Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hart on provisional cosmic dualism

      '[T]here are those who suffer from a palpably acute anxiety regarding the honour due the divine sovereignty. Certainly many Christians over the centuries have hastened to resituate the New Testament imagery of spiritual warfare securely within the one all-determining will of God, fearing that to deny that evil and death are the "left hand" of God's goodness in creation or the necessary "shadow" of his righteousness would be to deny divine omnipotence as well.
      Nevertheless, and disturbing as it may be, it is clearly the case that there is a kind of "provisional" cosmic dualism within the New Testament: not an ultimate dualism, of course, between two equal principles; but certainly a conflict between a sphere of created autonomy that strives against God on the one hand and the saving love of God in time on the other.'

- David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?
(Eerdmans: 2005), 62-63.

This, once again, raises the question: is evil primarily the instrument or enemy of God? Hart's own answer is unambiguous:
[I]f it is from Christ that we are to learn how God relates himself to sin, suffering, evil and death, it would seem that he provides us little evidence of anything other than a regal, relentless, and miraculous enmity: sin he forgives, suffering he heals, evil he casts out, and death he conquers. And absolutely nowhere does Christ act as if any of these things are part of the eternal work or purposes of God. (86-87)

12 comments:

Looney said...

BTW: You recommended a book for me a few months ago: "What is this thing called science." Amazon promissed me delivery in April, but then changed to June. The reviews looked better than I expected, so I am still anxiously awaiting.

byron said...

Let me know how you find it if and when it does arrive.

psychodougie said...

you do enjoy kite flying, don't you!

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.
(Isaiah 45:7)

what else can you say?

byron said...

Doug - check out my recent post on that verse. I do not think it is quite as decisive as to be a conversation stopper. Are you happy with a reading of scripture that assumes a god equally responsible for evil and good?

byron said...

PS I would like to hear what Hart says about that verse, nonethless, from the second part of his quote, it seems his method is more christological: it is primarily in Christ that we learn how God relates to evil.

Martin Kemp said...

We need to move away from a deontological understanding of evil. This is what causes the problems. An act can be either good or evil depending on factors outside the actual action, eg Christ's death. I think rather than provisional dualism we could speak of dual agency (as Calvin seems to do), one action can have two agents with differnt motives.

Jill said...

I think it is clear from Scriptures that God is all good and yet can allow or even 'send' evil to achieve His purposes. 1Samuel 16:14-17 "Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him."

Christian said...

My hunch is that what happens in the universe is the end result of a complex interaction between three sets of wills: The will of God (which will ultimately prevail), the will of evil, and the will of humans (which can really only subject itself to one of the other two wills).

In this time before the will of evil is irradicated and the will of God becomes all in all, I think in God's utter opposition to evil he might choose to use it for his own ends (so I agree with Marty's point about dual-agency). Jesus's incarnation and death is an utterly profound interaction of all three sets of wills, and we can see there how God's will prevails.

I think perhaps it's a Greek/Western instinct to want to explain God's all powerfulness and all-lovingness at every moment, whereas we should have a more Jewish eschatological/historical instinct: God sets a judgement day. The Christ event means that the day has dawned, but we need to wait for high noon when evil will be publicly hung in the town square.

Philip Britton said...

"...it is clearly the case that there is a kind of "provisional" cosmic dualism within the new testament"

Does Hart mean that there is an age in which God is struggling to overcome evil, and as a result bad things happen that God couldn't stop happening, but one day He will finally overcome evil so then bad things won't happen anymore?
Or...
Does Hart mean that in order to avoid the further destruction of evil humanity (eg. the flood) and bring many to salvation, God allows a cursed creation, evil humans and demonic forces to continue to exist, but there will come a time when many are saved, so judgement will be meeted out?

Allow me the grace of simplification.

Jill said...

How can God "struggle" to do anything. God is all powerful. "Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him." Psalm 115

byron said...

The Christ event means that the day has dawned, but we need to wait for high noon when evil will be publicly hung in the town square.
Nice image. Thanks Christian.

I think it is clear from Scriptures that God is all good and yet can allow or even 'send' evil to achieve His purposes.
The end justifies the means? I'd love to hear more on this Jill.

psychodougie said...

i'd agree with christian's thoughts, ie our understanding of good and evil is going to biased - it will be good or evil depending on how it makes us feel, our subjective understanding of an event.

the end of God is for all creation to bow the knee before him, and his means are his means.
not that that justifies human utilitarianism, but as a whole package i'm ok with that i think.


also, i really appreciated the link to tom wright's thing on fulcrum. especially his thing about it being a narrative. dunno if i mentioned that elsewhere (i've been on holidays and can't remember what i wrote where!)