> It may if the greatest good of God's ultimate future depends on
>a universe in which evil is possible - Polkinghorne's "free process
>defense" & the traditional "free will defence". This is unattractive if
>God is a puppet master who impassibly makes creatures suffer to achieve
>his goal. But the picture is quite different if God participates in
>creation & suffers with it - which is partly why #2 above is crucial.
I'm not sure what "God's ultimate future" refers to here, but
perhaps it means something like "the development by God of the best possible
world in the long run." If this is accurate, it seems to me this wreaks a
great deal of havoc on our concept of God. That concern is reinforced when
you suggest the possibility that "God participates in creation & suffers
with it." This is rather different from what you said earlier, "Through
incarnation and cross, God is also the victim of evil." I took your first
comment to mean that God had suffered as a result of the act of redemption;
your second comment seems to imply that God suffers as a result of the act
of creation. This may be a blind spot for me, but I find it difficult to
reconcile this second comment -- that "God participates in creation &
suffers with it" -- with the orthodox Christian concept of God as
omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. I face the same dilemma in
reconciling the concept of God with any "best possible world" that would
require evil as a necessary means to that end. Are some Christians (I
suppose I'm thinking here of Polkinghorne and Plantinga, among others) so
addicted to "free will" (or "free process") that we are willing to jettison
the traditional notion of God?
And on that point -- why contrast "free will" with the notion that
God is a "puppet master"? This strikes me as a false alternative. The
character of creation exhibits a great many features that we would describe
neither by reference to "free will," nor by means of purely external
manipulation. Universal gravitation, for example, seems not to possess the
property of "free will," but neither does it operate as a puppet maneuvered
by God. A great many things we observe in creation --including the behavior
of human beings -- also seem to escape the exclusive poles of this false
dichotomy. Furthermore, even the most determinist of systems is not
necessarily *causally* deterministic -- meaning, in this case, that creation
could be a largely determined system (those who hold to a "rational order"
in the universe certainly seem to think so) without the "puppet master"
(God) causally determining its systemic character. In this way, it is
possible to suggest that there is some "room" in creation for freedom (or
randomness, or less-than-prefectly-predictable events), even if the creation
is a largely determined system. In short, there are many alternatives to
"free will," other than a robot-loving, string-pulling deity.
Well, what's my point here (even I am losing track)? I guess I
can't imagine the "free will defense" or the "best possible world defense"
(they frequently run right into each other) as effective responses to the
problem of evil, if we're talking about evil as human beings experience it
in creation. That's because the cost of adopting those remedies is a
radical reduction in our concept of God. I'm also curious about this: do
any on this list who hold to a concept of Intelligent Design (ID) also
subscribe to some version of the "free will defense" when it comes to
accounting for evil? If so, how is that possible? Isn't ID an inherently
deterministic system? Does it not rule out the random, the arbitrary, the
unpredictable, the genuinely "free" event or state of affairs? If not, just
what kind of a "design" is it, anyway, and what would make it so "intelligent"?
Thomas D. Pearson
Department of History & Philosophy
The University of Texas-Pan American