The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Why Is There Evil In The World (and so much of it) by Greg Welty

I have NOT read the book although I plan to. The link gets you to a detailed review of this newer book dealing with the PROBLEM OF EVIL. In effect, the author builds a theodicy. Since the POE is a big deal, I thought it worth posting here.

Another reason is that there’s not enough Holy Fools, to set things straight - even on this forum.

But today’s Pathoes’ Catholic newsletter, highlighted one of their methods:

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The main problem I see with the theodicy of the Greater Good is that it is a logical philosophical answer to a purely emotional question.

People who turn away from God because of the problem of evil are burdened and tormented by the world as they see it. They are in a crisis in that they have to imagine an all powerful God who cares for all that we care about and knows when a single hair falls from our head yet by the state of things appears supremely aloof and unconcerned.
Im not saying this is true Im just describing their dilemma.

The idea of God allowing evil for a greater good is cold and hollow for these folks I think. BUT…lets look at the problem of evil in the light of the hope of Universalism.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Rom 8:18

If we expand that based on universalist theology suddenly we can offer a God who promises to give us all a beautiful forever with him.

This is where I think Job is useful. Had he known that everything would be restored to him twice over would he have made so many dark existential conclusions?
You say yea but he lost his kids! How does having more kids compensate for that pain? Well he has the hope that he will see them again in heaven.

Hope is the salve that heals the wounds cut into our souls by the great mysteries of life and existence. We may not ever be able to explain why evil and suffering are allowed on this side of the grave. But having the hope of the great reconciliation of all things back to God makes it bearable.

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Sometimes it is that; sometimes, as you know, it is much deeper than that and involves the whole person, intellect emotion soul - because the question is in the last resort the ultimate question - who is God? Can He be trusted? What is His plan, if he has one? etc…
So we do need, in addition to pastoral help for those emotionally tortured by the POE, an intellectual foundation, perhaps even a philosophical foundation (for those that think in that manner), that can help to quell fears and doubts when those arise.
Has anyone read this book by Welty? Before I order it or get it from the library I’d like to get an opinion on it from someone here.

You’re right. I should have said, “A largely emotional question.”
I would say it matters the most for the faith of those it impacts emotionally. Im just not sure how the theodicy really helps that person.

But What do you think about the help Universalism provides to the question of evil?

I suppose it depends on the individual needing comfort? EU does not answer the problem of suffering. It certainly is a source of great comfort, but for EXPLAINING suffering and evil it doesn’t do much imo.
I have studied Plantinga’s Free Will Defense and have been persuaded by it; I think the FWD must be a part of any theodicy. But then of course the question arises: why would God create such creatures, knowing what evil would flow from them?; and then the questions “does God even know the future?” or “Cannot God stop the evil?” or worst of all - could not God have created us happy and evil-free? Which leads to: it’s all God’s fault. And that is the bottom of the rabbit-hole.

What are the current options?

What I see so far is:
1.) Suffering as an essential component in the Grand Design
2.) Suffering as a result of sin and redemptively being incorporated into the Design.
3.) Suffering being the evidence of an absentee God or
4). a non existent God.

I lean towards #2 but Im ok with #1 but thats easy for me to say…I havent suffered much of anything compared to many poor souls.

I lean that way also.
I also lean on two wise men’s ideas, both of which point to possible explanations:

Channing, who sees the world as a soul-making enterprise:
“It has pleased the all-wise Disposer to encompass us from our birth by difficulty and allurement, to place us in a world where wrong-doing is often gainful, and duty rough and perilous, where many vices oppose the dictates of the inward monitor, where the body presses as a weight upon the mind, and matter, by its perpetual agency on the senses, becomes a barrier between us and the spiritual world. We are in the midst of influences, which menace the intellect and heart; and to be free, is to withstand and conquer these.” ‘Spiritual Freedom’

And The overall metanarrative, that helps put our suffering into a framework, at least, from Tom Aquinas:
" What the scriptures teach is that man failed the gardening task and ruined God’s creation, but that God graciously came, as a friend and
cooperator, to help him salvage and recreate. In choosing that way to help man with his original goal God gave man’s life a new goal - that of fellowship with God himself as friend. The journey of this life is no longer simply a journey to the fulfilment of man’s nature, for that journey has been taken up into a journey into the presence of God HImself, into the good and happy state which God himself is.
This is Thomas’s preferred way of describing the relationship between what later commentators called man’s natural and supernatural ends. He does not talk, as they do, of man first knowing God as author of nature, and then as author of supernature. Rather he consistently talks of God, known to man’s learning as the author of nature, becoming through God’s teaching the object of his happiness . The word translated ‘happiness’ has more the sense of ‘happy state’ or ‘blessed state’, meaning a state which has blessedly happened or turned out well - a state of goodhap rather than mishap. It corresponds to the Aristotelian word ‘eudaimonia’, which some modern scholars translate as ‘flourishing’. When Thomas uses happiness as a name for God himself he is thinking of God as fulfilled life; and this explains why he talks of happiness as being accompanied by delight, rather than as consisting in it.
God has destined us for a goal beyond the grasp of reason."

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Those are awesome quotes. The first one from Channing is a great unfolding of this:

20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
Romans 8:20

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But there could be some other ideas.

Many Christians ideas of suffering could well be out of context with God’s will. We perceive suffering in a way that God does not.Though I realize most Bible folks will pooh pooh the idea, and will say that if you are with God or within His fold you will somehow not deal with suffering. Bull Crap.

Suffering is a part of freaking life. Has nothing to do with sin, has nothing to do with absence of God but is just what the hell it is. We all go through it and will continue to do so.

Hows everything going for you? Anything I can join you in praying about?

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Thanks but no, I’m not sure what you are saying but hey…

Prayer is a way of caring for others in their difficulties.Its something Christians are supposed to do…bear one another’s burdens. The sharpness of that previous comment made me wonder of there was suffering in your life you needed prayer support for. Id like to think the folks here pray for each other.

Perhaps people aren’t hugging enough trees. Here’s an interesting quote I received today:

If you get a chance, go to a place where there are trees. Have you ever hugged a tree? I did many times! Wherever I got the chance! When you hug a tree you will feel it is not just a tree, it can respond to your hugs with equal love and healing. It can take away your stress and physical pains and make you feel healed and healthy and happier. In Japan they found when all medicines failed forest healing is working miracles!
If you wish to rejuvenate, why not try hugging trees and feel how they heal you of all your negativity!
~~ Bodhi Shuddhaanandaa

Since the quote referenced ‘Japan Forest Medicine’…here are some articles, on this very topic:

Perhaps we also need more lumberjacks? Are they cooking the writer of this song, towards the video ending?

Without knowing how the author handles the stated objections to the greater good idea - “(1) it motivates fruitless searching, (2) it’s pastorally counter-productive, (3) it denies God’s goodness, (4) it destroys moral motivation, (5) it treats persons as means, (6) it makes us moral skeptics, (7) it promotes divine hiddenness, (8) it’s an apologetic cop-out, and (9) it allows the view that things aren’t for the best.” - it is hard to comment on it.

I would like to know what the author thinks the greater good might have been or is in the various wars, genocides and exterminations there have been in human history and what the greater good is in the apparently random accidents that injure and kill people.

Perhaps it would be impossible for humans to live happily forever without a significant portion of humanity knowing the suffering we experience on earth. I don’t know.

I know what you’re saying, but if the price of my eternal happiness is the suffering of others, well that seems neither loving nor just.

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I once asked the question of those who believe in ET, would you give up your place in heaven and be annihilated so that your non believing relative avoids hell? Those who were last likely to want to give up the place they think they have in heaven were mostly Calvinists as I recall.

I’m more inclined towards Thomas Oord’s theodicy. I reviewed one of his books here:

That was a very good review Michael; I like the approach that there is not one and only one answer to the POE - the problem has dimensions with differing but compatible answers.
I did have one question: the fact that God ‘can’t’ because he has no body - he can speak the worlds into existence, yes? So I don’t see his not having a body as a really relevant point to that discussion.
But the overall approach looks to be deep and multi-faceted. I may have to read it.

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