About six months ago I wrote a critique of an argument forwarded by Justin Schieber which aimed to show that a perfect God would never create a world like ours. I offered a two-pronged rebuttal to Schieber’s argument. (Read the article at the link provided to get the summary.) Justin replied in the comment thread:
“Thanks for responding to the argument. Hopefully, I will find time tomorrow to offer a defense.”
Unfortunately Justin never provided that response. But his argument came up this morning in the discussion thread to “Atheism deserves better than the new atheists” when Jeff commented: “it’s very puzzling that a perfect God would indeed “choose” to create anything (this is the thrust of Justin Schieber’s argument about the problem of non-God objects).” (To be sure, Schieber didn’t simply argue that this was “puzzling”. He argued that a perfect God would not create the world. Since the world exists, no perfect God exists.)
So I replied to Jeff, noting that I’d provided a rebuttal to Schieber’s argument. Jeff then replied by summarizing my argument and challenging it:
“Your indirect rebuttal simply states that such an argument in and of itself shouldn’t compel a theist toward atheism. Ok, I take your point. But this doesn’t actually shed any light on why a perfect God would choose to create non-God objects.
“Your direct rebuttal uses an analogy of a “perfect” car museum one the one hand, compared with a “perfect” car museum + one rusty Camaro on the backlot, on the other hand. And your intuition is that both museums are “perfect.” I must confess I don’t share this intuition, and in any event, this still doesn’t actually shed any light on why a perfect God would choose to create non-God objects.”
While Jeff writes as if my indirect rebuttal is no great shakes, the fact is that it goes to the heart of Schieber’s argument by showing how it is nugatory for theists. That is, Schieber offers no reason for a theist to think a perfect God doesn’t exist. As for the direct rebuttal (for which you should really read the article) Jeff is reduced to saying we still don’t know why God created. But of course we don’t need to know why God created to know that God created.
But Jeff wanted to know why God created so I replied:
“As for knowing why God created, the answer is rather obvious: because he wanted to actualize this maximal state of affairs [i.e. this possible world].”
Jeff was not satisfied so he replied:
“So the answer to my question, “Why would a perfect God create anything?” is, “Look around: obviously he did, so obviously he wanted to!”
“I’m sorry that sounds flippant, but as I said, I’m not sure that I’m following you. Isn’t whether God created the cosmos the very question under consideration here?”
Actually no, it isn’t. The question Jeff was asking is why God created, not if God created. As he put it, “why a perfect God would choose to create non-God objects”? And I took it that the general question of why God created included the specific question of why God actualized this possible world.
So you see, along the way any pretense of an argument against God’s creating has evaporated like the morning dew, leaving us only with the question: “But why, if God did create, did he create this world rather than another?” That’s an interesting question, but it provides no defeater to the theist’s believing that God did create. And as a result, it is quite irrelevant to Schieber’s original argument.
Let’s put this in perspective. Imagine you’re at a backyard 4th of July party. Suddenly you notice that some joker placed the (full) beer keg on top of the garden shed. You know there is only one party guest physically capable of accomplishing that feat: Big John. So you conclude that Big John placed the beer keg on top of the garden shed. Imagine if somebody replied: “But why would Big John choose to put the keg on top of the garden shed?” That’s a good question, but we don’t need to answer that question before we can reasonably believe that Big John did put the keg on top of the garden shed. So it is foolish to think that not knowing why he did it is any reason to think he didn’t do it. Mutatis mutandis for the question of why God created.