An Evil Uncle

Suppose I am away from home for the weekend and send my six-year-old son to stay with my sister and brother-in-law who happens to be a 6’5” 285 lb. former football player.  When I return, I find my son bloodied and bruised, clothes torn, and infections beginning to form in the cuts and scrapes on his arms.  Naturally I will demand an explanation from my brother-in-law.

“What did you do!?”


“What do you mean nothing, LOOK AT HIM!”

“Settle down! This is not my fault, I had nothing to do with it.”

“What happened?”

“Saturday morning the kid was out back playing with the dog when the neighbor boys came over and decided to make sport of the kid.  I’m as offended as you are.”

“When did you find out about it?”

“Oh, I saw it happen, I didn’t let the kid out of my sight, I love him and want to be immanently close to him.”

“What!?  You saw this beating take place and you didn’t do anything?”

“What kind of an uncle do you think I am, that I would use brute force and restrict the freedom of the neighborhood kids.  I love them too, you know.  I want them to choose to like me, that’s not possible if I subjugate them to my own will. Plus, do you want your son to have friends?  Cause if I make them be nice to him, they don’t really count as friends now do they?”

“I expect you to use the strength you have to do good to those you love!  I expected you to watch over my son—“

“I already told you, I saw the whole thing…”

“And protect him—“

“I told you, it’s not in my nature to use force.”

“At least, I thought you were a good enough man to do what’s right—“

“Now stop right there! How dare you question my benevolence? I love that kid!  You think this was my idea?  I didn’t know they were going to do that, and I never laid a finger on him.  You can’t hold me responsible for this!  Now, let’s dance…”

(I am troubled by theologies that say simply because God did not ordain or cause a tragedy to take place, He is in no way culpable for the event.  If you retain omniscience, or any level of omnipotence, simply dropping foreknowledge or meticulous sovereignty does not get rid of the problem of evil.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying God is at all like the brother-in-law described in the narrative.  I am simply saying that as far as I can tell evil remains a problem in open theism.)



2 comments on “An Evil Uncle

  1. Dean says:

    Though you could also put the analogy on its head and say the uncle beat the son to teach him how much he loves him via discipline, at which point the father would still be reasonably upset. I suppose it depends on the Open Theist, but they’re not deists–they still see God at work in the world and miracles still happen. The laws of nature are still able to be suspended. Restricting harm from someone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re infringing on the freedoms of others to harm that someone–it just means that the others now have to adapt to a new condition when they exercise their freedom.

    • Seth Horton says:

      I’m not sure I follow your point. My point is that since Open Theist do believe God works in the world and can suspend laws of nature and could restrict harm, they are still left with an intellectual problem of evil.

      Regarding your last sentence, If the neighborhood children desire to harm the son, prevention of that would involve some kind of infringement. It could be done many ways (build a fence, go inside, offer another activity for the children, beat them away with a stick, offer them candy, pick up the son and run). All of them either involve manipulating the will of the children, or restricting their available choices–both options are unacceptable to the open theist. Yet God (or the uncle) still has the power to do either of these (according to Pinnock), but it is against his nature to do so. Pinnock would argue that God is such a wise problem solver that he could work in such way to restrict the harm and bring about his will without infringement, but he makes no effort to explain how this is possible. But it is clear that God hasn’t done so–hence the problem.

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