theodicy (a fantasy)
God hesitated while he could still have let there be nothing. Creation would be with power but in abdication, withdrawal to allow other selves whose autonomy could not later be abridged. Setting free interaction in motion would commit him to let it play out and indeterminacy put particulars beyond his ken, but certainty gave him pause. Creation was an if bristling irresistibly with thens and he hadn't missed an inference, so the drama was laid out before him. He decided to proceed because inference led further, to the point at which the agony had been curative and there was throughout creation a consensus that it had not been too high a price for the good and the beautiful, delight and wonder, communion. In any case, it was that or nothing. "So be it."
It was made in good faith, creatures facing God and each other in a diverse, apparently perfect world. Diversity in the creatures soon included degrees of righteousness (that in them corresponding to holiness, so most pleasing to him) each had acquired. There grew a continuum, greatest to least, a differentiation evident to God but not to the creatures. They were objects of each other's apprehension in a realm of the apprehensible made according to the spirit but not by the spirit, which has no power and could not be embodied. It was beyond apprehension.
Righteousness was spirit so not evident, but manifested itself in behavior: communion between creature and creator was worship and the most righteous, finding greatest delight in it, worshipped most fully. The less righteous paid more attention to each other, which was fine. And the continuum was evidenced by God, who made it common knowledge: goodness was reflected in condition and, whatever the reflection, it indicated more than difference. Some were superior. The relationships between creator and creatures formed a hierarchy narrowing at the top and broadening below as the focus shifted from vertical to lateral and behavior from formal to free. Form and freedom were polar positives in creative tension. Status created no anxiety and harmony reigned, but the stage was set. This suited another interpretation.
Evil originated in one high on the hierarchy whose envy of one higher grew to cynicism: "He is no better than me." But God says he is. "And what if it's not true? All I know is that the best-blessed bow most often and that bowing feels undignified just lately. I could stop but then I fall, beneath many inferiors. No, I become not less by standing up but far more. What if none of it is true? There is no sign of 'goodness' but God's proclamation and of course he'd say so: they adore him. There is no evidence of 'holiness' but the assertions of the 'righteous' and of course they'd say so: he rewards them. The 'best' are not 'righteous,' but weak, and bow to power--for pay and they are no better for that. If I had power and could pay them, they would bow to me."
Once he found it all self-evident, he proclaimed it far and wide and God could not even call him unrighteous--if he were right, the assertion was meaningless. Casting him out would only fuel the fire: "See what happens when I do not bow." The adversary, drawn to power, had projected the fascination, introjected magnificence: "I am very like the most high." He had called creation into question and the ranks of his followers swelled into the higherarchy, lifelike power replica, and "superior" gained another meaning. Objectively equivalent, the structures were opposite.
The adversary said they were the same thing and demanded that his minions neither be deemed unrighteous nor go unrewarded. God could have unmade him, but this would have left the challenge unmet--the thesis would have remained plausible and the elimination of its source would have poisoned creation with the fearful scraping he claimed to see. Since spirit could not be made evident there was no way to show it to one who denied it. God could neither force a realization nor demonstrate that creatures would be righteous freely, choose righteousness over power if power were rewarding. "Yes, show us a creature who would be righteous if it were perilous."
It could be done in a creation offering a choice between power and the good, testing them in extremity. It would necessitate the suffering of righteous creatures, so great evil would be done, but those who demanded it and those who would do it would become evil in the process and seal their uncreation. Evil would be purged, the suffering would leave no scar and creation, finally, would be whole. There was a consensus, God and the righteous: "So be it."
It had to be just so, and the further we scrutinize the dilemma the more necessity we see. At first it is large: God must have no power--it belongs to those who seize it; he must not speak, because he would first explain and the test depends on ignorance. God cannot be visible impotent and mute, so he must hide his face, and the universe must, however closely its inhabitants look, be to physical apprehension material. Later the thread of necessity grows subtle, but the tapestry is complete and since the if of the dilemma weaves the then of the human condition, with both premise and product before us the pattern stands out. The trick was to enable a precise test of the hypotheses in a universe which provided no objective evidence of good or evil, make it possible to affirm precisely and serve intentionally the God who is--in a reality framed to preclude inference to any One like that.
God suggested the means: "If I shape a reality thus [with, for
instance, empire built in as a possibility bound to occur, first as thought,
then fact], then humanity will develop so a large part is one manycultured
state. If as this evolution takes place I show myself to one people
and if when they and empire have fully collided I withdraw, leave humans
to their own devices in a natural world, then my people will during the
next two millennia elaborate its revelation into an understanding of righteousness
nearly infinite in depth and breadth, refined against every form of barbarism
and dogma to ready them for a journey into an inferno they could not survive
without just such an understanding. Many will not survive; this will
be homicide (the idea of the human) and deicide (the idea of God, in man)
on the body of my people. But the people will survive, remain righteous,
form a state remarkably humane. During these two thousand years history
will have followed this course [nearer screenplay than treatment, it is
western history predicted, an undetermined future foretold without foreseeing,
creation at stake, the outcome in doubt and in human hands, God risking
everything on unaided creaturely goodness, being human a high calling].
If there is only power and selfseeking, the scenario will derail early
on, so if it all plays out, and at the appointed time the human condition
is in this configuration [now, or nearly], then the theses will have been
tested at their every point of disagreement and then I can eliminate evil."