Its been a good couple of days at the annual Evangelical Theological Society conference here in Providence, Rhode Island.  This morning I presented my paper on the problem of evil—specifically, comparing the free will and soul-making theodicies—and it was received well by the 50-60 folks in attendance, several of whom asked some interesting and helpful questions about my thesis, which is that the two theodicies are properly seen as complimentary (because logically interdependent) approaches to the problem.  I have posted my paper on a separate page on this blog, which you will find on the right side bar.  I’d welcome any comments, pro or con, as I’ll be submitting it for publication soon.

In addition to attending many informative and stimulating (as well as a few ponderous and soporific) paper presentations on assorted issues, from apologetics to gender issues to the hiddenness of God, I’ve been perusing endless book exhibits, chatting on subjects profound and frivolous, getting lost in the labyrinthine convention center halls, and eating far too much food—including fresh, melt-in-your-mouth Atlantic salmon on two occasions.  (Amy’s going to be sick with envy when she reads this.  Sorry, honey!)  Yes, our brand of vegetarian diet—“ovo-pecto-lacto vegetarianism,” to be tiresomely precise—does allow for fish (that’s the “pecto” part).  It also allows for chocolate mousse, by the way.  And I’m paying for it now with some late-night indigestion (belch).  Oh, but it felt so good going down…

Goodnight.


4 Responses to “My Time at the ETS Conference”


  1. Lezlie

     

    Don’t you also eat free-range meat? Or lived-a-good-life and died-a-quick-death meat? Where is that in ovo-pecto-lacto vegetarianism? You should coin a quick, easily-understood term for 3/4 time vegetarians who eat meat when it supports ethical farming or when it would be rude to refuse it. Hmmm…after 7 years, I still haven’t figured that one out!

    Reply
  2. Amy Spiegel

     

    lezlie,

    are you a paid plant for my upcoming post? wait and be amazed! jim thinks he has been living high on the hog but little does he know the kids and i have eaten pancakes, twice, while he was gone. not to mention fish sticks, mac and cheese, lots and lots of pasta. top that daddio.

    Reply
  3. S. Coulter

     

    Nice, Jim! Thanks for sharing :)

    >But it is not really self-determination itself that is of ultimate value. The
    >ultimate good for which such autonomy is a critical means is genuine
    >loving relationships between persons, whether between humans or
    >between God and humans.

    Yup.

    >there are numerous moral virtues that cannot be achieved except by
    >struggling against or in the midst of evil. These “second order” goods
    >include patience, courage, sympathy, forgiveness, mercy, perseverance,
    >overcoming temptation, and much greater versions of faith, hope, love,
    >and friendship.

    Yup.

    >There are particular good free choices which are only possible given the
    >presence of evil. For instance, a person must freely choose to forgive, to
    >be compassionate, or to act courageously, as well as to resist temptation
    >or to repent once one has one has sinned. So while freedom per se does
    >not require the presence of evil, certain kinds of good free actions do
    >presuppose evil.

    Yup.

    — And insofar as forgiveness, etc. is part and parcel of the loving relationships that are really of ultimate value (not autonomy for its own sake) then you might argue that sin (or at least the possibility of sin) is necessary, not just freedom of choice. This I think helps in response to the criticism that we AREN’T totally free (our choices are limited), and that we have intuitions that certain restrictions on freedom are good (because they restrain evil).

    The real question of course, is Why THIS MUCH evil, or Why THIS MUCH freedom to choose evil? This, I think, is where the rubber meets the road, and where we struggle–even after the theodicy/defense enables us to maintain our theism with intellectual integrity. We question why God chose this particular balance of freedom and restriction//good and evil in the world. Of course, who besides God would be in a position to judge a better balance? And thus our response to the problem of evil (or concrete problems of evil) is ultimately faith–faith in God to be just, since we are lacking in our capacity for discerning and meting out justice.

    >The free will theodicy is concerned to account for the origins of natural
    >evil in this world, while the soul-making theodicy is concerned with the
    >purposes served by God’s permission of natural evil (as well as moral
    >evil). Thus, the soul-making theodicy is a more thoroughly teleological
    >approach to the problem of evil than the free-will theodicy, which is only
    >partly so.

    Hm. I think that when the Fall/Curse is brought up, the problem of theodicy continues as we can ask how God is just in issuing the curse in response to the Fall? I can see how you’re saying the SMT can take off at this point. Especially with those of us who have issues with Augustine’s suggestion (as I recall) that people deserve all the evil that befalls them because it is God’s just punishment for human sin. (This seems unbiblical, c.f. the Book of Job).

    I wonder however if a more developed theology might have something more to contribute to this discussion than the SMT does by itself. There might be additional reasons for the Curse, and these reasons might be needed to fully explain the Curse (if the Curse is something philosophical theologians feel a need to adequately explain). One direction I can think of going here is to talk about the “natural” consequences of the disruption of Shalom. Further, what does it mean when Jesus talks about “the ruler of this world” (not meaning God)? What are “the rulers and authorities/principalities and powers”, and what is their relation to God, humanity, and the Fall? How might mortality be seen as a good thing for fallen human beings?

    I also wonder: do any theologians who reject the notion of Fall/inherited original sin (such as within Judaism or Islam, perhaps) have more to say on the problem of natural evil besides a kind of panentheism (i.e. Kushner) or the SMT (i.e., Hick)?

    Reply
  4. Chris

     

    Scott, Thanks you so much for this paragraph. It perfectly explains how I feel.

    The real question of course, is Why THIS MUCH evil, or Why THIS MUCH freedom to choose evil? This, I think, is where the rubber meets the road, and where we struggle–even after the theodicy/defense enables us to maintain our theism with intellectual integrity. We question why God chose this particular balance of freedom and restriction//good and evil in the world. Of course, who besides God would be in a position to judge a better balance? And thus our response to the problem of evil (or concrete problems of evil) is ultimately faith–faith in God to be just, since we are lacking in our capacity for discerning and meting out justice.

    Reply

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