Mitch originally posted an argument in summary fashion from J.L. Schellenberg found here which I answered here and Mitch subsequently responded to my answer here. There is much to be said about his response, but I will limit this post to focusing upon premise (4) of the argument and where Mitch has made some mistakes.
(4) Necessarily, if God exists, there is horrific suffering only if its prevention would prevent there being finite persons who realize their deepest good.
Mitch believes that the “denial of (4) seems quite the denial indeed.” On the contrary, I find the affirmation of (4) to be quite the affirmation indeed. The “only if” of (4) presents some serious problems to the advocate of this argument. Does Mitch give us any reason to accept (4)? Not that I can find. He writes, “To deny the premise suggests that if God exists, there can be instances of persons who undergo horrific suffering even though their doing so is unnecessary for the realization of their deepest good.” Can there be instances of persons who undergo horrific suffering even though their doing so is unnecessary for the realization of their deepest good? Of course! Even if Mitch disagrees he has not provided a reason against thinking that this is at least possible, and as long as it is possible the argument fails. Unfortunately Mitch begins to make a pretty major mistake here.
Mitch writes, “I think Chris owes us some argumentation as to how the existence of a perfectly good God is compatible with the existence of human persons unnecessarily undergoing horrific suffering.” It is difficult to discern why Mitch believes that I owe him any argumentation in this respect. First, I never stated that human persons “unnecessarily” undergo horrific suffering. Mitch appears to be merely equating horrific suffering which is not necessary for some given individual’s greatest good with unnecessary horrific suffering in general, but that does not fairly represent my contention. Rather, it indicates again that the argument as a whole is too narrow in this regard. Second, since it is Mitch’s contention that the existence of a perfectly good God is incompatible with human persons undergoing unnecessary (with respect to their own deepest good) horrific suffering and since this plays a crucial role in a needed premise of the argument that Mitch presents it follows that Mitch carries the burden of proof here; not me. Mitch is attempting to shift the burden of proof.
In fact Mitch even more clearly makes this mistake in his next paragraph when he charges me with begging the question. He quotes me as stating, “It is conceivable that a perfectly good God would justifiably cause/permit some person A to suffer even if that suffering were not necessary for bringing about some greater good for A.” Mitch then responds, “the argument from horrific suffering seeks to demonstrate that such a thing is not possible.” But this is quite confusing. First, the argument seeks to demonstrate that “God does not exist,” the conclusion of the argument. Second, even if Mitch means to say that the argument or the person offering the argument seeks to demonstrate this in terms of support for (4) then he is not in the clear, for my objection is essentially that there is no reason provided for accepting (4). There is, in my view, reason for rejecting (4), but this is not overly relevant to the failure of the argument to establish its own case. Third, we see again that Mitch is attempting to shift the burden of proof in that he claims, “Chris needs to argue (in a non question-begging way) against any justification of that premise, rather than merely assuming the premise false!” It does not fall to me, however, to provide reasons for not accepting the premise in question as true when no support has been provided for it. Again, Mitch presents the argument, not me, and he has given us no reason for accepting (4). I do take (4) to be false, and I may even possess good reasons for thinking it to be false, but this is irrelevant to Mitch’s lack of support for that premise. Again, it is enough to state that God has a morally sufficient reason for permitting horrific suffering. Perhaps this reason is found outside of preventing the prevention of persons realizing their deepest good. If this is even possibly true in Mitch’s view, then his argument fails. Mitch must argue either that it is not even possible that God has some morally sufficient reason for permitting horrific suffering outside of the prevention of preventing persons realizing their deepest good or else must scrap (4) and render the argument as a whole insufficient to establish his conclusion that God does not exist.