Re: [asa] red in truth and claw?

From: Murray Hogg <>
Date: Thu Dec 11 2008 - 19:06:15 EST

Hi John,

I'll only drop on top of this (as it were) my own spin on a Leibnizian (?) "best of all possible worlds" theodicy;

I think the traditional way of interpreting Leibniz - indeed, probably the way he meant himself to be understood - was to think in essentially "static" terms about the nature of the world.

But personally I'd want to emphasize the dynamic nature of the process. Or, more specifically, I'd want to emphasize that THIS is the best of all possible worlds because only a world like this will get us to where God wants to go.

It is, to draw on a Pauline metaphor, like saying a woman being in labour is the best of all possible states - not because giving birth to a child is by any means the "best" state to be in, but because the consequence (the birth of a child) is better and you can't have the second without the first.

One could labour the point with a multitude of examples: hours of study are "best" because without them one doesn't obtain a qualification (which is "better"), a grueling training regimen for sports is "best" because without it one can't perform at optimum level (which is "better"), etc. There are, it turns out, lots of goals "better" than what one might have to do moment to moment to achieve them. But as one can't have the ultimate goal without the moment-to-moment sacrifice, it turns out that what's "best" at any particular moment might fall short of what is "best" overall.

To put that in a nutshell - THIS is the "best" of all possible worlds because it's precisely the sort of world in which God's intentions will ultimately come to pass.

I'd go on to point out that there is a curious lack of symmetry in the Christian notion of "restoration of all things".

Usually people like to say that the final state post-eschaton) will be the same as the initial state pre-fall, but there is actually one absolutely critical difference: the post-eschaton state will not have (as far as I can see) any potential for humans to sin and our relationship with God will be free of blemish.

Now, I hardly know precisely what makes for the difference between a "potentially sinful pre-fall world" and a "sin exclusive post-eschaton world" but I suspect that what lies in between (THIS world) is somehow logically necessary or else God wouldn't have done it this way.

So, my ultimate point is that we MUST have the present world in order to get to the world God desires - were it otherwise he would have created the "post-eschaton world" straight off. And in this sense I adopt a modified form of the "best possible worlds" argument - it's "best" not because a world without sin and suffering is impossible to obtain, but because such a world is (I think) impossible for God to create ex nihilo - either because there is some fundamental impossibility about it or there is something inherently contrary to God's character about it.

Personally, I'd speculate the answer lies in some sort of soul-building theodicy: God creates a world in which there is a potential for sin, and in which sin occurs, because only by experiencing THAT sort of world can humans come to understand the terrible nature of sin and the great blessing of relationship with God (and the great grace of God as demonstrated ultimately in the redemptive work of Christ). So THIS is the best of all possible worlds because only in THIS world can people grow to become worthy of citizenship in the world to come.

The paradox - that this is the best of all possible worlds, and the world to come even better - is resolved by proposing the necessary nature of the process.

Hope that makes some sort of sense,

John Walley wrote:
> I also agree with Murray that you can't separate natural evil from the rest of the theodicy question. In fact it is the answer to it in my opinion.
> To refine Leibniz from our discussions the other day I would say that this world is more accurately the best of an already bad situation, due to the presence of Satan and evil. But since this was part of God's plan from the foundation of the world, and the world He intended for us, then only in that sense was it the best of all possible worlds.
> God choosing to put us here is His prerogative but that alone answers both the natural evil and the theodicy question. If we have to have a reason as to why, I choose to simply believe that we and the natural evil we face are part of a cosmic quest of judgment on Satan and his evil. I think that is the ultimate lesson of the Bible, the crucifixion and life. I think all other defenses short of this are artificial and easily debunked by even the most childish reasoning.
> Lastly this is another good example of dishonesty in the church. We clearly see from the record of nature that Tennyson was correct with his descriptive quote but yet the church continues to teach an idyllic Eden and lambs that laid down with the lion. Is this harmless? I contend not. The difference is a mindset about God and his nature and expectations that may or may not surive the test of the real world. This is the harm of YEC and why it should be taken on by the rest of the church.
> Thanks
> John
> Thanks
> John
> --- On Thu, 12/11/08, Murray Hogg <> wrote:
>> From: Murray Hogg <>
>> Subject: Re: [asa] red in truth and claw?
>> To: "ASA" <>
>> Date: Thursday, December 11, 2008, 3:55 PM
>> Hi Bernie,
>> Personally I take this to be part of the broader problem of
>> evil and respond accordingly.
>> In part this means acknowledging that regardless of how we
>> understand human origins, God saw fit to create a world in
>> which suffering and death is part of God's plan. Note
>> here that I personally don't consider that throwing this
>> back on Adam and Eve comes even remotely close to resolving
>> the question of why God allows the POTENTIAL for suffering
>> and death. So even given the normal YEC response to the
>> problem of evil, it strikes me that God still bears some
>> culpability (unless, of course, we only selectively apply
>> language of primary and secondary causation!)
>> Not liking the "blame Adam and Eve" option, then,
>> my response to evil is to point to (1) the fundamentally
>> incarnational nature of Christian understandings of God in
>> which God "suffers with" his creation, (2) the
>> deep wisdom of God which may place a comprehensive
>> explanation beyond our understanding, (3) the Christian
>> eschatological hope of a world in which all such evils are
>> set right, (4) the nature of Christian faith which at least
>> involves accepting that God is good, wise, and in control
>> despite appearances to the contrary, and (5) the various
>> theodicies which have been proposed.
>> On (5) I'd expand a little to suggest that whilst I
>> don't think the various theodicies provide us with an
>> "answer" to the problem of suffering and death,
>> nevertheless they are helpful in making some sense of it.
>> So, for instance, I don't think Hick's "soul
>> building theodicy" (that suffering is a necessary part
>> of emotional growth) is wrong in as much as I don't
>> think it the full picture. So too for the free will
>> theodicy, etc.
>> On (1) one would want to emphasize that the Christian
>> notion of the incarnation points to a God who suffers with
>> his creation so it's not entirely a case of God standing
>> outside the process and expecting us to bear it alone or
>> unaided.
>> On this, it's probably worth mentioning that I believe
>> we should be grounding our theology in an understanding of
>> God's redemptive work in Christ rather than in God's
>> creative activity as (purportedly) represented by Genesis
>> 1-3. I disagree vehemently, in other words, with claims
>> that one has to read Gen 1-3 literally in order to make
>> sense of Christ.
>> As such, I believe that TE's are quite free to appeal
>> to long established theological responses to evil. About the
>> only thing a TE CAN'T do is pass the buck to Adam and
>> Eve but, as mentioned, I don't find that the least
>> compelling and wouldn't be wanting to go that way in any
>> case.
>> Hope it helps somewhat,
>> Blessings,
>> Murray
>> Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>>> I’m going to be making a presentation to a mixed
>> group of believers/non-believers. I’m going to talk to
>> them about how a Christian can accept evolution. I know the
>> question will come up “Isn’t evolution evil- full of
>> pain and suffering- red in tooth and claw? Isn’t God evil
>> if that was His design means?”
>>> Just wondering how evolutionists on this discussion
>> group might respond.
>>> Personally, I’d go further. Not only tooth and claw
>> shaping creatures- but SCULPTURING creatures. I’d say the
>> most beautiful creatures were sculpted (metaphorically) by
>> evolution through tooth and claw.
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Received on Thu Dec 11 19:06:38 2008

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