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Previous: 29.3 Divine versus Absolute omnipotence Up: 29. Errors and Evils Next: VI. Discussion

29.4 Real questions

In light of the above understanding of divine omnipotence, which follows logically from the understanding of God as Love, we can discuss some real questions that concern the creation of the universe. The arguments above concerning omnipotence focused on the continued existence of our world which already has evil in it, but how, we ask, does evil even exist in a theistic universe? How can God thereby be still good? How could evil have arisen in the first place?

The first question is therefore whether we involve God in some way in all physical processes, including those that might be random, destructive, or even evil. This is a problem if we believe that God is wholly benevolent.

Here, we do begin to reply by means of the free will defense, despite Mackie’s objections. With our generative level structure, God is not ‘acting through’ the world but gives all natural beings freedom and life to act as they wish. As Christian belief has in Matthew 5.45, “he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the just and the unjust”. This does not mean that ‘the just and the unjust’ are treated identically and have the same sets of dispositions and intentions. Rather, as they will perform different acts and have different actual forms, by Postulate 10 they will have different dispositions and then lead the different lives of their choice. Just because God sustains the consequences of many actions, does not mean that God wants them to happen that way, only that God seems to prefer the continued existence of the people concerned, rather than their non-existence.

We may also ask how certain beings have dispositions which act contrary to divine intentions, given that all dispositions derive from the divine and given that there are no evil or contrary intentions in the divine life. We agree that a benevolent God could permit certain contrary intentions, but we wonder how these could ever persist in a universe governed by Postulate 10. One may wonder for example how selfish dispositions could be sustained, when there is no selfishness in God. I believe the answer lies in seeing that certain dispositions, to look after oneself for example, have a good use in certain contexts and may well be derivable from the divine life in certain discrete degrees. They only perform good uses, however, when they are coordinated and governed by prior derivative dispositions, such as intentions to be useful to others. This is the way they may be linked in the divine life, but it is possible that some persons may be such that they can only receive the dispositions to look after oneself and not receive the prior dispositions that are supposed to govern them. If these persons are still to live, they can only be alive with a restricted fragment of the divine life, a fragment that in this case will act with regard to one person only. This fragment (by itself and with derivatives from it in its ‘uncoordinated’ state) may well be disposed contrary to the original divine intentions. These subsequent contrary derivatives are only indirectly generated from the divine life, via the continued existence of the persons concerned. Divine benevolence is maintained, provided we do not forget that these contrary dispositions are derived via the (good) disposition to give (some kind of) life to all persons, and that they are not a permanent component of the original divine.

The third question is how evil came to exist in the world for the first time. The question, therefore, is:

Could God not create a world in which all persons (no matter that they evolved gradually biologically, developed gradually psychologically, and regenerated gradually spiritually) still never made decisions against God, still never entertained false thoughts or evil intentions, and still never desired delights that cannot come from God, and (moreover) never aspired to be gods but always knew that they were separate from God?

Remember that all ‘gradual progressions’ were through incomplete stages of ignorance and partly egotistical desires, and that those ignorances and egotisms are only balanced and restrained by a suitably-managed influx of love and wisdom. Were those balancing and restraining processes always successful?

Or did some people, in some galaxy far, far away, diverge from what is good and true? Is that us? Are we the people who have the most need to shun evils?

As anticipated at the start of this chapter, these discussion sections do not really provide answers to the problem of evil. There is no reason given for natural disasters, etc.,29.2except that God must work with the materials that respond best in their reception and longest-term retention of divine life, even if those materials are not perfect.29.3We have merely established various divine and natural principles which, given theistic science, any future answer should take into account.


Previous: 29.3 Divine versus Absolute omnipotence Up: 29. Errors and Evils Next: VI. Discussion

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