Praising God who could not do evil

The Problem:

If God could not do evil, why praise his goodness? In fact, why think that he is good at all, at least in the way that persons are good? You might as well praise water for being wet – which might make some sort of mystical or poetic sense but it seems hard to take in any familiar or philosophically serious way.

-Let’s start with Paul Draper’s example of what God could not do: torture small children for no reason. Why add “with no reason”? This makes the impossibility a subset of things done for no reason, and all the relevant senses of “God” involve a being for whom this is not a possibility. But then we are not making a moral claim so much as a logical claim: a being that always has his reasons cannot act for no reason. 

-God’s willing of the good is necessary, but it is not the sort of necessity that characterizes logical deductions or a deterministic universe. The necessity of God’s willing the good arises  from the impossibility of any of his thoughts being subconscious or mistaken. For an agent to be morally evil it does not suffice that (a) the agent act out of belief;  these beliefs  also (b) must be able to be subconscious or mistaken. The deterministic universe has a necessity from lacking (a), but God’s actions are necessarily good by lacking (b). We praise God for the same reason we praise any persons: for performing good acts intentionally; and we fail to praise the necessity of things in a deterministic universe for the obvious reason that they lack (a).

-Pure Act is absolutely determined and with no possibilities for further development or alternate action, but it is so precisely because it acts from an intelligence without limits. Physical or natural necessity, on the other hand, arises because the natural thing has no self of its own and so no source of action of its own. Secondary causes can contribute something to the action of another, but the action remains determined by another and so already determined.

-We are confused by the doctrine of determinism because we think a being with no self can act by itself. We come face the reality of God’s pure activity thinking that it must make him laking in a self.

-Doing evil requires a being that need not think about what it knows, which is possible for both angels and humans. We can’t do something we know is evil while we are thinking about it as evil. Some reframing of the evil always comes first, or some conscious decision to stop thinking about what we know.

-The idea that God could not be praised because he could not sin is like the idea that Christ could not have solidarity with the human experience for the same reason.


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