1. Suppose hypothetically that God is still creating the world, using processes we’re only beginning to kinda-sorta understand — processes that entail generating lots of variations and keeping the ones that “work” as the starting point for later variations.
(These processes of the ongoing creation seem to include us as construction workers, incidentally: our powers of imagination let us generate new variations, while our powers of perception and memory let us see and remember — imperfectly — what does or doesn't work.)
This hypothesis is not totally implausible, not if you take a long view of what we think we know of history.
2. Under this hypothesis, we can readily argue that the world isn’t “broken,” but simply unfinished.
(When will it be finished? “Who” knows.)
Certainly we mortals dislike, and even get angry, about some of the variations that get generated. Sometimes it’s virtually indisputable that our anger is well-founded.
But it also seems indisputable that, over the long, long term, our encounters with what we call “evil” help us learn to do our jobs better in the Creator’s construction crew.
3. [EDITED 4/2/07:] Maybe our anger at “evil” is analogous to a toddler’s rage at being subjected to a painful medical treatment. Given the authority, the toddler would certainly reject the suffering. But others more knowledgeable than he have made the loving judgment that in the longer term, the suffering is worth it. Perhaps the Creator has made a similar loving judgment about humanity and "evil."
4. Morally, this view may depend on the existence of something like a heaven; I’m still working through that part.
D.C., Surprising as it may be, I am in almost exact agreement with you here. (Of course, “almost” is always where the difficulties lie!)
I think that when/if the definitive story of this age is written, we will find that the time in which we now live has been somewhere early in Genesis. We, particularly my philosophical edge of the church, tend to place it closer to the Revelation.
Like many, I’ve often been made uneasy by the passages which seem to attribute evil to God. Certainly, God permits evil to exist. Thus, if one starts as I do from the omniscience and omnipotence of God, together with absolute goodness, the existence of evil must somehow be in accord with His purpose.
My own thoughts are derived from my understanding of God as triune, and a perhaps unwarranted interpretation that “let us make man in our own image” refers in part back to characteristics of trinity. Among those characteristics are the capacity to receive and give love voluntarily, without compulsion, both to God and our fellows.
Following in a very truncated form, Jung suggested that the two great tasks of personal development were first, detachment, then reattachment. That in order to love with a mature love, there must be the potential for separation, and as “Murphy’s law” suggests, anything that can happen (particularly bad), will happen. If separation is possible, it will happen. But true growth transcends this point, and redeems the relationship by re-identification: with one’s parents, society, the universe at large.
I think perhaps that in order to create such a creature as God has in mind, this is part of the process. This fall, or pulling away, followed by a potential reunion. The “almost” in my first sentence comes in here. Some see that reunion as coming through continued growth on our part, convincing us to return to a love of God and our brothers. Others hold to the traditional Christian view that the return took a redemptive intervention from the Creator toward the created.
But in broad terms, this seems to address those places where evil is dismissed in the bible by an appeal to Divine sovereignty, as in Job, where the final answer to Job seems to be “trust me, it will all work out in the end” or references to the clay having no business critiquing the potter. Finally, there is St. Paul’s observation that “it has not yet appeared what we shall be”
I am not a universalist, although I am probably as close to one as I can be without turning in my traditionalist membership card. But at the end of the day, I think we will find that this has all been preparation, and absolutely unavoidable preparation for what is to be. With Dame Julian, I think we will find that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Posted by: R. Eric Sawyer | April 14, 2007 at 11:36 AM