Re: The Problem of Good

From: Tom Pearson (
Date: Tue Sep 09 2003 - 12:44:51 EDT

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    At 01:11 PM 9/8/2003 -0500, Steve Petermann wrote:

    >I think there is a subtle but important difference in what I am saying. I
    >did not say that *evil* was necessary to discern good or even that evil is
    >*necessary* for there to be good. What I said was that in order for there
    >to be what we value as good, there seems a necessity for a structure of life
    >where there is a *potential* for evil.

    I'm struggling to see why positing the potential for evil in creation
    resolves the problem, while positing the actuality of evil never has solved
    it. What advantage is gained by speaking of the potential for evil, as
    opposed to the actuality of evil? Is the potentiality for evil a
    *necessary* feature of the structure of life? If so, does that mean God
    could not have done otherwise? It seems to me that first, one would have
    to show that the potentiality for evil is a necessary, and not just a
    contingent, feature of human existence; and second, that Christians can
    tolerate such an abridgement of God's omnipotence.

    >Not unless one rejects the idea of kenosis. What if a structure of life
    >with a *potential* for evil is a good thing? If God chooses to create such
    >a world(which God obviously did) then no omnipotence is lost and the
    >structure of life is affirmed.

    I'm afraid I don't follow this. Kenosis is a metaphor adopted by Paul in
    Philippians, chapter 2, to address the human/divine paradox of Christ's two
    natures. It has nothing to do with God's creative activity. What would be
    the biblical grounds for extending this metaphor to God "emptying" himself
    of his omnipotence in order to create? Further, how could a potential for
    evil be a good thing, unless we deny the reality of evil, and say that evil
    (including a potential for evil) is really good? Finally, the original
    question remains: is God's choosing to create such a world a necessity
    imposed on him, or is the existence of a potential for evil a contingent
    fact which might have been otherwise?

    >Reasonable question except for my point about "the potential for evil".
    >Following that question I think a reasonable request would be to ask for a
    >counterexample, some theory of a structure of existence that we would call
    >good without the potential for evil.

    How about a structure of existence in which everything is ordered in
    accordance with the good and perfect will of God (i.e., if God's will is
    good, it cannot accommodate evil or the potential for evil), without any
    constraint on divine action?

    Tom Pearson

    Thomas D. Pearson
    Department of History & Philosophy
    The University of Texas-Pan American
    Edinburg, Texas

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