What again of the torment of evil? Evil too shows a monstrous idiocy that demands hyperbolic thought beyond the whole. Gnosticism saw the problem of evil as the problem of the creator God: the tyrannical God of jealous power. Classical monotheism’s manner of putting the problem is continuous with the question of “wise willing” – disjunction seems to eventuate if we make a conjunct of God’s goodness and power. If God is all good, he would will all to be good – but evil exists, hence he is less than all powerful. If he is all powerful, he could will all good; again, evil exists and hence he is less than all good.
If the creator’s power extends to all, is the creator not responsible for evil? Creative power becomes coercive determination, and evil itself is one form of that coercive determination. And yet one of the deepest sources of holding God as creator is a hyperbolic trust that nothing but good can come from God. Even if God is agapeic, is he not complicit in evil by letting it be and enacting a divine self-limitation? Is this last different from a complicity that inculpates God: self-reserving is self-absenting, hence a benediction on malediction? Does not the goodness of the creator evaporate in the very effort to affirm the goodness? If absolute goodness lets evil be, absolute goodness seems not absolute goodness. For there are sins of omission as well as commission. Unlike Pontius Pilate washing his hands, being good sometimes means – getting one’s hands dirty. To be and do good is to go among the evil. Is this what an agapeic God would have to do, give up the invulnerable self-congratulation of the beautiful soul?
Does the story of the Fall answer the enigma? It names it, it does not dispel it. It gives heed to disruption in the order of creation, in our will to be as a god, possessing knowledge of good and evil. We will to be master of being’s equivocity, and in the process fall deeper into the equivocity. We become subject to it in the will to make it our subject. It is our will to elevation that produces our degradation. We do not throw ourselves down, rather we seek to be our own self-creating source of full transcendence, and the lack in our erotic will to be thus sovereign turns back into itself and becomes subject to its own void. This sovereignty makes void. Genuine sovereignty points to partnership with the divine other. It gives itself up in obedience to goodness.
Even if we make some sense of moral evil by attribution to our will, the issue is evil relative to creation, not just the human creature. Does the story of the Fall name the malignancy, the sometimes demonic energies unloosed, energies other to human will? There seems evil in excess of the moral evil we can impute to any human agent. Do we invoke a more than human agency (not quite as the Gnostics do, but not entirely unlike)? There seems no a priori reason to rule this out.
The lion devours the lamb, the spider the fly, the fox the hen. The cat plays coldly with the captive bird our human kindness would let go. There is something amoral in that play of life that is death: bored supremacy teasing the trembling bird with cruel illusions of being free, pinioning at the kill its flight in careless claws: love loving to disport with life, with death. Did the God creating the cat’s cold eye decree too this disport?
In originating creatures, God communicates but reserves power to allow their power to be. God’s power is absolute relative to the coming to be, but it is cooperative relative to the becoming of created beings. Since world is not God’s self-doubling, for there to be creatures as other, God must let another be as other, and in that grant of freedom freely abdicate univocal determining power for cooperative communication. In the reserve of divine patience, the gift of freedom sometimes means allowing by doing nothing, sometimes secret rejoicing with the creature, sometimes anonymous coaxing, sometimes persuading silently. The reserve of the divine cannot be separated from the finesse: intimate companionship with the mortal creature, devotion to its good, courtesy to its singular integrity. God is esteem for the gift, honoring the promise that we are come to redeem.
The unconditioned activity of the divine is conditioned relative to the world as the creation of the unconditioned activity. The conditioned relation goes with the act of creation, and hence to act in oblivion of the gift given would be to rescind the creation as other. So long as the world continues to be thus conditioned, the relation is not rescinded. Its rescinding would be the end of the world. Till then freedom is open and the redemption of its promise possible.
The primordial origin is not abstract or indefinite, not indeterminate, but overdetermined as overfull. And so, regardless of what the world comes to be and affects God with respect to the conditioned relation, there is the prior fullness of eternal life, and nothing changes this. Yet this fullness relates to creation, and its intermediating work is to bring this to fullness also. It does not always succeed, and in this there is a loss of promise, perhaps failure beyond redemption, perhaps damnation. This does not deprive the primordial fullness of its fullness; the fullness is overfull just because it alone has the power to take into itself the most devastating of losses and destructions, and what happens then, we do not know. Only God as absolute can suggest to us that perhaps, perhaps, what is damned for us, I mean absolutely lost, is given reprieve or another chance. Who among us can say?