C.S. Lewis: His Theology and Philosophy - Lesson 21

Problem of Pain (Part 1)

In philosophy, it’s referred to as the problem of evil. Given a certain understanding of God and a certain understanding of evil, there is a tension explaining why evil exists in the world.

Michael L. Peterson
C.S. Lewis: His Theology and Philosophy
Lesson 21
Watching Now
Problem of Pain (Part 1)

I. Introduction

II. Origin and Ground of Religion (Chapter 1)

A. Religion stems from four factors

1. Sense of the numinous

2. Sense of morality / rightness and wrongness

3. Identification of the Numinous power as a guardian of morality

4. Historical event: a man, Jesus of Nazareth, claimed to be God, the son of God, one with God whom humankind had viewed as the Power behind morality

B. Lewis is addressing arguments for theism in general and Christianity in particular

III. Lewis Presents the Argument as Primarily a Logical Problem

A. Logical argument and evidential argument

B. Omnipotence (chapter 2)

1. Equivocal

2. Univocal

3. Important question for believers and non-believers

4. Defining omnipotence

  • The purpose of the class is to directly engage Lewis’s philosophy and theology. He brings a Christian worldview to engage intellectual movements of his day. The trinity created us to bring us into the fellowship that has been going on with God forever. 

  • The mind is the organ of reason, imagination is the organ of understanding. To understand what real truth is, the imagination needs to be a part of that. We are created in the image of God and are immortal beings. Ordinary people are extraordinary. The Christian life is most deeply about being transformed resulting in participation in the divine life. It's more than just having one’s legal status changed. There should be transformation in the culture as well as personal. God is in the process of redeeming a wounded universe, including the whole of knowledge and truth in all subjects. 

  • There is a sacred quality to ordinary activities as well as symbolic religious rituals. Whatever is true in any field of study is God’s truth. The world is essentially good, but it’s been damaged. God has taken a great risk in allowing people free choice for good or evil. Evil has become present in many forms in the world and it is anti-creational and anti-human. We are not broken, but we are bent. God’s nature is relational because of the nature of the Trinity, so it makes sense that he would make a universe that is relational. We dwell in God and he dwells in us. As disciples of Christ we all share the single vocation of loving God and others.

  • Lewis wants to parlay theological doctrines into dynamic insights and track out their implications for intellectual engagement. He does is with a background of philosophical skill and theological understanding of historic orthodoxy. Instead of arguing about preferences, we need to focus on articulating the doctrines that are universal. Lewis’s ideas are expressed so they can be understood by people not formally trained in philosophy or theology but they have merit in the marketplace of ideas. 

  • The probability of morality as we know it in the human community, given that theism is true, is more probable than morality given any other worldview. Morality at the human (finite) level is anchored in morality at the infinite level. Morality has its most natural fitting worldview home in theism. In using the analogy of light shining through boards in a tool shed, Lewis says, “I believe in Christianity, not because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.” 

  • In Hinduism, Brahman, the hidden inner essence of everything, is beyond human categories of good and evil. Brahman is the only reality. Everything we see is an illusion. The fundamental human problem is ignorance, not sin. Dualism is the idea that there is good and evil at war in the universe. Explaining morality in a dualistic framework is difficult. Dualism assumes good and evil are equal, so you would need a third element to adjudicate which one to choose, and that would be a higher standard. Otherwise you wouldn’t know which one to choose. Naturalism/materialism says there is no ultimate moral nature to the universe. 

  • Lewis begins by discussing our common moral experience as a triggering point to reason toward theism. Then he reasons for a deity that’s interested in morality that’s also a supreme power. With naturalism, we come from a source that is non-rational, non-moral and non-personal, so it’s difficult to understand how you get beings that are rational, moral and personal.

  • Theism is intellectually at least on par, if not superior to, other conceptions of reality like dualism, pantheism and naturalism. If there is a God that theism describes, only one deity of the living theistic religions said that this God invaded our existence. The question is that in comparison to other alternatives, what is emerging as a reasonable explanation of the reality we face?

  • Our rationality being reliable assumes that we can produce a large preponderance of true beliefs over false ones by using rational faculties like memory, abstract reasoning, perception and the testimony of others. The role of philosophy is to analyze and explain the common sense beliefs of the human race about morality and the external world. 

  • The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind. Lewis thinks that we now do not have broad social consensus of Christian truth. He challenges individuals to have a more positive affirming attitude toward intellect and academics. In his view, Christians are ambivalent about the value of the life of the mind and using the gift of our intellect to serve him.

  • Premise one: every natural desire corresponds to one real object. Premise two: There exists in us a desire that nothing in the temporal world can satisfy. Conclusion is that there must be more than time, earth and creatures that can satisfy this desire.

  • The Supreme Being, behind the universe as we know it, is a personal being, eternal and the model for how we are to understand our personhood. We can’t understand our own personhood fully, the way it’s supposed to operate, unless we understand what God is, as a personal being. We are not projecting our understanding on God but learning about ourselves by finding out about God. 

  • This is ultimately a book about a clash of worldviews. A worldview offers an explanation of the important features/phenomena of life and the world. In the West, the atheist worldview is often expressed in naturalism. Lewis argues for theism based on what is true internally of us, rather than argument from design. Discussion is not whether a particular miracle has occurred, but in principle, is it a possibility.

  • There is a supernatural power or being that is ontologically distinct from nature (transcendent). It is self-existent. Every world view must propose what is fundamentally real. For the naturalist, it is the physical world. For the theist, it’s a transcendent deity. Everything that is not God is dependent/contingent on God for its being. The theist says that the deity can bring about events that would not have happened by the regular operation of nature. 

  • What’s important to Lewis is freedom of rational thinking, free from physical causes. Naturalism undercuts the power of reason because everything is determined by physical causes. If evolutionary naturalism is true, then the probability of our cognitive faculties being reliable for truth is low.

  • If you believe in naturalism as a worldview, miracles are impossible. Since a naturalist worldview says everything is determined and thought is only adaptive, the ability to have free rational thought to logically evaluate naturalism undercuts the naturalist position.

  • Rational thought and moral consciousness are points of entry of the supernatural into the realm of the natural. It involves both. It’s not a dichotomy. Naturalists believe that the nature of human persons is limited to material processes. Substance dualists believe that mind and brain are two separate substances that are mixed for now, but at death one will cease to exist and the other will continue to exist. Emergentist sees the animal form taken to another degree of complexity by the natural realm getting increasingly complex and dualist in function as opposed to substance.

  • Scientific law is economical summary of what experience always reports: regular cause and effect. Laws are regularity based on coincidences. Causality is the basis of law. Hume says that laws are regularities based on coincidences. Hume says that you can only know regularity because that’s all the human mind is capable of. Peterson’s view is that a miracle is not changing a law of nature, it’s changing with the “ceteris paribus” clause – preventing all things from being equal and changing the nature of the item. 

  • There is nothing about nature that makes miracles impossible. The naturalist can’t see nature accurately as a creature, not just an independent fact but it can’t stand or explain itself. The cosmological principle is that only concrete beings, not general things, have causal power. Causal laws don’t make things happen, only the beings acting within the laws.

  • If God is in fact a living determinate being, and is outside the natural system, he might insert events into the natural system. The laws that we observe in the natural system may be a subset of higher laws that govern the universe. What criteria do you use to determine if a miracle has taken place? Evidence plus intrinsic probability. Whether or not an event is a miracle is also part of the discussion of the problem of evil. Why would God intervene in some circumstances but not others? 

  • In philosophy, it’s referred to as the problem of evil. Given a certain understanding of God and a certain understanding of evil, there is a tension explaining why evil exists in the world.

  • If God chooses to create a nature, this signifies a physical system which indicates a relatively independent nature independent from himself, it would make a lot of sense to say he is frequently intervening.  The same laws that make nature a stable environment in which rational soulish life can emerge, are also the same laws that make us vulnerable. Pain is God’s megaphone to arouse a deaf world. He might whisper to us in our pleasures, but he shouts to us in our pain. Question about whether God initiates the pain or he set up a system which results in pain because of the way it’s structured.

  • Lewis describes the story of the Fall as a narrative that has symbolic elements that convey significant truth. The truth in the first couple chapters of Genesis is that we were created by God, sovereign and loving creator, and that our only fulfillment as humans is to center our lives on God. Our proper role as a creature is to rely on God, so when we ignore that and rely on ourselves, our relationship with God is broken. 

  • God is his creation set forth the problem of expressing his goodness through the total drama of a world containing free agents in spite of, and even by means of, their rebellion against him. The risk is for the possibility of relationship. 

  • Aristotle would say that as a rational, moral being you build your character based on the hierarchy of good traits.  From a Christian perspective, our natural destiny should be on the same trajectory as our eternal destiny. The spiritual and theological virtues are faith, hope and love.

  • As long as God chooses a stable physical order, that physical order will run by its own laws. Any system with  have the possibility of pain. Created nature with natural laws provide a framework/structure in which souls can meet. Some pain is produced by the natural system without regard to the desires of the beings. That humans can inflict pain on other humans is a reflection of the permission by God that he permits this. The wide range of freedom makes it possible for great good or terrible evil. 

  • Lewis thinks that God needs to pierce the shield of our ego and we are embodied creatures so pain is what does it by getting our attention by highlighting how frail and in need we are. 

  • For Lewis, heaven is the unending joyous life of God, the life of the Trinity. The only way I can be fulfilled is to find its proper purpose and relation with God. Heaven is the restoration of created personhood, what it was always meant to be. When we are on the trajectory, we begin experiencing it now. Hell is the lack of fulfillment for which we were made. 

  • Discussion of the movie Shadowlands. Discussion of the nature of relationships. Pain and happiness are not necessarily mutually exclusive.                                        

  • Lewis expresses anger toward God as part of his process of grief. Orthodox Christianity denies materialism which believes that your physical body is all you are, but it doesn’t require body-soul dualism where the soul is the real person that inhabits a shell. Whatever damage death completes in the reign of sin in this world will be undone and swallowed up by the resurrection. The restoration of human personhood will come after death. 

  • Heaven and hell are dichotomous. Whether life is heaven or hell depends on your future trajectory. God is true reality, fixed and can’t be altered. In GD, true reality is God. The descriptions are not meant to be literal. Heaven is the Trinitarian life of God. It’s not a place, it’s a state of being in proper relation to the love and joy of the Trinitarian relations. Lewis describes it as a great dance. 

  • Final comments about themes in The Great Divorce.

C. S. Lewis is an extremely good theologian who does his work for the thoughtful lay person.  But his writings reflect his erudite understanding of the great classics of literature, historical theology, philosophy, and other disciplines.  Lewis says in Mere Christianity that theology is like a map.  We may get where we’re going without it, but it is much easier to use the map.  The map of Christian theology is drawn over the early centuries of the church as the believing community interprets the Bible and its experience of God.  

Of course, the ultimate goal of theology, according to Lewis, is practical:  to draw us into the life of God, or St. Gregory of Nazianzus ((329-374 AD), called it, “the Great Dance.”  I know no theme deeper or more pervasive in Lewis than our need to get the steps right, to join the dance once again.  

In “Meditations in a Tool Shed,” Lewis says that there is a distinction between looking at a beam of light and looking along the beam of light.  He is speaking of looking at reason or using reason—a passage that forms part of his great case that presence of rationality argues for the truth of theism.  We will be doing a lot of looking in this course, largely, “looking at” Lewis himself.  But let us also try to “look along” the same line of sight as Lewis, to see things—God, humanity, spiritual life, and a host of other things—as Lewis saw them.  This means attempting to step inside Lewis’s worldview and learning to interpret fundamental realities the way he did and to deploy his distinctive strategies for engaging other worldviews.  In effect, we will learn to think Christianly by learning to think along Christianly with Lewis.

In 2020, Dr. Peterson published the book, C. S. Lewis and the Christian WorldviewIt is essentially his course lectures in written book form--covering Lewis on all key worldview issues--reality, knowledge, creation, trinity, christology, as well as issues of evil, religious pluralism, and the impact of science on faith. You will also see it listed in the Recommended Reading section. 

Dr. Michael Peterson

C.S. Lewis: His Theology and Philosophy


Problem of Pain (Part 1)

Lesson Transcript


Father, we invoke your presence with us today as we continue to explore and to analyze the works of this Christian thinker. C.S. Lewis. May we find many rich things to apply to our life and to our ministry. In Christ's name, we pray. Amen. Well, we're turning another chapter from miracles, which I thought was a complicated book in some ways, not terrible. But, you know, it's a step up from your Christianity. I think you'll find the problem of pain is also more on a par with miracles in terms of level of difficulty, a level of complexity than mere Christianity. But that is not perhaps too surprising given that mere Christianity was really meant to be sort of popular. And it was a series of short segments for radio, as we know. So we moved to the problem of pain, which really is about what in philosophy we often call the problem of evil. And you might say the problem of evil, which very generally is about why God allows evil, Given a certain understanding of God, a certain understanding of evil, there seems to be a conflict, a difficulty, a tension, and how that is stated, how that is addressed. All of those things take us into the various distinctions that we make in in philosophy. And we're going to get into those. But the problem of pain, you might say, is kind of a subset, just on the face of it, the label, the problem of pain is a subset of the problem of evil. And the problem of evil often is said to at least break into two parts, if not more. I think more, actually one is the problem of moral evil and the other is the problem of natural evil. Moral evil, roughly, is evil committed by free human beings, wrongdoing that they engage in, and it could even include bad character traits.


So that's an evil it's a defect in our personhood. Have bad character traits, hatred. Viciousness and so on. But the problem of pain, just on the face of it, takes us into that other area of the problem of evil that we often call the problem of natural evil. And natural evil then would be evil brought about by the workings of nature. And we'll talk a little bit in the chapter on animal pain about the pain of subhuman creatures. But the book as a whole also addresses the pain we experience as as human beings and as part of the biological order where we have nerve endings and we can feel pain. So that is often called an evil. And and that's really the way he sets up the book. I'm trying to get my voice on, but there's this fall weather with dusty falling leaves or what? I've had a little upper respiratory. The chapter one. Very interesting approach. He wants to talk about the origin and ground of religion. So most of the time in philosophy, we would just jump in and say, well, we're talking about the theistic god. But here he wants to talk about the origin and ground of religion. And he early on says reasoning from nature, the realm of nature, its existence, its operations is weak. Reasoning from nature to God, from nature to some kind of divine being is weak, since nature is an interesting combination of things. Yes, there's order, but there's disorder and there's pain and suffering and cruelty. And in the subhuman world, the animal world, there's carnage and predation. So he really is quite an opponent. I can't find any of his writings where he's not. And I can find quite a few places where he he really spends a good amount of time attacking design arguments.


And of course, we know or I think we may we may or may not have mentioned in here that the design argument of William Paley, which is so famous and it may be the most popular argument of the laity in the pew, that the world is like a giant clock or watch in Paley argued that where there's a if you find a watch out in the wilderness, you can argue that there must be an intelligent being who designed that watch with all its intricate workings. Likewise, where there's a world that has intricate, orderly workings, you could infer a world maker, just like you can infer a watchmaker. So the argument from design, particularly in the hands of Archbishop Deacon or Archbishop Arch Bishop Paley, was really part of a prevailing Victorian mood in 18th and 19th century England to provide a kind of intellectual support for a fairly generic deity that could be publicly believed in. So it's kind of public and popular support. And historically, HUME had criticized it, and then when Darwin came along, pretty much put the final nail in the coffin of the design argument. So that's not to say that the design argument is equivalent to a teleological argument A lot of people think it is. But the teleological argument in the hands of people like Saint Thomas does doesn't get touched by criticisms of the Victorian England design argument. In fact, the whole mode of doing theology in Victorian England was called physical theology, where you look at the physical world, come up with tangible evidence and draw a line of reasoning to God. And so physical theology as a whole, as a whole style apologetics was under critique near the end of the Victorian era. And it's.


Cornerstone. Its most famous piece of apologetics was the design argument. It was definitely under attack. So when Lewis is mentioning it here, he's in that same vein of saying there, if you say, let's just look at nature and draw a line of reasoning from its operations to a benevolent divine source. He says it's always blocked that that inference, that line of reasoning, always blocked by the presence of pain, suffering and death. You have to kind of ignore certain elements of nature in order to think merrily on your way. You can reach a conclusion that there must be a God who created this whole thing. So he's he's really quite an opponent of the design argument. Cause I've said that in print. Making the ID folk out in Seattle pretty unhappy. And that debate, yes, is on YouTube. 3 hours. But L.A. was fun. What were they with? They all flew. They flew us all to L.A. to do it. But Eddie, anyway, he's the science tells us that the universe came out of the distant past. He's not trying to be a scientist. He's trying to glean from science, he says. Came out of a distant past with a violent beginning, developed over a long period of time. Biological life and biological life can feel pain. Then it developed rational beings, he said, that can anticipate pain and figure out how to inflict it on others. But science did not need to tell us what the common experience of the human race tells us about pain and suffering. It tells us that pain hurts and that we avoid it almost every time we can. So since the world contains pain, suffering, cruelty and so on, he says, that really is a major obstacle to belief in all good, all powerful, all knowing deity who loves us and cares for us in this kind of thing, he says.


So really, he says theories that theories that that religion, reasons from nature to God are questionable because nature has as much negative, so to speak, as it does positive. That's probably not totally true. But so to speak, he says, is better. To say that religion stems from four factors. And here he's picking up on what was current in the middle of the 20th century. Current thought on the origin of religion from such sources as Rudolph Otto's idea of the holy. Very briefly, the human race, even in primitive stages, was thought to have a sense of the numinous and believe there must be some numinous object, in other words, a sense of dread and awe all combined. And he said, one way to think about this. Remember when he says this, If, if, if I'm in some building in one room and you say next door and the other room is a tiger, I'll have fear, which is next door, in the other room, there's a ghost. I'll have Dredd. I'll have something different from from because it's not concrete. It's something out of the ordinary. He says that's getting us in the neighborhood of what Rudolf Otto and other scholars of religion were saying about the idea of the numinous, the sense of the numinous that humankind has always had. And in one sense, it inspires worship, Although there's the further question of what kind of numinous object is out there. Is it moral? And in the history of human kind, when we began to associate the numinous object with the moral law that we all feel, we began to get a more definite picture of what humankind believes is out there, something that wants us to act a certain way and behave a certain way.


And it's not one object among other objects. It's somehow transcendent, inspires awe and an almost dread. So he says, I mean, you know him, you know, in his body of work has that whole set of dialog. The most famous dialog in the English language actually called dialogs concerning natural religion. And he has three people dispute natural religion, how much reason can examine nature and draw some conclusion about the existence of God. Kind of a rationalist to me. You have a kind of an empiricist, you know, type clearing things, and they both offer rationalist or empiricist arguments for the existence of God. Then you've got Philo, who seems to be Hume's own protagonist, as a dispute and among the three. And it's like I say, it's called dialogs concerning what natural religion not revealed religion, but natural religion. So how much reason can Kant inquire into nature and draw conclusions about God? But he says he says when the concept of the numinous object is associated with the idea that this object is moral, deeply moral, and is concerned about our moral behavior, he says, really you get more of an idea that religion is not so much about reasoning to God, but about some divine, transcendent source breaking into history with at least this general sense of things. And he says, Christianity is is God breaking into history in a very definite way? One is more general. One's a vague sense that we all have as humans. One sort of takes the sketch of of natural religion from the hands of people like Rudolf Otto and so on, which he's obviously picking up on. Within Christianity, as he says in another essay, and I cannot think of the name of the essay, he says, In Christianity, he says Christianity is God reveal himself through real things.


Incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection. That's a great quote from Louis Scott, revealing himself the real things, breaking into history in a very concrete way and in a way putting definition on the general sense that there's an object of dread and and all who's also got a moral dimension. Pretty vague sense, pretty general. Nonetheless, it seems palpable, and this puts definition on it. So when Lewis begins to unfold his reasoning here in the book, he prefaces the preface, the first chapter. He wants to precede everything else with those remarks. And yet we'll see that he's sort of going back and forth as I think is appropriate between how much theism and how much distinctively Christianity he's he's addressing. So I'm if I may, I think, you know. And both are important targets of the problem of evil because the problem evil could be addressed at the theistic theory. God is omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good. Christianity's much more specific. God, where we have a lot more information than general theism will tell us about God's purposes, His inner nature being Trinitarian, relational, all that. So he does, you know, go back and forth a little bit. He'll make some comments just about theistic attributes. And he'll make other comments about the more distinctive purposes of the Christian Guard. And I think that's fair. We just have to kind of track him. I mean, Christianity clearly is a theism and some of the debris, some of the objections that have to be cleared away are the objections against basically just theistic concepts. And others really addressed more Christian concepts. To kind of classify Lewis's rendition of the problem. I need to kind of interact Lewis with contemporary scholarship. Honestly, that's one of the themes I've tried to build into this course.


We can read Lewis and we can come close to worshiping Lewis, maybe like he's the fourth member of the Trinity or something. Or the edit that out. Edit that out. I don't know what I'm saying. I think Trinity people, it's going to go across campus. Peterson thinks the Trinity has four members or something like that, which is a logical contradiction, by the way. So you wouldn't think I would go around believing contradictions as to figure out what C.S. Lewis is the fourth member of the Trinity can figure out. Exactly. But I do think in every like with miracles, we wanted to interact what Lewis was doing in that book with a lot of the contemporary discussion about miracles, natural law, things of that nature, historical knowledge versus scientific knowledge, all the kinds of things we did. Likewise, here, we really need to kind of get a sense of what's the general scholarship been up to? Has it learned anything? Has it settled anything? What are still open questions, that kind of thing. And as I read Lewis early on, I see him as presenting the argument as largely a logical problem, the problem of evil. Very famously. There has been for decades through much of the 20th century, one rendition, one formulation of what kind of problem we're dealing with on the part of professional philosophers. Probably the classic source is John Mackey, middle of the fifties, who published in the journal Mind. The oldest, the oldest philosophical journal in existence published at Oxford. Evil and Omnipotence was very famous article. And when he claims What is the problem of evil, what is a problem for theistic belief is the problem that the concept of God, the theism endorses a God who's rogue, omnipotent, omniscient, Holy, good.


Those three basic theistic concepts that he's omnipotent, omniscient, and holy good, those don't go together with another theistic belief that there's evil. So all, all standard theorems believe there's evil. We also believe that God is O.G. So those four claims for beliefs on the part of standard theists for JL Mackey. John Mackey. So Australia in the title of Oxford most of his life, those are logically inconsistent. You can't have them all. You have to give up at least one to be logically consistent in the set of beliefs that you hold. He didn't key on omniscience very much. He dealt a lot more with goodness and quite a bit more with omnipotence. But still if you kind of. I don't know. Expand and develop what Mackey was doing. Omniscience has to be in there as well. That's more typical. No commentary is really made specifically about the Christian God, just insofar as Christianity as a theism. If theism could be shown to to embody a logical problem, the problem of logical inconsistency, if these and can be shown to have a logical problem like that, then insofar as any living religion is a theism, it embodies that same logical problem. Now, very briefly, we don't talk about this much anymore except as an antique and largely through the efforts of planting it, beginning in the late sixties, definitely developing through the seventies, like he did publish a chapter in his book God and Other Minds in the late 6067. And then, of course, in 73, he published The Nature of Necessity, where he actually brings much more sophisticated, logical machinery, including modal logic and things like that, to bear on the problem of evil. And his response to Mackey is largely that free will, human free will, when it's conceived as libertarian in nature.


Because there are different there are different theories of free will, and some theories of free will won't work as a solution to the problem. But if it's libertarian, it means that free will is incompatible with any form of determination, either by natural laws or by divine power. You can't call a person free if they're subject to any form of determinate. So that's libertarian free will. So the free will defense is called F.W. de. Not not. WMD, which were found in Iraq two weeks ago, as we know. But after. The free will defense. It's very important to get your acronyms. I'm saying. Okay. So really, Louis publishing this book, the time he did middle of last century, is more in that atmosphere thinking this is the expression of the problem, that basically it's a logical problem, that God exists and evil exists are logically incompatible. So that is the way he expresses the argument. What I always like to say is now that that argument has been laid to rest by the end of the decade of the seventies, philosophers were looking for an alternative version, an alternative way of expressing what it is about evil that poses a problem for theism. And they came up with what we call the evidential argument. So the argument didn't go away. I think it became more accurately expressed. So the logical argument. And the evidential argument. Yeah, Evidential argument from evil are the true broad divisions of the argument that are well known in the literature. But for decades now, we've kind of figured that even even non theistic critics have accepted that Mackey's point has been rebutted. And sometimes things just go on and on in philosophy, you know what I'm saying? Nothing ever gets settled.


But that's one that's pretty widely agreed upon. That's settled. So, understandably, you know, people say, well, that doesn't mean that there's no problem about evil. We just have to express ourselves more accurately. And the whole idea now is that evil constitutes a kind of evidence against the claim God exists. That's a much better way of thinking about how it is that evil constitutes a problem for theistic belief to call it evidential problem. I don't remember in the book Louis ever speaking that way. I think he still continues to kind of organize his thoughts around, you know, what is understandably out there in culture at the time. And what I always say is that even though we've moved on from that articulation of the problem as the logical problem, we move to the evidential. So much of what Louis says or what any thoughtful theist and or Christian said in the past in response to a Mackey type argument can be usually kind of translated into the new context and still be helpful in discussions of the evidential problem. You just have to kind of change the context and how it's framed and a lot of insights are still valid. So it's not like because Lewis articulated the problem in a way that's now been discarded, that the whole book or what his thoughts are, you know, are somehow less valuable, though I don't think that at all. And we'll see that as we go. There. It is kind of interesting in historical context to see how he considering it as a logical problem, how he would attack it, how he would go after that. That is kind of interesting. And his instinct strike me. He couldn't have known about planning and all that kind of stuff, but his instinct strike me as very good.


For example, chapter two starts right out with the title Divine Omnipotence. He knows he better get clear on omnipotence. That was exactly the term in the in the title of Mackey's classic article. Now anthologized so many times we can't tell how many different anthologies has been put in, you know, in textbooks, Evil and omnipotence. Omnipotence has to be clarified. So Lewis starts right out by saying he's committed to the idea that omnipotence must be governed cannot be otherwise than to be governed by logical laws. So see the problem? Interestingly, it might look look kind of promising as an answer to the logical problem. If a person thought omnipotence could override logic because his problem by logic is are you, you know, God can do other than logic. So that whole way he doesn't accept. And I think that was very wise. But I tell you, I it's such a great quote, such a great my books falling apart. Of course, I only pay $0.95 for it. When did I buy this thing? Which like late sixties. So I bought this in the late sixties. Oh, watch it fall apart right in front of your eyes here. But right at the beginning of the Divine Omnipotence chapter, he says this. See, he's he's setting up a version. A version not the only ver, but a way of expressing this that is kind of in the logical argument orientation. If God were good, he would wish to make his creatures perfectly happy, and if he were almighty, he would be able to do what he wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore, God lacks either goodness or power or both. This is the problem of pain. In its simplest forms and the possibility of answering it depends on showing that the terms good Almighty are all powerful.


And perhaps also the term happy are equivocal. Now, that's going to be an interesting project. I want to talk about the word equivocal in just a second. For it must be admitted from the outset. If the popular meanings attached to these terms are the best meanings or the only possible meanings, then the argument is unanswerable. It's sovereign. It becomes a sovereign objection with no reply. Possible. So part of this project is already signaling here is going to be say, what do we mean by happy? And does it mean smiling all the time? Or can it be something deeper, deeper and richer in terms of the fabric of human life that could actually be compatible with experiencing some pain or suffering? But it was incompatible if happiness is incompatible with any pain or suffering. We're cooked. The problem becomes sovereign, or if the terms let's say like goodness, if that just means always making people happy. In the popular meaning of happiness, well, then we're cooked. So could could the kind of goodness God has include the permission for us to be in a an environment where some pain and suffering, maybe even a great deal is present and intersects our lives? And if so, what kind of motives and purposes might God have? That's what he's really signaling here. He's got to unpack it, you know, later, but he's got to unpack, so. I was going to mention the term equivocal. Yeah, there it is. The possibility of answering these. This charge, as expressed in the first few lines of that chapter, depends on showing that those terms are equivocal, are equivocal. And that goes to philosophy of language, of course. And the idea of what what equivocal means. Of course. Is this not election season? So we know what equivocating is.


It means you say one thing on one side of your mouth, get another crowd over here, you say another. We know what equivocal is by experience without having put a word on it because it's political season. But Echo in Latin means equivalent vocal array vote. It's actually there's no v sound in classical as woke hara means to call or to name. And so to use words to use these words, call them equivalent. So to say that terms are equipped, are equivocal is to say you're not holding steady the use of the term in one context. You mean this in other contexts use the same term. But you mean something different. There's a shade difference, some kind of significant difference. And that's what we mean when we say politicians are often equivocating. Imagine that to achieve their number one goal. Let me tell you, it does not include us. Am I right about this? We were in a mood in this country, aren't we? It's about time. Don't edit that out at any rate, but I'm very proud of that. So. That's right. So that's the other way of talking about the use of terms is to say we can use them universally, universally. So equivalently or universally in the individual use of terms means you hold steady the meaning that you attach to a given term. Every context in which you use it, the meaning holds steady any one one meaning across different usages and in different contexts. So so Lewis is going to say we just can't stay with the popular meaning of these terms and make any headway, significant headway into the problem of evil. We're going to have to nuance and qualify the meanings of these terms or we're cooked at the beginning.


The popular meanings are really in some ways, he'll he'll later argue, kind of superficial of what kind of goodness people often attribute to God or what they think happiness is. We'll have to go deeper. It doesn't mean that any answer or set of answers to the problem of evil is so clearly victorious and and there's no response possible. Things can be settled and then the problem will never come up again. They'll be raised again. So we're going to make all the headway we can on Lewis's own terms, but they'll still be a lot more to be said. It's a pretty small book, right? First of all, so you're with me so far. That's what he's doing to begin that chapter, too. And quite frankly, you know, excepting his expression of the problem as a kind of logical problem, it's a problem not just for nonbelievers and critics. This is also a problem for believers. There's I can't think of any other thought that is associated with loss of faith or crisis of faith more than I don't understand, you know, why I'm suffering or a loved one is suffering. I pray I try to be a good person, you know, all those kinds of thing. And look, look at what circumstances have occurred in my life. How painful, how difficult. And so he's going to address a lot of that. But it's not just that we're always answering the critic. Here also is a topic where faith is continually seeking understanding or in the Latin phrase, quorums and Electrum, as on some said, faith seeking understanding. You're with me so far. Now, he's really setting up early on the idea that we have to define these terms and omnipotence. Title of the chapter is this first term.


And just very briefly, there's sort of a history to the idea of how we think about divine omnipotence. And one way to think about it is as done. SCOTUS has contemporary acquaintances, contemporary thought about it, 13th century done, SCOTUS thought, Well, Omnipotence is the power to do anything whatsoever. Power to do anything whatsoever. Lewis here immediately takes for his own position the Thomas Stick position. And that is that Omnipotence is the power to do anything to bring about any state of affairs, the description of which is not logically self-contradictory. SCOTUS definition left open the possibility that God could do the logically so that God's power we better not limit gossip. You know, He could probably make married bachelors square circles. Make himself to be a Trinity and not a Trinity. How cool would that be? That'd be really good power. You know, that's a scope of power that's unrivaled. But the trouble is, it's nonsense. And the game is over. If you give up logic and he knows that, he's really committed to that. I like it the way he comes right out and says, That's just nonsense, he says. What if you take the description of the state of affairs this intrinsically, logically self-contradictory like square circles, and then you preface it with some words like, but God can bring it about that there are square circles. This says prefacing nonsense. Something that's intrinsically impossible to be prefacing it with religious words like. But God can do that, he says, doesn't make nonsense in the sense. It doesn't make the intrinsically impossible something that cannot be. Into something that could be because God could do it very honestly. He's he's a classicist along these lines. He throughout his writings, he doesn't ever give enough credit or acquaintance.


He does to Plato and Aristotle and some other you know, I hear echoes of card and some of things he does, and I hear neoplatonism every once in a while. But this is exactly Thomas's line. And he takes the Thomas to domestic view. I'm very sensitive if people don't appreciate Aquinas, you know, I'm saying for future exams and things like that, you know, saying, okay, so he defines omni omnipotence that way. And he said, We're just not going to be able to to think of God as being able to do anything whatsoever. The the addition to that definition, the planning of brought about just a few decades ago, was to say that's still not quite good enough. It's good. But you need to say God can't bring about state of affairs, the description of which are logically self-contradictory. That's good. But neither can he bring about this state of affairs, the descriptions of which are not logically self-contradictory. They're okay. Logically. But those states of affairs so described are ones that he cannot bring about. They're impossible for God to bring them about, even though. The description of those states affairs doesn't violate laws logic Daash, i.e. the free choices of finite personal beings. Libertarian free will. Libertarian free will is incompatible with any form of determination. So that's that's kind of like a caveat to the total mystic definition stood for 700 years. You know, for for this to be a realization in contemporary analytic philosophy. Yeah. Yeah. It's not, it's not just logic that puts parameters on what God can do. It's free will as well. How are we doing for time? Oh, we're coming up on kind of a break. Maybe this would be a good time to break and then come back in and go to some more.