(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 and welcome to episode two of season three of Midnight Carmelite. We will be continuing our discussion with Dr. Curtis Hancock on the theodicy, the problem of evil. Let’s get right into it.
Right. And and what’s interesting is that the personhood so important here because again it comes down to the fact that as free persons, like you’re saying that we can choose freely amongst interacting with the external, both other people and like you said, the physical world. And so then the question comes is how can in your work, how does the human person can kind of elaborate on that more?Where do you feel that the human person plays such a core role in understanding the problem of evil?
Well it’s the mystery of freedom. It’s this whole idea of the vale of soul-making. If I had the book handy, I’d read it. It’s just a terrific, crystallized summation of of what the vale of soul making is all about. I don’t remember the exact quotation but the paraphrase would be something like this that God sees in the the significance of the human person, a reason to allow a world like this, put us in a world like this where there will be all kinds of risks and dangers of suffering because he’s so values our soul making, that he’s willing to tolerate that.
So that in the end, in spite of the long travail of soul making and the difficulties there in we’re better off because we will demonstrate that we have tried at least to be worthy of God’s friendship. He so values that personal achievement of worthy friendship with God, that he tolerates the whole drama of the vale of soul making. That’s what Hicks says is the essence of the Ireanian theodicy.
So can you talk a little bit more about friendship for those who aren’t familiar with maybe how you used, like we often think of friendship today as someone who agrees with whatever I like to do or you know, there’s mutual interest, but like how would you describe the word friendship here with God and how is that different or not from what I just said?
Well, Aristotle, he says there are three types of friendship and maybe there’s a friendships of utility where you have a friendship with someone because you can get something at some advantage from the friendship and there’s friendship of pleasure. You used to enjoy hanging out with that person. But then there’s the deepest kind of friendship. The friendship of virtuous souls, Aristotle says, where a person sees in the other person, another self, your highest self. What to the highest degree that you ought to be friendship with God fulfills that perfectly that you are, you are called to be in God’s likeness.
That’s why your name is says that he actually goes back to the Greek and he says that in the book of Isaiah, he claims this is there. It’s been debated whether it is or not, he might have read something I guess would be in the or the Pentateuch or one of those old new testament documents written in greek. He says that the scripture says that we are born bios were born biologically as this entity that has the gift of reason and free will. And we’re in the image of God, but we are called to go beyond bios and obtain Zoe, which is a life of spiritual perfection through our moral development and edification.
And that’s when we become in the likeness of God, be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect, Jesus says, so that’s when that’s the pursuit of friendship. The highest sense, the highest kind of friendship is you become another self with a virtuous person. God and the exemplary virtuous person. You aspire to be like God, and that’s why God created the whole universe so that persons could achieve that distance. There’s no other reason why he created the whole universe so that persons can achieve that destiny and he sent his own Son to model that achievement.
So achievement comes up with this notion of friendship, because you, you know, you’re saying that God is the highest form of friendship we can have because he’s the all things in himself, right? He’s goodness, truth, beauty. And then there’s also this notion of achievement that’s come up multiple times in our talk where it’s it’s both the dignity of the child to achieve. You know, the parents not helicoptering the child has the dignity of failing right and learning from the failure to be able to achieve a certain goal.
So then that child has a dignity to it. So can you kind of elaborate more on that? Done that dignity portion? I’m kind of pointing out here and what that is and how that works in relation to achievement. Yeah, one of the basic teachings of Christianity is that the most significant thing, the ultimate reality is personhood so much so that God is a person. In fact God is a community of persons, the triune person, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So the most important thing in the universe in reality is personhood.
You know how that is understood and detained. That’s one of the things that makes Christianity quite different from other religions. For example, in buddhism personhood is actually a pathology. As long as you remain a person herself, you will suffer. Nirvana is transcending personhood. So, as Kipling said East is east and west is west and never the two shall meet. That brings up that question since personhood is the most important thing in the universe. It makes sense then that were created as persons and we’re called to perfection as persons. So that’s the achievement.
We keep speaking of achievement, but that’s the paramount achievement. It’s not this or that particular achievement along the way, it’s that ultimate goal wishes to become the kind of person God loves and admires and wants to spend eternity with. Because remember you will not be happy unless you have eternal friendship with God as Richard Cory told us as the Richard Cory. Exactly, that’s exactly right, all the natural endowments, but he wasn’t happy. So St. Thomas says there’s something peculiar about our human psychology, this isn’t a proof that God exists, but he thinks it’s certainly a very strong natural pointer to the fact that God must exist because if God doesn’t exist that we can’t be happy ultimately.
And they played a joke on us a big cosmic joke. So that means that there’s something in our experience that tells us there’s a hope that God is there.
I’m gonna pivot a little bit here, and you’re talking about the person, the human persons highest achievement is being a part of the community, of persons participation in the eternal. St. Therese of the Child Jesus said that perfection consists in doing God’s will and being who he wants you to be. And so could you elaborate a little on this achievement of personhood as a perfection as a completion?
So what so for someone who we were using these terms of like achievement completion perfection. So someone doesn’t know anything about, Could you give like just a quick explanation of what perfection is for St. Thomas and the catholic tradition and what that actually means. So that maybe people who don’t know that can understand these analogies with the family and ordinary parents as always helpful there every parent knows that you will ruin a child. If you think a child’s happiness is just letting the child get what he wants or anything to be uh make available anything he or she that child wants.
God knows what you need in the end is Him, is God. So God wants you to struggle to figure that out by having a relationship with him. That’s why attempting to that relationship and cultivating is the most important thing. The most important gift you can give to children. Like I’ve known people that say, well, I’m not gonna bring my child up in a religious home because I want the child when he becomes an adult to figure out what religion he wants. I always thought that’s the most ridiculous thing.
That means you’re basically denying of the child the most important relationship he could ever have. And you’re robbing his childhood of that opportunity to start cultivating that garden. Beauty is part of the garden. Mm hmm. So, uh it’s what, what one needs and since what ultimately needs God. I think that’s what St. Therese is saying.
An objection I’ve heard about this is someone will say, well, wait a minute if God exists, why hasn’t he appeared to me? So, I I buy into the whole, you know, this is a drama where you choose, You know, your choices affect the the the play of drama and history, right?
But also you’re the claim being made by Christians is that if God is the ultimate achievement of what he needs. But I don’t see God, he hasn’t appeared to me. Where is he? If he actually, if he wants to be my friend, why hasn’t he been my friend? All I see for me is this pain and suffering? So why can’t he just appear to me and tell me who he is? Let me know. And I’ll say, okay, got you. You know, you know, I heard the order captain give me orders.
So how would you answer for that objection?
Yeah, that’s, that’s the difficult thing about it, is it looks like God wants to make this hard. And I think Maritain quotes St. John of the Cross because he has a chapter in one of his books called The Night of Faith. If you think about it, you’ve got all you have all those references in those classic hymns. Like you got to walk that lonesome valley, penetrate through the darkness and find God.
And because that’s the best test of who and what you are. That’s the best show of mettle. What’s that? You know, statement that a righteous person is a person who will be righteous. Even if there’s no one there to watch and approve of your righteousness with God wants it to work that, that that’s the way it’s programmed. He wants to see what you do when you have to live by kind of faith and you’re not, it’s not certain that God is there at the beginning of the end.
Just to know while you come to terms with faith, he will give you the grace to fortify that faith because then it comes back to it being easy. Apparently God doesn’t want it to be too easy, which is always part of the mystery of why the angels fell. If you’re standing for all eternity asking before the glory of God, why would you fall? But that’s a mystery. So we live in a world where it’s not altogether dark. There is some evidence that God is there and God can even break through and illumine our lives through prayer and their personal spiritual formation.
We get that sense of it, but it can’t be. So it’s an ambiguous situation, basil Mitchell has this very clever essay debated atheists at Cambridge or Oxford. He used this excellent example. He said the Christian is like a a person who meets a partisan evolutionary and the partisan revolutionary tells you when he meets you. He says now sometimes I’m gonna act like I’m your enemy, but I’m doing that with purpose. Sometimes I’ll act like I’m your friend. But trust me, I’m always your friend. He says that’s kind of the condition we’re in in this world.
Sometimes it looks like the world goes against pointing to God, sometimes it looks like the world supports that there’s a God and you’ve just got to wrestle with that ambiguity. And uh basil Mitchell says, that is the mystery of faith. Some assurance. God is there? Sometimes we despair that we don’t get enough assurance, but that’s faith really wouldn’t be faith if you didn’t have that kind of a crucible to work in.
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