Terryl L. Givens, professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond, published two articles in Meridian Magazine early this year, taking up the perennially problematic topic of divine justice. Givens ends part one with this promise:
I believe what will provide greater clarity on [the problem of suffering], as well as greater clarity about LDS conceptions of the war in heaven, the purpose of mortal life, and the nature of the atonement, is a more coherent account of the meaning and role of moral agency. So in what follows, I want to make some very tentative efforts in that regard.
This is a serious claim. In this post, I would like engage Givens’ ideas, explore whether the article delivers on its claim, and offer a tentative critique of my own.
One of Givens’ central arguments is that human agency cannot exist unless every choice is linked to its natural consequence. For example, if an ice cream parlor offers several choices of ice cream, but everyone is served the same flavor no matter what they order, Givens might point out that in reality there was no choice. Merely providing choice is not the essential ingredient of freedom—it is guaranteeing that choices have predictable consequences. Otherwise, we end up with, in Givens’ words, a sham, “a mere pantomime of decision-making.” From here, Givens discusses the true nature of Satan’s alternative plan—a plan not brought about by coercion—but brought about by the seductive delinking of choice from consequence. [Read more...]