This is my final email in this debate. As a guest on my website, Mr. Walmsley will have the last word. I would like to thank him for taking part in this debate.
The subject is 'Is the level of suffering in this world incompatible with the existence of an all-powerful, all-good God?'. Curiously, Mr. Walmsley has never addressed this issue. His entire concern has been to try to deny that God has any responsibility for suffering.
This does involve him in some contradictions. He has argued that we cannot have a material world without some suffering and pain and he has also argued that, in the future, God will create a material world without any suffering and pain.
He has argued that evil does exist in its own right. However, as Christians believe that God has created everything that exists, he has also tried to deny that God has created evil by redefining evil as something which is not made.
However, let us look at how sin causes suffering, using the example Mr. Walmsley gave.
Mr. Walmsley gave an example of sin caused by suffering. He wrote ' If I drive too fast and crash then anyone would agree it's my fault. '
Mr. Walmsley says we should live by God's laws and God 'allows them to reach the consequences of their refusal to believe.' As an aside, I'm not sure where in the Bible God lays down laws about careful driving.
What could be the consequences of Mr. Walmsley's reckless driving?
1) He could arrive quickly enough to take somebody to hospital in time to save their life.
2) He could suffer financially by increased wear and tear on his car.
3) He could crash and kill himself.
4) He could crash into a school-bus and kill himself and ten schoolchildren.
If there was no God, what happens would depend on the particular random circumstances at the time. Mr. Walmsley might believe in a God, but deep down, he knows that in reality his 'sin' of driving too fast will have either good results, or bad results, or tragic results and that only circumstance will decide. Mr. Walmsley expects that bad things will happen if people do bad things. Mr. Walmsley might save a life or kill ten others and God will not interfere to bring about the good rather than the bad result. This is exactly what I as an atheist expect will happen. I do not believe the Universe or 'fate' or whatever will save us from the consequences of our mistakes.
But what would happen if Mr. Walmsley's belief in an all-powerful, all-good God were true? Surely such a God would see to it that any suffering were minimised and that at least the 'penalty' for Mr. Walmsley's sin did not involve other innocent people. My atheistic belief that nothing will save us from the consequences of our mistakes would be proved quite wrong.
However, Mr. Walmsley says God 'allows them to reach the consequences of their refusal to believe.' If this involves ten schoolchildren being killed as a result of Mr. Walmsley's desire to get his wife to hospital as quickly as possible by driving too fast, then so be it.
I cannot help thinking of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A man was attacked and suffered. Some people passed by on the other side. It wasn't their fault the man was attacked. They passed by on the other side and were willing to allow the attacked man to suffer the consequences of the sin. Would Mr. Walmsley agree that the people who passed by on the other side were behaving in a truly God-like manner?
In short, even if Mr. Walmsley was entirely right in his efforts to clear God of any blame in creating a world with evil and suffering in it, this would still not allow God to claim he is 'all-good'. It is not what we mean by good. It is not even what Jesus meant by good.
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, God was first on the scene when the man was attacked. God was the first to pass by on the other side. Can Mr. Walmsley honestly say, when he looks at earthquakes, floods and epidemics, that an all-good God is doing all in his power to help human beings?
But has Mr. Walmsley succeeded in his effort to free God of all responsibility for creating beings who choose to do evil?
Mr. Walmsley was upset when I suggested that there are some sins that he would never commit of his own free will. I deliberately chose an outrageous example of his disembowelling his father to demonstrate that he can feel revulsion about certain sins without any suggestion that he is a mere 'robot' or 'pre-programmed' or 'has no freewill' because his sense of morality kicks in when it comes to certain sins.
I imagine Mr. Walmsley feels his sense of morality is a gift from God and that he gives thanks to God for this gift and prays to God to help him become a better, more moral person. There is no suggestion that Mr. Walmsley has lost his freewill because he has been blessed by God with a sense of morality.
Why then does his God-given morality fail Mr. Walmsley for certain sins yet give him the strength to resist other sins? Does God regard certain sins more lightly than others?
To sum up, the Christian defences to the problem of suffering fail for many reasons.
Mr. Walmsley believes suffering will happen if people make bad moral choices. This is exactly what atheists would expect if there were no God.
Christian defences cannot explain why the same sin can lead to minor or tragic consequences. His chosen example of driving too fast can lead to a small accident or a major catastrophe. An atheist would say that man is left to the mercy of circumstance , but Mr. Walmsley wants atheists to believe that man can rely on the mercy of God. If that really were so, suffering would be minimised to a far greater extent than we see today. I can point to many examples of humans trying to minimise suffering after a natural disaster. Can Mr. Walmsley point to examples of God trying to dig people out of the rubble after an earthquake? There are no undisputed examples of God doing so and even Mr. Walmsley must concede that the few very highly disputed examples of God helping are rare enough to be labelled 'miracles'.
Even if God is folding his arms and saying 'It's not my fault', this fails the definition of goodness that Jesus himself gave.
The 'freewill' defence cannot explain why some sins are committed while other sins fill Christians with revulsion and are never committed.
However, the atheistic view that mankind has to stand by the consequences of the decisions we take explains far more successfully the world we live in.
Steven Carr's Opening Statement
Mr. Walmsley's Opening Statement
Steven Carr's First Response
Mr. Walmsley's First Response
Mr. Walmsley's Final Response
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