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A Variant Problem of Evil: Not just will, but sustenance

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One issue that theologians have been trying to answer for centuries is the "Problem of Evil" pertaining to the Will of God.

God is supposed to be omnibenevolent, meaning he cannot directly will Evil.


1. God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.
2. As such, everything that happens God must directly or indirectly ("permissively") Will (for if He did not indirectly or permissively Will it, He either would have not known about it or would not have been able to stop it - both things are impossible)
3. However, there is no distinction in actuality, due to Absolute Divine Symplicity, between God's direct and indirect Will.
4. Therefore, God Wills evil.

Therefore, God can't be omnibenevolent, for God Wills evil.

Various groups over the years have tried to answer this question, in various ways, by ultimately categorizing God as "beyond the conception of good and evil".

You see this in Kabballah (and hinted at in various Talmudic texts) where "goodness" and "evil" are seen as two divine aspects of God, and Gnosticism, where morality isn't even a goal within Gnosticism, because morality is merely an illusion of the material world. To some extent, you also see this attempt at resolution in Origen's "Apocatastasis", where evil is ultimately destroyed in the end and all beings are reconciled to God in Heaven.

However, all these positions have been historically condemned by the Catholic Church.

The best answer (so far, within the confines of Catholic dogma), to this problem, I think, was given by Saint Irenaeus (and was repeated by Pope Francis in his book "On Heaven and on Earth") - to deny the ontological existence of evil altogether. "Evil" is merely an illusion that results when one inwardly rejects God and encounters suffering as a result, because our entire existence is totally dependent on God. While Satan may be "evil", his "evil" is only apparent because he inwardly rejected God and brings suffering to himself and others, as to deny God means to fight against our existence in of itself. As to why God permits it, because "Evil" is merely an illusion, He only permits our (humanity's) own caused suffering so that we may come to realize and appreciate what God truly is (who is identical with goodness). Thus, God never even "indirectly" wills evil because there really is no evil, as God cannot fight against himself - "evil" is just humanity fighting against who we really are, totally dependent on God.

Of course, one can't help but wonder how this works as it pertains to individual person who often times does not commit evil on their own accord and encounters suffering anyways, nor has the time to actually reconcile with God when they die and are damned, but as it pertains to the human essence as a whole - it logically sort of makes sense, especially when you consider that Christ redeemed human's essence on the tree.

There is just one problem, however, within Saint Irenaeus's logic. Sustenance.

According to Catholic dogma, God, as an act of direct Will,  sustains the entire universe. If God did not directly Will the universe, it would not exist.

From Saint Augustine:

"Let us therefore believe that God works constantly, so that all created things would perish, if his working were withdrawn."

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Section 301):

"With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:"

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"In developing the argument of the First Cause we have seen that the world is essentially dependent on God, and this dependence implies in the first place that God is the Creator of the world the producer of its whole being or substance and in the next place, supposing its production, that its continuance in being at every moment is due to His sustaining power. Creation means the total production of a being out of nothing, i.e. the bringing of a being into existence to replace absolute nonexistence, and the relation of Creator is the only conceivable relation in which the Infinite can stand to the finite."


"It is also clear that if the universe depends on God for its production, it must also depend on Him for its conservation or continuance in being; and this truth will perhaps be best presented by explaining the much talked-of principle of Divine immanence as corrected and counterbalanced by the equally important principle of Divine transcendence."

Here's the problem, then.

God must necessarily directly Will beings who perform actions of evil, which creates contradiction anyways.

Even granting Saint Irenaeus the benefit of the doubt that evil is only an act of a creature inwardly rejecting his total dependence on God, God must sustain that creature to an extent that the creature has the ability to reject the sustenance. To me, this is nonsense, because the creature is only able to resist sustenance by virtue of God's sustenance. That is, this means that God sustains resistance of His own sustenance. Logically nonsensical.

Two other ways of putting it:
1. You can, in fact, resist God acting, but only by means of God acting.
2. God acts to be able to fight against His own act.

Even then, denying Irenaeus's conception of evil and presuming evil to be an ontological entity in of itself, and denying absolute divine simplicity (say that God's direct and permissive will is distinct), God must necessarily directly will evil by virtue of sustaining beings that perform evil.

The only logical explanation that I can come up with is that "God's omnibenevolence" must be something more "grandeur" than goodness pertaining to the actions of creation - for evil and goodness seem to be only apparent within the will of creatures. Considering God "Is" and therefore exists "before" creatures are able to perform "evil", and "good" in God's eyes must be significant distinct from "good" in our own human experience.

What that is, I don't know. Maybe we can only know God's goodness through experience of God's goodness, and it's something beyond our own "act-based" conceptions of good and evil.

What are your thoughts? Am I missing something here?

1.  Free will.
2.  Explain how I could exist without preceding evils throughout history.

If and when I meet Him I will ask Him.

The current batch of God hating psychopaths running the world trying to bend everyone to their insane and contradictory wills has made me much more tolerant of God's choices.  His yoke really IS light.


--- Quote from: james03 on August 25, 2021, 07:04:41 PM ---1.  Free will.
2.  Explain how I could exist without preceding evils throughout history.

--- End quote ---

1. While that may perhaps explain why evil exists, it doesn't explain how God could actively sustain evil without contradicting his own sustenance or directly willing evil.

Maybe perhaps it's necessary for God to directly will evil in order to bring about the greater good of free will, making him omnibenevolent, but that would violate traditional conceptions of "omnibenevolence" where God can never directly will evil. The only way I can see you reconcile this is if God's omnibenevolence is a kind of omnibenevolence greater than human action based benevolence.

Or perhaps it's just a mystery.

2. I'm not sure what difference this would make in any of my arguments, because it may very well be that "omnibenevolence" may refer to something else other than action based morality, or God is not omnibenevolent, or God is beyond omnibenevolence.

I need to see something authoritative defining "omnibenevolence."  Does raining down molten sulphur on sodom and gomorrah count?

--- Quote --- His yoke really IS light.
--- End quote ---

It really is.  People overthink things sometime.  Even in the Old Testament God spoke to some of the prophets in a quiet whisper.  Also the dude who refused to wash in the Jordan to cure his leprosy.  I guess he was expecting to have to sacrifice 100 virgins or something.


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