Wednesday, October 3, 2007

... Interlude ... IS GOD GOOD?

I was just getting ready to write POST #9, when the discussion of my last post took a sharp turn. I am inviting comment on Jac’s contribution (which you can read by clicking here and scrolling down to the exchanges between Jac [“anonymous”] and myself). Jac raises a point which brings the whole matter of theodicy into question. Is it necessary to solve the riddle of how a good God who is also all-powerful can permit horrifying evil if we agree at the outset that the very same God perpetrates horrifying evils. To put it another way, why should anyone expect God to stop Hitler’s hand when God himself is on record killing innocent children in Egypt and Sodom, etc. If we start with a God who commits monstrous atrocities, does the Problem of Evil cease to exist as a problem. For the Problem of Evil begins with the assumption that God is good.

I have some ideas about how to deal with this legitimate question, but I would prefer to hear first from my readers. Please comment ...

10 comments:

psiloiordinary said...

Just to spice up the mix add a few other acts of god i.e. flood's, tsunami's, earthquakes, diseases etc. to that concept of a "good god" who is all powerful.

Cliff Martin said...

Welcome Psiloiordinary. (Sometime you've got to tell me about your blogger name.) Glad to have you here.

Of course! that is the essence of the classical "problem of evil". We have been and will be discussing natural evil and moral evil (see my posts #7 and #8). It is the specific acts against innocent humans which are attributed in the Bible to God's direct hand that we are wanting to discuss in this particular thread. I think you will agree this adds a particularly difficult twist for people of faith.

Steve Martin said...

Hi Cliff,
In some ways, maybe this question should come last since theodicy becomes more difficult when climbing the moral evil -> natural evil -> "evil acts of God" ladder. My fuzzy (possibly muddled) answer to #2 includes the "free process theodicy" we discussed before. #3 is even more difficult. In fact, this was one of the really big issues in the 1st few centuries of the church (why Marcion & his followers tried to throw out the old testament; why Manechism thrived as a rival to Christianity). My tentative answer (I *think* this might be where you are heading too - not sure) is in the concept of progressive revelation. God dealt with people where they were, and didn't necessarily try to take them the whole way all at once. (eg. instituted eye-for-an-eye policy in The Law since this was WAY better than the existing revenge policy that tended to escalate to wars; of course, Jesus extended this to "turn the other cheek"). Progressive revelation meant that a lot of "human bias" came through in the OT, and not just having to do with the science. I realize this is pretty slippery ground so I hesitate to articulate it too fully yet (even if I was able to).

Cliff Martin said...

Hi Steve,
You are right. In my mind, progressive revelation must play into this. And one option on the table is a less-than-precise handling of history in the earliest O.T. writings. But trying to sort that out, without loosing sight of the way Jesus related to the Old Testament gets tricky. And that's why I'm asking for help here. Thank you for your contribution. I appreciate your understanding of early church history. My knowledge of that is sketchy at best, so when you write about that, I'm all ears. I'm sure that you and I will discuss this further, and more deeply ... and I look forward to that.

Cliff Martin said...

For those driven with curiosity about Psiloiordinary's chosen blogger name, you can see his explanation by clicking here and scrolling down the comments to the one he posted this morning (October 4). Some of us are less inventive. I simply looked on my birth certificate for mine. While you are at Young Earth Creationists Anonymous, You can also read an interesting discussion we had regarding atheism, faith, shame, guilt, and other topics.

psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

I knew you had asked me about it somewhere ;-)

That shows the dangers of reading comments on RSS I suppose - its easy to cross posts by mistake. I will try to be answer questions on the relevant comments thread form now on.

Timothy said...

not sure where to leave this, I accedently left it on post 8, but I wanted it here...

I’m not sure how the following thoughts affect a theodicy, but they do reflect my personal views on the some of what is being discussed. When we look at historical accounts from the old testament scripture, it would seem to me that we are watching a God who is some how engaged in the affairs of man on a different level then we have experienced in the last couple thousand years of recorded history. We observe a God who is dealing with Man/Creation on a much more proactive level, It would seem that He is motivated to contain or diminish evil on earth. We see him warning of pending judgment, (in the Exidous story there is record of God attempting to issue some kind of warning, at least that has always been my chosen understanding of the events, we don’t know the whole story of what lengths God went to warn of judgment in the days of Noah, or Sodom) we see him choosing a race/nation as “his own” to guide and protect, we see him bending the laws of nature over and over, we see him interacting with man in a dialog over some of the very issues we discuss here (Abraham; “ will you save the city if there are 10 good”) In short I would have to say that there is a whole different paradigm in the whole way God’s Goodness is played out. I guess when you change that many “rules” about how God operates in the affairs of man, compared with today, it is hard to understand, but some how I don’t see that we are comparing apples to apples, am I out to lunch?

When we look at the great evils of our day both natural and moral, It is hard to see where people are given a fair shake, no warning, no opportunity to change, no dialogue, just… boom, now pick up the pieces. In some ways I wish that God would speak to us and say for example “ America you need to change your ways. Because you are making poor choices I am going to issue a last warning, please stop ignoring my laws, if you fail to do so I will wipe out New Orleans one month from now” but that isn’t the way it works, I guess. It seems that we are left on our own to make the connection?

How will Man responds when evil is dumped in his lap, that is the true test of humanity, how do we deal with the good the bad and the ugly, on a personal level. Some how I see God using this pattern as he deals with His creation today. Just some rather random thoughts, not trying to make any strong point really.

Timothy said...

I guess I wasn't finished, after reading again I do have a point to make or a question to ask. When we analyze God's motives, and way of operating, which has more weight; an ancient text which may or may not tell the whole story and which likely leaves out details that speak to God's motives, or more recent and well documented history coupled with our own experience and the experience of those around us. When it comes to OT troubling texts, I am pretty confident that I do not have the full picture, and therefore I have choose to give God the benefit of the doubt. I have to remember that the OT text, inspired though they may be, were most likely a human interpitation of the events, some times written down after years of being a oral tradition, least that is my perspective. They offer a inspired and keen look at Humanity and God interacting, however for me the do not represent the final authority on God's Nature.

Again, I'm not sure this informs your attempts at a Theodicy, but this is how I wrestle with the subject matter...

Cliff Martin said...

Great comments, Timothy. Your ideas help, and I think they do play into some of mine as well.

For others who are following this thread, Jac, offered further comments on this "interlude" under my Post #8. Click here and scroll down near the bottom of the comments.

After everyone who wishes to contrubute has had opporutnity, I will post a follow-up interlude with some of my own thoughts, and then move on to the next major post.

Thank you for your contributions.

Anonymous said...

...just wanted to say to all subscribers. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to think or to do theology. Be frank and honest- you will not go to jail if your opinion differs from Cliff's or anyone elses.
Nobody should have to feel they need to be validated by others because the God Spirit dwells in everyone of us equally. Plurality of thought and opinion is should be the benchmark of every FREE thinking person!!!
With that said i will comment as soon. Babe (my blog name)