Proper Function, Natural Reason and Evils as Extrinsic Goods -- By: Edward N. Martin

Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 01:1 (Sep 1998)
Article: Proper Function, Natural Reason and Evils as Extrinsic Goods
Author: Edward N. Martin

Proper Function, Natural Reason
and Evils as Extrinsic Goods

Edward N. Martin, Ph.D.

Philosophy Department
Trinity College & Seminary, Newburgh, IN

This is a paper about God, evil, and the soul-making theodicy. Too often we pair together this theodicy with various liberal philosophical theologians (e.g. John Hick), and miss the importance of the rich resources that we find in the theodicy itself. I would like to propose that we not overlook the continuing importance of this theodical method, for this method or approach to theodicy seems squarely in line, in its essential parts, with the New Testament conception of the development of Christian character and the theological virtue of hope. Consider Paul’s sentiment in the Book of Romans.

“...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Rom 5:3, 4 [NIV])

Obviously, for suffering to ultimately produce character and hope for the believer there has to be a structure in place whereby the intrinsic evil of suffering can “produce” this sequential process, from suffering to perseverance to character and finally to hope.

What ought we to say, however, for the unbeliever? Is there a structure in place in the human psyche or the human mind such that suffering can, in some way, produce hope for this person as well? The “hope” in view here need not be true, conscious Christ-focused eschatological hope, or a true instantiation of the theological virtue of hope (which takes knowledge of Christ as personal savior as a necessary condition for obtaining). Although Paul was addressing believing Christians in Romans 5, perhaps there is a sort of “first level” of hope whereby even the unbeliever can get a foretaste or shadow of the true hope which we find in Christ.

Let us examine this possibility by means of an investigation of the structure of our belief-forming mechanisms. Since suffering is what sets this chain of implications in motion of which Paul speaks in Romans 5, we know that suffering therefore plays a key role in this process. It is the door, the gateway, that can lead the human heart and mind ultimately to hope.

I will employ a sort of transcendental approach in this paper, that approach offered by Kant in his first Critique. The transcendental argument-type one may employ would be to observe an X, and to ask: what are the conditions for the possibility of the instantiation of X? The strength of this approach for theodicy is that it allows for two important steps...

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