God and Evil — Part 2 (An Intellectual Approach)

See part 1 or the introduction.

Exhibit A — Evil Suffered

Evil suffered is “a necessary concomitant of certain kinds of good’. To be crude about it, shit happens, and it logically follows that it has to happen.

McCabe uses the analogy of a lion eating a lamb. It is obvious that the lamb suffers evil. A defect, becoming less of a lamb, is inflected by an outside agent, the lion. Why does the lion eat the lamb? Because that is what lions do—they are carnivores. It is in the nature of being a lion. The lion, in being a good lion and meeting the expectations of being a lion—as opposed to a bad lion, that is, a lion with a defect—fulfills or achieves what a lion does by eating meat. In other words, what is bad for the lamb is good for the lion. Note: “Good and bad are relative but they are not just subjective.” (emphasis mine)

Thus if God is to make a lion, and a good lion, he cannot but allow for the defect of the lamb, that is the kind of things that lions and lambs are. It is no reflection on God’s omnipotence that he cannot make good lions without allowing for damaged lambs. However omnipotent God many be he cannot compose a string quartet for three instruments or five. It belongs to being a quartet that it is for four instruments; and in a somewhat similar way it belongs to being a lion that it wants to eat lambs.

In general…you cannot make material things that develop in time without allowing for the fact that in perfecting themselves they will damage other material things. Life evolves in the course of constant interaction of things which includes the damaging and destroying of things. But every occasion of destruction is, of itself, an occasion for good for the thing that is doing the destroying—always with the single exception of the free creature which may sometimes while destroying something else be simultaneously destroying itself [see exhibit B].

God created the nature of lambs and lions. Because the nature of a lion is to be a carnivore, it follows that lambs must suffer. “But in creating good lions we can certainly say that God brings it about indirectly that there shall be evil suffered. He brings it about because it is not possible to bring about this good without allowing for the concomitant defects.” McCabe submits, “None of this…shows that God is guilty of deliberately proposing and bringing about evil.”

Ah! But you may be tempted to say that it would better not to have made the nature of lions as such, to be carnivores. Must only the plants suffer evil then? You may be even tempted to say that

…it would be better not to have any lions at all—but if you think along those lines you have to end up thinking that it would be better not to have any material world at all—and indeed…some Buddhist thinkers have reached this very conclusion. But then you do have to change the charge against my client; it is not that he made a bad world but that he made a material world at all.

Could God have made a material world with less suffering and pain?

Every defect in the material world can be linked in a rational, scientific and intelligible manner to some cause or agent. “More suffering than there need be would be suffering that had no natural cause, that was not the obverse of some good, that was scientifically inexplicable.” In other words, every defect is caused by an agent seeking its own good. To cause more suffering would the result of unnatural causes, or “inflicted by a malignant free cause such as a wicked man [see exhibit B] or a demon.”

Could God have made a material world with no suffering?

[God] could have fed the lion miraculously without damaging any lambs, and so on on throughout the order of nature. But such a world would have no reason or order within itself. Lions would not do things because they were lions, but simply because of miraculous action of God. What we mean by the miraculous action of God is indeed simply the non-presence of natural causes and explanations. A miracle is not God intervening in the world—God is always acting in the world—a miracle is when only God is acting in the world.

A world without any defects suffered, then, would be a world without any natural order in it. …a world without any natural causes, entirely consisting of miracles, would not be a natural material at all. So the people who would like [God] to have made a material world without suffering and defect would prefer him not to have have made a world subject to its own laws, an autonomous, scientifically explicable world.

Therefore, “there could not be a material world, developing according to its own laws, without evil suffered, but there most certainly could be a material human world without evil done.”

Continued in part 3 for the discussion of exhibit B.


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