Sensemaking and evil

The first theist response to the argument from evil is that God tolerates some evils as necessary for some goods. Obviously, if I thought the AFE worked I wouldn’t be a theist, but the concession that God allows evils raises important concerns that are left unaddressed.

Just what evils get tolerated? Let the imagination wander: isn’t it easy to imagine some good for which God would tolerate my life being meaningless? Could I scale up the good to the point that God could allow all human life to be meaningless? Omniscience no doubt has infinite resources to locate goods that could justify the universe turning out very badly for myself and much of what is important to me.

I’m not writing this because this bothers me – though I was bothered by it when I read a similar argument by Gary Gutting – but to clear up that my not being bothered isn’t from a reasoned argument. Everyone answers to the question of evil in life in away that makes sense, and this sensemaking draws on resources beyond what reasoning provides, even where the answer is “We can’t solve this rationally, so we can’t solve it at all” or “We’ll science our way out” or “Forget about it and play some backgammon”.

For my own part, I’d hope to grow in the Christian conviction that evil demands salvation, that there is no salvation except though belief in Jesus Christ, and that this belief is, minimally, in anyone who believes God will save his people from evil (cf. ad 3 here).


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