This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
I first want to start off by saying that I thank God for you and your ministry. You have no idea the blessing that your resources have been to my faith. I pray that reasonable faith continues to have a positive impact on the body of Christ and the world abroad.
Now on to my question. My question has to do with the definition and nature of evil. I'll use your moral argument as a springboard. Now the moral argument concludes that there is a personal,transcendent source (God) of moral values and duties. God is the Good. Things like justice,love,compassion and so on so forth are rooted in the character of God Himself.
Now couldn't someone also argue that moral voices (injustice,greed,hatred....etc) must be rooted in the character of a personal,transcendent source also. Just as God is the Good someone is the evil. This would also seem to make evil necessary. Obviously this is unbiblical and theological unacceptable. The only escape I see is if we define evil as the absence or privation of good. This of course is the traditional Christian view of evil and the view that you hold too as well if I'm not mistaken. Injustice isn't a thing in and of itself but is merely a lack of justice.
This makes sense but I can't seem to argue for why it is the correct theory of evil. Someone could just as easily say they think the correct view of evil is that it is the equal but opposite power or force against the good (kinda like in Star Wars) and to this I don't know how to respond.
So in summary:(A) For the moral argument to work must we presuppose that the deprivation theory of evil is correct and (B) do you have any independent philosophical arguments for why the deprivation theory of evil is correct? Sorry for such a long question. It was hard for me to articulate. I would really appreciate any insight you could provide and if you could show me where I might have erred in my thinking. God Bless you and yours always.
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
The quick answer to your question, Tray, is that once you have God in place as the ultimate standard of moral values, then there is neither need nor room for some other standard of vices.
Part of your difficulty is thinking of God as a “power or force” for good, which might then be opposed by another evil power or force. This is a mistake. Rather we are to conceive of God as an ultimate standard or paradigm of goodness. Once you have that, it will determine not only what is good but also what is evil. Just as something is good insofar as it approximates the paradigm of goodness, so something is evil insofar as it falls away from that same paradigm.
For that reason I sometimes run a moral argument for God based on moral evil in the world: without God objective moral values would not exist; evil exists; therefore, objective moral values exist (some things are evil!); therefore, God exists. Evil proves God’s existence because without God good and evil as such would not exist.
Don’t assume a burden of proof you don’t have, Tray. If someone says, “Moral vices ‘must be rooted in the character of a personal, transcendent source also’,” ask for his argument for this claim. I can’t think of any argument for such a claim. Indeed, I doubt that it is even coherent to say that there is an ultimate paradigm of evil. Certainly, there could be some evil being (Satan?) who is opposed to God; but even such a being would be evil only because he fails to live up to the standard set by God. In particular, such a being would fail to live up to his moral duties; but then where do they come from?
So in answer to your questions: (A) For the moral argument to work must we presuppose that the privation theory of evil is correct? The argument per se does not presuppose this view, but it seems to me to be implied by theistic ethics, which is entailed by the argument. (B) Do you have any independent philosophical arguments for why the privation theory of evil is correct? Sure, any view which postulates an ultimate standard for goodness implies that things are evil insofar as they fail to approximate that standard.