Re: The Problem of Good

From: Steve Petermann (
Date: Tue Sep 09 2003 - 14:14:10 EDT

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    > I'm struggling to see why positing the potential for evil in creation
    > resolves the problem, while positing the actuality of evil never has
    > it. What advantage is gained by speaking of the potential for evil, as
    > opposed to the actuality of evil?

    My original intent was to discuss the issue of evil in a science and
    religion context. What prompted this was the discussions of process
    theology. While process theology may has a differing theology from standard
    Christian thought, it seems to have a similar view of evil. One that desires
    to shield God from it. To me this is just creates a point of significant
    contention with science, world rejection. In my opinion and others, all
    current major world religions are at their core world rejecting. But it
    seems to me that his world rejection creates an untenable position for a
    science and religion dialogue. If a world rejecting stance is taken, then
    some sort of supernatural apocalypse or transformation must occur to set
    things right. Science on other hand would reject such a scheme as
    unreasonable. For science, the cosmos will end not with a supernatural
    intervention but in collapse, cold death, or by some other natural means.

    For science and religion to be partners in the search for truth, I believe
    that religion must formulate a world and life affirming view. To do this it
    must deal with the question of evil. If the presence of evil or the
    potential for evil are framed as spoilers then the only alternatives are
    re-creation or escape. This would represent the standard Christian or
    Eastern view. However, if including the potential for evil in creation is
    God's choice then there must be a reason for it and perhaps the presence of
    evil itself is not a spoiler. Surely this inclusion of the potential for
    evil is not just a superfluous addition.

    Let me use the Christian example to illustrate this point. In the creation
    story in genesis God apparently purposefully includes the potential for evil
    in creation. God who creates Adam includes the potential for evil in him.
    And yet even with that inclusion God declares creation good. This would
    suggest the potential for evil is part of a good cosmos. It is only the act
    of evil that is taken as a spoiler. But is it a spoiler? Christianity
    claims that, that one act, spoiled creation such that it needed to be
    rejected and saved. Other approaches, including some non-standard Christian
    approaches claim the "fall" is not a world rejecting spoiler but is
    something to be overcome in telos. That telos can be found in the sustained
    creation(evolution) of the cosmos.

    But if God chose to include the potential for evil then God need not be
    shielded from it. Instead apparently part of the process of God's creation
    is meeting the challenge of this potential and dealing with evil where it

    To me the incarnation and resurrection metaphors of Christianity are a
    perfect example of God, accepting the limitations of life and with it the
    potential for evil, symbolizing both the process of embracing good over evil
    and the victory of telos.

    Unless religion can move to a world affirming view, I don't see the
    potential for much progress in a science and religion dialogue.

    Steve Petermann

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