Monday, October 10, 2011

The Emotional Problem of the Christian Narrative (Why Theodicy Matters)

"As to gods, I have no way of knowing either that they exist or do not exist, or what they are like."
Protagoras ( 5th C. BCE)


The Problem of Evil (Theodicy) carries within it some degree of emotion because it is responding to the rather explicit theological and emotional claims of Christianity.


Christian Apologists like William Lane Craig will assert that those who bring up the problem of evil or other such problems with this Cosmic Drama are engaging in emotion and therefor it is not relevant to his Theology or God concept. But that would only be the case if his God concept was rather abstract and without any specific claims of its own. The moment you move from the Unknown God to the Known God then these claims of the known God can be looked at with a critical eye.

A quick reminder of the revealed God of the Bible:

Matthew 10:29-31New International Version (NIV)
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
This verse alone carries within it specific claims and claims that have an emotional weight with human beings. God is called Father. This Father cares for even birds. This Father knows the very hairs on your head. Be comforted for human beings are worth more than birds.
What specific claims with so much emotional appeal! God as Father is in itself an emotional and theological claim with huge implications to human psychology.

John3:16, 35
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son...The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.
Again the Father loves the world! What we know of human history and natural history is this love? And everything has been placed in the Son's hands. These are huge specific theological claims that are inherently emotional and are problematic when it comes to how human history and natural history have played out. Loving the world and having the world in your hands cannot be ignored if a person really wants to know whether this God makes sense in this world and Universe.

If God is to be understood through nature it is hard to see the Christian God as being conducive with that God construct. Charles Darwin used one family of parasitic wasps as evidence for natural selection, writing to a colleague:
"I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars."

"That there is much suffering in the world no one disputes. Which is more likely, that pain and evil are the result of an all-powerful and good God, or the product of uncaring natural forces? The presence of much suffering agrees well with the view that all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection."
Charles Darwin

When these specific attributes of the Creator are brought up then a person should question whether the knowledge of the natural world works well the description of this being. You can call that emotional but it is a rational response to emotional theological claims. It is intellectually dishonest to assert that those who reject these Christian claims are simply being emotional when those who accept these claims are also frail human beings with all the same emotional make up.

Many people are Christians not for Vulcan like logic but because of provincial social reasons that have much to do with psychological and emotional sources. Family bonds, parents, spouses, children, and the community have a great deal of influence on a persons emotional attachment to certain ideologies including Christianity.
Religion takes advantage of our emotions: our guilt, our fear, our solipsism, our shame, and our need for purpose and meaning in this life. The pillars of a human social life are covered with the vines of religious justification: Marriage, birth of a child, and the death of a loved one are infused with religious ceremony...how is this not an emotional advantage for the religious meme.

What could be more comforting to a highly evolved conscious decaying human than security in sex, children, and death? Religion has the emotional advantage par excellence.



In fact the God of the Bible is quite emotional as well. God is loving, merciful, angry, jealous, and gets emotional with the people of Israel many times in the Old Testament. If William Lane Craig is to be critical of all this perceived emotional reaction perhaps he should start with the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is from the imagination of emotional human beings and it shows.



The God of the Bible engages in criminal behavior and that is why it needs Defense Attorney's like William Lane Craig. Excuse it for genocide, creating Satan, sin, death, disease, and rewarding credulity and punishing people with eternal torture for using the brains they had been given. Lawyers for God defend such behavior on theological technicalities.

No comments: