David Bentley Hart responds below to my rejoinder.
Read this article on the "literal sense" in pre-modern exegesis.
There is no rule regarding which fathers thought which stories only myths and which not.
As for my historical-critical flourishes, I never attributed them to the fathers. You asked me whether the Old Testament YHVH was good and I replied. Then I pointed out that literal readings in your sense are not part of Christian tradition. Two different paragraphs, two different points.
Again, the myths of their war god invoked by the people of ancient Israel to justify acts of slaughter were part of the history of what became Jewish and Christian monotheism. Just as the Homeric myths were the (frequently allegorized) prehistory of later philosophical pagan monotheism. Only a simpleton (as Origen notes) takes all of them as documentary stories. They are, if read as straightforward narratives of events (as Gregory of Nyssa said) just “absurd fables.”
And only a very confused Christian would confuse those myths with actual pictures of God, especially God as revealed in Christ. Again, neither Jewish nor Christian thought in antiquity was ever that crude.
I had not bothered with your final question because I thought it a rhetorically empty one It seemed unnecessary to reply. But all right—
I was quite clear in the book that the “standard of goodness” I presumed was the eschatological revelation of God’s purposes in creation. I don’t know what standard you thought I was working with (a God who protects us from all pain no matter what?).
Obviously, Peter—obviously—it is one thing to say that God creates a world for fashioning free spiritual beings that (to that end) allows for the possibility of transient evils providentially guided to conduce to ultimate goods, and another thing altogether to say God’s whole creative purpose depends upon an ultimate unresolved evil that constitutes the tragic price paid to achieve a relative good. This is not obscure in the text. The first meditation is about original and ultimate ends, not about means.
Not being Reformed, I take the Pauline language of synergeia seriously. We must become free by our efforts. But, given what the nature of freedom is, that leads inexorably to God.
Why do I have to recapitulate the argument, though? It’s in the book. Read it again, carefully this time, following each step. You’ll see that all of this was covered there.
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