The existence of evil/The Inescapable Love of God


One issue that has always perplexed me was the existence of evil/sin, given the power of God. Maybe if it had taken a few 1000 years before sin entered the world I could swallow it better. But, for crying out loud, it was the first two people who screwed up!! It looks as if, quite honestly, God screwed up. However, Thomas Talbott gave a very convincing answer.

Talbott argues in The Inescapable Love of God (in the chapter "Omnipotence and the Mystery of Evil) that “perhaps a degree of pain and frustration is itself a necessary condition of a society of independent persons who interact with each other” (Talbott 172-3). He does an incredible job explaining that ultimately pain and frustration are required to create us as we are. So, sin must be allowed. God saw greater potential for good and for love in creating a world such as ours than in any other possibly-created world.

Ok, but here’s my quandry: It seems to remove the glorious nature of being rescued by God through Christ, for it seems that He is rescuing us from a misery created by Himself (even though that misery might have been necessary). In other words, is it that wonderful to thank a person for pulling you out of a hole, when it was they who pushed you in?



I don’t see that God pushed anyone into the hole. Rebel supernatural entities jumped in of their own free will, and we did the same with some prompting from someone other than God (with the difference that the result of the sin of our first progenitors was some kind of hereditary condition that predisposes us intrinsically. This doesn’t require Gen 3 to be taken absolutely literally as narrative history, btw; though I wouldn’t have much problem with that, either. :sunglasses: )

Thomas and I don’t always see eye to eye on everything, but this is a case where he might be more nuanced than was being said in TILoG. I would actually agree (as an orthodox trinitarian theist) that a certain kind of death, the death of self-sacrificial loyalty eternally chosen by the Son, is not only necessary for growth but even (in the long run) for continuation of existence. (If the Son Himself didn’t surrender in loyalty to the Father, the circuit of God’s own dynamic interpersonal self-existence would be broken and God Himself would cease to exist.)

But also as a trinitarian theologian, I would have to reject the notion (and strenuously so) that sin per se is in any way “a necessary condition of a society of independent persons who interact with each other”. The technical possibility or risk of sin, yes. The actuality of sin, no. None of the distinct Persons in the economy of the Trinity have to be ever enacting non-fair-togetherness in order for their fair-togetherness to be eternally interacted.

The issue then is where “some degree of pain and frustration” fall on the scale of things. Insofar as we’re talking about derivative entities interacting within a neutral not-God (but created) field of existence, yep I can agree that some degree of pain and frustration (though not sin!) is or could be a necessity. Even then, though, I wouldn’t call the abdication of the Son, whether in self-existent loyalty to the Father or in creative self-sacrifice so that not-God fields of reality and derivative creations can come into existence, frustration. And while the latter might involve something in God’s creative action to which our pain is analogous, the former wouldn’t seem to.


I look at things differently compared to Talbott in above. God didn’t create sin while God created freewill agents. And freewill agents by definition can disobey and sin. I clarify that humans and angels have limited free will but free will nonetheless.

In the case of humans, the first humans disobeyed in paradise while all other humans apart from our God and Savior Jesus Christ sinned in a fallen world. The humans conceived in a fallen world had no choice about their circumstances because the actions of ancestors impact the future for good or bad. There’s a balance between human free will and the environmental limits on that free will.

In one sense, God created everything. On the other hand, I see a big difference in saying that God created a perfect universe that fell versus saying that God directly created a fallen universe. Created freewill agents directly caused the fallenness in the world. We can say that we were born into a hole generated by our first ancestors while we cannot say that God directly created that hole. And we also need to admit that each of us helped to dig our own hole deeper.

God wants loving relationships with freewill agents who have authority that can make a difference. And by definition, freewill agents with authority can make a difference for good or evil.

God allows limited evil while God has a plan to redeem everybody. And we’ll forever learn responsible use of our free will and authority while God redeems us.

I must say that I feel peaceful with theodicy since I started to believe in evangelical universalism.

I hope that this helps.: )


I would like to add that this statement really resonates with the verse from the Hebraist about how even Jesus learned obedience. :slight_smile:


Here is another take on the subject taken from the following resource: … cfm?CID=69

Please read the whole article (or you may come away from that quote thinking that the author is saying that God sinned - he isn’t).


While I’m not entirely sure I altogether agree with the rationales, I am entirely sure I agree with the basic gist of this position.

I wouldn’t say God is to blame for evil (that’s an ethical connotation, though as you note the author doesn’t mean to ethically blame God); and I wouldn’t deny the responsibility of sinners (which the author’s wording seems to involve in the quote above, in several places).

But I would agree that God shares in the responsibility. And I believe He shows us the extent to which He accepts (and even outright takes) responsibility for the evil and suffering in the world, by His death on the cross. God Himself pays for our sins.

(Notably, in OT incidents where God claims responsibility for the sinful behavior of someone, this is often connected with reconciliation of the sinner sooner or later. The reconciliation of Joseph with his brothers is perhaps the most striking example of this. Ironically, this very incident was quoted to me last year by a Calvinist wanting to defend the idea that God basically makes people sin and then condemns them utterly for sinning… :wink: I had to wonder if the Calvinist even bothered to read one verse in either direction around his prooftext there… :unamused: )


Jason ,

it just struck me that a musical analogy has some bearing here. Western music, at least, largly (though not entirely) revolves around the concept of tension and resolution. In the great score of existence only the composer see’s the whole manuscript. We at best experience a few bars which may be more or less harmonic or discordant depending on which bars we experience. A great and joyous harmonic resolution at the end of the score is something we may be able to infer from snatches of the music already played out or we may focus on the temporary discords and tensions and project those onto the finale. At the end of the day God orchestrates the whole piece (hang about I’m in danger of losing my agnostic credentials here!) in accordance with his good pleasure.

(I must stop taking those mushrooms :slight_smile: )

I think the main point is the concept of God knowing the end from the beginning and that the human perspective will always be limited. Human beings know for certain if they were running the show that they would never ever be able to bring themselves to give up a retributive attitude and so they project that attitude onto God. I’m sure there are many Christians that will be able to tell you that under no circumstance can a rich man enter the kingdom - yet the passage only says that for men this would be impossible but for God all things are possible. Behold I make all things new!

I’m going to have a lie down now…



Can’t say I disagree much (if any) with that comment. :sunglasses: