Stephen Law’s Incoherent “Evil God”
by Tom Gilson
Stephen Law brought an “evil God” challenge with him to his debate with William Lane Craig, claiming that Craig’s arguments for God are next to worthless in that they could prove the existence of a supremely evil God just as well as a supremely good God. Practicing his typically admirable discipline, Craig refused even to take the bait. That particular debate, he said, was about the existence of God, not about God’s character.
Leave it to Edward Feser then to dispense with this argument, which he does rather handily:
No doubt Law gets away with presenting his “evil-god challenge” as if it were a threat to theism in general because most of his readers and listeners are as ignorant as he evidently is of the classical theistic tradition. But while that may be good rhetorical strategy, it is bad philosophy.
It’s bad philosophy, says Feser, because classical theism is completely incompatible with an evil God. Many readers here are undoubtedly flummoxed by the very thought, and well you might be! If you’re scratching your head, wondering why anyone would think an “evil God” is worth talking about, I won’t mind if you skip the rest of this article. I’m only bringing it up here because some Ph.D. philosopher thought it worth discussing. Thankfully other Ph.D. philosophers know better. I’m not one of them, but I have reasons to think I know better, too; reasons that ought to make sense even to a complete unbeliever.
Law himself should know better. Elsewhere Feser points out, most reasonably,
I am not here attempting to convince the uninitiated or hostile reader that this complex metaphysical picture I have been describing is correct or even plausible. That would take at least a book…. I am also not saying that no reasonable person who familiarizes himself with it could disagree with that picture. I am merely saying that before one disagrees with it, one ought at least to try to understand it. And the things Law says seem to me to show that he does not understand it.
Dr. Feser’s answer to Law is perfectly adequate and decisive, yet I wonder whether more might be added to it, an additional argument that might show that Law’s conception is impossible even for the “uninitiated or hostile reader.” For it seems to me there’s something incoherent about an “evil God,” even apart from the arguments that can be made for classical theism…
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