Sunday, October 21, 2007

POST #10: Theodicy, a New Approach (Part Two)

In this post, I briefly describe some personal conclusions as to how entropy relates to evil, and thus to theodicy. This post is the most significant of any of my posts to date, and lays a groundwork for many future posts. To my knowledge, these ideas have not been widely tested. I invite you to offer a response, or to question these ideas, and I hope you will do so.

As typical Christian theology would have it, God created a pristine universe and world. From there, story usually goes something like this: at a point in time, evil invades the scene, and corrupts the cosmos, necessitating corrective actions by the Creator, which in turn leads to a judgment of evil at the end of the age. As we bring together current understandings of entropy with Biblical truths, the possibility of a quite different picture begins to emerge.

In part one of this post, we traveled to the end of time, and established a linkage between the fates of evil and entropy in this cosmos. We suggested that this linkage may help us to understand the purposes of a Creator who intentionally created an entropic cosmos, even though it is clear that he considered entropy a provisional aspect of his creation, one from which he hoped (divine hope, of course, is more like certainty!) it would be delivered (Romans 8:18-23). Now I invite you to journey back with me to the dawn of time.

From the still resounding echos of creation (including cosmic microwave background radiation), physicists are today able to piece together a remarkable amount of information about the first second of cosmic history. For example, we are told that entropy began at 10 to the power of -43 seconds after the big bang (for non-math majors, this is an extremely small fraction of a second). For our purposes, we could simply say that God created the cosmos to be entropic at its very outset.

Why would the Creator intentionally subject his new creation to a physical law of decay and death? If the entropic cosmos is as we described in Post #4 , driven at every level by a principle of death and decay, why would a God of Life choose to create a cosmos governed by the law entropy from the very beginning? Why would he build into creation the seeds of its own demise, such that all creation would groan in pain, experience frustration, be bound to decay; and then express that his will from the beginning was to see it delivered from its inevitable entropic end? Considering the linkage between entropy and evil, can we not reasonably deduce that God created this cosmos as he did because of evil, in response to evil, as a way of dealing with evil?

This deduction would suggest that the rebellion of Lucifer and his expulsion from heaven occurred prior to, or commensurate with the Creation Moment, and that this cosmos, driven by death and decay would have been created to house him, and ultimately destroy him and the evil that arose within him. In this scenario, this cosmos would be God’s response to evil, and his plan to contain it and bring it to a final end.

Of the ultimate origin of evil, how it came to express itself in Lucifer, we can say nothing. This occurred outside of our cosmos, outside of our space/time dimensions, and must remain a mystery. But if we can deduce from the time line of entropy that the entire cosmos is in some way a response to evil, a complete paradigm shift ensues. The ramifications of such an understanding profoundly impact our understanding of the purpose of creation, the purpose of man, the role of evolution, the role of suffering, and, germane to our present discussion, the problem of evil. It effectively resets the table for the theodicy discussion.

The underlying presumption of Free Will theodicy, the most commonly advanced Christian solution to evil’s riddle, is that man was created by God to glorify him, to obey him and enter into fellowship with him. I have always loved that oft-quoted Westminster Shorter Catechism which suggests that the chief purpose of man is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” But this presumption is, in part, responsible for the difficulty of resolving the problem of evil. C.S. Lewis suggests that the persistent existence of evil is a price God considers “worth paying” for free will. But what if the ultimate prize was not having free will spirit beings choose to love their Creator? What if, instead, the prize was the ultimate destruction of evil? And what if the true purpose of man is to co-venture with God in the pursuit of this prize?

We might then see all expressions of evil in a different light. If, in the interplay of spiritual and natural process, it is necessary to let evil run its own course, to be overcome by goodness rather than subdued by a greater power, we could surmise that God’s hand must be restrained. Yes, he allows evil to persist. But the prize is not free will. The prize is evil’s complete undoing. This turns the whole theodicy issue upside down. If it is true that evil must be allowed full expression, and that it must ultimately be overcome not by force, but by the greater power of goodness, we can then begin to see that the best thing a good God can do is to let evil run its course. Of course, we must deal with the fact that evil claims millions of innocent victims in full view of God. But as we will see in a future post, the experience of even these victims of evil is cast in an entirely new light when their sufferings are viewed as a part of the necessary process of destroying the cause of all suffering.

All theories begin with a presumption. Mine begins with this one: evil has posed a more difficult problem for God than we have allowed ourselves to imagine. This will undoubtedly be a troubling concept for many. Christians might find it unthinkable that an omnipotent God could find any task “difficult”. But I am asking you to consider the following possibilities, and to respond with your comments.

I am suggesting that all of Creation exists as God’s answer to evil. I am suggesting that the purpose of God in creating the cosmos was to house and ultimately destroy evil. I am suggesting that God knew from the beginning that evil could not be dealt a final death blow without much suffering under its hand. I am suggesting that God is asking all of Creation to join in paying this price. I am suggesting that, from the beginning, God knew that he would lead the way in suffering, that no one would suffer more. But I am suggesting that even the sufferings of Christ would be incomplete; that the price of evil’s ultimate undoing would include the sufferings of many innocent victims. (The Biblical theme of non-resistance overcoming evil in the end plays into this scenario.)

In fact, many of these suggestions have strong Biblical support. Some have inferential support. But I will not be building the Biblical case for these concepts in this post as 1) this post is already too long! and 2) I would like to hear first from my readers.

I want to finish this post by reemphasizing what I am not saying. I am not saying that entropy is evil. I am suggesting that it is a piece of God’s plan to annihilate evil. And as such it is good. Genesis 1 tells us that God was pleased with every step of his creative work. Five times we read his assessment: “God saw that is was good.” I understand that God’s inclusion of death and decay in his original blueprint was provisional, but purposeful, and that it suited his plans perfectly. (It does appear from Scripture that entropy, death and decay, are tools available to the forces of evil ... that death itself is under the controlling influence of evil in the person of Satan.)

I am not promoting a new brand of dualism, in which good and evil are locked into an eternal “balance of power”. I am not saying that the power of evil is equal to the power of God. Evil, together with death and decay, will be vanquished. Its doom is certain. I am suggesting that the manner in which evil must be dealt with is far more complex and involved than we have thought. I am suggesting that the demise of evil has so far been a 13.7 billion year process, one that we cannot yet fully understand. And I am suggesting that all the out-workings of evil in this cosmos are a necessary part of its ultimate undoing.

Please comment.

21 comments:

Steve Martin said...

Hi Cliff,

When you say ...
Considering the linkage between entropy and evil, can we not reasonably deduce that God created this cosmos as he did because of evil, in response to evil, as a way of dealing with evil?

are you implying that the cosmos (and thus humanity) may not have been created at all if evil did not pre-exist? ie. Our purpose, as part of God's plan, is to play a part in the erradication of evil. Therefore if evil had not existed, there would be no purpose for humanity. (Maybe you aren't saying this, and are simply saying that creation would have been different had there never been evil).

Cliff Martin said...

Steve,

Good question. If my suppositions are correct, they would imply that all humanity, together with the entire cosmos, was created as part of a divine scheme to annihilate evil. This means that evil did not simply adjust some pre-existing plan of God, rather, it was the impetus for this Creation. Thus, you might infer that, apart from evil’s existence, we might not have been created. But that is going far beyond any thoughts I’ve had about the “pre-cosmos” mind of God.

It is clear, from the Scriptures, that God’s interest in mankind goes beyond our potential “usefulness” to any plan of his. Under my scenario, the impetus for the creation of man might seem coldly utilitarian. But God is, in his very essence, love. Thus, he interacts with his creation, and with mankind, in ways that clearly go beyond merely employing us for his purposes.

But on the other hand if we are true co-laborers with God, deeply involved in a drama of cosmic proportions as vital participants, this would provide a basis for camaraderie and relationship with God which (to me, at least) is greater than any provided by standard Christian theology (in which we are largely acted upon instead of acting with).

Vance said...

Hi Cliff,
Although I would have to say that I am relatively comfortable with free will theodicy I found your posts interesting and stimulating. I have wondered a few times when reading Genesis 1 how God almost seems a little surprised when what He created is good. This provides a glimmer of support for your hypothesis. Also in the garden I think people tend to miss that the forbidden tree is the knowledge of good and evil, not good and evil itself—suggesting an existence for evil before the fall. On the other hand Genesis 3:1 makes sure that the reader knows that God made the serpent. Other thoughts--the category of “natural evil” makes very little sense to me. If a supernova occurs 10 light years away and sterilizes earth, that is a bad thing for us, but it doesn’t feel evil to me. An exposing star is just following physics—it has no intent.

While you are careful to state that you are not proposing dualism, something coexistent with the un-created God, albeit weaker, still has that feel to it. Not that I think dualism is heresy, but just from a taxonomical sense it seems to fit there.

Cliff Martin said...

Vance,

You write “the category of 'natural evil' makes very little sense to me” because there is no apparent malevolent intent in natural evil. Good point. However, one of the dictionary definitions of evil is “something that is harmful or undesirable”. Not all evils are driven by intent.

But this gets to the core of a presumption of theodicy which I am calling into question. The presumption is that God is directly responsible for all events in his cosmos. He would thus be to blame for your supernova, and its trail of destruction. The intent would be his. I am suggesting (and from your comment, I presume you agree) that God’s hands are, for the most part, off. There is a history in the cosmos which is being allowed to play itself out without a lot of divine manipulation.

Re. your comments on dualism: yes, dualism can be defined broadly enough to include my proposal. But I do not see evil as “coexisting” with God in any eternal sense. It does seem that God has arranged reality to include the possibility of evil. But my ideas are built upon the premise that when evil did manifest itself, God set out immediately to destroy it.

elbogz said...

There should be a prerequisite in order to blog about the laws of thermodynamics; one must sit though at least one semester of collegiate thermo, with the grouchiest professor in the Engineering College. Humor aside….

The second law of thermodynamics, which gets unfairly tossed into the arena, really just states that, the cup of coffee in front of you is going to go from being hot, to being cold, unless you add energy to the process. It gives you reasonable tools to predict the speed of such an event, and it will tell you that the coffee will never go from being cold, to hot, unless you add energy.

To take this law of thermodynamics and toss it into this debate, one is required to make assumptions that just aren’t true. To state that somehow the universe is in a state of ever increasing entropy is not a valid statement. As long as there are nuclear reactors, we call suns, and chemical reaction and strong and weak atomic forces, an magnetic and electrical energies, the assumption that entropy is increasing is not valid.

Cliff Martin said...

Elbogz,

Sounds like you slept through that grouchy professor’s lecture on entropy! Of course entropy is increasing. The sun is not going to last forever.

The very definition of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is that entropy is constantly increasing!

From the Wikipedia article on the 2nd Law: The second law of thermodynamics is an expression of the universal law of increasing entropy, stating that the entropy of an isolated system which is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.

And from the Wikipedia article on Entropy: ... a finite universe may be considered an isolated system. As such, it may be subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, so that its total entropy is constantly increasing.

Of course, if you mean that for the next several billion years the Sun will go on bathing our planet with constantly renewing energy, so that we can reheat our cup of coffee as many times as we wish for a several million generations to come, you are quite correct. My point has nothing to do with how long the process entropy will take to complete its course. I do discuss theories about that length of time in my post on “Entropy, the Concept”, but it has no bearing upon my point. Did you understand my point?

elbogz said...

Yes as a matter of fact I did sleep though a number of thermodynamics lectures.

I do concede that at this point in time the cup of coffee is hot, and is still being heated, and in sometime in the future, the cup will eventually go cold. But somehow, I think you are mixing finite systems with systems infinite systems, when you consider the earth as we know it so far and our predictions of what happens next.

The earth, in its first 4.5 billion years, is not a “system” where entropy is increasing. In fact, I’m not in belief that the universe is a “system” where entropy is increasing. If it were, then explain why we seem to be accelerating? If it were, explain the birth of a child from an egg and a sperm.

My point being is that you can not look at mankind, animals, earth, or most of our visible universe, and say that these are systems where entropy is increasing. We simply don’t know enough to account for all the energy in the universe, and to know if all we see is all there is.

The laws of thermodynamics were never proven, they were only observed. The observation was limited to small isolated systems. You can not, though the tools of mathematics derive the laws of thermo. They are an observed event only.

So perhaps, when we say the laws predict this or prohibit that, one needs to go back to how the laws were derived in the first place.

Cliff Martin said...

Elbogz,

This discussion is tangential to my thesis, and I do not understand what you are driving at. I am not using entropy in the fallacious way Creationists use it. Is this what you are thinking? Of course, the earth is not a closed system. Read my earlier posts!

It is true: entropy is unproven. So is the theory of gravity. So is relativity. So is the Big Bang. So is evolution. So are Newton’s laws of motion. Etc., etc. That does not make them any less credible. If entropy is as dubious as you suggest, why did Einstein refer to it as “the first law of all sciences.”

Rather than debating me about the particulars of a long accepted fundamental law of physics, why don’t you read my posts, and respond to my thesis?

Anonymous said...

Cliff,

I agree with Vance that your proposal has a “dualism feel” to it. If God is all powerful, then He must have the power to defeat evil at any time, regardless of the level of difficulty. If this is true, then your proposal suggests to me that God has chosen to include His creation (us included) in the battle against evil – to suffer and die – even though it wasn’t necessary. That seems cruel. On the other hand, if God cannot defeat evil unless it is first subjected to whatever this creation can do to it, then God’s omnipotence is somehow diminished. For me, God can defeat evil at any time and doesn’t need the assistance of creation, so your proposal is less satisfying to me than the Free will theodicy. At least with Free Will, there is a reason for God permitting evil to exist for a while (even if the price seems too high to us). With your proposal, the suffering and death of creation is completely unnecessary.

I do agree with your conclusion “the purpose of an entropic creation is related to evil, and to evil’s ultimate demise”, but I see the Free Will/Free Process Theodicy fitting with this conclusion. For there to be free will, there needed to be a place where evil could exist, since evil cannot be in God’s presence. So God created a place where both He and evil could share the same space, the entropic creation. When this creation has served its purpose, it will cease and along with it, evil. But the purpose of creation was not the destruction of evil, since an omnipotent God could have destroyed evil at anytime. So there must be a higher purpose for creation. There must be a reason God is permitting evil to exist for a period of time. For now, I can only conclude that Free Will is the reason.

Jac

Cliff Martin said...

Jac,

Thank you for your well-reasoned comments.

I have not shared the difficulty you feel with the notion that evil, while not impossible for the omnipotent God to destroy, may have required much more of a process than we have thought. Maybe he could destroy evil in an instant, only to see it crop up again ... but that the processes of this cosmos and its raging battle will ultimately ensure that it never rises again. This is conjecture, of course. But the concept that evil is a difficult, or costly problem for God does not strike against his power, in my mind.

You write “If God is all powerful, then He must have the power to defeat evil at any time”, but that is the very deduction that I am asking you to reconsider. Your premise underlies the entire problem of evil and creates the theodicy problem. How do we know your statement is true?

“Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” God asks Abraham. And we all agree, the answer is a resounding “No”. But does that mean that everything is easy for him? That he needs never expend all his energy and resources on a task, because he is so all powerful that nothing poses a meaningful challenge? How do we know this?

For me, there is no question about it: God can destroy evil. But the presumption that everything is easy for him is what I am openly questioning.

We are told in 1 John that the purpose of Jesus coming and manifesting on the the earth was to destroy the works of the devil, to destroy evil. Did he fail? Or is he playing a game of cat and mouse? If his purpose was to destroy evil, and if it would have been as simple as you suggest, why is evil still thriving 2000 years later? Perhaps, as I believe, his purpose is, even now, being fulfilled in and though the people of faith in the best possible way; in a way that makes angelic hosts marvel at his multifaceted wisdom (Ephesians 3:10).

You object to my view because you believe it implies that God is toying with evil, and that makes him into a cruel God inflicting innocents on the way to a goal he could have achieved in a heartbeat. You objection only holds true if we agree with your premise that evil’s destruction is a walk in the park for God. How do you know that your premise is true?

I object to Free Will Theodicy on similar grounds. To achieve his goal, God puts all of creation though immense turmoil, kills innocent babies by the millions, sends other children into sex slavery, slays hundreds of thousands of people at a time in tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, etc., all so that he can harvest a small minority of the race who choose him. I understand your argument. But the scale of “allowed” evil seems over-the-top in the extreme. And hence, it looses credibility for me, and countless others who reject all Christian claims on the basis that “Free Will” is the best theodicy the church has to offer.

elbogz said...

Let me get this straight. You want me to actually read your blog before I fire off a incoherent rant? Wow, that’s pretty strict rules for a blog.

Anyways, you made the point that at some small time after the big bang, entropy began. That could be true, it also, could be false. We do know that prior to that point in time the laws of nature don’t work, and sometime after that point the laws of nature appear to be present.

But to take the concept of entropy, which was derived to develop heat transfer approximations, and steam tables and other useful thermodynamic principles, and say, from that we can make theological, or macro universe predictions, to me is just a wild guess.

To equate entropy and evil in the same sentence is to ignore the principles that the laws of thermodynamics were developed. Unless some how evil can produce work, or have potential or kinetic energy, I just simply can’t see how you can compare the two.

We don’t know enough about all the energy in the universe to make such predictions. We assume from the First law of thermodynamics that energy is neither created nor destroyed, but only converted from one form to another. But we don’t know what came before the big bang, and what happens at the end. Perhaps all we can see is the blood running though the veins of the universe, and not the heart of the universe beating or the lungs of the universe breathing.

And therefore, I just don’t think the use of thermodynamics in such a macro environment, without clearly knowing all variables of the equation is valid. To say that entropy and evil somehow have some relationship, again is outside the parameters and assumptions that were used to develop that theory. To say that evil is a form of energy, and subject to it's laws, again, is just a wild guess.

Cliff Martin said...

Elbogz,

I think the Laws of Thermodynamics are more widely accepted than you imply.

You write, To equate entropy and evil in the same sentence is to ignore the principles that the laws of thermodynamics were developed.... I just simply can’t see how you can compare the two.

Where did I equate them? I have been trying to make it clear that I do not equate them. I do not know how they relate to each other. I have stated that. What I have said is that the Bible seems to teach that they share a common fate in time. And that the Bible strongly suggests to me that there is some relationship between them. In an earlier post, I showed the relationship between entropy and death. Do you disagree with that? If entropy is the source of all death (as I believe it is!) then it is easy to see why I suspect some relationship between evil and entropy. But I do not equate them.

It would be helpful if you would at least read my posts on entropy, and then comment under the specific post you have a question about. I promise I will respond to you in that thread. We are way past the discussion you want to have with me.

Anonymous said...

Cliff,

I agree my objection only holds true if God can destroy evil at any time any way He wants. I don’t know (can’t know) if this is true, or not, but I lean towards it being true because of what I read in the Bible (numerous references that nothing is impossible for God, and none that I know of that indicate God had any difficulty accomplishing something). Even if it is difficult to destroy evil, surely God could have come up with a better way than to have His creation suffer for 13+ billion years. I accept that I can’t know this either, but it does fit with my view of an omnipotent God.

I don’t share your view that Jesus came to earth to destroy evil. He came to pay the price for our sins, to repair the broken relationship between us and our Creator. He conquered eternal death, not physical death. He defeated the devil, but didn’t destroy him. The destruction of evil is reserved for the second coming of Jesus.

If we were created primarily to somehow contribute to the destruction of evil through our suffering, why aren’t we given some direction in this regard in the Bible? When Jesus walked this earth, He healed the sick, cast out demons – things that prevented human suffering. That seems to be defeating the purpose. The Great Commandment and Great Commission say nothing about defeating evil. Why hide our ultimate purpose in a few obscure verses, while being explicit about loving God above all and our neighbours as ourselves?

If I am to accept that the destruction of evil is difficult for God, and He needs something like the cosmos and me to help Him, what else might be difficult for Him? It starts to erode the omnipotence of God. I’d rather trust in a God that allows an extreme, over the top amount of evil for a reason I cannot completely comprehend, rather than trust in a God who cannot defeat evil on His own and somehow needs the assistance of the cosmos and me to help Him.

Jac

Cliff Martin said...

Jac,

I don’t share your view that Jesus came to earth to destroy evil.

Certainly everything you say about his coming is true. But 1 John 3:16 says very plainly, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” I do not know of another text that simply declares the purpose of Jesus coming to earth. Do you? I see all the things you list which Jesus accomplished in whole or in part as being subtexts in his overall purpose of destroying evil. And my view is based upon the clearest statement of Jesus’ purpose I can find anywhere in the Bible.

... why aren’t we given some direction in this regard in the Bible?

Here is how I view this: I believe that all the teachings of the Bible play into God’s ultimate purpose. And it has not been necessary for people of faith to have a full revelation of what I am discussing here to be faithful and engaged in God’s plan. Did you read my earlier posts on Revelation, especially natural revelation and progressive revelation?

Part of my thinking is in this question (and it is a question, not a assertion): What if God knew that, while for most of history it wasn’t necessary that his followers understood the full drama of the cosmos, late day believers might benefit from the understanding? As I said in the earlier posts, it would have been impossible to piece together an accurate interpretation of Romans 8:19-23 prior to the last 50 years or so. An essential part of my whole thinking is that we may be privy to some understandings about ultimate purpose that have been, until now, completely mysterious. And our improved knowledge of the cosmos may actually assist us to understand the Bible with greater precision.

I’d rather trust in a God that allows an extreme, over the top amount of evil for a reason I cannot completely comprehend, rather than trust in a God who cannot defeat evil on His own and somehow needs the assistance of the cosmos and me to help Him.

Fair enough. I can honestly say that, having considered these things for five or six years, I would rather trust in a God who enlists my cooperation, who has a masterful plan to annihilate evil and calls upon me to play a significant role, than trust in a God who harvests free will allegiance out of an evil dominated cosmos, an evil he designs and/or permits for the sole purpose of giving free will agents a choice.

Anonymous said...

Cliff,

1 John 3:16 says very plainly, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”

What translation are you using? My NIV 1 John 3:16 says "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." Or did you mean John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Just curious.

Jac

Cliff Martin said...

Oops. 1 John 3:8.

Steve Martin said...

Hi Jac:

I admit that when Cliff first started discussing these ideas a few months back, I thought it smacked very much of dualism. I don’t think that anymore since I believe Cliff has carefully addressed that concern a number of times. There is a difference in not be able to do something, and choosing not to do it. God is not limited in any way UNLESS he limits himself. That is what the incarnation was about (limiting himself in the form of a human). It is also, I think, partly what creation was about. God allowed space for something other (creation) to be. I’m not sure I’d put it in the same language as Cliff, that evil is “difficult for God to eliminate”. I think a more appropriate way of phrasing it is that the ramifications of eliminating evil in one swift blow are worse than allowing it to continue. (ie. what Jesus said about wheat and chaff) But Cliff & I might be saying the same thing.

Cliff:
So I don’t think dualism is a problem, but I see two other challenges.

1) Where did evil come in the first place? For me, the free-will / free-process argument, (see: Howard Van Til’s idea of allowing creation its own “functional integrity”) answers that question (or the best answer I’ve seen). Doesn’t the existence of evil outside of the space-time of our universe just push the issue back in “time” (if we can speak of time prior to the big bang)? Don’t we just end up needing the same argument again - ie. a free-will / free-process argument? Ie. what is the benefit to theodicy of having the origin of evil outside of our universe? My questions don’t in anyway address whether your argument is consistent/good (and I know even you say it is speculative), I’m just not sure what the point or benefit is to theodicy. Maybe I'm missing something.

2) I’m really uncomfortable with the implication that the purpose of the universe is the destruction of evil. Maybe you aren’t saying “only purpose”, but it seems to be “primary purpose”. Is this what you are saying? To me this seems very much like we are being “used” by God. And I know we ARE “used” by God (we are his “hands”, “feet”, “eyes”, “ears” on earth helping to bring in the kingdom of God) – but that is different. I think the overriding theme in the bible is the redemption of creation, not the destruction of evil.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

I actually think you and I are saying the same thing. I agree completely there is a big difference between being unable to do something and choosing to not do something. My problem is that Cliff is suggesting that God chose to use the cosmos to destroy evil (since He is able to do it on His own). As you have said in 2), this seems like we are being “used” by God. I find this choice to be cruel and not in line with the overriding theme of the Bible – redemption. Since God is not cruel, then for Cliff’s suggestion to be true, God must not have had a choice, and therefore, God is unable to deal with evil on His own – hence, my claim it is dualistic. If it’s not dualistic, then it’s cruel. Either way, I don’t like it anymore than the free will / free process argument.


Jac

Cliff Martin said...

Jac,

Thank you for you input. My response to Steve's questions turned into a whole new post, and I was typing it while your comment came in. But the new post should serve as my response to your comments, as well.

Alison said...

Cliff,
I have never felt entirely comfortable with typical answers to the problem of pain so I was very excited to see that you had an alternate answer. But I must say that I don't see how your view of God using this earth to conquer evil forever is any better than typical responses. People are still unwillingly subjected to violence and suffering. No one signed up to help God defeat evil, no one had a choice. The children who were thrown into the nazi fires still died a horrible death, without their consent, while a good and powerful God sat by and watched. How is this different than people who say that evil is present for the glory of God? It seems like you are saying the same thing. God permits evil to harm people for a greater purpose. It seems like you just have a new idea for what that purpose is- conquering evil. The old explanation was glorifying God, which conquering evil would really just be an example of glorifying God. Please correct me if I have misunderstood what you are trying to say as I would love to hear an explanation that I can really cling to.
Alison

Cliff Martin said...

Alison,

If indeed God intentionally allowed evil just so he could create this cosmos and through it, conquer evil, all so that he would be glorified, then yes. I have done nothing but reframe the Calvinist answer. That is not what I am thinking at all.

I suppose rather that when evil arose, for reasons we cannot fully know, this cosmos, and the incredible volume of suffering was necessitated if evil were to be annihilated. I hear God saying, "Oh, no." He knew that of all the creatures who would suffer in the defeat of evil, he himself would lead the way.

It is true, we did not all sign on to suffer. And not all suffering participates in this process of overcoming evil. But those who suffer in faith, or suffer in innocence, or, in Peter's words, arm themselves to suffer, these will reap such glory in the coming age that the temporal sufferings of this one will fade into insignificance. I believe this will be the experience of those Jewish babies thrown into the Nazi bonfires. I believe that we can choose to make it ours.