Why Does Evil Exist?

Apr 5th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” – The Exsultet, Traditionally Sung at the Easter Vigil

A simple answer of why God allowed the Fall of man runs like this. God did not desire man’s sin but He respected man’s free will by allowing him to eat the apple. If that works for you, then I say let it continue to work for you (and don’t continue reading).

But in fact that argument doesn’t work. Imagine the parent that placed a knife in his child’s crib, hoping that the child wouldn’t play with it. The parent does not will for the child to play with it, but he will respect the child’s free will. It would be better, apparently, for the parent to avoid placing dangerous objects in the child’s crib. The parent can preveniently protect the child from evil by not allowing him access to it. This prevenient protection does not violate the child’s free will. On the contrary, it allows the free will to be even freer since it cannot make a dangerous mistake. Likewise, God could have simply not placed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden.

Now could God have created a world without evil? Absolutely speaking, that is possible. God could have created a world where evil didn’t exist. But for at least two reasons, God desired that evil should exist. First, so that all possible good might exist, and second, that we might know Him.

The good of perseverance and fortitude cannot exist without the evil of pain and suffering. Without evil, we would lack the good of martyrs. It was God’s desire that the good of perseverance, etc. would exist.

Another reason why God created a world with evil is so that we might know Him. Following Aquinas, as quoted in my article on the Divine Metaphor, “We can speak of simple things only as though they were like the composite things from which we derive our knowledge.” Now in God there is no evil, nor is there a hierarchy of diversity, one thing more perfect than another.  God is simple, but we can only know the simple through complex things.  Therefore, in order for us to know God, it was necessary to create a complex universe organized into a hierarchy of diversity.

This hierarchy of diversity, which God created, is intended to show us what He is like by analogy. The Scriptures teach us that God is like a king, for example. This is meaningful to us because a king is the highest office; in that particular respect, God is like a king. Of course, we cannot compare God to a human king in any direct sense because whatever can be said of God, in truth cannot be said of anyone or anything else. Our kingship is only like God’s “kingship.” Even the goodness and beauty of the world is only like God who is truly good and truly beautiful. God the Son, is also compared to a lion. This is meaningful for us because lions hold a place of honor among the beasts. They are mightier and fiercer than the other beasts. In this regard, God the Son is like a lion. Rather, a lion is like God the Son.

To simplify this thought, imagine that all beasts were exactly the same. God could not be referred to as a beast because He would not be like a beast. He is only referred to as a lion because lions are greater than other beasts. Imagine if there were no government. God could not be likened unto any human office because no man would be above any other man. But God is above us, and in that way is likened unto a king. This is only a simple way to conceptualize the point I’m trying to make. Imagine (the absurd proposition) that God created a world without this hierarchy of diversity or distinction. If all things were equal, we could in no way relate to God because in our finite capacity, we cannot comprehend God. We only know Him by knowing things which He has revealed to us via the material world. We understand His greatness only by understanding the greatness of kings and lions, etc. and by amplifying that greatness to the best of our ability.

Evil is not a thing that God created. As St. Augustine taught, evil is simply a privation of good as a shadow is a privation of light. But the good of a king cannot be grasped without the privation of that kingly goodness which exists in his subjects. The goodness of the lion cannot be known to us without the privation of that same goodness in his prey or in the lesser beasts. That is: If privation of good didn’t exist in this world, we would have no way to  understand God’s goodness.

God could have instantly given us the capacity to see Him directly (which is the Beatific Vision or Heaven), but He chose not to for reasons given above (that the good of fortitude, perseverance, etc. should exist). Thus, in order for us to know Him at all, without the Beatific Vision, it was necessary to create a world wherein privation of good existed so that there would be a hierarchy of diversity whereby we might know what God is like. Our participation in evil, which is by no means necessary, consists in turning away from the Creator and choosing a created good. Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, overcame the world by never choosing a created good over God the Creator. May we imitate Him this Easter season and until we finish the race. Amen.

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  1. Tim,

    You said:

    A simple answer of why God allowed the Fall of man runs like this. God did not desire man’s sin but He respected man’s free will by allowing him to eat the apple. If that works for you, then I say let it continue to work for you (and don’t continue reading).

    That statement doesn’t work for me for the reasons you mention. (So I did eagerly read on!) I am glad to hear a Catholic can reject that view. But I am still having trouble seeing a tertium quid here between the above “simple answer” which you say (and I agree) is wrong, and a hardline Calvinistic understanding where God actually does the evil. I really liked your and Aquinas’ description of evil as privation of good and a hierarchy of diversity is in place to teach us about God. I understand that and accept it. But from where came the evil then? If the simplistic “not desiring sin but respecting man’s free will” concept is wrong, is a more calvinistic understanding correct? More to the point,
    1. Which parts of the simplistic view do you reject? Are you saying God did in fact desire man’s sin and/or are you saying somthing other than respecting man’s free will occured?
    2. can a Catholic have the following understanding of evil:
    Amos 3:6 (ESV):
    “Is a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?”
    To my Calvinistic mind this means God desires evil for the city, but uses secondary causes to work the actual evil. I view this in a Shakespeare/Macbeth way where Shakespeare is not responsible for killing Duncan in any way, yet it was he who designed that that specific act happen. At the same time Macbeth is fully responsible for the murder.

    Perhaps the third option is that it need not be explained in a precise way?

    Am I still off base, or is my calvinistic view (as understood by my mind) acceptable for Catholic belief?

    Peace,

    David Meyer

  2. the blockquote desrtoying elves seem to have invaded my comment! arg! (a formatting box would be cool for lazy people like me)

  3. David,

    Good questions. It is impossible for God to do evil because it is impossible for God to choose a lesser good. In other words, it is impossible for God to make the wrong choice. So any conception of the universe that states that God actually works evil is false because it is impossible. Further, under the Augustinian/Thomistic view of evil as privation of good, God is not the creator of evil either because evil is not a thing and it has no creator. Likewise, God is not the creator of shadows because a shadow is not a thing but the absence of light. God is, however, the creator of both light and the scientific laws of light which state that where light does not reach – a shadow (or darkness) exists. In the same way, God is the creator of good and not evil. But He is the creator and origin of the natural law that says where good does not exist, evil does exist. This is because God is supremely self consistent and desired His creation to reflect His own goodness and self consistency such that where one thing exists, its contrary cannot exist in the same manner. If you remove light, you necessarily have darkness and likewise if you remove good, you necessarily have evil. This logical consistency imbued in the world is actually a good itself. It would be a lack of a good (and therefore an evil) for the universe to exist in a state lacking such a reflection of God’s own goodness.

    Now as for whether God ever wills evil. This is a tricky question but I think what I said above helps to set up the correct answer. Again, following Aquinas, God is said to will a thing in one of two ways. 1. Absolutely and 2. Contingently. If God wills a thing absolutely, by definition, it will occur. So if God wills absolutely that there should be light, and He does (Gen 1:3), then there will be light. God wills that no evil should occur, but He wills this contingently. Here’s an example. He wills that no man should kill another man but because of the goodness of His self consistency (discussed above), He does not will that a man should not murder at the expense of His natural (scientific) laws. If a man plunges a knife into another man and stops his heart, it would be a contradiction (of nature) for this not to kill him. God did not will the man to murder the other man, but He willed (against it) contingently. If God willed (against) it absolutely, it could not have happened.

    Now a man cannot kill another man except God grant him the power to do it. In fact, only a deist can actually say that a man could kill another man (or do anything for that matter) without God actually enabling the action. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” No man does anything, absolutely speaking, on his own without God’s power. God sustains us and sustains our actions and their effects. Who killed the man? It was the murderer. But a man has no power to draw a single breath except by God’s power who sustains our existence and the coherence of scientific laws whereby when air is drawn into a man, his body is nourished. Much less can a man kill another man without God’s power.

    Consider a side example (what I’m describing here is known as concurrentism). The fire failed to burn Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not because God contradicted the law of nature (because God cannot contradict Himself). The Law of Science, as created by God, says that fire should burn whatever it touches EXCEPT at that moment! Why does fire burn? Because God says that fire should burn (and this is connected to many other scientific laws, all self consistent, which God established. But for that moment, the fire did not have the effect because God desired this sign.

    Now it is a sign because it is miraculous, an exception. Absent a miracle, God always causes nature to behave according to the laws by which He governs the universe. So excepting a miracle, if a knife which caused a heart to stop did not kill a man, then it would be a contradiction. So God (in this qualified sense) causes the knife of the murderer to have its (sinfully) intended effect of killing the victim. Thus God allowed this evil because, while He did not will that the man should murder, He willed against it contingently upon the laws of the universe which he already established (and which He continues to maintain.) Aquinas uses this example. A just judge desires that all men should live. But he wills this contingently. If a murderer is tried, a just judge may have him put to death. (Even though his contingent will is that all men should live.) Likewise, God’s contingent will is that man should do no evil. But should a man choose to do evil, then God allows it based on His self consistency and the real power of action He gave to men.

  4. Wow, this is a lot to digest. Very interesting post.

    So would you say then that your problem with the “simple answer” is more with it not explaining why the tree of knowledge is there at hand? in other words, is the problem with the “simple answer” that it does not answer why God “put the knife in the crib”? (Although let me say that the tree itself is not necessarily bad and Adam was never told he could never partake of it, just not now. So the knife in crib analogy breaks down really quick because the knife is just plain bad for baby.)

    Therefore then are you saying the “simple answer” gives no real purpose to evil where (i agree) your explanation gives it purpose? i.e. gives God glory?

    Thanks,

    David

  5. David,

    So would you say then that your problem with the “simple answer” is more with it not explaining why the tree of knowledge is there at hand?

    Yes, I think the simple answer already supposes that evil is in the world and God just has to deal with it. But taking a step back, we need to ask the question of why is evil even in the world to begin with? Rather, that is the question I am trying to address.

    I should also clarify that God placing the Tree in the garden, whatever that actually looks like, is not like a parent putting a knife into a crib, as you have noted. A parent would be doing evil for putting a dangerous object in a crib whereas, as stated above, God can do no evil. A child cannot discern whether or not to play with a knife whereas Adam and Eve could and did know that they should not eat the fruit. I only used the analogy to show the deficiency of the simple answer in regard to the ultimate question of why evil exists. You’ve already noted as much I just wanted to say that you are right about that.

    Also a couple of other clarifications. I said:

    But for at least two reasons, God desired that evil should exist.

    I should have said that “God desired to create a world where evil existed.” That is, God did not will evil essentially, but only accidentally. To achieve the purpose of His creation, it was necessary that evil exist. “Oh happy fault….”

    Also, a panther lacks the goodness of a lion, but it doesn’t lack the goodness of a panther which is exactly the amount of goodness that it is supposed to have. So the hierarchy is not evil; in fact it is a good. The analogy with lions and kings is to explain that God’s greatness is only comprehended by finite beings in a world where such hierarchy exists because we cannot immediately know God’s greatness without the Beatific Vision. Likewise, but separately, we cannot know God’s goodness directly except in a world where varying levels of goodness exist (i.e. in a world where goodness is absent in some areas). These two ideas are analogical to one another – not the same. I am not saying that we can only know God’s goodness because of the evil of hierarchy because hierarchy is not an evil. It is good that a panther lacks certain goodness (otherwise, it would not be a panther).

    (I think I fixed your block quote above BTW)

  6. Tim,

    I am not sure that your argument against the free will defense/theodicy works. First, your analogy doesn’t seem apt. Free will doesn’t seem to be analogous to a weapon. Second, if God has that kind of freedom and Christ does in his human will, then it is not something related to human nature like a knife, but something intrinsic to it and to agency. Third, impeccable agents meet the same conditions on free will (UR +AP) as those that are not impeccable so the problem in terms of the possibility of sinning can’t be with free will. That is, agents in heaven don’t cease to be free. Therefore the possibility of sinning is not a necessary condition for freedom.

    Second, if the AP condition is necessary, the circumstantial prevention won’t prevent evil since the choice to do evil is part of deliberation. The only way to remove that possibility is to remove deliberation since that entails the AP condition. If I deliberate, I have already chosen not to make a choice at the moment and weigh my options, that is, evaluate apparent goods.

    Third, I don’t think it was possible for God not to have the Tree in the Garden so to speak. If the agents have a beginning, then it is possible for them for a period to sin, because their personal use of their natural powers has not become fixed.

    As for the virtues, certainly on an Aristotelian or Hellenistic view of the virtues it is not possible for any virtue to exist without evil, but it isn’t clear that perseverance and fortitude can’t exist without it in a Christian context. Certainly those in heaven don’t cease to have such virtues or exercise them and it seems as if Christ didn’t need to acquire them relative to his hypostasis. Further, a dialectical gloss seems to put us back on a Hellenistic view of reality with God and creation at odds. The view that God wills the evil to actualize all possible goods seems to make God dependent on evil, even if this is so accidentally, as if the good of justice would fail to be if God didn’t have sinners to eternally damn.

    As for the epistemic conditions, it doesn’t seem that this is correct, namely that in order for us to know God, it was necessary to create a complex universe. Here’s why. In the beatific vision God is known but not through complex things. If that’s possible, then it doesn’t seem that it was necessary to create a complex universe to know God. In fact, via complex things, we only know that there is a God and such things by analogy, but this doesn’t seem to be the case in the BV, which is why the BV is superior to knowing God via created analogs.

    As for evil not being a thing, if this is so, then it becomes harder to see why God requires it to actualize other goods. The analogy of the king that you give is mistaken and here is why. It is the same principle employed by Origen, that God could not be Lord without someone over which he was Lord. This is false, both in terms of the Trinity and in terms of creation. God was kingly without creation. To be more direct, difference does not imply contrariety or opposition. God has no contrary and so the same is true for divine properties or energies.

    If what you proposed were right, then the good of the beatific vision would entail the existence of evil in that state to enjoy and increase the mode in which creatures participate in the divine essence via the intentional union since the possession and increase of such virtues could not be had without their contrary or the deficiency/excess at lest as a possibility on the spectrum of the mean.

    On the other hand, if God could just give the beatific vision and that without any contraries, then the other virtues either seem not only unnecessary, but so do the evils as part of a necessary means to bring them about or if the virtues are necessary, the evils of deficiency and excess aren’t.

    Lastly, here is a counter analogy to the one you proposed regarding a FWD/T. Suppose some parent has a deathly sickly child. And this child has some disease that is excruciatingly painful and degenerative. The child will die a horribly painful death.But the parent says, “I want you to know, that I could remove this sickness and suffering instantly with this pill, and we could be happy beyond measure, but I am not going to do it. I am not going to do it because this way you get to acquire the moral qualities of fortitude and perseverance and I don’t see any other way for you to get those qualities. This is why I planned it to allow you to have this disease. For your brothers and sisters, I exempted them even though I could have given them some disease too.” Is such a parent good? I don’t think so.

    If God has the power and the motive to remove evil and doesn’t, this seems to leave your position open to the objection to theism from evil by directly impugning the goodness of God. This is even more the case in that while God plans and permits such evils, he doesn’t even save all of those who are suffer from it but selects some over others.

  7. Perry,

    Free will doesn’t seem to be analogous to a weapon.

    I agree.

    the problem in terms of the possibility of sinning can’t be with free will.

    I agree with this also. I didn’t say that the problem was with free will. In fact that’s the simplistic view that I’m contradicting.

    Second, if the AP condition is necessary,

    What is the AP condition (and UR above)? I don’t know what AP or UR stands for.

    If the agents have a beginning, then it is possible for them for a period to sin, because their personal use of their natural powers has not become fixed.

    But not if they were created in the state of Beatific Vision. But God didn’t create us (or the angels) in that state. The question this post is addressing is why did He decide to do that. Do you think it was impossible for God to create in the state of BV? If so can you explain why you think that?

    but it isn’t clear that perseverance and fortitude can’t exist without it in a Christian context.

    You’re right; it was a mistake of mine to write that fortitude can’t exist without sin. Only certain manifestations of fortitude cannot exist without evil. e.g. the patience of the martyrs.

    In the beatific vision God is known but not through complex things. If that’s possible, then it doesn’t seem that it was necessary to create a complex universe to know God.

    Right. That is why I said:

    God could have instantly given us the capacity to see Him directly (which is the Beatific Vision or Heaven), but He chose not to for reasons given above

    And again in the comments:

    we cannot immediately know God’s greatness without the Beatific Vision.

    I’m starting to think you haven’t read my post very carefully or charitably.

    The analogy of the king that you give is mistaken and here is why. It is the same principle employed by Origen, that God could not be Lord without someone over which he was Lord

    That’s not my analogy. Perhaps re-read it more carefully and then tell me if you agree or disagree.

  8. Tim,

    Given that the foil you gave, it seemed that not only were you going after a simplistic response but the FWD/T. Perhaps I was wrong. If I was, I am not clear on why I should prefer the take you give to it. Maybe you could explain why you take this account to be superior.

    UR + AP =Ultimate Responsibility and Alternative Possibilities. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/incompatibilism-theories/#2.3

    Consequently, I adhere to a Libertarian view on the conditions for free will.

    You write that if agents were created in a state of the beatific vision then their personal use and natural power are fixed. So they are impeccable from the get go. I don’t think this is possible as I explain below. So I don’t think God decided to create this world as opposed to a world where agents are created impeccable and free. I don’t think that possible world is weakly accessible to God.

    I think so because I think it would violate the conditions on freedom. If God is the source of their impeccability, they would not be the source of their actions and they wouldn’t have alternative possibilities. It would therefore not only preclude their being free but being moral agents. It would also raise other problems as well. For example, if God could create everyone impeccable then we need a reason why God chooses this world over that one. You’ve articulated some of the usual reasons given but I don’t find such a world better than an impeccable world. I think most people intuitively don’t either. This seems to play into the hands of people like Mackie as well. I also think that it raises Christological problems as well in relation to dyothelitism and dyoenergism, but I’ll leave those aside for the moment.

    As for fortitude and perseverance I am not even convinced that the goods of matrydom could only be had in that way. Does God have those goods for example or no? If so, I don’t see why he couldn’t make it possible to acquire them in a creaturely mode without sin and death.

    If we agree that God could give the beatific vision instantly then the material on analogical predication is only contingently necessary to know God. In that case, it really isn’t bearing any of the justificatory load for why God created a world with evil as opposed to an impeccable world. What seems to be attempting to bear that load is the idea that this world is better ordered than an impeccable world and the idea that some goods can only be had if there is evil and God wills those goods. Now we just need a reason why God would will those goods. Without that, I don’t think the boat floats. Whatever the candidates are for that, it can’t be that God would be more just or glorious in such a circumstance. I also balk a bit at the idea that this world is better since it is better ordered or proprotionate.

    As for your citation of the following remark,

    we cannot immediately know God’s greatness without the Beatific Vision.
    I’m starting to think you haven’t read my post very carefully or charitably.

    I don’t believe I wrote the citation you attribute to me or I am unclear what work you think this citation does. Perhaps you could elucidate further.

    As for the analogy of the king, here is what you wrote.

    “Evil is not a thing that God created. As St. Augustine taught, evil is simply a privation of good as a shadow is a privation of light. But the good of a king cannot be grasped without the privation of that kingly goodness which exists in his subjects. The goodness of the lion cannot be known to us without the privation of that same goodness in his prey or in the lesser beasts. That is: If privation of good didn’t exist in this world, we would have no way to understand God’s goodness.”

    So the analogy is it seems taken by you from Augustine and put forward. My comments seem directly germane to it and I think show why it is mistaken. I think it is false that “the good of a king cannot be grasped without the privation of that kingly goodness which exists in his subjects.”

    If I have misrepresented your position or attacked a position that is not yours, please point it out to me and I’d be genuinely happy to rescind my criticism. What I take myself to be saying is that the distinction between creatures isn’t grounded in and made knowable by a privation. So I am attacking the thesis that if the privation of the good didn’t exist in this world, we world have no way to understand God’s goodness.

  9. Perry,

    I appreciate where you’re coming from but I think you’re too quick to assume that there are no problems emanating from the impeccability of the saints for a libertarian position simply because UR/AP might have been satisfied at points along their earthly careers. Unless there are value-incommensurable alternatives in heaven or the life of the world to come, it’s not the case that any choice an impeccable saint in heaven (or the coming life) might make is such as to satisfy AP directly, and even if there were such alternatives it’s not clear why they wouldn’t just be Buridan’s Ass choices or why we should think they’re terribly significant. If on the other hand you rest upon UR the eternal rectitude of will, the impeccability that is supposed to mirror God’s moral libertas or freedom of perfection, and which is supposed to be a kind of reward, but which has nothing to do with the quite distinct liberum arbitrium which is supposed to make possible “merit” in this life — and I assume this is what you’re doing, because you sound quite Augustinian here — then it seems to me that UR itself is a pretty frail reed upon which to rely. An eternity of “fixed” choices counting as “free,” in some libertarian sense, because an agent spent maybe seventy years making some conflicted choices that *might* satisfy the very demanding demands of UR?

    Sorry, but it seems like you’re giving Tim a pretty hard time on a point that is by no means as obvious as you appear to be making it!

    Neal

  10. Perry,

    Just saw your last submission, which came up when I was writing mine. Don’t think it changes anything. I think you’re right that a fwd needs to play some role, but that if we cannot combine it with a soul making or felix culpa or *some* other theistic explanation for evil, and if we suppose that theists somehow *need* to have some theodicy that bears the “justificatory load” and so forth, then I think that the fwd is just ridiculously insufficient for this (despite the fact that I’m sort of a defender of it).

    Best,

    Neal

  11. Perry,

    Ok I gotcha. If it was a violation of freedom for God to create agents in a state of BV (and therefore impossible) then I agree that some of my arguments above fail. I lean towards compatibilism but I’ve still got a lot of thinking and reading to do before I’m ready to dig a trench.

    As for fortitude and perseverance I am not even convinced that the goods of matrydom could only be had in that way.

    How could the patience of the martyrs exist in a world without evil? As for whether God has the good of the patience of the martyrs; there is no other source from which any goodness can come. Any goodness that exists (and this good does exist) can only have originated in God. But that doesn’t prove that it would have been possible for God to create a world possessing the goodness of martyrs absent of martyrs. Peace is also a goodness that comes from God. (And where peace is, martyrdom is not). The goodness of a circle and a square both come from God as well, but God cannot create a square circle because where squareness exists, circularity does not.

    I don’t believe I wrote the citation you attribute to me or I am unclear what work you think this citation does. Perhaps you could elucidate further.

    I wasn’t citing something you said; it was what I said. Sorry, I made that clear for the previous quotation but not the second one.

    So I am attacking the thesis that if the privation of the good didn’t exist in this world, we world have no way to understand God’s goodness.

    If that’s all you’re saying, and we’re clear that I didn’t say or imply that God’s kingship is contingent upon Him creating subjects, then I retract what I said.

    My argument is that God cannot be known absent the BV or diversity (privation) in creation. If you want to attack this position, then you need to show how God could be known without the BV or diversity (privation) in creation. But I don’t think you’ve done that.

  12. Tim/Perry,

    Since I’ve weighed in already I should probably clarify something. I’ve already expressed some concerns about some of Perry’s remarks, but I also think Tim is too quick to dismiss considerations concerning freedom (in that first paragraph), and I’m very dubious about the epistemological stance which says that we can’t appreciate goodness or the goodness of God without experiencing its ‘privation’, or, still further, without experiencing the scope and magnitude and extent and distribution of evil and suffering that actually obtains in this world. The Felix Culpa style theodicy may well have a significant and helpful role to play for Christians who want to understand the point behind evil/suffering from a decidedly Christian perspective, but I don’t see that it has much to do with epistemological considerations.

    It’s noteworthy that if you look at, say, Plantinga’s recent contribution on this score, it seems unsatisfying (in my view) precisely because he does not have a Catholic understanding of redemptive suffering, and for other reasons I won’t go into here. I think what Catholics and Orthodox should do is develop the resources our traditions provide for understanding evil and suffering in a more meaningful way. Perry will be in a position to suggest Orthodox sources, and I hope he does because I’m very interested to look at them; I suggest that Catholics begin by going through JPII’s Salvifici Doloris, an apostolic letter from the early 80s. (Tim, you might have to wade through the first bit, in which he defends the free will theodicy; but you will like the rest of it, if you haven’t read it already.) There is lots of suggestive material in there that analytically inclined philosophers and theologians should mine. Some recent literature could be persued after that, but the area is still quite underdeveloped.

    Neal

  13. Hey Neal,

    I don’t think I am advocating Augustinianism here. I think that the saints continue to satisfy the AP condition in the eschaton as well.

    Here are some other things to chew on. Value commensurable choices don’t imply that the objects of choice are the same or that there is no basis to choose over the other. It just isn’t based on morally contrastive factors. Christ’s two choices in the Passion weren’t. Something is wrong with Buridan’s Ass cases as is indicated by reflecting on God’s choice to create or not to create. Neither option increases God’s glory, justice, etc. One isn’t better or a more valuable option for God. If we fulfill the same conditions on freedom that God does and the Buridan’s Ass cases aren’t a problem there, I see no good reason to think they are a problem for creatures.

    I don’t need any or every choice by the redeemed to fulfill the AP condition to be free.

    As for their significance, this and some of the other problems you pose depend on what the objects of choice in fact are. I don’t think they are created things. Do you? And if I thought that goodness was simple, some of these things you write might be serious matters, but I don’t think goodness is simple. Consequently I don’t see how the problem of significance is well motivated.

    Augustine’s notion of liberum arbitrium is something I don’t accept for a variety of reasons. At least as it is spelled out in On the Free Choice of the Will.

    As for your other hand, I don’t think I said the choices were fixed. I only wrote that the personal use of the natural power is fixed and by that I mean relative to the telos of the nature, the logos of that nature in God, which is a good. I am not sure what argumentative work the 70 years or so does here or that the choices are “conflicted.” I am not sure what you mean by that or why that’s problematic for my view. Perhaps you could take some space and tease that out. So I think I am sitting on a sturdy limb and not a reed.

    I don’t think God confers impeccability in a monergistic fashion or preemptively in terms of election to glory. And this is because I don’t think grace is extrinsic to nature. As I noted before, free will is had all the way through. The relevant concept is not liberum arbitrium, but the gnomic will and that isn’t Augustinian.

    As for felix culpa, I think this makes the problem of evil worse and not better. It entails a kind of dependence relation of the good on evil that I think is wrong. It is quite common in a variety of Idealistic systems, whether Plato or Hegel-every past evil is a good relative to the goods it helps to bring about even though every past evil in and of itself is bad. It also entails a Hellenistic view of the relation of God to creation in terms of distinction by negation and opposition, which I think really hits the rocks in Christology. Second, felix culpa gets certain Christological aspects backwards IMHO. And I think this because I think Christ was going to be incarnate anyway. So the fall happens as an attempt to prevent the incarnation.

    I am not sure how what Tim proposes really helps. Nothing personal mind you. But I don’t see how it leaves room for the FWD since that model is predicated not only on the libertarian conditions on freedom, but on the impossibility of God weakly accessing a world of impeccable agents whereas Tim’s view seems to contradict that explicitly. As for Hickian Soul Making theodicies, I think they make the problem worse for the same reasons, just from a different direction. They turn on the same problematic Origenistic assumptions-simple self diffusive goodness, the AP condition on freedom as entailing morally contrastive options or a denial of the AP condition to secure impeccability, the virtues presuppose a dialectic of excess and deficiency and so forth. Hickian Soul Making Theodicies make the same mistake of thinking that the good is dependent, even in terms of means to attain the good. In this way, Soul Making Theodies aren’t Irenean as Hick thought. His reading of Irenaeus’ theology is quite feeble.

    As for your last comments, redemptive suffering or no redemptive suffering, I don’t think the Felix Culpa helps. The fundamental problem as I see it is that redemptive suffering is an attempt to treat evil like a good, that is has a logos and so makes sense. Evil doesn’t have a logos and so has no explanation per se. There is no redemption for evil. Recapitulation I’d proffer is a better way to look at it. Christ’s suffering is valuable because he does over humanity from the inside out and sets it right. It is not that his action wasn’t loving relative to humanity or to the Father, but the real work of the atonement is in maintaining the hypostatic union even in death so that Christ’s body and soul while parted from each other are never parted from his divine person. And further he heals humanity from the inside out hypostatically because there was no other way for the divine power in human nature could be had. It has to be personally acquired and not extrinsically conferred. And so we are called to recapitulate the life of Christ in ourselves through the church calendar since it is the life of Christ. This was necessary for theosis, fall or no fall, which is why the virtues of salvation are not dependent on evil. This is why Hick’s Soul Making theodicy is not Irenaen and is mistaken.

  14. Tim,

    For my part I think compatibilism falls prey to various Christological heterodoxies (monoenergism) and doesn’t seem to have the philosophical resources to overcome certain problems. Distinguishing manipulated agents from determined agents is one of them.

    If God has the virtue of patience without acquiring it via the existence of evil, I don’t see why the saints can’t have it without evil. Granted, God doesn’t acquire virtue, but nonetheless it doesn’t seem obvious that those goods can’t be had without evil.

    If every good originates in God, especially the virtues, then this seems to be another reason to think that the goods had in cases of martyrdom don’t require evil. Divine goodness isn’t related to evil as it is in Platonism or in Aristotle. Hence Paul’s rhetorical question, what relation does light have with darkness? None.

    I am not of, sure where peace is martyrdom is not. It sure seems like they have divine peace. At least, if ever I were to be a martyr, I sure hope to God I’d have it! I agree that God can’t do the logically impossible, but for this to be applicable here, I’d need a reason to think that virtues that are not dialectically framed are logically impossible. And isn’t that the point at issue?

    I know it seems counter intuitive from a Platonic or Aristotelian frame work, but I’d argue from a more patristic one that it isn’t. And I’d further argue that its entailed by an Athanasian view of the doctrine of creation. This is why Athanasius mentions many of the properties akin to the ones you cite as having once been opposed and enemies (that is, distinguished by opposing properties) but God has now made friends in the incarnation of Christ. Hence the philosophers were wrong about the fundamental nature of reality. And it was this fundamental error that led Arius to his conclusions.

    So here’s something I’d offer to think about, if where squareness exists, circularity doesn’t and vice versa, can ignorance and knowledge about the same thing exist in the same person or no? Are knowledge and ignorance opposites or no? How about willing to save your own life or willing to lay it down for others in the same circumstance as willed simultaneously by the same agent? Are willing to heal some but being unable to do so and not being willing but able to do so opposite options?

    The principle you mention about kingship seems to be false, both in relation to God and created things. So I suppose I’d need to present an argument for thinking that if you think it is true for creatures, then you’re stuck with it in theology too. I’ll work on rectifying that.

    From my position, I hold that God is known in creation without the BV and without diversity in the sense you seem to employ it. The BV is impossible on my position. There is no intentional union with the divine essence, period, full stop. This doesn’t mean God is not truly known, but only that there are things that are the one God that are not the divine essence. And these things we know or at least can know. They are unified and simple as they are empirichoretically and hypostatically united as actions of the divine Triad of Persons yet without yielding an exhaustive revelation-there is always a hidden remainder. Actions don’t exhaust persons, which is why there are no laws in psychology. They are deity and intrinsically related, say, anatomically related but without reduction. Something like what semantic holists talk about. (See Fodor’s Holism: A Shopper’s Guide). Or what the later Plato seems to think about the intrinsic relation between all forms in say the Sophist of Theatatus. Some of these actions are the plans or logoi of creatures and so God is the formal cause of creatures, yet since these logoi are not the divine essence, there is no pantheism. They are something like sets or universals in which creatures are made and made members of, thus preserving creation ex nihilo while also maintaining a direct and immediate relation via form between God and them. The members of the set have a beginning, but the sets don’t. This implies then no oppositional definition in creatures or between creatures and God since the logos of every creature is deity and nothing in or that is deity is opposed by difference. Distinction then isn’t contrariety or negation. Creatures are not defined in terms of privation. The Greeks were wrong.

    Granted, this is just a sketch, but it’s a sketch of a view that was dominant at one time in the Christian world, which made the pagan philosophers quite upset.

  15. clarification, by anatomically, I mean not bodily, I mean in contrast to metaphysical atomism where each member only bears an extrinsic relation to any and every other member.

  16. I am enjoying your conversation. All along, however, I’ve been wondering what impact a little Whiteheadian thinking might have on the direction of the conversation. Much of Whiteheadian thought is, of course, very compatible with Catholic Magisterial teaching. I was interested to hear Hicks’ name come up and thought I’d take the opportunity to recommend a very short piece by one of the world’s foremost Whiteheadian scholars (and my favorite author), David Ray Griffin. I don’t think you’ll regret taking the time to read it here: http://www.anthonyflood.com/griffincritiquehicktheodicy.htm

  17. Perry,

    There is too much for me to respond to in your last comment. Just a few points.

    By ‘Augustinian’ — recognizing there’s debate about what exactly he thought — I meant only that you were contrasting this worldly libertarian freedom with (I thought) freedom of perfection in the life of the world to come, and it seemed to me you were pointing to UR so as to explain why creaturely activity in the eschaton “still counts” as libertarian free. That is how libertarians typically do it, because they want to hold that significant freedom requires the ability to sin (in the one context) but doesn’t (in the other), so AP gets jettisoned and the thing rests on UR.

    Why did I think this? Because, you started shooting off jargon and using undefined abbreviations like ‘UR’ and ‘AP’ which you must have known Tim wouldn’t have any idea about (why precisely you did this, I’m not sure; why not speak plainly?), and if you’re following any of the recent Christian libertarians who are thinking about impeccability and divine grace in this context — which it sure seemed like you were wanting to convey to everyone — then it’s only natural for people who know some things about that discussion to take you to be doing what I took you to be doing.

    Turns out you think that people in heaven satisfy AP for value commensurable morally significant choices and not just Buridan’s Ass choices, of the sort that figure into the conflicted — yep, conflicted — choices that satisfy the conditions for self forming actions/will setting actions that figure so largely in UR. Okay. Seems implausible that we’d be in a position to know this, but you appear to think it true. But I think you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If UR continues to be satisfied “in heaven,” then that carries with it the real potential for re-settling the character in a different direction, precisely because it’s formulated with the specific aim of allowing agents to be the ultimate creators and sustainers of their own ends and purposes. If their ends and purposes are as a class such as to be teleologically ordered toward, and so “confined” by, “the True and the Good,” then I can tell you that not many defenders of UR would hold that UR is being satisfied in this context. At least, I can tell you that the guy who came up with UR in the first place would tell you that. On the other hand, if UR’s satisfied “in heaven” simply because of the tracing principles embedded in UR (being personally responsible for any arche of any current act that doesn’t count as an SFA), because in this life (this 70 years or so) we did make “conflicted” choices that have the effect of setting the will toward the good — though we could just as well have settled the will and character toward evil instead — then, again, I can tell you that lots of UR defenders would see this as a slim reed on which to rest the case for libertarian freedom in heaven sans the possibility of settling the will away from the true and the good. Bob Kane, e.g., would tell you that you’re mixing elements of an Augustinian moral libertas/freedom of perfection view with UR here, and he wouldn’t like it.

    As to the other stuff about theodicy, I think it’s by no means just obvious or clear that everything you’ve said is right: no point to evil, nothing at all to the idea of redemptive suffering, Felix Culpa, Schmelix Scmulpa … all of this goes by way too quickly for me. But I simply am not going to try to have a discussion about an issue this deep, problematic, and wideranging, on a combox.

    Best,

    Neal

  18. Permit me to quickly summarize what I’ve learned so far

    – It will take approximately 70yrs for a guy named Felix Culpa to travel to the Land of Ur(hereafter, UR). This of course, only if his mode of transportation is a Buridan’s Ass.

    -Apparently, it would take half that time, for the Associated Press (AP) to declare that his step-brother Bob Kane (a.k.a. Schmelix Scmulpa)has satisfied all conditions to secure impeccability.

    -Anyone who would deign to, so much as hold morally contrastive opinion, or even be rash enough to embark on Hickian Soul Making theodicies, will suffer the wrath of dialectic of excess and deficiency and so forth.

    No offense intended, Don’t approve the message if you think it is offensive.

  19. Hey Neal,

    I think accounts of heavenly freedom which have the AP condition here and drop it in the after life, like say Sennett’s piece does are mistaken. They take God to “fill in” what is lacking in the character of the agent at death. It is obvious why this won’t work given a libertarian take. I am hardly alone in noting this point.

    Contemporary libertarians do it that way, but it really doesn’t solve the problem of heavenly freedom. The classical locus for this question in the history of theology doesn’t do it that way which is why I don’t do it that way. Most people working in analytic phil religion don’t know it because they are weak in historical theology. I cringe every time I hear “the traditional view is…”
    As I’ve noted, those libertarians that take the AP condition to entail the ability to sin are wrong on philosophical and theological grounds. The AP condition only entails a plurality of options, not morally contrastive options.

    Attempts to go UR all the way through like Source Incompatibilism really won’t solve the problem of heavenly freedom as deployed by say Mackie, which is why I think the AP condition can’t be jettisoned. An SI world would put you right in the same position as that of compatibilists and hence vulnerable to Mackie’s criticism.

    I started using jargon because I thought Tim and others would know what I meant. I also did it for economical reasons. I didn’t want to explain what a Libertarian account of free will is taken to amount to. I’d expect as much on a blog where most of its contributors have a professional philosophical background or are well informed Catholics, and where there seems at least to be an attack on employing a libertarian gloss in addressing the question, whence evil.

    From everything I’ve seen in the journals most if not all contemporary libertarians are mistaken on this issue and capitulate in one way or another to one or the other horn in Mackie’s dilemma of heavenly freedom. This is why I don’t follow them. They are still working with the cognitive misfire of thinking that the AP condition entails morally contrastive options. They do this because they are still working with essentially the same principles Origen and Augustine were working with and seem oblivious to the classical location of where this matter was discussed and decided in terms of Christian doctrine.

    What you think that its implausible that we could know about seems to be something that the fathers that wrote and the councils that decided this question seem to know about, which seems odd. If you think UR and AP leave the door open to sin I don’t think you’ve mapped my position, particularly with respect to character solidification relative to the logos of the agent and with respect to the eclipsing of the gnomic will. The only way I can see that this objection could be made is if you think relative to your position or if you think I am proposing, the permanence of the gnomic will? Is this so or no?

    Your remarks about the ends and purposes of agents being telologically ordered to and confined by the true and the good seem either ambiguous or simple wrong. First, do you mean teleologically ordered naturally or hypostatically? Second, why think there is a confinement in a problematic way relative to freedom if the Good and the True aren’t simple, that is, if the objects of choice are plural and not singular?

    As for the guy that came up with UR and here I take it you mean Kane, when I flew this by him a number of years ago in Texas, he didn’t seem to think it was problematic but was rather intrigued in the way I developed it. So was McCann, Widerker and Stump when I was sitting down to dinner with all four of them and just myself. But perhaps they’ve changed their minds now. I doubt they recall the conversation at that particular conference when I dinned with them and I doubt they’ve read my article. (Though Stump surely knows about my position, but she’s not a Libertarian.)

    Your further remarks about tracing principles and SFA’s also don’t really touch my position since they turn on whether the gnomic will is retained after death or not. Until that is addressed, at best your remarks count as question begging and probably a straw man. As for what looks like an appeal to authority, I am unmoved. Unless there is an actual demonstration to make the point, I simply see no reason to move here. Reputations mean little. What is more, none of the writers on the topic today are familiar with the classical position or its sources so if they think I am wrong, this is another reason to think that they wouldn’t be convinced.

    To make an appeal to authority, I’d suggest that the position I am proffering is necessary to stave off the heresies of monothelitism and monoenergism (as well as Mackie’s objection to the FWD) and that in fact the position I am advocating was the answer to those twin heresies given by the representative fathers and councils. If you reject it, I can’t see how you can avoid those heterodox positions. It doesn’t mean that you can’t, but that I don’t see how. Perhaps you have some ingenious way of explaining how the will retains AP’s in the afterlife without the possibility of sin or how Christ retains them in his human power of choice. That would be a real advance from other older positions in the west.

    I don’t believe I said it was easy to see how my view is true so I grant that it may be far from clear or obvious. I don’t think it is easy to see. It wasn’t easy to see how to refute the heresies above I mentioned, which is why it took the church father that it did to do so. His answer is quite intricate and difficult to see at first.

    As for the depth of the discussion, your reasons are the same as mine for using jargon and not writing a monograph here, which is another reason why it may be difficult to see the truth of my position. What I was trying to do was counter some of Tim’s argument as well as give some gesture at an alternative account to motivate thinking. It’s a combox after all.

  20. Perry,

    If God has the virtue of patience without acquiring it via the existence of evil, I don’t see why the saints can’t have it without evil.

    We’re not talking about the virtue of patience per se, we’re talking about a world wherein the patience of martyrs exists versus a world where it doesn’t. There cannot be patience of martyrs without martyrs. There could be another kind of patience, but not a patience that endures evil (if there is no evil to endure).

    I am not of, sure where peace is martyrdom is not. It sure seems like they have divine peace.

    The martyr has peace, but not his aggressors. An act of violence (which is contrary to peace) and injustice has to be committed in order to kill an innocent man for his faith (martyr him). In this regard, where martyrdom exists, peace does not.

  21. Herbert,

    A notion of God as a being that is in time, constantly becoming, not entirely and certainly knowing the future, and hence continually learning, is not compatible with Catholic Tradition and Catholic dogma. The Church has infallible taught (at the Fourth Lateran Council and at Vatican I) that God is immutable. That God is immutable is de fide. In addition, it is de fide that God knows every future act of every creature, with infallible certainty. The First Vatican Council infallibly decreed: “Omnia enim nuda et aperta sunt oculis eius, et etiam, quae libera creaturarum actione futura sunt.” (“All things are naked and open to His eyes, even the future free actions of creatures.” (Session 3 Chapter 1) What is de fide is not merely that God now knows all possible future choices in logical space, but that God now knows which future choices will actually be made, all of them. God now knows which choices we will in fact make, and that we will make those choices. To deny that it is to deny God’s omniscience. If God learned what choices we will make, as we made them, He would still be learning something (namely, what choices we will make), and thus His knowledge would constantly be increasing. And that would entail that God is changing. But, God cannot change (in His divine nature), because God (in His divine nature) is immutable.

    If you want to read a good book on this subject, I recommend Thomas Weinandy’s Does God Change?.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  22. Neal, I’ll check out Salvifici Doloris. There are some things that I’m taking for granted (coming from a Thomistic point of view) in this post; I recognize that. I don’t deny free-will of course and so I wouldn’t throw out free-will in theodicy altogether. I think that’s necessarily part of the answer; I just don’t think it’s the whole answer. Even if we say God has to give us a choice (put the tree in the garden) does it really have to be a tree?! Can’t it be a pile of horse dung? “You can eat all the fruits, just don’t eat that pile of dung.” You see what I’m getting at. God could have put us in a world, perfectly free, where the choice was more obvious than it was. A theodicy that rests entirely on free will is, IMO, a weak theodicy.

    Eve needed to trust God on faith because, as the Scriptures tell us, the fruit appeared good, and later that she was deceived. That is all to say that, for this moment it appeared to be the better choice to eat the fruit because she didn’t have faith. But faith can’t exist without lack of knowledge. God desired faith to exist, and therefore had to create a world where in knowledge was hindered in some way. It is not possible that some things should be in the darkness without light failing to reach those places. In a world where nothing is untouched by the light, there is no darkness. And in a world where nothing is unknown, there can be no evil.

    I’m very dubious about the epistemological stance which says that we can’t appreciate goodness or the goodness of God without experiencing its ‘privation’, or, still further, without experiencing the scope and magnitude and extent and distribution of evil and suffering that actually obtains in this world.

    The reason I’m stating that is because I don’t think we can know God directly but only through analogy (except by the Beatific Vision or perhaps a similar miraculous intervention.) Here’s how I see it: Even divine revelation reveals God through symbols. God is revealed as “Father” for example. Speaking in the strictest sense, if God is Father, then none of us are fathers. Whatever is said of God, absolutely speaking, is only true of God. All the names and attributes applied to God refer to one thing and one thing only: God. We don’t refer to something different when we call God loving than when we call Him wise. We refer only to different aspects of one thing: God’s essence. We can be good, but not in the same way as God. Our goodness is only our goodness, but God’s goodness is also His wisdom, and His patience, and His love; it is also Himself. That is true only of God. “No one is good except God alone.” In fact, everything we say of God, speaking in that absolute sense, is true only of Him. But we are created in His image, and Creation was invested with meaning in order for us to know God by symbols, imagery, and metaphor.

    I don’t understand how it is we could know God without either some direct (miraculous) revelation, or without applying principles we learn from nature to our understanding. We see a hierarchy of things one thing greater than another, but if all things were exactly equal, I don’t understand how you think we would be able to grasp the concept of greatness. Also, this epistemic theory is not exactly the same as the role I think the hierarchy of diversity plays in my proposed theodicy. It is just parallel to it. I think that God would be less perfectly reflected in the world without the diversity of natures which is a necessary principle for the existence of evil. Evil cannot exist in a world that does not have diversity.

  23. Perry,

    Not to sound high-handed or dismissive, but it truly is the case that I don’t have time to respond to all this in detail right now and probably won’t for the next few days.

    I don’t think denying AP in heaven, where AP’s understood to entail the ability to perform morally wrong actions, is something that can only be had by taking God to unilaterally change a person’s nature at death as you are suggesting. There is such a thing as purgatory.

    You think taking AP to entail the possibility of sin is wrongheaded, and maybe so. I’m not as enamoured with AP as many others, and am frankly more inclined to see freedom as a normative and teleological phenomenon. What puzzles me is that you take exception to Tim’s “attack” on “employing a libertarian gloss” as a means of answering the “whence evil” question. Why take exception to this? If libertarian freedom as such does not entail the possibility of sinning, then agents can possess Plantinga et al’s “significant freedom” and can enjoy all the values deriving from it without its being the case that any of this even hints at an answer to this “whence evil?” question.

    You say I’m simply wrong that ends and purposes can’t be “confined” by the True and the Good (irrespective of pluralities), according to proponents of UR. (Note that I’m not advancing this as my own considered view, that such ordering would amount to objectionable “confinement.”) I don’t think so. You mentioned that you got a chance to speak with Bob Kane over dinner about some of these issues, and that’s good. But I deny that your tweak is something he would ultimately be happy embracing, whatever he said to you that evening. Kane directed my dissertation, which I wrote on the metaphysics of libertarian freedom (specifically causal indeterminism). I’m fairly confident I understand what he thinks about free will; he’s fairly confident I understand what he thinks about free will too. We’ve had more than one conversation about UR and its relation to such things as sin, normative accounts of freedom, and so forth, and he has always resisted incorporating such normative constraints. It is possible that you changed his mind over dinner that night; I’ll ask him about it next time we talk. But the point is, when you develop your position with specific reference to UR and the like, and you do it in a context in which you expect your audience to all be members of the very tiny subset of trained analytic philosophers who would know what UR is without being told, then there should be an equal expectation that members of your audience are going to start thinking in Kanean terms, at least about the incompatibilism if not the metaphysics of agency. That’s what I did, but I don’t think, now, that you have much in common with his position (I think you’ll agree).

    In any case, I apologize for mismapping your position and not understanding you and not understanding the history adequately and creating a strawman of what you said and just generally being demonstrably wrong about everything; I read your comment and responded quickly, and I honestly felt a bit irked at the way, as it seemed to me, you were trying to pull rank on Tim. Also I was full of whisky, and had just watched some UFC. Also I’m cranky, generally.

    Best,

    Neal

  24. Bryan, thank you for the response. I want to be clear. I didn’t mean to suggest that Process Theology as a system is reconcilable to Catholicism (for the reasons you gave, among others).

    And as a Protestant-turned-Catholic, there isn’t a day that goes by during which I don’t give thanks to God for the teaching authority of the Church. As a Protestant, I experienced something similar to what David Meyer recently expressed when he spoke of sola Scriptura leading him to a mirror and a clown suit. It was especially hard for me because as I reached out to the pastors, etc. in my life, I felt blown off. It was as though my mere consideration of Catholic claims was enough for them to unconditionally write me off, as they might at Jehovah’s Witness at their doorstep. This is also why the main articles here at C2C have meant so much to me. They articulate truths that I had recognized on some level but had never seen expressed so clearly. Make no mistake, I did indeed “discover” the Magisterium, and I don’t mean to speak in fuzzy terms about what separates Catholic thought from non-Catholic thought (such as Process theology/philosophy).

    This list of God’s attributes (offered by David Ray Griffin) demonstrates what I had in mind when, in my previous comment, I spoke of the compatibility of Catholic/Whiteheadian theology. I didn’t mean to minimize/blur the profound differences between the two systems. Nonetheless, the God of Process thought described by this list is in some important ways in accord with One, True God revealed in Christ:

    1. A personal purposive being.
    2. Perfect in love, goodness, and beauty.
    3. Perfect in wisdom and knowledge.
    4. Supreme, perhaps even perfect, in power.
    5. Creator and sustainer of our universe.
    6. Holy.
    7. Omnipresent.
    8. Necessarily and everlastingly existent.
    9. Providentially active in nature and history.
    10. Experienced by human beings.
    11. The ultimate source of moral norms.
    12. The ultimate guarantee of the meaning of life.
    13. The ground of hope for the victory or good over evil.

    As I see it, Griffin’s primary challenge to a Catholic theodicy lies in what he sees as the Catholic’s inability to affirm God’s holiness while maintaining a belief in God’s unconditional omnipotence. So Griffin argues that it is impossible to simultaneously affirm God’s holiness as well as His omnipotence- due to the fact that he perceives ANY presence of evil, regardless of the philosophical basis/justification for God’s allowance of it, to represent an indelible stain on the character of a holy Creator. So Griffin argues that either holiness or omnipotence must go. He chooses to affirm the holiness of God at the expense of God’s unconditional omnipotence. It seems to me that Griffin’s not doing much more than attempting to apply Church moral teaching (that righteous ends never justify manifestly immoral means) to Church theodicy.

    And again, though I am intrigued by Griffin’s argument (which Anthony Flood expounds upon here: http://www.anthonyflood.com/hewouldifhecould.htm), I, as a Catholic, realize my responsibility to submit to the teaching of Holy Mother Church. peace.

  25. Tim,

    Thanks for the response, buddy. We’ll talk about this in days to come, I’m sure. Got to get back to work now!

    Neal

  26. Tim,

    I gave a paper related to this subject at the Maritain conference in Houston this past October. The paper was titled “Aquinas on the Original Harmonies and the Problem of Evil.” Perhaps it could be helpful.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    Update: It is now available as a chapter in this collection of essays.

  27. Tap,

    Sorry, but you’re supposed to just *know* what all that stuff means; I mean look, almost .000000005 of the world’s population does, so what’s the problem?

    Neal

  28. Tim,

    If the patience of matyrs is substantially different, then it might help to tease that out so we could get clear. I’ll repeat one of my other questions again in that case, does God have that good or no?

    If there is another kind of patience, perhaps then what is important is that there is a world with the virtue of patience but not that mode so to speak of that virtue relative to martyrdom. I think most people would be happy to have a world without that if it meant having a world without leukemia.

    If patience endures challenges and obstacles then evil isn’t necessary to get what we intuitively want out of that virtue.

    In terms of circumstantial peace and martyrdom, you are correct, but I am not sure that really gets to the difference between is in terms of what constitutes moral virtues.

  29. Herbert, (re: #24)

    So Griffin argues that it is impossible to simultaneously affirm God’s holiness as well as His omnipotence- due to the fact that he perceives ANY presence of evil, regardless of the philosophical basis/justification for God’s allowance of it, to represent an indelible stain on the character of a holy Creator.

    In other words, if Griffin, a mere mortal creature with a three pound mammalian brain less than a hundred years old, cannot perceive the justification for an omniscient, eternal, infinite, perfect Being’s allowing some evil, then that evil has no justification. That, of course, is a non sequitur par excellence, due to what could be called ontological arrogance.

    Professor Stump’s book Wandering In Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering is due out later this year. I’ve read and heard parts of it, and I highly recommend it. You can’t give up omnipotence to save holiness; you give up one, and you lose both, because you lose theism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  30. Hey Neal,

    Its ok if you don’t have time to respond. People get busy. Trust me, I understand. But to remark on what you did write in response I’ll put this up and you can write when you can.

    I don’t think I said that God removing AP at a person’s death amounted to changing their nature, but rather to fill in their character apart from their personal volitional activity. That move seems to violate the U condition. Second, Sennett’s account doesn’t proffer, if memory serves, purgatory and even if this were sufficient to answer the problem, the problem touches on other theological matters such as the donum superadditum, predestination, efficacious grace, the petrine chrism, and the immaculate conception. And most libertarians writing in philosophy of religion I’d would dissent on purgatory. But if we do need an intermediate state of sorts, then this shows that the kind of hybrid accounts that people like Sennett have offered of UR + AP here and UR only in the eschaton are mistaken and that seems like a worthwhile advance all by itself.

    I see freedom as normative, teleological and as implying the AP condition. It sure seemed like Tim was attacking a libertarian FWD/T. It is not uncommon for those of a more Thomistic persuasion to do so and Tom’s view seems Thomistic. I take exception to his proposal because I think it is wrong. Because I think it is spiritually damaging. And because I think it turns on nascent errors in Christology to which I’ve alluded to above.

    I think you draw the wrong conclusion with your comments regarding libertarian freedom and the non-entailment of the possibility of sinning. Libertarian freedom is not by itself sufficient to pull off a FWD/T and address whence evil, but this doesn’t imply that it isn’t necessary. Since most libertarians take the will to be hypostatic they conflate freedom with a gnomic mode of willing. Once we properly distinguish and deny that the will is hypostatic we can see why for agents with a beginning it is possible for them to sin but that this is a temporary condition. It is akin to a Wittgenstinian ladder. Once we get to the top, we can kick the ladder away. This is why the concept of the gnomic will is significant since it does address the whence evil question without falling prey to Mackie’s criticism or thinking that freedom entails morally contrastive options. It has about as good as a theological pedigree as one could want for a traditionally minded Christian to boot.
    As for confined freedom with respect to UR, I thought I gave some reasons for thinking that such would not be the case and so I don’t think I asserted you were wrong. To think there is some kind of problematic confining going on depends on some controversial unargued for assumptions, which I thought I pointed out.

    As for Bob, Bob’s a very nice man and a good philosopher. I seriously think this. But suppose you’re right that he and every other libertarian think I am wrong or wold if they heard my views. What follows other than that they think I am wrong? Does it follow that I am wrong? I think we need to work on then a demonstration that I am wrong and not what those who haven’t done the requisite research in historical and philosophical theology might say. I am not surprised if they haven’t come across it or reflected on it or balk at it initially. Even those who have written just on the question of freedom in heaven, such as Simon Gaine was simply ignorant of it and where the church discussed this question in a normative fashion.

    If you can map my position adequately and show where exactly it is incompatible with Kane’s view, that would be significant. It wouldn’t show though necessarily that my view fails or fails to be libertarian, just not Kanean. I am not worried about the latter, though it’d be nice to be in good company. What did Greco quip? Better right than original!

    I don’t expect them to be part of a tiny subset of philosophers. I expect them if they are going to write publically on a topic and present themselves as well informed to be prepared to defend their position. It is not like there is a burgeoning mass of people doing their late night reading from De Potentia either. Besides, I gave a link to get an idea of what I was talking about. Here’s another idea, if you’re going to criticize a view, it might be best to bone up before in expectation that perhaps someone reasonably well informed might respond. In any case, I can’t see how any of that shows how I am wrong or how Tim’s position is correct. How do we get from the number of people informed on the topic to the conclusion that I am incorrect? As I noted before, looking over the bios here, most of them show competence in philosophical theology. At the least I figured those who didn’t know what I was talking about could ask me or you or Bryan.

    No need to apologize as it gave me an opportunity to clarify. I was not offended. Btw, I believe I read a recent article of yours on the problem of evil and determinism and I generally liked it and thought it was a good article. Keep up the good work.

  31. Perry,

    In terms of circumstantial peace and martyrdom, you are correct,

    That’s all I’m talking about – not the virtue itself considered apart from its circumstance. That is why I qualified “patience” with “of the martyrs.” The good of the “patience of martyrs” existing is not the patience considered apart from its circumstance. The goodness of apple pie is something different than the goodness of the fact that apple pies exist. That’s what I’m saying. In order for the “goodness of the patience of the martyrs” to exist, there has to be martyrs.

  32. Perry,

    Just saw/approved your comment. Thanks sincerely for willingly looking past the decided snarkiness in my last comment. I think it would be good to talk some of these things over with you, but not now. And it would probably be best to do it by phone or something, at some point. Anyway, I appreciate the contributions you make. I keep popping in and shooting off what amount to one-liners and then going away again, but I’ve got a major article deadline this Tuesday and I haven’t even finished the argumentation in the final section, let alone the polishing and citations and bibliography and all that. So I’m going once more to disappear, masked-man style, after appearing just long enough to say nothing very important.

    Talk to you soon,

    Neal

  33. There are some goods that cannot be acquired by creatures without adversity or trial. These are goods that could not be had if God had created rational creatures already having the Beatific Vision in the glory of God. In “The Gospel and the Meaning of Life” I wrote:

    But that doesn’t answer the question of why we are here, in this present life? Why didn’t God just create us already in the Beatific Vision? He could have done so. But God is Love. To enter into the Beatific Vision is not merely to observe something in a dispassionate way; it is to enter into an Eternal Community of the Three Divine Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This Community is a Community of Persons, and so entering this Community is most fittingly done as a personal and mutual act, that is, a free act of love. God has made us free creatures, and given us the opportunity in this life to freely choose whether or not to love Him, and in that way to contribute to our own final state. This gift is an extra dignity, such as a parent gives to a teenager in letting him or her make self-determining choices.

    One of the goods that we would not have had, had God created us already in the Beatific Vision, is the good of participating in our own self-determination and self-formation, the good of having freely chosen Him. Another closely related good that we would not have had, had God created us already in the Beatific Vision, is the good of having freely demonstrated our love for Him through darkness and trial and sacrifice. We would not have any merit. We would have the infused virtues, but would not have the merit and glory of having acted accordingly, out of love for Christ, in the face of great adversity or even the greatest sacrifice, i.e. martyrdom. God could create patient persons already in the Beatific Vision, but He could not create patient martyrs already in the Beatific Vision, because God cannot make the past to be different from what it was, because He is Truth. (cf. Summa Theologica I Q.25 a.4) Another good that we would not have, had God created us already in the Beatific Vision, is the good of having participated in bringing many sons to the glory of eternal life, and building up His Church. If He had created us all already in the Beatific Vision, then no one would have the good of having helped bring anyone to Christ, or into full communion with His Church. No one would have the good of having served Christ by giving a cup of cold water to one of the least of these little ones. (Matt 10:42)

    Does the fact that creatures can acquire such goods only through adversity or trial mean either that God does not have these goods or that He acquired them through adversity or trial? No. The Creator-creature distinction makes all the difference here. These are acquired goods, by their very nature. But a Being who is Goodness, and hence does not acquire any goods, does not have acquired goods as acquired goods, but as that from which they are acquired and to which they are directed. Only a limited being has the capacity to acquire such goods. But that doesn’t mean that the Being who is Goodness per se does not have them, only that He does not have them as acquired, or according to the mode of acquisition. He is that from which they all come.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  34. The article’s explanation of the “simple answer” to the question of why evil exists is overly simple and inaccurate. Consequently, the simple answer appears to the article to be inadequate; and the article, understandably, rejects the simple answer in favor of another one, which causes a number of difficulties. The correct explanation of the “simple answer” is much more satisfying than the one the article gives and avoids the difficulties its proposed answer causes.

    The simple answer, the article claims, “doesn’t work” because it begs the question. This answer, according to the article, responds to the inquiry of why evil exists by arguing that it exists because man chose it. Now, the article reasons, there already had to be evil for man to choose it. One must, therefore, the article concludes, seek the reason for the existence of the evil man chose really to answer the question. The question then becomes, according to the article, why did God create evil for man to choose in the first place? That is why did God not create a world without evil?

    The article misunderstands the pre-lapsarian condition of both the natural world and humanity. Sacred Scripture reveals that the created, visible world was good before the Fall (Gen. 1:25). That is to say, there was no evil then in the world, including after the creation of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 1:31- 2:1). Man was himself good in his primordial condition. He was originally in a “state of holiness and justice” “in friendship with his Creator and in harmony with himself and creation around him” (CCC, Paras. 374f. & 377). He also had a profound knowledge of creation (Gen. 2:19-21). The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, then, was not in and of itself evil or bad; and our first parents were not ignorant and childish. We should not, therefore, liken the Fall to a child’s hurting himself with a dangerous (and inherently evil?) object placed in his crib.

    To what, then, should we liken the Fall; and whence the evil entailed in it? Sacred Scripture likens the Fall to man’s eating the fruit of a tree God specifically commanded him beforehand not to eat. The Bible describes this command, moreover, as the only negative command God gave humanity (cf. Gen. 1:28). There is no indication that man did not understand the command or was not able to carry it out. Indeed, the Bible’s description seems to emphasize the clarity and simplicity of the command and the ease with which humanity could have observed it. The Fall, then, was, in essence, man’s freely choosing to do what was in his power not to do with full knowledge that he was disobeying God by choosing to do it. It was, the Church explains, a violation of the “laws of creation and the moral norms that govern the use of freedom” (CCC, Para. 397). Man “preferred himself to God” in the Fall (CCC, Para. 398). That is, “he chose himself over and against God [and] against his own good….he wanted to be ‘like God’ but ‘without God, before God, and not in accordance with God’” (CCC, Para. 398, quoting St. Maximus the Confessor). The irony is that God desired and would have, so to speak, given man what he wanted and more, if Adam had remained trusting, obedient, and patient.

    The evil, then, was in the choice, i.e., the specific action of the will, and not the thing chosen, i.e., the object of the will. That is to say, the immoral act consisted essentially in choosing something else over God, the One who should be chosen above all else. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was only a bad object in the sense that the divine command entailed not choosing obedience to God by choosing it. The absence of the good in the will of the agent was a real absence and as evil as any other absence of good (and more pernicious than all but one).

    One may ask, then, why God gave the command; for humanity, it seems, would not have fallen and there would not have been evil in the sublunary world, if man had not had a command to transgress. This fact is true, but so is the opposite. Man would have had no way to show his “free submission to God” without a command voluntarily to observe; and God would have had no reason to reward him for his submission with participation in the divine life through the beatific vision without it (CCC, Paras. 397f., 1023, 1028, & 1730). Both the excellence of the creature, viz., a rational, voluntary being, and the goodness and justice of the Creator, therefore, made the existence of a command fitting; and the mercy of God allowed the fault of transgressing the command to become a truly happy one.

  35. Bryan:

    I’ve read your paper given at the Maritain conference, and have benefited from it. Thank you.

    My only issue with it is that it’s not clear whether you’re doing theodicy or defense. That is to say, it’s unclear to me whether you think Aquinas is endeavoring to justify God’s presiding over the apparently disproportionate suffering of the innocent, and that you are endorsing that endeavor; or whether you think only that Aquinas endeavored to show that it’s reasonable to think there is such a justification, given what we do know, even though we don’t know precisely what the justification is. Both of us could certainly endorse a defense of the latter sort, but I wouldn’t endorse a theodicy.

    I think it’s very important to keep that distinction in mind, at least as a preliminary to answering what I call the “Ivan argument” in the Brothers Karamazov. To my mind, that sort of argument is the version of the problem of evil posing the strongest challenge to classical theism, even granted what you rightly regard as the correct “metaphysical context.” To give you some idea of how I approach the matter, go here.

    Perry doesn’t like my approach. I hold that God could have created humanity such that people always freely choose well; that he had some reason to set things up otherwise; and that, though there is a reason why he did so, there can be no fact of the matter, even in principle, to explain why he did so rather than not. Perry thinks that’s a craven recourse to the ol’ mystery defense. I think it’s the only reasonable way to handle the issue.

    Best,
    Mike

  36. Peregrinus,

    Thanks for stopping by and for the comments. You said:

    The question then becomes, according to the article, why did God create evil for man to choose in the first place? That is why did God not create a world without evil?

    That is not an accurate summary. In fact, in the article I said, “Evil is not a thing that God created.” So it would not make sense for me to ask the question you take me to be asking.

    The article misunderstands the pre-lapsarian condition of both the natural world and humanity

    I don’t see where you have shown that I misunderstood the pre-lapsarian condition. I’m a Thomist and hold the pre-fall condition to be what St. Thomas Aquinas describes it as. Do you believe he was wrong? If not, then I don’t think you and I disagree.

    The irony is that God desired and would have, so to speak, given man what he wanted and more, if Adam had remained trusting, obedient, and patient.

    I agree that God (contingently) willed that man should choose good. But here’s my point, which I don’t think you address.

    1. God could have created man in a state of BV (which includes the state where man’s will is free)
    2. God did not.
    3. Therefore God had a reason for creating man in such a state. (This article attempts to give an answer for that)

    Now that man would have the choice between God and some sort of (tempting) alternative possibility (AP as the fancy folks like to call it) is indeed part of the reason. But it is not the entire reason, as I argue above. Thus the simplistic answer (of which I will admit I didn’t go to great lengths to present the best defense) is only part of the correct answer, not the full answer. The other answers are above in my post.

  37. Dr. Liccione said:

    I hold that God could have created humanity such that people always freely choose well; that he had some reason to set things up otherwise; and that, though there is a reason why he did so, there can be no fact of the matter, even in principle, to explain why he did so rather than not.

    Right on. I’m being far too big for my britches when I say “the other answers are above in my post.” :-) The angels are in heaven laughing at me.

    Aquinas had a vision and later said his writings were like straw. If his work is like the straw going into the horse’s mouth – mine’s like the stuff coming out the other end. So – I don’t know what the answer really is, but I’m pretty sure the simple answer I criticize in the post ain’t it!

  38. I apologize for my comment; for I see now that it was not apropos. I thought that you understood the question that the “simple answer” was addressing and that you were addressing the same question, given the article’s title and your consideration and dismissal of the “simple answer.” I could discover no real objection in the article to this “simple answer,” except that the article might be arguing that God created evil. I concluded that this was, in fact, the article’s position, given certain statements in the article, including : “Could God have created a world without evil? Absolutely speaking, that is possible. God could have created a world where evil didn’t exist. But for at least two reasons, God desired that evil should exist.” “A reason why God created a world with evil is so that we might know Him.”

    The “simple answer” addresses the question of why evil exits. I now realize from your response to my comment that your article actually intends to answer a different question; namely, why did God not create man sharing in His divine life through the beatific vision at the first moment of man’s existence? There is no amazement, then, that the “simple answer” “dosen’t work.” The simple answer is not an answer to the question you mean to address.

  39. Peregrinus,

    Thanks and no need to apologize. Clarity in writing is not my strength. Also, my statement that “God desired that evil should exist” is not right and not what I meant to say – so that could be the biggest fault in my post. God does not will for evil to exist (it doesn’t exist as a thing anyway so it would be impossible for Him to will that. ) I tried to clarify in comment #5 above, but at any rate – I think you get what I was trying to say. Welcome to Called to Communion.

  40. Bryan,

    I think your remark trades an ambiguity, specifically with respect to adversity or trial. Those terms may or may not entail actual evils. If they do, then this returns us to one of the points under dispute since I think theosis can be had without evil, though not without struggle. Something can be difficult without evil. In any case, it looks like question begging and equivocaiton.

    Second, I’d argue that I think people’s intuitions go contrary to what you propose in terms of divine goodness. I’d wager that assuming that such goods could not be had by those created in the BV that people would say that they would forgo them if it meant a world without sin, suffering and evil. A God that could and doesn’t, doesn’t appear sufficiently good.

    This is one reason why I don’t think God could create persons already deified. You seem to hint at this reasoning in your citation, but I don’t see how it is compatible with your view.

    If God could create us in the BV then certainly we would have the requisite love and so “freely.” The conditions on love had “freely” here seem to be in line with either some version of compatibilism or source incompatibilism at best, while the way you couch it makes it sounds like libertarian conditions on freedom are in view. If God could create us with the BV and so with the requisite love, then I don’t see how God making us free entails that God give us an opportunity to enter into it. If on the other hand, God cannot create us with the requisite love, then some form of libertarianism is correct.

    If the good of participating in our own self determination and self formation could not be had if we were created in the BV, then it seems that these goods are unnecessary for the BV and so this seemingly demotivates their significance as goods. For example, in the immaculate conception of Mary, Mary seems to lack these goods and this doesn’t seem to impugn her humanity or her salvation in any way.

    You also note another good that we wouldn’t have had, namely freely demonstrating our love for God, but this turns on a libertarian condition for freedom. I don’t think say Augustine or Aquinas would agree here. On a compatibilist or source incompatibilist gloss on the conditions on freedom we could have demonstrated freely our love for God without any possibility of evil and also God creating usin the BV. So for example, on the latter (SI), God could have limited all of our options to good options. In any case, neither view takes the AP condition to be necessary for freedom. So here I don’t see why we could not have had such a good had God created us in the BV.

    You say that we could not have had any merit, but I don’t see how this is true. First, the actions of the saints in heaven and of Christ via his human will are not lacking in merit. So suppose for example there had not been a fall and Christ became incarnate anyway. Would all of Christ’s actions by his human power of choice be lacking in merit since there would be no evil and sin? I can’t see how this is so.

    Its true that if we were created already in the BV we would not have the good of leading others to salvation, but I think most people would give up this good for a world in which there is no cancer, war and rape. I don’t see why that good is necessary. Certainly if God could have created all in the BV then God certainly isn’t thereby defective or lacking anything so I find it hard to see what the great loss is.

    Since we disagree on what the distinction is between the creator and the creature, I am not sure this moves the ball toward your goal post. You write that the respective goods are acquired goods. But the goods necessary for theosis do not entail those goods since on your account it is possible for God to create persons in the BV without them. Second, those acquirable goods that are necessary for theosis are had by God, just not as acquired. The fault lines are not finitude and infinitude here so much as they are having a beginning and being beginingless. God is still the source of his own moral virtues, it is just that he never acquired them because he never began to do them. For agents that have a beginning then such goods necessarily need to be acquired, which is why we could not be created with them. Otherwise, they are not intrinsically acquired goods. God could not give them to agents who have a beginning since they are acquired by choice.

    As for the goods of martyrdom and self sacrifice on the one hand and God having all goods but not in an acquired way, I am not clear on how you put these two together. I am hoping you can clarify.

  41. Mike L,

    You’re right. I don’t like your approach. One reason is that it entails, as you’ve written elsewhere that “God loves some people more than others.” And this is why he gives efficacious grace to some, but not all. I think that view is wrong for the same reasons I think Calvinism and Lutheranism are wrong. I also think it is a bit ad hoc to argue against a libertarian account on the one hand that it entails appealing to mystery on explaining contrastive choices and then appealing to mystery to do essentially the same work in addressing this issue in philosophical theology.

  42. Perry,

    You wrote:

    I think your remark trades an ambiguity, specifically with respect to adversity or trial. Those terms may or may not entail actual evils. If they do, then this returns us to one of the points under dispute since I think theosis can be had without evil, though not without struggle. Something can be difficult without evil. In any case, it looks like question begging and equivocaiton.

    I never claimed that adversity or trial entailed actual evils. I agree that something can be difficult without evil.

    Second, I’d argue that I think people’s intuitions go contrary to what you propose in terms of divine goodness.

    I never appealed to “people’s intuitions,” nor does the truth of what I wrote depend on “people’s intuitions.” (Unsolicited tip: You never need to argue that you think something; you can just state that you think it. :-)

    I’d wager that assuming that such goods could not be had by those created in the BV that people would say that they would forgo them if it meant a world without sin, suffering and evil.

    That may be true, but I haven’t made any claim about what “people would say,” nor does the truth of what I have written depend on what people would say.

    A God that could and doesn’t, doesn’t appear sufficiently good.

    Perhaps, but my comments were not about appearances, nor was I attempting to demonstrate that what God in fact does is “sufficiently good.” Of course I believe that what God does is sufficiently good, and I think it is possible to conceive of ways through which it would be sufficiently good. But in order to demonstrate that it is sufficiently good, I would have to present to you the Final Judgment, in which we finally see the full perfection of God’s plan.

    This is one reason why I don’t think God could create persons already deified. You seem to hint at this reasoning in your citation, but I don’t see how it is compatible with your view.

    If God could create us in the BV then certainly we would have the requisite love and so “freely.” The conditions on love had “freely” here seem to be in line with either some version of compatibilism or source incompatibilism at best, while the way you couch it makes it sounds like libertarian conditions on freedom are in view. If God could create us with the BV and so with the requisite love, then I don’t see how God making us free entails that God give us an opportunity to enter into it.

    I do not claim or hold that entailment [i.e. God’s making us free entails that God give us an opportunity …]. I’m not assuming that free self-determination is the same thing as freedom, or that the conditions for one are the conditions for the other.

    If the good of participating in our own self determination and self formation could not be had if we were created in the BV, then it seems that these goods are unnecessary for the BV

    True.

    and so this seemingly demotivates their significance as goods.

    That doesn’t follow. It is infinitely better to be the lowest person in heaven than the highest person in hell. But that doesn’t entail anything about the eternal ‘significance’ of heavenly rewards, and how much they are worth. St. Paul tells us: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” (2 Cor 4:17)

    For example, in the immaculate conception of Mary, Mary seems to lack these goods and this doesn’t seem to impugn her humanity or her salvation in any way.

    Sin is not a requisite for self-determination and self-formation, both of which Mary exercised.

    You also note another good that we wouldn’t have had, namely freely demonstrating our love for God, but this turns on a libertarian condition for freedom.

    Again, freedom per se shouldn’t be mixed up with free self-determination. The two are not the same, and hence the conditions for them need not be the same.

    I don’t think say Augustine or Aquinas would agree here.

    I think they would, especially St. Thomas. But that would take some time to show, and it might not be convincing to you.

    On a compatibilist or source incompatibilist gloss on the conditions on freedom we could have demonstrated freely our love for God without any possibility of evil and also God creating us in the BV.

    It depends on what is meant by ‘demonstrate.’ Love in faith [i.e. through a glass darkly] demonstrates in a qualitatively different way than merely manifesting through an irresistible act, and the former sort of demonstration is what I’m talking about.

    So for example, on the latter (SI), God could have limited all of our options to good options. In any case, neither view takes the AP condition to be necessary for freedom.

    Again, the conditions for freedom per se (with respect to love of God) in the BV are not necessarily the same for free self-determination (not in the BV).

    You say that we could not have had any merit, but I don’t see how this is true. First, the actions of the saints in heaven and of Christ via his human will are not lacking in merit.

    Prior to the Final Judgment that is true. But merit does not accrue after the Final Judgment.

    So suppose for example there had not been a fall and Christ became incarnate anyway. Would all of Christ’s actions by his human power of choice be lacking in merit since there would be no evil and sin?

    No, they would not be without merit. That’s perfectly compatible with what I’ve said.

    Its true that if we were created already in the BV we would not have the good of leading others to salvation, but I think most people would give up this good for a world in which there is no cancer, war and rape.

    Many people in severe pain or misery would probably choose Limbo over Heaven, to get out of the pain. Some in such conditions might even choose Hell over Heaven. The truth of what I have written does not depend on what most people would do or say. If we could all see from the divine point of view, the Final Judgment would already be over. People who say such things in such circumstances are being foolish, like Esau and his bowl of beans, but with consequences many many times over.

    I don’t see why that good is necessary.

    It isn’t necessary. Nor have I claimed that it is necessary. So, again, this doesn’t impinge on what I have written.

    Certainly if God could have created all in the BV then God certainly isn’t thereby defective or lacking anything so I find it hard to see what the great loss is.

    Ok.

    You write that the respective goods are acquired goods. But the goods necessary for theosis do not entail those goods since on your account it is possible for God to create persons in the BV without them.

    Correct.

    Second, those acquirable goods that are necessary for theosis are had by God, just not as acquired.

    Right.

    The fault lines are not finitude and infinitude here so much as they are having a beginning and being beginingless.

    That’s your claim, not mine.

    God is still the source of his own moral virtues, it is just that he never acquired them because he never began to do them.

    Right.

    For agents that have a beginning then such goods necessarily need to be acquired, which is why we could not be created with them.

    I never claimed that for agents having a beginning such goods necessarily need to be acquired. But if such goods are to be had by a creature, they must be acquired by the free choices of the creature; the creature cannot be created with them, on account of the nature of such goods.

    God could not give them to agents who have a beginning since they are acquired by choice.

    God could not give them to creatures [i.e. create creatures already having them] since these goods are, by their very nature, goods acquired by the creature’s choice.

    As for the goods of martyrdom and self sacrifice on the one hand and God having all goods but not in an acquired way, I am not clear on how you put these two together. I am hoping you can clarify.

    They are good as supreme acts of love, participations in what God is in se.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  43. Perry:

    You’re right. I don’t like your approach. One reason is that it entails, as you’ve written elsewhere that “God loves some people more than others.” And this is why he gives efficacious grace to some, but not all. I think that view is wrong for the same reasons I think Calvinism and Lutheranism are wrong.

    Two things. First, I don’t think that God gives efficacious grace to some but not to others because he loves some more than others. I think his loving some more than others sometimes consists in giving them efficacious grace, as with the Theotokos. In other cases—such as those of the Apostle John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” or Padre Pio—he gives them special gifts for the benefit of others as well as themselves.

    Second, I suspect that my reasons for thinking Calvinism and Lutheranism wrong are not all the same as yours. When I was inquiring about which version of Christianity to embrace, I rejected all forms of Protestantism for purely epistemological reasons. Of course I see an additional problem with Calvinism, i.e. double predestination, which I cannot reconcile with any Catholic understanding of what God’s love is. As for Lutheranism, I find its view of the relation between justification and sanctification to be a sheer novelty, without precedent in the patristic as well as the medieval record. Thus I see Luther’s “canon within the canon” is a subtraction from the deposit of faith.

    I also think it is a bit ad hoc to argue against a libertarian account on the one hand that it entails appealing to mystery on explaining contrastive choices and then appealing to mystery to do essentially the same work in addressing this issue in philosophical theology.

    I’m not sure I understand that objection, because I’m not sure we mean the same thing by the phrase ‘a libertarian account’ of freedom. As I understand libertarian freedom, there are always APs for a libertarian-free agent, but there are not always APs that are evil. As for ‘mystery’, what I mean is this: there are plenty of cases where a reason to do A is not a reason to do A rather than some B which is both incompatible with A and an AP in the circumstances. Thus, the exercise of libertarian freedom is sometimes positively mysterious, in the sense that it is intelligible without being uniquely determined by what explains the choice. And I believe that God’s choices, though timelessly made, are often like that.

    Best,
    Mike

  44. Bryan,

    I have just finished reading you paper given at the Maritain conference – “Aquinas on the Original Harmonies and the Problem of Evil”- very good indeed. I do have a question related to Aquinas’ line of thought that has been on my mind for some time. With regard to “Original Harmonies” you wrote:

    If there were at present harmony between man and the rest of creation, there would be no devastating tsunamis, or killer tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. There would be no diseases caused in man by other creatures (i.e. bacteria, viruses), and no harm done to man by other creatures (snakes, sharks, lions, etc.)

    As you understand Aquinas and the trajectory of his thought, would you say that he would affirm that, given the presence of the “Original Harmonies”, there would be absolutely no tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes or earth quakes? Or do the qualifiers in the above statment “devestating” and “killer” play a crucial role in the argument. In other words, there may have still been such natural events before the Fall (say due to “grades of goodness” and the “unity of hierarchical order” present in nature) – but, due to the original harmonies such events would not have physically harmed human beings?

    Here is why I ask this:

    Assuming that the current scientific claims about the age of the universe, the recent arrival of humans on the planetary scene, and the general development over time of living and non-living things (prescinding from disputes about the exact mechanism thereof) are valid readings of “the book of nature”; it would seem that the Christian theist must deal with “nature red in tooth and claw”, natural cataclysms, the arrival and then extinction of entire species (say dinosaurs), and the birth, life, death, and decay of innumerable forms of natural life (which some see pejoratively as an un-God-like wastefullness in the creative process) PRIOR to the prsence on earth of the first human beings. Thus, none of these sort of events can be attributed to the loss of a set of “original Harmonies” linked up with nature’s highest member – mankind – just because he was not created as yet.

    This seems to leave us with the assertion that cataclysms (land shifts / ice ages / meteors), extinctions, “nature red in tooth and claw”, prior to the Fall; are simply realities related to God’s creating the natural order in a “state-of-becoming”. In other words, these events/facts are simply natural consequences of a creative process teleologically developing towards a condition in which the natural order is intelligibly invested with “grades of goodness” and a “unity of hierarchical order” (say through secondary causes in nature and imbued final causality). A creation moving towards an ultimate eschatological goal (which along the way centrally includes the eventual creation and cooperation of mankind). In short, the fact that the lion eats the lamb, rather than lying down with the lamb, is not a consequence of the Fall, but simply a consequence of creation itself.

    I think this assertion can be defended without impunging God’s character using the notions of “grades of goodness” and the “unity of hierarchical order” as presented in your article; and I also believe that quips like “nature red in tooth and claw” implicitly evoke a certain emotive response which can fuzz our thinking. Still, I am quite curious if you agree with this assessment of how we must approach the data of geological and biological history prior to the Fall of man?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

    Pax et Bonum,

    -Ray

  45. Ray,

    Or do the qualifiers in the above statement “devastating” and “killer” play a crucial role in the argument.

    The qualifiers “play a crucial role in the argument.” The original harmony being referred to was between man and the rest of corporeal nature, which was subject to him in some respect. St. Thomas discusses this briefly in Summa Theologica I Q. 96. The exact nature of that subjection, and whether it was manifested only in the Garden or outside it as well, I don’t know. Surely within the Garden they were not subjected to the dangers of lightning, hail, tornadoes, hurricanes, meteors, volcanoes, avalanches, earthquakes, forest fires, floods, etc. But how that was so, we do not know. As for the animals, St. Thomas takes the position you describe (cf. ST I Q.96).

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  46. Bryan,

    Whether you claimed that adversity or trials entailed actual evils is not relevant since the point under discussion was whether they did. I can’t see how your denial here engages the point under discussion.

    I grant you never appealed to people’s intuitions, but I didn’t claim you did. So I can’t see how your notation about what I never claimed about your view is relevant.

    Grant that the truth of a proposition doesn’t turn necessarily on it intuitive standing. That said, intuitions are often the material with which we have to work. If you wish to argue that counter-intuitive implications of Tim’s view aren’t relevant, you can surely do so.

    It is true that you never made an argument about what “people would say” but I was assuming that you wouldn’t want your view to imply a counter-intuitive conclusion. In so doing I was basing that on charity.

    I made a claim that, “A God that could and doesn’t, doesn’t appear sufficiently good.” I do not see how your remark of “perhaps” engages the point either way. It seems to dismissively pass over it.

    Second, I was couching the statement in terms of what seems to be the case, allowing you room via charity to disagree, rather than dogmatically state you were wrong. Consequently, your remarks about not directing your comments about appearances aren’t relevant since they are directed to an epistemic concern not present in my remarks.

    If my argument was that the view articulated here presented a conception of God that was not sufficiently good, then I would think you would wish to engage that argument. It isn’t a question of whether you think what God does is sufficiently good, but whether what has been laid out here as to what God does is sufficiently good. That is, is the conception imply a good deity or not?

    As to demonstrating what is sufficiently good, I would think you wouldn’t need to do so in terms of empirical data had at the escahton, but in terms of an argument. Here I am using argument in terms of “demonstration.” I am not clear if you thought I was using it otherwise. If you think you can’t present a reason to think that what God does on this conception is good, but rather that we have good reasons for thinking that we can’t know, then you’ll need to make that argument.

    I grant that you do not assume that free-self determination is the same thing as freedom. I do. And that was the point. If agents in the eschaton can be “free” without self determination, then wouldn’t it be better to skip it and all the evil and just create people perfect? That is, if I can be “free” without it, then this demotivates thinking it is a higher good. After all, the BVM doesn’t have it and isn’t she more glorious than the Cherubim?

    It may be true to be the lowest person in heaven than the highest person in hell, but the comparison wasn’t between those to states and the two I proposed. This is a false analogy. Rather the comparison on the table was between those in the eschaton who had self determination and those who didn’t, yet all are “free” and having all saved in the latter case with only some in the former. So again, if the BV can be had without self determination and those other goods, then their lack of necessity for the BV weakens their significance as higher goods. They aren’t that important. In other words, we’d need a reason to think that they are infinitely better or put us in an infinitely or superior position that offsets the evils that they make possible. What reason is that?

    I grant that sin is not requisite for self determination and self formation. On your view are alternative possibilities necessary for either or both? If not, I can’t see how Mary had them (AP’s) on your view. If so, can you explain how she could choose between alternatives and not choose evil? What goods was she choosing between at the Annunciation?

    Further, how does Mary have self determination if her character was determined in the IC? Did she possess or lack original righteousness?

    If alternative possibilities are not necessary for self determination and self formation, can you explain why God couldn’t create people in the BV with self determination and self formation?

    I grant on your view, freedom shouldn’t be mixed up with free self determination. But that assertion doesn’t amount to a reason on my view why they shouldn’t be considered the same or enjoy some kind of entailment relationship. Can you give me a reason why on my libertarian view they shouldn’t?

    And I am not clear how your point engages what I wrote. Can you clarify? I claimed that the good of freely demonstrating our love for God turns on a libertarian (or at least SI conditions) condition for freedom, but your view seems to be some form of non-libertarianism. This was in response to the claim made that these goods could not be had for those created in the BV. If that is so, that they cannot have these goods, are those with self determination and self formation potential as created in a non- BV state more free than those who were? If so, then this seems to imply that those who are created with the BV enjoy a diminished sense of freedom.

    As for Augustine and Aquinas, I suppose this depends. I take them at best to be SI, but probably some version of soft determinism. If you disagree, please sketch how you see their views.

    I grant that love demonstrated through ignorance (obviously without the BV) is qualitatively different than manifesting through an irresistible act. Which do you think Mary had? And Christ? And second, granting the difference between the two, we’d need to know that having one is so much better than having the other. Do you think self determination and formation are separable from peccability?

    If the conditions relative to freedom between created in the BV and not created in the BV are not the same, can you trace out how Mary enjoyed the latter and not the former relative to the Immaculate Conception? That is, given the IC, could Mary have sinned? If not, do you think Christ enjoyed the latter or the former?

    You assert that merit does not accrue after the final judgment. Either strictly speaking there are no saints in heaven now or there is no merit for saints prior to the final judgment. Second, I’d need a reason to think there is no merit after the final judgment beyond your assertion.

    If Christ’s actions in a non-fallen world would have been meritorious, can you gesture at showing how that that is consistent with what you’ve said? Namely the compatibility between Christ’s actions in a non-sinful context would be meritorious but those created n the BV wouldn’t be, since Christ’s humanity has infused virtues just like those created in the BV.

    I don’t think your comparison on what most people in severe pain would choose. Here is why. I was referring to what people would choose with respect to what is good and reasonable and not under duress. Consequently, I think it is reasonable to give up the good of leading others to heaven to exclude a world of war, famine, cancer, etc. As for the divine point of view, this looks a bit ad hoc, as this could justify a whole set of views. It does no argumentative work since we don’t have the divine point of view to know that this view you are proffering is in fact justifiable. Second, we had better have the divine point of view to some degree relative to goodness, otherwise the argument above that this is a better proportioned world of goodness than those without evil is idle as well.
    It is true that you didn’t claim that the good of leading others to salvation is absolutely necessary. But it does seem you claimed it was necessary to note being created in the BV.

    As for my remarks on the “great loss”, I was inviting you to present a counter reason for thinking the lack of such goods in a perfect world would be significant.

    When I wrote of those acquirable goods necessary for theosis had by God, I should have been more specific and included self determination and self formation.

    I grant that the claim about infinitude and infinitude is mine. Noting as much doesn’t seem to engage my remarks.

    I realize that you never claimed that for agents having a beginning such goods necessarily need to be acquired. I wasn’t listing the things you claimed. If you disagree with my claim and the preceding reasoning, then it’d be helpful to give some reason why you do so. More to the point, such goods are relative to the creatures formal potential.

    When I speak of those goods had by choice I am speaking of the goods necessary for theosis. Those goods necessary for theosis are for creatures with a beginning necessarily acquired. You seem to think that they can be had apart from a creatures’ choice since you agree that creatures could be created deified, that is, in the BV. So I am not sure what you to make of your statement.

    “But if such goods are to be had by a creature, they must be acquired by the free choices of the creature; the creature cannot be created with them, on account of the nature of such goods.”
    Can you clarify? And by “free” do you mean with the power of self determination and self formation? With or without AP’s? And do you mean the goods necessary for the BV or no?

    I agree that the goods of martyrdom and self sacrifice are supreme acts of love, but God has them logically prior to and apart from any possibility of evil. That was the point in my dispute with Tim. These goods can be had in terms of self sacfrifice without the possibility of evil. What I suppose I need to see is a reason why creatures couldn’t have those goods without the possibility of evil? Why think that impeccability and self sacrifice are incompatible?

  47. MichaelL,

    I am not sure that God’s loving some more than others consists in giving them efficacious grace really makes a difference. And you qualified it by “sometimes.” Why think it is sometimes? Second, the position seems to move the question rather than answer it. Why doesn’t God’s loving consist in giving efficacious grace to all?

    The special gifts of John the Apostle don’t seem relevant to the question of efficacious grace here since they aren’t sufficient to salvation.

    Some of the reasons you give for thinking Protestantism is wrong are the same as yours, but they do not get to the root issues. The problems in epistemology and normativity, really more of the latter than the former to be fair, are really motivated by Christological errors. The fact/value divide and Christologies from below and from above are motivated by Nestorianism. This is why problems with normativity arise in the other areas of theology. An extrinsically related humanity to God is not going to have the requisite normative grounding to pronounce the faith once for all delivered. In any case, the problem you reject Protestantism are really grounded in Christology. I don’t think Augustine’s Christology or that of his Latin medieval interpreters really get around the principled problems. But that is a discussion for another day. The point being, its all connected to Christology. These aren’t discrete problems.

    As for double predestination, I’d need to know what that means in your judgment. I don’t find Augustine, Anselm, Scotus or Thomas’ account really any better on the score.

    As for novelty, I think Vincent and others pointed out Augustine’s novelty as well. So I reject Augustinian novelties, whether on grace and freedom or the Filioque, on the same basis I reject Protestant ones.

    Your gloss of the conditions on libertarian free will is too strong since it doesn’t entail that there are always AP’s. The objection was hinted at above in my exchange with Neal that good options to choose between would be a Buridan’s Ass case. This is what I was referring to when I wrote of rejecting Libertarianism on the basis that the explanation for a contrastive choice was mystery. I think I can meet that objection to some extent, but more widely I think persons are mysterious since they aren’t substances. To find out that personal activity outruns non-personal explanatory models shouldn’t be surprising.

    As to what God’s choices are like, this seems different from your stated position. As I understand it, that view was that God has a sufficient reason for creating a world with evil when he could have created a world without it. It is just that we have such and so reasons why we can’t as yet know what those reasons are. That is quite different than the idea that the metaphysics of personal activity in and of itself outruns causal explanation.

    I also think it is a bit ad hoc to argue against a libertarian account on the one hand that it entails appealing to mystery on explaining contrastive choices and then appealing to mystery to do essentially the same work in addressing this issue in philosophical theology.

  48. I’ve carefully read this article and I realise it gives a clear answer to the question as to why evil exist. Am a Bible student at african Bible College of Uganda. I just have one question to what S.T Augustine said that God did not create evil rather its a privation of good. If that s so, how do you reconcile that with Isaiah 45:7b, and the popular notion that God created all things. Don’t you think if we say God did not created evil, we might be paving way for the dualistic view concerning creation? Am afraid a faraid. help me.
    Kennedy Mchinanguwo Gondwe
    African Bible College of Uganda
    Box 71242
    Clocktower
    kampala
    Uganda, East Africa.

  49. The popping up of the last comment on the main page moved me to read the main article. Sorry Tim but I disagree with its main premises. For one thing, the first argument DOES work. For another, that “God desired that evil should exist” is flat out wrong. God “allowed” evil, not “desired” it. Let me support this by quoting from John Paul II’s catechesis at the general audience on May 21, 1986 at

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19860521en.html

    “Full of paternal solicitude, God’s authority implies full respect for freedom in regard to rational and free beings. In the created world, this freedom is an expression of the image and likeness to the divine Being itself, to divine freedom itself.

    Respect for created freedom is so essential that God in his Providence even permits human sin (and that of the angels). Pre-eminent among all but always limited and imperfect, the rational creature can make evil use of freedom, and can use it against God, the Creator.

    Sin was not only possible in the world in which man was created as a rational and free being, but it has been shown as an actual fact “from the very beginning.” Sin is radical opposition to God. It is decidedly and absolutely not willed by God. However, he has permitted it by creating free beings, by creating the human race. He has permitted sin which is the consequence of the abuse of created freedom. This fact is known from revelation and experienced in its consequences. From it, we can deduce that from the viewpoint of God’s transcendent Wisdom, in the perspective of the finality of the entire creation, it was more important that there should be freedom in the created world, even with the risk of its abuse, rather than to deprive the world of freedom by the radical exclusion of the possibility of sin.”

    And why was it so important to God that there should be freedom in the created world, even with the risk of its abuse? Because, as the Pope went on:

    “Freedom is ordained to love. Without freedom there cannot be love.”

  50. Gondwe, I recommend that, after you read in full the John Paul II’s catechesis I linked above, you also read this Benedict XVI’s catechesis:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20081203_en.html

  51. Johannes, I clarified what I meant by that statement in comment #3 & 5. I did not mean to say that God willed evil to exist (and of course that doesn’t even make sense because evil doesn’t ‘exist’ in the way that other things do). I still don’t think that the first argument works for the same reasons I agave in the article and some of the subsequent debate.

  52. Gondwe,

    That’s a good question and not something that’s easy to answer. St. Augustine says that God did not create evil because evil is not a thing that was created. It’s like a shadow; a shadow is the lack of sunlight. Evil is the lack of good. So just as ‘shadow’ is the term to describe what happens when light is missing, so evil is the term to describe what happens when good is missing. Neither shadows nor evil are things that can be created. So in saying that God did not create evil, we are not saying that some other evil deity created it (like Mani would have said), we are saying that it was not created at all.

  53. I apologize if this is not a relevant comment, but I do not have the time to read through all of the comments to this article. This is a very simplified way I understand the presence of evil. Please let me know where I may be off track.

    God is infinite love and infinite good. He created man as an act of love. He gave us the choice not to love Him because without this choice, it would not be a true expression of the way God loves. God does not force individuals to love him. That is not love. The ability to choose self over God results in a deprivation of love and a presence of evil.

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