23 July 2008

the triumph of god over evil [2/4]

William Hasker, The Triumph of God Over Evil (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008).

One of the strengths of this book is its consciousness of both the philosophical and pastoral problem of evil.  Actually, the course of argument given here demonstrates that the problem really isn't separated at all - despite the fact that attempts to handle the questions usually fall into one of these categories.  So it must be remembered that philosophical answers must make an impact into the plethora of emotions given to those suffering from and battling evil.  To this end, Hasker's second chapter raises the question, "Does Auschwitz change everything?" - in other words, is there unredeemable evil in the world (cf. 35).

Much of the chapter is taken up in evaluation and response of John Roth's 'theodicy of protest,' who uses the Holocaust as a challenge to God's rule of the world.  One of the more powerful statements in the chapter is, "We have more power and more freedom than is good for us" (Roth in Hasker, 33).  The other major section of the chapter is given in critique of D. Z. Phillips, a philosopher in Wittgenstein's tradition who believes that the problem is more of a 'problem with God' than with *evil*.  Phillips believes that God could not be morally good and allow the Holocaust to occur at all (cf. 44).  In responding to these two perspectives, Hasker challenges the very philosophical assumptions made to present the arguments by Roth and Phillips - for instance, "Will it always and necessarily be the case that if we accept a theodicy according to which God allows certain evils in part as a means to our moral development, this will undermine or corrupt our moral motivation to respond to these evils?" (49, emphasis in original).

The third chapter is an overview of the free-will defense, specifically the arguments given by Alvin Plantinga (not without some critique and correction, of course).  The question which is on the table is whether or not the existence of evil is consistent with the existence of God.  Being a Christian theist, Hasker is obviously going to answer positively here.  But how does one arrive at the conclusion?  His most basic premise is that freedom must entail moral risk.  He states, "God simply cannot create free creatures and allow them to choose freely between moral right and wrong, and at the same time guarantee that they will never choose to do evil" (62).

His logic stands thus:
1) God exists and is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good.
3) Evil exists.

And making the appropriate link is the challenge: 
2) God creates a world containing moral good, and all possible persons suffer from transworld depravity.

This is next taken into the world of natural evil, which he develops in a later chapter.  In keeping with his conversation with Plantinga, he considers how the concept of middle knowledge impacts the argument of the free will defense.  For those who are unfamiliar with Hasker's work, he has made some very strong and convincing arguments against middle knowledge in the past.  It is his contention that middle knowledge is a logical impossibility without stripping away genuine freedom.

In the final pages of chapter three, Hasker raises a few interesting questions on the nature of understanding God as good.  It shouldn't take a philosopher's mind to realize that much of Western belief in a 'good' God is contorted from what Scripture gives.  And at this point Hasker refrains from the Scriptural argument.  But, how is God good?  Only when we are getting things we want in the manner in which we want them?  This alone shows the inherent flaws of the ways in which we have attempted to deal with the problem of God and evil.

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