In The Evil God Challenge, Flipping Arguments, I attempted to outline Stephen Law’s argument against the existence of a good God. In this post, I present the arguments that undermine Law’s argument. Enjoy.
1. Theodicies are NOT arguments FOR a good God.
In the EGC, Law is not debating any of the traditional philosophic arguments FOR the existence of God (though he does argue against the Moral Argument elsewhere).
Instead, he takes the theodicies created to defend Christianity against the Problem of Evil and flips them to show that in many instances, they show an equal possibility of an evil God. The problem here is that these arguments are not meant to show that a good God’s existence is probable, only that it is logically possible that an all good God and evil could logically exist.
In fact, theodicies aren’t even an argument FOR a good God, they are a defense AGAINST the argument that it is logically impossible, which most philosophers now agree is bogus – that is, most agree that the arguments of Alvin Plantinga and others have definitively proven the logical possibility of an omni-God and evil co-existing.
2. Good and Evil are not equal and opposite
In his argument against the Moral Argument for God, Law questions the first premise, and states that the premise is still debated and not settled among philosophers, citing that even Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne takes issue with it. To review, the Moral Argument is:
- If objective morals exist, God must exist.
- Objective morals do exist
- Therefore, God exists.
If read in the light of Law’s EGC, Law’s version of the Moral Argument might better read:
- If objective morals exist, they could exist due to a God who is all good, or all evil (or morally neutral, but let’s hold that till later).
- Since a good God is not required for objective morals to exist, it is just as likely that an evil god exists.
- Therefore, it is not necessary that a good God exists.
Evil Can Not Create
But here’s the problem – it is assumed that an evil God could create both good and evil to further his purposes. But by classic definition, evil can not CREATE, it can only destroy, so an evil god could NOT create good, nor positive moral duties and punishments.
Let me clarify with an example. While light is a real substance that can be quantified, darkness is not – darkness is not a thing, it is the ABSENCE of a thing, namely light.
You don’t create darkness to replace light, you can only remove light. It is the same with good and evil, by classic definition. When Christians say that God is all good and created only good, the classic Evidential Problem of Evil responds “well then where did evil come from if God created everything?”
The answer is thus – evil is not created, it is the removal of good through the willfulness of the created creatures that brings evil into existence.
So it does not make sense to say that positive objective morals can be created by an evil God, because evil is just a lack, not a positive created thing.
The Euthyphro Dilemma Revisited
Further, let’s remind ourselves of the Euthyphro dilemma (a false dilemma), which states that
- Either goodness is good because God commands it (no matter what is really is), or goodness is good independent of God.
- The first is irrational if objective morals exist, and the second obviates God
- Therefore, God is not necessary for goodness or knowing what is right.
William Craig’s answer to this is simple and profound – good is not so just because God declares it (though he sometimes does declare it because we get confused and darkened by sin), nor is it good independent of God – it is an expression of His nature, that is, it is grounded in and comes from God.
With this in mind, if we examine Law’s evil god, such a god does not have goodness in his nature in order to ground, create, declare, or enforce good, so he could ONLY declare such things if the good God actually existed – which is a logical contradiction.
Again, the reason that evil can exist with the presence of a good God is that evil does not emanate from God, but exists in the REMOVAL of God’s goodness, either by sin or, as a result of sin, in God’s justice and judgement (the latter of which is another discussion).
The Ontological Argument Revisited
As I wrote in The Evil God Challenge, Flipping Arguments, I once challenged William Craig with the question “why can’t the OA be used to support the existence of an omnipotent EVIL god just as well as an omnipotent GOOD god?”
His response was also based on the nature and differences between good and evil. Evil is not a created thing, but merely an absence (that’ s my interpretation of what he said, he might or might not have meant that). He stated that, by definition, a maximally great being would be GOOD, not EVIL, because by definition, good is greater than evil.
I’m sure we could spend hours debating that premise, but leave it to say that, like the theodicies and Moral Argument above, the Ontological Argument can not simply be flipped because good and evil are not equal and opposite. The former is created, the latter is an absence.
3. Failing to address Natural Theological arguments means the EGC is weak.
If my objections to Law’s EGC hold water, then we’re back to the standard and powerfully reasonable and persuasive arguments for God’s existence – Cosmological, Ontological, Moral, and Teleological. That is, Law’s attempt to focus on the weaknesses in the arguments for a good god, at least as he sees them defended in theodicies (which of course, they are not aimed at), is a mere trick that can be, as I’ve attempted, dispensed with by revealing his bad assumptions.
Now, I’m sure Law may argue against the standard arguments of Natural Theology, as well as arguments from the Evidential Problem of Evil, but the EGC certainly does not address them.
The Evil God Challenge is an interesting but unfruitful ruse – based on some bad assumptions about the purpose of theodicies and the nature of good and evil, it draws some poor conclusions – namely that the existence of an evil God is just as likely as that of a good God, and therefore, both must be dismissed.
Now, the argument for a neutral God might have merit (from the atheist point of view), but I haven’t seen Law make such an argument. He does take issue with the Moral Argument, which I will address in a future post. Cheers.