Author Topic: Transcendence of God as Theodicy (solution to the philosophical problem of evil)  (Read 1097 times)

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Offline Perennial1

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Strangely, I have never heard a Christian theodicy (solution to the philosophical problem of evil) based on the transcendence of God.

The question is, if God is all-good and all-powerful, how is it that God could allow so many (such as in the Holocaust) innocent beings (such as children) to suffer (unto extreme extents such as torture) without doing something to help them here and now like he has commanded us to do?

I struggled with this for many years because, as Christians, we want to maintain the immanence and activity of God in the world. But then I realized that God is by nature almost entirely transcendent and that it is miraculous if he gets involved with the world at all. That is why interventions of God in the world are referred to as miracles- because they are rare occurrences. The empirical fact is that God is NOT in the details and does not control everything in our lives as some parts of the Old Testament and the Quran, for example, would lead us to believe.

I realized that any explanation for the way things are in the world must be based on metaphysics- the way things actually are- and ultimately based on the being of God.

This is what I came to understand based on tradition, reason, and experience...

God the Father is almost entirely transcendent; the Logos governs the world generally just in its major world events; and the Holy Spirit is immanent and intimately involved in personal lives through the divine energies.

Personally, I see God as absolute transcendence that overflows or emanates and becomes immanent. 

This theodicy is based on the following correlated principles:

(a) Absolute: transcendent consciousness, inactive, omnipotent

(b) Dissipated: immanent consciousness, active, non-omnipotent

(To conceive of the consciousness of absolute being, it helps to think of a being in a state of supreme meditation; as the being comes out of this supreme meditation it gradually becomes more aware of external phenomena and more active. To test this, read about or experience the higher states of meditation... this is valid in any of the major mystical traditions.)

Since most people here would not be willing to admit that the Holy Spirit gradually dissipates his being and omnipotence as he emanates, let's just say that somewhere along the way there is a dissipation of omnipotence (again, this is just for the day-to-day grace and is not to deny that there can be omnipotent actions in our lives). This dissipation does not have to be within the being of God. In the Orthodox context, we could say that the divine energies that reach us do not always have the plenitude of power. Although the divine energies can be omnipotent, as far as I know there is no dogmatic reason to believe that every divine energy, including an energy that lifts a feather, for example, must be omnipotent. There may be gradations of the divine energies.

In the final analysis, the solution to the philosophical problem of evil would be that God is essentially transcendent to such an extent that, in an accurate view of God, far from us being surprised that God is not always active in the world, we should actually be surprised that he has any involvement with the world at all; and the immanent graces of God that do amazingly reach us in our day-to-day spiritual lives of prayer are rarely ever omnipotent.

Further, as for why graces are granted much, much, much more in spiritual realm than in the physical realm, this is because, due to the nature of the metaphysics, God deals with us primarily on the level of spirit; grace is attracted by prayer, meditation, and holy living, from Spirit to spirit, but it also penetrates the mortal body as well.

What do you think about this theodicy? Have you heard any such theodicy before? Maybe the Cappadocians touch on such a theodicy from their reading of Plotinus? Do you think this is in line with Orthodoxy? The closest thing I have heard to this was in Neo-Platonism and Kabbalah Judaism.

« Last Edit: August 19, 2015, 06:09:27 PM by Perennial1 »

Offline Asteriktos

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The two words that came to mind are:


I can offer nothing more at this time.

Offline wgw

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Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, if I read him correctly, said that evil exists because the one thing God cannot force us to do is to love him.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2015, 09:19:46 PM by wgw »
Axios and many years to you, Fr. Trenham!

Offline Perennial1

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Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, if I read him correctly, said that evil exists because the one thing God cannot force us to do is to love him.

Surely God had the power to stop the Holocaust.

Offline minasoliman

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I think what helps you helps you.  Sometimes what may make sense in our minds may be difficult to convey.  For instance, your description of the divine energies for instance make me take a step back a bit from the terminology of "energies", but I could be misunderstanding your point, as I seem to get a bit lost in the ocean of your ideas there.

If you want a good verbal explanation of theodicy, Fr. Thomas Hopko I think by far has the best explanations I have heard anyone go through.  Take some time to listen to some of his podcasts.

But more than that, what I learned is that, even to anyone of us who is very religious and spiritual, there is no good explanation (a point I think Fr. Thomas even alludes to).  Many times we can even be quite confident in our beliefs and still are distraught in all the injustices, moral and physical, in the world.  Any genuine and good-intentioned attempt to speculate on this question ends up being either doing a disservice to our own intelligence or to God.  The best a STRONG and TRUE believer in Christ can do is to live by example. 

Sometimes I wonder if the issue of the theodicy was purposely left to be not answered to force the more religious of us to be more humbled and more serious to truly become lights of the world for others.  Only then, by being lights of the world (not by words, but by actions) can one perhaps, not even assured, but will OUTWEIGH all the negativity...or rather the darkness that comes from thoughts of theodicy.

That is really the summary of any good teaching on theodicy.  It is ultimately unexplainable, and should only be a reason for us to act, not to talk about.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2015, 11:36:59 PM by minasoliman »
Vain existence can never exist, for "unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.