Monday, January 07, 2013

Theodicy Odyssey

The following is the substance of an email I sent to an atheist, and never received a reply.

Hi ____, thank you again for the video link and inviting me to share my thoughts. The Vimeo player stopped at 36:27 and I couldn’t get it to play further. But I heard a lot of your reasons. First, let me introduce myself better. I’m a theist who through personal Bible study has also rejected Trinitarianism and Hellfire. I’m also a Jehovah’s Witness, and one who does personal, independent reading and study. I have many Bible translations and I love learning about religion, history, and science. (I think this mindset is pretty typical among Jehovah’s Witnesses.)

The reasons you give are compelling and emotionally rending. However, I see room for a theodicy. Let me (1) first briefly state my fundamental reasons for theism and (2) then give summaries of your reasons, as I understand them, and my responses:

One question atheism does not address or answer adequately is the origin of information. Biological systems are information-driven. DNA for instance is biochemical information. This is different than what natural forces produce, which are repetitive like mantras and do not communicate anything beyond themselves (i.e. snow flakes, stalactites, ocean waves). Information though is not a mantra but a message. And this can only come from a sentient processor: a mind. Thus biological systems that are information-driven must have come from a mind. (See also The Atheist’s Riddle at

Thus, if one uses the information approach, then at the very least we are left with deism. However there are things in the Bible that compel me to believe that it as a whole is divinely inspired from the Creator. Thus, I am a theist. From the Bible we have prophecies that God will replace man’s (mis-)management of the earth.

Rejecting the Bible or theism does not necessitate atheism, but deism. Rejecting that information comes from a mind necessitates atheism.

Reason: Natural forces kill people. If God exists, why didn’t he create a world where storms, earthquakes, and lakes didn’t kill people?
Response: Plate tectonics is actually necessary and produces beautiful mountains and gemstones. People exacerbate the problem though with exploitation of fossil fuels. People also live in hazardous areas. The earth as a whole is an oasis bursting with prosperous life. I highly recommend “A Philosophical, Scientific and Theological Defense for the Notion That a God Exists” by Hal Flemings, pages 101-3. Hal writes in an engaging manner and offers responses more developed than my brief comments.

Reason: Diseases.
Response: Our diet plays a large role in our health, as you noted in your “Case for Veganism” on page 5. A whole-foods plant-based vegan diet reduces the threat of cancer and disease. (Watch The Gerson Miracle documentary which employs a diet of pure vegetable and fruit juice in treating cancer, and is touted as a cure for both cancer and diseases.) Such a diet was the first one revealed in the Bible at Genesis 1:29, where God told the first humans to be manifestly vegan. I wrote about this on my blog: Adam’s fall into sin affected our lifespan and our diet. I also suspect that there are many things that are now running off-balance and not running as they were originally intended.

A lot of the problems and suffering we see are the direct result of man’s mismanagement of the earth and ignoring or rejecting things we see in the Bible.

Reason: Why doesn’t God intervene and prevent every disaster?
Response: One theodicy that tackles this is found here: Why Does God Allow Suffering? It points out the identity of the rebellious spirit being Satan and the issues he raised. The ultimate solution is very much an eschatological one where every tear will be wiped away, and every disastrous memory will be smothered with good ones.—Revelation 21:3, 4.

I hope this theodicy odyssey has been helpful, if not interesting. Of course you are welcome to reply.

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