Just a few additional addenda to a post below…
The other night I was away with random musings, when it occurred to me that many things we consider to be ‘good’ things can only exist as the result of, or at least on the account of, things we consider to be ‘bad.’ Case in point: Forgiveness. The concept of Forgiveness is central to the Gospel: G-d has forgiven and continues to forgive us, and we are to forgive others. Yet Forgiveness cannot happen unless a transgression of some sort has first occurred. One cannot forgive without having someone whom needs to be forgiven. Without the ‘sin’ there would be no forgiveness. This doesn’t justify the sin by any means, but it does place forgiveness in an interesting ontological position in regards to ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’; it may be the former, but it depends on the existence of the latter.
And again, mercy. Mercy requires the judgment of justice; judgment requires an ‘unjustice.’ A judge is not being merciful by commuting the sentence of an innocent person; one can only be merciful by revoking a just punishment. Again, for either justice or mercy—both ‘good’ things—to exist, a ‘bad’ thing must first call them into being.
Or, there is Paul’s example of ‘the law.’ The law may be unable to effect righteousness, but it plays an essential role in the recognition of the need for grace. The power of both the law and of grace are the needs of sin—both only acquire power in the presence of fallibility.
So what does this mean? So-called ‘Eastern’ philosophies/theologies have long posited an inter-relationship (‘dialectic’?) between good and evil, as commonly expressed in the symbol of the ying-yang circle. I think Buddhism posits the necessity of evil (or non-being) for good and being. Is this strictly true? Does this imply goodness and/or being must come out of badness or non-being, and in some sense are therefore primary or primordial, as in the Babylonian cosmogonic myths?
I think not; that would seem to deny the ontological priority of G-d, as well as His oneness, and his goodness. Rather, it seems to me that G-d—in full knowledge of the suffering and difficulties in advance—allowed, or designed, a situation where fallible creatures would fall from perfection and by that instrumentality bring into ‘explicitness’ the latency of good things like forgiveness and mercy. G-d was always good, but He could only become merciful through the violations of His creatures.
Is it thus possible that not only are we as individuals in the process of becoming, but that G-d Himself is in the process of ‘becoming’? The author of Hebrews speaks of Christ being ‘made perfect’ through His suffering. If the Word of God can ‘become’, can the Father also ‘become’? (Though this latter idea is a heresy, I believe). What does that mean for the question of theodicy? For our relationship to ethics?Jason M. Silverman 10 may 2007