Gregory E. Ganssle, On "Evil as Evidence for Christianity"

As announced earlier I’m planning on reviewing every chapter in the new anthology on the problem of suffering titled, God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain,edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew. [To read other entries in this series just click on the "God and Evil" tag below this post].

This time up is Gregory E. Ganssle's chapter, "Evil as Evidence for Christianity" (pp. 214-223). I have met Dr. Ganssle, attended one of his lectures, and we are friends on Facebook. While his chapter has some informative stuff about the nature of evidence, I must say that it perfectly illustrates a major point in my chapter in The End of Christianity, that defending the Christian faith,
makes these otherwise brilliant people look, well, dumb. But then, that’s what it takes to be a Christian offense, but that’s the way it really is. They have to be this way in order to defend what cannot be reasonably defended at all.
While Ganssle admits "the amount and distribution of evil" in our world "does provide some support for the claim God does not exist," he does not think the evidence "is strong enough to tip the balance away from belief in God" (p. 215), that is, his God, the one he believes to be perfectly good, omnipotent and omniscient. No, instead, "the existence and nature of evil provides evidence for the existence of God" (p. 215). Not only this, but he concludes his whole chapter with these utterly obvious delusional words: "As a result, evil points strongly in the direction of God's reality" (p. 223).

When I was a first year student in college I learned that the larger the claim we make, then the harder it is to defend it. Given this conclusion I think it's obvious to everyone, even most of his fellow believers, that it has no probability to it at all. Strongly? This conclusion comes after all of his talk about the nature of evidence, deductive arguments and their premises, and his previous claim that evil is "some" evidence for God. Then out of the blue with no support he concludes it strongly points to God? Is "some" evidence now equivalent to strong evidence? Is this a typo, or more than likely, a Freudian slip? Is this a tacit admission that the evidence for Christianity is that dismal? Is this how the Christian mind works? Where is Yena Lee, now that I see he really needed her for his earlier chapter! ;-)

What kind of evidence forms the basis of this claim of his? It's something that R. Douglass Geivett first noticed. They point to something "most people" think. After distinguishing between moral concepts that we all share from the deep differences in the moral theories we hold about them, Ganssle asks: "So, what do we mean when we call something bad or evil? When we call something bad we are expressing, at the very least, a rejection of that thing...Most people are not merely expressing personal preferences in their use of moral terms. They take themselves to be ascribing something objectively true of the evil action...When we call something evil, we are saying that there is something really wrong with it." (p. 217) If our conception of evil is such that it expresses how things ought not to be, then "there is a way things ought to be," which in turn, additionally means "goodness is primary and evil or badness is a corruption of what it good." Therefore, in both cases this evidence "fits nicely within the idea that God exists" and that without God there is no basis for thinking like this. "The very meaning of evil fits better with the existence of God than it does with the idea there is no God" (p. 218). Our concept of evil and the primacy of goodness "points in the direction of God." For "If atheism is true, we would have no expectation regarding goodness being primary or more fundamental than evil. In fact, we would expect there not to be the categories of goodness and evil at all" (p. 219).

What's wrong with this kind of evidence is the same thing that is wrong when Gary Habermas claims that 75% of published scholars about the resurrection of Jesus conclude that he was bodily raised from the dead. Habermas only surveyed people who were interested in writing about the resurrection and most scholars who care enough to write about it are Christian believers in the western world, a world that was conquered in the name of Christianity and is still largely Christian even today. The surprising thing is that 25% of them didn't conclude Jesus was raised from the dead. And it says nothing at all about what most Asian and Muslim scholars would conclude if they wrote on it, but don't do so since they don't think it's worth the effort.

In Ganssle's and Geivett's case, most people they know live in the Christian west too, so they use concepts that have been handed down to them by the pervasiveness of the Christian gospel in the west. So polling people for evidence in the western world about evil and goodness, when the very concepts they use were given to them by the Christian gospel in the west, is not evidence. It is however, arguing in a circle. If they were to poll people at all then why not poll philosophers? Most of them are atheists who are experts in the definitions of words. More importantly, Ganssle and Geivett should survey the intellectuals of the world. They would quickly find, as even Win Corduan showed in a previous chapter, that people around the world have different conceptions of "evil" and it's solution.

When it comes to the word "evil" I don't use it much. I don't even use it when describing the problem addressed in this book of theirs. I call it what it is, the problem of suffering, since that's what we're talking about, suffering, a horrendous amount of it. I don't like it. I wish it didn't have to happen. I hope for technologies to avoid as much of it as possible since none of us like pain or suffering. I wish people would not cause harm or suffering to others. I try to do what I can to stop them from doing harm. I can even hate them for doing harm, especially if done to myself or my loved ones. Sorry, but this is how the world works folks, even if we don't like it. Sometimes shit happens. It's even inevitable. This notion of "evil" does not imply all of the things Ganssle and Geivett claim as evidence.

In the last section of Ganssle's chapter he argues the presence of evil in the world is evidence that Christianity is true, for if Christianity is true then it requires that evil exists. If it didn't, Christianity would be false. Why? Because the Biblical stories of sin and the cross of Jesus require it. This however, isn't real evidence either, even though Ganssle just wrote about what constitutes good evidence. This is merely confirming evidence at best, which also confirms most every other religion. For without suffering in the world they would be shown to be false as well, since religions are created for the purpose of dealing with suffering at some level. This too reveals the mind of the believer. There is such a dismal amount of real evidence for Christianity that they will even substitute this kind of evidence as real evidence as I've written before.

In the last part of this section Ganssle says that Jesus is the one who ultimately overcomes evil in the cross. In the meantime, before the day of judgment, his followers are enlisted to be his moral agents in the world for divine healing. Christians are called to overcome evil, to make things right, to do justice, and to work for peace in the world, that they have a reason to do this because of the gospel, unlike atheists. Totally unaddressed is why Christians are not doing their job even to the point where they have caused, and are causing, a great deal of harm instead, and why God doesn't just fire them and do the job himself? There is so much suffering in the world the buck stops with the divine CEO if his workers are not doing their job. He should fire their butts. He should do the work himself. Or, is he too lazy? If people are suffering then why doesn't a perfectly good omnipotent God help them if he cares, when his incompetent workers don't do so? The only reason God does not act like a good CEO is because he doesn't exist at all. The only reason Christians make excuses for their CEO is because of the need to believe. It's certainly not because of the bogus evidence offered in this chapter.