Re: [asa] Philosophical Musings on Heaven & the Problem of Evi

From: William Hamilton <willeugenehamilton@gmail.com>
Date: Tue Jul 29 2008 - 22:49:51 EDT

On Mon, Jul 28, 2008 at 2:22 PM, Christine Smith <
christine_mb_smith@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Hi all,
>
> Thought I'd add to the mix of "problem of evil" themed
> threads the following musings...I hope in some way,
> shape, or form, they're not redundant on previous
> conversations...would appreciate all of your insights
> as always :)
>
> I recently read the book "The Unexpected Way: On
> Converting from Buddhism to Catholicism" by Paul
> Williams. Among the items in his book that I found
> thought-provoking was his take on the problem of evil.
> The basic essence of his argument is as follows:
>
> 1) Because there are, theoretically, an infinite
> number of universes God could have created instead of
> this one, it is logical contradiction to say that God
> could have created the "best of all possible worlds",
> since being a part of an infinite set of
> possibilities, there would always be a better
> possibility.

Not necessarily. Suppose this is the best of all possible worlds. That
doesn't mean there cannot be an infinite number of worse worlds. As an aside
I might ask whether he means a countable infinity of worlds or an
uncountable infinity.

> Therefore, it is not a violation of
> God's omnipotence to say that He couldn't create the
> "best" world, and thus the question is reduced to "why
> didn't He create a BETTER universe"

Better by whose definition? From God's point of view this could be the best
of all possible worlds. The phenomena we see as bad could be necessary in
order to optimize whatever performance index God wishes to optimize. That
leaves me unsatisfied, because I want all things to be good from my point of
view. But as George pointed out a few days ago, God, in the Person of Jesus
Christ, suffers this world along with us. The element of relationship is
more important than whether the world is a finely-tuned mechanism from our
point of view.

>
> 2) Being God, He is under no obligation to make a
> better universe than the one we currently live in, if
> the one we currently live in suits His purpose.
> Therefore, God's creation of a universe that includes
> suffering and evil is not a problem, and indeed,
> should probably be expected.

Agreed.

>
>
> My musings on these lines of reasoning are as
> follows...
>
> Regarding #1, this sounds reasonable on the surface,
> but is this a correct understanding of the idea of
> what an infinite series means, and is it
> scientifically correct (so far as we can understand
> things) to say that there could have been an infinite
> number of universes created? Also, regarding the idea
> of the "best of all possible worlds", doesn't this
> equate in some sense, to what we believe heaven to be?
> If so, does the idea that this type of world could not
> be created, violate our theological creeds which state
> that God is the creator of "heaven" and earth, and the
> general understanding that Christ "came down from
> heaven" and "ascended to heaven". Or, rather than
> being the "best of all possible [created] universes",
> is heaven rather to be understood as the place (so to
> speak) where God resides, outside of created time and
> space? If so, then will heaven (where we will rest
> eternally) merely be better than our current universe,
> rather than the best possible universe? Is it possible
> that the creation of a lesser (containing more
> suffering & evil) universe is in some way a
> requirement of being able to create a better universe,
> thus the need to endure the lesser to get to the
> greater?
>
> Regarding #2, I question the premise of his argument.
> In the act of creation, doesn't God submit Himself to
> certain obligations, in the same manner that a parent
> is obligated to a child? Certainly, it is clear that
> God does submit Himself to certain obligations through
> the form of historical convenants with His people.
> Doesn't this mean that God does, in some sense, have
> an obligation to create a better universe than the one
> we are in now (or perhaps that's what He's doing as we
> speak?)?
>

I think I agree with most of what you say -- let me think about it. I
should point out that the book of Revelation has God living with humans on a
new earth, under a new heavens. Therefore we oughtn't think of heaven
(alone) as where we will spend eternity.

>
> Thanks ahead of time for your insights and your
> patience as I reflect on these questions in an attempt
> to better articulate my own thoughts on it.
>
> In Christ,
> Christine (ASA member)
>
>
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-- 
William E (Bill) Hamilton Jr., Ph.D.
Member American Scientific Affiliation
Rochester, MI/Austin, TX
248 821 8156
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Received on Tue Jul 29 22:50:14 2008

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