Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil 1108487602, 9781108487603

John R. Schneider explores the problem that animal suffering, caused by the inherent nature of Darwinian evolution, pose

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Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil
 1108487602, 9781108487603

Table of contents :
Dedication
Contents
Foreword • Michael Ruse
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Darwinian Problem of Evil
1 Facing the Darwinian Problem of Evil
2 Darwinian Evil and Anti-Theistic Arguments
3 Ways around the Problem: Neo-Cartesian Theory and Skeptical Theism
4 Making a “Case for God” (a Causa Dei)
5 Animal Suffering and the Fall: Lapsarian Theodicy
6 Narrow Is the Way of World Making: Only Way Theodicy
7 God-Justifying Beauty: Aesthetic Theodicy
8 Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem
9 Darwinian Kenōsis and “Divine Selection”
10 Animals in Heaven: The Defeat of Darwinian Evils
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil

John R. Schneider explores the problem that animal suffering, caused by the inherent nature of Darwinian evolution, poses to belief in theism. Examining the aesthetic aspects of this moral problem, Schneider focuses on the three prevailing approaches to it: that the Fall caused animal suffering in nature (Lapsarian Theodicy), that Darwinian evolution was the only way for God to create an acceptably good and valuable world (Only Way Theodicy), and that evolution is the source of major, God-justifying beauty (Aesthetic Theodicy). He also uses canonical texts and doctrines from Judaism and Christianity – notably the book of Job, and the doctrines of the incarnation, atonement, and resurrection – to build on insights taken from the non-lapsarian alternative approaches. Schneider thus constructs an original, God-justifying account of God and the evolutionary suffering of animals. His book enables readers to see that the Darwinian configuration of animal suffering unveiled by scientists is not as implausible on Christian theism as commonly supposed. John R. Schneider is Professor Emeritus of Theology, Calvin College, and currently teaches at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. He is the author of Philip Melanchthon’s Rhetorical Construal of Biblical Authority and The Good of Affluence: Seeking God in a Culture of Wealth. Most recently, he has published widely debated articles on Darwinism and its implications for Christian faith.

Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil

JOHN R. SCHNEIDER

University Printing House, Cambridge cb2 8bs, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, ny 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, vic 3207, Australia 314–321, 3rd Floor, Plot 3, Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – 110025, India 79 Anson Road, #06–04/06, Singapore 079906 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781108487603 doi: 10.1017/9781108767439 © Cambridge University Press 2020 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2020 Printed in the United Kingdom by TJ International Ltd, Padstow Cornwall A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data names: Schneider, John R., author. title: Animal suffering and the Darwinian problem of evil / John R. Schneider description: Cambridge, United Kingdom ; New York, NY, USA : Cambridge University Press, 2021. | Includes bibliographical references and index. identifiers: lccn 2019042601 (print) | lccn 2019042602 (ebook) | isbn 9781108487603 (hardback) | isbn 9781108720700 (paperback) | isbn 9781108767439 (epub) subjects: lcsh: Theodicy. | Good and evil. | Animals–Religious aspects–Christianity. | Suffering–Religious aspects–Christianity. | Evolution (Biology)–Religious aspects–Christianity. classification: lcc bt160 .s36 2021 (print) | lcc bt160 (ebook) | ddc 231/.8–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019042601 LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019042602 isbn 978-1-108-48760-3 Hardback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

I am dedicating this book to faithful Labrador “dog friends” in memoriam. Julie (1960–1967), Dolly (1967–1981), Magic (1993–2001), Blue (2001–2016), and Buffy (2003–2019) all helped to shape my life through the years. I would not be at all the same person I am without them. Blue and Buffy – who breathed her last breath almost to the day when I finished writing – were always present, lying on my right and left, every morning, to help me write it. Readers will see that I harbor reasons for hope (not mere wishful thinking) that they will greet me again in the next life. If Heaven exists, as promised in the messianic Jewish and Christian traditions, for me at least, it would not be very “heavenly” without them.

Contents

Foreword Michael Ruse Acknowledgments

page viii xi

Introduction: The Darwinian Problem of Evil

1

1

Facing the Darwinian Problem of Evil

15

2

Darwinian Evil and Anti-Theistic Arguments

48

3

Ways around the Problem: Neo-Cartesian Theory and Skeptical Theism

56

4

Making a “Case for God” (a Causa Dei)

69

5

Animal Suffering and the Fall: Lapsarian Theodicy

80

6

Narrow Is the Way of World Making: Only Way Theodicy

109

7

God-Justifying Beauty: Aesthetic Theodicy

137

8

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem

164

Darwinian Kenosis ¯ and “Divine Selection”

201

Animals in Heaven: The Defeat of Darwinian Evils

219

9 10

Bibliography Index

270 282

vii

Foreword

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection, expounded in his Origin of Species published in 1859, poses major challenges for the Christian religion. Many, the so-called New Atheists particularly, think that it refutes absolutely any pretensions of the Christian to have true understanding of the nature of things. Darwin’s ideas have been called, by the Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne, the “greatest scripture killer ever penned.” News to many evolutionists! Ronald Fisher, the greatest English evolutionist of the twentieth century, was a sincere Anglican. Theodosius Dobzhansky, the greatest American evolutionist of the twentieth century, was always Russian Orthodox, the religion of the land of his birth. What cannot be denied, however, is that Darwin’s thinking makes for uncomfortable reading in the light of many of the claims made in the name of Christianity. John Schneider, the author of this monograph, knows this only too well. If Darwinism is true, then much of Genesis must be at best metaphorical. There was no Creation in six days, there was no Garden of Eden, there was no original pair, Adam and Eve, who fell and brought sin into the world. Human evolution probably went through bottlenecks, but there were never fewer humans than ten thousand or so, and our ancestors back to and including the apes were like us, sometimes nice and sometimes not so very nice. Yet this puts pressure, shall we say, on the Augustinian account of original sin and the death on the Cross. Adam fell and only through a blood sacrifice by God Himself would his sin, passed on to us all, be erased or counted for naught. No Adam, no sacrificial Lamb.

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Schneider’s belief in Jesus as the Son of God, through his death on the Cross, the exemplar of perfect love, is in no way diminished. Schneider thinks that, as beloved creatures of the Lord, it is our responsibility to look upon Darwinian evolutionary theory as a challenge and opportunity not a refutation. To do this is truly to show the meaning of being made “in the image of God.” The theme of this book shows this full well. His topic is one of the hardest in the realm of natural theology, especially in light of the theorizing of Darwin whose mechanism of natural selection is brought on by an often-bloody “struggle for existence.” How do we account for the suffering of animals in a world created by an all-powerful, all-loving God? Charles Darwin himself worried about this, writing, shortly after the Origin was published, to his good friend the Harvard botanist Asa Gray: I am bewildered. – I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I shd. wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.

Here, more than anywhere, the challenge of Darwinism to the Augustinian is in full view. Can anyone truly believe that the act of a rather naïve man, crunching into an apple long ago, means that a whimpering little rabbit has to suffer the torments of being torn to death in the eyrie of an eagle? If Darwinism is true, this happens again and again and again. That is what evolution is all about. Schneider’s response is both traditional and brilliantly innovative. On the one hand, he follows Christians from the time of Darwin – the great Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, for example – down to the present – the wonderful Calvinist novelist Marilynne Robinson, for another example – in turning for inspiration to the Book of Job. God there is no softy. He is not going to be cowed by our doubts and ignorances. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.” This does not mean that God is uncaring or unloving. Just that simplistic answers are not where we are at or should be at. On the other hand, Schneider turns from direct concern with morality and invites us to look more at things from an aesthetic perspective, showing how often great artists feel the need to portray evil in order to portray love. One thinks of course of the crucifixion, but often the themes

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are classical rather than directly religious. Continuing the Jobean theme, Schneider suggests that we must think of the whole issue in an eschatological manner rather than one of direct payoff. To this end, he refers not just to the Hebrew Bible but also to the Bible of the Christians, especially to the thinking of Saint Paul, arguing that in the end we shall see animals as exalted in God’s Creation as are we. Prosaically, as an Englishman who loves his Cairn Terriers, even to a non-believer this sounds like pretty convincing theology! Does John Schneider’s theodicy work? In a way, especially to a philosopher like me, that is not really the proper question. Does John Schneider’s theodicy break new ground and give thoughtful readers new avenues to explore, new themes to accept or reject, new perspectives on old problems? It does so very much. This is why I am so enthusiastic about this book. Michael Ruse

Acknowledgments

This book grew from a generous one-year fellowship from the Center for Philosophy of Religion at the University of Notre Dame in 2011‒12. I owe special thanks to the directors, Michael Rea and Samuel Newlands, for supporting the project from the beginning, and also for kindly including me in colloquia on the subject of animal minds that were held at Notre Dame during that year. Several other people deserve special mention for the parts they played in helping with the gradual evolution of the seminal project into a fully formed book. Solomon Schneider made valuable suggestions on the initial formulation of the project. Michael Ruse has been a constant source of both scholarly and personal encouragement from the book’s inception in particularly difficult circumstances. It is most fitting that he has written the Foreword. I am also grateful to participants at the Animals and the Kingdom of God Faculty Development Workshop on Animal Suffering, Divine Goodness, and Human Ethics, held at Calvin College, June 2015, an event organized by Matt Halteman. Andrew Chignell, Beth Seacord, Trent Dougherty, and – most especially – Marilyn McCord Adams were participants who offered very valuable comments and suggestions. When it was my turn to present a paper at the colloquium, I had the rare privilege (if that’s the right word for it) of being interrogated for around ninety minutes by Marilyn McCord Adams. It did not occur to any of us at the workshop that Marilyn’s time here on earth would be cut so abruptly short as it was. Her writings on “horrendous” evils played a formative role in my thinking on the suffering of nonhuman innocents in the natural realm. I only wish that I could continue that conversation with Marilyn now. xi

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Acknowledgments

I also wish to thank peers who generously volunteered to read either all or parts of the manuscript at various stages of its development. Helen De Cruz, Kelly James Clark, and Keith DeRose all offered insightful comments and critical suggestions for improving the work. I should also mention my former colleague (and co-conspirator in things Christian and Darwinian) at Calvin College, Daniel Harlow, whose seminal writings on the Bible and evolution will eventually get the approbation that they deserve. My editors at Cambridge University Press, Beatrice Rehl and Katherine Barbaro, and copyeditor Rosemary Morlin also deserve more thanks than I can give them here. Finally, I must thank my wife, Winona, who not only provided much needed encouragement to see this challenging project through to the end, but also offered valuable critical suggestions while proofreading the manuscript as I prepared it for submission.

Introduction The Darwinian Problem of Evil

In this book, I invite readers to join me in facing one of the most difficult challenges that modern evolutionary science poses to traditional theistic religion, based as it is on belief in an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect God. I refer to this challenge simply as the Darwinian Problem. The source of the Darwinian Problem is the vast vista of animal suffering that has come into view with dramatic discoveries in the natural sciences. The Darwinian Problem is a modern form of an ancient and perennial problem for theism – the problem of God and natural evil. Unlike moral evil, which arises from the deliberate choices and actions of moral persons, so-called natural evil originates in nonhuman systems of nature. The problem is in trying to explain how such evil could exist in a world designed and created by a supremely powerful, wise, and good God. Pioneering scientists – especially in the fields of geology and biology – have made discoveries about systems of nature here on earth that make the problem of God and natural evil more difficult for theism now than it has ever been. In this book, I give a detailed account of this new Darwinian Problem, I consider the prevailing solutions that thinkers offer, and then I offer my own account of God and natural evil as unveiled in this new Darwinian form. So what exactly is the Darwinian Problem? I believe this question, along with several distinctive – and controversial – features of the book, calls for brief preliminary attention. In Chapter 1, I propose that scientists have not merely made new discoveries that advance our knowledge of the natural realm. They have thoroughly revised our picture of nature on earth by unveiling it in 1

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Darwinian evolutionary terms. I refer to this revolutionary new picture in shorthand simply as the Darwinian World. The unveiling of this Darwinian World in the sciences is the source of the Darwinian Problem that confronts theistic religions – most notably, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. My concern in this book is primarily with the challenge posed to distinctly Jewish and Christian canonical theism – theism that is shaped by and stands within historic Jewish and Christian canonical biblical and theological tradition. I propose that the Darwinian World consists of four interconnected unveilings about the origin and evolutionary development of the earth and species. I label them, the unveilings of (1) “deep evolutionary time,” (2) “a plurality of worlds,” (3) “anti-cosmic micro-monsters,” and (4) “evil inscribed.” Individually and together, these unveilings include a configuration of natural evil that adherents of theism did not expect, to say the least. The configuration of natural evil unveiled in the conditions of existence for animals, both past and present, seems inexplicable on the assumptions of theism. Contemporary atheists see the Darwinian Problem as proof positive that theism is false. While they may overstate this case, as I believe they do, it is also important that theists not underestimate the seriousness of the Darwinian Problem. Let me give a brief preview of the points I make in explaining why. The first unveiling – “deep evolutionary time” – is self-explanatory. In the course of studying fossils in sedimentary layers of rock, the new corps of stratigraphic geologists unearthed the hidden truth that there has been an unfathomably long pre-human history of species, and perhaps more stunningly, that this history has an evolutionary character, with species gradually evolving from very simple forms into evermore complex ones, including ours. This unveiling completely blew away the commonly accepted “biblical” calculation that the earth began around 6,000 years ago, along with the picture of God creating all existing species fully formed at the same time. More seriously, however, the unveiling made it very hard to ascribe natural evil in the animal realm to a human Fall. Furthermore, it revealed that the sheer amount of such evil that has transpired on earth is unimaginably great – billions of nonhuman creatures caught in natural disasters, the savagery of predation, various diseases, and of course, pain and death – during many tens of millions of years! Canonical theists still debate over how best to match this picture of existence for animals with their particular version of theism. The other unveilings, moreover, only sharpen the problematic point of the question. Does this picture of the pre-human planetary past look at all like

Introduction: The Darwinian Problem of Evil

3

something designed and directed by an omnipotent, omniscient, and allbenevolent God? The unveiling of (2) “a plurality of worlds” is also decidedly modern – and much more complicated to explain than the first one. The phrase comes from the title of a book by William Whewell (1794–1866), who was Darwin’s colleague and tutor at Cambridge. In Of the Plurality of Worlds (1853), Whewell expressed worried wonderment at the discovery that entire “tribes” – whole “worlds” – of animals unlike any species existing now had inhabited the earth in strangely disparate succession during the planetary past.1 By now, we are used to picturing this prehuman “plurality of worlds” in the terms coined by the prominent evolutionist Stephen J. Gould, who referred to the unexpected rising and falling of entire biomes – “tribes of animals” coming and going in an epochal past – as a pattern of “punctuated equilibrium.”2 The course of evolution has not been a seamlessly smooth progression that would at least arguably evince evidence of purposeful divinely directed creative design. Instead, its broken and unpredictable development seems to be more a matter of undirected random chance, particularly when it comes to the mass extinctions that “punctuated” the flourishing of entire “worlds.” We now know that 99.5 percent of all species that ever walked the earth are gone, most often in a violently horrific, cataclysmic fashion, many of them without leaving so much as a genetic legacy to generations yet to come. I will propose that this unveiling adds a subtle yet important aesthetic aspect to the conspicuous moral problem of Darwinian animal suffering. A major thesis of the book, in fact, is that the aesthetics of Darwinian evil intensify and deepen the moral challenge that the Darwinian Problem poses to theism, so that even if one does not think that animals can really suffer (see Chapter 3), the Darwinian Problem is not entirely dispelled. In that light, then, I propose that to be successful, a Godjustifying account must somehow provide a perspective in which to see signs of divinity in the nonhuman evolutionary realm. It is extremely hard to make this pre-human history of a “plurality of worlds” fit 1

2

William Whewell , Of the Plurality of Worlds. A Facsimile of the First Edition Published in 1853: Plus Previously Unpublished Material Excised by the Author Just Before the Book Went to Press, and Whewell’s Dialogue Rebutting His Critics, Reprinted from the Second Edition. Edited and with New Introductory Material by Michael Ruse (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2001). Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge, “Punctuated Equilibria: The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered,” Paleobiology 3 (1977): 115–51.

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plausibly into any story told in the terms of theism. Nevertheless, in Chapters 8–10, I will try to do so. Meanwhile, the unveiling of (3) “anti-cosmic micro-monsters” refers to the unexpected discovery that huge hordes of microbial, viral, and other sorts of monstrous miniature creatures inhabit the earth. This unveiling adds to the aesthetics of horror created by the mass extinctions of entire animal “worlds.” And obviously, this horror conjoins with the moral aspect of the unveiling. Do these hideously horrific creatures really reflect direction by divine design? Or are these “anti-cosmic micro-monsters,” so called, yet further proof that no God of theism exists? To be acceptable, I propose that a God-justifying explanation must take this troubling form of Darwinian evil into account, too. Finally, however, the unveiling of (4) “evil inscribed” refers to the Darwinian theory that the driving mechanism of evolution in the creation of species is natural selection, or “survival of the fittest.” This thesis – that adaptation to the natural environment (rather than miraculous divine intervention) accounts for the origin and success of existing species – contains the core of the Darwinian Problem. For it entails that, if the God of theism did create species, it was by an extraordinarily inefficient, wasteful, and brutal means. Is it not rather the best part of rationality to see the thesis of natural selection as almost inherently atheistic? Going on with this “phenomenology” of the Darwinian Problem, then, in Chapter 2, I discuss both informal and formal anti-theistic arguments that are based on these aspects of Darwinian evil. Considering these arguments helps further to show how very challenging the Darwinian Problem is. The arguments will also serve as points of reference for assessing the theists’ accounts of Darwinian evil that we will consider in Chapters 5–7. The discussion in Chapter 3 is a digression. In this chapter, I briefly consider two paths that some thinkers recommend that theists take in order to get around the Darwinian Problem rather than try to face it full on. They are quite different appeals to serious skepticism towards the assumptions that create the problem in the first place. The first skeptical approach is known as neo-Cartesian theory. Advocates of the theory contend that we are in no position to know that animals really do suffer, as they appear to do. Appearances can deceive, and adherents of this approach propose that we have good grounds for suspecting that the strong appearance of animal suffering is deceptive. The main contention is that animals very likely lack the sort of mental capacity necessary for real, subjective, humanlike suffering. They

Introduction: The Darwinian Problem of Evil

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reinforce this suspicion with experimental examples showing that both human and nonhuman subjects can react reflexively to painful stimuli without actually processing them consciously as pain. The theory provides theists, then, with an expedient means of escape from the Darwinian Problem, insofar as it presupposes that animal suffering is real. Some theists propose that this neo-Cartesian thesis is probable on theism, because (so they argue) if God employed natural selection in creating species, it is improbable, on the goodness of God, that the apparent suffering by animals that is inherent in that process is actually real. As tempting as this way around the Darwinian Problem is, however, I give reasons for thinking that it is unwise for theists to do so. For one thing, the appearance of animal suffering is very strong, and so we need unusually powerful evidence in order to override the commonsense intuition that their suffering is real. I appeal to writers who contend that the evidence for neo-Cartesian theory is not nearly strong enough to do so. Furthermore, scientific evidence against the theory is growing, and a consensus seems to be building for belief in animal sentience in the higher species, at least, and for need to worry about the moral obligations we have to nonhuman beings. Meanwhile, the theory strikes many of us as all too like a pretext for justifying highly profitable concerns – such as in mass production of animals for food, or in experimental uses of animals in laboratories – for which the reality of animal suffering is a major inconvenience. The reality of animal suffering is also a major inconvenience for theists. However, I suggest that we are well advised to deal with it as best we can rather than seem to be disingenuous and evasive in the extreme. Meanwhile, the second way around the Darwinian Problem is fittingly known as Skeptical Theism. The label comes from its main skeptical thesis: human beings are not in an epistemic position to know that evils that strongly appear to be morally unjustified – morally gratuitous rather than necessary – really are unjustified. Again, we are urged to suspect that appearances deceive. We should rather assume, on whatever grounds we have for belief in theism, that God has some morally justifying reason for apparently gratuitous evils. As for the Darwinian Problem, then, theists may justifiably appeal to the limitations of human knowledge – compared with God’s unlimited cognitive capacity – in order to avoid having to give a positive God-justifying account of evolutionary suffering by animals. It is indeed tempting to take this skeptical way around the problem. As with neo-Cartesian theory, I propose that Skeptical Theism is too counterintuitive to be sufficiently plausible for adoption in a God-justifying account. Further, however – and more importantly – I suggest that this

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skeptical thesis is implausible on theism itself, and especially on canonical Christian theism. Why so? In brief, I contend that it is implausible because it entails that God is silent on the reasons that God has for evils, and such silence seems unlikely on the goodness of God towards human creatures, particularly if God’s goodness is parental, as Christian theists believe it is. The appeal to human cognitive limitations becomes irrelevant to this line of criticism, because on the one hand, giving some sort of comprehensible and reassuring explanation for extreme suffering could not be hard for an omniscient and omnipotent God. On the other hand, further, we must think that as a “parent,” God would wish to give at least the glimmerings of an explanation to dangerously confused suffering “children.” In this book, at any rate, I assume that God has not been completely silent on this score and has provided some sort of explanation for evils that are inscrutable on ordinary moral grounds. In the end, I will argue that if we look in the right places, in the right way, we can at least begin to make out the bare beginnings of an explanation, although it may not be the one we want! In Chapter 4, I focus on the slippery subject of standards that an account of God and evil must meet in order to be a “success.” There are three main issues to unravel. One issue involves the evidential quality of the account. Does it deal with all the relevant – and worst – instances of the evil in view, or does it omit important evidence that supporters of anti-theistic arguments include? The purpose of Chapters 1 and 2 is to make sure that this evidential condition has been met. Included in this evidential area of concern is something I refer to as the Seeing Condition. This evidential condition requires that the Godjustifying account should not merely make the relevant evils seem plausible on theism in a manner that is too intellectually abstract to seem genuine. I argue that the account must hold together intellectually, of course, but that it should also help enable people to regain the “theistic sight,” the ability to “see” signs of divine design and purpose in nature, that the Darwinian unveilings have weakened, or perhaps obscured altogether. Restoration of rational yet deeply intuitive and affective “theistic sight,” then, will be a major purpose of Chapters 8–10. Besides evidential concerns, however, there is the crucial matter of which moral conditions to employ in thinking about the moral agency of God. What moral conditions, if any, should we think a being such as God must meet in order to be justified in causing and/or allowing – “authorizing” (the term I prefer) – evils? On this question, readers should know in advance that I part ways with the majority of writers on God and evil. I follow Roderick

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Chisholm’s advice to take an unconventional avenue of explanation, instead. Chisholm expressed serious doubt that any God-justifying account could avoid failure so long as one accepted the moral-justificatory conditions stipulated by authors of anti-theistic evidential arguments. These authors stipulate that to be justified morally in authorizing serious evils, God must meet conditions that we normally enforce on ordinary – human – moral persons in theoretical ethics. Normally, for instance, we enforce the Necessity Condition. Briefly, the Necessity Condition rests on the normative belief that a morally good person always minimizes evil so far as s/he can, and so authorizes evils only when necessary, i.e., when it is impossible for some reason to prevent the evil. For instance, authorizing an evil would be justified on the Necessity Condition if preventing the evil would cause something even worse, or would thwart the forthcoming of a good that outweighs the evil. We will also consider the widely held “only-way” thesis that Darwinian evolution was the only means by which God could have created an acceptably valuable world (see Chapter 6). The trouble is that it seems implausible on its face that an omnipotent and omniscient God would ever be forced in this tragic moral fashion into having to authorize any evil, and even less so that no non-Darwinian way of world making was open to God. However, if it was not necessary for God to authorize the Darwinian configuration of animal suffering, what moral justification could there be for God to do so? Chisholm recommended an alternative approach that contemporary theists have rarely taken. He proposed that it is enough for theists to make it plausible that God will defeat the evil that God has authorized. What is it, according to Chisholm, to defeat evil? In the essay “The Defeat of Good and Evil,” the significance of which far exceeds its succinct size, Chisholm explained that an evil is defeated when it is integrated as a constitutive part of a valuable composite whole that not only outweighs the evil, but could not be as valuable as it is without the evil. In that instance, the evil remains evil in its own right, but it is defeated, since it is made to be a good-making, non-regrettable part of the whole.3 The evil of sadness, for example, is defeated by the compassion that someone feels

3

Roderick M. Chisholm, “The Defeat of Good and Evil,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association 42 (1968–69): 21–38. Cited in Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams, eds., The Problem of Evil (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 53–68.

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for a friend. Perhaps the most obvious example, however, is the Christian account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The evil of Jesus’ torturous death by crucifixion is not just outweighed by his subsequent resurrection, but is defeated by it, since the crucifixion is integrated as an essential goodmaking part of the larger redemptive whole, which could not have the value it does without the crucifixion. Instead of the ordinary ethical Necessity Condition, then, following Chisholm, I propose that God’s only moral obligation in authorizing evil is to meet the Defeat Condition. Meanwhile, in the same essay, Chisholm made a second recommendation that I will also build upon. In fact, building upon it is a major controversial feature of the book. I think, then, that readers should be prepared to consider it in advance. Chisholm proposed that while (for good reasons) we rarely apply this Defeat Condition in human ethics, we do typically apply it to aesthetic agency in the realm of art. Especially in post-classical art, we are accustomed to admiring artists who include aesthetic “evils” – ugly elements – in their works of art with a view towards defeating them by means of a beautiful larger whole. We routinely ascribe this aesthetic freedom to artists, in part because subjects are fictional and so morally fitting for use as instrumental means to aesthetically beautiful ends. We normally do not ascribe such freedom to ordinary moral persons. However, as Chisholm intimated, God is no ordinary moral person. God is by definition an extraordinary moral person in a unique moral position – qua God. So perhaps the aesthetic avenue is open to God in a way that it cannot be for non-divine ethical agents. Perhaps God can be justified morally in authorizing evils that are not necessary in an absolute sense, so long as God defeats the evils in the end. This is the avenue I will take in constructing my own God-justifying account of Darwinian evil suffered by animals. I am sure that my taking this aesthetic avenue invites serious initial skepticism, perhaps even dismissal out of hand. Some readers may in fact have good reasons for strongly suspecting that this approach is inherently misplaced and so is doomed to fail, at any rate. Why so? There are several reasons why, but in this introduction, I will focus only on the main one. We are used to assuming that a morally good person minimizes evil so far as s/he possibly can, and permits evil only when necessary. On the alternative aesthetic picture, however, God is not good in that meticulous moral manner. On the analogue of God as Artist, God is rather committed to maximizing goodness, truth, and beauty even at great cost to creatures. On this artistic analogy, God uses evil, including the suffering

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of creatures, as instrumental means to these valuable cosmic ends. Is this moral depiction of God even marginally acceptable? We will see that a good many people protest quite emphatically that it is not. The challenge, which I accept, is to show that despite this seemingly immoral utilitarian treatment, God is in fact good to the creatures that God employs as means to valuable ends. Readers need to know in advance that I am well aware of this challenge and the need to meet it in a plausible fashion. To do so, I will contend, on the basis of Jewish and Christian canonical traditions, that the God of canonical theism will defeat the Darwinian evils that God has authorized to be inscribed into conditions of existence for human and nonhuman creatures. More specifically, I will contend that God will not defeat those evils only in an abstract global sense, as an amoral “artist” would do, but will defeat Darwinian evil for the creatures themselves. I hope that skeptical readers will at least suspend judgment until reading through to the end. Let us move ahead, however, to the subject of which epistemic criteria we should reasonably expect a God-justifying account of evil to satisfy in order to succeed. In accounts of this kind, what counts as success? What sort of epistemic standing must a God-justifying account have in order to “succeed”? Must the explanation of evils be demonstrably true? Must it be most probably so, or at least more probable than not? Participants in the discussion usually refer to a positive explanation of this kind as a theodicy, from the Greek theos, ¯ for “God,” and diké, or “justice,” as in “justification” for authorizing evils. Or does the account merely have to show that the coexistence of God and the relevant evil is possible in a purely logical sense, i.e., that to assert their coexistence involves one in no logical contradiction? Participants in the controversy commonly refer to this exceedingly modest epistemic approach as defense. I have chosen to follow Michael Murray’s recommendation that we adopt an epistemic standard that falls somewhere between these extremes. Murray, whose book Nature Red in Tooth and Claw will play a prominent part in our discussion, recommends that we adopt an approach that he labels with a phrase borrowed from the great philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716).4 Murray recommends that to be successful, a God-justifying scenario must be as plausible as not. He proposes that we label an approach offered on this modest epistemic 4

Michael J. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Page references will be given in the course of the discussion in Chapter 4.

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standard a causa Dei or “a case for God.” So understood, a Godjustifying account of evil counts as successful if it is plausible to the extent that one is not justified in rejecting it on all acceptably rational grounds. This standard for success is relatively low. Furthermore, it is admittedly somewhat relativistic, since theists and non-theists may differ on what to count as “rational grounds,” at least on some points. Like Murray, I presume that one can adhere to canonical Christian theism in an acceptably rational fashion, as I seek to do. At any rate, my aim in the book is to offer a causa Dei that makes the apparently atheistic configuration of evolutionary evils suffered by animals sufficiently plausible on the assumptions of canonical Christian theism. I believe that my account of Darwinian evil and the God of Christian theism exceeds that minimal standard for plausibility, and I hope more than a few readers will also believe it does. However, it is the minimal criterion that I invite all readers to employ in judging whether the work succeeds, on the whole, or not. In the light of these preliminary discussions of the Darwinian Problem and criteria for successful explanation, then, in the middle chapters of the book – Chapters 5–7 – I examine the prevailing God-justifying approaches to the problem. In my judgment, none of them meets the minimal standard for success as a causa Dei, but I propose that some explanations fail conspicuously, while others help considerably to further the cause of theism in the controversy. In Chapter 5, I consider ancient Lapsarian Theodicy (the label comes from the Latin, lapsus, for “fall”). I contend that despite its prevalence mainly, but not only, in non-academic Christian circles, the explanation is implausible in the extreme. According to this God-justifying approach, which goes back to ancient Christian times, natural evil, including animal suffering in nature, originated from a world-ruinous Fall set in motion by the first human beings when they defied the command of God. I explain why I think it is wise for Christian theists to abandon this traditional approach to theodicy, not just because Darwinism seems clearly to antiquate the explanation, but also on several analytical-theological grounds that I will give. In the light of both Darwinian science and Christian theology, then, I propose that participants in the controversy are indeed right to abandon Lapsarian Theodicy, as most have done, and to move on to a search for plausible non-lapsarian answers. In Chapter 6, I consider Only Way Theodicy, previously mentioned. According to advocates of this approach, creating a Darwinian World with its astonishing vista and apparently godforsaken landscape of

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evolutionary natural evils suffered by animals during “deep evolutionary time,” and in the context of “a plurality of worlds,” was the only way open to God in world making. I have already indicated why I do not accept this “only-way” thesis, and in this chapter, I elaborate those reasons in detail. Nevertheless, I also harvest a store of valuable insights from the various versions of Only Way Theodicy. I propose that these insights improve considerably on the epistemic/evidential position of theism in the controversy, and I will include them in the causa Dei or “case for God,” that I will offer in the last chapters. In Chapter 7 – now finally approaching the framework for my own proposals – I discuss both classical and post-classical versions of Aesthetic Theodicy. According to this approach, evils are justified by the value of the beauty that they help to create. In the classical versions of Aesthetic Theodicy, which were quite commonplace in the ancient and medieval Christian past, one appealed mainly to manifest cosmic harmony and balance as evidence of God’s existence, on the one hand, and as justification for evils in nature, on the other. Criticism of classical Aesthetic Theodicy has been severe for two main reasons. For one thing, modern science has antiquated the aesthetics of nature underlying the classical appeal. Needless to say, harmony, balance, and the overall fit of all parts into a discernibly purposeful cosmic whole are hardly hallmarks of the Darwinian World that scientists have unveiled. On the contrary, conflict between natural systems and an imbalance favoring a profusion of evolutionary evils over goods are defining features of the Darwinian World. The post-classical versions of Aesthetic Theodicy fare better on this evidential score, for they underscore the tragic character and beauty of the natural realm, as now unveiled. Nevertheless, they are vulnerable to the second line of moral criticism. The great tragic goods that Darwinian evolution creates cannot help the victims themselves except in memoriam. Furthermore, many evolutionary evils are worse than tragic. They are better classified as horrors, from which nothing discernibly good comes – for anyone. Can one account plausibly for the proliferation of horrors inscribed into the very systems of nature? At this point, I turn to distinctly canonical sacred sources for help in doing so. Thus commences the major constructive portion of the book. In Chapter 8, I turn attention to the book of Job, freshly understood in the light of recent historical and rhetorical interpretations. With these interpreters, I propose that the commonplace reading of Job is wrong. Contrary to this reading, I propose that God does indeed give Job a sort of answer to his question. I contend that the divine speeches at the end of

12

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Job, in fact contain an ancient Hebrew sort of Aesthetic Theodicy, in which the Divine Speaker (God) creates a poetic picture of God’s own intimate creative and redemptive involvement with the seemingly godforsaken, chaotic realms of the world, along with the seemingly desolate wild creatures that inhabit them. The Divine Speaker creates a poetic picture in which Job “sees” that, contrary to simplistic Deuteronomic tradition in which God triumphantly and unambiguously vanquishes Chaos in creating Cosmos, the God of Israel has deliberately included such chaotic creatures and things in the cosmos in order to integrate them eventually into the worldwide messianic realm, promised yet to come. In this picture, the seeming tragedy, horror, and loss in nature are transformed into forward-looking faith and hope. The source of this transformation is a uniquely Hebrew form of sacred beauty, which I refer to as the “messianic sublime.” This rhetorical form turns tragedy and horror into an ironic signal of divine presence and eschatological promise – God is creating messianic Cosmos in and through Chaos, rather than simply over and against it, as Job had been led to assume. I propose that this ancient Hebrew Aesthetic Theodicy helps the Godjustifying cause of canonical theism in several ways. First, it makes the apparently atheistic aspects of the Darwinian World greatly more probable on theism than is commonly supposed by participants on both sides of the controversy. Second, it provides grounds for belief that the God of canonical theism will defeat Darwinian evils for all animals. Third and finally, the imagery of Job helps one to “see” that, despite appearances, God is in the course of defeating evils for animals even now. In the light of these proposals, then, in Chapters 9 and 10, I turn to distinctly Christian canonical sources, which I believe help to strengthen and sharpen the points I have taken away from Job. In Chapter 9, I build upon the writings of others who have noticed a striking similarity between the Christ-narrative of kenosis, or sacrificial ¯ self-emptying for the sake of others, and the kenotic, or “cruciform,” character of the evolutionary story of species. The comparison is imperfect, to be sure, but I propose, nonetheless, that it provides significant evidential and justificatory support for theism in the controversy over Darwinian evil. I propose that it does so in several interrelated ways. First, I propose that the striking similarity between the Christian narrative of redemption and the Darwinian story of species makes the Darwinian World considerably more probable on Christian theism than is typically acknowledged in the controversy. The common artistic

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creative “style” supports the hypothesis that both narratives come from the same “author.” Further, second, the “kenotic” Christian narrative sharpens the picture of God in the course of defeating tragedy and horror for particular victims. For the resurrection of Jesus does not merely counterbalance the evils of crucifixion. It integrates the tragedy and horror of Jesus’ suffering into a larger redemptive whole that defeats them. Once again, this picture of God arouses rational faith and hope in an eventual defeat of such evils for all human and nonhuman beings. Finally, third, I propose that the apostle Paul’s famous digression on the mystery of divine election provides unexpected help along these religious-aesthetic lines. In Romans 8–11, as in Job, in order to explain the evil in view – God’s seemingly inexplicable and unjust rejection of Israel and election of Gentiles – Paul makes a remarkable rhetorical shift from ordinary ethics into aesthetics. God is engaging in redemptive artistry. God is likened first to a potter shaping an unusual vessel, and then to an arborist cultivating an olive tree that is unlike any other. In that aesthetic analogical light, Paul contends that God is justified morally in doing what God has done, and that this justification will be manifestly clear to everyone in the eschatological end. Once again, I propose that this picture of the divine messianic “style” helps to make the apparent dysteleology of the Darwinian narrative much more plausible on Christian theism than normally supposed. Further, it creates images of redemption by defeating – rather than merely balancing off – the evils that God has deliberately authorized to happen. I propose even further that a tacit link exists between this Pauline version of Aesthetic Theodicy and the passage on the “groaning” of the creation, with which the discourse on divine election in the human realm began. This link enables one plausibly to extend Paul’s theodicy on human election to the redemption of the whole nonhuman creation from the natural evil inscribed by God into its systems. Paul suggests that in the emergence of the “olive tree,” which God is already forming, we begin to discern the makings of the full-scale eschatological redemption that is sure to come. The last comment leads to confirmation of John Hick’s slogan, “No theodicy without eschatology.”5 Obviously, for Darwinian evil to be fully defeated for animals, some sort of postmortem scenario will be required.

5

John Hick, Dialogues in the Philosophy of Religion (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave, 2001), 9.

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In Chapter 10, then, I explore the grounds canonical theists have for belief in an eschatological defeat of evils for animals in a messianic Heaven. I do so in the context of two main questions. First, will God include animals in the promised Christian Heaven? Second, if so, can we create an acceptably plausible speculative scenario in which God defeats the evolutionary evils animals suffered in their pre-mortem lives? I seek to answer the first question by looking with fresh eyes at the canonical doctrine of the imago Dei, which has been most frequently understood to diminish rather than elevate the value of animals, as I contend that it does. I then find further grounds for hope in an eschatological redemption and defeat of evil for animals in Christian teaching on the atonement, also freshly extended in scope to include the entire nonhuman realm. I contend that, on the whole, these doctrines provide somewhat surprising support for Cosmic Universalism, i.e., belief that God will redeem and defeat evil for all living and non-living things. I seek to answer the second question in the light of Christian doctrinal tradition on the resurrection, which opens the way to reflection on the canonical promise that God will one day remake the entire natural order on earth and transform it into a realm of flourishing for the whole creation, which until then, groans in anticipation of these redemptive actions of God (Romans 8:18–23). I include an admittedly speculative, albeit (so I believe) sufficiently plausible (on Christian theism) scenario in which God defeats Darwinian evil for animals by exalting them to a position comparable to the high place envisioned for human martyrs in the messianic Heaven. Martyrdom is the highest place possible for human beings. I suggest, speculatively of course, that a rendition of this status may be reserved for all nonhuman beings. So, my answer to the second question is that kenotic martyrdom of a distinctly Christian kind may provide the best analogy we have for envisioning the divine defeat of Darwinian evil for animals.

1 Facing the Darwinian Problem of Evil

What a book a Devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature! Charles Darwin1 Who trusted God was love indeed And love Creation’s final law – Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw With ravine, shriek’d against his creed – Alfred, Lord Tennyson2

diary of a devil’s chaplain In 1856, three years prior to the publication of his monumental work, On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin (1809–82) wrote a letter to his close friend and fellow biologist Joseph Hooker (1817–1911). Darwin was curious to hear what Hooker thought about Thomas Huxley’s recent research on reproduction among lower animals. The tone of the letter was collegial and amiable – until Darwin suddenly let forth this memorable burst of biting sarcasm: “What a book a Devil’s chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature.” The ease with which this eloquently irreverent comment erupted into the lighthearted conversation suggests that Darwin had been brooding over the religious ramifications of the new sciences for some time. He would continue to do so for the rest of his life. 1

2

Darwin Correspondence Project, letter no. 1924 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Library, 2018). www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-1924. Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), canto 56.

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Four years later, in 1860, even as Darwin’s writings were lifting him to international fame, in one of numerous letters to his colleague and confidante, the prominent American botanist Asa Gray (1810–88), Darwin made this candid personal confession: I am bewildered. – I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I should wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.3

Darwin did not profess outright atheism, not here, and not ever, so far as we know. However, as this passage suggests, neither could he manage to muster unequivocally enthusiastic faith, as it seems he wished to do. We do well to wonder why, however. Why were the things Darwin cited having this “atheistic” effect on him (and by insinuation, on others)? The existence of deadly parasites had been common knowledge for centuries, and that cats seem to toy “sadistically” with mice before killing and eating them was hardly news. On the contrary, in principle, at least, these were very old, familiar things. So, what had changed? Whence this growing sense that science, which had worked hand in glove with religion for a very long time, was now an occasion for something as momentous as doubting the very existence of God? There were of course many reasons for the spread of agnosticism and atheism among intellectuals in Europe, Great Britain, and elsewhere during the nineteenth century.4 Perhaps foremost among them, however, was the discovery that nature does not just contain a bewildering array of bad things alongside the plenitude of good ones. It rather began to dawn on a great many educated people that the entire natural realm itself was dramatically different from what people in previous times had believed it to be. By Darwin’s time, pioneering scientists, particularly in the nascent fields of geology and biology, had uncovered truths about nature that called for more than minor modifications of the essentially Newtonian

3

4

Darwin wrote more letters to Gray than to anyone else. He clearly regarded Gray as a confidante in matters of personal faith. www.darwinproject.ac.uk/asa-gray. This letter is available in the Darwin Correspondence Project, letter no. 2814. On the multiple sources of modern atheism in the West, see Stephen Bullivant and Michael Ruse, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Atheism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), esp. 137–260.

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scientific world-picture that seemed to be securely in place. The new discoveries required unexpectedly that this old picture be radically redrawn and virtually replaced by a new one. The new picture of nature that emerged, and is still in place now, is essentially Darwinian. It is a picture of a Darwinian World, as I refer to it, due to the part that Darwinian theory plays in forming and holding it together as an integrated paradigmatic whole. This picture of nature as a Darwinian World represents unprecedented progress in the natural sciences, to be sure. However, it has also had the unforeseen consequence of creating a very serious crisis in the realm of religion. I refer to this crisis simply as the Darwinian Problem. It is a distinctly modern form of an ancient and perennial problem for theism. It is a new manifestation of the old problem of God and natural evil. In philosophical convention, natural evil refers to evils that arise from systems of nature, as distinct from moral evil, which originates mainly from the deliberate actions of persons.5 By re-picturing nature in the way they have done, modern scientists have done something more momentous than to create a new paradigm for the natural sciences. They have also – unintentionally – created a first-order crisis in the realm of religion. This is due in part, perhaps, to the fact that Darwinism is itself “religious” in a certain psychological sense of that term.6 In any event, in this Darwinian Problem, theists now face a formidable challenge to the intellectual currency of theistic religion. We shall see that numerous notable modern thinkers view the discovery of Darwinian evil not merely as challenging for theism, but as proof that theism is false and that belief in the God of theism is positively irrational – antiquated by Darwinian science. I will stress that the Darwinian Problem indeed does create more than a mere challenge for theism, among numerous others, and that it really does create a crisis that theists should not downplay, as I believe some are doing. However, I also do not wish to overstate its seriousness. For I do not think the outlook for theism is quite as unequivocally grim as certain widely read neo-Darwinian atheists lead their readers to believe it is. 5

6

Nothing in my argument will depend on the absolute applicability of this conventional distinction, which genetic sciences, especially, call into question. For instance, on genetic science and Christian teaching on human morality and original sin, I defer to Daryl P. Domning, foreword and commentary by Monika Hellwig, Original Selfishness: Original Sin and Evil in the Light of Evolution (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006). Michael Ruse, Darwinism as Religion: What Literature Tells Us about Evolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

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Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil

From their writings, one might never suspect that in recent years an impressive cadre of authors has produced writings meant to mitigate the atheistic force of the Darwinian Problem. Thanks to these writers, I do not have to face the problem alone, by any means. On the contrary, in the course of discussion, I will interact with book-length treatments of the subject by Michael Murray, Christopher Southgate, Nicola Hoggard Creegan, Trent Dougherty, and Bethany Sollereder, and with the shorter writings of others who (so I will argue) have, with varying degrees of success, significantly improved the position of theism in the controversy.7 I will add my own voice to this unfolding conversation among thinkers who face and engage the Darwinian Problem in a forthright fashion. So what is the Darwinian Problem that (so I believe) must be faced? One way to think about the problem is as a loss of the primal intuition that God is present in nature, as a uniquely modern loss of “theistic sight” in the nonhuman natural realm. The loss is very great, indeed.

lost “theistic sight” John Haught, a noted Roman Catholic theologian whose approach to evolutionary natural evil will play a major role in the discussion later on, helps get us started seeing the appreciable force of the Darwinian Problem.8 Haught underscores several seemingly atheistic features of evolution: its extreme randomness, a confluence of intense brutality, and immense waste, all framed by an unfathomably long span of planetary time.9 From a theistic perspective, this “diachronic” Darwinian vista of

7

8

9

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw; Christopher Southgate, The Groaning of Creation: God, Evolution, and the Problem of Evil (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008); Nicola Hoggard Creegan, Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Trent Dougherty, The Problem of Animal Pain: A Theodicy for All Creatures Great and Small (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); and Bethany N. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall (London and New York: Routledge, 2019). Southgate also offers an insightful account of the problem created by evolutionary discoveries, particularly the aspect of prehistoric planetary time. Southgate, Groaning of Creation, 1–2. John F. Haught, Deeper than Darwin: The Prospect for Religion in the Age of Evolution (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2003), 70. Murray discusses Haught’s writings in Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 170–75. Haught provides a very succinct summary of his position in Haught, “Darwinism, Design, and Cosmic Purpose,” in Back to Darwin: A Richer Account of Evolution, ed. John B. Cobb, Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 319–29.

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nature as it has been in the past, conjoined with new “synchronic” disclosures of things in nature, as it is in the present, was unexpected on theism, to say the least. It is not hard to see why the discoveries strike so many people as (so Haught) “clear evidence that neither life nor mind is the consequence of an intelligent divine plan for the universe.”10 Creegan laments a deeply spiritual change that the Darwinian picture of nature has brought about for many modern people: In spite of the darkness believers have found faith in God, not only because they have an explanation for all evil in fallenness, but because they discern the hand of God in nature. This is the religious discernment that has been undermined by Darwinism, especially atheistic Darwinism.11

She points out that believers once took comfort in nature as a source of what John Calvin called a divinitatis sensum, a “sense of divinity” that nature reliably elicits on reflection.12 However, for many knowledgeable people, Darwinism interferes with this “signal” of “God is with us” in the natural realm. On the contrary, it gives forth a very different message. Again, Creegan captures this cognitive/affective experience: The Central Dogma of Darwinism has given us a picture of a process that is moving on in a random and uncaring and non-directional fashion in which the only link with the rest of nature is what survives and what does not.13

What is lost in the gains of science, she writes, is “confidence in our ability to sense God in nature, a major reason for believing in God now and in the past.”14 The change can be crippling. For as Creegan correctly observes, “If God is present with us in nature, a great deal of evil can be endured. If God is not discernible in nature all other affirmations of God’s existence are easily relativized.”15 Unfortunately, however, for many sensitive, well-educated people, the Darwinian picture evokes an overwhelmingly non-theistic response, the overpowering negative sense of “not God,” a sensus non-divinitatis, as it were. The main aim of this chapter is to explain how it does so.

10 12

13 15

11 Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 70. Creegan, Animal Suffering, 98. Creegan, Animal Suffering, 99; see John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, tr. Ford Lewis Battles, Library of Christian Classics XX (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 1. iii. 1, 43. 14 Creegan, Animal Suffering, 98. Creegan, Animal Suffering, 99. Creegan, Animal Suffering, 99.

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Taking off from Haught’s comments, I suggest that the Darwinian Problem grows from four interconnected realities that modern sciences – particularly geology and biology – have unveiled. All four of these scientific unveilings operate together as a clustered, multi-layered organic whole. Nevertheless, I think treating them individually serves purposes of clarity and analysis. As already indicated, I label them as the unveilings of (1) “deep evolutionary time,” (2) “a plurality of worlds,” (3) “anticosmic micro-monsters,” and (4) “evils inscribed.” The unveiling of “deep evolutionary time” frames and amplifies the apparently atheistic force of the others, so it makes sense to focus attention on it first. Then I will devote the lion’s share of the discussion to the second unveiling, “a plurality of worlds,” which I believe has the most wide-ranging anti-theistic religious ramifications.

the unveiling of (1) “deep evolutionary time” Beginning in the seventeenth century, the new science of geology emerged and took the shape of something like an international community of scholars – “stratigraphers,” as they came to be called – commonly engaged in studying and theorizing about findings in the sedimentary strata of rocks and fossils. The primary purpose of these pioneering efforts was to reconstruct the formative history of the earth and species, for it had become obvious that the earth was much older than anyone – most of them using the Bible rather than geological science as their guide – had previously imagined. Also unveiled, however, was the unexpected fact that species had not come about simultaneously, as the Bible led one to believe. The rocks and fossils revealed that species had rather come forth gradually, in an apparently evolutionary progression from the anatomically simplest life forms to the most complex ones. In other words, scientists unveiled that the history of life during “deep time” had been “evolutionary” in character. So both scientists and theologians were pressed as never before into rethinking their entire picture of how things began and in what manner the history of species had unfolded in the planetary past. Part of the challenge that this first great unveiling created for theists is obvious. Prior to the rise of modern stratigraphy, the majority of western Christian scholars commonly accepted James Ussher’s biblical calculation that God created the world and its inhabitants in six solar days beginning

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in the year 4004 BCE.16 Now they had no choice but to recalculate the earth’s age and the chronology of natural history. For some Christian theists, the unveiling of “deep evolutionary time” was hard to accept. Was the Bible wildly wrong on these subjects? Unfortunately, the sense of crisis remains real for millions of contemporary so-called Young Earth Creationists. However, even before Darwin’s time, a majority of Christian scholars in England and elsewhere had found acceptable ways to make room in the biblical narrative for the newly unveiled depth of time and its evolutionary picture of life.17 Discoveries in the Middle East – particularly the great ancient library unearthed in Nineveh – enabled Christian intellectuals to find ways of reading the biblical text in its own ancient Semitic context and terms. With this understanding, scholars were easily able not just to resolve the apparent conflict between Christianity and solidly secure science on the matter of “deep evolutionary time.” They were also enabled to read the Genesis story in a much more theologically interesting and fruitful fashion than had been possible before.18 Far and away the most important chronological conflict created by the unveiling of “deep evolutionary time,” however, was the discovery that, contrary to Genesis and historic tradition, violence and predation had been features of the nonhuman natural realm from its beginning. This discovery was clearly in conflict with the biblical account, which on any reading seems to place the origin of predation on a post-human timeline – only after the first human beings defied the command of God and set in motion a world-ruinous Fall. The problem is not merely chronological. For the Genesis story of the Fall also functioned as a theodicy, according to which all blame for evils in nature fell on creatures rather than on God. This time-honored

16

17 18

For a comprehensive survey of how western scholars calculated the age of the earth until the time of Ussher, see Davis A. Young and Ralph F. Stearley, The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press Academic, 2008), 27–46. On Ussher’s calculation and its acceptance, see 45–70. On Ussher himself, see 68–70. Young and Stearley, Bible, Rocks and Time, 118–31. Young and Stearley show that Young Earth Creationism had receded from academic acceptability by Darwin’s time. Young and Stearley, Bible, Rocks and Time, 118–31. However, YEC resurfaced in the 1960s for reasons chronicled ably by Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism (Oakland: University of California Press, 1993); also The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, expanded edition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).

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Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil

Lapsarian Theodicy has been in a crisis mode ever since the unveiling of pre-human natural evil in the animal realm. Some participants in the contemporary controversy persist in defending Lapsarian Theodicy, nevertheless. In Chapter 5, I will explain why I believe this persistence does more harm than good to the cause of theism, and I will recommend that these theists join the majority, who are exploring non-lapsarian alternatives. Meanwhile, the unveiling of “deep evolutionary time” creates yet a further challenge for theism in all versions, not just the biblical one. For as Murray observes, with this discovery we now see that the sheer amount of animal pain and death that has occurred on earth is many times greater than pre-modern people ever imagined. So Murray: “Animal pain and suffering is indeed very bad, and no good we know of could be sufficient to outweigh millions of years of suffering on the part of trillions of organisms.”19 Darwin himself was deeply moved by the magnitude of animal suffering unveiled: A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create the universe, is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient, and it revolts our understanding to suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the sufferings of millions of lower animals throughout almost endless time?20

The amount of animal suffering that has transpired truly is stunning and is a major source of the atheistic sense of “not God” that the Darwinian World often evokes. The first unveiling, however, does not operate “atheistically” by itself, but in close connection with the unveiling of “a plurality of worlds.” This unexpected unveiling had a huge effect on the religious consciousness of people in Darwin’s time, and it continues to do so now. It creates the aspects of the Darwinian Problem that are perhaps the hardest for theists to explain.

the unveiling of (2) “a plurality of worlds” William Whewell was Darwin’s colleague and tutor at Cambridge, a professing Christian, and a polymath with more than a passing interest 19 20

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 41. Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809–1882, with Original Omissions Restored, ed. Nora Barlow (London: Collins, 1958), 90. Italics mine.

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in science, particularly in the new geology. The impetus for the title of his book Of the Plurality of Worlds (1853) was the astonishing discovery in astronomy that stars were vastly more distant from the earth than previously imagined, that they were in fact “suns,” which possibly had solar systems of their own, perhaps with earthly “worlds” that supported alien intelligent life.21 However, Whewell’s phrase, the “plurality of worlds,” also referred to a second breathtaking discovery – that an array of alien “worlds” had once existed right here on earth! The new geologists had unexpectedly uncovered the previous existence of (so Whewell) “tribes of animals which are. . .almost all different. . .from those which now exist. . ..They are different species; different genera.”22 Most mystifying of all, however, it seemed that these strange “tribes of animals” had not all existed together, or come forth in a seamless evolutionary progression, beginning to end. On the contrary, whole discrete “worlds” of animals had come forth and then gone in an apparently discontinuous and disintegrated fashion, one after another. It was, in Whewell’s words, “a vast series of different tribes of animals and plants, which have successively occupied the earth and the seas. . .of which in number, variety, multiplicity, and strangeness exceed, by far, everything which could have been previously imagined.”23 Geologists had unveiled that the history of life on earth did not appear to have been a single creative event at all, but looked rather more like “a series of creations.”24 By now, we are used to seeing this so-called series of creations, or “plurality of worlds” that have arisen and fallen in abruptly and unexpectedly disconnected epochal fashion, as what Stephen Gould called “punctuated equilibrium.” Contrary to Darwin’s famous admonition that “nature does not make leaps,” it seems that “leaping” was a major feature of evolution on its long, creative course. We now know that evolution is anything but seamless in its progression, but is instead broken up – “punctuated” – by sudden and often catastrophic episodes that have, in some instances, wiped away entire ecological “worlds,” along with the living species that inhabited them. These “punctuating” episodes cleared the way for new “worlds” to evolve and for the ecological “equilibrium” the new species enjoyed afterwards.25 Scientists now are used to viewing the history of evolution in this way and fitting it into evolutionary theory. 21 23 24 25

22 Whewell, Of the Plurality of Worlds. Whewell, Of the Plurality of Worlds, 59. Whewell, Of the Plurality of Worlds, 59. Italics mine. Whewell, Of the Plurality of Worlds, 63. Gould and Eldredge, “Punctuated Equilibria,” 115–51.

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However, it remains anything but clear how to fit this unveiling into any story told plausibly in the religious terms of theism. I suggest that this unveiling of a “plurality of worlds” (conjoined with the others, of course) creates the core of the Darwinian Problem. For it opens our view to a vista of evolutionary evil that has not only occurred on a vast scale, but in a configuration that seems nearly impossible to see as the product of divine design. The surprisingly disjointed epochal succession of “worlds” has several apparently atheistic aspects that call for close consideration. Perhaps first and foremost, this successive creation and destruction of entire animal “worlds” seems to be the product of undirected, random chance. In other words, it appears, at least, to be dysteleological – lacking in any discernible underlying purpose that we might plausibly ascribe to the design of God. Furthermore, as we shall see, this essentially evidential problem of apparently atheistic dysteleology in evolutionary history greatly magnifies the moral problem of devastation and (presumable) suffering by the many billions of animals involved. Let us first look in some depth and detail at the apparent dysteleology of this “plurality of worlds” in the pre-human planetary past. I will call attention to a generally neglected aesthetic aspect of the unveiling that makes theistic explanation even harder than commonly supposed, and yet (so I will argue) may, ironically, set the stage for restoring teleological “theistic sight” in ways to be discussed later on. For now, however, the emphasis will be on how the aesthetics of animal “worlds” in the epochal plural worsens the Darwinian Problem for theism. For it will do little good to claim to have solved a problem in later chapters when we have understated its difficulty in the first place.

the apparent dysteleology of animal “worlds” It is one thing to see in the panoramic pre-human planetary scene of “deep evolutionary time” that incomprehensibly vast multitudes of animals have come and gone, struggled, (presumably) suffered, and died under various circumstances, during hundreds of millions of years. Again, the sheer amount of animal suffering unveiled is breathtaking. It is quite another thing, however, to learn that 99.5 percent of all the species that have ever existed on earth are now extinct, many of them without so much as an ancestral genetic legacy left to later species. Ninety-nine point five percent of all species now gone? It seems that most creatures that ever

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lived, and struggled as best they could to survive and to flourish, failed. To what underlying, God-justifying purpose was this striving and suffering? More troubling still, though, we have also learned that most of these extinctions happened in consequence of catastrophic natural cataclysms that suddenly destroyed entire biomes – entire “worlds” of flora and fauna – more or less all at once. They were mass extinctions. In other words, the “punctuations” between periods of stable evolutionary “equilibrium” have not been mere transitional progressions, as the rather bland grammatical metaphor might suggest. On the contrary, the “punctuating” episodes have very often been violently destructive worldwide cataclysms that brought endings to the “worlds” in place, cruelly clearing the way for a next one. This is apparent dysteleology in a configuration and on a scale so great that it seems more to shatter the assumptions of theism than simply to challenge them. Would the supremely powerful, wise, and good God of theism create and destroy animal “worlds” in this violently brutal way? Consider the Permian Extinction (252 million years ago), which was the most catastrophic of all the several mass extinctions that have occurred on earth. Scientists have nicknamed it the Great Dying, because something – likely super-volcanic activity in sub-Asia and in the Urals of western Russia – set off an environmental disaster that eventually exterminated almost all life on earth!26 Massive herds of the now-extinct, piglike foraging mammal, the Lystrosaurus, managed to survive the holocaust and to become the harbingers of a new “world,” dominated for many millennia by the dinosaurs.27 However, the dinosaurs did not live happily ever after, to say the least. Although they dominated the planet for around 200 million years, the “equilibrium” they enjoyed ended abruptly when a massive asteroid struck the Yucatan peninsula. The aftereffects were catastrophic on a global scale. During the KT Extinction (65 million years ago), the dinosaurs were all but exterminated, a great many of the genetic lines just gone.28 26

27 28

See the fascinating account of the Permian Extinction by Michael J. Benton, When Life Nearly Died: The Greatest Mass Extinction of All Time (London: Thames & Hudson, 2003). More recently, Douglas H. Erwin, Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago, 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2015). Benton, When Life Nearly Died, esp. 21–23, 224–27. Benton also includes a good account of the KT catastrophe and the history of debate over its cause(s). Benton, When Life Nearly Died, esp. 96–122.

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Two distinct but interrelated questions begin to take shape in the context of this apparent dysteleology. First, obviously, we have to wonder what directional divine purpose, or teleology, could account for the nearly wholesale extermination of entire animal “worlds”? It is at bottom an evidential question. Second, however, we must further wonder what moral justification there could be for authorizing the occurrence of such loss and suffering by animals. Moreover, the evidential question intensifies the moral one, for they are intricately entwined, so that one cannot very well answer one of them apart from the other, as (so we shall see) some supporters of theism in the controversy have done. We may have to force ourselves to appreciate the difficulty that answers to these questions are up against. We are used to the idea of extinctions in the prehistoric past. We may not realize that when geologists first published the finding that many ancient species had vanished, theists typically refused to accept it. For (so they reasoned) the extinction of even a single species that God created would amount to both ontological-teleological breakdown and moral failure on God’s part. On this theistic assumption about divine creation, the mass extinctions now unveiled are not just surprising, but are almost unimaginable.29 Put in that epistemic light, some explanations are bound to seem fairly frail.

the frailty of explanations Ruth Page, for instance, discounts the teleological and moral problems of mass extinctions by proposing that existence itself is a great enough good to remove concern about an underlying teleology for the dinosaurs and other lost species.30 In Chapter 10 – on animals and the need for an eschatological divine redemption – I will reject this explanation on both teleological and moral-theological grounds. Sollereder, who does acknowledge need for a justificatory eschatological resolution in an afterlife, suggests nonetheless that the mass extinction of dinosaurs (she does not discuss the Permian Extinction) may be at least partly justified by the human goods that their disappearance made possible. Without the disappearance of the dinosaurs, after all,

29

30

On the dawning discovery of mass extinctions and the religious impact it had on the status of religion, see Young and Stearley, Bible, Rocks and Time, 59–60. Ruth Page, God and the Web of Creation (London: SCM Press, 2009), esp., 63–65.

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she suggests, we might not have Bach’s music and/or the incarnation of Christ.31 In Chapter 10, I will also reject this line of justificatory argument along with other anthropocentric explanations (mainly discussed in Chapter 6 on Only Way Theodicy). Meanwhile, since Darwin’s time, some evolutionists who support theism have sought to discern teleological divine direction in the aesthetic properties and character of evolution rather than trying to find a purely logical causal teleological progression. We shall see that some notable contemporary writers defend versions of this theistic approach to Darwinism, and this approach will provide the main framework for the approach I will take at the end. So this is a good place to introduce lines of argument that will come up at later points. Further, however, introducing the aesthetic appeal now will also help to underscore the obstacles that anyone wishing to go in this aesthetic direction must seek to overcome.

apparent dysteleology and the aesthetic character of animal “worlds” Darwin himself closed the first edition of Origin (1859) with these uplifting words: “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one.”32 With this concluding assessment, Darwin seemed to suggest that a valuable form of beauty – the beauty of grandeur – perhaps overrides the teleological and moral disvalues of evolution and redeems the process on those levels, after all. Darwin was not alone in making this sort of aesthetic appeal. The famous American preacher Henry Ward Beecher (1813‒87) likened evolution to a great loom that could do the handiwork of several thousand weavers “more magnificently than human fingers did.”33 By his aesthetic reckoning, “design by wholesale is grander than design by retail.”34 31

32

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Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 171–73. We will see that this is not Sollereder’s only justificatory explanation of evolutionary evils suffered by animals. She adopts a version of Only Way Theodicy conjoined with an attenuated account of divine foreknowledge – God does not foreknow the evils that Darwinian evolution will produce (yet does seem to foreknow the human goods!). Cited in Mark Pallen and Alison Pearn, “Darwin and Religion,” in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Darwin and Evolutionary Thought, ed. Michael Ruse (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 216. Henry Ward Beecher, Evolution and Religion (New York: Harper, 1885), 232. Beecher, Evolution and Religion, 115. Italics mine.

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In recent years, it has become commonplace to picture evolutionary history as analogous in form to a great tree – a Tree of Life. That picture perhaps makes it easier to accept evolution in theistic teleological terms. Further, in later chapters, we will see that some recent writers urge us to look hard at evolutionary history and to discern a story-like structure. In his elaborate God-justifying account, which will play a major part in my own approach, Haught proposes that, despite apparent dysteleology, Darwinian evolution evinces the structure of a narrative.35 We will see that Celia Deane-Drummond finds fault with this analogy for failing adequately to account for the abrupt “punctuating” twists and turns in the unfolding of the evolutionary “plot.” She proposes that we employ the literary analogy of a drama, instead.36 Alternatively, Sollereder proposes that we picture evolutionary history as the basis for a “fractal mosaic.” A fractal mosaic is an assembly of completely disparate photos or videos, which are reduced in size to become variously shaded or colored pixels that one rearranges to form a larger image.37 The proposal is unusual, because it is not an attempt to discern aesthetic teleology in the epochal evolutionary past. Sollereder offers it as a God-justifying eschatology, instead, i.e., as a way of envisioning redemption for extinct animals in the future. So I will discuss this proposal mainly in Chapter 10 on scenarios for the resurrection and redemption of animals in an eschatological afterlife. The point to keep on hold for now is that Sollereder does not appeal to evidence of aesthetic artistry in evolution on this side of the divide between existence as it is now and life as it will be in the postmortem realm yet to come. I will refer to this point as one of several critical disadvantages of Sollereder’s eschatological explanation of “worlds” in the plural. In the course of discussion, I will contend that all these attempts to discern an aesthetic teleology in evolutionary history fail to account adequately for the aesthetic character of the “plurality of worlds.” I will propose that to recover a sense of teleology in evolution, and to restore “theistic sight” on that evidential level, some alternative aesthetic perspective will be required.

35

36

37

We shall see that Haught has developed this thesis in numerous writings, such as Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 58–60, and in many other places. Celia Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution: Wonder and Wisdom (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2009), 48–53. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 165–73.

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Briefly, for instance, Philip Kitcher, who professes a version of neoDarwinian atheism, comments critically on the common picture of evolution as a tree: Darwin’s account of the history of life greatly enlarges the scale on which suffering takes place. Through millions of years, billions of animals experience vast amounts of pain, supposedly so that, after an enormous number of extinctions of entire species, on the tip of one twig of the evolutionary tree, there may emerge a species with the special properties that make us able to worship the Creator.38

Perhaps we might better label the forthcoming image, rather morbidly, as a “Tree of Death.” For as wondrous as it may be, the evolutionary “tree” is almost completely dead. Can we plausibly believe that the “arborist” who planted and cultivated it is the supremely powerful and wise God of theism? Furthermore, the apparent dysteleology and disjointed aesthetic character of animal “worlds” also creates explanatory impediments for the literary analogies of narrative and drama. I will concur with Haught and Deane-Drummond, among others, that evolution does evince something like a story that unfolds progressively from beginning to end, culminating in the emergence of human beings. However, on close inspection, neither analogue – narrative or drama – accounts for the great many unresolved “subplots” in evolution, such as the mass extinctions we just considered. These breaks in the unfolding “story” are not merely “dramatic,” I suggest, but create inexplicable “plot holes” that we would never accept in the composition of a human literary work – except of course in the deliberately dysteleological theater of the absurd! If the Darwinian World indeed is a work of divine art, we need some other genre classification for the artistry. Finally, it almost goes without saying that the analogy of a fractal mosaic cannot provide that perspective. For the pixels simply do not fit together to form a coherent image from the parts. We will see that Sollereder holds out the promise that God one day will piece them together in that wondrously integrated way – somehow – in an eschatological afterlife, and by unspecified miraculous means. However, I will suggest (in Chapter 10 on animals and the afterlife) that, as things currently stand, the appeal to divine fractal artistry in the next life seems somewhat emptily ad hoc on the evidence available to us in this one.

38

Philip Kitcher, Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 123.

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In the light of these difficulties, we naturally wonder what sort of teleology-restorative aesthetic perspective there could be. Creegan offers a way to find one, and since she does not take on the justificatory question (not directly, anyway), but only this teleological-evidential one, I will give a brief assessment of her approach now.

creegan: discerning divine evolutionary purpose To counteract the appearance of dysteleology and indifference in Darwinian evolution – to restore “theistic sight,” as it were – Creegan calls attention to a variety of recent findings in branches of evolutionary science that neo-Darwinian writers have generally left out of their atheistic accounts. Creegan cites research on the marvels of symbiosis in nature, including the unexpectedly vital role that viruses have played in the evolution of the most advanced and valuable species.39 She also highlights Philip Ball’s observations on the abundance of “shapes and intricate patterns” that are “a part of the exquisite beauty of both the living and nonliving world.” She suggests that renewed sensitivity to these wondrous “fault lines” in the flow of evolution helps us to break free from the neo-Darwinian picture that holds us captive.40 Creegan further cites strangely beautiful, apparently purposeful patterns within evolution. “Fractal patterns interestingly describe branches, mineral dendrites, bacterial growth and sprawling city boundaries alike.”41 If not purposeful divine direction, whence this propensity of nature to produce order rather than chaos?42 Is it not encouraging to theists that the physics, chemistry, and mathematics of the universe make it so that “life can be rationally considered to be ‘expected’ and that its coming to be is written deep into the fabric of the pre-existing universe”?43 Creegan comments in a similar fashion on theories of convergence, so-called evo devo, and of emergence. She builds on Simon Conway 39

40

41 42

She relies on the review of examples in Frank Ryan, Virolution (London: HarperCollins, 2009). Creegan, Animal Suffering, 114–15. Creegan cites the work of Philip Ball, who examined “evolutionary constraints and pattern imposition at the level of physics and chemistry and mathematics.” Philip Ball, Shapes, Branches, and Flow: Nature’s Patterns: A Tapestry in Three Parts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Creegan, Animal Suffering, 115; citing Ball, Branches, 26. 43 Creegan, Animal Suffering, 115. Creegan, Animal Suffering, 116–17.

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Morris’s widely read Life’s Solution, in which he stresses (so Creegan) “evidence for invisible constraints that help guide the evolutionary process toward fitness niches, even perhaps those niches of culture and of God.”44 According to Morris, evolution, for some reason, somehow converges on the same solutions over and over again, which does not prove but strongly supports the intuition of purposeful design – teleology – deeply ingrained in evolution. So Morris, cryptically: “If the watchmaker is blind, he has an unerring way of finding his way around the immense labyrinth of biological space.”45 Morris, who is a professing Christian, writes with similar irony on the widely reputed randomness of evolution: “. . .when the cards are dealt across the table of life, aces and kings appear with alarming frequency.”46 Despite the waste and suffering in nature, Creegan concludes, with awareness of this convergence “it becomes coherent and rational to speak again of discerning God in nature.”47 The inference is obviously questionable, but the conclusion itself is not obviously false on the evidence of teleology she has surveyed. Still further, however, Creegan reviews the pioneering work of Jacob Klapwijk, who has written on emergence as a feature of world history on all levels. In Creegan’s words, he “reformulates evolution as ‘descent with innovative modification.’”48 Perhaps most pertinent to our concern with the aesthetic character of evolution, Klapwijk likens the innovative nature of evolution to the emergence of music from a substratum of mathematical intervals, relations, and sounds. The music itself is more than just the sum of these primary parts. The forthcoming music is “idionomic,” i.e., a brand new thing comes forth, operating by its own irreducible rules, or laws. He proposes that the same is true of each life form that emerges from pre-existing conditions that do not insure the coming forth of the life form, but are somehow “receptive to new, above physical ordering principles.”49 These things are indeed a source of amazement and wonder, to 44

45

46 47 48

49

Creegan, Animal Suffering, 117. Creegan cites Simon Conway Morris, Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 2003. Simon Conway Morris, “Evolution and Convergence: Some Wider Considerations,” in The Deep Structure of Biology: Is Convergence Sufficiently Ubiquitous to Give a Directional Signal? ed. Simon Conway Morris (West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Press, 2008), 46. Conway Morris, “Evolution and Convergence,” 47. Creegan, Animal Suffering, 119. Creegan, Animal Suffering, 123; Creegan is citing Jacob Klapwijk, Purpose in the Living World? Creation and Emergent Evolution, ed. and tr. Harry Cook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 106. Creegan, Animal Suffering, 123; citing Klapwijk, Purpose in the Living World, 111–12.

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say the least, and surely they are more probable on theism than on the alternative. Creegan takes all these things a metaphysical step further, however. She proposes that seeing many deep aesthetic and mathematical, apparently teleological, forms of order can reawaken a sense of the sacred in nature: This deep subtle interlocking beauty and order do speak of God’s presence if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. The grammar of these processes is more consistent with the Scriptures, which speak of being knit together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13). . . .it breaks the captivity of the picture that was in so much tension with that of Scripture, providence, and experience, and gives a multitude of different vistas.50

It would certainly be good to hear more about how the secular experiences in view generate warrant for the claim that one is “seeing” and “hearing” order and beauty in that sacred, specifically biblical Christian sense. Getting from the secular level of her observations to the sacred one seems to require a fairly large epistemic leap, particularly since the Darwinian evil we have looked away from remains, just as it was. Nevertheless, her point on the challenge these seemingly purposeful phenomena pose to neo-Darwinian atheism should be kept in mind, for they do at least improve the prima facie epistemic position of theism in the controversy. They are surely more intuitively probable on theism than they are on non-theistic accounts of nature. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to the key justificatory question we are facing, Creegan resists offering an answer. Instead, she leaves the existence of the invasive “tares,” as she refers to evolutionary evils in the “wheat fields” of nature (alluding to Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:24‒30), as a mystery as yet unexplained. What is the identity of the “enemy” who planted the “tares” in the first place? Is God the “enemy”? Is it Satan? Is it something else? In Creegan’s view, we must be content to leave the mystery unsolved.51 I suggest, however, that by accepting that Darwinian evolution is God’s means of creation, we lose the luxury of such equivocation. On Darwinism, the mystery of the “tares” has been solved. The “enemy” who planted them – inscribed them into the conditions of existence for 50

51

Creegan, Animal Suffering, 125, italics mine. Also see her comment: “Some of these dynamics break the captivity of a picture of random mutation and selection alone that has long dominated our collective minds,” 126. Creegan, Animal Suffering, 129–30.

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animals – is none other than God. I suggest that to be plausible, a Godjustifying account of Darwinian evil must not equivocate on that reality but must take that troubling truth unequivocally on in explanation. So once again, how might we restore “theistic sight” in the context of apparent dysteleology in the disjointed epochal succession of animal “worlds”? And in doing so, how might we also find at least the makings of a justificatory moral explanation for Darwinian evil? In later chapters we will explore the provocative proposal that we can do so by looking deeply into the aesthetic properties and values of tragedy in Darwinian evolution. As background for that discussion, however, we should appreciate the difficulty that this line of explanation must overcome in order to be acceptably plausible. For while I concur with the contention that evolutionary history has a discernibly tragic character, and that seeing that it does has very important evidential and justificatory relevance to the Darwinian Problem, it is also important to see in advance that this line of argument, too, is very vulnerable to serious criticism. In fact, I suggest the tragic character of evolution is a major source of the Darwinian Problem, so that there would be considerable irony in turning it into a God-justifying solution.

darwinian tragedy and the dysteleology of animal “worlds” We will see that Haught not only discerns a story-like structure in evolution, but also identifies a continuous tragic theme of inevitable suffering inherent in the evolutionary existence of animals. He rejects the commonplace thesis of dysteleological randomness and proposes instead that evolution has a substantive, unfolding tragic character that both belies underlying directional purpose and produces God-justifying forms of beauty. In Chapter 7, mainly, on Aesthetic Theodicy, I will look closely at this appeal to tragic beauty on these evidential-teleological and justificatory moral levels. In Chapters 8‒10, I will then turn to distinctly canonical sacred sources – texts and doctrines – in order to develop this essentially secular appeal to tragic Darwinian goods as a means of accounting for tragic Darwinian evils. Meanwhile, let us pause to ponder grounds for initial skepticism towards this God-justifying approach. As with the other approaches, the initial impediments to the success of this one should not be underestimated. I know of no one who has captured the aesthetics of tragedy in nature more eloquently than Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809‒92) in parts of his

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monumental poem In Memoriam. Writers on our topic commonly pick out the passage that pictures nature as “red in tooth and claw.” However, one seldom sees this vivid verse explained in the larger thematic context of the poem as a whole. The original occasion for the poem was the shockingly sudden death of his close friend Arthur Henry Hallam (1811‒33), who was a rising star on the public political scene in England. Traveling with his father in Europe in 1833, Hallam fell unconscious and died from a brain hemorrhage. Tennyson began writing In Memoriam in that year.52 By the time Tennyson finished the poem for publication sixteen years later, in 1849, he had read Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, a brief book written anonymously by an author now known to have been a prominent Scottish journalist by the name of Robert Chambers (1802‒71). Chambers’s book had become a sort of bestseller and parlor-room favorite since its publication in 1844.53 Writing before Darwin’s theory of natural selection came out, Chambers did an effective job of popularizing Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s (1744‒1829) hypothesis that species had evolved ancestrally by means of a (perhaps) miraculously directed “transmutation” of properties, from one species to the next.54 According to the editors of Cambridge Authors, Tennyson, who never really got over the traumatic effects of Hallam’s death, was deeply moved by the discovery that, like his friend, entire “worlds” of creatures and things had arisen so promisingly, only to fall abruptly into oblivion in the mists of the primordial pre-human past, for no apparent reason.55 The tragic sense of fragility and transience in this scientific picture clearly evoked in Tennyson a sense of random indifference in nature that seemed to swallow up all pretense to significance in the human realm. What happened to both the 52 53

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The 1884 edition, 152. James A. Secord, Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of “Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation” (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001). In the twelfth edition the author was revealed to have been Robert Chambers, who was a Scottish journalist from St. Andrews, recovering from a psychiatric illness. On Chambers, see “Robert Chambers (1802–1871),” in UC Museum of Paleontology Archives (Berkeley: University of California, 1997). www.ucmp .berkeley.edu/history/chambers.html. Darwin read Vestiges and, while he did not wholly approve its science (especially the geology), he would write later that it helped greatly to pave the way for public acceptance of his own proposal that all species had a common ancestry, and that they had been “created,” not by direct divine design, but instead by the apparently random means of natural selection. Claire Wilkinson, “Tennyson and Science,” Cambridge Authors Project. www.english .cam.ac.uk/cambridgeauthors/projects/Tennyson/Tennyson and Science.

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ancient “worlds” of the past and to Hallam amounted to more or less the same apparently godforsaken, purposeless thing. The writers of Cambridge Authors contend that in canto 56 – the one that contains the famous verse, “red in tooth and claw” – Tennyson was not merely brooding over the brutality of nature, but was meditating on the seemingly purposeless passing away of all things throughout epochal time amid apparent cosmic indifference: Tennyson is referring to the geological past in lyric 56 with the phrase “A thousand types are gone”; when he speaks of a “type,” Tennyson is referring to an evolutionary phase. A thousand “types” of rock are gone, but the impersonal articulation of the poem implies that a thousand “types” of life may also be gone. The implication is clear: Tennyson’s awareness of modern scientific theory has led him to the conclusion that events in his life are no more important or significant to an impersonal and uncaring “Nature” than any other natural process. Consider the relevant segment of lyric 56: “‘So careful of the type?’ but no. From scarped cliff and quarried stone She cries, ‘A thousand types are gone. I care for nothing, all shall go.’”56

In this setting of the mood, the powerful passages that follow, describing nature as “red in tooth and claw,” position the natural horrors in the larger context of nature’s overwhelming sense of indifference to the savage suffering of animals as they strive vainly to survive. In this famous passage, then, all three aspects of the Darwinian Problem, as I am formulating it – the teleological, the aesthetic, and the moral – come together in powerful poetic fashion. As an important aside, let us notice something quite remarkable about an earlier passage – something that one can easily miss. In canto 54, the mood is not unambiguously tragic, and in fact, it is not atheistic at all. On the contrary, in this passage, Tennyson assumed the posture of someone praying in hope for the whole desolate and suffering nonhuman realm. So the poet prayed: That nothing walks with aimless feet; That not one life shall be destroy’d, Or cast as rubbish to the void, When God hath made the pile complete; That not a worm is cloven in vain; That not a moth with vain desire Is shrivell’d in a fruitless fire, Or but subserves another’s gain.57

56 57

Wilkinson, “Tennyson and Science,” Cambridge Authors Project. Tennyson, In Memoriam, canto 54.

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What accounts for this joining of the sadly tragic mood with the tone of prayerful hope for all creatures and things? The subtle transition from the sad and horror-stricken tragic into the mood of faith and hope – transforming rather than overriding the emotions of tragedy and horror – prevails at the very end. In the epilogue, Tennyson wrote: That God, which ever lives and loves, One God, one law, one element, And one far-off divine event, To which the whole creation moves.

What was Tennyson “seeing” that moved him to write prayerfully and positively, as he did? Readers can expect a return to this question – and an attempted answer – in Chapters 7‒10. The challenge of getting to that spiritually optimistic way of “seeing” tragic evils in evolution is indeed formidable. In Chapter 7, I will elaborate on why tragedy seems inherently inimical to theism, and particularly to Christian theism. The main trouble is that the aesthetic power of tragedy lies essentially in the sublimely sad sense, or mood, of inevitable irreparable failure and futility in the very structure of existence. On its face, anyway, this tragic theme seems wholly at odds with the triumphal picture of the omnipotent and omniscient God of theism. Consider the story of creation in Genesis, for instance. Creation seems to be victory for Cosmos over Chaos, without loss, but only gain. (More on this picture is to come, mainly in Chapter 8.) Consider also the “good news” of the Christian Gospel and Jesus’ constant mantra to his depressed disciples, “Be of good cheer!” There seems to be no room in tragedy for this cheerful – arguably comedic – mood. Further, a second – and perhaps the main – obstacle to success for this approach is that much Darwinian evil fits better into the genre of horror than into the genre of tragedy. For unlike tragedy, horror is the “ill wind that blows no one good.” Horror describes evil that produces no morally valuable goods. The aesthetics of Darwinian horror surface with the unveiling of “a plurality of worlds.” They also make their apparently atheistic presence felt in the unveiling of “anti-cosmic micro-monsters.”

darwinian horror and the dysteleology of animal “worlds” Marilyn McCord Adams pioneered the consideration of horror as an essential aspect of the larger problem of God and evil. Some evils, she

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observed, are so bad that they belong in a moral class by themselves. She labeled them “horrendous” evils, understood as “evils the participation in which (that is, the doing or suffering of which) constitutes prima facie reason to doubt whether the participant’s life could (given their inclusion in it) be a great good to him/her on the whole.”58 Adams explained that what makes these evils “horrendous” is partly the destabilizing, disintegrative aesthetic disvalue that they have. So Adams: “the worst evils and the best goods are symbolic.” Horrendous evils bring about the disintegration and/or the annihilation of the participants’ personalities and lifenarratives as wholes.59 If on the analogy of art, the value of a life is measured by aesthetic standards of “unity, integrity, harmony, and relevance,” she wrote, horrors cause “disproportion and incongruity.”60 For both perpetrators and victims, horrors appear to “engulf any positive value in the participant’s life.”61 So it is with certain instances of suffering by human beings. Do horrors also obliterate meaning and value for nonhuman beings? Adams believed that the experience of “horrendousness” requires the cognitive capacity to reflect on the dysteleological and aesthetic disintegration that the evil has caused. So she did not believe that the classification of “horrendous” evil applies to animals, which in contrast to humans, are not “meaning makers” in the sense that she believed the experience of “horrendousness” requires. However, I suggest that DeaneDrummond is right to see the periodic catastrophic mass extinctions that punctuate the evolutionary past as “horrendous” evils, too, albeit in an objective sense, if not a human-like cognitively subjective one.62 Further, though, perhaps there is also a distinctively nonhuman subjective – cognitive and affective – sense in which the sentient animals, at least, have the experience of something analogous to the human sense of horror. Their responses to danger and pain often invite the comparison, after all, as Tennyson’s auditory image of them “shrieking” suggests they do. I will

58

59 61 62

Marilyn McCord Adams, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1999), 26. 60 Adams, Horrendous Evils, 26–31. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 148. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 26. Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 172. In personal conversation, at a small colloquium, Adams conceded my point that animals could participate in “horrendous” evil in an objective sense, even if not in a human-like subjective one. “Animals and the Kingdom of God Faculty Development Workshop: Animal Suffering, Divine Goodness, and Human Ethics,” June 26–28, 2015, Calvin College, MI.

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pursue this point briefly in Chapter 7, where I elaborate on the part that the aesthetics of horror play in the controversy and begin offering a way to engage horrors plausibly in Christian terms. For the moment, however, my aim is merely to point out how they intensify the teleological and moral aspects of the Darwinian Problem, and so to stress that to succeed, an account of God and Darwinian evil must at least take the aesthetic/moral disvalue of Darwinian horror into account, as I will seek to do. Unfortunately, the aesthetic challenge of Darwinian horror does not only arise from the unveiling of “a plurality of worlds.” It also surfaces, for example, as Darwin intimated, in the reproductive strategy of the Ichneumon wasp, discovered to lay its eggs in the body of a living caterpillar. The challenge of horror arises further in the unveiling of the previously unknown multitudes of such “anti-cosmic micro-monsters.” The element of horror exacerbates the tragic character of this realm of discovery.

the unveiling of (3) “anti-cosmic micro-monsters” Even though contemporary atheistic writers seldom make explicit reference to the aesthetics of horror, like Tennyson, their accounts of evils in nature very often do so implicitly. This is especially evident in their ruminations on the religious ramifications of certain horrific creatures whose existence remained undisclosed until fairly recent times. I refer to them as “anti-cosmic micro-monsters.” As we will see in more detail (Chapter 7), imaginary monsters have properties that make them seem not to fit into a stable cosmos – features that make them ungainly or grotesquely disfigured, uncanny, weird, repulsive, hideous, or nauseatingly ugly. In any event, they evoke commensurate emotions of horror, usually involving both terror and disgust at the same time, especially when they inflict horrific suffering on undeserving, unsuspecting others they ruthlessly prey upon. Many micro-creatures have the aesthetic properties of monsters – only they are not imaginary. For better or worse, they are all too real. One could easily write an entire book on “anti-cosmic micro-monsters.” It is very hard to believe that the God of canonical Christian theism would deliberately design and create such miniature monstrosities, so much so that (as we will see in Chapter 5), not a few Christian writers ascribe their existence to the Devil, instead! Darwin’s cryptic comment on the “diary of a Devil’s chaplain” was not so far-fetched, after all. For our purposes, however, I will cite just two illustrative examples here. One of them comes from nature in the present, while the other one

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comes from the prehistoric past. Readers should keep these examples in mind – especially the second one – when pondering the plausibility of the God-justifying accounts that we will consider in due course. These two examples of miniature monsters, then, do not just illumine the difficulty of the Darwinian Problem, but are also test cases that God-justifying explanations must pass.

“micro-monsters” present: the giant water beetle In her diary of essays Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes of a fine morning spent walking along the grassy edge of a tiny creek. She was taking mild amusement at the frogs leaping ahead of her feet into the water with a comical “Yike!” until she was suddenly stopped in her tracks by something curious that caught her attention and clouded the sunlit scene. There, floating in an eddy near the creek bank was a frog. When she approached, it did not move, but strangely enough, remained completely still. Looking more closely, she was stunned by what she saw: He was a very small frog with wide, dull eyes. And just as I looked at him, he slowly crumpled and began to sag. The spirit vanished from his eyes as if snuffed. His skin emptied and drooped; his very skull seemed to collapse and settle like a kicked tent. He was shrinking before my eyes like a deflating football. I watched the taut, glistening skin on his shoulders ruck, and rumple, and fall. Soon, part of his skin, formless as a pricked balloon, lay in floating folds like bright scum on top of the water: it was a monstrous and terrifying thing. I gaped bewildered, appalled. . .. I had read about the giant water bug, but never seen one. . .. It eats insects, tadpoles, fish, and frogs. . .. It seizes a victim with [its] legs, hugs it tight, and paralyzes it with enzymes injected during a vicious bite. . .. Through the puncture shoot the poisons that dissolve the victim’s muscles and bones and organs – all but the skin – and through it the giant water bug sucks out the victim’s body, reduced to a juice. . .. I had been kneeling on the island grass; when the unrecognizable flap of frog skin settled on the creek bottom, swaying, I stood up and brushed the knees of my pants. I couldn’t catch my breath.63

Dillard confesses that she could not comprehend how such horrific things could be the design of a loving God, particularly when one considers “those sickening reaches of time in either direction. . ..”64 She admits to having no explanation for the hordes of such small living horrors that frequent nature. In that setting she writes, “Cruelty is a mystery, and the waste of pain.”65 Nevertheless, Dillard maintains that such things do not 63 64

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (New York: HarperCollins, 1974), 7–8. 65 Dillard, Pilgrim, 9. Dillard Pilgrim, 9.

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eclipse the parts of nature that seem to emanate divine light: “the inrush of power and light, the canary that sings on the skull.”66 Readers should keep this image in mind. With this image – the canary sitting on the skull – Dillard seems to suggest that on balance, the “power and light” of nature are greater in force than its horrifying aspects. We wonder, however, whether that really is true. Does the canary-light aspect of nature really neutralize the skull-dark side of nature in this particular context? As I indicated in my comments on Creegan’s somewhat similar advice, I submit rather emphatically that it does not. I suggest that for a God-justifying account of Darwinian evil to be acceptable, it must include a sufficiently plausible way of “seeing” the “skull” itself as something that a theistic God would deliberately incorporate into the design of creation. We will not get “theistic sight” back by looking away, as we may wish to do, at striking moments of teleology and beauty, and indulging ourselves in distractions from the hideous sources of the Darwinian Problem. The aim must rather be to find a way of “seeing” the reality of divine power and goodness amid horrors, not just in the bright spots existing alongside them. Meanwhile, we know now that Dillard wrote more wisely than she knew when she remarked on how such hideous things descend dizzyingly back into the “sickening reaches of time.” Paleoanthropologists and coauthors George Poinar, Jr., and Roberta Poinar have mined fossilized amber from the early, middle, and late Cretaceous. To their astonishment, they have found that “anti-cosmic micro-monsters” played a previously undiscovered part even in the lives of dinosaurs.67

“micro-monsters” past: autopsy of a dinosaur Troves of ancient amber from the early, middle, and late Cretaceous contain astonishingly well-preserved samples of parasitic, diseasecarrying ticks and insects – mosquitoes, blackflies, biting midges, sand flies, and horseflies, which almost certainly preyed on dinosaurs and other animals that existed at the time.68 So the Poinars on the scene that likely existed: “Since these insects are active in subtropical and tropical areas 66 67

68

Dillard Pilgrim, 9. George Poinar, Jr. and Roberta Poinar, What Bugged the Dinosaurs? Insects, Disease, and Death in the Cretaceous (Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008), ix–x. Poinar and Poinar, What Bugged the Dinosaurs? 102–5.

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throughout the year, there would have been little respite for the dinosaurs.”69 Worse still, the authors believe that these micro-predators infected dinosaurs with horrific diseases, such as malaria, numerous lethal viruses, and infestations of gigantic nematodes (parasitic worms) that lived off their organs, slowly killing them. Some insect fossils actually contain blood cells infected with an ancient version of a disease that is common today. About half the specimens from the Burmese amber forest 100 million years ago, for example, show infection with so-called Paleoleishmania, so the authors theorize that the disease must have reached epidemic proportions there.70 In the light of their research, the Poinars speculate on what an autopsy of a common ornithopod (bird-footed bipedal dinosaur) would have revealed upon death from that illness: If an autopsy had been made. . .it would have revealed many parasites and pathogens inhabiting the tissues. Some, like amoebic dysentery, malaria, and ascarid roundworms, would have caused lesions in the gut, liver abscesses, and distorted blood cells. But the actual cause of our dinosaur’s death would have been listed as leishmaniasis, a protozoan disease. Just like the other members of the herd, he was the victim of an emerging pathogen that was decimating the Cretaceous world.71

The Poinars argue that the evolutionary success of such “micro-monsters” decimated the entire ecological existence of the dinosaurs and contributed considerably to their eventual demise, apart from the environmental effects of the asteroid: Some 100 million years ago, some of these microorganisms developed novel relationships with biting flies, when the flies’ previously harmless symbionts turned into deadly pathogens. In an unprecedented alliance, these insect-borne infections together with already long-established parasites became more than the dinosaurs’ immune systems could handle. Sweeping epidemics began changing the herbivore-carnivore dinosaur balance that had existed for millennia. . .. Flies, beetles, and cockroaches visiting the infested feces and cadavers picked up bacteria, protozoans, and nematodes that were carried to contaminate other vertebrates. Dinosaurs that dined on cockroaches now carrying eggs of ascarids would end up with stomach lesions. On a larger scale, as the outbreak killed off the herbivorous dinosaurs, the balance of their ecosystem was destroyed.72

69 70 71 72

Poinar and Poinar, What Bugged the Dinosaurs? 115. Poinar and Poinar, What Bugged the Dinosaurs? 120. Poinar and Poinar, What Bugged the Dinosaurs? 2. Poinar and Poinar, What Bugged the Dinosaurs? 2–3.

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It is obviously hard to make God-justifying sense of this apparently horrific devastation, not to mention the suffering that presumably afflicted the animals. Meanwhile, one thing seems clear, at least. It is that these monstrous Darwinian evils are not incidental – the accidental consequence of a Fall, for instance – but are deeply inscribed in nature’s systemic design. This (for theists) disturbing implication leads us to discussion of the final unveiling, “evils inscribed.”

the unveiling of (4) “evils inscribed” Murray singles out the straightforwardly moral challenge that Darwin’s theory of natural selection poses to theists: Not only did Darwinism embrace the notion that animals – with all of their predation, pain, and death – preexisted human beings, but predation, pain, and death were now viewed as among the very instruments of creation. It thus appeared that the natural order was hatched via a mechanism fraught with evil at its very core.73

We have seen that Darwin himself found it hard to believe that the God of theism would employ such a wasteful and exceedingly cruel means of creation. Numerous contemporaries chimed in with him on the unexpected implication that the discoveries proved God’s complicity in evil. The prominent American philosopher John Fiske (1842‒1901) did not mince words about the anti-theistic moral force of Darwinism: . . .it is impossible to call that Being good who, existing prior to the phenomenal universe, and creating it out of the plenitude of infinite power and foreknowledge, endowed it with such properties that its material and moral development must inevitably be attended by the misery of untold millions of sentient creatures for whose existence their creator is ultimately alone responsible.74

Likewise, Borden Bowne (1847‒1910), also an American philosopher, maintained that discovery of natural selection as the means of biological creation ruled out rational belief in the metaphysical reality of “omnipotent goodness at the root of things.”75 Just as Murray observed, Darwin’s

73 74

75

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 2. Italics mine. In Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 4; from John Fiske, Miscellaneous Writings, iv, Outline of Cosmic Philosophy (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1902), 225. Cited in Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 3. Borden Bowne, Philosophy of Theism (New York: Harper, 1887), 227, 232.

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thesis of natural selection puts the unveiling of “evil inscribed” into the heart of the formative evolutionary process itself, and it thereby makes God the primary causal agent of all the evolutionary evils endured by animals. Many canonical Christian theists resist accepting this implication – that God is the deliberate authorizing agent of evolutionary evils – but so long as one endorses Darwinism, I see no way around it. Is there a way to explain why God would create species, including our own, by means of such random waste and brutality? We have begun considering some answers to the teleological-evidential part of that question, and we will examine still others in due course. We shall of course also have to deal directly with its moral-justificatory aspect. What moral justification could there be for creating species by such brutal means, especially when so much of the suffering caused – perhaps most of it – seems biologically pointless? Meanwhile, at least some writers propose that the moral character of Darwinian evolution is not nearly as out of sync with theism as commonly believed, and that the moral problem of “evil inscribed” has been significantly exaggerated in the writings of neo-Darwinian atheists. Before leaving this section, then, let us briefly consider Sarah Coakley’s attempt to improve our “theistic sight” by underscoring moral goodness that is also inscribed into the evolutionary process. Like Creegan, Coakley engages the evidential-teleological level of the controversy but not the moraljustificatory one (except perhaps by insinuation). So it seems most fitting to give my brief comments on her approach, here, rather than try to include them in the discussions of God-justifying solutions to be conducted later on.

coakley: darwinian ethico-teleology In her Gifford Lectures delivered in 2012, Coakley proposed that, contrary to the common conception of evolution as a system in which the selfishness of individuals overrides other motivations for behavior and prevails decisively and creatively in the process, the role of “sacrifice,” or self-sacrificial cooperation, is a major evolutionary feature that antitheistic Darwinians have almost entirely missed, or at least have left out of their atheistic arguments.76 Fresh awareness of how cooperative

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Sarah Coakley, “Sacrifice Regained: Evolution, Cooperation and God,” Gifford Lectures (University of Aberdeen, April 17–May 3, 2012). www.giffordlectures.org/lectures/ sacrifice-regained-evolution-cooperation-and-god.

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sacrifice contributes to the creation and formation of successful species calls for a change of perspective on the moral implications of evolutionary science for theistic religion. Coakley contends that patterns of cooperative sacrifice not only count as evidence for the existence of morally purposeful divine design in nature, but – provocatively, to be sure – that the nature of the seeming design is also suggestive of important positive truths about the moral character of its Designer. Ironically, then, according to Coakley, Darwinian evolution, which is widely supposed to have destroyed all hope for the success of teleological arguments for theism and for “natural theology,” can be invoked in support of both!77 What should we make of this extremely “countercultural” thesis? Indeed, as numerous evolutionary biologists observe, contrary to a common caricature in atheistic literature, nature is not a realm where savage selfishness on the part of individuals always prevails. Numerous studies show that the successful evolution and survival of many species has depended rather on social strategies of cooperation, sometimes involving altruistic self-sacrifice, although the two are not the same, as Coakley sometimes seems to suggest they are.78 Both neo-Darwinian atheists and anti-Darwinian creationists alike have no doubt understated this morally generative feature of evolution. Nevertheless, despite these qualifying observations, whether via selfishness or cooperation, the brutal process of natural selection is still the name of the evolutionary game. The cooperative strategy of wolves, for instance, is wondrously beautiful to behold, and a morally – or perhaps proto-morally – good thing in its own right, and perhaps it supports theism in some sense. However, this cooperative behavior in hunting and chasing down prey animals in a savage cooperative fashion still comports with Tennyson’s depiction of “nature red in tooth and claw,” and does little to mute the shrieking that resounds in the ravines against nature’s supposed law of love. So as with Creegan’s appeal to moments of apparent aesthetic teleology in evolution, even on Coakley’s ethico-teleological evidence, we are still left to wonder what justification there could be for creating moral consciousness and morality itself by such excessively brutal and wasteful

77 78

Coakley proffers a new “ethico-teleological” form of natural theology in the fifth lecture. Coakley builds primarily on the research of Martin Nowak. See Martin A. Nowak and Sarah Coakley, eds., Evolution, Games, and God: The Principle of Cooperation, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013).

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means. Nevertheless, as with Creegan’s proposals, readers should keep Coakley’s ethico-teleological perspective on evolution in mind as we go forward. All these last points bring us back to the point I stressed at the beginning. It is that to be at all convincing, a God-justifying account of Darwinian evil must somehow help readers to restore “theistic sight” in the nonhuman natural realm. We are reminded that engagement of the Darwinian Problem is no mere intellectual exercise, a logical riddle to unravel in abstractly cognitive terms. To be acceptably plausible, I suggest that a theistic account of Darwinian evils must not just enable people to think clearly about those evils in cognitively rational terms, although (so I believe) it must include cognitively reasonable explanation. I suggest that the account must also somehow help people to “see” divinity in the Darwinian World in a non-wishful, affectively authentic intuitive fashion. In other words, besides having intellectual integrity, the account must also seem emotionally honest. And again, we will not achieve this aim by means of deflection or distraction, i.e., by calling people to look away from the evil that is subverting their ability to “see” divinity in the world, and to fix their gaze instead on Darwinian goods. To cite these goods, of which there are indeed many, is an important part of any plausible account, to be sure, and I will consider the works of authors who cite them in support of theism. However, I propose that, like it or not, a sufficiently plausible account will exhort us to look Darwinian evil fully in the face, to look more deeply into it than we have perhaps yet done, and in so doing, seek to discern divinity directly in its midst. Perhaps that will prove impossible, but I suggest that probing of that kind must nonetheless be done. So now we have at last reached the end of this initial “phenomenology” of the Darwinian Problem as it arises from the unveiling of a Darwinian World. Let us briefly gather the thoughts I have stressed so far, and then point to the path we will take in the discussion lying just ahead.

how things stand so far So far, I have proposed that pioneering research in the modern natural sciences of geology and biology has unearthed new and unexpected truths about nature, past and present. Scientists have unveiled a Darwinian World that has had the unintended effect of creating a uniquely modern crisis in religion. The unveilings of (1) “deep evolutionary time,”

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(2) “a plurality of worlds,” (3) “anti-cosmic micro-monsters,” and (4) “evil inscribed,” individually and all together, have produced a modern form of a very old problem for adherents of theism – the problem of natural evil suffered by animals. These unveilings seem to have antiquated the traditional appeal to a nature-ruinous Fall. The causes of Darwinian natural evil, so called, have existed since the dawn of pre-human planetary time and are ingrained into the very design of existence for animals – into the design of animals themselves! I have proposed that we are best advised to abandon Lapsarian Theodicy (more grounds for doing so will be considered in Chapter 5) and to join the majority of participants in the conversation in the search for plausible non-lapsarian alternatives. I have also proposed that in forging an acceptable God-justifying explanation, one must face the hard truth that the causal agent of Darwinian evil is not first human or angelic creatures, but is none other than God. Further, I have proposed that a God-justifying account – a theodicy – must do so in the context of several features of the Darwinian World that are exceedingly hard to fit together with the depiction of God and the world in theism. It must take into account the enormous amount of evolutionary waste, failure, and suffering that has transpired on earth in the past, and continues to do so in nature now. Perhaps harder still, it must account for this waste and suffering in the context of a seemingly disconnected “series of creations,” or “a plurality of worlds,” that gives the strong impression that the long course of evolution has been the product of random chance rather than the outcome of divine direction. Further, along that same line, one must somehow account for the unexpected and apparently atheistic aesthetics of tragic transience and horror in evolution. These aesthetic aspects of evolution only exacerbate the moral problem of suffering by animals, not least by making most of the suffering seem to be pointless products of indifference rather than divine creative and providential care. I have underscored the need to restore lost “theistic sight,” and I have proposed that in the ideal, at least, one should not do so by means of deflecting, or distracting people from Darwinian evil and calling them to look away at Darwinian good. I cited approaches by Creegan and Coakley as valuable, but yet as instances of this unsatisfactory means of Godjustifying engagement. Readers should nevertheless keep the goods they cite on hold as part of a larger store of evidential reasons for belief in theism despite the Darwinian evil unveiled.

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We are not yet quite done explicating the Darwinian Problem, however. It remains to look at influential anti-theistic arguments based on Darwinian evil. I will begin by citing certain informal arguments and identifying the implicit sources of their atheistic force. Then I will introduce the two major types of formal argument that play prominent parts in the analytical disputation over God and evolutionary evil that afflicts animals. Close consideration of these arguments will complete the job of showing that the Darwinian Problem is very formidable, indeed, and it will also provide crucial context for the proposals I will be making in the pages ahead.

2 Darwinian Evil and Anti-Theistic Arguments

When we consider horrendous evils or the sheer magnitude of human and animal suffering, the idea that an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good being is in control of the world may strike us as absolutely astonishing, something almost beyond belief. William Rowe1

In Chapter 2, we will look at both informal and formal anti-theistic arguments based on the existence of Darwinian evil. The informal arguments do not have an explicit logical structure, with stated premises and inferences. They are rather more rhetorical in nature, yet nonetheless powerful in their own right. Most popular presentations of atheism by neo-Darwinian writers fit this description. In contrast, the formal antitheistic arguments play the major part in the disputation over God and evil among professional analytical philosophers and theologians. It would seem that an acceptable counter-response to the exceedingly precise and rigorous formal arguments would help with engagement of the more loosely structured popular anti-theistic arguments, too. In this chapter, then, we will face the Darwinian Problem in those analytically sharpened formulations, and they will be points of reference for assessing accounts of Darwinian evil, including my own, in later chapters.

1

From William Rowe, “Atheism,” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Craig (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), 533–34.

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informal darwinian anti-theistic arguments The noted American politician and orator Robert Ingersoll (1833–99) managed to invoke all four of the Darwinian unveilings we have considered and put them eloquently into a single anti-theistic argument: Would an infinitely wise, good, and powerful God, intending to produce man, commence with the lowest possible forms of life; with the simplest organism that can be imagined, and during immeasurable periods of time, slowly and almost imperceptibly improve upon the rude beginning, until man was evolved? Would countless ages thus be wasted in the production of awkward forms, afterwards abandoned? Can the intelligence of man discover the least wisdom in covering the earth with crawling, creeping horrors that live only upon the agonies and pangs of others? Can we see the propriety of so constructing the earth, that only an insignificant portion of its surface is capable of producing an intelligent man? Who can appreciate the mercy of so making the world that all animals devour animals; so that every mouth is a slaughterhouse, and every stomach a tomb? Is it possible to discover infinite intelligence and love in universal and eternal carnage?2

The implied answer to Ingersoll’s rhetorical questions was, of course, a resounding “No!” His line of informally rhetorical argument has found new voices in the neo-Darwinian revival of atheism that is happening now. Richard Dawkins’s informal anti-theistic arguments, for instance, are a reminder that Ingersoll’s atheistic way of seeing the Darwinian World was never really counteracted by theists. Christopher Southgate points out the anti-theism that Darwinism spawned was not so much turned back by theists as simply displaced by other religious-philosophical concerns. The great wars of the twentieth century caused a nearly total shift of focus in the conversation from natural evil suffered by animals in evolution to the matter of moral evil suffered by human beings, particularly in the Holocaust and in other genocidal events.3 The focus on animal suffering has returned, however, and Dawkins’s line of argument has renewed anti-theistic force: The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive; others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear; others are being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. It must be so.4 2

3 4

Robert Green Ingersoll, On the Gods and Other Essays (New York: Prometheus Books, 1990). Ingersoll wrote “The Gods” in 1872. Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 11–12. Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), 132.

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Like Ingersoll and others before him, Dawkins relies in his tirade/argument in part on the aesthetics of horror that he implicitly conjoins with the apparently dysteleological tragedy and failure that is rampant in evolution and intensifies the profusion of suffering that it frames in Darwinian scientific terms. The arguments of Ingersoll and Dawkins exemplify anti-theistic arguments that do not rely on formal inferences from evidence, but rather on a strong prima facie sense of “not God” in nature. They rest on the strength of an “anyone-can-see” commonsense intuition, which may supposedly suffice on its own to sustain the rationality of atheism. Perhaps it does. Alvin Plantinga suggests that if belief in God can be “properly basic,” i.e., warranted by extremely strong appearances in certain supportive epistemic circumstances, as he famously believes that it can, then perhaps disbelief in God can be rationally warranted in that way, too.5 Similarly, Richard Swinburne, who is also a notable supporter of theism in philosophy, defends the rationality of atheism based properly on what strongly seems to be causally true of the world as a whole with respect to certain seemingly inexplicable evils.6 The appearance of “not God,” then, is very strong and – again – has to be taken into serious account in explanations of Darwinian evil. Doing so is an essential part of seeking to restore “theistic sight.” At the same time, I do not think restoring “theistic sight” will be possible unless one’s account includes intellectually effective responses to the anti-theistic arguments themselves. Otherwise, one may be justly suspected of indulging more in wishful thinking than in actually “seeing” divinity in the Darwinian natural realm. We will be rightly suspected of a sort of whistling in the graveyard, or gazing wistfully at the canary while closing one eye to shut out the leering countenance of the skull, on which the lovely bird sits (pace Annie Dillard). With all deference to the canaries of the world, like it or not, the formal anti-theistic arguments force us to focus attention on the skull instead. So let us look at them.

formal evidential arguments against theism For anyone who is unfamiliar with the conventional classifications of arguments being employed in the analytical controversy over God and 5

6

Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 483. Richard Swinburne, Providence and the Problem of Evil (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 20–28.

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evil as it has unfolded in the last several decades, a brief introductory explanation of terms and conventions may be useful.7 So-called “evidential” arguments against theism differ from “logical” versions. Logical versions are supposed to show that the co-existence of God and evil (or certain kinds and/or amounts of evil) is impossible in a strictly logical sense. In other words, in its simplest form, in logical versions, the argument is that it is logically impossible for evil, or some amount or kind of evil, or some particular instance of evil, to exist in any world created by God. The existence of the evil(s) in view, then, simply makes the existence of God logically impossible, so that belief in God is positively irrational.8 As things stand now, however, participants on both sides of the controversy generally concur that the logical arguments do not quite achieve that ambitious atheistic aim. So for the most part, the disputation has shifted to consideration of so-called inductive, or evidential, arguments against theism. The inductive, or evidential, arguments are designed to show that certain evils in the actual world make the existence of God very improbable. One seeks to show that, while this evidence does not disprove the existence of God, it does suffice to render God’s existence improbable to an extent that makes belief in God irrational.9 These are the arguments that concern theists the most. There are two distinct types of evidential argument against theism. William Rowe (1931–2015), who taught philosophy at Purdue University for many years, pioneered one type of evidential argument. Paul Draper, who as of this writing also teaches philosophy at Purdue, is the primary author of the second type. I will also suggest that we can add the evolutionary unveilings considered in Chapter 1 in a manner that makes both types of argument more forceful even than they already are. In fact, as already indicated in the Introduction, I will propose that the prospects for responding effectively

7

8

9

For a detailed account, see Daniel Howard-Snyder, “Introduction: The Evidential Argument from Evil,” in The Evidential Argument from Evil, ed. Daniel HowardSnyder (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), xi–xx. For useful introductions, see Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams, eds., The Problem of Evil, Oxford Readings in Philosophy (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 1–24; and Howard-Snyder, The Evidential Argument from Evil, xi–xx. Howard-Snyder, The Evidential Argument from Evil, xiv–xix.

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to these arguments remain poor so long as we accept the moral conditions that produce their persuasive power.

rowe’s anti-theistic evidential argument Rowe published the first formulation of his argument in 1979, and he refined it over the years in conversation with critics. For our purposes, I will deal only with his first formulation, for in substance, his argument never really changed: P1: There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse. P2: An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse. P3: There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.10 Rowe offered two cases of evil as emblems of the ones alleged to exist in P1 – evils that God could have prevented without causing something even worse. He offered E1, the rape and murder of a little girl, and E2, the agonizing slow death of a fawn burned in a forest fire caused by lightning. Rowe considered it self-evidently probable, well past reasonable doubt, that an omnipotent, omniscient God could have prevented both those evils, E1 and E2, without causing something just as bad or worse. Further, on analysis, from divine omnipotence and omniscience, the inference that God could have prevented them without doing so is very strong.11 So to be rational, one should believe that God could have somehow prevented E1 and E2, but if so, on P2 – the Necessity Condition – it follows that if God exists then those evils could not exist. Since they do exist, however, it follows logically that there is no such being as God. The second emblematic example of gratuitous evil – the agonizing death of the fawn – may seem to render Rowe’s argument irrefutable as it stands. However, I suggest that if we add the example of the dying

10

11

William L. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” American Philosophical Quarterly 16, no. 4 (October 1979): 335–41. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” 335–41.

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dinosaur in the Poinars’ imagined autopsy, the atheistic force of Rowe’s argument becomes greater still. For all things considered, it really does seem absurd that Darwinian evil of that kind was necessary for a supremely powerful and wise God to permit, much less deliberately to cause by choosing to create species by Darwinian means. So long as Rowe’s P2 – the Necessity Condition – stands, then, it is hard to see how Rowe’s argument can fail. After considering attempts to show that in authorizing the configuration of Darwinian evil unveiled, God has in fact met the Necessity Condition, I will propose that this suspicion indeed does prove true, and so I will encourage exploration of an alternative approach in which God is not obligated to meet that narrowly ethical condition. Meanwhile, let us consider Draper’s type of formal evidential argument. In contrast to Rowe’s argument, Draper places the larger configuration of evolutionary evil in view and contends that it is greatly more probable on atheistic naturalism than it is on theism.

draper’s anti-theistic evidential argument Draper has written extensively for years on the improbability that the distribution of evils in the actual world would exist in any world created by a theistic God. In “Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil,” Draper seeks to meet what he sees as need for “a serious argument from evil against theism in which evolutionary theory plays a significant role.”12 This focus of course makes his argument directly relevant to our discussion. Draper begins by inviting us to consider a composite case of existing evolutionary evil, represented by E: E: For a variety of biological and ecological reasons, organisms compete for survival, with some having an advantage in the struggle for survival over others; as a result many organisms, including many sentient beings, never flourish because they die before maturity, many others barely survive, but languish for most all of their lives, and those that reach maturity and flourish for much of their lives usually languish in old age; in the case of human beings and some nonhuman animals as well, languishing often involves intense or prolonged suffering.13

12

13

Paul Draper, “Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil,” The Secular Web (2007), infidels.org/library/modern/paul_draper/evil.html Introduction. Draper, “Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil,” section 5.

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According to Draper, E is much more likely on naturalism than on theism. More precisely, so Draper: “naturalism has much greater predictive power with respect to E [than does theism].”14 For the sake of argument, Draper concedes “that suffering, when it contributes in a biologically appropriate way to the flourishing of a human being or animal, is not all that surprising on theism.”15 However, one would naturally predict that the God of theism would want every creature to flourish, if possible. “Therefore, the fact, reported by E, that countless living organisms, including sentient beings, never flourish at all and countless others flourish only briefly is extremely surprising on theism.”16 Furthermore, he writes, “a perfect God would be concerned with the good of individual sentient beings and not just with the good of. . .‘holistic entities’ like populations of organisms, ecosystems, or the biosphere.”17 In later chapters (mainly Chapter 9, on the axiology of humans and animals), I will explain why I concur with Draper on this last point. The God of theism, so we should think, would care about nonhuman individuals, not just about whole species. If so, of course, the Darwinian Problem becomes all the more challenging for theism. In forming his argument, Draper correctly stresses something that evolutionary theists – adherents of both evolutionary theory and theism – often neglect. There is a major difference between the evolutionary thesis of “common descent,” as supported overwhelmingly by “evidence for a single tree of life,” which (so Draper) is not very surprising on theism, and the thesis of natural selection, which on its face, is “not particularly likely on theism.”18 For, as already noted in the segment on “evil inscribed,” animal suffering seems to be inherent in the very process of natural selection itself. Some of this animal pain is biologically useful, but as we have already seen, a great deal of it is rather clearly not. Much animal pain caused by natural selection is “biologically gratuitous,” and this fact certainly seems surprising on theism.19 Such instances of suffering seem to be purely biological epiphenomena due to the failure of organic systems, such as cancer, or to be useless byproducts of generally biologically useful pain.20 Draper concludes, then, that the existing profusion of biologically 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Draper, “Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil,” Draper, “Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil,” Draper, “Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil,” Draper, “Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil,” Draper, “Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil,” Draper, “Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil,” Draper, “Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil,”

section 5. section 5. section 5. section 5. sections 5–6. sections 5–6. sections 5–6.

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gratuitous pain and languishing by animals in nature is much more probable on atheistic naturalism than it is on theism. Draper’s anti-theistic argument is simple, yet quite forceful. I suggest, though, that, as with Rowe’s evidential argument, Draper’s argument gains still greater strength from the Darwinian unveilings we have considered. For instance, consider that not just many billions of nonhuman individuals have failed to flourish because of natural selection, and that not only entire species have languished and failed. The reality unveiled is that entire worlds – entire biomes – have arisen and flourished only to vanish, often violently, into oblivion. When we restate the arguments of Rowe and Draper in these updated scientific terms, the Darwinian Problem may seem to become intractable on familiar moral norms. Was this catastrophic annihilation of animal “worlds” necessary for some reason? On its face, at least, that is very hard to believe. In Chapter 4, I will explain the unconventional alternative approach to moral norms for divine agency that I will be taking in assessing the prevailing God-justifying accounts of animal suffering and in forming my own account. First, however, I believe we should look briefly, at least, at two approaches that do not so much help us to face the Darwinian Problem as to find ways around having to do so. These strategies are supposed to enable theists to avoid the need to provide an evidential or justificatory explanation of Darwinian evils. What these two quite different lines of argument have in common is extreme skepticism towards the commonly accepted formulation of the problem itself. The usual labels for the skeptical approaches in question are neo-Cartesian theory and Skeptical Theism.

3 Ways around the Problem Neo-Cartesian Theory and Skeptical Theism

Appearances often are deceiving. Aesop1

In this chapter, we will consider two strategies that enable theists to avoid having to give a God-justifying account of Darwinian evil. The two quite different approaches are both forms of extreme skepticism towards standard ways of formulating the problem itself. I will deal with neo-Cartesian theory first, and then with so-called Skeptical Theism. According to neo-Cartesian theory, we do not know that animals really suffer, as they clearly seem to do, and we have good grounds for suspecting that they do not. So on this view, there is no Darwinian Problem for theists to face, at least not on the moral level of suffering by animals. Meanwhile, according to adherents of so-called Skeptical Theism, we are in no position to know that God has not met the Necessity Condition (or some alternative justificatory condition) in authorizing the apparently gratuitous evil that we have in view. So critics of theism, such as Rowe and Draper, have no grounds for the assertion that the evil really is gratuitous, as it clearly seems to be. I think it will be useful to consider these skeptical strategies supporting avoidance of positive God-justifying explanation, even if mainly to explain why I think it is unwise for theists to adopt them.

1

Aesop, “The Cat, the Rooster, and the Mouse,” Aesop’s Fables. aesopsstories.blogspot. com/2012/01/cat-rooster-and-mouse.html.

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neo-cartesian skepticism: animals do not really suffer Neo-Cartesian theory is a newly renovated form of an original thesis put forth by the great mathematician and philosopher, René Descartes (1596–1650). Descartes (Latinized as “Cartesius”) reasoned that since animals do not have rational souls, they lack the cognitive capacity to suffer in a subjectively conscious and morally important human-like manner.2 They appear to have emotions that express suffering, but the apparent suffering is machine-like, not real. Descartes’s followers, the so-called Cartesians, in order to show they took their own theory seriously, allegedly “kicked about their dogs and dissected their cats without mercy, laughing at any compassion for them, and calling their screams the noise of breaking machinery.”3 In recent years, despite the rather sullied reputation of the theory, which has certainly fallen out of favor among contemporary ethicists, some theorists have revived the Cartesian view and employed it in the modern moral conversation and, in some instances, in the controversy over God and the evil of animal pain. Fortunately, these so-called “neo-Cartesian” theorists do not promote abuse of animals, as the original Cartesians reputedly did. They do, however, seek to renovate the older Cartesian thesis by putting it in a new and improved philosophical and scientific setting. Leading advocates of neo-Cartesian theory freely admit that their view of animal pain is counterintuitive.4 Animals obviously appear to suffer when injured, strongly so. Nevertheless, the neo-Cartesian theorists contend that we should approach the apparent suffering of animals with serious skepticism. We rightly wonder, though. Whence this skepticism towards what seems obvious – that animal suffering is real? Supporters of neo-Cartesian theory first stress that the minds of animals are inaccessible, so that we cannot know that the apparent subjective suffering is real. Perhaps we merely import our own human experience of suffering anthropomorphically into what we observe animals doing when injured.5 Further (so they argue), we have good

2

3

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Descartes’s Latinized name was “Cartesius,” or “The Mapper,” and hence the name “Cartesian” for the school of philosophy that he inspired. J. P. Mahaffy, Descartes (London: Blackwood, 1901), 181; cited in A. Richard Kingston, “Theodicy and Animal Welfare,” Theology 70, no. 569 (1967): 485. See the opening remarks by Peter Carruthers, for instance, in Peter Carruthers, “Brute Experience,” The Journal of Philosophy 86 (May 1989): 258–69. Carruthers, “Brute Experience,” 259.

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grounds for suspecting, at least, that animal suffering is unreal, an illusion, something that we merely imagine to be real, but is not. It is indeed true that science has shown that, quite surprisingly in some instances of our experience, appearances can deceive, and we should suspect that this is one of them. In support of this counterintuitive skepticism, these theorists typically cite examples that are supposed to subvert confidence in the appearance of animal suffering. Jellyfish, for instance, have no neurological receptors to enable them to feel pain, but they engage in pain-avoidance behaviors, nonetheless. The explanation for the behavior seems rather to be adaptive – it is behavior that helped jellyfish to adapt to their environment and to survive, so that it eventually became a dominant reflexive trait.6 Along this line, in some experiments rats appeared to be reacting to painful stimuli – to be suffering – even though their spinal cords had been severed and their brains removed, so that suffering was impossible. Again, the behavior is apparently adaptive in nature.7 Perhaps this explanation extends across the phylogenetic board, so to speak, to include the “shrieking” of animals in the ravines, to recite Tennyson’s graphic verse. Perhaps the screaming of monkeys when being torn to pieces alive by chimpanzees does not represent real suffering at all, but is instead a sound their ancestors made when assaulted, something that caused predators to pause long enough for an escape, or perhaps scared the predators off frequently enough to make the screaming-trait dominant via adaptation. Similarly, there is the fascinating phenomenon of “blind pain” in humans who have undergone lobotomies. In these cases, the person realizes that s/he is being injured – by a needle puncture, for instance – but does not care, does not find the injurious experience unpleasant at all, and so does not suffer subjectively from the wound.8 Some supporters of neo-Cartesian theory suggest that nonhumans may lack the anatomical/ neurological pathways that account for affective, or qualitative, responses to pain in humans. On this view, animals are, mentally, more like zombies than like human beings.9 Supporters of neo-Cartesian theory have also offered additional arguments based on philosophical hypotheses on the nature of animal minds. In the 1940s, the famous Christian apologist C. S. Lewis proposed that

6 7 8 9

See Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, discussion on 65–66. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 64–65. Dougherty, The Problem of Animal Pain, and references, 64–66. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, and references, 67–69.

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animals lack the continuity of temporal consciousness, which he presumed was necessary in order for the experience of pain to be processed subjectively as suffering. This subjective sort of temporal consciousness, he maintained, is uniquely human.10 Peter Harrison, who is a Christian philosopher and historian of science, seeks to improve upon Lewis’s line of argument, which was subjected to intense criticism in a well-publicized public debate with the analytical philosopher C. E. M. Joad.11 Harrison suggests that if someone lacks all memory of suffering, as he suspects animals may well do, the experience is not inherently morally bad. He offers the imaginary example of a man who is given a pill that prevents him from remembering the horrific pain inflicted on him during surgery performed without anesthesia. According to Harrison, due to the induced amnesia, the pain would not matter morally.12 In addition, Harrison proposed that contrary to common opinion, if animals did have a continuous memory of painful episodes, the evolution of species would not have worked.13 Taken all together, then, we might well reckon that neo-Cartesian skepticism towards the strong appearance of animal suffering is plausible, and that it may provide a means of escape from the otherwise inescapable implications of Darwinian evil. However, I suggest that critics are correct to judge that despite these reasons, neo-Cartesian theory is not plausible – not enough so to warrant employing it in the controversy in question, at any rate. Let us consider the major criticisms. First of all, the appearance of animal suffering is extremely strong. Perhaps readers will allow me to begin with a personal testimony to that experience. I have been a dog trainer for the better part of fifty years. In the course of my experience with a long line of “dog friends,” I have witnessed what clearly appears to be intense “dog happiness,” and I have also, unfortunately, been privy to apparently horrific “dog suffering.” The appearance of both real pleasure and real pain has been so strong that one might just as well tell me that the dogs themselves were not real

10 11

12

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C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1962), particularly chapter 9. See the discussion of this debate in Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 45–46. The exchange between Lewis and Joad can be found in “The Pains of Animals,” Month 189 (1950): 95–104, reprinted in Andrew Linzey and Tom Regan, eds., Animals and Christianity: A Book of Readings (New York: Crossroads, 1989), 39–71, 101–6. Peter Harrison, “Theodicy and Animal Pain,” Philosophy 64 (1989): 79–92. See Murray’s discussion of Harrison’s imaginary case in Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 46–49. Harrison, “Theodicy and Animal Pain,” esp. 84–86.

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as that their states of pleasure and pain were unreal. I am hardly alone in reacting initially to the neo-Cartesian hypothesis in the way that Alastair Norcross did – as so much “silliness” ‒ and to let the reality of animal suffering stand uncontested on appearances.14 Nevertheless, I refer readers to elaborate analytical refutations offered by Dougherty, especially, and by certain others. Dougherty’s initial point of criticism is that the appearance of animal suffering is so strong and well grounded in the sort of non-scientific expertise just mentioned (mine) that it counts as being among what Aristotle called the “endoxa.” The “endoxa” are highly “reputable opinions,” which have gained credibility from the support they receive from “the wise,” i.e., people who know from experience what they are talking about (such as people who have dealt closely with dogs for fifty years!). According to Aristotle, only fools take the opinions of the “wise” lightly, even though it is also possible that evidence exists to show that the “wisdom” of the wise is – surprisingly – wrong. This of course does happen. A good case in point would be the entrenched belief of the “wise” that the earth does not move. After a long and painful controversy over Copernican cosmology and its assault on the “endoxa,” the evidence finally required people to abandon extremely strong and (so they believed) incorrigible appearances. The point we should take away from this case, however, is that before abandoning the “endoxa,” one must require extremely strong evidence in support of doing so – evidence that is at least as strong as the “appearances” themselves.15 Dougherty ties this epistemic rule together favorably with Thomas Reid’s modern “common sense” school of philosophy.16 Joseph Lynch, a philosopher of animal minds and ethics, invokes a similar principle for approaching neoCartesian theory. He stresses that if we must take the view seriously, despite its counterintuitive character, we rightly require that the “NeoCartesian argument must be very strong indeed.”17 Is the neo-Cartesian

14

15 16 17

Dougherty, The Problem of Animal Pain, 59. Citation from Alastair Norcross, “The Significance of Death for Animals,” in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Death, ed. Ben Bradley, Fred Feldman, and Jens Johansson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 465–74. Dougherty, The Problem of Animal Pain, 57–59. Dougherty, The Problem of Animal Pain, 58–59. Joseph J. Lynch, “God, Animals, and Zombies,” ÁGORA Papeles de Filosofía 30, no. 2 (2011): 22–23.

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argument very strong, strong enough to justify abandoning the “endoxa” of animal suffering in view? Dougherty and others conclude that it is not. For one thing, all the neo-Cartesian arguments just mentioned are very vulnerable to criticism. I obviously cannot offer thorough refutations in this space, but I can at least indicate the lines of refutation that critics of neo-Cartesian theory take. First, we have no good reason to believe that the adaptive/reflexive nature of some instances of apparent animal suffering explains all or even very many of them. The conclusion, for instance, that jellyfish cannot really suffer does not justify belief that the higher species of animals shrieking in the ravines also do not. In fact, we have good grounds for believing that they do really suffer subjectively and in a morally important manner (as we will soon see). Second, as for animal minds, as Joad complained to Lewis, animals rather clearly display a prospective sense of the future, understood in the light of experience in their past. They may not have the higher-order depth of memory, or the intricate imagination of the future, that humans have. But with no retrospective or prospective awareness at all, how could they go about “learning” how to respond to their environments in the ways that they do? Further, even if animals do exist subjectively in a continuous present tense – in the moment, as it were – how does this mode of temporality reduce the moral badness of their pain?18 Evelyn Pluhar lodges this objection against Harrison’s imaginary case of the man with induced amnesia – surely his excruciating suffering is a morally horrific thing whether he remembers it or not!19 Furthermore, Pluhar also discounts Harrison’s proposal that real animal suffering would have foiled the evolutionary successes of species. For it seems quite idiosyncratically to go against established opinion in evolutionary science.20 The additional arguments based on speculation about the nature of animal minds are also subject to criticism. First, considering the neoCartesian emphasis on the inaccessibility of animal minds, the appeal to the nature of animal consciousness is inherently tenuous, at any rate. Further, however, all of these arguments involve assumptions about the relationship between kinds of consciousness required for morally important experiences of pain that are highly speculative and insecure in their

18 19

20

See references to Joad in Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 46–47. Evelyn B. Pluhar, “Arguing Away Suffering: The Neo-Cartesian Revival,” Between the Species 9 (Winter 1993): 27–41; 35–36. Pluhar, “Arguing Away Suffering,” mainly 28–34.

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own right – surely not as strong as the appearances of animal suffering themselves.21 So I concur with Dougherty and others who see the neo-Cartesian arguments as intriguing, but as too weak to override the “endoxa” of animal suffering in view. Finally, however, and perhaps most importantly, there is a mounting body of evidence in science that seems to subvert neo-Cartesian theory. Dougherty cites what seems to be growing into a virtual consensus among experimental scientists and highly credentialed ethical policysetting entities on the very high probability that animals of many species do suffer in a manner that is analogous to the suffering of human beings. I refer readers to Dougherty’s impressive list of authorities in the field whose scientific works persuade them to endorse the “endoxa” of the non-specialized “wise.”22 The findings, by the way, include strong evidence against the suggestion of Carruthers and some others that even mammalian nonhumans lack the neural pathways necessary to host subjective suffering. It seems that all mammals, including humans, in these respects, are neurologically similar enough to undermine that neoCartesian notion.23 So again, I concur with Dougherty that we should judge the “endoxa” of animal suffering as vindicated, so far, and that we should not abandon them in favor of neo-Cartesian skepticism. I submit that doing so is unwise on the evidence. I think one further comment along this line is in order, too. For this is no morally neutral case of appearances being subjected to skepticism. In this case, one abandons the “endoxa” of real animal suffering at considerable risk of seeming to be motivated by something other than the simple theoretical pursuit of truth about the suffering of animals. Pluhar suggests that the revival of neo-Cartesian theory coincides all too conveniently with intensifying controversy over the treatment of animals in commercial food enterprises and experimental laboratories, both of which are hugely invested in their arguably inhumane practices.24 21

22 23

24

See for instance, Joseph Lynch’s critique of the neo-Cartesian models that Murray sees as at least plausible enough to employ in theodicy. Lynch, “God, Animals, and Zombies,” mainly 21–22. Dougherty, The Problem of Animal Pain, 61–64. For neuroscientific evidence supporting the reality of suffering by “higher” species, see Gary E. Varner, Personhood, Ethics, and Animal Cognition: Situating Animals in Hare’s Two-Level Utilitarianism (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012). Pluhar, “Arguing Away Suffering,” 28.

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I suggest that her complaint is not improperly ad hominem in nature, but is rather appropriately born of suspicion that advocacy for neo-Cartesian theory is too easily deconstructed into a pretext for these morally questionable practices. Is it merely incidental that the rise and acceptance of Cartesian theory coincided with the emergence of just these modern industries? Stephen Clark points out cryptically: “Almost no one in the mainstream European tradition would have doubted that animals were sentient creatures until the eighteenth century.”25 At this time, all sorts of arguments came forth as moral rationales for these highly profitable new enterprises relying heavily on arguably abusive and immoral mass exploitation of animals.26 So in the light of all these concerns, not least the last one, I submit that theists should think hard before adopting neo-Cartesian theory in defending the competence and moral character of God in theism. Christian theism, especially, has enough bad moral associations as it is. We should be reticent to associate it strongly with yet another one – in this instance, a morally vicious speciesism, so called. I suggest that it is most unwise for theists to concede, as Harrison does, that all other explanations of evolutionary animal suffering fail abjectly, so that the neo-Cartesian theory merits acceptance by deductive default.27 I suggest that it is very unwise to put the truth of theism in this vulnerable position. And I suspect we are better off offering no explanation of Darwinian evil at all than to make theism depend on belief that the unreality of animal suffering is plausible. Furthermore, and finally, even some supporters of neo-Cartesian theory caution against taking the theory into realms of positive ethical practice. Carruthers proposes that the theory ought not to be taken outside seminar rooms in the philosophy of minds into our actual treatment of animals in various morally relevant settings, where one places the

25

26

27

Stephen R. L. Clark, “Animals,” in The Routledge Companion to Theism, ed. Charles Taliaferro, Victoria S. Harrison, and Stewart Goetz (New York: Routledge, 2013), 532. See the fascinating, if somewhat overtly hostile history of animal industries in David A. Nibert, Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013). Peter Harrison, “God and Animal Minds: A Response to Lynch,” Sophia 35, no. 2 (1996): 67–78; esp., 70–77. Interestingly, Descartes’s most gifted follower, Nicolas Malebranche (1638–1715), argued along this very same line. See Donald Rutherford, “Malebranche’s Theodicy,” in The Cambridge Companion to Malebranche, ed. Steven Nadler (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 176–77.

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welfare of animals at the risk of our being wrong about their nonsuffering.28 Similarly, after supporting the plausibility of neo-Cartesian theory in some versions for use in theodicy, Murray gives this moral caveat. “Inasmuch as we do not know that animals never suffer, it would be morally reckless to act as if we did.”29 I think this is wise advice for ethics. Perhaps this wisdom should also extend to our theological and partly ethical practice of theodicy. There is, nevertheless, at least one positive insight that we may perhaps mine from neo-Cartesian arguments. It is that human and nonhuman minds almost certainly differ markedly from each other in how they process suffering in subjectively emotional terms. I do not wish to press the point very far. However, it seems plausible that in the absence of deep-past memory and deep-future vision – mental conditions for high-order contemplation and meaning making – the subjective experience of suffering by animals may not be as emotionally complex and “deep” as human suffering very often is, and arguably at least, not as morally bad. I will revisit this thought in Chapter 10, where we consider the canonical Jewish and Christian doctrine of the imago Dei, or “image of God.” According to this doctrine, human beings have categorically greater value than whatever value nonhuman beings may have. On this doctrine, neo-Cartesian theory may provide some support for seeing animal suffering as less important morally than it is on socalled Species Egalitarianism – the thesis that the value of all species is the same. If so, it may help to reduce the severity of the Darwinian Problem to a considerable extent. For now, however, I ask readers to keep that thought on hold. In any event, for the rest of this book, my unqualified assumption will be that the apparent animal suffering in view is real and counts as a serious instance of evil in the world. So I submit that the Darwinian Problem is quite real and must be faced by theists rather than avoided by means of neo-Cartesian skepticism. Meanwhile, let us consider the second skeptical strategy for getting around the Darwinian Problem rather than taking it head on. Skeptical Theism is the common label for an approach that is perhaps favored by a majority of theists in the conversation. It is not hard to see why.

28

29

Peter Carruthers, “Why the Question of Animal Consciousness Might Not Matter Very Much,” Philosophical Psychology 18, no. 1, (February 2005): 83–102. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 70.

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skeptical theism: god’s thoughts are not our thoughts The main thesis that all the versions of Skeptical Theism have in common is that human beings are in no epistemic position to make the judgment that apparently gratuitous evil really is gratuitous.30 Stephen Wykstra pioneered the skeptical theistic approach in his writings contra Rowe. In later years, Michael Bergmann has contributed his own distinctively different version of Skeptical Theism.31 The core of Wykstra’s argument is what he calls CORNEA, an acronym for the Condition of Reasonable Epistemic Access, according to which not seeing certain things is simply intrinsic to the object in question – not seeing the cold virus in a room, for instance, or (so Wykstra) fleas in one’s garage. In such “no-seeum” cases, we may not properly infer that the object does not exist. So it is, according to Wykstra, with God’s reasons for a great many evils. God’s omniscient reasons for those evils are simply not “seeable” by the comparatively puny minds of human beings. Wykstra explains that just as a human infant or even an older child (Wykstra’s most recent formulation) lacks the capacity to comprehend the complex reasons a wise and loving parent has for allowing him/her to suffer, we human beings very likely lack the capacity to comprehend the reasons that God has for allowing a great many evils. Hence, the major premise – that gratuitous evils almost certainly exist – is unjustified, and so Rowe’s whole argument collapses. Bergmann defends his version of Skeptical Theism along simpler lines. He offers three “skeptical theses”:32 ST1: We have no good reason for thinking that the possible goods we know of are representative of the possible goods there are. 30

31

32

John DePoe gives a useful account of differing versions of Skeptical Theism in John M. DePoe, “On the Epistemological Framework for Skeptical Theism,” in Skeptical Theism: New Essays, ed. Trent Dougherty and Justin P. McBrayer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 32–44. The approach is aimed primarily at Rowe’s argument, but on Skeptical Theism and Draper, see Timothy Perrine and Stephen J. Wykstra, “Skeptical Theism, Abductive Atheology, and ‘Theory Versioning,’” 142‒63. Draper’s reply to Perrine and Wykstra is in Paul Draper, “Meet the New Skeptical Theism, Same as the Old Skeptical Theism,” 164–77. The running debate between Wykstra and Rowe began in 1983 and continued to unfold for almost twenty years. Stephen J. Wykstra, “Rowe’s Noseeum Arguments from Evil,” in The Evidential Argument from Evil, ed. Howard-Snyder, 126–50. William L. Rowe, “The Evidential Argument from Evil: A Second Look,” 262–85. Michael Bergmann, “Skeptical Theism and Rowe’s New Evidential Argument from Evil,” Noûs 35, no. 2 (2001): 278–96.

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If any of these “skeptical theses” is true, Bergmann contends, then Rowe’s inference is unwarranted and his argument has no secure grounds on which to stand. These brief summaries suffice for me to explain my reluctance to accept Skeptical Theism. I am reluctant for two main reasons. My first reason is the impropriety of the parent-child analogy as employed by Wykstra. The primary problem is that, while the cognitive chasm between God and human beings is no doubt vast, canonical theistic tradition nevertheless contains a constellation of theological and moral teachings that weigh against employing this analogy in explanation. According to biblical sources, God has given myriad exhortations, warnings, and commands, and various doctrinal explanations (consider New Testament explications of topics like justification, faith, and the atonement, for instance) that presuppose adult cognitive capacities for comprehension. In that light, it seems almost obviously true that, if God can enable human beings to understand those complex things, then God could fairly easily make the reasons for evils comprehensible, too, at least to an extent that would provide some reassuring light to people suffering desolately in the dark. So it seems that for Skeptical Theism to be plausible, we must assume that, for some reason, God wills not to reveal those reasons and to leave us in that desolate condition instead. Is that scenario of total divine silence plausible on theism? On this difficult question – the plausibility of divine silence on reasons for evils – I defer again to Dougherty, who concludes that the scenario is implausible, particularly for Christian theism, framed spiritually as it is by belief in God’s parental love for human beings.34 For it seems that when it comes to the most serious evils, silence would not be the preferred posture of a parentally loving God. On this analysis, then, I suggest with Dougherty that if the God of canonical theism exists, then some sort of

33 34

Bergmann, “Skeptical Theism and Rowe’s New Evidential Argument from Evil,” 279. Trent Dougherty, “Reconsidering the Parent Analogy: Unfinished Business for Skeptical Theists,” The International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 72, no. 1 (2012): 17–25.

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God-justifying and faith supportive explanation must be available, if only we look for it in the right way. Notice that my assertion is not that this explanation must be complete, or transparent, or even more probable than not on the moral conditions that we apply to the relevant evidence. Later on, we will entertain good reasons that God might have for withholding complete rational clarity on the “why” of evils. I am asserting, however, that an explanation should be available, and that it should be one that rational people can consider plausible enough to believe. The main impetus for writing this book, in fact, is to search for such a God-justifying, faith-supporting way of “seeing” Darwinian evil with eyes of canonical theistic faith.35 To conclude my comments on Skeptical Theism, however, I have one last reason to resist employing it in accounts of God and evil. I already raised the source of my objection in Chapter 2. I expressed agreement with Rowe’s judgment that his P1 – that there exist evils that the God of theism could have prevented without causing something worse – is true in a non-inferential, commonsense prima facie fashion that merits initial respect, and ought to stand unless overridden by commensurately strong evidence.36 Several times by now, I have indicated my intent to depart from conventional employment of the Necessity Condition (Rowe’s P2) in God-justifying accounts of evil.

disengagement from the necessity condition To reinforce this disengagement, let us substitute the Poinars’ dying dinosaur in the late Cretaceous for Rowe’s emblematic case of the fawn and then apply his judgment to this case of strongly apparent gratuitous evil, instead: It seems quite unlikely that all the instances of intense suffering occurring daily in our world are intimately related to the occurrence of greater goods or the prevention of evils at least as bad; and even more unlikely, should they somehow all be so related, that an omnipotent, omniscient being could not have achieved at least 35

36

William Alston supports Skeptical Theism, but does so in the light of diverse logically possible positive explanations of evil that (so I suppose) moderate the degree of theistic skepticism required. William P. Alston, “Some (Temporarily) Final Thoughts on Evidential Arguments from Evil,” 311. Dougherty pursues this commonsense line of criticism against Skeptical Theism. His essay, “The Commonsense Problem of Evil,” is as yet unpublished, but is discussed in detail by Chris Tweedt, “Defusing the Commonsense Problem of Evil,” Faith and Philosophy (2015): 1–15.

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some of those goods (or prevented some of those evils) without permitting the instances of intense suffering that are supposedly related to them.37

On ordinary common sense, it seems exceedingly implausible that the supremely powerful and wise God of theism was impotent to prevent the horrific experience of this poor prehistoric beast without achieving sufficiently valuable evolutionary goods. In Rowe’s own words, reapplied to this case: “the idea that none of this suffering could have been prevented by an omnipotent being without thereby losing a greater good or permitting an evil at least as bad seems an extraordinarily absurd idea.”38 I suggest that for this instance of evil, and billions of others like it, we reasonably suspect that if theism is true, there is some other God-justifying explanation than the one required by Rowe’s P2, the so-called Necessity Condition. However, if not the Necessity Condition, which participants in the controversy commonly employ in their arguments, then what moral norm should we think does apply to the agency of God in authorizing evils? Is there a morally plausible way to picture God authorizing such seemingly random and gratuitous suffering by animals even though authorizing it was not necessary in Rowe’s prescriptive sense of the term? If authorizing such evil was not necessary, then what moral justification could there possibly be for doing so? In Chapter 4, I will give my answer to that crucial skeptical question, and I will clarify the moral and epistemic standards that I will employ in the discussion going forward.

37 38

Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” 5. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” 5.

4 Making a “Case for God” (a Causa Dei)

I may assert Eternal Providence, And justify the ways of God to men. John Milton1

In Chapter 3, I proposed that for a God-justifying account of evil – a theodicy – to succeed, it seems that one must depart from conventional employment of the Necessity Condition. This condition stipulates that for a person to be morally justified in authorizing the occurrence of evil, it must be absolutely necessary for the person to do so. I have explained why it seems most unlikely that in authorizing evolutionary evils in the animal realm God has met this stringent moral condition. However, I left off with the question, if this Darwinian configuration of animal suffering was not necessary for God to authorize in creating species, then what moral justification for doing so could there be? Rowe contends that there is none, and that the occurrence of evils that are gratuitous in that sense creates strong evidential grounds for atheism. In the main part of this chapter, I will propose that this widely accepted way of thinking about divine moral agency is wrong. I will propose that theists need not believe that in authorizing evils, God was bound by necessity of this absolute kind, but might well have acted according to another moral standard when creating species by Darwinian means. I will seek to show that this proposal is not nearly as implausible as it perhaps first seems.

1

John Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. John A. Himes (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2005), Book I, lines 25–26.

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I will begin this chapter by looking at Murray’s account of the moral or ethical justificatory conditions that participants in the conversation almost universally employ. I will then turn to the alternative approach that Roderick Chisholm advised theists to adopt instead. Further, in taking Chisholm’s advice, I will follow the lead of Marilyn McCord Adams, who employed his recommended approach to the aesthetic aspects of the problem in her monumental treatments of God and “horrendous” evil in the human realm. By applying Chisholm’s counsel on moral norms to the aesthetic aspect of the Darwinian Problem of animal suffering, my thesis on “horrendous evil” in the nonhuman realm is a sort of sequel to her anthropocentric account. In the last part of the chapter, I will consider Murray’s advice on which epistemic criteria to apply to a God-justifying account – the criteria that determine the degree of certainty that we think a God-justifying account must have to have in order to qualify as warranted, or justified, on rational grounds. I will adopt his recommendation that to succeed, one’s account must at least be as plausible as not overall. I will also add another criterion, mentioned several times by now. One’s account must include a perspective in which to “see” divine power and goodness in the midst of the Darwinian evil unveiled and thereby help to restore “theistic sight,” which Darwinism often obscures and displaces with a strongly atheistic sense of “not God” instead.

god-justifying moral conditions Murray observes that the majority of thinkers taking part in the controversy accept three moral conditions that all moral persons – including God – must meet in order to be justified in authorizing evils. The commonly accepted moral conditions are (A) the Necessity Condition, (B) the Outweighing Condition, and (C) the Rights Condition. We have already explained the Necessity Condition. The other two are almost selfexplanatory. The Outweighing Condition simply requires that the evil one authorizes must be outweighed, or at least balanced off, by the resultant forthcoming good. The Rights Condition simply requires that the person be in a position that confers the right to authorize evils (when necessary) in the first place. As discussed in Chapter 3, it seems unlikely that in authorizing the configuration of Darwinian evil, as unveiled, God met the Necessity Condition. On its face, at least, the notion that an omnipotent and omniscient God was impotent to create a sufficiently good world by some

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other less randomly wasteful and brutal means seems (as Rowe suggested) just absurd. We will come to attempts to counteract this initial reaction, and we will see that some of them make very valuable contributions to the cause of theism in the controversy. However, I will have to conclude that the defenses of the “only-way” intuition are unconvincing, in the end. I will discuss Chisholm’s proposed alternative to the Necessity Condition momentarily. Continuing with the justificatory conditions, though, the Darwinian configuration of goods and evils also makes it hard to accept that God has met, or will meet, the Outweighing Condition. Indeed, the axiological judgment of assigning “value-weights” is inherently uncertain. Does a human person have more value-weight than a star, for instance? Does an avocado have less value-weight than a cow? Does the emergence of Homo sapiens together with an array of surviving nonhuman species outweigh the loss of billions of nonhuman individuals, thousands of species, and most of the epochal “worlds” that ever existed on earth? I will try to deal with these perplexing questions mainly on canonical Christian grounds. I am not sure that any purely non-religious philosophical axiology is stable enough to answer them very well. At any rate, in a moment, I will explain how Chisholm’s alternative helps to improve the chances that God can meet the Outweighing Condition, too, despite the vast imbalance between evolutionary goods and evils currently in view. Finally, as for the Rights Condition, I concur with the majority of participants in the controversy who accept the assumption that God is a personal moral being, i.e., that God is not amoral, or trans-moral, or “beyond morality” in the sense that God, qua God, has absolute rightful freedom to do anything and then to deem the action by divine command to be morally good no matter what it is. In other words, I reject so-called Divine Command Theory, according to which moral goodness and evil are not properties that exist independently from God’s irreducibly rightful commands. I understand moral goodness and badness to be intrinsic to beliefs, actions, and states of affairs independently from the commands of God, at least as normally understood, i.e., as moral utterances. Nevertheless, I will also contend that God – at least as depicted in canonical theism – is not constrained by all the ethical conditions that we rightly impose on ordinary (non-divine) persons. For instance, as already indicated, I suggest that the Necessity Condition rightly applies to the moral agency of ordinary persons, but that it does not apply in the same way to the extraordinary moral agency – and rightful moral position – of God.

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So if not the Necessity Condition and its moral implications, what moral condition, if any, must God meet in order to be justified morally in authorizing evils? Further, what bearing does this alternative approach to moral justification have on the other conventional justificatory conditions? We now come to the answer that Chisholm gave and to the advice he preferred that theists writing God-justifying accounts would take.

chisholm: the defeat of evils In “The Defeat of Good and Evil,” Chisholm made a (for him) rare appearance in the analytical debate over God and evil.2 He expressed extreme doubt that God-justifying accounts of evil could be plausible so long as theists argued in the way they were typically doing – by trying to show that even for God, allowing evils was necessary for some reason. Chisholm proposed instead that to be justified in causing and/or allowing evils, God must only defeat the evils. To “defeat” evil, Chisholm explained, one must bring it about that the evil is integrated into a complex whole that is not only good in a degree that outweighs the evil, but could not be good in that degree without the evil part. In that outcome, the evil is still an evil – the thought is not the perverse one that the evil is now a good – but it becomes part of what makes the great good of the integrated whole possible. In that instance, then, causing and/or allowing – authorizing – the evil is morally justified. Chisholm gives the example of someone who faces fear (an evil) by mustering courage (a great, complex good), so that the complex moral whole – courage in the face of fear – defeats the evil part (and perhaps partly defeats the evil sources of the fear, whatever they are).3 One might add the example of someone who is sad (an evil) about the misfortune of a friend (an evil), so that the sadness becomes an essential part of intense empathy and compassion (very great, complex goods that rely on the evil of sadness for their goodness). The complex whole of empathetic compassion thereby defeats the evil of sadness (and perhaps it also partly defeats the evil of the friend’s misfortune). A good many parental examples also come to mind, such as allowing a child to suffer anxiety 2

3

Roderick M. Chisholm, “The Defeat of Good and Evil,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association 42 (1968–69): 21–38. Revised by the author and cited in Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams, eds., The Problem of Evil (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 53–68. Chisholm, “The Defeat of Good and Evil,” 60–61.

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(an evil) about passing an exam in order to make possible a sense of authentic achievement (a complex good), the complex goodness of which would be impossible without the evil part. In human moral affairs, it is perhaps relatively rare for persons to be in a rightful position to cause and/or allow evils with the intention of seeing the evils defeated in such a fashion. And the more horrific the evils, the less such moral freedom ordinary moral agents rightfully have. However, Chisholm’s thought seems to be that an omnipotent and omniscient God would always be in that rightful position, because for such a God, we imagine that virtually any evil would be defeatable, i.e., within God’s power to defeat, as defined.4 So in the event that God defeats an evil, the Rights Condition and the Outweighing Condition are both automatically met at the same time. Further, the irony is that in retrospect, the forthcoming whole that defeats the evil actually makes us strangely grateful that the evil occurred, bad as it was. Chisholm suggests that in retrospect, it might seem that it would actually have been malevolent on God’s part had God not authorized it, but had prevented it instead.5 One thinks immediately of the horrific evil that God authorized to be inflicted on Jesus. Knowledgeable Christians do not venerate the horror of his crucifixion as a good thing, but in retrospect, it is the greatly good whole that allegedly defeats that evil – the complex good of divine redemption for the world – that prompts Christians to thank God for having authorized it, horrific as the evil of the crucifixion was. In defeating it, God has not made the evil into a good, but has, ironically, turned the evil into a good-making part of the larger redemptive whole. I will revisit this point in Chapter 10 when discussing the bearing of certain canonical Christian doctrines on the Darwinian Problem, so I encourage readers to make note of it and keep it in mind. At any rate, I suggest that we can now reduce all the justificatory requirements listed by Murray to a single one: the Defeat Condition. Placed in our context, then, the justificatory rule follows: God is justified morally in authorizing the configuration of Darwinian evil that has

4

5

Perhaps some evils would be too bad even for God to defeat – they would be inherently undefeatable – but we reasonably imagine that such instances of evil would be rare, and that no evil in the existing world clearly warrants that classification, although some evils are so extremely bad that we suppose only an omnipotent and omniscient God could defeat them. Chisholm, “The Defeat of Good and Evil,” 61, 67.

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been unveiled in the event that God defeats that evil. Readers should keep that change of justificatory conditions in mind during the rest of the discussion. Further, though, Chisholm suggested yet another change that theists taking part in the God-and-evil controversy might make. It is to make a conceptual shift from the conventional ethical-agent analogue for God to an aesthetic one – to an analogue of God as Artist. Together with adoption of the Defeat Condition, this shift from a narrowly ethical picture of God in authorizing evils to an aesthetic analogy is the most important feature of my approach in the book.

an aesthetic (rather than strictly ethical) analogue: god as artist The typical analogue for God employed in God-justifying accounts is narrowly ethical. Writers typically picture God, in the course of deciding to authorize evils, as strongly analogous to an ordinary moral person who is subject to certain conventional ethical norms, such as the Necessity Condition. Chisholm suggested, however, not only that the condition for the defeat of evil might be appropriate to this case, but also that an aesthetic analogue might have more God-justifying force than is possible on a narrowly ethical depiction. So Chisholm: “A certain combination of paints may be ugly. This combination may be entailed by a larger whole that is not ugly or that is even beautiful. And the larger whole may be preferable aesthetically just because of the ugliness of the part that is ugly.”6 Chisholm did not elaborate on this provocative point. However, initially at least, there are good grounds for suspecting strongly that we should not go in this aesthetic-moral direction. I want to avoid confusion in advance. Should we imagine God as a celestial artist who uses his living subjects as mere instrumental means to the great beauty of his cosmic work of art? To be quite clear: I consider any such depiction of God as essentially amoral to be unacceptable not just on theological and moral grounds, but on aesthetic grounds, too. In Chapters 8‒10, I will develop and employ an analogue of God as Artist that does not produce this unfortunate picture of God, morality, and cosmic art, as some (perhaps most) versions of Aesthetic Theodicy have done. 6

Chisholm, “The Defeat of Good and Evil,” 61.

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Chisholm himself did not develop a God-justifying view of God and evil. He expressed doubt that such explanations could get very far: Is it at least logically possible with respect to the evil that does exist that that evil is defeated? The most the theodicist has a right to say, I believe, is that it is epistemically possible. It may be, for all we know, that the evil in the world is defeated by some state of affairs that is absolutely good. And it may also be, for all we know, that the goodness of the world is defeated by some state of affairs that is absolutely evil.7

So for Chisholm, it seemed that theists must resign themselves to falling back on the bare epistemic possibility that an omnipotent and omniscient God can, and therefore will, defeat the world’s evils. Can one reasonably offer something more positive than this mere epistemic possibility? In commenting on Skeptical Theism, I have already suggested that I suspect so. I suggested that on the parental picture of God in Christian theism, at any rate, one is warranted in searching somewhat hopefully for God-justifying answers to our instinctive human question – Why? I believe Murray’s treatment of epistemic criteria for success in theodicy puts us on the right track in the course of doing so.

epistemic conditions: making a “case for god” According to customary definitions, the most ambitious epistemic approach to the problem of God and evil is to offer a positive “theodicy.” Leibniz coined the term, which, as explained in the Introduction, comes from the Greek words theos, ¯ for “God,” and diké, or “justice.” The goal of a theodicy is, in Milton’s famous phrase, to “justify the ways of God to men,” so as to show that despite appearances, God is indeed justified morally in authorizing the evils that exist in the world. In a full theodicy, one makes claim to know what God’s reasons for authorizing evils are.8 Many participants in the God-and-evil conversation, however, concur with David Lewis’s assessment that to pull off a successful theodicy is just “too hard.”9

7 8

9

Chisholm, “The Defeat of Good and Evil,” 68. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil, ed. Austin Farrer, tr. E. M. Huggard (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015). Leibniz’s original edition was published in 1710. David Lewis, “Evil for Freedom’s Sake?” Philosophical Papers 22 (1993): 149–72; 152.

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Some writers, like Chisholm, recommend going to the opposite epistemic extreme. The least ambitious approach is to offer a “defense,” in which one maintains merely that one’s God-justifying account is logically possible, i.e., that the scenario of God and evil that one offers contains no explicit or implicit logical contradiction. According to Peter van Inwagen, in a defense, which is what he offers, as we shall see, one tells a story explaining why God allows evils to exist. In his judgment, a defense is successful in the event that the story one tells is just possible in a “‘broadly logical sense’ – or which is such that there is no reason to believe that it is impossible in the broadly logical sense.”10 A defense at least protects theism against the accusation that belief in God is illogical and so, in that sense, positively irrational.11 However, while preventing this disastrous conclusion is valuable, critics often complain that mere epistemic defenses do not offer satisfying answers to our human questions. They most certainly do not enable us to “see” very far into the darkness of evil, if at all. Their authors have no intention of helping to restore positive “theistic sight.” Understandably, then, some authors of God-justifying accounts adopt approaches that fall somewhere in between these epistemic extremes. Unfortunately, however, as Murray observes, “Those who have tried to find a middle way between defense and theodicy are not in complete agreement about what is necessary.”12 David Lewis, for instance, proposed that we need “hypotheses that are at least somewhat plausible, at least to the Christian.”13 Somewhat less ambitiously, van Inwagen proposes that the theist must tell a story, “a story according to which God and suffering of the sort contained in the actual world both exist, and which is such that. . .there is no reason to think that it is false, a story that is not surprising on the hypothesis that God exists.”14 Murray, however, judges even the epistemic standards of “somewhat plausible” and of “not surprising” as somewhat “too high.” He points out that any such story is

10

11

12 13

14

Peter van Inwagen, “The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence,” in The Evidential Argument from Evil, ed. Daniel Howard-Snyder (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), 156. John Mackie claimed that the existence of evil enabled one to prove that theism is “positively irrational.” J. L. Mackie, “Evil and Omnipotence,” Mind 64 (1955): 200–12. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 38. David Lewis, “Evil for Freedom’s Sake?” 152; cited in Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 38. van Inwagen, “The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence,” 156.

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almost bound to leave us with some good reason to think any such account is implausible.15 So what is one to do? Murray recommends that “the theist may freely admit that she is not aware of any plausible hypotheses which turn back the evidential challenge.”16 Nevertheless, he proposes, “there might be a variety of reasons [for evils] which are. . .true for all she knows. . ..”17 He proposes, then, that such reasons “would not fairly count as plausible (nor implausible) but rather as as plausible as not, overall.”18 This is the epistemic standard that Murray encourages disputants on both sides to accept, and for the purpose of argument in this book, I will accept it, too. In the light of this analysis, then, Murray proposes that a Godjustifying account succeeds in the event that one is “not justified or warranted in rejecting this epistemic possibility in light of the totality of the claims [s/he] justifiably accepts.”19 This criterion may seem at first to be too indeterminate. In his review of Murray’s book, Mylan Engel, Jr., observes that the recommended standard “introduces a relativistic element to Murray’s approach.”20 However, Engel grants that on consideration of all the variables involved in God-and-evil accounts, significant epistemic relativism may be inevitable. Murray himself admits that his way of setting standards requires accepting that “the task of deflecting the evidential worries raised by evil can look quite different depending on one’s starting point, varying as we vary which claims one reasonably accepts and which claims the reasonable acceptances warrant one in rejecting.”21 He promises, then, to offer explanations that he hopes are warranted on “a common set of justified acceptances endorsed by individuals who are reasonably well-educated in matters of contemporary philosophy and science.”22 Nevertheless, he correctly concedes that in some instances, the “differences in justified acceptances will fall along the very lines that divide theists and nontheists.”23 He is willing to live with the epistemic reality that “the task of 15 16 17 18 19 20

21 22 23

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 38–39. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 38. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 38. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 38. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 39. Italics mine. Mylan Engel, Jr., “Nature Red in Tooth and Claw” in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2009). ndpr.nd.edu/news/23930-nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw-theism-and-theproblem-of-animal-suffering/. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 39. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 39. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 39.

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explaining evil might divide into two different tasks: preserving reasonable belief in God in the face of evil (for theists), on the one hand, and showing that evil does not provide evidence sufficient to make it reasonable to deny theism (for the nontheist), on the other.”24 So Murray: “Some explanations might be successful at one task, some at the other, and some at both.”25 At any rate, Murray’s epistemic standard allows room for the approach I will take in this book. My limited aim will be to provide a sufficiently plausible God-justifying account of Darwinian evil on the assumptions of canonical Christian theism – theism that is shaped by historic canonical texts and doctrines. My aim will be to offer an account that is as plausible as not overall, i.e., on the evidence relevant to Darwinian evils suffered by animals, and on canonical Christian theism as reasonably understood, sometimes freshly so, in the light of recent historical and literary biblical scholarship. As I indicated earlier, however, I am adding the proviso that the account must not only be acceptable in a purely rational sense, but must also offer a perspective on the relevant evils in which one can begin to “see” the active presence of divine power and goodness amid the evils themselves. I will seek to help with restoration of “theistic sight” by employing an aesthetic analogue of God as Artist and the Darwinian World as analogous to a work of art rather than to a meticulously ethical project. I will seek to show that in a certain sort of aesthetic perspective (to be specified, of course), the configuration of Darwinian evils in the Darwinian World becomes considerably more plausible than when viewed in ordinary ethical terms. There is of course a great deal left to explain, particularly how the aesthetic features of the Darwinian World that I identify can be pertinent to the essentially moral problem of justification. I have already suggested that the morally valuable aesthetics of tragedy and horror will be a key to this connection. I am also adopting Murray’s label for an account that operates on the epistemic standard he recommends – that it be as plausible as not on our rational acceptances and on a rationally acceptable version of theism. He borrows the label from the end of Theodicy, where Leibniz included a subsection with the title “De Causa Dei,” “a phrase adapted from juridical contexts referring to the case offered at trial on behalf of a defendant’s

24 25

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 39. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 39.

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innocence.”26 Murray explains: “Such a case is offered. . .‘on behalf of X’s innocence in light of the evidence.’”27 I find this terminology useful. I will assess the prevailing God-justifying approaches by that standard, and in due course, I will offer my own causa Dei based in part on an appeal to the great value of certain religiously distinctive – canonically Christian christological and soteriological – forms of beauty. As promised, however, I will first examine the God-justifying approaches that prevail in the contemporary disputation. I will begin with attempts by contemporary Christian thinkers to salvage traditional Lapsarian Theodicy from the seemingly irreparable damage of contemporary criticism.

26 27

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 40. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 40.

5 Animal Suffering and the Fall Lapsarian Theodicy

Farewell happy Fields Where Joy for ever dwells: Hail horrors, hail Infernal world. John Milton1

losing “paradise lost” Pre-modern Christian theologians typically explained natural evils in the light of the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2‒3. They commonly taught that evil things occurring in nature were not part of the original “very good” creation of God, but originated from a curse that followed as part of God’s stern judgment against the first human beings, who despite enjoying a delightful existence in paradise – Eden – sinned against God instead. This sad story of a world-ruinous Fall – “paradise lost” – then functioned in part as a theodicy, in which one placed all blame for natural evil on the first human (and perhaps also angelic) beings, and none on God.2 1 2

John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I, lines 249–51. Not all theologians of antiquity used the story as a theodicy. Irenaeus (c. 130‒c. 202 CE), for instance, surmised that Adam and Eve must have been immature, childlike in their naïve innocence, so that their disobedience was in a sense excusable. The matter of moral causation in Irenaeus’s overall understanding of creation, the Fall, and redemption might suggest that God planned the Fall in order to prepare the way for the incarnation and atonement of Christ. See Matthew Craig Steenberg, Irenaeus on Creation: The Cosmic Christ and the Saga of Redemption (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2008). Lapsarian Theodicy, however, was very commonplace in the Catholic and Protestant West. Calvin’s view, cited here, is indeed typical of theologians in European Christian tradition.

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Murray cites John Calvin’s comments on Romans 8:19–22 as a typical pre-modern formulation of traditional Lapsarian Theodicy, as I will refer to it (again, from the Latin, lapsus, or “fall”): For in the sad disorder which followed the fall of Adam, the whole machinery of the world would have instantly become deranged, and all its parts would have failed had not some hidden strength supported them. . .. It is appropriate then for us to consider what a dreadful curse we have deserved, since all created things, both on earth and in the invisible heavens, which are in themselves blameless, undergo punishment for our sins; for it has come about that they are liable to corruption not through their own fault. Thus the condemnation of mankind is imprinted on the heavens, and on the earth, and on all creatures.3

Calvin insinuated that the God-justifying reason for natural evils is pedagogical: our own condemned human condition has been imprinted on the whole cosmos, and on all living creatures, so that in the suffering of innocent creatures, we can see ourselves as guilty and deservedly accursed before God. Calvin could invoke this story of a “paradise lost” in the midsixteenth century without fear of criticism from his educated peers. However, as Murray observes, by the early seventeenth century, learned people were already growing skeptical, especially due to the findings in the nascent science of geology.4 Analytical critique of the Fall story is not unprecedented in Christian theological tradition. The pioneering “modernist” theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) wrote a devastating theological critique of the traditional account, quite apart from evidence arising against it in the new sciences.5 In fact, the main aim of this chapter is to show that we have good analytical-theological grounds, besides the evolutionary-scientific ones, for abandoning Lapsarian Theodicy. Instead of “paradise lost,” a majority of scientifically educated people in our time adopt the Darwinian theory of natural selection and, with it,

3

4 5

Cited in Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 79, from John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, tr. John Owen (1849). Taken from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom38.xii.vi.html. See Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 79. Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith, ed. H. R. Mackintosh and J. S. Stewart (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1928, 1968), originally published in 1830. For his comprehensive theological critique of the traditional story of the Fall, see section 72, 291–304.

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the unveiling of “evil inscribed,” the reality that so-called natural evil is not incidental to nature, but intrinsic to its systemic design. It might seem clear, then, that theists who endorse Darwinian evolutionary theory – “evolutionary theists,” or “evolutionary creationists” – must face the fact, as stated succinctly by Creegan, that the Darwinian picture of nature “undermines the grammar of the most widely used theodicy, that of Adam and Eve and a sudden rupture with paradise in the fall of humankind.”6 Nevertheless, some serious Christian thinkers endorse both Darwinian evolution and Lapsarian Theodicy, and the lapsarian account of natural evil remains widespread in many conservative Christian institutions, if not in the mainstream Christian academy. So despite the fact that Lapsarian Theodicy seems to be exposed by Darwinism as antiquated, I think a chapter on the approach is still warranted, if mainly to explain why it ought to be abandoned. Readers should also be advised that Lapsarian Theodicy is exceedingly hard to pin down for assessment, because it exists in so very many different hermeneutical versions, which vary both in how the author handles the biblical text, on the one hand, and in the assessment of evolutionary science, on the other. Just to survey them all would require an entire book, so I refer readers to the works of others who have written comprehensively on the subject.7 For the sake of simplicity, I will focus this discussion on what I suggest are generic objections to Lapsarian Theodicy, i.e., in the sense that they undermine Lapsarian Theodicy in all its versions, no matter what the underlying assumptions are about Genesis and science. These objections, then, are non-scientific in nature. They are instead analytical objections to this God-justifying approach. At the end of this chapter, I will deal briefly with the apparent canonical authorization of Lapsarian Theodicy in Genesis 2–3, and I will begin developing the thesis that, contrary to common assumptions, canonical scripture does not support Lapsarian Theodicy as unequivocally as commonly believed, and surprisingly, may actually undermine it.

6 7

Creegan, Animal Suffering and the Problem of Evil, 98. I recommend the old but still very valuable comprehensive study of Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1954). I also recommend the more up-to-date survey by Deborah B. Haarsma and Loren D. Haarsma, Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, and Evolution (Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive, 2007). Murray also comments comprehensively on diverse biblical renderings of the Fall. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 73–106.

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non-scientific “generic” objections Murray identifies four major objections to Lapsarian Theodicy – or Fall CDs (causae Dei), as he calls them. The first objection he discusses is that Lapsarian Theodicy has no plausible way to account for preAdamic animal pain. For the sake of brevity, I will not examine the imaginative theories designed to solve this temporal problem. I will leave it to readers to explore William Dembski’s “trans-temporal” understanding of the Fall, for instance. He likens the effects of the Fall to the redemptive scope of the atonement, which Christians believe extended redemption to people in all times and places.8 Likewise, I will not examine Gregory Boyd’s proposal that the cause of natural evil was a Satanic Fall that preceded the existence of humanity.9 According to this account, God gave angelic beings freedom to manipulate natural laws, even to the extent of taking part in creation of the natural realm itself, and they abused this freedom by exceedingly wicked means. Whether these theories solve the chronological problem of pre-human animal pain or not, I submit that the generic objections we are about to consider undermine them. For these objections are aimed at the underlying alleged lapsarian event itself, regardless of its supposed time frame. They stand to expose the occurrence of such an episode as extremely implausible. I will offer four generic objections based on the problems of (1) Original Cosmic Fragility, (2) Moral Impropriety, (3) Paradisiacal Motivation, and (4) Overvalued Freedom. I have followed Murray in citing problems (1) and (3), although I part ways with his assessment of the motivational problem identified in (3), and I have reformulated this objection, which I think is the most formidable of them all, along my own lines.

8

9

William A. Dembski, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2009). Gregory A. Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001). Among the most prominent such writers, Murray lists C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain, chapter 9; E. L. Mascall in Christian Theology and Natural Science (New York: Ronald Press, 1956), 301–2; and Alvin Plantinga in God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 57–59. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 99, note 27. Boyd discusses Lewis and Mascall. Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil, citing Stephen N. Williams, 526.

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I have slightly rephrased what Murray simply calls “the Fragility Objection,” which he states as follows: In order for moral wrongdoing to leave such catastrophic consequences in its wake it must be the case that God created things so that the integrity of the natural order was, in some important sense, initially dependent upon the integrity of the moral order. And this fact itself stands in need of some sort of explanation. If God were omniscient, he would surely know that the natural order was fragile in this way. Unless there is some reason why the fragility of nature is necessary, or why making it fragile in this way makes possible certain outweighing goods, the fragility of nature itself seems to be a puzzling defect in creation.10

The original fragility of the natural order implied by Lapsarian Theodicy is indeed hard to explain in a God-justifying fashion, especially since it ascribes the pre-conditional possibility for a world-ruinous Fall to God, who created the world in that fragile state by design. Murray rightly suggests that we would not normally expect an omniscient God to create such an easily breakable world. We would not expect a supremely wise God to create a world that would dramatically disintegrate at the first moral misstep of creatures who themselves were apparently also frail – only in a moral sense, and would thus (even apart from divine prescience) fail predictably, as they did. Murray contends, however, that this objection does not apply to a Satanic Fall. I will indicate in discussing objection (2), Moral Impropriety, why I strongly suspect that this judgment is wrong.11 Further, the prima facie implausibility of believing that in designing the world this way, God met the Necessity Condition, which Murray accepts, also looms large in this instance. To think that God met that condition, we have to think that no other sort of world – a less fragile or perhaps non-fragile world – was possible for the omnipotent and omniscient God to create. Again, in Chapter 6, we shall consider versions of the “onlyway” thesis, according to which God had no other alternatives in world making. I believe that, on examination, skepticism towards this thesis is vindicated, and we are best advised to search for some other Godjustifying explanation. Meanwhile, Murray also stresses the apparent moral implausibility that God designed the natural order to fracture in a Fall. For in this

10 11

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 83. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, esp. 99–100.

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scenario, God places every human and nonhuman being ever to exist at mortal risk of horrific harm caused by morally fragile first persons. Would a morally perfect God put innocent and defenseless human and nonhuman creatures – many billions of them – in that precarious sort of peril? So Murray: This is a serious challenge for Fall CDs [causae Dei], whether they endorse the reality of PAP [pre-Adamic pain and suffering] or not. What possible good reason could there be for creating the universe in such a way that the Fall of the first human pair could bring about a rewiring of brute nervous systems, thereby allowing for the possibility of pain and suffering?12

Murray suggests that the explanation might be somewhat plausible when it comes to human exposure to suffering, which he believes could be “explained either as direct results of continued human sinfulness, or as divine punishments of human beings for their sinfulness.”13 However, he writes: “Neither mode of explanation can be employed to explain the reality of animal pain and death.”14 It is very hard to see in this scenario how God has even remotely met the Outweighing Condition, especially for the animals themselves. This is the heart of the problem/objection to be considered next.

The Problem of (2) Moral Impropriety On its face, at least, it would seem that for God to unleash natural evil on any innocent animal, not to mention on all animals that would ever exist – in response to wrongs done by the first human (and perhaps also angelic) beings ‒ would be badly morally misplaced, an instance of moral inaptitude or impropriety in the unacceptable extreme. In The End of Christianity, Dembski faces this moral problem more forthrightly and in greater detail than anyone else I can find in print.15 Dembski rejects John Hick’s proposal that natural evils play a pedagogical part in “soul making,” because (so Dembski) many natural evils involve suffering that is much too horrific to serve as educational means.16 Dembski also rejects Gregory Boyd’s proposal that animal suffering in nature originated from the Fall of Satan and angels, who

12 13 14 15

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 83. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 83. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 83. Dembski, The End of Christianity, 43–46.

16

Dembski, The End of Christianity, 45.

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Boyd blames for the earthly ruin. Dembski contends not just that Genesis pins this ruin on the first human beings, but that for God to allow earthly animals to suffer because of evils done by heavenly superhuman beings would be morally unfitting, or improper.17 To be morally fitting, Dembski reasons, unleashing horrific suffering on animals must be linked ontologically somehow with wrongs done by fellow earthly beings, as the story of Genesis clearly shows that it was.18 However, even if a proper ontological connection exists between human beings and nonhuman beings, what God-justifying moral connection exists between them? Unlike humans, animals have done nothing morally wrong – or at least nothing culpably wrong. Later on, we will see that some animals arguably engage in a sort of proto-morality and protoimmorality, but not in the context of what we normally mean by genuine moral freedom of the sort that can generate culpability or moral blame for wrongdoing. So what makes for the moral propriety of God’s purported action? Dembski’s answer, like Calvin’s cited earlier, is that God has unleashed horrific suffering on animals for entirely anthropocentric reasons – in order “to free us from the more insidious evil in our hearts.”19 He replaces Hick’s analogy of nature as a “school,” in which humans are “educated” in the ways of “soul-making,” with the picture of nature as a “Bedlam,” a madhouse in which human beings are supposed to be shocked into realization of their abysmal moral condition. So Dembski: “Where Hicks [sic] offers a school, I offer an insane asylum.”20 He proposes that God employs horrific insanity in nature as something like shock therapy for sinful human beings: To achieve this clarity, humanity must experience the full brunt of the evil that we have set in motion, and this requires that the creation itself fully manifest the consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God. . .. In answer, then, to why a benevolent God would allow natural evil to afflict an otherwise innocent nature in response to human moral evil, we can say that it is to manifest the full consequences of human sin so that when Christ redeems us, we may clearly understand what we have been redeemed from.21

17

18 20

Dembski, The End of Christianity, 45. See Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, for a concise (sympathetic) treatment of this version of Lapsarian Theodicy, and for references to the few notable contemporary theists (not least Alvin Plantinga) who defend it as plausible, 96–101. 19 Dembski, The End of Christianity, 45. Dembski, The End of Christianity, 150. 21 Dembski, The End of Christianity, 45. Dembski, The End of Christianity, 44–45.

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But whence the vast vista of animal suffering that transpired in the prehuman planetary past? What redemptive/therapeutic good could it possibly do, since no humans were around to be moved by it? Unfortunately, it seems that Dembski’s answer only makes that matter of moral impropriety worse: To make us realize the full extent of human sin, God does not merely allow personal evils. . .to run their course subsequent to the Fall. In addition, God allows natural evils (e.g., death, predation, parasitism, disease, drought, floods, famines, earthquakes, and hurricanes) to run their course prior to the Fall.22

Does this seem like something the morally perfect God of Christian theism would do for this alleged anthropocentric reason? Unless all humans who would ever live become aware of the vast vista of evolutionary suffering via modern sciences (a good many people worldwide are still unaware of this scene of pre-human “Bedlam”), the suffering of the animals fails in its purpose, and seems just cruel. Dembski himself seems to have reservations along this line, too, for he breaks off into the rather odd hedge that perhaps we should not ascribe all the evolutionary evils to God, after all, but should rather place the blame for the worst of it on Satan. For instance, Dembski suggests that we almost have to ascribe the creation of things such as “vipers, viruses, and vermin” to Satan rather than directly to God.23 On this view Satan ravages the earth prior to the Fall but is permitted to do so because of his success in tempting the first humans. Dembski ventures the view that Satan, then, had license from God to create all sorts of nightmarish creatures: not only Darwin’s famous ichneumon, but also many “even nastier critters” that scientists have discovered. Otherwise, we would have to think that the God of love created the emerald cockroach wasp “which stings the brain of a cockroach twice, first turning it into a zombie and then into a vegetable.” And what of the toothpick fish, “which can swim up a urethra and, short of surgery or castration, be impossible to dislodge”? What of the type-three secretory system in certain bacteria? And then of course there is the infamous Angel of Death, Yersinia pestis. “In Yersinia pestis, the bubonic plague bacterium, this microsyringe served as a poison delivery system that killed a third of the population of Europe in 22

23

Dembski, The End of Christianity, 145. I will not discuss Dembski’s dubious theory of a “double creation,” according to which God, foreknowing the disobedient action of Adam and Eve, created the world described in Genesis 1 only in God’s mind, and created the inferior existing world in order to adapt the “script” to bad actors. See 107–12. Dembski, The End of Christianity, 146.

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the fourteenth century.”24 Dembski finds it hard to believe that God designed creatures such as these, but he admits that pushing responsibility onto the machinations of Satan does not get the permissive God off the moral hook, and that the admission is a “bitter pill” that one must swallow together with the hope of redemption it contains.25 So on this line of God-justifying analysis, one ascribes a very large part of the creation to the Devil rather than to God. How far should we go with this explanation? All the way to the Big Bang, which led to the molten core of the earth and causes of volcanoes and earthquakes? Dembski does not say. At any rate, his suggestion seems to call into serious question the traditional canonical teaching that, in the beginning and now, the whole creation has been and remains ontologically good.26 That matter notwithstanding, however, what moral propriety is there in allowing Satan to create such “anti-cosmic micro-monsters” and unleash them on defenseless animals? Dembski’s answer: God wills the disordering of creation not merely as a matter of justice (to bring judgment against human sin as required by God’s holiness) but, even more significantly, as a matter of redemption (to bring humanity to its senses by making us realize the gravity of sin).27

Dembski’s contemporary comment echoes Calvin’s opinion, cited earlier, that evil in nature exists to show human beings the extremity of our guilt before God. Does it resolve apparent conflict with moral propriety? I suggest that it obviously does not. I do not believe that I need to press the objection any further. It seems clear enough, I think, that we need a perspective on the pre-human history of Darwinian suffering that includes seeing God as good to the animals themselves.28 Going on, however, let us consider the generic objection based on the Problem of Paradisiacal Motivation. I believe that this objection stands to expose Lapsarian Theodicy as exceedingly implausible at its very core.

24 26

27 28

25 Dembski, The End of Christianity, 149. Dembski, The End of Christianity, 150. Sollereder has a similar criticism of this Satanic creation hypothesis. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 67. I suggest that the criticism applies also to Murray’s defense of a Satanic Fall as being as plausible as not on divine moral goodness. Among other reasons to reject the Satanic explanation, I submit that it is neither ontologically nor morally plausible enough. See Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 99–100. Dembski, The End of Christianity, 145. Sollereder has the same criticism of Dembski on this point. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 68.

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The Problem of (3) Paradisiacal Motivation Murray observes that this third problem indeed does threaten the very core of Lapsarian Theodicy, for it seems to belie “something incoherent about the very idea of the Fall itself.”29 Let me suggest, too, that the objection applies to either an angelic/Satanic or human Fall, as we shall see. The apparent incoherence is psychological. To accept the traditional theodicy, we have to believe it to be plausible – to use our standard, as plausible as not – that “the initial human pair fell from a paradisiacal state in which they were free and rational, enjoying the beatific vision and possessing everything a rational creature could want.”30 We must see it as acceptably plausible, then, that despite these conditions conducive to moral clarity and goodness, “Adam chose to pursue what he knew to be objectively evil.”31 We must wonder, then, how the motivation for doing anything morally wrong could have arisen, “especially knowing that choosing to do evil would dislodge him from his paradisiacal state.”32 On its face, the welling up of motivation for doing evil would seem to be impossible. Murray usefully formulates the objection as an argument: 1. If the first humans were rational and free and furthermore experienced union with God in the beatific vision, they would have everything such creatures could want and would thus be fully content. 2. If the first humans had everything such creatures could want and were fully content, they would not have any motivation to do anything bad. 3. If the first humans were not motivated to do anything bad, they would not do anything bad. 4. Thus, if the first humans were rational and free and experienced union with God, they would not do anything bad.33 The conclusion (4) is hard to resist. Murray cites articles by van Inwagen, who contends that (so Murray), “it is not possible for agents to freely perform actions towards which they 29 30 31 32 33

Murray, Nature Red in Murray, Nature Red in Murray, Nature Red in Murray, Nature Red in Murray, Nature Red in

Tooth and Claw, 83. Tooth and Claw, 83–84. Tooth and Claw, 84. Tooth and Claw, 84. Tooth and Claw, 84.

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have no pro attitude.”34 If not, however, on premises (2) and (3), the first human beings would not have had a “pro” attitude or inclination to do anything wrong, and so they could not have done so. On the contrary, in the beatific vision and all that we imagine this psychological state would entail, they would have had an overwhelming “pro” disposition to do what is right, in love of God and fellow creatures. This third objection, then, seems to stand. Murray, however, suggests that it does not, at least not if we employ the criteria he accepts for a successful causa Dei. Murray proposes that the scenario of first humans sinning against God despite paradisiacal psychological conditions is, arguably, at least as plausible as not. Why so? Murray proposes that premise (3) does not hold in all cases. People sometimes do bad things without any “pro” disposition or willful intent to do so. He considers the example of “unreflective omissions,” such as forgetting to pick up a friend at the airport as one had promised to do.35 In instances of this sort, one has no “pro attitude” or disposition to do wrong to the friend, but one wrongs him/her nevertheless and stands guilty of wrongdoing. And if so, then Murray judges that premise (3) is “problematic at best.”36 We should wonder, however, whether Murray’s example is appropriate to the kind of wrongdoing allegedly involved in the Fall. For one thing, in accounts of the Fall, the wrongdoing of the first human beings was not an unmindful or forgetful and non-deliberate “sin of omission.” For Lapsarian Theodicy to be at all plausible, I suggest that primal sin has to count as consciously deliberate disobedience. Otherwise, we encounter yet another form of moral impropriety – God unleashing the full range of natural evil on the earth and species for the rest of planetary time in response to a merely absentminded action. The Genesis story itself makes the deliberate disobedience of the sinful action absolutely clear, as does the apostle Paul in Romans 5. It is this inexcusable deliberate disobedience of Adam that is supposedly counteracted by the redemptive obedience of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:18). Further, for the story to make plausible sense, we have to believe that the horrific consequences of the first sin were commensurate with the evil of the action itself. So it cannot be an instance of ordinary everyday human disobedience. We have to see it rather as perhaps the morally worst thing that any human (or angelic) being could possibly do.

34

35 36

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 85. Murray cites van Inwagen, “When Is the Will Free?” in Philosophical Perspectives 3 (1989): 399–422; and “When the Will Is Not Free” in Philosophical Studies 75 (1994): 95–113. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 85. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 86.

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With these moral qualifications, then, I suggest that premise (3) is almost certainly true, and that the psychological-motivational objection against Lapsarian Theodicy stands. To see that it does, let us refine the argument accordingly.

refining the argument Let us consider the argument in this more sharply refined form: 1. The first human beings enjoyed the beatific vision in paradise – ideal moral, spiritual, physical, alethic, and aesthetic conditions in personal communion with God. 2. In those beatific conditions, the first human beings would have been strongly disposed to trust in and to obey any command of God, especially when attached to God’s warning that disobedience would cause their beatific condition to be ruined, both for themselves and for all creatures and things, for all of time. 3. In such beatific conditions and “pro” and “con” dispositions, intensified by awareness of the dire consequences of disobedience, the first human beings would not have disobeyed God’s command. I see no plausible way to reject this conclusion. Or is there? Let us consider some contemporary attempts to show that despite the paradisiacal conditions described in premise (1), the alleged disobedience of first humans (or angels) is not wholly implausible, after all. Let us begin by looking at the origin of Lapsarian Theodicy in western Christian tradition in the writings of the great Church Father St. Augustine (354–430 CE), and then at two recent attempts to put his approach into modern evolutionary terms.

the “augustinian” adam Augustine was concerned to combat the opinion of his arch-adversaries, the Manicheans, who contended that the God of the Jewish/Christian Bible was the culpable source of evils and, therefore, unworthy of rational belief, much less worship.37 One of their criticisms was that an omnipotent God could have created the first human creatures with an overriding

37

John Hammond Taylor, “Introduction,” in St. Augustine, Vol. 1: The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Books 1–6 (New York: James, 1902, reprinted, 1961, Newman Books, 1982), 1–2.

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proneness to good, so that there never would have been any moral evil in the world. Augustine admitted that the objection was serious enough to merit a considered response.38 His admittedly speculative answer was that by being able to sin (posse peccare) Adam and Eve indeed were inferior to human beings that God possibly could have created – creatures that were unable to sin (non posse peccare). In fact, he conceded, God would one day create such superior humans to become the incorruptible inhabitants of Heaven. So why did God not create these superior humans in the first place? I suspect that Augustine’s answer will give most readers pause. Augustine speculated that God perhaps wished to create two kinds of human beings, rather than just one. That way there could be two outcomes in the end: one population of human beings under eternal judgment in Hell, manifesting God’s justice, and a second population of the superior kind of human to manifest God’s mercy. Together the two groups of humans would manifest God’s consummate glory.39 This essentially aesthetic account, which anticipates the doctrine of predestination later made famous (or infamous) by Calvin, rather obviously invites further critical commentary. Fortunately, as we shall see (mainly in Chapter 6), there are better answers available to theists than this one! Further, I do not wish to be distracted from the main line of God-justifying argument in view. According to Augustine, God placed the first human beings in such a favorable position that blame for the evil they did falls entirely on them, rather than on God.40 If we look closely at Augustine’s contention, which explicates the first premise of our refined argument, we can see all the more clearly how it creates very strong grounds for the psychological-motivational objection.41 J. N. D. Kelly captures Augustine’s problematic depiction of the original God-justifying and human-incriminating paradisiacal conditions:

38

39 40

41

Augustine took up this criticism in his comments on Genesis 2–3 in John Hammond Taylor, ed., St. Augustine, Vol. 2: The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Books 7–11 (New York: James, 1902, reprinted, 1961, Newman Books, 1982), Book 11, chapters 7–11; 139–45. Taylor, ed., St. Augustine, Vol. 2, Book 11, 7–11; 139–45. J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 5th revised edition (London and New York: Continuum, 2005), 362. I discuss this objection at length in John R. Schneider, “The Fall of ‘Augustinian Adam’: Original Fragility and Supralapsarian Purpose,” Zygon 47, no. 4 (December 2012): 949‒69.

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It is clear from Augustine’s account that the fault was entirely his [Adam’s] own. God could not be blamed, for He had given him every advantage. . .. Any blame must lie exclusively with his own will, which though inclined toward goodness, had the possibility, being free, of choosing wrongfully.42

What conditions made it so? Augustine’s Adam was indeed a mighty man with utmost beatific endowments and advantages. According to Kelly, Augustine’s portrait of Adam “carries to its highest pitch the growing tendency to attribute original righteousness and perfection to the first man.”43 Augustine’s Adam was “immune from physical ills and had surpassing intellectual gifts; he was in a state of justification, illumination and beatitude. Immortality lay within his grasp if only he continued to feed on the Tree of Life.”44 And yet in this beatific physical and spiritual condition, Adam was morally free, not in the sense of inability to sin, but in the sense of ability either to sin or not to sin.45 Further, Augustine imagined Adam as “wrapped around by divine grace (indumentum gratiae), and he was further granted the special gift of perseverance, i.e., the possibility of persisting in the right exercise of his will.”46 Augustine’s theory is now known as the doctrine of Original Righteousness (iustitia originalis), widely accepted in both Catholic and Protestant theology, and a major pillar of Lapsarian Theodicy. In retrospect, it is easy to see why this doctrine became essential to western theology and theodicy. The doctrine of Adam’s positive original righteousness is necessary to sustain the thesis that the first human creatures bear all ultimate blame for the world’s evils, and that God bears none.47 Augustine was not oblivious to the problem that the “super powered” Adam (and Eve) created for his God-justifying explanation. Critics had apparently challenged the claim that anyone so cognitively and affectively empowered by God could be deceived into sinning in the way alleged. In 42 44 46 47

43 Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 362. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 362. 45 Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 362. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 362. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 362. In his account of Original Righteousness in Christian history, the famous American theologian Charles Hodge showed that nearly all Catholic and Protestant writers affirmed the doctrine with only minor differences. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. II of Three Volumes (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans [1871–73], reprinted, 1965), 99–107. Until recent times, nearly all the important western theologians and Christian confessions followed Augustine’s lead in treating the Fall story as a theodicy. Following Augustine, Thomas Aquinas (1225‒74) reduced the original righteousness of Adam to a cluster of core virtues – faith, hope, and love – and to seeing those virtues as infused in our first parents by supernatural grace. Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. II, 101.

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the alleged beatific conditions, how could such monumental selfdeception – the root of the self-glorifying pride that Augustine alleged was the root of the Fall – be even remotely possible? In his Genesis commentary, Augustine again acknowledged that the critics posed a most vexing problem. So Augustine: “There is a more serious problem to be considered. If Adam was a spiritual man, in mind though not in body, how could he have believed what was said through the serpent?”48 Unfortunately, we cannot seriously entertain the answer that Augustine gave in the commentary: It was not Adam who was deceived; it was his wife, Eve.49 Taking off from 1 Timothy 2:14, where the writer supported the practice of prohibiting women from teaching men because “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor,” Augustine proposed that “it was through her that man sinned.”50 But again, considering the original wisdom and goodness of Adam, how could this be so? Augustine answered that, despite his preternatural wisdom, Adam, like the wise man Solomon “was unable to resist the love of women drawing him into this evil [the worship of idols], and he did what he knew should not be done lest he should inhibit the deadly delights in which he was being wasted away.”51 Augustine’s explanation – that the supernaturally enlightened Adam “did not wish to make her unhappy,” and therefore turned into a defiantly proud fool – obviously says more about Augustine’s assumptions about gender and sex than it does about the analytical conundrum he faced. Perhaps Augustine eventually thought better of this explanation. For as Jesse Couenhoven points out, somewhat later on Augustine demurred from any positive explanation of the primal sin amid beatific first conditions. Instead, he proposed that the primal sin arose from a “privation” of the good in Adam, rather than from some morally bad motivational property of his nature.52 However, this explanation begs the question, whence this deprivation that became the source of such disastrously foolish pride?

48 49

50 51

52

Taylor, St. Augustine, Vol. 2, Book 11, 7–11, chapter 42.58, 175. Jesse Couenhoven, Stricken by Sin, Cured by Christ: Agency, Necessity, and Culpability in Augustinian Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), esp., 24–26. Taylor, St. Augustine, Vol. 2, Book 11, 7–11, chapter 42.58, 175. Taylor, St. Augustine, Vol. 2, Book 11, 7–11, chapter 42.59, 176. In another passage, Augustine also ruminated on the unlikelihood that someone in a beatific state in Eden could fail to grasp his moral future in the light of certain possible actions, such as ignoring God’s warning and defying God’s command. Book 11, 7–11, chapter 18, 23–24, 150–51. Couenhoven, Stricken by Sin, Cured by Christ, 24–25.

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Some contemporary writers have sought to answer that question in updated terms. C. S. Lewis gave a fairly detailed account of Lapsarian Theodicy in the context of evolutionary science. Let us look, then, at the renovated scenario of “paradise lost” that Lewis offered.

lewis: the “augustinian adam” in contemporary context In The Problem of Pain, Lewis retained the Augustinian intuitions about the original endowments of Adam. Writing in modern evolutionary terms, he invited readers to imagine that God selected two biologically human beings at some point in time and awakened them to both awareness of themselves and to spiritual and moral consciousness.53 Lewis suggested that God endowed this paradisiacal man with supernatural powers – “Man was then all consciousness,” like a “yogi,” he had full control of his bodily functions, he chose his appetites, “the length of his life [may have been] largely at his own discretion. Wholly commanding himself, he commanded all lower lives with which he came into contact.”54 Further, Lewis proposed that the paradisiacal man must have been Christ-like in his dispositions and actions. “God came first in his love and in his thought,” so that “man was then truly the son of God, the prototype of Christ, perfectly enacting in joy and ease of all the faculties and all the senses that filial self-surrender which Our Lord enacted in the agonies of the crucifixion.”55 Despite these advantages, however (so Lewis), or perhaps because of them, these wondrously endowed human creatures became proud, and they began to drift psychically away from God. Eventually they turned against God and closed themselves off spiritually to God, and great wickedness and ruin followed afterwards. But the question persists: How could such fundamental psychic evil well up in human beings with the deeply ingrained Christ-like character that Lewis ascribes to them – in order to maintain the God-justifying and human-incriminating force of his account? Here is Lewis’s answer: Such a sin [Pride] requires no complex social conditions, no extended experience, no great intellectual development. From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the centre is opened to it. This sin is committed daily by young children and

53 55

Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 77. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 78–79.

54

Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 77–78.

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ignorant peasants as well as by sophisticated persons, by solitaries no less than by those who live in society: it is the fall in every individual life, and in each day of each individual life, the basic sin behind all particular sins: at this very moment you and I are either committing it, or about to commit it, or repenting it.56

As always, Lewis’s explanation is as incisive as it is rhetorically eloquent, but unfortunately, it misses the mark. For it fails to give examples of persons becoming prideful while enjoying the beatific vision, as he stipulated that the first humans did (who enjoyed direct awareness of God, perfect communion with God, and the humility and self-sacrificial love that we imagine existed in the God-man, Jesus). Lewis’s examples are instead persons in various mundane settings where the supposed Fall and its ruinous effects have already taken hold. So the examples are misplaced. However, if we do shift focus to people in comparably extraordinary beatific conditions, so far as we have them, the likelihood of an Augustinian Fall decreases, accordingly. Beginning with Saul of Tarsus, we have a fairly large body of testimony from Christian believers who tell us what enjoying the beatific vision is like, and what effects it has on the rare persons who enjoy it. The great psychologist of religion William James (1842‒1910) reported extensively on the features of “saintly” experience, as he labeled it. The fruits of these extraordinary mystical experiences are, typically, a constant sense of higher power as a reality, peace of mind, charity, bravery, love of humanity, and so forth, and above all, the “permanent alteration of character.”57 James records statements by mystics such as St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, both of whom wrote about the epistemic and spiritual-moral irreversibility of these experiences. St. John thought that a “single one of them may be sufficient to abolish at a stroke certain imperfections of which the soul during its whole life had vainly tried to rid itself.”58 The experience would (so James) “leave it [the soul] adorned with virtues and loaded with supernatural gifts.”59 There really is no need to go on relating the long list of similar testimonies, which support the sensible intuition that anyone in the direct grip of God’s loving goodness, wisdom, and power could not become proud, no more than Saul of Tarsus could have done in the blinding light

56 57

58 59

Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 75. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York and London: Collier Macmillan Publishers, [1902], repr. 1961), 211–60. James, Varieties of Religious Experience, 324–25. James, Varieties of Religious Experience, 325.

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of the risen and ascended Jesus Christ. If we are mightily humbled before the presence of mountains, or great storms, or even great human beings, how is it plausible that someone in the state of mind that Lewis ascribes to the first human beings – which he has to do in order for the theodicy to work – could turn completely around and become swollen with selfdeifying pride and hateful desire to defy God? Not to mention the presumed awareness of the consequences, which they were warned – by God, no less – would be dire, to say the least. Again, it seems that the refined version of the motivational argument stands. Or does it? In his brief treatment of the Fall and evils, Alvin Plantinga shows keen awareness of the motivational problem. His speculative solution also differs from the one that Lewis gives. In Warranted Christian Belief, Plantinga ventures this hypothesis: “. . .perhaps a high probability of such a fall attaches to free creatures (creatures with an area of autonomy) who are created in the image of God,” because (so Plantinga) perhaps “there is a high probability that beings created in the image of God will also wind up resembling him in this: that they want to see and do see themselves as the center of the universe.”60 Plantinga suggests that perhaps this “substantial probability” is “built into the very nature of free creatures who have knowledge of God’s glorious status and do see it as indeed glorious and desirable.”61 He further suggests that perhaps there are possible worlds in which such creatures do not fall, but perhaps these worlds are a small minority of the “totality of possible worlds containing free creatures,” and if so, a “Fall isn’t inevitable or necessary; nevertheless, perhaps its objective probability is very high.”62 If so, to translate his point into the terms of our argument, then our premises (1) and (2) could be true without entailing the conclusion (3). However, Plantinga’s account of beatific pride is hardly trouble free. For one thing, his proposal suggests that by creating human beings in God’s own image, God played poor odds with the futures of human and nonhuman beings. Is this something a supremely wise and perfectly good God would do? Further, Plantinga does not deal with the problem that presumed beatific conditions create for all versions of the Fall, including his own. I believe that all versions of Lapsarian Theodicy face this dilemma. For the first humans to bear all blame for evils, original beatific conditions are 60 61 62

Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, 212–13. Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, 213. Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief, 213.

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necessary. On the other hand, if beatific conditions existed, then the Fall very probably, if not certainly, could not have happened. To make the Fall plausible, then, one must reduce the paradisiacal character of the original conditions and thereby introduce an original human fragility into the scenario, as Plantinga does. But then, as he concedes, a Fall is highly probable, a non-beatific situation to be sure, one that is mainly God’s fault. So on this analysis, the appeal to a Fall to exonerate God from evil is self-defeating. I suggest that Plantinga’s explanation of the Fall is fairly plausible, but that it is more amenable to a “supralapsarian” account of evil than to Lapsarian Theodicy.63 Supralapsarianism is the label given to a version of Calvinism according to which God planned to redeem humanity before the Fall (from the Latin term “supra,” or “before”), understood as an event that God intended to happen from the beginning, when God created the world. In fact, Plantinga actually proposed elsewhere that we consider adopting a version of supralapsarianism in Christian theodicy. In this renovated version, the main supralapsarian thesis is that any world including the incarnation and atonement of Christ is better than any alternative world without them.64 This scenario explains why the first human beings “fell” – God designed things so that they would do so, as the first chapter in an unfolding drama culminating in the redemptive actions of God in Christ. However, in this scenario it is not the Fall that justifies God, but rather the subsequent actions taken by God to counteract and to defeat the evils involved. In this instance, Plantinga’s approach is in line with the one that Chisholm recommended, and so also with mine, as we shall see. At any rate, for now, I submit that the third generic objection to Lapsarian Theodicy stands. No human being in the paradisiacal conditions required would be motivated to sin in the way that Lapsarian Theodicy must require us to believe that they did. I see no plausible way out of this dilemma that comes with God-justifying appeal to the actions of an “Augustinian Adam.”

63

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I support a supralapsarian metaphysical understanding of the Fall in John R. Schneider, “Recent Genetic Science and Christian Theology on Human Origins: An ‘Aesthetic Supralapsarianism,’” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 62, no. 3 (September 2010): 196‒212. Alvin Plantinga, “Supralapsarianism, or ‘O Felix Culpa,’” in Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil, ed. Peter van Inwagen (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 1–25; 9–10.

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Let us move on, then, to the fourth and final generic objection. It is that Lapsarian Theodicy requires an overvaluing of freedom over and against the evils in view.

The Problem of (4) Overvalued Freedom In traditional Lapsarian Theodicy, as we have seen, one stresses that the first human beings (and/or angels) were genuinely free in the sense that they had the ability either to sin against God or not to do so, and that God left the long-term welfare of the world up to whichever choices they freely made. So in order to accept Lapsarian Theodicy, we must think it is plausible that God valued moral freedom highly enough to outweigh the evils caused by its eventual abuse by first creatures. Is it plausible that God values the freedom of human (and/or angelic) beings enough to outweigh the configuration of Darwinian evil that has been unveiled? It is very hard to see how. Murray observes that most people agree that some evils are too great to be worth the cost of freedom.65 Parents, for instance, commonly intervene when children are abusing freedom to the detriment of themselves and others. Does the Darwinian landscape of wasteful and brutal suffering by billions – or even trillions – of animals during “deep evolutionary time,” and now, not obviously outweigh whatever value the freedom of first human beings supposedly had? So Murray: As a result, Fall CDs [causae Dei] that make appeal to creaturely freedom as an outweighing good will need to defend the claim that such freedom is sufficient to outweigh the permission of the pain and suffering of animals throughout millions of years and trillions of generations.66

On its face, at least, providing such a defense seems impossibly hard to do. Unlike the other generic objections to Lapsarian Theodicy, this one cuts across other God-justifying approaches, as we shall see. There are good reasons to believe that God would value genuinely libertarian moral freedom highly, and in Chapter 6 we will consider some of the main ones. However, if we confine the question to the freedom that God allegedly gave to the first human beings – empowering them in effect to despoil

65 66

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 87. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 87.

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existence for all human and nonhuman beings – it is hard to accept that the alleged original human freedom could be even remotely worth the cost. At this point, the objection begins to spill over into other areas, such as the extent of divine foreknowledge. If God foreknew the catastrophic outcome of allowing such free action, then all sorts of skeptical questions about free-will theodicy arise, such as whether there is any such thing as genuine freedom at all, or to what extent foreknowledge transfers responsibility for the Fall onto God. I choose not to pursue these murky matters, but to focus rather on the simplest – the axiological – problem involved. On the whole, does it make sense that God would value the real moral freedom of the first human beings more than God values the well-being of all the living and non-living creatures and things that would ever exist? With all deference to the great value of moral freedom in many other circumstances, I submit that in explaining the Fall and its horrific consequences, it does not. We have now finished considering four generic objections to Lapsarian Theodicy. I conclude that if any one of them stands as unsuccessfully met, it suffices to discredit this traditional God-justifying explanation of evils occurring in the nonhuman realm. As it happens, I believe that all four of them stand, and that besides being undermined by discoveries in science, Lapsarian Theodicy is implausible in the extreme. Nevertheless, some readers will resist rejecting Lapsarian Theodicy mainly because it seems to be supported by canonical tradition, particularly in the early chapters of Genesis. As promised, let me now comment briefly on Genesis and its apparent support for Lapsarian Theodicy.

genesis and lapsarian theodicy It is easy to see why Calvin and many other Christian thinkers have ascribed the causal origin of natural evil to a human (and/or angelic) Fall. According to Genesis, God’s response to the disobedience of Adam and Eve included laying a “curse” upon the “ground,” so that labor on the land, in contrast to life in Eden, would now be toilsome, with “thorns and thistles” growing in the way (Genesis 3:17–19). Further, later in the narrative, we learn that the violent killing that had disrupted human relationships had spread into the realm of animals. For following Noah’s flood, God replaces the original dietary mandate – that humans and animals may eat all the kinds of “green plant” (Genesis 1:29–30) – with a new command that (perhaps grudgingly) gives permission for killing

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and eating the flesh of animals (Genesis 9:1–5). It seems clear, then, by insinuation, that neither human nor nonhuman predation was part of God’s original plan. It seems instead that this form of savagery and death in the natural realm represents a sadly degenerative change in the natural order – a cosmic Fall that does not reflect the original vision of God for human and nonhuman beings. We will eventually discuss Paul’s proclamation in Romans 8:18–23 that the whole nonhuman creation is “groaning,” like a woman in labor (this symbolic connection also exists conspicuously in Genesis 3), in painful aching – longing – for redemption from bondage to the “curse” that God laid upon the earth, consigning the cosmos and its nonhuman inhabitants to an existence marred by futility, decay, and death. This passage, too, seems to support seeing disorder and suffering in nature as the consequences of a human (and/or angelic) Fall, and not seeing them as things that God included in nature’s original design. In the light of these texts, among others, and given the weight of the lapsarian interpretive tradition in both Jewish and Christian teaching, it is very hard to accept Sollereder’s proposal that no support for belief in a “cosmic fall” exists in the first chapters of Genesis, or anywhere in biblical traditions, and that the so-called natural evils in view are part of God’s original “very good” creative design.67 The contention that the Bible gives no support to belief in a cosmic Fall is controversial, to say the least, and I think Sollereder’s explanation merits further critical examination.

sollereder: no “cosmic fall” in genesis Sollereder’s defense of this non-lapsarian reading of Genesis 3–9 rests mainly on the pronouncement by Noah’s father, Lamech, on the occasion of his son’s birth: “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one will bring us relief from our work and the toil of our hands” (Genesis 5:29). This prophetic verse frames the intricate Hebrew-linguistic argument that Sollereder offers in support of her thesis: God laid a “curse” upon the “ground,” but removed it after the abatement of Noah’s flood, so that the “ground,” i.e., the nonhuman natural order, was restored to its original “very good” cosmic condition.68

67 68

Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 13–43. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 30–35.

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As for Romans 8, she argues that the “groaning” of creation is linked with prophetic tradition on nature mourning the sorry state of human behavior in the world, rather than with the notion that nature is fallen. In this way, Sollereder makes claim to have “opened the way Scripturally to explore the option of leaving a cosmic fall behind.”69 We should wonder, however, whether she has really done so. I do not wish to be drawn into a detailed debate over the intricacies of Hebrew terms for “curse” along with the appeals she makes to the arcane lexical and grammatical usage of such language. Years of experience dispose me to be skeptical towards esoteric linguistic arguments of that kind, especially in support of idiosyncratic readings of Scripture that are supposed to override seemingly secure theological traditions. I will leave that level of her argument, then, to experts on Hebrew linguistics and the Pentateuch, and will confine my comments to just two lines of provisional criticism that I think support my initial skepticism towards the nonlapsarian thesis. The first thing is that in the entire discussion of Genesis 3–9, Sollereder does not deal with the apparently dramatic, degenerative change represented by the sudden post-flood appearance of predation, which God now – perhaps grudgingly – accepts as a reality in the human and nonhuman natural realms. This dramatic, degenerative change in the natural order represents something like a cosmic Fall in Genesis 1–9. So it seems that to defend the thesis – that there was no (permanent) cosmic Fall in Genesis 3–9 – one’s first job would be to deal with the apparent cosmic Fall signified by the post-lapsarian origin of predation. Surprisingly, Sollereder only mentions predation once in passing, arguing that it is irrelevant to a cosmic Fall in Genesis, on the grounds that it is not mentioned explicitly in connection with the “curse.”70 But again, this statement may say more about the limitations of such stringent linguistic arguments than about the thematic subject itself. Thematically speaking, predation stands out as a major existential disruption to be explained amid unfolding effects of the first sin – aftereffects of the human Fall – as a sad sign that a cosmic Fall happened, and that animal predation is not the way existence for animals on earth was supposed to be. Somehow, then, one must deal with this theme/theodicy in Genesis in plausible biblicalcanonical terms, as I will seek to do, mainly in the context of the book of Job, but also here in Genesis. 69 70

Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 36. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 30.

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Meanwhile, secondly, Sollereder’s reading leaves us with a somewhat confusing picture of what the Genesis narrative leads us to think did happen during the time from the Fall to Noah’s flood. In Sollereder’s picture, the first humans fell, and then God laid a “curse” upon the “ground,” which became comparatively infertile and barren. Soon afterwards, however, God lifted this “curse,” so that the “ground” became fruitful again, as indicated by the success of Noah’s vineyard following the flood.71 So we are left to wonder how to picture this narrative scenario as a whole. What were the effects of this purportedly provisional curse? Why is there no account of either the effects of this temporary “curse” and/or its alleged revocation and reversal anywhere in the Genesis narrative? Specifically, why was the vegetarian dietary order not restored, for instance, as Sollereder’s reading would lead us to expect it would be? For her picture to be plausible, then, I suggest that one would have to include at least a loosely grained scenario of what supposedly happened when the curse on the “ground” was in effect. Left as it stands, however, the more natural reading is that there indeed was a cosmic Fall, signified especially by animal predation, that it was not temporary – although it was perhaps mitigated in its degenerative trajectory after the flood – and that (according to Genesis) nature remains fallen now. We wonder, then, how to relate Genesis 1–9 to a non-lapsarian understanding of the natural realm. I suggest that, although Genesis does support belief in a cosmic Fall that supposedly caused the origin of natural evil, it does not offer this explanation as a theodicy. In other words, it leaves the question open, What accounts for the Fall and its consequences in the first place? Let us consider this subtle yet important nuance of interpretation.

genesis, theodicy, and the fall It seems clear enough that the story of Genesis includes a human Fall that caused evils to befall both the earth and animals, particularly in the violent interaction between predators and prey. However, we are left to ponder, what caused the Fall? So if the story of a cosmic Fall is supposed to function as a theodicy, as a God-justifying explanation of evil, then it is a really bad one. I suggest, however, that the author(s) of Genesis did not intend the story of the Fall to function in that fashion. Why not? 71

Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 29.

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In order to see that it does not function as a theodicy, we must look beyond the ancient Hebrew story of Adam and Eve in Eden and consider its place in Genesis, understood as a finished whole. Scholars typically date the final editorial composition of the book as post-exilic, i.e., after the time of exile in Babylon.72 The prevailing view is that Genesis 1 represents a very late stage in the development of Hebrew theology, while major parts of Genesis 2–6, especially, are very old, particularly the story of the Fall, which perhaps once did function as a theodicy in Hebrew religion. Nevertheless, I suggest that in its final post-exilic form – in the book of Genesis – the story cannot very well function in that fashion. Let us begin by looking at the creation narrative of Genesis 1. It is true that, according to this account, God created a cosmic order that God declared “very good.” However, if we read the text in its post-Babylonian historical-literary context, we begin seeing aspects of the story that otherwise go unnoticed. The great German scholar Hermann Gunkel was the first to open modern eyes to an ancient connection between the sea in Genesis, těhŏm, and the Babylonian chaos-dragon and goddess, Tiamat.73 Gunkel showed in voluminous detail that the creation story of Genesis 1 was part of a larger ancient Semitic religious tradition of seeing creation as the divine conquest of Cosmos over a primordial Chaos. Some writers have seized on this theme in trying to explain the existence of natural evil in the good creation of God. Sollereder discusses Thomas Oord’s proposal that chaotic powers thwarted God’s creative intentions to an extent that accounts for natural evil.74 Against Oord’s proposal, she cites Jon Levenson, who contends that in Genesis 1, there is no suggestion of God being thwarted at all. On the contrary, as numerous scholars have also observed, God exerts complete power over anti-cosmic realities – the primordial oceanic abyss and

72

73

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For a very readable scholarly treatment of the subject, see Peter Enns, “When Was Genesis Written, and Why Does It Matter?” wp.biologos.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/ 02/enns_scholarly_essay3.pdf. Hermann Gunkel, Genesis, tr. Mark E. Biddle (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), 126–32. Also Gunkel, Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton: A Religio-Historical Study of Genesis 1 and Revelation 12, tr. William Whitney, Jr. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006). Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 16. See Thomas Jay Oord, “An Open Theology Doctrine of Creation and Solution to the Problem of Evil,” in Creation Made Free: Open Theology Engaging Science, ed. Thomas Jay Oord (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2009), 28–52.

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the ominous dark. Nevertheless, for some reason, God does not destroy or completely subdue them. So Levenson: God has not annihilated the primordial chaos. He has only limited it. The same holds for the other uncreated reality, darkness. Light, which is God’s first creation does not banish darkness.75

We shall consider this theme in greater depth when we discuss theodicy in the book of Job (Chapter 8), where it plays a very large role. For the moment, however, the main point is that for some reason, according to Genesis 1, God did not destroy Chaos in creating Cosmos, but incorporated it purposefully into the creation. On this commonly accepted historical-literary reading of Genesis 1, it seems clear that anti-cosmic evil in nature is not rooted in a human (and/ or angelic) Fall, but is inscribed into the original divine cosmic design. We wonder, then, how this non-lapsarian account of natural evil is related to the apparently lapsarian explanation in Genesis 2–3. I suggest that a key to seeing a connection between the two accounts is the enigmatic figure of the serpent, which appears unexpectedly amid the paradisiacal delights of Eden. Was the serpent part of the original story? Genesis 2–3 reads much more simply and seamlessly without this creature – as a “morality play” that explains evils in uncomplicated ethical terms. This imagined version of the story fits well within the larger Deuteronomic framework of tradition, which ascribed all evils in the world to sin, rather than to the perfect moral will of God. We cannot know whether the serpent was featured as the primary causal agent of the Fall in the original version. At any rate, the appearance of the serpent in Eden greatly complicates things so far as theodicy is concerned. What sort of creature was it? Why did God create it? What was it doing in Eden, at any rate? What does its existence and presence mean for our reading of the Eden story, on the whole? John Goldingay may have been the first scholar to make a connection between the serpent in Genesis and Tiamat the serpentine dragon of Chaos in Babylonian mythology.76 In the light of our comments on the Babylonian background of Genesis 1, this connection makes sense. Understood along this line, the serpent is a symbolic representation of 75

76

Jon D. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil: The Jewish Drama of Divine Omnipotence (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 123, so Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 17. John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1: Israel’s Gospel (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 134–40.

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the chaos-dragon, only in miniature. Is this way of identifying the serpent plausible? I suggest that it is, in part due to the need to eliminate the other available prevailing alternative. Contrary to much Christian tradition and current popular opinion, most scholars of Genesis do not see the serpent as an embodiment (symbolic or historical) of the Devil, who has already started a rebellion against God and now brings his devilish destruction to the earth. Nicholas Ansell gives detailed support for this scholarly opinion: When we first meet the serpent in 3:1, there is no textual evidence whatsoever that anything bad has happened in or to the good creation described in Gen. 1–2. To assume that we are supposed to understand a “fallen angel” in this context is unwarranted. The text describes the serpent as the “wisest” of “the wild animals,” a phrase that refers back to previous chapters. By this we are meant to understand a creature made on the sixth day as described in 1:24–25 and named by Adam in 2:19–20.77

So it seems that we should omit that standard way of identifying the serpent. Further, it seems that in the Genesis story, God lays the primary blame for what has happened on the serpent, for God addresses it first and only then speaks to Adam and Eve. We should notice, too, that contrary to Sollereder’s contention, the scope of the “curse” does extend from the serpent – a mysterious “wild animal” – to all the animals: Cursed are you above all livestock And all animals and among all wild creatures! (Genesis 3:14)

77

Nicholas John Ansell, “The Call of Wisdom/The Voice of the Serpent: A Canonical Approach to the Tree of Knowledge,” Christian Scholars Review 31, no. 1 (2001): 31–57, here 37. So Ansell: Satan is never defined as a fallen angel in the Bible. Many major commentaries on Genesis stress that the serpent is not a satanic figure, especially given its description as a creature of God in 3:1. See, inter alia, Claus Westermann, Genesis 1–11: A Continental Commentary (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), 237–38; and Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary, revised edition, tr. John H. Marks (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972), 87. For commentaries that accept this while still emphasizing the sinister nature of the serpent, see Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), 187–88; and Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 1.: Genesis 1–15 (Waco, TX: Word, 1987), 72–73. For an example of the traditional identification of the serpent as the instrument of Satan, see Meredith G. Kline, “Genesis” in New Bible Commentary, 3rd edition, ed. Donald Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, A. M. Stibbs, and D. J. Wiseman (Leicester: InterVarsity Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), 84. Satan seems to be identified with the serpent prior to the Fall of Adam and Eve in Wisdom of Solomon 2:24, but I do not consider this a challenge to my position as this text is not in the Protestant canon.

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Murray rightly notices the subtle point: “While this aspect of the curse is directed primarily at the Serpent, the text further indicates that livestock and wild animals are affected as well.”78 On this historical-literary reading, then, the serpent symbolizes Chaos demythologized, as not a rival of God, but unexpectedly, as a creature of God, a creature from which evil in the animal realm originated. To put the point simply, on this reading, the serpent symbolizes God’s enigmatic decision to inscribe Chaos into the design of the “very good” Cosmos. Moreover, this reading brings Genesis 2–3 squarely into line with Genesis 1 on the non-lapsarian origin of natural evil. I conclude, then, that while the author(s) of Genesis preserved the ancient story of a cosmic Fall, it cannot function as a theodicy in the final form of the book. For the underlying cause of the Fall itself is the serpent, which I have suggested we identify as an animalized symbol of Chaos – anti-cosmic power – that God has for some reason incorporated into the original, “very good” cosmic design. I will argue further, in Chapter 8, that the book of Job provides a sort of sequel to Genesis and its enigmatic account of natural evil, and that Job strongly supports the non-lapsarian reading I just offered.

summing up on lapsarian theodicy To sum up, then, we have considered several reasons to reject Lapsarian Theodicy. Besides seeming to be antiquated by evolutionary science, this God-justifying explanation is foiled by four main generic objections that stand in the way of anyone wishing to accept it. In order to accept Lapsarian Theodicy as plausible, one must overcome objections based on an apparently implausible original fragility, on an extremely improbable paradisiacal motivation to defy God, on a seemingly egregious moral impropriety, and on an overvaluing of human freedom. Later on, we will see that this objection carries over into appeals to cosmic freedom as a God-justifying good. Finally, I have argued that the main canonical basis for Lapsarian Theodicy – the story of the Fall in Genesis 2–3 – not only does not support this theodicy, but on historical-critical analysis actually undermines it.

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Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 75. The extension of the curse from the serpent to all wild and domestic animals is in parallel to the extension of the curse that extends from “the ground” to effect the suffering of all human beings.

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It is now time to explore important non-lapsarian approaches to theodicy. I will deal with them under the rubric of Only Way Theodicy because of the main thesis that all the various versions have in common – that to include a Darwinian configuration of natural evil in the animal realm was the only way available to God in creating an acceptably valuable world.

6 Narrow Is the Way of World Making Only Way Theodicy

We live in the best of all possible worlds. Gottfried Leibniz1

the only way of world making The subject of this chapter is an approach to God and natural evil that I refer to as Only Way Theodicy. The God-justifying thesis of this approach in all its diverse versions is that Darwinian evolution was the only way open to God in creating an acceptably valuable world. The approach is decidedly non-lapsarian. Nancey Murphy, who is a prominent proponent of the approach, advises fellow Christians to abandon the ancient appeal to “a free fall” to explain natural evil, which she proposes is simply the “inevitable by-product” of a universe that supports valuable life.2 Likewise, Robert John Russell, also a Christian theist, maintains that natural evil did not come from a fall from paradise, but is instead “an unintended consequence of God’s choice to create life through natural means.”3 For advocates of this approach, then, to

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Leibniz, Theodicy. Nancey Murphy, “Science and the Problem of Evil: Suffering as a By-product of a Finely Tuned Cosmos,” in Physics and Cosmology: Scientific Perspectives on the Problem of Natural Evil, Volume I, ed. Nancey Murphy, Robert John Russell, and William R. Stoeger, S.J. (Vatican City: Vatican Observatory Publications, and Berkeley, CA: Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 2007), 131–51. Robert John Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” in Physics and Cosmology, 109.

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paraphrase the Gospels, even for an omnipotent God, narrow is the way of world making. Some advocates of Only Way Theodicy concede that their core proposal is counterintuitive. To cite the Gospels again (Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37), we are led to believe that for God all things are possible. We naturally raise eyebrows at the thought that an allpowerful and all-knowing God could be limited in this way. Russell shows appreciation for this skepticism. “Are there no other possibilities open to God to create a universe in which life could arise by natural processes and yet without the physical natural evils that characterize our universe?”4 Advocates of Only Way Theodicy undertake the challenge of answering that question. If successful, the upside would be tremendous for theism, for this modern theodicy would show that in creating a Darwinian World with its mystifying configuration of natural evils and goods, contrary to first appearances, God has indeed met the all important Necessity Condition. And if so, the Darwinian Problem is all but solved. The challenge, however, is considerable. For on its face, at least, it seems unlikely in the extreme that the supremely powerful and wise God of theism faced the dilemma of either creating life by Darwinian means, or creating no world with life at all. To paraphrase the Gospels again, we normally presume that for such a God, only a very few things are impossible! Is avoiding the Darwinian configuration of animal suffering one of them? We will look at arguments from various theists who support differing versions of Only Way Theodicy. I have tried to select a sampling of advocates who represent the approach as a whole well enough to provide a basis for generally assessing its employability as a causa Dei. I will begin with the simplest argument for Only Way Theodicy. It is a variation of Leibniz’s deduction cited at the head of the chapter. For Leibniz, this truth simply followed logically from the existence of God: “We live in the best possible world.”

the best world possible? In The Groaning of Creation, Christopher Southgate offers an extensive account of God and animal pain, and we will examine his approach in

4

R. J. Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” 110.

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some detail in Chapter 9. He frames his discussion by endorsing the “only-way” thesis, which he thinks follows logically from theism: My own view is that we must still presume a version of the “only way” argument, or perhaps clearer, the “best way” argument. We must just reformulate it in terms of a presumption that a good and loving God would have created the best of all possible universes, in terms of the balance between its potential for realizing creaturely values and the concomitant pain.5

In other words, it follows from God’s ontological and moral perfection that since God created the Darwinian World (so Southgate believes), despite appearances to the contrary, it is the best – and therefore, only – kind of world that God could have created. So it seems that if one believes in God, then one is simply obligated, logically, to accept that the Darwinian World was the only one possible for God to create. This inference is hard to accept on inductive grounds, at any rate. For on its face, it seems almost absurd that for an omnipotent and omniscient God, a more favorable balance of natural goods and evils was impossible. We recall the emblematic evils of the burned fawn in Rowe’s argument, and the Poinars’ autopsy of a poor dinosaur, not to mention the extinction rate of 99.5 percent. It just seems implausible that God could not have done better! In addition, however, the “best-world” proposal is also hard to accept in its own deductive terms. For some writers contend that there can be no such thing as the “best possible world,” or even best possible kind of world, so that appeal to it in either anti-theistic or pro-theistic arguments is pointless.6 On this qualified “great-world” contention, it follows that the Darwinian World is one of the very valuable kinds of worlds that God could have created, but not the one and only kind. I suggest that to be plausible, Only Way Theodicy must stand on some sort of evidential grounds. In recent years, some philosophers and theologians have sought to give such grounds. I will begin with Robert Russell’s provocative proposal that ours is the only kind of world that is physically possible.

russell: the only physical universe possible? In the essay cited in the first section of this chapter, Russell begins by considering a line of argument that Michael Ruse deployed against 5 6

Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 48. Among others, see Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 168ff.

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Richard Dawkins’s thesis that unresolvable conflict exists between Darwinism and Christian theism. According to Ruse, in defending this thesis, Dawkins contradicts himself. For on the one hand, Ruse writes, Dawkins argues that the only way for advanced life to exist is via the processes of natural selection, while on the other hand, he appeals to those same processes as decisive evidence against theism.7 So Ruse: “No one – and presumably this includes God – could have got adaptive complexity without going the route of natural selection. . ..”8 In Ruse’s view, then, Dawkins should see that biological science actually works in Christianity’s favor, not against it. For Darwinism explains why God had no choice but to allow natural evil to occur. “He [God] wanted to produce design like effects. . .including humankind – and natural selection is the only option open.”9 Russell concurs with Ruse on this “only-way” thesis, but he also admits that Ruse and others who affirm the “only-way” thesis typically beg a deeper question. Why should Darwinian evolution be the only way for God to create “adaptive complexity” and therewith, a valuable array of life? Considering God’s powers and position, the answer is anything but obvious.10 Russell suggests that we look for the answer in modern physics rather than in the biological sciences, i.e., that we “pose the question of natural evil in relation to the universe as such using the language of physics.”11 He takes us on a tour through trends in quantum theory, special relativity, Newtonian gravity, and other recent theory on nature’s values, laws, and constants.12 In the end, however, he suggests science cannot yet show that ours is the only physical configuration possible. “Are there completely different sets of these values that would both allow for the biological evolution of life and that would have also lessened the extent of natural

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Michael Ruse, Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). Michael Ruse, Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship between Science and Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 136–37. Cited by R. J. Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” in Physics and Cosmology, 113. Ruse, Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? 137. Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” 10. Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” 113. Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” 114–22. I do not think it is necessary to go through Russell’s survey, since it is his conclusion that is most relevant to this discussion of OWT.

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evil?”13 While proof is not yet forthcoming, Russell strongly suspects not, and yet support for that limiting thesis does exist. Russell’s main argument relies on the “anthropic principle,” according to which the cosmos is set up in a “Goldilocks” condition, just right, or “fine-tuned” for life. In the opinion of nearly all physicists, any small variation in the physical fundamentals would have made conditions for life on earth impossible.14 Russell also considers mathematical inquiry into the theory of multiple universes and then into the possibility of variable physical constants. He sees this work as at least interesting for theodicy, because it seems true that a three-dimensional universe run by one-directional time is the only way available for the existence of life.15 However, again, he concedes that we still await proof. “Until this research is further along, a definitive conclusion is not possible, although the door is still open for a consequentialist cosmic theodicy.”16 At the end of this essay, Russell entertains the justificatory question. If such a configuration of evil is inevitable in world making, why create any world at all? In response, however, Russell unintentionally reveals a particular problem that arises for Christian theists who support Only Way Theodicy. For he appeals to the distinctly canonical eschatological promise that God will eventually remake the world, so that it will no longer contain evils. This promise is the theological core of canonical Christian faith and hope in coping with the reality of evil. However, it also seems to subvert the “only-way” explanation, since it implies a transformation of the physical world into a dramatically different, albeit still physical form, into a material world that operates by laws that are radically different from the ones that regulate it now.17 It is a blessed hope, to be sure, but the problem it creates is obvious: apparently it is possible, after all, for God to bring about a very valuable world – a categorically better world than the existing one – without the supposedly inevitable by-product of natural evil. So where does this apparent

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Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” 124. Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” 125. Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” 128. Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” 128. By “consequentialism” Russell means the “only-way” approach to theodicy. Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” 128–30.

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contradiction leave canonical Christian thinkers who support Only Way Theodicy? Surprisingly, Russell does not address that question directly, but instead refers readers to the writings of John Polkinghorne, who offers a theory of what he calls creation ex vetere, “creation from the older [world].”18 Polkinghorne suggests that creation of the world in two stages, rather than just a single one, is necessary in order to allow the cosmos to “mature” along certain important lines before finally being perfected, as promised. We wonder, though, why this “maturation,” so called, should matter, especially considering the animal suffering that it has caused. Supporters of Only Way Theodicy offer diverse answers to this question. One answer is that a universe governed by nomic regularity of the sort that prevails in our universe – a universe that operates on its own natural lawful autonomy, rather than by supernatural interventionist means – is necessary for the existence of many great goods – goods that require a Darwinian sort of evolution. Murray’s introduction to the concept of nomic regularity in this context helps to get us started looking at the allegedly God-justifying goods of this kind.

murray: is nomic regularity a god-justifying good? As Russell emphasized, Murray also maintains that our world operates according to lawful values and constants that produce patterns that are at least relatively predictable, even if not precisely so.19 Quite a few writers support the thesis that nomic regularity is necessary for the creation of a variety of very valuable ontological, moral, alethic, and aesthetic goods, but of course, its existence also inevitably comes with many natural evils, including the Darwinian ones we have in view.

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Russell, “Physics, Cosmology, and the Challenge to Consequentialist Natural Theodicy,” 129, note 45. Russell refers to John Polkinghorne, The Faith of a Physicist: Reflections of a Bottom-up Thinker (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994). Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 135–36. Murray does not deal directly with the subject of randomness in natural selection and/or how it is related to the nomic regularity of the biological realm. This creates some ambiguity; since while nomic regularity of some kind may be essential to cosmic goodness, as he contends, it does not follow that it has to be nomic regularity of the extremely random Darwinian kind. In other words, it is often left unclear why a nomically regular world must also be Darwinian.

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Murray points out that supporters of this “only-way” or “best-way” thesis defend it in either one of two ways, or both together. Some writers stress that nomic regularity is good in an instrumental sense, i.e., as the instrumental means to valuable God-justifying ends. Some others propose that nomic regularity is good in an intrinsic sense, i.e., lawfully regular worlds such as ours are inherently better than worlds that are nomically irregular. Murray identifies the challenges that God-justifying explanations along these lines must face: CDs [causae Dei] that appeal to nomic regularity in this way hold that this feature of a world is either intrinsically good or good because it serves to secure other goods that outweigh the evil by-products. Such a CD will have to show both that nomic regularity is good or secures outweighing goods and that there is no set of natural laws which can yield a better balance of intrinsic or instrumental goods over evils.20

Let us look first at arguments that are based on the instrumental goodness of nomic regularity. What great goods require nomic regularity in order to exist? We shall look at a variety of intriguing answers. Let us start with Swinburne’s contention that nomic regularity is necessary for the existence of authentic human moral knowledge and personhood.

swinburne: nomic regularity and authentic moral personhood In Providence and the Problem of Evil, Swinburne proposes that in order for human beings to acquire the basic knowledge that underlies genuine moral awareness and agency, we must exist in an environment that makes such a cognitive platform possible. Nomic regularity is absolutely essential, Swinburne argues, in order for us to know how our actions affect the world and to form intentions to act in one way or another towards desired effects.21 Further, in order to make real choices possible, Swinburne suggests that it is also essential that God be hidden to an extent and that one can have experiences of things that are really morally good or bad.22 Swinburne proposes, then, that evils in nature – animal suffering,

20 21 22

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 134. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 160–61. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 161.

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especially – enable us to see firsthand which things are helpful, or morally good, and which behaviors are harmful, or morally bad.23 Meanwhile, Swinburne suggests that we could acquire basic moral knowledge directly from God, if God chose to convey it that way. But if God did convey it that way, we would lose the great good of acquiring moral truths ourselves. We would not really “own” morality so much as have it in an abstractly rote form. Further (so Swinburne), if we did not really “own” our moral intuitions and awareness, then we could not hold moral beliefs with an adequate degree of confidence that the beliefs are really true, and so we would not conduct the moral life with due personal conviction and authenticity.24 But we wonder, why the distinctly Darwinian sort of nomic regularity along with the vast vista of animal suffering that it causes? How can this configuration of natural evil possibly be necessary to attainment of the goods that Swinburne places in view? More to the point, even so, how could those goods possibly justify such a configuration of natural evil, particularly since most of it transpired during millennia of pre-human “deep evolutionary time”? Swinburne seeks to answer this critical question: The story of evolution tells us that the causation or prevention of long-term suffering is indeed within our power; such suffering can happen because it has happened. The story of prehuman evolution reveals to humans just how much the subsequent fate of animals and humans is in our hands – for it will depend on the environment which we form for them, and their genes, which we may cause to mutate.25

In other words, Swinburne proposes that the long evolutionary history of epochal extinctions and so forth is a sort of moral stage on which to refine our human awareness of and sensitivity to environmental moral obligations that we humans have to nature and its nonhuman inhabitants. What should we make of this proposal, along with Swinburne’s other Godjustifying explanations? For one thing, in order to accept them, we must think that a distinctly Darwinian kind of nomic regularity was necessary for the emergence of authentic human moral knowledge and personhood. Unless it is the only

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Richard Swinburne, Providence and the Problem of Evil (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 181. Swinburne, Providence and the Problem of Evil, 182–85. Swinburne, Providence and the Problem of Evil, 191–92 cited in Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 163.

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kind of nomic regularity possible for God to create, which is hard to believe in its own right, it is difficult to see this stringent evolutionary explanation as plausible. Could the almighty and all-knowing God not produce these great moral goods in some other sort of world, a world created by some other kind of partial evolutionary means, for instance, or no ancestral evolutionary means at all? It is hard to see why not. For another thing, however, the goods in appeal are entirely anthropocentric. It is arguably a good thing for animals to participate in a process that produces such great human goods, but is the goodness of such sacrificial participation by animals great enough to justify – to outweigh – the losses that they (and also we) have incurred? I have already suggested, and I will defend the point in Chapters 9 and 10 that fully justificatory goods must accrue to the animals themselves, not only to the human beings that the suffering of nonhuman beings supposedly serves. I suggest, again, that the Outweighing Condition would have to be met in that nonanthropocentric sense by the defeat of the evil they have suffered. As for Swinburne’s last proposal, I am not persuaded that pondering the vast vista of wildly wasteful devastation and suffering by animals during “deep time” elicits a sense of human responsibility for the fate of animals in the future. For immense and irresistible cosmic forces, such as super volcanoes and large asteroids hurtling through space, have caused the most dramatic episodes of natural evil and suffering. I have to concur with Murray’s judgment, “It seems highly doubtful, at best, that the relative value of the knowledge gained by our consideration of evolutionary history outweighs the colossal amount of suffering contained in that history.”26 Mainly for that reason, he concludes that Swinburne’s Godjustifying account fails, and that “the CD [causa Dei] based on intellectual goods must ultimately be judged unsuccessful.”27 The plausibility of this proposal is further weakened by the fact that comparatively few human beings have been in an epistemic position to ponder the Darwinian World at all, much less in this moral-pedagogical manner. Nevertheless, let us keep the goods that Swinburne identifies in mind as we go along, for even if they fail to have full God-justifying force, they are great Darwinian goods, nonetheless, and need to be taken into account. As just indicated, Swinburne also suggests that nomic regularity creates an important epistemic distance between humans and God, so that authentic – rather than “spoon-fed” – human moral knowledge becomes 26 27

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 163–64. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 156.

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possible. Michael Corey, who is a philosopher, and Kenneth Miller, a biologist, have developed this intriguing line of God-justifying argument.

miller and corey: epistemic distance and genuine human freedom In Finding Darwin’s God, Miller writes: “Our freedom as His creatures requires a little space, some integrity, a consistency and self-sufficiency to the material world.”28 He proposes that if God had created everything all at once, fully formed, God’s presence would be so overwhelming that it would “undermine our independence.”29 Likewise (with slight variation), in Evolution and the Problem of Natural Evil, Corey writes: “Naturalistic evolution is the preferred mode of creation. . .because it makes life’s origin ambiguous, which is precisely what is required if humans are to be capable of maintaining a modicum of free will over against their maker.”30 In other words, if not for the nomic regularity of a distinctly Darwinian World, we would be so overwhelmed by the reality of God, and by the incorrigible presence of ultimate truths relevant to the knowledge of God, that no genuinely libertarian human freedom could exist. What should we make of this God-justifying argument? Let us suppose – I think rightly – that some degree of epistemic distance between God and human beings is necessary for the reasons given by Swinburne, Miller, and Corey. Let us also suppose that naturalistic evolution does help create epistemic distance of that important kind. Even so, however, does it follow that this distinctly Darwinian sort of epistemic distance is necessary and/or that the epistemic good that it creates outweighs the evils involved – including epistemic evils? It is rather hard to accept that in creating the epistemic good in view, either of these moral conditions has been met, much less the Defeat Condition prescribed by Chisholm. For many billions of particular evils suffered by unfathomably great numbers of innocent animals remain undefeated for nonhuman species and individuals themselves. Once again, we encounter what seems to be an unacceptable anthropocentrism. Furthermore, in his critique of this explanation, Murray suggests that God could have created the relevant epistemic distance by some other 28

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Kenneth R. Miller, Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), 290. Miller, Finding Darwin’s God, 290. Michael A. Corey, Evolution and the Problem of Natural Evil (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2000), 120.

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means. He poses the question: “. . .just how much divine hiddenness is required in order to secure an environment suitable for morally significant freedom.”31 His point is that, before Darwinism, people believed in the creation of a fully formed earth and species, so they did not have the “right” sense of epistemic distance that awareness of Darwinian evolution creates: . . .for this claim [Miller’s and Corey’s] to be plausible we would have to believe that the free and effective choice of all those who accepted such [pre-Darwinian] arguments during this period was disabled. Needless to say, this is unbelievable.32

However, still more difficulties mount against this explanation. In my comments on Skeptical Theism in Chapter 3, I suggested that divine silence on the justifying reasons for horrific evils is incompatible with theism. On its face, at least, divine hiddenness in this area of life seems incompatible with Christian theism because of its basic analogy of God as Parent. For as Dougherty observes in his critique of Skeptical Theism, “One’s not understanding why one’s suffering is occurring is a constituent, perhaps the key constituent, of one’s overall suffering which makes it almost unbearable at times.”33 In other words, in this area of life, the epistemic gap that Miller and Corey treat as a great metaphysical good created in part by Darwinian evolution seems rather to be a very serious evolutionary evil – an epistemic evil – that makes suffering even worse and more destructive to personhood than it already is. Dougherty concedes that world-obscurity on many matters other than this one does make sense on theism: What I do find plausible. . .is that the great goods of inquiry and discovery gives [sic] us reason to expect that God would, in general, not be prone to making things completely transparent. Swinburne remarks on the value of inquiry and discovery and how this can be expected to occasion suffering without any particular reason.34

However, Dougherty suggests, “there do seem to be reasons to expect more transparency in the moral realm.”35 Indeed, there are. Referring to criticisms against Skeptical Theism on this point from Bruce Russell and William Rowe, Dougherty deftly sums up the major reason: Russell and Rowe identify. . .at least one reason to expect a morally transparent universe if God exists and is anything like a loving parent: the intrinsic good of

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Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 179–80. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 180. Dougherty, “Reconsidering the Parent Analogy,” 21. Dougherty, “Reconsidering the Parent Analogy,” 21. He cites Swinburne, Providence and the Problem of Evil, chapter 10. Dougherty, “Reconsidering the Parent Analogy,” 21.

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knowledge of one’s circumstances and the corresponding reduction in suffering. This is what a loving parent would want, so this is surely what God the Father would want.36

So I suggest that while Swinburne, Miller, and Corey identify great goods that the Darwinian epistemic gap helps to create, they underestimate the extent to which Darwinian evolution also generates grave epistemic evil. Therefore, it seems mistaken to regard those epistemic goods as great enough to count as God-justifying goods, or even as great enough to generate very much partial justification for the evils incurred. So we have considered the proposal that nomic regularity is a Godjustifying instrumental good, the only way for God to create certain very valuable extrinsic human goods. The assessment of these proposals is mixed. On the one hand, the authors identify great Darwinian evolutionary goods, which need to be taken into account in any reckoning of justification for evils. On the other hand, the Darwinian evolutionary evils in view seem unnecessary – why not some other kind of evolution, or no evolutionary world at all? Further, the Darwinian goods identified are anthropocentric, at any rate, and partly for that reason do not seem to outweigh the disvalue of the Darwinian evils inscribed into the existence of animals, especially during the pre-human planetary past. As stated at the beginning of the chapter, however, there is yet another line of God-justifying argument that advocates of Only Way Theodicy encourage us to take. It is to see that a world run by nomic regularity, such as ours, is intrinsically good, is the best kind of world, and is therefore the only kind of world that a theistic God could or would create.

nomic regularity: a god-justifying intrinsic good? Murray refers to evolutionary worlds as “Chaos-to-Order” worlds.37 We should stress in advance that the God-justifying theories in question must succeed in accounting for a specific sort of Chaos-to-Order world – a

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Dougherty, “Reconsidering the Parent Analogy,” 21. Dougherty refers to Bruce Russell and Stephen Wykstra, “The ‘Inductive’ Argument from Evil: A Dialogue,” Philosophical Topics XVI, no. 2 (1988): 133–60; and to William Rowe, “Ruminations about Evil, Philosophical Perspectives,” in Philosophy of Religion, vol. 5, ed. James E. Tomberlin (Atascadero, CA: Ridgeview Publishing, 1991), 69–88. Murray discusses and finally defends one such version in Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 166–92.

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Darwinian sort – in order to solve the Darwinian Problem. (This refining distinction is not always apparent in Murray’s discussion.) Murray begins by differentiating between two temporal aspects of the existing Chaos-to-Order world. He proposes (as I did in Chapter 1) that our language refers to both a diachronic dimension of the evolutionary world picture and a synchronic one.38 The diachronic dimension refers to “the pattern of planetary behavior across time,” while synchronic order “is displayed by an array of natural entities at an instant.”39 Chaos-toOrder accounts of God and natural evil are focused on the diachronic movement from initial conditions of comparative chaos to more stable synchronic states of order, or equilibrium. Why do these writers believe that Chaos-to-Order worlds are intrinsically better or more valuable than non-evolutionary worlds, despite the evolutionary evils they inevitably contain? Nancey Murphy and George Ellis stand out among theorists who appeal to the intrinsic goodness of cosmic autonomy and freedom that evolutionary processes alone (so they argue) can create. We will also mention other writers, not least (again) John Polkinghorne, as notable contributors to the God-justifying argument along this line. Further, as I mentioned earlier, the writings of Haught warrant treatment, not least because I will build on his approach in working out my own. I suggest that these arguments based on the intrinsic value of a Darwinian World are more promising than the ones just considered.

murphy: a genuinely free cosmos Besides abandoning Lapsarian Theodicy for reasons of science, Murphy also proposes that we revise traditional theodicy in line with two relatively recent, interconnected developments in science and theology. (1) Modern scientists have proven that natural laws, not angelic beings, rule the natural universe and (2) modern theologians have shown need to depart from classic doctrinal tradition by stressing that God’s nature is 38

39

Murray explains, “This way of cataloging the sorts of order in the universe is derived largely from Richard Swinburne’s distinction between regularities of copresence and regularities of succession.” Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 167, note 2, from Richard Swinburne, “The Argument from Design,” Philosophy 43 (1968): 199–212. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 167. I have included the evolution of biological order through time as part of the diachronic aspect of the Darwinian World. I am not sure why Murray does not do so. And I view the synchronic aspect of the Darwinian World to be the terrestrial and biological realm as it “is,” i.e., roughly as it has been since the end of the last Ice Age.

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“kenotic” – or passionately self-sacrificial, not “impassible,” or passionless.40 Murphy maintains that God’s “kenotic” nature, so labeled, explains why the universe operates on its own, natural evils and all, and not by miraculous interventionist means: I have argued that God has apparently decided not to violate the “natural rights” of created entities to be what they are. . .. God voluntarily withholds divine power out of respect for the freedom and integrity of creatures. . .. God takes the risk and suffers the cost of cooperating with creatures whose activity violates or fails to measure up to God’s purposes. This cost is accepted in order to achieve a higher goal: the free and intelligent cooperation of the creature in divine activity. This relation between God and creatures is one of God’s highest purposes in creating. . .. Hence God cooperates with, but does not overrule, natural entities.41

So according to Murphy, moral and natural evils grow from the same source, which is God’s “kenotic,” or self-limiting and noncoercive, character. Out of loving necessity, then, God adopts a “hands off” policy towards both human and nonhuman creatures. But unfortunately, so Murphy reasons, just as divine love allows for abuses of moral freedom, it also gives material entities the freedom to “rebel” against God and the good: The crucial consequence of this view of noncoercive divine action at all levels of reality is that natural processes will be expressions not only of God’s will, but of the limitations imposed by the creaturely natures of the entities with which God cooperates. At the human level, God’s action is limited by human limitations but also by free choices in rebellion against God. At the lower levels of complexity the issue is not sin but simply the limitations imposed by the fact that the creature is only what it is, and is not God.42

According to Murphy, then, divine kenotic love makes both existing moral and natural evils inevitable. “Just as sin is a by-product of the creation of free and intelligent beings, suffering and disorder are necessary by-products of a noncoercive creative process that aims at the development of free and intelligent beings.”43 So it would seem that according to Murphy, the essential properties of God together with the essential properties of creatures (could they have different properties?) make

40 41 42 43

Murphy, “Science and the Problem of Evil,” Murphy, “Science and the Problem of Evil,” Murphy, “Science and the Problem of Evil,” Murphy, “Science and the Problem of Evil,”

134–35. 135. 135. 136.

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it impossible for God to prevent natural evils (and apparently, moral evils, too).44 Explaining the point further, Murphy accepts the thesis of Austin Farrer on what he calls “the mutual interference of systems,” i.e., an inevitable colliding of cosmic, geological, and biological forces causing “vast damage to systems, huge destruction and waste.”45 For Farrer and Murphy, it seems, violent conflict is simply inherent in the “free” physical order per se. In addition, Murphy apparently affirms Farrer’s thesis that Darwinian natural selection was the only means of biological creation available to God.46 What should we think of this free-universe theodicy? On one side, it seems right to incorporate a “kenotic” theme of some sort into Christian theology, so as to make self-sacrificial love a hallmark of the divine character as revealed in Jesus Christ. If Christ really is God in human form and the clearest revelation of God that human beings have, then it makes sense to see “kenotic,” or “self-emptying” love as central to our understanding of God. In Chapter 9, especially, I will offer much more on this subject. I will affirm “kenotic” theology of a particular sort in working out a way to assess the moral character of both God and the Darwinian World, allegedly God’s good creation. However, I think it is anything but clear that Murphy’s account of God and natural evils follows from that kenotic Christian picture of divinity. I suggest that Murphy’s explanation raises at least two major concerns. One concern is whether the canonical concept of divine kenosis ¯ in the incarnation and atonement applies appropriately to Murphy’s account of divine creation. In the great kenotic text, Philippians 2:5–11, where the doctrine of divine kenosis in Christ originates, the kenosis, or “self¯ ¯ emptying” undertaken by the divine Son, is celebrated as something that the Son chose freely to do for the sake of the world. If acting in this selfsacrificial way was ontologically and/or morally (it is hard to see the difference in this case) necessary on the Son’s part, I suggest that grounds for the honorific and worshipful praise of Christ at the end would be significantly weakened. However, according to Murphy, the choice God made to create the world with self-limiting autonomy and freedom to go “wrong” was not free in the sense that God could have done otherwise. 44

45

46

Thomas Jay Oord has recently published a similar account of evils in The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015). Murphy, “Science and the Problem of Evil,” 136, cites Austin Farrer, Love Almighty and Ills Unlimited (London: Collins, 1962), 48–49. Murphy, “Science and the Problem of Evil,” 139.

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Employing this means of divine creation was, in her view, ontologically/ morally necessary, the only way of world making open to God. So we are left to wonder whether Murphy’s scenario of creation depicts a truly “kenotic” act on God’s part, or rather something more akin to the outworking of a tragedy, in which God is caught, as it were, as the central character in the play, sadly unable to prevent evil arising from forces outside his control. Murphy’s own words seem to support that assessment: “God takes the risk and suffers the cost of cooperating with creatures whose activity violates or fails to measure up to God’s purposes.”47 I suggest that this essentially tragic depiction of God is problematic, at best. Meanwhile, second, Murphy’s explanation also raises concern on an ontological level of analysis, particularly where she contends that physical matter is inherently resistant to the presumed moral ideals of God, who purportedly created it. This contention seems to stand on a supposed contrast between the ontological perfection of God, on the one hand, and an inherent ontological imperfection of created human and nonhuman matter, on the other. It is hard to know exactly what to make of this ontological thesis, but since it seems to be the foundation (or at least the main part of the foundation) on which Murphy’s explanation of natural evils stands, we fairly require good grounds for accepting it, and I am not sure she gives them. But if not, a very serious problem comes to the surface. For grounding the ontology of nature in that way is to beg the very question in dispute, whether God could have made another kind of material world, one that was not inherently disposed to “rebel.” Along that critical line, once again, we fairly put this question in the specific context of canonical theism and traditional Christian eschatology. Late in the essay that I have been citing, Murphy acknowledges the question, “Why Not the Eschaton Now?” on the understanding that God does foresee “a radically transformed cosmos no longer subject to the laws of nature.” We are of course entitled to wonder, “why not create it this way in the first place?”48 In answering, Murphy turns to the theodicy of soul-making (made famous by John Hick) for the outlines of an answer: “Soul-making arguments are relevant here. . .. One can only be virtuous by having become virtuous. Thus our moral status in the eschaton is dependent on

47 48

Murphy, “Science and the Problem of Evil,” 135. Murphy, “Science and the Problem of Evil,” 146.

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a previous life in which it is earned.”49 In other words, the formation of a virtuous character cannot happen all at once, or even very quickly. Acquiring virtues and integrating them into one’s person takes time. Hence (and we are reminded of Polkinghorne’s similar suggestion), need for a first phase of evolutionary existence on earth prior to the radical transformation of nature. However, this application of Hick’s theodicy, which centers on the spiritual development of human persons, to the question why God has authorized evolutionary suffering by nonhuman non-persons, is rather obviously questionable. We wonder how the essentially moral making of human souls is applicable to the non-moral or amoral evolution of the nonhuman natural realm. Still further, and once again, it would seem that the canonical eschatological vision is in conflict with the contention that physical matter is inherently “rebellious” against the primary will of God. As stated earlier in discussing Robert Russell’s essay, the eschatological vision of the coming messianic existence for all creatures and things clearly implies that so far as canonical tradition is concerned, at least, this ontological assertion is false. A “non-rebellious” physical universe is not only possible, but is the core of the Christian messianic promise. Finally, this eschatological hope also seems to be in conflict with the kenotic thesis that divine intervention would violate the moral character of God. For the envisioned eschatological event not only entails divine intervention and coercion of the cosmos on God’s part, but intervention and coercion on a scale too large even to imagine – the remaking of everything in conformity with the perfect will of God for all creatures and things. In addition, the canonical story of redemption is nothing if not an account of decisive periodic exceptions to the purportedly “kenotic” rule to which Murphy appeals in explaining natural evil. The narrative of periodic divine intervention leading to an eventual eschatological remaking of the world weighs heavily against the God-justifying “free-universe” only-way explanation. We can come at this criticism from a slightly different angle. In order to affirm that God created the world by Darwinian evolutionary means, it seems that we must also presume that God built constraints into evolutionary processes, such that they could not be completely random and incorrigibly “rebellious.” However, contrary to the main justificatory thesis that Murphy supports, these constraints themselves are coercive

49

Murphy, “Science and the Problem of Evil,” 146.

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by definition. For they constrain the chaotic unruliness of the universe by forcing it to evolve into the desired creative forms. It seems then, that in Murphy’s account, on the one hand, God has not intervened (this explains natural evils) but, on the other hand, God has intervened – to insure creation and redemption. At best, the overall coherence of this “free-universe” account is questionable. We can also fairly ask why the constraints God imposed on evolution were not tighter, so as to eliminate biologically gratuitous animal suffering, at least. In other words, if an evolutionary world is necessary for some reason, why not a better one, an evolutionary world that is not Darwinian in nature, but operates by some other less wasteful and brutal means? The question is not unwarranted.

murray: why not a “better” evolutionary world? Again, on its face, it may seem obvious that an omnipotent and omniscient Creator could have managed to bring forth a better world than the existing one. Why not think so, and then face the implications? Murray argues that we are not in a position to think any such thing. He contends that to justify belief that God could have created a better Chaosto-Order world than the existing one, we would have to show that the better alternative world “(a) contains goodness of the sorts. . .and amounts found in the actual world. . .and (b) contains substantially less natural evil than the actual world.”50 But in order to do so, Murray maintains, one would first have to offer a “sketch” of the better alternative world, if not “in fine-grained detail,” at least enough so to show that it “could be pulled off without actually incurring the cost of a worse overall balance.”51 Murray proposes, however, that to produce such an alternative-world sketch simply “cannot be done.”52 It cannot be done, he contends, because one would first have to “spell out a reasonably complete list of the goods the actual world contains,” and spelling out such a list is “beyond our capacities.” Still further, second, he contends that one would have to give “a very clear idea of what the constraints of world design might be, and how those constraints would lead both to

50 51 52

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 147. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 149, note 24. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 149, note 24.

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securing equally great goods and eliminating evil,” something that he also thinks is impossible for humans to do.53 Do critics of the “best-world” position have the epistemic obligations that Murray believes they have? And even if they do, is it really beyond our capacities to manufacture a working list of the goods that make the actual world valuable, so as to set an axiological basis for comparing possible worlds? Finally, is it really impossible to imagine in a plausible fashion how God might have set the constraints of evolution differently, so as to produce comparably great goods while causing considerably less evil? I am not sure the answer to any of these questions is “yes.” In the first place, I suggest that Murray underestimates the strength of the prima facie grounds we have on divine omnipotence and omniscience for rejecting his skeptical assessment. As already suggested, it seems commonsensical that some other world than the existing one could be better, especially so far as animals are concerned. (Genesis 1–2 offers a canonical picture that supports this supposition.) Second, we should at least consider that the human capacity to assess the overall value of whole worlds – a capacity that Murray maintains that we do not have – is implicit in canonical Christian tradition. It is in fact at the core of what it means to affirm that tradition. For the messianic promise of a better world to come entails human ability to discern that the current world-order is defective both ontologically and morally by comparison. Furthermore, though, certain canonical texts actually do provide a “sketch” of what that better world will be like – it will be a realm in which shalom prevails in justice, peace, and flourishing for all creatures and things. Do we really need a more finely grained description to know that this promised world will be much better than the existing one? Justice, peace, and prosperity would reach into all the fine moral, cultural, and natural details of such a world. I suggest further that we do in fact have a workable list of very valuable physical and metaphysical goods that Darwinian evolution has helped to create. We have just entertained several “only-way” arguments that are based on an impressive cluster of cosmic goods, and we are about to look at more and (so I will argue) even greater evolutionary goods. So I submit that the conditional requirement to make a complete enough list of cosmic

53

Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 147.

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goods for the purpose in view is limited, to be sure, but not “beyond our capacities,” as Murray believes it is, at least not to the extent of making the assessment meaningless. To further reinforce the points just made, let us consider the preDarwinian theory of evolution offered by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829). For Lamarck indeed did envision an evolutionary world that would have had a considerably better balance of evolutionary goods and evils than the configuration that exists in the Darwinian one. The stratigraphic evidence compelled Lamarck to believe that species had not come forth fully formed but emerged from a process of divinely guided ancestral “transmutation” – the (unexplained) inheritance of traits acquired via adaptation from changing environments that elicited adaptive “transmutation” in species.54 In Lamarck’s divinely guided scenario, the ancestral evolution of species unfolded smoothly, via adaptation, from simple forms to ever more complex ones, until the seamless process reached its intended culmination in the emergence of human beings. Notably, there were no extinctions, which (as mentioned earlier) seemed religiously impossible.55 Instead of extinction, Lamarck proposed that under divine direction, the seemingly lost species must have evolved instead into new and better ones, or perhaps still existed in as-yet-unexplored places.56 I suggest that Lamarck’s evolutionary world picture, then, provides the alternative-world sketch that Murray believes is required to justify belief that a better evolutionary world than the Darwinian one is possible. I do not think we have encountered decisive reasons against belief that God could have created a “better” Lamarckian World instead. If so, then the only-way thesis is mistaken. However, we are not quite done looking at Only Way Theodicy. For we have yet to consider Haught’s approach, parts of which will help to provide a framework for my own account. I will focus mainly on those parts of his larger God-justifying presentation.

54

55

56

“Early Concepts of Evolution: Jean-Baptiste Lamarck,” in Understanding Evolution (Berkeley: University of California Museum of Paleontology, 2019). evolution.berkeley .edu/evolibrary/article/history_09. “Early Concepts of Evolution: Jean-Baptiste Lamarck,” in Understanding Evolution. On the hard problem of mass extinctions, which many geologists resisted admitting until the bitter evidential end, see Benton, When Life Nearly Died, on the difficulty for Christians, esp. 16, but throughout the book. “Early Concepts of Evolution: Jean-Baptiste Lamarck”.

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haught: the narrative structure and theme of evolution In Chapter 1, we looked briefly at Haught’s formulation of the God-andevil problem posed by Darwinism. He has written extensively on the relationship between Darwinism and theistic religion.57 In his impressive array of writings, Haught puts forth three main theses: (1) divine love necessitates the existence of a Darwinian sort of evolution with its relative randomness, brutality, and waste during epochal time; (2) the Darwinian evolutionary world has a narrative structure that is both intrinsically and extrinsically good in ways that support adopting an “only-way” thesis; and (3) this cosmic narrative structure enables the world to be a fitting place for the divine promise of eventual redemption and for grounding faith and hope that the promise of the narrative is true.58 The first thesis is very similar to Murphy’s “free-universe” proposal, so there is no need to include it in this discussion. I will focus attention mainly on the second thesis on evolution as a thematic narrative, for I believe it is his most fruitful line of thought and it is the one that I will incorporate into my own approach. The third thesis will also have a subsidiary, yet somewhat notable background role to play later on, too.

darwinian narrative structure We have seen that the apparent aimlessness of evolution is a major part of the Darwinian Problem. Neo-Darwinian writers often appeal to the apparently random, undirected dysteleology of the process in support of atheism. Haught seeks to counteract this common opinion. He contends on the contrary that, despite surface appearances, this atheistic judgment is mistaken. Haught maintains that on close inspection, we can discern what he calls a “narrative cosmological principle” that underlies and frames the seemingly random course of evolution. He proposes that, on the whole,

57

58

Murray discusses Haught’s writings in Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 170–75. I am mainly following his discussion of Haught. Also, see Haught, “Darwinism, Design, and Cosmic Purpose,” in Back to Darwin, 319–29. This is Murray’s concise summary of Haught’s theses. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 170–75.

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evolutionary history is not random, or Bedlam, but has a story-like structure from beginning to end.59 To explain this claim, Haught proposes that the story-like structure of evolution has three interrelated features: contingency, nomicity, and sufficient time.60 By contingency, Haught refers to what “we confusedly refer to as random, and accidental, undirected or indeterminate” in “evolution’s recipe.”61 However, according to Haught, to characterize evolution as purely random is confused because of the discernible nomicity. Evolution unfolds within law-like limits that give it direction. So Haught: “nature must also possess a set of invariant and inviolable physical constraints, namely, the laws of physics and chemistry.”62 So the process is not random. Further, for the narrative to unfold in this fashion requires “sufficient time,” i.e., a “vast amount of time,” during which a coherent narrative structure and theme emerge.63 Haught proposes that these three features of evolution give forth what we may meaningfully describe as a grand cosmic narrative. He suggests that discovery of this narrative quality of the evolutionary past is momentous in the history of science:64 After Darwin – and even more so after Einstein – nature has revealed itself, beneath previous impressions of it, as being an immense story. And the significance of the three features we have just isolated is that they make it possible for a universe to have a narrative disposition.65

According to Haught, then, neo-Darwinian atheists have greatly overstated the randomness and apparent purposelessness of evolution: . . .openness to transformation does not mean absolute indeterminateness. . .. There is a finite set of realizable possibilities, and evolution unfolds within constraints. These constraints. . .prevent the life story from utterly aimless meandering. The configurations that life assumes appear to be numerically finite. The story is open to unpredictable novelty, but relevant new possibilities are not limitless.66

Contrary to common atheistic opinion, Haught contends that this unfolding of evolution “within constraints” suggests a “‘loose’ kind of teleology.”67 Does evolutionary history really have a “narrative disposition” and a “loose” yet discernible teleology? What about all the “plurality of 59 61 63 65 66 67

60 Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 60. Murray, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, 172. 62 Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 58–60. Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 58–60. 64 Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 58–60. Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 58–60. Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 58–60. Haught, “Darwinism, Design, and Cosmic Purpose,” 327. Haught, “Darwinism, Design, and Cosmic Purpose,” 329.

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worlds,” which we considered in Chapter 1? What should we make of all the “dropped subplots,” so to speak, sub-thematic rivulets that end at impasses – mass extinctions, for instance – and are then simply left unresolved by the alleged “author”? For such reasons, Deane-Drummond has been strongly critical of Haught’s thesis on evolution as narrative. She stresses that this classification fails to account for the violently abrupt breaks in the evolutionary process – the “punctuated equilibrium,” as Gould called it.68 She (rightly, I believe) resists a tendency in Haught’s argument (and that of other evolutionary theists) to depict evolution as a sort of epic, and to lose sight of the dramatic scenes in which the process takes most unexpected turns.69 Nevertheless, I am not sure the analogy of a drama, which Deane-Drummond advocates instead, helps very much to account for the teleological problem either. As suggested earlier, neither analogy quite does justice to the extent to which the evolutionary Tree of Life is dead. To do so, we would need some other aesthetic analogy, if possible. Meanwhile, I think Haught’s essential point – that the randomness is not absolute, but is contained within constraints that have something like a narrative structure – validates the use of a literary analogy, so long as we are careful to acknowledge its serious limitations and do not lose sight of how “loose” the supposed “teleology” of evolution is. For whatever artistic form the Darwinian World may have, the analogies of narrative and/or drama do not eliminate the strong appearance of dysteleology given by the scores of unresolved evolutionary strands. In order to account for them, as I will eventually seek to do, we will need to find an analogy in some other kind of art. Going on, however, so far, we have been focusing on the Darwinian aesthetic form, or structure, in Haught’s theodicy, but narratives are not mere forms. By definition, they have substance. They tell stories. So what story – what kind of story – does Haught think Darwinian evolution tells? In what genre has the Darwinian evolutionary narrative been written? His answer is that the evolutionary story, or plot, is best understood as analogous to a tragedy, a story of inevitable suffering and loss due to existential forces that are inscribed into reality and are beyond the power of mortal creatures to control. One must merely accept and seek to cope with them as best one can. So Haught on this Darwinian narrative: “It 68 69

Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, esp. 48–53. See Deane-Drummond’s comments along this line in Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, esp. 50–51, 57–58.

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inevitably has a dark side. Redemption. . .must mean. . .the healing of tragedy. . .that accompanies a universe in via.”70 It seems, then, that for Haught, the “only way” for God to create a valuable array of life was by this distinctly tragic means. With this thought on the aesthetic genre character of Darwinism, Haught elaborates his thesis on its narrative form and “loose teleology” along two major interlocking and mutually supportive lines. Along one line, he proposes that the tragic narrative character of evolution provides neglected evidential support for belief in divine Darwinian design. Along the other line, he argues that the tragic narrative theme of evolution creates a form of beauty – tragic beauty – that is valuable enough to justify the tragic evils that Darwinian evolution must cause. In other words, the Darwinian tragic narrative provides both evidential and justificatory grounds for seeing the Darwinian configuration of animal suffering as plausible on theism, particularly on Christian theism. Let us look more closely at how Haught believes it does so.

tragedy as evidence of god In his “Boyle Lecture” of 2003, Haught suggested that the “loosely teleological,” forward yet meandering movement of evolution provides epistemic support for belief in Christianity’s promise of cosmic redemption. How so? Haught explains: “Try to imagine what nature would be like, were it completely devoid of undirected, accidental events. . .. It. . .would persist in endless cycles of sameness. Nature could carry no promise or openness to creative renewal.”71 Contrary to certain neoDarwinian characterizations, we do not rightly discern in evolution the “blind movement of the past towards the future.”72 The designer, if there is one, may not be a “watchmaker,” but is assuredly also not blind. The nomicity of evolution is discernible, because without it “the universe could have no narrative continuity. . .. At every moment it would crumble into disconnected droplets of disarray.”73 Haught exhorts us to see evolution as enigmatically teleological, as “the coming of the future 70 71

72 73

Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 169. John Haught, “Darwin, Design, and the Problem of Nature,” in Science and Religion in the Twenty-First Century: The Boyle Lectures, ed. Russell Re Manning and Michael Byrne (London: SCM Press, 2013), 94. Haught, “Darwin, Design, and the Problem of Nature,” 94. Haught, “Darwin, Design, and the Problem of Nature,” 95.

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that pushes the present into the past.”74 The future constantly arrives, as it were, “in the mode of promise.”75 Ironically, then, if viewed in this perspective, the diachronic course of evolution that often elicits bleak atheistic thoughts and a sense of life’s ultimate meaninglessness instead engenders the sense that life is promising, that something better is on the way. “In the depths of Darwin’s recipe. . .there resides what we may be so bold as to call ‘the promise of nature.’”76 In this way, Haught seeks to recover a sense of divine providence in nature. “Providence here takes the form not so much of design and fine-tuning as the perpetual dawning of a new future for the world.”77 Haught’s comments on evolutionary tragedy as promise may recall the turn that Tennyson took in his poetics on nature “red in tooth and claw” from its desolation to prayerful hope in moral resolution in the end. In Chapters 8‒10, I will seek to show how selected canonical texts and doctrines support this promissory intuition, for I doubt that it can stand very well on its own, as Haught seems to believe it does. However, Haught does not stop with these provocative proposals about discernible tragic design and hints of divine providence. He goes so far as to suggest (as does Sarah Coakley, cited earlier) that Darwinian evolution may even support a new form of “natural theology” in service of the “special revelation” allegedly underlying distinctly Christian theology: Instead of focusing only on the fact of living design. . .a revived natural theology will focus on nature’s openness to the future. In my view, the fact that the universe possesses a narrative character. . .is the greatest of wonders. It is a wonder that we generally take for granted, but it runs much deeper into nature than does design. The theme of “nature as promise” harmonizes nicely with the eschatological orientation of biblical religion. Darwin’s recipe itself may not provide suitable soil for a natural theology centered on intelligent design, but it may very well provide the entry to a natural theology based on nature’s narrative openness to the promise of an ever-renewing future. Perhaps Robert Boyle himself. . .would not be averse to such a reconfiguration of natural theology after Darwin.78

In some contemporary circles, the very notion of a “natural theology” has become an anachronism, or even anathema. However, Haught explains that despite predictably raised eyebrows, the prospect of a Darwinian 74 75 76 77 78

Haught, “Darwin, Design, Haught, “Darwin, Design, Haught, “Darwin, Design, Haught, “Darwin, Design, Haught, “Darwin, Design,

and the Problem of Nature,” and the Problem of Nature,” and the Problem of Nature,” and the Problem of Nature,” and the Problem of Nature,”

94. 94. 95. 95. 95–96.

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“natural theology” is plausible. Notably, however, he does so in a manner that I suggest leads one away from, rather than towards, embracing the theological metaphysics of Only Way Theodicy. I suggest that his explanation instead favors replacing that image of divine moral/ethical agency with an aesthetic analogue of God as Artist, in the light of which we naturally picture God as free to create one kind of cosmic art or another. I will come back to that suggestion in Chapter 7, on Aesthetic Theodicy. Further, however, let us look at Haught’s proposal that the use of tragedy in creation provides partial (not exclusive) moral justification for Darwinian evils in the animal realm.

tragedy as justification for darwinian evil Haught (who identifies himself as a process theologian) turns to the writings of Alfred North Whitehead for support. Whitehead proposed that in creating and relating to the world in providential and redemptive fashion, God has not been about scrupulously minimizing evils so far as God can – as ordinary moral persons are obliged to do – but has instead authorized the occurrence of immense amounts and kinds of evil in the course of maximizing forms of deep and morally valuable cosmic beauty. In the light of Whitehead’s approach, Haught makes the provocative proposal that these seemingly anti-theistic features of the Darwinian World “are completely consonant with the notion of a God whose narrative ‘design’ for the universe is the maximizing of beauty.”79 He admits that this aesthetic teleology “may not conform to human ethical criteria.”80 Nevertheless, he proposes that the divine departures from human ethics “need not obscure the fact that the universe, at least in a generally directional way, is in the business of narratively promoting the reign of beauty.”81 Of course we wonder, can a “reign of beauty” – an aesthetic form of the good – serve as a justificatory solution to the essentially moral problem of evolutionary animal suffering? On its face, this God-justifying depiction of God the Artist just seems wrong, wildly so. We will see that all versions of Aesthetic Theodicy encounter and must somehow overcome this objection. In the interim, though, Haught’s explanation helps us to see how this line of justificatory argument can go.

79 80 81

Haught, “Darwinism, Design, and Cosmic Purpose,” 329. Haught, “Darwinism, Design, and Cosmic Purpose,” 329. Haught, “Darwinism, Design, and Cosmic Purpose,” 329.

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Haught explains that tragic beauty is not amoral in the way that some forms of simpler beauty arguably are. For in the tragic mood, one has morally valuable thoughts and emotions, both together. Perhaps the most valuable moral emotion that tragedy evokes is compassion, or empathy.82 In Chapter 7, we shall see that many commentators – going back to Aristotle – have made this moral point about the value of the tragic theme in art. So we will return to Haught’s proposal in the context of that larger discussion of tragic goods and their alleged ability to outweigh and to justify tragic evils. For the moment, however, I will mention just one further proposal that Haught makes on this level of the problem. Haught proposes that if we are positioned rightly in faith – seeing the Darwinian tragedy with the eyes of Christian faith – the great loss and suffering of evolution affects us differently than it does from the perspective of atheism. In a Christian perspective, it elicits rather a sad, yet joyful, awareness of an “empathetic redeemer, able to heal the tragedy and suffering that do occur in evolution. . ..”83 In this way, Haught begins to connect the canonical story of Christ with the Darwinian story of species. In so doing, he suggests, the same vista of suffering that evokes a sense of “not God” begins to make better theistic sense, and to evoke instead a sense that the world has “considerable depth of meaning.”84 In other words, when we apprehend the tragic character of evolution and then connect with it in a distinctly Christian way of seeing things, the sensus divinitatis that Darwinism seems to subvert begins to revive in minds and hearts, as we are moved unexpectedly towards God-justifying hope in redemption. I promise to revisit these thoughts on tragedy and Christian faith – on tragedy as an important source of “theistic sight” – in later chapters, and to elaborate them much further than I have done here. So for now, we have finished our examination of Only Way Theodicy. Before moving on to consider Aesthetic Theodicy, let me briefly collect and sum up the main things that I suggest we should take away from the discussion in this chapter.

concluding thoughts on only way theodicy We have considered so-called Only Way Theodicy in several notable versions. I have rejected the “only-way” thesis for several reasons, but 82 83 84

Haught, “Darwinism, Design, and Cosmic Purpose,” 329. Haught, “Darwinism, Design, and Cosmic Purpose,” 329. Haught, “Darwinism, Design, and Cosmic Purpose,” 329.

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I suggest nonetheless that the approaches we considered have helped to improve the position of theism on both evidential and justificatory levels of the controversy. The authors of these theodicies have singled out very valuable Darwinian goods that, at least to an extent, counteract the atheistic force of Darwinian evils. The constellation of extrinsic and intrinsic Darwinian goods that they identify is impressive, to say the least, and I propose that we must take it into serious account. The major extrinsic goods that nomic Darwinian evolution creates include genuine moral knowledge, personhood, and maturation (in moral consciousness, moral freedom, moral knowledge, and meaningful moral action); genuine human identity (as really distinct from God); and the reality of intellectual inquiry and discovery. Finally, the list (so Haught) must include an overall narrative picture that creates tragic goods, especially compassion or empathy for animals, and perhaps even a new sense of compassion for all creation in God. All these goods are decidedly anthropocentric, and so I have suggested that they fall short of providing justification for Darwinian evils suffered by animals. Nevertheless, they are great goods, and we should not discount them in our reckoning of Darwinian goods and evils. It is a very good thing, on the whole, for animals to have participated in the creation of such great human goods. Later we will consider important goods that evolution creates for animals themselves, too. Further, some writers have also stressed goods that are intrinsic to Darwinian evolution. Some of them stress the good of autonomy for the whole creation, together with the good of its emergence and maturation over time from chaotic conditions to cosmic order. Closely connected with this line of God-justifying argument is the (I believe more promising) thesis that a Darwinian World is the source of very deep cosmic beauty, together with goodness and truth. In Chapter 7, I will develop that thesis further and eventually incorporate it into my own “case for God.” I will take Haught’s lead in connecting it with distinctly Christian theistic traditions and themes. This last comment leads, then, to the subject of Aesthetic Theodicy, which we will consider next.

7 God-Justifying Beauty Aesthetic Theodicy

We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past – whether he admits it or not – can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love. Hans Urs von Balthasar1

the aesthetic advantage At the end of Chapter 6, we considered John Haught’s proposal that Darwinian evolution, understood as a diachronic whole, is not wholly random, as commonly claimed by neo-Darwinian atheists. On the contrary, Haught contends, evolutionary history has the character of a “loosely teleological” narrative advancing a tragic theme that is still unresolved, and yet is unresolved in a manner that elicits the strong promissory sense that a resolution is “on the way” and will come eventually. Perhaps what Haught has in mind on this last somewhat obscure point is comparable to our response to a work of art that is in a phase of progress that makes one wonder about its quality, or perhaps whether it

1

Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, Volume 1 – Seeing the Form (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1982), 18.

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counts as art at all. In some instances, however – many examples besides the paintings of Picasso could well be invoked – in its early phase, an emerging work of art may seem chaotic and disintegrated to an extent that seems to insure aesthetic failure. And yet if we suspect, or perhaps are assured by others, that the artist creating it is in fact great, before writing it off, we at least look for signs or glimpses of greatness in the making that would provide some evidence for that claim, together with justification for the aesthetic evils that presently obscure our appreciation for the work. In that instance, the emerging work has a character that is promissory in the sense I think Haught intends. I have suggested that, seen in this aesthetic light, at any rate, the configuration of evolutionary evils and goods in the Darwinian World immediately appears to be more plausible on theism than it does on a narrowly ethical picture of divine moral agency and purpose. If understood as analogous to a tragic work of art, the configuration of animal suffering unveiled makes a great deal more sense than it does on a meticulous ethical assessment. So if we can reasonably accept the basic analogy – God as Artist, working in a tragic genre – then perhaps the seemingly atheistic unveilings we have considered are not as unexpected as they first seem from a stringently ethical perspective. However, good grounds exist for thinking that this aesthetic analogy is inappropriate and should not be employed in theodicy. Critics correctly point out that Aesthetic Theodicy, in versions both past and present, has decided disadvantages, which they doubt can be overcome, as anyone wishing to employ the analogy must do. Before trying to exploit the distinct advantages of this approach, then, let us take stock of these serious objections.

the aesthetic disadvantage In The Poetics of Evil, Philip Tallon may somewhat overstate the matter when he writes that in the thousands of works on the problem of God and evil published during the past half a century, “the role of aesthetics has gained virtually no attention.”2 We have already seen that it has received some attention, at least, and we will see that it has gotten still more from certain writers. However, it is indeed true that recent writers have

2

Philip Tallon, The Poetics of Evil: Toward an Aesthetic Theodicy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 16.

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generally neglected the aesthetic aspect of the God-and-evil problem, and further, as Adams pointed out, “attempts. . .to introduce aesthetic considerations into the discussion, have encountered significant resistance.”3 The main reason for this resistance, she maintains, is that many modern thinkers have seen aesthetics as categorically separate from and quite irrelevant to ethics and morality.4 For contemporary philosophers often assume “that moral values are as different in kind from those treated by aesthetics as from the ones codified in rules of etiquette!”5 Let us consider reasons why they do.

segregating aesthetics from ethics Adams attributes the exclusion of aesthetics from the analytical God-andevil conversation in part to the influence of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). In his Critique of Judgment (1790), he (so Adams) “enforces a separation of aesthetics from science and morals, for reasons distinctive to his own philosophical system.”6 Tallon concurs: “On Kant’s conception, perception of beauty and perception of purpose must exist in alternate dimensions of thinking and cannot mutually inform one another.”7 The two are quite simply different kinds of human experience. On this Kantian analysis, then (so Tallon), “its value for theodicy will likely be minimal to nonexistent.”8 In order to employ aesthetics in theodicy, then, one must challenge this separation of ethics from aesthetics – this “segregationist” approach, as Adams calls it – and integrate the two together by some means. The aesthetic goods in view must have God-justifying moral value. However, Kantian theory is not the only cause of the segregation. Adams cites developments in the specialized field of aesthetic philosophy, too. Debates over what counts as beauty, or art, lead to belief that aesthetic values are too unstable to be employed in any realm of

3 4

5 7 8

Adams, Horrendous Evils, 129. Adams cites Terence Penelhum, Philip Quinn, Eleonore Stump, and Nicholas Wolterstorff, all of whom make this point in one way or another. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 130–32. 6 Adams, Horrendous Evils, esp. 129–51; here 129. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 131. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 53. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 53. Jeremy Begbie also reasons that since, according to Kant, beauty “does not add to our stock of knowledge about the world,” aesthetic judgment must be irrelevant to making judgments about God’s goodness. Tallon cites Begbie, Voicing Creation’s Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991), 190–91.

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discourse, much less as a framework for theodicy.9 Adams (wisely, I believe) recommends ignoring these debates and focusing on commonplace assumptions about beauty, instead: Let us begin ostensively, with a fairly catholic list of aesthetic properties, first helping ourselves to the distinction between sensuous values (such as light, colors, textures, sounds) and formal values (such as the arrangement of the aforementioned values in paintings, sculptures, and musical compositions so that they are balanced, tightly knit or loosely woven, graceful or clumsy, ironic, onedimensional, and so forth). . .. We may proceed to distinguish pure value properties (such as being beautiful or sublime, ugly or dreary); emotion properties (such as being sad or joyful, somber or angry); behavioral properties (such as being bouncy, daring, frenzied or sluggish); evocative qualities (such as being powerful, boring, amusing, uplifting); representational features (such as being true-to-life, distorted, realistic); and even historical properties (such as being original, bold, conservative, derivative).10

Adams’s glossary of aesthetic properties will prove useful for reference at various points in the discussion. Further, I will also concur with Christian thinkers, especially Balthasar, who contend that certain “secular” aesthetic values are inherent in “sacred” canonical Christian tradition. As will become clear, I believe, the integration of aesthetics and ethics is intrinsic to the Christian narrative of divine creation and redemption. So for Christian theists at least, it is fitting to include aesthetic values in theodicy. It is in fact unfitting to leave them out of the conversation. Meanwhile, Adams cites yet another reason for reluctance to give beauty a place at the table. Artists themselves often reinforce the idea that art is irrelevant to ethics. So Adams: “the art-for-art’s-sake movement protested utilitarian values of an industrialized society with the declaration that art is and ought to be useless and irrelevant to anything else!”11 In that light, to invoke an aesthetic analogue for God may immediately conjure an image of God as an “amoral artist,” a figure celebrated by Oscar Wilde and many other modern and post-modern leaders in the arts.

9

10

Adams, Horrendous Evils, 132–33. Adams points out that Alexander Baumgarten coined the term, “aesthetics,” in the eighteenth century as “sensory knowing.” Since then “thinkers have reshaped the field in different ways.” She generally affirms the opinions of Plato and Kant that no single concept of the arts can be found. See 132 and note 7 for references. 11 Adams, Horrendous Evils, 133. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 131.

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It should also be admitted, I believe, that some forms of beauty have only trivial moral value, if any at all. The beauty of lighting in a film documenting the Holocaust, for instance, hardly merits drawing attention away from the moral horrors in view. The loveliness of the canary sitting on the skull, to go back to Dillard’s image, should not distract us from the reality of evil leering right before our eyes. We will see that some versions of Aesthetic Theodicy do in fact legitimize David Lewis’s concern that the analogue of God as Artist in theodicy may lead to a picture of God as (so Lewis) “a fanatical artist who cares only for the aesthetic quality of creation. . .and cares nothing for the good of creatures whose lives are woven into His masterpiece.”12 As we proceed, then, we will have to take care to avoid an amoral or trans-moral (sociopathic) aesthetic depiction of God, at all costs. Fortunately, as Tallon observes, “amorality” is not necessarily an ideal in art. He appeals to a theory of art that extends from Aristotle all the way into the contemporary works of theorists like Iris Murdoch, Northrop Frye, and many others, who support the inseparability of morality and art.13 As Balthasar suggests in the comment cited at the beginning of this chapter, a complete separation is just not possible – beauty may be banished, but she refuses to leave the room! There is, however, yet another obstacle to overcome. I indicated my intention to build upon and to develop Haught’s God-justifying appeal to the tragic character of evolution. The trouble is that canonical sources may render that sort of appeal implausible. Did the canonical Christian God really choose tragedy as the preferred genre in which to create the world? There are fairly strong biblical grounds for skepticism.

biblical grounds for skepticism Adams is correct to admonish “beauty segregationists” on canonical grounds, for it is indeed true that for any Christian theist who has this modern “segregationist” attitude toward aesthetics, “tradition should disturb us.”14 For it clearly calls that discriminatory policy into serious question.15 But does it clearly support going in the direction I wish to take?

12

13 15

David Lewis, “Evil for Freedom’s Sake?” Philosophical Papers 22, no. 3 (1993): 149–72; 149. 14 Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 78–85. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 131. In Chapter 8, I will look more closely at the integration of aesthetic values into canonical moral narratives.

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To be clear, as Adams observes, the Bible does not have a positive theory of beauty: “it would be both anachronism and genre mistake to find an aesthetic theory in the Scriptures.”16 Nevertheless, the biblical writers liberally enlisted aesthetic properties and genre styles. So Adams: “it is easy to sample the Bible’s use of aesthetic categories to describe Who God is and what God does”:17 In fact, “the Creator God as artist” is such a traditional trope, that it should scarcely surprise one to discover aesthetic categories at work in the story of creation. Less often remarked in philosophical circles is how the Bible parallels creation and redemption (or re-creation), arguably including the former as a cosmic model of the latter, so that the aesthetics of creation and the aesthetics of redemption are the same.18

I will suggest in due course that they are indeed very similar, but not quite the same, and that the difference between them matters. However, Adams’s main claim is clearly correct: biblical narratives are steeped in implied appeals to aesthetic values and disvalues that are inseparably connected symbolically and literally with their moral counterparts. A few examples suffice to represent a great many instances of biblical support for an aesthetic perspective on divine creative and redemptive purpose and action in the world. As for creation, in Genesis 1, God creates in the manner of a royal architect, whose vision in piecing the cosmos together includes good pleasure in its beauty. The Greek translation of the divine assessment of the finished whole as “very good” is the intensive form of kala, or “very beautiful.”19 In Chapter 8, in our crucial discussion of the book of Job, we shall return to canonical aesthetic perspectives on the original creation and on the natural realm, a subject that is considerably more complicated than one might expect. For now, however, the point is a general one – God the Artist is indeed a canonical trope, as Adams suggests. As for the narrative of divine redemption, Adams points out (as mentioned previously) that in Scripture, it is often put into the dramatic poetic terms of God doing battle with the chaos dragon, Leviathan (which goes by other names, too). By vanquishing the chaos beast, God brings forth cosmic order (Psalm 74:10–23; Isaiah 51:7–13; 54:7–10; also Psalm 104:6–9, 26; and Job 41:1–11).20 This imagery will play a crucial role in our discussion of theodicy in the book of Job, so readers will do well to 16 18 20

Adams, Horrendous Evils, 135. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 135. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 136.

17 19

Adams, Horrendous Evils, 135. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 106.

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keep this poetic formulation of divine redemption in mind, for as Adams explains, it has an aesthetic/affective character to go with the cognitive theology it contains. The aesthetic character of creation and redemption comes through continuously in the major moments of the narrative. In Eden, we are given the basic vision that God has for human and nonhuman beings – an existence that is more than merely functional. It is at once an existence of great delight (that is what the term Eden means) and a multi-layered experience of goodness, truth, and beauty all integrated together as one. The same union of aesthetic, moral, and alethic values surfaces in the narratives of the Exodus, wherein God brings Israel into a Promised Land, the rich delights of which reiterate the vision of God for creatures in Eden.21 As we shall see, this integrative pattern holds all the way through to canonical eschatology in both Jewish and distinctly Christian imagery of the messianic realm to come. The vision of existence on the messianic Holy Mountain of God in Isaiah 11, very often cited by theological advocates of animal welfare, not only includes animals, but anticipates a new earthly order in which the wolf lies down peaceably with the lamb and the leopard beside the young goat (Isaiah 11:6). Likewise in the New Testament, the messianic realm is envisioned symbolically not only as a place of moral justice and truth, but as a place of unimaginably great beauty, too (Revelation 21:15–27). So canonical tradition unequivocally supports the integration of aesthetics into the moral realm. The trouble is, however, that the examples just cited are anything but tragic in character. On the contrary, they are triumphal – in the utmost extreme. Inspection of other Christian sources is perhaps more promising. The Passion Story of Christ evokes a tragic mood, to be sure. However, it, too, ends in unambiguous triumph with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus into a position of supreme power to be manifested at any time in apocalyptic fashion. In making a Godjustifying appeal to essentially tragic aesthetic values, then, I will have to resolve apparent conflict with the biblical-aesthetic themes themselves. Prior to pursuing this path, however, I think it will be important to look at versions of Aesthetic Theodicy that theists have already tried. Doing so will provide a perspective, not least on serious pitfalls of the approach, but also on strengths that are missing from the more narrowly ethical God-justifying accounts. I will begin with a brief discussion of

21

See especially the description of the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 8.

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classical Aesthetic Theodicy, which was prevalent among Christian theists in the ancient and medieval past. I will then consider post-classical versions offered by certain contemporary theists. As already indicated, I will propose that the post-classical presentations are more promising for our purposes than their classical counterparts.

classical aesthetic theodicy: the triumph of harmony and balance Tallon provides an analytical survey of ancient classical versions of Aesthetic Theodicy. Aesthetic Theodicy of this type grew primarily from the pioneering work of Augustine (354–430) and was passed on by Boethius (480–524), Thomas Aquinas (1225–74), and numerous other medieval writers. “Augustinian” Aesthetic Theodicy culminated in importance with the famous “best-possible-world” theodicy of Leibniz.22 The main thesis of “Augustinian” Aesthetic Theodicy is that from the divine perspective (so Tallon), “all good and evil are integrated in the perfect work of art.”23 In the Augustinian type of Aesthetic Theodicy, “all evil is integrated seamlessly into a larger, more complex and beautiful whole.”24 Or as Hick explained in his widely recognized treatment of aesthetic approaches to theodicy, “seen in its totality from the ultimate standpoint of the Creator, the universe is wholly good; for even the evil within it is made to contribute to the complex perfection of the whole.”25 In this tradition, it does so by means of symmetrical balance over and against cosmic goods. In other words, goods and evils balance each other off in a beautiful and good symmetrical fashion. Unfortunately (so I believe), it has to be mentioned that in these western Roman Catholic and Protestant accounts, theologians often applied this God-glorifying aesthetic assessment to the evil of eternal damnation in Hell. They frequently maintained that the overall balance between Heaven, on the one hand, and Hell, on the other, created a beautiful God-glorifying outcome for the world.26 It is no wonder, then, that some thinkers accuse

22 24

25

26

23 See Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 8–9. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 8. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 118. There are indeed “remaining questions, variant interpretations, and notable fluctuations in Augustine’s thought. . .but the central aesthetic motif is nevertheless established.” Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 118. Tallon cites John Hick, Evil and the God of Love, rev. ed. (London: Macmillan, 1978), 88. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 77.

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Aesthetic Theodicy of the artistic-moral perversion that Sartre called “the betrayal of Beauty,” making beauty complicit in evil.27 The main defect of classical Aesthetic Theodicy is obvious enough. Hick indicts classical Aesthetic Theodicy for being immoral in character, or in his words, for being “sub-personal,” for submerging the value of persons as individuals in impersonal forms of overall cosmic beauty.28 Hick cites Adolf von Harnack’s pointed reason for rejecting ancient aesthetic accounts of God and evil: “The individual and evil are lost to view in the notion of beauty. . ..”29 This was of course Ivan Karamazov’s complaint: What grand beauty or goodness could be worth the screams of a single child, tortured by soldiers after winning a war? Likewise, is any form of cosmic beauty valuable enough to be worth the shrieking of the earth’s ravines, in Tennyson’s terms? Furthermore, we have seen that in any event, the Darwinian World, as unveiled, does not comport with the aesthetics of harmony, balance, and the perfect integration of parts into a cosmic whole. Perhaps we may picture the physical universe in something like this classical way. The fine-tuning of the universe for life on earth lends itself to arguments based on such values. We have also seen that Creegan appeals to particular moments of harmony and symmetry in the evolutionary realm, so that arguments along this teleological line may have a role to play in the controversy. However, as Haught contends, the aesthetics of Darwinian evolution are predominantly those of great disharmony, remarkable imbalance, and apparent dysteleology – giving forth a narrative with a decidedly tragic theme. Haught’s approach is one of several contemporary versions of post-classical accounts of natural evil formulated along these aesthetic lines. So let us turn to these post-classical versions of Aesthetic Theodicy. These accounts will further illumine the way that Haught has encouraged us to take, including obstacles that stand in the way of taking it, as I wish to do.

post-classical aesthetic theodicy: the tragedy of disharmony and imbalance John Kekes’s judgment is no doubt true – no perfectly good definition of tragedy and/or the tragic genre is possible.30 However, there is a cluster of 27 28 29

30

Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, on Sartre, 119–20. Hick, Evil and the God of Love, 195. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 127. Tallon cites Hick’s citation of Adolf von Harnack, History of Dogma, vol. 5 (London: Williams & Norgate, 1898), 114–15. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 140. Tallon cites John Kekes, Facing Evil (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 33–34.

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themes that come up in most treatments of tragedy. Tallon suggests a good “poetic banner to fly over tragic theology” is Hamlet’s last utterance to Horatio: “absent thee from felicity awhile. . .to tell my story” (Act 5, scene 2).31 In tragedy, “the vision of life is an attempt to see something we do not naturally desire to see: suffering.”32 Iris Murdoch wrote that tragedy dispels our self-created wishful delusion of ultimate harmony and wholeness. “Tragedy must break the charmed completion which is the essence of lesser art.”33 Or as Tallon phrases the same thought, “tragedy offers us a unified vision of a shattered whole.”34 It is, therefore, the most truly honest and terrifyingly “real” of all artistic genres, especially when it incorporates elements of realworld horror (see the sections on horror near the end of this chapter). On its face, however, the tragic vision seems at odds with the remarkable reassurance of theists like Augustine, who must somehow believe that despite tragic appearances, there is no such thing as undeserved and/ or morally unresolved suffering, that in reality, all is well, all is in balance, and all will eventually end well. According to the tragic genre, existence is not a comedy. Tragedy requires rejection of this hope-filled, evil-relativizing (if not evil-denying) world picture as wishful thinking, as a delusion that turns the world-story of suffering into a dehumanizing farce. The tragic theme seems to expose the Christian narratives of creation and redemption – especially as seen in Augustinian terms – as instances of “lesser art” (Tallon’s phrase). It is no wonder that Augustine himself despised tragedy and advised Christians against attending performances of tragic plays on stage, lest they entertain irreverent emotions, or simply lose faith and hope in Christ.35 Numerous aesthetic theorists, including I. A. Richards, George Steiner, and Northrop Frye concur with the conclusion that Christianity contains a positively “anti-tragic vision” (so Steiner).36 Tallon captures the apparent incompatibility: 31 33

34 36

32 Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 135. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 136. Cited by Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 136. He cites Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (New York: Penguin, 1994), 104–5. 35 Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 136. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 133–35. In Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 146–47. Tallon cites George Steiner, The Death of Tragedy (New York: Hill & Wang, 1968), 331–32. See Tallon’s discussion of Augustine’s thoughts on the impropriety of both tragedy and comedy to the reverent Christian mind. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 133–35. Indeed, on the Augustinian assumption that creatures are entirely to blame for the origin and profusion of evil in the world, tragedy has no place within a Christian vision. For in tragedy, the fundamental fault lies in the determinative and limiting infrastructure of existence itself, not just in the free choices that morally free creatures make.

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If theodicy is at heart an attempt to maintain the credibility of God’s good news, and tragedy is at heart an attempt to tell us the bad news: the two must be, at least in part, at odds with one another.37

Nevertheless, like Haught, some notable contemporary theists (including Tallon himself ) think that the tragic vision, theme, and mood are at least somewhat compatible with a Christian outlook on the world, and they incorporate tragic themes and values positively into their God-justifying accounts. They do so mainly by underscoring the God-justifying value of distinctly tragic virtues.

tragic virtues and theodicy Accounts of the tragic genre usually begin with the pioneering aesthetic theory of Aristotle, who stressed the indispensable value of tragic performances on stage both to individuals and to society as a whole. According to Aristotle, the value of tragedy is in its unique aesthetic power to evoke morally virtuous emotions that have a shaping effect on persons and incline them to lead morally virtuous lives. Tragic performances evoke emotions of pity, moral indignation at injustice, and compassion for people who suffer due to circumstances beyond their control. Such emotions help to shape the disposition of one’s will to lead a life that embodies such virtues in practice.38 Aristotle praised the tragic art for evoking a sense of “tragic wonder,” in which (so Tallon) “we feel terror and pity. . .sympathy toward a character, and yet antipathy toward the events of the play. . ..”39 Aristotle believed that the public performance of tragedy was more effective even than eloquent moral persuasion and pedagogy in moving whole societies in this morally virtuous direction.40 Some modern theorists have expanded the scope of Aristotle’s list to include still other virtues, such as dignified defiance and courage in the face of the tragic realities that cannot be rectified in this life.41 So there is indeed a fairly long list of valuable tragic moral goods that arise from the 37 38

39 41

Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 136. Tallon interacts with Aristotle’s theory of tragedy throughout his book, and especially here, 138–42. 40 Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 139. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 139–40. In Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 142. Tallon cites Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, tr. Douglas Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 45; and Bertrand Russell, The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell (London: Routledge, 1992), 67. According to Russell, instead of causing us to feel swallowed up by the vast void, tragedy can incite feelings of “sacredness, an overpowering awe, a feeling of the

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tragic theme and mood. How do these goods relate to the tragic character of evolution, and to our evidential and justificatory questions about God and the evolutionary suffering of innocent animals? Does the evolutionary tragedy elicit virtues that have God-justifying force? Does it create other goods that make the evolutionary suffering of animals worth the cost? Contemporary writers on theodicy have pursued both of these questions. Adherents of process theology, including Haught, have led the way in seeking to answer them in the affirmative.

process theology: god-justifying “major beauty” Alfred North Whitehead, previously mentioned, was the pioneering founder of process theology. In his theodicy, he focused on the value of what he called “major beauty,” which is produced by clashing cosmic conflict. Whitehead referred to the “conformal intensity” of major beauty, which he regarded as much more valuable than the “minor beauty” arising simply from harmony and balance. According to Whitehead, the creation of major beauty was God’s primary aim in bringing about the world. Natural evil is the by-product, but is – in Chisholm’s language – defeated by the major beauty that it helps to create, rather than merely balanced off by natural goods.42 On the evidential level, Whitehead’s account of major beauty is more plausible than the classical “Augustinian” appeals to cosmic harmony and balance. For it comports well with the configuration of Darwinian evils and goods that scientists have unveiled. In that sense, the postclassical account is fairly plausible. However, on the justificatory level, it is hard to fault Tallon’s judgment that gaining valuable major beauty via conformal intensity is very thin as a moral justification for the great loss and suffering that it causes for both human and nonhuman beings.43 Unfortunately, like the “Augustinian” classical version, Whitehead’s Aesthetic Theodicy supports Lewis’s fear that including aesthetic values in theodicy leads inevitably to a depiction of God as an amoral celestial

42

43

vastness, the depth, the inexhaustible mystery of existence. . ..” B. Russell, 71, in Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 144. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 23–24, citing Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (New York: Free Press, 1967), 252. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 24.

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artist. Writings by some followers of Whitehead bring that fear to full fruition. Barry Whitney, for instance, contends that no matter how bad the life of a creature is, its life accrues some value. So Whitney: “no matter how bleak, limited, or disadvantaged our circumstances may be at particular moments, there is always an opportunity to experience at least some aesthetic value.”44 Whitney couples this contention with the remarkable judgment that “there is no reason that any creature should expect to experience anything other than minimal value, let alone maximum value, a surplus of value, or complete fulfillment.” For Whitney, the underlying value-assumption comes from Whitehead: no matter how bad, “something is better than nothing.” We encountered this questionable axiology earlier on in the argument of Ruth Page that mass extinctions do not create a moral problem for theists, because existence itself is selfjustifying, regardless of the quality it has. So according to Whitney and Page, just existing is moral justification enough for the suffering of any creature – for the infants in Ivan Karamazov’s tirade, for the fawn in Rowe’s argument, for the dinosaur in the Poinars’ autopsy, and so forth. On this assessment, there simply cannot be any such thing as a life that is so bad that it is not worth living on the whole. In a moment we will consider grounds for thinking that this axiological assessment is false. In Chapter 1, we considered that some evils count as horrors, which seem to swallow up the significance of the lives lived by the victims. Near the end of this chapter, we will look in more detail at the aesthetics of horrors. There are other more promising ways to employ the aesthetics of tragedy in theodicy, however. In Haught’s account, we encountered the thought that tragedy has a deepening effect on the moral character of persons and perhaps unites us with God in compassion for suffering creatures. Wendy Farley, who is a Christian theist, has developed a God-justifying argument along somewhat similar virtue-ethical lines.

farley: god-justifying “fierce beauty” In Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion, Farley (like Austin Farrer and Haught) maintains that the tragic character of nature comes from the

44

Barry L. Whitney, “An Aesthetic Solution to the Problem of Evil,” Philosophy of Religion 35, no. 1 (1994): 21–37. See Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 23–25.

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inevitable deep conflict between things in nature that are good. The sad reality of inevitable conflict between goods is arguably the essence of the tragic theme. Farley refers to it as a “fierce beauty”: The beauty of the world lies in its variety and diversity. Yet conflict will inevitably arise as the multitude of creatures pursue opposing ends. Tigers will prey on young gazelles. Ice ages will waste entire populations and ecosystems. Agriculture will beat back the jungle. From these conflicts, sorrows, and losses emerge the fierce beauty of creation.45

As in human existence, so also in nature: “Tragedy is not traced to a malevolent cosmic force but rather to the essential irreconcilability of equally important obligations.”46 Tragic loss is necessary for valuable gain – a “fierce beauty,” a sorrowful yet felicitous beauty, including the “fecund grace of nature,” which Farley believes makes the inevitable suffering worth the cost: Sorrow must accompany beauty, but it need not overthrow the poignant loveliness of nature. Creation is tragically structured, but tragedy is neither the barrenness of nothingness nor the wickedness of evil. Tragedy is the price paid for existence – but the fecund grace of nature makes it appear that the price is not too high.47

So Farley does not look to redemption in an afterlife for justification of tragic evil in the animal realm. The tragic goods of “fierce beauty” and “fecund grace” of nature apparently provide justification enough. Farley finds further justification for a tragic creation in the profoundly valuable moral possibilities that such a world creates for human beings. In line with tragic theory since Aristotle, Farley stresses the unique way in which a tragic creation impinges on moral consciousness and brings forth the valuable virtue of compassion for both human and nonhuman beings.48 Tragedy is distinctly able to do so, because it brings home as nothing else can that the worst suffering in the world is not God’s judgment against sin, but is simply inscribed into the world’s design. The tragic perspective, then, sharpens our picture of God, who must be filled with compassion for creatures, too, rather than brimming with 45

46 47

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Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 152, citing Wendy Farley, Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion: A Contemporary Theodicy (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1990), 60–61. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 153, citing Farley, Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion, 26. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 152, citing Farley, Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion, 60–61. Farley, Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion, 79.

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condemnation, as in the “Augustinian” non-tragic aesthetic/moral vision.49 In addition, Farley proposes that tragic realities invite a disposition of morally precious defiance and a disposition to resist tragic evil despite the impossibility of finally removing or resolving its grave injustices. So Farley: “If suffering and destruction cannot be overcome, they can be resisted. It is in the resistance itself, in this refusal to give up the passion for justice, that tragedy is transcended.”50 United with compassion – rather than vengeful rage – people are uniquely empowered by tragedy to embody justice, and in doing so, to become images of the Christian God on earth.51 Farley, then, further expands the list of great evolutionary goods that stand to counteract the atheistic force of evolutionary evils. Compassion and a disposition to resist injustice are undeniably among the most valuable virtues available to human beings. However, once again, we wonder how this anthropocentric God-justifying perspective pertains to nonhuman beings – to animals themselves. Is it enough for them to have played the tragic part in advancing the moral consciousness of human beings? So far as I can tell, Farley does not address that justificatory question, as some contemporary writers have done. Among them, Ned Hettinger, who specializes in environmental ethics and aesthetics, has sought to apply the good of tragic beauty in nature directly to the axiological standing of animals. Let us look at his proposal that the tragic beauty of higher predation outweighs the tragic suffering that it causes.

hettinger: the justificatory beauty of “the sublime” In “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” Hettinger explores the moral role that he believes tragic beauty should play in animal ethics.52 Even though he does not focus on theodicy per se, his analysis is relevant to the God-justifying role that tragic moral beauty might play in that area of moral conversation, too. We will see that his 49 50 51 52

Farley, Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion, 126. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 160, citing Farley, Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion, 27. Farley, Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion, 99–100. Ned Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” Environmental Ethics 32, no. 2 (summer 2010): 115–34.

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analysis ties together with the work of others who have related tragic beauty in evolution creatively, and in a God-justifying fashion, to the aesthetics of Christology in canonical Christian theism. That distinctly Christian avenue of exploration lies ahead. Hettinger begins by relating Holmes Rolston’s description of a sick and dying opossum he encountered while hiking. Rolston (about whose version of theodicy we will hear more in Chapter 8) mercifully killed the pitiful opossum. A subsequent autopsy revealed the horrifying truth: parasitic worms had infested the opossum’s internal organs and had been eating the animal alive from the inside. (We recall the hypothetical case of the dinosaur in the Poinars’ excavations of ancient amber.) Rolston wrote of the opossum with his usual eloquence: “Grisly and pitiful, he seemed a sign of the whole wilderness. . ..”53 Hettinger suggests that few readers will dispute the judgment that what the autopsy revealed was not just bad in a moral sense, but was also something hideous, or ugly, in an aesthetic sense that intensifies the moral badness of the evil unveiled. Reflecting on this “sign of the whole wilderness,” Hettinger faces the question whether the occurrence of beauty in nature exceeds the widespread existence of such morally important ugliness. “Animals in nature suffer and die in many ways, including death by starvation, disease, cold, thirst, parasitism, and being outright killed by predators.”54 Without making reference to theodicy, Hettinger submits that this scene creates “a formidable problem for positive aesthetics. . .and a real worry for the view that the aesthetics of animals in nature is positive on balance.”55 He could very well be formulating a key part of the Darwinian Problem. Hettinger correctly classifies this way of thinking about species as essentially aesthetic, rather than merely moral. Most people, he suggests, would not object to the extermination of such micro-parasitic species of worms if we could do so without larger ecological harm. We are careful to guard our dogs and cats, for instance, from such grisly things by giving them preventive heartworm pills that abort the worms before they can start the painful and deadly infestation. Hettinger puts the question, however: What are the stable norms for making commonplace ethical judgments of this kind?

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Holmes Rolston III, Philosophy Gone Wild: Environmental Ethics (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1986), 128–29, cited in Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” 124. Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” 124. Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” 124.

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It is easy to recruit people to support the preservation of large predators, such as wolves, and releasing them in the wild, with full awareness that these predators will cause savage suffering to prey animals. What justifies people morally in authorizing such evils? On reflection, it becomes obvious that the norms we employ in making such ethical judgments are essentially aesthetic in nature. What should we conclude from this implication of our common moral practice? Why do people commonly gather round to watch a cougar or pack of wolves take down a terrified deer, on the one hand, and recoil in revulsion at the very thought (much less the sight) of parasitic worms infesting the insides of an opossum, not to mention the sense of horror most people would feel in witnessing a cougar savaging a human child?56 In response, Hettinger invokes Rolston’s justificatory moral thesis on higher predation: “There is not value lost so much as value capture.”57 Hettinger concedes that “it is difficult to assess the severity of the disvalue of an animal’s death,” but he suggests that the degree of severity grows with the “psychological sophistication” of the animal, along with other factors, including aesthetic value. Animal beauty matters morally, he contends, conjoined with the morally important exchange: the prey animal’s death is the price of life for the predator:58 Death for the prey is life for the predator. . .. The natural process of predation exhibits admirable and aesthetically stimulating traits in both predators and prey: The muscle, power, intelligence, and sometimes cooperative behavior of the predator and the alertness and fleet-footedness of the prey. Predation selects for these valuable capacities and thereby helps shape the nature of the species involved. A world that evolved without predators might not just lack these magnificent creatures, but might also lack these admirable traits. Predation also helps regulate the population of prey and protects ecosystems that might otherwise become degraded.59

Hettinger proposes that these positive values are great enough to validate the “moral and aesthetic appropriateness of positive aesthetic appreciation of predation.”60 Ugliness, we must suppose, is the main thing, then,

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Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” 128–30. Holmes Rolston III, “Disvalues in Nature,” The Monist 75 (1992): 250–78, here, 253, cited in Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” 132. Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” 132. This would seem to be his incipient response to the second value-question about a cougar killing and eating a child. Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” 132. Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” 133.

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that makes Hettinger and Rolston approve the moral disgust that guides our ethical treatment of parasitic worms and other such micro-predatory animals – the multitude of “anti-cosmic micro-monsters” that science has unveiled. At this point Hettinger specifies the precise form of beauty that elicits our typical response to higher predation. (He does not, however, specify the precise aesthetic value property that informs our common response to “micro-monsters,” as I will do in the discussion of horror as a genre.) Like Farley, Hettinger admits that the appreciation of higher predation is not cheerful or happy, but is strangely sad. “There is beauty in predation, but it is a sad beauty, perhaps even a ‘terrible beauty.’”61 He then specifies the form of outweighing beauty as experience of the tragic sublime. Let us look at his explanation of this aesthetic form of beauty, which will play a major role in our discussions of distinctly Christian canonical aesthetics in narratives of creation and redemption. Hettinger explains that a cardinal at a feeder is lovely, but it is not sublime. In contrast, watching wolves run down an elk (as tourists in Yellowstone pay to do) is not pretty or lovely at all, but is riddled with morally troubling savagery and pain, and with the horrifying ugliness of shrieking from the ravines amid nature “red in tooth and claw.” And yet, despite these moral and aesthetic evil parts, the episode as a whole evokes deeply mixed emotions of awe, amazement, and, indeed, “tragic wonder,” rather than unqualified disapproval and sheer disgust. Should it be otherwise? Further, notably (with ethical echoes of Aristotle, Haught, and Farley), the episode as a whole is also an occasion for empathy and compassion for the suffering animal. Despite the savage ugliness that makes us wish to look away, the overall experience is strangely morally positive. “The disvalues of the suffering and death of the prey in the context of the positive values of predation may increase, not decrease, the aesthetic value of the event and contribute positively to the aesthetic response.”62 Tragedy in the existence of animals, then, evokes valuable moral emotions of the sort that Aristotle identified in human tragedy. At one and the same time, we feel intense admiration for the powers of the predator and deep pity for the prey animal. In Chisholm’s language, what Hettinger

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Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” 133. He cites Carolyn Korsmeyer, “Terrible Beauties,” in Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art, ed. Matthew Kieran (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 51–64. Hettinger, “Animal Beauty, Ethics, and Environmental Preservation,” 133.

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describes is the defeat of the moral evil and ugliness of predation by the moral beauty of the whole. Has the evil and ugliness really been defeated by that means? Let us venture an assessment of contemporary appeals to the justificatory value of tragic Darwinian beauty in the nonhuman realm.

the aesthetic advantage revisited I began the chapter by suggesting that shifting to an aesthetic analogue of God as Artist might have considerable explanatory advantages over the more narrowly ethical picture of divine moral agency in the disputation over the Darwinian Problem. However, it seems that in practice, past and present, Aesthetic Theodicy has been only partially successful, at best. I suggest that the main advantage of the versions that have been tried so far is on the epistemic/evidential level of the controversy. As with versions of Only Way Theodicy, both classical and post-classical advocates of Aesthetic Theodicy have identified and stressed the importance of evolutionary goods, the existence of which surely seems evidentially much more plausible on theism than on non-theism. Furthermore, some of them have maintained convincingly that these moral, alethic, and aesthetic evolutionary goods are not mere “spandrels” ‒ Gould’s term for unexpected products of the process that stand out for their exceptionality ‒ but instead help to create an overall picture of evolution as something like a larger story. These thinkers have identified an aesthetic structure that surely seems more plausible on the presumption of teleological design than on metaphysical suppositions of naturalistic dysteleological non-design. Still furthermore, and relatedly, I suggest that despite weaknesses on the justificatory level of the problem, these versions of Aesthetic Theodicy also provide a perspective on the Darwinian World as a whole, in which to “see,” at least in part, what is arguably the presence of divinity in the nonhuman natural realm and perhaps to begin recovery of a sensus divinitatis, or “sense of divinity,” which the Darwinian picture seems to displace with an intuitive sense of “not God” in nature. The overall narrative or dramatic form of evolution, together with the substantive minor and (especially) major “fierce,” sublimely tragic, forms of evolutionary beauty, encourage us to trust, at least to some degree, that this aesthetic sense of the divine is not delusionary, but is an unexpected connection with something quite real.

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In the chapters to come, I will seek to show how selected canonical resources – texts and doctrines – can help us to flesh out the cognitive content of these deeply affective and suggestive experiences in distinctively Christian terms. It will be very important to do so, because as things stand so far, we do not have solid grounds for thinking that the God of theism – God the Artist – would likely work in the tragic genre when creating a world. This is a fundamental problem that Haught and others who appeal to the God-justifying value of tragic goods do not address, except in the metaphysical terms of process theology, in which God, qua God, is also a tragic figure to begin with, as in all versions of the “onlyway” intuition in theodicy. To be blunt, so far, we lack good grounds for believing it plausible that the morally perfect God of theism would use human and nonhuman creatures as artistic means to tragically beautiful ends. I will argue, however, that ‒ hard as it may be to accept ‒ the selected canonical resources make that picture of God seem to be very plausible – perhaps even expected – on canonical Jewish and Christian theism. Meanwhile, as for Aesthetic Theodicy and the justificatory level of explanation, I suggest that neither the classical nor the post-classical version of Aesthetic Theodicy even remotely meets the Outweighing Condition for authorizing evils. In both versions, the welfare of human and nonhuman creatures (both as groups and particular individuals) fades in importance next to the forms of beauty that break forth from the envisioned finished cosmic whole. At most, the tragic beauty in view partly defeats the tragic ugliness and evil. However, to assert that the “value capture” in nature now, to the degree that it occurs, wholly defeats the evil of suffering by prey animals invites rightful moral indignation. One reason for indignation – in the spirit of Ivan Karamazov – is the profusion of horrors in the Darwinian World. In Chapter 1, I raised the prospect of having to deal with the morally important and apparently atheistic aesthetics of horror in nature. Let us begin to do so now.

the moral ugliness of horrors In The Beauty of the Infinite, David Bentley Hart, an eminent Christian theologian, rejects versions of Aesthetic Theodicy based on the value of tragic goods. He believes that adherents of the approach are guilty of moral elitism, by which he means that they are cavalier about the unavailability of the supposedly God-justifying goods to the tragic victims

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themselves.63 The experience of inner moral formation, for instance, does not help the dying and dead except in memoriam. Open-eyed awareness that tragic evils are left unresolved and undefeated for the victims is at the very aesthetic-moral core of the tragic theme – it is the core of what makes the evils tragic, rather than just bad, in the first place. Tragic evil is undefeated so long as Cordelia lies forever without breath on the stage, with poor Lear crying out, “Never, never, never. . .” to infinity. With all deference to compassion and defiance, evil is undefeated so long as Gloucester’s eyes are still gouged out and Sisyphus keeps rolling his rock up the hill. However, some evils create an even worse problem for the God-justifying appeal to tragic goods. Some evils are too bad to be classified as merely tragic, for they fit better into the distinctive genre of horror. Iris Murdoch helps to explain the moral difference between tragedy and horror: Real life is not tragic. . . . the extreme horrors of real life cannot be expressed in art. . .. Art offers some consolation, some sense, some form whereas the most dreadful ills of human life allow none. Auschwitz is not a tragedy.64

As mentioned already, Marilyn Adams led the way in bringing the aesthetic properties of horrors into the discussion of God and evil. While we can perhaps attach some God-justifying sense to many evils, “horrendous” evils, as she names them, seem to negate the meaningfulness of existence for the participants – both perpetrators and victims. To cite her definition once again, “horrendous” evils, or horrors, are “evils the participation in which (that is, the doing or suffering of which) constitutes prima facie reason to doubt whether the participant’s life could (given their inclusion in it) be a great good to him/her on the whole.”65 Again, for Adams, a universal aspect of horrors is their terrifyingly anti-cosmic character. They embody Chaos, and they undermine psychic Cosmos. Taking off from Adams on “horrendous” evils, Tallon offers a finely detailed discussion of horror as a genre of art that is distinct from tragedy and has important bearing on the problem of evil: . . .horror is easily distinguishable from tragedy in its phenomenological effect. Though real-life atrocities are often referred to as tragic, the experience of horror in art does not engender “fear and pity” (using Aristotle as a guide) but rather “fear and revulsion.” Philosopher of art Noel Carroll writes, “Art-horror requires

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David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 373–74. 65 Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, 93. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 26.

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evaluation both in terms of threat and disgust.” Stephen King, no philosopher but an expert in his own way, defines three characteristics of the genre, terror, horror, and revulsion. If tragedy retains an element of beauty, despite its portrayal of injustice and suffering, horror must be said to wallow in ugliness.66

In tragedy (so Tallon), “we grow to identify with the hero, especially with his inherent virtue, which is ultimately undone.”67 In horror, on the other hand, the response is quite different – “visceral more than emotional.”68 Upon seeing a woman hung on a meat hook, as in the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, our response is not that this is “very sad” or “pitiable,” or beautifully “sublime,” but that what we are seeing is “terrifying and nauseating.”69 The effects of horror are indeed sickening. “Rather than experience a cathartic purge of the emotions, we are more likely to want to purge the contents of our stomachs.”70 There are no moral aesthetics, emotions, or defiantly dignifying thoughts left to exploit in horrors. Or are there? Adams reserved the experience of horrors for the suffering of human persons. She did not believe that nonhumans have the cognitive capacity to participate in the disintegrative psychic effects that translate certain evils into horrors: On my conception, horrors afflict persons insofar as they are actual or potential meaning-makers. . . .Likewise, my analysis of both problem and solutions will pertain to animals only to the extent that their cognitive and affective capacities constitute something like meaning-making powers.71

I suggest again, however, that horrors do afflict animals, at least in an objective sense, and perhaps also, to some limited extent, in a subjectively important sense, too. If horrors are evils that give “prima facie reason to doubt whether the participant’s life could (given their inclusion in it) be a great good to him/ her on the whole” (so Adams), then it seems that many animals do appear to participate in horrors, whether they are aware of it consciously, or not. What better classification is there for what happened to the dinosaur in the Poinars’ account, or to the opossum that Rolston found on the trail? Or, on a larger scale, is there a better aesthetic evaluation for the mass extinctions that we brought up earlier? Deane-Drummond sees these 66

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Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 172. He cites Noel Carroll, The Philosophy of Horror: Or, Paradoxes of the Heart (New York: Routledge, 1990), 28. 68 Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 172. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 172. 70 Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 172. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 172. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 28.

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dysteleological mass extinctions as evils that indeed are apparently “horrendous” in Adams’s sense of the term.72 These events seem completely to obliterate the value of having existed for these beasts – except perhaps in supplying fuel for our cars and arousing our imaginations in museums and feature films like Jurassic Park! Their evolutionary branches are almost all dead. Furthermore, how are we to see the life of a parasitic worm or Yersinia pestis as a great good to the creature itself, on the whole? Such “micromonsters” are strongly analogous to human beings who seem almost destined by circumstances beyond their control to do morally monstrous things (pace Judas Iscariot, or perhaps Frankenstein’s monster). At any rate, as mentioned earlier, I suggest that animals do participate, objectively at least, in a profusion of horrors and that their being made to participate in them is a first-rate problem for theism.73 I will come back to the subject of micro-monsters in a moment. I think we can go further along this line, though. For if many animals are sentient, so that they have the cognitive capacity requisite for real mental suffering (and enjoyment), why should we think that something analogous to subjective human horror is wholly inaccessible to them? In The Groaning of Creation, Southgate cites evidence that seems to belie emotional disintegration in some animals. He imagines the terrible disorientation that the last surviving members of a species, for instance, must feel, “as they lose reproductive opportunities and ultimately the experience of recognizing any of their own kind.”74 The growing field of animal psychiatry operates on the assumption that animals can suffer seriously from psychological trauma and destabilization.75 Even so, as suggested in Chapter 1, animals do not just have the experience of horror. Some animals are horrors, or rather, they embody horror in their own designed being. Their existence surpasses description as tragic. They are “hyper-tragic” creatures, non-fictional monsters that

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Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 172 and note 35. In conversation with Adams at a colloquium in which she was my interlocutor for an hour, she gradually conceded this point, but I do not think she ever published the concession in print. “Animals and the Kingdom of God Faculty Development Workshop: Animal Suffering, Divine Goodness, and Human Ethics,” held at Calvin College, MI, June 26–28, 2015. Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 14. “Fifteen Things to Know about Mental Disorders in Animals,” Online Psychology Degree Guide. www.onlinepsychologydegree.info/lists/information-mental-disorders-inanimals.

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horrify most people, as the ichneumon horrified Darwin, and the giant water beetle horrified Dillard. Let us look more closely than we have done so far at the nature of “anti-cosmic micro-monsters” and the problem their existence poses to theism.

the aesthetics of monsters Tallon provides a usefully detailed aesthetic account of monsters and their implications for theodicy. Unfortunately, he does not relate them explicitly to the nonhuman creatures that we have in view, which he very well could have done, and as I will do now. Freud described monsters as creatures that elicit a chilling sense of “the Uncanny” (Unheimlichkeit).76 They may be supernaturally unreal and implausible, like Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Freddy Krueger. However, Tallon suggests that the most terrifying monsters are more closely linked with the real world, such as the character Norman Bates in Psycho, the gigantic great white shark in Jaws, or the villainous Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Tallon’s point is that these figures destroy our trust in the ordinary: horror overturns “any easy trust in the ultimate order of creation.”77 Peter Fosl proposes that it is exactly such a sense of primal disorder that makes Ivan Karamazov’s story about soldiers torturing children not just a report of evils, but rather a canonical monument to moral horror, in which the ultimate monster is God!78 Is it plausible that the morally perfect God of theism has deliberately designed and created monsters? On theistic evolution, it seems clear enough that this is precisely what God did. I have already rejected Boyd’s and Dembski’s proposal that Satan created these monstrous living things, not God. It hardly helps with the justificatory cause to argue that God (perforce) created a supremely sadistic angelic monster – a creature whose wickedness is past comprehension, a sort of Freddy Krueger writ large – in order to explain the existence of micro-monsters! One way or another, it is God who knowingly gave evolution the power to create “anti-cosmic micro-monsters,” and so it is God who bears responsibility for creating them. I do not think we have any very good God-justifying answer to the

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77 Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 173. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 177. Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 180–81. Tallon cites Peter S. Fosl, “The Moral Imperative to Rebel against God,” Cogito 11, no. 3 (1997): 159–60.

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question why God would deliberately do so. I tend to concur with Tallon’s conclusion: “Horror. . .works to stump theodicy into silence.”79 Or does it? Adams suggests that despite their disintegrative effects, which stump theists, horrors may have an unlikely role to play in theodicy. For, like it or not, they tell us the terrible truth – truth that may or may not undermine theism.

adams: the truth-telling role of horrors Horrors seem seriously to undermine belief in God, perhaps to blow it into smithereens. However, Adams proposes that horrors also have an ironic way of undermining themselves and their apparently atheistic impact. She suggests that horrors come to us with a truth-telling irony that one can actually invoke in unlikely support of theism. How so? Adams maintains that some works of modern art can instruct us on the symbolic value of horrors. “Mention of Picasso’s work brings to mind how distortion of nature can play a different symbolic function.”80 In that way, Adams explains, “horrors disclose truths.”81 They employ forms of what we all know simply should not be in order to sharpen our sense of how existence should be! Just as beholders (so Kant) feel pure delight at pleasing forms, and/or an anxious delight at sublime forms, Adams writes, “so, too, all humans confronted with horrors are seized with revulsion and loathing, instinctively turn away, stop their ears, and veil their gaze.”82 And why do we have that reaction to the anti-cosmic quality of horrors, if not for deeply stable cosmic moral structures that underlie these anti-cosmic horrific occurrences? Adams expresses this point in the terms of “natural knowledge”: “horrors articulate and make explicit our natural knowledge that such things contradict our flourishing and that we are radically vulnerable to personal ruin.”83 As in Picasso’s Guernica, Grünewald’s Crucifixion, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and Francis Bacon’s cadaverous forms, she writes, horrors tell anti-cosmic truths that can be told only in a world that normally makes cosmic sense. When we come to the divine speeches in the book of Job, I will propose that this point plays a fundamental part in the theodicy that (so I will 79 81 83

Tallon, The Poetics of Evil, 181. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 150. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 151.

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Adams, Horrendous Evils, 149. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 151.

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argue) those speeches contain. Horror also plays a powerful truth-telling part in the Passion Story of Jesus, the alleged ironic inner core of divine love that the gospel of Christianity dares to claim that it has been called to disclose to the world. Adams’s observation on the truth-telling role of horrors brings us back to Haught’s thesis on the unexpected value of tragedy. So Adams: “This truth-telling capacity endows horrors with a positive symbolic value that cannot be taken from them; like the blood of Abel, they cry out from the ground (Gen. 4:10)!”84 To this finely phrased point, we might add, horrors also make us cry out to the heavens for help. But for heavenly help with tragedy and horror, we need sacred resources. It is time now to turn to them to see what sort of assistance they have to offer in addition to the insights we have gained from mainly secular conceptual resources. I will begin with a pre-Christian canonical text – the book of Job. It will soon be clear why I have done so. The subsequent chapters (Chapters 9 and 10) will be focused mainly (but not exclusively) on distinctly Christian canonical texts and doctrines, particularly in the areas of Christology, soteriology, and eschatology. Before entering into this very last phase of the discussion, let us pause briefly to review the main points I have made on advantages and disadvantages of Aesthetic Theodicy, in versions past and present. Then I will begin constructing my own version in distinctly canonical Christian theistic terms.

aesthetic theodicy in critical review At the start, I proposed that in conceptual principle, at least, an aesthetic analogue of God as Artist, with the Darwinian World understood as analogous to a work of cosmic art, rather than as an essentially ethical undertaking on God’s part, could be advantageous to theism in the controversy. In principle, an aesthetic depiction of God and the creation and redemption of the world makes the configuration of evolutionary goods and evils in the Darwinian World much more plausible than it is on more narrowly ethical assumptions about divine moral action in those undertakings. Artists have greater freedom than ethically/legally constrained agents normally have, including freedom to include surprising amounts, kinds, and distributions of “evils” – ugliness – in their artworks. 84

Adams, Horrendous Evils, 151.

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They are justified in so doing so long as they defeat the evils they have deliberately included in the end, by means of a beautiful artistic whole. An aesthetic analogue, in other words, sets theists free from having to show that in authorizing Darwinian evil as unveiled, God has met the ethically stringent Necessity Condition. One’s aesthetic account needs only to show that God has defeated the evils in view, or at least to make belief that God eventually will defeat them plausible. Unfortunately, however, I have concurred with critics of Aesthetic Theodicy that, on inspection, the versions we have examined do not show that God has met the Defeat Condition, at least not by means of the forms of beauty that are alleged to have God-justifying force. The appeal to the beauty of harmony, balance, and the integration of all parts into a pleasing whole barely applies to the natural realm as unveiled by evolutionary science. Moreover, even to the extent that the appeal does apply, it is virtually devoid of ability to explain evils suffered by victims of natural evil. Further, the appeals to “major beauty” in nature at large, and to tragic beauty in the human and nonhuman realms are much more applicable and promising, but they are extremely limited in justificatory explanatory power, nevertheless. For one thing, the great moral tragic goods in appeal have only symbolic value for victims of tragic evils. Those evils remain undefeated for the human and nonhuman victims themselves. For another, however, some evils surpass tragedy in character. They are better classified and explained as horrors, for which no justification is possible in this life. For participants in horrors, existential meaning seems to be entirely lost. The most we can say of horrors is that the blood of the victims – Rowe’s fawn, the frog in Dillard’s story, the dinosaur in the Poinars’ autopsy – like the blood of Abel (so Adams), cries out to us from the ground. In other words, John Hick’s slogan, cited earlier, holds true, for better or worse: “No theodicy without eschatology.” Hick’s judgment leads, then, to exploration of sacred sources that include an afterlife in their theistic picture of the world. Fortunately for canonical Christian theists, inclusion of an eschatological afterlife is not at all ad hoc, a desperate addition to an otherwise poor explanation of evils. It is the very core of canonical Christian theism. So let us turn now to sacred canonical sources to see if their themes of eschatological faith and hope can be of service in engaging the Darwinian Problem. In Chapters 8, 9, and 10, I will seek to show how they can.

8 Suffering “For No Reason” Job and the Darwinian Problem

The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” Job 2:3

god as a free artist? As pointed out in advance, the primary disadvantage of shifting from an essentially ethical picture of God and evil to an aesthetic analogy is the apparent moral impropriety of the artistic analogue itself. For artists creatively manipulate their imaginary subjects and characters, or their impersonal shapes and colors, however they wish, as instrumental means to artistic ends. The author of a tragic play, for instance, is inherently free to write horrific evils into the script in order to create powerful tragic art. However, on the old adage that “life is not art,” we naturally assume that a morally perfect God would not treat sentient human and nonhuman creatures in that utilitarian fashion, as mere means to artistic ends. On the contrary, we suppose that for God to do so – as Ivan Karamazov is always ready to remind us – would be morally monstrous on God’s part. If God is morally perfect, as theists claim, we naturally assume that God adheres to something like the universal deontological obligation to treat human persons, at least, as ends in themselves, and not as mere means to ends. It also seems right to suppose that God would not treat nonhuman beings – sentient animals, at any rate – in that way either. 164

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 165 This last moral judgment is more complicated than we may wish it was, and I will broach it in greater detail in Chapter 10 when discussing the imago Dei as a context for an axiology, soteriology, and eschatology of animals. At any rate, for now, I simply suggest that we need very good grounds for believing that God does not have such binding moral obligations to innocent nonhuman beings, and so far the versions of Aesthetic Theodicy that we have examined do not provide them. Further, and arguably worse for the prospects of success for Aesthetic Theodicy, it is not yet clear that we even have solid canonical textual or theological grounds for the aesthetic analogue and theodicy. We saw that Marilyn Adams argued (correctly) that the analogue of God as Artist is practically a trope in the Bible. However, we also saw that in the Bible, this trope commonly appears in appeals to the allegedly God-glorifying and God-justifying aesthetics of harmony, balance, symmetry, and organically integrated wholeness in nature. So the biblical trope of God as Artist is secure, but for the wrong kind of cosmic art! On its face, then, the biblical trope actually seems to undermine the appeal to the aesthetics of tragedy. We need stronger grounds for building on this approach than we have found so far. It has to be at least as plausible as not – our adopted epistemic criterion – that God would employ tragic values in creating a cosmic work of art. Can we do better than the authors of these God-justifying appeals to tragic evolutionary goods have done? With the assistance of sacred canonical resources, I believe we can. I will begin by exploring the treatment of God and evil in the canonical book of Job, freshly understood in the light of recent commentaries.

reading job Considering its fame as one of the classic texts of all time on the mystery of God and suffering, it may seem strange that the book of Job is all but missing from the contemporary analytical discussion of God and evils. The near absence of Job from the God-and-evil conversation is likely due to the prevailing way that commentators interpret the book. In the standard commentaries, the story line of Job goes like this: God takes Satan’s bet that if Job loses his earthly blessings, he will lose faith and curse God; God puts Job to the terrible test; Job fails the test by breaking into a bitter tirade against the injustice of his suffering; after Job’s friends fail to bring Job to his senses, God Himself shows up in a great cyclonic

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windstorm and roundly rebukes Job for his irreverence; finally, having been beaten back into properly pious submission, Job retreats “in dust and ashes,” as all of us prone to have Job’s impious questions should do. On this reading, the book of Job is not just irrelevant to theodicy. It stands as a stern warning from God against anyone who might dare to question God in the way Job has done. So understood, Job represents unqualified canonical condemnation of theodicy as the product of impudence before almighty God. Who do we think we are, anyway? (This is textbook Skeptical Theism, only not delivered in that typically polite philosopher’s tone!) Fortunately, recent writers give good reasons to reject this reading and to consider interpretations that put the God-and-evil question in a much more favorable light. Eleonore Stump, for instance, contends on purely literary grounds that the conventional reading makes little or no sense.1 Stump correctly observes that in the dialogues, Job never once casts doubt on the irresistible power of God, as the commonplace reading implies. In fact, Job repeatedly refers to God’s superior might in a bitterly sarcastic tone. Nor, I might add, does Job ever deny God’s rightful authority to authorize evils. Job’s initial response to the first calamity was to utter words of trustful resignation: “. . .the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). So, if God does nothing more at the end than chest beating, God has wasted breath! In that instance the dramatic ending amounts to little more than the long-winded “noble irrelevance” that George Bernard Shaw believed it was.2 Stump goes on to point out that, on the common reading, the character of Job himself comes off as unworthy of interest. As Stump puts it, on that reading Job turns out to be nothing more than “a pompous windbag,” like the person who complains about the boss behind his back, but then wilts when encountering him face to face.3 She reasons that, if only out of respect for the writer, we are obliged to search for a plausible reading, according to which God does not just rebuke Job, but instead gives him some sort of positive God-justifying answer, one that satisfies Job in the end.

1

2 3

Eleonore Stump, “Second-Person Accounts and the Problem of Evil,” in Faith and the Problem of Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin College, 1999), 1–44; 17–18. Stump gave the Stob Lectures at Calvin College in 1998. Stump, “Second-Person Accounts and the Problem of Evil,” 21. Stump, “Second-Person Accounts and the Problem of Evil,” 21.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 167 Fortunately, the recent writings of Old Testament scholars strongly support thinking that Stump’s commonsense literary instincts are correct, even if the reading she goes on to offer requires some revision in the light of their historical-literary studies.4 In discussing Job, I will rely mainly on the groundbreaking research of Samuel Balentine, who offers a comprehensive commentary, and Carol Newsom, who focuses mainly on the rhetorical forms of Job, particularly in the divine speeches. These are monumental works that represent a trend in the larger field of ancient Semitic religious studies.5 For our purposes, perhaps the most powerful and perplexing passage in the entire book of Job is God’s response to the Satan in the prose prologue after allowing this “Adversary” (more on his identity and function follows) to unleash horrific evils on Job, and seeing that Job still blesses God: “‘He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason’” (Job 2:3, italics mine). It seems to be a deliberate ploy of the author that these words should haunt readers all the way through to the very end. What should we think that those keywords meant to first readers? What should we think they mean for us now?

job ruined “for no reason” The book begins with a prologue, written in prose, just as it ends with a postlude in prose. The narrator introduces readers to the main character, Job, in superlative terms: a man “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil,” reputed to be “the greatest of all the people of the east” (Job 1:1–3). According to Balentine, the account of Job is a carefully crafted legend that plays creatively off the story of Adam and Eve enjoying paradisiacal conditions in Eden. Like the legendary Eden, the location of Uz is deliberately non-specific and mythical – Job lived somewhere “in the east.”6 Further, according to Balentine, the apparent tacit allusion to idyllic first conditions for Adam and Eve in Eden “suggests that the book of Job

4 5

6

We will come back to Stump’s reading of the speeches when we discuss their meaning later. Carol A. Newsom, The Book of Job: A Contest of Moral Imaginations (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); Samuel E. Balentine, Job (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2006). See Balentine, Job, 41–42, for an extensive discussion of the comparison of Uz with Eden.

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functions somewhat like a sequel to the book of Genesis.”7 However, in a stunning reversal, unlike the story of “paradise lost” in Genesis, which traces the subsequent evils back to human disobedience, the source of Job’s downfall, surprisingly, is his perfect obedience to God! This of course makes his subsequent horrific suffering entirely inexplicable on standard Hebrew moral norms. Beginning with Genesis, according to ancient “Deuteronomic” ethical tradition, what happened to Job should not have been possible. According to Deuteronomic tradition, which prevailed in early ancient Israel, the root cause of all suffering was human disobedience. Obedience to God, on the other hand, led inexorably to prosperity, to flourishing on all levels of life. At the beginning, Job is an emblem of this ideal outcome. It is no wonder, then, that Job’s friends rejected Job’s insistence that he had done nothing to bring these horrors on himself. In passing, at least, we should consider the wider historical horizon of experience that the character of Job epitomized. During the Babylonian exile, thousands of Israelite men, women, and children who were innocent of any religious-moral wrongdoing were dragged off into slavery in Babylon. They were undeservingly lumped together with the unrighteous people who had provoked God to punish the nation in this manner. When the Israelites returned home, they brought this desperate question with them: How was it possible that God had made innocent Israelites suffer as they had done? The reality of their experience proved the Deuteronomic tradition to be false. However, what were they now supposed to put in its place? How were they supposed to make religious sense of suffering that was morally “wild,” as it were, evil that exceeded the boundaries of what they had assumed was divinely revealed ethical explanation? The fictional book of Job was a powerful literary formulation of that non-fictional question. Further, continuing along this interpretive line, by describing Job as “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1) and then underscoring that Job “did not sin” (Job 1:22), or in Balentine’s words, making it unambiguous in advance that Job was “a person of ‘perfect integrity,’” the writer removed all the customary moral reasons that readers would have reached for to explain Job’s suffering. From the start, then, the narrator has informed readers that Job’s complaint is right, and that his friends, who articulate

7

Balentine, Job, 41.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 169 Deuteronomic theodicy and religion as accurately and eloquently as could be done, are wrong.8 Job embodies the Deuteronomic ideal at first. So Balentine: “This recurring heptadic pattern of celebration creates an idyllic picture of life in the land of Uz that recalls the primordial paradise of Eden.”9 And then, mystifyingly, he becomes emblematic of its apparently inexplicable annihilation. Meanwhile, against this background, a supernatural being identified only as haśśa¯ta¯n, or “the Satan,” or “the Accuser,” enters the stage. Why? According to Balentine, the Accuser is not the Devil of later Jewish and Christian lore, but an angelic agent who was apparently assigned “to serve as a kind of prosecuting attorney who brings charges against another in court.”10 The Accuser’s responsibility apparently was to help God to hold people accountable by providing prosecutorial files, or “probable cause,” so to speak, for probing into the lives of people to expose hidden sins and for undertaking possible punitive and corrective action. Job’s apparently perfect integrity was so exceptional in the world that it aroused suspicion. Was his righteousness real? Or was it rather only superficial ‒ hypocrisy that was hollow at its personal core ‒ as the Accuser suspects? The Accuser wagers that if God took away Job’s worldly blessings, he would turn against God and expose himself as a religious fraud. At this point, the first readers must have wondered, too, why God – the almighty and perfectly righteous God of Israel – would take this bet and allow the nightmarish suffering that followed. No doubt, the first readers and hearers of the book waited with bated breath for an answer. A cascade of horrors completely swamps Job’s life. Sabeans and Chaldeans steal all his livestock and slay his servants. Then a fire consumes his property. Worst of all, a “great wind” destroys the main house and kills all Job’s sons and daughters while they are enjoying a joyous family feast (Job 1:13–19). Nevertheless, Job’s faith proves to be real. He accepts what has happened and even blesses the name of God, who rightfully gives, and rightfully takes away (Job 1:20–22). This is not the end of the bet, however. It is just the beginning.

8

9 10

Balentine, Job, 46. As Balentine observes, no other figure in the Bible, not even Noah, has all the attributes of piety ascribed to Job. See 46–47. Balentine, Job, 48. Balentine, Job, 52. For a lengthy sidebar panel on the Satan, see 53.

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In response to these events, the writer has God speak words that will ring in the ears of readers to the very end of the book. God says to the Accuser: “you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason” (Job 2:3). The words, “for no reason,” are not what any religiously informed reader would expect, to say the least. God does nothing “for no reason,” much less authorize the evils that have ruined Job. What can this possibly mean? Balentine stresses the shock value that this phrase would have had for first readers. God’s apparently regretful admission of grievous moral wrongdoing is even stronger in the Hebrew: the Accuser had “provoked” God to “swallow up” or to “engulf” Job “for no reason (hinna¯m).” To make someone suffer “for no reason,” or “without cause,” is not just morally wrong in Jewish ethical tradition, but is at the very top of the moral scale. Crushing the powerless “for no reason” is wickedness of the worst kind possible for people of power. It is the form of wickedness that led to exile in Babylon in the first place. Has God now acted in the very way that God condemned in the severest moral terms? Balentine points out that the Psalms and Proverbs rank this form of evil as the very worst.11 The language reminds knowing readers of teaching in texts such as Proverbs 1:10–16, wherein the wicked are condemned for saying among themselves, “let us lie in wait for blood; let us wantonly (hinna¯m) ambush the innocent; like Sheol, let us swallow them (nibla¯’e¯ m) alive.”12 What is stunning, then, is that this is precisely what God has apparently done to Job – assaulted and ruined the defenseless Job without just cause! Balentine stresses the boldness of placing this admission of responsibility on God’s lips, and how very important it is for reading the whole book: The report that God has set about to destroy Job for no reason, like a nefarious sinner who ambushes the innocent, is in my judgment perhaps the single most disturbing admission in the Old Testament, if not in all scripture. The hermeneutical space it leaves open for interpretations that explain or exonerate God’s behavior is small indeed. Seven sons and three daughters are dead – at God’s instigation and with God’s permission – for no reason. Perhaps Coleridge was right. The very existence of the book of Job proves that the Bible is an utterly human production, because God would never have written such a powerful argument against himself.13 11 13

12 Balentine, Job, 60. Balentine, Job, 60. Balentine, Job, 60, citing his own article, “For No Reason” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 57, no. 4, (2003): 360–61.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 171 Whatever we finally make of it in the end, by placing this divine admission at the very beginning of the book, the writer removes all doubt about the legitimacy of Job’s complaint, and in advance of the dialogues, the writer assures attentive readers that the seemingly godly counsel of the friends, faithful to tradition as it is, is little more than background noise that we can barely hear over Job’s pitiful screams. Going on, then, Job declares that he has been devastated by the “trouble” that has come upon him (Job 3:26). The word translated “trouble” (NRSV) is rogez, which Balentine renders as “tumult,” and it ¯ introduces the deep thematic problem of Job: rogez is anti-cosmic Chaos ¯ that should not be possible for anyone living according to the structures and norms of God’s created Cosmos.14 Let us dwell for just a moment on this crucial dramatic theme.

ro¯ gez : chaos in god’s cosmos? In her path-breaking study, The Book of Job, Carol Newsom explains the significance of rogez in the whole book. “The strategic placing of the ¯ thematic term as the last word of his speech sends one back to the imagery 15 of the curse for clues to the connotations of rogez.” So Newsom: ¯ Rogez is to the order of lived experience as chaos is to cosmic order; hence Job’s ¯ choice of anti-creation imagery (“let it be darkness,” 3:4, inverting Gen. 1:3). . . and the unleashing of the chaos monster Leviathan (3:8b).16

Balentine agrees with Newsom (citing Michael Fishbane) that Job’s ominous opening soliloquy has “the force of a ‘counter-cosmic incantation.’”17 Further, we will soon see that the Chaos Dragon, Leviathan, plays a leading part in the symbolism of the divine speeches at the end. Already here at the beginning, however, we sense that Leviathan – the emblem of Chaos itself – is unexpectedly operating within Cosmos, contrary to the Deuteronomic assurance that God has confined its quarters to the Sea, where faithful people are out of its reach. The reassurance has proven to be badly misplaced, wishful thinking at best. This is the Joban Problem, as it were, and we will see that it bears a remarkable resemblance in some

14 16 17

15 Balentine, Job, 94. Newsom, The Book of Job, 94. Newsom, The Book of Job, 94. Balentine, Job, 83. Balentine cites Michael Fishbane, “Jeremiah IV:23–26 and Job III:3–13: A Recovered Use of the Creation Pattern,” Vetus Testamentum 21, no. 2 (January 1971): 153.

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respects to the Darwinian Problem that undermines the ethical framework of theism now. At this point, at any rate, the three friends of Job arrive. At first, they lend him comfort by mourning with him, as Deuteronomic law requires. Then, also in line with traditional moral law, they seek to help Job to identify the sin that is the presumed source of his suffering and to take corrective action. They are astonished, however, to encounter Job’s angry refusal to accept their assistance on these terms. Instead, they are confronted with a supposedly righteous man who is now burning with unreserved rage against God. Understandably, they plead with Job to control himself, and to refrain from these irreverently “wild words.”

job’s wild words In their different ways, all three of Job’s friends adamantly assure him that it is impossible that God would make him suffer for no good moral reason, as Job has angrily alleged. Newsom stresses that the friends are not simpletons, as is sometimes suggested in commentaries. For they relate sacred tradition as faithfully as anyone could rightly expect. In doing so (so Newsom), they “construe Job’s experience in terms of narrative structures that integrate and ultimately transcend the present turmoil.”18 Following moral instruction, they urge Job to be humble, to pray, and especially (insinuatingly) to remember the famous tropes that warn about the sure “fate of the wicked.”19 However, much to their consternation, Job will have none of it. Instead, he digs in further and becomes all the more defiant. He demands that they listen – that instead of citing tropes, they listen to him, to Job, the one who alone is in a position to know whether what he is alleging is true, or not. His was no “textbook case,” to be sure! Deeply wounded, angry, and utterly alone, Job lashes out with sarcastic counter-arguments. One feels Job’s anger rising to a level of pure outrage as he writes off their attempts at narrative-ethical control over the Chaos that has ruined him. He discounts the sacred Deuteronomic diagnosis as so much pious drivel. Job was just getting started, however. His words getting “wilder” by the minute, Job unleashes a tirade that conveys to them (so Newsom) “the nonnarratability of human existence in general and his own in particular.”20 Job will not repent, nor will he 18 20

Newsom, The Book of Job, 96. Newsom, The Book of Job, 97.

19

Newsom, The Book of Job, 96.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 173 bow his head and pray – partly because he has no strength left for praying. For Job knows in his heart of hearts what they cannot know: his afflictions make no moral sense whatsoever. They are manifestations of pure Chaos in the supposedly good Cosmos created by God. For Job’s sake, the friends are compelled to respond and seek to stop Job before it is too late. Toward this end, they speak one by one. Speaking first, Eliphaz urges Job to tame his “wild words” (Job 6:3), since “Now for the first time,” writes Balentine, “Job explicitly names God as the cause of his life’s disproportionate pain and misery” (Job 6:4).21 Later, Job explicitly accuses God of becoming his enemy. God, he alleges, has targeted him without cause, has struck him with poisoned arrows, with terrors, and left him in agony with mortal wounds. Job accuses God of deciding to destroy his dignity without cause (Job 10:1–17; 16:6–17; 19:6–12; 27:7–12).22 He scoffs at Eliphaz’s impassioned exhortation that Job must see his suffering as a disciplinary measure that God has taken out of love for Job. From the perspective of his friends, Job has gone insane. Notably, now for the second time, Job invokes the image of Leviathan, the Chaos Dragon that God had supposedly subjugated and confined to its lair, the chaotic Sea. On this old poetic theology, the friends were right – there could be no such thing as real rogez in God’s world; there ¯ could be no blameless man shattered and ruined by God “for no reason.” In Balentine’s words, Job’s outcry to God is indelibly connected with the experience of Chaos: “He wonders if God regards him [the epitome of moral cosmos] as allied with the mythical [anti-cosmic] figures Yam (ya¯m; NRSV: “Sea”) and Tannin (tannîn; NRSV: “Dragon”).”23 The text alludes to the imagery enshrined in Psalm 74:13–14, mentioned earlier, according to which, in creating the world and redeeming Israel from Egypt in the exodus, “God divided the ‘sea’ (ya¯m), broke the heads of the ‘dragons’ (tanninîm), and crushed Leviathan.”24 We shall see in due course that this Joban theme of primordial Chaos included unexpectedly in the good Cosmos is remarkably relevant to our contemporary Darwinian Problem. One might think it impossible that Job could say anything worse about God than what he has now already said, but indeed he does. In Balentine’s words, “On the heels of this complaint, Job offers the most scathing 21

22

Balentine, Job, 125. In the interest of meaning and effect, I have used the NEB translation “wild,” rather than the NRSV “rash” words. 23 24 Balentine, Job, 125–26. Balentine, Job, 136. Balentine, Job, 136.

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indictment of God’s justice that occurs in the book.”25 Job cries out that all supposed creational boundaries between Chaos and Cosmos, between light and darkness, have collapsed, and the formless void seems again to rule the day.26 Job’s spine has stiffened, the dialogues have gone nowhere, and the friends finally fall into exasperated silence. That is the scene, then, as Elihu takes center stage. Scholars are divided over whether someone added Elihu’s extensive and intricately constructed speech to the original.27 I am inclined to side with Newsom, Balentine, and others who believe that it was not a later addition, because (as we will see) it fits so well thematically with what comes before and after. But even so, we will see that Elihu’s speech provides the transitional conceptual and rhetorical bridge between the dialogues, on the one side, and the divine speeches that are about to come, on the other. Elihu’s speech will also provide the main framework for relating the ancient Joban theodicy, yet to come, to the account of God and evolutionary animal suffering that I will offer.

elihu’s aesthetic theodicy Elihu enters, explaining “modestly” that out of respect for his elders, he has held his tongue until now, but with Job’s last outrageous outburst on the evildoing of God, he can no longer contain himself (Job 32:17–22).28 Unlike the older friends, who seek to maintain some abiding respect for Job, Elihu dispenses with that decorum and instead treats the old ruined man with open contempt and derision. It is perhaps not incidental that neither Job, nor the friends, nor God – when God finally comes – honor Elihu’s elaborate speech, in which he demeans poor Job while exulting in praises for God, with so much as a word of response. They all seem to ignore him! At any rate, Elihu mocks Job’s contention that God has given no grounds for his suffering. God is never silent on reasons for suffering, Elihu declares. So it must be that Job has refused to hear whatever it is that God has said (Job 33:14–30). Elihu identifies himself as one who is divinely inspired (Job 32:8), meaning, we suppose, that he is not here on his own authority, but simply to speak to Job what God Himself has spoken. If Job knows what is good

25 27

26 Balentine, Job, 359. Balentine, Job, 369–70. 28 See Newsom, The Book of Job, 200–5. Balentine, Job, 513.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 175 for him, he had better listen – like certain biblicists in our day, Elihu “humbly” appoints himself to speak virtually as God rather than as someone doing his best to interpret and to apply inspired biblical tradition. To Elihu, the very notion that God would do what Job has accused God of doing hardly deserves a response (Job 34:1–37). By speaking this way about God, Job stands condemned out of his own mouth.29 Elihu delivers an elaborate God-justifying and Job-indicting answer, nonetheless. Newsom places Elihu’s speech in the genre of the sapiential praise hymn – a hymn offered in a hortatory manner that is designed to evoke worshipful emotions of wonder, gratitude, and praise to God for the manifestly wise, good, and glorious workings of nature.30 Very like “Augustinian” natural theology and theodicy, Deuteronomic tradition is easily conveyed in aesthetic terms of this kind. Such sapiential hymns function as instruments of worship, theology, and theodicy all at the same time, and for anyone daring to doubt the wisdom and goodness of God, as Job has done, these hymns stand to condemn them, just as Elihu uses his hymn to condemn Job. For who but a blasphemer could look at the astonishing harmony, balance, and manifestly purposeful wholeness of nature and persist in the things that Job has been saying? Employing this Deuteronomic natural theodicy, then, Elihu accuses Job of being willfully blind to the beautiful God-justifying harmony of nature that is manifestly there for all to see. It seems, however, that Elihu has not been listening to the conversation, as he claims to have done, not very attentively anyway. Or perhaps he thought he was counteracting arguments that Job had made just prior to his entrance – perhaps these are the arguments that incited him finally to speak. Just prior to Elihu’s words, Job had declared at length that he had indeed cried for help from God, but had gotten none. Job dared to say to God, “You have turned cruel to me” (Job 30:21). Balentine notices that in the Hebrew, this is a form of cruelty associated both with the excessively brutal treatment of enemies in war and with wild animals that fail to nurse their young.31 Job then likened himself to the jackals and ostriches that wail in the wilderness to no avail. The implication is that God has also abandoned them to an anti-cosmic existence that is pointless, and not

29 31

Balentine, Job, 568–69. Balentine, Job, 459.

30

Newsom, The Book of Job, 228–33.

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worth living (Job 30:29–30). Job prefers the darkness of death to his condition. The rhetorical selection of jackals and ostriches is important. Balentine writes that in Hebrew tradition “With one exception, jackals are identified in the Old Testament with piercing shrieks that give voice to the desolateness of their wilderness domain.”32 Interestingly, as Balentine observes, the prophet Isaiah envisions a day “when their cries change to praise, because God transforms the wilderness into a garden paradise.”33 We will see that a vision of God transforming the wild crying of ostriches in the wilderness into cries of joy surfaces in the divine speeches later on (Job 39:13–18).34 But in the meantime, it seems that the inscrutability of Job’s suffering has led him to a very different outlook on the natural realm. In Job’s way of seeing things, the wild cries of these godforsaken creatures speak against God on his – Job’s – behalf. Against this background, Elihu calls upon Job to reconsider the workings of nature. He exhorts Job to ponder the God-justifying greatness of storms (the very same force of nature that destroyed Job’s property and killed his children). As Elihu sees things through Deuteronomic eyes of faith, windstorms reveal the great power and glory of God, but also God’s goodness to creatures. The rain enables human beings to live (Job 36:27–28), the ordered clouds and lightning testify to the majesty of God, and – the element of warning to Job is not subtle – the target of the lightning is sure (Job 36:30–33)! The roaring thunder is the “voice” of God. (We should recall this metaphor when God arrives in the cyclonic storm, as God does as soon as Elihu finally stops speaking.) Notably, the term the writer uses for the “roaring” that is supposed to elicit Job’s wonder and praise is rogez (Job 37:3–4). The suggestion is ¯ that, contrary to Job’s blasphemous claim, there is no such thing as causally random chaos in God’s world. The forces of rogez in the world ¯ are entirely under God’s targeted moral control. (We do not get Job’s response to this suggestion that God has “targeted” Job’s children and, quite possibly, he will be next.) To drive his point home, Elihu urges Job to hear God’s power and wisdom in the thunderstorm that was apparently approaching, even as Elihu spoke: “Listen, listen to the thunder of his voice” (Job 37:2). Elihu, however, does not stop with this lesson on the natural aesthetics of divine power and wisdom, as he well might have done. He proceeds

32

Balentine, Job, 460.

33

Balentine, Job, 460.

34

Balentine, Job, 460.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 177 next to focus on how nature manifests, in a distinctly aesthetic manner, the perfect justice of God (Job 36:26–37:24). Ignoring – or perhaps rubbing in – what the windstorm had done to Job’s servants and children, Elihu calls Job’s attention to the “bright side” of creation, to its manifestly perfect order, which Elihu sees as positive proof that the moral order of God is perfect, too.35 Elihu declares that when evils occur it is not due to randomness or injustice of any kind. On the contrary, when evils come, as they do, it is either “for correction, or for his land, or for love, he causes it to happen” (Job 37:13). If Job will only “consider the wondrous works of God” (Job 37:14), including the clouds and lightning (storms again), the “balancing of the clouds,” the warmth of the south wind, the hard mirror of the sky, the darkness of the night, the brightness of the sun (Job 37:14–21), he cannot but regard the truth that “he [God] is great in power and justice, and abundant righteousness he will not violate” (Job 37:23, italics mine). Elihu’s concluding words are a not-so-subtle warning to Job: “Therefore mortals fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit” (Job 37:24). On this ominous note, as if on cue, the cyclonic storm – a tornado, not a harmless “whirlwind,” as often envisioned – arrives, with none other than God speaking from within its violently twisting and thundering winds. In the divine speeches, we come at last to what all interpreters, despite disagreements on substance, agree to be the key to the meaning of the book as a whole, if it has one. I will take some time to establish a reading of the speeches before relating them constructively in response to the Darwinian Problem.

the divine speeches: a joban theodicy As indicated, recent studies support reversing the majority opinion of commentators on the divine speeches. Contrary to common opinion, these studies show convincingly, I believe, that the Divine Speaker did unexpectedly accede to Job’s demand for a moral explanation of his undeserved suffering. The studies also show, however, that the Divine Speaker did not put the answer in an ordinary explanatory form of the sort that the forensic debate in the dialogues leads one to expect. The Divine Speaker instead picked up on Elihu’s rhetorical shift from straightforward ethical argumentation to the aesthetic genre of the God-justifying 35

Balentine, Job, 603–4.

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sapiential nature hymn. Only the Divine Speaker took this aesthetic appeal to nature in a direction that Elihu (and the people whose collective “Deuteronomic” voice he epitomizes in the text) did not expect, to say the least. Newsom’s pioneering rhetorical analysis of the divine speeches illuminates their bearing on modern theodicy. I will rely heavily on her deeply insightful interpretation, but I will part ways from it in the end and offer an alternative reading of my own.

newsom: the divine speeches and the rhetorical sublime Newsom stresses that when God’s speeches begin, the merely human dialogues end. They are engulfed by a wholly one-sided monologue in the voice of God. Having God take over an imaginary dialogue is unprecedented in Hebrew literature and sets Job apart from other ancient Semitic dialogical writings on theodicy.36 Newsom proposes that the writer used the voice of God as a bold rhetorical way of staking the claim to authority needed for undertaking the controversial deconstruction of the traditional Hebrew theology that is about to follow. In order to make such a change, one had to be very sure that God had somehow authorized it. Why this bold authorial stroke? In the experience of undeserved suffering during enslavement in Babylon, it perhaps seemed that God had indeed “spoken” in a hardscrabble real-world sense. By bringing about this horrific experience, God had virtually authorized the deconstruction of Deuteronomic theodicy. The remaining question was how to reconstruct Hebrew teaching on God and suffering. In the divine speeches, “God” answers. However, the substance of the answer is notoriously hard to pin down. The first thing the interpreter of the speeches must do, Newsom suggests, is figure out the rhetorical tone of the Divine Speaker. Is it mastery, mockery, rebuke, pedagogy, or something else? Is it antagonistic towards Job, towards the friends, towards both? Does the Divine Speaker take Job’s side, as the approval of Job at the very end suggests? Commentators 36

This is a major departure from the so-called Babylonian Theodicy in which dialogue partners debate the relationship between suffering and the roles of the gods, who never take part in the dialogue, much less arrive and dominate it. For a summary of scholarship on similarities and differences between Job and the Babylonian Theodicy, see Newsom, The Book of Job, 80–88.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 179 have given a remarkable diversity of readings.37 Nevertheless, recent studies in ancient Semitic history and literature have enabled scholars to venture readings that at least render the speeches in their own distinctive historical-literary terms. The commentaries of Balentine and Newsom are superb examples of this improved interpretive position. A second complicating factor is that the speeches bombard the reader with visual images arranged in deliberate structures and resonances, so that the rhetoric itself “resists reduction to propositional summation.”38 In other words, rather than giving straightforward arguments and explanations, the Divine Speaker uses indirect semi-poetic symbolic discourse to convey visual images to the imagination. Newsom thinks that the shift from dialogical argumentation to the use of visual imagery is deliberately designed to prevent reduction of God’s response to a purely cognitive and didactic form, and perhaps to incite healthy debate over what the speeches mean rather than just deliver the answers free of need to struggle for the sense of the text.39 The divine speeches are in essence aesthetic arguments. So Newsom: Whereas the prose tale asked of the reader a relatively passive acknowledgment and the wisdom dialogue highlighted the exercise of critical and comparative judgment, the divine speeches engage specifically aesthetic dimensions of understanding.40

Whatever God’s answer to Job was, the author has put it into a literary form wherein (so Newsom, quoting Paul Ricoeur) “the symbol gives rise to thought.”41 The hermeneutical challenge is to decode the symbols, and then to participate in the emotions and thoughts that they are supposed to evoke. Newsom proposes that we classify the speeches in the genre of the rhetorical sublime.42 She concedes that the concept of the sublime is “notoriously difficult to define,” but she maintains nonetheless that the many treatments of the concept “reflect a sufficient family resemblance to yield a recognizable set of features.”43 Readers may notice that Newsom’s definition of the sublime differs somewhat from the one that Hettinger gave in reference to animal beauty in predation. So Newsom: Crucial to the sublime is the perceiving subject’s sense of being overwhelmed by something too immense, vast, or powerful to be grasped by the categories

37 39 41 43

Newsom, The Book of Job, 235–36. Newsom, The Book of Job, 236. Newsom, The Book of Job, 236. Newsom, The Book of Job, 236.

40 42

38 Newsom, The Book of Job, 236. Newsom, The Book of Job, 236. Newsom, The Book of Job, 236.

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available to the mind. More than merely a cognitive crisis, it is a crisis of subjectivity itself. And yet what is in some respects a negative experience is paradoxically accompanied by a sense of “transport” or “elation,” or a moment in which the self is “realized” in a new way. Not surprisingly, the divine speeches in Job have often served as parade examples of the sublime and figure prominently in Edmund Burke’s classic account.44

Furthermore, again, while many explanations of the sublime reduce the experience to something exclusively psychological or emotional, Newsom affirms treatments of the sublime as something also cognitive, as an experience that conveys feeling-filled thoughts.45 Accordingly, Newsom maintains that experience of the sublime occurs in a context to be “construed within a framework of meaning and value.”46 This is especially so, she maintains, when considering the rhetorical sublime – experience of the sublime while reading texts or hearing a speech. In the rhetorical sublime, “the aesthetic image mediates both experience and idea.”47 If so, then employment of sublimity in the analytics of theodicy is at least plausible, and considering the emotional aspect of the theodicy problem, perhaps unsurprising, and arguably better than the ordinary forensic mode of God-justifying explanation and argumentation. Perhaps we may add one last hermeneutical factor to take into serious account when interpreting the divine speeches: It is that they are at the end of the book. This positioning alerts readers to the need to find their connections with what has come before. Their sense will rely on syntactical connections and, as Stump suggested, on the respectful assumption that the writer artfully developed the characters involved and sought competently to resolve the book’s very complex plot. Unlike Stump, however, Newsom shows how important it is to see the divine speeches in a distinctly Hebrew and ancient Semitic setting and especially to see the idiomatic Semitic ways of imagining existence as a struggle between divinely supported Cosmos, on one side, against the destructive and degenerative power of Chaos, on the other.

chaos and cosmos: sublimely liminal boundaries Contrary to George Bernard Shaw’s assessment of the speeches as a “noble irrelevance,” Newsom (rightly, I believe) contends that unlike

44 46

Newsom, The Book of Job, 237. Newsom, The Book of Job, 237.

45 47

Newsom, The Book of Job, 237. Newsom, The Book of Job, 237.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 181 the friends, the Divine Speaker immediately homes in on the very heart of Job’s complaint, as typified by his litany of lamentations over the chaotic state of existence for animals in wild and apparently godforsaken realms. In chapters 29–31 especially, but also elsewhere, as we have seen, Job alluded several times to the apparent rule of anti-cosmic conditions in those wild realms, which loomed like windows through which to see a non-Deuteronomic world unveiled – a Joban World. In these passages, Job indignantly questioned the alleged reality of ultimate cosmic order itself.48 Newsom invites us to notice that the first divine speech begins, appropriately, with strong assurances of “the firm and secure structures of an orderly creation.”49 The Divine Speaker begins the speech with imagery intended to convey confidence that the fundamental structures of the creation are indeed solidly intact. The Speaker conjures images of the inaccessible and unseen yet unbreakable boundaries between primordial Chaos and the created Cosmos that constrains it. He takes Job on an imaginary “tour” of those hidden places, where the very basis of created being itself resides. Newsom comments eloquently on the poetic “exorbitance of the sublime and its assault on the imagination” created not just by the sense of vastness and the incomprehensibility of the Cosmos, although this is an important aspect of the spatial imagery, but by the breathtakingly liminal nature of boundaries between being and non-being, between Cosmos and Chaos:50 More significantly, the imagery is often cast in terms of limits and boundaries. The things to which Job’s attention are directed are things at the edges of creation: the place where the very bases of the earth are sunk, the boundary between the sea and land, the place of dawn at the edge of the earth, the springs of the abyssal sea, the gates of the underworld, the paths that terminate at the houses of light and darkness at the edge of the cosmos. These mark the boundary between formlessness and structure, order and disorder, life and death, the darkness that harbors violence and the light that dispels it.51

The images thereby “create a virtual experience” intended not to make Job feel small, as often assumed, but to engender a sense of the sublime that serves his quest for God-justifying and self-vindicating answers. They do so, she maintains, not by merely overwhelming Job with a sense of the chaotic and unknown, but in a manner that enables him (and us) to see and to feel the “firm and secure structures of an orderly creation” even 48 50

Newsom, The Book of Job, 239–41. Newsom, The Book of Job, 241.

51

49 Newsom, The Book of Job, 243. Newsom, The Book of Job, 241–42.

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amid the chaotic realities in play.52 In this way, then, the Divine Speaker deals with Job’s very most fundamental concern about the cosmic character of reality. According to Newsom, the remaining images in both speeches create the same sense of the sublime by means of an ingenious rhetorical progression that mediates the God-justifying (and Job-vindicating) theme. She suggests that the speeches progress from what Kant labeled the “mathematical sublime,” which occurs mainly by overwhelming one’s cognitive capacities, to the “dynamically sublime,” which involves incitement of an oddly pleasurable deep dread of things that are both familiar and yet strange at the same time.53 At the end, I will come back to this novel interplay between the poles of Chaos and Cosmos in the context of the Darwinian Problem, a large part of which is seeing the relation between the chaotic randomness of evolution and the cosmic constraints that channel it in creative directions and give it a tentative stability. Meanwhile, in the rest of the first speech, the Divine Speaker takes Job’s imagination to boundaries between visible cosmic and chaotic places right here on the earth. Newsom stresses that the affective sense of sublimity comes with and partly depends upon cognitive claims the Speaker makes. “These cognitive claims, as many critics have noted, have to do with the relation of order and chaos in the world.”54 This is the writer’s way of having God speak, albeit indirectly, to Job’s complaint that, contrary to tradition, Chaos prevails, and Cosmos is the lie. The Divine Speaker begins this second phase of the speech by calling Job’s attention to the place of the Sea (Job 38:8–11). We have seen that in Hebrew tradition, the Sea normally symbolized anti-cosmic energy that God alone limits and constrains. The writer, however, introduces an astonishing reconstruction of this tradition.

god and the sea Newsom observes that in classical Hebrew tradition, the Sea and Night “are described in terms of the limits imposed upon them.”55 These vestiges of the primordial “Deep,” the oceanic Chaos, symbolized hostile anti-cosmic powers that have been subjugated by God and confined within boundaries that they simply may not transgress. In keeping with

52 54

Newsom, The Book of Job, 243. Newsom, The Book of Job, 243.

53 55

Newsom, The Book of Job, 242. Newsom, The Book of Job, 244.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 183 that ancient tradition, the author of Job depicts the Sea (so Newsom) “as violent and aggressive, ‘bursting out’ and threatening to exceed its place until confined within the limits of ‘doors and bars.’”56 The image of a cosmic barred “cage” suggests comparison with containment of a wild beast, and as mentioned earlier, the Hebrews (and other Semitic societies) envisioned the Sea mythically as the animated abode – or perhaps an organic extension – of the Chaos Monster, Leviathan. The writer of Job personifies the Sea as “proud,” as Leviathan later will be described (and as Elihu depicted Job!). So far, the depiction of these entities is conventional. What is unconventional, however – stunningly so – is the Divine Speaker’s positive relationship with the Sea as a creative source of great goodness. Newsom explains: This pericope radically departs from traditional imagery. . .in that it does not cast the sea as God’s opponent in battle (cf. Ps. 74:13–14; 89:10–14; Isa. 51:9–10; Enuma Elish IV) but instead represents God as the midwife who births the sea and wraps it in the swaddling bands of darkness and cloud.57

There is no precedent in Hebrew tradition for this depiction of God treating the Sea with admiring affection, and even as its “midwife” during birth.58 What does this radical reconstruction of the ancient tradition on God and the Sea mean? In Newsom’s view, the metaphor of God as midwife to the birth of the Sea does not negate the tradition of God subjugating the Sea. However, the image of midwifery and God swaddling the infant Sea “transforms the emotional register and introduces novel implications.”59 The novel imagery functions as a “metaphorical filter” that “diminishes the sense of the sea as a hostile, alien power and associates it rather with the vigor of new life. Moreover, the restraints placed upon it are cast in terms of nurture and protection.”60 Without help from historical-literary scholars, modern readers will almost inevitably fail to appreciate the impact that this changed imagery would have had for its first Hebrew readers and so also to see implications that it may have for the contemporary Darwinian Problem now. “Here the chaotic waters of the sea are represented not only as the object of divine limitation but also of divine care.”61 In other words, contrary to 56 58 60 61

57 Newsom, The Book of Job, 244. Newsom, The Book of Job, 244. 59 Newsom, The Book of Job, 244. Newsom, The Book of Job, 244. Newsom, The Book of Job, 244. Newsom, The Book of Job, 244. Italics mine. Perhaps we should add here that Stump is also struck by the imagery of God as midwife to the Sea’s birth. However, she does not

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tradition, the imagery is suggesting that God approves the existence of elemental Chaos within the Cosmos. More surprisingly still, it suggests that God has included Chaos in the cosmic design. In some elusive, yet very important sense, it seems, God values the inclusion of this anticosmic presence in the world as a good thing, while at once maintaining the sense in which it represents something anti-cosmic that is bad. This dramatic reimagining of the Chaos-Cosmos relationship as being in some sense positive, rather than negative, first arises here in Job 38 and then becomes a major – arguably the central – theme of the speeches, henceforth. Once again, at the end, we will consider implications of this ancient religious reconstruction of theodicy for our contemporary God-and-evil conversation. At this point, the Divine Speaker leads Job’s imagination away from the primordial parts of created being to existence here on earth – in the anti-cosmic wild. In other words, the Divine Speaker now turns to the very realm of existence that had concerned Job most – the desolate and godforsaken places where the wild things are. This section of the speech provides the most important bridge between the ancient book of Job and our contemporary Darwinian Problem.

seeing god where the wild things are In notable contrast to Elihu, who exhorted Job to consider the perfect order of nature, the Divine Speaker directly addresses Job’s troubled thoughts on the vast range of disorder and apparently godforsaken aimlessness of existence in the wild natural realm. Importantly, Newsom proposes that in doing so, the Divine Speaker tacitly acknowledges the main point of Job’s protest and concedes the truth residing in its core. This reading explains both God’s approval of Job at the end, and God’s harsh disapproval of Job’s friends. With the imagery of wild animals, Newsom writes, “the sense of dislocation intensifies.”62 What commentators have generally failed to notice (so Newsom) is that “the animals selected for presentation almost all belong to the hostile and alien realm of the desert wilderness.”63

62

place the text in its ancient Semitic context and read it in the appropriate mythological terms. So she does not quite capture the stunning theological and theodical implications. See Stump, Faith and the Problem of Evil, mainly 24–25. 63 Newsom, The Book of Job, 244. Newsom, The Book of Job, 244–45.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 185 Notably, however, as with the primordial Sea, the Divine Speaker does not present the wild animals in the usual Semitic way:64 . . .the suppression of descriptions of human activity, the explicit opposition between the animals and human purposes, and repeated references to God’s provision for these creatures (38:39–41; 39:5–8, 26–30) destabilizes the customary binary oppositions of order and the chaotic. . . .65

Strikingly, as with the Sea, the speech “seems to associate God in a positive fashion with these creatures of the fearful beyond.”66 The Divine Speaker challenges Job to see in the imagery that, contrary to tradition, He – God the Speaker – has not abandoned wild creatures and things. On the contrary, God is with the wild things. If we look closely enough, in the right way, we see that God is very much present where the wild things are. The Divine Speaker offers a poetic procession of animals that typically, in Semitic societies, signified chaotic defiance of cosmic order and the strategies of civilization to contain and/or domesticate animals. These wild beasts were considered untamable and were often deadly to the artificial human order of life. The Divine Speaker does not adopt this simple binary perspective on the typological taxonomy of animals in the wild. For example, the canonical Hebrew perspective on predation was that it represents a corruption of nature’s original design and God’s vision of existence for nonhuman creatures. So it is surprising that the Divine Speaker, brushing aside all secondary causes and qualifications, begins by reminding Job that He – God – does not just permit predation as a concession to nature’s fallen condition, but personally hunts on behalf of the lion and provides it with its prey (Job 38:39–40). Also surprisingly, considering that death was understood as an anti-cosmic abnormality, the Divine Speaker calls Job’s attention to the provision that He – God – makes for the ravens, by providing them with dead creatures for food (Job 38:41). The sequence ends with the horrific scene of God providing vultures with the bloodstained corpses of human beings slain in war – “where the slain are, there it [the raven, or vulture] is” (Job 39:30). This vista of God working caringly and providently in and through tragedy (the lion and its prey) and horror (vultures and the human dead) is a far cry from the God-glorifying picture of nature in Psalm 19 or in Elihu’s

64

65

Newsom, The Book of Job, 245. Here she provides an insightful discussion of how the wild animals were treated in ancient Semitic lore. 66 Newsom, The Book of Job, 245. Newsom, The Book of Job, 245.

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sapiential hymn, and it hardly evokes typically exultant emotions of worshipful praise. Yet the Divine Speaker encourages Job to respond to these sublimely tragic and horrific images in a strangely worshipful way. They are fearfully sublime images of God bringing forth cosmic life from the chaotic depths of death. In between the imagery of these birds of death that bracket the whole section, the Divine Speaker expresses admiration for the wild oxen and the ass (Job 39:5–12). In ancient Semitic culture the wild ass was regarded symbolically as a defiant moral outlaw in need of restraint. Its stubborn defiance is a character trait that God would normally disapprove and even condemn. However, in Job, God takes discernible delight in seeing creatures set free to be themselves in such wildly antinomian ways (Job 39:5). Likewise, the wild oxen (so Newsom) typically “mock the logic of domestication” (Job 39:9–12). The theme of non-domestication extends still further with the description of mountain goats and wild deer. It is easy to miss the admiration for Job’s defiant and brave wildness that the Divine Speaker is tacitly conveying, too. The Divine Speaker positively bombards Job (and presumably also the friends) with images that convey the strangely sublime beauty of wild things, and with the largely hidden truth that God admires and cares for them. The imagery is extraordinary in the way it transfigures these wild things from symbols of Chaos into unlikely tokens of an unexpected kind of Cosmos. Once again, the imagery conveys Cosmos emerging tragically in and through Chaos, rather than in simple triumph over and against it. Continuing with this animal symbolism, the Divine Speaker invites Job to consider the ostrich, which Job had held up to the friends, along with the jackal, as an emblem of his own undeservedly desolate condition. However, once again, the conventional typology is deconstructed as the writer replaces the usual image of the ostrich’s crying, heard as sad and eerily desolate and godforsaken (as used by Job himself earlier), with a verb that connotes “crying for joy,” and with the positive picture of the ostrich flapping its wings, not in a futile attempt to fly, but in wild celebration and joy (Job 39:13).67 Once more (so Newsom): “God’s celebration of the ostrich’s evasion seems unnervingly to place God in considerable sympathy with the emblems of the chaotic.”68 On the whole, then, in the first speech, the imagery of God caring for and admiring the anti-cosmic wild animals creates an “unnerving

67

Balentine, Job, 665.

68

Newsom, The Book of Job, 247.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 187 coincidence of beauty and horror, so characteristic of the sublime.”69 The imagery of the vultures culminates this sublimely unsettling effect. “With this sublimely horrific image of human beings as the foodstuff of young vultures, God concludes the speech.”70 So it is perhaps unsurprising that the Divine Speaker begins the second speech with imagery that features the mythic creature-emblems of Chaos itself, Behemoth and Leviathan.

god and leviathan Newsom writes that even more so than the wild creatures already in view, the two monsters that the Divine Speaker now conjures in Job’s mind, the mythic Chaos-beasts, Behemoth and Leviathan, “manifest the alien Other, with the terror of the chaotic present in their very being.”71 However, once again, the author does not depict these Chaos-creatures in the triumphal picture of a conquering warrior God – “according to the script of the divine warrior creation myth, that is, along the lines of Psalms 74 and 89 and Isaiah 51, in which God defeats the manifestations of chaos in order to establish the world that he continues to rule.”72 The Speaker clearly means to remind Job of this triumphal poetic picture commonly invoked to reassure Israelites in times of trouble, but the writer of Job has markedly changed the creative/redemptive relationship between God and the monsters in the imagery, so that “it does not ‘say’ the same thing.”73 To put it differently, the Speaker still conveys reassurance that the promised divine triumph of messianic cosmic justice, peace, and prosperity is sure to come, but by a dramatically different means than ancient Deuteronomic formulations had led Job to envision. The change may go unnoticed by uninformed modern readers, but for Jewish readers in Job’s time, it would have commanded riveting, almost disbelieving attention. According to Newsom, “The significance of the Leviathan pericope can scarcely be overstated. It is both the climax and the epitome of what

69 71

72

70 Newsom, The Book of Job, 247. Newsom, The Book of Job, 248. Newsom, The Book of Job, 248. Balentine has several detailed discourses on these monsters, including the explanation that Behemoth was the female and Leviathan the male of the pair. See for instance, Balentine, Job, 87. For a thorough refutation of the common view that Behemoth and Leviathan are ordinary earthly beasts, and not mythic monsters of Chaos, Jonathan Alfred Cooper, The Divine Speeches of Job 38–41: Chaos Is a Friend of Mine, M.T.S. thesis at Candler School of Theology, 2012, esp. 48–51. 73 Newsom, The Book of Job, 248. Newsom, The Book of Job, 248.

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God has to say to Job.”74 The writer has built up to this dramatic scene: “At the end of the divine speeches three characters dominate the scene: Job, God, and Leviathan. The crucial hermeneutical task posed by the images is to discern the relationships among them.”75 And according to Newsom, what we discern is astonishing. As with the primordial Sea and the wild animals, and contrary to all previous tradition, in the imagery the Divine Speaker offers to Job, we “see” that God is not at war with Leviathan, after all. Astoundingly, the imagery conveys to Job that God actually admires the Chaos Monster, the defiantly proud master of his domain, who refuses to be subjugated and resigned to domestication and defeat.76 The speech is filled with images of Leviathan’s many admirable qualities, but Newsom notices something else, something that first readers would have found breathtaking. For the Divine Speaker declares that Leviathan – the archetype of anti-cosmic opposition to God – is not God’s sworn enemy, after all, but is in reality a strange ally in the course of God’s cosmic creative and redemptive work towards the promised end.77 How can that be? The Divine Speaker underscores the invincibility, uncontrollability, ferocity, strength, and (again) the defiant pride of Leviathan. In these respects, the Speaker declares, none can capture him (Job 41:7–9), none dares arouse him (Job 41:10), his skin is as impenetrable as armor (Job 41:13), he breathes smoke and fire (Job 41:19–21), his strength is unparalleled (Job 41:23), even “the gods” fear him (Job 41:25), no weapon can kill him, not even a spear to the heart (Job 41:24–30), he is master of the roiling seas (Job 41:31–32), and on the whole, “On earth it has no equal, a creature without fear. . .it is king over all that are proud” (Job 41:33–34). The tone of pure admiring pleasure that the Divine Speaker takes in the sublimely terrifying greatness of Leviathan is unmistakable – and so far as Hebrew tradition goes, inexplicable.78 Beyond mere admiration, however, in the rhetorical questions that the Speaker poses, it comes out that God is not just the master of Leviathan, but has entered into an “agreement” or alliance with him. “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook. . .? Can you put a rope in its nose, or pierce 74 76 77

78

75 Newsom, The Book of Job, 250. Newsom, The Book of Job, 252. Newsom, The Book of Job, 252. For a very insightful, fuller thesis on God’s alliance with Leviathan in Job, see Cooper, The Divine Speeches of Job 38–41. Cooper, The Divine Speeches of Job 38–41, 91. Also see Helmut Utzschneider, “. . .‘But Mine Eye Seeth Thee!’ (Job 42:5): The Book of Job and an Aesthetic Theology of the Old Testament,” Criswell Theological Review 8, no. 1 (Fall 2010): 91–100.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 189 its jaw with a hook?. . .Will you play with it as with a bird, or will you put it on a leash for your girls?” (Job 41:1–5). God asks Job, “Will it make many supplications to you? Will it speak soft words to you? Will it make a covenant with you to be taken as your servant forever?” (Job 41:3–4, italics mine). Once again, Newsom stresses the perplexity that these passages must have produced for post-exilic Jewish readers. So Newsom: “. . .as the text stands, there is a curious level of identification between God and Leviathan.”79 Like God, “On earth it has no equal, a creature without fear. It surveys everything that is lofty; it is king over all that are proud” (Job 41:33–34). Furthermore: “Far from recounting a confrontation with Leviathan that results in its defeat, humiliation, and abasement, the passage celebrates its rightful pride, based upon its terrifying strength and violence.”80 Coming to the end of the speech, then, Newsom ably sums up the counterintuitive theme of identification between the God of Cosmos and the great powers of Chaos: From the striking metaphor of the sea as swaddled infant, to the celebration of the wildness of those creatures who mock and spurn human control, to the ecstatic description of Leviathan, the uncomfortable sense grows that God’s identification with the chaotic is as strong as with the symbols of order.81

What can it mean for God to have a “covenant” with the archetype of Chaos, even to celebrate the power and untamed pride and courage of Leviathan, and how does seeing God and Leviathan this way, along with the other imagery, help to allay Job’s accusation against God, as it apparently did? At any rate, upon hearing all these things, Job relents with these words: I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. . .. Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. . .. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes. (Job 42:1–6)

What did Job “see” in the imagery that satisfied his desire for a Godjustifying and self-vindicating explanation of his suffering? What restored his “theistic sight”?

79 81

Newsom, The Book of Job, 251. Newsom, The Book of Job, 252.

80

Newsom, The Book of Job, 251–52.

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what restored job’s “theistic sight”? Newsom’s answer is that Job “saw” in the imagery the subversion of our “blessed rage for order,” our “passion to deny the tragic in existence.”82 She maintains that what Job “sees” in this depiction of God approving anti-cosmic wild things and finally celebrating even Leviathan himself, the quintessence of Chaos, is that there is no coming triumph of Cosmos over Chaos, after all ‒ that existence is inherently tragic, as Job fears it is. Try as we might, we cannot “narrate” tragedy away. Job surrenders to this reality and retreats into resigned, enlightened silence:83 What Job has just heard in the divine speeches, however, is a devastating undermining of his understanding of the unproblematic moral continuity between himself, the world, and God. It is a profound loss of unity, a recognition of the deeply fractured nature of reality.84

According to Newsom, in the aesthetics of the rhetorical sublime, what Job acquires is “tragic insight.”85 By tragic insight Newsom refers not merely to cognitive or ideological submission to the reality that ultimate order is illusory, a desperately wishful human construction, but also to a deeply moving affective awareness that is typical of the sublime. One has the feeling that the tragic awareness has arisen within oneself, not from an abstract or otherwise external source. There is something thrilling and delightful down deep within the personal experience of the tragic sublime. To be sure, the experience is devastating and disordering, especially in this instance, wherein Job was (and Jewish contemporaries were) conditioned to trust totally in the eventual “messianic” divine triumph of Cosmos over Chaos, but it also comes with a sense of release. Job has been led to let go of his cosmic illusion.86 Despite this great loss of meaning, there is also great compensatory gain in being attuned to the truth of things at long last.87 Notably, Newsom adds that with “tragic insight” also comes a sort of euphoric sense of being reborn, and strangely, the feeling that this is not the end, “that something will happen, despite everything, within this threatening void, that something will take ‘place’ and will announce that everything is not over.”88 82 84 86

87 88

83 Newsom, The Book of Job, 252–53. Newsom, The Book of Job, 253. 85 Newsom, The Book of Job, 255. Newsom, The Book of Job, 253. Suzanne Guerlac, “Longinus and the Subject of the Sublime,” New Literary History 16, no. 2 (Winter 1985): 286. Newsom, The Book of Job, 256. Newsom, The Book of Job, 256, quoting Jean-François Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, tr. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991), 84.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 191 We wonder, however, what could come next? Newsom’s point bears similarity to Haught’s insight that tragedy elicits a yearning that things were not so, a longing for something, or someone, somehow to repair what is irreparable, humanly speaking, together with a secondary feeling that the story just cannot end this way. There must be “something more,” a sequel, or a postlude like the one at the end of Job. How should we assess Newsom’s reading? On balance, Newsom’s rhetorical-historical reading of Job is rich with insights into the meaning of the book, in parts and as a whole. However, I must depart from her conclusion on what Job “saw.” Contrary to her thesis, I propose that Job gained a perspective on God and evils – a way of “seeing” – that enabled him to recover his messianic faith in a newly reconfigured form. Briefly, Newsom’s conclusion is vulnerable to at least three serious criticisms. First, the rhetorical tone of the divine speeches is anything but tragic. It is rather powerfully triumphant and hopeful, so much so that commentators have reflexively mistaken them for the expression of pure power on God’s part. The speeches, I suggest, offer a transfiguration of tragedy into faith, instead. Further, second, if the writer intended that in the speeches “God” merely deconstructed and displaced messianic faith with the tragic theme, it is unlikely that the book, so understood, could have ascended into the Hebrew canon, as it did. Its position in the canon is a de jure reason to doubt that Newsom’s conclusion is quite correct. Finally, third, Newsom’s reading does not fit very well with the quasicomedic prose epilogue, in which God restores Job’s fortunes, including the replacement of his dead children (Job 42:7–17). Even if it was a clumsily composed addendum, an ad hoc attempt to improve the seemingly sad outcome of the original by means of an explicitly “happy” postlude (I doubt this), it shows that the people who controlled the text did not see it as tragic, but in some sense as hopeful and encouraging to faithful Israelites, that (and here Newsom is right, I believe) “something more” indeed was in store for them despite what they had suffered.89 In this religious-historical setting, that “something more” would have had specific substance. It would have referred in their minds to the promised messianic cosmic realm yet to come. So I suggest that we consider another interpretation of the divine speeches, one that maintains the messianic faith by putting it into a fresh

89

Newsom, The Book of Job, 257.

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formulation. I propose that the writer did so ingeniously by means of another, uniquely Hebrew species of the rhetorical sublime. Rather than the tragic sublime, I propose that the writer created a new rhetorical form, which I will refer to as the “messianic sublime.”

job and the “messianic sublime” We have seen that the Divine Speaker holds forth images of Himself (God) admiringly, intricately, caringly, and effectively involved in the “birth” of the Sea, in sustaining chaotic creatures of the wild, and even in the affairs of the emblematic Leviathan, whose service God has enlisted as an unexpected ally. I suggest that while Newsom correctly classifies the aesthetics of this imagery as deconstructive of Deuteronomic tradition, and as reconstructive of fresh tradition conceived in the aesthetics of the “rhetorical sublime,” it seems wrong to identify the genre of the reconstruction as tragic, at least in the conventional sense. Even Newsom’s own last comments on the sense that there is “something more” in store for us, that things just cannot end like this, weigh against classifying the mood the speeches are supposed to create as tragic. It is indeed very hard to know exactly how to classify them. Like the Christian Gospels, the divine speeches of Job do not fit exactly into any traditional secular rhetorical mold. For lack of better terminology, I suggest that Job belongs to a uniquely Jewish – and eventually Christian – religious genre that I will refer to as the “messianic sublime.” I suggest that, unlike the tragic sublime, the messianic sublime evokes a calming sense of God’s creative/redemptive cosmic presence even in the midst of anti-cosmic turmoil – rogez – that ¯ seems to make a mockery of messianic vision and hope. The messianic sublime, I suggest, is the incomparable beauty of the messianic vision of emerging cosmic flourishing for all creatures and things. We shall consider the distinctly Christian form of the “messianic sublime” in Chapters 9 and 10, where we will put it into a christological conceptual context. First, however, let us see how this aesthetic-religious experience arises from the pre-Christian, post-classical Jewish imagery of Job and, afterwards, relate these points to engagement of the Darwinian Problem. The “messianic sublime” arises from the images of God bringing about form from a formless void, life from the primordial oceanic abyss, light from anti-cosmic darkness, and finally, semi-ordered life that emerges from apparently abandoned and godforsaken, dangerous and deathly

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 193 natural realms to the good of grotesquely disordered anti-cosmic creatures – jackals, ostriches, and wild asses. Instead of a tragic scene, I suggest, Job “sees” in sublimely beautiful rhetorical form, that despite superficial appearances (encouraged by a shallow tradition) God is in fact intimately and caringly involved even in these realms, and Job is thereby moved from his position of defiant protest back to heartfelt belief that the messianic promise is true, after all. The Divine Speaker employs rhetorically ordered imagery that opens the eyes of Job’s imagination to “see” that contrary to Deuteronomic tradition, God is acting in and with those hostile realities and powers, and is in fact employing them as instruments of great creative and redemptive messianic cosmic good. God is creating messianic Cosmos in and through the lingering realms of Chaos. I suggest that this is the sublimely terrible and yet glorious messianic beauty of Israel’s God, a source of deep fear, or awe, and equally great comfort and joy at the same time. The experience is messianic in the traditional substantive sense, but non-triumphal and sublime in mood at the same time. The God of messianic theism abides, creates, redeems – and speaks – from within the chaotic windstorm, not in spite of it. People of messianic faith, then, must embrace God and the world in those sublimely tragic, yet hopeful terms. In the light of these comments on what Job “saw,” then, let us now turn to consider its relevance to contemporary engagement of the Darwinian Problem. I propose that this Joban theodicy, as it were, is remarkably relevant to this controversy on several levels.

the joban world and the darwinian problem I propose that the Joban theodicy, so understood, can help theists – Jewish and Christian canonical theists, at least – to engage the modern Darwinian Problem. In a sense, this ancient Hebrew theodicy crosses centuries to engage key aspects of our modern problem. Of course, Jewish believers in Job’s time did not have to deal with the unveilings of “deep evolutionary time” and “a plurality of worlds,” understood in the Darwinian terms of natural selection. Nevertheless, in its nonscientific empirical way, the experience of exile and enslavement in Babylon unveiled truths about God and evil that are all too familiar to people seeking the presence of God in the seemingly atheistic Darwinian World. Babylonian exile unveiled the terrifying truth that, contrary to ingrained religious expectations, morally dysteleological suffering indeed

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does occur. Realization that a great many human and nonhuman beings suffer “for no reason” – none that can be ethically explained, anyway – was faith shattering for Israelites. Furthermore, it also became undeniably clear that the causal agent of this morally “wild” suffering was none other than God. It was God, Job wailed, who had so sorely wounded him without just cause. Why? Projected onto nature, Job ascribed the desolate and disordered conditions of existence for multitudes of animals in wild realms to their creator – to God. Again, why? Why had God left them in that godforsaken condition? In our contemporary terms, why had God inscribed suffering into the very design of their existence? How could doing such a thing be fair, on God’s part? How was God in any meaningful sense good to them? So, like the Darwinian World, the Joban World, so to speak, poses the twin problems of apparently dysteleological suffering and “evil inscribed.” These two closely connected features of the Joban World are the primary sources of the Joban Problem, which the writer of Job sought to solve, as we have seen. Did the writer successfully solve the Joban Problem? If so, then considering the similarity of the Joban World to its Darwinian counterpart, by implication, the solution would have positive bearing on our contemporary God-justifying cause. Does the theodicy in Job succeed according to the conditions that (so we agreed) contemporary God-justifying accounts must meet in order to be successful? It may seem unlikely that an ancient theodicy could pass these modern critical tests for explanatory success. Nevertheless, I propose that the theodicy in Job, so understood, arguably does pass them and, thereby, extends its relevance into our contemporary conversation. Let us quickly review those requisite conditions, then, and consider how the theodicy in Job arguably does meet them. Readers will recall that we accepted several interrelated conditions that a God-justifying scenario must satisfy in order to succeed. First, there is a broad Evidential Condition – one’s scenario must take all the relevant manifestations of evil into account, particularly the ones that are hardest to explain. Second, one must show that in authorizing the evil in view, God has met requisite moral conditions. There is the fundamental Rights Condition, which requires that the agent in question – in this instance, God – has the basic moral right to cause and/or allow evils. Further, I proposed that instead of enforcing the Necessity Condition, as commonly done, we adopt the Defeat Condition, as prescribed by Chisholm. The person (God) is authorized in causing/allowing the evil so long as the agent defeats the evil, by integrating it into a greatly good whole that

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 195 could not be as great as it is without the evil part. In that event, the person implicitly satisfies the Outweighing Condition, too, for the forthcoming whole outweighs both its good and evil parts. Still further, third, I stipulated that the scenario must meet the Seeing Condition. It is not enough merely to promise the defeat of evil in an afterlife, in ad hoc fashion. To meet this epistemic condition, one must provide a perspective in which one can at least begin to “see” that God is engaged in the defeat of evil now, and/or that God is likely to defeat it later on, perhaps in a postmortem life to come. Finally, fourth, the account of God and evil must satisfy the epistemic condition requiring that it be at least as plausible as not, on the whole. So in order to succeed – to construct a sufficiently successful causa Dei, or “case for God” – one has a lot to do. Has the writer of Job done enough to meet all these conditions as plausibly as not? Can this ancient theodicy, so understood, contribute its voice to our contemporary conversation? I suggest that it can. I will take the requisite explanatory conditions one by one.

the job theodicy and the evidential condition I think it almost goes without saying that the writer of Job has met the Evidential Condition. For the writer has famously forced believers to face evil in forms that we devoutly wish did not exist. On this historical reading, the Babylonian exile unveiled a Joban World, in which a great many human and nonhuman beings suffer inexplicably – “for no reason.” There is no inclination in Job to avoid facing this Joban World full on, for the main character refuses to let his friends explain it away or put it into a cage of narrative containment constructed from ordinary ethics. Wishful thinking and reductionism of this kind have no support whatsoever in Job. The theodicy in Job is a courageous attempt to find faith outside the narrative cage, within the realities of the ostrich and jackal, the vulture and the raven, Behemoth and Leviathan. Job is nothing if not forthright in confronting the evidence of ethically inexplicable evils. What about the remaining conditions, however?

the job theodicy and the rights condition I stressed twice earlier that, so far at least, we lack solid grounds for believing that the God of canonical theism would create life by tragic

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means – that in creating the world, God the Artist would do so in the horrific genre of tragedy. Is it plausible even that a morally perfect God would have the right to afflict tragic suffering on innocent and defenseless creatures? I propose now that the book of Job has begun to provide such grounds. I suggest that it has done so in two main ways. First, in the Job theodicy the Divine Speaker – God – makes an overwhelmingly emphatic, if implied, claim to have just this sort of moral right. In this extraordinary symbolic self-depiction, God emerges, in both rhetorical poetic form and justificatory substance, as analogous to an artist creating a messianic world by most unexpected, tragic means. Newsom’s commentary has made these points as clear as they could be. The writer ingeniously shifts from the straightforwardly ethical and forensic discourse of the dialogues to the rhetoric of the sublime in the divine speeches, in which the Divine Speaker – God – deploys poetics rather than ordinary analytics. In both form and substance, we encounter the very voice of God as Artist. In form, the effect is disarmingly personal. Stump refers to it as creation of a “second-person narrative” experience that one gets from an account of the person in identity-defining action instead of from adjectival descriptive reports about the person.90 In substance, we are not just “told” as much, but are enabled to “see” that while God is clearly good in a familiar moral sense, God as Artist is also free from ordinary ethical obligations. We “see” – frighteningly so – that God has exercised that freedom to an extent that was extremely unexpected. God has unleashed Chaos – rogez – into the Cosmos. In so doing, ¯ God has caused great suffering for both human and nonhuman beings. However, we also begin to “see” that in creating cosmic goodness from chaotic conditions, God is nevertheless good to humans and animals, fiercely so, and that God’s goodness to creatures will prevail. Should modern readers accept this moral-theological claim about God? I believe so, to an extent, anyway. As a canonical writing, Job has inherently authoritative status for traditional Jewish and Christian theists in its depiction of God. So that provides de facto grounds for accepting it as plausible on the assumptions of canonical Jewish and Christian theism. This canonical argument will suffice for some. However, others will join non-theists in pressing the question whether we have de jure grounds for doing so. I suggest that the writer of Job provides the rudimentary makings of such grounds, but that we must wait for distinctly Christian

90

Stump, Faith and the Problem of Evil, 1–41.

Suffering “For No Reason”: Job and the Darwinian Problem 197 writers to develop them more completely, as I believe they do, by bringing tragedy explicitly into the core of Christology and, thereby, into Christianity’s canonical depiction of God on the whole. How does Job begin to do so? The question leads us to consider to what extent God, in the Job theodicy, meets the Defeat Condition.

the job theodicy and the defeat condition I believe it is sufficiently clear that the writer of Job undermines application of the Necessity Condition and depicts God instead as free – perhaps frighteningly so – from that sort of ethical constraint. For God the Artist to be morally justified, then, in creating the world by essentially tragic means, it follows that God must defeat the tragic evils that God has allegedly authorized. I suggest that the Job theodicy does indeed give glimmerings of God in the creative and redemptive course of doing so. In the imagery, God is defeating the morally dysteleological evils already, in part, here and now, and is doing so in a manner that foreshadows a full defeat of such evils in the messianic age yet to come. The imagery thereby supports messianic faith and hope for a full defeat of tragic evil in the future. Contrary to Newsom, I proposed that the imagery of the divine speeches is not merely tragic, but is sublimely promissory in the mood that it creates. In this imagery, God is working meticulously, artfully, and carefully to bring forth cosmic life from the chaotic realities of suffering, disorder, and death. I proposed that we must place this imagery in the larger religious tradition of Israel’s messianic eschatological hope, now newly reconstructed in the light of hard experience in Babylon. The somewhat clumsily composed prose ending is perhaps best understood as emblematic of this larger promise of worldwide justice and flourishing for all creatures and things. Meanwhile, however, the imagery supports hope that God is already working to bring about this messianic realm and – crucially – that God is doing so by means of actions that entail defeat for evils, in Chisholm’s sense, rather than by their mere removal from the world. God is achieving something much greater than merely crushing “Leviathan,” as in Deuteronomic poetic tradition. God is instead – astonishingly – incorporating Chaos into a forthcoming Cosmos. The God of the divine speeches is already defeating the otherwise inexplicable evils that God has inscribed into human and nonhuman existence, and God will defeat them in full for all human and nonhuman creatures and things.

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The defeat of evils inscribed into the existence of the wild animals, for instance, is partial in Job. Consider the image of God bringing forth life for vultures from the slain corpses of humans who died in war. Or consider God hunting prey for the lion. These provident actions of God do not fully defeat the tragic evils that the Divine Speaker places in Job’s view – the horrors of war and the savagery of predation. And yet they establish a pattern, or divine style, if you will, in which Job sees God’s promissory commitment to a full defeat of tragedy that is to come. In creation and redemption, according to Job, Leviathan has been made God’s unlikely ally in arms, not merely God’s mortal foe. Furthermore – and crucially – the imagery strongly supports belief that God will not just defeat evils in a global sense. Readers will recall that, in my judgment, this subservience of human and nonhuman individuals as mere instrumental means to the creation of beautiful cosmic art was the moral downfall of Aesthetic Theodicy, past and present. In contrast, without making the promise explicit (almost nothing is simply explicit in the Job theodicy), the imagery of the divine speeches strongly suggests God’s intimate care for each and every creature that God has created. The book of Job is not about the problem of evil at large, in the abstract. It is about the morally dysteleological suffering of a particular man – Job. Likewise, it is not about the comparably gratuitous suffering of animals. It is about the suffering of the jackal and the ostrich, the wild ass and the warhorse, the lion and its poor prey. The imagery is remarkably particularistic in purpose. It seems to support what I will label in Chapters 9 and 10 as Cosmic Universalism – redemption for the whole cosmos and its inhabitants. The classical term for this vision of divine redemption is apokatástasis, and I will maintain that canonical Christian tradition supports it much more strongly than commonly supposed by participants in the controversy on both sides. In that light, then, the images are connected in a sequence that creates an evocative rather than forensic argument that is aimed more at Job’s whole imagination than merely at his cognition. It is designed less to move Job logically to a conclusion than to enable Job to “see” – even in utterly wild and seemingly desolate realms – that the cosmic messianic future indeed is already on the way and will surely arrive. The imagery did not just persuade Job by dialectical inference, although the conclusion is to a degree inferential. More importantly, it enabled Job to “see” that it was so. This last comment, then, brings us to consideration of the Seeing Condition. It seems that the writer of Job sought to achieve something very like what this condition requires.

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the job theodicy and the “seeing” condition I suggest that the rhetorical form of the argument that the sequentially connected imagery of the divine speeches slowly builds is from the lesser to the greater: if God is already partly defeating even these forms of anticosmic evil, as the imagery enables one to “see” with eyes of messianic faith, then one should trust that God will defeat such evil fully on the much larger scale of redemption that is sure to come. Job “sees” this reality in the imagery and “hears” it in the divine voice from the windstorm. Upon “seeing,” he relents from his posture of protest, and he returns to a life of messianic faith. The imagery is supposed to have that “seeing” effect on readers, too, presumably. It apparently did, for Job made its way into the Jewish canon. I suggest that, at this point, we recall the long list of evolutionary goods that we have considered, the numerous metaphysical goods considered in Chapter 6. I suspect we could recreate a powerful paraphrased rendition of the divine speeches to Job, only with a semi-poetic recitation of the valuable cosmic things that God has raised up and brought to life from seemingly dead chaotic conditions – beginning with actual biological life itself. The theodicy in Job strongly encourages canonical Christian believers to resist the anti-theistic neo-Darwinian perspective on nature and seek to “see” that Darwinian World – rationally – with eyes of canonical messianic faith. I conclude, then, that the theodicy in the divine speeches of Job, so interpreted, meets the evidential and moral-theological conditions requisite for sufficiently successful God-justifying accounts of evil. I also propose that it meets the requisite epistemic condition that the account – or causa Dei – be at least as plausible as not, on the whole.

the job theodicy and epistemic conditions I propose that the Job theodicy meets the epistemic criterion for rational acceptance as a causa Dei. First, I believe that my reading of Job itself, grounded as it mainly is in the scholarship of specialists on the historical and literary character of the book, is quite plausible. I suggest that, even for readers who reject the reading I have offered, it is easily as plausible as not. Moreover, second, I suggest that the Job theodicy, so understood, provides a picture of God and the world that makes the existence of dysteleological evil and suffering in human and animal realms distinctly plausible on the assumptions of Hebrew canonical theism.

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conclusion: job and the “darwinian god” To the extent that the Job theodicy makes these features of the Joban World plausible on canonical theism, by fairly straightforward implication, it makes their seemingly atheistic counterparts in our modern Darwinian World plausible, too. It seems clear enough that the God of the divine speeches in Job – the God of the wild things – could very well be one and the same as the God of Darwinian evolution. I propose, then, that the Job theodicy provides a religious framework for accepting the apparently atheistic entailments of Darwinism as nonatheistic, after all. In the light of Job, it seems clearly to be at least as plausible as not that the God of canonical theism has created life by Darwinian means. Canonical Christian theists do not have to stop with Job, however. In Chapters 9 and 10, we will carry insights gathered from Job into the canonical world of distinctly Christian tradition, which I believe can help us to go considerably farther along on our way towards an acceptable explanatory end. In Chapter 9, then, we will take the pre-Christian themes of the Job theodicy into the decidedly Christian doctrinal context of belief in the incarnation of God in the person and actions of Jesus Christ. I will join others in the judgment that the doctrine of the incarnation both reinforces the Joban picture of God and suffering and sharpens its focus in vividly particularistic christological terms.

9 Darwinian Kenosis and “Divine Selection” ¯

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5–8

the christian canonical advantage In Chapter 8, I proposed that the book of Job provides a particular, religious – late Jewish “messianic” – aesthetic perspective in which the Darwinian configuration of natural evils unveiled becomes considerably plausible – at least as plausible as not – within a framework of Jewish canonical theism. I proposed that the Joban imagery of God the Artist intimately involved with the chaotic to create cosmic goodness for creatures and things is supposed to transfigure sublimely sad acceptance of a tragic present into forward-looking eschatological hope and faith that the promised messianic realm is already on its way, and will surely come. In this chapter and in Chapter 10, I will contend that distinctly Christian canonical traditions reinforce and sharpen this pre-Christian perspective on God and morally inscrutable evils inscribed into human and 201

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nonhuman existence. In exploring canonical Christian theology along these lines, I will focus first on what I call a “Darwinian kenosis.” The ¯ label stands conceptually on a loose yet positive analogy between the configuration of Darwinian evolutionary suffering unveiled and the socalled kenosis of Christ, as first narrated in the doxological “Christ¯ hymn,” cited by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5–11.1 Building on the writings of others, especially Rolston and Southgate, I will propose that the divine “kenotic” style of tragedy in the incarnation and atoning human actions of Jesus makes the somewhat comparably “kenotic” character of Darwinian evolution a much better fit with Christian theism than commonly assumed in the debate over anti-theistic evidential arguments. Further, I will propose that this “kenotic” moral comparison also creates an eschatological aesthetic/moral perspective on evolutionary evils that has considerable promissory-justificatory force.

a darwinian keno¯ sis In The Groaning of Creation, Southgate builds his God-justifying account of animal suffering partly upon the seminal work of Rolston, cited earlier. Considering his account of the poor parasite-infested opossum that he encountered while walking, it is perhaps unsurprising that Rolston characterized the evolutionary existence of animals as “cruciform,” i.e., reminiscent of the Passion of Christ. The history of nature, he wrote, is no romance, as popular treatments often lead people to believe it is. On the contrary, he wrote, it chronicles a virtual “slaughter of the innocents” that has transpired on earth during a long planetary past, and in nature as it is now.2 Along this line, Rolston proposed that this striking similarity between the Darwinian and christological stories opens the way to seeing the sacred moral justification for evolutionary suffering by animals. All of nature is “redeemed,” he proposed, by virtue of the fact that, like Christ, some animals sacrifice themselves so that other animals might live and 1

2

I am disposed to accept the widely adopted proposal of Ralph P. Martin that this famous passage in Philippians was a Palestinian Christian hymn sung in the very earliest communities of Christians. Ralph P. Martin, Carmen Christi: Philippians 2:5–11 in Recent Interpretation and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship, Society for New Testament Studies, Monograph Series, 4 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967). Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 46. Southgate cites mainly Holmes Rolston III, Science and Religion: A Critical Survey (Philadelphia and London: Templeton Foundation Press, 2006).

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flourish.3 So Rolston: “The secret of life is that it is a passion play,” and that “long before humans arrived, the way of nature was already a via dolorosa.”4 He puts the God-justifying appeal to tragic goodness, truth, and beauty, then, into Christocentric religious form. “The victims of the evolutionary process ‘share the labor of the divinity. In their lives, beautiful, tragic, and perpetually incomplete, they speak for God, they prophesy as they participate in the divine pathos.’”5 In other words, according to Rolston, the creative sacrificial suffering of animals has God-justifying moral value in its own right. Likewise, consciously following Rolston, Southgate writes that the “cruciform” character of animal existence is valuable not only for its effective evolutionary biological contribution, but still more so because of its moral symbolism, which “reminds us of the Passion of Christ.”6 For both Rolston and Southgate, then, by employing Darwinian evolution, God calls animals to play a creative and redemptive role that resembles the “kenotic” part that God called Christ to play.7 What should we make of this provocative proposal that by calling animals to participate in a great Darwinian kenosis, so to speak, contrary to common moral opin¯ ion, God has in fact done a supremely good thing for animals? Or in Chisholm’s terms, does the self-sacrificial character of evolution defeat the evolutionary evil involved?

3

4

5 6

7

Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 45, citing Rolston, Science and Religion, 144. Southgate observes that Charles Raven used the expression, “cruciformity,” by which he meant, “woven into the very woof and warp of the universe is the pattern of the Cross. . ..” The quote is from Charles E. Raven, The Creator Spirit: A Survey of Christian Doctrine in the Light of Biology, Psychology, and Mysticism (London: Martin Hopkinson, 1927), 124. Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 46, citing Holmes Rolston III, “Kenosis and Nature,” in The Work of Love: Creation as Kenosis, ed. John Polkinghorne (London: SPCK, and Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 60. Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 46, citing Rolston, Science and Religion, 145. Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 45, for a discussion of Rolston on the “cruciform” character of evolution. We shall see, shortly, that Southgate departs from Rolston’s justificatory assessment of the “kenotic” moral good done by animals and believes that an eschatological rectification of wrongs suffered by them is required. I should mention that Lisa Sideris emphatically endorses Rolston’s thesis on the justificatory value of Darwinian “cruciformity.” Lisa H. Sideris, Environmental Ethics, Ecological Theology, and Natural Selection (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003); also Lisa H. Sideris, “Writing Straight with Crooked Lines: Holmes Rolston’s Ecological Theology and Theodicy,” in Nature, Value, Duty: Life on Earth with Holmes Rolston, III, ed. Christopher J. Preston and Wayne Ouderkirk (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007), 77–101.

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Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil

Perhaps the first thing to say is that I concur with the thesis that active participation in the “kenotic” creative life-giving evolutionary process is a very great moral good. I also concur in part with Rolston and Southgate that this good has significant – not full – justificatory force. However, before examining this justificatory proposal, let us first consider three serious objections that critics have raised against categorizing the Darwinian role of animals as “cruciform” or “kenotic,” in the first place.

deane-drummond: the “kenotic” comparison turns evil into good Deane-Drummond fairly emphatically rejects the characterization of evolution as “cruciform.” Her main concern is that the comparison with the incarnation of Christ makes the evolutionary suffering of animals seem to be necessary in the sense that (so Deane-Drummond) “suffering. . .is inevitably built into the universe in a way that cannot be challenged.”8 She warns that the notion of a designedly “cruciform” nature nudges us to “subtly endorse such suffering rather than. . .to seek its amelioration.”9 Deane-Drummond’s worry seems to be that on this “cruciform” analogy, one is led to affirm the sacrificial suffering of animals as a good, rather than to lament it as something bad. The objection is not groundless. For in defending Rolston’s “cruciformity” thesis, Lisa Sideris advises against the common practice of importing human moral values into the nonhuman realm. She proposes that we assess and appreciate the evolutionary sacrifice offered by animals simply as a necessary good.10 DeaneDrummond wonders why, if the evolutionary suffering of animals is a necessary good in the christological sense, we should bother doing anything to alleviate animal suffering to the extent we can, especially if our assumption is that “all is inevitably going to come right in the future?”11 These concerns merit consideration, but I suggest that on reflection, this line of objection is misplaced for at least two reasons. For one thing, to assert, in reference to a fortuitous outcome, that it is a good thing in retrospect that an evil occurred to make that good outcome possible is not at all the same as asserting that the evil itself was/is good, rather than bad. To say for instance that, considering the outcome, it is a good thing that the crucifixion of Jesus 8 9 10 11

Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 172. Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 172. Sideris, “Writing Straight with Crooked Lines,” 82–83. Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 172.

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occurred is not at all the same as affirming the evil of the crucifixion as good. The irony of being grateful for this horrific evil is captured by the liturgical hymn, “O Felix Culpa!” (“O Fortunate Sin!”), which was not intended to affirm human sin as something good. It rather employs the sad joy of an irony – that in retrospect we can thank God that the evil of human sin has happened. For another thing, likewise, the hymn does not support an ethics of indifference to human sin, or to the evil of crucifixion. On the contrary, the greatness of these evils is an essential part of the integrated greatness of divine redemption on the whole. In Chisholm’s terms, the evils do not themselves become goods. They remain evils – evils defeated by being incorporated into a larger, greatly good whole. The same thing holds for natural evils deeply inscribed into the systemic evolutionary existence of animals. In the retrospective light of the great evolutionary goods that the “cruciform” Darwinian process has created, we may well be grateful to God for having created life by Darwinian means, despite evolutionary evils in the cost. If a universal eschatological defeat of those (as yet) undefeated evils transpires, then the irony of gratitude to God for the “cruciform” suffering of animals will apply to those evils, too. As for ethical implications, in accepting the “kenotic” thesis, one certainly need not be giving license to ecological indifference or to the moral abuse of animals. However, the matter of moral intervention is made ethically more complicated than the example of torturing innocent humans (the crucifixion) by the relatively little power that human beings have over the geological and biological systems that cause natural evils. Southgate maintains that the systemic inscription of extinctions into the Darwinian design does not at all create warrant for ignoring anthropogenic (human-caused) extinctions.12 I prefer not to enter into debate here about the extent to which humans should intervene in the predatory sphere in order to reduce suffering by prey animals.13 For now, I will simply make the point that the evolutionary suffering is an evil, intrinsically so, but that if God defeats it, it will – like the suffering of Christ – be morally right to see it as a good thing that God authorized its existence. Meanwhile, the second part of Deane-Drummond’s objection to the “cruciform” comparison is somewhat puzzling. For, if knowing ahead of time that evils will eventually be resolved enervates motivation to do 12 13

Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 124–33. See Southgate and cited literature on this complicated subject, which is well beyond the scope of my book. Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 127–33.

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anything to counteract them in the interim, the entire Christian picture of a coming eschatological redemption and transformation of the world – which Deane-Drummond affirms – would also come into question. The gospel assures us in advance that in the end, “all manner of thing shall be well,” but Christians commonly receive this assurance as an incentive to oppose evil with good, not as an excuse for inaction. If we knew, for instance, as we well might, that a child suffering from a grave yet nonfatal injury or disease was going to be all right in the end, we would hardly see that assuredly impending outcome as a warrant for withholding appropriate treatment and attention.

a second objection: the “kenotic” comparison makes darwinian evolution necessary A second line of objection that one can lodge against the “kenotic” comparison, however, is more difficult to turn back. It is that the “cruciform” analogy makes the inscription of Darwinian suffering into natural systems necessary to creating species in the same way that the Passion of Christ was necessary to the reconciliation and salvation of the world. Are the two instances of horrific suffering really comparable in this sense? If so, it seems that the “cruciform” comparison leads one logically to endorsement of the “only-way” intuition, which I have advised theists to reject. However, this line of objection rests on an essentially “Anselmian” understanding of the incarnation and atonement as being necessary in an absolute, or “only-way” sense. One can evade the objection simply by adopting the more aesthetic “Thomistic” understanding, according to which the Passion of Christ was “fitting,” but not necessary in that first-order fashion. I am inclined to accept the more aesthetic picture of God choosing artfully between a variety of logically and morally possible options for both creation by “cruciform” Darwinian means and redemption by means of the Cross.14

a third objection: involuntary animal suffering is not “kenotic” Finally, a third objection is one that I brought up in the assessment of Only Way Theodicy as defended by Nancey Murphy. It is that the 14

See Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas (Five Volumes), (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1948), III, question 48, article 2.

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evolutionary process does not really describe a kenosis ¯ in the strict sense, for unlike the “kenotic” action of Christ in the incarnation and atonement, the self-sacrificial part that animals play in evolution is involuntary on their part. It is the voluntary aspect of the incarnation and atonement that makes the “kenotic” actions of Christ so very worthy of veneration and praise. It seems clear enough, however, that when it comes to the “kenotic” actions of animals in evolution, they have no choice at all in the matter. For God has enlisted them involuntarily into the often-warlike Darwinian struggle to adapt and survive. On its face – and especially if one adopts Species Egalitarianism (more on this axiological view in Chapter 10) – as I have mentioned several times, it seems immoral in the extreme for God to put animals to this brutal sort of use as involuntary instrumental means to evolutionary ends, particularly if doing so was not absolutely necessary. The most expedient way out of this ethical problem would be to abandon ordinary theodicy in search of moral justification and to take the avenue of escape that neoCartesian theorists open and encourage theists to take. However, I referred to grounds of both common sense and animal science for seeing that avenue as closed. I will instead have to face the moral challenge that a high axiology of animals, including animal sentience, poses in the course of discussing the imago Dei and the comparative value of human and nonhuman beings. I will suggest – controversially – that employing animals as instrumental means to certain valuable ends may be morally permissible under circumstances wherein using human beings that way is forbidden. So readers should keep that thought on hold for now. But coming back to the involuntary nature of evolutionary suffering, in contrast to the voluntary kenosis of Christ, it is also true – at least ¯ according to Mark’s Gospel – that God the Father enlisted Jesus into the “cruciform” Passion against part of Jesus’ will, against what we might call his primary will, at least. In Mark’s terribly tragic depiction of Jesus in Gethsemane, it seems that Jesus was not apprised of the exact nature of his appointed death until the last hour, and that he would have chosen anything other than the humiliatingly nightmarish horror (and not just for him, but for his friends) of death by crucifixion. I suppose that this apparently needless and cruel enlistment of Jesus into such horrendous evil is what made the moral supremacy of Jesus’ “kenotic” obedience possible, and hence the greatness of the good that he achieved not just for the world, but (as rarely emphasized) for himself, too (as we will discuss shortly). Those are the moral conditions that Christians are accustomed to accepting as justification for God’s actions, at any rate. Except for

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obvious differences, then, I do not see how this treatment of the “Lamb of God” differs markedly in its moral substance from the alleged employment of animals as instrumental means to creative and redemptive ends. If by defeating the evils inflicted on Jesus, God is justified in authorizing them, so it would seem that God is similarly justified in authorizing the evils that evolutionary processes inflict on animals. So in the end, I submit that none of these admittedly serious objections need preempt our exploring the description of evolution as “cruciform” in character together with seeing the evolutionary role of animals, on the whole, as “kenotic,” and in an objective sense, at least, as a morally good thing – on the whole – in which they are made to participate. Let us consider, then, how the unveiling of a Darwinian kenosis ¯ in the history of nature – a “kenotic” narrative, as it were – might further improve the prospects of success for a distinctly religious aesthetic approach to the Darwinian Problem. I propose that it can do so significantly on both evidential and moral/justificatory levels. I will focus first on how the “kenotic” character of evolution may help turn the tables on the influential anti-theistic evidential arguments.

darwinian keno¯ sis and the evidential problem I proposed that the depiction of God’s creative artistic style in Job makes the configuration of evolutionary evil in the Darwinian World more plausible on canonical theism than commonly presumed. I now propose, further, that the “kenotic” divine authorial style in the Passion Story of Christ strengthens and sharpens those points of argument. It follows fairly simply, in fact, that if the God of canonical theism has chosen to create the world partly in and through morally dysteleological suffering, it seems initially plausible that God would employ Darwinian means of doing so. In that instance, the unveiling of apparently dysteleological suffering inscribed into the conditions of existence for animals – into the very means by which evolutionary processes have created them – is relatively unsurprising on the assumptions of Christian canonical theism. However, perhaps we can take this line of evidential argument even further. Perhaps one may go so far as Haught does with his appeal to the tragicnarrative character of evolution as evidence for theism and, still further, as the foundation for a new sort of “natural theology.” I see no reason

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why we cannot appeal to the distinctly “kenotic” (not merely tragic) character of evolution as evidence favoring Christian theism against anti-theistic arguments, which of course rely for their atheistic force on the implausibility of dysteleological suffering existing in profuse amounts and distributions. Considering the Job theodicy and the Passion Story, I see no reason why Christian theists cannot justifiably argue that while we did not foresee the discovery, a Darwinian kenosis is something one ¯ might well have expected! The Passion Story of Christ seemed wildly implausible and unexpected on the prevailing assumptions of Jewish theism in Jesus’ time, to be sure. In the light of Job, however, one could have argued plausibly (and still can) that the kenosis of Christ was actually the sort of thing we should ¯ expect from the morally “wild” God of Israel ‒ likewise, the discernibly “kenotic” Darwinian suffering of animals. On this line of analysis, then, Darwinian evolution and canonical Christian theism have a mutually reinforcing evidential relationship with one another. The “kenotic” character of the one has a reinforcing evidential effect on the other, and vice versa. Just so, on this line of analysis, we may plausibly believe that we “see,” in a Job-like sense, the presence of God in the sublimely “kenotic” moral forms of both the Darwinian history of life and the messianic history of redemption. It is perhaps not the “sense of the Divine,” or sensus divinitatis, that we first expected or wanted, but all things considered, we may affirm it as a “seeing” of God, nonetheless. There is, however, a formidable obstacle that stands in the way of accepting this evidential line of argument. We have stressed it several times. It is the wildly meandering (or perhaps staggering) course that evolutionary history has taken. It is the sense of dysteleology that seems to overwhelm the “kenotic” or “cruciform” narrative structure allegedly in view. We raised this problem in the discussion of Whewell’s description of evolution as a “series of creations,” resulting in a strangely disparate “plurality of worlds.” Gould accounted for it as a “punctuated equilibrium” that does not comport at all with the integrative seamlessness that we naturally expect from the artistically and morally perfect God. Does the Christian story provide further means of accounting for the frequency of apparent aesthetic and moral failure in evolution? Can it help further to explain why the so-called Tree of Life is, for the most part, dead? Is this picture really compatible with Christian theism, on the whole? I suggest that it is, and that help with seeing that it is comes from an unexpected source – from Paul’s digression on divine election in Romans 8–11.

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divine election and darwinian selection How indeed does one account for the episodic cataclysmic extinctions of entire species, just gone from the earth without leaving so much as a genetic contribution that would give their former existence a “kenotic” sense of meaning and purpose (besides becoming the raw material for conversion into Permian fuel for modern industrial societies!)? The trouble is that no such “kenotic” narrative or dramatic “literary” connection exists between those many billions of creatures and the array of life that exists now. Such mass extinction is a baffling mystery to both evolutionary science and to theistic theology. I will contend that Paul’s famously controversial digression in Romans 8–11 on the mystery of divine election – surprisingly – helps to support our aesthetic explanatory approach to the Darwinian Problem. As unlikely as this suggestion may seem, I propose that it can do so in at least two notable ways. First, and most fundamentally, it provides explicitly positive canonical support for employing an aesthetic analogue of God as Artist in seeking to make sense of evils that are inexplicable on ordinary ethical-agency grounds. In fact, in explaining the morally mystifying pattern of divine election, Paul offers a Christian version of Aesthetic Theodicy. Second, I will propose that Paul’s two aesthetic analogies for God as Artist – as an artisan, first, then as an arborist – have positive bearing on our hypothesis that the Darwinian World is a work of divine cosmic art. This unusual application of the Pauline discourse on election to Darwinism relies partly on two hermeneutical, or rhetorical, prejudgments. The points are controversial, but readers need only accept them as being “as plausible as not,” according to the minimal epistemic standard, as previously explained.

rhetorical-hermeneutical prejudgments I suggest, first, that the controversial digression on divine election does not begin with Romans 9, as normally assumed, but with the passage on the “groaning” of the nonhuman creation in Romans 8:18–23, in which Paul pronounces that God has subjected the whole creation to systemic suffering with a view towards its eventual redemption and glorious transformation. Paul leaves the pronouncement as a sort of unelaborated “bracket” at the beginning of the discourse, which ends with a rhetorically similar “bracket” – the parallel God-justifying pronouncement

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about suffering that God has inscribed into the human realm in Romans 11:32. On this rhetorical prejudgment, it is reasonable to see Paul’s elaborate theodicy on the seeming injustice that God has authorized in the human realm – subjecting everyone to the evils of sin – as relevant to his previous pronouncement on the condition and future of the entire nonhuman creation. A second prejudgment is perhaps even more contrary to very widespread opinion than the first one. I suggest that the soteriological mystery – the apparent injustice on God’s part – that prompted Paul to write the discourse was not “predestination,” as normally conceived by theologians. In other words, the mystery was not the egregious injustice of predetermining the eternal destinies of individuals without any regard for their foreknowable eventual religious and moral lives. The apparent injustice that Paul and his readers had in view, I suggest, was rather an implication of the new Christian gospel: that God now welcomed Gentiles into the messianic community with virtually none of the usual ritual and theological preconditions required for inclusion. An addition to this ethically unacceptable libertine strategy of election was the implied new policy of rejection – not rejection of the lawless Gentiles, but shockingly, rejection of the very chosen people of God! To adopt the Christian gospel, one must accept that the crucified Jesus was, in reality, invisibly, the conquering “Christ” of God. On its face, the very notion seemed as absurd to most Jews as it could be, but if true, then it followed that God had sent the “Christ” in a human form that made it impossible for any knowledgeable Israelite to recognize him for who and what he was. It seems that Paul faced this distinctly Jewish complaint: how, then, could anyone blame them for rejecting him as being anything but the conquering messiah? How could God’s rejection of Israel on such grounds not be considered cruel and unjust in the utmost extreme? Notably, Paul did not deny the implications. He freely admitted instead that God had indeed “hardened” Israel by disguising their conquering “Christ” in servile or “kenotic” form. However, Paul passionately defended God’s rejection of Israel as just, after all. In doing so, though, like the writer of Job, Paul eschewed ordinary Jewish ethical explanation and turned instead to an aesthetic perspective on divine creative and redemptive action.15 15

I will not pursue the question whether Paul viewed divine election as a matter of securing the eternal destiny of persons or, rather, as symbolic of a temporal role that God called persons to play. The elect and reprobate on the second view play parts in redemptive

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Let us begin, then, by first looking at Paul’s turn from ethical to aesthetic discourse in order to handle this unique problem of God and evil. In order to see justification for the evil in view – Israel rejected – Paul proposes that we must picture God in the non-ethical, yet not amoral, terms of art.

god as the potter and arborist Alluding to the late Jewish prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah, Paul first likens God to an unpredictable yet masterly potter freely shaping and making clay vessels at his own artistic discretion.16 Paul appeals emphatically to God’s rightful “artistic” freedom to work in a manner that misleads and tests the mettle of God’s people, whom God rightfully shapes like potter’s “clay” (Romans 9:21). It is clear from the text, however, that Paul does not picture God the Artist as amoral, or as trans-moral. Paul’s avowed purpose is to prove that God is not unjust, as it seems (Romans 9:14–18). Instead, Paul seeks to show that in these mysterious electing/rejecting actions, God is indeed just towards Israel. Only, in this enigmatic instance, divine justice is manifested in an extraordinary aesthetic form rather than in the straightforward ethical sense that one expects. Later in the discourse, Paul shifts to the analogy of God as Arborist, a master tree surgeon who is bringing forth an olive tree that is already becoming more glorious than any other, if only we can manage to “see” it with eyes opened in a radically new formulation of Jewish faith (Romans 11:13–24).17 Let us look, then, at the substance of Paul’s aesthetically framed God-justifying argument.

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history until the Electing Christ comes to redeem everyone in the end! Karl Barth pioneered this view of divine election. See Suzanne McDonald, Re-Imaging Election: Divine Election as Representing God to Others and Others to God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010). The relevant section of Barth is “The Election of God,” in Church Dogmatics, Volume II/2, chapter VII, ed. G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1956), especially 127–45. Key instances occur in Jeremiah 18:1–12, where the prophet depicts God reshaping flawed clay into a creative new kind of vessel, and Isaiah 64:8, where the prophet pleads with God for compassion towards a people who are but “clay” in God’s, “the potter’s,” hands to shape as God will. In both occurrences, the writers are seeking to cope with the bewildering moral actions of God in the Babylonian exile. It is unsurprising that Paul would see the imagery as appropriate to this new “hardening” of Israel to acceptance of Jesus as the “Christ.” The background here is likely also post-exilic via Jeremiah 11:16, where God likens Israel to a beautiful olive tree whose branches God will soon cause to be consumed by flames. Notably, God will not uproot and thereby kill the tree.

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divine election and the aesthetics of justification Paul’s account stands on an appeal to the great “kenotic” goodness, truth, and beauty of the emergent messianic tree as it will one day be, as a glorious whole. Paul contends that God’s purpose in temporarily “rejecting” his irrevocably elected people was not punitive, at bottom, or an injustice in its ultimate end, since God’s aim always has been to resolve – or defeat – the evil entailed. On the contrary, Paul writes, by “rejecting” Israel, God has put them in a position to enable the Gentile world to begin streaming into the community of messianic faith and redemption. So Paul: So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling means riches for the world, and if their defeat means riches for Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! (Romans 11:11–12)

By causing Israel to fall, then, and thereby bringing about their “rejection,” albeit for only a time, as with Jesus, God has called them into the profoundly good “kenotic” service of the whole world. Where does this “kenotic” process lead, however, and what makes that a God-justifying end? Paul’s concluding answer is that, in the end, God the Arborist will miraculously graft Israel back onto the original messianic root and bring the “dead” people back to life as branches that are even more beautiful (so Paul insinuates) than before, because of the great “kenotic” sacrifice they have made for the world’s sake. Meanwhile, Paul writes of this “mystery”: while “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” (Romans 11:25), at the end, “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). He explains Israel’s mysterious “rejection” further: “As regards the gospel they are enemies of God for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved, for the sake of their ancestors; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28–29). They are now disobedient, he explains, as part of a larger plan, the ultimate aim of which is to extend electing mercy to everyone. At last, Paul ties the strands of his discourse together with this rousing “bracketing” resolution, “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all” (Romans 11:32, italics mine). I have already called attention to the rhetorical resemblance between this concluding verse and the proclamation in Romans 8:18–23 on the coming glory of the whole nonhuman creation: . . .for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20–21)

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In the light of this Pauline connection between nonhuman and human realms of divine redemption, let us consider the unexpected bearing that Paul’s discourse on divine election may have on theistic approaches to the evidentially and morally troubling features of the Darwinian World. I will first deal with implications on the evidential level of the problem, to which we now return. Afterwards, we will consider implications of Paul’s theodicy on the moral level of justification.

divine election and darwinian evidence I suggest that Paul’s discourse on divine election, so understood, can help further to strengthen the evidential position of theists in trying to engage the Darwinian Problem. It does so, I suggest, in a manner that complements the points made on the “kenotic” comparison between the stories of Darwinian evolution and the Passion of Christ. In fact (so I suggest), it expands that comparison beyond the role of Jesus to include a “kenotic” part played by Israel in the Pauline story of divine election. As with Jesus (so Paul) the truth is hidden in the mystery of seeming failure and injustice until one sees its unexpected “kenotic” purpose and sense. The three stories of Christ, divine election, and Darwinian selection are all “kenotic” in this mysterious loosely teleological manner. Is this striking similarity of artistic “style” a mere coincidence? Or is it rather evidence that favors a Christian theistic origin and explanation? It is at least worth wondering (having made required adjustments for the obvious anachronism) – as we wondered about the author of Job – whether the Darwinian unveiling of a “plurality of worlds” would have surprised Paul very much, if at all. Is it unlikely that God the Arborist in Paul’s discourse would bring forth a glorious Tree of Life in and through the seemingly desolate and godforsaken form we considered in Chapter 1 as more fittingly labeled a Tree of Death? Let us revisit that point in the vivid description of the “tree” by notable paleontologist, Michael Benton: Life can be thought of best as a great tree, originating with a single founding species many billions of years ago and continually branching and expanding upwards through time as new species arise. Here and there twigs of the tree die off as species become extinct, but the overall shape of the tree expands ever upward. During a mass extinction, vast swathes of the tree are cut short, as if attacked by crazed, axe-wielding madmen. Whole branches and twigs are brutally removed. The ragged remnants of the tree, though, will reshape themselves and grow back to full luxuriance. At the end of the Permian, however, the slashing of the tree of life was vicious and sustained. Entire regions of its diverse branches

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were cut and hacked off. After the crisis, only 10 in 100 of the branches remained, a pathetic remnant. . .. After such a severe attack, the great tree of life, with over 3000 million years of history behind it at the time, might have withered away and died completely.18

I suggest that it is by no means strained to venture a positive comparison between this description of the Tree of Life in the aftermath of the Great Dying at the end of the Permian, on the one hand, and the messianic Tree of Redemption in the after-effects of Jesus’ death by crucifixion. The striking similarity indeed does invite thoughts of a common divine “style.” Much like the writer of Job, Paul sought to open the eyes of readers to a discernible purposeful design in the hidden depths of the seemingly dysteleological sequence of purportedly redemptive events. He urged readers to imagine that God was artfully creating a wondrous sort of “tree” that was still at the ugly and desolate-looking “pruning” stage, but was already showing signs of the new growth (the Gentiles) that God was now grafting onto the original root. In other words, the course of messianic redemption, which God was unexpectedly taking by the enigmatic means of divine election and rejection – even “rejection” of Israel – was an emerging work of redemptive art. One had to look hard, with eyes of faith, to make out the beginnings of its ingeniously purposeful design as a whole. On the “kenotic” comparison just made, it seems plausible enough on canonical theism to “see” the Darwinian World in this emergent aesthetic light, too. This last point on “seeing” divine art amid the apparent artlessness and immorality of the three stories creates a sort of bridge between the evidential and justificatory aspects of the Darwinian Problem. I have proposed that just as a God-justifying account cannot get very far without a plausible account of evidence – including a way of “seeing” divinity amid the seeming non-divinity and sense of “not God” in natural evils – the evidence in appeal will not count very much in theism’s favor unless it also generates considerable moral justification for the evils in view. So let us now focus on the question whether or not the “kenotic” evidential comparison also has God-justifying force, and if so, in what degree it does.

the darwinian keno¯ sis and moral justification The most obvious point at which the Pauline digression on election is pertinent to our contemporary controversy is the explicit canonical/ 18

Benton, When Life Nearly Died, 10.

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apostolic endorsement of Aesthetic Theodicy that Paul’s God-justifying discourse on divine election provides in practice. Again, Paul consciously made the same sort of shift that the writer of Job implicitly made from employment of ordinary ethical justifying norms to an aesthetic perspective on God’s morally questionable actions. (As in Job, God clearly is the ultimate moral agent/actor underlying the problematic events.) Like the Joban theodicy, the Pauline version of Aesthetic Theodicy is framed by an appeal to God’s “artistic” freedom over creatures, even to the extent of authorizing undeserved horrific suffering, beginning with God’s very own Son, the “Christ.” So we may add the canonical/apostolic imprimatur of Paul to our grounds for supporting an essentially aesthetic approach to the problem of God and morally inscrutable evils. We may also add it to our growing collection of reasons for believing that in authorizing Darwinian evils the canonical Christian God has met the Rights Condition. Meeting this condition means little or nothing, of course, unless God also meets the justificatory Defeat Condition. Does Paul’s discourse on election, together with the “kenotic” narrative of Christ, help make it plausible that God has indeed met it, or will meet it in the future? We have considered the God-justifying argument that “kenotic” goods are great enough to justify the horrific “kenotic” suffering involved – for Jesus, now for “rejected” Israel, and for non-selected animals. However, it seems clear enough that this God-justifying assessment is mistaken. Consider the counterfactual scenario in which Jesus performed the great kenosis that Paul venerated, and (in the scenario) the “kenotic” ¯ sacrifice achieved the redemption and salvation of the world, just as proclaimed. However, in this scenario, tragically, Jesus is not resurrected, transformed, and raised by God to a position of vindication and power, but remains dead – the dear price paid for the great “kenotic” creative and redemptive goods achieved in the bargain. Even if one agreed to accept the disagreeable moral judgment that these “kenotic” goods outweighed, or at least balanced off, the “kenotic” evil suffered directly by Jesus, and indirectly by the rest of us, his horrific suffering and death would remain, for him at least, as a regrettable – undefeated – evil part of the larger finished whole. In this scenario, then, in Chisholm’s moral terms, the “kenotic” evil would not be defeated, and so justification authorizing it would be partial, at best. I suggest that the same thing would be true of “rejected Israel” and non-selected animals unless God acts towards them in the way that God allegedly acted towards Jesus in raising him from the dead in a form that defeats the “kenotic” evil that he suffered – both for Jesus and for the rest of us, too.

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As with Jesus, Paul’s God-justifying argument points past the “kenotic” sacrifice of “rejected” Israel to a future in which God will bring the “dead” branches back to life and incorporate the “kenotic” evil of their “rejection” into the glorious horticultural whole that God will have created. I suggest that this point at least indirectly supports thinking that the God of Christian theism would be disposed to act in a similar manner towards nonselected animals, or towards any creature of God that fails to realize its God-given potential to flourish in the fitting way that God intended for it to do. I will add considerably more to this argument based on Jesus’ resurrection, in Chapter 10. Let me conclude this section on divine and Darwinian kenosis and ¯ justification with brief comments on the “kenotic” comparison and the Seeing Condition. For I propose that for Christian theists, at least, the “cruciform” character of evolution considerably sharpens “theistic sight.”

darwinian keno¯ sis and sharpened “theistic sight” In canonical tradition, the truth of divine design in creation and redemption is hidden in a “kenotic” form for both Jesus Christ and “rejected” Israel. And yet, with eyes informed by messianic faith, one may begin to “see” the truth of things despite the thick covering on the surface. In the various “works” of Jesus – both miraculous and not – and in the streaming of the Gentiles into the messianic covenant with God (as promised in the covenant God made through Noah and his sons with the earth and with all creatures and things who would ever live upon the earth), one begins to “see” at least dimly the unexpected emergent creative and redemptive “art” of God. Of course, as in the book of Job, this is not a simple matter of “just seeing” these things, but is a “seeing” through eyes of a certain sort of messianic faith. However, it is not a blind and arguably delusional fideism, either, but a “seeing” that can at least be inspected for plausibility by anyone willing to have a look at the evidence. I suggest that Darwinian evolution really does look like a “loosely teleological” tragic narrative (or perhaps drama) to a noteworthy extent, and the comparable canonical narratives really do make this sort of evolutionary creation significantly plausible on Jewish and Christian theism. To look ahead, then, towards the eventual eschatological defeat of the “kenotic” evils that are as yet undefeated is significantly reasonable, too. So we are left with further, more specific questions about how animals fit into this eschatological vision. Do we have further grounds for Cosmic

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Universalism? Even if so, how should we imagine conditions for nonhuman beings in the promised postmortem realm – in the messianic Heaven that is yet to come? In Chapter 10, I will take up these questions, and I will venture answers, so far as I think it is appropriate on the fragmentary evidence we have, to give them.

10 Animals in Heaven The Defeat of Darwinian Evils

O yet we trust that somehow good Will be the final goal of ill, To pangs of nature, sins of will, Defects of doubt, and taints of blood; That nothing walks with aimless feet; That not one life shall be destroy’d, Or cast as rubbish to the void, When God hath made the pile complete; That not a worm is cloven in vain; That not a moth with vain desire Is shrivell’d in a fruitless fire, Or but subserves another’s gain. Alfred, Lord Tennyson1 “No theodicy without eschatology.” John Hick2

animals and the afterlife At the end of Chapter 9, we saw once again that John Hick’s slogan indeed does hold true: “No theodicy without eschatology.” At several points in the discussion, I have conceded that for a causa Dei to be acceptably plausible, it will have to include good grounds for believing

1 2

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, canto 54. Hick, Dialogues in the Philosophy of Religion, 9.

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that God will defeat Darwinian evils in an eschatological postmortem setting of some kind. Fortunately, meeting this requirement is not unnatural to canonical Christian theism, which is at bottom an eschatological faith – a faith oriented primarily to a promised messianic transfiguration of the world into a realm of peace, justice, and flourishing for all creatures and things. So providing an eschatological scenario in which God resolves evils at the end of history does not have to be an ad hoc addendum for Christian theists – the expedient tacking on of a “happy ending” in order to solve otherwise irresolvable explanatory problems – but is instead a natural outgrowth of the Christian theological vision. Unfortunately, however, there is very little in the way of established doctrinal tradition on the subject. In fact, the prevailing view of animals and the afterlife in Christianity seems to have been – and perhaps still is – that animals will not inhabit Heaven! It is still commonly held in Christian denominations that animals do not have souls, so they are not equipped ontologically for immortality and existence in an afterlife.3 In recent decades, however, support for belief that animals will inhabit Heaven has grown considerably. As we shall see, there is by now a fairly diverse assortment of proposals on the nature of heavenly existence for animals, and likewise, on how the postmortem picture in view is related to the problem of God and evils suffered by animals. We face a cluster of axiological and eschatological questions. Does God value animals enough to include them in Heaven? If so, do animals exist as “subjects” in Heaven, or just “objectively,” in memory? If they do exist as subjects in the afterlife, do all animals who ever lived inhabit and enjoy Heaven? Or will God select only some animals for inclusion – representative types, perhaps, or possibly just the sentient animals, who in contrast to non-sentient creatures, really suffered in their previous lives in a manner that calls for a postmortem rectification on God’s part? Further, do we have good grounds for believing that God will defeat evolutionary evils for animals, and if we do, can we envision an acceptably plausible scenario in which God does so? We have already broached and begun to answer some of these questions. I have suggested several times that Cosmic Universalism – the eschatological redemption of all creatures and things – seems to follow naturally from various aspects of canonical theism. We have also already 3

See Andrew Linzey, Why Animal Suffering Matters: Philosophy, Theology, and Practical Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 25–27.

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considered reasons to believe that the creative artistic “style” of the canonical Jewish and Christian God is to defeat, rather than merely to remove or balance off, the worst evils that God has authorized. In this chapter, I will take the discussion and defense of that thesis – Cosmic Universalism – still further along those God-justifying theological lines. We will begin by looking briefly at diverse answers to the first two questions. How valuable are animals according to canonical theological tradition, and then, what portion of the animal population, if any, will God likely include in the messianic Heaven? In the last sections, we will turn again to the question of grounds for belief that the Christian God will defeat evolutionary evils for the animals in Heaven. At the very end, in addition to these promissory/evidential grounds, I will venture a speculative positive scenario in which God does so, and I will propose that it is at least as plausible as not on canonical theism. I will begin with a brief background account of the diverse positions that contemporary theologians currently take on animals and Heaven. Then I will proceed to the key axiological and eschatological questions.

rolston: “objective immortality” for animals In Chapter 9, we looked at Rolston’s proposal that the “cruciform” sacrifice that God calls animals to make in the evolutionary creation of life is morally great and beautiful enough to justify the immense amounts and intense kinds of suffering involved. Hence, in his view, there is no moral need for God to resurrect animals and to include them in Heaven. It is enough, he proposes, for God to give animals “objective immortality,” as Whitehead labeled the likely destiny of nonhuman creatures and things.4 As Southgate explains, for Whitehead and Rolston, “objective immortality” is eternal existence in the memory of God rather than continuing to exist and to live on as conscious subjects of experience in a postmortem 4

John Haught seems inclined to support animal immortality of this “objective” kind, as proposed by Alfred North Whitehead in Process and Reality (New York: Macmillan, 1929). See Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 154, and Haught, “The Boyle Lecture 2003: Darwin, Design and the Problem of Nature. Also see Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 169, note 14. However, Haught also seems not to reject the idea of a “subjective” immortality for nonhuman creatures and things, even though he does not elaborate a scenario. Haught, Deeper than Darwin, 154, where he cites the verses by Tennyson and admires the hope they express that no creature exists just to “subserve another’s gain.”

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realm. Southgate appreciates the explanatory advantage of this simple God-justifying scenario. “Such a scheme effectively dodges the difficulty in imagining a transformed relation between, for example, predator and prey animals.”5 However, as we will see, he rejects Rolston’s proposal for the same reason that I gave earlier – the “kenotic” goods created by animals are very valuable, but not enough so to justify the “kenotic” evils that God has authorized them to suffer. Unfortunately, then, “objective immortality” will not suffice as a God-justifying eschatological outcome for animals. For better or worse, we will have to entertain scenarios of “subjective immortality” ‒ existence for animals as subjects of lives in an objectively real postmortem realm, as living inhabitants of Heaven. There seems to be growing support among Christian theologians for belief in such an eschatological outcome. However, the speculative accounts they offer are quite varied, and we must seek to do some reasonable sorting out between the various postmortem scenarios.

scenarios of “subjective immortality” for animals C. S. Lewis, Robert Russell, and John Polkinghorne speculate that rather than redeeming all animals, God will select token representatives of every species to inhabit the earthly Heaven.6 Perhaps the canonical story of Noah’s ark supports the greater biblical likelihood of this scenario over the more inclusive eschatological outcomes. For God instructs Noah to get only representative pairs from each “kind” of animal on the ark. However, again, while this selective scenario makes the existence of species more meaningful than if they simply cease to exist without a legacy, it requires a fairly low evaluation of animal individuals in order to outweigh the huge evolutionary losses. I have already indicated my intuitive preference for an eschatological Cosmic Universalism, in which God redeems every created human and nonhuman being. We rightly wonder, though, whether we have good 5 6

Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 86. C. S. Lewis made this suggestion in C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 141–43. Robert Russell made it in Robert J. Russell, “Special Providence and Genetic Mutation: A New Defense of Theistic Evolution,” in Evolutionary and Molecular Biology: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. Robert J. Russell, William R. Stoeger, and F. J. Ayala (Vatican City: Vatican Observatory, and Berkeley, CA: Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 1998), 223. John Polkinghorne, too, in John Polkinghorne, Scientists as Theologians: A Comparison of the Writings of Ian Barbour, Arthur Peacocke, and John Polkinghorne (London: SPCK, 1996), 545.

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enough grounds for seeing this eschatological outcome as sufficiently plausible on canonical theism. I will devote the first part of this chapter to contending that we do indeed have such grounds. I will propose that we have good canonical and philosophical-theological reasons to believe that if the canonical Christian God exists, then Cosmic Universalism is true.

grounds for cosmic universalism: canonical clues We have just commented on Paul’s sadly joyous proclamation that the whole creation, “groaning” like a woman in childbirth, will be set free from bondage to decay and futility along with the “children” of God. I suggested, in connection with the universalistic ending of the discourse on divine election in the human realm, the proclamation in Romans 8:18–23 at least hints at a parallel universalistic eschatology in the nonhuman realm, even if it does not explicitly endorse that hopeful outcome. God has inscribed suffering into the whole creation and into the existence of all people in order to redeem them all in both realms. Furthermore, the famous Pauline declaration on creation does not stand alone and unsupported in canonical tradition. As we have seen, the strong axiological affirmation of animals begins in canonical Scripture with God creating every “kind” of animal – taxonomically classified as “birds of the air,” “fish of the sea,” “creeping things,” “cattle,” and “wild animals of the earth” (Genesis 1:20–31), and then pronouncing all of them – together with human beings and the rest of creation – to be “very good.” I will come back to this affirmative axiology of animals in the light of tradition on the imago Dei, or “image of God,” a little later on. Meanwhile, this high appraisal of animals is followed by a somewhat connected chain of texts in which it takes shape as a canonical theme that is loosely threaded throughout the larger messianic narrative of redemption. The thematic affirmation of animals in Genesis 1–2 resurfaces in the theological narrative of God’s actions following Noah’s flood. In this remarkably detailed account, God issues a covenant with Noah containing promissory conditions delineated in Genesis 9:1–17. On close inspection, this covenant implies that God promises faithfulness, not just to Israel, as one expects, but to every human being who ever will live – to the descendants of Shem (the progenitor of Israel), Ham (forefather of the Canaanites), and Japheth (the basal ancestor of everyone else). Further,

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however, this universalistic promise of divine blessing extends beyond the human realm to include the earth and animals: Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.” (Genesis 9:8–10, italics mine)

The promise of provision for the earth and all animals is repeated two more times, presumably for emphasis. The universalistic scope of divine promise follows naturally from the initial inclusion of every kind of animal on the ark (Genesis 6–7). Importantly, God declares this covenant to be permanent. God’s covenant with the earth and animals is “everlasting,” signed and sealed, as it were, by the occurrence of rainbows in the aftermath of storms: When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. (Genesis 9:16)

Does this extraordinary text secure Cosmic Universalism, as it might seem to do? Admittedly, in the context of the story, in which God reserved only pairs of animals from each “kind,” the covenant with Noah is compatible with the selective scenario of token representation ventured by Lewis, Russell, and Polkinghorne. However, more liberally (and non-literally) interpreted, it may hint at, and is clearly compatible with, a scenario of Cosmic Universalism. In the light of extrinsic philosophical-theological grounds that I will give shortly, we can plausibly read it in that universalistic way. To continue with the pre-Christian canonical narrative, however, the visionary texts of Isaiah 11:6–9 and Isaiah 65:25 describe the messianic kingdom of God as a realm of peace between the wolf and the lamb, an image that is emblematic of the transformed earthly order promised yet to come. It strongly suggests that animals will not only populate the messianic realm, but will be dramatically changed in nature, albeit without losing their identities as the creatures that they are. In the last part of this chapter, I will come back to this eschatological picture and face the question whether the essential identities of predators can be preserved without “coding” for predation. At any rate, the vision of a peaceable kingdom on the Holy Mountain of God does not exactly anchor Cosmic Universalism, but it does not exclude that outcome for animals either. We wonder why, if God means to include animals in the messianic Heaven,

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God would leave any of them out. One thinks of Jesus’ statement that the Good Shepherd does not rest until he has found all his lost sheep, to the very last one (Matthew 18:12–14; Luke 15:3–7). In addition, as we have seen, the post-exilic book of Job underscores God’s great care even for animals living in seemingly godforsaken wild realms. It seems clear – at least on the reading of Job that I accept – that these wild and supposedly desolate creatures fall within the scope of the messianic vision, too. Readers should recall the intense particularity of the animal imagery. God is intimately, admiringly, and caringly involved with particular animals, in a manner that is reminiscent of Jesus’ words on God’s providential awareness of every sparrow that falls (Matthew 10:29). Again, these texts do not establish Cosmic Universalism, but they provide clues that this universalistic eschatology might well be true. At the very least, then, the biblical texts in view do generate something of a theme on an abiding divine affirmation of the earth and animals and a solid basis of hope for their inclusion in an eschatological afterlife, along with human beings. However, so far as the hypothesis of Cosmic Universalism goes, the biblical theme is thought provoking, and perhaps a little supportive, but inconclusive in the end. Do we have strong enough extra-biblical philosophical and theological grounds for accepting Cosmic Universalism as sufficiently plausible for our purposes? I will begin with partly non-canonical philosophical-religious considerations in ontology and ethics, and then offer distinctly Christian theological grounds for doing so.

cosmic universalism: aesthetic and moral considerations Do we have philosophical-theological grounds for seeing Cosmic Universalism as significantly plausible on canonical Christian theism? I believe we do, along several analytical lines. One line of argument is aesthetic. On the analogue of God as Artist, we naturally assume that like human artists, God would want the creatures and things that God creates to endure rather than perish and be lost forever, except in memory. This argument is of course inconclusive, but it makes intuitive sense that God’s “natural inclination” would be to preserve the creatures that God reportedly regards as intrinsically “very good,” as the text of Genesis indicates that God does. Perhaps this sort of philosophical intuition underlies Jürgen Moltmann’s declarative

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assessment: “If we were to surrender hope for as much as one single creature, for us God would not be God.”7 This intuition about God the Artist wishing to preserve each and every one of God’s prized creations also grows from belief in the moral perfection of God, who we assume is supremely good to human and nonhuman creatures. As Paul Draper argues, it is reasonable to suppose on moral grounds alone that God would wish that all creatures and things flourish, and that none would fail to do so. The vexing thing is that so many of them do fail, as we have seen. Southgate pinpoints this problem in his own distinctive non-analytical fashion.

southgate: animal “selving” Southgate invokes the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins in the sonnet “As Kingfishers Catch Fire,” in which Hopkins suggests that every living creature is an ontologically and morally valuable self, which by nature strives to “selve,” i.e., to become what it came into the world to be. The kingfisher cries: Selves – goes itself; myself it speaks and spells, Crying What I do is me: for that I came.8

Southgate sees it as terribly tragic when any creature is thwarted from flourishing in this fashion. It is hard not to concur with his contention that a theodicy on animal suffering must include an account of such dysteleology, which is rampant in nature: . . .the case of creatures whose lives in the old creation know no flourishing, not even significant elements of the experience of what it is to be that creature, because they are killed so young, or are born with a profoundly debilitating disease.9

Southgate, then, proposes that in order for God to rectify the widespread dysteleological wrongs, there would have to be a resurrection and new postmortem life for the thousands of millions of poor creatures whose “selving” was cut off preemptively in life. I suspect that we may safely 7

8

9

Jürgen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, tr. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004), 132. Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 63, citing Poems and Prose of Gerard Manley Hopkins: Selected with an Introduction and Notes by W. H. Gardner (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1953), 51. Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 87.

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presume that, like all human beings, all nonhuman creatures fall short of true “selving” to one degree or another. On theistic assumptions about divine power and goodness, it may well be that the resurrection and rectification of dysteleological evil for all nonhuman creatures – Cosmic Universalism – is the likeliest eschatological outcome of all.

sentient suffering The existence of animal sentience and subjective suffering by animals only intensifies the teleological and moral problem of abortively languid nonhuman lives. In The Concept of God, Keith Ward’s comment on eschatological divine justice for animals seems right: “If there is any sentient being which suffers pain, that being – whatever it is and however it is manifested – must find the pain transfigured by a greater joy.”10 This comment resonates with the reconfigured Joban image of the ostrich crying for joy rather than despair and flapping its wings from sheer delight rather than in frustration and futility. Likewise, in Rational Theology and the Creativity of God, Ward wrote along similar lines: Immortality, for animals as well as humans, is a necessary condition of any acceptable theodicy; that necessity, together with all the other arguments for God, is one of the main reasons for believing in immortality.11

It seems, then, that the profusion of suffering in nature by sentient animals adds strength to the philosophical-theological grounds we have for Cosmic Universalism. Perhaps the biblical-textual and philosophical-theological grounds given so far are strong enough to make Cosmic Universalism at least as plausible as not on canonical theism. That is our adopted epistemic standard for successful explanation, at any rate. If not, however, there are still further and (so I suggest) even stronger, more narrowly Christian theological arguments to consider. I suggest that several key canonical Christian doctrines can serve as sources for further strengthening this universalistic eschatology of animals. I suggest that two major Christian doctrines particularly have a positive role to play in support of Cosmic Universalism. First, I will seek to show that the doctrine of the imago Dei, or “image of God,” rightly 10 11

Keith Ward, The Concept of God (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1974), 223. Keith Ward, Rational Theology and the Creativity of God (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982), 202.

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understood, entails an axiology of nonhuman creatures and things – a theory of value – that supports hope in a universalistic eschatological outcome for animals. Second, I will offer the rudiments of a somewhat innovative, yet still canonical, theory of the atonement, in which God extends reconciliation, resurrection, and “deified” existence in the messianic Heaven to all living and non-living created things.

the imago dei : the comparative value of humans and animals Christian theologians developed the doctrine of the imago Dei – constructed on the divine pronouncement in Genesis 1:26–28 that God created human beings in God’s very own “image” – along lines that seem to subvert the high axiology and eschatology of animals that I am inclined to support. The prevailing tradition has been that since human beings alone have standing as made in the “image of God,” nonhuman beings are not only less valuable than human beings in a categorical ontological sense, the value that they do have is mainly, if not merely, as subservient instrumental means to various human ends. This assessment of animal worth and purpose may not rule out the resurrection of animals for eternal inclusion in Heaven, but it has hardly encouraged having and speculating upon that expectation. On the traditional understanding of the imago Dei, it is unsurprising that the majority of theologians have not thought that God would include animals in Heaven.12 In exploring the thesis that animals – perhaps all of them, great and small – indeed will inhabit the messianic Heaven, it seems that we must take this major Christian doctrine into account and come to grips with its axiological implications for animals. In this part of the chapter, then, we will reconsider the doctrine of the imago Dei in the light of fresh scholarly studies, to consider whether it really does discourage belief in a hopeful eschatological future, or not. I will argue that it does not. In fact, I will argue that in the light of these studies by specialists on religions of the ancient Near East, the original declaration of Genesis actually encourages believing in a postmortem inclusion of animals in Heaven.

12

Linzey, Why Animal Suffering Matters, 28–29. One notable exception was John Wesley. For a brief discussion of Wesley’s view and references, see Dougherty, The Problem of Animal Pain, 161–62.

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Deane-Drummond underscores the difficulty of the problem that theologians face when seeking to articulate both the uniquely distinctive properties and value of human beings, on the one hand, and the intrinsic moral value and high standing of nonhuman beings, on the other.13 Throughout her fairly extensive writings on the subject of human and nonhuman value, she wonders whether a way exists for avoiding a strongly hierarchical anthropocentrism without also affirming a “flat” Species Egalitarianism, as Peter Singer refers to it.14 The first position no longer seems defensible, while the second one subverts the traditional Christian theological means of maintaining the categorically unique dignity and worth of human persons. I affirm Deane-Drummond’s stated theological/moral aim of somehow preserving both the unique, even transcendental axiological “human difference” together with the high moral standing of animals.15 In The Wisdom of the Liminal, she stresses the ambiguity of “liminal” evolutionary boundaries between the cognitive and moral capacities of human and nonhuman beings.16 In this scientifically informed, wide-ranging, and theologically astute treatment, Deane-Drummond traverses the blurry yet real threshold zone of difference and commonality between the distinguishing cognitive and moral endowments of human and nonhuman beings. She adds a variety of scientific grounds for accepting the thesis (which she defended theologically in earlier writings, in agreement mainly with Balthasar) that animals will co-participate with human beings in the love and joy of immortality in Heaven.17 She also proposes, partly in the light of reflections on the approach to the imago Dei taken by Thomas Aquinas, that the scope of this dignifying doctrine should include nonsapiens humans as well as nonhuman animals, to the extent that they are capable of receiving divine grace, even without the presumption of highorder cognitive and affective consciousness.18 13

14 15

16

17

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Celia Deane-Drummond, “God’s Image and Likeness in Humans and Other Animals: Performative Soul-Making and Graced Nature,” Zygon 47, no. 4 (December 2012): 934–48, esp. 935. Deane-Drummond, “God’s Image and Likeness in Humans and Other Animals,” 935. Deane-Drummond, “God’s Image and Likeness in Humans and Other Animals,” 935–36. Celia Deane-Drummond, The Wisdom of the Liminal: Evolution and Other Animals in Human Becoming (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014). Deane-Drummond, The Wisdom of the Liminal, 315–17. See Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, esp. 244–45, but also interspersed throughout the book. Deane-Drummond, “God’s Image and Likeness in Humans and Other Animals,” 936‒38.

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Deane-Drummond does demur from offering a scenario of animals in Heaven. Nor does she offer a theory of how God might rectify evils that evolution has caused them to suffer, but expresses skepticism towards theodicies, which (so Deane-Drummond) seem more to “reconcile us to evils, rather than deal with their awful impact.” Instead of seeking to explain the “why” of evil, then, she prefers to focus on God’s intent to redeem human and nonhuman beings from its effects.19 Meanwhile, I want to focus more narrowly on an approach to the imago Dei that I have not seen developed by theologians in treatments of animal axiology and/or eschatology, and certainly not in treatments of theodicy. It is an idiomatic understanding of the imago Dei that now prevails among Old Testament scholars, and yet still awaits adequate incorporation into the treatments of the imago Dei by theologians, some of whom (unwisely, I believe) are giving up on the contemporary currency of the doctrine altogether.20

the imago dei as semitic royal idiom Something like a consensus has formed among experts on ancient Semitic societies on the idiomatic meaning and function of the phrase, or rather title, “image of God.” The ancient Hebrews apparently borrowed it for use in Genesis from the neighboring superpowers, Egypt and Babylon, where the “image of God” was theocratic shorthand for the royal monarch. In essence, it captured the unique religious/political status they ascribed to their royal ruler, whom they understood to be the uniquely mediating representative of God’s authoritative rule on earth – the human “image of God.” The writer of Genesis (as the Hebrews did with numerous aspects of Egyptian and Babylonian religious/political ideology) radically reconstructed this powerful pretext for absolute theocratic monarchy so that it applied to all human beings, rather than solely to the godlike royal despot. J. Richard Middleton has adeptly explained how revolutionary this usage was in its own setting for its ideologically liberating effects, not least on the Hebrew theology and ethics of nature.21 In brief, the main 19 20

21

Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 174. Deane-Drummond, “God’s Image and Likeness in Humans and Other Animals,” 934–36. J. Richard Middleton, “The Liberating Image? Interpreting the Imago Dei in Context,” Christian Scholars Review 24, no. 1 (1994): 8–25.

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implication of the royal idiom for our purposes is that, as the “image” of God, the ruling monarch is supposed to represent the divine vision – whatever conception of divinity is in theocratic play – in a human moral and political form. In other words, in theory, as the “image of God,” the royal monarch did not have absolute autocratic dominion, but was rather subject to the higher authority of the divinity, whose discernible will the royal ruler was obliged to represent on earth. According to the Hebrew reconstruction, then, every human being is in this royal representative position. Each and every human person has royal value, standing, and obligations. Two axiological truths follow from this idiomatic picture of the imago Dei. First and most obviously, the account ascribes greater intrinsic moral value and standing to human beings – to each and every human being – than to nonhuman beings. Second, however, and less obviously, to represent the divine will faithfully, human beings must ascribe very high value to the earth and animals – as God has allegedly done by declaring them all to be “very good,” each sector in its own intrinsic right. It would be impossible to represent God on earth by treating animals as having only extrinsic value as instrumental means to divine and human ends. I suggest, then, that the idiomatic sense of the imago Dei adds to the force of other arguments, such as Deane-Drummond’s, for rejecting the strongly anthropocentric tradition, which, as other writers have pointed out, stands solidly on a utilitarian moral theory and ethics of animals.22 On the contrary, on the idiomatic understanding, the doctrine of the imago Dei implicitly prohibits this reductionist axiology and ethics and instead requires a high degree of respect for the intrinsic dignity and worth of the earth and animals. It is, in other words, a very secure basis on which canonical theists – both Jewish and Christian – can begin building a positive eco-theology and ethics. Further though, to our main point, this understanding of the imago Dei adds strength to the other grounds we have given for belief that God will include the earth and animals in the promised messianic Heaven. Meanwhile, the idiomatic interpretation of the imago Dei leads to this high appraisal of the nonhuman creation without also blurring or deleting altogether the axiological line between human and nonhuman beings. For

22

It undermines, for instance, the landmark critique of Judeo-Christian tradition for the religious imprimatur that it places on destructive anthropocentric-utilitarian environmental practice. Lynn White, Jr., “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” Science 155, no. 3767 (March 10, 1967): 1203–7.

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while it elevates animals to very high standing, it also makes it unequivocally clear that human standing is categorically higher still and that human value and dignity belong in a value-category that is considerably greater even than theirs. In other words, while this approach to the imago Dei deconstructs the traditional anthropocentric picture of humans and animals, it also seems to preclude adopting Species Egalitarianism instead, as some influential theorists are pressing Christian theologians and ethicists to do.23 I expect that this assertion may well be a bone of contention for some readers. However, I suggest that it should be welcomed by anyone who is seeking to construct a convincing God-justifying account of God and evolutionary suffering by animals. Obviously, to undertake an appraisal of Species Egalitarianism in its various theoretical versions is well beyond the scope of this book, as is a thorough treatment of animal axiology in canonical traditions. It should be sufficient for the purposes of our discussion simply to suggest that in canonical traditions, beginning to end, including traditions in the Gospels on Jesus and animals, unequivocal moral permission exists for human persons to employ animals as instrumental means to ends in all sorts of religious and non-religious cultural settings. It seems indisputable in these texts and traditions that such moral permission – and even positive affirmation – exists for employing animals instrumentally in ceremonialritual, celebrative-social, economic, political, and ordinary dietary contexts. According to all the Gospels, Jesus himself raised no moral objections to these practices, or even reservations about them. According to the tradition, among his last alleged actions on earth after his resurrection, was to catch, kill, cook, and eat a fish on a lakeside. Moreover, while Paul abandoned Levitical ceremonial and dietary requirements, he clearly believed it was morally permissible – even good ‒ in a broadly moral and aesthetic sense – to kill and to eat the flesh of animals. This line of analysis notwithstanding, however, I wish to leave off discussion of the imago Dei with quite a different point, one that pertains directly to theodicy and makes raising the risk of contention over the “human difference” worth taking. When theists adopt an egalitarian 23

Peter Singer, “All Animals Are Equal,” Philosophic Exchange 5, no. 1, article 6 (1974): 103–16. For a more recent defense of Species Egalitarianism, see Mark H. Bernstein, The Moral Equality of Humans and Animals (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Deane-Drummond makes notice of and laments this trend, even as she adamantly opposes the common anthropocentric theory and practice. Deane-Drummond, “God’s Image and Likeness in Humans and Other Animals,” esp. 935.

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axiology of high value for both human and nonhuman beings, they (not deliberately, of course) greatly increase the vulnerability of theism to the anti-theistic force of the Darwinian Problem. For if the intrinsic moral standing of animals is co-equal with the inherent personal worth of human beings, then it follows that the evil of evolutionary suffering by animals is just as bad, morally speaking, as if God had enlisted human beings as means to ends in the same savagely wasteful Darwinian way that God has employed animals. It is by no means clear that doing so would be morally permissible on deontological grounds, and perhaps such evil would be undefeatable psychologically. At any rate, an egalitarian axiology of species makes the Darwinian Problem a great deal more difficult even than it is on the thesis of human axiological uniqueness. My main point, however, is that the doctrine of the imago Dei, so understood, adds to the theological grounds we have for belief that God will include all animals in Heaven. I suggest further that other Christian doctrines can contribute to the case for Cosmic Universalism, too. While it is rarely applied in this context, the historic Christian doctrine of the atonement, with some innovative adaptations, can also contribute to grounds for hope in a universal resurrection and redemption of animals.

the atonement: reconciliation between god and animals? As with the imago Dei, traditional theories of the atonement are anthropocentric to an extent that can make Christianity seem indifferent to the value and future of the nonhuman creation. The most influential theories of the atonement in western Christianity are focused almost exclusively on moral reconciliation between God and human beings. The dominant theologians in the medieval West understood the atonement to be a means by which God made it possible for human beings to be redeemed from sin and to be restored morally for eternal life with God. The prevailing theories in both Catholicism and Protestantism were focused on satisfaction of moral conditions requisite for reconciliation between sinful human beings and the morally perfect God. Since it is commonly assumed that animals have done nothing morally wrong, however, it seems that on this “moral-satisfaction theory,” the atonement has no bearing on them or connection with their eschatological resurrection and redemption in Heaven.

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Against these anthropocentric theological currents, Deane-Drummond once again provides a direct and provocative approach to Christian theology and the role of animals. She seeks to show that in its best formulation, the atonement indeed is relevant to the eternal destiny of nonhuman creatures, too. Citing fresh studies in animal ethology (mainly by Marc Bekoff ), Deane-Drummond suggests first that some animals, at least, do have the capacity for something analogous to human moral freedom and action.24 If so, she suggests, a reconciling atonement may be morally relevant to them, at least in an attenuated sense. As she takes care to explain, she does not propose that animals have committed sins in the morally conscious and freely deliberate way that humans have done. Following Bekoff, she suggests that animals do nevertheless behave in ways that are either “right” or “wrong” in quasi-moral senses.25 How so? Deane-Drummond cites the work of Roman Catholic paleobiologist Daryl Domning and theologian Monika Hellwig, who prefer the phrase, “Original Selfishness” to the classical label of “Original Sin” in describing the genetic root of this precursory moral legacy that animals have left to human beings. They provide a fascinating account of animals as low on the phylogenetic chain as ants engaging in most forms of evil that human beings engage in – including banditry, theft, deception, and rape. In this attenuated moral sense, then, there is immorality in nature that calls for an atoning change. Perhaps in this respect, we should think that the animal realm (so Deane-Drummond) “stands in need of redemption.”26 However, we still wonder how exactly anything that God did in the human actions of Christ contributed to achievement of such redemption. Traditional theories of the atonement do not seem to open avenues on which to see how.

traditional atonement theories and animals In taking on this key question, Deane-Drummond observes that when we seek to extend familiar atonement theories to the creation, we are soon “bedeviled. . .by definitions.”27 For, since this “Original Selfishness” of 24 25 26

27

Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 161–62. Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 160–70. Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 167. She cites Domning and Hellwig, Original Selfishness. Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 176.

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animals is wholly inscribed into the genetic systems of animals, again it seems that no atonement is needed in order for God to bring about the promised redemption of creation from bondage to the powers that cause “groaning” in nature’s designedly systemic depths.28 Moreover, she observes, if God does redeem the nonhuman creation by means of Christ, then how? “How and in what sense might the cross be salvific for all creation, and are atonement theories rendered redundant?”29 If so, a major explanatory gap exists for anyone wishing to support Cosmic Universalism on Christian theological grounds. Looking further for connections between the atonement and animals, Deane-Drummond provides an insightful survey of atonement theories to see if extending any of them to include animals is possible. She shows convincingly that the theory of “penal satisfaction” via sacrificial substitution, wherein God allegedly takes out divine wrath on Jesus as a substitute for humanity, is not acceptable at any rate. But even if it were acceptable on the human plane, it clearly cannot be extended to animals, for it supposes rather absurdly that animals deserve to be punished for any “bad” things they have done. Further, Abelard’s (1079–1142) “moral-example” theory is obviously irrelevant to the redemption of animals, for it is entirely anthropocentric in its theological analysis and ethical aims. As mentioned in Chapter 9, supporters of contemporary “kenotic” Christology very often appeal to the atonement as an expression of divine co-suffering with creatures. Deane-Drummond also (I believe rightly) expresses reservations about this God-justifying appeal to divine suffering, since it conjures “a rather limp view of God” (I have referred to it as a “tragic” view) as impotent to do much of anything about natural evil (which God caused in the first place!).30 This depiction of God is (so I believe) too like a cosmic “Alice” drowning in a pool of her own tears.31 I do not think it helps either to suppose, as Sollereder does, that an implication of the atonement is a divine love that does not let any animal suffer and die alone.32 To begin with, it is unacceptably unclear what this divine co-presence could mean. Further, no empirical evidence supports thinking that God somehow (telepathically?) comforts animals typified by 28 29 30 31

32

Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 176. Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 176. Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 173. Deane-Drummond makes this same critical point (in different terms, of course) a few pages later, in Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 178. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 111–12; esp. 136.

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Rowe’s fawn. And at any rate, the justificatory appeal to divine copresence and co-suffering with creatures undermines the religious-moral logic of the major ritual of atonement in Jewish tradition – the ritual of the scapegoat, the point of which is that the selected animal gets the godforsaken experience that we humans deserve. I will come back to this imagery shortly, for I do think it has some relevance to the Darwinian role of animals. Neither can Luther’s theory of a “happy exchange” nor René Girard’s modern “scapegoat” theory of the atonement be extended very easily to include the salvation of animals. As for Luther’s approach, what exactly would the nature of the moral-justificatory “exchange” between righteousness and unrighteousness be, and further, what precisely would be “happy” about it for animals? Moreover, the scapegoat ritual deliberately excluded the selected animal from the scope of atonement, which was reserved for human beings. Can these approaches be renovated to include animals in the atonement? Deane-Drummond considers the creative attempt by Niels Gregersen to expand Luther’s theory of the atonement to include a “happy exchange” between God and animals. Gregersen offers a means of expansion that I will adopt and elaborate in my own terms in just a moment: In Christ on the cross, especially (so Gregersen), “God, the giver of life, who produced the package deal of natural order and disorder, is also the cocarrier of the costs of creation.”33 Gregersen suggests that in Christ, God does not merely suffer with creatures, but also (more in line with satisfaction theory) suffers for creatures, in the place of creatures, human and nonhuman alike.34 I must concur, however, with the point of Deane-Drummond’s question: Where exactly are we supposed to locate the occurrence of an alleged atonement for, as distinct from victorious redemption from the bonds of sin and death?35 I will come back to Gregersen’s account, which I think can succeed in answering this question, provided we are prepared to accept a fairly drastic change in our theological assumptions about God’s moral position and motivation in the atonement relative to the standing of animals.

33

34 35

Niels Henrik Gregersen, “The Cross of Christ in an Evolutionary World,” Dialog 40, no. 3 (Fall 2001): 204. Italics mine. Gregersen, “The Cross of Christ in an Evolutionary World,” 204. Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 179–80.

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Moreover, the “scapegoat theory” – an upgraded version of the older “penal satisfaction” model – works well as a picturesque and biblically grounded account of human atonement, but so far as animals are concerned, it seems rather a pointless and insensitive reiteration of the brutal Darwinian burden that God has made animals to bear in the first place. All is well for the people, who exult joyously in their atonement with God, while the poor, confused “scapegoat” goes off into the desert presumably doomed to die a miserable and desolate death. In this scenario, it is hard to see what good God has done for the unfortunate godforsaken beast, which God has enlisted to bear the unbearable burden of human sins on its back. Nevertheless, if we had grounds for believing that God will defeat this grotesque evil inflicted on the selected animal – for the animal itself – then perhaps extending scapegoat theory into theodicy becomes plausible.

deane-drummond and balthasar: god identifies with all creatures Meanwhile, in the light of this critical survey of alternatives, DeaneDrummond recommends that we take a good look at Balthasar’s “theodramatic” theory. According to Balthasar, God identifies with alienated humanity in dramatic redemptive actions – even unto death on a cross and descent into the experiential depths of horror in Hell. In “Hell,” so understood, God enters into the experience of feeling abandoned and condemned by God. Expanding his theory to explain divine atonement for animals in the way she does is also something I believe one can endorse, albeit in service of a larger complex of God-justifying explanations.36 Deane-Drummond proposes that we understand the mode of atonement in this theo-drama of Christ as representative, rather than as substitutionary in the traditional moral/satisfaction sense, and then extend the loving, self-emptying identification of God with alienated human beings beyond the realm of human “sinners” to include the alienated and innocent animals suffering evolutionary evils in nature. Next, she recounts Balthasar’s comprehensive Trinitarian account of the incarnational

36

We should keep in mind that most theories of the atonement are at bottom theodicies, i.e., God-justifying accounts of why God authorized undeserved tragic/horrendous evil and suffering to engulf Christ.

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“kenotic” dramatic outpouring of divine love for the world on the cross and in hellish human death. However, she appropriately continues to press the question, in what existential manner could Christ really identify with the suffering of evolutionary evil by nonhuman beings? To explore the matter further still, then, she holds forth the concept of “shadow sophia,” which she believes helps us to see how the atonement pertains positively to the earth and animals.

deane-drummond: darwinian animal suffering and “shadow sophia” The concept of “shadow sophia” was coined by Sergei Bulgakov to describe a dark side of human wisdom, which he (like Augustine) believed came about as a form of privation, rather than as a positive metaphysical reality. Bulgakov attributed the existence of “shadow sophia” in deprived chaotic and disordered forms to the ruinous human Fall.37 While Deane-Drummond clearly rejects this lapsarian understanding of natural evil, she persists in resisting the implication that God gave nature its tragically “cruciform” aesthetic/moral quality from the beginning, as inscribed into the original divine design. Instead, she maintains, we should see “shadow sophia” in nature as a possibility that is inherent in nature, so that evolutionary evils are perhaps inevitable but not necessary (as she paraphrases Reinhold Niebuhr’s phrase).38 I find the distinction between “inevitable” and “necessary” in this context quite confusing and, in any event, not to have any God-justifying force. The assertion that God created life in a manner that made animal suffering “inevitable” but not “necessary” is just another way of assigning moral responsibility for Darwinian evil to God. So in making it, one risks seeming evasive on the implied origin of Darwinian evil in the causal agency of God, but on the justificatory front, one gains nothing in the bargain. I have stressed that, like it or not, on non-lapsarian Darwinian assumptions, to ascribe the inscription of Darwinian suffering into the conditions of existence for animals is inescapable. The troubling truth reverberates in the unveilings

37 38

Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 185–87. See Deane-Drummond’s citation of Niebuhr in this fashion, Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 171, 182. I also suggest that Niebuhr’s distinction has no moral value to theodicy, since it merely restates that God has inscribed sin (and in this instance, the evils caused by natural selection) into conditions of created existence. God is responsible morally for its existence, one way or the other.

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of science as well as in the canonical book of Job: the causal agent of natural evil simply is God, and theists need to face this reality in unequivocal terms. Nevertheless, despite this (as I see it) evasive posture on the core questions of theodicy (we shall see that she favors not offering one), it is hard to fault Deane-Drummond’s general proposal on the relevance of a Balthasarian atonement theory to the eschatological future of the nonhuman creation. According to Deane-Drummond, Balthasar stresses that in the atonement, divine love goes all the way into the depths of Hell with all its creatures, great and small, sentient or not. A whole creation “groans” in waiting for the redemption of human beings, who will in turn co-redeem it from enslavement by mysterious and brutal “shadow sophia.”39 And yet (so Deane-Drummond), while it is true that “shadow sophia” “resists too ready an explanation as to why it exists,” I propose that without any explanation, the loud declaration of divine love for nonhuman creatures, allegedly on display in the suffering of Jesus on the cross, may understandably come off as massive question-begging and evasion. In fact, theories of the atonement, including this one, just are Godjustifying explanations – miniature theodicies – in their own right. Without these God-justifying accounts of the cross, it is hard to see how one could infer that God loves Jesus, or that the event actually expresses divine love and identification with both human and nonhuman beings. Without a God-justifying explanation – an atonement theory – it is hard to see how the early Christian movement could have survived and flourished as it did. Perhaps the original testimony of witnesses to Jesus alive after death could have maintained the movement for awhile, but without a good account of his manner of death, it is hard to believe that this testimony to a miracle could have sustained the movement for very long. The God-justifying explanation – that Jesus’ death had atoning and reconciling value – surely strengthened the force of that testimony. I suggest, then, that we consider a more specific connection between the atonement and animals than a general christological appeal to divine cosmic love and identification with creatures. The immediate metaphorical connection between the atonement and selected animals is of course as conventional as it could be, and more important to ethics than Christian thinkers once realized.

39

Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 190, on Romans 8:18–30.

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god atoning for animal suffering In Why Animal Suffering Matters, Andrew Linzey cites a sermon by Cardinal John Henry Newman on the significance of animals for appreciating the innocence of Jesus.40 He relates Jesus’ role as the Lamb of God to our ethics of animals. Linzey proposes that the identification of Christ on the cross with innocent animals creates a moral imperative: we must treat innocent animals in the way we would treat Christ.41 However, he does not consider that by enlisting animals involuntarily into the great good of evolutionary service, God has deliberately caused many billions of innocent animals to suffer, and that this injustice demands moral rectification – on God’s part! Taking off from Gregersen’s bold thesis, then, I submit the unconventional – but perhaps not unorthodox – hypothesis that so far as the eschatological redemption of animals is concerned, the Passion of Christ enacts, in representative rather than literal fashion, the drama of the scapegoat, only in reverse. Instead of an innocent animal being bled out on the Holy of Holies, along with a second animal sent to death in the desert bearing an unbearable burden, on the cross, Jesus assumes both these animal roles – for the sake of the animals themselves. I submit that in this inverted sort of satisfaction via substitution, or via a rectifying “ransom,” and/or a “wondrous exchange,” we see the familiar metaphors for the atonement in a new light. We see them as pictures of Christ entering symbolically into the place of nonhuman and human beings alike, and thereby “declaring” that responsibility for the suffering of animals inscribed into the design of nature finally falls on God. In that specific symbolic substitutionary sense, then, I suggest with DeaneDrummond that God indeed has expressed justificatory moral entry into the condition of nonhuman creatures and things. Going further along this line, let us consider the hypothesis that by this inverted substitutionary enactment – playing the parts of both the scapegoat and the Passover lamb, at once – besides representing an impending end to human suffering, on the cross, Jesus also signaled the immediate end of need for the sacrificial role of innocent animals. If so, moreover, the atonement would assure us of God’s intention to redeem animals and to include them in the impending eschatological Heaven.

40

41

Linzey, Why Animal Suffering Matters, 38–39. Linzey cites John Henry Newman, “The Crucifixion,” in Parochial and Plain Sermons 2 (London: Rivingtons, 1868), 133. Linzey, Why Animal Suffering Matters, 39.

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I conclude, then, that the doctrine of the atonement, understood as having a cosmic scope, and in a somewhat novel perspective on the canonical animal sacrificial imagery, can contribute to the other grounds we have for belief in Cosmic Universalism. Of course, in order to do so, we have to believe that animals are included within the redemptive scope of the resurrection. I suggest that their inclusion is implicit in canonical eschatological tradition.

the resurrection and animals I accept the witness of the first Christians – all of them Jews, who were privy to the death of Jesus by crucifixion. They knew all too well what that means of death by capital execution meant for anyone harboring hope that Jesus was the conquering Christ of God, for whose coming Israelites longed. This event would have put that hope to death, too. It is hard to imagine anything that could have disqualified Jesus from that divine eschatological office more emphatically than the crucifixion by Roman powers would have done. On reflection, we should find it most extraordinary that people in their position – Jews who harbored just this hope and understood these things more deeply than we moderns can possibly do – emerged from the experience not only with that hope intact, but with unshakable conviction that what they hoped for was really true! I suggest that anyone who studies the origin of the Christian movement within Judaism in that setting and is not astonished by its original ignition has likely been jaded by constant exposure to contemporary skepticism towards all accounts that include the purported occurrence of miracles. Unless Jesus really did appear to these first so-called Christians, it is extremely hard to explain the emergence of this collective conviction and the persuasive power that it had under those circumstances.42 However, I suggest that the resurrection cannot be proved true, or made to be probable, or more probable than not, by means of such arguments, as certain Christian apologists confidently claim it can.43 I do not at all concur with apologists such as William Lane Craig, among others, who promote the position that the only rational conclusion 42

43

N. T. Wright develops an argument along this specifically “messianic” line. N. T. Wright, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), esp. 126–49. See for instance, William Lane Craig, Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1989).

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from the relevant evidence is that the resurrection of Jesus really happened; I think that judgment is badly mistaken. Yet I do accept the assessment offered by analytical philosopher of religion, Stephen Davis, who contends that, in the end, belief in the resurrection of Jesus can be rational on all the evidence, even as disbelief can be rational, too.44 I suggest that it is a belief that should be taken seriously in rational conversation on the origin stories told by adherents of major religions. I will assume henceforth, then, that on the assumptions of theism, that the resurrection of Jesus happened is at least as plausible as not. For purposes of this chapter, however, I am not interested in the resurrection for its own sake, but in the canonical eschatology that this event supports. For one thing, it supports a vision of a cosmic messianic postmortem world that remains continuous in its essential identity with the world that it always was, but is also discontinuous in the radical newness of its physical laws, particularly in hosting the promised immortality of its human and nonhuman inhabitants. According to canonical tradition, the resurrected Jesus was radically changed, but still identifiable as the same man he had been before he died. He was allegedly transformed in a manner that comported with his previously hidden role as the supreme agent of divine power and goodness on earth, as God’s “righthand man,” so to speak. For another, however, the resurrection, as conceptualized in canonical tradition, strongly supports belief that the Christian God will defeat, rather than merely eliminate or balance off, the worst evils that God has authorized in the experience of human and nonhuman beings. The resurrection of Jesus clearly serves as a prototype of God’s larger plan to defeat evils – particularly the evil of horrific suffering – for human beings and, by implication (so I argue) for at least some animals, too. It is emblematic, or “micro-cosmic,” in its significance.

the resurrection: discontinuity and continuity of identity Canonical tradition makes it clear that following his resurrection from the dead, Jesus remained identical with the historical person that he had always been – Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, died, and was buried, and then on the third day, arose again from death to bodily life, such that

44

Stephen T. Davis, Risen Indeed! Making Sense of the Resurrection (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993).

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afterwards, his tomb was empty. However, the tradition also makes clear that Jesus was dramatically transformed, “divinized” in and endowed with invincible messianic glory and power from God. Christian theologians have typically understood this continuity/discontinuity of Jesus’ resurrection as a sort of paradigm for the larger eschatological resurrection of human beings.45 Some thinkers have extended this picture of continuity with discontinuity to include the promised transformation of the entire cosmos. Polkinghorne stands out for stressing this way of envisioning the coming redemption of the creation and its nonhuman inhabitants.46 He affirms as canonical the hope that “God has an appropriate destiny for all creatures and not simply for humanity alone (cf. Colossians 1:20 where Christ is said to reconcile all things to God).”47 He (I believe rightly) sees what I have called the messianic and Darwinian narratives as two major parts of a larger single creative and redemptive whole, not as two disparate histories.48 The main point I wish to make, however, is about apparent implications of this pattern of continuity and discontinuity in Jesus’ resurrection for theodicy, more specifically for belief that God aims to defeat, rather than merely remove or counterbalance, the horrific evolutionary evils that God has authorized. I suggest that the resurrection of Jesus is a particular instance of the eschatological defeat of evil that has already occurred in pre-eschatological human time.

the resurrection and the defeat of evil for animals In Chapter 9, we inspected Rolston’s proposal that the “kenotic” character of the part that animals play in natural selection is valuable enough morally to outweigh and, thereby, to justify God in authorizing the evolutionary evils involved. One reason I demurred from this judgment was that, on comparison with the “kenotic” sacrifice of Christ, one could not rightly argue that by itself, the goodness of self-emptying was great 45

46

47 48

Davis offers useful discussion of “bodily transformation” as the pattern for Christianity’s conceptual picture of the resurrection. Davis, Risen Indeed! esp. 53–61. Likewise, N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God, vol. 3 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), esp. 312–60. John Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth (New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2011), esp. 103–9. Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth, 107. Polkinghorne, Science and Religion in Quest of Truth, 107.

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enough to outweigh and justify the horrific evils that God authorized the executioners of Jesus to inflict on him. I proposed that had Jesus remained dead and untransformed, the “kenotic” value of his incarnation and crucifixion would not defeat the evil of his suffering, which would remain a regrettable part of the world forever. In that instance, Jesus would be merely tragic. I suggest further, now, that even if God had raised Jesus from the dead, but had not also incorporated his “kenotic” suffering and achievement into his final form and standing before God and the world as “the Lord,” the conquering Christ of God, then the horror he suffered would not have been meaningful enough to be outweighed even by that forthcoming good. As the famous “Christ-hymn” in Philippians 2:5–11 makes clear, I believe, it is precisely this “kenotic” achievement that forms and remains forever the very core of what makes Christ worthy of the worship, honor, and praise that Paul promises he will receive from everyone in the end. As Revelation 5 memorably proclaims, it is not as the Omnipotent that Christ is given access to the “scroll” containing the secrets of existence, but as the Lamb “slaughtered,” who thereby merited the words of the throng surrounding his throne, “singing with full voice”: Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! (Revelation 5:12)

And further: To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever! (Revelation 5:13)

There is a great deal more that one could add to discussion of these doxological visionary passages, but again, the primary point I wish to underscore is that, in the imagery of the risen and exalted Christ, the evils of his “kenotic” suffering for the world are not merely overwhelmed and in that sense outweighed by the power of his resurrection, but are rather defeated, in Chisholm’s sense, by their incorporation into his transfigured risen form and standing as the Lamb slain and enthroned. The Johannine tradition of Jesus’ wounds still being discernible on his resurrected and partly transformed body is a physical expression of this deeply metaphysical and moral truth about the reality of Christ (John 20:27).

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In the light of these considerations, I suggest that just as kenosis is ¯ apparently in the character of the preferred divine creative and redemptive aesthetic “style,” so is the defeat of the “kenotic” evils that God authorizes. We discerned a comparable “stylistic” pattern in both the Joban theodicy and Paul’s God-justifying aesthetic imagery of God shaping an earthen vessel, and then pruning and grafting together the branches of an extraordinary tree. I propose, then, that together with other depictions of messianic divine redemptive “art,” the resurrection of Jesus, so understood, provides further christological grounds for belief that the Christian God will eventually defeat, rather than merely remove or balance off, the “kenotic” evils that God has authorized to exist in the conditions of existence for wild animals. It seems that the canonical Christian God is likely to inscribe a certain configuration of evils into the world – with the larger aim of defeating them by means of actions reflected in the resurrection of Christ. Let us now break off this discussion of grounds for belief that God will defeat Darwinian evils for animals. I submit that on the whole, the biblical, philosophical-theological, and doctrinal grounds are strong enough to make this belief at least as plausible as not on Christian theism. In addition, I think they also support belief that God will defeat evils for all animals in the eschatological end. It is reasonable for Christian theists to harbor hope – as Tennyson did – in Cosmic Universalism as the final outcome for animals. However, we naturally wonder. While canonical sources may support having this eschatological hope, is the defeat of evolutionary evils for animals itself plausible, something that very well could happen? Considering their limited nonhuman cognitive and meaning capacity (so Adams), what could the defeat of evil in Chisholm’s sense even mean for animals? Further, the sheer numbers and diversity of experiences by animals as species and individuals during epochs of “deep evolutionary time” make such redemptive action – even on God’s part – just seem unimaginable, something that we could not capture in an imaginary scene, as some thinkers have done to picture human existence in Heaven. Adams suggests a scenario in which (human) participants in “horrendous” evil are afforded a postmortem vision of how their participation in horrors created a personal connection between them and God, through the suffering of Jesus Christ.49 That scenario does not strain the imagination in the way a hoped-for defeat of evils for nonhuman beings does.

49

Adams, Horrendous Evils, esp. 167–68.

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Furthermore, there is risk involved in offering a positive scenario. It is the risk of weakening rather than strengthening the explanatory power of our presentation. We shall see that some recent writers assume this risk, and their scenarios of animal Heaven arguably do lead to this unintended self-defeating outcome. So we should not ignore the voices in the conversation that advise a counsel of “apophatic wisdom” – a counsel of reverent silence on the subject.

the counsel of apophatic wisdom Deane-Drummond rightly cautions against offering finely grained scenarios of an afterlife for animals. As with thinking about the resurrection of Christ, she writes, “. . .while we can be confident that there will be a new creation, one that is to some extent in continuity with the present world, it also far exceeds and is beyond our expectations and imaginings.”50 Instead of offering positive scenarios, then, which are “open to the possibility of mistake” and which despite our efforts in good faith “are not necessarily of Christ at all,” Deane-Drummond prefers that we take an apophatic, rather than speculative, approach to the subject, and that we remain open to “a wonder that is not a reflection of scientific knowing as much as poetic appreciation of unknowing.”51 Perhaps apophatic wonder, then, indeed is the better part of wisdom. Perhaps, then, we should let our “case for God” rest on the evidential and justificatory arguments that we have considered so far. Perhaps they suffice to meet the evidential, theological, moral, and epistemic conditions that (so we agreed) a God-justifying account must meet in order to be successful. I think I could let things rest now and make a plausible enough claim to have met them. In the “case for God” offered so far, I think I have faced the evidence of Darwinian evil full on. I have also shown that the analogue of God as Artist is appropriate to canonical tradition, and that in this conceptual framework, the God of canonical theism meets the Rights Condition, on the one hand, and is in the course of meeting the Defeat Condition, on the other. Finally, I think I have offered a moral/ aesthetic perspective on the Darwinian World in which one can reasonably gain “theistic sight,” a perspective in which one may reasonably believe oneself to “see” divine power and goodness in the midst of

50 51

Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 225. Deane-Drummond, Christ and Evolution, 225.

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Darwinian evil suffered by animals. So I think I could stop now and leave the eschatological defeat of Darwinian evil to stand as a matter of reasonable inference from the depiction of God in the canonical sources we have considered. However, I do not think it is necessary to stop – or wise.

non-apophatic wisdom There are some good reasons to resist the counsel of apophatic wisdom on our subject. As with the resurrection of Jesus, by stressing need for continuity with the current world (so Polkinghorne), alongside the radical eschatological discontinuity envisioned, canonical sources do give us the elements, or makings, of a positive scenario. The identity-properties of the physical earth and its human and nonhuman inhabitants will endure the transformation, they promise. Like Jesus, we suppose that in postmortem form, creatures will still be the sorts of beings that they have been and presently are, and that likewise, certain systems will remain intact. Festive eating and drinking and joyous fellowship in the kingdom of God seem to be more than merely metaphorical for Jesus, for instance. This imagery finds its way from the grand vision of post-exilic Israel, particularly in the latter sections of Isaiah, to the promissory pictures put forth by Jesus in the Gospels. So long as one is clear up front that, within the parameters of these elements, one’s scenario is speculative and tentative, I see no serious harm in offering one. On the other hand, by not doing so, we do risk giving the impression that belief in the eventual defeat of evolutionary evil for animals is little more than an evasion of complexity and empty wishful thinking. Either way, then, one assumes risk of fair criticism and rejection. Fortunately, in offering a speculative God-justifying scenario of the earthly Heaven and animals, one need not work entirely alone. A growing conversation on the subject has begun to develop among theists writing on the problem of God and animal suffering. I will begin with scenarios that address what Southgate identifies as the core challenge that proponents of an afterlife for animals must face. It is to imagine in some plausible fashion how predators could be transformed into non-predators and yet retain their identities as the creatures they are. Unless we can manage to meet this basic challenge, hope in a full defeat of evil for animals will understandably be subject to serious skepticism.

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the eschatological transformation of predators Southgate arrives at the same main conclusions that I have supported so far on eschatological hope for animals. He maintains on canonical grounds that a new earthly order will ensue, continuous with the old order on some levels, yet discontinuous on others.52 He provides some of the same grounds that I have given for belief that God will include animal individuals, at least in the “higher” or relatively complex species and almost certainly in the instance of species with sentience. Southgate cites Jay McDaniel’s comment that “The problem is not death, it is incompleteness.”53 Like Moltmann, both writers are disposed to accept what I have called Cosmic Universalism, the eschatological transformation and immortalization, or in Eastern Orthodox terms, the “deification,” of all created human and nonhuman creatures and things. Southgate devotes several pages to the problem of how predators might be transformed for existence in Heaven. He comments on McDaniel’s discussion of the “insurance chicks” that pelicans hatch. The parents produce two chicks, just in case one dies in the nest. If the first chick survives, the parents then drive the insurance chick out to die a pitiless death – to be caught, crushed, and eaten by a sand crab, usually, or simply to die from starvation and/or mere exposure to the elements. For McDaniel, the insurance chick is a miniature monument to the cruel injustice of “incompleteness” that is inscribed into nature. If God exists, it would seem that the injustice must be rectified in Heaven. McDaniel proposes that God will gather all animals that failed to flourish in their lifetimes and will enable them to do so in the hereafter. He employs the marquee “pelican heaven” for the realm in which this rectification of evolutionary wrongs will happen.54 Southgate accepts McDaniel’s proposal so far as it goes, but faults it for failing to address the problem of predators in Heaven. If God raises the poor pelican chicks to new life, will the sand crabs still scuttle along on the prowl for prey, or will God somehow change them into peaceable

52 53

54

Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 80–82. Southgate cites Jay B. McDaniel, “Can Animal Suffering Be Reconciled with Belief in an All-Loving God?” in Animals on the Agenda: Questions about Animals for Theology and Ethics, ed. Andrew Linzey and Dorothy Yamamoto (London: SCM Press, 1998), 170; Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 86. See also Jay B. McDaniel, Of God and Pelicans: A Theology of Reverence for Life (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1989). Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 87.

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non-predators? If God does transform them in that manner, however, in what sense do they remain sand crabs, properly so called, in conformity with their created natures? Would they not become different creatures altogether? Southgate rightly rejects the solution advanced by supporters of Lapsarian Theodicy, that the transformation merely requires that God restore predators to the form in which God created them in the first place, before the Fall.55 The problem of macro-predators that Southgate underscores also extends to all the billions of micro-predators on the phylogenetic spectrum. What indeed would a parasitic worm be without its genetic coding for parasitism? For reasons just given, like Denis Edwards and (apparently) Southgate, I am prepared to accept the hypothesis of Ernst Conradie that the entire history of evolution, from beginning to end, will be “inscribed in the eschaton,” so that (so Conradie) “nothing is lost.”56 Conradie envisions a resurrection of every creature that has ever lived. Edwards qualifies this hypothesis by reserving the possibility of “objective immortality” for some creatures – the most unpleasant ones, we suppose!57 It may be that Southgate and Edwards are right to suspect a future of “objective immortality” for some creatures (I nominate mosquitoes), although I wonder if such an outcome suffices to defeat the evil that God caused them to perpetrate. Perhaps this is one point at which apophatic wisdom should prevail. However, for the sake of argument, a recent discovery in genomic science provides a real-world example of how such a transformation of deadly and destructive micro-predators might happen, and how the evils that they perpetrated might be “defeated” for them.58 Earlier on, I mentioned Creegan’s account of remarkable recent research on the genetic role of viruses. Scientists were astonished to discover that after 55 56

57

58

Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 87. Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 87, citing Ernst M. Conradie, “Resurrection, Finitude, and Ecology,” in Resurrection: Theological and Scientific Assessments, ed. Ted Peters, Robert John Russell, and Michael Welker (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 292. Denis Edwards, “Every Sparrow that Falls to the Ground: The Cost of Evolution and the Christ-Event,” Ecotheology 11, no. 1 (March 2006): 103–23, here, 118–21. I am thinking of Marilyn McCord Adams’s proposal that not just victims of horrors but also the perpetrators who participated in them must have the evils “defeated” for them. In her view, both perpetrators and victims are demeaned as participants in horrors. Adams, Horrendous Evils, 26–28. Adams elaborated this thesis in Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), esp. 32–38.

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viruses had infected organisms and run their course, they were “reborn,” as it were, in the host’s genome, where they unexpectedly began to operate like genes and become agents of creativity and life. In their second existence, “resurrected” viruses manufactured the unique proteins necessary to the evolution of large internal organs, including the mammalian brain.59 In evolution, then, the evils done by these viruses were at least partially defeated. Who knows what alternatives God has available for defeating such evils in full? Meanwhile, again, the seemingly required transformation of macropredators into non-predators poses a conspicuous problem. It is a problem of continuing identity that Christian theists cannot afford to ignore, because on its face, such an eschatological transformation seems to be more the stuff of fantasy than a serious theology of cosmic ends. So much so that some writers, most notably James Dickey, maintain that predation will continue to occur in the postmortem Heaven.

dickey: predation in heaven? In “The Heaven of Animals,” James Dickey offers a poetic picture of predators happily hunting prey in Heaven. Dickey pictures the higher predators hunting, killing, and dismembering prey animals, just as they did in life – except that the prey animals do not suffer from the experience, and the predators do not eat them. Instead, the prey animals are miraculously reintegrated and rise back to life again. Then the cycle begins all over, and it goes on that way forever. So Dickey: They fall, they are torn, They rise, they walk again.60

Southgate approves Dickey’s scenario for preserving the created natures of both predators and prey, while eliminating the evil of suffering: “This is a heaven. . .that preserves the characteristics of species, but without pain or death or destruction.”61 He sees Dickey’s scenario as better than one in which no predation remains, for (so Southgate) it is “much truer to the scheme of

59 60

61

Creegan, Animal Suffering, 112–14, citing Ryan, Virolution. Dickey, “The Heaven of Animals,” in The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945‒1992 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1992), cited in Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 88–89. Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 89.

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continuity and discontinuity offered by Polkinghorne. . ..”62 However, I suggest that Dickey’s scenario is hard to accept, nevertheless (and is perhaps even confirmation of Deane-Drummond’s counsel of apophatic wisdom). For one thing, the scene of predators hunting down, dismembering, and disemboweling prey animals for eternity hardly fits with Isaiah’s vision of perfect peace and harmony between all creatures on the Holy Mountain of God. I concede Southgate’s point that the imagery of that passage is emblematic and arguably metaphorical rather than literal. Nevertheless, Dickey’s scenario seems incompatible with the vision of cosmic shalom – peace, harmony, and unambiguous flourishing on all levels of existence, including in the experience of animals. Further, we have to wonder whether the spectacle that Dickey envisions would be a good thing either in aesthetic or moral terms. What sort of person would take delight in watching prey animals run for their lives over and over again for eternity, only to be caught, savaged, and killed every time? Will we have living horror shows in Heaven? That prospect strikes me as rather voyeuristic and perverse. I have joined with others in affirming the tragic goodness and sad beauty of macro-predation. However, a major source of this moral beauty is the “kenotic” character of the interaction between predators and prey animals, i.e., that the entire event is framed by the sacrificial giving of life by one animal to another. I suggest that by removing the kenotic or “cruciform” life-giving and life-sustaining character from predation, as Dickey’s scenario does, the violence that remains would not be morally beautiful or good, but would become ugly and repugnant in a moral/ aesthetic sense, something that decent people would prefer not to watch. It is, at any rate, very hard to see how the scenario creates a larger whole, the great goodness of which defeats the evolutionary evils of the past as they continue to transpire in Heaven. In any event, I suggest that in order to have a scenario in which God defeats evolutionary evils for both predators and prey, it is best to imagine a postmortem realm without predation. Can we plausibly do so? I suggest that we can.

predators transformed Consider an eagle, for instance, one of the greatest and most admired predators on earth, at least in the Anthropocene Age. This bird has many 62

Southgate, The Groaning of Creation, 89.

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natural properties besides genetic coding for predation and carnivorousness. It is genetically coded for powerful flight, keen eyesight, and for a distinctive display of colors. Besides any adaptive advantages these characteristics may have, they also lead many people throughout the world to revere the eagle as beautiful and symbolic of human virtues, especially courage. People who have never observed an eagle pursuing and descending on prey (as I have many times in the wild) typically find its whole form to be majestic, inspiring, and stunningly sublime. The same properties that enable the eagle for predation also contribute to its beautiful overall form apart from their predatory and carnivorous functions. Now, if God were somehow miraculously to remove the predatory and carnivorous behavior and recode the eagle’s genome for vegetarianism (or perhaps “deify” it to need no food at all), while leaving its other properties intact, would it not still be the same eagle that it always was? The main change would have to be in the digestive system, assuming that a resurrected and “divinized” animal would even have one. But if they do, perhaps the change would be comparable to the evolutionary transformation of formerly carnivorous pandas into vegetarians.63 At any rate, since we are in the realm of what is plausible in the way of miraculous transformation, I would think that the burden of proof falls on anyone who claims that such a change is implausible. Let it stand, then, that such a change for eagles is at least as plausible as not, and if so, I presume it is plausible to that extent, at least, for all other macro-predators, too, and perhaps even for micro-predators (although they pose other problems). Sollereder suggests a “middle way” between normal predatory savagery in Heaven, on the one hand, and no predation at all, on the other. In this scenario (which she offers “playfully”), predators retain their predatory killing-properties but, as in human sports, primordial instincts are channeled in new harmless directions. Perhaps it will be a heavenly scene of “lions playing sports with gazelles” rather than actually killing them.64 I see no reason to rule this scenario out as implausible. Nevertheless, while I think an imaginary transformation of predators into non-predators is plausible, it is clearly not enough to have the evil63

64

The evolutionary case of pandas is endlessly interesting to genetic biologists. See, for example, Jenna Iacursi, “Giant Pandas Meant to Eat Meat, Not Bamboo,” in Nature World News (May 20, 2015), and Zhengsheng Xue et al. “The Bamboo-Eating Giant Panda Harbors a Carnivore-Like Gut Microbiota, with Excessive Seasonal Variations,” in mBio (May 2015). www.natureworldnews.com/articles/14778/20150520/giantpandas-meant-to-eat-meat-not-bamboo.htm. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 167.

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defeating justificatory force that we are seeking in explanation. What eschatological event, if any, could actually defeat evolutionary evils for both predators and prey? Sollereder does not explicitly seek to satisfy Chisholm’s prescribed criterion of defeat for evils. However, as we will see, her eschatological proposal qualifies to an extent as a God-justifying account with an aim of something like that conceptual kind. In Chapter 1, where Sollereder’s proposal came up in the discussion of the apparent dysteleology of “animal worlds,” I promised to come back to it and to give it the fairly detailed critical attention that it requires.

sollereder: an eschatological “fractal mosaic” To frame the proposal, Sollereder created a computerized fractal image of Michelangelo’s painting “The Creation of Adam.”65 The image looks like an ink or pencil drawing in black and white, but it is actually a “mosaic” made from thousands of photographs that are reduced to the size of pixels in various colorless shades of dark and light. Notably, the photos themselves have nothing thematic to do with one another. The subjects are completely disparate – cats, tin cans, people, places, and a variety of things collected indiscriminately, so that the subjects of the photos are irrelevant to the form of the larger fractal whole. What holds them together as a unified whole is rather the artificial form into which the computer has been coded to arrange them. This fractal image provides the conceptual framework for Sollereder’s proposal on how God will resolve apparent dysteleology and morally pointless suffering at the end of time. She proposes that at the eschatological end, God will resurrect all animals, transform them physically for immortality, and assemble them together as “pixels” that form a vast postmortem fractal mosaic. In the context of this fractal mosaic, each pixel-life is preserved in its own particular identity-terms, but it also acquires new God-justifying meaning by virtue of being a constitutive part of this vast redemptive mosaic whole. In that way, Sollereder proposes, God will resolve the problems of apparent dysteleology in the evolutionary history of “animal worlds,” as I called them, and will rectify (in effect, defeat) the evils suffered by animals in their former lives.

65

Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 166.

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Sollereder’s first point of explanation is that the eschatological, Godjustifying fractal mosaic in view is multi-leveled. So Sollereder: “Three levels of redemption combine in the fractal mosaic.”66 In this fashion, she provides an integrative framework for understanding and assessing the proposal. The first level is the one that Page (cited earlier) sees as sufficient in itself to justify animal suffering. Every creature has enjoyed the great good of existence and thereby participating connectedly with all other beings in the world. As we have seen, Sollereder rejects this God-justifying proposal, but accepts that the intrinsic goodness of being does at least have partial redemptive force. The second level follows naturally from the first one. It is Rolston’s thesis that (so Sollereder) “each creature contributes to the beauty and wholeness of the. . .larger mosaic of evolutionary development itself.”67 As we have seen, Rolston proposed that the “cruciform” character of evolution gave every animal life enough value to justify whatever suffering it incurred. In Rolston’s judgment, no evolutionary suffering is dysteleological, because every animal life partakes in the “cruciform” Darwinian purpose. Again, Sollereder rejects this proposal, but accepts that there is considerable, if only partial, justificatory force in the great goodness of the Darwinian kenosis, as I have referred to it. For full ¯ justification of Darwinian evil, however, an eschatological resurrection and rectification of evils in a postmortem realm is required. So far, these points are in line with my own analysis, particularly on the “cruciform” character of the Darwinian World. I have also supported the next part of her explanation. Sollereder proposes that for an account of God and evil to be convincing, a third eschatological level of redemption is required. For full redemption and justification for evils, God must have all creatures’ lives “disassembled” by death, raise them from death in a renewed physical form, and then miraculously reassemble them as “pixels” to form the great final fractal mosaic, which she describes as “a final picture of harmonious life.”68 So far, so much is clear: from the lowest to the highest, all three levels of life have the “self-similar signature of God’s redemptive purposes, and the whole image becomes a fractal of grace.”69

66 67 68 69

Sollereder, Sollereder, Sollereder, Sollereder,

God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 166. God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 167. God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 167. God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 167.

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However, at this point a key critical question begins to loom large. It is perhaps the key question for getting clear on and assessing Sollereder’s proposal. Besides the generalities – it is a “picture of harmonious life” and a “fractal of grace” – how exactly should we envision this final fractal image, so that we can see how it supposedly resolves and rectifies the dysteleological Darwinian evil suffered by animals in their former lives? With that question in mind, we welcome “a concrete historical example” designed to help us see what this eschatological resolution looks like.70 Sollereder invites us to consider her proposal on the three levels of redemption in the context of the KT Extinction of the dinosaurs. In the light of that horrific event, how should we picture redemption and rectification of evils for the dinosaurs? At Page’s first level, each creature, no matter what its circumstances, at least had its particular life and made its own valuable contribution to the world. But then the lethal meteorite struck and led to the extermination of the dinosaurs.71 Nevertheless, it opened the way for the second level of redemption. On the second level of redemption (recall Rolston), Sollereder proposes that by dying as they did en masse, the dinosaurs opened the way sacrificially for the diversification of mammals and, thereby, for the eventual existence of human beings, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and all the great human goods that we value, such as the glorious music of Bach.72 According to Sollereder, the lives of the dinosaurs are made still more meaningful than on Page’s first level by being connected in that sacrificial second-level fashion with us. We literally owe them our lives and everything that is good about human existence!73 It needs noting, I think, that in explaining the previous point, Sollereder likens this case to what the author of Hebrews 11 wrote on the lives of faithful pre-Christian Israelites. According to the writer, their lives acquire new depth and intensity of meaning in and through the faith of their unanticipated descendants, the Christians.74 Likewise, Christians commonly view Abraham’s life of faith as being made still more meaningful than it was in its own time by the new form of faith that is now made possible in Christ.75 This comparison between the extinction of the 70 71 72 73 74 75

Sollereder, God, Sollereder, God, Sollereder, God, Sollereder, God, Sollereder, God, Sollereder, God,

Evolution, Evolution, Evolution, Evolution, Evolution, Evolution,

and Animal Suffering, 171. and Animal Suffering, 171. and Animal Suffering, 171. and Animal Suffering, 172. and Animal Suffering, 172. and Animal Suffering, 172.

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dinosaurs and the faithful lives of pre-Christian Israelites calls for further critical comment, and I will come back to it a little later on. Meanwhile, we now come to eschatological level three of Sollereder’s explanation. How does the mosaic in view enable us to see how God resolves the apparent dysteleology and cruelty of the KT Extinction and all that it represents? Unfortunately, however, at this critical point, where we expect the proposal to come into sharper specific focus, Sollereder demurs from providing details on the eschatological mosaic image as it pertains to this historical case. Surprisingly, at this point, she falls back on blurry generalities, instead: we do not know what the postmortem experience will be like for any animals, but whatever it is like, we may trust that it will be appropriate to their particular natures and needs.76 It seems that rather than homing in on the core of the proposal, she leads us unexpectedly away from the core to the periphery, on a counsel of “apophatic wisdom” instead. Now in fairness, we can see how, as Sollereder observes, the notion of a fractal mosaic could preserve “this-worldly” meaning (on levels one and two) in “an other-worldly sense.” The nature of the preservation is problematic, because the photos are preserved in a minimized, pixel-like form, but on this analogy, they do at least remain intact (although we wonder who besides God could see them). However, we cannot see – and must see for assessment – at least the outline of what this crucial meaningmaking and God-justifying “other-worldly sense” of the mosaic is like. Without this outline, I do not know how the analogy can add very much, if anything, to the eschatological picture that we already have from canonical sources without it. We have seen that to demur from a description of the afterlife in “wisely apophatic” terms is a defensible stance to take, even though I advised against taking it. However, in this instance, so far as Sollereder’s eschatological proposal goes, this explanatory reticence seems selfdefeating. For again, without at least a bare outline of the fractal mosaic image that we should think God might create, we have no way of seeing how it can do the God-justifying work that it allegedly will do for animals. Otherwise, why bother with the complexity of fractal imagery? Why not deal with the eschatological outcome more simply, as DeaneDrummond does? As we have seen, Deane-Drummond proposed that from Scripture, we know all we need to know about the afterlife: it is

76

Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 173.

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bodily in some radically modified sense; it is earthly, too, albeit in a nomic form as yet unknown; peace, justice, and flourishing prevail there for all creatures and things; and, just as Sollereder suggests, it is indeed a realm of grace and praise centered on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We do not need the technical intricacy of appeal to the analogy of a fractal mosaic in order to articulate these straightforward, biblically grounded things about life in Heaven. Further, however, I suggest that not having at least a sketch of the fractal image that God might create from all the epochal “pixels” creates yet another problem. For without such an outline, at least, it is hard to know whether such a God-justifying eschatological work of art is even plausible. In fact, two points of Sollereder’s explanation support suspicion that it very well might be implausible. One source of skepticism is Sollereder’s admission that the various parts of the final fractal mosaic do not currently fit together, on “thisworldly” levels one and two, in anything like the way that she proposes they will do on the “other-worldly” eschatological level three. So she emphatically rejects the well-worn proposal that redemptive history is analogous to a tapestry that God is in the process of weaving. She rejects this analogy because, first of all, unlike the pixels in her fractal image, the particular threads of a tapestry have no value in themselves.77 More importantly, though (so Sollereder), on close inspection, one can actually see signs that a tapestry is being woven long before it is completely done. In contrast, she proposes, the meaning of a fractal mosaic is not manifest “until the mosaic is assembled.”78 It is a crucial point: “These upper levels of meaning are not automatically generated from the lower levels: God carefully constructs them.”79 So it seems that try as we might, we will not see a fractal mosaic emerging from the disparate pictures comprised by Darwinian evolution. It seems clear enough, then, that Sollereder’s account cannot meet the Seeing Condition that I proposed must be met in order for a Godjustifying eschatological scenario to be sufficiently plausible. Otherwise (so I argued), the scenario will seem to be contrived and ad hoc rather than offering a perspective that helps us to “see” the evils in view in a theistic light – with “theistic sight.” Perhaps the goods cited by Page and Rolston partly do so, but Sollereder stresses that they neither generate nor 77 78 79

Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 165–66. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 166. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 171.

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disclose truth about the nature of the mosaic-redemption on the third level. If not, however, assuming that the image that God forms is not arbitrary, but is purposely directed at defeating evils suffered by creatures in their former lives, we rightly wonder how constructing a coherent mosaic whole from just these parts is plausible. Further along this line, however, grounds for skepticism arise from what seems to be a rather serious logical conflict between two key parts of her explanation. Unhappily, it is a conflict – a contradiction – that seems to be embedded in the proposal’s very core. On one side, Sollereder proposes that due to reduction of the disparate pictures to mere “pixels,” the actual contents of which are invisible to the unaided eye, God could assemble them into any image at God’s artistic discretion. On this conception, the actual content of the pixels is irrelevant to the overall mosaic image: In a photo mosaic, one pixel may be a picture of a cat. Yet, in the larger scale picture, it forms part of a human finger. In yet another larger scale, the human finger forms part of an icon of the Trinity. Each level forms a whole that contains its own meaning. The meaning of the arrangement, colour, and shade of each image changes depending on the scale. Similarly, God takes the multi-levelled world narratives of tragedy and triumph and arranges them into ever-redemptive forms, changing their meanings.80

So the pixel just as well could be a minimized picture of a dinosaur that died of horrible diseases, or a fawn that died an agonizingly slow death after being burned in a forest fire. It could be a minimized photo of anything at all. The integral wholeness of the fractal mosaic is purely on the level of its final form (whatever that form is).81 In contrast, however, another part of Sollereder’s explanation seems clearly to imply that the actual content of the pixels/photos is not irrelevant, but is as crucial as it could be. The importance of the contents to the whole seems clearly to follow from the explanation of the pixel/photo of Jesus Christ. This seeming conflict arises from Sollereder’s assertion that in picturing the final God-justifying fractal mosaic, we should “imagine the events of 80 81

Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 171. There are some indications that Sollereder does see the construction as arbitrary. For instance, she writes: “One could use the same set of photographs to create a mosaic of Raphael’s ‘The Transfiguration’ or one of [Hieronymus] Bosch’s disturbing images of hell. It is God’s eschatological work that creates one instead of the other.” Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 171. But I take it that she cannot intend for us to think that the image that God chooses is arbitrary.

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the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as the central pixel, the mosaic’s organising point at the lowest level of personal narrative.”82 She suggests that the Christ story is like a “cornerstone” around which all the other pixels are arranged, or like an “algorithm that arranges and aligns the pixels with one another. . ..” It does so, she suggests, by means of the “upside-down Kingdom power and logic that brought Jesus to the cross. . ..”83 Sollereder proposes that this mosaic imagery is reminiscent of the glorious scene in Revelation 5 wherein the Lamb slaughtered sits enthroned as the center of everything happening in Heaven – in “a mosaic of praise.”84 So on this part of Sollereder’s explanation, the forthcoming eschatological image is a mosaic, in which all the photos are oriented towards and connected thematically with the redemptive actions of Christ. But if so, then Sollereder does not seem to be describing a fractal mosaic anymore, but something more akin to a montage or perhaps a collage of actual pictures, not a drawing made from dot-like pixels. For how else could the picture of Christ enthroned and its redemptive theme be central, or be a cornerstone, or be like an algorithm for all the rest? Unless I am mistaken, then, this key part of the explanation logically undermines the conceptual core of the God-justifying proposal itself. The eschatological image envisioned is not a fractal mosaic, after all, but a glorious photographic display of some kind, centered on the imagery of Christ. Finally, meanwhile, we still await an explanation of how the final fractal picture – or montage – enables us to envision God resolving the substantive dysteleology and suffering included in the subjects’ former lives. Unfortunately, besides the evidential and conceptual critical points that were just raised, Sollereder’s explanation also raises moraljustificatory concerns in at least two areas of the explanation. First, in discussing justification for the horrific evil that came with the KT Extinction, instead of relating the eschatological fractal mosaic to the event, Sollereder stresses the great goods that the cataclysmic annihilation of the dinosaurs made possible for mammals, and particularly for human beings. By dying as they did, the dinosaurs made possible the incarnation of God in Christ along with great human goods, such as the music of Bach. In fairness, Sollereder does not appeal to these goods as having full justificatory force. Elsewhere, for fuller justification, she appeals to the “only-way” thesis – that 82 83 84

Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 175. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 175–76. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 177–78.

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Darwinian evolution was the only way for God to create species, and in that case, many things displeasing to God were bound to happen.85 Nevertheless, the emphasis placed on justificatory value of these mainly anthropocentric goods, rather than on a third-level redemption for the dinosaurs, raises the extremely tangled metaphysical matter of the sort of divine agency that could have been involved. For, once the “animal world” of dinosaurs evolved and flourished, it stood in the way of God’s crowning creative aim – to create mammalian and, particularly, human life. Did God, then, target this “world” and cause the meteorite to destroy it? Or was their annihilation a happy, random accident? All things theistic considered, it seems that the answer to the second question must be “no,” so our answer to the first one has to be an uncomfortable “yes.” Once they existed as they did, sooner or later, if God’s aim all along was to bring forth mammalian and distinctly human life, then the dinosaurs had to be exterminated by some means. The wholesale manner of their expedient demise, then, is not really comparable to the as-yet-unfulfilled faith of pre-Christian Israelites, who – unlike the dinosaurs – left a rich “evolutionary” religious legacy to subsequent generations of believers in the Jewish and Christian God. The fate of the dinosaurs seems much more comparable to the genocidal removal of the Canaanites from the Promised Land, so that the Israelites could flourish in their place. Obviously, we require a better moral justification for this (alleged) action on God’s part than that, by being exterminated, the Canaanites were forever linked in sacrificial death to the lives and the many goods enjoyed by the Israelites instead. (One could extend this point to include the fate of Native Americans during the ethnic cleansing of North America, too.) Meanwhile, the second moral-justificatory concern is whether Sollereder’s account provides grounds for belief that God will not merely compensate animals somehow for their suffering, or simply balance the evil of their suffering off by bestowing compensatory goods upon them in the afterlife. As I have argued, to succeed, a God-justifying account must include a plausible enough scenario of God defeating evil. In other words, the account must meet the Defeat Condition. Does Sollereder’s account do so? At numerous points in her discussion, Sollereder suggests that God will do something very like what Chisholm described as the defeat of evil. For, in answering the question, “Why not create Heaven first?” she chimes in with Southgate, who underlines many great goods, such as bravery, that

85

Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 52–53.

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incorporate evils into a larger valuable whole.86 Further, while she does not accept it, she affirms Dougherty’s scenario (to be discussed next), in which God defeats animal suffering by giving them the cognitive capacity to make sense of and to affirm their former lives, despite their suffering.87 However, in parts of her explanation, at least, we are led logically to think that the fractal mosaic in view (so far as she describes it) would not defeat evils for animals. Why not? It would seem that the fractal image in view could not defeat Darwinian evil suffered in the former lives of animals (level two), simply because it does not incorporate the actual contents of the lives involved into its final form. If God has somehow defeated the evils suffered in life before minimizing the resurrected and transformed beasts to the size of pixels, we are left to wonder how the lives lived formerly, on levels one and two, are integrated into redeemed other-worldly existence on level three. One thing seems clear, though: the formal fractal whole does not do so, simply because by definition, it cannot. For it is an artificial contrivance on the level of mere form, not substance (or else it is integrated on the level of substance and is, in that instance, not a fractal mosaic, but a collage or montage of pictures arranged according to an integrative theme). To conclude, Sollereder provides an innovative approach, which is valuable mainly for integrating the proposals of others – especially Page, Rolston, and Southgate – into a comprehensive account. However, for reasons given, I have to conclude that it does not meet all the logical, evidential, and moral conditions that a “case for God,” or causa Dei, must meet for sufficient explanatory success. Moving on then, before I offer my own account, I should consider one more proposal on animals and the afterlife. It seems that Dougherty is the only theist in the conversation on God and animal pain who has sought systematically to show how God might meet Chisholm’s Defeat Condition for animals in an afterlife. Let us look, then, at his provocative theodicy of “saint-making.”

defeating darwinian evil: dougherty on making animal saints Dougherty accepts Chisholm’s criterion that for moral justification, God must defeat the evils that God authorizes. Dougherty reshapes Hick’s 86 87

Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 173–74. Sollereder, God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering, 168–69.

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theodicy of “soul-making” into distinctly Christian terms – he refers to it as a theodicy of “saint-making.”88 As mentioned earlier, Marilyn Adams employed this Defeat Condition creatively in her treatment of “horrendous” evils, but confined its application to human beings, because humans alone are “meaning makers,” i.e., cognitively capable of engaging in deep spiritual reflection on the overall sense and worth of their lives amid the experience of great evil, as meeting this condition seems to require persons to do. In response, Dougherty proposes that God will override that cognitive limitation postmortem by endowing animals with human-like cognitive capacities, so that they, too, can encounter Christ and be challenged to make retrospective sense of what they suffered and, in that light, choose to embrace their lives as good on the whole despite – or even because of – the evils. Dougherty refers to a scene in C. S. Lewis’s fantasy The Magician’s Nephew, in which an old cabby and his horse are magically transported into the land of Narnia. The old cart horse, Strawberry, suddenly acquires the gift of speech and begins to converse with the driver about their long years together, and to reflect on the good and the bad sides of their relationship. Dougherty proposes that this “pairwise process” will be necessary to reconciliation between all parties involved – God, humans, and animals will have to “work things out,” so to speak: In the process of reconciliation, if God has been good to his creatures and acted justly by them, then if they are virtuous, they will find their peace with God. In this peace will be the defeat of the evil they suffered.89

So according to Dougherty, before animals are allowed entry into Heaven, like humans, they must be reconciled with God. Dougherty envisions the animals being interviewed by an emissary who narrates each animal’s life, which it learns about for the first time.90 The animal is then given an opportunity to embrace its life, suffering and all, and thereby to embrace the goodness that God has, despite appearances, shown to it. If the animal says, “yes” to its life – and therewith, to God – then the animal acquires sainthood, which as it is for human saints, is primarily a matter of embracing one’s suffering gratefully as a gift from God.91 What should

88 89 90 91

Dougherty, Dougherty, Dougherty, Dougherty,

The Problem of Animal Pain, 135. The Problem of Animal Pain, 153. The Problem of Animal Pain, 151–53. The Problem of Animal Pain, 153.

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we make of this innovative theodicy of “saint-making”? I suggest that it is subject to at least three critical questions.92 One question is whether it would in fact be morally good for God to put animals in this envisioned position, in effect forcing them to use their newly acquired mental abilities to make such a momentous choice, a choice that will determine their eternal destinies. I just explained why I think that part of the God-justifying explanation of animal suffering should be that God assumes the burden of responsibility for what God has made them suffer in nature. In my scenario, animals have already done more than enough to warrant a divine welcome into Heaven, free from any further conditions, much less the threat of exclusion forever! Second, we wonder whether the epistemic conditions envisioned by Dougherty suffice for requiring such a momentous and potentially disastrous choice? What would it mean, say, for a cat to hear a secondhand account of its former life? Would the newly “awakened” animal be in an epistemic position to make such a decision? Dougherty likens the situation to God’s supposedly similar treatment of human infants and very young children who die before their time.93 However, I am not sure that the imagined epistemic situation is morally sufficient for human infants and children, either. Should we not assume that the God of “kenotic” love would waive conditional tests for entry into Heaven in these instances? Of course one might adapt Dougherty’s theory of “saint-making” to a different metaphysical model, in which animals and children hear their stories told and explained with such insight and love that they simply come to see the sense of their truncated lives, accept the degree of goodness God has nevertheless shown them, and go forward enjoying positive union with God in conditions of “deification.” However, I am disposed to believe that, in both instances, the unfortunate subjects have already endured enough, and that, on death, they will “this day” join God and the saints in paradise. Finally, we wonder whether the transformation of animals that Dougherty envisions is not too extreme to preserve the created identities of the creatures in view. For, endowed with human-like minds and meaning-making powers, the consciousness of animals would be so radically different from what it once was that it is doubtful whether their natural identities would remain intact. Has the animal perhaps instead 92

93

For a more detailed review of Dougherty’s book, see John R. Schneider, “Review of The Problem of Animal Pain,” in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (December 24, 2014). Dougherty, The Problem of Animal Pain, 151.

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been “reincarnated” as another, “higher” sort of being, rather than resurrected as the being that it always was? One recalls Lamarck’s theory on an evolutionary transmutation of species, according to which species simply “turn into” others. Even if not, however, the envisioned eventual transformation would seem at least to elevate the moral standing of the animals to an extent that calls for radical reexamination of all our traditional instrumental uses of them in society. In an axiology that takes the whole picture into account, it would seem to support treating them very nearly like the way we normally treat fellow human persons. Awareness that God is at work making them into persons – saints – would seem to entail Species Egalitarianism and the difficulties that come with that axiology for God-justifying accounts of Darwinian suffering by animals. It is also inherent in Hick’s theodicy of soul-making that suffering is the essential mechanism by means of which God creates mature souls – or saints – so the moral status of suffering comes into question. Does this theodicy not tend to turn suffering itself into a good, so that alleviating it would be something bad, rather than good? I am not suggesting that this line of objection is insuperable, for the theory of martyr-making that I will offer is open to that criticism, too. Unlike anthropogenic suffering, which we can stop, Darwinian suffering by animals is for the most part unstoppable by human means. It is a structural reality – “evil inscribed” – that we must simply accept as such and deal with as best we can. My main point here is that it is hard to know what to think about changes this awareness should effect in our current animal axiology in the context of theodicy, aside from ethics. Is there another, more plausible way to envision God defeating evil for animals? I invite readers to consider a scenario in which God defeats Darwinian evil by elevating animals to high heavenly standing analogous to the venerated position enjoyed by human martyrs, according to Christian tradition.

defeating darwinian evil: making animal martyrs The rare, yet important, descriptions of Heaven in the Bible envision animals existing in material conditions that frame new moral, spiritual, and social realities for all creatures and things. In Isaiah 65, the prophet envisions God creating “new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17) in which various forms of injustice such as premature death will be no more

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(Isaiah 65:19–20), where people will prosper in their houses, vineyards, and families, and, as noted several times, the wolf will coexist peaceably with the lamb (Isaiah 65:25). Besides the moral transformation – the absence of sorrow, pain, and death (Revelation 21:3–4) with the dominion of peace, justice, and prosperity – the new heavenly city of Jerusalem will be radiant with breathtaking beauty: “It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:11). The author goes on to describe this gigantic city as beautiful beyond imagination. It is a place of “pure gold, clear as glass,” the foundations of its walls adorned with jewels of all kinds, and streets of clear gold glass (Revelation 21:18–21). The city has no temple, nor any need of one (no need for mediation between human beings and God), nor need for the sun or moon, because “the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. . .and there will be no night there” (Revelation 21:22–25). The imagery strongly suggests an improvement of the original conditions in Eden described in Genesis – there the Sea and Darkness linger, and the sun, moon, and stars must mediate the divine light. On the renewed earth, God illumines everything continuously. Even without a cognitive transformation of the kind that Dougherty’s theodicy requires, it is not hard to imagine a scene of animals subjectively happy in an earthly messianic Heaven, so described. However, their happiness would not be enough to defeat the evolutionary suffering they incurred in life, i.e., to make the suffering itself an essential contributor to the kind of heavenly happiness enjoyed by the animals postmortem, and rendering that suffering meaningful on the whole rather than just a regrettable remainder of the process. How could evolutionary evil be defeated for animals in that morally integrative manner? Let us first consider that, in historic Christian teaching, Christian martyrs occupy the most honored place among the saints in the courts of Heaven. It seems that there is no greater good to be accredited to human beings in historic Christian teaching than to have given one’s own life for the Lord. The tradition surfaces in the book of Revelation, where we find this description of martyrs as particularly near and dear to the enthroned Christ. These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple.

266

Animal Suffering and the Darwinian Problem of Evil and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:14–17)94

In Christian tradition, martyrs do not have to pass tests for entry into Heaven. God, the angels, and all the saints simply welcome them with great admiration and praise for their Christ-like contributions. Further, due to their spiritual proximity to Christ in “kenotic” suffering, they will forever be nearest of all to God’s throne in intimate communion with Christ. One thinks of the tradition on the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who as he died from stoning, reportedly “gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’” (Acts 7:55–56). According to this tradition, Christ then received Stephen’s spirit (Acts 7:60). The earliest post-apostolic accounts of martyrdom, including the Martyrdom of Polycarp and the Martyrdom of Perpetua, show that veneration of martyrs was well underway in Christianity by the end of the second century.95 According to Rhoda Schuler, “Martyrs are both those whose life and death imitated Christ and who in death are assured close and immediate communion with God.”96 The link between Christ and the martyrs, both of whom made the ultimate sacrifice for God, is very strong and led to active veneration of martyrs as participants in Christ’s power to help Christians on earth.97 Schuler shows that the practice of venerating martyrs on their birth dates, gathering and worshiping around their collected bones, and believing that on that day the martyr came 94

95

96 97

On this passage and martyrdom, see Metzger, “Introduction to the Revelation of God,” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, New Revised Standard Version, ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Roland E. Murphy (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 364. Rhoda Schuler, “On the Veneration of Saints and Martyrs, Ancient and Modern,” Word & World 28, no. 4 (Fall 2008): 373–80. For details of manuscript history and debates over precise dating, Michael W. Holmes, “The Martyrdom of Polycarp and the New Testament Passion Narratives,” in Trajectories Through the New Testament and Apostolic Fathers, ed. Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 418–22. Schuler, “On the Veneration of Saints and Martyrs,” 375. Schuler, “On the Veneration of Saints and Martyrs,” 378.

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forward to join the heavenly chorus before the throne to be honored in a glorious way was grounded in an implied theology. The martyr’s remains were a “link between heaven and earth, between the divine and the human.”98 The main point for our purpose is that this Christian teaching affords martyrs, those who have sacrificed themselves in the manner of Christ, supremely high honor and praise in Heaven. To put this in Chisholm’s terms, the great goodness of that honored place in Heaven does not just outweigh or balance off the evils they suffered, but also defeats those evils by integrating them into the great goodness of their “kenotic” sacrifice in life. As with saints in Dougherty’s theodicy, it is simply impossible to be a martyr without Christ-like suffering. That is why the saints and martyrs (who are a special type of saint) do not regret the evil of their suffering, but are retrospectively (and not masochistically) grateful to God for their martyrdom and for the privilege of suffering for Christ’s sake, and others are grateful for their sacrifice, too. As I explained earlier, we should not see this suffering as good, but rather see it as a bad thing, even though we should consider it a good thing that this bad thing happened. Adams proposed that martyrdom was a surprisingly fitting framework for a God-justifying account of horrors suffered by human beings. She proposed that the merit of the horrific human sacrifice involved united martyrs with Christ in a manner that nothing else in human experience did.99 In this context, Adams proposed, delicately, that horrors are arguably a divine gift – a gift from Christ the ultimate martyr to impure and undeserving human beings.100 Considering the featured role that animals played in the history of Israel’s ritual sacrifice, and adding points I made about the sacrificial part that Jesus played as the incarnate nonhuman Lamb of God, it makes sense to understand sentient animals in their “cruciform” evolutionary suffering on the analogy of martyrs. As stressed repeatedly, their role in evolutionary history resembles that of Christ in its kenosis, the self¯ emptying that makes valuable nonhuman and human life possible. If the evil in the evolutionary suffering of sentient animals is defeated on the analogy of Christian martyrs, then God is justified in inscribing such suffering into the conditions of their existence. I do not think it is far-fetched to envision animals in Heaven flourishing in the new conditions of existence on an earth no longer “groaning” – set 98 99

Schuler, “On the Veneration of Saints and Martyrs,” 378. 100 See Adams, Christ and Horrors, 270–78. Adams, Christ and Horrors, 280–81.

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free from futility at long last, enjoying not just the wondrous physical glory of Heaven, as metaphorically described, but also universal admiration, gratitude, and praise from God, the angels, and humans for what they have done. One easily imagines that some of the songs sung by the angels, saints, and human martyrs will be sung for them, or even to them. I see no compelling reason to think not. For some animals already seem to have the ability to enjoy and respond favorably to praise. It is a commonplace among dog trainers, for instance, that praising dogs for desired behavior is more effective than punishing them for behavior that is bad.101 Experts on cats and some other animals report the same thing. If so, then it is entirely plausible that sentient animals could be made to know that they are being admired, even if not to comprehend precisely why they are. Perhaps sensitivity to praise could easily be intensified by “deification” in the messianic Heaven. One could go further in this direction and envision the animals as transformed cognitively enough to gain a limited grasp of why. However, I do not think this transformation is necessary in order for the causa Dei to succeed, since animals do not bring the question “why?” with them into the postmortem scene. Perhaps some “lower” animals would have to be made more sensitive to praise than they were in life – although there are “experts” who swear on their lives that even some species of bees respond to affection. However, even if they are not subjectively aware of praise, the defeat of evils for them would still occur in an objective sense, just as (so I proposed) “horrendous” evils happen to animals without them subjectively knowing or “owning” the experience. So far as I can see, then, the defeat of evils for animals on the analogy of martyrs is plausible enough for acceptance on the assumptions of canonical Christian theism.

conclusion I am not proposing that this positive, evil-defeating, God-justifying scenario is essential to the success of the “case for God” that I have made. As indicated above, I believe that even without this scenario, my causa Dei succeeds in at least meeting the standards that I accepted as criteria for explanatory “success.”

101

Stanley Coran, “Effectiveness of Rewards and Punishments in Dog Training,” Psychology Today (June 18, 2015).

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In the preceding chapters, I have engaged the evidential and justificatory challenges of the Darwinian Problem in both its formidable aesthetic and moral aspects, and I believe that I have done so in a manner that is, at the very least, as plausible as not on the assumptions of canonical Christian theism, understood in the terms that I have explained along the way. Again, I believe that the account considerably undermines anti-theistic evidential arguments. I also believe that it provides a distinctive aesthetic/ moral perspective from which to “see” glimmerings of divinity in nature, understood in Darwinian terms as a Darwinian World. Finally, I believe that it provides plausible enough grounds on which to harbor reasonable belief, faith, and hope that the Christian God will defeat evolutionary evils for all nonhuman beings in a promised postmortem messianic eschatological realm. Despite the unexpected unveiling of apparently dysteleological waste and cruelty inscribed into the conditions of existence for animals inhabiting the Darwinian World, then, I propose that we have good grounds for belief that the God of Christian theism has nevertheless been, is being, and will be good to animals – all of them. In this light, I submit that we may reasonably hope, with Tennyson, that near the end of things, “nothing walks with aimless feet,” or is finally “cast as rubbish to the void.” I submit that we may, with good reason, join with his sentiments so eloquently expressed in In Memoriam: I can but trust that good shall fall At last – far off – at last, to all, And every winter change to spring.102

I believe that we may reasonably look ahead to awakening to a time when bloodless ravines resound with animals no longer shrieking from the savage saber of “tooth and claw,” but from uncontainable joy.

102

Tennyson, In Memoriam, canto 54.

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Index

Adams, Marilyn McCord, 51, 70 aesthetics and ethics, 139–41 aesthetics and Scripture, 141–42 horrendous evil, 36–38, 157 horrors, truth-telling role of, 161–62 Adams, Robert Merrihew, 7, 37, 51, 72 Aesthetic Theodicy classical versions of, 144–45 conceptual advantages of, 137–38 conceptual disadvantages of, 138–39 post-classical versions of, 145–48 Aesthetics and ethics. See Tallon, Philip; Adams, Marilyn McCord Alston, William, 67 Ansell, Nicholas serpent in Genesis 2–3, the, 106 Anti-theistic arguments, informal commonsense atheism, 48–50 Apophatic wisdom. See Deane-Drummond, Celia Aquinas, Thomas Aesthetic Theodicy. See Aesthetic Theodicy atonement, the, 206 Aristotle, 135 endoxa, 60–61 tragedy, 147–48 Atheism, modern scientific sources of, 16–17 Atonement, the, 233 Abelard's theory of, and animals, 235 Balthasar's theory of, and animals, 237–38

Deane-Drummond’s theory of, and animals, 237–38 Girard's theory of, and animals, 236 Gregersen's theory of, and animals, 236 Luther's theory of, and animals, 236 Augustine Adam and the Fall, 91–94 on tragedy, 146 Babylonian Theodicy, the, 178 Balentine, Samuel, 167 Chaos Dragon and the Sea, 173 jackals and ostriches, symbolic in Job, 176 on Job’s suffering, 170 Ball, Philip, 30 Balthasar, Hans Urs von, 137, 140–41 Beecher, Henry Ward, 27 Benton, Michael, 128 Permian Extinction, the, 25 Tree of Life, mostly dead, 214–15 Bergmann, Michael skeptical theses on evils, 65–66 Best possible world belief in better world unjustifiable? (Murray), 126 better (Lamarckian) possible world?, 128–29 Boethius Aesthetic Theodicy. See Aesthetic Theodicy Bowne, Borden, 42 Boyd, Gregory, 83, 85 Satan and the Fall, 83 Bullivant, Stephen, 16

282

Index Calvin, John, 19, 81, 92, 100 cause of natural evils, 81 Carruthers, Peter, 57, 62–63 Causa Dei, 79, 90 Chambers, Robert, 34 Chaos-to-Order worlds (Murray), 120–21 Chisholm, Roderick, 7–8, 70–73 aesthetic moral agency, 74–75 defeat of evil, 72–74 Clark, Stephen, 63 Coakley, Sarah, 43 ethico-teleological character of evolution, 53–55 natural theology and altruism, 44 Commonsense atheism Plantinga and Swinburne, 48–50 Cooper, Jonathan Alfred, 188 God and Chaos, 187 Corey, Michael, 117–19 Cosmic Universalism, 14, 198, 218, 220, 222–25, 227, 233, 235, 241, 245, 248 aesthetic and moral grounds for, 225–27 canonical grounds for, 223–25 Couenhoven, Jesse, 94 Craig, William Lane resurrection, evidence of, 241 Creegan, Nicola Hoggard, 18–19, 30, 43 aesthetics of evolution, 145 Darwinism and the Fall, 82 divinitatis sensum, 19 lost “theistic sight” and Darwinism, 19 teleological aspects of evolution, 30–33 Darwin, Charles, 15–18, 23, 27, 38 religious doubts, 15–16 Darwinian kenosis, 202–4, 208, 217 ¯ as evidence for theism, 208–9 Darwinian Problem, the loss of “theistic sight,” 18–20 Darwinian World unveiled anti-cosmic micro-monsters, 38–42 deep evolutionary time, 20–22 evils inscribed, 42–43 plurality of worlds, 22–24 Davis, Stephen T. resurrection, rationality of belief in, 242 Dawkins, Richard, 49, 112 Deane-Drummond, Celia apophatic wisdom on afterlife for animals, 246–48

283

atonement theory (Balthasar) and animals, 237–38 drama, evolution as, 28, 131 evolution as “cruciform,” critique of, 204–8 horrendous evil and mass extinctions, 37 imago Dei, 229–30 objections to kenotic analogy, 204–6 shadow sophia, 238–40 Defeat Condition, 8, 73–74, 118, 163, 194, 197, 216, 246, 260–62 Dembski, William, 83, 88, See Fall, the DePoe, John M., 65 Descartes, René, 57, 63 Dickey, James predation in Heaven, 250–51 Dillard, Annie, 39 micro-monsters, 39–40 Dinosaurs diseases of, 40–42 KT Extinction, the, 255 Divine Command Theory, 71 Domning, Daryl, 17, 235 Dougherty, Trent, 18, 58, 60–62, 65–67, 119 critique of neo-Cartesian theory, 60 saint-making, 261–64 Drama, evolution as. See DeaneDrummond, Celia Draper, Paul, 51, 53, 56, 65 evidential argument for atheism, 53–55 natural selection, atheistic implications of, 54 Dysteleology of evolution, 131 aesthetic aspect of, 27–30 mass extinctions, 24–26 Eden aesthetics of, 143 Ellis, George, 121 Engel, Mylan, Jr., 77 Epistemic distance. See Nomic regularity (Miller and Corey) Erwin, Douglas H., 25 Evidential anti-theistic arguments Rowe and Draper, 50–52 Evolution as “cruciform,” debated, 204–8 Exodus, the aesthetics of, 143 Extinctions, mass, 24 as “horrendous” evils, 37 fractal mosaic theory of (Sollereder), 255–57

284

Index

Extinctions, mass (cont.) God-justifying explanations, 26–27 KT Extinction of dinosaurs, 25 Permian Extinction, the, 25–26 Fall, the, 18, 21, 80–84, 97, 100–4, See Lapsarian Theodicy as cause of natural evil, 80–83 as cause of predation, 87 Dembski’s trans-temporal understanding of, 83 fragility objection, the, 84–85 Genesis story and theodicy, 103–7 problem of moral impropriety, 85–89 problem of overvalued freedom, 99 problem of paradisiacal motivation, 89–99 Satanic (Boyd), 10 Satanic (Dembski), 87–88 Schleiermacher’s critique of Fall story, 81 serpent, role of in Genesis (Goldingay), 105 story undermined by Darwinism (Creegan), 82 Farley, Wendy tragic beauty, 149–51 Farrer, Austin, 75, 123 mutual interference of natural systems, 123 tragic beauty, 149 Fiske, John, 42 Fosl, Peter, 160 Fractal mosaic theory (Sollereder), 253–61 Goldingay, John serpent, the (Genesis story), 105 Gould, Stephen J., 3, 23, 131 punctuated equilibrium, 23 Gray, Asa, 16 Gregersen, Niels, 236, 240, See Atonement, the Gunkel, Hermann Cosmos and Chaos, 104 Haarsma, Deborah and Loren, 82 Hallam, Arthur Henry, 34 Harrison, Peter, 59, 61, 63 animal pain, 59 Hart, David Bentley horrors, 156

Haught, John, 18–20, 28, 121, 128–34, 137, 141, 145, 147–49, 154, 156 evolutionary tragedy and natural theology, 132–34 narrative structure of evolution, 28, 129–31 natural theology, 133 tragic beauty as God-justifying good, 134–35 Hellwig, Monika, 17, 235 Hettinger, Ned sublime, the, 151–55 Hick, John, 13, 85–86, 124–25, 144–45, 163, 219 Hooker, Joseph, 15 Hopkins, Gerard Manley selving, of animals, 226 Horror, 50, 78, 146, 156–57, 160 Horror, aesthetics of, 157–58 Horrors and animals, 158–60 Howard-Snyder, Daniel, 51 Huxley, Thomas, 15 Imago Dei, 64, 228 as royal Semitic idiom, 230–33 and Species Egalitarianism, 231–33 Ingersoll, Robert, 48–49 James, William saintliness, 96 Joad, C. E. M., 59, 61 Job, book of Behemoth and Leviathan, 187–90 chaos (rogez) as theme, 171–72 ¯ Darwinian Problem, relevance to, 193–94 Deuteronomic tradition, 168 divine speeches, the, 177–80 Elihu, 174–77 Eliphaz, 173 God and Leviathan, 187–90 God and the Sea (Newsom), 182–84 interpretation of, 165, See Stump, Eleonore jackals and ostriches, symbolism of, 176 Job’s “theistic sight” restored, 190–91 Joban theodicy, assessment of, 195–99 Leviathan, Chaos Dragon, 171, 173 liminal boundaries (Newsom), 181–82 messianic sublime, the, 192–93 post-exilic setting, 168–69 rhetorical sublime, the, 178–80

Index Satan, 167, 169 as sequel to Eden story (Balentine), 169 sequel to Genesis, 167 suffering for no reason (Balentine), 170 symbolism of wild animals (Newsom), 184 John of the Cross, St., 96 Kant, Immanuel aesthetics and ethics, 139 Kelly, J. N. D., 92–93 on Augustine and Adam, 93 King, Stephen horror, 158 Kitcher, Philip, 29 evolution as a Tree of Death, 29 Klapwijk, Jacob, 31 Lamarck, Jean-Baptiste, 34, 128 Lapsarian Theodicy, 10, 22, 46, 79–84, 86, 88, 90–91, 93, 95, 97–100, 107, 121, 249, See Fall, the non-scientific objections to, 83–84 Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, 9, 78, 109–10 best possible world, 110 theodicy, 75 Leviathan, Chaos Dragon. See Job, book of Lewis, C. S., 59 Adam and the Fall, 95 animal immortality, 222 animal pain, 58 Lewis, David, 75–76 Linzey, Andrew, 59, 220, 228, 240, 248 Lynch, Joseph, 60, 62–63 Mackie, J. L., 76 Malebranche, Nicolas, 63 Martyr-making, of animals, 264–68 McBrayer, Justin P., 65 Middleton, J. Richard imago Dei, 230 Miller, Kenneth, 118 Milton, John, 69, 75, 80 Moltmann, Jürgen Cosmic Universalism, 225 Monsters, aesthetics of, 160–61 Morris, Simon Conway, 31 Murdoch, Iris tragedy, 146 tragedy vs. horror, 157

285

Murphy, Nancey, 109, 121 free-cosmos theodicy, 121–26 kenotic theodicy, 121–25 Murray, Michael, 9, 18 better possible world?, 126–29 Chaos-to-Order worlds intrinsically good, 120–21 epistemic conditions for God-justifying explanation, 75–79 moral justificatory conditions, 70–72 natural selection and animal suffering, 42 nomic regularity, 114–15 paradisiacal motivation of Adam, 89–99 Narrative, evolution as. See Haught, John Natural evil, the Darwinian problem of, 17 Natural selection and suffering, 42–43 Necessity Condition, 7–8, 52, 56, 67–68, 71–72, 74, 84, 110, 163, 194, 197 replaced, 67–68 Neo-Cartesian theory, 57–65 critique of, 59–64 defense of, 57–59 Newsom, Carol, 167 Chaos in Job, 171 Job, tragic insight as ending, 190 Leviathan in Job, 187–90 liminal boundaries in Job, 181–82 Sea, the. See Job, book of wild animals, symbolism of. See Job, book of Nibert, David animal oppression, 63 Nomic regularity epistemic distance and genuine moral freedom (Miller and Corey), 118–20 an intrinsic good, 120–21 source of moral personhood (Swinburne), 115–18 Norcross, Alastair, 60 Numbers, Ronald L., 21 O Felix Culpa, 205 Objective immortality of animals (Rolston), 221–22 Oord, Thomas God’s power thwarted by chaotic powers, 104 Original Righteousness of Adam, 93

286

Index

Original Selfishness (Domning and Hellwig) animal morality, 234 Outweighing Condition, 70–71, 73, 85, 117, 156, 195 Page, Ruth, 26, See Extinctions, mass existence as a God-justifying good, 149 on God and extinctions, 26 Perrine, Timothy, 65 Plantinga, Alvin, 50, 83, 86, 97–98, 111 Fall, the, 97–98 Supralapsarianism, 98 Pluhar, Evelyn, 61–62 Poinar, George, Jr., and Roberta diseases of dinosaurs, 40–42 Polkinghorne, John, 114, 121, 125 animal immortality, 222 cosmic continuity and discontinuity, 243 creation ex vetere, 114 Predation, 42, 87, 101–3, See Fall, the beauty of (Hettinger), 151–55 in Heaven?, 250–51 predators transformed in Heaven, scenario of, 251–53 prehuman occurrence of discovered, 21 Punctuated equilibrium, 131, See Gould, Stephen J. Ramm, Bernard, 82 Resurrection, the defeat of evils, 243–45 evidence for belief in (Craig), 241 evidence for belief in (Davis), 242 evidence for belief in (Wright), 241 historicity of, 241–42 identity properties preserved in afterlife, 242–43 Ricoeur, Paul, 179 Rights Condition, 70–71, 73, 194–95, 216, 246 Rolston, Holmes, III, 152–54, 158, 202 cruciform character of Darwinism, 202–4 “objective immortality,” 221–22 Romans 8–11 Aesthetic Theodicy, Paul’s, 213–14 creation “groaning,” 210 divine election and the evidential problem, 214–15 God as Potter and Arborist, 212–13 interpretation of, 210

Rowe, William, 48, 51–53, 55–56, 65–68, 119 evidential argument for atheism, 52–55 Necessity Condition, the, 71 Ruse, Michael, 3, 16, 112 only-way intuition, 111 Russell, Robert John, 109–11, 113, 119, 125 animal immortality, 222 only physical universe possible, 111–14 Ryan, Frank, 30 Saint-making, of animals (Dougherty), 261–64 Schleiermacher, Friedrich, 81 Fall story, analytical critique of, 81 Schuler, Rhoda martyrdom, 266 Selving, of animals (Southgate), 226–27 Sensus divinitatis, 19, 135, 155, 209 Sensus non-divinitatis, 19 Serpent in Genesis 2–3, the, 105–7 Shadow sophia. See Deane-Drummond, Celia Shaw, George Bernard on Job, book of, 166 Sideris, Lisa animal suffering a necessary good, 203 Singer, Peter Species Egalitarianism, 232 Skeptical Theism, 65–67 Sollereder, Bethany, 18, 27–29, 101, 104 contra Satanic Fall, 88 evolution as a fractal mosaic, 28 explaining mass extinctions, 26 fractal mosaic, theory of, 253–61 no cosmic fall in Genesis (predation), 101–3 predation in Heaven, 252 Southgate, Christopher, 18, 49, 110, 202, See Selving, of animals evolution and the Passion Story, 203 horrors and animals, 159 Species Egalitarianism, 64, 207, 229, 232, 264 Stearley, Ralph F., 21, 26 Steiner, George on tragedy, 146 Stump, Eleonore, 180 God and the Sea in Job, 183 Job, interpretation of, 166–67 second-person narrative in Job, 196 Subjective immortality of animals, 222–23 Swinburne, Richard, 50, 115, 118–19, 121

Index

287

Ussher, James, B. age of the earth, 21

Ward, Keith animal suffering and immortality, 227 Whewell, William, 3, 23 plurality of worlds, 3–4, 22–24 Whitehead, Alfred North “major beauty,” 148–49 Whitney, Barry existence as a God-justifying good, 149 major beauty, 149 Wilde, Oscar art as amoral, 140 World, best possible (Southgate), 110 World-obscurity, implausible on theism (Dougherty), 119–20 Wright, N. T. resurrection, the, 241 Wykstra, Stephen, 65–66

van Inwagen, Peter, 76, 89 Varner, Gary, 62

Yersinia pestis, 87, 159 Young, Davis A., 21, 26

Tallon, Philip, 138–39, 141–42, 144–45, 147–49, 157–58, 160–61 aesthetics and ethics, 141 tragic vision, 147 Tennyson, Alfred, Lord, 15, 37, 219 tragic character of nature, 33–36 Teresa of Avila, St., 96 Theistic sight, 45, 50 and kenosis, 217–18 ¯ obscured by Darwinian discoveries, 18–19 Tragedy, evolution as. See Haught, John Tragic sublime, 154 Tragic wonder, 147 Tree of Life, 28, 131