Thursday, November 10, 2016

Can schadenfreude be virtuous?


Bill Vallicella asks: Is there a righteous form of schadenfreude?  The Angelic Doctor appears to answer in the affirmative.  Speaking of the knowledge that the blessed in heaven have of the damned, Aquinas famously says:

It is written (Psalm 57:11): “The just shall rejoice when he shall see the revenge”…

Therefore the blessed will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked…

A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways.  First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked.  Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy.  And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly.

End quote.  So, the idea is this: On the one hand, the suffering of a person is not as such something to rejoice in, for suffering, considered just by itself, is an evil and, as Aquinas goes on to say, “to rejoice in another's evil as such belongs to hatred.”  However, there can be something “annexed” to the suffering which is a cause for rejoicing.  For example, if we are able to develop a virtue like patience by way of suffering, that is something to rejoice in, and thus in an indirect way the suffering can in that case legitimately be a cause of rejoicing.  But another sort of thing which can be annexed to a person’s suffering is justice, as when a person suffers some harm as a deserved punishment.  And someone’s getting his just deserts is in Aquinas’s view something to rejoice in.  Hence, Aquinas concludes, in an indirect way the suffering of the wicked can be something to rejoice in.

This is in Aquinas’s view true even when the suffering is eternal, if that is what is deserved.  Indeed, he judges that the joy of the blessed would be incomplete without knowledge of the infliction of these just deserts:

Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.

Now, that’s schadenfreude, big league.

Putting the question of hell to one side, though, we can note that if schadenfreude can be legitimate even in that case, then a fortiori it can be legitimate in the case of lesser instances of someone getting his just deserts, in this life rather than the afterlife.  For example – and to take the case Bill has in mind -- suppose someone’s suffering is a consequence of anti-Catholic bigotry, brazen corruption, unbearable smugness, a sense of entitlement, groupthink, and in general from hubris virtually begging nemesis to pay a visit.  When you’re really asking for it, you can’t blame others for enjoying seeing you get it. 

87 comments:

Anonymous said...

"When you’re really asking for it, you can’t blame others for enjoying seeing you get it." This has application to The Problem of Evil:

God doesn't merely allow evil, he enjoys our suffering because of the good he knows (though we seldom do) that will come from it. Such good, for example, that contrary to the opinion of those on the Left, physical disasters (or election results) prove (as noted by Chesterton) that we are not God and never will be.

Anonymous said...


Part 1 of 3: Divine Justice in totum

Divine Justice in totum sums to the ontic of All Sufficiency and such is found in Christ and cannot be said in any possible world to sum to Christ-and (Christ plus the proverbial just-deserts).

To rejoice in Justice, Divine Justice, is to rejoice not in Christ-and but in that which in fact quenches all ontic-insufficiency – namely – Christ.

Another approach. is the ontic-reach of Atonement for if we say "just desert" and demand that such in fact is irreducible - or ontic - and so on - then must - to get it to work - strip some small degree away from the ontic-reach of the divine outpouring.

Another approach is to recall that should One die *for* another, than the One who so dies is in fact *for* that "another" even while dead in his (the another's) sins and this means to the full such that that which said One *did* for the "another" was not some sort of "attempt" but in fact its reach outdistanced all insufficiency of said "another" and this to the full (irreducible, ontic, etc.).

Another approach is the following duo: [1] God wills all to be saved and [2] God does not change. That is to say that we ourselves seem to attribute a sort of tensed (timed) "change" here as we transition from "before" to "after" and in a subtle way we say that we don't rejoice "now" should a soul reject All-Sufficiency (and hence eternal life, wholeness, etc.) but we will "then" rejoice, whereas, God being timeless is not "now" willing/rejoicing is "X" and yet "then" will be willing/rejoicing in "Not-X", as it were.

The comfort which we have, it seems, should a loved one be lost, is that, first, the reach of His Grace (Atonement) in fact subsumes all ontic-insufficiency the creature should house, and, secondly, that there is no possibility of Time nor Circumstance frustrating said reach such that (thirdly) whatever light or sightline a soul shall need. Now, on this third point, the claim is literal: a person's Time and Circumstance cannot short-circuit that which God intends - and if the Atonement's "reach" is through and through then (by modes and means we can either conceive of nor not, guess at or not) He will not "try and fail" to "reach", and whatever that "fact" means for the frail and mutable things of Time and Circumstance is irrelevant. Two thoughts to unpack this further, the first by Feser from his last post on hell, and then the second will pick up back here.

Feser's quote:

"Of course, what counts as regarding God as one’s ultimate end requires careful analysis. Someone might have a deficient conception of God and yet still essentially regard God as his ultimate good or end. One way to understand how this might go is, in my view, to think of the situation in terms of the doctrine of the transcendentals. God is Being Itself. But according to the doctrine of the transcendentals, being – which is one of the transcendentals – is convertible with all the others, such as goodness and truth. They are really all the same thing looked at from different points of view. Being Itself is thus Goodness Itself and Truth Itself. It seems conceivable, then, that someone might take goodness or truth (say) as his ultimate end, and thereby – depending, naturally, on exactly how he conceives of goodness and truth – be taking God as his ultimate end or good, even if he has some erroneous ideas about God and does not realize that what he is devoted to is essentially what classical theists like Aquinas call “God.”" End quote.

Then, to resume where we left off: (….part 2 and 3 ahead etc….)

scbrownlhrm said...


Part 2 of 3: Divine Justice in totum

Then, to resume where we left off:

*IF* God in fact atoned, intentionally, *for* *every* soul, well then we know that the reach of said *interface* will not, and in fact cannot, fail to go through. To asset that either time or circumstance can limit said reach is to trade away *God* in favor of *god*. On the Salvific there is no first chance, nor second, nor third. There is [1] one, seamless existence of the contingent Self (Man) which precedes death and which out-distances death, and there is [2] God’s decree, and there is [3] God’s intentional Act, and there is [4] God’s atonement of, well, the unlimited / limited line in the sand.

All sand.

Any answer which seeks either to out-reach or out-define our out-power [1] through [4] isn’t going to (successfully) go through (in the end).

It seems the answer to this question is answered by God’s Act which just won’t fail, won’t be incomplete. So, at the end of the day, we are forced to interact with, and define our terms by, [1] through [4].

If [A] atonement is limited, then we need not assert that Time and Circumstance are too much for the reach of God. If [B] God intentionally atones for all men, then any perceived problem here is solved and we leave it to others to assert that Time and Circumstance are too much for God. Abraham trusts, believes, prior to the resurrection, and after, or just one or the other. It just doesn’t matter. Those of the mindset of [A] must claim, therefore, either [1B] Abraham could not do so prior to the resurrection and so it really wasn’t true and Hebrews 11 got it wrong, or [2B] it was a con, or [3B] Time and Circumstance really are no match for the reach of God after all, or [4B] the resurrection does not restore volition vis-à-vis that interface of the Self/Salvific, but rather (finally) opens the Door only God can open – which is Himself – which He opens in and by His love’s reciprocity (Christ), which is that Door upon which so many (Hebrews 11) had been knocking on their whole life long (Hebrews 11 meant what it said, etc.) (see Feser's quote above).

Those of the mindset of [B] find symmetry through and through not only the OT, but also Romans 1 and far more. But really [1B] through [4B] are all *secondary* to whether we claim [A] or [B], neither of which faces any “problem” on this question of time and circumstance.

Lastly, there is something very obvious here: *IF* it is in fact [B], then this: THINK. Does *God* intentionally Act, does *God* set about [B] and then either *doesn’t* or else *can’t* follow through? Of course not. How absurd. Think BIG. We are too often overwhelmed by creation and think and speak as if such a frail and mutable thing is all too much for God.

Should our loved one be lost (and this holds whether one holds to eternal conscious torment (ECT) or annihilationism or conditional immortality, and so on) then there will be in us the real knowledge of the "Self/Salvific" with respect that soul vis-à-vis His Reach and the availed light/sightlines (the "necessary and sufficient" for the soul to choose the Good in some real sense). "Just Deserts" will always begin and end in All Sufficiency, and not in Christ-and. This brings us to what Christ states in referencing the fact that all sins but one will be forgiven, and that “one sin” which *is* Atoned for is that which said Atonement cannot expunge simply because to expunge the creature’s will is to expunge the creature.

On that “Metalevel Sin”, here’s William Craig on the topic of the incoherence of Universalism, which carries over into the topic at hand here: (…..up ahead in part 3 etc…..)

scbrownlhrm said...


Part 3 of 3: Divine Justice in totum

On that “Metalevel Sin”, here’s William Craig on the topic of the incoherence of Universalism, which carries over into the topic at hand here:

Quote:

1 If Jesus paid for all sin then no man has to pay for sin
2 Some men are paying for sin
3 Therefore, Jesus did not pay for all sin.

I agree with you, Alan, that Christ died, not just for the sins of the elect (limited atonement), but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2.2). But it seems to me that the fairly obvious answer to your question is that if you reject Christ’s payment for your sins, then you have to pay the penalty yourself. Only Calvinists, who deny libertarian human freedom, would be troubled by your question, which is precisely why the doctrine of limited atonement finds itself only in Reformed circles. The person who believes in libertarian human freedom can consistently say that while God offers you the gift of forgiveness and eternal life on the basis of Christ’s atoning death, if you reject that gift, then you will remain unforgiven and culpable for your sins. ( …there remains then now more sacrifice possible, etc…)

So I would without hesitation reject premise (1) above. Those who reject Christ’s atoning sacrifice for their sins and shut their hearts against God’s grace will pay for their sins.

You might say, “But won’t God forgive them for rejecting Christ’s payment for their sins?” I find no such promise in Scripture. On the contrary, the Scripture says “if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2.12), and Jesus warned, “he who denies me before men will also be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12.9). The sin of rejecting God and His grace is a sort of meta-level (or higher order) sin that cuts one off from the provision for sin that God has provided. It is really this meta-level sin, not first-order sins, that sends people to hell.

There is no suggestion in Scripture that Christ’s atoning death covers this meta-level sin. On the contrary, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, . . . but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3.28-9). In the historical context, Jesus’ remark was triggered by unbelievers’ attributing God’s work in Jesus to Satan. More generally, the sin consists in resolutely resisting the Holy Spirit by refusing to recognize God’s work in Christ.

When an unbeliever commits this sin, it is called “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”; when a Christian commits this sin, it is called “apostasy” (Hebrews 6.4-8; 10.29-31). In either case, it is unpardonable. Why? Because it is a meta-level sin that separates one from Christ and the payment he has made for our sins.

Now if you want to include this meta-level sin in the domain of “all sin,” Alan, then the conclusion of your argument that Jesus did not pay for “all sin” is unproblematic for the biblically faithful Christian. But I suspect that the domain of Jesus’ universal quantifier in Mark 3.28 is all first-order sins, since he goes on to speak of a sin which is unpardonable.

End quote.

This brings us full circle to where we began:

Divine Justice in totum sums to the ontic of All Sufficiency and such is found in Christ and cannot be said in any possible world to sum to Christ-and (Christ plus the proverbial just-deserts).

To rejoice in Justice, Divine Justice, is to rejoice not in Christ-and but in that which in fact quenches all ontic-insufficiency – namely – Christ.

scbrownlhrm said...



Well, somehow "scbrownlhrm" didn't pop up on part 1 of the three parts... apologies.

Barbara S. said...

So let me get this straight. You're trying to rationalize yourselves as being "virtuous" for having elected a proud serial adulterer and perpetual liar who doesn't pay taxes, cheats his workers in business, incites violence at political rallies, vows to murder the innocent relatives of our enemies at war (including children!), brags about groping women, mocks the disabled, sneers at POWs who've been tortured, scapegoats religious and ethnic minorities, and treats the entire world as something to used for his own satisfaction and self-aggrandizement.

Just wow.

Craig Payne said...

Rejoicing in God's perfect and righteous judgment does not seem to me to be what people are talking about when they use the term "schadenfreude." As Aquinas points out, schadenfreude in itself is a form of (illicit) hatred, i.e., a sin.

Crude said...

Just wow.

The amount of lies you and yours have told is considerable. That you have not learned your lesson is unfortunate.

For the record, I'm rejoicing in the justice you are experiencing. Not in your suffering for its own sake.

Craig Payne said...

Dear Barbara S.: I think you are reading too much into Prof. Feser's post. He is not describing his attitude toward President-Elect Trump, or even whether or not he supported Trump. He is referring, I think, to the other major candidate.

David Aldred said...

Dragging this back from the mess that is US politics to the question of schadenfreude and its legitimacy, let's remember the Easter liturgy: "Oh happy fault, that earned for us so great, so glorious a redeemer".

If we can welcome the entry of sin into the world because we see more perfectly the love of God in redemption, Aquinas surely has a point!

Thucydides said...

Barbara S. -

It seems to me that someone could think that Trump is a horrific candidate and still derive some amount of schadenfreude from the Queen of Entitlement losing.


Putting the question of hell to one side, though, we can note that if schadenfreude can be legitimate even in that case, then a fortiori it can be legitimate in the case of lesser instances of someone getting his just deserts, in this life rather than the afterlife.

I suppose that's true. But those in heaven presumably have perfect knowledge of the culpability of those suffering in hell (if they weren't culpable, they wouldn't be in hell). We rarely have perfect knowledge of others' culpability (or inner life in general) down here on earth, so I imagine we should be pretty damn circumspect with the schadenfreude while we're still here below.

I don't blame Ed for feeling some amount of schadenfreude toward Hillary, but I think mocking and baiting disappointed Hillary supporters is the wrong way to go, both morally and strategically. I didn't vote for Trump, as I consider him an absolutely dreadful and unacceptable candidate, and yet I still find myself in the crosshairs of leftists who insist that anyone who didn't vote for Hilary is personally a cruel and despicable bigot. They're wrong, of course, and they're being ridiculous, but they're understandably upset a mere few days after suffering a crushing and entirely unexpected ideological defeat. Kicking them while they're down will not make "our side" look good.

Leftists should take a lesson from this that their iron-clad self-righteousness, their dishonest and nonsensical insistence that anyone who disagrees with them about social issues is an irrational bigot, their scornful dismissal of the feelings of working-class white people, and so on destroyed their cause from within. But immediately treating them with as much scorn and contempt as possible on social media isn't gonna help them realize that. It's just gonna harden their hearts. I'm not saying coddle them. I'm saying give them a few days to process, then make the case clearly but not arrogantly. Don't surrender the moral high ground in favor of snide insults.

DNW said...

"God ... knows ... [regarding some apparent evil, what good eventually] come from it. Such good, for example, that contrary to the opinion of those on the Left, physical disasters (or election results) prove (as noted by Chesterton) that we are not God and never will be. "


One of the topics that has been explored here by Feser and in some great depth, is the issue of the predicate assumption differences that underlie, or at least rationalize, antithetical moral stances: teleological versus non teleological, nihilist versus intrinsic value, for example.

But on a less deeply philosophical level, it is noteworthy that among progressive students of morals and ethics, many have overthrown any sense of what they refer generally to, as "karmic" morality. Ideas consonant with the notion that you should by justice reap what you sow, sleep in the bed you have made, or deal with the repercussions of your own acts. All characterized as "responsibility" at a somewhat shallower level. These concepts are all seen by progressives as not only "unjust" (as we all by now know) to our supposed fellows who experience life as nature's judgement-impaired-victims, but also as metaphysically obsolete concepts per se.

Jonathan Haidt, the politically progressive student of moral sensibilities has found his own research into the moral sense of different political groupings and their attitudes on this question, has given him some serious food for his own further digestion.

What does it mean in practical terms for an individual to imagine that a consequence free existence is social "right"; and that the only strategy it is incumbent for one to pursue, is to make sure that either the "consequences" never catch up with you, or are absorbed by someone else "better able to pay".

Well, one thing we have seen recently is another up-tick in STDs among certain populations who now, according to the commentators remarking on the phenomenon, see acquiring sexually transmitted disease and undergoing treatment with the latest drugs, merely as the price of doing business. If "price" is the right word to describe the transaction in those cases wherein it is the public that buys the drugs they receive.

DNW said...

By the way, outstanding links.

Most of us probably have already inferred that the morally dis-inhibited opportunist and manipulator class ("elites" they are equivocally called) has believed of traditional Americans that "They must be pacified until history kills them off. ". That is if by "pacified" the author of the quote means economically harrowed and dispossessed, and financially raped into a stupefied torpor.

But what has uniquely come out during this cycle is the incredible depth of that smug triumphalism and entitlement in a self-anointed evolutionary vanguard class which trills a song of itself.

This class, in aggregate, does not just want opportunity for all, or impartial fairness, or moral justice or social compensation, or you just out of the way. It became plain that they did deliberately seek to cull the herd and create winners and losers through financial manipulations and life-capital redistribution and entanglements.

It is one thing to infer it on the basis of the political evidence and some dozens of quotes: but it is quite another to have it laid so completely bare, as it was this election season.

What possible grounds the organisms of the left could ever have for staking solidarity and mutuality claims which could be taken seriously again, is almost impossible to imagine.

Actually seeing the brutal truth whole and unvarnished rather than deducing it from rhetorical bits and legislative pieces, and then witnessing the redounding effects of their malice on progressives themselves, provides a satisfaction all its own.

And if that is in part Schadenfreude, who could fault it?

James said...

We shall see how all of this plays out. I fear that a greater schadenfreude will eventually be mine as I stand amongst the wreckage of our country, run into the ground by someone not even one iota less corrupt than the elites he was elected to replace. And with his immense levels of economic and foreign policy ignorance we won't even have technocratic competence. Good luck to all of us.

But hey! Maybe we'll get a wall along the Mexican border, that sounds fun.

DNW said...



" James said...
We shall see how all of this plays out. I fear that a greater schadenfreude will eventually be mine as I stand amongst the wreckage of our country, run into the ground by someone not even one iota less corrupt than the elites he was elected to replace. And with his immense levels of economic and foreign policy ignorance we won't even have technocratic competence. Good luck to all of us.

But hey! Maybe we'll get a wall along the Mexican border, that sounds fun.

November 11, 2016 at 9:46 AM"

As long as the chained albatrosses placed around my neck by the government are snipped, I'll be happy. A technocratic competence which efficiently takes us to the Gulag is no virtue.

Kind of rich you mention competence, though. Because Hillary's excuse for opening the country to espionage penetration was that she could not understand or operate government computer. And she apparently didn't even know her own security clearance or designations at State. Or could not remember them.

I guess laughing over that is Schadenfreude, too.

If you are worried, buy yourself 5 acres and a rototiller. I'm sure the cat will do ok.

Anonymous said...

Vallicella's blog has become unreadable with his groveling for Trump (a thoughtful philosopher praising, and cheering, the biggest con-man to ever run for office). He loves the anti-intellectual blowhard Trump but calls the actual intelligent conservatives like George Will and the National Review as "bow-tied pussy-wussies." Cute.

Scott W. said...

Barbara S.,

I'm curious. Let's hypothetically say that Grandma Abortion Witch had won and someone inclined to be more favorable to her wrote this same piece (with minor adjustments) answering what is after all a perfectly legitimate question. Would you have bothered to go there and harangue everyone that they were trying to rationalize electing a corrupt politician whose career ran on a mountain of dead fetuses? Yes or no? If no, why not?

Crude said...

Anon,

I give credit where it's due. I like some of what Will's written. But I think NeverTrump (particularly the even-now-Nevertrump) needs to be read out of the movement. Let them go the way of the John Birch Society. People who regard themselves as intellectuals, and who think they're deserving of respect and praise just for being intellectuals, are among those we need to be done with.

Valicella's always been a righty, he's always been spoiling for a political fight. It seems to be part of why he left academia, and it animates him on politics. With Trump, we finally have someone who does, in fact, fight - and who doesn't feel the need to apologize just because the overdramatic left (or the priggish conservatives) shed some tears.

On behalf of many rightists, I offer no apology that we've started to punch back - hard - in response to the abuse heaped on us. No apology is due. If you don't wish to be called names, then - at a minimum - do not call others names.

The funniest part of all this? The cries of horror and indignation and rage are being provoked by schadenfreude denied to people who were expecting it.

Ladies and gentlemen, at least for a while, it's our turn. And be careful - you may well be on the wrong side of history, as you like to say.

Scott W. said...

The cries of horror and indignation and rage are being provoked by schadenfreude denied to people who were expecting it

The funny thing is that I recall the original election of Obama. There was not much schadenfreude to speak of but plenty of the sore-winner rhetoric the likes of which I'd never seen before. It was as if they equated electing Obama with throwing the One Ring into Mount Doom and they were expecting the ground to swallow up the red states like the orcs at the end of The Return of the King and when instead they saw their opponents putting on as gallant a face as possible they felt cheated.

Oh well. I guess that's the way the Barad-dûr crumbles. :)

Anonymous said...

Crude,

If Donald Trump is representing a movement, it's a movement of something other than conservatism. He is going to be like a big-spending liberal with some of his outlandishly expensive proposals -- that is, if he keeps his promises which has a tiny chance of happening considering he is a con-man. Conservatives need to resist Trump on a whole lot of things: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/442102/president-trump-budget-conservatives-should-resist

Crude said...

Anon,

If Donald Trump is representing a movement, it's a movement of something other than conservatism.

Yep. It's a right-wing movement that's nationalist and western-values centric, particularly in the anti-SJW and generally pro-Christian sense. No enshrining of white male guilt. Conservatism is a lost cause - conservatives haven't conserved anything.

Hell, they haven't even conserved the GOP. It's Trumpland now. The final indignity, perhaps.

The principles that mattered to me most among the conservatives are better represented among Trump's movement, and are actually fought for. He's, at times, crude? Somehow, I think I can roll with that.

Tony said...

Yep. It's a right-wing movement that's nationalist and western-values centric, particularly in the anti-SJW and generally pro-Christian sense. No enshrining of white male guilt. Conservatism is a lost cause - conservatives haven't conserved anything.

While it is largely true that most of Trump's support came from people who identify themselves as Christian, and in that sense the "movement" that elected him is pro-Christian, it is also true that nothing he has said supports the notion that Trump himself (or any of his policies) is generally pro-Christian specifically qua Christian. He may, indeed he probably will, support much of the Christian base content of America as a nation because of the "nationalist" and "western-centric" values he does seem to espouse, but not precisely because they are Christian.

So far as I can tell, anyhow. I hope for much from Trump. But I don't expect it to come because he is a true-red Christian. (I was going to say "true-blue" but of course that won't work.)

Thursday said...

Conservative is an ambiguous term. If we take Jon Haidt's moral foundations theory as normative, then Trump's focus on ingroup loyalty has as much claim to be conservative as anything, particularly when compared with the "yesterday's liberalism" peddled by mainstream conservatives.

Crude said...

Tony,

While it is largely true that most of Trump's support came from people who identify themselves as Christian, and in that sense the "movement" that elected him is pro-Christian,

It goes beyond that. A chunk of the irreligious who support him are also Christian-friendly.

it is also true that nothing he has said supports the notion that Trump himself (or any of his policies) is generally pro-Christian specifically qua Christian.

His policies and statements are explicitly pro-Christian.

As for Trump himself? Let me be frank. I think Trump is most likely, at best, a kind of airy therapeutic moral deist with an affinity for Christian culture, and a willingness to protect Christians, since they are his base. I will take that, easily, over self-described 'progressive Christians' who scream "Lord Lord" all the time, and whose main interest in life seems to be to fight, attack, admonish and punish Christians who have anything resembling traditional, Bible-backed views on sex, etc.

At best, he's Charlemagne. You know what? Charlemagne was, in context, fantastic. That'll do.

Anonymous said...

The most powerful clown the world has ever seen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcmmJqRbRbQ

Crude said...

The most powerful clown the world has ever seen

The funny thing is, he's making me laugh. Harris and crew? Not so much.

Cry, Harris, cry. Your fanbase is shrinking, and your favored politicians have lost.

See that? More justice. He should try being moral - it would be better for him and everyone else.

grodrigues said...

"The most powerful clown the world has ever seen"

I do not think Sam Harris is *that* powerful. But maybe I am overestimating the power of clowns.

Anonymous said...

"The scariest thing about his coming presidency is how unqualified he is to handle the most mundane aspects of the job."

https://newrepublic.com/article/138655/donald-trump-evil-banality

Anonymous said...

My counter to this would be that at the Last Judgment, the judgments will be known certainly to be just, whereas we cannot know the true culpability of those on the ground who are suffering now (even if some that angst seems disproportionate), so we should err on the side of compassion (as always). Also, in this case, many people are suffering as a result of the folly of others, folly in which each person is complicit to some degree, but none of us are fully responsible.

If schadenfreude in this case just means rejoicing to see an obnoxious pundit proved wrong, though, I'm all for it.

Scott W. said...

The scariest thing about his coming presidency is how unqualified he is to handle the most mundane aspects of the job

After eight years of America's first blackish "community organizer", I don't know how people say that with a straight face.

Meanwhile, here is a black Trump supporter offering his reflection: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xNbF9PI9Gjo

Tony said...

His policies and statements are explicitly pro-Christian.

Crude, don't get me wrong. I was glad to see Trump beat the Hillary, and I expect him to do some really good things, including the supreme nominations. As the link you gave shows, though, little that Trump says or does, is based on any kind of "because I am Christian". Few if any of his policies are his policies because "that's the Christian point of view, that's why". He GOES ALONG with Christians in various things, but not because that's what Christ taught.

I suppose that if Trump has a real soft place in his heart for Christianity, we can make do with that for now. It's sure a lot better than "Hate America" preaching of Obama's preacher.

Crude said...

Tony,

Crude, don't get me wrong. I was glad to see Trump beat the Hillary, and I expect him to do some really good things, including the supreme nominations. As the link you gave shows, though, little that Trump says or does, is based on any kind of "because I am Christian".

I appreciate that. I do. I tried to make clear that I'm under no delusions about Trump being some newfound, heartfelt Christian. Like I said: Charlemagne.

The point I'm making is that there is no shortage of people saying 'I'm a Christian! I follow Christ!' and, frankly, doing their damndest to undermine Christianity. Tim Kaine is quite the 'devout Catholic' I hear. He says so, after all. I don't want him to do what he insists 'Christ taught', because he's got some funhouse mirror heresy understanding of Christ and Christ's teachings. If I have to choose to stand by a Trumpalike irreligious person, and a female 'bishop' from the Episcopalians, thank you - I'm taking the former. I wonder pretend they don't have faults, but neither will I pretend their faults are greater than the 'devout' woman trying to bless a holy union between three women and a schnauzer in the name of Goddess.

George LeSauvage said...

Barbara S: Thank you very much. I was already having a lot of fun with this, and your comment made me feel even better.

Tony, I don't buy it. I knew Charlemagne, and Trump is no Charlemagne. One of the good things about this election is that, living in Richmond VA, Kaine has been my mayor, governor, and senator. Thank God he won't be V-P (and likely President shortly). I cannot stand that demented hobbit. Corrupt, too.

In the interest of decency, I won't give a link, but google "the long and the short and the tall song" to get my view.

Crude said...

I knew Charlemagne, and Trump is no Charlemagne.

That's myself, not Tony making the comparison. I don't know for certain how Trump (or anyone) will play out. But so far? I'm absolutely delighted. His imperfections are forgivable. His achievements so far have been incredible.

My main point with the comparison was to show how a non-Christian (well, until after his reign, if I recall right) can be preferable to a self-described Christian, even clergy.

Justin said...

I'm just sick of being called a racist repeatedly for disagreeing with someone else's ideas.

It reminds me of CS Lewis' discussion of the word "gentleman".

The term "racist" has been used so often in place of a rational argument or defense of bad policy that it no longer means what it used to mean.

It's still extremely offensive, and true to form, the same media is still accusing people of being racist for disagreeing with Obama's policies.

Scott W. said...

It's still extremely offensive, and true to form, the same media is still accusing people of being racist for disagreeing with Obama's policies.

Don't sweat it. More and more blacks are fleeing the Leftist plantation and as that happens the banshee cries will get more shrill.

Tony said...

Tim Kaine is quite the 'devout Catholic' I hear. He says so, after all.

He probably ought to be excommunicated. Along with Nancy Pelosi, Kathleen Sebelius, and 50 other people in the gov.

If I have to choose to stand by a Trumpalike irreligious person, and a female 'bishop' from the Episcopalians, thank you - I'm taking the former.

Yeah, me too.

Actually, now that you mention it, the Roman Catholic bishops in this country include a bunch of old ladies, too. I don't know why people want to get women ordained - it's been tried, and it doesn't do any good.

Justin said...

"Don't sweat it. More and more blacks are fleeing the Leftist plantation and as that happens the banshee cries will get more shrill."

I agree. Night three of riots because Trump won. Obama won twice, and I know that pained many people, but I don't remember riots, or people being drug out of their cars and beaten. Or businesses damaged and public property vandalized.

Three days later and most journalists are still exhibiting cognitive dissonance. Not that I expected any honest reflection from them on why their chosen candidate did not win; most have just doubled down on the old tired narratives.

Frankly, there are more interesting and entertaining works of fiction to read than what they pass off as news.

Anonymous said...

I have always been a Romney sort of Republican (Jeb and then Kasich were my preferred candidates), and I'm appalled at the spectre of a Trump presidency. I opposed him throughout the primary season and cast my vote for a more worthy candidate on the eighth. Yet even so, I must admit my sheer delight at seeing the smug and patronizing liberals getting slapped about by the election results. Although I fear that the next four years will not be especially helpful for the country, at least we won't have to deal with a bunch of pantsuited scolds.

Proverbs 11:10 more or less sums up my feelings, my distaste for the president-elect notwithstanding.

George LeSauvage said...

Apologies to Crude and Tony for mixing up who said what. But wasn't Charlemagne always Christian? It was Clovis who converted. Perhaps Constantine?

In one way I have to admit I resembled, in 1980, today's traumatized chilluns. The day after Reagan's election I too was unable to function. Of course, that was due to a massive hangover from celebrating, but the effect was the same. (I used lots of aspirin instead of play doh and coloring books. BTW, aren't the poor puppies they put in the safe spaces likely to be traumatized? Perhaps a rescue campaign is in order.)

Crude said...

Apologies to Crude and Tony for mixing up who said what. But wasn't Charlemagne always Christian?

Pardon. Constantine.

JoeD said...

Except Trump is more socially progressive than Hillary on some issues.

Hillary is a war-hawk, Trump is not.Hillary wants tighter government control over the populace, Trump doesn't.Hillary doesn't like homschooling, Trump accepts it.

Trump also isn't really that much of a Christian considering his general knowledge is basically that of a nominal.

Trump is obviously a money man, and I doubt he actually cares about abortions and other social issues, other than giving the American pro-life voting base a favor by promising to intall conservative SCOTUS justices.

But I am really concerned that Trump may lead the Republican Party away from their social issues like abortion considering Trump is mostly interested in fiscal and foreign issues and also wants to reform it and purge it of NeverTrumpers and neoconservatives (including Pence).

I'm saying this because some people have already predicted that Trump would win and this would be how events would develop.

Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfBg4bODrPM

(Starts at 4:08)

If Trump does want to do such a thing, do you think he'll be succesful in damaging the pro-life movement or will there be some resistance and opposition to that?

After all, he is doing it because he thinks it is a neccesary reform that needs to be done in order to make the Republican party look respectable and good in the eyes of the American people again.

But I do want to hear from you whether or not such an estimation has any legitimacy behind it.

Crude said...

If Trump does want to do such a thing, do you think he'll be succesful in damaging the pro-life movement or will there be some resistance and opposition to that?

I'm vastly more worried about the pro-life movement being co-opted by, uh... the pro-life movement's would-be leaders. I'm talking about people who want 'pro-life' to mean a slew of social issues that have nothing to do with abortion, because they want to appease their liberal atheist friends.

If Trump betrays his base on pro-life issues, etc, that would be horrible. I'd oppose him. But he's promised to do the one thing that should be done with these issues, and which has always been the most realistic thing as president and SCOTUS could do: send the matter to the states. THOSE fights, we can win. And honestly? A guy who doesn't care about those issues is far more likely to do that. I don't care if Trump's religious as much as I care whether he'll help social conservatives in the best way the federal government can: by letting us live, and letting us settle these matters on the state level.

The same goes for gay marriage. Let the issue go to the states, at the very least.

There are no guarantees here. Just gambles. But frankly, this is the best gamble on the table where this election is concerned.

It will be comedy if the biggest tangible legal and cultural gains for the pro-life movement comes from a casino-owning billionaire with the foul mouth.

Crude said...

So, on the topic of virtuous schadenfreude...

Is it acceptable to watch the desperate, vanquished supporters of objectively disordered acts try so hard, and fail, to get revenge?

I imagine taking pleasure at their failure is entirely acceptable, but what about pleasure at their obvious frustration and desperation? I suppose you could say that's justice of a sort, so...

Greg said...

@ Crude

I'm vastly more worried about the pro-life movement being co-opted by, uh... the pro-life movement's would-be leaders. I'm talking about people who want 'pro-life' to mean a slew of social issues that have nothing to do with abortion, because they want to appease their liberal atheist friends.

Yeah, 'pro-life' continues to have basically the correct meaning in American political discourse, but among Catholics very sympathetic to the economic platform of the Democratic Party, 'pro-life' now includes, well, all of politics, from minimum wage to climate change to the death penalty.

People ask, as though it is a devastating question, "Are you pro-life or merely anti-abortion?" Well, I am anti-abortion. That is the point of the label 'pro-life', and I'm not ashamed to say that. That isn't to disregard every other issue, but it's disingenuous to include all the others under 'pro-life'. (Cf. Mark Shea)

(I think there are reasonable concerns about what Trump will do to the pro-life movement. That's why I didn't vote for him. But I hope he doesn't screw things up, and I'm cautiously optimistic.)

Tony said...

Even the stupid pro-life leaders (especially, bishops), talking negatively about the death penalty is a stupid distraction from what "pro-life" means, since being in favor of the death penalty where it is appropriately used is not in the least contrary to being pro-life.

The reality is that a significant share of the pro-life leadership is, frankly, liberal. In fact, there is good evidence that a very substantial part of the origins of the pro-life movement began with liberals. They don't want "pro-life" to be a conservative cause. So even though they have been sold out by the Democrats lock, stock, and barrel, they want their liberal agenda to be served by the Republican pro-life movement - because there ISN'T any other pro-life movement than the Republican one, so the one pro-life movement ought to be by nature be a liberal Republican one. Or something. I wish they would stop pretending they are Republicans and just go out and re-take the Democrat party again.

Mr. Green said...

Craig Payne: Rejoicing in God's perfect and righteous judgment does not seem to me to be what people are talking about when they use the term "schadenfreude."

Yes, I think the term properly refers to the first, direct sort of rejoicing to which Aquinas mentions, so actual schadenfreude would be wrong, properly speaking. We appreciate seeing a scoundrel get his just deserts, but there is another aspect: someone's suffering can have a certain appeal not because he is himself a scoundrel, but because the reaction is funny. Slipping on a banana-peel is a humorous event, even though the victim (presumably) didn't deserve to slip. (Of course, if the victim is also the perpetrator, then there is the additional satisfaction of seeing a litterbug reap what he sowed, in Aquinas's second sense.) Now, our compassion might override our sense of humour in such cases, but that doesn't prevent a funny result from being funny in itself; it seems it is not a sin to be amused by such events, as long as our amusement is proportional and does not come at the expense of an appropriate amount of compassion.


Anonymous: "The scariest thing about his coming presidency is how unqualified he is to handle the most mundane aspects of the job."

You mean like being able to tell the difference between "classified" and "unclassified"? I thought the most mundane thing a president did was throwing out the first touchdown or cutting ribbons at a supermarket or whatever presidents do for photo-ops these days. I'm already weary of the media's self-castigation for not spouting enough pro-Clinton propaganda; but at least the media love themselves too much to blame themselves for anything for very long.


JoeD: Except Trump is more socially progressive than Hillary on some issues.

Well, yesterday's liberal is tomorrow's conservative. The political left and right are just the left and right sides of the modernist coin, so I'm not holding my breath for a revival of Christendom regardless of a (potential) isolated turn for the good here or there. Constantine wasn't up against public education and Hollywood. As long as most parents turn over most of their child-rearing duties to school and TV, the most Trump or anyone else could provide is a temporary retarding of the decline of Western civilisation.

Of course, anything is possible... with God. Guess I should go pray some more.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

I can't tell if my schadenfreude is good or not. I just can't stop you tubing the light dying in Rachel Madcow's eyes.

It's intoxicating.

Step2 said...

I saw a funny comic strip the other day depicting a typical Republican voter: November 2008 – Obama will never be MY president! He’s a Kenyan born Muslim terrorist who wants to destroy us! November 2012 – Obummer is the Antichrist! His evil will usher in the end times; no true American could fall for his lies! October 2016 – Rigged! Torches and pitchforks! I will not accept the results of this rigged election and neither should Trump! November 2016 – the will of the people have spoken through the Electoral College and now it is time for all of us to unite behind our new president for the good of the country.

In the spirit of karmic justice, I will bestow upon Trump the same respectful blessing Republicans gave Obama and hope that he fails.

Son of Ya'Kov said...

Hey step as long as you don't riot and burn stuff down I say knock yourself out.

John Collinson said...

I agree with Craig Payne and Mr. Green that St. Thomas here explicitly denies any schadenfreude for the saints in regards to the damned, because they do not rejoice in their pain as such, but rejoice in the justice of their being subject to that pain. So there is no inherent delight in their being burned.

Scott W. said...

Hey step as long as you don't riot and burn stuff down I say knock yourself out

Indeed. Spouting off emotionally overheated rhetoric on the internet (which is exclusively where I encountered the sample quotes.) is fine. Hurling brickbats and assaulting innocent citizens earns you a well-deserved nightstick upside your head.

Tony said...

I will not accept the results of this rigged election and neither should Trump! November 2016 – the will of the people have spoken through the Electoral College and now it is time for all of us to unite behind our new president for the good of the country.

Heh. Yes, the turn-about is rather ridiculous.

Of course, the people have NOT spoken through the Electoral College (yet), as they don't vote until December. I imagine that there are some Dems in a basement pouring through all the permutations of contesting elections, lawsuits, and bribing or threatening key electors, that might theoretically turn enough votes away from Trump to put the election in doubt. There are all those untested theories about whether an elector is legally required to cast his vote a certain way. Of course it remains possible for Hillary to appeal to her more rabid followers to refuse to yield to the election results, just as she accused Trump of considering back when she felt sure of her win. It seems utterly ridiculous on the face of it that she might do such a thing - until you consider the very real prospect that she will end up in prison if she doesn't do something. I am sure SHE is worried about that.

DNW said...



" In the spirit of karmic justice, I will bestow upon Trump the same respectful blessing Republicans gave Obama and hope that he fails.
November 13, 2016 at 8:19 PM "


You don't really have a theory of justice, "karmic", or otherwise, do you Step?

JoeD said...

I am not just talking about Trump betraying pro lifers by not helping them at all.

I am talking about Trump forcing the Republican party as a whole to give up opposition to abortion as a party platform entirely.

This would create a two party system where there is simply no opposition to abortion and would basically castrate the pro life movement via denying it an electable platform.

The only way the pro life movement would be able to bring itself back into public relevance would be either through an outright cultural revolution and paradigm shift that would force it into relevance despite lack of platform.

Or by the uprising of third party politics that would break the Two Party dichotomy currently dominating America.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

So Jesus turned to the penitent thief and said:

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise. From where you will rejoice seeing clearly the other thief being roasted in the fires of hell for ever. Besides him multitudes of other people, including your mother, will earn God's revenge for not having accepted me as their savior. Thus your happiness in heaven will be complete, for you'll be reminded for ever of the value of your deliverance and what a good move you've just made.



I am being sarcastic, but this is a serious matter that goes far beyond the specific question at hand, since it concerns the place of scripture in the Christian life, and its place in God's revelation and as a foundation for theological thought.

So we do indeed read following vile sentence in the Old Testament (Psalms 58:10): “The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.”

Now when the theologian who believes that Scripture is phrase by phrase and word by word divinely ordered reads that sentence and thinks that there must be a way to make sense of it – then clever nonsense like St. Aquinas's explanation above issues. And the problem here is not that the angelic doctor made a mistake trying his best to solve a non-existing riddle, the problem is that a worm is set free to eat away at the good fruit of Christianity. For it is a fact that many people miss on the great gifts of Christian knowledge, and one reason may be that they read nonsense like the above. To hold that scripture is word by word divinely ordered is not a sign of faith but a sign of lack of faith. And that lack of faith produces bad fruit that turns some people away from the gospel. And hardens the heart of some Christians making it more difficult for them to follow Christ.

Craig Payne said...

Dear Dianelos Georgoudis: If all you are saying is that in order to take Scriptural metaphors seriously, we must take them according to the intent of the author and not always completely literally, then Aquinas (with his "clever nonsense") already beat you to it.

However, my intuition is that making distinctions (as Aquinas does) in order to resolve apparent problems in the Scriptures is not nonsense, but rather a form of loving God with all your mind. It is, in fact, a "good fruit of Christianity."

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Dear Craig Payne:

Aquinas used only half the sentence found in the Psalms “The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance:” and interpreted it quite literally. Even though the other half is clearly metaphorical “he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked”.

As for the clearly metaphorical second part I was thinking that the metaphor chosen tells us something about the author. And what it tells me in this case is that not only that the author is not God (not in any way, shape or form) but not even a person in a mildly God-inspired state of mind.

As for Aquinas himself I cannot but suspect that he cut out the second part of the sentence because it did not fit with his theory. For his theory is that the saints in heaven rejoice with the suffering of the wicked in hell only by considering the order of divine justice and their own deliverance. Which does not at all fit with the metaphor of washing one's feet in the blood of the wicked. The latter is an expression of a hate-filled mind that has suffered under the wicked and dreams about exacting revenge. Not virtuous, and not at all compatible with Christ's ethical teaching.

Finally as for loving God with all one's mind, it seems to me that spending too much time thinking about the Scriptures takes one's mind away from God. Incidentally we say that the Bible is the “Word of God” only metaphorically, for only Christ is the Word of God. And to actually know Christ (which is not the same as knowing true propositions about Christ) there is no other way than by following Him.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

In On Christian Doctrine, St. Augustine wrote, "[W]e must show the way to find out whether a phrase is literal or figurative. And the way is certainly as follows: Whatever there is in the word of God that cannot, when taken literally, be referred either to purity of life or soundness of doctrine, you may set down as figurative."

With that in mind, it seems clear that the first half of the verse in question is to be taken literally (and understood in the second of the two ways already mentioned in the OP), while the second half of that verse is to be taken figuratively.

Your explanation regarding the origin of the second half of the verse might make sense were that half of the verse to be taken literally. But, again, that half of the verse is to be taken figuratively. So, your current explanation regarding the origin of the second half of the verse is about as well-grounded and makes about as much sense as your recent explanation for the lack of any reference to hell in the Credo of the People of God.

to actually know Christ (which is not the same as knowing true propositions about Christ) there is no other way than by following Him.

By and large this is true. But it is also another thing to which you were beaten by St. Thomas:

Now it very often happens that contemplatives, because they are docile, are the first to become acquainted with a knowledge of the mysteries of Christ but they do not enter, for sometimes there is knowledge, but little or no love follows. While those in the active life, because of their continuing fervor and earnestness, even though they are slower to understand, enter into them more quickly, so that those who are later to arrive, are the first to penetrate the divine mysteries: "So the last will be first, and the first last" (Mt 20:16). – Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 20, #2487

That acknowledged, I hope you won’t mind the following question: what is your acid test for knowing that it is Christ Himself you are following, and not some imagination of the thoughts of your heart masquerading as Him?

Glenn said...

(Dianelos,

(The question might be better worded this way: What is your acid test for knowing, at any given time, that it is Christ Himself you are following, and not some imagination of the thoughts of your heart either masquerading as Him or being mistaken for Him?)

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Hi Glenn,

”In On Christian Doctrine, St. Augustine wrote, "[W]e must show the way to find out whether a phrase is literal or figurative. And the way is certainly as follows: Whatever there is in the word of God that cannot, when taken literally, be referred either to purity of life or soundness of doctrine, you may set down as figurative."

Isn't this circular? Unless one already knows what “can be referred to purity of life or soundness of doctrine”, how does one distinguish the literal from the figurative? And if one already knows them why look for quotes in scripture to justify them in the first place?

What I say is quite different: When what you understand by reading something (whether you understand it literally or figuratively) helps you love Christ more, makes you desire Christ more, makes it easier to you to follow Christ's commands – then that understanding gives good fruit and is certainly from the truth. If on the contrary an understanding makes Christ less beautiful and less desirable to you and hinders you from following Christ's commands – then that understanding is a bad fruit and should be discarded.

And also: When you have already seen the truth of the gospel concentrate on following Christ. The Bible is not the Word of God - Christ is. The Bible is not the way, the truth, and the life – Christ is. The Bible is not the light of the world – Christ is. Christ did not command us to study the Bible but to follow Him. If one puts the Bible before God then one makes an idol out of it. Idols are not only made of matter; anything that because of lack of faith is used as a substitute of God is an idol.

And finally: Understand the scripture as a whole and not word by word. Words are the work of fallible and sometimes meanspirited people, but scripture is part of God's revelation. As is the church. As is the beauty of nature. As is the goodness in humankind.

”that half of the verse is to be taken figuratively.”

Right. As I said it is obvious that this part is meant metaphorically, and since a writer's choice of metaphor says something about the writer, we can reasonably conclude something about the writer of that half.

”your current explanation regarding the origin of the second half of the verse is about as well-grounded and makes about as much sense as your recent explanation for the lack of any reference to hell in the Credo of the People of God.”

It's good to reminded how easily one falls in error, and I'd like to thank you for the help you gave me in that occasion. Still, I wonder, how do you explain that second part of the verse? No-one understands it literally, as if angels would be transporting by the bucket-full the blood of the wicket from hell to heaven for the saints to wash their feet in it. But even figuratively what is the better explanation you would suggest? What purpose do you think does that choice of metaphor serve?

”I hope you won’t mind the following question:”

Not at all, quite on the contrary. I am here to get food for thought and to check on my beliefs. True beliefs may not be the final goal of Christianity but they are the final goal of philosophy.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

”What is your acid test for knowing, at any given time, that it is Christ Himself you are following, and not some imagination of the thoughts of your heart either masquerading as Him or being mistaken for Him?”

When you actually follow Christ – that is, when you love Him with all your heart and you follow His commands and live the way He lived and become like Him desiring to be close to Him – it is hardly possible to be mistaken. There can be no real doubts here. I mean even when a simpleminded layman reads the gospels it becomes blindingly clear what Christ wants from us. And on hindsight it is also completely coherent; if theism is true then Christ's ethical commands become self-evident, they couldn't be any other way. Now I happen to believe that there are spirits of deception (in the very real sense that they try to deceive us - even though I also hold that they are artifacts of the fallen state of the world and are not independent personal subjects). But surely it is not like a spirit of deception would try to convince us to follow Christ's commands.

Now perhaps you mean how one may know if a religious belief is true. For example how can one know if schandenfreude can be virtuous? How can one know whether one should marry or become a monk? Whether there is hope that all will be saved? Whether babies who die unbaptized have a problem in the afterlife? Whether this or that christological belief is true?

I think we agree that to know Christ is a very different state of the soul than knowing true beliefs about Christ – but knowing true beliefs is still quite important. Why? Because true beliefs help one realize where to look to find Christ, whether false beliefs can lead one to look in the wrong direction.

So if your question is about the acid test for true beliefs then I have what I think is a powerful answer: Since all creation is ordered towards Christ, true beliefs are those that order one's soul towards Christ too.

Here's what I mean: Beliefs are not only abstract things but influence the substantial reality that is us. Beliefs affect our desires, they give us strength or weakness, they affect the very quality of our experience of life. Thus if a belief is such that it helps us follow Christ then it is true, and if it hinders us from following Christ it is false.

We are stepping into deep philosophical waters. The philosopher holds (and is right) that the truth of meaningful beliefs is objective. The question then that naturally arises is this: Suppose a belief p helps one subject follow Christ and belief not-p helps another subject follow Christ. I concede that this may actually happen. But belief p and belief not-p cannot both be true. Therefore the acid test I described above doesn't work.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

To solve this apparent difficulty we'd better classify beliefs in sets. First of all we realize that there the “easy” sets of beliefs, such as beliefs about physical facts, math, scientific laws, etc, for which other straightforward means for ascertaining truth exist.

An important set is that of ethical beliefs. All such beliefs are objective in the sense that they refer to a fact of the matter, but in ethics these are facts of the matter related to a person's state. So it can well be the case that for one person the best ethical choice is to marry and for the other the best is to become a monk. In general I find that in the context of ethical beliefs the acid test I describe above works perfectly well.

The difficult set is that of metaphysical beliefs, a type of belief the truth value of which is particularly difficult to ascertain. There is no space here to develop the idea, but I would like to suggest that it is entirely possible and natural for two people to hold beliefs that are semantically incompatible to each other but are both true. So, to give a rough analogy, if two people set out to climb the same mountain from two different sides of it, they may very well make incompatible claims about the mountain or about the best path, and be both right. Strictly speaking the objective truth value of a metaphysical belief depends on the whole of reality and since the mind that entertains that belief is part of reality it also depends on the state of that mind. If this epistemology is right then, for example, it is possible that a saint and a sinner hold beliefs about God that are incompatible to each other but are both true. God-to-the-sinner may be a different *object of knowledge* than God-to-the-saint. More generally, reality-to-the-sinner may be a different object of knowledge than reality-to-the-saint.

In this context I notice that we are used to think about metaphysics in the third person. But perhaps on theism the right way to think about metaphysics is in the first person. On theism metaphysical facts are ultimately personal facts and should therefore be thought not objectively but subjectively.

Very probably I am not explaining well what I mean, but that's about the best I can do here. I am not particularly clear about these matters myself, but I have the impression that third-person and one-size-fits-all-minds metaphysics is too primitive and very quickly becomes an obstacle to understanding and a sure way to build a philosophical tower of Babel.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

1. "In On Christian Doctrine, St. Augustine wrote, "[W]e must show the way to find out whether a phrase is literal or figurative. And the way is certainly as follows: Whatever there is in the word of God that cannot, when taken literally, be referred either to purity of life or soundness of doctrine, you may set down as figurative."

Isn't this circular?


No.

Suppose I were to say, "X is either A or B. If X satisfies either condition C1 or condition C2, then X is A. If X satisfies neither condition C1 nor condition C2, then X is not A, i.e., then X is B."

Would you then respond, "Isn't that circular?"

Suppose I were to paraphrase the above quote from St. Augustine by saying, "A phrase from the word of God is to be taken either literally or figuratively. If that phrase can be referred to either purity of life or soundness of doctrine, then that phrase is to be taken literally. If, however, that phrase cannot be referred to either purity of life or soundness of doctrine, then that phrase is not to be taken literally, i.e., then that phrase is to be taken figuratively."

Would you then respond, "Isn't that circular?"

Apparently, when you ask, "Isn't this circular?" the 'this' does not refer to what St. Augustine wrote, but to some thought(s) running through your head.

2. The Bible is not the Word of God - Christ is. The Bible is not the way, the truth, and the life – Christ is. The Bible is not the light of the world – Christ is. Christ did not command us to study the Bible but to follow Him. If one puts the Bible before God then one makes an idol out of it. Idols are not only made of matter; anything that because of lack of faith is used as a substitute of God is an idol.

One reason why the Bible is called the Word of God is that it conveys His Word.

You later say that "when a simpleminded layman reads the gospels it becomes blindingly clear what Christ wants from us."

If the Bible is as useless as you seem to be making it out to be, why doesn't the simpleminded layman get the same message when reading, e.g., the dregs at the bottom of his coffee cup?

3. ...is part of God's revelation. As is the church. As is the beauty of nature. As is the goodness in humankind.

Ah, yes... the goodness in humankind.

I think it is important to emphasis the word 'in' -- won't you agree? -- since the goodness itself is not always immediately apparent.

For example, it might not be immediately apparent in sinners, or in those who are or seem to be our enemies.

But we are to look past the immediate, surface appearance, and see the good in them, yes?

Indeed, we are to love sinners, and pray for our enemies, right?

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

So, anyway, and to go directly to what was to be my eventual point...

If it is the case that in looking at a sinner or an enemy, your sight does not stop at his evil doings or evil ways, but continues on to the good which is in him, why cannot it not be the case that your sight likewise does not stop at the accidental suffering or affliction attending a punishment, but also continues on to the justice or good inhering in the restoration of order which which is (or is to be) brought about by that punishment?

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

No-one understands it literally, as if angels would be transporting by the bucket-full the blood of the wicket from hell to heaven for the saints to wash their feet in it. But even figuratively what is the better explanation you would suggest? What purpose do you think does that choice of metaphor serve?

You were kind enough to offer an answer to a difficult question I put to you, so I'll return the favor and attempt an answer to the difficult question you put to me:

Without blood, we have no life, so blood may be taken as a symbol of life. The washing of the feet in the blood of the wicked, then, may be seen as the washing of the feet in the life of the wicked. But, of course, such washing in the Psalm is not said to occur while the wicked are busy being wicked, but only after God has reduced their wickedness to order (via what is referred to therein as 'vengence'). Wouldn't you want to rub shoulders, so to speak, with those who have been properly ordered by God? Wouldn't you want to be cleansed by having contact with the life of the same?

That, then, is my feeble answer.

I think one might also be able to find the makings of an answer in Hebrews 9:13-14 (by, e.g., seeing 'the blood of the wicked' -- after a certain fact -- as being 'twix and 'tween the 'blood of bulls and of goats' and 'the blood of Christ'):

"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Glenn,

“X is either A or B. If X satisfies either condition C1 or condition C2, then X is A.”

Only in our case C1 and C2 are not given. We don't know them and that's why we are analyzing X.

Specifically, X is a particular verse in the Bible (namely Psalms 58:10) and C2 is a particular doctrinal matter (namely whether it is sound to believe that that saints in heaven rejoice in their clear vision of the wicket suffering in hell). We are not sure about C2 and want to understand what X teaches us about it. If we knew that C2 is sound then, Aquinas suggests, we'd conclude that X is to be understood literally. But we don't know that C2 is sound, and this is the very reason we are thinking about X and about how it should be understood.

I really don't get it. I have the impression that Aquinas wants to find a way to make everything – all of scripture and all of official dogma – a coherent whole. But I don't understand the rule he offers, at least not as a rule that one can apply case by case

“One reason why the Bible is called the Word of God is that it conveys His Word.”

Right, as I said I agree that the Bible is part of God's revelation. But it is not the Word of God; to call the Bible “Word of God” can only be meant metaphorically, for only Christ is the Word of God. The Bible is not even the Message of God, for Christ's incarnation, life, death, and resurrection is. So what is the Bible? For me it is a wonderful book which records, albeit imperfectly, the thoughts and experiences of many remarkable peoples' interaction with God. Most remarkably it records the ethical teaching of Christ, which I believe to be mostly (translated into Greek) copies of what He actually said. But that recording stopped at the beginning of the 2nd century AD. Many remarkable people of God have lived since then, and their thoughts and experiences have been written down in later books, some of which quite wonderful too. I don't think that Christ's revelation really ever stops.

Incidentally the “Word” we find mentioned so insistently in the beautiful John 1 is the translation of “Logos” in the original Greek. And the meaning of “logos” is not even close to the meaning of “word” as used in modern English. It is closer to the meaning of “reason” or “purpose”.

Incidentally consider what better sense it makes to translate “Logos” as the “divine Purpose”: “In the beginning was Purpose, and the Purpose was for God, and the Purpose was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Purpose, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and that life was the Light of humanity. And the Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not understand it.” I think that translation conveys better the sense of the original text, even though it fails to convey as well the unity between it-Purpose and I-God. And of course the it-darkness is actually the I-us.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

“If the Bible is as useless as you seem to be making it out to be [snip]”

Twice above I explicitly said that scripture is part of God's revelation. The idea that the Bible is “useless” certainly never crossed my mind. On the contrary at least in my case reading the gospels gave me the first knowledge by acquaintance of Christ. I understand this is a common experience, and come to think of it, it is a miraculous one at that.

When I say that the Bible is not literally the Word of God - who is Christ who is God - I am saying something that is obvious. Scripture as a whole is a door through which one can get one's first actual glimpse of Christ and through which one can pass to walk towards Christ. But it is not Christ.

On the other hand I am also saying that when the Bible is made into an idol of God then it becomes much worse than useless, it becomes deceitful as all idols are. One wastes one's time studying the Bible instead of following Christ, like staring at the door instead of opening it. (To make certain I am not misunderstood here: carefully studying and thinking about scripture is fine and good as part of the theologian's craft, and reading and thinking about God is fine and good for all, indeed for me it works like a kind of prayer. As long as one doesn't forget that Christ's call for us is much greater than that.)

“I think it is important to emphasis the word 'in' -- won't you agree? -- since the goodness itself is not always immediately apparent.”

Not always and not immediately apparent, right. But there is clearly goodness in humankind. It is there in each one of us. And I hold that that goodness is part of God's revelation too. No – that goodness is certainly part of God's revelation, since all goodness is grounded in God. Every time we see a stranger smile with kindness to another stranger, we see God. Not figuratively but literally.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

[T]here is clearly goodness in humankind. It is there in each one of us. And I hold that that goodness is part of God's revelation too. No – that goodness is certainly part of God's revelation, since all goodness is grounded in God. Every time we see a stranger smile with kindness to another stranger, we see God. Not figuratively but literally.

So, if you see something which happens for the good of one, many or all, why wouldn't you rejoice?

Glenn said...

(Of course, unstated in the question itself, but presumed in its asking, is that the something which happens 'for the good of', happens more for the good of something immutable or spiritual, and less for the good of something mutable or temporal.)

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

Twice above I explicitly said that scripture is part of God's revelation.

That is true.

Nonetheless -- so what?

It is also true that you had earlier indicated, and quite clearly, that it is a sign of a lack of faith to hold that scripture, which is part of God's revelation, is divinely ordered word by word.

Why should anything of God's revelation not be divinely ordered?

That makes no sense.

That we creatures might not be able to clearly see or discern that order, or that we might be able to see or discern it only with great difficulty, or even maybe not at all in this life, is one thing; but to say that something coming from God is lacking in divine order is another thing, and, quite frankly, sounds like blatant nonsense to me.

So, if you want your later explicit statements about scripture being part of God's revelation to carry any weight, be taken seriously or thought to be credible, I suggest you first retract your earlier assertion that scripture is, at least partly, lacking in divine order.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

we don't know that C2 is sound

Correction: you don't know (at least not yet) that C2 is sound.

in my case reading the gospels gave me the first knowledge by acquaintance of Christ. I understand this is a common experience, and come to think of it, it is a miraculous one at that.

You've mentioned this before some years back; I have not forgotten. Of course, however long the 'bloom' of such an experience may last, it is still but a start, and there is much work which follows. (As may be gathered from some of your comments here and there, you've already experienced the truth of this.)

- - - - -

That's it from me. The last word here is yours. Thank you for the discussion, and may God continue to bless you.

Anonymous said...

A bit late in the piece but nobody is in any sense ever qualified for what is easily the most difficult and demanding job in the world.
A job which involves a 24/7 news cycle - mostly bad of course.
A job in which involves enormous collective psychic pressure in that almost everyone projects their psychic projections on to the Prez - especially their negative projections.
Which is to say that there is always almost unbearable heat in the kitchen, and the buck (and respons-ability) really does stop there.

Why do you think George Bush spent much/most of his time on his ranch in Texas?

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

That's it from me.

Oh well, I guess not.

o But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. -- Matt. 12:28

1. Speaking symbolically, who might be amongst the devils cast out by the spirit of God, not from a single body, but from the collective body of the righteous:

a) the incorrigibly wicked?

b) the unrelenting workers of iniquity?

c) blasphemers against the Holy Spirit?

d) the trees which brought forth not good fruit?

e) they who to the last refused to believeth the Son?

f) they who to the last had refused to receive the kingdom of God as a little child?

g) they who laid up for themselves only the kind of treasure which moth and rust destroy?

h) they who turned their backs to immutable good, and feasted on a steady diet of mutable good instead?

i) etc., etc., so on and so forth?

Now,

2. Who wouldn't rejoice that the kingdom of God has come to him?

3. Who wouldn't rejoice on being reminded that the kingdom of God has come to him?

4. And who wouldn't be reminded that the kingdom of God has come to him on seeing (over there (or, say, down below)) all the devils cast out by the Spirit of God (as symbolically indicated in 1. above)?

Thus it is that it is "in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked[:] by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy."

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Glenn,

“Why should anything of God's revelation not be divinely ordered?”

That the Bible is not word by word ordered by God seems obvious to me, since it has not the perfection it would have if God had ordered it word by word. But to answer your question according to my understanding:

We agree that on theism God is not an absentee landlord but plays a continuous active role in creation. Now God's so-called special providence is probably mostly or completely about revelation. Nobody can possibly know how widespread God's special providence is, nor is it useful to wonder about that. I think the world is made in such a way that we can't possibly know that. What I think we can know is that God may be active in the world to an extremely large degree – in a way that comports with God's general providence and in particular with natural laws. As John Hick put it, this world is is a religiously ambiguous place.

Now, going back to your question, everything that God does is completely divinely ordered of course. The question is what might that which “God does” be? We agree that scripture is part of God's revelation, but what in that context *is* scripture? It can't be a sequence of words on paper, not only because their obvious imperfection, but because revelation is a matter of the spirit and the purpose of God's revelation is the salvation of us. So “scripture” in the context of revelation is our experience of reading scripture. And not our experience reading these words here or those words there, but the experience of our eyes being opened when we read scripture.

I was thinking that a field of philosophy we lack is philosophy of experience. We often speak as if experience is kind of fixed, so, for instance, as if a person reading scripture has the same experience as another, or as if the same person reading scripture today experiences the same she experienced when she read it in the past. I think a little self-knowledge quickly reveals that our experience varies (according I might say to the state of our soul). In this context we must also recognize the fact that a large part of humanity has no experience whatsoever of reading Christian scripture – so here God's revelation must work in other ways. As it certainly works in other ways for Christians too. Francis Collins has stated that he experienced God's revelation while observing a frozen waterfall. Atheists have poked fun at him, but on theism this might be entirely true.

As for the Bible text itself, I think that much of it was penned down by God inspired people, and thus by people experiencing God's revelation to them – and trying to record precisely that. But perhaps much of the Bible wasn't. Indeed we know that the Old Testament was not written only as a theological book, but has many other dimensions.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

In the context of the Christian gospels we hold that each word Christ uttered was God inspired, but given what we know about the messy manner the text was produced we can't be certain about how well they were recorded (and only in Greek translation). Since in that time it was common for disciples to memorize and repeat the sayings of wise teachers, and since Christ's ethical teaching (the cornerstone of the gospels) is so amazingly beautiful and so coherent – I believe that we enjoy the great privilege of reading Christ's actual words in much of them. (Or at least what I consider to be a great privilege – Christ Himself did not give much importance to the written word as proved by the fact that He did not write anything down.) But the experience of reading these words in our own time and culture in English, is obviously different from the experience of the disciples living in the milieu of ancient Palestine hearing the incarnated Christ in front of them speak the same words in Aramaic. I am not referring to what the meaning of the words is, but to how the experience of listening to Christ revealed God to those who did listen, and the experience of reading the gospels today reveals God to those who read with an open mind.

So perhaps the error in thinking that the Bible is the Word of God is a triple one. First because in this context the meaning of “Word” is not that of the common word “word”. Secondly because only Christ is the Word of God. And thirdly, because the revelation of God is not the kind of thing that can be conserved by words in the first place - even though in the right circumstances the reading of words opens the door through which revelation reaches the soul. The revelation of God is literally the revelation *of* God.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

Thank you for the tangential disquisition.

Now, let's get back to business.

According to the Word of God**, in the end of this world, "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Matt. 13:41-43

Think ye that the righteous -- shining forth as the sun in the kindgom of their Father -- will not rejoice? Think ye that the saints will not be amongst the righteous?

- - - - -

** Notice that it does not matter here whether the phrase 'Word of God' is used metaphorically in referring to the Bible, or is used non-metaphorically in referring to Jesus Christ. It does not matter for it is Jesus Christ Himself to whom the words in Matt. 13:41-43 are attributed.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Glenn,

”Thank you for the tangential disquisition.”

I don't think my previous comment was tangential. Feser in the OP discusses an ethical question based on Aquinas's thought on it. Aquinas in turn bases his thought on a particular verse of scripture as the revealed Word (in the right sense) of God. We all agree that scripture is part of God's revelation, but in my previous comment I argue how “scripture is part of God's revelation” should be understood, namely not as a text but as the experience of one's eyes opening by reading the text. If I am right then we should not believe that every sentence in scripture conserves some truth. and therefore should not try to extract that truth from each sentence in a way that coheres with all other truths we extract from all other sentences. This is not how scripture as part of God's revelation works, and when we try to extract some truth from each sentence then there is the danger of being driven to serious error. This matter then is fundamental to our discussion and not tangential at all.

Now in previous comments you offered your own explanation about the right understanding both of the first literal half and the second figurative half of that particular verse. I found your (as you call it “feeble”) explanation of the much more difficult figurative second part to be impressive, and your explanation of the first literal half to be very clever. I know next to nothing about scriptural exegesis, but I think you did very well there. I do have a problem with how the “good inhering in the restoration of order” is served by hell, since as I have explained in the other discussion about hell it seems to me that on the contrary hellism entails the final failure in the restoration of order, indeed the belief that God's wish will never be fulfilled. Further, at least in the way I understand the soteriology of many hellists, justice will not always be done since many sinners will not pay the wages of their sins. Universalism (which has old and impressive roots in our tradition, which seems to be clearly stated in various passages in the NT, which is not the official position of the great Christian churches but I understand is not specifically denied at least in the form of hopeful universalism) strikes me on all these counts as the more fruitful understanding. What I am saying is that I could challenge your explanation and lead our discussion into an interesting battle of wits and knowledge (and I don't mean this ironically – I do enjoy this kind of exchange as the next brainy person).

But should I challenge your explanations? Wouldn't I then be contributing to – playing along with – the position that each sentence of scripture is to be analyzed? If I hold that revelation is about one's eyes being opened wouldn't I be proven a hypocrite by doing the opposite of what I say is right? And do it just for the fun of it, or even for showing off?

What should I do given my understanding of revelation? I should testify (as I did) that hellism and in particular the idea that the saints in heaven will be enjoying for all eternity the suffering of their neighbors in hell – strikes me as ugly beyond imagination, darkens heaven to the level of disgust, and makes it more difficult for me to love God and in general to follow God's commands. “More difficult” not in the sense of putting a pebble on my path of repentance, but of putting a boulder on it. That bad fruit then I reject without any worries. After all Christ's call is to follow Him, not to avoid holding false beliefs.

[continues below]

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

[continues from above]

"The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Matt. 13:41-43

Right, I suppose this is the passage that most clearly points to hellism. Romans 5:18 is perhaps the passage which most clearly points to universalism. I am sure smart hellists and universalists have found ways around the passages that appear to speak against their respective positions. For the reasons I stated above I am not interested in the battle of passages and interpretations, but I realize that others are interested in finding the most reasonable understanding of scripture, and for all I know perhaps they do well. I understand the book which most carefully analyzes these questions based exclusively on a scriptural and doctrinal basis is Reitan's.

I happen to be a quite confident universalist. Could I be wrong? Of course, I may even be wrong about theism. But as a Christian my joyful profit is to love God and my difficult duty is to follow Christ's commands: to have faith, to do what He asks, to repent and thus become more like Him. And since I find that hellism stops me from loving God and from following Christ I wave it out of my way. Whatever may happen in the afterlife creation will be right and for the best.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

Thank you for your thoughtful response.

"[T]he idea that the saints in heaven will be enjoying for all eternity the suffering of their neighbors in hell – strikes me as ugly beyond imagination, darkens heaven to the level of disgust, and makes it more difficult for me to love God and in general to follow God's commands."

Where do you get that strange idea from?

1. St. Thomas very clearly states in the article for the question in the Summa that, "To rejoice in another's evil as such belongs to hatred," and that, "It is not praiseworthy in a wayfarer to rejoice in another's afflictions as such."

Clearly, you do not get that strange idea from St. Thomas.

2. Dr. Feser himself very clear states in the OP that, "the suffering of a person is not as such something to rejoice in, for suffering, considered just by itself, is an evil and, as Aquinas goes on to say, 'to rejoice in another's evil as such belongs to hatred.'"

Clearly, you do not that get strange idea from the OP.

3. No commenter above has said or suggested that either St. Thomas or Dr. Feser is wrong in claiming -- i.e., in stating the truth -- that, "[T]o rejoice in another's evil as such belongs to hatred."

Clearly, you do not get that strange idea from any commenter above.

4. St. Thomas, the OP (i.e., Dr. Feser), and every commenter above -- either explicitly, or implicitly (by way of not expressing any approval of the strange idea) -- reject the same strange idea you reject.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

For the record:

I found your (as you call it “feeble”) explanation of the much more difficult figurative second part to be impressive,

That it is thought to be 'impressive' does not mean that it is accurate, correct or true. The explanation was an 'on the fly' attempt to answer a difficult question, and was meant only to be taken as 'food for thought', so I stand by my use of 'feeble' in characterizing my own attempt. If you find that to be overly distasteful from an affective POV, then substitute 'inadequate' for 'feeble'.

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

I think I understood Feser/Aquinas's explanation from the start. I just don't think that a decent person would enjoy the view of another person suffering, even if only indirectly, even if that suffering were necessary for a greater good.

I mean when I take my daughter to the doctor to be given a vaccine shot I don´t find any indirect joy in her slight pain. Or imagine you are a soldier in the battlefield who finds a fellow soldier whose leg has been threaded by shrapnel and who is lying down dying. At great danger to yourself you carry him behind the lines where a doctor in dire circumstances saws off his leg in order to save his life. Your fellow soldier screams in agony. You are at the presence of a great good being realized, indeed the good for which you risked your life. Nevertheless view of pain will not give you any joy at all, not indirectly, not in any way shape or color. Or take the argument in the OP about the saints feeling joy by being reminded of their deliverance. When a plane crashes and many are killed or injured – those who are delivered without a scratch don't at all rejoice seeing mangled corpses and parts lying around. They suffer at this view even while feeling thankful for their own deliverance.

Only a psychopath remains apathetic in the presence of a stranger´s pain, and only a sadist (a particularly bad form of psychopathy) may enjoy it. I don't see why a Christian should try to intellectualize around that clearly vile verse of the Bible, except if driven by the teaching that all scripture is word by word ordered by God. I only see here how bad the fruit of that teaching is, and how easily one is led to gross theological error when one considers that each verse of scripture is some kind of God-given piece of evidence.

Incidentally not all Biblical Christians agree with Aquinas and Feser on this point. I understand William Lane Craig holds the view that God will bless the saints in heaven with amnesia to that they won't even know that there are people suffering in hell.

Glenn said...

Dianelos,

I think I understood Feser/Aquinas's explanation from the start.

I don't think you did. Not then, and not now.

I just don't think that a decent person would enjoy the view of another person suffering, even if only indirectly

See? You continue to respond as if the question from Aquinas is, "Whether the blessed rejoice in the pain and suffering of the wicked?"

Sorry to say, but I've been wasting my time.

Mr. Green said...

Dianelos Georgoudis: I think I understood Feser/Aquinas's explanation from the start.

It's clear from what you say in the very next sentences that you didn't understand at all. But that aside, why should anyone care what you think anyway? Why listen to what some guy on the Internet says when I've got, say, Aquinas? When we can turn to saints and geniuses, why would anybody pay any heed to your thoughts?

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

@ Mr. Green

”why should anyone care what you think anyway? Why listen to what some guy on the Internet says when I've got, say, Aquinas? When we can turn to saints and geniuses, why would anybody pay any heed to your thoughts?”

What a strange question. If you mean it seriously, then why discuss with anybody at all?

Perhaps I can best answer it by explaining why I care about what you think. Here it's important to separate philosophy from theology.

1) Philosophy (including so-called natural theology) is about reasoning. While reasoning it has proven extraordinarily useful to consider the reasoning of other people and check one's reasoning against theirs. When reasoning alone one may easily fail to see problems in one's thought, which can become quite stale as it were. On the contrary it's a common occurrence that others give one food for thought, particularly when they are in disagreement. Discussion also leads one to learn things. Because of recent discussions in this blog I learned about the seven cardinal sins – and I was quite a revelation for me.

2) Theology is about faith – about one's actual experience of God. Theology then is not about reasoning but about describing. In a sense the good theologian points us to the right direction, and by looking in that direction we see the truth. Naturally the next question is “how does one recognize truth when one sees it?”. After all I think we all agree that in the history of Christianity there have been many honest people who tried to expand theological knowledge but got it wrong. I think there is no easy answer to this question, but there is some secure ground: We are made in the image of God, our very nature is oriented towards God (which is an idea the comports perfectly with A-T metaphysics). So by carefully considering the effect of what we see has on ourselves can tell us if it comes from the Holy Spirit or from a spirit of deception. To use an example that is often mentioned in A-T talk: If you are a match then you are ordered towards producing fire. If what you see has the effect of rubbing you towards a hard surface and you find yourself producing fire then it concords with your nature and is right; if on the other hand it has the effect of dipping you in water then it doesn't and is wrong.

In our human condition the relevant questions when considering the effects of what we see when we look at what the theologian points to are: Is what we see beautiful – does it illuminate with beauty all there is in our condition? Does what we see make our love for God grow? Does it fill us with love for all our neighbors? Does it give us strength to follow Christ's commands? Does it fill us with the joy of recognition – that joy many are blessed with when they read the gospels with an open heart? In short, does what we see produce good fruit? If it does, then it is probably from the Holy Spirit, and almost certainly *not* from a spirit of deception. For no spirit of deception will ever make us love God more or give us strength to follow Christ. Conversely, does what the theologian points at strike us as ugly, diminishes our love for God, makes us weaker in repentance? Then it can't come from God, and probably comes from a spirit of deception.

Theology then is existential and thus harder still than philosophy. Philosophy is in a sense a team sport, with more or less generally accepted epistemological rules, and more or less objective means for measuring success and failure. Theology is solitary, with no other hand to hold on than God's grace. But whereas philosophy requires some training to do well, theology is an open window to look through, and so what anybody has to say deserves consideration, particularly when they seem to be good people.

Glenn said...

What a strange question.

This strange response to a 'strange' question calls for a 'strange' motion: the waving of one's hand over the top of his head.

Mr. Green said...

Dianelos Georgoudis: What a strange question. If you mean it seriously, then why discuss with anybody at all?

I did indeed mean it seriously, so thank you for a serious response. Of course, we are both well aware of many discussions that have been wastes of time; food for thought is good if it provides nutrition for the mind, but it is bad if it is only junk-food for thought, which, like junk food for the body, can actually be harmful.

Theology is about faith

That would come as news to many theologians, especially those aware of the meaning of "logos".

After all I think we all agree that in the history of Christianity there have been many honest people who tried to expand theological knowledge but got it wrong.

Indeed. Many of those people did not pay enough attention to the teachings of the Church or her greatest scholars.

So by carefully considering the effect of what we see has on ourselves can tell us if it comes from the Holy Spirit or from a spirit of deception.

That doesn't seem to make much sense. There could be no spirits of deception if it were not possible to be deceived; that is, if it were not possible for something to look like a good effect when in fact it is not. So observing effects can never be sufficient; we must evaluate what we observe, we must apply some -ology, and reason about what we see. (That a match does not produce fire when dipped in water is also in concord with its nature, after all: that is just what wet matches are supposed to do.)

In short, does what we see produce good fruit? [...] For no spirit of deception will ever make us love God more or give us strength to follow Christ.

But how do you know what is good fruit? Are you an expert botanist? You see, again you seem to underestimate the power of deception: there is a sense in which your claim is true, and a sense in which it is quite false. This is so in various ways, but the easiest to see is that we can be deceived about Who Christ is, or where He is going, and thus can be very well deceived into believing we are loving God more or following Him more strongly when we are in fact not. Evil relies on luring us with feelings that we are truly Right and Honourable into doing the most wicked acts.

Theology is solitary

That is a very interesting remark, and perhaps it sheds some light on your M.O. But God did not create any man an island; we are social creatures — indeed, God is in our midst when two or three gather in His name... but not one alone.

theology is an open window to look through, and so what anybody has to say deserves consideration, particularly when they seem to be good people.

Which brings us back around to the original question: why should anyone care what you say? Obviously, not just anybody deserves consideration — it is pointless to listen to someone who has no idea what he's talking about, for instance (other than as part of helping him to learn from his mistakes). You suggest as much when you add "seem to be good people". But good in what way? Good at knitting? Do we mean people who are "nice", or people who are wise? Now presumably you do not dispute that St. Thomas was wiser and holier than either you or I; so it follows that it is more reasonable for one to pay attention to him than to you, and to esteem his intellectual fruit as better than yours, does it not?