Friday, May 23, 2008

A natural-order theodicy: but is it biblical?

After finishing chapter 5 of the book, I finally feel that I'm getting to the bottom of Hasker's overall analysis and framework for a theodicy. Not that I mean he has presented all of his evidence in light of his thesis, but that the foundation was built in the preceding chapters and we're starting to see the fruit of it all.

In my last 2 posts I sought to expound a little on two positions which Hasker evaluated with respect to natural evil. As noted before, he casts the idea that the natural evil came as a result of sin (i.e. the Fall). His reasoning: simply that the earth is "scientifically" proven to be billions of years old; and since their is also 'evidence' that natural evil (hurricanes, tornado's, disease, death, etc) existed before that time, Adam's sin could not be considered as a viable option to deal with this. The second position by Diogenes Allen, though somewhat accepted by Hasker, nevertheless left much to be desired as well. So midway through the chapter Hasker finally gets to building his position for a theodicy.

As the post title suggests, Hasker sets forth what he calls a natural-order theodicy. He builds on this by noting the requirements for a [cogent] theodicy. What are they? First he says their must be a justifying principle which he defines as a moral principle stating that under certain conditions God is morally justified in permitting some evils of a certain sort to occur. Secondly he says there must also be a justifying circumstance which he notes is a state of affiars which is claimed to obtain which is such that, were it to obtain, the conditions for God to be justified in permitting the evil in question would be satisfied. Essentially they are wrapped up in his overall definition of theodicy, which is to show that God is not morally at fault for permitting the evil in question-that God's permission of the evil is morally justified, even if the events in question really are evil in themselves.

Okay, now that we've gotten this far Dr. Hasker: We know that you have established your position on free will in that in order for the creature to be relatively autonomously free, God must have some "limit" if we are really to be free. We know that you are convinced that omniscience is nothing more than God being able to know true propositions in their logical possibility, and that because the future is logically impossible to know, it wouldn't be illogical to say that God doesn't know the future. Finally, we know that you take the theistic evolutionary position with respect to the natural world.
Lets tie it altogether now, shall we?

Enter the first step, Hasker's natural-order theodicy. After establishing his grounds for what he feels is scientific proof of an extremely old earth, the evolutionary position which he adopts nearly grounds his whole system. He goes on to explain from pages 127-137 his defense for this natural order. To make it short and sweet, Hasker basically asserts that God placed the natural world into existence by setting everything to occur and react with fixed laws which were inherent in the matter themselves. Said another way, the evolving world is acting in accordance to the original plan (design) of God, much like a the way a clockwork, though with potential for progress and evolution. His conclusion: nature is not evil. Humans consider it evil based on the fact that it can cause damage and distress (even death and destruction), but because it is not a being and has no purpose within itself, it cannot be considered evil, even though evil manifests itself through them. And since God created these things without forethought to the "consequences," that gets God off the hook. In his own words, nature operates according to its intrinsic, God-created laws, which are impersonal in form and do not have regard to the lives and welfare of particular individuals. Surely the events are not evil within themselves, I grant that. But what we do have are events that, from a biblical perspective, God apparently takes credit for, at least in some cases.

Hasker attempts to substantiate this claim by an appeal to Scripture by referencing Job 39:27-30 and Psalm104:21-22.
Surely these verses speak to God's creative acts which allowed for the animals to obey their intended purpose. Problem is, how would Hasker interpret those verses to which speak to God's deliberately changing the natural course of the world to conform them for special purposes? For example, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of a fiery furnace as recorded in Daniel 3:26. Clearly nature wasn't acting in accordance to the set laws there. Or for that matter when Jesus walked on water as we are told in Matthew 14:22-33. Are these just instances which God used to "override" the previous notions of inherent natural laws? I guess that could be the case, but how do we understand these things in light of the many different passages where God caused the earth to open up and consume Korah for his rebellion in Numbers 16. Was this just a natural event that just so happened to take place at the time which Korah rebelled and was coincidentally timely?

While I'm sure Dr. Hasker has dealt with some of these objections before, he doesn't seem to do so through chapter 5. Perhaps he will in the final three chapters. He does raise a few objections with respect to how can we take this seemingly fixed set of natural law in light of Christian theism, but asks the reader to be patient as he will attempt to answer them in chapter I guess we'll have to wait for that as well. Lastly, he does bring up the objection early in his defense of the natural-order theodicy in regards to heaven. The question we might all ask is first, if heaven is to be a perfect place and state of being, why didn't God just make this place and not the evil infested place in which we now live? His answer, to me, is pretty much the same answer that the determinist (Calvinist) offers, it is unknowable. It must rest in the original purpose of God to want to have created the world in the way in has come about. Obviously there is another side to the heaven debate which was neither addressed nor hinted at, that of how one defines free will in light of the fact that in heaven we will not be able to choose between evil or good. But I suppose that's for another time; perhaps the next post. Reason being, Hasker titles chapter 6 Why is life so hard. And from a quick scan of the subtitles, it seems he plans to set forth his defense of free will.

I look forward to it.

1 comment:

William Hasker said...

Your summary of my view is correct in some respects but inaccurate in others. I do affirm that evolution has occurred, but I do not take a position as to whether or not God may have intervened in the process at crucial points (for instance, the origin of life). So the references to a "clockwork universe" are somewhat inaccurate. Nature as such is not *morally* evil, but it undoubtedly contains events that are seriously harmful to humans and other sentient beings -- "evil" in a non-moral sense. God in creating the natural world did not, in my view, foresee and incorporate into his plan all of the specific events that occur. But he certainly knew the *kinds* of harmful things that could happen in his creation. The justification for his creating such a world is found in the great goodness of the world overall and all that it makes possible; the harmful events are, as it were, the "price of admission" for the existence of such a world.
I certainly include in my view the fact that God can and does intervene on various occasions; basically these are the events we term "miracles." So the Scriptures that portray God as doing this do not create a problem for me.
This does not cover all the points at issue, but I will let the rest of them ride until your next post.