Over here ,an astute reader replies to Sullivan's "let's-change-the-subject" answer to the Problem of Evil. The reader says:
You confused me with your dismissal of the theodicy argument. Here are my two biggest objections to what you had to say:
First, I have never looked at the theodicy argument as an argument against faith, or I should say, all faith. Rather, I have looked at it as an argument against an omnipotent, wholly good God. It does not necessarily deny God; it denies a particular God and, at most, the supposed rational portions of a faith associated with that particular God. Second, the snippet of Blackford’s argument that you presented noted suffering that “took place long before human beings even existed.” Yet your dismissal of the argument rested on your belief that “suffering is part of a fallen creation.” My understanding of the Judeo-Christian “fallen creation” is that it did not occur until – and it occurred only with – the presence of human beings. Therefore, your rejoinder had nothing to do with Blackford’s argument that you presented your readers.
It seems to me that the theodicy argument is an argument from reason. Your argument is an argument from faith. Therein lies the paradox: you cannot counter reason with faith. As I learned this summer from reading Unamuno, the irresolvable conclusions arrived at through reason and through faith lead us to what he calls the tragic sense of life.
Sullivan says that he takes the first point.
Well, lets leave aside the rest of the argument. Sullivan simply has to admit that he has no response to the argument as I presented it.
In a later post, Sullivan complains that Jerry Coyne has been pretty dismissive of his, um, argument. Well, understandably so, since Sullivan has provided nothing of intellectual substance. What is Coyne supposed to do, call the supposed resolution something it is not? It doesn't work, and, nice though Jerry and I may be, we can't say it does when it palpably doesn't.
Sullivan does say,
My own reconciliation with this came not from authority, but from experience. I lived through a plague which killed my dearest friend and countless others I knew and loved. I was brought at one point to total collapse and a moment of such profound doubt in the goodness of God that it makes me shudder still. But God lifted me into a new life in a way I still do not understand but that I know as deeply and as irrevocably as I know anything.
I'm terribly sorry to read about the death of Sullivan's friend. I can see why this subject may be painful to him. I am terrified of losing the people I love, or any of them, especially if it happens long before their time.
But Sullivan was the one who chose to comment on my post about the Problem of Evil. He can't suddenly expect us to drop the intellectual rigour because something terrible happened to him in the past, though he can, of course, expect our ordinary human sympathy for his loss (and he has it). But he has failed to say anything in response to my argument that makes any rational sense as an explanation of why God has allowed all this suffering, most of it millions of years before human beings even evolved. There is no reason why an omnipotent God had to do things this way, and no plausible reason has ever been given, by Sullivan or anyone else, as to why a loving and benevolent God would be motivated to do so. Sullivan has said nothing even remotely responsive to the problem as I formulated it.
Once again, though, my sincere sympathy for the loss of his friend.