(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. So this is episode three of season three of Midnight Carmelite, continuing our discussion of the theodicy, the problem of evil. Enjoy!
So one of the things that really struck me from what you said was you said the that the virtuous person would be virtuous even if there was no one watching the same with the vicious person. And I was wondering if maybe you could offer your thoughts on this. It reminds me of Aristotle, you know, when he has virtue, continence, incontinence and vice and when you get into the part about continence and incontinence, he basically from what I remember says, look, the continent person will be virtuous because that’s what society allows even though they could go the other way (the person is not virtuous because the society is vicious or the person is not vicious because the society is virtuous).
You know the the same is true with the incontinent they want to be vicious but societies was pushing them the other way (towards virtue if the society is virtuous). So this idea that because of our dignity and because of owning our choices, like you used the analogy with the parents and children letting the child own their choice and grow and see the consequences of their decisions to be able to come to a place to actually decide for themselves relative to there needs. Do you think that maybe continence and incontinence plays a role in this may be that this is idea that God’s allowing us to 1) to see ourselves because maybe if you fall into the continent or incontinent bucket and that leaves room for growth for what you need to, you know, head towards virtue.
But then on the other hand, maybe that’s also the reason he doesn’t show himself because he wants to see like, you know, the parables of the of the master who leaves and gives the vineyard while he’s gone. You’re working the vineyard, we’re in that vineyard, the drama on the stage. And that’s really gonna show whose vicious, whose incontinent who’s continent whose virtuous because they’re gonna act it out on that stage without the master looking down when you know, you’re being watched like kids, they behave differently when their parents are watching them, but when the parents go away then you start to see what’s really going on there.
Yeah. You test the quality of a person, see how how they’ll behave when they’re just interested in being becoming virtuous or striving to become virtuous if they have inclinations to incontinence, they too should struggle against that. And the Christian way of looking at things, God will help you do that through grace. It it all goes back to the association between freedom and responsibility, have to have responsibility for your life and the life of others. It gives you the gift of personhood.
So you couldn’t do that. And if you think of think about it, freedom and responsibility explains the whole the problem of evil because in order for you for God to see you triumph over the demands of being admirable person, he’s got to make you free and responsible. And he’s gonna put you in a world something like this, where that’s tested, where that’s that veil of soul making can be walked. Mhm. So, another objection I’ve received over the years to the problem of evil was, well, God knows the type of person I am, and I should be treated this way, but I’m not being treated this way, and it’s not helpful for me.
Psychologically, it’s mainly what this objection argues, is that it’s not helpful and psychologically for God to treat me this way. He ought to treat me this way, because I have affirmed with my own experience with other people that this is the way that I can develop and grow, for example, someone will say like, I’m a person who needs positive reinforcement in my workplace, because if you give me negative reinforcement, it’s not gonna work as well for me. How would you answer that objection when someone has these experiences in the psychological order, again, professional experience or a good metaphor here, How how would you answer that?
Now, when you’re dealing with the supernatural order with God, it gives you a measure to judge yourself over and beyond just your own wishes, our inclinations or what you want, It’s again, ought to be in light of what you need and God tells you what you need. So that’s the problem with that limitation. It’s just like kids say that to their parents all the time. I know myself better than you do. Why should I follow your direction? Or students say, as they say that to their teachers and the like, so that’s part of the perennial battle of personal relationships.
People think they know when they don’t think people think they measure up when they don’t. So then tears are tears.
I mean, I would I don’t know if this, I’d say this is the contrary objection, but it’s close. What about someone who would say, well, wait, so, what about a view of God in relationship to the human person as because you said, this is the veil of soul making. This is the great drama. He’s the stage, he said, think Bishop Sheen calls it the dramatic stage, he said this.
And what if what if someone considers God more of a mechanical god? So he’s still personal. He knows you, he’s made this stage. Now he stepped back and yeah, he’ll, like, help you with grace, but it’s not in a personal way, it’s more of a watching way. He’s like kind of this watcher who’s watching all these things happen and how how would you answer the objection where someone would say that’s impersonal, even though he’s helping with grace. He’s created this dramatic stage. It’s more mechanical. You know, that how do you how would you answer the objection that that’s a not true that he’s not a mechanical god. He’s a personal god. So the person’s understanding here of the person obviously is equivocal to what we’re saying. And number two is is how would you answer that? It’s not actually a mechanical god.
First of all that, you have to invoke some good old fashioned metaphysics here. God is not impersonal because the only reason you exist is because he is intimately omnipresent in your life for a moment to moment. That’s the only reason you exist, because there’s nothing about you that necessitates that you exist. So, a lot of people think that, well, you were born God was there the day you were created as a special creation.
And then he packed him off to a picnic or something and left you there and that there’s some kind of inertia God creates you and then on your own you continue to live. It doesn’t work that way. And then you given moment, you’re just a radically contingent. Meaning to borrow your existence. God is always intimate to your preservation in existence. And since you’re preserved as a person, that’s what he intends for you, God is not a mechanical god. He’s a very personal god. And the metaphysics indicates that another metaphysical point, then he’s maintaining our existence.
How would you answer someone who says, well, okay, so, fine, so God radical, you know, I’m a continue radically contingent being. God maintains my existence, but he made me weak in this department or in that department as a person, like I I tend towards, let’s say someone tends towards alcohol or gambling, right? Pick a vice. So how could they say that God loves them? If if he’s making them that way, shouldn’t he start them at the top and say, oh, you don’t have to worry about it.
The tank’s full on all accounts and then therefore, when it goes down, it’s really your fault, not God’s fault that you started, you know, according to the objection, God started me with a half tank instead of a full tank in this virtue. So how would you answer that objection? What about the fact that there are some babies who aren’t given a chance at life at all? There are some people who are born with all kinds of disabilities and deficiencies and they suffer accordingly.
And with the Ireanian Theocracy says that again, is the by-product and the risk of a world which is run by natural laws and God lets the world be run by those natural laws. Part of the problem of evil is that God tolerates that there will be difficulties in the world. Some of them which are so dire that they prevent people from having a life at all. Very difficult thing. Like why did you know the story of Henry Tandy’s his name, who was in the Duke of Wellington Regiment who had a chance to kill Hitler and a trench in World War One looking right and I knew he could have killed him.
He was a messenger. But Hitler was just the messenger. Henry Tandy’s mother had asked him not to kill a soldier who was unarmed and because Hitler was a messenger, he was unarmed. So Tandy let him go because the people died because of that. But why did God let that happen? Why didn’t he? Because Henry Tandy to misfire and kill him and save the world? Maybe all this grief and holocaust, there are things that are tied up in the mystery. That’s why the problem of evil really isn’t so much a problem.
It’s a mystery. Part of the mystery of God. Tolerating evil. He thinks there’s a trade off here. He is willing to trade off that in this world, there will be these kinds of very sad tragic consequences. But he’s willing to accept that and tolerate that as a trade off with creating the whole project that involves the risk of personal and physical, that is moral and physical evil. You got to create a physical world and in the physical world run by natural laws, things can go wrong.
One of the things he may be inviting us to do is ourselves to challenge those natural laws and to conquer them like disease .
So would you say that maybe that I mean this just kind of pops in my head as you know Jesus said the poor will always be with you. But I won’t always be with you and you know a lot of, a lot of times I wonder if you know these lacks like you were talking about someone who maybe has a medical condition or has these difficulties with vices aren’t those shouldn’t those be considered opportunities to practice virtue and mercy and christian charity because the lack exists that needs that.And so how would you explain that mystery to people?
Yeah, I think that’s another reason why Jesus says be very very reluctant to judge people because you don’t know what limitations they themselves are laboring under C. S. Lewis has that line that if you meet a christian who is not a very likable fellow, ask yourself what he might have been like if he weren’t a christian. So we’re all dealing with these limitations. And that that’s why Lewis says as we pointed out before that when you get to have you might find some people there that would surprise you because you thought they were renegades when in fact they were doing the best they could and they might have had some measure of God’s grace in their life that we ourselves couldn’t judge.
Mm hmm. That is part of it goes back to that. How do you, how do you rise to the challenge with God’s help?
And another thing I wanted to bring in here is this notion of hidden charity or christian action. So, you know, often you see a lot of evil in the world, but there’s a lot of humble charitable agape activity going on in the world that is not seen that, you know, like it’s like Christ says, you know, don’t let the left hand know what the right your people are out there just doing good and it’s leavening this world.
So is that, you know, part of the mystery that we’re talking about here is there’s both this the toleration of evil on the dramatic stage, but also there’s the mystery of all the good that’s happening that may not come to the fore because the evil maybe so apparent, or you may just not see it in general.
Yeah, yeah, that’s right. That’s why um you can’t necessarily use the human measure to determine for good outcomes. Maybe they look like or not making the world better in terms of the human metrics.
But in terms of how God measures these things, you maybe triumphing all along? Mhm. That’s that’s why you have to be guided by those deeper ways of looking at are you cultivate your relationship with God. So it might be says this, you know, he says, we tend to think that it’s Napoleon making the big difference in the world when in fact it might have been that non in the convent praying the whole years of napoleon’s regime that was really changing the world. That’s according to God’s measure of how it works. But human measure of how it works. We talk about Napoleon.
Let me bring in. That’s actually a great segue to this. So one of the french revolution might have talked about before the nuns who had offer themselves up as an sacrifice to stop the revolution and so eventually they all ended up on the the guillotine. They were killed and then I think I think it was a week and a half later Robespierre is on the guillotine, he’s dead and then the violence ceases. So in this mystery of evil, those nuns, number one, they offered their lives which, you know logically speaking would be an evil right? It’s take my life rather than sustained my life. But then that death clearly had an effect in God’s order because we can have later this Robespierre is gone. How does that martyrdom I guess play into this mystery of evil as as well.
Yeah, that’s fascinating, something seems so imprudent in human terms when in fact you can be called to do that just as a soldier can be seems imprudent to run over the wall and risk being killed, but he knows that’s his duty. And so once you get, should you seek this relationship with God so intimately in friendship, there will be a measure of what you should do that seems to confound ordinary morality. But you know, it speaks to the Christian person.