Moral anti-realism and the problem of evil

This is one of Travis’s older posts, but it’s new to me, and I think it’s great. He offers a fantastic illustration that shows how moral realism is not a satisfactory objection (or resolution) to the problem of evil.

A Measure of Faith

Italianate_Landscape_with_an_Artist_Sketching_from_NatureOn several recent episodes of the Stand to Reason podcast, Greg Koukl has argued that those who do not hold to moral realism cannot put forth the problem of evil as evidence against the existence of God because, in short, they cannot define evil. J. Warner Wallace makes the same claim in Cold Case Christianity. They tie this back to the moral argument, wherein the existence of objective morality counts as evidence for the existence of God (as the ultimate grounding of that morality). They then show that this results in an ironic turnabout wherein the claim that evil exists actually counts in favor of God’s existence rather than against it.

Support for subjective morality means surrendering the most rhetorically appealing argument against God:  evil.
– Greg Koukl in Solid Ground, May/June 2014

The problem of evil is perhaps the most difficult issue to address … When people…

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4 thoughts on “Moral anti-realism and the problem of evil”

  1. I would very much like for a Christian to describe Christian ethics/morality. Just a clear, definitive statement of what is moral and what is not. No dodges, such as “Doing God’s will because occasionally God wanted genocide and baby’s brains bashed out. What does it mean to be “moral” or a list of “do’s and dont’s,” something.

    In all of my conversations on this topic, no one has been able to answer the question.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I posted this on Ark’s blog, during a similar discussion, and it seems worth repeating here:

    Trouble is, all of the facts demonstrate the absurdity of such a view.

    First, research into moral psychology shows that, like language, though there’s an innate capacity for altruism, fairness, justice, and cooperation, there’s a developmental path from infancy through childhood and into adolescence to an understanding of right and wrong – no, we aren’t born with a sense of right and wrong.

    Secondly, if we get our morality from God, why is it that our moral intuitions are so radically different from his? Why do we agree that women are entitled to equal rights and opportunities and yet God views them as property, as a commodity to be traded, bought and sold? Why do we agree that genocide is wrong, while he not only permits it, but encourages it, even urges it? Why do we agree that slavery is wrong and yet he not only permits it but even provides rules governing the institution? Why do we agree on the value of religious freedom and yet he dictates slaughter for anyone that would dare worship another god than he?

    Thirdly, evidence from behavior of other species and from research into moral psychology in humans shows that morality is an evolved behavior, with precursor (proto-morality) behaviors like altruism, reciprocity, fairness, justice, empathy and others existing in other species, with an understanding of these basic concepts in babies as young as only a few months. This means that morality was around way before religion was, and certainly way before the Yahwist cult or its subsequent permutations in Christianity and Islam came into being.

    So, as a theist, if you would argue that way, you would be, and are, wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the argument stands as fatal to the omni-God (benevolent, loving, and powerful) if, rather than evil, we identify the ubiquity of suffering inside a prey/predator biosphere predicated on it as evidence of a divine agency that, if real, is morally twisted and inept.

    Liked by 1 person

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