Friday, June 02, 2006

Reflections on the Problem of Evil

Theodicy is the study of Divine Justice, or, as many philosophers like to term it "If God is all good, why do bad things happen?"....that is...why is there evil in the world.

Theologically there are 2 Traditions, the tradition of Iranaeus, and the tradition of St Augustine.

St Iranaeus says that evil is in the world so that we can become more matured beings, that the conflict between good and evil is a training ground for virtue. This solves the problem of existence of evil being necessary so that we can have a redeemer to come and redeem our sins. However, it seems to place the blame of evil on God...and we wouldn't want to do that as theologians.

The second is the much more exhaustive and reasonable (in my humble opinion) theory of St Augustine. St Augustine, being the Platonist that he is, states that there are two types of evil, moral evil and "natural evil". I will explain "natural evil" first. "Natural evil" is in quote because St Augustine says that "natural evil" does not exist at all, it's simply a perception of the world due to the clouding of sin on the soul. An earthquake would happen whether sin entered the world or not, but sin changed our perception. What would have been seen in a sinless world as the natural, necessary occurances is sin in a sinful world as painful and evil (not to mention the idea that pain and suffering are seen to be evils in and of themselves as well). Therefore, natural evil such as natural disasters is simply a way of talking.

This leads us to the principle of plenitude which thus leads us to moral evil. The principle of plenitude states that the best possible world is the fullest possible world, that is, the reality with the most existence in it is the best world and God would create that world.

Thus the world we live in is the fullest possible world. It is obvious that free will is part of this fullest possible world. It is a better universe in which a rational being has free will then a universe in which a rational being does not have free will. Every single event that has happened in history could happen in a world without free will, but, according to St Augustine, free will is obviously a good thing and thus is in this world.

If there's free will in the world, then there is the ability to choose. To choose means one has at least two things to choose from. The most basic choice in the state of theology is to choose God or not to choose God. In the end, that is where all our actions lead us. Are my actions towards the end of God or towards a selfish end and counter to the Divine Goodness? That is the basis of moral activity.

Now St Augustine has a problem. If existence is a positive attribute, then how can evil actually exist? That would mean that there would be good in evil, which is contrary to reason, evil is the total absence of good. St Augustine pulls a neat little trick. He states that evil is a privation of the good, that the good is what ought to be in existence but it has been deprived of its fullness. Another simple way to define moral evil is that which is not good. It is a lack of goodness.

The problem here though, I have just thought about, is that if evil does not exist, then there is no evil for Christ to redeem. St Augustine's theodic theory is missing one thing, the ability to affirm the existence of evil without changing its total negative attribute.

This is purely speculation, but I propose that sin and evil is not a negation, but a twisting of the truth, of the good. It is a false perception and use of that which is intrinsically good. The most basic example is free will. Free will is good intrinsically, however, it is seen as evil when it goes counter to its purpose. Thus, a choice would have eternal consequences if all choices are rooted towards or against God. Thus, if Adam and Eve sinned, there is an eternal consequence for the choice they made. The rock of a choice has been thrown into the pond of eternal consequences. Thus, could it be said that Christ's redemption is that which re-orientates us towards the good? Perhaps evil doesn't have to have an ontological and metaphysical basis in reality. Perhaps it doesn't really need to exist, but is simply a privation of the good. Christ's redemptive act is that which gives us the ability, on an eternal and infinite level (since our choices are rooted in God and God is infinite), to choose towards the good again. Christ's redemption does save us.

Original sin is something that is eternal and infinite in that it is an eternal and infinite rebellion against God. Christ's redemption is also eternal and infinite and gives us the ability to re-orientate ourselves back towards the good on a complete basis. Thus the need for grace in our lives throughout the history of mankind.

If you have any comments on this, I'd greatly appreciate this.



Anonymous said...

what! no comment on my time machine post! oh DEAR

Moneybags said...

Just wanted to say this was beautifully and simply explained better than I could have ever hoped. You did a tremendous job on this post.

Rev. Joseph G. Steadman said...

The intended influential nature , which is called ‘evil'
For it is impossible for a natural being to grasp even the most elementary of the super-natural laws, because there are no constructs of understanding to which it can relate. Extreme pressures applied to the known laws, do thereby nullify them, resulting in an incomprehensible application of influence by super-natural which supercedes the function of the natural, until there are no longer any known relationships to point too, ‘as being natural’ resulting in that no longer be perceived, ‘as natural’, but super-natural.

Beyond the natural, are thinly veiled but perceivable realities, where the monumental events of beings of awe, and wonder do express themselves! Creatures obscured of unbelievable nature, a ‘super-natural nature’ observing, influencing and intervening into the very fabric of the natural world. Guiding the course of man’s nature to, a being which knows the nature of the unseen i.e. ‘The Super -Natural’- 'the super position of spirit from all living things' where the only source of infinite power and understanding of all that is,is. Within the Super-verse, is teeming with all of its multi-layered pan-dimensional realities of Life.

The intended influential nature of that, which is called ‘evil’, is by design, pervasive throughout the formation of the ‘natural hu-man psyche’, where an ‘inherent void’ is formed in its genesis, which must be nurtured and reared within the confines of the natural laws, to its eventual transcendent maturity. Therefore without the necessary ability to comprehend what is occurring within the mind, man responds in the only way he could, with fear, doubt, ‘confusion’, and dismay.

Fearing that which he did not understand through any prior exposure. The traducer through those inherent qualities of the hu-man psyche i.e. consciousness, intention, and emotion became reactionary in its relationship to the truth, therefore twisting it to be conform to the now perceived natural laws, which caused the man to question his very origin, and validity, therefore questioning the very foundation upon which he was formed and instructed.

He then began to believe in the twisting of the super natural laws, into natural, which prior, he had been eternally accustomed, as he experiences the natural laws, they began to debase him into a lowly carnal creature, and then from that point on, the hu-man physic began to relate to his environment through this newly gestated evil of fear, and doubt. At this onset in this dulled and unfamiliar environment, he began to function as a physical being, disregarding his super-natural origin, conversely behaving ‘as’ a mere hu-man creature.

As the indulgences of his hu-man desire began overwhelmed his super-nature, bit-by-bit, and now day-by-day, until he will subsequently loose the ability to converse with the super-natural, all together. From then on he has become the self-determinating factor within his natural plane, he suspends it by the acceptance of the substances of low energies i.e. particulate and wave, being his interpretive interaction.

Which causes him to process his surrounding environment as being reality, when it is a perception of fear through what he now sees as reality. Thereby building for his mind ‘a cognitive prison’ which is so believably strong that there are no means by which he can break free from it with his adherence to his acceptance of natural surroundings.

The Rev.

Diego said...

Free will is used wise if it is used for the sake of our neighbor or for the greater glory of our Saviour, and that is true freedom. :)

GodBless!!! :)