19 September 2011

Theodicy Part 3: God is Better than Perfect

In parts 1 and 2 we established that the Universe is such that we are free to live our lives without God, and that the Universe is self-consistent. These two related properties combine to allow us to make our way in the world, and to frustrate us into doing so.

I use the word "frustrate" in a specific sense. The late psychologist Donald Winnicott developed the concept of the "good-enough" mother — the ordinary, devoted mother, who creates a secure enough environment for her child, yet is not "perfect" from her child's point of view, because she can not or will not satisfy the child's every wish. This "frustrates" the child enough to begin trying to do things for itself, and to establish its own identity apart from its mother. In this sense, "good enough" beats "perfect" hands down. A child with a good enough mother becomes a functioning adult. A child with a perfect mother remains dependent all its life.

Perhaps the entire question of theodicy stems from God being imperfect from our point of view. We want God to take care of our every want or need, to guard us from every harm. We might regard that as perfect, but we would be less than human. All we would be capable of is wanting and needing. Under such circumstances, who among us would be capable of doing or creating, and who would want to? Perhaps God is "good enough" to let us have a little space and time to become ourselves, which means that God better than perfect.

Yes, the Universe is a rough place. But within the constraints of freedom from God and self-consistency, could you come up with a better one? To quote Bob Dylan, "The answer, my friend, is blown' in the wind" — as God speaks it from the whirlwind in the Book of Job, chapters 38 and 39, of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.

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