Monday, October 05, 2009

Is Evil Necessary?

Some thinkers have suggested that evil is necessary since without evil there could be no appreciation of goodness.

I have always been uneasy with that type of reasoning. For one thing, consider that the Triune God is completely self-sufficient and doesn't need to have evil to demonstrate His personality any more than He needed to create the world to demonstrate His personality, let alone redeem it, as Saint Augustine points out in his Enchiridion. God could have left our first parents in a state of bondage, He could have chosen to redeem less or more, He could have chosen not to create at all. The only things God cannot do are those things which contradict His nature.

What about the argument that without the evil we could never appreciate the good by contrast? Those who adopt this position are forced to believe that God's love, grace, goodness, etc. are only intelligible in a world marred by evil. On a purely practical level this doesn't make sense. I don't need to go down to the local dump and gaze upon the garbage there in order to appreciate the beauties of Tub's Hill (a local hike the children and I enjoy). I don't need to feed on putrefied fruit and rotting bread in order to enjoy a bowl of strawberries and cream.

In his book Desiring God John Piper formulates the argument that evil is necessary in order for God's goodness to be manifested. Perry Robinson has refuted it
HERE (if nothing else, click on the link to read Piper's quotations on the subject). Perry asks Piper the following question: If evil is necessary in order for God's goodness to be manifested, then is creation necessary in order for God to be Lord? What then of before the creation of the world? Is the Son subordinate in essence in order for the Father to be Father and Lord over someone, lest God’s attribute of being Lord go unrealized? You can see how one could keep drawing out the implications. Perry also points out that Piper's view entails a kind of daulism with the good eternally dependent on evil which, if taken to the logical consequence, would entail that evil needs to be eternal.

In The Pleasures of God, Piper seems to go further, suggesting that the pain, evil and the misery of some are a necessary pre-condition for the ever-increasing enjoyment of the saints. That seems different from the attitude of Biblical saints like Moses and Paul, who would never wish destruction on people even as a means to their own increased enjoyment.

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