Over the past few months, my small group read through the book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart.  This book has been incredibly helpful in terms of both practical tips and theoretical background knowledge necessary for really understanding the Word of God.  Some passages left me feeling stupid for never having realized the point before, and others left me deep in thought pondering the implications.  In the current post I will summarize the introductory chapters of the book, and in the following post I will discuss some of my favorite and least favorite sections.

The Need to Interpret

The first chapter of this book discusses the role of the reader as an interpreter.  Interpreter, you say?  I don't need to interpret scripture, I merely need to read and understand what it says at face value!  Well, not so fast.  It's just not that easy, for there are two things that get in the way: the nature of the reader and the nature of Scripture.  We can see the way human nature influences interpretation all around us in the contemporary church; not all "plain meanings" are plain to all.  Should women be allowed to speak in church?  Should they cover their heads?  Should infants be baptized?  What is the correct mode of baptism?  Many churches argue that their understanding of these biblical issues is the "plain meaning."  As a result, we have everything from insignificant pragmatic differences to disagreements about the way to be saved.  Yet everyone claims to be reading the same words of scripture.  As the authors state it, "The antidote to bad interpretation is not no interpretation but good interpretation, based on commonsense guidelines."1  Further they concisely state their goal for the book: "to heighten the reader's sensitivity to specific problems inherent in each genre [of the Bible], to help the reader know why different opinions exist and how to make commonsense judgments, and especially to enable the reader to discern between good and not-so-good interpretations"2 (emphasis by the authors).

Here we have two separate series' converge.  This is the second part of three on the problem of evil, but it is also the third part of the ongoing series on Alvin Plantinga.  While the first two parts of the Plantinga series were almost a book summary (as the book itself is credited by the likes of William Lane Craig for kicking off Christian philosophy's comeback), this post deals with a single argument.  It was his second great contribution to the world of philosophy of religion.

Before continuing, it's worth keeping in mind that the Free Will Defense is only an answer to the logical problem of moral evil (see my previous post for a refresher on the various distinctions).  This is not to say that the argument is weak - it just has a particular focus.  Further, the logical problem of moral evil was for years so often used by philosophers to dismiss the traditional view of God. 

The Free Will Defense made a pretty big splash in the philosophical world.  Today, arguing against the existence of God based on the logical problem of moral evil has fallen quite out of style.  Contemporary discussions about the problem of evil now focus on the evidential problem and the problem of natural evil.  It is really only laymen that continue to peddle the logical problem.

The following is a guest post by the user idunno from the Reasonable Faith forums. The authors of this blog intend to use guest posters from time to time in order to promote diversity of ideas and viewpoints.

In his work Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton poses the question, “How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it?” I think the question is of great importance for the thinking Christian to ask his or herself. In our quest to not only understand the natural order of things, but the deep things of God revealed in Scripture, have we failed to be astonished by it all? Have we missed the majesty of the forest for the formation of the tattered leaves scattered on the ground?

I’d like to suggest that understanding, however great, if not accompanied by a sense of wonder and awe at the beauty of both Creator and His creation is missing the point. Actually no, I’d like to make the bolder claim that knowledge, void of awe, is incomplete. For only by experiencing the beauty of life, the love of God, and His creation will we truly come to understand these things. This is obvious enough when you think about love. For it’s one thing to have an abstract understanding of the concept, and another to actually fall in love. One might spend years locked up in a room tirelessly doing research on this thing called love. Reading and interviewing those who have fallen in love. But only when this individual falls in love himself does he realize that all his head knowledge was but straw. To be sure, his conclusions may have been accurate, but they were in a sense hollow until his experience. For the philosophically minded among you, think the knowledge argument involving the neurophysiologist Mary.1 The same is true of Christian truths. The psalmist can sing of the beauty of God’s creation till he's blue in the face, but it will not move you till you've stepped away from the books and computer and seen it for yourself. Yet we can so easily get caught up in thinking that this book, or that lecture will really show us something. The truth is we’ll never begin to fathom the wonder of heaven till we've begun to grasp the wonder of the here and now.

File:David Hume.jpgHistorically, the problem of evil is without a doubt the most famous and most compelling argument against the existence of God.  More broadly, the existence of evil is something with which every person must grapple, regardless of religious views.  The staggering amount of evil in the world, on display in the news, in our own lives, and in the books of history defies understanding.

It is unsurprising, given the prevalence of evil from day-to-day life to the world stage, that the problem of evil is often considered a powerful argument of against any sort of benevolent creator.

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