ANSWERING RICHARD DAWKINS ON THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

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115. Filosofia: Richard Dawkins Vs Alister McGrath

Published on Dec 21, 2012

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At the 40 minute mark Richard Dawkins and Alister McGrath discuss Deena Burnett’s assertion that her husband Tom was an instrument carrying out God’s will in stopping the plane from hitting the White House.

Wikipedia noted:

United Airlines Flight 93[edit]

On September 11, 2001, while on board United Airlines Flight 93, Burnett sat next to passenger Mark Bingham. Burnett called his wife, Deena, after hijackers took control of the plane. During his second call to her, she relayed to him that the Towers of the World Trade Center had collapsed.[7] Upon learning of the situation, Deena, a former flight attendant, recalled her training and urged Burnett to sit quietly and not draw attention to himself, but Burnett instead informed her that he and three other passengers, Mark BinghamTodd Beamer and Jeremy Glick, were forming a plan to take the plane back from the hijackers, and leading other passengers in this effort.[5][6][8] He also told Deena not to worry.[9] Burnett and several other passengers stormed the cockpit, foiling the hijackers’ plan to crash the plane into the White House or Capitol Building,[5][10] and forced it to crash in a Pennsylvania field, killing all 44 people on board.[5][6]

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Let me make a few points here. I am told that Tom and Deena used to attend Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock when they were visiting her parents in Little Rock. Deena actually grew up in a Southern Baptist Church like I did.  It is a common view in many evangelical circles that the problem of evil must be explained in light of the events of Genesis chapter 3 and the fall  of man. You can see this pointed out in the Evangelism Explosion leader’s guide written by Dr. D. James Kennedy. Francis Schaeffer and Ravi Zacharias  have written much on this subject too and some their work is below:

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So many tragic things happen in this world and many ask ” How can a good God allow evil and suffering?”

Their thinking is that either God is not powerful enough to prevent evil or else God is not good. He is often blamed for tragedy. “Where was God when I went through this, or when that happened.”  God is blamed for natural disasters, Even my insurance company describes them as “acts of God.” How to handle this one-  (O.N.E.)
a. Origin of evil— man’s choice- God created a perfect world…
b. Nature of God—He forgives, I John 1:9—He uses tragedy to bring us to Himself, C.S. Lewis, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains:  it is His megaphone to arouse a deaf world.”
c. End of it all—Bible teaches that God will one day put an end to all evil, and pain and death. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).As Christians we have this hope of Heaven and eternity. Share how it has made a tremendous difference in your life and that you know for sure that when you die you are going to spend eternity in Heaven. Ask the person, “May I ask you a question? Do you have this hope? Do you know for certain that when you die you are going to Heaven, or is that something you would say you’re still working on?”How could a loving God send people to Hell?
(O.N.E.)
a. Origin of hell—never intended for people. Created for Satan and his demons. Jesus said, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). Man chooses to sin and ignore God. The penalty is death (eternal separation from God) and, yes, Hell. But God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, we choose it by refusing or ignoring God in attitude and action. b. Nature of God—“ God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He is so loving that He sent His own Son to die and pay the penalty for our sin so that we could avoid Hell and have the assurance of Heaven. No one in Hell will be able to blame God. He doesn’t send people there, it’s our own choice. We must choose to repent, to stop ignoring God in attitude and action, accepting His salvation and yielding to His leadership.c. End of it all—Bible teaches that God will one day put an end to all evil, pain, death, and penalty of Hell. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).As Christians , we need not worry about Hell. The Bible says, “these things have been written . . . so that you may know you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).  I have complete confidence that when I die, I’m going to Heaven.  May I ask you a question?___________________________-

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In his article “A Conversation with an Atheist,” Rick Wade notes:

The problem of evil is a significant moral issue in the atheist’s arsenal. We talk about a God of goodness, but what we see around us is suffering, and a lot of it apparently unjustifiable. Stephanie said, “Disbelief in a personal, loving God as an explanation of the way the world works is reasonable–especially when one considers natural disasters that can’t be blamed on free will and sin.”{17}

One response to the problem of evil is that God sees our freedom to choose as a higher value than protecting people from harm; this is the freewill defense. Stephanie said, however, that natural disasters can’t be blamed on free will and sin. What about this? Is it true that natural disasters can’t be blamed on sin? I replied that they did come into existence because of sin (Genesis 3). We’re told in Romans 8 that creation will one day “be set free from its slavery to corruption,” that it “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” The Fall caused the problem, and, in the consummation of the ages, the problem will be fixed.

Second, I noted that on a naturalistic basis, it’s hard to even know what evil is. But the reality of God explains it. As theologian Henri Blocher said,

The sense of evil requires the God of the Bible. In a novel by Joseph Heller, “While rejecting belief in God, the characters in the story find themselves compelled to postulate his existence in order to have an adequate object for their moral indignation.” . . . When you raise this standard objection against God, to whom do you say it, other than this God? Without this God who is sovereign and good, what is the rationale of our complaints? Can we even tell what is evil? Perhaps the late John Lennon understood: “God is a concept by which we measure our pain,” he sang. Might we be coming to the point where the sense of evil is a proof of the existence of God?{18}

So,… if there is no God, there really is no problem of evil. Does the atheist ever find herself shaking her fist at the sky after some catastrophe and demanding an explanation? If there is no God, no one is listening.

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Francis Schaeffer and  Gospel of Christ in the pages of the Bible

FRANCIS SCHAEFFER’S WORDS BELOW:

The Personal Origin of Man
The Scriptures tell us that the universe exists and has form and meaning because it was created purposefully by a personal Creator. This being the case, we see that, as we are personal, we are not something strange and out of line with an otherwise impersonal universe. Since we are made in the image of God, we are in line with God. There is continuity, in other words, between ourselves, though finite, and the infinite Creator who stands behind the universe as its Creator and its final source of meaning.
Unlike the evolutionary concept of an impersonal beginning plus time plus chance, the Bible gives an account of man’s origin as a finite person make in God’s image, that is, like God. We see then how man can have personality and dignity and value. Our uniqueness is guaranteed, something which is impossible in the materialistic system. If there is no qualitative distinction between man and other organic life (animals or plants), why should we feel greater concern over the death of a human being than over the death of a laboratory rat? Is man in the end any higher?
Though this is the logical end of the materialistic system, men and women still usually in practice assume that people have some real value. All the way back to the dawn of our investigations in history, we find that man is still man. Wherever we turn, to the caves of the Pyrenees, to the Sumerians in Mesopotamia, and even further back to Neanderthal man’s burying his dead in flower petals, it makes no difference: men everywhere show by their art and their accomplishments that they have been and have considered themselves to be unique. They were unique, and people today are unique. What is wrong is a world-view which fails to explain that uniqueness. All people are unique because they are made in the image of God.
The Bible tells us also, however, that man is flawed. We see this to be the case both within ourselves and in our societies throughout the world. People are noble and people are cruel; people have heights of moral achievement and depths of moral depravity.
But this is not simply an enigma, nor is it explained in terms of “the animal in man.” The Bible explains how man is flawed, without destroying the uniqueness and dignity of man. Man is evil and experiences the results of evil, not because man is non-man but because man is fallen and thus is abnormal.
This is the significance of the third chapter of Genesis. Some time after the original Creation (we do not know how long), man rebelled against God. Being made in the image of God as persons, Adam and Eve were able to make real choices. They had true creativity, not just in the area we call “art” but also in the area of choice. And they used this choice to turn from God as their true integration point. Their ability to choose would have been equally validated if they had chosen not to turn away from God, as their true integration point, but instead they used their choice to try to make themselves autonomous. In doing this, they were acting against the moral absolute of the universe, namely, God’s character – and thus evil among people was born.
The Fall brought not only moral evil but also the abnormality of (1) each person divided from himself or herself; (2) people divided from other people; (3) mankind divided from nature; and (4) nature divided from nature. This was the consequence of the choice made by Adam and Eve some time after the Creation. It was not any original deformity that made them choose in this way. God had not made them robots, and so they had real choice. It is man, therefore, and not God, who is responsible for evil.
We have to keep pointing out, because the idea is strange to a society by which the Bible has been neglected or distorted, that Christianity does not begin with a statement of Christ as Savior. That comes later in its proper setting. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created….” Christianity begins with the personal and infinite God who is the Creator. It goes on to show that man is made in God’s image but then tells us that man is now fallen. It is the rebellion of man that has made the world abnormal. So there is a broken line as we look back to the creation of man by God. A chasm stands there near the beginning, the chasm which is the Fall, the choice to go against God and His Word.
What follows from this is that not everything that happens in the world is “natural.” Unlike modern materialistic thought on both sides of the Iron Curtain, Christianity does not see everything in history as equally “normal.” Because of the abnormality brought about by man, not everything which occurs in history should be there. Thus, not all that history brings forth is right just because it happens, and not all personal drives and motives are equally good. Here, then, is a marked difference between Christianity and almost all other philosophies. Most other philosophies do not have the concept of a present abnormality. Therefore, they hold that everything now is normal; things are now as they always have been.
By contrast, Christians do not see things as if they always have been this way. This is of immense importance in understanding evil in the world. It is possible for Christians to speak of things as absolutely wrong, for they are not original in human society. They are derived from the Fall; they are in that sense “abnormal.” It also means we can stand against what is wrong and cruel without standing against God, for He did not make the world as it now is.
This understanding of the chasm between what mankind and history are now and what they could have been – and should have been, from the way they were made – gives us a real moral framework for life, one which is compatible with our nature and aspirations. So there are “rules for life,’ like the signs on cliff tops which read: DANGER – KEEP OUT. The signs are there to help, not hinder us. God has put them there because to live in this way, according to His rules, is the way for both safety and fulfillment. The God who made us and knows what is for our best good is the same God who gives us His commands. When we break these, it is not only wrong, it is also not for our best good; it is not for our fulfillment as unique persons made in the image of God.

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  • Below is a transcript of the discussion between a student at Nottingham and Ravi Zacharias about evil and morality and it also discussed in the video clip above.

Student: There is too much evil in this world; therefore, there cannot be a God!
Speaker: Would you mind if I asked you something? You said, “God cannot exist because there is too much evil.” If there is such a thing as evil, aren’t you assuming that there is such a thing as good?
Student: I guess so.
Speaker: If there is such a thing as good, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil.
Speaker: In a debate between the philosopher Frederick Copleston and the atheist Bertrand Russell, Copleston said, “Mr. Russell, you do believe in good and bad, don’t you?” Russell answered, “Yes, I do.” “How do you differentiate between good and bad?” challenged Copleston. Russell shrugged his shoulders and said, “On the basis of feeling – what else?” I must confess, Mr. Copleston was a kindlier gentleman than many others. The appropriate “logical kill” for the moment would have been, “Mr. Russell, in some cultures they love their neighbors; in other cultures they eat them, both on the basis of feeling. Do you have any preference?”
Speaker: When you say there is evil, aren’t you admitting there is good? When you accept the existence of goodness, you must affirm a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But when you admit to a moral law, you must posit a moral lawgiver. That, however, is
who you are trying to disprove and not prove. For if there is no moral lawgiver, there is no moral law. If there is no moral law, there is no good. If there is no good, there is no evil. What, then, is your question?
Student: What, then, am I asking you?

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The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported on Sept 10:

When Deena Burnett Bailey spoke of the last time she heard her late husband’s voice, the rattle of silverware against china, the whispers and the general noise of a luncheon ceased.

Bailey is the widow of Tom E. Burnett, who led resistance efforts on United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001.

Deena Burnett Bailey, widow of Tom Burnett who orchestrated the resistance against the terrorists aboard Flight 93, talks during the Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary's God Bless America Luncheon on Wednesday at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn.PHOTO BY JIM WEBER
BUY THIS PHOTO »Deena Burnett Bailey, widow of Tom Burnett who orchestrated the resistance against the terrorists aboard Flight 93, talks during the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary’s God Bless America Luncheon on Wednesday at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn.

The story of Burnett’s heroism is still a difficult one to tell, Bailey said, especially so close to the anniversary. But she wants to share it to inspire others, she said.

Bailey is the co-author of “Fighting Back: Living Life Beyond Ourselves,” a book about her husband and the others who took action against the terrorists who held the passengers hostage on Flight 93.

Bailey and former New York City police officer Jim Shepherd spoke Wednesday at a Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary luncheon.

Bailey, now remarried and living in Little Rock, was living in California on Sept. 11. She was waiting with their three daughters for her husband to return from a business trip.

As Bailey watched the two terrorist-controlled planes collide with the World Trade Center in New York, Burnett called and told her he was on a third plane that had been hijacked, and that the hijackers had “already knifed a guy.” He told her to call the authorities.

Bailey called 911 and was eventually connected with the FBI.

Her husband called again, asking questions about the World Trade Center, and then a third time to tell her passengers were hatching a plan to overtake the plane.

He called one last time to say the passengers were waiting until the plane was over a rural area before moving in on the hijackers. While everyone on the airplane was ultimately killed, no one on the ground was injured when Flight 93 went down.

Now, Burnett is honored as an American hero. Bailey says it’s a word her husband felt was overused. She says he believed in making good choices and making a difference in the lives of others.

“Tom’s last words to me were ‘Do something.’ They ring true for each of us to stand up, fight back, do something,” she said.

For Shepherd, who now lives in Memphis, the fateful day began as he drank coffee at the gym. He saw the first airplane circle but assumed it was out of its flight pattern and looking for an airport.

“At the last moment I thought, ‘Oh my God I hope he misses the buildings,’” Shepherd said.

By the time he reached his precinct, the second plane had hit the South Tower.

Later, rescuers found three stories of the building compacted into a pile only 12 feet high, with easily distinguishable layers of concrete floor, carpet and debris, he said.

Shepherd thanked the Salvation Army, which marched quietly into New York and got to work.

“You really felt like you weren’t alone,” he said. “You had another army behind you to help.”

Tom Burnett: A Hero on Flight 93 | An interview with Deena Burnett, author (with Anthony Giombetti) of Fighting Back: Defining Moments in the Life of an American Hero, Tom Burnett 

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Fighting Back is the timely and inspiring story of Thomas Burnett, the ringleader of the small group of courageous men that fought back against the terrorists on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, that crashed in the fields in Pennsylvania. His wife Deena tells about the incredible details ofthat horrific day, the now famous four cell phone calls her husband made to her from the plane, his quick assessment of the alarming suicidal flight plan, and his decision to “do something.” She tells about all that happened to her and her children in the days and months after that devastating day, and how the love, faith and strength of her departed husband helped her to fight back to find purpose and joy in her life again.

She also tells about Tom’s life story, showing how he was an ordinary American who was deeply patriotic, a very good athlete, a loving father and husband, a successful businessman, and a devout Catholic and daily communicant. This powerful book reveals the inspiring courage, character, faith and integrity that Tom Burnett showed in all the aspects of his life as a father, husband and businessman, and how his valor and leadership in that perilous plane were the result of how he lived his life every day. His story will strengthen and inspire all “ordinary” Americans, and Catholics, to imitate this man’s life of commitment to excellence, patriotism, devotion to family, and love of God. It is a story of suffering, sacrifice and of rebirth.

Carl E. Olson, editor of IgnatiusInsight.com, recently spoke with Deena Burnett about her late husband, the events of 9/11, and her faith in God.

IgnatiusInsight.com: When and how did you first decide to write Fighting Back?

Deena Burnett: I was approached right after Tom had died, and my first reaction was, “No, I don’t want to write anything.” But after a few months I realized that it would be important to write it down for my children. In January [of 2006], Anthony [Giombetti] and I got together and started writing. He would interview me and record the interviews, and then he would transcribe those interviews and then we would get together and edit it. That’s really when we started. And the idea was to chronicle Tom’s life and what had happened on September 11th, and talk about what he did and why he did it. In my mind, it was for my children, to record it, so that they would not forget. Then it evolved into something that I believe with inspire the reader to make a difference.

IgnatiusInsight.com: What do you hope readers will learn from reading the book?

Deena Burnett: Actually, just that; I hope that they are inspired to make a difference, that they see the value of having faith in God and know the importance of passing that faith on to their children.

IgnatiusInsight.com: A central theme of the book is that seemingly ordinary people can do extraordinary things. How did Tom exemplify that it in his ordinary life and in his extraordinary actions on Flight 93? 

Deena Burnett: I think that is found throughout the whole book. You certainly see that I try to stress that it wasn’t just what he did on September 11th, but that he lived his life with integrity, and I think that it was certainly his upbringing in the Faith that made him kind and attentive and concerned about other people. And I think that those are the values that he brought into the way that he lived, that helped him be a hero everyday of his life, and not just on September 11th.

 

Deena Burnett: Well, as early as the morning of September 11th, I was requesting to hear the cockpit voice recorder. I felt like it would just give me some answers as to what happened in those final moments. I didn’t know how to go about finding someone who could allow me to hear it. Anyone who had anything to do with the government, I’d just ask them, “Help me.” Very early on I met a lady, Ellen Tauscher, a representative from California, who really took me on as her project and helped me. She helped me go through the channels, writing the letters and making the phone calls and putting the pressure on different channels within the FBI and our government to release that cockpit voice recorder. I have told her so many times, “You know, Ellen, that you did this; it was you, but I’m getting all the credit for it.” And she would just laugh and say, “That’s okay, because I’m just here to help you.” She’s a great lady, absolutely a great lady. She guided me through the channels and made it happen.

We went to New Jersey in April 2002. We were allowed four family members, each family. We went in to hear it and I went through it twice. They had a transcript on the wall that we were able to see and read in sequence with hearing the audio. And I heard Tom’s voice for the first time in several months, and it gave me this incredible sense of peace that I had not expected to find through listening to it. And the peace came because, I think, for the first time in months I knew exactly what had happened by hearing the sounds and being able to visualize what he experienced. After that, it just gave me the energy and the strength to keep moving forward, to keep doing the things that needed to be done, in raising my family and making sure that those responsible for September 11th came to justice.

IgnatiusInsight.com: In the months following 9/11 you gave numerous interviews on high profile televisions programs and dealt with the media quite often. What is your impression, in general of the mainstream media, and how do you think they’ve handled coverage of 9/11 and its aftermath? 

Deena Burnett: I think that almost immediately the press was very respectful, and I was incredibly grateful for that. I initially was very afraid of the media. I kind of laugh about that now because I had a degree in journalism, and yet I was scared to death. But they were very respectful. One thing that I have found during the five years is that they have been very interested in different family members — any family members, it doesn’t matter who they are — who had something to do with September 11th, and they have created this aura of casting 9/11 family members as authorities on different issues, whether it be political issues, or issues dealing with the war on terrorism. Anything happening with our government having to do with immigration laws, the transportation department, or the war on terrorism, the first thing they do is pull a 9/11 family member away and start interviewing them: “What do you think?”

They have cast them in roles of authority, and I think that is odd, that there would be so much interest in the opinion of 9/11 family members. You know, we have this one experience to fall back upon; I’m sure there are people who are far better qualified than we are to answer most of the questions the media asks concerning these issues.

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