(NOTE: This transcription has been automatically generated through an AI program. Consequently, this transcript may not match everything you hear in the podcast episode, and it may contain errors such as spelling, grammar, word choice, etc., due to the limitations of current AI technology.)
Hi everyone, welcome to Season three of Midnight Carmelite. You know, it’s been a while, I hope you all are doing well and hanging in there and growing in the spiritual life and holiness. I as you know, if you’ve listened to the introduction, am a philosopher, that’s the way I approach St. John of the Cross, I’m encountering him that way; I engage him that way. It’s just who I naturally am. So one of the things that stood out to me when you’re studying St. John of the Cross and the Carmelite tradition broadly is this is obviously love, but love has to be chosen in freedom.
So love and freedom go together. But one thing that’s been discussed since the beginning of Christianity is the following question, if God is good, why is there suffering in the world? In other words, why is there evil? What’s the cause of evil? Is it God? Is it us? Is it both? What is it? I think that plays into what we deal with when we’re growing in prayers, you’re dealing with your evil right? You’re dealing with how you can be better, how you can grow in virtue. You know, what virtues do you need to concentrate on now?
Where you know, in your examination of conscience every night, you’re looking to see what do I need to improve on? Because evil is a lack, right? Metaphysically, it’s a lack of something, it’s a lack of a good that ought to be there and notice the word “ought” to be there. Remember you can review in season to freedom is not a license. It is oughtness. It’s directed you have freedom towards to choose what you ought to, how to operate. It’s not a license thing where it’s the whole buffet, so to speak. Anyway.
This season, The season three then is I have a very dear friend who has taught on the problem of evil for 30 years, Professor Emeritus Dr. Curtis Hancock and he will be the guest on this season of Midnight Carmelite. So I’m really excited to introduce you all to him. My life has been extremely blessed to have him in it in numerous ways and I think you all will be blessed as well to benefit from his wisdom on the subject. So without further ado Dr Curtis Hancock and the problem of evil enjoy!
With the chapter to hear what I thought was really good was when he started with St. Thomas’s quote on how nothing which implies contradiction falls under the omnipotence of God and right.
And I think what one thing, I think that would be a good place to start in my opinion, is like defining the distinction between an analogical term and equivocal term and a univocal term because that’s the main thing that seems to be important here because if you’re saying that something is impossible for God in the sense that you know, well he should be able to do it because he’s God. Whereas when we say something is impossible for God, we’re not saying that we’re saying God can do all things that don’t imply non being.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind or what stands out to you with that? When people will say to you in your class, maybe they would have said, you know, Professor, Well if if why can’t God create unicorns because it’s not impossible, right? It’s not so why why don’t unicorns exist? And if that’s the case, then why why suffering? Why? Pain? Yeah. Well, a couple of things going on there. Why did C. S. Lewis select that particular quotation from St. Thomas? It’s because that quotation telegraphs the overall point.
He’s going to be making that chapter. That not even God can do things that are contradictory that make no sense. God can do anything. As you said, that can be part of reality. But even God can’t make a square circle that’s not a limitation on his power. Because square circles are impossible. They’re not anything and they’re nothing and nothing doesn’t limit something. So omnipotence means anything that can be, God can do things that can’t be because they’re irrational. And after all, God is reason. So we would go against his very nature to suggest that he could do something that was a victory?
Um Lewis says that quotation is relevant to the problem of evil because if God’s design for the world is to create creatures who are persons, he has to create them as free. So as soon as he creates them, he knows there’s the risk of moral evil that the people abuse their freedom and bring evil about in the world. Now he could stop that. He could prevent that, but he can’t prevent that and let them be comprehensively free persons. For God to make sure no evil happens at all would be a way of preventing them from being free persons.
So it would be like saying they’re free and they’re not free and not even God can do that, make you a person and not a person. You’re either a person or you’re not. God can no more make a free person and prevent him from being free. Then he can make a square circle. Mm hmm. God knows when he creates persons, he runs the risk that they can do something bad. But some reason he values our freedom and our personhood so much that he’s willing to tolerate that in the whole drama of human history.
So with the problem of evil, another objection would be, well, why can’t God just make more people happy? Because if more people are happy, they’re also less likely to be evil, right? They’re less likely to run around and cause pain to others because they’re contented with, you know, to use a really bad example like infinite Netflix forever or infinite food forever. Like so how how would you answer that objection?
Well God knows the way we do that. Freedom and accomplishment should be meaningful. It shouldn’t be a trick like you don’t, that’s the problem with participation trophies, you know, it it creates the impression that something can be given to you when in fact it’s meaningful because it involves hard work.
I sometimes in class, we call this the Paris Hilton syndrome, Who do you admire? Do you admire Conrad Hilton, who, through his own great entrepreneurial work, created the Hilton hotel industry or do you? I admire his spoiled brat granddaughter, Paris Hilton, who’s basically a public nuisance, you know, so she was made because of the wealth of the benefit of growing up in a wealthy family. She enjoyed, she enjoyed that and as happy from that, but it’s a meaningless kind of happiness not comparable to the kind of happiness that Conrad Hilton earned by being a great businessman and so analogous lee God wants to see that he wants to, he doesn’t want to see your happiness as some kind of trick that he gave you, he wants to see what you do with your life.
So he gives you personhood freedom and reason, and he puts you out there in the desperate straits of this world and says, okay, let’s see what you do with it. And I’ll separate the wheat from the chaff. He basically wants us to have our own history, he didn’t want to get that he could invent an angelic world where we’re all happy, we live in constant bliss, But that’s not the kind of world in which he would be able to discern who are people worthy of his friendship, people who are worthy of his friendship or people who have accomplished something.
And through the vicissitudes of the free world, of the vicissitudes of their free energies and the drama of their decision making and the danger they’re in the risks they run. So, so there seems to be a connection between what you’re saying. But in that friendship implies both freedom and growth. So that but growth seems to imply in it that it may be painful to grow, not pleasurable. So how would you explain this? So on the front of the first, on the front of like growth as involving pain.
You know, How would you answer someone who would say, well why can’t God make all growth pleasurable. But what how does pain play a necessary component? As you answer? Maybe that objection state, that the way in which we live as free persons is at first were made in the image of God. We are made as persons, which means we have reason and will reason and free will. And then yeah, that’s just the starting point. We’re called to God’s likeness and we can only be achieve God’s likeness, which is his measure of being worthy to be his friend.
He could we can only aspire to God’s likeness by having to do something with her life and overcome challenge. Every parent knows this about his or her own Children. That’s right. It is erroneous says that it’s not by accident. He says that scripture says that human beings are the Children of God. God does not call the angels his Children, which is very interesting. Human beings are his Children because like our own Children, we demand things of our Children and we we may love our Children because there are Children, but we also want to admire our Children and that’s why we demand things of them and we let our Children make mistakes and they have to develop work ethic and struggle in life and we can’t always bail them out.
A bad parent is a parent who like the helicopter mother who flies in and tries to prevent her child from ever having any difficulty analogous lee God knows that about human history. He wants to know who did it and who didn’t, who succeeded in who failed at being the kind of exemplary person that’s worthy of being in his likeness and in his eternal friendship. And if you think about that, then he’s got to create a world something like this. He could he could create a fictional world where we were all happy and we all could show our resume, look all the great things I did.
It’s all just a big lie, what you won’t be a big liar about these things is too important. So he wants to know what you did in the equation and God forbid him from giving you his grace to help you along. But at some point you’ve got you have a burden, right? So, so then in that burden you’re talking about, that would be what we would say as the cooperation of grace and nature, meaning the person would, would be presented with the situation. They choose, you know, amongst multiple options.
Let’s say trying to find the one that God wants for them because if God’s the highest good, then therefore what God wants for them is going to be the highest good because he wants himself for them. So then with that coincide with what you’re saying here. Yeah, there there’s the standard, there’s an aspiration. The aspiration is what makes you most excellent is what makes you closer to God. And God knows like any parent knows that what makes your child, the kind of person you want your child to be is you ask things of your child, you might even demand things of your child.
You might even exercise tough love with regard to your child. That’s analogous to how God regards individuals in the human race. And the emphasis on individuality is important. A lot of people think that God should see this as a political project, but in the history of Christianity, this is seen as a very personal spiritual development. The poet john Keats into this world is the veil of soul making and john Hick who has written the definitive book on the Ireanean theodicy. He it says that this theodicy is the veil of the vale of soul making.
That’s how he puts it. It’s the idea that you’re thrown into this world. And God says okay let’s see what you’re gonna do because I’m paying you the intolerable compliment C. S. Lewis says of being a free person who can aspire to being Christ like and admirable as a christian and worthy of eternal friendship. Let’s see what you do with it. And God can’t fictionalize that you can’t like a unicorn, It has to be the real deal. The real deal. That’s right. So one of the things that struck me too with the problem of evil some something C. S. Lewis said the problem of pain and also just in general there seems to be this notion and the problem of evil also of self consciousness.
This idea that you reflect on yourself to know yourself but then also you reflect on reality that which is external to you that which is not you and then decide how to go in this great drama. This great vale of soul making. So how how would you not only so we’ve kind of described how someone would externally understand why it can’t be the unicorn world. How would you find self reflection in this equation? This kind of self consciousness. How would you incorporate that? Well, he does a lot with self consciousness in Chapter 9 to discriminate between human psychological life and animal, psychological life.
But before he gets there in chapter two, the chapter on Omnipotence, he reminds us that if you think about how we navigate through evil in this world, but we run up against two kinds of evil. The first is what we’ve talked about so far, which is moral evil, evil that came about from the disorder of men’s minds. That produces a privation in the world. Some deprivation that hurts people. So Osama bin laden and the ignorance, the privation of his mind and the disorder of his mind which he thinks flying planes into buildings is a good thing.
That’s a kind of moral evil. He didn’t have to do that. He did it and he did it out of his own free will. But there’s another kind of evil in the world. Evil, that’s physical evil. The evil that takes place because of tornadoes and fires and earthquakes and the diseases, that sort of thing for which no one’s directly responsible? And people ask, well why didn’t God do something about that? He could, we can understand that. He can’t make free persons robots, but why didn’t he make the world such that when you get a disease you’re immediately cured and this kind of thing.
Why the problem of physical evil then and what Lewis says in that chapter is basically two things first of all, if it’s a world of challenge, then overcoming physical evil is one thing that we’re challenged to do. So one of the things God wants to see us do is to overcome like diseases and through our own charity and our own efforts. Also, if you think about it, there has to be some risk of physical distress in a world in which free souls are put so that they can demonstrate their moral and personal development.
You have to have an environment so that persons can interact and there can be risks there. But there could also be achievements there. And whenever you have a an environment like that is gonna be an environment with fixed natural laws and Natural law can serve you well on the given day. But it can also hurt you in another circumstance. So the law of gravity helps. But we wouldn’t have a life at all without gravity. But also you can step off a cliff and die because of gravity.
That God can change the world in such a way that anytime you step off a cliff, he would save you. And apparently in the history of miracles he’s done that kind of thing. But that can’t be the story or you don’t have a natural world at all. That would be the main thing that has to be such an exception, that you wouldn’t have a natural world at all. So anyway, when you have natural evil, there’s the risk of when you have a natural world there’s a risk of natural evil.
When you have persons, you have the risk of moral, legal and not even God can do anything about that. Let’s not create a world at all. Or not create persons again. That’s the genius of of Lewis having starting with that quote from St. Thomas: God cannot make a square circle. So that’s the first part of the interview. I just wanted to get it out and you know, get you guys all listening and thinking about the problem of evil. I’m going to release part two shortly and you can continue listening to the interview I have with Dr. Curtis Hancock, hope to see you there.