of ethics. He says, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”
So it seems, that at least some atheists agree on premise (1).
What then, is the case for premise (2)? Do objective moral values actually exist in the world?
It would seem like they do at first glance. No one can hold to a subjective view of ethics, for if one did then they could not deem or judge anything as being good nor evil. Ethics itself would completely vanish. There is moral rightness and wrongness. No person would dare think that the Holocaust is just subjectively bad. The Holocaust would be wrong even if all the Nazis brainwashed everyone into believing that it was right.
Objective moral values do exist in the world. But where do we get ought-ness from is-ness? That’s where premise (3) comes in.
Moral values come in the form of commands. What we ought to do or ought not to do. It’s impossible to have abstract objects (numbers, logical truths etc) give us these values because, again, they do not stand in causal relations with us. God is the best explanation of objective moral values. Again, I’m purely talking about *where* these moral values come from.
J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982),pp. 115-16.
Lawhead, William F. The Contemporary Voyage: 1900 -. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002. Print.
Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995), quoted from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about agape love, what it is specifically, how it is demonstrated actively and passively in the world, and how the Christian should utilize it as Christ did. Agape love is Christian love. It is the love that only Christians can exercise properly because of the regenerative power of Christ’s death and resurrection in their lives.
I. What is agape love?
1 John 4:17 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
The love talked about here is agape love. It is not a type of general love (phileo). This love only comes from God. The person who exercises this love is born of God. But the only way this love is given to us is through belief in Jesus Christ’s atonement. The atonement on the cross was the most costly and powerful love ever demonstrated. The atonement is quite literally love — the agape love.
In Matthew 22 Jesus says the greatest commandment is to “…LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.” “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’”
The first part is the moment of justification: the main love of God and conversion in the person. The second part flows directly from the first part. It is a command from Jesus to love as He did. It is the life of discipleship and sanctification.
II. How it is demonstrated.
In the modern world, agape love is despised. It is seen as being weak and lowly. Pride and selfishness are at the forefront of the sinner’s mind. Love is the last thing to be demonstrated to get ahead in the world.
Agape love is perceived to be weak because it is meek. It is humble and lowly. It is not selfish nor prideful. It is not like a clanging cymbal or gong. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness. (1 Corinthians 13) Love turns the other cheek, and doesn’t fight back. It acts as Christ acted.
At the same time agape love is one of the most powerful things. Peter says in 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” This love “puts out” and “takes care of” many sins. Love can smother the fire of sin. This is very practical though and should be always at the forefront of confronting and fighting sin. When confronting someone about their sin do with love and grace. And when fighting sin remember the love on the cross.
Proverbs 25:21-22 says “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you.” The love in helping your enemy puts burning coals on his head. And you will be rewarded by the Lord.
III. How the Christian should exercise this love.
This love can be used in two practical ways for the Christian:
First, in a more passive and internal sense, it can be used to combat and fight sin and to realize the power of Christ’s atonement on the cross and what He did for you.
In a more active and visible sense, this love should be at the beginning of any type of evangelism opportunity to those who are lost, and to those who are needy and poor. Without it, Christian duties cannot be fully put forth from the Christian.
We must realize that this love isn’t the withholding of pain. I think many times we warp our view and believe that we love someone because we don’t hurt them, or we don’t take advantage of them. But this isn’t really true. Love is something that should be an active force because of Christ and His death and resurrection. It must be visible because Christians are called to be a city on a hill. We are called to be salt of the earth!
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble, it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows Him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: “ye were brought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” – The Cost of Discipleship (pages 47-48)
For many centuries philosophers have been discussing evil, how it exists in the world, and how this relates to God. The discussion on evil and its relations to us is not an easy one though. It is commonly called the problem of evil. The problem is generally used to disprove God’s existence by showing an inconsistency between an all-powerful, all-good, and all-knowing God and evil. Christian philosophers over the centuries have tried to show that there is no inconsistency with God and evil. Gottfried Leibniz was born in Leipzig Germany in 1646. Leibniz was a Christian idealist philosopher who was heavily influenced by Benedict Spinoza. Leibniz tried to solve the problem of evil. He said that we live in the best of all possible worlds because God chose to create this world. Philosophers have objected to this claim and maybe rightly so. This paper will focus on the modalities of logic, namely, possibility, necessity, and contingency, the problem of evil and how Leibniz solves it, free-will, and objections to Leibniz’s claims.
Much of Leibniz’s philosophy is focused on the concept of God and modalities. The modalities are possibility, necessity, and contingency. What it means for something to be possible is that it exists in some possible world. President McCain possibly could have been elected president of the United States in 2008 but he did not in respect to the actual world. The modal concept of possible deals with things that could be. It is possible that America could have had different founding fathers. It is possible that the pilgrims and Indians could have not fought and all got along together. Now what are possible worlds? Possible worlds are possible realities. They are not worlds in the respect to planets but in respect to everything in existence. The actual world is the world which actually exists. The possible worlds do not all exist but they are used to explain and understand possibilities in a logical sense. For something to be necessary means that it exists in all possible worlds. It is necessary that two and two make four. It is necessarily false that a married bachelor can exist. Leibniz says that God is a necessary Being. He is necessary because He exists in all possible worlds. There is even a possible world in which only God exists according to Leibniz. A contingent truth is something that is not necessarily false nor necessarily true. Leibniz calls these truths of fact. Things which are contingent are things true in one or more possible worlds and false in one or more possible worlds. Leibniz said that all propositions can be reduced down to a subject-predicate format. He says in his work Necessary and Contingent Truths that “an affirmative truth is one whose predicate is in the subject; and so in every true affirmative proposition, necessary or contingent, universal or particular, the notion of the predicate is in some way contained in the notion of the subject” (Kolak 153). All the predicates are literally contained within the subject. The statement “the bird is flying” means that flying is contained within the bird (which is the subject). This theory of proposition will help Leibniz as he defends God’s choosing of possible worlds.
God is a necessary Being and therefore God knows all the possible worlds to create. He knows this because the knowledge of possible worlds is innate in His mind because He is omniscient. He has foreknowledge of all future contingents. This view is known as conceptualism. Before creation, God had to know all possible worlds, that is, all worlds which are logically capable of creating. God had to know the blueprint of everything within each possible world. The predicates, or possible worlds, are contained within the subject, God. This knowledge allows God to choose the possible world He wanted to create. His choosing of anyone of these worlds is a completely free action on God’s part because He could exist by Himself. Leibniz says that we live in the best of all the possible worlds because since God is all-good and all-knowing, He would have to choose the best of all of these. This seems to be a misled thought though. Maybe a best possible world does not exist. And even if that it were true that the actual world is the best world, why is their so much pain, suffering, and moral evil in the world? The fact that evil exists in the world would contradict this best possible world theory. Would God need to even actualize the best possible world if it were to exist? This seems to be quite a problem indeed. Now, the actual world, while still having evil in it, is an extremely good world. It is good because of free-will. The fact that we have free-will is better than if humans were morally all-good. For if we were all-good we would have no freedom of the will to make choices and choose good or evil. These choices are better than not having choices. This is known as the free-will defense in response to the problem of evil. Leibniz seems to have trouble with the concept of free-will. His metaphysics with the theory of propositions and the possible world idea seems to contradict free-will. If God chose any world, the people in that world would have to do whatever God chose. Although their actions might be contingent, God still causally determined it to occur. Leibniz seems to think that free-will has to exist in the world because it would make all responsibility meaningless. He says in Primary Truths,
“it is manifest that God chooses, from an infinity of possible individuals, those which he thinks most consistent with the highest hidden ends of his wisdom. Nor is it exact to say that he decrees that Peter shall sin, or that Judas shall be damned; he decrees only that a Peter who will sin — certainly, indeed, though not necessarily but freely — and a Judas who will suffer damnation shall come into existence in preference to other possibilities. In other words, God decrees that a possible notion shall become actual. And although the future salvation of Peter is also contained in his eternal possible notion, yet that is without the concourse of grace; for in the that same perfect notion of this possible Peter, the assistance of divine grace which has been given to him is also contained under the aspect of possibility” (Kolak 151).
There seems to be a dilemma here for Leibniz. God’s choosing of a possible world is a completely free act and cannot err if God is all-powerful. Therefore everything we do in the actual world was known and chosen by God. Everything we do must occur but this does not mean it is necessary but rather foreordained by God. The Calvinist theologian would agree with this and say that free-will does not really exist. It is unknown whether or not Leibniz was influenced by Calvinist thinkers during this time. Whether Leibniz accepts this divine determinism or not, he still wants to have free-will intact. The free-will theodicy must work for Leibniz in order for the problem of evil to be solved.
Free-will is best understood if one accepts Molinism as a way to explain God’s choosing of the worlds and the problem of evil. Molinism was created by Luis Molina during the Counter-Reformation. Molina was a Jesuit priest who was responding to the Protestant Reformation and in particular, Calvinism. Molina believed that humans have libertarian free-will. Libertarian free-will is best explained as the ability to do otherwise. If a person is at a crossroads he has the ability to either select route A or route B. If that person selects route A they could have chosen B and they had that ability. Molina also believed God had middle knowledge. He broke down God’s knowledge into three types: natural knowledge, middle knowledge, and free knowledge. God’s natural knowledge is knowledge of necessary truths and all possible worlds. This falls right in-line with Leibniz’s view of possible worlds. God looks over all the possible worlds which He can create. This natural knowledge is knowledge of what could be. God’s middle-knowledge (which is still prior to actualization of the world) is counterfactual knowledge. Counterfactuals are if-then statements in the subjunctive mood. Examples of these are: If Meg Whitman became Governor of California, she would create much prosperity and help the budget crisis. This could be true, it could be false, but God knows these counterfactuals perfectly. He also knows them for every set of circumstances. This knowledge reduces the possible worlds into feasible worlds. Since God cannot infringe on human freedom He is limited in His choice of worlds. God’s middle knowledge is knowledge of what would be. God is not stopped from accomplishing anything He wants in the actual world though. With middle knowledge, God can only decree circumstances or events for humans and knows what would happen in each and every circumstance perfectly. With these two types of knowledge (which are not temporally prior to one another, but logically prior) God can choose which world He wants to actualize. After creation God has free knowledge of the world. This free knowledge is knowledge of contingents and the actual world. Molina defended this middle knowledge view with Scripture. 1 Samuel 23:6-13 affirms God having counterfactual knowledge. In this text David asks God what would happen if Saul came down to the city of Keilah. David first asks if Saul will come to the city and find him and God tells him that Saul will. Then David asks if the men of Keilah will deliver him into the hand of Saul and God says that they will. David then flees the city because of God’s counterfactual knowledge (Beilby 119-143). This verse affirms God having counterfactual knowledge. If Molinism succeeds and libertarian free will is indeed real then it would seem that Leibniz could solve this problem with the free-will defense.
Many philosophers have criticized the best possible world theory and God’s perfection. Voltaire, who wrote a most damning book against Leibniz called Candide, thought the whole idea of the actual world being the best possible world or even a really good world was a complete joke. In his book, he parodies this notion of this world being really good. It is a fiction in which the main character goes through life meeting all these evils and challenges yet continually says that this is the best of all possible worlds. David Hume wrote a more intellectual critique of Leibniz’s philosophy by attacking the design argument for God’s existence. In his work entitled Natural Religion, he writes a dialogue between two men, Cleanthes and Philo. Cleanthes argues that this world is proof of God’s existence based on the design and wonder of the world. He says that “Since, therefore, the effects resemble each other, we are led to infer, by all the rules of analogy, that the causes also resemble; and that the Author of Nature is somewhat similar to the mind of man, though possessed of much larger faculties, proportioned to the grandeur of the work which he has executed” (Hume). Philo then refutes Cleanthes by saying that we cannot know that God is perfect. He argues that God is imperfect because of the mistakes in the world and thus turns the argument from design on its head in relation to God’s perfection at the very least. But if the free-will defense works, then moral evil’s existence is understandable. Hume seems to attack natural evil and the fact that there are natural imperfections in the universe. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, et cetera, are described as natural evils. The free-will theodicy does not really work in respect to Hume’s arguments. Whether these objections are good or not, Voltaire’s argument seems sophomoric at best, and Hume’s argument seems at least somewhat thoughtful.
Leibniz’s philosophy has helped solve the problem of evil but never fully solved it. His views on how God chooses to create the world create more problems for what Leibniz was trying to solve. And Hume’s objections seem to cast doubt on how natural evil can exist in the universe. The problem of evil might be a problem for Christian theists that will never fully be solved. Maybe the answer is so far beyond human understanding or reason. Maybe belief in God is justified regardless of this problem that is presented by atheists and skeptics alike. Christians have done a lot of work in solving this problem and hopefully have at least solved some objections.
Beilby, James K., Paul R. Eddy, and Gregory A. Boyd. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2001. Print.
Hume, David. “The Reading Selection from Natural Religion.” Philosophy Home Page. Web. 12 May 2010. <http://philosophy.lander.edu/intro/introbook2.1/x4211.html>.
Kolak, Daniel, and Garrett Thomson. The Longman Standard History of Modern Philosophy. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2006. Print.
“Voltaire.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 31 Aug. 2009. Web. 12 May 2010. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/voltaire/>.
I’ve been thinking about Christian belief a lot lately and how it is generally perceived and viewed amongst non-Christians and Christians. Christian belief really is simple and foundational to all other beliefs. Jesus is Christian belief. If anyone adds or subtracts to Jesus Christ then they are not really Christians. This is the fundamental reason why Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons are not Christians even though they still believe Jesus existed. They deny fundamental truths regarding the Trinity and the incarnation. I think some Christians also think that you have to accept certain views along with Jesus in order to be saved. Some of these views could involve the correct view of creation or soteriology. Some also believe you have to go to the proper church in order to be saved. But this is adding to belief in the simple truth of Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is foundational and from Him all other doctrines and beliefs flow. Doctrine apart from Christ is meaningless. Christ must be accepted first. What a glorious truth this is!
Another thing I was thinking about the other day is popular Christianity. I have come to realize that the phrase “popular Christianity” is a contradiction in terms. Christianity should never become mainstream or a fad in any type of society. In fact, true Christianity can never become mainstream. Jesus said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” Christianity cannot become popular. If it does then it is either not the Gospel or something is wrong with how it is being accepted. Jesus also said “”For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The world will not love someone they already put to death on a cross. It seems like “Christianity” in America consists of wearing crosses, putting Christian fishes on your car, and wearing WWJD? bracelets.