Logically, it seems possible to me that soul-making and the greatest good are divinely willed ends. The necessary and sufficient means of those ends would include epistemic distance and theosis. If so, then, actual moral evil or sin would not be necessary in the divine economy.
While an adequately determined personal, intentional agency, itself, would be a necessary condition (ontologically) for any moral evil, alone, it would remain insufficient requiring, perhaps, what might, analogically, be called a co-creative ex nihilo, whereby an indirectly intended (unavoidable) divine ontic privation gets perverted into a directly intended ontic privation via a creaturely fiat of deontic depredation.
In no way, then, would God be implicated in moral evil. Moral evil would never be necessary and never divinely “intended” (teleologically).
Any epistemic distance would be traversed synergistically.
I suppose we could analogically borrow medical terms for a typology of synergeia and then explore how the divine will might be disposed toward each variety. For example, any synergistic progress might variously mark advances or retreats to the extent a moral agent would be
- able and willing to cooperate via synergistic dynamics
- not fully able to cooperate due to varying degrees of a-synergistic dynamics, which would quite naturally attend to different formative stages, early vs later
- unable to cooperate due to the dys-synergistic dynamics of deformative influences
- unwilling to cooperate due to the anti-synergistic dynamics of sinful refusals to cooperate
While formative a-synergies and deformative dys-synergies might very well necessarily (respectively, essentially and unavoidably) inhere in any divinely willed epistemic distancing, they would only involve – not moral evils, but – ontic privations (perhaps a presence of pain and/or absence of pleasure, neither causing suffering). Such privations, as means, are justifiable by proportionate reasoning, only because they are required for the directly intended highest good, which is their end. Taken alone, then, such unavoidable ontic privations, when employed instrumentally as means, would not in or of themselves invite a moral calculus. Only when otherwise directly intended as ends would ontic privations ever entail moral culpability.
What about the anti-synergistic dynamics of sinful refusals?
The divine will neither directly wills them as an end nor indirectly wills them as a necessary means in the divine economy of a theotic epistemic distancing.
Neither a necessary raw material, such as the ontic privations attendant to epistemic distancing,
nor an indispensable process, such as the stages of theosis,
nor an end-product, such as the highest good of our aesthetic, beatific realizations …
our anti-synergistic sinful refusals to cooperate with grace are unequivocally an unnecessary waste-product!
As unintended and unnecessary waste-products, God only ever tolerates the effects of sin, however likely or unlikely its occurrence, providentially knowing that He can most sovereignly recycle them.
As for sinful agents, themselves, they too can be recycled in a supremely efficacious manner …
both apokatastatically …
as well as via Her divine economy — eschatologically, soteriologically, sacramentally, ecclesiologically and sophiologically — where neither sin nor evil, in and of themselves, have any currency.
From Fr Al’s blog:
Fr Al explained: McCann even goes so far as to suggest that God purposefully created a world in which free human beings must sin, as only those who have alienated themselves from the divine presence can appreciate the good of communion and thus make an informed decision to live with God. <<<<<
and also shared McCann’s words: In short, it is only from a stance of sinfulness that we are able to settle our destinies in an informed, responsible, and morally authentic way. <<<<<
While, arguably, evil and suffering can be employed instrumentally, McCann apparently considers them essential raw materials rather than unavoidable, but recyclable, waste products. Of course, some nonconsequentialists would consider evil irredeemable, not recyclable.
Even if one stipulates to the consistency and plausibility of consequentialist theodicies, I suppose one could broadly or narrowly conceive epistemic distancing. One might consider both natural and moral evil essential. More narrowly, one might consider natural evil as not only necessary but sufficient? In other words, mere human finitude and formative dynamics would suffice. Humans could learn enough from the consequences of exculpable mistakes without needing to suffer the consequences of sin?
I am not interested in the above nuances toward the end of evaluating their competing plausibilities, not being sympathetic to such projects, in general, but I do wonder about their varying degrees of heterodoxy. I’m also interested in how they relate to the various logical defenses.
Regarding determinism and free will, both McCann and McCabe seem to be theological but not natural compatabilists/determinists. Both seem to invoke a non-causal view of theological determinism (grounded in the analogical predication of causal concepts between Creator and creatures, hence no threat to human freedom).
McCann employs a non-causal (teleological) conception of human intentionality.
McCabe suggests that God brings about creaturely causes, allowing them to cause one another, intermediately. Human freedom is, however, not mediated but directly caused by God.
McCann, McCabe and Tanner suggest that free human choices are created by God, very intimately so. God’s omniscience and omnipresence seem to be transcendent in the sense that He’s radically, almost inconceivably, intimate with us as persons.
Both McCann and McCabe reject a free will defense.
McCann goes on to further suggest a consequentialist, soul-making theodicy, wherein evil is essential in the divine economy. In other places, McCann has drawn a distinction between direct and indirect divine intentions, so, it’s unclear why he wouldn’t embrace a “double effect” theodicy, wherein evil would be unavoidable. McCann hews close to Aquinas and Augustine regarding the creaturely will, so, perhaps a consequentialist stance isn’t wholly problematic if he, similarly, views evil per the Augustinian privatio boni (nothing of ontological substance). Still, I don’t understand why a “privatio as epistemic distance” would “necessarily” require – not just natural, but – moral evil. I suppose that’s what happens when we start arguing plausibilities with an insufficient amount of skepticism or sufficient epistemic humility.
McCabe, for his part, was much more modest, remaining more mindful of analogical predications and, as a result, staying in a theodicy-free zone. He does suggest that, insofar as they are “good,” God directly creates our free acts. Wrong acts are our perversions, creaturely negations, which God, incomprehensibly, permits.
McCann certainly did not subscribe to the theological determinism of Jonathan Edwards. Arguably, his also must be distinguished from the soft determinism of many compatabilists, especially those who speak too univocally regarding divine causes (or even of natural teloi, for that matter).
For McCann, divine and creaturely (over)determinations were only analogous, and very weakly so, because, while divine determinations confer existence, natural determinations merely alter various existents.
That’s my succint observation. I continue with my over-answer:
McCann’s God wouldn’t determinatively “alter” free human intentionality in a manner mediated via event-causal natural processes. Instead, God’s creative activity would “produce” the very content of any free decision or intention. Such a creative activity would be no mere nomicity among nomicities but the primal ground of all nomicity, itself.
For other compatabilists, a creaturely act, subveniently, could remain non-nomic and undetermined, while superveniently, hetero-nomic (externally caused) and overdetermined. For example, this could entail a free will, whereby a person’s own intentions, alone, would be sufficient to provide the cause and explanation for their any given act. At the same time, via some causal redundancy (whether God, The Matrix or various neural states), there could be other causes that would also sufficiently explain the very same act. So, we would have two or more independent causes, each which could bring about the same effect in the absence of the other. This would seem to be consistent with some forms of soft determinism or compatabilism, whether secular or theological?
Of course, Jonathan Edwards’ determinism would not invoke overdetermination as God’s will would be the exclusive cause of any act.
Hugh McCann’s account allowed for some creaturely acts to be indirectly and intermediately (subveniently) caused by God but not overdetermined (secondary causality & permissive will?), while others could be directly and immediately (superveniently) caused by God, in some sense overdetermined. Presumably, the latter would include “free” human acts. However, McCann’s overdetermination would not in any way be physical, mereological or quantitative, in other words, an act among acts, but, instead, would be existential, conferring their very reality. In other words, he employs no notion of independent competing causes as they’d apply to free human acts, only a broader conception of causation, which refers to both its teleological and existential aspects, both which remain as ineluctably unobtrusive as they are utterly efficacious. I say “refers” and not “describes” mindful that none of us are proffering an explanatory account of causal joints, whether divine or in certain parts of nature, herself.
Interestingly, it would thus seem that, for McCann, a secular indeterminism would not, necessarily, entail a theological indeterminism, as they are only related analogously. In my view, though, affirming a secular indeterminism, as I do, does makes it easier for me to consistently conceive a theological indeterminism (precisely via analogy), even though further argument would be required to establish same.
I would like to add that, while not an explanation of synergeia, McCann, McCabe and others’ approach to double agency, are spiritually evocative for me. They seem consistent with the notion that —
when I am authentically free, traversing various epistemic distances via Marian-like fiats, I am loving with the very Love of God …
there was only ever one Ascension, while there will be many, many Assumptions …
whatever is good, beautiful, true, unitive, authentically free comes from the Author and Finisher.
What has puzzled me about McCann’s theodicy is this: Why did he bother?
Since he stipulates to divine impeccability, by denying a divine moral agency and by affirming an analogical predication between creaturely and divine causations, avoiding the same category errors as Davies, McCabe et al, what exactly is he doing in explicating a divine economy of soul making?
In McCann’s defense, he seems to take seriously the questions so many have raised, not wanting to burn all epistemic bridges with them regarding the problem of evil, even if, at bottom, to be logically consistent and internally coherent, he’d have to consider it a pseudo-problem metaphysically.
What McCann does, then, essentially amounts to only a logical defense …
which aspires only to show how a divine economy of soul making would be consistent with his Thomistic God-conception.
In the end, however, when pressed evidentially on the plausibility of gratuitous evil …
he’s deeply sympathetic to theological skepticism and …
existentially and theologically prescribes Job’s response and that the sinner abandon any pretense to question the divine will.
In other words, his theodicy is thin, perhaps moreso a logical defense, while his theological skepticism is thick-enough?