Re: Coercion

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Fri Apr 09 2004 - 10:41:11 EDT

Don Perrett wrote:
> George wrote:
> Why would God act that way? An analogy that's often used is the way
> a parent limits what he or she does with a child so that the child can grow
> up & understand its environment and learn to do things for itself. The
> possibility of understanding our world even at an elementary level, let
> alone in a sophisticated scientific way, requires such divine limitation. A
> child won't learn how to understand things if a parent immediately gives it
> answers to all questions, and won't learn to do things if its every need is
> immediately supplied.
> Don P:
> I understand the analogy and agree somewhat. But, one must understand that
> God initially did supply us with everything (according to Genesis) but we
> sinned and were thusly expelled into a world in which we must deal with
> things on our own and NOW we must learn to live without the dependence of
> God or learn AGAIN how to depend on God as we were meant to in the
> beginning.

        Though it is a traditional western view, I think there is little basis in
scripture - & of course much less in science - for thinking that the human race in the
beginning was endowed with great knowledge, or even the capability to acquire it
immediately. The view of the eastern church, according to which the 1st humans were in
an immature state & were supposed to develop toward what God ultimately desired for
them, is better. E.g.,

        "Adam, being yet an infant in age, was on this account as yet unable to receive
knowledge worthily." (Theophilus of Antioch)

        "The man was a young child, not yet having reached a perfect deliberation" and
"It was necessary for him to reach full-development by growing in this way." (Irenaeus)
> George:
> The simplest - though over-simple - way to put the process argument
> is that God can't be _blamed_ for evil because he's doing the best he can to
> prevent it. This is, e.g., Kushner's argument (on a popular level) in _Why
> Bad Things Happen to Good People_ . God is not the sole cause of anything
> that happens, so the fact that things "go bad" can be attributed to other
> causes. OTOH if God is omnipotent (in the correct sense - i.e., the one who
> is the 1st cause of everything) then one is faced with the question of why
> he causes the phenomena that result in the Holocaust or Rabbi Kushner's son
> having progeria.
> The process view has attractive features but also problems. It
> seems to imply some kind of cosmic dualism. & it's not clear why there can
> be 2 phenomena which are essentially the same, one of which is good & the
> other evil. If God has some degree of control over the fire that heats a
> house, why doesn't he have the same degree of control over the fire that
> burns it down & kills people. A process theologian would (I think) reply
> that all the "actual entities" that affect the situation have to be taken
> into account, but this may be just a way of saying "Well, it's complicated."
> & of course moral evil is a more difficult problem than natural evils like
> houses burning down, but the two are not completely separate: Moral
> decisions involve, inter alia, what goes on in brains.
> Don P:
> Since we "fell", we are the cause of moral evil. It is we who make the
> "choices", which God gave us, that turn something blessed into something
> cursed. Without us evil would have no where to exist. As for natural evil,
> it is only our perception that things such as disease and natural disasters
> are evil. In fact, they are merely natural events which are required in
> order for a universe to exist in such a state as to allow choice. Death is
> normal and should be accepted. It is our "evil" desire to prolong the
> process for our own physical desires.

        But process theology provides one way of explaining why God does cannot simply
keep us from causing moral evil. & as for natural evil - try telling someone whose
child has died of cancer that it wasn't evil.


George L. Murphy
Received on Fri Apr 9 10:43:59 2004

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