Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Problem Of Pain

In Poul Anderson's "The Problem of Pain" IN Anderson, The Earth Book Of Stormgate (New York, 1979), pp. 26-48, the characters, discussing theology, differentiate the problem of (moral) evil from the problem of (psychophysical) pain.

On the problem of evil, the Christian Peter Berg says:

"'Why does God, if He is a loving and personal God, allow evil? Well, there's a perfectly good Christian answer to that. Man - intelligence everywhere - must have free will. Otherwise we're puppets and have no reason to exist. Free will necessarily includes the capability of doing wrong. We're here, in this cosmos during our lives, to learn how to be good of our unforced choice.'" (p. 46)

The unnamed first person narrator replies, "'...your logic is right, regardless of whether I accept your premises or not.'" (ibid.)

I do not agree that Berg argues logically from his premises. First, I suggest that every event, including every human action, is either caused or random. A random event has no moral significance. When an action is caused by a conscious decision - a decision which, in turn, had previous causes -, then we may morally judge the action and we do so for a practical purpose, to influence future actions. Of course, we find that we are caused/compelled/obliged to judge actions, including our own, but this compulsion or obligation has evolved for the suggested practical reason.

God has no reason to judge our actions. If the theistic hypothesis is correct, then He is the omnipotent creator from nothing of everything other than Himself. In fact, according to the doctrine of theistic creation, God did not merely create the material universe once long ago and leave it to run its course. That is Deism. He sustains cosmic existence at every moment. And he exists entirely outside our spatio-temporal framework. I think it follows from this that, from His trans-temporal perspective, there is no difference between creating the universe at its first moment, if it even had one, and sustaining it at any later moment. Thus, He timelessly causes/creates us performing our current actions here and now.

This does not make us puppets as we would be if a fellow human being were controlling our actions against our wills. "Free will" can only mean "absence of constraint" and "constraint" means an intra-cosmic factor thwarting our wills, not the extra-cosmic creator creating/sustaining our wills as He creates and sustains everything else.

An aggressive drunk automatically kicks a dog that bites him whereas a pacifist saint does not. If we know the drunk and the saint well, then we confidently predict how each of them will respond to any given stimulus. Our predictions might sometimes be inaccurate because, however well we know them, we do not know all the factors causing their conscious decisions. However, God not only knows but causes/creates those factors. Thus, He could have created the man who is a drunk in such a way that he never had any interest in alcohol and would never have kicked a dog.

Creating a man so that he is the kind of person who always freely makes morally right decisions does not negate his freedom. When we confidently predict how the saint will behave, we do not infer that he is unfree or a "puppet." In fact, he is freer than the man who is addicted to alcohol and unable to restrain his own aggression.

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