How does the problem of evil question self-destruct for the pantheist?

In Ravi’s devotional book The Logic of God, in chapter 4, Ravi states that “every time the question of evil is raised…it assumes that the question is a worthy one. But it is a worthy question only if people have intrinsic worth.” But then Ravi states that the question self-destructs for the naturalist or the pantheist.
I understand how the question self-destructs for the naturalist, but not how it self-destructs for the pantheist. If the pantheist believes that we are all God, then it seems as though we would all have intrinsic worth, because we are God. Can you explain how the question self-destructs for the pantheist?
Thank you,

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@logician36, In pantheism, the essence of everything and everyone that exists is ‘God’. So one must then conclude that not only the good but the evil we see in the world must also be attributed to this same god. Unless an individual has a separate existence from God, there is no way to call this God sacred, as one who upholds moral law. Furthermore, there is no need then to appease this god as the offended and the offender are one, when a moral law is broken. As I understand it, the question of evil self-destructs when the foundation for evil is lost, when the source of good and evil is not distinct. Here’s an article that explains this further.

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O.k. Lakshmi, Thanks for the reply. But I already knew that. I’ll have to think about that some more & read the article you suggested also. But in Ravi’s book he states that the problem of evil is “a worthy question only if people have intrinsic worth.” And it seems like a person, who is God, would have “intrinsic worth.” But he does not really explain why the question self-destructs for the pantheist. :smiley:

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Hi @logician36 , I apologize! I focused only on the question of evil in my previous response without understanding the context of your question. So your question seems to be - How can intrinsic worth be lost when God is in all and become the means for self-destruction of the question of evil in pantheism? Before I share my thoughts, I just want to add that my views are as a lay person who came out of a pantheistic Hindu belief into Christianity rather than from a background in theology or philosophy. I have also not read the book and dont exactly know what Ravi meant. So here goes my two cents:

  1. If the intrinsic value of everything is God, then any differential value that humans have over another creation is just utilitarian value. In that situation, human life loses its sacredness. So any human who is not able to contribute to the society can become dispensable! There would be no difference between killing an ant or killing a human who is incapacitated.

  2. In many eastern pantheistic beliefs, the ultimate reality, is impersonal, beyond being and non-being and beyond good and evil. Morality however has no meaning in an impersonal framework. Morality is about relationship between people. Moreover when the divine essence is impersonal, moral judgments will end up being about what works or personal preferences. When intrinsic worth is in an impersonal being, morality becomes relativistic, and we lose the standard for defining evil.

  3. In eastern pantheism, even in schools of thought where God is personal, the physical body is an inferior reality and is compared to the clothes we wear. When the physical body loses it’s worth, ending somone’s life becomes justified. Death is just an illusion! This exactly is the reason the Hindu god Krishna gives prince Arjuna, when Arjuna is grieved over having to kill his cousins in the battle of Kurukshetra. Krishna explains how the real self is embodied in the physical bodies but does not die when the body dies.

In Christian thought, with man being made in the image of God, we maintain distinction that allows for relationship with God, with people and a moral behavior that can give worth to the whole individual- spirit and body. Our worth as humans comes from the fact that we can all be filled with God and represent Him in this world through the unique personalities and gifting God created us with. If people see themselves as gods, though they may think they are of great intrinsic worth, it logically reduces the need for interdependence and love allowing a foothold for pride, root of all evil.

I hope this is a little more helpful! :slightly_smiling_face:

O.k. Lakshmi, Thanks for the response. It helps a little, but my original question still stands.
In response to your reply though, I thought that human life does not lose its sacredness in a pantheistic worldview, but rather bugs & animals would gain value/sacredness. In fact I thought some pantheist try not to kill bugs, and also that cows walk free while humans starve.
Regarding morality being impersonal, I thought many pantheistic views hold to reincarnation, which would teach that your karma is based on your actions, whether good or bad. Therefore, some actions produce good karma, while others produce bad karma.
Regarding death being an illusion, I didn’t know that pantheist would call it an “illusion.” But, in some sense, I think the Christian worldview might say pretty much the same thing, although it is not a complete illusion, because the body really does die. But in the Christian worldview the soul will also live on even if the body does die.
Hope this also helps a little. :slight_smile:

@logician36, You make valid points and your question is a good one! Here are a few thoughts I had as I read your response -

  • It is more precise to say that animals gain value rather than humans lose value in the pantheistic framework. How would you then differentiate between the value of a human and an animal life? Isnt it important that humans have a higher value ?

  • Yes it is true that pantheists hold to the idea of karma and reincarnation. One argument that has been raised that makes sense to me is how can an impersonal God administer the moral law which by nature is about persons? How did the moral law come about from an impersonal God?

  • You are right that both pantheists and Christians agree that the earthly life is temporary and the soul lives on. What they dont agree on however is the value of the physical body. Why is the redemption of soul alone sufficient? Redemption in Christianity is about the whole creation and the whole man - soul and body. It just shows the importance God places on our bodies too. When intrinsic worth doesn’t extend to both the spirit and body, do we have a good foundation for protecting human life?

I wonder how someone with a pantheistic view would respond to these questions.

Thanks for starting this conversation! I have much to learn.

O.k. Lakshmi,
Yes, I have much to learn also! Especially about Pantheism. I am a little short in my full understanding of this worldview.

But Yes, the Christian worldview does not see animals as equals with Humans. Some people will love their dog/pets more than they love their own children! :slight_smile: Which I don’t think should be. I know most of the time your dog probably acts better than some children, but even so, they should not be loved more! :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

But regarding the problem/question of evil destructing, I think it destructs in two different ways for the naturalist. First of all the worldview of naturalism cannot support a moral law, evil, and good (Even though some naturalist, like my friend Dr. Michael Ruse would say something like good is that which helps evolution, and evil is that which hurts evolution. He would still say that there is no objective moral law).

But secondly, like Ravi was saying, if a human being is just an accident of nature, then how can it be wrong to cause pain & evil to an accident. An accident has no value, does it? No. :slight_smile: So again the problem of evil question self-destructs in two different ways for the Naturalist. But I will have to do more study on the Pantheist worldview to understand how it self-destructs for the Pantheist.

Thank you for your help,

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@logician36, Appreciate you sharing the logic for naturalism in causing the question of evil to self-destruct. So if we can show that there is no support for moral law or intrinsic worth in humans, the pantheist has no basis for the question of evil.

I have been thinking about your question as it interests me as well due to its overlap with Hinduism. I came across a couple arguments from Peter Kreeft, a Catholic apologist who has written on comparative religion. I am sure I wouldn’t agree with all his positions but a couple of his thoughts seem useful to this discussion.

Individuality is illusion according to Eastern mysticism. Not that we’re not real, but that we are not distinct from God or each other. There is no separate ego. All is one. Since individuality is illusion, so is free will. If free will is illusion, so is sin.

I would just extend this argument and say, if there is no sin, there is no evil. If there is no free will and we are all just fragments of an ultimate impersonal reality, it’s difficult to give intrinsic value to humans as persons. If humans lack value, there is no sin or evil.

The ultimate ideal in Hinduism is not sanctity but mysticism. Sanctity is fundamentally a matter of the will: willing God’s will, loving God and neighbor. Mysticism is fundamentally a matter of intellect, intuition, consciousness. This fits the Eastern picture of God as consciousness—not will, not lawgiver.

If the eastern picture of God is not as a law giver, we have no moral law, we have no objective truth, only subjective experiences, hence no evil.

Finally, I dont know if you have seen this book - “Apologetics in the New Age: A Christian Critique of Pantheism - by David K. Clark, Norman L. Geisler”. Its in the list of books that I want to get to one day but it does explain the different kinds of pantheism and provides a critique from Christian point of view.

Again, thanks for the question. It peaked my curiosity to go find out more. Look forward to future updates on this topic!

Hey, & Thanks,
Yes that book does look interesting. I’ll have to take a look at it myself. Because I know there are some slight differences between the Buddhist view & the Hindu view. :slight_smile:
Thank you,

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