GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast

78. The Problem Of Evil | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 6 [Part 1]

June 09, 2022 Jerry L. Martin, Scott Langdon, Richard Oxenberg
GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast
78. The Problem Of Evil | Series: Two Philosophers Wrestle With God | Dialogue 6 [Part 1]
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Jerry L. Martin and Dr. Richard Oxenberg invite Kierkegaard, pioneer existentialist and Danish philosopher, Stendhal, realist French novelist, and Heschel, Jewish philosopher and theologian of the 20th century, to the conversation with God, taking a deep look at evil and suffering. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin is a philosopher and author of the true story, God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher. He has served as the head of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of Colorado philosophy department and is the founding chairman of the Theology Without Walls group at the AAR. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg is a professor at Endicott College. He has studied philosophy and ethics of religion and has published numerous articles on these subjects, including his book: On the Meaning of Human Being: Heidegger and the Bible in Dialogue.

Join host Scott Langdon as he connects Dr. Richard Oxenberg and Dr. Jerry L. Martin to discuss why God does not simply end all evil and suffering.

We appreciate your support, comments, and reviews!  
God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube | Contact: questions@godanautobiography.com
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Related Episodes

-[Two Philosophers Wrestle With God] Dialogue 5 The Big Picture 75, 74; Dialogue 4 The Nature Of Divine Reality 71, 70; Dialogue 3 Purpose 66, 65; Dialogue 2 Revelation 62, 61

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Scott Langdon [00:00:17] This is God: An Autobiography, the podcast. A dramatic adaptation and continuing discussion of the book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin. He was a lifelong agnostic, but one day, he had an occasion to pray. To his vast surprise, God answered- in words. Being a philosopher, he had a lot of questions and God had a lot to tell him. Episode 78. Hello and welcome once again to God: An Autobiography, the podcast. This is episode 78 and I'm your host, Scott Langdon. With this episode, we returned to our series: Where Two Philosophers Wrestle With God, and bring you part one of dialog number six between doctors Jerry L. Martin and Richard Oxenberg. We've titled this conversation The Problem of Evil, as Richard and Jerry discuss how God is so often seen as the one who has the power to stop suffering but simply refuses to. God tells Jerry a much different story. Remember, you can hear the complete audio adaptation of the book God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher any time by beginning with episode one of our podcast and listening through episode 44. Here now is part one of dialog number six, The Problem of Evil. We begin with Jerry speaking first. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:05] Richard Oxenberg, good to see you, and I gather you've been thinking about, in a very creative way it strikes me, about how different parts of God: An Autobiography fit together. Different than I was told in quite different contexts some time, but if you look at them in a certain way, you can see them as making a kind of coherent whole and a kind of theology of their own. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:36] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:36] What is our topic for today? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:39] Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, that's kind of the way that my mind tends to work. I guess I look for-- 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:45] Yes, yes, that's good.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:47] Right. So, what we did last time was we kind of looked over the big metaphysical picture. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:02:54] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:02:54] Where I talked about how the God of this world emerges out of the God beyond God and then engages in this big project. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:04] Yes. Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:05] Right? And what I thought we would do today, having laid that picture out, is to really address one of the (to me one of the) most fundamental questions in the philosophy of religion. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:22] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:22] We often call the problem of evil. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:25] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:03:26] And talk the way that your book responds to and addresses that problem- which I think it addresses it in a very interesting way. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:03:38] And comes up repeatedly in different contexts without ever pausing, in my mind, at least, I never saw a definitive (quote) solution. It's a problem. You want a solution, but maybe-- But it does give hints and different perspectives at different points in the conversation with God. And maybe you see a pattern to that that I haven't yet noticed so much. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:09] I do see a pattern. And it's just in the context, you know, of this just recently in a way that, again, you know, and I think I mentioned to you privately a lot of the pieces of the puzzle have come together for me in a way that makes it fit. So I thought maybe we would talk about that pattern as I see it and see what you think about it and and move on with that. I guess I thought I'd begin by just laying out what the problem is, right? What is the problem of evil, you know, as it is classically understood. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:46] Yes. I think we all have it in our own lives, right? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:51] Oh, for sure. Well--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:04:52] You know? So we start there with a grip on understanding. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:04:59] You know, I think in many ways religion exists in the world in order to address the problem of suffering and evil. Human beings experience suffering and evil, and they look for help. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:14] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:16] Right? And-- 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:16] And for meaning, for meaning! What's the meaning of this? Does it mean something? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:21] Right. Right. And for it to mean something and for it to-- yeah, you know, I think Kierkegaard speaks of the danger of despair. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:29] Yeah, right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:30] And the need to overcome despair because suffering and evil can lead to a sense of despair. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:37] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:39] And what has happened, especially in Western religion, I think, is that the problem of evil leads to a kind of paradox that is not very well dealt with and the paradox goes something like this. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:05:57] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:05:58] So human beings face suffering and evil. That's just an empirical fact. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:04] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:06] And what we desire then is someone, some force, some power, that can help us (right) in the face of this suffering and evil. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:19] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:19] Right? And the Western religious tradition says, well, you've got somebody it's called God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:26] Yes, Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:26] Right? And here's some really good news! Right? God is all good (right) and all powerful. And so therefore God, you know, can be totally relied on to help you address your suffering and evil. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:43] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:44] But there's this almost riddle, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:49] Yes, yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:49] So if God is all good and all powerful, why is there this suffering and evil in the first place? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:06:58] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:06:59] Right? And why should there be this suffering and evil? Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:03] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:07:03] And I guess the way it gets classically formulated is the idea, well, if God is all good and all powerful, there shouldn't be any evil in the world or suffering in the world because God has the goodness to want to do away with it and the power to be able to do away with it. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:07:24] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:07:24] Right? And so then, why doesn't he? And the paradox, where this becomes a paradox, is if we then say, well- that God doesn't have the power or doesn't have the goodness to be able to do away with it, then God doesn't seem to be one we can rely upon to help us address our suffering and evil. So the very thing, the very thing that is posited to help us address suffering and evil turns out to lead to a riddle. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:02] And a disappointment. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:06] And a disappointment. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:08] And potentially disillusionment, the despair [00:08:10]that Kierkegaard [1.4s] was talking about. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:14] And even a perversion, I would say, of theology and thinking specifically of the Augustinian solution to the problem of evil. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:26] Ahuh. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:26] Which is to say that it's all your fault. Right? It's all human beings fault. We sinned, we sinned. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:32] So it's our fault, like the fall of Adam. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:08:35] We justly deserve all the suffering and evil that befalls us, because God is just, justice is good, and so God is just punishing us, and that punishment is good, even though it might lead to eternal misery for billions of human beings--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:08:57] But they deserve it- on that. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:00] They deserve it, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:00] They deserve it, and that doesn't seem very plausible. We might deserve a slap on the wrist or on the knuckles, but do we deserve the kind of intense, evil and suffering that this world holds? The child burning in a hotel fire, you know. The infant burning up in a hotel fire. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:22] Yeah. Yeah. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:22] Deserves that?

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:24] Or just eternal damnation? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:26] Of course, there's that prospect. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:28] You know, people burning in fire forever. You know, it's--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:33] Wouldn't purgatory have been enough? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:35] Yeah. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:36] You know? In terms of--. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:37] Yeah. Yeah. It seems to make God a kind of cruel entity, and that way of resolving the problem ends up not really resolving the problem--. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:52] Right, Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:52] At all because God turns into someone we can't really trust. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:09:57] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:09:58] You know, to really care about us. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:00] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:02] And so Stendhal, I don't know if you-- You know, so, the alternative to the Augustinian theodicy is, I think, Stendhal. I only know this through a quote of Nietzsche's. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:16] Of course, a Stendhal? The novelist?

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:18] Yeah... 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:22] The novelist, The Red and-- or just somebody named Stendhal? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:25] Somebody named Stendhal. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:25] Okay. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:26] Apparently quipped, God's only excuse is that He doesn't exist. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:33] Oh, okay. Right-- 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:34] The only way you can finally justify God is that, you know, He couldn't help us because He doesn't exist. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:10:40] Ahuh. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:10:40] Oh, and so all of this is a kind of somewhat elaborate introduction to the idea that I have been finding in your book a nuanced response to the problem of evil. That seems to me to work quite well, at least at a theoretical level. Right? Whether you, we're, going to believe that that's what is true is another question. But at least it works. If it were true, it seems to me, it would work. And so that's--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:11:14] Well, for openers, the two premises that you cite, that we're familiar with in the Western tradition, that God is all powerful and all good, are both rejected by God in some of the earliest prayers. Because I'm kind of assuming these things, and sort of asking now that I've got God on the line- is this true or--? Well, I'm given these sort of waffling answers, but that basically say, well, no, not all good, not all powerful. I'm told later the laws of nature are what they are. I don't make them up, what they are, we work with them in a real world and in ways that we-- that are a little harder to understand. God isn't all good in the kind of classic sense of eternal perfection or something like that. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:12:11] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:11] That doesn't quite by itself, I think, handle the problem of suffering because if God has any power at all, He could prevent some of these horrible things, you know, and then what if God isn't all good? How is He really God? You know, how is He--

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:12:33] Right. If He isn't all good, how is He really God? And if He isn't all powerful, how is He going to help? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:38] Yeah. You know, some people just say, what use is He? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:12:42] Right, right, right. But actually, you know, the more I have reflected on it...

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:12:48] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:12:48] The more I do see a kind of, you know, yes, I think that what you're saying--. One of the ways of addressing this problem of evil is to say, and there are various theologies that say this, that, well, you've got to qualify the notion that God is all powerful. Right? I think Process theology presents us with a kind of qualification of the idea that God is all powerful. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:21] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:22] Right? And your work does that as well. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:25] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:25] But I think your work, or what you have heard-- 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:29] What I've heard, yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:13:29] Really expresses it, and the more I've looked at it, and the more I try to put it together in an extraordinary way, and so I kind of would like to step through how I've come to see this extraordinary way and see what you would say about it. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:13:51] Yeah, let's hold off for a moment, because there is another way in the Western tradition that it's handled- the problem of evil, that is prominent and is addressed in God: An Autobiography. And that is that evil isn't real. It lacks being. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:07] Yes. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:07] Evil is simply the lack of being. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:11] Maya. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:11] Yeah. Well, Maya in the Eastern tradition, but people like Thomas Aquinas say this in the Western tradition, that evil is simply the absence of good. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:21] Oh, the privation of Bonate. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:22] The privation period of theory. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:24] Right. Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:26] It's the-- And in that sense, is unreal. So there's the Eastern Maya. There's the Buddhist way of saying such things are unreal, and then there's this privation theory that evil is simply, you might say, the absence of good or a lax actual being, because being is itself good and evil lacks it. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:14:51] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:14:51] But against all of those, I'm told in God: An Autobiography, suffering is really, really bad. There's no attempt to obscure that fact or say- Oh, there's a hidden meaning that makes it good, or that it can vanish if you think about it at the right way. You know, you can kind of put brackets around it and dismiss it. Evil, I'm told, suffering is just as bad as those who reject God because of it, say it is. So there's a full acceptance of the agony--. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:26] But it's not bad in such a way that it... I'm sorry, go ahead, Jerry. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:32] Full acceptance of the agony of suffering. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:35] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:37] God knows that. In other words, God isn't trying to wiggle out of that phenomenological fact. That fact that we can experience, that we undergo horrendous suffering. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:49] Suffering is really real. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:51] It's really real. It's really real. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:15:54] And it's not only real for us, it's real for God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:15:57] And for God too. God's suffering when we suffer. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:01] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:01] Yes, yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:01] Although interestingly, for me, it does seem to me there is a kind of way in which we can read the suffering that is expressed in the book as a kind of privation, but a privation not in the sense that it's not real. I mean if you think of starvation, the experience of starving to death. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:35] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:36] Right? One can understand that as created by a privation. Right? To starve, to be without the food that you need to be nourished by, that doesn't mean the starvation isn't real. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:16:51] Right, right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:16:55] Right, right. It's the privation of something that needs to be there in order for the suffering to be resolved, but the suffering is quite real. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:02] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:04] And I think that, at least I'm seeing the possibility of interpreting certain aspects of the book in that way. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:13] Okay, how do you see the book then? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:16] Yeah. So--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:17:18] How is it, you might say, the big picture surrounding this issue of suffering. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:17:57] So where I thought I'd start, is by looking at again, something we talked about last discussion, and that is the emergence of the God of this world from out of the God beyond God. Right? The God beyond God, we can say, is the ultimate reality in the sense of the foundation, the ontological foundation of all that is (right) and is a unity. And I believe there's a quote, I don't have it at hand right now, but it is a quote in which the God beyond God describes Himself as beyond suffering, beyond evil. There is no suffering in the God beyond God. The God beyond God is not complete because the God beyond God has an inherent urge to create. Right? And so without the creation, the God beyond God is incomplete. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:03] And there's too- there's an ideological difference even there. The God beyond God is almost like a potential God. In other words, of course it's quite real, but it's actualized by entering a world. You know, and then It has work to do. The God beyond God is not fully actualized. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:34] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:34] Because It's not, you might say, embodied. So It's--

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:19:36] It's not fully actualized, It's not fully embodied. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:19:39] An unborn soul that's kind of floating around, waiting to enter a life to become fully real, and in that God's unborn state, there is total calm, passivity, and, you know, what you were last time calling peace- a kind of peace of mind? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:00] A kind of peace. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:02] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:03] And there's a wonderful, I'm just going to say this as a little aside, there's a wonderful little moment in the book in which the God (it's either God or the God beyond God) is saying something about how the purpose of life is to be lived. Right? Not for everything to get folded back into the God beyond God. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:22] Right. Right.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:22] And and you then say, well, then it sounds like mysticism has it precisely wrong. And then God says to you- don't get carried away. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:34] Right. Right. Yeah. I'm always leaping one way or another. (Laughing)

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:39] (Laughing). Yeah. I love that moment. But there are two quotes that I wanted to just focus on here. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:45] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:45] We're talking about the emergence of the God of this world from the God beyond God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:20:51] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:20:52] One, let me just find it here, is on page 296. This is God speaking of the experience of coming into (the God of this world speaking of the experience of coming into) self awareness. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:10] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:11] Right? And he says here, "My self-conscious level." And by that he means the God beyond God. Right? You have it in parenthesis, "My self-conscious level (God's Self behind the self)." Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:27] Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:28] "My self-conscious level does not forget," talking about forgetting about the whole history of things. "Though the emergent level (the God of any particular world), in a sense does (forget)." Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:42] Right. Yeah.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:44] "It is as if it is a different personality, beginning anew (in a newly created world)."

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:21:50] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:21:51] So at this moment of birth, right, there's an initial moment of the birth of a God of a particular world, and that birth, at that moment, it's almost platonic in a way, right? That God, the birth trauma makes It forget, severs It from Its complete awareness of Its rootedness in the God beyond God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:20] Right. Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:22] And that then leads to the next quote that I really wanted to focus on. And this is on page 71. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:31] Early in the book. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:33] Early in the book. It's in the section on creation. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:36] Okay. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:37] And I find it fascinating, I've found it fascinating ever since I first read the book. And it's-- God is describing the experience of coming into awareness of Himself for the first time. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:52] Yeah, God and the world are sort of exploding together. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:22:56] Right. Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:22:58] Yeah.It's the creation of the world, it's also the appearance of God. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:03] Here's a quote. I think we quoted it last session as well. "I am in the midst of Nothing."

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:09] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:10] "I don't know who or what I am--"

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:13] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:14] "I am like a baby in a womb. I hear nothing, see nothing- because there is nothing. I feel alone, very alone, except that I don't know what alone means.". 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:31] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:32] Right? "I feel growing strength and Myself being drawn toward the light, just a glimmer at the 'edge.' I am in a kind of 'pain' like stretching, aching muscles." So that's the quote. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:44] Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:46] And I just thought it very interesting to consider the nature of the Nothing. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:23:56] Ahuh. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:23:56] This God experiences together with the sense of loneliness that It experiences being in that Nothing. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:06] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:06] Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:06] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:08] If we combine this quote with the other quote about how the God of this world at first forgets the God beyond God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:16] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:17] So all of a sudden, this God is really a finite God. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:22] Yes. Correct.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:22] Right? In the sense that It is rooted in something more fundamental than Itself, but It originally is ignorant of that more fundamental connection. It Itself is ignorant of it. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:36] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:37] And it seems as if that ignorance makes It feel Itself to be surrounded by Nothing and to be in a state of supreme aloneness. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:24:49] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:24:49] Right? And I guess what I was thinking is that there's a kind of strangely paradoxical quality of our world. Right? It's not just expressed here, but it's really something we can see in this world. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:09] Yeah. Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:25:09] And that is that the world is made of apparently discrete, independent, separate entities that are all interdependent on one another. Right? So that on the one hand, I experience myself as just me. I don't experience myself as you.

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:32] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:25:33] Right. And yet my being is interdependent on everything else. Really? Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:41] Yes. Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:25:41] And if somehow I were separated from everything else that I were dependent on, I'd experienced myself as in the midst of nothing. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:53] Okay, yes, yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:25:54] And very alone? Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:25:55] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:25:57] And in a sense that it's that phenomena or that experience of the Nothing, of the aloneness that it seems to me is at the root of suffering and even evil. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:10] Oh, that's interesting. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:26:12] And it doesn't have to turn into evil. It's just suffering at this level. It only turns into evil- we can talk about that as we continue on, but it's certainly a sense of suffering that you have to escape from. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:27] Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:26:27] Right? This sense of nothingness, the sense of aloneness needs a resolution. And so we have this interestingly, I'll use the word again, paradoxical. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:26:41] Yes, yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:26:41] It's interestingly paradoxical dimension to creation itself. That on the one hand (right) Creation allows for this great diversity of things to be, to exist, to enjoy existence. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:07] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:27:08] And yet, precisely because the created things emerge from an initial unity that in order for them to be separate, they must feel themselves to be distinct from. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:23] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:27:25] That itself creates suffering, and aloneness, and I guess anxiety. Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:34] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:27:35] And if you felt that there was no hope, no way of overcoming that aloneness, no way of overcoming your entrapment in Nothingness- that would be despair. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:27:50] Yeah. I see. Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:27:52] And so there's the, in a sense, the origin of suffering and evil in the moment of creation. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:00] Ahh. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:28:00] And what's fascinating to me about the way the book presents it, is it's not just that we experience the suffering and evil. Right? Whereas God is sitting, you know, having His pie in the sky while, you know, we're having to eat crow. But God himself, the God of each world, has this initial experience of the various suffering and aloneness that needs to get resolved. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:28:31] I wonder if this is related to another thing I was told very early, you know, when I objected, why God is so hidden. You know. So we're sitting here puzzling. Is there a God? Is there not a God? You know, you grasp at straws to find evidences, and so on. And anyway, in this moment where I was kind of irritated, that God says, no, I'm not hidden, well, you know, you have to look in the right way. It still seems pretty hidden. And I said, anyway, you know, You're sitting up there in divine perfection. You know, the pie in the sky. Why do we even care? Why do you bother with human beings? Why do you want us to do anything? I ask. I put the question this way- is human recognition important to You? And the answer was, Yes it's the essence of My being." That's a rather-- I didn't know what that meant. But in a way, one sees what it means as you read through the book, that God is in God's very essence related to human beings, and God's projects and purposes are related to human beings and also the other elements of creation. And that is, you know, God.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:29:50] Yes. It's that God, and again, all of this-- I had to read the book many times for this to sort of dawn upon me, but all of this is related to the idea that this God, when it emerges from the God beyond God, is presented with a problem and a project immediately. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:15] Yes, yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:30:15] Which is the overcoming of Its own aloneness. And It does that through Its creative work with the world and most particularly with human beings. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:29] Ahuh. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:30:30] Right? So it's not simply that there's this perfect God who, you know, has created us and we're in all this trouble. It is a partnering as is often said in the book. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:41] Yes, yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:30:41] God depends on us in ways that the traditional way of thinking of God (right) wouldn't allow for. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:51] Right. Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:30:52] Although I guess Heschel has--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:30:58] Whose that? 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:30:58] Abraham Heschel--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:00] Oh. Ahuh. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:31:00]  Has a famous book called God in Search of Man, that expresses something of that. Right?

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:07] Yes, Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:31:07] That the God needs human, the human response. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:12] Yes, yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:31:12] Right? And this then leads--

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:15] And there is, one needs to add this, I think, there is actual real work in the world to be done. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:31:20] Yes. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:21] It's not just, oh, God needs company, you know, or something like that, but there is actual work to do in the world. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:31:31] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:31:31] You know, to repair the divisions and flaws and fractures and dividing lines and tensions and trying to think what the tectonic scales of spheres do, they rub against each other. The world's full of those kinds of earthquakes, and that's essential work, it's not just a made up project or something. It's essential work, and God has His role in that, we have ours. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:01] Right. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:02] And the two have to be in partnership. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:04] And that work, really, is a big part of what gives the world its meaning. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:11] Yes. Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:12] You know, that's why life is meaningful, right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:15] Yes, yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:15] Because there's something to be done and it must be done. Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:19] Yes, it must be done. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:19] And when I say it must be done, I mean that the God beyond God must create. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:24] Yes. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:24] That creation, must create this separation and division and suffering. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:32] Right. Right.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:33] Right? And that suffering must be addressed. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:35] Yes. Yes.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:36] So, all these things are imperative to the ontological situation of reality itself. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:42] Right. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:43] Right? It's not optional. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:45] Right. It's not optional.

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:45] It's not like it could have been some other way. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:47] Yeah. Yeah. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:32:48] Right? 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:32:49] At one point, this came out because I thought it sounded like almost like video games where you have a character and he goes through the obstacles and each world was like a different video game. Well, no, it's not a video game, this is real. 

Dr. Richard Oxenberg [00:33:05] It's real. 

Dr. Jerry L. Martin [00:33:05] This is real, we are real people, real suffering, there's real good and evil. And I'm told, you know, you don't really take in the evil unless you fight against it- the evil outside, the evil inside yourself. 

Scott Langdon [00:33:29] Thank you for listening to GOD: An Autobiography, the podcast. Subscribe for free today wherever you listen to your podcasts and hear a new episode every week. You can hear the complete dramatic adaptation of God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher by Jerry L. Martin, by beginning with episode one of our podcast and listening through its conclusion with Episode 44. You can read the original true story in the book from which this podcast is adapted, God: An Autobiography, As Told To A Philosopher. Available now at Amazon.com, and always at godanautobiography.com. Pick up your own copy today. If you have any questions about this or any other episode, please email us at questions@godanautobiography.com and experience the world from God's perspective as it was told to a philosopher. This is Scott Langdon. I'll see you next time.