It’s All About the Definitions4 June, 2008
Over at the Spanish Inquisitor’s site there has been a spirited conversation (well, not a conversation, just some well- (and nost-so-well-) thought-out comments rocketing back and forth. The whole line of comments (now (as I write this) up to 119 comments) argues whether the existence of evil precludes a benevolent and omnipotent god, or if the grant of free will to humanity necessitated the existence of evil. There have been plenty of tangential ideas: what is evil? does evil actually exist? what is god?
I put my two cents in a few times asking more questions than I can answer. My biggest concern is definitions. How can I argue a point if I have difficulty with the definition of some of the words involved. The Exterminator posits that an absolute definition of ‘evil’ is only necessary at a philosophical level, and I can see his point. Stealing a line from Supreme Court Justice Stewart, “I may not know what evil is, but I know it when I see it.”
On the other hand, as can be seen reading through all of the comments, different definitions of seemingly simple words (god, evil, suffering, etc.) can really muckle up the discussion. If one commenter writes from the idea of an omnipontent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god who can do away with evil and suffering, while the next has a more limited view of god as the concept relates to the conversation, misunderstandings are pretty much gauranteed.
So far, I’ve been lucky. Very few of my posts have elicited the spirited discussions that SI seems to attract (among others). At the same time, though, I have found myself tossing around words for which I do not have a simple coherent definition.
I hereby apologize in advance if my definitions do not agree with yours. If, during a spirited discussion, you think that we may be arguing at cross definitions, please let me know.
This also may help. It is a guide to Christian cliches and phrases. Well, its not real helpful, but it is enjoyably snarky.