I was initially disappointed with Feser’s lack of earnest engagement with _TASBS_ . At the same time, I do concede that he and DBH have previously gone back & forth rather extensively & substantively. In some sense, one might ask how much more can Feser really add by way of argumentation.
See, for example:
Honestly, I really couldn’t stomach more of Feser’s revival of that ole time religion, i.e. a decadent neo-scholasticism. The disconnect for me & his ilk truly is visceral. I don’t necessarily reject Feser’s counterarguments because they aren’t logically consistent. What leaves me cold or, sometimes, even on the verge of wretching, is that such rationalistic takes as his are so existentially disappointing.
To proceed from Feser’s valid premises to check for soundness, one must also accept his terms, which, in my case, presuppose that I will have jettisoned all of my most deeply felt aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions.
Now, I fully expect that, post-mortem, we will all travel “beyond” those quotidian evaluative dispositions in various ways, but I certainly don’t expect we’ll travel “without” them, that any acceptable post-mortem anthropology should do such violence to my earthly experiences of all that’s been true, beautiful, good & unitive. For that matter, neither can I set aside my theophanic experiences of the here & now for the morally unintelligible theodicies on offer.
Rhetorically, I felt like DBH was interrogating me, asking how I really felt, what I most deeply valued, whom I most fervently cherished and how those relational dispositions imparted normative impetus to how I’d really respond to various thought experiments, whether now or post-mortem, whether regarding God or, let’s say, my precious children. And he was suggesting “Hold that thought! Cherish that feeling!” before engaging any syllogism!
Others, like Feser, assure me, rather, that … well, if that single damned soul is my son … “Don’t worry. You’ll get over it.” And when we reflexively recoil & launch an invective, they complain of our harsh rhetoric.
That’s it. I’ve said much more about much else, elsewhere & here. Sometimes too much, to be sure. So, I apologize again. But these are reasons of my heart. I’m searching for arguments that are not just valid. The most taut tautologies for me will also be existentially satisfying.
In a more discursive vein, I realize that many have misinterpreted _TASBS_ as a theodicy.
What I have described above has more to do with its theophanic thrust. I eschew evidential theodicies. I resist them vehemently. But I do countenance logical defenses regarding the problem of evil. One of the bigger takeaways from DBH’s arguments, for me, was a deeper appreciation for the conception of evil as privation, which, as a concept over the years, wasn’t wholly compelling to me, although, in some ways, just sufficient. What infused that notion with more meaning was interpreting it (as a corrollary to _TASBS_) as referring to an eschatological reality.
While I had previously bought into the idea that evil had no intrinsic existence, still, it most definitely was real and “existed” parasitically. To suggest that its parasitic existence wasn’t visible, real, etc always seemed to be wholly incoherent, lame, unpersuasive. One just could not convincingly say it was absolutely “no thing.”
Only per a universalist account can one affirm that, ultimately & eternally, evil will indeed enjoy no parasitic existence &, as a corrollary to all being realizing its Sophianic union with Being beyond being, evil will lapse into utter no-thing-ness, absolutely not existing, since no privations of the good, of being, shall perdure.
Evil may not be absolutely no thing “yet” but it is progressively “becoming” nonexistent, for we are poised to exist in fulfillment of the divine Logoi.
Anything less than the utter destruction of evil’s parasitic existence (hindering our telic realizations) will leave us with a Manichean residue and a “relatively good” God?
So, while _TASBS_ proffered no shallow evidential theodicy as misread by folks wearing the wrong hermeneutical lenses, it does seem to provide a theophany which has practical implications for grounding a modest logical defense – not Platinga’s or Stump’s, but – perhaps like M.M. Adams’?
To be clear regarding the normative role that our aesthetic sensibilities & moral intuitions play in how we judge competing theophanic accounts:
Our evaluative dispositions are integrally situated within an holistic hermeneutical spiral, which orients us to transcendental imperatives. They represent laws planted in our hearts, experienced by our consciences, which have been further informed by family life, friendships & loves, church fellowship, catechetical instruction, moral development, liturgical cultivation, formative spirituality, communal discernments & ongoing conversions, both secular & religious.
They are not to be cursorily dismissed, hastily set aside or cynically caricatured.
I personally subscribe to an axiological epistemology, as has been previously articulated by Amos Yong and I in conversation with CS Peirce, Lonergan & RC Neville.
This should be read in conjunction with:
A Collatio in Response to Edward Feser’s review of David Bentley Hart’s That All Shall Be Saved
An Open Invitation to Universalism – no matter how you square divine-human agential interaction