November 12, 2005

St. Augustine, John Hick, David Griffin and Sri Aurobindo

Mcdonald, Michael
Towards a contemporary theodicy: based on critical review of John Hick, David Griffin and Sri Aurobindo
DEGREE: PH.D.- 1995 / University of Hawaii; 0085.- Adviser: Chairperson.- DAI, VOL. 57-01A, Page 0285, 00369 Pages
ABSTRACT: The author seeks to make the fewest changes that would allow Christianity to withstand the challenges of the problem of evil (POE). The project includes a critical review of the theodicies of John Hick and David Griffin, and also draws upon the thought of Sri Aurobindo. From Augustinian thought, the author retains the emphasis upon moral evil. He argues that any theodicy resolving moral evil also resolves natural evil, and that natural evil, as such, would not create major barriers to religious faith. The author accepts John Hick's ideas of epistemic distance and soul-making, with supplementation. But he rejects Hick's use of the Greater Good Defense, instead positing that evil cannot be justified. The only question is whether it can be healed. David Griffin's strategy of adjusting divine traits to solve the POE is rejected. Instead, the author modifies Christian ideas of human identity and human destiny. Griffin's definition of evil is also rejected. Instead, the author defines evil as "a horrendous violation of an important human value."
The author posits that Aurobindo correctly identified the Christian doctrine of "one lifetime only" as posing major problems for theodicy. The Indian view of multiple lifetimes helps to resolve dysteleological evil. Karma does not solve the POE all by itself, the author holds, but a revised notion of karma as "a law of appropriate experience" can make an essential contribution. The Indian view of human identity in terms of Self and ego personality is also adopted, again with some modification. The author uses an analogy of evil with a wound to argue that all evil can be healed, and must be healed in the process of psycho-spiritual growth. The conclusion is that evil may be ultimate to the ego personality, but is not ultimate to the soul, as such. From the perspective of the Soul or Self, suffering can be self-chosen for important and positive reasons. In short, a total picture of human identity and destiny gained by borrowing and revising Indian doctrines enables the author to suggest a new format for the interpretation of evil.

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