Difference As Such Entails Risk of Evil

There is no logical Problem of Evil, because it is impossible in logic for God to create any sort of thing that is not extremely likely to Fall, and so suffer.

God knows perfectly, and so wills, the way that everything should be in order to be best. His existence is necessary, so if he were the only entity, things would necessarily be best.

But God is not the only entity. Because he is necessary, all the other entities that exist must – logically must – be contingent; for, there can be at most one unmoved mover. And contingent beings as such, by definition, are at risk of evil.

That there should be different things, then – that, i.e., there should be more than just one thing, namely God – entails that there should be great risk of evil.

Contingent things might be, or not. I might be at my desk at time t, or not. In the first case, I will be the entity Kristor-at-his-desk-at-t. In the second case, I will be the somewhat different entity Kristor-at-(say)-the-store-at-t. Whichever Kristor actually happens, the other Kristor will not. As the acts that lead to one eventuality must differ from those that lead to the other, so must the chain of facts realized by each of those chains of acts. Each causal chain will result in differences in the population of entities that actually exist.

The existence of any contingent event, or of the possibility of any such event, logically entails the possibility of alternatives to the state of affairs in which it exists. In no other manner could its contingency subsist. Thus for every contingency whatever – for every event or act other than God – there are real alternatives.

So, contingent actuality of any sort entails some degree of freedom in what shall be actualized. Creaturely acts are free per se; this turns out to be just a different way of saying that creatures are contingent. They might or might not become, so they have real options for becoming.

Back then to God’s knowledge of the way that things, including all contingent things, ought ideally to be. That ideal course of events is obviously possible to creatures, or God would not understand it as such. So, the Fall was not necessary: things could really have gone God’s perfect way.

But, being contingent, they could not have been otherwise than to be at risk of going some other way. To be contingent – to be other than God – *just is* to be capable of obeying God’s primordial Will, or not. And every difference between how things would ideally have gone under God’s way and the way that they actually turn out is somewhat evil.

The risk of evil, then, is logically entailed by the fundamental difference between God and creature: that He alone is necessary, while all other things whatsoever are contingent. Are there really differences among things, so that they might turn out differently than they do? Then there is no escape, for any creature whatsoever, from the risk of evil logically inherent in creaturely existence per se.

Finally, this. God could not have created anything at all without accepting the inescapable risk that the contingencies he had brought into being would almost certainly err and Fall, and suffer horribly. But it seems possible that, knowing this quite well, he might have forborne to create anything at all.

The Fall was not, and is not, necessary. But as a matter of mathematics, it is almost infinitely probable. The number of ways things could ideally have gone is one, while the number of ways they might go otherwise is practically infinite.

It’s just math, so God had to know about it. Why then did he see fit to create a world he had to know would Fall? Only because he had to know also that thanks to his almighty provenance it would eventually Rise again, to live with him in bliss forever. The world must die, so we can be sure that there is a limit to suffering. But since it will Rise again to everlasting life (we know that it will because God himself has assured us that he wins in the end), then it will enjoy limitless bliss. The ratio of infinite bliss to any finite amount of suffering is infinity. Only that knowledge of the limitless bliss opened to us as a result of our existence could have justified God’s judgement that the suffering almost certain to result from the world’s creation was warranted.

This calculus enables a fairly confident inference to God’s purpose in creating us – or one of his purposes, anyway – and subjecting us to evil and death: he willed sublime everlasting bliss, enjoyed by countless hosts of immense souls with angelic powers and capacities. He willed infinite Good.

22 thoughts on “Difference As Such Entails Risk of Evil

  1. And, because subsidiarity implies a default position that the proper place of decision-making is lower down, it is highly appropriate (even to the point of obligation in some cases) for authority to state WHY they are taking away the decision authority of some lower-down authority that they didn’t use to object to – so that the rational man can appropriately say why this matter is indeed under the higher authority when it didn’t use to be that way.

    • Okay, that was the wrong cut and paste. Here is the actual comment for this post:

      God knew that man (and angels) would fall not simply by math but also by omniscience. God knows everything, so the Fall is eternally known to God as every trivial contingent event is known to God.

      But here is an interesting point related to what you say here: God himself cannot sin. Now, someone might ask, if God can make us in His own image in some respects, why could He not have made us in His own image in *that* respect–that is to say, by nature sinless? I think we have to postulate that *necessary* sinlessness (God’s property) is not communicable to merely finite, created beings who are not God. But then another question arises: Throughout all of eternity in heaven, we will not be in constant danger of sinning and falling again. It seems that when we experience the beatific vision we will be _forever_ with God, our wills wholly perfected. Which raises the idea that created beings can _attain_ a state in which they are no longer able to sin, but that they must choose that state in their lives. They can be perfected but not be by nature perfect.

      • God knew that man (and angels) would fall not simply by math but also by omniscience.

        Sure. To Omniscience, everything is math. But this particular bit of math is apparent even to our addled wits.

        … *necessary* sinlessness (God’s property) is not communicable to merely finite, created beings …

        Right. None of God’s properties are themselves communicable to beings of other natures. I.e., all other beings. Who is like El? No one. Not even St. Michael. Images or participations of those properties, on the other hand …

        It seems that when we experience the beatific vision we will be _forever_ with God, our wills wholly perfected.

        Yes! If to depart from evil is understanding (Job 28:28), then understanding *just is* to depart from evil. In the BV, we will at last *understand.*

        … created beings can _attain_ a state in which they are no longer able to sin, but that they must choose that state in their lives. They can be perfected but not be by nature perfect.

        Exactly. Grace perfects Fallen nature.

  2. Perhaps I am being daft, but I don’t understand this original premise:

    because it is impossible in logic for God to create any sort of thing that is not extremely likely to Fall, and so suffer.

    I think I see how, if that premise is true, everything else lines up, but that’s a bad place to stumble, yes?

    I think that what you are getting at is that God could not create anything that has a free will that would not, by this facet of its nature, be very likely to Fall. It seems fully comprehensible that God create a rock, which has no will of its own, and would therefore hardly be in a position to Fall (maybe little F fall, :P). It also seems comprehensible that God could have chosen to create people who were perfectly obedient, with no ability to will for themselves. I thought this was actually a commonly discussed theological “problem” (free will Vs. Predestination).

    Is this the correct understanding, or do you mean (as you seem to say) that merely being contingent upon God (regardless of will or lack thereof) makes a creature more likely to Fall, inherently? Or, some third option?

    • … do you mean (as you seem to say) that merely being contingent upon God (regardless of will or lack thereof) makes a creature more likely to Fall, inherently?

      Yes. At least to some minimal degree. Rocks, no; but then, rocks are not entities in their own right, so far as we can tell, but assemblages of entities. Rocks are solid clouds.

      • Thanks for the clarification. I’m still not entirely sure I understand, but I believe that’s a fault of my own at this point. Little out of my philosophical depth now! Thanks as always to you and the other contributors of Orthosphere for such thought-provoking articles! Always a delight to read.

  3. Pingback: Difference As Such Entails Risk of Evil | Reaction Times

    • Thanks, Bill. I wasn’t worried about Lydia, because I saw immediately what had happened. I do it myself about once a day, in emails and such. Usually I correct such errors before I hit “send,” but sometimes I send by accident.

  4. Here is something to try to fit in with the point in the main post: Consider the plot of Lewis’s novel _Perelandra_. At the end, after Tor and Tinidril resist the temptation and rise to a higher plane of maturity and understanding, nobody is worried anymore about their children and descendants. It’s very much presumed that they live happily ever after. This seems an entirely believable outcome. The crucial temptation is the temptation of Tor and Tinidril, as First Couple of the race of Perelandrans.

    But their descendants are contingent beings with free will just as much as they are. Why is no one concerned that one of them will fall later on? Or even that most of them will? If we treat this as a matter of probabilities and treat the probability that A sins and that B sins as even somewhat independent, we get something like a massive multiplication for the probability that “A doesn’t sin and B doesn’t sin and C doesn’t sin,” etc., making it extremely probable that A or B or C, etc., will sin. This, I assume, is related to your point in the main post. Yet in _Perelandra_ it is almost as though those probabilities are being treated as *not* independent, as though, once Tor and Tinidril rise instead of falling, their children are all “locked in” in blessedness. How is that supposed to work with free will and contingency? Is such a situation therefore theologically incorrect? Or is it just that it is now *much more probable* that their children and descendants will all choose the good. For various reasons, including God’s never permitting another Tempter to come to Perelandra?

    • Because they chose well, Tor and Tinidril and their heirs are much less likely thenceforth to Fall than they would otherwise have been, just as even here to the east of Eden the children of virtuous parents are less likely to run off the rails egregiously than the children of vicious parents. But they’re not altogether out of danger until they pass the bound of Lucifer’s power over this cosmos, either at death or at the eschaton.

      There may be regions of this cosmos that are far behind the lines of the war between Michael and Lucifer. There might be planets that are all Shire. But Black Riders seem to be able to show up even in such places. Pesky things.

    • That’s an interesting thought. Perhaps the Fall is almost infinitely probable, as Kristor suggests in the OP, but only for humanity as a whole or for all creatures as one unit. Not for single human or other beings with their more or less limited lifespan. In this light our short lives in this world are then another God’s gift to us.

      If I remember correctly our sins are punished to the 4th generation of our children. So it seems that, besides destroying our prospects in the afterlife, their impact on the world is rather limited. On the other hand, the first couple gave the Original sin to all of us. So the earlier the fall in the causal chain the bigger its impact. It is interesting to imagine the fall happened to some other than the first couple. Then there would be bloodlines out there that don’t have the fallen nature of the rest of humanity. It shows how important the ancestry is. I think A. K. Emmerich once described her vision of many Saints being descendants of Old Testament families. Spooky idea, these invisible connections to the past…

      This also raises the question of how much are our actions free determined by our genetic/spiritual heritage. It seems to work both ways: it limits and at the same time enhance our capacity to sin. I think Kristor once wrote here that our sinful actions limit our free will bit by bit so we can end up being determined to do only evil regardless our thoughts or wishes (if I understand him correctly). So it seems that our from-beginning-limited capacity of free will can naturally either stay the same or more likely decrease. We really are in dire need of God’s Grace for every step towards saintly life. And given being caught up in the net of relationships to our ancestors and people currently living around us, our chances are tiny and dependent on other people’s actions that we can’t even affect. What is so for us as individuals is the same on the group level. Horrible and yet exciting!

      Now I can see that history is more than sum of actions of individuals and as such why it is so important for religious conservatives, why God must have entered it and why He has to do it again. From this perspective it’s even more clear why group loyalty, authority, dependency etc. matter – it’s mere recognition of what is already so. Then the modern call for freedom really looks rather superficial and misplaced.

      I apologize for sharing my rather simplistic musings. I had to write it down before it gets lost and if I am wrong I’d rather be corrected from beginning.

      • No apology is called for, RT. I think you have managed an admirable summation of the basic case for Christian Traditionalism in four short paragraphs. I shudder to think how many millions of words it would have taken me to do the same.

        The coherence of the world through the mediation of the Logos requires the coinherence of persons. We mind the minds of our past; thus is the present knit to its factors, and history extended. So sin compounds as it rolls down through the generations. And, so also does righteousness. Our choice at every moment is over which minds we shall mind. Fortunately for us, the mind of Christ is always one of the liveliest options open to us.

        Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
        – Psalm 51:5

        Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
        – Romans 5:20

        What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
        – Romans 7:7

        For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
        – Romans 6:23

        Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
        – 2 Corinthians 5:17

        We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.
        – 1 John 5:18

      • Thanks, Kristor, but to return the favor I think you and others here at Orthosphere have often done much better job within four paragraphs which is why I keep reading it. Anyway, I originally did not intend to write about Christian traditionalism – just kiss of Muse I guess.

        The Romans 7:7 I would understand it as something like “the forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest” but in the context of the OP it sounds more like the math you mention. The law (of the universe) did not make him sin but it entailed the possibility which made it almost irresistible.

        Augustin’s posse non peccare, non posse non peccare, non posse peccare also seems appropriate here.

      • Augustin’s posse non peccare, non posse non peccare, non posse peccare also seems appropriate here.

        Just so. As usual, we find Augustine waiting there patiently for us at the proper terminus of theological ratiocination. The Augustinian doctrine to which RT refers is discussed here:

        Augustine argued that there are four states, which are derived from the Scripture, that correspond to the four states of man in relation to sin: (a) able to sin, able not to sin (posse peccare, posse non peccare); (b) not able not to sin (non posse non peccare); (c) able not to sin (posse non peccare); and (d) unable to sin (non posse peccare). The first state corresponds to the state of man in innocency, before the Fall; the second the state of the natural man after the Fall; the third the state of the regenerate man; and the fourth the glorified man.

        Augustine’s description of the person after the fall “not able not to sin (non posse non peccare)” is what it means for humanity to have lost the liberty of the will. Fallen man’s will is free from coercion yes, but not free from necessity… ie. he sins of necessity due to a corruption of nature.

    • All contingent things can err. So there is no part of the natural world that is not able to stray from its best path. Will such as ours may not be a feature of all natural events, but ontological ex ante indefiniteness is.

      • I could answer by saying, “quantum indeterminacy.” I doubt that answer would be wrong, but it doesn’t really get us where you’d like us to get with my answer, because our science is all in respect to a world that ex hypothesi is Fallen and corrupted ab initio. Our science – including QM – tells us how a Fallen world works. Scripture gives us tantalizing hints that the world as redeemed and resurrected would be quite different.

        Nevertheless it seems to me that QM admits of such a healed world. So QM might be right for worlds of our general type whether as Fallen or not.

        Whatever the details of its indeterminacy, no contingent world can in logic be unable to stray. Contingence *entails* the ontological capacity to stray. You can’t get contingence without it.


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