Avengers: Endgame, Middle Knowledge, & the Destruction of the Problem of Evil

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

April 28, 2019

Spoiler Alert! Spoiler Alert!! Spoiler Alert!!!

Seriously, if you have not yet seen the movie Avengers: Endgame, stop reading this and go to the movie theater and buy a ticket! Then come back and read this article. Consider yourself warned!


One year ago, immediately after watching Avengers: Infinity War on opening night, I came home and started writing an article assessing one of the best movies I had ever seen (See Avengers: Infinity War & Possible Worlds). I also made some predictions about what I expected might happen in the next installment of The Avengers series! I noted that if my predictions were correct, then Christians have an awesome illustration defeating the most common objection raised against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5) — the Problem of Evil.

The problem of evil (also known as the problem of suffering), in my experience, is by far the greatest reason atheists and agnostics offer for their lack of belief (See Neil deGrasse Tyson, for example). In a nutshell, the problem of evil/suffering comes down to this: Why would a perfectly good, loving, and all powerful God allow so much pain, evil, and suffering in the world? Since many cannot make sense of this, they often either get mad at God and resent Him, or they simply abandon their faith altogether and become atheists.

Avengers Assemble!

Avengers: Endgame, however, provides Christians an awesome opportunity to help the non-Christian who struggles with evil and suffering, see that this problem is really no problem at all. It helps that my predictions were vindicated as well.

Doctor Strange used the time stone to not merely look forward into the future to see what WILL happen, but to evaluate over 14,000,000 “alternate futures” (otherwise known as “possible worlds”) to see what “WOULD happen IF.” Doctor Strange is doing this because although it is not logically impossible for the Avengers to defeat Thanos (of course that COULD happen), he wants to see if there is a possible world that could be actualized (what philosophers and theologians describe as a “feasible world”) in which the Avengers actually would defeat Thanos!

Doctor Strange explains that he examined over 14 million possible alternate futures, but out of the multi-millions of possible worlds surveyed, he knows of only one in which the good guys actually defeat Thanos in the end. One in 14 million is typically thought of as “horrible odds.”

Many thought the ending of Infinity War was one of despair. I, however, was filled with hope. As I predicted last year:

“[M]y guess was that these “alternate futures” are not merely based on chance alone, and that Doctor Strange gained knowledge of how all of these super heroes and villains would freely choose in each of the millions and millions of possible worlds he examined. Possessing this knowledge of how these free super-powered persons would freely choose in each of these possible futures (similar to what theologians refer to as “middle knowledge“), I would venture that Strange freely chose himself — and did everything in his power — to make the possible world in which the good guys would win the actual world in which the good guys will win.”

I was right!

As we see in Endgame, this “best feasible world” according to the economy of Doctor Strange, is the one in which the greatest number of persons flourish and the evil of Thanos is eventually conquered. As Strange tells Stark, “If I tell you what will happen, it won’t happen!” Be that as it may, this particular world is also filled with temporary, but extreme amounts of pain, evil, sadness, and suffering before the ultimate good can be realized.

Is Doctor Strange seen as evil for ensuring this possible future/world became the actual future/world? Not at all. In fact, the entire theater cheered for him and recognized him as the savior of the Marvel Universe! As Bruce Banner exclaims: “He must’ve done it for a reason!” Even though Strange created a reality with so much pain and suffering, it is clear that he created the best feasible world after accounting for all the thoughts and actions of all the free agents — both heroes and villains. Why, then, if Strange is a hero, should anyone think anything less of God —  the savior of the actual universe?

God should be praised!

God actualized and created the best of all feasible worlds. Perhaps this world is the one in which the greatest number of creatures in the image of God freely choose to respond to God’s love and grace and also freely choose to love God and all people eternally into the infinite future. That is to say, this world, suffused with horrible — but temporary — evil and suffering, is also the same world where the greatest number of humans flourish for eternity.

As I previously noted:

 “Doctor Strange had the big picture in mind and made his choice allowing limited evil to ultimately defeat evil. God has eternity in mind and made His choice allowing limited evil to ultimately destroy evil into the infinite future.

God is the Hero of the universe and should be praised!”

Conclusion

Although I do not think Avengers: Endgame is perfect, I do think it might be my favorite movie of all time. Over the past year I have consistently affirmed that Infinity War just might be the best movie ever made. Endgame was a glorious three hour ending to Infinity War and any movie that solves the so-called “Problem of Evil” deserves two big thumbs up![1]

Bottom Line: If one sees Doctor Strange as a hero, then he or she should not see the “Problem of Evil” as a problem at all.

Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),

Tim Stratton


Notes

*Image created by Suzanne & Russ Stratton (thank you, Mom & Dad)!

[1] I recently offered a logical argument deductively demonstrating why a perfect God would allow evil and suffering. Premise 3.2 assumes the “Doctor Strange analogy” discussed above. Please see the syllogism below and please read “A God Problem” in the New York Times for further explanation:

1 – If God is omnibenevolent, then he desires genuine eternal love relations with humans.

2 – If God desires genuine eternal love relations with humans, then he creates humans with libertarian freedom (because):

2.1 – A genuine eternal love relationship between God and humans necessarily requires that humans possess libertarian freedom.

3 – If God creates humans with libertarian freedom, then he allows humans to experience suffering (because):

3.1 – Suffering can result from libertarian free humans.

3.2 – God created a world in which he knew that unless he permitted natural evil, some would not freely choose to eternally preserve the suffering-free state of affairs in the new heavens and new earth (2 Cor. 4:17). 

4 – God is omnibenevolent.

5 – Therefore, God (since he is omnibenevolent) allows humans to experience suffering.

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim is currently enrolled at North-West University pursuing his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics, history, and biblical data.

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