40.02 Irenaean Theodicy (pps.33-36)

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and natural evil as necessary features of the present stage of God’s creating of perfected finite persons, although the precise forms which they have taken are of course contingent. Thus the ultimate responsibility for the existence of evil belongs to the Creator; and Christianity also believes that, in His total awareness of the history of His creation, God bears with us the pains of the creative process.140

A tangential attack would apply the Schlesinger line.

If it is claimed that God has greatly improved the world by providing opportunities for virtuous responses to suffering to exist, then it would also have to be admitted that he has impaired the world to no less degree by also providing opportunities for vicious responses. Surely the world could have been no worse off by having opportunities for neither.141

The central problem, acknowledged by Hick, is whether “the end justifies the means,” whether all the “growth” in the world can justify the suffering of one child. Moreover, if Irenaeus is correct, pain and suffering should be distributed in more equal measure, to allow for equal personal growth potential, and not overly victimize some. Again, if the end purpose is “growth through challenge,” an omnipotent Deity should a priori have created man with the desired characteristic.142 Finally, does not the idea that God placed obstacles before man contradict our conception of God?143 Does it not position God as the primary source of the problem?

In the words of its chief contemporary elucidator, Hick, the ultimate question regarding the Irenaean theodicy remains: “Can there be a future so good, so great as to render acceptable, in retrospect, the whole human experience, with all its wickedness and suffering as well as all its sanctity and happiness?”144

Our survey may lead the reader to ask the following questions:

——————- NOTES ——————-

140 Hick, Evil and the God of Love, p. 385.
Cf. Hick, “Faith and Knowledge,” pp. 517-5 18. “Antitheistic writers almost invariably assume a conception of the divine purpose which is contrary to the Christian conception. They assume that the purpose of a loving God must be to create a hedonistic paradise; and therefore to the extent that the world is other than this, it proves to them that God is either not loving enough or not powerful enough to create such a world. . . . Such critics as Hume are confusing what heaven ought to be . ..with what this world ought to be.”

141 Schlesinger, Religion and Scientific Method, p. 47.

142 In countering another theodicy, Schlesinger writes in his article “Logical Analysis,” “The laws of psychology could have been altered by the Almighty.”

143 Aside from contravening the dictum God has laid down for man, lifnei iver lo sitane michshol (“before a blind man. place not an obstacle”).

144 Hick, Evil and the God of Love, p. 386. Cf. ibid., pp. 385-386.
“What is the greatest difficulty in the way of such a theodicy? It is. I think, the stark question whether we can believe that the postulated end can justify the known means: whether all the pain and suffering, cruelty and wickedness of human life can be rendered acceptable by an end-state, however good? Madden and Hare put the straight negative: ‘The price that is paid for spiritual growth . . . is often too high to be justly exacted.’ ” (See balance of paragraph, as well.)
Cf. ibid., p. 386.


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