TIME. Spring 2019 | Page 17

into their hands and through their feet on a Roman cross, mocking, “Hail, King of the Jews!” it would be contradictory to the very nature of God for God to eliminate that deep suf- fering if it meant that doing so would prevent some promised, infinite, and eternal good that would have otherwise come about. Outweighing goods that are necessarily attached to evils, then, seem utterly permissible—and for good reason. this is so, and if, indeed, God gave us this capacity of will- ingness upon His creating us, knowing full well that through such free will evil would come about, is not God, then, the original agent of evil? And in His knowing full well that evil would about through it, why would God grant us this capacity in the first place, lest He Himself be evil and everything but all-good? But what about those evils that seem to have no good ending, or no comprehensible reason for their permittance? What is God’s purpose for allowing a black man to be shot in his own home or for a community of Jews to be ruthlessly murdered in their own sanctuary? What possible outweighing good might result from such devastating, absolute evils? Is God not good for not preventing those evils that aren’t accompanied by good—evils that in God’s omniscience He knew would come about and, in His omnipotence, had the power to prevent? In the face of these worries, should we even believe that such an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God even exists? It’s tempting—almost rational, even—to deduce that the ori- gin of evil is, itself, evil; and that every cause in between that place of origin and the ultimate consequence of evil is evil, as well. However, if Jack’s small cut—a tremendous evil he may claim—be the cause of some far greater, necessarily attached good—that is, Jill’s hysterical joy—we come to conclude not only that the conjunctive state of affairs is good, but also that even before we judged Jack’s minor annoyance as evil and Jill’s outbursting pleasure as good, we find that Jack’s cut is actually neither evil nor good. To Jack, the small cut is evil, and to Jill it is good; and to a third-person party who weighs the total moral value of the phenomenon, the overall state of affairs is good. By this larger judgement, we define Jack’s small cut as, itself, a good, since it has the property of bringing out some greater good than the possible resulting evil. As agonizing as it is to ponder over these issues, Plantinga re- sponds by providing a defense that shifts our origin of judge- ment from the most apparent evil phenomena to the place where they all begin. In the same way that God permits the evil of an innocent man dying on a cross and the accompanying, outweighing infinite good of eternal life in him for the very fact that such a good accompanies the evil, perhaps there is some- thing necessarily attached to these absolute evils, also, which explains their existence and God’s permitting them. We might ask, whence do these evils come; and why is there evil in the first place? Is it not from the willingness of a corrupt and de- ceived mind that one is moved to enact injustice? Is it not by one’s own decision, however constraining the circumstances may be, that one is moved to perform some wicked act? If all of this is so, is it not then reasonable to conclude that human willingness—or our capacity to choose—marks the beginning of every evil and the agent by which it comes about? But if When we examine the original cause of human evil as point- ing to free will, we are left with the conclusion that free will, and the Creator and Bestower of that capacity, is, Himself, evil. But when we examine the original cause of human evil as pointing to God, we are left with the conclusion that free will, and what it enables for a human being, is, itself, a good. For, when we allow God to become the third-person party Who weighs the total moral value of every possible absolute evil that comes from free will, as well as every possible absolute good that comes from it, our perspectives shift focus; for while we see absolute evil, God sees absolute good. While we ask, whence does evil come?, God considers, whence does good come? Is it not from the willingness of a noble and sober mind that one is 17