Blogger Ex Cthedra has kindly unearthed and posted a comment of mine from a couple years ago at bonald’s old site Throne and Altar, wherein I set forth in fairly succinct form the theodicy I developed over about ten years. I had totally forgotten this comment, and in retrospect I find it does a pretty good job of nailing down all the main points of the argument.
- Creatures are necessarily fallible.
- God cannot create creatures that are different from him and that are omniscient. For only God can be omniscient.
- God cannot create creatures that are different from him that do not have the capacity to disagree with him. Only God can have the will of God. A creature that is not God must, by definition, have a will that is just its own, and that is therefore somehow different from God’s. To be a creature at all therefore *just is* to be liable to disagree with God, whether “on purpose” or not.
- A creature cannot therefore know what it ought to do as well as God knows what it ought to do.
- All this is to say that God cannot create a creature – any creature – that is not free to diverge from his will.
- It is also to say that God cannot create a creature – any creature – that can fully know and understand the context and consequences of its decisions, as God understands them.
- So creatures – any creatures – are prone to Fall. It’s the only way to make creatures. They are *necessarily* fallible. Their failure is not necessary, but their fallibility is. [thus the existence of a Heaven in which free saints and angels do not sin does not at all vitiate free-will theodicy.]
- Failure is not inevitable, but it is very likely.
- Among a population of quintillions of creatures, that together comprise a causal system – a world – the likelihood that one of them will fall is very great.
- Why would a creature – particularly a rational, intelligent creature like a man, or a seraph – decide to Fall?
- Because, not being omniscient, a wholly innocent creature could not know ex ante – *metaphysically* could not know ex ante – what sin or evil meant; could not know why sin is bad. To a wholly innocent creature inhabiting a sinless, utterly pleasant world, “bad” would be a meaningless term, an empty category – or, rather, not even a category, but rather mere noise. The only aspects of a sinful course of action that would be apparent to such a wholly innocent creature would be the good ones.
- To such a creature, God’s warning about the apple would seem important. But he would have no idea why he should heed it. To a wholly innocent creature, “should” would be an empty category, like “poiyt4ch” is to us.
- This would be so even for a rational creature with an IQ of 80 bazillion, like Lucifer. Before his Fall, evil would have been to Lucifer what the sight of the sunset is to a man who has never seen: simply not out there as a consideration.
- This is not to make evil comprehensible. It is only to point out how it can seem attractive – for the evils of a course of action are inapprehensible to an innocent creature, and are to him therefore not at all compelling [and, indeed, are not even actual]; he apprehends only the goods thereof.
- A Heaven populated with saints and angels who had witnessed or been evil would be much more likely to result in stable righteousness than a Heaven populated with souls who had never experienced sin at all. Such souls would know well what horrors they avoided by refraining from sin.
- Our causal system has members that have Fallen. Lucifer fell, engendering spiritual evil; as a consequence our cosmos then fell, engendering natural evil; so, eventually, Adam fell, engendering human evil. The matter of this world was by these Falls permanently and irremediably deflected from its original, immaculately virtuous course. Unlike God, creatures are all contingent upon other events, and their constitutions are therefore strongly influenced by their predecessors. Only thus can they be causally related to those predecessors. Every one of us is therefore tainted, simply by virtue of our membership in this world. We inherit the influence of our sinful causal inputs. Thus the sins of the fathers are visited upon their sons, to the seventh generation. Such is Original Sin. This inheritance is inescapable. It goes along with the causal coherence that alone makes a world a world. The only way to prevent this inheritance is to unmake the world. And, NB: to unmake a single sinful act, to prevent a single one of its dire consequences – for the world at large, or for the future of the sinner himself – is to unravel the whole causal order.
- To unmake the world would itself be a very great evil. Genesis makes this pretty clear. God promised Noah that he would never again simply destroy evil. Rather, he would work with it. The world would be allowed, indeed enabled, to run its course, to work its way. God would support that, and work with it. At the Omega, He will nevertheless still be all in all. He will not be gainsayed – how could that be possible, mutatis mutandis? – He will work his will, despite creaturely evil, indeed by way of creaturely evil.
- So, it makes no sense for us to complain about the evil God allows. The only way he could prevent that evil altogether would be to prevent our existence in the first place.
Well and good, I suppose. But then I read my immediately precedent comment, and found that it voiced what seems to me an extremely important caveat:
Evil is not merely a “problem” that atheists erect as a way of avoiding the decision of faith. I know this from personal experience with very great evil. The evil that struck my family out of the blue was not at all a problem for my faith, thank Heaven. Indeed, it deepened my faith immeasurably – and not because of the miraculous blessings that we also experienced, but, precisely, because of the tragedy that can never be erased, and that has wounded us all, permanently, forever. Yet I know – I know personally – that there are many other people who, faced with similar sorts of tragedies, lose their faith completely. The spiritual dimension of the problem of evil is orthogonal to the philosophico-theological dimension. When the evil struck us, I became interested in evil as a philosophical puzzle for the first time, and realized that I did not have a good understanding. This happened at the same time that my confidence and trust in God expanded immensely. He was a very present help in trouble.
I now feel that I have a pretty good philosophical and theological handle on the problem of evil. It no longer feels like a mystery to me. And that understanding has almost *nothing to do* with my life as a Christian, or with my relationship with my Father. It’s like the difference between a solid understanding of the physiology of the pain of hitting your thumb with a hammer really hard, and the actual experience of hitting your thumb with a hammer really hard.
But I can see all too well how it might have gone the other way for me. Had I not been fortunate in my catechesis, I might have lost my faith as I sojourned there in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. So, the catechesis is *important.*