Short, Admittedly Snarky Follow-Up on Process, Relational theologies and Evil

notesHere’s a little, admittedly snarky, follow-up summary point coming off of my last piece on the problem with process and ‘relational/open’ theologies and the problem of evil. It comes from one of my favorite books, a non-technical, non-specialist, super-brilliant, quirky piece of pop theology:

But if God is the creator God and He was somehow unaware of what He was starting, unaware that the Holocaust was going to happen, shocked when He first heard of Hitler’s plans, and embarrassed that He couldn’t stop him, then He still remains the first cause of all evil. He began a chain of events beyond His control.

“But it wasn’t on purpose (wring hands here). How was He supposed to know how fast everything would go to hell? He expected people to act more like Strawberry Shortcake.”

Don’t think this would get Him an acquittal. He might not like the world-accident He began, but He should have known better. If anyone could be expected to know better it’s God. Had He been drinking? I’d go with an insanity plea.

God was the first to cry. Is this comforting? He’s the first to get bad news. If only He were just a little quicker. Or maybe, “You know, He’s really sorry. When He invented fire He didn’t realize that it could burn skin. I hope you remember everything He’s said about being forgiving. Apply it now.”

-N.D. Wilson, Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, pg. 71-72

The point is that even the God who doesn’t know stuff and can’t do much about it, either voluntarily or due to some incapacity, is still responsible. Sacrificing God’s power and sovereignty doesn’t get him off the hook–it just tells us there was no point and weakens our hope for redemption.

Soli Deo Gloria

5 thoughts on “Short, Admittedly Snarky Follow-Up on Process, Relational theologies and Evil

  1. Good point Derek (or is the point Nate’s?)

    I was chatting with a young Bible college guy right after the Newtown shooting. He’s not reformed like me, but hey, that’s okay! I love the guy and like his passion. He had been flirting with Open Theism as a solution for issues of theodicy for some time. I tried to explain how removing God’s foreknowledge away doesn’t make the problem any easier. Even if God couldn’t see what the mass shooter was planning, He still could have seen him walking across the parking couldn’t he? God never ‘gets off the hook’ unless many of His attributes are eviscerated – omniscience for one.

    It is a big emotional problem to consider God foreseeing, allowing, or even ordaining evil. But a bigger problem is having a world -and a God- where horrendous evil can not be invested with God’s objective purposes. Even if we can’t know those purposes.

  2. Do you think this means we should stop having children all together, if they hold unknown potential for evil? Or should parents be prosecuted for their (grown) children’s crimes? I recognize the risks of having children, not only the potential for suffering in my life should I lose them, but suffering in their own life and in the lives of those they may someday harm. But I still feel like the potential for love, for beauty, for joy, and greater wholeness in their lives than in my own is all worth the risk.

    • Becca,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I must say that I’m not entirely sure you caught the drift of the quote. The point is not the call into question human action, but rather to point out the short-comings of certain approaches to the problem of evil. Some try to get God off the hook by saying he didn’t know what was going to happen, as if that changes his responsibility. With God, he should have known. The point is, the problem of evil is still there, even if you make God smaller.

      And that’s where you and me are different than God.

  3. My understanding of Whitehead is that God offers all the potential forms the creative energy of the universe can manifest. In that way he is the logic of creation. God values harmony, diversity and intensity. Good and Evil are how any particular entity embodies those values. Since every entity is also influenced by its past and by all the other entities in chooses to allow into it’s moment of actuality, God’s influence can be overcome. A history of “decisions” can lead an organism further and further from God’s influence until it is almost irrelevant.

    Since all consciousness is consciousness of something, the universe is necessary to create God’s consciousness. God and the universe are co-dependent; God gives us actuality, we give God consciousness. God is aware of every actuality that becomes in the universe as either aiding the growth toward more harmony, diversity and intensity or limiting their possibility. This timeless, perfect awareness of our every instant of being is the eternal life we can have. At death we stop participating in the universe as self conscious and become part of God’s consciousness.

    There are two kinds of entities that come into being. Animate and inanimate. The difference is how much each is influenced by its past. A rock accepts only the most basic kinds of influence from other entities so it endures by repetition. Our consciousness accepts so much influence from other entities it can lose its past, but it is rewarded with the utmost creativity. That includes the possibility of choices that lead it away from God’s intention. Every instant of creation makes trade offs between intensity, diversity and harmony. Think of music, painting or cooking and how those trade offs exist in them.

    Think of a sunset and a Rembrandt. The sunset’s beauty is an accident of our turning globe, the atmosphere we breath and the sun which gives us energy. The painting is an intentional creation of beauty by man. Now think of a tidal wave and a mass murder. The tidal wave is an accident of the moon, the ocean and the earth’s crust. The mass murder is the result of many choices. Maybe the seeds of the mass murder were planted when a family broke up and a single parent couldn’t give enough time and energy to child raising. Maybe it was nurtured by cruel kids at school. Maybe it was abetted by torture and murder in movies and games. All those were people not following God’s will and their actions led the murderer further and further from God’s influence until he committed an Evil act. God explained all this to us in the story of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and how we became aware of our human nature and the need for God’s help. And he gave us his plan to live in harmony with his will. Then he provided us an example of a living human who did live without fault. It’s tempting to gnash teeth and cry out when innocents suffer but what would you have God do? God as the logic of the universe makes Evil a possibility but it’s the decisions of the entities of the universe that make it actual.

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