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Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity

By L. D. McCabe, D.D., LL.D.

Chapter XI.

Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies is Necessary to the Construction of a Satisfactory.

The innumerable efforts of the greatest minds for hundreds of years to construct a satisfying theodicy prove how devout is the desideratum. A theodicy is a vindication of the perfection of God in establishing and permitting the order of things that from some cause obtains in this world. The word theodicy is derived from (Qeoj), God, and (dikh), justification. It does not propose to inquire, is God good or wise, just or powerful? but how the existence of sin came to pass, how suffering, injustice, oppression and misfortune can be explained without any criticism or reflection upon any of the divine attributes? The objections that must be met in a theodicy are the existence of moral evil, which is contrary to the holiness of God; the existence of physical evil, which is contrary to the goodness of God; the great disproportion between crimes and their punishments, the triumph of wickedness, the oppression of innocence, virtue and modest worth, which are contrary to the justice of God. Now, few are the problems in all the realms of thought, whose solution is more essential to our believing, determining, doing and rejoicing, as our nature and capacities clearly indicate we may and ought, than this very problem of the theodicy. But what is this that I see, coming from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, whose brightness is as the light adorned with the beauty of prophecy, arrayed in the splendor of miracles, traveling in the greatness of its strength, speaking all righteousness, covering the heavens with its glory, and filling the earth with its praise? and yet not one to be found among all its myriad devotees strong enough to loose the seal that locks a soul-satisfying theodicy. "The problem of evil," exclaims one, "is the knottiest of all the questions that ever perplexed the human mind." "The whole subject is one of inexplicable mystery. The origin of evil is an abyss in which the profoundest intellects are as completely beyond their depths as the most shallow,'' are the statements of Daniel Curry.

It would, indeed, be irreverent as well as foolish to attempt the construction of a theodicy without a fixed purpose to reject all self-contradictions from the discussions. Whenever two comprehensible propositions are incompatible with each other one or the other must always be rejected in any investigation. To incorporate an incompatibility into a theodicy, would be like introducing a minus in lieu of a plus, in the innumerable formulas needed in calculating the position, distance, size, orbit and perihelion, of an unknown planet, suspected of disturbing the equilibria of the solar system. Such incorporations of incompatibles has been the fatal defect and notorious defeat of all the theodicies yet proposed to the republic of thinkers. The source of weakness, confusion, and worthless results, will be found in the undue assumptions which the builders have regarded as necessities in themselves and indispensable to their schemes. Plato, for example, on the baseless fancy of the pre-existence of souls, tried in vain to account for present suffering and to justify the ways and dealings of divine Providence. Augustine, to explain these troublesome enigmas, invented and brought forward the disheartening scheme of predestination. He constructed his pitiless system out of inferences drawn from his reasonings on the single attribute of God's omnipotence, contemplated separately from other infinite perfections. John Calvin made God's will the originating cause of moral evil, and in this way he explained how evil could emanate from a pure creature. "The myriad-minded" Leibnitz brought one of the finest minds of the race, and bearing the largest resources of knowledge, to the elucidation of this ever-obtruding subject. He came to the construction of a satisfactory theodicy with a valor, self-reliance and confidence of ultimate success, that were truly sublime. But never in all the History of literature was there a failure more signal, more heralded, or more humbling to human pride. His system has been aptly described as a universe of shadows, or a mathematical romance. But how could it be otherwise, when he regarded and assumed that evil was an eternal necessity in the nature of things, over which God has no control? He laid the foundations of his theodicy on his inconceivable monads, his necessities of evils, his erroneous psychology, and his sadder misconceptions of theology and Bible truth.

To illumine this subject Albert Bledsoe built his explanation on the impossibility of creating a man free, and yet making it impossible for him to fall. Over the Calvinistic theodicy he fulminates with a hearty good-will. But the Calvinian in turn could let his logical lightning play about the head of Bledsoe with equal fury and reason. Bledsoe betrays a consciousness that there was a vulnerable point in his system. He manifests a half-formed conviction, that there was a quaking foundation for his idolized scheme. He utterly ruined his theodicy, the fruit of years of patient thought, when he made sin essential to the permanence and glory of the divine throne. "God," he says, "could have prevented moral evil by refusing to create those he foreknew would transgress his law, but he chose to create the world exactly as he did, though He foresaw the fall and all its consequences. He did this because He saw that the highest good of the universe required the creation of such a world." If this be true, then, sin really originated in infinite wisdom and benevolence, and is therefore an essential agency in the moral universe. But this is a conclusion too distressing and unreasonable for a moment's tolerance, in the evening of the nineteenth century.

But "it is a reproach to philosophy," said Dante, "to allow that the existence of moral evil is incomprehensible.'' The psychical and theological errors and the undue assumptions which have so long prevented the construction of a valid theodicy, ought diligently to be sought anti promptly abandoned. "It is certain," said Bishop I. W. Wiley, who has read and thought widely upon such themes, "that the construction of a theodicy is utterly impossible on the basis of either the dogma of predestination or that of absolute prescience." And with this opinion every believer in either of these assumptions will very readily coincide. All hope of a theodicy must be abandoned, or some new principle of a construction must be discovered and agreed upon by theologians. But the hope of an acceptable theodicy is too important an achievement and too great a boon for the world ever to abandon its entertainment. No new principle has yet been presented for the consideration of patient inquirers after better and firmer foundations. Divine nescience of future contingencies is the thought that turns into gold every thing and every element needed in the construction of a splendid divine theodicy. In the light of this simple principle all those functions and factors, which hitherto have proved so troublesome to theodicists, lose all their mysteriousness. By its power we can transmute every one of them into a pure crystal to adorn the walls of our construction. It illumines the genesis of sin, explains the existence of evils, and accounts for all suffering. It dissipates the mysteriousness in the long triumph of injustice and in the afflictive dispensations of Heaven. It shows the causes of the slow progress of civilization, and the processes of such frequent relapses therein. It points out the origin of the imperfections of a divine and perfect religion, explains the causes of the hard-won victories of such a religion in a world that is perishing for the need of it. It pours floods of light over all the trials, perplexities, temptations, hardships disappointments and responsibilities of human life. And so truly is this the case, that he who studies these hazards in the light of this hypothesis is not only serene beneath all his burdens, but, like St. Xavier, longs for "more, yet more," that his usefulness may be greater and his soul grander. May I not, then, confidently assert that divine nescience is a necessity to the construction of an acceptable theodicy, radiant with consistency and comfort? Divine nescience of future contingencies does for a theodicy what inertia does for the starry heavens. The simple truth that matter cannot change the state in which it is, is the principle that tunes the "music of the spheres" and maintains the harmonies and melodies all around the "milky way." And so divine nescience brings beauty, quietness, profit, and assurance forever into the great theodicean problem.