17 thoughts on “Theodicy in a Sentence

  1. A being that does not err, does not stray from the will of God, conforms perfectly to His divine will, and serves with perfect obedience in all things, is not a being at all: The natural world is such a creation. And we know this creation is capable of singing God’s praise because God himself, in Christ, told us that “if these [people] shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.”

    The thought that Trees, etc, are an example of creation that is perfectly aligned to God’s will just occurred to me, inspired by this post. You ever have that feeling that there’s a good or interesting thesis out there but just beyond reach, like a person sitting in a darkened corner of a room? You know they are there but can’t tell who it is? Anyway I need to stew on this some more. Thank you for this.

    • Thanks to you, too, Scoot.

      A minor yet important correction to your comment; you write:

      A being that does not err … is not a being at all.

      It were more accurate to write:

      A being that *cannot* err … is not a being at all.

      For, the faithful angels never erred. Yet are they superlatively real.

      That said, there is something in what you say, respecting all mundane creatures. For, “is” is aetymologically related to “sin.”

  2. My own conclusion, after many decades of rumination, is simply that God has no knowledge of human evil. Why would He? (“He,” being inapposite, such is the English language.) Transcendent goodness (and not in the human sense or “good”) doesn’t even require humankind. God has no need of man; man has every need of God. He/It/Qi/Whatever is beyond in awesomeness and comprehension of even the greatest ratiocinatory faculties of humankind. That is why I submit.

    • That’s interesting. I can see that it could make sense to suggest that God sees only what is good; i.e., only what is real, despite the defects that wound its reality. That would ground his stated opinion in Genesis 1:25 that his creation was good, despite everything. But it seems to me that the idea that God is not aware of those defects contradicts lots and lots of scripture; also, the doctrine of omniscience. So, I’ll have to think about it. There is I think something in your suggestion, something deeper even than thought. For, how could pure Being, Being as such, anywise participate nonbeing?

      But, again, I’ll have to think about it. And pray. And submit.

      • Amen, amen. So only could he be the forecondition of thought. As the forecondition of thought, God *just is* all thought (this is the basis of Vedanta); all thoughts partake him (even the wicked ones, a bit, as they dwindle themselves to nothingness in virtue of his overpowering suchness).

      • It’s inspiring, at least to me, to know (not just imagine) that I am incapable of rationally perceiving God because I simply do not have the faculties commensurate with apprehension necessary. A glimpse, yes, as I experienced twice, for a millisecond in surprising circumstances, but then in an instant it was gone. The Japanese Buddhists called this knowing satori, witnessed in the Chinese (after the Aryan, ksana), 刹那之間, an infinitesimal glimpse. That was all that was needed.

    • “God has no knowledge of human evil”

      And human beings have no knowledge of evil, either, human or otherwise. To be is to be intelligible, and evil is not.

      That said, we’re woefully aware that something’s rotten (in Denmark and elsewhere), but that’s not really knowledge. Or it comes from knowledge — but not knowledge of the defect itself but rather of how the world ought to be. We’re aware of the discrepancy.

      How is God so aware? That’s an interesting question that I’ve never considered before.

      • Let me put it another way, if I might, as I’ve come to understand it.

        God is Truth. Truth itself. Not the human apprehension of Truth, which is a grasping, a kenning, of a representation of the transcendent, the ideal.

        The human rational faculty can see representations either material or in thought — for example, the ideal of a chair and it’s myriad material representations — but the Truth itself is beyond human capacity to mentate. Only the millisecond glimpse is possible for the human being. But it sort of short-circuits the human mind with its overwhelming nature and then it’s gone. But, at least, now you know.

      • @ Joseph: Clearly it is impossible for any mind to know what does not exist to be known in the first place. Evil is privation of being, rather than a thing in itself. So, yes, God cannot know evil, of any sort. Rather, he knows what is real; and so he can know that some real good thing is not as good as it might have been; is not as real as it might have been.

        The difference between a defective reality and its proper natural ideal is felt by it – and (apart from God, whose joy is indefectibly perfect and complete) others – as pain; as an evil feeling. God knows of the defects in his creatures, but does not feel it as painful. It is rather for him an occasion of joy, as furnishing to him an opportunity of novel creation of good.

        @ Richard: “Truth” : Truth :: “infinity” : the Infinite :: concept we can handle : reality to which the concept refers. We can’t know evil; but nor then can we fully know the good – which is to say, any real thing – for, as Rescher has pointed out, there are an infinite number of true statements we can make about any given thing, so that to know any such thing fully is not a finitely completable computation (even within a given logical calculus; this doesn’t even broach the topic of Gödelian Incompletability). This is why the Beatific Vision will be inexhaustibly novel, sempiternally.

  3. If God knows the future, he could have foreseen (before their creation) which of his creatures would err and chosen to create only those who would not.

    • Yes; but that would be so only on a misprision of his eternity, that took it to consist in a beginningless and endless succession of finite temporal moments – a notion incoherent in its own terms (for, there cannot be an actual succession that never actually began, so that it has never yet begun). In eternity proper, which is prior to time, to succession, and to all eventuation (prior logically, *but not temporally*), there is no before or after, and therefore no such thing as foreseeing. God knows the future, but not before it happens; he knows it rather as it happens. So likewise for the past, and the present. He knows past, present and future all at once; as his present. This has been well understood since Boethius; albeit, by but few.

      NB: only on the proper construction of God’s eternity might creatures be free. If sub specie aeternitatis he knew what we were going to do before we did it – a contradiction in terms, but never mind that for the moment – we could not be free; we could not, i.e., actually be. Thus our freedom, and indeed our mere actuality, continge crucially upon his eternity, properly construed.

      • Amen. It is impossible to convey it to one who has not known it. So is it that we say, that those who know do not say, and those who say do not know.

        I talk a lot around here, & now and then elsewhere. But I never dare to speak of that which cannot be spoken of without error. Notwithstanding that, I never refrain from criticism of speech about that which cannot be spoken of without error; that, than which no greater can be conceived.

        Not this, not that.

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