Sunday, July 27, 2014

E2. God created the possibility of evil choices.

Now the second post in the third section of theology in bullet points.
God created everything, including the possibility of evil.

God created the world out of nothing. Therefore, there is nothing that exists that he did not create and there is nothing that exists that he did not create at least as a possibility.

For some Christian thinkers (e.g., John Piper), there is little difference between whether God created the possibility of evil or whether God created the actuality of evil. Similarly, some would suggest that the fact that God knew Satan and humanity would choose evil is therefore tantamount to God creating the actuality of evil.

The key difference is that, if God only created the possibility of evil, then we can say that the overall structure that he created was good and we can say that he did not directly create evil. We do not know enough to say whether this is the best of all possible worlds (Leibniz). But we would argue that, from the perspective of the world God has created, a world in which persons have the choice for good or evil is a better world than one in which we have no choice but to be good (or evil).

First, evil is not a "thing," as we argued in the previous article. Evil is not a noun; it is an adjective. Evil describes certain intentions, not actions or objects. God thus did not create evil things. He created the possibility of evil intentions, desires, and thus choices.

Augustine was thus wrong also to suggest that evil was the absence of goodness. It is true that, in the current situation of the world, we will do evil by default, without the power of God enabling us to do good. Our current default is to do evil in the absence of the power of God. But this is a question of evil's cause, not what evil actually is.

If evil is a matter of intention and choice, then we can explain how a being like Satan or Adam could sin without having "evil" within them or how Christ could be tempted when he did not have a "sin nature." God gave us drives such as the drive to excel ("rule," "subdue" in Genesis 1) and to have sex ("multiply"). These can be good desires.

Temptation can come from evil desires, but temptation can also come from good desires that are directed at inappropriate objects or expressed in an inappropriate context. Thus, the drive to be attracted to the opposite sex is good. Where it becomes an evil desire is when it is directed at someone else's spouse--a good drive with an inappropriate object.

For Satan to want more power or for Eve to want more knowledge or for Adam to want more power--these are good drives that became evil temptations in inappropriate contexts. In each case, all of them wanted something that conflicted with the authority and rights of God. Good desires become evil temptations.

So when God created the possibility for Satan to choose to do something God did not prefer him to choose, God created the possibility of evil. But the creation of that choice was good. This dynamic explains how a good God can create a good world that nevertheless can generate of its own will evil choices without God being thereby indicted for creating evil.

God created the possibility of evil choices without having created evil itself. God created a world that was capable of creating evil on its own, and that was good because it also created a world that could (at least initially) do good on its own as well.

Next week: Suffering is not evil.


Martin LaBar said...

Well done. Thanks!

Dre'as Sanchez said...

finally someone who I am able to reference when I posit the same statement. wonderful :)