CTNS Public Forum, "Divine Action, Natural Science, and the Problem of Evil" with Thomas Tracy Visiting Scholar from Bates College
“The affirmation that God acts in the world is at the center of the dramatic scriptural narratives that have shaped Jewish and Christian theological reflection for millennia, and it is embedded in the liturgy, preaching, and prayer of the communities that live out these traditions today. Theologians in the modern era, however, have persistently found themselves stumbling over this idea, uncertain about what to make of it. These misgivings have many sources, two of which I will address in this lecture. First, it has become a theological commonplace to contend that the idea of particular divine action runs afoul of scientific descriptions of the world as a lawful system of causal relations. It is often claimed, for example, that an action of God that affects the course of events would constitute an intervention in the system of nature, and that this notion is incompatible with scientific understandings of the world. Second, if this first objection can be answered, and we say that the world is open to special divine action, then we face profoundly difficult questions about divine justice in the face of suffering and evil. It appears that God should act to prevent or alleviate many of the evils that we see around us, and this has been cited as evidence against the goodness and power of God.
I will explore responses to these interconnected challenges, focusing on what it is possible to say about God’s permission of evil, on why such accounts face fundamental limits in principle, and on the shift from explanatory theodicy to a theology of redemption.”