Thursday, 16 October 2014

Answers For an Atheist (Part V)

Before I took my rather long break from blogging I had started on a series of posts responding to Hemant "The Friendly Atheist" Mehta's video "78 Questions For Christians." This is a (long overdue) continuation of said series. You can find the original post of the series here  and the most recent post here. This post will seek to build on previous posts in the series.

So, some more of Mr. Mehta's questions:

#13 Let's say you have an amputated limb, would prayer ever bring it back?
#14 If you've heard stories of amputated limbs ever growing back, how come there's never a camera around when that happens?
#15 How come no cameras are around when any miracle happens?
#16 If you had an exam coming up, which do you think would help more, prayer or studying for the test?
#17 If you prayed for me over YouTube right now, do you think I would know it somehow.

#16 is essentially the same issue as #9 and #12, my answer to those in my last post is my answer again here. As I said, I don't believe it's quantifiable.

My short answers to #13 and #17 are "Probably not, but it's possible" and my short answers to #14 and #15 are, "I don't know." Obviously, however, these demand longer answers.

This is, of course, all tied in with the problem of evil. If God loves us, why does He not automatically heal all illness and injury? If God wants all of us to know Him why does He not give us all the same undeniable experience He gave St. Paul on the road to Damascus or at least perform a few miraculous re-growths of amputated limbs on camera?

I hasten to add, I certainly believe in a God who has the power to regrow limbs in answer to prayer or to make Mr. Mehta (or anyone else) mystically aware that he is being prayed for, but, generally speaking, God does not do these things, why not?

As I said, I don't know, but how significant is my lack of knowledge?

In his Summa Theologica St. Thomas answers the question of how a perfectly good God can be reconciled with a universe in which evil exists by (quoting St. Augustine) arguing that God allows evil only in the knowledge that this will produce a greater good. (S.T. I Q 2. Art 3 rep. obj. 2). What good does God create that is great enough all these evils? What good does He create by allowing Mr. Mehta to not believe in Him when he could appear to him like He did to St. Paul?

As I said, I don't know, but I don't see that I should know. One of the obvious things about God is that, if He exists, He knows things I don't and is a lot smarter than me. Therefore, the fact that I don't understand some things He has or hasn't done is absolutely no reason to assume He has not good reason.

I understand why, on an emotional level, so many people find this unsatisfying, I do too. When I look at the world and see all the good people whose sincere prayers for life, health, an end to persecution go unanswered, I can't help crying out "God, WTF is going on!" I don't see anything wrong with this, indeed, the book of psalms as a number of what are called "problem psalms" whose main point is to demand an answer from God for why He allows such injustice.

While I understand, however, why the response is emotionally unsatisfying, I can't really see why it would be intellectually unsatisfying. If God exists He must be able to see factors, results, consequences of doing one thing and not another that are not obvious to us. There is surely, therefore, no reason not to believe that such a God could have perfectly good reasons for doing, not doing something, that are not at all obvious to us.

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