The problem with the problem of evil
November 28, 2011 3 Comments
While the pepper spray controversy was causing much consternation, there was a brighter side to last weekend: the 10th annual Evangelical Philosophical Society Apologetics Conference in Berkeley. Imagine that I went to that shining city on a hill to escape the hotbed of political activism that was Davis!
This was the first apologetics conference I ever attended. My wife and I were very excited to see Dr. William Lane Craig speak on Hawking and Mlodinow’s book The Grand Design. But Dr. Craig was only one of many noteworthy speakers, most of whom I might have heard of but was not too familiar with. Dallas Willard set the right tone for the weekend, reminding us of the spiritual context in which we pursue knowledge. J.P. Moreland gave us a good historical sketch of the recent intellectual life of the Church, consistent with what I have read in Love Your God with All Your Mind. Craig Hazen was very personable as the conference emcee and plenary speaker. And to cap it off, Greg Koukl managed to speak pointedly yet uphold the value of civility in expounding on “The Intolerance of Tolerance.” All the speakers were winsome, thoughtful, and inspiring.
The conference theme, “To everyone an answer,” hints at the fact that outside (and within) the Christian faith are people in different states of mind, each needing to hear a different reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). Some people are genuinely seeking, and some people are just angry with God. And it was one speaker’s amusing and thoughtful flourish to ponder indeed why some atheists are angry with God. Unicorns may be imaginary, but no one is really upset with them in their nonexistence. So why are atheists angry with God? Repeatedly from each speaker’s experience, I could see that despite what you can show with clear thinking and clean routines of logic, the recalcitrance of skeptics sometimes just boils down to them being hurt, broken, and emotionally unwilling.
While there are earnest seekers and angry engagers, another group that apologists can seek to address are the apathetic, or maybe what we can call the unimaginative. My wife managed to attend a session on literature as a mode of apologetic. And while I opted instead to sit in on a tangy session on the doctrine of Hell, I was heartened to be reminded of the role that narratives play in engaging our imaginations to receive God’s kingdom.
All told, the conference was a very encouraging and positive experience. I will be keeping an eye out for similar opportunities in the future.