A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

Q&A Bonus Episode: The Problem of Evil

November 10, 2023 Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker Season 4
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
Q&A Bonus Episode: The Problem of Evil
Show Notes Transcript

Jeff joins us to ask some questions about evil and get into the philosophical weeds a bit. What is the connection between God's nature and suffering? Can we say that suffering is meaningless? What was up with Leibniz? And a lot more.

If you'd like to ask a question about a recent episode to be featured on one of these bonus segments, email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com.

Content note: this episode contains mild profanity and discussion of evil, suffering, and abuse.

The transcript of this episode can be found here.


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NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.

Kyle  00:23

Welcome to the next q&a with our friend Jeff from the around the circle Enneagram podcast, which you should all go listen to if you're interested in the Enneagram. This time, we're going to be discussing our two parter on the problem of evil. Jeff has a background in this problem has done some research on it. And so this might be a little bit of a longer q&a than we typically will have just because of both the weight of the issue and also Jeff's experience with it. And he also having been, you know, both the pastor in the philosopher is going to have questions for both of us from those different angles. So, again, off the cuff, we're not really sure what the questions are going to be here. But we're excited to keep going with this.

Randy  01:03

Yeah, sounds delightful, just doing a deep dive into the problem of evil. So Jeff, bring us into your amusement world.

Jeff  01:12

That actually is where I start, I love this problem. And part of it is because I I ended up just shutting down my emotions when I come to the problem and tackling it much more like a puzzle. And I don't think that that's necessarily the healthiest way to go. But that is just generally where I go. And I do love this problem. I've taught a handful of college classes on it studied under some folks who have done some real heavy lifting on it. With that intro, Kyle, I thought your introduction to this was incredibly wise. I don't think you're gonna find an intro out there. That that is as humble, informed, insightful as what Kyle did, I thought it was a real achievement.

Randy  01:57

So I appreciate that. Well, there goes the humility.

Kyle  02:01

No, because I felt really inadequate about it now, frankly, so yeah, I appreciate that.

Jeff  02:05

I think that that if you come came out of that, with that feeling, that's probably a win because of the problem itself. And kind of, as I was saying, like it if if you jump into the horrific suffering all at once that is part of the, you know, the history of our world, it's very difficult to, to address this cognitively. Yeah, especially as a as a philosophical problem. And being emotional about this, I think, I think can be very helpful. And so it's, again, something I come to the problem, I think, a little overly optimistic. And I really liked the joy of defending positions. But I think, you know, I think

Kyle  02:47

there's a place for that it's just with this particular problem, you have to be really careful that you have made explicit when that place starts and stops. And so yeah, as long as we're announcing we're going to do some of that puzzle solving here. I'm fine with that. And as long as it's clear that that's one very small part of approaching this issue. Yep.

Randy  03:06

What's hypothetical for us is not hypothetical for others. Yeah. With that in mind, Jeff?

Jeff  03:12

Yes, here are some cues. I want to start with you, Randy. I think there's a question that precedes the problem of evil. And it's something like why did God make the world at all? In a lot of religious traditions? Those that want to elevate a God as creator want to answer that question as well. Just off the cuff, when you think about why did God make the world? What are the sort of things that come to your mind? Thanks

Randy  03:38

for making that a little easier. What a sort of thing that things that come to mind. I'm not a theologian. I'm not a biblical scholar. But in Genesis in the Pentateuch, in particular, there's a story being told. And I think that story is something like God wanted to people to call God's own God wanted to people to reflect God's self, God wanted to people to inhabit a place called Earth, who would reflect God's goodness, God's character, and I keep saying God and Gods I'm not saying here his or whatever. Because in Genesis one in the creation narrative, God is referred to as us let us create mankind in our image in our own image. So I think there's a there's a celebration, a collaboration of a relationship, a dance, you know, the theologian called called the pear Currys is the dance of the Trinity, the Triune God so there's this, there's this beautiful relational God who wants to share God, that relational God's self. And so God creates and He creates these little mirrors of God's self that are going to reflect God's glory and reflect God's goodness and reflect that relationship. So I think God wanted people to have God zone to share with and to celebrate with and to love to be the objects of of that God's affection Does that answer question at all.

Jeff  05:00

I think that works great. I think it gets us moving in a, in a down a path where some of the purposes that might be in God's heart good in making anything at all should get elevated. Because so often when we come to the problem of evil, it's just we see the horrific suffering. And then why? It seems to me there's a bigger picture at hand purposes, intentionality, it might be the case, and this would be my first question for Kyle, is, when we come to the problem of evil, is the problem of evil. Is it? What is evil outside of something like meaningless pain? Or when you use the term evil or when it's in this context, is that what you mean by evil is some pain that lacks meaning?

Kyle  05:49

I think that's the core of the most pernicious version of the problem. For me, anyway, it's, it's it's suffering, not just pain, because pain could be cashed out in lots of different ways. Suffering torment, however, you want to phrase it that doesn't have a purpose, meaningless, gratuitous, whatever word you want to use, something that it's difficult or impossible to find a reasonable justification for, or justification that has any evidence going for it. That's the version that I think is worth philosophical attention. I'm less interested in, I don't know, things that takes on evil that see it as some kind of entity or something that's necessarily willful, or whatever I'm most interested in this world has a lot of suffering in it, it seems pretty clear that it could have had less, why is it that way? If God is good,

Randy  06:45

and there's, there seems to be a difference to me between evil in suffering, would you agree with that? Could

Kyle  06:50

Yeah, there could be you can cash out evil in lots of ways. And it has usefulness when we want to, we're fishing for a term that is strong enough to convey the strongest possible sense of moral condemnation, when we're referring to someone like Putin are referring to someone like you know, fill in the blank with your favorite tyrant. Bad isn't enough. You need something more than that. Something where someone has seemingly left the species almost in terms of 30 did at that point, yeah, their behavior is now more animal like than human. It's kind of beyond the pale of any moral critique. And so we reserve that term for it. And I think that's a useful use of the term. But that's not exactly what I think the focus of the problem of evil should be.

Jeff  07:38

Okay. I agree. I think that it works as an adjective in those senses. But we're talking about now in this meaningless pain, I think, is really the problem. So just to footnote it, there, there is then such a thing as meaningful pain, like, it can be the case that suffering could have purposes, and that's not part of the problem, correct.

Kyle  08:01

As I that's part of some versions of the problem, it's not part of the strongest version that I think should precede philosophical tension.

Randy  08:10

Are you referring to the guys at the gym who wear the shirt that says pain is just weakness?

Jeff  08:17

Okay, I delightfully went through Schwarzenegger, his book they just wrote, and I love the hell out of it. That came up once or twice.

Kyle  08:26

That's awesome. I'm glad to hear it was worthwhile. The

Jeff  08:29

Alright, so I've got more fire for this opinion than anything I hold, and I just hold it. Just I don't know how you get around it. But can you judge somebody else's pain as meaningless? As an epistemic question? I don't know that you can. I don't know how you would get there. But how can you judge someone else's pain is meaningless.

Kyle  08:55

So what's the context of the question? Can

Jeff  08:57

you set it? Oh, no, if it's the case, that that we're looking at the world, it's the and we see the horrific suffering. And we're saying the thing that's really the problem here is that it's meaningless. It's not the suffering. It's the meaninglessness, that's actually the problem. But I don't know if you can judge someone else's suffering as meaningless. I don't know how you would get there. There seems to me a huge epistemic Gulf there. So I would love to Yeah,

Kyle  09:25

what I understand the meaningless is maybe not the phrase that I would choose first, but I think it's, you know, synonymous enough with some other terms like gratuitous that it's workable. Well, all I mean by it is, it's difficult or impossible to find a justification for this instance of suffering. I might describe something my own suffering is meaningless. I think that is enough to generate the problem. If I were to describe someone else's suffering in that way, and they objected to it, I would, you know, yield to their object. action. But I would still push the point that there are enough cases of suffering, where they are bad to the extent that it's difficult or impossible to find any justification for a good God, allowing this when a lesser degree of suffering would have achieved all the same ends as far as we can tell.

Jeff  10:21

And that's a I want to circle back to that, just to I want to just put a pin in that that perhaps the ends could have been achieved with less suffering. I don't know that that's known to be true.

Kyle  10:32

No, I don't think I just want. It's not known. And we should circle back to that.

Jeff  10:38

Well, the even with our own pain, I'm glad that you brought up your own on this front. I'm very curious whether or not we can even judge our own pain as meaningless. If you're an immortal soul? No,

Kyle  10:53

I don't think you are. So maybe we should come back to that. If

Jeff  10:57

it's, if it's the case, that part of some forms of theism, the immortality of a human being is part of the story. If they're immortal, and they're suffering in year 20, of their immortal existence, that pain may not have purpose and meaning till they're 1000s of years into eternity. And that pain at that time, even though it looks horrific and terrible, when they're suffering at age 20, may have profound worth and value down their road. And so I it's, again, an epistemic question, I have a very hard time judging pain is meaningless. If it's the case, that a human being is made for eternity, which is part of many of the stories that are told about from theistic position. Do you have a thought on that? And then I'll, I'll get you over here in a second, Randy,

Kyle  11:52

just that what is very clear to me now, is that lots of pain has a does have a clear meaning. And the meaning is bad. Yeah, that it's that it's not in any way redeemed, that it's not life giving, that it's destructive all the way down. That's the apparent meaning right now. And I, I, I just can't understand a view where that ever goes away. I can understand the view where there's an eternal future. And I can simply not envision the layers of meaning that might be laid on top of that one. That might recontextualize it in ways I can't imagine. But I can't even understand as coherent have you, where that meaning is obliterated, or undone? It just seems to me that if it's experienced in that way now, then it will always have been experienced that way. And God set it up in a way that allowed it to be experienced that way. And that generates the problem. Yep.

Jeff  13:02

I think that's very well said, By the way, I want to start out, I would love to circle back to that. But I do want to put that like little I just a slight epistemic doubt that it may be the case that we can't judge. The meaningfulness of pain, even our own pain, presently. And think that that's at least worth noting. For me. Really, when thinking about, again, on creation, why God creates a world at all? What is the greatest good for a human being? You've been made by God? What is what is the great good? They got hopes that you experience?

Randy  13:41

Man? How do you answer that question? I would, I would just go and say that, if, if the apostle John is correct, and that God is love, then the greatest thing that we can do or be or embody or Yeah, is love is to, for human to, to dive deeply into what it means to love another person to love a group to love themselves to love, you know, their enemy. I think that's probably the highest aim of being a human being.

Jeff  14:12

Just to jump ahead a bit, can you can you love a person without experiencing some cost?

Randy  14:20

It's great. You'll have to ask Kyle, this because he'll give a better answer.

Kyle  14:26

I don't know. But no, I

Randy  14:28

think that pain and suffering is inherently woven into the reality of what it means to be God because God chose to create, I believe humanity. And because God chose to create humanity in such a way. It means that God is inviting pain and suffering into God's own existence. And so I think if that's the case, then it's probably not possible to be in relationship to be in a relationship based on love, unconditional love, and not experienced pain. So yeah, I think you could go down that that road. I think that's true.

Jeff  15:02

It seems to me and I'd love your thoughts on this cow. It seems to me that this was hinted at, but how we judge God in the problem matters, the standards by which we're saying, This is what a good God would do what a good guide maximize pleasure over pain, is that God's target? And is that the standard by which we should judge God's actions? Or is it the case that for example, if God was seeking to maximize the virtue of rational beings, for example, to maximize character, Lovely Hope, etc, etcetera? It seems our world is is proof is very well structured, to push people into spaces where they must learn exhibit and growing character.

Kyle  15:49

Yeah, so I'm not a utilitarian. So I don't think it's maximizing pleasure. This was Khan's point, right? He thought that if you really thought that happiness was the goal, nature is very poorly suited to construct such a thing, it seems much more likely, given the way things actually are, that some other end was in mind and kind of rational perfection was more likely. So yeah, um, you know, ethically, I'm basically a kind of deontologist. So I'm fine with the foundations of that kind of view. I don't think it helps with the problem of evil, but maybe maybe you can spell out why you think it does.

Jeff  16:30

Just to circle back, I think that our world is constructed in such a way that it invites us over and again, to make decisions that would, you know, that would be required character, both on the positive and negative. I think people get worse in a world like ours, I think people get better in a world like ours, but we seldom remain static. That seems right. It seems to me if God was trying to create a world in which God was taking beings made for eternity, like God's self, and they were self choosing virtue character, this world is a profound starting place, because it it just invites that

Kyle  17:14

there are aspects of the world that would probably be necessary for a world that had that as a goal. I'll grant that much. But it's that's not the full story of the world. I guess. There are many other aspects that do not seem to fit. Well, if that is, in fact, the goal, or that go way, way too far.

Jeff  17:31

Right. And I want to say I, I affirm that I want to get that kind of foundation, if I was sitting down and saying, what are some of the big ideas for if we really want to find resolution to the problem of evil? Because here's the here's the next big question I wanted to ask you always. It seems like the problem of evil isn't just a problem for theists. It seems like the problem of evil is a problem for everybody. Like you got to like, no matter how you come down, you have to wrestle with why is it that we suffer? So if I'm a consistent metaphysical materialist, and I think that only matter in motion exists, I still need to wrestle with with the meaninglessness of suffering, because it, it seems to me, that may not be something that disproves my system. But it is something that really assaults my sense of self, my humanity, my most of my existential beliefs. It seems to me that it you know, meaningless suffering makes life almost entirely, you know, void of purpose.

Kyle  18:39

I wonder what you mean by existential That, to me meaningless suffering generates existentialism. That's I understand the history of that tradition. Like it. It is the most basic fact about the world for many of those thinkers, that the world is suffused with pointless suffering, and that there isn't a basic meaning behind it. Now, almost all of them are atheists to, which I'm not but like, that fundamental recognition seems true and honest to me, perhaps made best by Schopenhauer who just had like lengthy descriptions of meaningless examples, after example, after example. That seems right. And I have the same respect for thinkers like that, that I would for, I don't know somebody who is able to look soberly at their own existence and call it what it is. And I think that's a fine starting place, and it's where most of them started. Now, I don't, I'm a theist, right. So I don't think that's all there is to reality. But I am also a materialist. And so I do think that, you know, the facts on the ground are what they are, and we suffer and some some of that suffering is to be expected, just by virtue of being a material thing. But when you can join that with theism, I think that does generate this unique problems. I don't quite see why If you weren't a theist of a certain kind, you would still have to explain suffering because there, it wouldn't be surprising under lots of other views.

Jeff  20:09

For me, there's a past Galleon kind of argument that takes place here that something like If God exists, there might be meaning to the horrific suffering that we see. And that that possibility has enormous value. It strikes me that being a consistent metaphysical materialist, that if you just have to embrace all of this horrific suffering, and life has no purpose, that seems to me, I would use the phrase, it's a repugnant conclusion. It's like, why would I want to presuppose that story? Why would I want to invest anything in that story? I would actually want to push against that story, I would be scrambling for something else. And it gives me great reasons to reject materialism, because there might be meaning and suffering in these other stories. Yeah,

Kyle  21:00

I mean, there are other ways of generating meaning as a materialist, you could be Buddhist, for example. Yeah, that's fine. I get the repugnance. I also think it's true.

Jeff  21:12

That I think it's worth naming that if I if I presuppose this story, this is this is something that I have to be left with. So this is one of the values I really hold the highlight you and I think, sure, we you mentioned something real briefly that, like, I don't think there's any good reasons to believe in a God. I think a cumulative case is really interesting. I'm, I'm, I will not tell this to anybody else. But I do think Aquinas is third wave on motion really tells me I think there might be some, you know,

Kyle  21:45

this is public or people.

Jeff  21:48

But aside from that, I think I generally think there's not a good reason to believe in God. I think God's created a world where God's hidden. And these, if I come to the story that way, God has created a world in which God is hidden. These sorts of questions become kind of primary it at this level of what am I going to presuppose? What story am I going to live in? How am I going to live? Given the beliefs that I have? I find that this is a very difficult this is why I moved away from atheism was because of this this spot was I didn't, I couldn't live in that story. I don't know if you have any other thoughts on that. But that was

Kyle  22:33

I was just interesting that it took you away from atheism and brings more people towards it. So that's cool. Yeah,

Randy  22:39

I mean, I think you're getting at maybe the problem is Kyle's commitment to materialism.

Kyle  22:46

The root of all sin, right? I'm a physical thing that's causes all Yeah.

Jeff  22:52

Randy Kyle said something in the podcast I thought was worth talking about. And it was that God looks like crucifixion. I assume that you think that seeing God is a huge part of not only our Ultimate Bliss, but it's like part of our our best selves will be somehow we see God in a are able to see ourselves. If God looks like crucifixion, don't you need a world in which there's crucifixion? In order to see God? Isn't suffering itself required? Apparently, if this is who God is, is suffering not required to see God?

Randy  23:37

I think I would ask, was the crucifixion, something that was predetermined ahead of time? Or was it a response to a problem would be would be a first primary thing that I would want to get out if we're going to ask that, but regardless of what the what the circumstances are the order of things. I believe that God was crucified God was executed on on a cross. And so that is primarily what God looks like, for me. The idea that God, God looks like the cross or God is crucified. What that does for me as it makes an absurdity which evil and violence in particular, violence to me is an absurdity. And God doesn't try to make sense of it. God doesn't try to explain it and philosophize God's way through it. God actually chooses to identify with it and God actually chooses to take that absurdity upon God's self which in itself is an immense maybe the biggest absurdity you could you could think of in in that I think that there's some this is where Words fail me maybe maybe Kyle can philomon Maybe you Jeff can fill them in maybe maybe it's just not possible to be filled in maybe this is like the deeper magic that CS Lewis talks about, maybe maybe, God dying, God being crucified is something that is so profound that Kind of. That's why our theodicy is don't really fit and don't really work because God's done something different than explain it. God has assumed that upon God's self.

Kyle  25:11

Yeah, I said earlier that the starting point of existentialism was the recognition of pointless suffering. That's true with one exception, and the one exception is Kierkegaard. And for him, this is the start. It's that God suffered. It's a paradox. As he put it, it makes no rational sense. And yet, it's a fact he thought that was presented to us to

Jeff  25:33

push into that a little bit. It seems to me that Christian theism wants to highlight a belief and it's something like suffering is the only way to defeat evil. I think that that's core. The, this is part of what we've mentioned, Dostoevsky and the Grand Inquisitor, it's one of the reasons that, you know, that's kind of their their, there has to be a different way that evil is overcome. But also paired with that, it seems like Christian theology also wants to say the glory of God is only seen through God's defeat of evil. So if you can only see God's glory, through the defeat of evil, in some ways, the suffering needs to be part of the world that God actualized as

Kyle  26:18

well. It is a part of the world whether it needs to be as a different question that's a lot

Jeff  26:22

harder to deal with it needs. It needs to be epistemic if, if if creatures like us are going to be able to see God, if that's part of our function. It seems to me you wouldn't you need a world with suffering in order to see God if that's part of who God is.

Kyle  26:38

I guess I don't see why that's the case like I'm willing to grant that there is suffering in this world, in this world, God presumably, wants to be in a relationship with those who suffer, that's going to require God suffering, that's an easy entailment. But we're still in this world. Like we're still in alpha, that's a philosophy joke. Like, and we it's hard to step out of that and to know what the criteria could be for different worlds, where God didn't set things up that way, or at least allow them to be set up that way. My, you know, part of my atonement theory has always been that God was crucified, because that's what the Romans chose to do. And that was the instrument that they had, and God didn't resist, he absorbed it. And I think God would have absorbed any kind of violence that was thrown at God, in this world or any other because that's the incarnational nature of God, but I don't see the step from there to incarnation entails suffering. I think God will always be incarnational. And if that requires suffering, then God will suffer. But I don't see a reason to think that suffering is like metaphysically necessary. I see God sharing God's self as metaphysically necessary given my understanding of what God is, but I don't see the suffering as necessary. I see it as contingent. And God being willing to take on the contingency.

Randy  27:56

Yeah, I would say incarnation, crucifixion sacrifice. It's all a response not

Kyle  28:02

caused. Otherwise, Heaven doesn't make any sense. I mean, you don't think there's going to be presumably suffering, at least not in the same sense in heaven, and yet God is still incarnational in heaven. So why here? I

Jeff  28:15

would love to circle back to that as well. I think that that's spot on. The point that got brought up in my mind as you're talking is, God has chosen to actualize this world, though, as opposed to just any world. This brings up another philosophical topic. And when talking about God, does God have foreknowledge? Is it the case that omniscience knowing all things? Does that mean that God knows all future events? And even bigger than that isn't just our world? But say it's the case that God can envision trillions and trillions and trillions of possible worlds? Does God know the outcome of every possible world that God could actualize? Does God know all the counterfactuals might be a way that if omniscience means that God knows all the counterfactuals, God has made this world with that knowledge in mind that incarnation and suffering would would come together? Yeah, that strikes me as but I find that profound, and I'm generally of the belief that God does know, all the counterfactuals I don't know if that needs to get unpacked a little bit more. But

Kyle  29:23

yeah, we should have a whole separate episode on that eventually, I guess, but my view and take it for what it's worth, I don't put a lot of weight on it. Frankly, I don't think anybody can know this, or evidence is it's not even just indecisive. It's like almost non existent. That is like, the best evidence about this question is like the physics of time, which like 100 people in the world, maybe kind of understand. So my my view which is worth almost nothing is that God does not know all future counterfactuals because not all of them have truth values. But I don't actually think that helps that much with the problem of evil. Because even if that's true We're still at we still got a world chock full of suffering that God should have foreseen. Well, you know, at least some of it,

Jeff  30:06

it can this we're live minutes his argument comes in. If If God can see all future possibilities, if I make this world this what's going to happen? Then God can select what Lightning has caused the best possible world.

Kyle  30:23

But that presumes that I mean, I'm not sure what limits thought about freewill, but presumes that you were part of what God's omniscience allowed access to was the possible decisions of free creatures under every conceivable circumstance. And that's exactly what an open theist or molinist would deny. So there's a debate to be had there. But again, I don't think it necessarily solves the problem. Whichever way you go with it. Like

Jeff  30:52

brought up Schopenhauer earlier, I'm a compatibilist on these friends. But

Kyle  30:57

I don't understand compatibilism.

Jeff  31:00

no contradiction between God knowing all future events, and you still being free. Just because I know that the ring is gonna be destroyed doesn't mean that Frodo is not free when he grabs it and says I'm taking this to Mordor.

Kyle  31:13

Sure, but it's not that hard to spell out the contradiction. But we'd have to do that in another episode. That works. Listeners,

Randy  31:18

if you're a little bit foggy and fuzzy, I'm with you.

Jeff  31:25

Well, let me let me pitch it this way, then, if the liveness argument, I think is really interesting. And by the way, I think I'm entirely affirm your thoughts on the title of God is more like an office? Is there a being that holds the attributes that qualify someone to be the being we call God? And I suppose I, I'm sympathetic to that view that the more and sell me on view of God is all knowing all powerful. All good. If, if God exists, God has those attributes says live minutes in I would love your response to the argument because I think it's very sticky. The thing about a being that has the maximum amount of knowledge is that they know all the counterfactuals or that may be the case, that omniscience means you know all the counterfactuals. And if so you can see every possible world in the being that maximally good would desire that best possible world. That's what the problem of evil is. It's why didn't God create a different world. But if God knows the best possible world, and is good enough to select it, and obviously has the maximum amount of power can actualize it, then if we look around and this world exists, it's that seems to me, QED, right? Is this must be the best possible world. Yeah,

Randy  32:50

you're just trying to drop in as much obnoxious philosophy references as you can.

Kyle  32:55

No, um, so my response to the couple of responses, but one of them is that you can do what DJI more love to do, which was take the conclusion of someone's argument, negate it and turn it into the premise of your own argument. So you could say, as you just did, that God is a perfect being perfect beings can only create perfect worlds, this is the world ergo, it must be a perfect world. Or you can flip it around and say, as I would this world, obviously is not perfect, perfect being could only create a perfect world that saying it so there must not be a perfect being, or the being responsible for it must not be perfect. And there's no the point at the gym or always made with that whether he was aiming at Hume or anybody is that the evidence simply doesn't tell you which argument form is better. And you just have to go on your intuitions about that. My intuition strongly points to this not being a perfect world.

Jeff  33:48

We haven't hit that evidential problem yet, but I love sitting in the rationalist tradition for a second on these principles. The difference between the perfect world and the best possible world, I think is really worth slicing. Right here. It seems to me the hospital world is

Kyle  34:06

different, that's fair, but you know, interpret perfect loosely as including whatever is required for the formation of whatever kind of virtues God was interested in or something like that. So

Jeff  34:16

this is where I think the conclusion for me and I, by the way, I hate this conclusion when it's in freshman essays, so like, I think you have to elevate here. But the position of a faithful agnosticism I find deeply attractive at this point in time. Yeah. So that if, if God exists, God has actualized the best possible world and despite appearances, I am hopeful in and trusting. I mean, I think I think a lot of the I'm trusting in God's selection process. Yeah, at that point.

Kyle  34:57

Yeah, I can't really get that one. And I can hope that God is better than I have conceived and that there are reasons for this. But I can't hope this is the best. I don't even know what that would mean. I mean, I can. It's just obviously not the best.

Jeff  35:16

I don't think that could be known though. Can that be done? Yeah. How can you say anything

Kyle  35:21

be known Jeff? Like, I think we have far more than sufficient evidence to conclude that this world could be better. And it's just laughably easy to think of examples in which it could be better, even just marginally better by any reasonable standard of better that a plurality of people could get behind. And I just think the weight of that is a lot more than some clever rationalistic arguments that can just be turned on themselves, I don't know. Another thing to note about liveness is that he didn't have human happiness in mind. He had some weird metaphysical stuff in mind, like good making features of a world for him were things that none of us would recognize. Like he was a mathematician all the way down. He thought that, like, a certain kind of mathematical perfection was more valuable than human happiness, or at least something that God would aim at ahead of human happiness. So I'm not sure we want to go with his the Odyssey.

Jeff  36:23

Not everybody's perfect. I got a question for you, Randy. The my favorite response to Leibniz, his argument comes from Robert Adams, he's a Yale philosopher, he says something like this, does God have to create the best possible world? Couldn't God create a subpar world because God really, really, really, really likes and loves the creatures, they're in that world. They're all terrible. They all do terrible things. They create pain and suffering. But there's something about all these, these people that I really like, and I want to make a world with these people I really like, yes, with all the suffering that they cause. And one of the benefits to this world says Robert Adams, is that guy gets to exercise a quality guy doesn't get to exercise in the perfect world. And that is grace. This world allows God to do something God can't do in the perfect world. And that's to lavish love on people who just don't deserve it. Another part of suffering on this front is that we get to see God and God's character. Does that move you at all? Does? Does the fact that in a perfect world, you don't get to ever would you treat? Here's here's what here's a way of put Yeah. Would you trade? Randy? You would eliminate all suffering. But you would never get to experience God's grace. Would you make that trade?

Randy  37:49

Yeah, no, I think when you started asking your question that it reminded me of being a dad. And I think that's where all this stuff gets concrete, and comes out of the esoteric clouds, it's that my kids, in some ways, are really terrible. Like my, my kids in different ways, are quite selfish, and destructive, and violent. And then branching off of those characteristics are really a whole whole host of really ugly characteristics that I'm not proud of that I don't enjoy that I, I tend to get really angry at. And then if so that, if that was all that it meant to be a father, I wouldn't have had kids like I would regret being being a father. But there's all the beauty that that for me, makes me really, really happy that I chose to be a debt that my wife and I chose to have the family that we did, it's that I get to, I get to have something that to me, I get to experience something that is transcendent. And that is that this like selfless, self giving love that I that I give to my kids and that I receive from my kids. And there's something about that. That act of being loved. And that act of being seen as and not even seen as but embodying. Like we belong to one another, and we share life together. And what's yours is mine and What's mine is yours. And I could keep going on about what it means to be a parents. There's something so beautiful, so valuable, so life giving so transformative in the process of being a father of being a parents, that has all the shit that comes with it, but because of all the goodness of course, I would never trade any of those ugly moments. If it meant that I had to lose all the all the beautiful moments. Does that get at what you're asking a bit just

Jeff  39:47

yet. Do you have thoughts on that guy?

Kyle  39:50

I really liked that I've I think I've said before that both the generation of the problem of evil and also the generation of any compelling response to it comes from deep intuitions we have about what we would do in certain circumstances where we had a similar amount of responsibility that God would have for birthing this world. And so the most natural metaphor is parenting. It's not the only one, right? Because there are lots of I don't want to say that, you know, people who can't be parents who choose not to be parents can't understand it in the same level, but it's some some aspect of having a choice over the beginning of life, in some form, seems to be the best inroad we have to understanding what God's possible motivations could be to making any sense of this, but also to generating the problem in the first place. So when you ask Randy, first question, I think was, why did God make the world? That's immediately where my mind went? Why did I have a kid? Because that's the closest I can get to that, right? It's not really close, because I'm not gonna. And it's it's different in some very important ways, but it's the closest I can come? And the answer is I wanted somebody to share myself with and to love and to enjoy. And there's an aspect of pleasure in the creation of it and all that stuff. So I think that's absolutely on the right track. And in fact, I think it's the only place we can really go to trying to understand this at any level. But I don't think sauce Pro. So

Jeff  41:18

this is the only argument I know for that God loves you. I think the gentleman we say God loves all people, Jesus died for all people. But if for me, if God knows all the counterfactuals, and Gods actualize this world, it's because you're in it. God could have easily as was said, in terms of suffering that could have been minimized. On the flip side, you don't need to exist I don't need to exist God to actualize a world where you exist. And that was strikes me as really powerful if you allow for God's foreknowledge, no way. If we can, I would love to pivot to the evidential problem, because I think it is much more theologically like you're looking for scraping for what is the answer here? What is this heaven that you're promising? Or what solution what is it was the great good that we gain from all of this horrific suffering? I think a lot of philosophers wanting to say the logical problem of evil, which is generally the one that's pitch and most often doesn't work. But the evidential problem is, I think, I think how I think you said this in the podcast. This is where like, professional philosophers actually land for the most part, when articulating it, it's that the existence of horrific suffering makes God's existence less likely. That's not only embraced by atheists, I think that's embraced by theists and it's embraced in the Scripture all over the place. That seems to me the why have you forsaken me confession that comes from Christ and others ends up being I don't get it. I don't get why this is this is going on. Yeah. And so there's real meat here. In terms of, like, what should we do with this, and I thought your presentation of cumulative cases is exactly the right way to go here. It's not one story, freewill, Soul making and all the rest in terms of the Odysseys none of them really are the magic bullet. But all of them together, create what I find a really interesting world to be in like it's a it's a world with depth and beauties. And there's all of these overlapping pieces. And I suppose my question for you is, on the cumulative case, if you say I'm taking all of the things together, Free Will defense, Soul making, you know, the fact that that this world allows for the for character formation in exhibition, it allows for love and the rest. Do they have the power to overwhelm all the instances of horrific suffering? Or why don't they? I should spend it that way? Because it felt like you had a conclusion that they don't

Kyle  44:01

know not for me. Not if by overwhelm you mean, justify or defeat? No, they might be enough to make it indecisive, evidentially, I'm willing to say that. And so I'm not an atheist, really. If I thought it was decisive, it would be decisive in that direction, and I just wouldn't be a Christian. So I clearly think it's at least indecisive, but I just can't get away from the dusty ASCII tag. Like, you look at specific instances of suffering. And you throw your best theodicy amalgamation at it. And you still have a choice that no good human would make. The dilemma that Alyosha poses to Yvonne. Put yourself in God's position, you're going to make a world full of virtue and beauty and happiness. And the cost of it is the suffering of As a child, do you consent to those terms? I don't consent to those terms. And so if that's the world that even the best, you know, cumulative case, the Odyssey gets you then I just I don't see it. I have to say no thanks.

Jeff  45:20

strange place to land. But I'm on an island of people who defend job. Just, I'm on lots of islands apparently book or the character, the book. Love me some job. The there's two windows in this actually gets at what was just said, like, what do you say to the person who's suffering? And Job is a fantastic book about what you don't say to someone in the midst of profound suffering? Correct. But the window into job for me I love your thoughts is I think the person that wrote job is job. I think this is him writing his story. And I don't think he has any friends. I think I think this is this, this is what's going on his

Kyle  46:03

friend would have been would have been like, these, these

Jeff  46:07

aren't really friends actually. Or

Randy  46:09

maybe they're himself and different.

Jeff  46:13

Oftentimes, when we suffer, we're like, what did I do wrong? I really want to talk to God about this job in the first year and is sitting in the ashes of his dead children. The key for me is that job at the end is invited by the whirlwind to stand up and go look at a new creation. So great resurrection image, gird up your lines, let me ask you some questions. And God shows him all the things that he's made. And there's one thing that God doesn't list of all the things that he's made. And the thing he doesn't list his job. He never says, I made you. And there's something for me personally, on the suffering side, that God is fashioning me through the suffering that I experience. And I'm sure, like, I don't, I don't know how to say this is aside from that's my existential experience, that suffering has transformative power, and never like suffering. None was like suffering, and I can't speak to anyone else's suffering. I can only say this is the meaning that my suffering has for me in this moment. The place that I experienced God most is in that space. And those are quite valuable to land. For me through this whole thing, feels like I surrender my experience of God, if I surrender, suffering, in seeing Jesus crucified, and seeing my own character formation, in the opportunities that I have to help those who are in really profoundly bad shape. All the some of the best, most meaningful experiences in life, it seems to me are somehow inextricably linked to suffering. Flip that as an observation, do you all have thoughts to close?

Kyle  48:01

Well, you're close. And I'll just give one, the Debbie downer here. So I agree, I have the same experience, which is what again, that my experience of God and my experience of suffering are not there, they often occur together, they're inseparable. I don't know if I want to go that far, right, because I also have experiences of God that see him in his in a certain way, the opposite of suffering. And I want to say that those are more suggestive for what the future might be like, or what the world fundamentally is like, or something like that. But, you know, the deep suffering that I have experienced, remains suffused with God's presence, and in some cases, vice versa. So I feel you're on that. I don't want to say that all suffering has some kind of redemptive role, or something like it does seem to me that a lot of suffering is and can be used by God to grow me. And I've experienced that, and I'm grateful for it. But then a lot of suffering just kills you. It just destroys. And that's the kind that creates the problem. That's the kind that I think we need to wrestle carefully with. So that's the Debbie Downer side. Journal with Randy bringing home with whatever he

Randy  49:23

has, I'm not gonna be able to bring this conversation home, that's for sure.

Jeff  49:29

Well, I can fill out a question for you to bring it home. Go for it. Both Paul. And I think it's in Peter say that, you know, essentially God works all things together for the good that this, you know, suffering leads to this which leads to lists which leads to this isn't isn't not the case that there's something great about the hope that you can have if a god exists in the fact that even the worst thing that we experienced can get transformed.

Randy  49:59

Yeah, I think those are the best might, I'll say those are my favorite ways of looking at suffering, as you know, both of those quotes from the book of Romans, that suffering produces perseverance and perseverance produces hope and hope you know, all that stuff. I think that's Romans five, and then Romans eight, the, all that stuff that happens to you, God is able to actually work for the good of those who love him. I don't think it's a conditional statement, I think it's just a, it's a really wise perception by Paul in maybe even inspired by the Holy Spirit that says, like, look, I'm working in all of the stuff, I'm working under the surface, and behind the scenes, and all in all the ways that you can't imagine, to bring about the good, I think that's what God is, one of the things that God is about in the world is like trying to take the best that humans can, can throw at the at the world into the like, trying to be good, and just make it makes it into good. But I don't want to sit here and say that all suffering has some sort of meaning because all of my suffering has had some sort of meaning. I think that's a, I live in a very privileged world, where suffering is pretty limited. And my world is better than it's, you know, it's more good than bad in like, amazingly profound ways. So I would never want to take my experience and say this is, you know, the foundational formative experience that we have to talk about, but I will say, I just officiated my uncle's funeral, my dad's twin brother, and then never as a pastor want to officiate a funeral of a person that I loved deeply, you know, and family, all that stuff, because I just want to grieve, and I want to do that well. So I had to kind of partition it. But there was something in Paul saying, Paul is like a really real dude. Well, he's also super idealistic and, and it's hard for me to get Paul but I loved it. When Paul says, For me to live as Christ and to die is gain. There's something in that perspective that says, Paul had a shitty life in many ways, right? Like he was a person in power and very influential. But he gave all of that up in many ways. And he goes on in some of his books, kind of in grandiose ways to talk about how many times he was shipwrecked, how many times he was imprisoned, how many times he went hungry. It seems like in the beginning of the book of Philippians, Paul basically is almost talking about being suicidal at some point, that he was so deeply grieved and in his inner man, but yet he still has the audacity to say for me to live as Christ and to die as gain. And there's something in that perspective, that that is where I rest with this problem of evil with the Odysseys that theodicy is can't get out. And that is, if God exists, if God is real, if God is who the Bible says God is, then there's hope, in and outside of all suffering, then there's something more something bigger, something more beautiful, something good, and I hope, something redemptive, that can actually like, serve to redeem all things, and renewal things, and can actually, like, we will get to a point where things are explained and understood maybe. And in this life, we have to embrace mystery, and faith and trust and hope. And these things are good things that you know, those words or ideas or good ideas. So that's where this lands, for me, it doesn't land in my head, it doesn't land intellectually, it doesn't land experientially even because again of because of my frame of reference of who I am and where I'm located. But the Scriptures speak to something bigger, something better and something more than this world. And that for me is my theodicy, which is really will drive philosophers nuts. Thanks for not saying anything in response.

Kyle  53:51

I think that's a good place to live.

Jeff  53:53

I didn't.

Randy  54:06

Well, thanks for listening to this q&a session. We love this kind of dialogue. So if you have questions, you can email us at pastor

Kyle  54:14

and philosopher@gmail.com. And if you submit a really good question, it might end up in one of these q&a segments. And if you really want to go deeper, subscribe at our top tier on Patreon and just have all the chats with us you want.

Randy  54:26

Cheers? Cheers. It seems as if through this whole conversation, Kyle has been trying to talk himself out of believing in God. So why experience it is the opposite. Okay, so why do you believe in God at the end of this conversation?

Kyle  54:47

Yeah, I mean, it's, I think that's one of the first questions we asked each other on the podcast, and I don't think my answer has changed. Really, it's just a handful of experiences that I've had. And it's general ability to make sense of My World. I don't. Again, I don't think it's decisive. Right? I don't think that theism is the rational option. I learned very much where Jeff does. I wouldn't say there's no good reason. But there's no there's no like overriding reason to be a theist, in my view. But I've had experiences that really seemed like Jesus. And I can think of all sorts of ways to interpret those experiences that are evidentially equivalent to the way that I've interpreted them. And I'm fine with that. I could totally be wrong about all of it. But I don't see a good reason to move because anything I would move to would have the same issue, right? There would be the same evidential equivalence and decisiveness and under determination, all that stuff, so it works for me, I guess.