Genesis 3:4–6 (ESV) — 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
We saw in Genesis 1-2 an emphasis on God’s good/very good creation.
- The Heavens and the Earth
- Image-Bearers – Adam and Eve
- The Garden
- Garden Blessings – Presence/Fellowship with Yahweh
Yet, in startling contrast to this, Genesis 3 shows how Adam and Eve, swayed by the Serpent…
- Marred Good Creation
- Rebelled Against God
- Destroyed the Blessings
- Severed Fellowship with Yahweh
John Piper describes the disconnect like this:
“Between the perfection described in Genesis 1:31 (‘behold, it was very good’) and the appearance of evil in Genesis 3, something happened. The good creation was corrupted” – John Piper.
This disconnect – this “something happened” – raises an important question.
- Why did the “something” happen?
- Why did God allow evil into His good creation?
- How could a “very good” creation contain the potential for evil?
BTW – trying to answer these questions will only raise more questions.
- It will also present the opportunity to chase many rabbits.
- All of this demonstrates both the complexity and mystery inherent to this issue.
Back to our questions.
- Unfortunately, Genesis 1-3 seems to have no interest in answering these questions.
- Kenneth Mathews repeatedly reminds us of this fact.
- “Genesis does not explain the origins of evil…”.
- “…there is no attempt here to explain the origins of evil”.
- “The narrative explains only the origin of human sin and guilt” – Mathews.
BTW – The book of Jonah never answers this question either.
So where does that leave us?
- How can we attempt to answer these questions?
It leaves us with what is called a theodicy.
- “A theodicy purports to offer the actual reason God has for allowing evil in our world” – John Feinberg.
- It tries to explain where evil came from if God exists (Jeremy Evans).
“Theodicy” literally means, “justify god”.
- What needs justifying?
The thing that needs justifying is the:
- “How can evil exist in a theistic universe?” – John Frame.
- It is an apparent logical problem that God and evil coexist.
- Theists must justify how the two can exist together.
- The apparent difficulty to make this justification is “called the logical problem of evil, for it accuses the theistic worldview of logical inconsistency” – John Frame.
Theodicy vs. Defense:
We need to distinguish between a theodicy and a defense.
- A theodicy for evil is different from a defense of evil.
A defense tries to explain, now that evil is here, what is being done about it (Jeremy Evans).
“A defense is much less pretentious [than a theodicy], for it claims to offer only a possible reason God might have for not removing evil” – John Feinberg.
For example, a defense seeks to give reasons for:
- Natural Problem of Evil – why God would allow a tsunami to kill hundreds of thousands.
- Gratuitous Problem of Evil – why God would allow “pointless and needless suffering” – Bird.
- Religious Problem of Evil – why God would allow my loved one or me to suffer?
- Judges 6:13a (ESV) — 13a And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?
To get us started, we need to look at how the Logical Problem of Evil (the entrance of evil into God’s good creation) is stated by atheist J.L. Mackie.
- P1 – If God exists, he is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.
- P2 – An omniscient being has the prior knowledge of evil to prevent evil.
- P3 – An omnipotent being has the ability to prevent evil.
- P4 – An omnibenevolent being has the desire to prevent evil.
- P5 – Therefore, if there were a God, there would be no evil.
- P6 – There is evil.
- C1 – Thus, necessarily there is no God.
In trying to understand why God permitted evil to enter His good creation…
- We need to figure out why this Logical Problem of Evil is not sound.
- In other words, we need to figure out what is wrong with its premises (P) or conclusion (C).
- Premise 4 is where the problem resides.
Why do we need to figure this out?
- There are a many reasons, but a couple of obvious ones are…
1) To answer our original question posed above.
- Why did God allow evil into His good creation?
2) To head off problems with what we believe to be true about God.
“If the theist’s God is both good, can get rid of evil, and has no morally sufficient reason for failing to do so, then his theology will be internally inconsistent and will collapse” – John Feinberg.
- In other words, if there are no answers to the Logical Problem of Evil, then God can’t have the attributes that the Bible says He has.
- This poses all sorts of problems for us.
What is evil?
- It’s hard to figure out what we are trying to explain without defining it.
- “Evil is that which is in opposition to God, God’s character or God’s law – William Edgar.
“Evil is not a substance or a thing but instead is a privation of a good thing that God made. A privation of a good is the corruption or twisting of a created thing’s essence or substance…evil is the absence of something that ought to be; it is the absence of what fulfills a thing’s nature or essence” – Jeremy Evans.
- So why was what happened in the Garden evil?
BTW – it must be said that God hates evil.
- Psalm 97:10 (ESV) — 10 O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
- Proverbs 8:13 (ESV) — 13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
- Psalm 45:6 (ESV) — 6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
So given God’s hatred of evil – why is it here?
- We will briefly give two theodicies that deal justify both God and the entrance of evil into creation.
This theodicy introduces to the LPE a premise that counters an assumption made by the LPE argument.
- The assumption is that God does not have a morally sufficient reason to allow evil.
- The freewill theodicy challenges this assumption and states as a premise that God does have a morally sufficient reason to allow evil.
“To prove its truth [of this new premise] one must propose what God’s reason might have been for creating a world containing evil, and then argue that his reason proves that ours is a good world and exonerates God from having to remove moral evil” – John Feinberg.
The reason proposed that explains why God had a morally sufficient reason to allow evil into his good creation is libertarian freewill.
- “No contemporary philosopher has done more to develop and defend the free will defense than Alvin Plantinga” – John Feinberg.
He begins by defining what freewill is.
- Freewill means that “it must be within that agent’s power either to perform or to refrain from performing [an] action” – Jeremy Evans.
- Or more explicitly…
“If a person is free with respect to a given action, then he is free to perform that action and free to refrain from performing it; no antecedent conditions and/or causal laws determine that he will perform the action, or that he won’t. It is within his power, at the time in question, to take or perform the action and within his power to refrain from it” – Feinberg.
After defining freewill, Plantinga then explains why it is worth having – in spite of the evil it brings.
“A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but he can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if he does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good therefore, he must create creatures capable of moral evil and he can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so” – Alvin Plantinga.
An important point needs to be made about God.
- “God’s creation of humans with significant freedom only means that he created a set of circumstances whereby evil may occur; it does not mean he determined it to occur” – Jeremy Evans.
- In other words, God is not the author of evil.
- How this can be is one of the many complex questions and rabbit trails that arises when dealing with the LPE.
So does the freewill theodicy answer our question…
- Why did God allow evil into his “very good” creation?
- Yes it does.
- In fact, “the LPE is a relic of the past. Even J. L. Mackie, who formulated the LPE in its most precise form, decidedly rejected his own thesis in his later work, effectually conceding that the problem of evil does not show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another given the reality of evil” – Jeremy Evans.
But we have another theodicy to consider as well.
A different approach to answering our question comes from Christian philosopher John Feinberg.
- He rejects the idea of libertarian incompatibilist freewill in favor of a compatibilist freewill.
What is compatibilist freewill?
- “It seeks to show that God’s exhaustive sovereignty compatible with human freedom, or in other words, it claims that determinism and free will are compatible. Rather than limit the exercise of God’s sovereignty in order to preserve man’s freedom, compatibilists say that there must be a different way to define what freedom really means” – Theopedia.
Compatibilism defines freedom as follows:
“Compatibilism claims that every person chooses according to his or her greatest desire. In other words, people will always choose what they want — and what they want is determined by (and consistent with) their moral nature. Man freely makes choices, but those choices are determined by the condition of his heart and mind (i.e. his moral nature). Libertarian free will maintains that for any choice made, one could always equally have chosen otherwise, or not chosen at all” – Theopedia.
- “Compatibilistic freedom is still freedom; it isn’t compulsion” – John Feinberg.
After defining his view of free will, Feinberg starts his theodicy as follows:
- “Confronting the problem of evil must face three fundamental questions: 1) Must God eradicate evil?— a question about obligation; 2) Can God remove evil?—a question concerning ability and power; and 3) Should God eliminate evil?” – John Feinberg.
- The same questions the Free Will Theodicy addresses.
Feinberg answers questions as follows:
- “God can’t eradicate evil without producing various problems I shall specify. Thus, he isn’t obligated to remove evil.”
This answer is very similar to Plantinga’s approach.
- God has ordained a morally sufficient reason to allow evil.
- This means that for God to prevent or rid the world of evil contradicts the way he ordained to create.
- The difference for Feinberg is the nature of the will God created – compatibilistic vs. incompatibilistic.
- We will see how that plays out – especially with the human attribute of desire.
Feinberg then spells out the two stages of his theodicy.
He begins as follows…
- “God intended to create and did create agents who can act; he didn’t create or do their acts (good or evil). They do them” – John Feinberg.
Those actions include:
“At a minimum…the capacity to reason (that capacity obviously varies from individual to individual), a being with emotions, a will that is free (compatibilistically free, though freedom isn’t the emphasis of my defense), a being with desires, intentions (formed on the basis of one’s desires), and the capacity for bodily movement. Moreover, he intended for us to use those capacities to live and function in a world that is suited to beings such as we are” – John Feinberg.
He then spells out the implication of God’s intention.
“If God intended to and did create the sort of being I have described, then I believe God cannot eradicate moral evil without contradicting his intentions in producing that being. That is, for God to fulfill both goals (eradicate evil and create human beings as I have described them) would be impossible, for accomplishing one goal would foreclose his achieving the other” – Feinberg.
He begins state two of his theodicy with a question.
- “If humans are the sort of creatures I have described, then how do they fall into sin?”
His answer is not free will.
- He says the answer – as spelled out by James – is desire (a significant part of compatibilism).
- This is similar to the “naked as vulnerable and dependent” approach we took some weeks ago.
James says this:
- James 1:13–15 (ESV) — 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
In light of James, Feinberg states:
- “In accord with James 1:13-15, I hold that morally evil actions ultimately stem from human desires [not libertarian free will]. This doesn’t mean desires in and of themselves are evil or that the desires do the evil.”
In other words, God ordained that humans have desires.
- The capacity to desire was not inherently evil.
- But it presented a risk.
- The risk is sin.
BTW – Is it any wonder, then, that the Psalmist says.
- Psalm 37:4 (ESV) — 4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Feinberg goes on to detail how this answers his question and relates to his theodicy.
“To sum up, then, as to how an evil action comes to be, an individual has certain basic desires or needs which aren’t evil in themselves. He initially doesn’t purpose to sate those desires in a way that disobeys ethical norms. However, a desirable object comes before him, and he is attracted to it. He forms the intention to have it, even though acquiring it is prohibited by moral precept. Then, when the allurement becomes strong enough, he wills to acquire or do the thing he desires. At that point sin is committed. Then, bodily movement (whatever it might be) to carry out the decision occurs. Once the act is done, it is public knowledge that the moral law has been broken.”
So then, similar to the Free Will theodicy, God decreed that humans have desires (the naked/unashamed/vulnerable).
- Being made with desires that drive the will is risky.
- It can, and did, lead to the Fall.
- But for God to mitigate this risk would have altered the way He ordained to make man.
- In other words, naked, unashamed, desire-filled people are the people God wanted to make.
Because of this, He put limits on what he could do with respect to mankind.
- God is limited in some ways?
- “There are some things God cannot do. God cannot be cruel, for cruelty is contrary to his nature. He cannot lie. He cannot break his promise. God cannot make a circle, a true circle, without all points on the circumference being equidistant from the center. Similarly, God cannot make a human without certain accompanying features” – Millard Erickson.
God, presumably, could have gotten rid of the risk.
- But to do so He would have had to…
- 1) Eliminate mankind.
- But we are His image bearers!
- 2) Eliminate all objects of desire.
- But Father/Son/Spirit are to be objects of our desire!
- 3) Eliminate desire itself.
- But we are to be driven to sacred service and worship.
Feinberg finishes up his argument this way.
- So, “Can God remove moral evil from our world? I believe he can, if he creates different creatures than human beings.”
- And importantly, because “God intended to bring himself glory through his created order, he also had very specific intentions about the creatures he would create to accomplish that goal” – John Feinberg.
We need to finish with the ultimate reason for creation and evil’s ultimate solution.
- Colossians 1:16 (ESV) — 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.