Those Old Chestnuts
June 26, 2013 Leave a comment
Thinking on Dotterer.
If the world is conceived in a pluralistic fashion, the case for theological finitism is complete. If we think of God as a Person who stands in moral relation with other persons, then even if we assume those other persons are God’s creatures, it is impossible to hold that he is omnipotent and at the same time perfectly good. The notion of omnipotence is in itself logically unobjectionable. But if he is omnipotent, he is either malevolent or non-moral.
The Supreme Being might be one who takes pleasure in suffering, only giving out sufficient comfort to induce his creatures or hangers on to continue living, or he might be indifferent to their joys and sorrows, perhaps holding out some promise of final relief. But does such a being deserve the title “God?” No. God is good, is he not? But does not this mean he cannot be omnipotent?
Suppose instead we sacrifice plurality in favor of some sort of monism. I mean, in the sense that the universe is an extension of God, if you will, a giant machine started by God by rational principles, then left to run its course, a divine will infused in its very essence and therefore human’s evident world-lines are merely predictable parts of this huge cash and carry store, where the cash is illusory freedom and the carry the built in cost of living. In this form, God demands no power to make mutually contradictory declarations about things, since he would be demanding such of himself.
Here, God is not satisfied that in some completely hidden and mysterious way, what seems partially evil to us is in fact ultimate and universal good. No Augustinian painting that finds its final beauty in the dark and light elements is admissible. Such gives us no enlightenment as to why evident evil makes whole God’s perfection. It entails that the distinction of good and evil is mere appearance.
In this case, God is not allowed to own evil as necessary to set off good, ala Lehi’s philosophy of existence. Instead, evil will is a conquered portion of the good will. The difference is slight perhaps, but important. Evil still has its place in the perfect world.
No one questions the value of experience, even the experience of pain and its resigned acceptance as a part of the brave life, becoming a stepping stone to greater character. However, this logic fails to account for all evils and while carefully controlled, its preconditions are hard to distinguish from a pluralistic view. Indeed, it seems hard to conceive of an evil will, surrounded and overcome by good will, without seeing the evil or good is actually done. Finally, and somewhat unfortunately, it seems that goodness of will (or evil) is impossible to demonstrate rationally. But let us suppose, axiomatically if necessary, that there are such things as good and evil will. This seems to entail that other goods (evils) must exist. One good is “pleasure” and an evil is “pain.”
This is not to say that pain does not have heroic consequences. Everyone has seen this. Pain can be productive of good via compassion. But does it follow that this justifies all pain? That it justifies the pain of a baby whose brain suffers maladies that imply a long painful suffering ending in slow death? Or perhaps the natural disaster that takes the lives of innocents, not immediately, but over excruciating hours or days or months. How does the anonymous slow starvation of an infant whose caretakers cease to exist end in a compensating good?
Life is a good. Untimely death is evil. How is such an end seen as ennobling? If we allow that such a death if merely a part of ongoing existence, is that untimely death to be seen as necessary for the continuing soul? If the entrance into the next world is due to the ignorance or failure of another say, how is that a good? Is there any reason for claiming that the perfection of God requires the painful termination of the innocent life?
What of insanity? Life continues, but the insane has no room for moral achievement. What good exists there, unless the variety of delusion somehow counts as a necessary part of God. What of slow onset dementia where the will and memory are inexorably robbed? Is this to be seen as a good, unless good is defined by a caregiver whose life disintegrates and is absorbed in the object’s needs? Or what of immature agents, required by the encroaching insanity of a parent to live by desultory means, wading in “sin” to survive.
Can we say with certainty that if Joseph’s brothers had not sold him, that the course of future events would not have been finer, better, more advanced, less painful?
In other words, there are evils which seem immune to spiritualization by any rational means, necessary to the perfection of God. This takes us no further than the frustrating painting of Augustine. Stomach the ugly in favor of the whole beauty. Assuming that this can make sense.
I’ll give short observation that the idea of “overcoming”
does not seem to fit the prospect of the monistic universe. William James: the ideally perfect whole is that whole whose parts are perfect. If overcoming is a part of reality at all, it entails temporality. This is not a timeless act. Thus “overcoming” entails a finitism of God.
/end of indigestion for the day