As a righteous God, He had to judge rebellion—He judged sin with death spiritual and physical. God cursed the ground—the whole of creation now groans because of sin Genesis —19 , Romans — God has obviously withdrawn some of His sustaining power, so that He does not uphold everything together perfectly as was the case before the Fall. Now everything groans—tends to run down or fall apart. We actually live in a world where we have a taste of what life is like without God—mutations, death, suffering, evil, etc.
And really, everyone suffers—everyone will die physically, not just that dear baby. What happened to that baby will happen to every one of us unless the Lord returns before that time. This helped me answer a question a pastor asked me at a conference. God is a righteous God, and thus had to judge sin—but in reality, we sentenced ourselves to Hell eternal separation from God by our own actions. Because, when each of us was conceived, we were already condemned as sinners because we were children of Adam.
He stepped into human history to become a man so that He could pay the penalty for our sin. He conquered death through His Resurrection and offers us His free gift of salvation. The Fall, as recorded in Genesis, explains the origin of evil, death and suffering in this world and enables us to correctly place the blame on ourselves. Now, secondly, we need to reconcile how an all-powerful and all-loving God would allow evil, suffering and death like the death of that precious baby in this world.
If God is powerful enough to overcome evil, and if He is all-loving—surely He would want to do this? And he said unto him, Why do you call me good? There is none good but one, that is, God …. Jesus was challenging him to realize the implications of what he had said. The unbeliever does not, of course, accept that there is such a being. In order to use the argument from evil against the Christian worldview, he must first be able to show that his judgments about the existence of evil are meaningful—which is precisely what his unbelieving worldview is unable to do.
Now an unbeliever might still claim that the paradox of evil and an omnipotent, loving God exists within the Christian worldview where good and evil are real. However, there is a logical answer to this challenge. God certainly must be all-powerful in order to be God; He is not to be thought of as overwhelmed or stymied by evil in the universe. This is just to say that God has planned evil events for reasons which are morally commendable and good. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things. The events of the crucifixion were evil—but for a morally good purpose—the salvation of man. There are many other events in the Bible we can now look back upon and understand their morally good purpose. My thesis here is that there is a positive correlation among the following four variables, so that as one rises in degree the others necessarily rise proportionately:.
The capacity to enjoy intrinsic goodness or value. The capacity to suffer intrinsic evil or dis-value. The power of self-determination. The power to influence others for good or ill. Intrinsic value can be possessed only by individuals that experience, although this experience need not be self-reflexive or even conscious. According to the non-dualistic position which I accept but cannot defend here, there are no non-experiencing individuals which are mere objects. All individuals experience, which means that all individuals have some capacity, however minimal, to enjoy and to suffer, i.
This does not entail the extreme and totally unwarranted hypothesis that everything experiences. Aggregates of individuals do not experience e. Rocks, chairs, planets, typewriters, automobiles and probably plants are aggregates which as such have no experience; the only experiences contained in them are those of the individuals making them up. Examples of genuine individuals would be electrons, atoms, molecules, cells, and animal including human souls or psyches. This means that there is a hierarchy of individuals: less complex ones are compounded into more complex ones.
For example, electrons and other subatomic individuals are contained in an atom; atoms are contained in molecules; molecules in cells; and cells in living animals dominated by a central experience called the soul. The major difference between plants and animals is that the former do not seem to have one member that dominates over and coordinates the rest. The direction of the evolutionary process toward increasing complexity raises the question as to whether this directionality is explainable as a reflection of the creative purpose of God.
This would be the case if complexity could be correlated with something that a loving God would be interested in promoting. And this is precisely what we find: increased complexity of the organism seems to be the condition for increased richness of experience, hence of increased intrinsic goodness. But when we come to living cells, we are probably at the stage where significant degrees of enjoyment can first be experienced.
With animal souls, especially those supported by a central nervous system, we have another quantum jump in the capacity to experience value. Finally, the human soul is capable of enjoying all sorts of values not open to the souls of the lower animals. However, every increase in complexity in this hierarchy is Janus-faced: each increase in the capacity to enjoy intrinsic goodness is likewise an increase in the capacity to suffer. It probably does not make sense to speak of the capacity for pain below the level of the cell. And——to jump to the top——the human being is susceptible to all sorts of sufferings to which the lower animals are virtually oblivious.
My thesis is that this correlation between the capacity to enjoy and the capacity to suffer is a necessary, metaphysical correlation, inherent in the nature of things. That is, not without foregoing beings capable of the kinds of values we can experience. To have the good is necessarily to risk the chance of the bad.
Of course, there is nothing certain about this thesis. It is a speculative hypothesis. But——and this is often overlooked——the denial of the thesis is equally speculative. No one knows for certain that such a positive correlation does not necessarily exist. In fact, to deny that the correlation is necessary, i.
For, we know form our experience of this world that worlds in which the correlation obtains are really possible. But we have no experiential basis for knowing that a world in which the correlation would not obtain is even possible. And hopefully no one will maintain that this philosophical knowledge has been vouchsafed us by revelation.
My hypothesis is that the other variables rise proportionately with the first two, and with equal necessity.
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Individuals with greater capacity for the enjoyment of values necessarily have more power of self-determination, i. The idea of a being capable of rational thought who would always use this capacity to make the right decision is not a logically contradictory idea. Hence there is nothing contradictory in the idea that God could produce such a being. What is contradictory——given the hypothesis that all individuals have some power of self-determination——is that God could unilaterally produce such a being.
Electrons, atoms, and molecules have, according to the hypothesis, some degree of self-determinacy, and yet they seem to do pretty much what they are supposed to. To have creatures who can enjoy much more intrinsic good than can electrons, atoms, and molecules is necessarily to have creatures with much more power of self-determination with which to deviate from the divine will. Greater freedom is a necessary corollary of the possibility of higher value experiences. The correlation between this third variable and the second one the capacity to suffer helps illumine the reason for the extent and depth of human suffering.
Combining these two factors gives us an extraordinary capacity to make ourselves miserable. God did it because there was no choice——except the choice of calling off the evolutionary advance before beings of our complexity had emerged. The fourth variable explains the need for an evolutionary process in order to attain the kind of world we now have. This fourth variable says that those individuals with more intrinsic value for themselves also have more instrumental value to contribute to others.
For example, electrons and protons do not have as much intrinsic value as molecules. Accordingly they do not have sufficient data to contribute to support a living cell; the cell cold not emerge prior to the requisite atoms and molecules. Likewise an animal soul could not be supported by the data that can be derived from a large aggregate of atoms; a large aggregate of cells was required before the animal soul could emerge. From the perspective of my theological position, the fact that our world was evidently formed through a long, step-by-step process constitutes no refutation, even partially, of the hypothesis of divine creation.
Nor does it present theology with a probable fact that can only be handled by some ad hoc hypothesis. And it fits in perfectly with a set of principles that commend themselves on other grounds. The fourth variable also illuminates even further the reason this world is such a dangerous place, especially since human beings have arrived in it. Those beings with the greatest power of self-determination, and hence the greatest power to deviate from the divine will for the good of the whole, necessarily have the greatest power to influence others——for good or ill.
The capacity to create and the capacity to destroy go hand in hand. Again, this feature of our world was not ordained by God for some reason that God only knows. Rather, by hypothesis this is a feature that would necessarily obtain in any world; the principles correlating value and power are uncreated. Incidentally, they need not be conceived as metaphysical principles external to God. Rather, they can be thought of as belonging to the divine essence. Like divine omniscience and love, they can be considered principles that are neither the product of the divine will, nor contrary to it.
The Goodness of God. It is not to maintain that god is not responsible for any of the evil in the world. For, in a very real sense, God is responsible for all of those things that we normally think of when we refer to the problem of evil. For, if God had not persuaded the world to bring forth living cells and then animal life, there would be no significant suffering in the world. If God had not continued to draw the creation upward until creatures with the capacity for rational thought were evoked, there would be no moral evil, or sin, i.
Each situation contains seeds for good and evil. God by hypothesis seeks to lure the creatures to realize the greatest good that is possible in that particular situation. That is, the aim is first of all to produce good, not to avoid suffering. If the moral aim could be adequately expressed as the intention to avoid suffering, then moral adults would never have children——that would be the way to guarantee that they would never have children who would suffer or cause suffering.
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Analogously, a perfectly moral God would simply avoid bringing forth a world with any creatures capable of any significant degree of suffering. But——by hypothesis——this would mean that there would be no world with any significant value in it. Surely that cannot be our idea of what a perfectly moral being would do! The aim must be to create the conditions that allow for the great good while minimizing the evils.
In other words, suffering and sinful intentions resulting in suffering are not the only forms of evil.
Any absence of good that could have been realized is evil even if no suffering is involved. Hence, for God to have failed to bring forth beings capable of experiencing significant value when this was possible would have made God indictable. Unless, of course, the evils that were thereby made possible are so great that the goods that could be achieved are not worth the risk. That is a question that each of us can answer only for ourselves. Those of us who are among the most fortunate people who have ever lived on the face of the earth must of course be aware of our biased perspectives, and must be sensitive to the response that may come from the less fortunate.
But, even when trying to take into account my biased perspective, I cannot imagine that I would ever conclude that the evils of life have been so great that it would have been better had life never emerged, or that the evils of human life, as horrendous as they have been and quite possibly the worse is still to come! There is one other theological conviction that reinforces my judgment on this matter. This is the conviction that God shares all our sufferings analogously to the way that I share the pains of my bodily members.
Accordingly, while every advance in the creative process has been a risk, since greater sufferings were thereby made possible as well as greater goods, this has never been a risk which God has urged us creatures to run alone. It has always been a risk for God too. In fact God is the only being who has experienced every single evil that has occurred in the creation.
This means that God is the one being in position to judge whether the goods achievable have been worth the price. Natural Evil. And it is this form of evil that most theodicies find most problematical. I call it a hybrid free-will defense because it does not say that freedom is inherent in the world as such, but instead says that God voluntarily bestows freedom upon the creation——and usually only to a select portion of creation, i.
One way out is to say with Augustine that no genuine evil ever results from sub-human causes. But in the face of the enormous and non-rationalizable distribution of sufferings caused by tornadoes, earthquakes, droughts, germs, and cancer cells, this is a difficult assertion to make. Another way out is to affirm that all such evils are caused by a fallen angel Satan. This is, of course, not readily falsifiable, but it does strain credulity for me, at least, much more than the hypothesis that all creatures have some power of their own.
According to my theodicy, all creatures great and small have some power with which to deviate from the divine will for them. Granted, very low-grade actualities cannot be thought to deviate very much from the divine aims for them.
But over a period of billions of years very slight deviations occurring in each moment can add up to a state of the world that is very far removed from the state that would have results had the divine aims been actualized all the way along. Why Does God Not. Why did God allow all the pain that occurred in the evolutionary process? The answer to questions of this type will be more evident to us if we think in terms of the way God can affect the following three types of entities: 1 low-grade enduring individuals; 2 high-grade enduring individuals; 3 aggregates of individuals.
You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!
For the sake of simplicity I have left out the whole spectrum of medium-grade individuals, from the lowest animals through the non-human primates. These three types of entities differ from each other in having 1 very little power of self-determination, 2 very great power of self-determination, and 3 no power of self-determination, respectively. Low-grade enduring individuals, such as electrons, atoms, molecules, having very little power of self-determination, and not having many real possibilities open to them, cannot change their behavior very quickly.
Individuals at this level are largely the products of their inheritance and their environment. They essentially repeat the same patterns of behavior, century after century. Even as we move into the medium-grade level, with living cells, the capacity for novel self-determining behavior is very limited, compared with that of human beings. The theological significance of this discussion is this: on the one hand, these low-grade individuals cannot deviate very much from the divine aims for them.
On the other hand, the divine aims for them, since they can only be for possibilities that are real possibilities for these low-grade creatures, cannot be aims for very radical changes in behavior. Insofar as God can move these individuals to change their ways, it must be over a very long period of time.
This is why evolutionary change occurred so gradually until relatively recently on earth. Accordingly, if the behavior of one or more of these individuals is causing destruction in its environment, God cannot do much quickly to change things. For example, if you have been exposed to radio-active materials, God cannot divert the alpha, beta, and gamma particles out of your body before they have done irreversible damage. If cancerous cells have developed in your body, God cannot lure them to leave voluntarily.
These individuals have much power of self-determination, and have many more real possibilities open to them than do the lower creatures. Hence, very rapid changes of behavior can occur with them. But on the other hand, these creatures have tremendous power with which to deviate from the divine aims for them, and they can deviate much more widely than can lower individuals.
Thus far I have been speaking of individuals. Most of these are compound individuals in which a number of individuals are ordered hierarchically, with one dominant member giving a unity of experience and activity to the whole society. The atom, the molecule, and the cell all have a unity of activity due to this hierarchical organization. Likewise the animal, by virtue of the dominating influence of its soul, has a unity of response to its environment.
They are mere aggregates. Non-living things such as rocks, bodies of water, planets, automobiles, and timbers are obvious examples. Plants also probably have no dominant member, no soul. In any case, those things which are aggregates cannot, as aggregates, be directly affects by God.
You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation!
Since God acts by seeking to persuade individuals, and there is by definition dominating the other members of an aggregate, God cannot directly get an aggregate to do anything. God can move a living human body by persuading the soul to move; if the soul decides to cross the street, the rest of the body has little choice but to go along assuming a healthy body.
But there is no corresponding means by which God can directly move a rock——or get it to stop moving down the ban towards the highway. There is no way God can stop the automobile with a sleeping driver from crashing into the oncoming cars. There is no way God can prevent that aggregate of molecules called a hurricane from devastating the towns in its paths. In the earlier part of the paper I stressed what God has been doing in the world, by way of creating the conditions for good.
With more space, I would describe some of the ways in which God seeks to overcome evil in the world. This brief analysis of these limitations leads to the following three-fold conclusion:. Those things which cannot deviate much from the divine will also cannot be influenced by God very quickly. Those things which can be influence by God quickly can deviate drastically from the divine will.
Those things which can do nothing on their own cannot be directly influenced by God at all. I could not, of course, in the brief space of this essay hope to justify the wide-ranging hypothesis outlined here. But I do hope that readers find the hypothesis potentially helpful enough to consider it worthy of further exploration. It including variations on it is the only hypothesis I have found that makes faith possible in the face of the horrendous evils that occur in our world. Faith, Reason, and Theodicy. The foregoing completes the sketch of my substantive theodicy.
However, a theodicy is only one part of a complete theology. The differences between theodicies are closely correlated with different understandings of the total theological task. The central theme running through the following points is that I reject all views according to which faith is somehow opposed to reason. Theologians, to defend the rationality of some doctrine, need only present some hypothesis, however improbable, that shows the doctrine might be true. I reject this view.
The theological task as I see it is to present a view of reality that seems more probable than other available views. For example, it was never shouted down from heaven, or even whispered, that God is triune, or that the world was created out of nothing, or that God is omnipotent, or that God is perfect love. Each of these doctrines arose in the past as fallible human beings, guided but not controlled by the divine spirit, tried to express their understanding of God in the most adequate way possible, given their contexts, including their questions, their knowledge of the world, and the conceptual tools available to them.
Our theological task today is not to try to hold on to their formulations at any price, but to re-think the implications of the Christian revelatory events in the light of our contexts——our questions, our knowledge, and our conceptual tools. Some dimension of experience or part of reality is taken as the essential clue to the nature of the whole. Faith in the Christian revelation gives Christian theologians a starting-point for their reasoning that is analogous to the starting-points accepted on faith by theologians of other persuasions.