Monday, April 28, 2008

Are God and evil compatible?

The above caption is the title of chapter 3 in Hasker's work The Triumph of God over Evil (IVP, 2008). A question for the ages, indeed. Therefore I want to continue my review with a short little summary of chapter 2 and 3. Being there are 8 chapters total I plan on doing a post on each subsequent chapter, with hopes of having Dr. Hasker to join the conversation for clarification, correction, and discussion. I will warn you at the outset that dealing with the types of philosophical argumentation Hasker utilizes you'll need to put your [theo-logical] thinking hat on tightly. Lets move on, shall we?

In chapter 2, Hasker examines the impact that the Holocaust has on the development of a theodicy. He starts off by introducing John K. Roth, a noted philosopher and Holocaust scholar. Then moves on to D. Z. Phillips, a Wittgensteinian philosopher of religion. Roth essentially calls for what he terms is a "theodicy of protest." By this he asserts that one shouldn't even attempt a theodicy in light of the many evils the world has known. It appears that Roth utilizes an interesting theological perspective in regards to what it traditionally regarded as theology proper. Reason being, he goes on to state that in order for God to be "vindicated" from evil, it will largely depend on the "future" of man and the "future" of God. What he means here is that in order for God to 'redeem' himself, he not only needs to offer a radical (good) transformation in the eschaton, but must also repent, as it were, with respect to his allowance (or permission) of evil. As a result it seems that Roth has allowed for an unsubstantiated alternative view with respect to the attributes of God, particularly with respect to his immutability. All in the name of evil.

Phillips also challenges the traditional attributes of God with respect to his omnipotence. He holds the position that God cannot do something that is logically impossible for him to do. Now, this I would agree. But Phillips then goes on to assert that it is impossible and inharmonious for God to "allow" evil to exist, if he is to be morally perfect. Therefore, according to the logic employed by Phillips God cannot be omnipotent, given the fact that he could not, know all things exhaustively. Otherwise if He knew (or knows) evil would happen, and didn't act upon it, the he either knew it and allowed it (bringing his morality into questions), or he didn't know (calling his omniscience into question). Phillips takes the later position.

With that said, I do want to offer that Hasker's does find flaws in each and determines to starts to make his case chapter 4 onward. As a result, the title of chapter 3 is the logical step in the right direction when dealing with the development of a theodicy.

In chapter 3 Hasker starts off by quoting a statement from David Hume regarding God's omniscience, omnipotent, and morality. As stated earlier regarding Phillips position, Hume deems it illogical for evil to exist in conjunction with the three aforemetioned attributes about God. Hasker then moves to what seems to be the answer to this question, the free-will defense. Bear in mind that Hasker does not use chapter 3 to make his argument, only to establish his rendition of the logical compatibility of God and evil.

At this point Hasker seeks to uncover the this compatibility by establishing the nature of free will. He does so by starting with Alvin Plantinga's position. A significant quote by Plantinga is this, "To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, he [God] must create creatures capable of moral evil, and he cannot leave these creatures free to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so." To this I would have to agree, assuming at the outset that all is good that the creatures in fact possess the ability to choose good (which I would deem was the scenario with Adam and Even before the fall). Hasker then goes on to speak more in depth about the possibilities of a given scenario. He looks at the questions of God's knowledge of Adam and the possible situations in which Adam might find himself, circumstantially. For example, Hasker asks, could God create Adam good with the ability to choose between good and evil, but place him in certain pre-determined situations so as to create an environment that Adam would not sin? He defines these instances as the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. Ultimately Hasker concludes this as impossible since if God were to create Adam within a particular situation so as to completely prevent Adam from sinning, then in fact Adam was not truly free (or significantly free.)

Hasker then moves on to address the elements of natural evil (hurricanes, disease, etc) and middle knowledge (for more, click the word) and how they affect the arguments for and against. I will not add much of what was discussed here except the fact that Hasker determines natural evil to in fact be logically coherent in the schema God and evil, but denies middle knowledge can really play a factor in the discussion due to the lack of cohesion within the "counterfactuals of freedom" and the alleged "foreknown" determined outcome (more on this later).

Hasker promises at the end of chapter 3 that after establishing the groundwork [in chapters 1-3] he will then move on to voice his argumentation in the subsequent chapters. I promise the subsequent posts to be more interactive and offer more of my [and his] opinion as opposed to simply summarizing the book. I will say this, thus far Hasker has yet to address the biblical data with respect to the apparent tension of this issue. I expect him to do so in the subsequent chapters.
Incidentally he does note in the preface that to find a book that deals with the philosophical aspects coupled with a theological response is a rarity. I look forward to the coming chapters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This summary is generally on target. It's true that I do not affirm divine middle knowledge, and I do not believe that there are true counterfactuals of freedom for God to know. However, my point in this chapter is that the free will defense, as presented by Alvin Plantinga, works whether or not middle knowledge is assumed. The point of the defense, of course, is to show that there is no logical inconsistency in the existence of both God and evil.