SHLC Theodicy Class: Session III


Part II: Summary of last week

The distinction between sin and evil.

  • Sin is separation from God. Sin is like the estrangement between two friends in which one borrows money from the other.
  • All evil is sin, but not all sin is evil. Examples of sin that is not evil? Rahab the prostitute, the two midwives who saved the male children of the people of Israel. Can you think of others?

Good and Evil are two sides of the same coin — a major argument advanced by D’Souza in part III (this week).

  • Compared to the pagan conception of evil (and the view of evil held by contemporary athiests), the biblical conception is radically different.
    • The pagans believed evil was inherent in nature. Therefore, if man committed an evil act, nature made him do it.
    • The Bible (in both the first creation story and the Garden of Eden story) holds that nature is amoral (is not a moral agent). Evil is a consequence of the exercise of free will. Therefore, if a person commits evil, s/he is to blame.

The determinate and indeterminate universe and the existence of free will.

  • Free will cannot exist in a determinate universe (However: 60% of all academic philosophers disagree. They call themselves compatibilists. Here’s a very abbreviated summary: Notes on Free Will)

Part III: A Moral Evil

In this chapter, D’Souza refutes the following syllogism:

  1. God is omnipotent, so he has the power to eliminate gratuitous evil and suffering
  2. God is benevolent and good, so he has the desire to eliminate gratuitous evil and suffering.
  3. The world contains innumerable cases of gratuitous evil and suffering
  4. Therefore an omnipotent, good God can not exist.

Recall our discussion of the pagan conception that evil is part of the created order. By contrast, God reveals in Genesis 2 that evil is not natural (i.e., not part of the created order), but is supernatural (i.e., part of the metaphysical order). Does the syllogism above assume the pagan conception of evil or the biblical conception of evil?

According to D’Souza, the philosopher Boethius asserts that God does not have knowledge of the future (foreknowledge). Said another way, because God stands outside of time, what is foreknowledge to us is simply knowledge to God. Explain how this overcomes the objection to free will. Or does it?

D’Souza argues that being made in the image of God allows us to ignore the dictates of nature and to [uniquely] pursue virtue. Think about what it means to ignore nature’s dictates or, rather, answer the question, “Would Chimpanzees build hospitals if they could?”

Immanual Kant holds that any creature that knows both what to do and what it ought to do has free will. Does this make sense to you?

Explain the following two assertions:

    • Omniscience is the ability to know all that is possible to know?
    • Omnipotence is the ability to do all that is possible to do?

Alvin Plantiga’s Free Will Defense is very important to D’Souza’s argument.  You might want to read more about it here.

Supplementary Reading

Here is a list of books, written by scholars for the informed lay person.

Download this article, Free Will, from the Stanford University Philosophy Department.

Job and Moral Evil

In this Wednesday’s class we’ll discuss whether the Book of Job contemplates moral evil or simply concerns itself with suffering in general. In other words, Job doesn’t contemplate what caused the suffering, i.e., suffering is suffering. In this regard, does the story of Job offer a distinction between the suffering he experiences from evil and that from natural disaster?

Think about the following: What is Job’s philosophy of life. Answer in the context of Job 1:21 and the story of Forest Gump.

Does Job suffer because of moral evil? Explain

Does Job suffer due to natural disaster? Explain

One Response to SHLC Theodicy Class: Session III

  1. Gordon says:

    Not all evil is sin. Buying and owning slaves isn’t a sin. Raping your wife isn’t a sin if it’s done in ‘love.’ Demeaning women and confining them to domestic slavery isn’t a sin if you think you’re doing the right thing, though we know that all of those things are evil.
    Monogamy without a wedding is a sin, but it isn’t evil, yet collecting women in a harem is evil, but not a sin. Unsavory sexuality performed in a safe and private manner is a sin, but is no evil. Training your children like animals, using beatings and withholding needs is certainly evil, but not sinful in the Bible.
    Sin and evil intersect quite often, but are not actually connected in any way.

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