Thomas Metcalf commits an almost ridiculous blunder. He assumes that all evil is justified, “grants to the defender of theism that gratuitous evil does not exist,” (329) and argues that “the position according to which there is no gratuitous evil will lead to a new argument from evil, a strong evidential argument against God’s existence.” (330)
How does it work? He proposes the principle:
(PA) If a person S is suffering intensely, and S’s suffering is justified, it is morally better to inform S that her suffering is justified than to withhold that information. (331)
Yet many people do not believe that their suffering is justified. Hence the all-good God does not exist.
Have you spotted the problem right there? The fact that many people are mystified by God’s hiddenness is itself an evil. But by Metcalf’s own assumption, all evils are justified, including this one! Therefore, any attempt to disprove that God has some good reason not to let everybody know the meaning of their trials is entirely vain. I’m done with this guy.
Well, Ok. Let’s be (very) charitable to Metcalf and suppose that he simply argues that in PA he has found an instance of unjustified / gratuitous evil:
1) Smith is undergoing suffering. Why won’t God stop it?
2) Smith is scandalized by the suffering. Why won’t God tell him the purpose of his ordeal?
3) Smith is upset that God is silent and apparently hiding. Why won’t God explain to him why He won’t speak?
Well, if God explained it, then He would not be silent anymore. So, the regress stops here.
There is no reason to believe that the particular evils (1)-(3) are not absorbed. The evil of the (perhaps temporary) failure to find meaning in one’s suffering is neither more nor less troublesome from the point of view of theism than any other evil, including the evil of the suffering itself, and therefore the standard theodicies apply to it.
For example, our author’s third objection to his own thesis, namely that “God wants us to figure things out for ourselves, such as that our suffering is justified, because that process of discovery would provide the opportunity for mental, emotional, and spiritual growth,” (334) deserves more attention than the cursory and unsatisfactory treatment given to it in the article.
The fourth objection, too, has merit: “For all we know, God has an unknown purpose for failing to bring about [more realization that all suffering is justified], a purpose that he can’t explain to us.” (334) Remember that when I elevated God the Son to the status of “central planner” in heaven / paradise, I justified it by the infinite complexity of the economic problem, since human lives are everlasting, to which only His own infinitude can rise. I pointed out that the reasons for Jesus’ decisions about our heavenly “curriculum” cannot even be understood by any creature, since we are finite yet His rule is eternal. Thus, God’s general purpose may actually be extremely well-known, such as to maximize human happiness from the beginning of man until kingdom come, yet the means to this laudable end could be exceedingly, even infinitely, intricate.
(Of course, God is no socialist tyrant: as St. Thomas writes, “God’s power is His goodness: hence He cannot use His power otherwise than well.” (ST, II-I, 2, 4, reply 1))
And so on.