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. . . then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. . .


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Title: . . . then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. . .

Eleventh Interlude - The Present
. . . then the LORD God formed man from the dust
of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the
breath of life and the man became a living
being. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden,
in the east and there he put the man whom he had
formed. . . But the serpent said to the woman,
'You will not die for God knows that when you
eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will
be like God, knowing good and evil.' So when the
woman saw that the tree was good for food, and
that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the
tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took
of its fruit and ate and she also gave some to
her husband, who was with her, and he ate. . .
Then the LORD God said, 'See, the man has become
like one of us, knowing good and evil and now,
he might reach out his hand and take also from
the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever'-
Genesis 24-24 Vast civilizations spread across
the earth. No creature could compete with us and
we dominated the whole world. The nature that
bred us still lives in us. Civilized humans
realized that we could have a better existence
through cooperation with each other. But, deep
within the large brain lurks the ever present
competitive lust for superiority. That is, after
all, how our species got to this point. Nature,
red in tooth and claw, has been at work for
almost four billion years developing the
life-forms we see upon the earth. We are one of
Eleventh Interlude - The Present - cont.
Culture has overridden nature for a blink of an
eye in comparison to the long stretch of
evolution so why should we be surprised when
nature breaks the bounds of culture and we
revert back to the creature hidden in the
reptilian part of our brain. Nature is of
itself not evil. We only interpret it to be so
as it negatively affects our well being. Our
competitive reptilian nature is only evil when
it breaks with our culture. The asteroid that
killed the dinosaurs was only evil to those it
killed. It was a gift to us. However, nature
not only lurks within our heads, it still lurks
in the cosmos. These things are with us always
and evil is ready to befall us at any moment.
Eleventh Interlude - The Present - cont.
Human moral evil
Two Recent Orthodox Theodicies
John Hick's Theodicy Theodicy of Alvin Plantinga
John Hick's Theodicy
Hick built on the theodicy of St. Irenaeus (d.
ca. 200 CE). Augustine - humans created fully
developed - perfect - in a paradise- we lost it
all because of Adam's Fall - misuse of free will.
Irenaeus - humans created innocent - imperfect
and immature - not paradise. World a place
designed for soul-making. God intended for his
free willed creatures to be placed in an
environment (containing evil) that would force
them to grow spiritually and morally into true
children of God. Evil is a means to an end -
without evil, no means for spiritual
John Hick's Theodicy - cont.
Eden and the Fall are myths -- the Fall is an
account of what is happening now. Perfection of
humanity lies in the future, not the past! We
must grow into moral goodness rather than created
morally mature. "A human goodness that has come
about through the making of free and responsible
moral choices, is intrinsically more valuable . .
. " The world must operate according to
predictable rules where nature is independent
of our desires. So that we have the possibility
for moral and spiritual growth in the face of
pain and suffering, indeed, genuine evil.
John Hick's Theodicy - cont.
Suffering becomes the means to force us to search
for meaning and God it calls us to service to
our fellow creatures. It pushes us toward moral
maturity. The challenges must be real and the
world must appear as if there were no God since
-- His presence would be so overwhelming as to
force His will upon us, making us to be not
truly free to accept or reject Him.
John Hick's Theodicy - cont.
Why is some suffering is so indiscriminate and
harsh if the idea is to improve us. Hick
ponders that question Unless the suffering is
really bad and undeserved for the sufferer, we
may not feel such deeply personal sympathy and a
desire to help. If each person was allotted
his just deserts, whether for good or evil, the
suffering of others would fail to have the power
to draw us out of our self-centeredness.
John Hick's Theodicy - cont.
Hick realizes that the magnitude of undeserved,
indiscriminate, and gratuitous suffering calls
for additional support and thus invokes
eschatology. What about Babies who die before
having an opportunity for soul-making? Millions
of years of suffering while evolution took its
painful course? The Holocaust and the tsunami?
How do we answer questions like these?
John Hick's Theodicy - cont.
Our growth to spiritually maturity must continue
after death. A greater good to justify the
travail of the soul-making process. A fullness of
life beyond this vale of tears. "The Kingdom
of God will be infinite because eternal good,
will outweigh all temporal and therefore finite
evils." So, in the end, Hick takes the
universalist approach similar to that taken by
the Church Father, Origen 1800 years ago all
will eventually be saved. Problem Still, one
has to ask -- if God will make everything and
everyone perfect eventually, why didn't God just
start out that way to begin with?
Theodicy of Alvin Plantinga
Several people that Alvin Plantinga calls
atheologians, have made the claim that the
theist holds beliefs that are logically
inconsistent. One example Evil is a problem
for the theist in that a contradiction is
involved in the fact of evil, on the one hand,
and the belief in the omnipotence and perfection
of God on the other.
(H. J.
Theodicy of Alvin Plantinga - cont.
Plantinga attempts to show that logical
inconsistencies of the existence of both evil and
God are not really so -- in fact, they are
compatible. He qualifies the usual theodicy
trilemma God is "all good only if he eliminates
every evil state of affairs which is not a
logically necessary condition of a good state of
affairs that outweighs it." The atheologian
counters -- there is "no case of severe,
protracted, involuntary human pain is ever
outweighed by any good state of affairs."
Theodicy of Alvin Plantinga - cont.
The atheologian's evidential argument may
convince another atheist, but does not logically
contradict the beliefs of the theist. Plantinga
builds on the free-will theodicy of Augustine,
which he says does justify evil in the world "
. . . perhaps there are certain good states of
affairs that an omnipotent God cannot bring
about without permitting evil, despite the fact
that these goods are not a logically sufficient
condition of any evil at all. This is
sometimes called the free will defense . . . "
Theodicy of Alvin Plantinga - cont.
He explains his free will defense by claiming
that free will is of moral value. If God makes
you, your will is not free. God must bring
about the best possible world-- and a morally
free creature is a necessary part of that world.
Therefore, God must create a world with free
will built-in to its fabric. God is then not
responsible for humanities evil choices, since
it is not in His power to bring it about that
men freely chose only the good.
Theodicy of Alvin Plantinga - cont.
Problem But, why so much freedom? Why is it a
good thing that God does not intervene in the
case of horrendous moral evils. - Freedom
could be mitigated by reducing the power of free
people to inflict great harm on
others. - If God created our human nature
along with free will, why not simply
create a kinder gentler nature? We would still
have free will but less moral evil.
Plantinga also posits transworld depravity,
where in every world that God could create that
offers its inhabitants free will, at least one
person will choose evil, therefore it is
impossible to create a world in which evil does
not exist. to be used only to impress at
cocktail parties
Theodicy of Alvin Plantinga - cont.
Problem A serious problem with the free will
theodicy is that it does not really address
natural evil. Why would any free moral
transgression cause an earthquake? Perhaps
--- - Sin of Adam corrupted the entire natural
order, liberally interpreting the statement of
St. Paul in Romans 820-22 "We know that the
whole of creation has been groaning in labor
pains until now and not only the creation, . .
." - God's curse on Adam in Genesis 317,
"cursed is the ground because of you," could be
employed to indicate a corruption of the entire
natural order.
Theodicy of Alvin Plantinga - cont.
- The free will of malevolent supernatural
beings that cause natural evils. Sin began in
heaven with the angels when the "son of Dawn" led
a group of the first of God's created beings in
a rebellion against God's authority. How you
are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid
the nations low! . . . But you are brought down
to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit (Isaiah
1412-15). The "Day Star, son of Dawn" is
supposed to be Satan who is usually considered to
be the snake in the Garden of Eden who led Adam
and Eve to succumb to the sins of pride and
disobedience. Natural evil followed as the
consequence of moral evil. Adam and Eve's sin
is the reason for pain in childbirth,
destructive forces in nature, arduous work for
bread, and physical death.
Theodicy of Alvin Plantinga - cont.
Here, God did not ordain the bad choices made by
neither Satan nor by Adam and Eve all of their
choices were freely made. They could have
chosen to do what God wanted. Problems This
story - is made up of misinterpretations of
the scriptures. - gives a lot of power to one
mythical man. - shows that God can really hold a
grudge. - indicates that they were entrapped.
- certainly reduces the power of God to have the
uncontrollable supernatural beings of
Dualism on the loose. the Day Star was not
Satan, but a reference to Babylonian rulers
(claimed to be astral gods of the dawn -- Venus)
eventual downfall
A Break with Orthodoxy
The Problem of Evil exists only when we
simultaneously attempt to reconcile the
traditional omni attributes of God with the fact
of evil in the world. The Problem disappears if
any one of these attributes is forfeited. What
of some other attributes of God? A key attribute
that Jesus personified is humility. According to
Pauline theology, Jesus emptied Himself of all
divine power in order to become a man. Perhaps
God empties Himself by allowing the universe the
freedom to unfold as it will. This recognizes
the will of the creature, while at the same time
allowing that will to cause evil. Here we will
look at some modern attempts to justify evil by
somewhat eliminating the traditional orthodox
The Evolutionary Theology of Teilhard de Chardin
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 - 1955), a
Jesuit priest was one of the first thinkers to
realize that, if religion was going to be
successful in the future, it would have to come
to terms with science. This he did by teaching
a combination of Darwinian evolution and
Christian theology.
The Evolutionary Theology of Teilhard de Chardin
- cont.
Teilhard's theory was that man, and the entire
universe, were moving through stages of
development. Starting with the Big Bang -- the
structure of universe evolved by layers of
complexity from elementary particles, atoms,
molecules (the geosphere), simplest life forms,
protozoa, plants, animals, primates and man (the
biosphere) to socialization (the noosphere) and
then to an ultimate spiritual unity. The
universe is in an evolutionary process that would
culminate in the final unity he called the Omega
The Evolutionary Theology of Teilhard de Chardin
- cont.
Within each layer, things get more and more
complex ( e.g., atoms from simple hydrogen to
complex uranium), then, at a certain point,
in-layer complexification stops and continues on
a higher level, with the lower levels remaining
as building blocks. Complexification had
continued to progress from simplicity to the
level of consciousness. Consciousness will in
turn emerge into the highest form of
spirituality. He equates the Omega point with
God. All elements become one with God -- "God
all in everyone."
The Evolutionary Theology of Teilhard de Chardin
- cont.
He says Christian doctrine must change -- There
was no Original Sin, no fallen first parent and,
therefore, no need for a redemption of fallen
humanity. In most of the theodicies of the
past, the universe was seen as static, once and
for all creation by God where humans appeared in
a completed finished form. Those theodicies
failed to take the dynamic system of evolution
into consideration and thus were unsuccessful in
their task of justifying evil in God's good
The Evolutionary Theology of Teilhard de Chardin
- cont.
The theodicy of Teilhard summarized "In the
Universe of Cosmogenesis, in which Evil is no
longer catastrophic (i.e., no longer the result
of an accident) but evolutive (i.e., the
statistically unavoidable by-product of a
universe in course of unification in God."
Evil is just the growing pains of the cosmic
process. He paved the way for other thinkers to
use his evolutionary concepts. One of those who
did was Alfred North Whitehead.
Whitehead's Process Theology
The discerning Christian may have noticed the
extreme dichotomy between the God of the Hebrew
Bible and the God of Greek philosophy-based
orthodox Christianity. In the former, God is a
person who interacts and is affected by His
creatures. In the latter, God is unchangeable,
impassible, posses aseity, and is far beyond
the reach of His creatures. A rather strained
theology attempts to merge the two . . .
Process theology has developed from the
philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, as
modified by Charles Hartshorne and others. It
has become quite influential in liberal
Protestantism, Unitarian Universalism and
non-Orthodox Judaism.
Whitehead's Process Theology - cont.
Traditionally, the fundamental reality is Being.
Being is made up of matter consisting of
particles and composites of particles (i.e.,
atoms and molecules). Matter is inert until
acted upon by some outside force which may move
or change it. What if, instead of Being, the
fundamental reality is Becoming where the primal
things are not particles but rather events,
occurrences, or processes? What if reality
consists of instances of change and to be actual
is to be a process? The basic units of reality
in Whitehead's world he calls actual occasions.
Whitehead's Process Theology - cont.
Fundamental reality is basically an evolving
process. Reality is not a collection of static
particles, rather it is made up of building
blocks called actual entities or actual occasions
-- consider them "beings" that are in the process
of development. The building blocks possess some
freedom to develop according to some organizing
principle that is capable of creating order out
of chaos. That principle is called God --
unlike other entities in that He is imperishable
and is the root of causation. God essentially
creates order out of chaos and not ex nihilo as
many Church Fathers had claimed.
Whitehead's Process Theology - cont.
This idea of creation matches that of Plato and
some early Church Fathers in that evil is
possible due to the limitations of the imperfect
material God had to work with. Since all
entities are free, God can organize by persuasive
love only never coercion. All activities of
any actual occasion (entity) affects all others,
thus God not only influences and affects other
entities, but is influenced and affected by them.

Whitehead's Process Theology - cont.
Instead of a lot of atoms acted upon by forces,
the world is a lot of happenings or processes
acting of their own volition. In the beginning
was God and an uncreated chaos of actual
occasions. God was powerful in that He set
about to influence the actual occasions to evolve
into the creaturely reality we see about us.
God was not all powerful since the actual
occasions have an inherent primal creativity and
power which allows it to choose to actualize one
of the potential ways it can become.
Whitehead's Process Theology - cont.
God in Process Theology is not the omnipotent
impassible God of later Greek philosophy and
cannot impose His will on human beings. God has
limited omnipotence allowing Him to comply with
the decisions made by humans. Also, not
omniscient, since the future is not yet
actualized and therefore unknown.
Whitehead's Process Theology - cont.
This reconciles God with the state of the world
by not even attempting to argue for God's
omnipotence. God is already doing everything in
His power to persuade His creatures to do good
and prevent evil therefore He is not responsible
for the evil that does actually occur.
Problem this wipes out thousands of years of
established classical theology and is supported
only by the fact that it solves the Problem of
Open Theism (also called Free Will Theism)
Many in the Protestant Evangelical community have
sought to reconcile the fact of evil by
acknowledging that God is limited in His
Omniscience, therefore unable to see the future
until it is actualized by our free-will choices.
Claim to have Biblical support - God makes
mistakes, is surprised, changes His mind and
adapts to humanity's free will choices Gen
2212. He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy
or do anything to him for now I know that you
fear God, since you have not withheld your son,
your only son, from me." Exodus 3214. And the
LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he
planned to bring on his people.
Open Theism - cont.
There are many more Biblical examples where the
God of the Old Testament is seen as very
different from the God of the Philosophers and
the orthodoxy of the developed Church. Some
Open Theists - in order that humans retain their
free will and thus be responsible for their own
actions, God must limit his knowledge of the
future and act only cooperatively with His
children. Other Open Theists - God can know all
that is knowable, leaving His omniscience in
tact. It is simply a fact of logic that the
future has not yet happened, so even the
omniscient God cannot be aware of what is to
Open Theism - cont.
A contemporary proponent of Open Theism, Gregory
Boyd, has this to say about the future "Much
of it the future, open theists will concede,
is settled ahead of time, either by God's
predestinating will or by existing earthly
causes, but it is not exhaustively settled ahead
of time. To whatever degree the future is yet
open to be decided by free agents, it is
Open Theism - cont.
In either case, humans are free to use their will
to either obey God and be saved or disobey and be
lost. The human free will is completely in
control of one's eternal destiny. This has the
benefit of placing responsibility on the human
being for his sins and relieves God of the
seemingly injustice of arbitrarily electing some
to salvation and letting the rest be damned.
Calvin would not be pleased with this
Open Theism - cont.
To the Open Theist, evil exists because God has
limitations. This frees God from being the
author of evil, but raises the question of
whether this limited God is worthy of worship.
Problem Unfortunately, this theodicy suffers
from the same problem that undermines Process
Theology - namely, this God is not the God of
classical Western religions.
Now's the time to participate and vote for your
top two theodicies. We'll give the results after
the next section.
Toward A Rational Theodicy Built on Modern Science
In spite of the claimed infallibility of some
revealed religions, we want to know more . . .
And, maybe we can with the assistance of modern
scientific concepts. We've discussed the
various historical theodicies that religions have
developed in order to save the goodness of God --
which is inconsistent with the fact of moral and
natural evil in the world. One mentioned
earlier on my list of 16, was taken from chapter
nine of the ancient book of Ecclesiastes.
Rational Theodicy - Time and Chance
Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to
the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor
bread to the wise, nor riches to the
intelligent, nor favor to the skillful but time
and chance happen to them all. For no one can
anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken
in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare,
so mortals are snared at a time of calamity,
when it suddenly falls upon them.
Eccl 911-12 This
puts the lie to the promises of Deuteronomy where
goodness is said to be rewarded. Here, the good
things that people do are insufficient for
guaranteeing a reward. Indeed, even badness may
well be rewarded depending on time and chance!
Rational Theodicy - New Testament
Jesus acknowledged that natural evil in the form
of accidents bears no relationship with the
righteousness of the victims. When asked about
an accident Or those eighteen who were killed
when the tower of Siloam fell on them - do you
think that they were worse offenders than all
the others living in Jerusalem?
Luke 131-4 His
reply was, no. Jesus didn't think the accident
was a punishment for sin. He also didn't
question why God would allow such an evil to
befall his children. He simply assumed that the
world worked that way and God was not involved
for either good or ill.
Rational Theodicy - Moral vs. Natural Evil
Most theodicies reasonably address moral evil in
which a person's free will allows bad things to
affect others. These theodicies fail to
convince when natural evil is involved, such as
the case of an inanimate object (the Siloam
tower) killing innocent bystanders. So, we'll
address natural evils.
Rational Theodicy - Quantum Physics and Chaos
Is the future Determined (settled) Indetermined
Rational Theodicy - Determinism
Predestination eliminates human free will and
condemns everyone to a fate that was
predetermined before the creation of the world.
St. Augustine was troubled by this doctrine
but, in his zeal to counter the Pelagian heresy,
he came down firmly on the side of double
predestination and a settled future. That the
future is thus determinant has been supported by
many philosophies (i.e., Stoics) and many
churchmen (i.e., Augustine and Calvin). As
we've seen in the science lectures, it was also
supported by Newtonian science.
Rational Theodicy - Determinism - cont.
With both science and religion working against
indeterminism, human free will and the ability to
alter a fated future did not stand much of a
chance. Modern physics has completely changed
that mindset and has established that
indeterminism is a fact of the natural world.
This has elevated human choice once again to
its proper place, and it has also allowed for a
positive theology of evil that is real and exists
in the realm of being where we can have some
control over it. We can alter potential evil by
taking a useful action.
Rational Theodicy - Indeterminism
Totally random and uncaused events happen at the
quantum level, and chaos theory states that
minute initial conditions of any system are
enormously amplified in the course of time that
the system is in operation. The famous example
of chaos theory is a butterfly flaps its wings
in Brazil and causes a later massive storm in
America. The slight movement of air from the
butterfly's wings results, over time, in a
storm. Any slightly different flapping would
have caused a completely different effect. As
with the ending of my story . . .
Twelfth Interlude -- Sometime after the Present
But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened, and the moon
will not give its light, and the stars will be
falling from heaven, and the powers in
the heavens will be shaken.
1324 It was discovered only a few weeks ago and
it was coming fast. Events set in play fifteen
billion years ago were about to reach
completion. The vast majority of those events
worked for our benefit and for those we are
Twelfth Interlude -- Sometime after the Present
- cont.
These events could be attributed to the hand of
God and maybe they were. But not all of the
events were beneficial, so do we really want to
put the attribution for them on God? Five
billion years before the present, the laws of
physics had set in motion an event for which we
will not be grateful. It was caused by a
combination of quantum theory, atomic physics,
chaos theory and simple celestial
mechanics. This one we will definitely call evil.
Twelfth Interlude -- Sometime after the Present
- cont.
5 Billion years in the making caused by natural
laws even- plate tectonics
Toward a Rational Theodicy
So, how does science help in offering a rational
theodicy? After all, God could have -
Intervened by turning aside the comet at any time
during its flight. - Changed the initial
conditions by having the radioactive event affect
the comet slightly differently. - Not
allowed the random quantum event to happen in the
first place. Notwithstanding what God could
have done, we know that natural disasters
actually happen all the time according to the
laws of nature (as described by science) and,
therefore, that God has done none of these
necessary preventive measures.
Toward a Rational Theodicy - cont.
So, are we not back to the same ancient Israelite
belief that God is the maker of both good and
evil? On the one hand, yes, in that He could
intervene in natural evils. On the other hand,
no, in that He did not cause the natural evil -
it was truly random. But still, why would God
make a universe that works according to the
natural laws, revealed by modern science, that
allows evil to happen? Well, consider the
Toward a Rational Theodicy - cont.
A universe made another way means that everything
could either be totally pre-determined, or that
it would be totally micro-managed. Either
obviates any possibility of independent action,
or choice for any sentient beings, including us.
And, a God who Would predetermine our eternal
fate Would micro-manage events that lead to the
deliberate suffering of the righteous innocent,
is not worthy of consideration. Of course, God
may do either, or both, of these things and not
really care about our consideration.
Toward a Rational Theodicy - cont.
Concluding Statement --- No, it is better to
accept the wisdom of Ecclesiastes (buttressed
with the findings of modern science), and assign
the natural evils of the world to the vagaries of
time and chance.
Toward a Rational Theodicy - cont.
I say "Toward a Rational Theodicy." What are
the ramifications of my concluding statement?
Toward a Rational Theodicy - cont.
"Time and chance" does not actually justify the
actions of God to Man. So, this is not a
complete theodicy. We need something
more. Where is God or what is He doing during
the time and chance events? not exist be
retired use as test use as punishment limit His
participation . . . most of the other theodicies
we've discussed -----
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited
Having examined most of the sixteen theodicies I
laid out in an earlier section, it is now
appropriate to comment on the pros and cons of
each of them. 1. Deny God. Deny the very
existence of God. This, of course is not really
a theodicy since no justification of God is
attempted since God is assumed to not exist. The
syllogisms for both the logical and evidential
Problem of Evil are sufficient to convince an
atheist that he or she is right. It has also
very likely converted many theists from their
belief in God since it is such a powerful
argument. How, indeed, can an omnipotent,
omniscient, and all loving God exist when He
apparently does nothing to stop the terrible
moral and natural evils in the world? Of
course, justifying an existent God is the very
aim of any theodicy.
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
2. Dualism. Evil is not of God's doing. Assert
that there is a duality in the cosmos between
spirit and matter (flesh) or between good and
evil. Zoroaster, the Orphics, the Essenes, the
Gnostics, the Manichees, and more thought they
had the problem solved by introducing an evil
entity that could fight the good God, thus
absolving Him of the responsibility for the evil
in the world. This is a good ploy to justify
God, but there are two large problems with it
one is that it obviates monotheism and the other
that is establishes evil as a real thing. Even
if the evil entity is less gifted than the good
one, it's still a henotheism at best. If the
evil entity (Satan for Christianity) is a real
being, then the Neo-Platonic/Augustinian claim
that evil is a privation of Being doesn't work.
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
3. All are guilty due to free will. We all sin
of our own free will and all are guilty and
deserving of suffering. Human guilt (original
sin) is blamed on the Fall in Eden by St.
Augustine (354-430 CE). Theologian Alvin
Plantinga is a modern proponent of Augustine's
theory. Problems If God created our human
nature along with free will, why not simply
create a kinder gentler nature? We would still
have free will but less moral evil. Does not
address natural evil. Gives a lot of power to one
mythical man. Shows that God can really hold a
grudge. Adam and Eve were entrapped since God set
them up. Reduces the power of God to have the
uncontrollable supernatural beings of
Dualism on the loose.
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
4. Means to an end - educational. Suffering is
a tool God uses that serves the purpose of
"soul-making" by providing a means of spiritual
development. Pain causes us to recognize our
need for God. This solution was first suggested
by St. Irenaeus (130-202 CE) and again in the
twentieth century by theologian John
Hick. Problem One has to ask -- if God will
make everything and everyone perfect eventually,
why didn't God just start out that way to begin
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
5. Only temporary. This earthly life is short
and there will be an afterlife to make up for our
suffering. This is the eschatological
solution. Sometimes this solution stands alone
as with the Maccabees in their martyrdom against
the Syrian oppressors. But it is found as a
supplement to other theodicies such as Hicks
soul-making where the gratuitous evils are so
great as to render his primary theodicy moot and
calls for an afterlife to make up for them. 6.
Illusionary. This world is not real and
suffering is an illusion it is only apparent.
Alternatively, what appears evil is due to our
lack of understanding God's bigger plan. What
appears to be evil actually gives rise to a
greater benefit. The Hindus and Buddhists
exemplify this theodicy. I did not address this
one in the body of my text because I do not
consider it to be a theodicy at all. If we just
look at the Buddhist case, it is not an
explanation of evil or suffering in the face of a
good God. Rather, it is a way of divorcing
oneself from the world of material perception and
retreating . . .
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont
7. The created is imperfect. The creator is the
only perfect Being therefore the created must be
imperfect and thus capable of evil. The higher
the Being, the more the goodness. Lack of Being,
hence a lack of goodness, allows evil. Evil is
really a privation of good (privatio boni). This
explanation of evil can be found in Plato,
Plotinus and Augustine. This one is hard to
argue against. Going against Plato, Plotinus and
Augustine would be the height of arrogance.
Nevertheless, I see two problems. One, why
couldn't God have created from His own substance,
nullifying this argument. Two, just as in number
2 above, it conflicts with the other, sometimes
jointly held, belief in a real evil entity (e.g.,
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
8. Deny the interaction of God with creation.
Although God set the creation in motion, He has
retired from active involvement. This is the
position of the Deists. The major "pro" in this
is that it definitely absolves God from direct
participation in evil. It does, however, smack
of desertion . . .
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
9. Limit God. Deny some of God's conflicting
attributes. This approach has been taken by some
schools of the Jewish mystical Kabbalah and is
held by many liberal and Evangelical Christians
today. I would argue that this one must be part
of any satisfactory rational theodicy. As long
as God is laden with the attributes inherited
from the Greek philosophers, there is no hope of
justifying that God in the face of evil.
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
10. Time and Chance. Suffering or reward is not
dependent on one's deeds but on the vagaries of
time and chance as explained in Ecclesiastes 911
and alluded to in Luke 134. This fits the
apparent facts that we see all around us. Jesus
agreed that the deaths at the tower of Siloam was
a natural accident. Wrong place wrong time. God
did not do it . . . But, does it justify God for
allowing such things to happen? I don't see how
it does, therefore there must be something else
added to the mix to make this one work.
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
11. Karma. This is similar to the "all are
guilty" version above. However, with karma, the
person suffers evil because of guilt he has
accumulated in past incarnations. This works
well for the Eastern religions and even Plato
suggested this. However, it is not appropriate
for the God of the Hebrew or Christian
Bible. Appropriate or not, it explains the
suffering in the world better than almost
anything else could. God is not to blame for the
failures of the individual who freely chooses to
act, and accumulate karma, in such a way as to
condemn himself to reincarnation and future
suffering. It is up to us to get off the wheel
of suffering and avoid the evils of the
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
12. It is a test. Suffering is allowed to test
one's faith. Job is an example. A sovereign
God can do what He pleases to His creatures, but
a good God would not do so. Besides, if God
posses the attribute of omniscience, what is the
purpose of a test for which the outcome is
already predetermined by divine foresight?
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
13. Evil allows for second order virtues.
Similar to "soul making," in that we can not
develop some virtues (e.g., courage) in response
to some evil (e.g., war). You can't have one
without the other. The best thing going for
this one is that it is true. But, to sacrifice
one for the benefit of another is not usually
considered a good thing.
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
14. It is a mystery. An infinite Being is
beyond our finite grasp. As spoken in Isaiah
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither
are your ways my ways, saith the Lord."
Therefore, it is wrong to even develop
theodicies. Many in the Reformed Churches hold
this view. If one buys into the sovereign God
can do whatever He wants and that's OK
proposition, then this works. But, they still
develop theodicies anyway by altering the
conclusion of the POE syllogism to reflect that
evil is for a greater good or that evil will
eventually go away . . . 15. Evil glorifies
God. God decreed evil ultimately for His own
glory. Therefore, it is sinful and un-Scriptural
to propose any theodicies. This is the position
of the Calvinists. Is God so insecure that He
needs to make us suffer in order to glorify
Himself? Is such a God worthy of worship or
even admiration?
The Sixteen Theodicies Revisited - cont.
16. God is unjust. God is not morally good.
Few have dared to claim that God is evil.
Rather, they claim that whatever God does is, by
definition, beyond our moral ability to judge.
Some claim that since perfection implies no lack
whatsoever, that God must not lack that which is
evil. If there is only one sovereign power in
the universe and there is evil, it follows
therefore that God is the author of both good and
evil . . .
Results of the Vote
With ONE slide to go, let's look at your vote.
General Solutions to the Theodicy Problem -
Various Historical Solutions - cont. These
Would Work
1. Deny God. Deny the very existence of God.
Modern science by itself explains natural evil
completely -- the world acts independently of our
desires -- but our goal was to establish a
genuine justification of evil in a good God's
world -- so this is out for that purpose! 8.
Deny the interaction of God with creation. He
retired after creation. 9. Limit God. Deny
some of God's conflicting attributes. 10.
Time and Chance. Suffering or reward is not
dependent on one's deeds but on the vagaries of
time and chance.
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