Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Can God be Just?

From guest blogger, Annalee.

I am revising and resubmitting my first paper where I asserted that there does not exist a compelling mechanism for God’s justice whereby God can be construed as just. Given the argument that will proceed my question to you, the bloggers, is:

(1) What criteria do you think would be required in order to define a mechanism for God’s justice as compelling?

(2) What examples might exist of a compelling mechanism of God’s justice?

The quality of justice within God is crucial to clarify the incompatibility of his omnibenevolent and omnipotent nature. An instance where God has wronged humans, God has the ability to make the wrong right. However, given the possible mechanisms whereby God can make wrongs right, there does not appear to be a compelling mechanism whereby he can make wrongs right, and so God is not just. In making this argument I have been working off of three primary assumptions:

(1)    When referring to a wrongdoing, this does not necessarily refer to an action that is evil or bad. Any action by God that cannot be construed as good would be sufficient to defy God’s omnibenevolent. Therefore, a wrongdoing, for the sake of this argument, is a not good action. It will also be assumed that humans have the ability to distinguish good from not good and their interpretation of good and not good in regards to God’s actions is not subjective.
(2)   If God is necessarily omnibenevolent, then his actions towards all humans must necessarily be good or just for all individual humans.
(3)    When referring to a compelling mechanism (I am still working on this part), any knowledge or interpretation required for a human to perceive an action as good as opposed to not good must necessarily be possessed or accessible to the human affected by said action

In determining whether there does exist a compelling mechanism for God’s justice, I have considered 1) Intervening miracles, 2) Divine Gratitude, 3) Afterlife and rejected these three mechanisms for the following reasons:
Based on assumptions 1, 2 and 3, intervening miracles could not be a compelling mechanism for God’s justice because they are rare by definition. In being rare, they, in a statistical sense, do not have the ability to justify the amount of not good actions in this world. Additionally, as they are rare an individual would lack the ability to distinguish them from other natural phenomenon and would not be able to acquire the knowledge or interpretation required to recognize a wrong being made right by God and perceiving the previously not good action as currently good. As wrongdoing still exist and past wrongdoings have still been not made right, this mechanism does not appear to be effective.

Based on assumptions 1, 2, and 3, Divine Gratitude relies on an individual’s ability to recognize Jesus’ burning on the cross as a sacrifice for the individual’s sins in order to feel joy from God’s love. As this mechanism, by definition, requires that an individual have access to a certain perception and interpretation of experience, this becomes problematic. Many individuals are not religious, do not believe in God, and do not have access to this kind of knowledge and interpretation. As wrongdoing still exist and past wrongdoings have still been not made right, this mechanism does not appear to be effective.

Based on assumptions 1, 2, and 3, afterlife relies on an individuals’ ability to have access to knowledge about heaven. As many individuals are not religious, will not be admitted to heaven as stated by theological texts, and heaven is unlocated, all individuals to do not have access to this knowledge.
So, to reiterate to you, bloggers:

(1)    What criteria do you think would be required in order to define a mechanism for God’s justice as compelling?
(2)    What examples might exist of a compelling mechanism of God’s justice?


Zach Wrublewski said...

I think that those that believe in free will (and take the free-will defense against the problem of evil) would probably argue that the existence of free will can function as a defense here, too. That is, it can be argued that all God's actions are perfectly good (and never neutral or not good), and that the things that are less than perfect, in any way, came about as consequences of His gift of free will. And as good as free will is, its existence can justify all the less-than-perfect actions (and scenarios, beliefs, feelings, etc.) in the world. Have you given this idea any thought?

Annalee Galston said...

I have and originally I wanted to assert that he is not just but as I am revising Im actually favoring a defense for God's just nature through the idea that he gave humans free will. What is your take on a definition of evil in regards to God's action? Originally, as you can see, I defined it as not good. However, I'm looking to revise this defintion that better captures what is so evil about evil actions. Potentially i am looking to redefine evil in terms of God as an action that is inexcusable and tht hinders the fulfillment of a humans basic needs. I considered the analogy of homeless person being robbed at gunpoint. Is it evil in such a case for God to have allowed that person's only money to be taken away if that loss of money would be that person's only access to food, shelter? I'd say no if the only other option is the death of the person. It seems that the presence of evil is not a problem for God if he gave the homeless person at least some choice in whether or not to hand over their money. What do you think of this analogy and definition?

Zach Wrublewski said...

Personally, I don't believe we have free will (in the sense required to negate evil, anyway), so my definition of evil is likely looser than someone taking the free will defense. I think, for your argument, you might have to define "evil" as something so bad that it cannot possibly be offset, negated, or otherwise neutralized by something of the greatest good (free will); if you can find something to fulfill this definition, then you can start your original argument. If you think it's impossible for something to be so evil that it outweighs free will, then you can probably take the free-will defense to defend God as just (but you'll probably want to discuss the afterlife and desert as well).

As for the example, I'm not sure it shows anything about God until you've established either the free will defense mentioned earlier, or that God can be held accountable in some way for the actions of "free" beings. It seems to me that in your example, the mugging is unfortunate, but it doesn't necessarily reflect on God in any way, and without further argumentation, would not have much to say about whether or not God is just.

Annalee Galston said...

I've come to define evil as something that hinders the preservation and maintenance of a human life without a positive benefit to the world. The purpose of such definition is to attempt to make a clear distinction between things such as the Holocaust and muggings while making room for justification for some acts. Particularly, justificatory acts by God ie God's giving a man the choice to give up his money to save his life as could be a claim for being mugged. While I was originally going to use this definition of wrong and the free will defense to defend God's justice, I have ultimately refuted it. I have honed down a definition for a compelling mechanism and define it as any action/ process by God that produces a positive benefit leaving the world better off. What are your thoughts in light of my new definitions?