JD is sympathetic to my view of evil as being redeemed in God’s good universe, but he has a reservation:
“The Book of Revelation foretells a future existence in which there will be all these marvelously rich things like life and sentience and mind but with no death, sorrow or crying. If God is able to ensure that in the future, why can’t he do it now? For this reason I hesitate to affirm to forcefully that God had no choice but to allow for bad things to happen in a rich world.”
I didn’t say quite that God had no choice but to proceed in this manner. Let’s consider the end for a moment. As JD notes, ultimately all moral agents will be completely sanctified and thus will no longer have the inclination to sin or inflict suffering on themselves and each other. So then why didn’t God create moral agents at this stage of development to begin with? It is a very good question. Why not.
The classic film experience
Let’s think some more about a classic epic film. The lights dim in the theatre and the drama and action begin to unfold. For two hours the audience is brought through valleys of despair and mountain top experiences, through moments of angst, doubt, apprehension, pain as well as the occasional relief or joy. Finally after those two hours the characters have learned how to be good people. The problems have been resolved. The script has definitely earned that final phrase “And they lived happily ever after.”
Now imagine a film-goer standing up indignantly and retorting, “What the hell? Why didn’t the filmmaker begin with perfect people?” In that case of course the answer lies in the audience, and in a good film the answer is not simply “so people may be entertained”. Rather, it is so the audience may grow. The drama, pain, suffering, is allowed by the script writer and filmmaker to say something important, to form the audience.
To return to the life-as-film metaphor, what if we’re in the film? Is there not intrinsic value in learning to be good from inside the story, in growing, developing, character-forming, in striving for the happily ever after? Surely there is. (By the same token, there is intrinsic value in earning your own money to buy your first bike rather than have dad simply peel five large bills off the roll in his pocket and hand them to you.)
So what we need is to recoginze that becoming good is not the exact same thing as being good and thus that there might be additional goods attendant to the historical process by which people become good that would be lost were those people merely to be created being good from the outset. Perhaps God could have created human beings perfect but then he would have lost those goods.
A brief discourse on dog breeds
But could God have created human beings perfect? That isn’t obvious. It could be doubted.
I need a good guard dog. What should I buy? A Yorkie? Perhaps a Chihuahua? Don’t be silly! If you want a guard dog you need a Boxer, Doberman or German Shepherd. With the latter three breeds you get the good of some serious guard dog testosterone.
Now it could be that God could have chosen to create creatures that are being good as opposed to becoming good, but that if he had chosen to do that the creatures he would have created would not have been human beings, and most certainly would not have been you and I. It could be that just as wimpiness and skittishness are essential to the Chihuahua, and machismo is essential to the German Shepherd, so a fluctuating moral history is essential to human beings.
Consider the following. I opt to buy a German Shepherd because I want the good of a guard dog, but I know that hip dysplasia is a common part of the breed’s package and I accept that. So God opts to create human beings knowing they have the intrinsic potential for becoming good but also knowing that potential for sin and suffering are part of the package.
Shall the German Shepherd turn to the breeder and say “Why did you breed us? Why didn’t you breed tea cup poodles instead?” What a question to ask. Shall the human ask “Why did you create us? Why didn’t you create a different species without our need to become?” You could ask that I suppose, but I’m glad God created human beings. Especially when I have a glimpse of the end of the film