Theodicy: solution lies in definition of God (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Monday, August 16, 2021, 21:36 (68 days ago) @ David Turell

The way Ed Fesser, a Catholic philosopher formally an atheist, does it is employing a Thomist definition of God:

(This i s a very long essay. I'll pluck out some points.)

"I defend the Thomistic view that when one properly understands the nature of God and of his relationship to the world, this so-called logical problem of evil does not arise.

"For the Thomist, when one properly understands what God is and what morality and moral agents are, it simply makes no sense to think of God as less than perfectly good or as morally obligated to prevent the evil that exists. The “problem” rests on a category mistake.


"For Thomists and other classical theists, God is utterly distinct from the natural order of things, creating and sustaining it in being ex nihilo while being in no way affected by it in turn. But the “logical problem of evil” implicitly presupposes that God is himself part of the natural order, or at least causally related to it in something like the way that entities within that order are related to one another. Hence, the “problem” rests on a category mistake, so to expose the mistake is to dissolve the problem.


"Now, where does God fit into this picture? The answer is that he does not fit into it at all. He is no more a part of the natural order—and thus no more part of the moral order that is a segment of the natural order—than an author is part of a novel or than a painter is part of a painting. Rather, he is the necessary precondition of there being any natural order at all, just as an author is the necessary precondition of there being any novel at all and a painter is a necessary precondition of there being any painting at all. And conceiving of God on the model of a natural substance is like conceiving of an author as an additional character in a novel, or conceiving of a painter as one of the images in a painting.

"That there is indeed something standing outside the natural order as its necessary precondition, and that this something has a divine nature, is argued for by the Thomist in various ways.


"God is non-composite, immutable, and eternal. When a natural substance exercises causal power, it does so in accordance with the laws of nature that describe its characteristic mode of behaving. But God is not governed by laws of nature, since those laws are themselves precisely among the things he causes in creating the natural order that the laws describe.

"For these reasons, the Thomist holds that the language we use when describing God and his causal relationship to the world must be understood in an analogical way, where analogy is a middle ground sort of usage lying between the univocal and equivocal uses of terms.


"“Cause” and related terms are, for the Thomist, to be given an analogical interpretation when applied to God. God’s causing the natural order is analogous to a human being’s building a house or making a sculpture, but it is very far from being exactly the same sort of thing as that, given divine immateriality, immutability, eternity, simplicity, etc. Indeed, much of what we have to say about the divine nature is along the lines of apophatic or negative theology—saying what God is not, how radically he differs from the natural order he conserves in being.


"...the Thomist view that the terms we predicate of God must be understood in an analogical rather than univocal way. God’s intellect and will are no more like ours than his causality is like ours. For example, God does not come to know things or engage in any sort of reasoning process, because that would entail change, and he is immutable and eternal. What God knows he knows in a single eternal act; and since he is purely actual and thus without potentiality needing actualization, his knowledge and wisdom are perfect. God’s manner of knowing the natural order does not involve any sort of observation of it, because he does not need to be (nor indeed can be, given his immutability) affected by anything distinct from himself in order to know it. Rather, he knows the natural order by knowing himself as the cause of it, just as an author knows the story he has written by virtue of knowing his own mind. Given divine simplicity, we cannot attribute distinct thoughts to God; rather, what he knows he knows in something like a single intellectual act. And so on. God is not impersonal, but neither is he like a human person.


" the Thomistic view, God is not properly conceived of either on the model of one natural substance acting on others or as a “god of the gaps.” But only if he were conceived of in either of those ways could it make sense to blame him for failing to “intervene” to prevent harm, in the way that a human being governed by natural law might be blamed for failing to intervene to prevent harm from befalling another human being."

Comment: This discussion is at the level of human evil. Bad bugs come from my discussion, but the obvious point is God does not mean for the bugs which are generally useful to be bad, a point I've made. Also carefully note the way God is described. He is never to be humanized in His thoughts. Which is why I use the term purposeful as His major attribute. Note the emphasis on allegorical usage of description. Thus God is connected yet disconnected from His creation. The entire essay explains the points I presented.

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