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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : A Question For Those Who Don’t Believe A Loving God Could Allow Atrocities » A Question For Those Who Don’t Believe A Loving God Could Allow Atrocities

A Question For Those Who Don’t Believe A Loving God Could Allow Atrocities

Rusty - January 6, 2008

Where should a Loving God stop short?

Getting cold.
Getting frostbite.
Freezing to death.

Losing keys.
Losing a finger.
Losing a child.

A tsunami resulting in no deaths.
A tsunami resulting in 5 deaths.
A tsunami resulting in 5,000 deaths.

After Hitler writes Mein Kampf
After Hitler’s first execution.
After Hitler executes 1,000,000.

83 Comments »

  1. This one’s easy.

    When would you be willing to convict a parent of negligence?

    When they knowingly and without preventing (when they could have)their child from…

    Getting cold.
    Losing a finger.
    Freezing to death.

    And so on.

    Where do YOU draw the line?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 6, 2008 @ 10:13 pm

  2. Maybe the question should be “Would a loving God stop short?” or “Could a loving GOD stop short?”

    It’s the price of agency. It is a dear dear price, but the alternative is worse.

    Comment by Don — January 6, 2008 @ 11:12 pm

  3. Rusty – It’s a really interesting thought. I think most of us can point to blessings in our life where we felt the hand of God intervening to spare us from pain or heartbreak. And yet we have so much devastation, both natural and man made, that one has to wonder why. It seems to me that if we are believers, we believe that those whose lives are taken in devastation are actually in a better place. The real pain is experienced by those of us left behind. I believe that is part of our earthly probation and although it is as painful for God as it is for us, He knows that it is ultimately for our good. And we should try to understand that concept as well. Does that make sense?

    Comment by Lamonte — January 7, 2008 @ 7:17 am

  4. From an earthly perspective, and as a parent, I choose carefully when to intervene in my children’s lives. A lot of things need to be experienced first hand. It can start with falling down while learning to walk and end with figuring out how to be a good grandparent. Mom and Dad can’t bail us out of everything, because then, how would we learn?

    However, the difference, it would be argued, between a Loving God allowing us agency and experience and a Loving God allowing us extreme pain and misery can be large.

    Most of the disasters that have/are happened/happening shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. They’ve been prophesied for centuries. We’ve also been told that what was prohpesied is coming to pass even now. God loves us –so truly –and in one way of showing us that love? He warned us ahead of time what would happen.

    Also, what Don and Lamonte said. :)

    Comment by Cheryl — January 7, 2008 @ 8:28 am

  5. So let me get this straight,

    Suppose, as a hypothetical, a parent is knowingly allowed their 14 year old child to be hit by a train when they could have easily intervened to save them. They are subsequently put on trial for their disgusting negligence.

    The parent’s defense lawyer then proceeds to argue that 1) the parent was protecting their child’s agency, 2) the parent was sending their child to a better place, or 3) the jury simply needed to take an eternal perspective to appreciate how loving the parent’s apparent negligence actually was.

    Are you really going to tell me that you would let the parent off?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 7, 2008 @ 10:54 am

  6. Jeff, God’s responsibility towards His children is different than that of an earthly parent. It’s a pretty good analogy, but you’re going to be hard-pressed to find any human that also has the eternal perspective and understanding that God has. But you seem to have avoided the question, where should God stop short? At the point that you (as a human) think humans should avoid negligence?

    Comment by Rusty — January 7, 2008 @ 11:17 am

  7. Or perhaps a different question: what would you have God do? Would you have Him defy the Natural laws of cause and effect? Or would you have Him grant exceptions in every possible occasion of possible suffering? (to Lamonte’s point, we believe He grants some exceptions when He see’s fit)

    Comment by Rusty — January 7, 2008 @ 11:24 am

  8. Suppose, as a hypothetical, a parent is knowingly allowed their 14 year old child to be hit by a train when they could have easily intervened to save them. They are subsequently put on trial for their disgusting negligence.

    And the opposite side of this coin, is a parent who locks their 14 year old child in the closet never letting them go outside the house because, they reason, if they let their child go outside they might get hit by a train (or kidnapped, or molested, etc…) Wouldn’t this parent also be convicted in our courts, for essentially over-parenting in this case?

    It’s a fair question: do you wish God was locking us in a closet so nothing ‘bad’ would ever happen, or do you wish He would let us go outside and live, but where on occasion one of us will get hit by a train? What if there is no middle ground?

    Comment by KMB — January 7, 2008 @ 11:52 am

  9. Jeff: Put it the other way around: “Are you really going to tell me that you would convict God of negligence?”

    If the rules govering our existence require that we be allowed our agency, then your question is preposterous. You would be convicting God for governing the world according to the rules that he told us it would be governed by, and which we all accepted before coming here. The defense of “assumption of risk” comes to mind, as well as a host of others.

    You appear to be longing for a world in which no one is allowed to experience any negative outcome that would be too harmful. That world, however, would also preclude any real growth or learning on our part, and so it is not really an option, any more than is a world without gravity.

    Comment by MCQ — January 7, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  10. Rusty #6,

    Fine, change the example from a parent to a friend (although surely God is more than a mere friend to us). The example still stands. If a friend simply stood there and watched a train run over his friend who did not see it coming would we not consider this person to be a monster? Would we EVER accept such flabby reasons for his inexcusable negligence?

    What I tried to get you to realize in #1 is that the question has absolutely no bearing on the problem of evil. Whether you can draw a precise line between the tolerable and the intolerable does not imply that the intolerable does not exist any more than our inability to draw a precise line in the gray implies that black or white do not exist. I do assume, after all, that parents and friends should NOT allow other to freeze to death.

    Rusty #7,

    Easy, the same thing we would expect any friend or parent to do in similar situations. In the case of the train, violate their agency and push them out of the way or, if it suits you better, respect their agency and warn them of the oncoming train. Why could not God warn us of tsunamis? He doesn’t have to interrupt the laws of cause and effect at all anymore than parents and friends do.

    KMB #8,

    You are almost running the exact opposite line of reasoning that Rusty is. He is saying that there are so many shade of gray that one cannot draw a line between black and white. I say, “So what? Black and white still exist.” You are now trying to argue that it must either be black or white. In other words, God doesn’t have to overly shelter us in order to easily step in and prevent or at least warn us of danger.

    MCQ #9,

    See the above. The world isn’t black and white. I should also point out that God telling us how the world works does not at all amount to warning us of specific danger. This reasoning would suggest that if only all those people in Indonesia had only taken enough geology in high school they would not have died in the tsunami. Such reasoning is a callous and offensive example of blaming the victim.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 7, 2008 @ 12:28 pm

  11. Jeff G and Rusty-

    I’m thinking you both agree with each other but you don’t really know it…

    Comment by Cheryl — January 7, 2008 @ 12:48 pm

  12. I don’t know, Cheryl. Judging from the title of his post, Rusty thinks that my inability to draw a line somehow demonstrates that a loving God CAN allow atrocities. I firmly reject this reasoning.

    As a side note, completely unrelated to Cheryl’s comment:

    I would strongly suggest caution when appealing to an eternal perspective in order to explain nature evils. If the otherwise senseless deaths of 100,000 people in a tsunami is not evil at all then it appears to make the holocaust be a bad thing only in the sense that is hurts those who committed the crime rather than the actual victims of the crime.

    In other words, appeals to an eternal perspective almost always rely upon an equivocation on the word “good.” If allowing senseless death is good from God’s perspective, shouldn’t it be so from our perspective as well? If we think a parent, friend, superior officer, etc. not warning a person of impending doom is bad, shouldn’t we think that God, who did the exact same thing (namely nothing) is just as bad? If what is good from God’s perspective is different from what is good from our perspective, who is right? Furthermore, what could we possibly mean when we, from our perspective, call God ‘good’?

    To make a long story short, saying that God’s duties toward us are significantly different than our duties toward each other are seems highly problematic.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 7, 2008 @ 1:10 pm

  13. No, see Jeff, I think Rusty was being sarcastic in his initial post. And we already know from here that he likes to argue, even when he agrees.

    I don’t think any of us know what God was thinking or doing during the Tsunami. Or the Holocaust.
    The Archbishop of Canterbury, when asked on 9/11 “Where is God?” answered “I believe he’s in the hearts of those helping dig out the victims” (not an exact quote because I can’t remember it word for word. He spoke about it in the recent documentary “In God’s Name”). But still, he wasn’t even sure.

    So yeah, I’ll talk about how I see God as a loving parent (I do), but I also think there is so much more we have to learn before we can claim to know what God wants.

    Comment by Cheryl — January 7, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  14. Freedom to choose is “black or white” in the purest sense. If you are allowed to choose A or B, but not allowed by divine fiat to choose C, D or E then you are quite plainly not ‘free to choose’.

    As with Henry Ford’s famous statement, “You can have any color Ford you want…as long as it’s black”: free agency where you’re allowed some choices and not others is not ‘free agency’.

    (Imagine telling women they are ‘free to choose’ any career they want…as long as it’s nurse, secretary, or teacher)

    I’m suggesting while there are bad things and worse things, not only can’t you draw a line somewhere in the middle to divide the two, but even if you did, restricting some subset of choice–including walking in front of a train, and/or murdering people you don’t like–means mankind does not, in fact, truly have free agency.

    If free agency was worth sacrificing one-third of the hosts of heaven to provide to mankind, then it’s probably not worth abandoning for the sake of the kid in front of the train either…(and that’s even if you *could* come up with a line to draw between ‘bad’ things to let happen for the sake of experience, and ‘worse’ things to eliminate entirely through divine power).

    Comment by KMB — January 7, 2008 @ 1:28 pm

  15. Cheryl,

    If the title was sarcasm then it was completely lost on me. My bad.

    KMB,

    You missed the point of the comparison I made. Black is absolutely intolerable evil and white is the purest goodness. Each of the examples Rusty listed falls somewhere in the gray which lies between. Rusty’s post suggests that there is no specific point in the gray where the white suddenly turns into black. I don’t see where free agency plays any role in this at all.

    I don’t think any body endorses that all or nothing model of free agency which you seem to endorse. After all, each and every choice we ever make is restricted in some sense. (I’m not free to vacation in the Andromeda galaxy 5 seconds from now.) Are we then going to conclude that nobody has free will?

    But just for fun, let’s see where your argument takes us. Telling people they can only engage in certain activities is bad. Prison is just such a restrictive system. Therefore the prison systme is bad and we should do away with it altogether. After all, our imprisoning people makes them not have free agency and THIS is even worse than the horrible atrocities which they could be committing if they are set free. The same can be used to argue against parenting or any kind of rule system. How dare a parent restrict their teenage daughter’s free agency by giving them a curfew!

    Furthermore, in the cases which I imagined, God’s intervening would seem to give the person more, not less options to choose from. My yelling out to somebody that a train is approaching gives them the opportunity to get out of the way if they so choose. Similarly, God’s warning the people of Indonesia that a tsunami was coming on Xmas eve would have given them the opportunity to leave if they so chose.

    My point (sorry if I’m sounding like a broken record) is that attempts to excuse God from allowing evil always seems to excuse people allowing horrible things to happen, and attempt to indict these morally culpable people also indict God. The only way to have it both ways, it would seem, is by way of holding God and man to different standards of good, which opens another can of worms altogether.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 7, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

  16. Well, now we’re getting into ‘consequences’ which is a whole other issue. Prison restricts choice (presumably) as a punishment for prior bad deeds. The discussion of free agency from God’s perspective involves whether they should have been able to choose the actions that led them to being in prison in the first place.

    (Obviously, celestial spirits will have greater ‘freedom’ to do things than telestial spirits in the eternities, and that in itself is not really a violation of free agency. Being prevented from making the choices which led to being a telestial spirit or outer darkness spirit in the first place would be…)

    I see your main point about ‘warning’. ‘Warning’ people of imminent danger through weather or trains doesn’t violate free agency, and it’s a fair question why God doesn’t ‘warn’ more people of bad things happening.

    My only response might be: Are we sure He doesn’t? There is no shortage of stories from people who have testified they *were* warned of danger, after all…

    Comment by KMB — January 7, 2008 @ 2:32 pm

  17. Okay, but your last paragraph makes it sound like me “warning” somebody that a train is coming by whispering under my breath in a “still, small voice.” Let’s be honest, that’s not much of a warning.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 7, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

  18. Jeff,

    I think we must lean on the “eternal perspective” approach when dealing with the problem of evil as we are here. You haven’t done much of a job arguing against that approach except to basically say it feel kinda problematic to you.

    For instance, you said: If allowing senseless death is good from God’s perspective, shouldn’t it be so from our perspective as well?

    The easy answer is that from our perspective it looks like death but God knows it is not death at all. Rather it is simply a change from one state to another.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 7, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

  19. Geoff,

    You really are not giving that objection it’s full due. What is to prevent us from occasionally “helping” people move from one existence to another? Either this action is bad or it’s not, regardless of how you describe it.

    Either warning people of oncoming danger is good or its not. Either allowing people to die when we could have acted to prevent it is good or not. In other words, why should I do these thing when I’m in the know, when God does not do them on the occasions when He is the only one in the know?

    If we all followed God’s example of all-knowing “love” we would live very isolated lives indeed.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 7, 2008 @ 10:53 pm

  20. Jeff, I have no prpoblem at all saying that “good” is one thing for God and another for us. The scriptures are full of examples of God allowing, commanding or outright causing the death of people. That sort of thing is not allowed for us. But it is allowed for God. As our Father and creator, he can decide to allow our lives to end or to end them outright. Are you going to call him evil for that? If so, good luck to you. As for me, I tend to trust that God knows what he’s doing.

    Comment by MCQ — January 8, 2008 @ 2:03 am

  21. Jeff,
    OF COURSE there are times when one action would be good for me but not for you. Similarly there are times when an action is good for God but not for us. In fact, timing is everything. It sounds like you are saying, “either sex is good or it’s evil” when in fact, sex is good when done with the right person at the right time, and evil when done with the wrong person at the wrong time. Similarly “helping” someone move from one existence to another. I have no business doing that but God has the right to do it when it suits His purposes.

    But I also think you have overlooked another possibility and that is that God has been constantly saving us from atrocities every minute of every day and has only let a few happen throughout time.

    Comment by Rusty — January 8, 2008 @ 6:53 am

  22. Rusty,

    Just a quick comment on your final paragraph; I see two major problems. First, if God is really saving us all the time from unactualized catastrophes, this would only serve to accentuate His responsibility is not preventing actualized catastrophes. After all, if He is intervening all the time, why would/could He not intervene in the case of those natural disaster which do happen.

    The second problem is that this explanation seems to be a flagrant violation of the principle of parsimony. In this explanation we are not only invoking an otherwise undetected protector, but we are also helping ourselves to otherwise undetected catastrophes which the undetected protector is protecting us from. How is this any different than me claiming that you should all praise and worship me because I am continually protecting you from unnamed and undetected dangers? Have you overlooked the possibility that I am constantly saving you from atrocities every minute of every day?

    Regarding our holding God to different standards than we hold each other, there are two big questions which must be answered. First, in virtue of what does God get to allow people to live or die and still be good while we condemn earthly parents who exercise the same “right”? What excuse can we provide for God that a defense attorney cannot also provide for a negligent parent in court?

    Second, holding God to some other standard of goodness, as I said before, radically alters the meaning of the term. In this case, it would seem that God is good no matter what he does! What, exactly, does the omnipotence and omnibenevolence of God rule out? It almost seems that the goodness of God refers to nothing at all because it refers to everything. What difference can there possibly be between saying “everything God does is good” and “everything God does is what God does”?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 8, 2008 @ 3:49 pm

  23. Jeff,

    First, I am trying to remember what theory of ethics you buy into. Can you remind me?

    Second, are you asserting that human death is universally an evil thing? If not then why is it evil for God to allow human death?

    Now as to your argument that we might follow God’s example and refrain from stopping a human death, the whole point of perspective is that there are different responsibilities for those with different perspectives. It reminds me of that Simpson’s Halloween episode where Homer shot and killed the zombie version of Flanders. Lisa said “How did you know Flanders was a zombie dad?” and Homer responded “Flanders was a zombie?”. It is a classic. But the ethical point is that moral responsibility is directly tied to what one knows or not. That is the premise behind the “eternal perspective” version of theodicy. (I should add that with the notions of eternal progression/retrogression Mormonism is especially well equipped to deal with the problem of evil. That was one of Sterling McMurrin’s big points in his Mormon theology book.)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 8, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

  24. First, in virtue of what does God get to allow people to live or die and still be good while we condemn earthly parents who exercise the same “right”?

    Um, by virtue of the fact that he’s the creator of the universe, the father of us all and the author of our salvation.

    What excuse can we provide for God that a defense attorney cannot also provide for a negligent parent in court?

    See above.

    In this case, it would seem that God is good no matter what he does!

    I would not put it quite that way. There are of course, some things that God cannot do, because if he were to do them, he would cease to be God. For example, God cannot lie. So, assuming that God is not going to do anything that would cause him to cease to be God, it is accurate to say that “everything God does is good.”

    What difference can there possibly be between saying “everything God does is good” and “everything God does is what God does”?

    Nothing, except that the second version is nonsensical.

    Comment by MCQ — January 8, 2008 @ 4:33 pm

  25. Geoff,

    I am rather agnostic on the ethics question although I find myself leaning towards virtue theory/intuitionism. If anyone in this discussion wants to adopt some other form and show why that’s significant, feel free.

    Regarding death: I certainly haven’t argued for anything like that in this thread. All I’m saying is that since we consider it evil of people to knowingly allow people to die, I see no reason why we should not hold God to the same standard. (So death from old age and whatnot are ambiguous cases which I would prefer to avoid.)

    Regarding the difference in perspective: If anything, the difference in perspective indicts God even more than it does us, not the other way around. We excuse people for not preventing deaths because they simply do not know or were unable to do anything. These excuses do not work for God. The main point is this: it is not enough to merely claim that God’s perspective is different. Instead, one had to show in what way His perspective is different and furthermore how this difference is significant.

    Here is an argument which you can use to show me where my reasoning goes wrong:

    P1) That people died because of the tsunami was bad.
    P2) When people know of bad things and are able to prevent them from happening, it is evil of them not to properly intervene in some way.
    P3) God knew about the tsunami and could have done something to prevent people from dying because of it (i.e. warn people).

    C1) It was evil of God to not to properly intervene in the case of the tsunami.

    Bringing is the whole perspective issue seems to question P1. The problem, however, is that assuming one is a moral realist an act is either good or bad, regardless of what perspective it is seen from. Saying that God’s perspective is different only matters is one rejects moral realism, something which most religious people are not comfortable with at all.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 8, 2008 @ 7:55 pm

  26. MCQ,

    Okay, then why cannot a father and mother say that it was okay for them to allow their son to die in virtue of the fact that their created him, parented him, etc.? Furthermore, how does any of those things somehow make it okay for God to whimsically decide when or whether something is good or evil? Why cannot I argue that since God is our creator, father and author of our salvation that it is even worse for Him to allow people to die? Why do these qualification somehow put God above moral law (because that is really what you are arguing for here)?

    So God can’t lie. Fine. (What if one were to find an example from the scriptures or church history of God telling what we would call a lie if somebody else told it? i.e. the date of the 2nd coming… Something tells me we would be right back in the same discussion again.) Surely death is worse than being lied to. I, for example, would much rather be lied to by Geoff than have him sit by and watch as I die. Shouldn’t we expect there to be restrictions on the former just as there are on the latter? What, specifically, are these restrictions? Are these restrictions different than those which we place upon ourselves and each other? If so, how can we justify such differences?

    These are all questions which I have yet to hear a good answer to.

    Let’s use an example. Suppose I am walking down the railroad tracks and for one reason or another I don’t hear the train which is quickly approaching. Geoff is standing closely by, watching the situation unfold. I claim that is would be morally atrocious for Geoff to idly sit by and allow me to be killed by the train when he could easily warn me.

    Now let us change the situation a bit. I am walking down the railroad tracks and for one reason another I don’t hear the train which is quickly approaching. Nobody is close by to witness the situation unfold except, for course God. Why in the world would we see it as any less morally atrocious for God to idly sit by and allow me to be killed by the train when He could easily warn me.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 8, 2008 @ 8:12 pm

  27. Jeff G wrote:

    All I’m saying is that since we consider it evil of people to knowingly allow people to die, I see no reason why we should not hold God to the same standard.

    If we hold God to this standard we would have eternal life instead of mortal life.

    Comment by Howard — January 8, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

  28. Howard,

    I already addressed that issue in #25. Nobody is talking about death as such.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 8, 2008 @ 9:31 pm

  29. Jeff G,
    Please explain what you mean by:
    “All I’m saying is that since we consider it evil of people to knowingly allow people to die, I see no reason why we should not hold God to the same standard.”

    Comment by Howard — January 8, 2008 @ 11:59 pm

  30. Maybe death to God really isn’t a big deal. It may be just another part of our progression and existence. Why would he step in for every little event in our existence?

    We think death is a big deal, at least from our present perspective. Maybe after we die we’ll find out that it really wasn’t a big deal after all….and God was right.

    Why do we consider death a big deal? Because we don’t have God’s perspective. I think God’s program works fine like it is.

    Comment by Don — January 9, 2008 @ 12:47 am

  31. Surely death is worse than being lied to.

    From our perspective, yeah, usually I guess.

    …how can we justify such differences [in restrictions between God and us]?

    We have a different (less) perspective than God. Similar to why my boss has me work on a brochure while he works on the entire brand. I see only part of the overall picture while he sees the whole thing. I often have no idea why he makes the decisions that he does and often disagree with them, but for some reason our brand continues to grow and flourish against my bets.

    Why in the world would we see it as any less morally atrocious for God to idly sit by and allow me to be killed by the train when He could easily warn me.

    Jeff, you’re acting as though mortal death is in and of itself an evil. God’s priority is not that we avoid mortal death and/or pain, it’s that we become like Him. Death and pain are, of course, part of that “becomming” process. Who am I to know when is the best time for those things?

    Comment by Rusty — January 9, 2008 @ 8:35 am

  32. Jeff: Regarding death: I certainly haven’t argued for anything like that in this thread.

    Actually, you have. Repeatedly. Much of your arguments here hinge on the idea that death is an evil thing.

    So death from old age and whatnot are ambiguous cases which I would prefer to avoid.

    Well of course you want to avoid it. It unhinges your entire argument. If you start with the premise that it is immoral for God not to prevent death, then you would have to move on to the idea that no one should ever die if God is moral. But if it is moral for to let people die of old age why is it immoral for God to let people die in natural disasters? You cannot avoid this argument here.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 9, 2008 @ 9:29 am

  33. Jeff: P1) That people died because of the tsunami was bad.

    If by bad, you mean evil, I reject this premise. One of my first blog posts ever dealt with this very topic (as did the follow up post).

    Comment by Geoff J — January 9, 2008 @ 9:37 am

  34. You guys are all reading my comments very uncharitably. You are intentionally reading them in ways which are less defensible in order to easily avoid the objections I’m raising.

    Howard,

    Read the original post and the thread leading up to your request and figure out what I meant by that statement. It’s really quite obvious.

    Don,

    Either death is a big deal or it isn’t regardless of what perspective one looks at it from. Either we are wrong on the matter or God is. If it is the former, then my train example isn’t all that bad, nor is euthanasia or suicide for that matter. I don’t know about you, but I am not willing to accept these consequences.

    Furthermore, you have yet to describe how God’s perspective is different than our and why this difference is significant.

    Rusty,

    Your comment regarding perspective amounts basically to the following: God sees things which we don’t, we don’t know what these things are, but surely they must justify his passivity in such cases. In other words you are simply making up things in order to save a hypothesis. Would you ever, in a million years, allow a defense lawyer to justify somebody’s (in)actions in court by suggesting that his client had a different perspective which in some unspecified way justified his (in)actions? I would never buy into such reasoning.

    Rusty and Geoff (and Howard, I guess),

    Read what I said to Howard above and read my #25 again. P1 says that the death of people by tsunami (or train for that matter) is bad, not evil. In P2 we read that what is evil is people knowing about a train or tsunami and doing nothing to save people from it. People are evil, not death by tsunami or train.

    Let me again describe my (non) position regarding death as such. Do I think death is bad? I certainly don’t think it’s good. Nevertheless, my position on this matter is totally irrelevant to the point I am trying to make. Much of our laws and morality is based in the idea that some forms of death are bad. Look at the specific example of the train for an example of this. It is these cases that I am talking about when I refer in this thread to “death” or “senseless death” and the like. That I should even have to explain this within the context of the original post seems absurd to me. What an obnoxious red herring.

    Geoff,

    Of course I want to avoid such ambiguous cases, if only because I already addressed them in #10. The fact that there are many shades of gray does not imply that black and white do not exist. Rusty and I agree that drawing a precise line between the acceptable and the unacceptable is practically impossible. Where Rusty and I seem to part ways, however, is that I don’t see Rusty’s point as having any relevance to the problem of evil at all.

    “But if it is moral for to let people die of old age why is it immoral for God to let people die in natural disasters? You cannot avoid this argument here.”

    From what I have already said in this thread, you should be more than able to predict my response. But at pains of sounding like a broken record, let me repeat my argument yet again:

    Is it immoral for me to knowingly allow somebody to die of old age? Of course not. Is it immoral for me to stand by and let somebody get mowed over by a train? Of course. Why should it be any different for God?

    Do you really want me to address the moral ambiguous cases? In my opinion they make God look even worse. For example, the reason why my allowing somebody to die of old age is not evil is because there is nothing I can do to prevent it. (Sorry if it seems like I’m yelling right there, but it is this exact point that distinguishes my arguing against death as such and death by train. I would be morally guilty in the case of the train because I could easily do something to prevent such a death from happening.) God, presumably, can do something to prevent it, but doesn’t. This makes death by old age sound a lot like death by train.

    In order to facilitate the argument at hand, however, I have chosen examples where both God and us mortals seem to clearly be morally responsible due to our ability to take preventative measures. If there is a slippery slope argument to be made here, it runs against God’s goodness, not for it. In order to focus the discussion, however, I would prefer avoid such gray areas.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 9, 2008 @ 10:23 am

  35. Jeff,

    I’m surprised at how weak your argument in #25 is and more surprised that you are trying to defend it. The weakness lies in the untenable jump you are making between the nebulous “bad” and evil. Here are two variations on your same argument. Let me know if you buy this logic:

    —–

    P1) That people have stubbed toes in the past was bad.
    P2) When people know of bad things and are able to prevent them from happening, it is evil of them not to properly intervene in some way.
    P3) God knew about causes of stubbed toes and could have done something to prevent people from stubbing their toes (i.e. warn people).

    C1) It was evil of God to not to properly intervene to prevent stubbed toes.

    ——-

    P1) That people die from old age bad.
    P2) When people know of bad things and are able to prevent them from happening, it is evil of them not to properly intervene in some way.
    P3) God knew aging on earth and could have done something to prevent people from dying because of it (i.e. translate people prior to death).

    C1) It was evil of God to not to properly intervene in the case of dying from old age.

    —–

    Neither of these seem any more ridiculous than the example you gave.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 9, 2008 @ 10:53 am

  36. Okay, now try using an example that isn’t so ambiguous. After all, I don’t hold you all that morally responsible for knowingly allowing me to stub my toe or die of old age (although I actually do to a severely limited extent in the first case). Try replacing “God” with “Bob” in each example and/or “stub toe” with “hit by train/tsunami” and see what happens. I’m still quite unclear on where you are disagreeing with my argument.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 9, 2008 @ 11:02 am

  37. Jeff: In order to focus the discussion, however, I would prefer avoid such gray areas.

    There is nothing gray about your position. You contend that God is evil for letting people die of old age. (This is because you think that since it is evil for us to let someone die on this earth when we can stop it is is evil evil for God to let anyone die when he can stop it.)

    I contend that death is not bad/evil in itself. And that to God it is the equivalent of passing from one room to the other.

    I further contend that the reason why there are different intervention rules for God and us on these things is because we are the ones being tested here and God is the judge (that is what we teach in Mormon thought at least). Part of the rules of this test is that we must do what we can to help everyone else in this room avoid moving on to the next room before they can no longer avoid it (ie we help protect one another from death). There are other rules to the test but you get the picture. It is a coherent model even if you don’t buy the premises.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 9, 2008 @ 11:06 am

  38. Jeff: Okay, now try using an example that isn’t so ambiguous.

    The point is that the formulation of that argument is so generic that it is a useless argument. It allows any non-intervention of any kind to be called “evil”. That’s simply not useful.

    But just to humor you, try these:

    —–

    P1) That people have stubbed toes in the past was bad.
    P2) When people know of bad things and are able to prevent them from happening, it is evil of them not to properly intervene in some way.
    P3) Bob knew about causes of stubbed toes and could have done something to prevent people from stubbing their toes (i.e. warn people).

    C1) It was evil of Bob to not to properly intervene to prevent stubbed toes.

    ——-

    P1) That people die from old age bad.
    P2) When people know of bad things and are able to prevent them from happening, it is evil of them not to properly intervene in some way.
    P3) Bob knew aging on earth and could have done something to prevent people from dying because of it (i.e. translate people prior to death since we will assume Bob has that power).

    C1) It was evil of Bob to not to properly intervene in the case of dying from old age.

    —–

    Hehe.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 9, 2008 @ 11:13 am

  39. Regarding the dying of old age argument, I myself am not convinced by it. Assuming there is an afterlife, a death like that doesn’t seem bad at all. In any case it is certainly gray, just like many of cases which Rusty mentions in his post. However, this hardly justifies one generalizing to all other cases of death. This would simply be a case of saying that black doesn’t exist, and that all everything is simply various shades of white.

    I find it amusing how all in this thread refuse to take the case of the train. You keep wanting to focus on death in and of itself. Even if you prove that death in and of itself isn’t black, you still haven’t done anything to my argument which holds that black exists. (Just to remind you, black is my way of saying unjustified passivity on a spectators part to intervene in somebodies death. i.e. the train) The train and, in the case of God, the tsunami, I argue, are clearly black and nobody has done anything to justify inaction in these cases.

    Furthermore, you have done nothing to block the obvious consequences of your view that death is not bad. Why would we ever condemn the human spectator in the train case, euthanasia or suicide if death isn’t bad? Doesn’t this view seem to trivialize murder to a significant degree as well? Indeed, since the persistence of life seems to be the strongest foundation upon which our morality is based, it is difficult to saying that our moral intuitions could be at all reliable if death is not bad.

    I’m also extremely uncomfortable with you referring to our strongest moral intuitions as being mere “rules” which God doesn’t Himself have to obey. Are the norms surrounding the preservation of life really just mere rules?(!) Would we ever consider some person who had such a cavalier disregard for the life/death dichotomy “all loving”? Assuming you would not, it becomes unclear that we have any idea what we are talking about when we call God “all loving”. We are saying that even though God doesn’t have to follow our sense of what is right or wrong in any way at all, He is still, in some undefined way, morally perfect. What an empty claim.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 9, 2008 @ 11:27 am

  40. #39

    You act like the only way a person could stop a person from being hit by a train is by stopping the train. It’s not. Simply warn the person that a train is coming. It’s so easy that anybody can do it, and it is for this very reason that a person is so morally culpable when they don’t do it.

    I’m not talking about preventing people in general from stubbing toes. I’m talking about prevent a specific person from a particular instance of stubbing their toe. If I see that Bob will stub his toe and know that warning him will prevent it from happening, but instead I simply sit back and watch it happen are you really going to say that this isn’t at least a little bit malicious.

    You are still picking the lowest fruit you can find. If you are really going to justify God’s complete passivity to the degree which He has been completely passive you must choose the most difficult case you can possibly imagine. The case of a particular train/tsunami is perfect, and I’m still waiting to hear about that.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 9, 2008 @ 11:35 am

  41. I used to stub my toe a lot. After doing it enough times, I learned to pay a little more attention while walking around with bare feet. Thank God I don’t have someone micro-managing my every move.

    Comment by cj douglass — January 9, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

  42. Okay, it is dangerous, and slightly stupid of me, to get into any kind of dialogue altercation with you people. Your education and verbage are far above my own (wait –I’m not sure I used the word “verbage” correctly. Did I?) and so I highly suspect that my words will either A. Be dismissed immediately or B. Cause frustration and/or more contention. However, I cannot help my impulses. I am weak. So, here are my thoughts:

    If you are really going to justify God’s complete passivity to the degree which He has been completely passive you must choose the most difficult case you can possibly imagine. The case of a particular train/tsunami is perfect, and I’m still waiting to hear about that.

    Would you ever, in a million years, allow a defense lawyer to justify somebody’s (in)actions in court by suggesting that his client had a different perspective which in some unspecified way justified his (in)actions? I would never buy into such reasoning.

    Why in the world would anyone ever think it is our place to judge God?

    And by golly, if you’re not sure about those answers, it sounds like you need to go ask God yourself. If He tells you the greatest mystery man has ever encountered, could you please let us know? But first, call President Hinckley and let him know, too. He should be informed as well.

    You may now commence the philisophical banter.

    Comment by Cheryl — January 9, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

  43. Dang. Just looked up the non-word verbage. It’s verbiage, and I totally used it wrong. ~sigh~

    Comment by Cheryl — January 9, 2008 @ 1:40 pm

  44. Jeff: Assuming there is an afterlife, a death like that doesn’t seem bad at all.

    What is the criteria are you using for a “bad” death versus a not bad at all death Jeff? Assuming there is an afterlife why would any death be that bad at all from God’s perspective?

    I find it amusing how all in this thread refuse to take the case of the train.

    Alright, I’ll deal with it. Here’s the scenario:

    Bob and Joe are deaf friends walking on a train track. Bob sees a train coming and steps off with warning Joe even though it was clearly within his power to do so. Joe dies as a result of Bob’s non-intervention.

    We both agree that Bob should be held morally culpable for this death because Bob had power to stop the death and chose not to.

    By your reasoning God is equally morally culpable for Joe’s death because God also had power to stop the death and chose not to.

    I reason that God is not morally culpable because God is not morally bound to keep mortals on this planet alive.

    So it will be up to you to show that God is morally responsible to keep mortals alive on this planet. I have argued that we are only responsible to do such because we are the judged/tested ones here. Even though I believe people live on after their mortal death, I also believe that part of my mortal probation requires me to do all I can to make the lives of my fellow mortal sojourners as long and comfortable and prosperous as I can. God, as the judge/tester has a different set of responsibilities when it comes to the lives of mortals.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 9, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  45. Jeff: I’m also extremely uncomfortable with you referring to our strongest moral intuitions as being mere “rules” which God doesn’t Himself have to obey.

    I think I mostly addressed this concern in my #44, but I want to add that their is no assumption that God allows “life” to be snuffed out here. The assumption is that God knows that mortal death is not really death at all but rather a transition from one stage of life to another stage of life. So there is no breaking of the “rules” regarding the sanctity of life at all in God allowing mortals to die in tsunamis or by train accidents or in any other way.

    Now again, if that is the case it does not change our responsibilities here on earth as the judged/tested mortals. But even if you don’t believe in God and an afterlife you must admit that it is an internally consistent and coherent view of the universe.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 9, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

  46. Cheryl, while I don’t have any problem slowing down a bit to accommodate others (especially when they bring up points which have no been raised yet), your last paragraph borders on being one of Geoff’s biggest pet peeves. But since this isn’t his blog, fire away my friend. ;-)

    The debate we are engaged in is frame within the age-old question of whether an all-loving and all-powerful God can logically exist in a world where evil exists. In other words, given that evil exists in the world, either God doesn’t want to stop it, in which case He probably isn’t all-loving, or He can’t stop it, in which case He probably isn’t all-powerful.

    Consequently, the debate we are engaged in isn’t really about how good or evil God is, but whether God, as He is classically defined, exists at all. It should be noted, however, that Mormonism doesn’t hold the classical view of God, but rather holds that God is constrained by self-existent laws, materials, intelligences, etc. In other words, the God of Mormonism is NOT all-powerful, just really powerful. (Evangelicals don’t like this compromise one bit, but what do Mormons care, right?)

    Another approach which is common is to appeal to free-will, saying that man commits evil in the world, not God. A loving God would respect our freewill, regardless of His powers. Between the constraints of God (which are supposed to account for natural evils such as hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.) and God’s respect for our freewill (which is supposed to account for non-natural evils such as murder, rape, etc.) Mormon’s think that an all-loving and very-powerful God can logically exist in a world in which evil exists.

    My position is that the constraints which Mormons believe God to be subject to are not enough to account for all the cases of evil in the world. Consider again the cases of the train/tsunami. Either God saw these things coming didn’t effectively warn people (in which case He wouldn’t be all-loving) or He couldn’t see these things coming or was unable to effectively warn people (in which case He seem severely limited in His powers).

    Thus, I’m not really setting myself up as a judge of God. Rather, I’m making an argument which I believe to be based in our strongest and seemingly most reliable moral intuitions.

    One possible response to this argument which has been explored in a number of ways in this thread, is to call our moral intuitions into question. This, however, seem deeply problematic to me. For instance, one response was to say that death isn’t really all that bad after all, and therefore God shouldn’t have to take measures to preserve life. My reply, however, is that the claim “God is all-loving but doesn’t care much about preserving life” is a contradiction. To say that somebody, anybody can be all-loving which not caring enough to warn somebody that a train is coming just seems flat out wrong.

    I hope this helped.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 9, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

  47. Jeff-
    Yes, it did. I’m still not sure I understand, or that I agree with you. But I’m not sure how to put it across. Like I said, I’m not very good at discussing things as intelligently as others. In person I’m pretty darn awesome, but over the internet? Not so much. Of course, if we were discussing potty training, I would amaze you all.

    Fwiw, what about Satan? I know “evil” was spoken of, but what if we see that there are two polar opposites in actual existense? Instead of just good versus evil (as in the conflict of moral thinking in man), why not see it as God versus Satan? Throw in free will, and it all makes sense to me.

    Geoff-
    I apologize immediately. I had already forgotten about your post on your blog, and I should have thought about it. Seth R. has already given me that lecture and I know I should listen more often. ;)

    Comment by Cheryl — January 9, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

  48. I should also clearly state my position regarding the problem of evil. I think that it’s a strong argument and I’ve never heard a very compelling response to it. However, I do not think its conclusive such that anybody can arrogantly claim “See, there can’t possibly be a God!” That’s far too strong for my taste. It is a strong argument though.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 9, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  49. Oh c’mon, Geoff, you should be able to figure out what a “bad” death is. Look at Rusty’s post for crying out loud. A bad death is the death of the innocent which could have been prevented. A bad death is one which another person could have prevented but didn’t, and we are compelled by moral intuition to hold the non-intervener responsible. The train is just a clear example of one. In other words, the argument I’m making does not rely on death, per se, but rather our moral repugnance to passivity in some cases. Isn’t this the moral response which the story of the good Samaritan is supposed to evoke? Those people who passed by the robbed and injured man were committing a sin by not helping. Non-intervention, the sin of omission, is the issue at hand.

    “I reason that God is not morally culpable because God is not morally bound to keep mortals on this planet alive.”

    Why in the world not? You make it sound like so long as God does the bare minimum, He qualifies as all-loving. That is a terribly weak definition of all-loving. Furthermore, we hear stories from all over of times when people were “prompted” not to go somewhere and were thereby saved. Does God care about preserving life or doesn’t He? Is non-intervention in the train case a sin or isn’t it?

    “So it will be up to you to show that God is morally responsible to keep mortals alive on this planet.”

    That is what morality consists of. Either non-intervention is a sin or it isn’t. What puts God above the law? To use the example from above, God can’t lie, but He can let the innocent die? Even if He is above the law, isn’t this just another way of saying that He is neither loving nor evil, at least insofar as we understand these terms? As I said to Cheryl, the claim “God is all-loving but doesn’t care to preserve innocent life” is a contradiction.

    “The assumption is that God knows that mortal death is not really death at all but rather a transition from one stage of life to another stage of life.”

    What about those people here, such as yourself who also know that death isn’t the end? Does that mean that people who believe in an afterlife get to just allow the man to be mowed down by the train?

    I’m trying to imagine a defense attorney using all of these lines of reason to defend a parent who let their child be run over and it always ends up ugly. Nobody would ever let people off the hook for such non-intervention just because they “knew” that death wasn’t the end, or that they didn’t want to interfere with freewill, or that they were for some unstated reason not bound by the moral intuitions which everybody holds.

    Regarding internal consistency, so long as one abandons the idea that God is all-loving or all-good then yes, it is consistent. But how big of a pill is that to swallow? I ask again, what is the claim that God is all-loving supposed to rule out if not cases of needless, innocent death?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 9, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

  50. Jeff: Oh c’mon, Geoff, you should be able to figure out what a “bad” death is.

    Oh c’mon yourself Jeff. From human perspective any death of a loved one is a bad thing. I will miss my grandfather when he dies and he is 92 now. Are you telling me his death won’t be bad at all? How ridiculous.

    From God’s perspective no mortal death is a “bad” thing. Presumably that person has lived forever already and will continue to live forever more so what is so bad about leaving here and going somewhere else to him? But as I have repeated several times in this thread: We have responsibilities as mortals that are unique to us. Your attempts to try to pin all mortals responsibilities to each other on God are totally unpersuasive I think.

    Why in the world not?

    I think I’ve explained the answer to this several times and in several ways. You are a smart guy so I have to assume you understand but just don’t like the answer.

    Does God care about preserving life or doesn’t He?

    He doesn’t care about preserving mortal life. He cares about the life of the soul.

    (More later)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 9, 2008 @ 5:32 pm

  51. Does that mean that people who believe in an afterlife get to just allow the man to be mowed down by the train?

    Jeff,
    You’re overlooking an important point in Geoff’s argument. He stated above that even if man knows this life isn’t the end, he still has the responsibility (and God-given instinct) to preserve life in order to give others the opportunity to repent/become-like-God.

    The problem, it seems Jeff, that your perspective is from this earth life extending outward to God. Our (or my) perspective is from God extending inward to this life. In other words, forget this earth and this life exist at all and take a look at what eternity and God and eternal law looks like. Then look at the Mormon understanding of the Plan of Salvation (we are god-embryos whose purpose is to become like God some day and to do so we are given our agency and need to make a number of choices, get a body, experience joy and pain, die, continue growing and learning, be judged, etc.). With all that in mind it appears that death and pain are a small part of the plan and don’t reflect on what kind of being God is at all. If God intervenes and warns someone about a tsunami it isn’t because He doesn’t want him to die or feel pain, those things are a part of becoming like God.

    Comment by Rusty — January 9, 2008 @ 5:43 pm

  52. Jeff:

    My reply, however, is that the claim “God is all-loving but doesn’t care much about preserving life” is a contradiction. To say that somebody, anybody can be all-loving which not caring enough to warn somebody that a train is coming just seems flat out wrong.

    I like Rusty’s response above, but I’ll just add that I think your continued insistence on applying the same rules to God and mortals is the place where you are going off the track (so to speak), in my mind. Different rules apply to God because he set up the game. He is the Dungeon Master and we are just characters playing roles in his world, to put a far geekier spin on it.

    The rules of this game, which we knew before we agreed to participate, were that we would come here and be subject to his rules, as well as certain natural laws that govern mortality (like gravity and illness and natural disasters and other random consequences of living in a mortal existence). We were not guaranteed that he would intervene in our behalf to prevent pain or death, in fact we were guaranteed exactly the opposite, that there would be pain and we would all eventually die, some sooner and more painfuly than others. God told us he would not intervene, except in unusual circumstances. We accepted all this and came here under those conditions.

    Does this mean that God is all loving? Absolutely, because the game was designed in order to allow us the only possible route to becoming like him, which is the ultimate good.

    Does this mean that God is all powerful? Well, if you accept that the limits God has are limits he place on himself, then yes, though I don’t think that’s a particularly important distinction.

    Could God save you from getting hit by the train in your scenario? Absolutely, but it would, in general (though not in every specific circumstance–as I believe God has saved some people in such cicumstances on occasion) violate the rules of our existence.

    This does not make God immoral, because it is consistent with his original agreement with us.

    Comment by MCQ — January 9, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

  53. Ok, I’m back. It looks like Rusty and MCQ are totally getting the argument I am making at least. A couple of more responses:

    You make it sound like so long as God does the bare minimum, He qualifies as all-loving.

    I never said God did the bare minimum. In fact I think he does all in his power to bring to pass what he has said is his work and glory — to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. Please note that no where in that mission statement is there a clause about the mortal comfort and mortal longevity of humans. He is all loving and does the things for mortals that are best for mortals in the long run. This is pretty basic stuff and I know you are aware of this position. Therefore, I am wondering why you think this weak approach you are taking to impugn God for not acting like a good mortal is effective.

    That is what morality consists of.

    Ummm… keeping “mortals alive on this planet” is not what morality consists of. Morality is eternal and this planet is decidedly not eternal.

    What about those people here, such as yourself who also know that death isn’t the end? Does that mean that people who believe in an afterlife get to just allow the man to be mowed down by the train?

    As Rusty noted, I have already answered this question. Why do you keep asking it?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 9, 2008 @ 10:16 pm

  54. Geoff,

    “I will miss my grandfather when he dies and he is 92 now. Are you telling me his death won’t be bad at all? How ridiculous.”

    I agree, that’s why I never claimed anything to the contrary. Seriously, is it all that difficult to figure out that my use of terms “bad” and “death” were particular to the context of Rusty’s post? Am I the only one who even read it? He talks about tsunamis. I talk about trains. I never brought up death of old age and the like because they serve only as distractions. After all, I only have to show that 1, just 1 case of God’s non-intervention is unjustified, while you guys are the ones who have to show how all actual cases are justified. I was doing you a favor by ignoring the cases which you continually cling to.

    Rusty,

    “You’re overlooking an important point in Geoff’s argument. He stated above that even if man knows this life isn’t the end, he still has the responsibility (and God-given instinct) to preserve life in order to give others the opportunity to repent/become-like-God.”

    No, I’m not overlooking it. Rather, I see it as being completely self defeating to Geoff’s argument. If we have this responsibility, why does not God? Isn’t this responsibility just part of being a loving individual? I have yet to see why we have moral responsibilities toward one another which God does not, and yet God is still “all-loving”. I have yet to see why God’s indifference toward death cannot be shared by us here.

    Let me try to highlight how trivial your response seems to be. In my book, being paralyzed is less bad than being killed. My intuitions on this are strong and uncompromising. Suppose that I am watching a person standing in a factory or something at a spot where they are sure to suffer serious injury, likely paralysis from the waist down and then I simply watch the scene unfold uninterrupted.

    Now there can be no lame appeals to death not being bad, for there is no death in this example. Why does not God interfere is such cases just as I should? Are you really going to claim that God doesn’t care about our well-being either?

    “The problem, it seems Jeff, that your perspective is from this earth life extending outward to God. Our (or my) perspective is from God extending inward to this life.”

    Right, and this is why my argument is stronger than yours. I take as a premise moral intuitions which we all share regarding what is good and evil and then apply them to someone who is claimed to be all-good. You, on the other hand, invent different senses of good and evil, something which none of us have very strong intuitions about, and then attempt to argue from these weak premises. Let me say it flat out, the idea that an all-loving God doesn’t care than much about death or well-being is about as counter-intuitive as it gets. I absolutely refuse to believe that an individual who does care about the death, survival and/or well-being of innocent people “all-loving.” In this, I think that I am completely safe.

    MCQ,

    It seems to me like you are simply making things up now, some of which is not even compatible with Mormonism. God doesn’t get to simply make up the game willy-nilly. He is constrained by laws of justice and mercy which are external to Him. Furthermore, his telling us beforehand what would happen doesn’t somehow excuse His passivity. If I let somebody know that I’m going to kill them before I actually do it, this doesn’t excuse me in the least.

    Appealing to agreements which I supposedly made, but cannot remember also seems less than persuasive. The fact is that you have little idea what, exactly, was and was not agreed to. Furthermore, you have even less of an idea what it was that God did and did not agree to do. It seems like you are simply saying that these rules apply to God (what are they, btw?) while those do not because that saves the conclusion which I am desperate to save.

    In the end, I see absolutely no reason why God’s warning me, somehow, that a train is coming prevents me from becoming like Him. You really have a lot more explaining to do before this reasoning is at all persuasive.

    Geoff,

    Why in the world does God caring about me in the long run preclude Him from caring about me in the short run as well? What does one have to do with the other? Again, you are going to have to say a lot more for this to be at all relevant.

    “Ummm… keeping “mortals alive on this planet” is not what morality consists of.”

    I really, really hope that you don’t mean this. I really do. If you think that one can be a perfectly moral person while not having any regard for the preventable death and harm which befall the innocent then I have to say that I am at a serious loss. If this is what religious faith entail then bring on the atheism!

    Comment by Jeff G — January 10, 2008 @ 12:53 am

  55. Jeff: After all, I only have to show that 1, just 1 case of God’s non-intervention is unjustified

    Indeed. I am still waiting for you to come up with such a case.

    I take as a premise moral intuitions which we all share regarding what is good and evil and then apply them to someone who is claimed to be all-good.

    You are free to take that as a premise of course. But the entire point of the “eternal perspective” approach to theodicy is to reject that position. So all you are doing is saying “I don’t like the eternal perspective approach”. You not liking it is not the same as you arguing for it being untenable though.

    Let me say it flat out, the idea that an all-loving God doesn’t care than much about death or well-being is about as counter-intuitive as it gets.

    I simply disagree with you here. What is counter-intuitive is the notion that a God who has known us for all eternity past and who will continue to know us for all eternity future would be as freaked out about our spiritual exit from this planet as you want him to be. Why would our leaving this planet to go to another state even matter to God? From his perspective it is less that the equivalent of leaving one room to enter another. (And please don’t ignore this question because I really want to hear your answer)

    Why in the world does God caring about me in the long run preclude Him from caring about me in the short run as well?

    He does care about your soul in the short run as well. But you are obsessing over your mortal life in this conversation, not your soul. So we are talking about two very different things when we talk about what God really should/does care about.

    If you think that one can be a perfectly moral person while not having any regard for the preventable death and harm which befall the innocent then I have to say that I am at a serious loss.

    Yes, I am saying God can be a perfectly moral person while not being overly concerned with preventable mortal death and harm which befall the innocent on this planet. (He is of course deeply concerned about spiritual harm that might befall people over the eternities.) I have explained why that is the case already in this comment and previous comments. It all rests on the “eternal perspective” argument. If you have a better complaint against the eternal perspective approach that simply saying you don’t like it I am all ears.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 10, 2008 @ 1:30 am

  56. “Yes, I am saying God can be a perfectly moral person while not being overly concerned with preventable mortal death and harm which befall the innocent on this planet.”

    That is probably the most immoral thing I have ever heard anybody say in all seriousness. Please tell me there is somebody else reading this which cannot accept such a claim. If this is what you mean by calling God “all-loving” then I am not impressed at all. Indeed, it would seem that my earthly parents are just as loving as God is since they are able to somehow care about my eternal and mortal well-being.

    I’m still not clear, however, on why we, who are supposed be perfect as our father in heaven is perfect, are not supposed to adopt the exact same moral standards. I know that you are going to claim that you have already said why. Fine, say it again. I think formalizing your argument would serve to clarify the issue greatly.

    I have a number of problems with the difference which you posit:

    First, we consider it moral to have regard for the preventable death and harm which befall the innocent and God is supposed to be moral.

    Second, the scriptures say that we are to act like God.

    Third, God constantly uses the examples of how earthly parents deal with their children to describe how He treats us.

    Fourth, God commands us to pray as if survival and well-being mattered to Him.

    All of these strongly suggest that God shares the same morality that we do. Indeed, I can see no other way to read the sermon on the mount.

    Now you can invent ways in which God’s sense of morality is different than ours, but can you give any reason to believe 1) that there any such difference and 2) that this difference can really account for your strong claim which I quoted above.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 10, 2008 @ 1:57 am

  57. If this comment looks like a repeat, keep this one and delete the other.

    “Yes, I am saying God can be a perfectly moral person while not being overly concerned with preventable mortal death and harm which befall the innocent on this planet.”

    That is probably the most immoral thing I have ever heard anybody say in all seriousness. Please tell me there is somebody else reading this which cannot accept such a claim. If this is what you mean by calling God “all-loving” then I am not impressed at all. Indeed, it would seem that my earthly parents are just as loving as God is since they are able to somehow care about my eternal and mortal well-being.

    I’m still not clear, however, on why we, who are supposed be perfect as our father in heaven is perfect, are not supposed to adopt the exact same moral standards. I know that you are going to claim that you have already said why. Fine, say it again. I think formalizing your argument would serve to clarify the issue greatly.

    I have a number of problems with the difference which you posit:

    First, we consider it moral to have regard for the preventable death and harm which befall the innocent and God is supposed to be moral.

    Second, the scriptures say that we are to act like God.

    Third, God constantly uses the examples of how earthly parents deal with their children to describe how He treats us.

    Fourth, God commands us to pray as if survival and well-being mattered to Him.

    Fifth, we are told that at no time has God ever given a purely temporal commandment, but that all commandments are both spiritual and temporal.

    All of these strongly suggest that God shares the same morality that we do. Indeed, I can see no other way to read the sermon on the mount.

    Now you can invent ways in which God’s sense of morality is different than ours, but can you give any reason to believe 1) that there any such difference and 2) that this difference can really account for your strong claim which I quoted above.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 10, 2008 @ 1:59 am

  58. Jeff, you said:

    It seems to me like you are simply making things up now, some of which is not even compatible with Mormonism. God doesn’t get to simply make up the game willy-nilly. He is constrained by laws of justice and mercy which are external to Him.

    But I’m not making it up, and it’s perfectly compatible with principles of Mormonism. See for example, here.

    Furthermore, his telling us beforehand what would happen doesn’t somehow excuse His passivity. If I let somebody know that I’m going to kill them before I actually do it, this doesn’t excuse me in the least.

    Well, that’s just completely inapposite and you know it. This was the plan that was presented before the world was. It was part of the conditions of our mortality. God didn’t tell us that he would kill us, he told us that this plan would guarantee us immortality and allow us the possibility of eternal life with him. Is it really possible that you don’t see the difference? I think not. You are simply setting up straw men.

    Appealing to agreements which I supposedly made, but cannot remember also seems less than persuasive. The fact is that you have little idea what, exactly, was and was not agreed to. Furthermore, you have even less of an idea what it was that God did and did not agree to do.

    You may not remember them, Jeff, but the prophets have revealed them. We know what was agreed to, at least in general terms: we agreed to come here, pass through the veil and exercise agency. That required that we be subject to mortality, meaning we would experience death and pain and sickness, or in other words, “opposition in all things.”

    Part of our purpose here is to experience these things and to learn faith, which requires us to forget our prior existence with God, and of course, it requires that he not intervene to keep us from pain and death, otherwise we could not experience these things and could not learn from them. I’m really surprised you don’t know this Jeff, it’s Mormonism 101.

    It seems like you are simply saying that these rules apply to God (what are they, btw?) while those do not because that saves the conclusion which I am desperate to save.

    It saves the conclusion that has been revealed to us, which is that we are here partly to experience pain and death, not be saved from it constantly and spoon fed and led by the hand throuout our mortal existence. That kind of mortality would not benefit anyone at all, it would be a false mortality, and we would learn nothing.

    In the end, I see absolutely no reason why God’s warning me, somehow, that a train is coming prevents me from becoming like Him. You really have a lot more explaining to do before this reasoning is at all persuasive.

    Well, then you don’t understand faith, Jeff. God can’t teach faith if he’s intervening in our lives to prevent every possible calamity. We have to be left alone to act for ourselves and not be acted upon in order to learn anything. It’s only by experiencing these things on our own that we learn to begin to be like God. If we are warned away from all harm, we will never be like God because we will never be independent of him.

    Comment by MCQ — January 10, 2008 @ 5:03 am

  59. BTW, I didn’t say that God made up the game willy-nilly. The rules of the game are eternal. God just explained them to us.

    Comment by MCQ — January 10, 2008 @ 5:07 am

  60. Jeff: That is probably the most immoral thing I have ever heard anybody say in all seriousness.

    Wow. I guess you need to get out more then because there is absolutely nothing immoral about that.

    Jeff the problem here is that either cannot or will not comprehend the actual implications of the eternal perspective stance I am advocating. If you understood that stance you would not make such hysterical claims as the one I just quoted.

    Now it dawns of me that one thing that my particularly strong variation on this stance requires is the de-emphasis of the importance of this life in the eternal scheme of things. If we have lived forever then life itself is an eternal journey. That means this earthly life is one of an infinite number of experiences we have experienced already on that journey. As Heber Kimball noted — it is sort of like one day an a long mortal life. We wake up, we do our duty and we go to sleep only to wake up again. (I know that is usually an MMP supporting quote but even non-MMP believers could buy the general concept that this life is a the blink of an eye in the big picture of our real life.)

    Your view has to rely on the assumption that this mortal life is either (a) The only life we ever will have, or (b) somehow among the most important periods in our eternal lives even if it is as the blink of an eye. Now as you know, no Mormon would ever buy (a) but you probably could ding them with your arguments if they hold tightly to (b). I just don’t believe (b) just these arguments you are making are not in any way persuasive to me. If life really is as Heber C. Kimball described then it is the most robust theodicy that I know of and defeats the arguments you are trying to make here.

    I’m still not clear, however, on why we, who are supposed be perfect as our father in heaven is perfect, are not supposed to adopt the exact same moral standards.

    We are supposed to adopt the eternal moral principles God exemplifies. The difference is that this earth is a practice run and he is in the “real” world. We practice by agreeing to help each other be happy and comfortable for as long as we can here on earth. That is the training exercise we are given. He is doing the real thing by managing our eternal training and doing all he can to seee to it we obtain the most happiness and comfort in the eternities. (I have explained this several times here and you continually ignore it. What’s up with that?)

    Now are you being willfully difficult in this conversation or have you really been misunderstanding my position? I can’t tell still…

    Comment by Geoff J — January 10, 2008 @ 8:50 am

  61. MCQ,

    Just because an idea is compatible with the gospel doesn’t make it any less made up. I saw absolutely nothing in the link you provided that would suggest that God doesn’t care about our mortal survival and well-being.

    “This was the plan that was presented before the world was. It was part of the conditions of our mortality… You are simply setting up straw men.”

    No, I’m raising counter-examples. First of all, we have no reason to believe that God utter passivity in some cases but not others was one of the conditions. Second, saying that God has already given us a warning beforehand that He then proceeded to erase from our memory is a desperate move; what kind of warning is that? Third, even if He did warn us beforehand you are going to have to spell out why this somehow justifies His passivity. You make it sound like we had to choose: either we accepted that God would be passive or we would go with Satan. This is not the best argument for God’s all-loving nature.

    “Part of our purpose here is to experience these things and to learn faith, which requires us to forget our prior existence with God, and of course, it requires that he not intervene to keep us from pain and death, otherwise we could not experience these things and could not learn from them.”

    There are so many problems with this assertion it’s hard to know where to start. I’m not convinced that learning faith is the purpose of life according to Mormonism. I’m not convinced that it requires God to not intervene, since Mormonism teaches that He does intervene from time to time. I’m not convinced that God’s intervening to warn people of danger would thwart the purpose of life in the least, according to Mormonism. I’m not convinced that God couldn’t warn people of danger without destroying faith. I’m not convinced that we learn anything from natural disasters which could ever justify how bad they are. And so on. Basically, just trotting out all that “opposition in all things” in hopes that in some unspecified way this really is the best of all possible worlds.

    “we are here partly to experience pain and death, not be saved from it constantly and spoon fed and led by the hand throuout our mortal existence. That kind of mortality would not benefit anyone at all, it would be a false mortality, and we would learn nothing.”

    Same song, different tune. First of all, I never said that God should save us from all pain and death, for some of it might really be justified; now it is you who has set up the strawman. I’m not convinced that God’s warning people of a tsunami is “spoon feeding them” in any relevant way. I’m not convinced that a world in which the Indonesian tsunami had not hit would not benefit anybody. And so on.

    Finally, I don’t see why any defense lawyer could not trot out all these exact same lines in order to excuse pretty much any crime. The following would make a great closing statement, would it not?:

    “We have to be left alone to act for ourselves and not be acted upon in order to learn anything. It’s only by experiencing these things on our own that we learn to begin to be like God. If we are warned away from all harm, we will never be like God because we will never be independent of him.”

    Comment by Jeff G — January 10, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

  62. I will concede that my “hysterical statement” was a bit of a slip. When I typed it I forgot that you were talking only about God and not any person. This does, however, highlight a problem which I still see; why cannot any person here assume God’s eternal perspective, something which would be morally atrocious? I simply find the idea that our caring for each other’s survival and well-being a sort of second-class morality to be horrific.

    “Now it dawns of me that one thing that my particularly strong variation on this stance requires is the de-emphasis of the importance of this life in the eternal scheme of things…
    “Your view has to rely on the assumption that this mortal life is either (a) The only life we ever will have, or (b) somehow among the most important periods in our eternal lives even if it is as the blink of an eye.”

    You are getting at my problem, but I don’t think you have gone far enough. You view, for it to work, requires that our mortal life has no importance at all, zero. I, on the other hand, see that while Mormons don’t see this life as the only one or even the most important one, it is still an important one nonetheless. If it is important at all, then what happens here matters, even from an eternal perspective. If what happens here matters at all to God, and the scriptures assure us that it does, then He should care about our survival and well-being, which the scriptures also assure us that he does.

    You keep trying to say that our mortal survival and well-being here don’t matter than much to God. Well, do they matter or not? Does God care when entire populations get wiped out or left destitute by natural disasters or not? If not, then you make God look both callous and like a liar. If He does care, then He should care to intervene. He is all-loving and vastly powerful, is He not? Just because it’s not that important doesn’t mean it’s not important at all.

    (In other words, I’ll give you that it’s not that important in the eternal scheme of things, but it’s still pretty darn important.)

    “We are supposed to adopt the eternal moral principles God exemplifies. The difference is that this earth is a practice run and he is in the “real” world. We practice by agreeing to help each other be happy and comfortable for as long as we can here on earth. That is the training exercise we are given. He is doing the real thing by managing our eternal training and doing all he can to seee to it we obtain the most happiness and comfort in the eternities. (I have explained this several times here and you continually ignore it. What’s up with that?)”

    I know you keep saying this, but I’m not sure what, exactly, it is supposed to explain. This is exactly where formalizing your argument would be very helpful. If you did this, the answers to the following questions might be a little clearer:

    Why we would ever “practice” living by eternal morals by temproraily living by mortal morals
    Wouldn’t your position entail that we should be living a higher law in this life of not being concerned about people’s survival and well-being?
    What reason do we have to believe that our mortal morals are not eternal?
    What about all those scriptural references which seem to imply that God does care about our survival and well-being?
    Does it make sense to believe that our strongest moral intuitions are less trustworthy than the one’s you seem to be making up for God?
    How, exactly, does God’s tending to our eternal needs prevent Him from caring about our temporal needs?
    Doesn’t your view come suspiciously close to saying that all natural evils are merely an illusion, and if so, why should we care about these illusions?

    My main problem with all the responses I am being presented with is that they are all so wishy washy. Here are a couple of desiderata which I expect a convinced response to demonstrate:

    It clearly shows that God really is all-loving as we understand the term, not merely by some utterly private definition.
    It clearly justifies God’s non-intervention in cases like the train and tsunami.
    It clearly shows why these justifications cannot be used to justify mortal non-intervention.
    It is compatible with the scriptures.
    It must be motivated within Mormon doctrine, not some post hoc invention.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 10, 2008 @ 2:49 pm

  63. Jeff: why cannot any person here assume God’s eternal perspective, something which would be morally atrocious?

    This is not an argument, it is a gripe about the faith claims inherent in religion. (In other words — we don’t have God’s perspective that’s just the way the world is. You don’t have to believe it or like it though.)

    I simply find the idea that our caring for each other’s survival and well-being a sort of second-class morality to be horrific.

    This straw man argument is getting tiresome Jeff. The same principles apply to all, but the perspective is different.

    You view, for it to work, requires that our mortal life has no importance at all, zero.

    Why would you say that? I see no justification for such an absolute assertion. If one lives 72 years on this planet, those 72 years would be at least as important as the 72 years that person lived prior to arriving here, or the 72 years following their exit from this life. This life is important — but that does not mean other parts of our eternal life are not also important. Unless you are asserting that our eternal existence has zero importance then your above statement is demonstrably false.

    Well, do they [mortal survival and well-being] matter or not?

    Not. God’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. If that is best accomplished by blowing up this planet and ending all mortal life on it then I see no reason why he wouldn’t do that.

    In answer to your questions:

    1. We practice taking care of each other based on our perspective. Our character changes accordingly (and character persists through veils).
    2. Since we do not and cannot have God’s perspective in this life we must make do with the perspective we have. (See above).
    3. It is matter of faith to believe in the immortality of souls. You are free to not believe it.
    4. God clearly cares about the life of the soul. If intervening in other cases help the souls people he is willing to do that too.
    5. We should follow our strongest moral intuitions here to begin with. That does not mean God has our same perspective.
    6. Nothing prevents God from intervening for our temporal needs if he chooses to do so. God can and does intervene on the earth at times — especially when requested with the prayer of faith. But his overall mission is clearly stated in modern scripture.
    7. Perhaps, but so what? We should still do everything in our power to love and assist one another while here.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 10, 2008 @ 4:25 pm

  64. Geoff,

    Let me first use my desiderata to evaluate your model, then I will proceed to critique the answers you have provided to my questions. (I know that I didn’t number my desiderata in my last post, but I should have. I’ll use Roman numerals so as to not confuse these with the questions you address in your answers.)

    I. Fail. Your model holds that God is all-loving, but in a very esoteric sense of the term.

    II. You seem to do pretty well on this one. Assuming God doesn’t really care about our mortal survival and well-being, then He doesn’t seem morally obligated to intervene.

    III. Fail, probably. You claim that we don’t have God’s perspective, but the only part of God’s perspective which seems relevant is the belief in an eternal existence. Here you need to be a lot more clear, what is it exactly about God’s perspective which satisfies II and why cannot we humans adopt this relevant aspect of God’s perspective. This one is going to be difficult since it requires you to describe a perspective which we, for some reason, aren’t supposed to be able to grasp.

    IV. Fail. The scriptures give lots of reasons to believe that God cares about our survival and well-being in this life. The only reason which can be mustered against such a claim derive more from theological entailment.

    V. Fail. The idea that God doesn’t care about our survival and well-being in this life seems to have only one motivation, namely, to account for the problem of evil Yes, Mormon doctrine does entail that this life is less important in the eternal scheme of things, but this is a far cry from the claim that God doesn’t care about our mortal survival and well-being.

    Further comments and questions:

    I’m not sure that I’m clear about what you mean by “perspective.” It is just having different beliefs or something more? As related to III, this is surely why I keep wondering what prevents me from adopting God’s perspective. I worry that your placing too much weight on this notion undermines moral realism and possibly moral objectivism. These would be serious casualties.

    When I said that mortal life has zero importance, I meant our mortal survival and well-being has zero importance. While you misunderstood this particular statement, your next sentence makes it clear that my intended assertion was accurate. This is related to II.

    Regarding your “perhaps, but so what?” I am pretty appalled. The idea that the badness (not evilness, mind you) of the tsunami was all an illusion seems horrible. This is related to I.

    If you could address my desiderata, I think I would be a lost clearer on what your claims actually are. To be precise, you can list which desiderata you feel that you actually meet, which desiderata you reject and even any additional desiderata which you feel I overlooked. (Maybe your theory has some virtues which I am simply not seeing.)

    Comment by Jeff G — January 10, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  65. Here is your main problem that I see:

    You seem to be arguing that we cannot adopt a perspective from which God is all-loving.

    How is this not an admission of defeat?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 10, 2008 @ 5:11 pm

  66. Jeff: I think you are intentionally minimizing the fact that this life is a test “to see if they will do all things which the Lord their God hath commanded them.” One of those commandments is: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is why we have to intervene and help each other. It is absolutely required of us by the test.

    This is also why God does not intervene. You minimize the idea that God has a certain “perspective,” and ask why we could not simply adopt it and use it as an excuse not to intervene. But this perspective is God’s only because it is required of him in his role as the tester. He is not allowed to intervene in the test because it would destroy our agency. If God were to warn us of natural or other impending disasters, he would be confirming his existence to us without the prerequisite of our exercising faith. That prerequisite is absolutely required for every instance of intervention. It is the reason why the brother of Jared was able to get the stones, and the reason why he could see the finger of God: his faith was so great that he could not be kept from seeing beyond the veil. Those who exercise faith, therefore, can receive “warnings” of the kind you describe. Because God is all loving and because this is an eternal principle. But without the exercise of faith, God is bound and cannot intervene in our agency.

    Comment by MCQ — January 10, 2008 @ 5:46 pm

  67. Jeff: I think you are intentionally minimizing the fact that this life is a test “to see if they will do all things which the Lord their God hath commanded them.” One of those commandments is: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is why we have to intervene and help each other. It is absolutely required of us by the test.

    This is also why God does not intervene. You minimize the idea that God has a certain “perspective,” and ask why we could not simply adopt it and use it as an excuse not to intervene. But this perspective is God’s only because it is required of him in his role as the tester. He is not allowed to intervene in the test because it would destroy our agency. If God were to warn us of natural or other impending disasters, he would be confirming his existence to us without the prerequisite of our exercising faith. That prerequisite is absolutely required for every instance of intervention. It is the reason why the brother of Jared was able to get the stones, and the reason why he could see the finger of God: his faith was so great that he could not be kept from seeing beyond the veil. Those who exercise faith, therefore, can receive “warnings” of the kind you describe. Because God is all loving and because this is an eternal principle. But without the exercise of faith, God is bound and cannot intervene in our agency.

    Comment by MCQ — January 10, 2008 @ 5:47 pm

  68. Alright Jeff, I’ll address your little personal checklist:

    I. It clearly shows that God really is all-loving as we understand the term, not merely by some utterly private definition.

    Pass. God is committed to helping us achieve eternal joy. Period. What could be more all loving than that?

    II. It clearly justifies God’s non-intervention in cases like the train and tsunami.

    Pass. You apparently agree.

    III. It clearly shows why these justifications cannot be used to justify mortal non-intervention.

    Pass. We mortals do not know that there is life after death in objective terms. It is a matter of faith for us. Therefore we have a different perspective than God who sees both sides of the veil. Therefore we have different responsibilities regarding mortal life than God has.

    IV. It is compatible with the scriptures.

    Pass. Nothing about my position is incompatible with scriptures. In fact my position helps explain much of the Old Testament where God killed all sorts of mortals himself (think Noah for instance).

    V. It must be motivated within Mormon doctrine, not some post hoc invention.

    Pass. This position I am taking is uniquely Mormon and anything but new in the church.

    Now as for some of your other comments…

    Regarding your “perhaps, but so what?” I am pretty appalled.

    Whatever. Your histrionics are getting old in this discussion. Further the notion that this mortal probation is essentially an illusion is ancient and well worn in Judeo-Christian thought (as well as Greek thought and elsewhere no doubt — think Plato’s Cave).

    Comment by Geoff J — January 10, 2008 @ 5:56 pm

  69. Geoff,

    It was kind of you to go through my check list, but unfortunately you put the wrong claim to the test. Nobody is arguing about whether God is committed to our eternal joy, etc. I want you to put this claim to the test: “God does not care about our mortal survival and well-being.” Now let’s review your answers:

    “What could be more all loving than that?” Easy, God caring about our eternal well-being AND our mortal survival and well-being. All-loving means the latter, not the former.

    “We mortals do not know that there is life after death in objective terms. It is a matter of faith for us. Therefore we have a different perspective than God who sees both sides of the veil. Therefore we have different responsibilities regarding mortal life than God has.”

    I know it’s gonna bug you, but you have to be a lot more specific here. How is it that “knowing” enables one to not have responsibilities regarding mortal survival and well-being while believing very strongly does not so enable a person? This is exactly where I see you guys making up new doctrine. I don’t want to hear about how our responsibilities in general change. I want to hear how this specific responsibility changes.

    “In fact my position helps explain much of the Old Testament where God killed all sorts of mortals himself (think Noah for instance).”

    I thought this was the reason why people weren’t too keen on the OT, God seems ruthless and vengeful. Regarding the flood, you don’t really think it was global do you? I would be shocked if you did, Geoff.

    I still think that the doctrines which I mentioned earlier present problems for your view:

    First, we consider it moral to have regard for the preventable death and harm which befall the innocent and God is supposed to be moral.

    Second, the scriptures say that we are to act like God.

    Third, God constantly uses the examples of how earthly parents deal with their children to describe how He treats us.

    Fourth, God commands us to pray as if survival and well-being mattered to Him.

    Fifth, we are told that at no time has God ever given a purely temporal commandment, but that all commandments are both spiritual and temporal.

    All of these strongly suggest that God shares the same morality that we do.

    “This position I am taking is uniquely Mormon and anything but new in the church.”

    The idea that God cares for our eternal well-being is clearly Mormon. The idea that God doesn’t care for our mortal survival and well-being would shock most Mormons as much as it does me. I really do find your claim that God doesn’t care about our mortal survival and well-being utterly repugnant. You may think its just for show, but it really isn’t. Your view comes way too close to the accusation which the “New Atheists” lob at theists regarding their disregard for what happens in this life. I would be willing to put good money on the bet that if we polled faithful Mormons on whether God cares about our survival and well-being in this life the answer would be an overwhelming ‘yes.’

    I’m still waiting to hear about the following:

    What is a perspective?
    If we can’t in this life gain the perspective from which God is all-loving, doesn’t this entail that we don’t in this life believe that God is all-loving?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 11, 2008 @ 12:10 am

  70. I should also mention that this entire lesson seems to presuppose that God cares about our well-being in this life.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 11, 2008 @ 12:14 am

  71. MCQ,

    Who in the world is being tested when a person gets run over by a train when nobody was around?

    Comment by Jeff G — January 11, 2008 @ 12:35 am

  72. Jeff,

    The fundamental principle at play here can probably be boiled down to something like this. I believe God is probably morally bound to intervene in mortal lives only to the extent that doing so will best help bring about our eternal lives (exaltation). Any intervention that would impede our progress toward exaltation in any way could be thought of as immoral. (Plus it would be acting contrary to God’s revealed mission statement.) So I and many others take it as a matter of faith that God’s intervention or lack thereof is done with our progression toward exaltation in mind. In other words, I have faith that God knows what he is doing when he intervenes or doesn’t and such intervention or lack of intervention is consistent with his love for humankind and concern for our souls.

    You seem to think you know what he ought to be doing to accomplish his goals better than he does. That is rather odd considering you don’t even believe a God exists. But even if you did, I have no idea why you would imagine you knew how to do his stated job better than he does.

    If we can’t in this life gain the perspective from which God is all-loving, doesn’t this entail that we don’t in this life believe that God is all-loving?

    I have already explained how I see God as all-loving yet not willing to intervene in any way that he deems detrimental to his long-term loving goals for us. I think it is a rather effective theodicy.

    I would be willing to put good money on the bet that if we polled faithful Mormons on whether God cares about our survival and well-being in this life the answer would be an overwhelming ‘yes.’

    And I would agree to the extent that God intervening to preserve us and make us more comfortable here on earth is aligned with his mission to help us work toward exaltation. The scriptures, the history of the church, and even my own life are full of examples of God intervening to protect people or help them prosper. As I noted above, I believe such divine intervention is consistent with the mission statement of God.

    The scriptures also have lots of examples God cursing people with all sorts of uncomfortable curses and even killing people. I believe this is also perfectly consistent with his stated goal of intervening when it is useful to help people move toward exaltation.

    So the weakness of your argument is assuming God must only intervene to make people prosper and live long. You are missing the point that doing so is only one a mean to and end and not the end itself.

    We are not God and don’t have the power to do very much to guide others to exaltation. In fact we are commanded to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling in scriptures. So we must love God and love people the best we can. God does the same.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2008 @ 12:51 am

  73. A few comments, then I think I’m done.

    “You seem to think you know what he ought to be doing to accomplish his goals better than he does.”

    So anybody who disagrees with your rather speculative position thinks he’s smarter than God? Huh.

    “I see God as all-loving yet not willing to intervene in any way that he deems detrimental to his long-term loving goals for us.”

    Your position is stronger than this, however. You say that our mortal pain, suffering and death is in itself entirely neutral. I can understand when people disagree with utilitarianism, but this is just too much.

    “So the weakness of your argument is assuming God must only intervene to make people prosper and live long.”

    Nope. Never said this and don’t believe it either.

    “I see God as all-loving yet not willing to intervene in any way that he deems detrimental to his long-term loving goals for us.”

    Right, but God all-loving only from a perspective which you insist we cannot assume. Our being unable to assume this perspective is vital to your argument. This is what prevents people from using the “eternal perspective” to defend their passivity here on earth without giving specific details, just as God doesn’t give specific details.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 11, 2008 @ 11:27 am

  74. Jeff: So anybody who disagrees with your rather speculative position thinks he’s smarter than God?

    Asserting that God is all-loving and that he knows what he is doing when he chooses to intervene or not on earth is decidedly not “highly speculative” in Mormonism. It is rather run-of-the-mill stuff actually.

    You say that our mortal pain, suffering and death is in itself entirely neutral.

    Well, I am indeed leaning on a form of consequentialism when it comes to God’s morality. I am saying that God allows some temporary pain in the effort to bring about long-term joy. (Which is made possible only by his unique knowledge and perspective.) But I will not that is not the same as calling mortal pain and death “entirely neutral”.

    Right, but God all-loving only from a perspective which you insist we cannot assume.

    This position does indeed rely on faith claims about God. But the first principle of the Gospel is still faith in the Lord Jesus Christ so this shouldn’t be surprising to you.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 11, 2008 @ 12:31 pm

  75. Jeff, it’s not very speculative to say God’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, nor is it speculative to say that He knows what He’s doing. It requires faith, but it’s certainly not something Geoff concocted over at NCT and is testing the waters with here at 9M. I would be willing to put good money on the bet that if we polled faithful Mormons on whether God ultimate goal is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man and that He knows what He’s doing, that the answer would be an overwhelming ‘yes.’

    Comment by Rusty — January 11, 2008 @ 2:48 pm

  76. Who in the world is being tested when a person gets run over by a train when nobody was around?

    I thought I made that clear, Jeff, and I think you already know the answer. The person who gets run over by a train is being tested. As are we all. The test requires that we come here with no knowledge of our previous life and submit ourselves to mortality, with all of it’s possibilities of pain and death, including the possibility that we could be run over by a train. God doesn’t change the rules of the game just because a certtain situation arises.

    You might be interested in this scripture:

    D&C 130:

    20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in bheaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—
    21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by bobedience to that law upon which it is predicated.

    Intervention by God in our lives is a blessing. He loves us and would, I’m sure, like to intervene to help us through all of our difficulties, but he understands that we must experience this life on our own in order to learn and he also acts in accordance with the principle articulated in this scripture. We must abide the law if we want the blessing. The law requires that we exercise faith before God is able to intervene.

    I believe God does intervene quite often when that faith is exercised, in ways we never hear about. I think he does care about our mortal existence and about our pain. But he cares more about our eternal progress, something which is far more important, and far less apparent to us than whether or not we get hit by a train.

    There is a good family I know whose daughter was killed by a truck while the parents were away serving in a mission presidency. She was a wonderful young girl with a tremendous testimony of the gospel.

    I also have a friend who was hit by a drunk driver while serving as bishop of his ward. His wife and two children and his unborn child were all killed.

    Why didn’t God act to prevent these tragedies? It’s a good question, but the answer, it seems to me is not that God is immoral, or that he doesn’t love us. It’s that his priorities are not the same as ours, and he has set certain bounds on his actions in order to allow us to have our full agency. If God always intervened in these situations, faith would not be necessary.

    The reaction of the two families in the two stories above has been instructive to me. They didn’t blame God for these tragedies. They showed faith in him and an understanding of his plan. They forgave those whose actions caused these deaths. They know they will see their loved ones again. Even pain and death can be instructive. It isn’t the greatest tragedy we can experience.

    Comment by MCQ — January 11, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

  77. “Jeff, it’s not very speculative to say God’s work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, nor is it speculative to say that He knows what He’s doing.”

    If you guys really think this is the claim which I am calling into question, then it’s a good thing I’m dropping out. Ugh.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 12, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

  78. Which claim were you calling into question Jeff?

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

  79. What I mean by that question is what position of mine were you calling “speculative”? (Both Rusty and I read you the same way in that particular comment #73.)

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

  80. You honestly thought that I was calling that claim speculative and not entailed by Mormon doctrine? Sheesh.

    Here is the claim which I see as being highly speculative and not at all entailed by Mormon doctrine (I’ve explicitly stated it a number of times now.):

    That God does not care at all about our mortal survival and well-being as such.

    This claim is not entailed by the claim which you and Rusty keep drumming out. This claim is highly speculative. Like I said though, I’m tired to debating this.

    Comment by Jeff G — January 12, 2008 @ 3:50 pm

  81. That God does not care at all about our mortal survival and well-being as such.

    But Jeff, that isn’t my position. I explained my position in greater detail in my comment #72. So if that is what you are holding to then I suppose you are left without a complaint in this debate.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 12, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

  82. Rusty, I know that some things seem too horrible to allow in this life. Yet, I do trust there is a reason for them to be allowed. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Comment by Barb — January 14, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

  83. I think that perhaps this is a matter of perspective. If I let my child out of the house to run wild in the street she could easily be killed – taken away from me for the rest of this existence. However, if Heaven is the house, and God has let us come down here(the street)to play and learn, and we get hit by a car, then He lets us come back into the house all cleaned up and fixed. No harm done. We are still with him and wiser for the experience.

    Over-simplified, yes.

    Fails to address the wholeness of the Gospel, yes.

    I still believe firmly in the 122nd section of the D&C:

    “7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
    8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

    (I’m not.)

    Comment by Jason — January 16, 2008 @ 9:46 pm

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