In solution to the problem of evil Christian apologists such as William Lane Craig often retort that God may well have good reasons for permitting evil and suffering in the world. On his website William Lane Craig states:
God may well have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the suffering in the world. We all know cases in which we permit suffering because we have morally sufficient reasons for doing so. What Law would have to prove is that it’s improbable that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the suffering in the world. But how could he possibly prove that? God’s justifying reasons might never appear in our lifetime or locale or even in this life. Suppose, for example, that God’s purpose for human life is not happiness in this life but the knowledge of God, which is an incommensurable good. It may be the case, for all we know, that only in a world suffused with natural and moral evil would the maximum number of people freely come to know God and find eternal life.
So in essence suffering and evil may well be permitted for the ‘greater good’ and we simply are not in any position to know why it is permitted. Craig goes further in his debate with Arif Ahmed and states:
“The premise that pointless suffering exists, or gratuitous evil exists is extremely controversial. We are simply not in the position to make these kinds of inductive probability judgements”
So here Craig is saying that pointless suffering and gratuitous evil might not exist. If this is true then no act of evil would be ‘ without apparent reason, cause, or justification’ and we can thus conclude that all evil is acted out for a reason, has a cause and a justification. One can assume that Craig’s doubts over the existence of gratuitous evil and pointless suffering tie in with his notion that God permits suffering for the greater good. So the reason and justification for evil is because it is part of God’s plan for the greater good.
Here’s Craig’s argument taken to it’s logical conclusion:
1. Gratuitous evil and pointless suffering might not exist because if God has a plan for the ‘greater good’ then no evil is gratuitous and no suffering is pointless.
2. If this is true no act of evil is truly evil because it is ultimately for the greater good.
3. Because of 1 & 2 we have absolutely no way of knowing if an evil act was truly evil or whether it was actually contributing to the greater good.
It follows logically from this that despite Craig’s frequent assertion that ‘we just know some actions are objectively wrong’ – here he asserts that we have absolutely no way of making such a judgement because for all we know there is no gratuitous evil – and therefore the reason for it is ultimately good (according to Craig’s views). Craig has argued himself into the corner that Christian apologists often try to back atheists into.
Craig cannot say whether the murder of 6 million Jews in Nazi Germany was evil because if gratuitous evil does not exist, then this must have happened for a reason, and that reason according to Craig is to fulfil God’s ultimately good plan. Therefore we cannot classify this act as evil, because it may have actually been for the greater good (I apologise for breaking Godwin’s law here, however I’m sure you can forgive me).
In his attempt to escape the problem of evil, Craig has put himself in a position where he can make no moral judgements whatsoever (which runs contrary to his “argument” for objective moral values in which he states that we all ‘just know’ the difference between good and evil). Well done Bill!