Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Transcendent/Nontranscendent Good and Evil

I am currently reading "To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview" and the book shares the fact that there are two kinds of evil: moral evil and natural evil.

Moral evil results from the choices and actions of human beings. When the question why is asked about some moral evil, the answer will include a reference to something that humans did or did not do. Moral evil sometimes results when humans act, for example, by shooting a gun. But moral evil may also occur as a result of human inaction. Perhaps someone could have prevented the person from getting the gun and didn't. So moral evil is evil brought about by human choices and actions; any other kind of evil is what we call natural evil. The class of natural evils includes such things as earthquakes, tornadoes and diseases not resulting from human choices. Many wise people believe the two types of evil require different kinds of answers. (from pp. 207-208)

To summarize -

The authors state that millions of people have worldviews that deny the existence of evil and affirm that such evils as pain and death are illusory. Pantheism and Christian Science are two examples.

Christian theism deserves credit for not running away from the problem of evil.

The chapter is long, so I am skipping to the final observations about evil from the perspective of the Christian worldview.

Two kinds of good. Defining transcendent good and nontranscendent good .

Transcendent good is that good than which a greater good cannot be conceived. From the perspective of the Christian worldview, there can be no greater good than eternal fellowship with the God who made us, loves us and redeems us through the salvific world of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. It should not be difficult to see that all other goods that humans seek are nontranscendent.

Two kinds of evil.

Using the same terminonology, then, we can think about transcendent and nontranscendent evils. Suppose we define a transcendent evil as that evil than which a greater evil cannot be conceived. From the perspective of the Christian worldview, that kind of transcendent evil would be losing one's soul and being forever separated from the source of love, righteousness and goodness of the God who created us and the universe in which we live. As horrible as many evils in the history of the world have been, the biblical worldview tells us that there is one transcendent evil that makes all other evils nontranscendent.

Romans 8:28. People who regard themselves as Christians ought to seek a better understanding of their worldview. That understanding requires them to know what their ulitmate rule of faith and practice, the Christian Scriptures, have to say about their worldview. And finally they need to show that they have the strength to put the beliefs they profess into practice. One important passage in the New Testament that speaks to this point is Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose." (NKJV)

Many of us know people who believe the verse reads like this: "All things work together for good, period." And because of this error, millions of people mistakenly think the promise in this verse applies to them. But the proper audience for this verse is the large company of people who not only love God but who are called according to God's own purpose. The full understanding of who these people are requires a fairly competent grasp of the entire New Testament.

One more comment is needed. Does Romans 8:28 promise that everything works for good during the earthly existence of the people who are described in the latter part of the verse? Many competent expositors of the text think not. They believe the text reports that all things work together for good when viewed from the perspective of eternity. Then and only then, they suggest, will believers fully recognize how the trials and travail of the Christian pilgrimage in this life have worked together for good.

Romans 8:18

I trust it is clear that all I am doing here is explaining important teachings of the worldview that millions of people believe. It is worth remembering that this is the same worldview that most proponents of the problem of evil hope to show unreasonable. A companion text to Romans 8:28 is Romans 8:18, which says, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Here the apostle Paul acknowledges the pain, grief and suffering that often afflict believers in this life. He implies that a day will come when believers can look back and say, "That was a really tough time in the life of my family. We cried a lot. We miss those who died before us. Those things really hurt. But when I am finally in the presence of the God who has always loved me, that earlier suffering just cannot be compared with the glory of what God has prepared for me."

Paul's points can be expressed in terms of my earlier distinctions between transcendent and nontranscendent goods and evils. Is he not saying that all of the sufferings he experienced, which finally ended in his being stoned to death, were nontranscendent evils? And when finally compared to his ultimate standing in the presence of the the triune God, when he attains that transcendent good than which no greater good can be conceived, he will know that all things did work for good.


Do I believe that I have answered the problem of evil? I know better than to think I could or should do this for everyone. I began this chapter by noting that every reader will approach this issue from the perspective of a worldview, many of which are incomplete, confused and incoherent. I explained my worldview and pointed out that many opponents of my worldview think the problem of evil is its greatest challenge. While I have admitted that I know no one who can explain every evil that occurs, it seems unreasonable to demand that people who share my worldview be able to do this. It is one thing to attack a worldview; it is far more demanding to offer a competing worldview such as naturalism or dualism or pantheism or anentheism that answers more questions and leaves fewer questions unanswered than the worldview of the Christian faith.
Author of chapter 12: Ronald H. Nash

Source: To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview, edited by Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig, and J.P. Moreland. 2004, InterVarsity Press, Downer Grove, Illinois, pp. 221-223

Note: This is also posted at my Talk Wisdom message board under the thread called, Rationalizing God's Latest Felony .

It is a very LONG thread, but lots of interesting points and counterpoints according to the worldview(s) of the comment poster(s).


GMpilot said...

This is the second promotional message for your board you've posted within a week...and both mention the very same thread. So I guess you are trolling for fresh blood after all!

People do seem to be more fired up over here; I can see why you'd want 'em.

Good luck with that.

Christinewjc said...


Contrary to your personal belief, I'm not trying to get "traffic" at my message board. Don't you remember that registration is closed over there? Do you recall the reasons I gave you?

Here at this blog, I don't have to constantly work at banning and deleting spam registrations.

I simply included the fact that what I wrote was also included in the thread over there. You do tend to bloviate a lot more at the forum. Now don't have a hissy fit! Just kidding! ;-) Well...maybe not.

Sothenes now posts at both. He probably prefers the message board, but he does visit here also. comment from you about the content of this post? Or, did you post a more detailed comment at the message board? I'll go check...