Thoughts of a Country Preacher

The Monday morning ruminations of a pastor.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Toward a Greater Good Theodicy - Part Four

Over the past several weeks, we have been discussing Theodicy, God's relation to evil. First, we outlined the different positions that people typically take on this issue. Then we discussed the favored view, evidence for it, and then discussed God's purposes for suffering in this world. I would say that my argument is fairly strong, but with any argument, there will be people who disagree. Today we will examine three objections to the greater good theodicy, and evaluate their own personal strengths.

In the first volume of his Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge outlines two objections to the Greater Good Theodicy, which I will refer to as the limitation and happiness objections. In addition to this, I will also discuss the objections raised by those who adhere to a theology of openness.

The limitation objection argues that the greater good theodicy actually limits God. The limitation objection argues that if God was truly omnipotent, then he would not need to use suffering or pain to produce the product of his will. This argument further advances the notion that the greater good theodicy leads to the belief of a finite God in that it supposes that God cannot make anything greater or better, that this world exists as it is simply because God could not do any better. This is a fairly interesting objection, and at first I was not sure as to how to answer it. However, this objection fails to recognize God’s purpose for the creative act, mainly the glorification and exaltation of Jesus Christ. This purpose in creation requires the Earth and humanity to exist in the state that it is, so that Christ may redeem humanity from its sin, and establish himself as Lord.

Second, the happiness objection argues that the greater good theodicy suggests that human happiness is the end goal of creation. The "happiness" objection argues that this is both unscriptural and contrary to moral reasoning. This objection correctly notes that the Bible declares that the glory of God, an infinitely higher end, is the final cause for which all things exist. This objection further argues that if the purpose of suffering is the glorification or happiness of man, even through suffering, it is contrary to God’s own will, the glorification of himself. However, this objection fails in that it does not understand what glorifies God. The things that glorify God are the expansion of his kingdom through evangelism and the deepening of his people in holiness and righteousness which, according to Piper, is achieved through man’s suffering.

Finally, those who hold to a theology of openness argue that the open view of God is the best way to deal with the problem of evil. Open theists argue that evil has been difficult for conventional theism of its reluctance to see divine power as something which is shared with creation. However, open theists argue that in order to exonerate God from guilt, His "monopoly" of power must be rejected. Open theists argue that classical theism’s view of theodicy lays the guilt of evil upon God, and labels him as the author of sin. Open theism further argues that classical theism ignores the fact that there are many forces at work within creation. These forces include God, Satan, angels, demons, and men, all of whom may freely choose to rebel, disobey, and cause evil things to happen. Open theists also argue that their "logic of love" theodicy is also superior to classical theism as it can rationalize evils that are not the result of a moral agent, such as earthquakes and floods. Open theists argue that these natural disasters occur because of the randomness that underlies creativity and the byproduct of the orderly natural processes that sustain life. While the open theist’s objection is interesting in that it advocates a theodicy that is easily accepted, it must be rejected as it limits God’s omnipotence. The open theist’s goal is to absolve God of the guilt of evil, but in doing so it strips Him of his power, thus replacing a supposedly guilty God for an impotent one.


Blogger Tim said...

"While the open theist’s objection is interesting in that it advocates a theodicy that is easily accepted, it must be rejected as it limits God’s omnipotence."

Limits God's omnipotence? Really, according to what definition of omnipotence? 'All knowing' only covers what 'can be known'. Hence the question isn't a question about God's knowledge it is instead a question about 'what is knowable' ie a metaphysical question.

The other assumption being made here is that Open Theism is grounded in a drive to exonerate God from being the cause of evil. Could it not be simply, what the people believe the weight of scripture is pointing towards ie an open future (or more correctly a partially open future as open theists believe in prophecy ie God determining what will happen in advance and being around at the time it is due to happen and having the power to make it happen.

Good on you covering the topic!

8:46 PM  
Blogger Pastor John said...

Thanks for stopping by.
Regarding what God knows, classicial theism argues that God knows all things - all facts past, present, and future, including middle knowledge - all possibilities.
Now that I rethink my post, refering to Open Thesim as a limit on God's omnipotence may have not been the best choice of words. A limit upon God's Providence perhaps would have been better.

Also, I do not assume that the drive behind Open Theism is to exonerate God from guilt. I did state that Open Theists argue that their theodicy is best because it does exonerate God from guilt. In his book "Most Moved Mover," Pinnock writes, "Evil has been difficult for conventional theism becauseofits reluctance to see divine power as something to be shared with creatures...[However,] the logic of love theodicy even helps us cope with the natural evils that originate independent of human action." (pg 132-133).

I have no doubt that Open Theists do believe that the weight of scripture stands behind them, unfortunately they are wrong.
The best evidence for this is the large numbers of prophecy found in the scripture. As you noted, I do know that OT's believe in prophecy, but in my experience, they usually argue for it in one of two ways.
1 - God looked at all available info & made a good educated guess.
2 - God occasionally acts within creation to bring about his will.

No matter what the argument may be, it is an ad hoc argument. An exception to the rule that is allowed in order to bolster the original argument in light of new information.
When I was in high school debate, I use to love ad hocs, usually it meant I was a few minutes away from a win.
OT's argue that God cannot know the future b/c of free will. But they had a very large piece of evidence against them, prophecy. So they made an exception - God cannot know the future b/c of free will, except in the case of broad sweeping prophecy - such as the coming of Babylon, Christ, and the Second Coming.
But the weight of scripture shows us the God is infact aware of every detail of our lives, as evidenced by Psalm 139:16 which says;

"Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them."

From this we see that God does not just predict the supernatural only, but predict and ordain every aspect of our lives.

Another good verse is Psalm 37:23, which says;

"The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way."

Again, showing us God's providence in our lives.

But I digress...

Thank you Tim for your visit and comment, both are very much appreciated.


9:33 AM  

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