06 August 2008

the triumph of god over evil [4/4]

". . . It was the little girl's father, not God, who did these horrible things to her, so why is it belief in God that is targeted in the response?" (147).  This line, taken from Dunning's The Bookman's Promise, introduces Hasker's sixth chapter: "Why Is Life So Hard?"

Indeed, Hasker targets perhaps the most difficult question for people to answer in trying to figure out God and evil - why is it that bad things happen. . .especially when they happen to *good* people?  Again, the task of this book is to determine a way forward in understanding the relationship between God and evil from the perspective of free-will theism.  In doing this, Hasker once again review the problems of compatibilism, in that it leads to the notion that God is entirely happy with the world as it is. . ."there is no single fact he would wish to alter in any respect" (151, emphasis in original).  Thus, it is important to follow Hasker to reach the following: "I conclude then that a libertarian view of free will is essential for any adequate solution of the problem of moral evil" (152).  This, of course, entails a clear picture of moral responsibility (which is rather weak in determinism), but is also left open to positive value in the notion of free will.

Hasker evaluates 'The Structure of the Human World,' which sets forth four fundamental precepts before he structures his free-will theodicy (cf. 157-159).  His 'Free-Will Theodicy' is thus presented:
1) The world contains persons who are intelligent and free, living in communities within which they are responsible to and for one another (162).
2) The human world so constituted offers great potential for good in the realization and fulfillment of the potential of human persons and the development of human culture. . .(162).
3) So far as we can see, no alternative world that does not share these general features could offer a potentially good comparable to that afforded by the actual world. . .(163).
4) Frequent and routine intervention by God to prevent the misuse of freedom by his creatures or to repair the harm done by this misuse would undermine the structure of human life and community intended in the plan of creation. . .(163).
5) In virtue of propositions 1-4, it is good that God has created a universe containing human society as described. . .(163).

After dealing briefly with a few objections and limitations, it appears that Hasker's construction stands as a valid and good argument in the nature of the discussion.  Before moving to the next chapter, Hasker includes an appendix on Plantinga's Felix Culpa Theodicy (167-170).

Chapter Seven, entitled "Shouldn't God Be Doing More?," examines the angle of how the theodicy stands in light of the lack of divine activity among evil in the world.  Hasker begins with a simple - yet brilliant - point, "On the contrary: the idea of a loving God was first elicited by what God was believed to have actually done, first in the history of the Hebrew people but especially in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus" (172).  It would appear that sound Christian doctrine and theology has allowed this section of the discussion to be hijacked by those who run in the exact opposite direction.  

In this chapter, Hasker examines the problems given by Molinism and also Rowe's evidential argument from evil.  On the latter, Rowe contends: gratuitous evil exists; God and gratuitous evil are incompatible; so God does not exist.  But this logic clearly allows the inverse to be true: God exists, God and gratuitous evil are incompatible; so, evil does not exist (cf. 178).  From here Hasker engages the arguments more fully than my review will allow me.  He eventually reaches the problems with these answers on a pastoral level, "I believe, furthermore, that the detrimental effects of the belief that 'it is all for the best' do show up in practice" (193).

Chapter Eight finally reaches the climactic question of the book: "Can God Triumph over Evil?"  To be quite honest, a reading of Hasker's study and coming to a fuller understanding of the infinite complexities of the world and evil (especially as it challenges the legitimacy of God as the ruler of the world) gave me the sense that it was all insurmountable.  But such should not be seen as a tribute to the power of evil, but to the magnificence of Yhwh who defeats evil and establishes his kingdom.  As Hasker states, "In view of the underlying state of spiritual alienation, the prevention of individual acts of injustice would be comparable to attempting to clear a swamp of mosquitoes using a fly swatter.  Only a far more fundamental remedy has any prospect of success" (202).

Interacting with N. T. Wright's Evil and the Justice of God, and utilizing his own perspectives of open theism, Hasker asserts: "God, then, confronts a world in a state of extreme disorder" (207).  A brief recount of the biblical story demonstrates just how this has been done, most climactically in the resurrection.  But this decisive act serves as a prelude for the final defeat of evil which is assured.  "Is this then the triumph of God over evil?  It doesn't look that way. . .But apart from the details of the process, what would a triumph of God over evil look like?" (212-213).

To skip over a tremendous chapter: "It seems to me that the triumph of good over evil must mean at a minimum that evil is no longer able to oppose the good" (218, emphasis in original).  Following this, Hasker engages Wright (and a bit of C. S. Lewis) in concluding that it is the role of Christians to play a part in the inauguration of the new kingdom by making forgiveness possible and living out the defeat of evil in the world today.  "Evil may still exist in the sense of 'privation of the good,' in that there are persons made to love and enjoy God but who fail to do so.  But these persons will have no active power against the good, whether physical or moral or emotional" (225).

No comments: