I have seen so many answers to the problem of evil (POE) or the problem of suffering in God's creation that I can't enumerate them. One thing that seems clear from the very existence of all these theodicies is the fact that Christians recognize that they have a real problem that merits a serious answer, even if they try to minimize that problem or even deny that it exists. But the simple fact that this problem has been addressed by many Christian philosophers, such as Plantinga, is an acknowledgment that it can't be overlooked. The problem of evil is often cited as one of the most serious challenges to the logical coherency of Christian belief.
According to the IEP, the problem of evil may be stated this way:
(1) God is omnipotent (that is, all-powerful).It is noted that these four propositions appear to present a logical contradiction, since an omnipotent God should be able to prevent evil (or suffering), an omniscient God should know how to prevent evil, and a good God should want to prevent evil, yet evil remains.
(2) God is omniscient (that is, all-knowing).
(3) God is perfectly good.
(4) Evil exists.
The task of the Christian, then is to create a theodicy that somehow explains away the logical discrepancy. Many theodicies are based on the idea that the existence of evil is somehow necessary in order to achieve God's desired outcome. And there are numerous approaches to explaining why this necessity exists. But all such explanations fall short of providing a solid basis in reason.
Hinman has presented his own answer to the problem here. It is ostensibly an answer to Paul Draper's statement of the POE, but it might just as well be an answer to most any version of the POE. Hinman's argument rests on the idea that a Moral Universe is the primary and over-arching goal of God's creation. I will try to summarize his argument succinctly:
(1) God's purpose in creation is to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.The first thing I should note about this argument is that it is one of the more cogent arguments that I have seen from Joe, so let me acknowledge that up front. But that doesn't mean that it provides a satisfactory answer to the POE.
(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).
(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices.
(4)The possibility of evil choices is a necessary risk resulting from free will.
(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultiamte goals.
(6) God remains hidden to us because he wants us to seek him and his goodness,
(7) If God was not hidden from us, our obedience would be merely "lip service".
(8) Therefore, God wants a heart-felt response which is internationalized value system.
The first, and perhaps most obvious issue with Joe's argument is that he has completely ignored the broader problem. Draper points out (and so do many others) that pain is experienced not only by humans, but by all manner of sentient beings. Yet Joe's theodicy paints the problem as a "human drama". It is an issue of humans making moral choices in order to achieve the goal of a moral universe. Why, then, should animals be made to suffer? I have never seen a good answer to this question, and Joe provides none at all. In fact, the history of our planet includes suffering on a massive scale by countless billions of creatures for many millions of years, before the first human came along. Surely, all this suffering contributes nothing to the drama of our human lives, and so it can't be seen as necessary. An animal being eaten alive, even today, in some remote and unseen place, has no bearing on the moral choices that I make. For this reason alone, Hinman's argument fails to answer Draper, and in a broader sense, falls short of addressing the real problem of evil.
But there is another sense in which the problem remains unanswered. And this is one that I have never seen addressed by any theodicy. If we take Joe's first four premises seriously, we may note that there is nothing in them that entails any physical existence at all. Humans are supposed to die, and their immortal soul goes on to abide in a spiritual realm for eternity, where they will either achieve the ultimate goal of being in the presence of God, or fail to achieve that goal. The ultimate goal is not one of physical existence at all. The physical world is nothing more than a proving ground of some sort. But is that physical proving ground necessary?
Can a spiritual being have free will and make moral choices? Apparently so, according to most versions of Christian theology. God already has other beings to keep him company. There are angels and demons. A demon, of course, is regarded as a fallen angel that has made bad moral choices. What was that again? Yes, angels can be sinners, and this concept has support in the bible, as in 2 Peter 2:4. Apparently, roughly one third of all angels turn out to be bad. And not only that, but these demons go on to torment and ruin the lives of us poor humans on earth (apparently for entertainment purposes). So when a human makes a bad moral choice, can we say that it is from free will, or is it the coercive influence of a demon? The answer to that is not at all clear. But one thing is sure. If God wants us to freely make our own choices, why would he plague us with these demons at all? Just as he remains hidden from us so as to not unduly influence our choices, so too, he should keep demons from influencing the moral choices we make.
And if it is possible for spiritual beings to have free will, why is it even necessary to create a physical world in the first place? Why couldn't God just create human souls and let them make their choices, just as the angels have done? If angels can have free will and make moral choices, then it should be equally possible for human souls to do the same. And if that's the case, then there's absolutely no need for billions and billions of animals to suffer in this physical world. Which means that God fails to live up to the standard of being all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving.
There is no theodicy I have ever seen that addresses this issue. Not by Hinman, or Plantinga, or any other Christian. They all assume that this world is necessary. They all assume that God has no choice but to make a world where there is untold pain and suffering. But I don't see the logic of it. The problem of evil remains a logical conundrum for theists, no matter if they think they've dealt with the problem in a satisfactory manner. They haven't. All they've done is to engage in rationalization. The POE has not been answered. If God allows pain in this world, as far as I can tell, it's because he's an evil son of a bitch.