Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Aquinas and the problem of evil

My article “The Thomistic Dissolution of the Logical Problem of Evil” has just been published in the journal Religions, and is available online.  (Follow the links to opt for either the HTML format or PDF.)  It is a contribution to a special issue devoted to responses to James Sterba’s recent book Is a Good God Logically Possible? 

324 comments:

  1. NICE!!!!

    The POE is my all time favorite topic!!!!

    Here I wipe out my slogans.

    A Classic Theist Divinity needs a Theodicy like a fish needs a bicycle.

    Theodicy is for silly false "moral agent" so called "gods" not the True God.

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    1. God is a moral agent.

      To say God is not a moral agent is tantamount to saying that God is irrational and doesn't care about the natural ends of rational creatures.

      By the way, avoid fr. Brian Davies's book like the plague. Davies's work on the problem of evil is worthless.

      As any sane person can tell, if God doesn't care about a child being raped and murdered, then He isn't "good" either analogical or univocally. He can, at best, be called "good" equivocally - this is basically what Davies's position amounts to, contra Aquinas.
      But it doesn't stop there - any being who possesses (or is) intelligence and freedom, like God, and doesn't care about a child being raped and killed, is in fact *evil* in either an analogical or an univocal sense.

      So the problem of evil persists. And Davies's response is about the worst that one could get, really.

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    2. Disclaimer to those who are still naïve enough to think everything can be brushed away with a distinction between "classical theism" and "theistic personalism": to say God is a moral agent is not to say God is a finite agent like us, or anything of the sort. God is Goodness itself, and Rationality itself, and it is precisely because of these facts that we can say God is a moral agent, even if we have to qualify this statement as pointing out that it's an example of analogical language. God is more like a good, virtuous person than a rock, or even an evil person.

      Davies's position, however, rejects both analogical and univocal language. He makes enemies of both Aquinas and Scotus. But then equivocal language destroys theology, and certainly removes any justification one could have for worshipping such a being (not to mention that it's irrational in itself).

      As David Bentley Hart would put it, to be beyond good and evil just is to be evil. Davies's God - the God of "thomists" who think they can wave away the problem of evil by insisting God is not a moral agent - is beyond good and evil. It is, in other words, evil.

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    3. What we should avoid like the plague are unargued assertions making no other arguments apart an unsubstantiated appeals to sanity.

      Your entire tirade hinges on the meaning of the word "care". In us, it typically involved affective responses, and this is not to be found in God, and most importantly, we have ontological perfection to achieve through action, also unlike God. God is not perfected through creation, not even analogously, so agency ad extra, including moral agency, is not a pure perfection and isn't to be ascribed to God as such. So it is of course true that God is "more like a good, virtuous person than a rock, or even an evil person", but that is because persons, of all the things perfected through agency, are the most perfect substanced we have access to, and hence better second analogues, not because God is even more "well-behaved" and to be congratulated for joining the set of moral individuals. In fact, Fr. Brian explicitly recommends (see, in addition, the comment relaying his response to a query below) that we should view God as our ultimate, universal and, might I add, entirely unselfish benefactor.

      So Davies' position does not reject analogical language. What it rejects is any claim that any given state of creation or some aspect of it (apart from self-consistency) has some sort of necessary relation to God, so no enmity with St. Thomas on that count. God is never in a position where He is bound by His very Nature to cause some concrete level of creaturely perfection to obtain in reality, unlike creaturely agents whose perfection depends on precisely this, even if Him being the Eternal Law precludes absurdities, such as contradictions, etc.

      So God is not "beyond good and evil": He is so Good that He is beyond creaturely, including moral, goodness.

      A god who depends on creature for his goodnes, upon whom created realities can lay claim, is not God.

      Thomas Gavisus

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    5. It's interesting that people typically appeal to the allowance of human injustice and suffering as knock-down arguments against God's "morality"... A brief glance at the Old Testament - or even the ordering of the 10 Commandments - should be enough to convince reflective people that the Judeo-Christian God "cares" most of all about things being ordered justly towards Himself, as the Supreme Good - which is why idolatry, unbelief, and hatred of God are the three greatest sins (one by conversion, one by cause, one by aversion)... not sins on the Second Tablet, as bad as they are. This points toward the underlying nerve of the case, in fact, as it implies that it is in fact God Who is the very measure for goodness in the first place, including moral goodness (to be morally good is simply to act like God, in accord with one's own nature). The difference in ontological status/"nature" leads us to the necessity for a consideration of analogy.

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    6. This should read:

      "apart from unsubstantiated appeals to sanity"
      "involves"
      "substances"
      "A god who depends on creatures for his goodness, upon whom created realities can lay claim, is not God."

      Apologies.

      Thomas Gavisus

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    7. Your entire tirade hinges on the meaning of the word "care". In us, it typically involved affective responses,"

      That's incorrect. By "care", I do not mean something like an emotional or affective response, but a proper disposition such that a wise being (not just a wise human) seeks to prevent the rape and killing of children. Because it's the Good. It's the right thing to do, and the proper response of rationality when confronted with such ideas or essences.

      It is in that sense that God *must* care about children being raped and killed, and that is all that one needs to get the problem of evil going. So, does God care about children being raped and killed? If he does, in the proper sense of the word, then He ought to prevent such horrendous events (unless there are morally sufficient reasons for permitting such horrors, and this is where classical theodicy comes up). If he doesn't, then you're simply biting the bullet which proponents of PoE will (rightly) never accept. If God doesn't care about children being raped and killed, then He isn't like a good person either analogically or univocally. Hence fr. Davies's position being one of equivocal language. For Brian Davies, whenever Jesus speaks of God as a good father, He would be making an equivocal statement, not an analogical one. After all, no true analogy is possible between "a good father" and a God who doesn't care to prevent the rape and murder of children.

      To say moral agency is not a "pure perfection" is also contentious, but it doesn't help one bit. The situation is quite more simple, as I put it. Moreover, logically speaking, God should be a "moral agent" for the simple fact that God is a rational, free being. And any rational free being is by definition a moral agent, if moral realism is true: there are *good* ends and events, which ought to be desired, and there are *bad* ends and events, which ought to be avoided.

      This again is all logically speaking, so the the usual diatribe of contemporary thomists of complaining that God is "not a being, theistic personalism personalism personalism!" is irrelevant. As a classical theist, I accept that God metaphysically just is rationality, the Good, and freedom (in fact I think this strengthens my point anyway), but logically speaking there is no denying that God is an entity, for an entity is anything which exists - be it through participated, limited acts of existence as in the case of creatures, or through just being Existence itself, or having its Essence identified with Existence. And logically speaking, God is a rational being, for a rational being is any entity which has powers of rationality and freedom, either by participation (as with angels and humans) or by the very act of being (as in the case with God). And likewise God is also, logically speaking, a moral agent, given that He is a free and rational entity.

      And if a proposition like "the rape and murder of children is evil and ought to be prevented, all other things being equal" is a true fact, like "2 + 2 = 4", a rational entity cannot fail to grasp it except by some failure (cognitive, of the will, etc). And any moral agent cannot fail to obey it - if they do, they are not good moral agents, but defective ones. That's all we need to get the PoE going.

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    8. In addition, it should be clear that, whatever moral agency reduces to (if you think it's reducible), its perfections are present in God. And then, to think that caring about children being raped and murdered is itself just a mere limitation of whatever perfection moral agency reduces to, is an abhorrent idea and makes nonsense of the rationality of morality.

      Again, Davies's position basically makes every predication of moral goodness on God to be equivocal. Davies rejects analogy and univocity when it comes to moral statements about God. Davies thinks moral language about God is equivocal.

      If you think there can be any analogy between "a good Father" and all that Jesus said about God, and a being who might allow children to be raped and murdered *for no greater good*, basically for no reason, being "under no obligations" (if we're speaking of greater goods we're already doing theodicy) then I think you're foolish.

      "So God is not "beyond good and evil": He is so Good that He is beyond creaturely, including moral, goodness."

      So He IS beyond good and evil according to you. Because apparently our "creaturely" idea of moral goodness doesn't even properly reflect the real good. Such a good would be beyond our moral categories, though, and hence evil.

      Again, if God doesn't care about children being raped and murdered, He just isn't good in any meaningful sense of the term for us. Analogy is gone. This should be very easy to comprehend, really.

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    9. @Thomas Gavisus,

      I think what you and others who defend Davies' position are trying to say is NOT that God doesn't care about suffering or evil, or that He does but doesn't need to and could basically just allow suffering and not care about it.

      The point then seems to be that God does actually care about evil and suffering, it's just that He isn't obligated in the strict sense in which we are obligated, correct?


      @Unknown,

      Do you happen to know of any Thomists (especially Catholic ones) who would disagree with Davies and affirm God might have some obligations in some sense?

      You cited David Bentley Hart for example - does he actually accept that a view of God similar to how you describe? I haven't read Hart defending such a view, and that does sound interesting.

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    10. @Unknown,

      Another thing to keep in mind though is that even if one wants to view God as having "obligations" in some sense and caring about suffering, it would still be true that God is radically above creation in having authority over it.

      For example, He owns all things as to their very being because He gives all things their own act of being. This also extends to other areas such as property or lives - if God wanted He could take away someone's life, with good reasons of course. Such a thing is perfectly compatible with God also giving that life back eventually or outdoing all evil with a greater good.

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    11. Also, it would be much appreciated if the Unknowns out there had unique names to distinguish themselves from each other. Especially when we have two or more Unknowns commenting and even disagreeing.

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    1. But Jesus could win a bike race and be a champion, especially using his super powers, and he was God. So obviously, God can ride a bikr after all.

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    2. I was hoping for that response Anon. Thanks buddy!:D

      Jesus would be operating the bike with His Human Nature not His Divine.

      So yes the Incarnate Son of God can ride a Bike but the Divine Essence by itself clearly cannot.

      So my argument stands.

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    3. Anon

      Of course it we need to be clear in our definitions otherwise we fall victim to fallacies of equivocation.

      God cannot literally ride a bike =The Divine Essence cannot ride a Bike.

      It is not a denial of the fact the Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity can ride a bike with the human nature he assumed.

      We preform operations according to our nature and God cannot perform the operation of literally riding a bike. He can cause creature to exist who fashion bikes to ride them. He can continually cause the matter that makes up the bike artifice to exist. He can cause the reality that makes bike riding possible.

      But God in his divine essence cannot literally ride a bike.

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    4. He went walking about in The Garden of Eden didn't he? He could have got in his bike then.

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    5. So your taking the metaphorical language of Genesis hyper literally?

      So when Psalms 91 speaks of God "enfolding us in his Wings" do you imagine the Bible is literally telling us God is a giant Cosmic Mega Chicken?

      At this point I would invoke "Scratch 'N Atheist find a fundamentalist".......

      We are not Fundamentalists Anon. Thanks for the response anyway. I've developed my arguments based on similar responses you are giving me.

      Thanks again.

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    6. Well he might be, but no doubt the giant cosmic megachicken body would be a special one with superpowers.

      You pick and choose where you see metaphores. When Jesus said something like " take this, this is my body' , when passing bread around at the last supper, you take that pretty literally ( ditto with wine being his blood ). Maybe by the same logic God is a giant cosmic megachicken.

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    7. @Anon

      Biblical interpretation is off topic to the thread. But I will say this. Catholics don't believe the false doctrine taught by Martin Luther that Holy Writ is clear apart from reading it threw the lens of Apostolic Tradition (2 Thes 2:15 & 3:6) or as it is formally interpreted by the Church (1 Tim 3:15).

      We are not Protestant Fundamentalists good sir. We indeed to pick our metaphors and we do take "This is my body" literally but we do not take "Call No Man Father" literally and we are fine with it.

      It is futile for Atheists to argue the Bible with us Catholics. Unless you give us the official interpretation of the Bible sanctioned by the Holy Church it is your fallible opinion vs mine vs Luther's vs John Loftus' etc....vs the Pope(but if he is speaking offically and formally I will take him over all).

      So my argument still stands. But thanks again.
      So far these are all the standard Gnu responses. Nothing original so far.......but I will hold out hope.

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    8. The response of any half sane person to a reading of what allegedly happened at the Last Supper would be to see Jesus' words as being metaphorical. It is inconceivable that anyone who had not mindlessly relinquished their good judgement would spontaneously take them literally. Having bizarrely done that though, you concoct a philosophical theory to explain how it could be so. This transubstantiation buisness really brings you into disrepute.

      You cannot lecture anyone about the proper exegesis of figurative and allagorical language giant cosmic chicken worshipper.

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    9. So here Anon you have conceded the argument because you are trying to change the topic to the validity of transubstantiation and wither or not "This is my body" should be literal rather then defend my claim we cannot say coherently that the divine essence can ride a bike given the immaterial nature of the divine essence and the material nature of bike riding.

      I care not for Zwinlgi's interpretation of "this is my body" nor Luther's false belief Holy Writ is plain and clear.

      Catholics and Orthodox Christians have no such presuppositions in reading it and it is off topic.

      It is futile for Atheist to debate the Bible with Catholics. Or more precisely it is futile for Atheist to pretend Catholics are Protestant Fundamentalists.

      It is just incoherent and it is not sane.

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    10. The obvious and natural reading of the Biblical text is that Jesus is speaking metaphorically when saying that the wine and bread are his blood and body, and there is absolutely nothing in the accounts to even hint otherwise. This issue has caused great disagreement and division among Christians, which your God would certainly have forseen, so why did Jesus not make it clear that he waa not speaking metaphorically if that was the case? The issue has frankly brought Roman Catholicism into disrepute , and motivates skepticism about its claims to divinely guaranteed authority, something that God would not have allowed to occur. I conclude from this either that Christian theism is false, or that the pretensions of Roman Catholicism to authority in exegesis are.

      Do you really not feel that you are making a mockery of your judgement and crucifying your intelligence along the way by taking Jesus' words here literally, just because that is what your church tradition says? Are you not just a little embarrassed?

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    11. So Anon yer tactic is before you can make me an Atheist you are going to argue via special pleading "Oh please! Oh Please read the Bible like a Protestant not as a Catholic & mindlessly accept my interpretation?".

      Yeh good luck with that....

      Anyway that is off topic and Prof Feser wants us to stay on topic and of course my argument the Divine Essence cannot literally ride a bike stands. Just as Prof Feser's defense of Davies view God is not a moral agent stands and James Sterba's arguments fall flat.

      But if you want to explain to me how a non-material Divine Essence can literally physically ride a Bike as a divine essence alone I am all ears?

      Again good luck with that....

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    12. No, that is not the obvious reading. If it was, no one would have left him over the teaching. Just reread John 6. For the first 1500 years of church history, the interpretation was always literal. And it is no cause of shame. It is the very center of Catholic faith because the Eucharist is an extension of the incarnation of God made man through time. Every time a Catholic goes to mass, he or she becomes absorbed into the body of Christ, such that when the priest offers up the host on the altar, he offers us all up with Christ, because we are all his body.

      Of course we only know this by assenting to the teachings of Christ, and we believe him by faith. You clearly don't have this faith yet, so I'll pray for you to encounter Christ soon.

      God bless,
      Daniel

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    13. Having said that, I wouldn't mind hearing a comment or two on Ed's article.

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    14. Daniel,

      I don't think Anon is serious. I think he is trying to bait me into a debate on the Real Present. So what? William Lane Craig doesn't believe in the Real Presence last I checked. He is also not a Classic Theist by any definition given his denial of the divine simplicity and divine timelessness.
      But he has said God has no obligations to his creatures.

      It would be possible for a Protestant Classic Theist to agree with Feser here on God not being a moral agent even if he does hold Zwingli's heterodox novelties on the Eucharist. St Ignatius of antioch(who was a disciple of John and Peter) in 107 AD clearly took the "This is my body" literally in his letter to the Smyrnaeans.

      A Baptist would balk but who cares? It has nothing to do with the argument.

      But you gotta admire Anon's Troll. But begging us to become Protestants so as to make it easier to make us Atheists is just silly. God never meant us to have the Bible without the Church and Tradition. That not having it leads to thousands of denominations only vindicates our view.

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    15. Daniel you must remember Anon only brought up the real presence because he has no rejoinder to my claim God cannot be said to able to ride a bike without incoherence given the divine nature.

      Only a human nature can literally ride a bike and only a virtuous rational creature can be a moral agent.

      Obviously God can supernaturally move a bike around as if it was being rode and obviously God is something like what a morally good creature is but God doesn't literally ride a bike and God is not literally a moral agent the way we are moral agents.

      Anon has no answer to that other then pretend we are Baptists and proof text the Bible or read it as a Fundamentalist.

      Here is the thing. The Problem of Evil is a non-problem for Classic Theists. Just as the scientific case against Young Earth Creationism is a non-starter for Theistic Evolutionists.

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    16. Son of Yakov 4.16PM

      You claim that "God did not intend us to have the Bible without church and tradition." How do you know that? Is it because of...what your church and tradition says? The relevant 'proof texts' here are very thin on the ground and hardly imply the monsterous RC edifice that has sprung up.

      You also say 'That not having it ( ie church and tradition ) leads to thousands of denominations only vindicates our view'. So why then, when this mess was entirely predictable , let alone forseen no doubt by Yahweh, did he not make his desire for an organisation like the RC - with the kind of authority it believes that it has - crystal clear, so the Biblical texts could not be ignored or misunderstood by any Bible believing Christian? Isn't the anwer to this that your supposed authority is imagined or fabricated?

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    17. There was an organized OT Church prior to and concurrent with the coming of Christ.

      You just conceded there are texts to back up my claim with your admission "he relevant 'proof texts' here are very thin."

      Comparing Isaiah 22:20-23 & Matt 16:18-19 make the Papacy bloody obvious biblically.

      Finally Atheists still cannot argue the Bible based on plain reading of the text. All texts require tradition.

      For example: Article 52 of the Soviet Constitution says “Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed freedom of conscience, that is, the right to profess or not to profess any religion, and to conduct religious worship or atheistic propaganda.”.

      Now a "plain reading" should tell us freedom of religion must exist in the former USSR bur we all know that is BS. So why did the Ruskis have freedom of religion? Because they didn't interpret this text according to the post enlightnment liberalism of John Stuart Mill but via the philosophy of dialectic materialism by which they concluded this gave "freedom" to throwbacks who wanted to attend divine liturgy in a Russian Orthodox Church. But it is not religious freedom as westerner traditionally understood it.

      So enough of your appeals to the "plain text". I will not hear you unless you give me the Catholic interpretation. That is all.

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    18. A note on the notion of "plain text":

      All text is situated in a tradition. Language derives its meaning from the minds of the speakers and writers, and these speakers and writers get their definitions from a tradition. One cannot understand any text without understanding the mind behind the text, and one cannot understand that mind in turn without looking at the tradition that mind adhered to.

      Now, if we grant this, and we grant that the Bible is at least partially written by God, then we would need to know God's mind to know the correct interpretation of the Bible. We as Catholics believe that God created the Magisterium of the Church to be God's representatives on Earth, and we believe that the Holy Spirit preserves this Magisterium from error.

      Now one can be skeptical of this. That is fine. But if you are going to argue for the "correct" interpretation of Scripture, you'll need to first show that the Catholic Church does not have the authority to interpret Scripture and then point to whoever does. You can't just appeal to some notion of a "plain reading" that floats free from all tradition. That's just incoherent.

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    19. Mr Geocom 9.32AM

      Don't be a silly sausage. If the Catholic Church claims something as grandiose has having been granted authority from God to correctly interpret the Bible ( as well as all the other particular claims about the Pope, magesterium , freedom from error etc ) it needs to justify all this if it wishes to be taken seriously. It is hardly up to me to disprove these grandiose claims, or point to who does have authority. In fact , I do not grant that the Bible is at all inspired, so I obviously do not think that anyone has this authority from 'on high'. If Jesus (God ) had intended to establish an organisation with the pretentions of your church he would have said so very clearly , especially considering the acrimony and division this issue has caused within Christianity, so generating endless denominations ( a fact that he would have forseen ). But what is the scriptural evidence for this? Well, forgive me , but I cannot read off the granduose pretentions of your church from bits of Matthew and Isaiah, as suggested by Son of Yak'ov. That is an absurdly flimsy basis upon which to base the authority of your church and developing tradition, and the specific claims you make for it. It is as pathetic as the scriptural basis for the so called 'real presence' as suggested by Daniel - accounts of the last supper and John 6. In these passages Jesus is using language that any normal person would immediately take to be metaphorical, and if he was not , he would have made his literal meaning abundantly clear and unquestionable, again, especially as this is anothet issue that has divided the church and brought ridicule to your faction of it ( which he would have forseen ).

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    20. So you are going to assume Protestant presuppositions as an Atheist while arguing with Catholics on the Bible?

      Yeh good luck with that......(Beg the question much?)....

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    21. Anonymous,

      You are basically begging the question. My interpretation says Catholicism is correct. Your interpretation says that it isn't. You can't appeal to the fact that the Bible supports your view because that's precisely what we're arguing.

      To refute my position, you have to point to some authority that has the God-given authority to interpret Scripture correctly and say "you're doing it wrong, Catholics."

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    22. Mr Geocom

      Don't be silly. You are making grandiose claims for your church, which have to be established first before you can rely on its authority and tradition, something that you are singularly failing to do. You are also failing to account for Jesus' lack of explicit clarity on this issue - which has fragmented Christianity - if he intended what you imagine.

      You are just an unthinking faith head who will believe a whole bunch of stuff come what may. Here is my interpretation, born from naught and not explicated by Jesus, and you must prove it wrong or point to some other authority or I will continue to hold it! Having invented the authority of church and tradition, along with all the particulars and specifics about the pope, magisterium, infallibility etc, I will continue to believe it come what may, unless you can disprove my invention, and if this generates embarrassing monstrosities like transubstantiation, that is fine , it will not cause me to question my inventions one bit! How sad

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    23. Mr Geocon

      No I am not. And do not think that I have not noticed your lack of a proper response to my points.

      Well, after inventing transubstantiation following a dotty exegesis of scripture , it is perfectly reasonable to imagine that YAHWWEH occasionally withholds the bread like accidents to apparantly materialise meat, and this is actually claimed by many Catholics. Does your lack of good judgement and gullability know no end?

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    24. Unknown,

      I properly responded to your mindless invective. Repeating yourself doesn't make you correct.

      You: "Haha, Catholics are stupid!"

      Me: "Who has a better interpretation of Scripture, then?"

      You: "I do!"

      Me: "How did you determine that?"

      You: "... Because Catholics are stupid!"

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  3. Calling God "Perfectly Morally Good" in the unequivocal way you would call a maximally virtuous rational creature "perfectly morally Good" makes about as much sense as calling God a champion bike rider. It is incoherent and absurd.

    To ride a bike entails a physical being sitting on it and moving the petals. Which excludes God who is not physical.

    But you might retort "Can't God supernaturally move a bike around as if it was being ridden by way of a miracle?"

    Of course but God would NOT be literally ridding it now would He?

    Again one might retort? Well God must be able to ride a bike because he is omnipotent and can do anything?

    I would respond God can do anything but a non-physical being physically riding a bike doesn't describe anything. It describes nothing and adds new meaning to the concept "There is Nothing God Cannot do". Like making 2+2=5 or some such nonsense.

    God cannot be a champion bike rider. It is not coherent. God cannot be a moral agent like we are moral agents as that is not coherent. Ergo the Problem of Evil which presupposes God is a moral agent is a non-starter.

    The "best" Gnu Atheist response to this (& it is pretty lame BTW) I've seen in my life is for the Gnu Atheist to plead somehow God must be morally good like we are if God exists.

    Which as a response is practically the Gnu Atheist putting on the Hat of a Theistic Personalist religious apologist and arguing the Classic Theist must confess his false Theistic Personalist deity before he can hear the Gnus' argument against any particular theodicy.

    If God is not a moral agent in the first place then theodicy doesn't matter. It like a Gnu presenting his argument to a Theist on how Young Earth Creationism is not based on good scientific analysis only to have the Theist nod politely and say "Um I am Theistic Evolutionist".

    So there you have it.

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  4. I wonder how Scotists would look at this, given their support of univocity. Could we then attribute "moral agentness" to God in some univocal sense then?

    Lee Faber or Michael Sullivan wanna chime in, if they're reading this?

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    1. Even William Lane Craig has said God has no obligations to His creatures and he is not a Classic Theist.

      I can imagine a Scotist could believe the same if an non-Classic Theist like Craig can believe it.

      Thought they may believe it on different grounds?

      Anyway I would like to see what they would say too.

      Cheers.

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    2. Well I consider myself a thomist (basically I prefer the thomistic view of absolutr Divine Simplicity as opposed to Scotus's view, and I broadly accept aristotelian-thomistic metaphysics in general) and I think God has obligations to creatures. I would also say that God *is* a moral agent (by analogy, though) and I think Feser's and Davies's views are terrible and pretty much irrational. So a Scotist could believe it as well.

      God's having obligations to creatures isn't something determined by "classical theism vs personalism". There are personalists who reject the idea that God has obligations to creatures. And there are classical theists who accept that God has obligations to creatures.

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  5. To clarify those of the Scotus school are Classic Theists. Craig is not but he agree with us God has no obligations to His creatures so I can imagine the Scotus school would agree with that sentiment even if they get there differently than us.

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  6. Well I finished the paper. YIKES!!! This James Serba fellow doesn't have a clue! That is the best he can do to answer Davies?

    this Quote from Prof Feser's paper wins the internet.

    Quote"Sterba’s attempt to revive the logical problem of evil presupposes too anthropomorphic a conception of God, so too does it presuppose too this-worldly a
    conception of human happiness. From a Thomistic point of view, he not only fails to hit the target, but has been aiming his fire in the opposite direction."

    So basically this is my experience with lame Gnu attempts to answer Davies. They are in effect arguing "No Fair you are not a Theistic Personalist nor are you presupposing Theistic Personalism!".

    Yep........

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  7. Anon attempt to argue transubstantiation mirrors James Serba's weak argument against Davies. Davies argues God is not a moral agent and Serba responds by assuming God is a moral agent. I told Anon Catholics don't believe Scripture is plain or clear and He response by assuming Scripture is plain and clear.

    Hilarity ensues.

    PS Will some followers of Scotus please chime in. I would like to hear what they think of Davies. As I recall Davies said prior to the enlightenment Christian and Jewish writers presupposed God had no obligations to His creatures. So I think this view is the ancient one.

    God is not a moral agent in the unequivocal way we are moral agents. God has no obligations to His Creatures by nature. To say otherwise is incoherent give God's nature in Classic Theism. God cannot ride a Bike either or more precisely the Divine Essence cannot literally ride a bike.

    Cheers.

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  8. Always a good day to get an open access paper by Feser

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    1. The page link lists James Sterba as the academic editor. He edited the papers responding to him?

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    2. Well why shouldn't he? How is he gonna know the strongest arguments against his counter view?

      Speaking for myself just because I think Sterba's critique of Davies sucks doesn't mean I think the man himself is not honorable or an honest academic. He obvious is if he is editing the works of his critics.

      I thought Graham Oppy's attempt to prove existential inertia by solely giving us examples of Cambridge change didn't cut the mustard when he debated Feser but the man is still a class act. Australia has a lot of great philosopher (said Paps won't read any of them and wastes time recycling Loftus' shite).

      Cheers.

      Cheers.

      Delete
    3. Indeed, a push towards OA & OER content in philosophy would be fabulous!

      Delete
    4. Callum, Son of Ya'kov

      James Sterba has a clear conflict of interest as academic editor - Of course he should not be editing papers responding to him. What an unprofessional practice.

      Delete
    5. Editors do not have absolute power. If all he is providing is proof reading then no problem. Besides, if Ed objected, he would not have allowed the paper to be published. Clearly he isn't bothered by it.

      Delete
    6. Well said Daniel.

      Unknown slow yer roll big guy.

      Delete
  9. Short Form: "Sterba’s Arms Too Short to Box with God."

    ReplyDelete
  10. Indeed, a push towards OA & OER content in philosophy would be fabulous!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This answer doesn't explain why most people recognize theodicy as a "deep question."

    ATHEISTIC EXTREMIST. There is no God and nature has no obligations. Simple as that.

    THEISTIC EXTREMIST. There is a God and he has no obligations to creatures. Simple as that.

    Both the atheist and theist extremist agree that theodicy is a "non-issue" and not worth expending much effort, but are at odds with theistic moderate who finds theodicy to be very deep and profound question, which belies the simple, short-and-sweet answers of Dr. Sterba and Dr. Feser respectively.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @BalancedTryteOperators

      The problem is Theodicy is a late concept post Leibniz when they started to entertain the idea we live in the "Best of all possible worlds". Which is incorrect.

      While Aquinas correctly concluded there is no such concept. God could have always made a better world then the one we live in or a worst one. Even if God made a better world than this one He could have still made a better one then that, and so on and so on.

      (Also if we are going to invoke the Bible
      to claim God has obligations to creatures violates the teaching of St Paul and is a denial of the doctrine of Grace wither you follow Trent, Augsburg or Westminster etc. So I don't see how your view fits any version of Christianity outside of pelagian heresy?

      God is not obligated to create any world & there is no world so good God is obligated to create it and none so bad that as long as it partakes of being God should refrain from creating it.

      Also your so called AE & TE views are not equivalence anymore than God not being material and nothingness not being material are equivalent as was proposed by some Gnu Sophists on another thread.

      The "Atheist extremist universe" has no obligations to itself since it is not rational or driven by intention nor does it have a reason to be. God does have obligations to Himself & is His own reason to Be and God by definition cannot go against His will or His own good.
      So as Aquinas correctly argued Virtue and Moral Goodness do exist in God. God never fails to will or do His own Good or do His own Will. God never fails in the obligations He has to Himself.
      A godless Universe cannot make that claim thus it is truly amoral. At best God is "in a sense amoral" as Davies once quipped because God is not morally obligated to us. But God is moral.

      Given that is the divine nature explains why God can temporarily allow some evil but not allow ultimate evil to win in the end. It also explains why God cannot command us to torture babies for fun or command us to hate Him as the extreme divine command theory/volunteerists on free will believe.

      God's obligations to creatures are only what He has willed to give them and what He gives to them is pure gift on His part as well. He didn't have to create them.

      There is more but I will stop there.

      Cheers.

      Delete
    2. Son of Ya'kov,

      That theodicy was invented by Leibniz is contradicted by ancient books such as Job or 2 Esdras that wrestle with the question of why there is evil.

      (Also if we are going to invoke the Bible
      to claim God has obligations to creatures violates the teaching of St Paul and is a denial of the doctrine of Grace wither you follow Trent, Augsburg or Westminster etc. So I don't see how your view fits any version of Christianity outside of pelagian heresy?)


      All short-and-sweet answers such as "God has no obligations" ultimately trivialize the problem of evil. Why God withholds some goodness and why he creates evil are deep questions. The theist extremist does not give an answer but a dismissal, and one that is as intellectually dishonest as the atheist extremist's response.

      Appealing to a creed is what Jean-Paul Sartre would call arguing en mauvaise foi. Unlike the theist extremist who makes a choice to dismiss the question, you're appealing to a creed to make the choice of not making a choice. Ultimately, you are, due to being a rational creature with will, forced to make a choice of how you will confront the problem of evil.

      A godless Universe cannot make that claim thus it is truly amoral.

      Practically speaking, there is evil in the universe and the atheist extremist has to make a judgment of it. In this sense, a moral universe is an incorrigible concept, one that everyone is forced to believe. The atheist extremist does not successfully answer the problem of evil by saying "God does not exist, so it's all random and we should expect evil because of the Law of Large Numbers," but rather dismisses it.

      Delete
    3. BalancedTryteOperators 6.56PM

      I still think that God could ride a bike using psychokinesis, but Son of Ya'kov clearly thinks that he is far too limited for that.

      As regards theodacy, humans suffer terribly in this world - partly for reasons to do with other humans and partly not - and they naturally experience this as being monstorously unfair and unjust. This is no doubt the biggest single positive reason why many ordinary people reject theism, so it is perfectly obvious why theodocy has been central to the theistic apologetic effort.

      I must say that the Thomist solution - that there is no problem of evil to start with, as God has no obligations to his creatures - although petfectly coherent, is unlikely to assist their apologetic efforts, other than with highly intellectual and emotionally stunted types. At least with the Protestants who think this ( like William Lane Craig ), they beliive that the character of God is essentially loving in a quite anthropomorphic way, and so feel that they still have much to explain - how is it that a loving God can allow so much pain and suffering and other evils ( not contraception though ) to exist in the world, his lack of moral obligation to us not withstanding .

      It is perfectly clear why Classical Theism is doomed to languish as a minority perspective of cold, unfeeling intellectuals, regardless of its truth content. The overwhelming majority of ordinary Christian believers - including Catholics - are clearly theistic personalists, because they are human.

      By the way , do any lady classical theists ever post on this site, indeed are there any in the academic world too? The current seems to be an overwhelmingly male preserve. Wonder why that is?

      Finally, any idea why Jesus was not a manifest Thomist, if Thomist notions hold the key to life, the universe and everything? We had to wait for well over a millenium for all this stuff to be invented by Mr A.

      Delete
    4. @BalancedTryteOperators 6.56PM

      >That theodicy was invented by Leibniz is contradicted by ancient books such as Job or 2 Esdras that wrestle with the question of why there is evil.

      He literally made up the word itself and the concept which has been conspicuously absent from the teaching of all earlier Christian writers Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. The concept literally goes again the doctrine of Grace Alone held universally by Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants.

      Also the last time I read Job it seems God told him point blank he didn't need to justify Himself to Job and Job had no business questioning him. Doesn't sound like God is a moral agent the way we are moral agents?

      The idea God has obligations to creatures is a post enlightenment novelty. No Christians prior to Leibniz confessed it and reading it into the Bible begs the question especially since it is not part of Apostolic Tradition.

      >All short-and-sweet answers such as "God has no obligations" ultimately trivialize the problem of evil.


      Nope rather it shows it is a non-problem.

      >Why God withholds some goodness and why he creates evil are deep questions.

      You are equating the mystery of evil (i.e. why this evil not that?) with the Problem of Evil. Why did God created one moon and not two? Who knows? It is a mystery? Why do my kids have autism and my brothers' children are spared? Don't know? Mystery, but I take comfort in the knowledge I cannot coherently or rationally blame God for it. I can't be mad at someone who doesn't give me what He doesn't owe me in the first place.

      So you are confused. Theodicy is a godless concept and leads to Atheism when the "god" who "owes" things to people doesn't pay up.

      It's divine socalism at its worst. Bugger Theodicy the curse of the True God upon this shite false doctrine!

      Delete
    5. Son of Ya"kov

      'It's divine socialism at its worst. Bugger Theodicy , the curse of the True God upon this shite false doctrine!'

      Inspired. Always brightens my day to call by here!

      Delete
    6. @Anonymous April 13, 2021 at 10:25 PM

      >We had to wait for well over a millenium for all this stuff to be invented by Mr A.

      Rather we had to wait till Leibniz to get this novel idea God is a moral agent like we are moral agents. A concept 100% lacking in the writings of earlier Christians as Davies noted.

      Why didn't Jesus simply tell us God is moral like we are moral and has obligations to us other than What God has previously willed?

      >I still think that God could ride a bike using psychokinesis, but Son of Ya'kov clearly thinks that he is far too limited for that.

      Fallacy of equivocation. Moving a bike with psychokinesis is not riding it. Bike riding is a natural activity and God can only do supernatural activities with his divine nature.
      It is that simple. Divine Omnipotence means having all powers. There is no power to make 2+2=5 nor is there a power for a Supernatural Groung of All Being to perform a natural activity in a natural manner. Such can only act supernaturally.

      >As regards theodacy, humans suffer terribly in this world - partly for reasons to do with other humans and partly not - and they naturally experience this as being monstrously unfair and unjust.

      Only because they think they are being denied what is owed. Once they drop that false sense of entitlement they will feel much better.

      >This is no doubt the biggest single positive reason why many ordinary people reject theism, so it is perfectly obvious why theodocy has been central to the theistic apologetic effort.

      Rather I submit Theodicy contributes to Atheism. When you falsely believe God owes you something and you aren't getting it then you hate him.

      One you are freed with the knowledge you are a charity case and everything God gives you is undeserved Gift you are free.

      Speaking for myself this concept is quite liberating and has spared me hating God.

      >Finally, any idea why Jesus was not a manifest Thomist, if Thomist notions hold the key to life, the universe and everything?

      You should read up on the development of doctrine.

      >I must say that the Thomist solution - that there is no problem of evil to start with, as God has no obligations to his creatures - although petfectly coherent, is unlikely to assist their apologetic efforts, other than with highly intellectual and emotionally stunted types.

      I actually found before I learned about the concept as a young believer I always intuitively believed that believing God owed you anything seemed absurd.

      The concept is not hard to grasp. A return to it will make Classic Theism dominant.

      The fear New Atheist have over it is delicious and fills the air since they have no intelligent response to it.

      As you and yer buddies have shown.

      Delete
    7. Also the last time I read Job it seems God told him point blank he didn't need to justify Himself to Job and Job had no business questioning him. Doesn't sound like God is a moral agent the way we are moral agents?

      The last chapters of Job are open to many different interpretations, considering that they're written as poetry. But the "God doesn't owe you anything" response sounds more like what Job's friends would have said. Lastly, God never said he was angry at Job for questioning him but did say he was angry at his friends for their reasoning.

      Delete
    8. Son of Ya'kov 6.38AM

      But where are the ladies?

      Delete
    9. @BalancedTryteOperators 6.56PM

      No sir. Jobs friends told him he sinned & God told them they where janky for saying that and they needed Job to offer sacrifices on their behalf. Also take note Elihu's speech was not rebuked by God.
      Then there are God's speeches in which he tells Job he has no standing to Judge God or find fault with the Lord.

      Theodicy is pelagian heresy.

      Delete
    10. @Son of Yakov,

      Quote: "Only because they think they are being denied what is owed. Once they drop that false sense of entitlement they will feel much better."


      But isn't there still an intuition that undeserved suffering is still bad in itself?

      Even if it's wrong to think of it as unjust or undeserved, there is still some truth to the idea that the suffering itself is bad. This doesn't mean it should never have happened, but just that it isn't the type of thing that one shouldn't care about at all.

      In other words, it seems one can't dismiss the badness of the suffering by saying it isn't important and shouldn't be cared about just because we're not owed prevention.

      Delete
    11. Saying "God has no obligations to his creatures" is saying that there is no problem of evil when most prople's intuition say that there is a problem of evil. Not only that, but one can say that the ONLY question in philosophy is "why does evil exist?"

      It's like solving the mind-body problem by appealing to eliminative materialism.

      Delete
    12. BalancedTryteOperators,

      You wrote, "All short-and-sweet answers such as "God has no obligations" ultimately trivialize the problem of evil. Why God withholds some goodness and why he creates evil are deep questions. The theist extremist does not give an answer but a dismissal, and one that is as intellectually dishonest as the atheist extremist's response."

      The primary topic of the paper was to show that show that, under the Thomist conception of God, nature, and ethics there is no contradiction with a perfectly good God and a world in which there is evil. Whether or not there is a contradiction is the highlight.

      But you seem to be asking what "greater good" is achieved. Feser did touch on this in his paper briefly. He did not use the term, but it has to do with the concept of plenitude of being, which -- under the Thomist doctrine on the convertibility of being and goodness -- also means plenitude of goods. The goodness of a lion's nature and its operations (including it being a carnivore) would not exist in a world which did not have carnivores that have prey that experience evils. Nor could the goodness of a gazelle as a herbivore exist of evil was not permitted to happen to grass. Nor could the goods of various virtues such as courage exist in a world in which there wasn't the evils of fear or danger to health, nor certain types of justice. Certain goods just could not possibly exist if no evil was permitted (heck, not even any change at all, under a Thomist view, which means no agency either). Plenitude of being/goods is only possible if evil is permitted, and all the variety, diversity, and plenitude of being better manifests the glory of subsisting existence itself, but can only be created under finite modes or not at all.

      Delete
    13. Plenitude of being/goods is only possible if evil is permitted, and all the variety, diversity, and plenitude of being better manifests the glory of subsisting existence itself, but can only be created under finite modes or not at all.

      What does "under finite modes or not at all" mean?

      Delete
  12. Balanced

    I had not yet read your 9.53PM contribution when posting my last one.

    ReplyDelete
  13. One thing that strikes me as a bit problematic in Ed's view is this
    "The natural order depends at every moment on its conserving cause (God) for its operation
    no less than for its existence. Hence, without drawing causal power from their conserving cause
    at every moment at which they operate, natural substances would be as inert as a stick
    that the hand has dropped to the ground.
    What I have been summarizing here are the Doctrine of Divine Conservation, according
    to which the natural order could not continue in being for an instant without God’s
    continually sustaining it; and the Doctrine of Divine Concurrence, according to which natural
    substances cannot exercise their causal power even for an instant without God’s concurring
    or cooperating with that exercise."

    How can anyone who believes this also maintain that God merely permits evil. Permitting X to do something entails that X can do something on his own.
    But, on Ed's account, X cannot do anything on his own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr Van den Acker

      Yes, quite so. And could I request that anyone offering an imaginative solution to Mr Van den Acker's objection please concentrate on so-called natural evil, so that the issue is not obfuscated by blather about libertarian free will, and the question of which agent - human, angel or God - is responsible for what. How about a naturally occurring forest fire which slowly burns a little baby alive after its fleeing parents have been overcome by fumes.

      Delete
    2. @Walter Van der Acker:

      "How can anyone who believes this also maintain that God merely permits evil. Permitting X to do something entails that X can do something on his own. But, on Ed's account, X cannot do anything on his own."

      This is not Prof. Feser's account, but Walter van der Acker's account of Prof. Feser's account. Probably what you have in mind is some argument or other -- or maybe it is just so obvious and clear, that producing an argument is belaboring the obvious -- showing that Prof. Feser is really an occasionalist despite his own protestations otherwise.

      Delete
    3. W. Matthews Grant shows the compatibility of free actions and divine causality in this paper. It's worth a read.
      https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/216990423.pdf

      Delete
    4. grodrigues

      Perhaps you can explain how a creature can do something on his own while being "as inert as a stick that the hand has dropped to the ground"?

      Delete
    5. I think this analogy would help the occasionalists in this comment section.

      Within a job market, economic actors have a variety of choices they can make in terms of what they buy and sell, where they work, how they work, etc. But the economic system of capitalism is responsible for there being these choices and economic actors in question. Without capitalism, there would not be these choices in careers or these products, nor could I make these choices given the very different incentives that would exist. This is obviously true, yet we wouldn't say this undermines the fact that my choices are free. Such thinking would be economic reductionism that Marxists are infamous for.

      Something analogous to this occurs with God. He is the very precondition for there being free choice and free agents. But this does not mean such agents aren't free because they have free will, and this free will has real consequences. To deny this would amount to a kind of theological reductionism whereby there is nothing real except God.

      Delete
    6. >W. Matthews Grant shows the compatibility of free actions and divine causality in this paper. It's worth a read.
      https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/216990423.pdf

      Good call.

      Delete
    7. Mr Geocon

      Your example is not analogous to a creature that would be as inert as a stick that the hand has dropped to the ground.
      Creating the conditions for free acts doesn't work if creatures are inert.

      Delete
    8. @Walter van der Acker:

      "Perhaps you can explain how a creature can do something on his own while being "as inert as a stick that the hand has dropped to the ground"?"

      This one I can indeed explain, simply because there is nothing to explain. Your question pressuposes a view of causality that St. Thomas, and Prof. Feser following him, does not hold: creatures have real causal powers, period.

      Delete
    9. Walter Van den Acker,

      Even in your stick example, the stick is responsible for moving the ball in a certain way just as the stick-user is responsible for making the stick move at all. By contrast, your position (occasionalism) would have it such that there is no difference between the prime mover using the stick to move the ball and the prime mover using his hand to move the ball. You clearly see that there's a difference, right?

      Delete
    10. Grodrigues

      So, inert creatures have real causal powers? I suppose circles have four sides too, then?

      Delete
    11. Mister Geocon

      It's not my stick-example, it's Ed's.
      And this is not about instruments. It's abour free decisions. Each decision, and each part of the decision, cannot remain in being for even an instant without the prime mover actuvely creating and sustaining it.
      That means my decision to something evil cannot exist without God actively creating and sustaining it.

      That is the logical implication of what Ed is claiming. That means God does not 'merely permit' evil. He actively creates and sustains my decision to do evil (and of course also my evil act).
      So, Ed's theodicy doesn't get off the ground.

      Delete
    12. I think the stick analogy is very awkward, even though what it wants to show is correct. The key thing the analogy is trying to communicate is God preserving and giving things their own causal powers in the same way He gives them existence, or maybe as a consequence of their existence.

      Taken strictly literally, the stick analogy would mean God is actually the direct immediate cause of everything in creation since the hand moves the stick in the same way the stick would move the rock if it could move itself. But this implies that God is a secondary cause and causes things secondarily in the same way a hand causes the stick to move the rock, so that created things don't cause anything but God actually makes them do things or does it instead of them.

      Yet this is clearly something Ed would deny and isn't what he wants to communicate with the analogy - all the analogy means is that God gives things their causal abilities at every moment, and that without God they wouldn't cause anything in the same way they wouldn't exist. And if the causal powers of creatures follow also directly from their existence in the first place, this simply means God gives and preserves the causal powers of things by preserving the things' very existence.

      So don't focus so much on the secondary movement aspect of the stick analogy where the hand gives the stick motion by also directly causing the whole motion - the key is just the dependence of created causes on God at every moment through His giving them being and their powers of causation as well.

      Delete
    13. @Walter Van den Acker:

      "So, inert creatures have real causal powers? I suppose circles have four sides too, then?"

      So you purposely do not want to understand?

      Delete
    14. Aquinas himself, and I think most Thomists would agree, does not actually say that God merely permits natural evil. In fact, this is not the Biblical narrative either which paints a picture where God inflicts evil on us for a variety of reasons.

      The evil aspect of a natural evil is permitted in the sense that it is not a positive reality but a privation. However, the realities involved are in fact caused by God. If a forest fire kills a deer, the fire itself is lit by God. The baby deer's corruption is not in itself a thing to be created, but insofar as it is casued by the fire, then we can truthfully say God killed the deer and did not merely permit the death of the deer.

      I think this is a more or less accurate summary of Aquinas's view.

      Delete
    15. @Tony,

      1) With regards to punishment that would be correct, but other evils don't need to be directly inflicted by God at all.

      2) God doesn't actually light the fire - at least not how that sentence is understood on its face.

      You can say God causes the fire in the sense of sustaining it and all of it's created causes in being, or like a domino-effect where created causes lead to created effects without God directly intervening yet ending up with a result that God permitted or even positively wanted by arranging things in a certain way.

      That would be in the realm of primary causality, but that isn't secondary causality - where God intervenes and miraculously causes an effect directly in the same sense created beings cause it. God can act via secondary causality insofar as He can directly actualise potencies in the world, but that isn't always the case and primary causality of giving and sustaining being tends to be the most common.

      Delete
    16. Walter,

      Your entire argument appears to be that instruments cannot be free agents because a "real" free agent would have underived causal power. I showed how an instrument would be a real cause and thus how one can be a free agent and an instrumental cause, but you reject this, stomp your feet, and shout "no, but I am right! I just am!" You aren't going to convince anyone like that.

      The Thomist view is that being a free agent is something that naturally flows from being rational. If something is rational by its nature, it cannot but be free. Such is the Thomistic understanding of freedom. To prove that this freedom is incompatible with divine causality, you'd have to argue for some form of occasionalism (as opposed to Feser's divine concurrentism).

      Delete
    17. Mister Geocon

      Concurrentism is only possible if there is at least a minimal amount of existential inertia.
      If an instrument is a real cause, it can only be so if it has existential inertia.
      In reality a stick moves a ball because the stick has inertia and its form directs a force in a certain direction.
      So, I am not just shouting "no". The problem is that you are shouting "yes".

      Delete
    18. JoeD

      "The key thing the analogy is trying to communicate is God preserving and giving things their own causal powers in the same way He gives them existence, or maybe as a consequence of their existence."

      "Their own causal power" entails existential inertia, which Ed specifically rejects.

      Delete
    19. Grodrigues

      I do want to understand. The problem is you don't want to ,or are unable to, explain

      Delete
    20. I think this comment from former commenter rank sophist would be useful:

      "Second, for those concerned that concurrentism must necessarily collapse into occasionalism, there's nothing to worry about. Prof. Feser's example of the chalk is not literal, but should be taken figuratively like his others: we are not merely God's instrumental causes. In strictly literal terms, God does not cause anything at all--we can only apply this term to him via analogy. In large part, this is because most of God's actions (save miracles) do not fall under Aristotle's ten categories, which include such things as "doing" and "being affected". God is totally above the ten categories, and so he is never "doing" anything; and for something to "be affected" by God is for a miracle to occur. Hence, when Prof. Feser and Aquinas say that God is the primary cause of motion, this means that God is giving motion in the same way that he gives existence. He is simultaneously creating and sustaining it, even though nothing is, technically speaking, affected by his actions. Certain misreadings of the First Way lead one to conclude that God is the "first mover" in the sense that he is the "highest mover" ("highest secondary cause"), determining all other movers rather than just giving them motion in the way that he gives them being."

      Delete
    21. JoeD

      It doesn't matter whether God is "doing" anything or not. It is precisely because God gives motion in the same way that he gives existence that Feser's brand of concurrentism collapses into occasionalism.
      Because in the same way God gives existence to an inert creature, he gives it motion. That is, the creature cannot exist without being given existence and even it has existence, it is still inert unless it is given motion. The existence and the motion of this creature, combined with its essence tell the whole story. There is no other 'component'.
      Hence, there is no such thing as merely permitting the creature to do anything. The creature cannot do anything unless its actions are caused in the same way its being is.

      Delete
    22. Walter,

      Your assertion that "concurrentism is only possible if there is some existential inertia" is a big claim that you ought to back up. From where I stand, there seems to be no conflict between saying that something cannot exist without God and saying that it is a real cause.

      Delete
  14. The real problem of evil is how God can hold His creatures responsible for their actions when He is CAUSING their actions. When discussing the First Way, Ed often stresses the instrumental nature of God's causality. An instrument, however, is not free by definition. It does what the agent moving it wants it to do. And even if that instrument has a will of its own, it is still not a free will: whatever it may decide, it will do whatever its primary agent wanted it to do, because that is what the primary agent originally wanted. It cannot resist its mover - or else it would have to be caused to resist.

    Nor does the story analogy help here; the characters in a story cannot resist whatever the author wants it to do, and cannot do otherwise their words are already written down. It makes God the author of every action, thought, word and deed that every creature has committed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. BenG,

      Your view of divine causation seems to presuppose occasionalism (the view that God is the only real cause) rather than Feser's divine concurrentism (the view that secondary causes are real causes in addition to God). Any reason why the latter is false and the former is true? You just sort of... assume occasionalism.

      Delete
    2. No, I'm not presupposing occasionalism. I am presupposing that God causes all creaturely actions, which is true according to Thomism.

      And it's impossible to have "God causes action A" without A occurring, since God's causation and A are simultaneous. It follows that no agent can do otherwise; and if they DID do otherwise, that could only be because God causes them to do so.

      There's no way out of this, I'm sorry to say. Creatures can be real causes, but their actions are caused by God in an instrumental manner meaning that not only are they not the source of their actions, but they cannot do otherwise.

      Delete
    3. BenG,

      If creatures are real causes, then agents with intellect and will are responsible for their actions. God may allow this, but the fault still lies with the creature, not with God.

      Delete
  15. Love this part:

    " If a thirsty dog sees water, its thirst will prompt it to drink unless there is some countervailing impulse, such as a feeling of fear generated by the sight of an approaching predator. As animals, human beings will also be influenced by such appetites—but, on top of that, will be able rationally to assess the situation and, if they judge it to be best to do so, to override the stronger appetite that would have determined what a non-rational animal would do. This capacity to be guided by reason rather than sensation and appetite alone is what constitutes the freedom of the will."

    As the Reverend Mother Mohiam said:

    "A duke’s son must know about poisons. . . . Here’s a new one for you: the gom jabbar. It kills only animals."

    And Paul recites:

    "I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

    ReplyDelete
  16. Have just completed reading Dr Feser's paper. The upshot as I understand it, is that the Thomist GOD does not cause evil; not even the slaughter of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:3 KJV), nor babies smashed onto the rocks, although this is what the GOD of Abraham clearly commands. And by Dr Feser's argument this could not even be 'Divine Evil' done in the name of good. By his interpretation of Thomism, Dr Feser is trying to tell us that all GOD can do is 'permit' evil, HE cannot cause it. [This argument is the closest interpretation I have read recently that best matches the contemporaneous idiomatic expression; 'Trump didn't cause the Jan 6th insurrection at the Capitol; he only permitted it; he didn't cause it therefore he is not responsible.'

    I really thought Dr Feser was going to genuinely address the issue of theodicy. In GOD's Divine omni-ness (omnipresence, omnipotence, omni-benevolence), according to Feser/Thomist philosophical logic, HE is incapable of causing evil yet HE can permit it.

    Can anybody else here see the problematic nature of this line reasoning based as it is on using quintessentially theological concepts to make the philosophical argument.

    Feser writes: "For the Thomist, when one properly understands what God is and what morality and moral
    agents are ..."

    Where Dr Feser writes, "...when one properly understands..." read that as "... when one understands Thomism as I (Feser) understand it ..."
    I make this observation from my reading of Thomist literature that even Thomists vary on what the 'proper' understanding is. So I'm not convinced by the claim Feser makes in relation to 'the “problem” rest(ing) on a category mistake'.

    Feser writes: "Naturally, these metaphysical claims raise a number of questions and require further
    exposition and defense. The point, though, is that Sterba’s criticisms of Thomistic theological claims are once again undermined by his failure to understand or seriously engage with the metaphysical underpinnings of those claims."

    So what is it that Feser is arguing? Thomistic theological claims or Thomist philosophical claims? The old trope, "..his failure to understand or seriously engage with the metaphysical underpinnings of those claims.." is a clear give-away what in reality means, "Unless you [Sterba] think of Thomist theological metaphysical underpinnings as I [Feser] interpret them, then you are not seriously engaging." I say, what arrogance and self-important hubris!





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  17. CONTINUED:

    Gleaned from the article, Feser makes the following assertions:
    (1) God is pure actuality
    (2) God has no potentiality
    (3) Nothing at all can exist .... unless God creates it.
    (4)...since God is the cause of any possible reality other than himself, the essences or natures of all
    the possible things he might create must in some way exist in Him; but,
    (5) God does not create evil, HE only permits it.
    (6) According to Thomism, our essence
    to be rational social animals contains within it the capacity to create evil. (But from (4) above,.."the essences or natures of all
    the possible things he might create must in some way exist in Him")
    (7) Only humans through their actualised essence can create evil. God has no role in creating evil. But HE does permit it.
    (8) HE permits it because: "In this way, Aquinas argues, the badness in the world is not only not incompatible with divine omnipotence and goodness, but in fact manifests divine omnipotence and
    goodness insofar as God is able to produce a greater good out of evil. (How to get blood out of a stone. [My words]). In other words God permits evil because it will lead to a 'greater good'.

    Can anyone please explain the logic stream here?

    At Point (4) Feser writes:"...since God is the cause of any possible reality other than himself, the essences or natures of all the possible things he might create must in some way exist in Him". At another place Feser writes: "For the Thomist, an essence considered by itself is at most only potentially part of the natural order. That existence is added to an essence is what actualizes this potential." The question I ask is, If the essence or nature of humans entail evil, and that the essences or natures of all possible things He might create (in this case humans with essences that entail evil) MUST in some way exist in HIM, then how is it that that evil essence actualised somehow now no longer exists in HIM? Where did the switcheroo occur?

    I now understand why the Church has been dismally unable to establish a cogent argument for some form of theodicy. The argument I have just read simply absolves GOD by the fiat of total immunity. Apparently Sterba is completely wrong because Thomists say the Catholic GOD cannot be argued against, is untouchable, so there. Apparently there can be no argument against a GOD against which no argument can be made. Sort of like a merry-go-round that goes round and round and round ad infinitum.
    A somewhat disappointing response to Sterba.

    Philosophy? I don't think so.

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    Replies
    1. Papalinton,

      First, there is no evil essence since evil is a privation. There can be no privations in God. So your point that evil must exist in God is just silly.

      Second, Feser has argued for the Thomistic view of nature, morality, and God in previous papers and books, which he cites. He also cites other authors who share this view. Also, it's very ironic given how most of your comments on this blog consist of one assertion after another (your assertion that there must be an "evil essence" being your latest howler).

      Third, your complaint that Thomists make it so no argument against God can be made shows you don't understand Feser's point in the essay. His entire argument is that "Given the Thomistic view of nature, morality, and God, there can be no logical problem of evil because of reasons X, Y, and Z." This is a perfectly reasonable argument against Sterba because Sterba, like most atheists critics of Thomism, doesn't grasp Thomism's underlying metaphysics and doesn't really argue against them either (his handwaving dismissal of Aristotelianism being an example of this). The fact that you personally find Thomism impossible to argue against says less about Thomism and more about your ability to argue (which, in my opinion, isn't very good). For the love of all that's holy and good, please learn how to argue like a normal human being.

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    2. @Paps

      Yer meltdown here is beyond entertaining as is yer out of the gate non-starter objection.

      >Have just completed reading Dr Feser's paper. The upshot as I understand it, is that the Thomist GOD does not cause evil; not even the slaughter of the Amalekites

      Then you are an idiot because nowhere does Feser deny God is the formal cause of Evil only that God is the direct cause of evil or that God is morally responsible for evil.

      Anybody who has read Davies know Davies says we can say in a sense God is the formal cause of Evil for creating a material world and or creating rational free willed beings he knows will choose evil.

      None of this has anything to do with Feser's argument.

      Given this glaring out of the gate error we can ignore the rest of yer panicking drivel.

      Answers in Genesis is over there Paps. Have at them they are more your speed.

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    3. Mr Geocon 8.37AM

      Thomists have their own private definition of evil, which no one else recognises. With regards to the moral order for example ' an action is morally good when it is consistant with the realisation of the ends towards which our natures direct us, and morally bad when it frustrates the realisation of these ends.' Now, even accepting all this blather about 'natures' and "ends' for sake of argument, my response is 'so what'? You have defined moral evil in such a way that contraception is evil for example, but everyone else will just think that you are batty, ignore you and carry on as before. If I wish to act in a manner that frustrates my supposed ends, providing that it is in a manner that we find acceptable societally, I will damn well do so thank you very much.So what?

      Of course, to have any purchase, your definition of moral evil has to be backed up by an enforcer, who will reward the deserving with ' the beatific vision ( whatever that is meant to be ), and banish the wicked to hell. Now all this is just made up theological blather. The philosophical arguments that you use to probe the nature of existance are interesting and should be taken seriously, but a 'bare bones' classical theism is all that can be derived from them at most, and that hardly entails Christian theism, let alone Roman Catholicism, both of which I find deeply implausible for all kinds of reasons.
      So there is no need for anyone to accept the entire Thomist package , or to have to justify not doing so. You have an idiosyncratic notion of morality, which can only be proscriptive if backed up by a petty God that 'kicks off' when people transgress it in any way, and I reject both.

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    4. Unknown,

      There are actual arguments for Thomistic natural law ethics, the privation view of evil (which is not exclusive to Thomism, so that's a lie right there), the immortality of the soul and why something like the Christian afterlife is reasonable given what we do know of the soul's nature. But you probably don't want to hear them because you're a troll.

      Delete
    5. @Papalinton

      On the thomistic view, God can cause a "evil"* via a miracle,for instance. If God interrupts the natural order by causing a lighting strike that kills Talmid them he did actually kill.

      One has to remember the distinction between primary and secundary casuality, the normal way that God acts is by sustaining the natural world, so he does pretty much just permits stuff, for things have real casual power. But He can do more if He want like, again, in a miracle.

      *i say like this because God does not have a obligation to not kill or something, so by "evil" understand something like "A action that would be evil if commited by a person"

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    6. And again, you don't have to believe in God or on the thomistic philosophy just because the problem of evil fails, that is another discussion to another thread.

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    7. @ Mr Geocon @ 8.37AM
      "First, there is no evil essence since evil is a privation. There can be no privations in God. So your point that evil must exist in God is just silly."

      I didn't say there is evil essence. It seems as though one's essence is incapable of circumventing privation. So what function or good can be derived from one's essence? If privation is the absence of good and essence is the existence of good, does that mean there is also a concomitant absence of essence? Also, if everything that exists is good, insofar as it exists, then evil, which is the absence of good, privation represents nothing, or, something that is non-existence, or the putative presence of something that is non-existent. You would, of course know that the privation theory of evil is disputed and hotly contested as anything of any real merit in philosophy. Indeed it is a largely Catholic-centric theological concept that has not really gained much of a foothold in wider contemporary philosophy, particularly among philosophers for whom the study of evil is a specialism.

      I understand why Catholics cling to such a weak theory. Because, not to do so would mean having to admit that some things in the world exist and are indeed evil. And this would not reflect favourably on, or place GOD in a very good light as the creator of the world and which in turn is an admission that GOD is not completely good.

      Try as you might, the notion of evil as a privation is semantic nonsense, with little evidence in substantiation of the claim. Professor Todd Calder in his paper, 'The Concept of Evil", makes short shrift of the notion of evil as privation:

      One problem with the privation theory’s solution to the problem of evil is that it provides only a partial solution to the problem of evil since even if God creates no evil we must still explain why God allows privation evils to exist (See Calder 2007a; Kane 1980). An even more significant problem is that the privation theory seems to fail as a theory of evil since it doesn’t seem to be able to account for certain paradigmatic evils. For instance, it seems that we cannot equate the evil of pain with the privation of pleasure or some other feeling. Pain is a distinct phenomenological experience which is positively bad and not merely not good. Similarly, a sadistic torturer is not just not as good as she could be. She is not simply lacking in kindness or compassion. She desires her victims’ suffering for pleasure. These are qualities she has, not qualities she lacks, and they are positively bad and not merely lacking in goodness (Calder 2007a; Kane 1980. See Anglin and Goetz 1982 and Grant 2015 for replies to these objections)."

      So what is silly, really, is continuing to perpetuate the unsubstantiated assertion that evil is a privation. The concept seems only to jell in minds that are themselves prone to gelatinous thinking.

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    8. @ Talmid @ 9.07PM

      All that you write about God interrupting the natural order, causing a lighting strike, together with miracles, and the like, is simply not what I subscribe to as a reflection of reality. So I reject the unsubstantiated premise underlying that paradigm. It is folklore, mythos write large.

      Therefore, the distinction between primary and secondary casuality (sic), and the normality of God are in themselves precepts of no universal value or merit in hard reality.

      I do not subscribe to your imagined and fanciful worldview. You are welcome to your own worldview but do not for a moment think that I share that view. To me it is a preposterous careening descent into risibility.

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    9. Papalinton,

      You always appeal to the fact that a theory is unpopular in the academy to "prove" that the theory is "weak." There's no logical relationship between the two.

      The privation theory of evil is not something adopted ad-hoc, but something that comes from our view that goodness is convertible with being. If being is goodness, then evil (which is the opposite of goodness) cannot be a thing. It must be something like darkness or cold - a lack of something.

      The problem with the paper you cited is that it assumes pain is an evil. It isn't. Pain can be a good thing in certain circumstances. It is good that I feel pain when I touch a hot stove, for example. Pain only becomes an evil when it begins interfering with the normal function of things. It also assumes that the privation theory of evil is intended to be a theodicy when, in truth, it's only part of the explanation. The privation theory only explains why we cannot say he causes evil, only permits it. The theodicy would be incomplete without an explanation of why God permits evil.

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    10. @ Mister Geocon, you wrote:

      "The privation theory of evil is not something adopted ad-hoc, but something that comes from our view that goodness is convertible with being. If being is goodness, then evil (which is the opposite of goodness) cannot be a thing. It must be something like darkness or cold - a lack of something."

      The doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals will be rejected by many philosophers who reject the notion that being has wider intension than "existence." Many will reject the idea that there are degrees of being, that things partake of being, and so on. Many also have additional reasons for rejecting the thesis that being and good are convertible.

      So as some on here have observed, many don't subscribe to key tenets of Thomism. The default rejoinder, that these people simply fail to understand Thomistic metaphysics, continues to fall flat. We see no reason to subscribe to Thomism as a system, despite the many acute things said by the saint and his followers (and predecessors).

      BTW in Aristotle and Aquinas, although cold is a privation of heat (GA II.6 743a36), it is not not-being, a non-res. The pairs of opposites, hot-cold and moist-dry, are metaphysically more fundamental even than the four elements. In De Generatione et Corruptione III.3, Ari uses pairs of contraries, hot-cold and dry-moist, to constitute the primary elements. Similar to this at Mete. IV.10: the passive principles are the dry and the wet/moist, so that they have water and earth, and the active agents are the hot and cold, for they concrete and constitute the homoeomerous bodies out of earth and water, 388a21-26. An active role for cold even predates Aristotle: D. L. IX.29 says Zeno of Elea said that the nature of all things has come to be out of the hot and cold and dry and wet, as these change into each other. But this doesn't affect the issue with Papalinton.

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    11. @Mister Geocon

      If it wasn't for argumentation ad populum then Paps wouldn't post anything. He has been doing that for decades. I wish he would just learn some philosophy and try to make an actual philosophical argument?

      Here is a clue. If this view is so "unpopular" what are the philosophical arguments being used by the popular crowd against it?


      But the old Kangaroo has no clue.

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    12. Ficino,

      You are an academic who can read Aristotle in the original Greek. You are not a professional philosopher but you do know enough to contribute to the subject fruitfully and if you don't know something you own it or you go do the reading on it.

      Which is why you have my respect both here and elsewhere. ;-) As far as agnostic skeptics go you are an example and a better man than moi.

      But Paps has been saying the same shite for decades and he hasn't improved. So I despair of him.

      >The doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals will be rejected by many philosophers who reject the notion that being has wider intension than "existence."

      That comes from an old argument we had Elsewhere over wither or not Being is an analogical term or an unequivocal one. You seem to favor the later as I recall?

      >We see no reason to subscribe to Thomism as a system, despite the many acute things said by the saint and his followers (and predecessors).

      Fair enough and as you know I am a lazy bastard who would rather take the role of a critic than an apologist. I see no reason to subscribe to the competing non Scholastic views and have been given no compelling reason to do so.

      Good apologists for either view are needed to move either of us to the opposite side of which we sit.

      >The default rejoinder, that these people simply fail to understand Thomistic metaphysics, continues to fall flat.

      I don't see how? It is simply a fact guys like Paps and his ilk don't know any philosophy at all(present company accepted. Indeed you likely know more about Analytical philosophy then I) and they default to their contra YEC polemics. I get pissed at that and hilarity ensues.

      Cheers mate.

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    13. ficino,

      Feser's paper was not a defense of the entire Thomistic worldview. He cited Aquinas and Scholastic Metaphysics for that. The point of his paper was something to the effect of: "The logical problem of evil is not a problem if we accept the Thomistic beliefs about nature, morality, and God, which I've defended previously." If I were Sterba and I wanted to address Thomistic theism, I would either try to show that the Thomistic premises are false or I would try to show how, even given these premises, the existence of a Thomistic God is logically incompatible with the existence of evil. Sterba failed to make either of these points. At one point, he tried dismissing Aristotelianism out of hand with a move that would make Papalinton proud!

      Once we understand the debate, we can avoid misunderstandings.

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    14. I haven't had an exchange with Papalinton and, though I remember seeing him on this board often over the years, I note that he:
      1. read Feser's article
      2. made detailed comments about it

      So, I accept that many will disagree with Papalinton. His response here, though, is not like responses of trolls I've encountered on many boards, who usually post little content and often read only the headline of whatever pushes their buttons.

      OK, gents, back to the PoE!

      Delete
  18. @Unknown

    >Thomists have their own private definition of evil, which no one else recognises.

    Only somebody who has no knowledge of Christian history and teaching can make such obviously false claim. Augustine and Eastern Orthodox and the Church Fathers all teach the privation doctrine of evil. It is the staple of Christian philosophy. That you have a mere popular understanding of morality is hardly our problem now is it?

    Also it is strange how moral relativist who have no objective standard for morality must steal from Christianity to try in vain to judge God's alleged objective "immorality".....

    Unknown you are going to have to do better then argument by base ridicule. I can do that(& I can cite actual philosophical arguments too)!:D

    God is not a moral agent like we are so moral criticism of God is absurd. It is like trying to claim a footballer is a bad footballer because his batting average sucks. Having a good or bad batting average has nothing to do with being a good or bad footballer.

    God is not a moral agent. The problem of evil is a non-starter. Like Dawkins' scientific case against young Earth Creationism is to a Theistic Evolutionist.

    You must accept it. You view of "god" is hopelessly anthropomorphic and theistic personalist. In which case it is not Our God here and there is no point in you banging on about God neither of us believes in.

    Cheers mate.

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  19. So are the Gnu atheists now going to pretend the Problem of evil is how can God create a world with evil in it at all?

    Because that is where I am sensing that lot is moving the goal posts....

    The issue is no longer "How can a God who is all powerful & who is perfectly morally good (i.e. like a maximally virtuous rational creature would be morally good) create a world with evil.

    They want to pretend the real problem is the mystery of evil. That is why does God allow this evil and not that? Or why create a world with evil at all? Or why create?

    Profound questions to be sure. But not the topic.....

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  20. I see equivocation on the word freedom here. Earlier in the paper it is defined as the ability of a thing to flourish as the kind of thing that it is. Later it is said that we have the freedom to go against our nature. That seems to be a direct contradiction. I will also note the typical Thomist lack of imagination in asserting that there just are things that suck we must put up with (as in the example with gazelles that have to put with being eaten). I believe the true Christian view is that all of these compromises with evil are post-Fall. Once the new Jerusalem descends there will be no more tears and the lion will lie down with the lamb. There will be no 2nd law of thermodynamics, no compromises with goodness, etc. This essay just flagrantly asserts that some bad things must necessarily be bad, which is begging the question. What if I don't think that I should have to choose between two crappy options? What if I think that it makes sense that everything should be good and nothing should be bad at all whatsoever? I know that is hard, maybe impossible to imagine, but I have faith it is what is ultimately true.

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    Replies
    1. There will be no 2nd law of thermodynamics

      Friction is an entropic force, so without the 2nd law we'd all be slipping around. Breathing is an entropic process, so we would also be unable to breathe.

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    2. In this current fallen cosmos yes. Must it necessarily be so in the olam ha-ba? I happen to think not. All of this compromising with evil is a relic of the fall, not innately natural to flourishing.

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  21. Daniel wins the blog today for quoting from DUNE.

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    Replies
    1. Never mind that, you still have not told us where all the Thomist ladies are.

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    2. Bet they are very severe, to go with the harsh conditions!

      I think I bumped into a feminist called Hypatia once while flitting between threads, but that was it. I think they probably find your Roman Catholic Classical theism a bit cold and austere don't you, like the surface of Pluto maybe.

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  22. The problem of evil attempts to show there is a dilemma between saying God is good and powerful yet evil exists. Any attempt ultimately is going to have to deny one of these things, or at least qualify it (e.g. Free will defense says God is all powerful but his power does not enable him to cause our free acts).

    Davies attempts to solve the problem by saying God is not morally good, therefore, whatever his goodness amounts to, it does not entail he has no obligations and therefore the standard way the problem is framed in contemporary philosophy falls apart. The problem with this approach is that it either renders God's "goodness" meaningless or it does not really solve the problem but only forces us to restate it.

    For example, an atheist may argue that a good God would have a moral obligation to prevent cancer and being good, would fulfill that obligation. Davies would respond God has no such obligations and therefore the problem doesn't get off the ground. The atheist could respond "a good God, even if he didn't have the obligation to prevent cancer, would freely want to prevent it on account of his goodness." Or she could frame the problem in terms of God's love (i.e. a God who loves us would want to prevent cancer). As is clear, the atheist still has a serious challenge for the theist even though it has been reframed in an amoral way.

    On the other hand, Davies could insist that whatever goodness amounts to in God, it does not entail that he would not want to eliminate cancer. In that case, it is unclear if the concept has any meaning at all and even if it does, it seems to be some cold metaphysical perfection, not the love Christians generally think God has.

    To summarize: what gets the problem of evil off the ground is that a good God would want to prevent evil. Whether that desire is based on a moral obligation or simply the predisposition of his nature is really a secondary question.

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    1. Your argument amounts to nothing more than an ad hoc claim a "good" God should be a moral agent like a virtuous rational creature is a moral agent.

      I don't see why? The soda I am drinking now is a good soda and remains a good soda even thought it didn't stop the holocaust.

      God is Good and the Source of Goodness even the goodness in morality and the goodness in athletic champion bike riding. Because God is Being Itself.

      God cannot be morally good like we are morally good because given His nature it would be incoherent.

      According to this weird thinking God is all Good ergo God must be a "good" bike rider. But that is absurd since the divine nature cannot ride a bike. Bike riding is a natural activity. God cannot perform natural activities only supernatural given His Nature.
      The Divine Nature is not a physical being that can physically sit on a bike and move it. Sure God could supernaturally move the bike but it wouldn't be riding it. Sure God can stop particular evils and does and long term He will stop all evil as He has willed. But He is not obligated to do it now.

      The problem here is you are not talking about God but a benign Genie.

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    2. The problem in your response is that it doesn't really address my comment. The whole point of my comment above is to explain that even if we admit that God is not a moral agent, who can be morally good, the problem of evil does not go away.

      Why would a good God not want to get rid of evil? Why would a loving God not want to? It seems that a good and loving God would want to get rid of evil (moral and natural) and the resulting suffering. This is true even if we admit, along with Feser and Davies, that God is not morally good and therefore his reasons for wanting to have nothing to do with moral goodness, fullfilling duties, or acting virtuously. Granted, the contemporary problem is often framed in terms of God's moral duties. However, it need not be.

      Now, you could simply deny that a good God would in fact want to eliminate evil. And if someone says that this is immoral or whatever, Feser and co could of course rebut this particular challenge by noting God is not a moral agent.

      However, once you deny that a good and loving God would want to eliminate evil, it is hard to see exactly what his goodness would consist in.

      Maybe you can say his goodness consists in being desirable and being the cause of good things in the world. But I take it that most theists and at least Christians want to say more than this. Some aspect of divine goodness has to do with benevolence, morally required or not.

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    3. Doesn't Davies endorse the privation theory of evil? If he does, a world without evil is a 'world' without imperfection or any privation of being. But this would not be a world or creation, it would be something indistinguishable from God himself.

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    4. @Tom

      I've read your response a couple of times and yer original"Argument" and well...I can't make heads or tails of it? It doesn't seem to be a rational philosophical argument but a nebulous and base appeal to sentiment not reason?

      I made a similar argument once in college to my Atheist Anthropology Professor when I was 18. I says to him "If God doesn't exist then all those good people who died in the holocaust left this existence in pain and horror and will not have the comfort of Heaven as compensation for their plight. Also Hitler the author of their suffering dies quickly at his own hand, a legend in his own mind and will not face any justice for his vile acts." My professor responded "Yes that is awful but it has nothing to do with reasoning and truth." There is a God and there is ultimate Justice but now that I am older I can see that was a shite argument.
      Yours I am afraid is no better than 18 year old me. 50+ me knows a wee bit better.

      I can't respond rationally to an emotional argument Tom as it is impossible.

      >Why would a good God not want to get rid of evil?

      If He is not obligated to then what compels him to do it? OTOH maybe this would be a good objection if God never stopped evil or didn't ultimately stop evil (which divine revelation tells us He will ultimately do). But I am not getting this idea God's goodness may never allow evil at all? OTOH God allows evil so that to bring good out of it. If God allowed evil without bringing good out of it maybe this objection would have some utility?
      But the former is true. God is not obligated to create and there is no such thing as the best of all possible worlds. God could always make a better world and if He did He could make one better then that and so on ad infinitum. But God is not obligated to make anything at all and any act of creation He does is pure charity toward the created. Also there is nothing so bad that as long as it partakes of being God should refrain from creating it.

      Given these truths I don't see how a good God couldn't allow evil as long as He bring good out of it.

      >However, once you deny that a good and loving God would want to eliminate evil, it is hard to see exactly what his goodness would consist in.

      God love is not an emotion. God has no emotions that is infallible dogma. God's love is His willing the good for something not a mere sentiment. I think your view of "god" is too anthropomorphic therefore it is an idol not God. Sorry I worship the God of Abraham not George Burns.

      >Maybe you can say his goodness consists in being desirable and being the cause of good things in the world.

      Yep that is it and I love Him for it.

      > But I take it that most theists and at least Christians want to say more than this.
      Some aspect of divine goodness has to do with benevolence, morally required or not.

      Well yes divine charity. God didn't have to create us. Anything He gives us is infinity good and we don't deserve it and we cannot complain for not getting more of it.

      Anyway without a philosophical and metaphysical account of good and evil this is nothing but a politician's trick. An appeal to emotion and I don't do appeals to emotion.

      First because it violates reason and second because I am an insensitive bastard.

      Cheers.

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    5. @Son,

      First, you claim that my argument is an appeal to "emotion." But it is no such thing, nor do I see how you could make that accusation. Some contemporary versions of the problem of evil state, as one premise, that "A morally perfect God would eliminate evil as far as he is able." Of course, the Davies move blocks this premise since God is not morally perfect anymore than he is perfectly tasty. That is a reasonable response.

      The difficulty I have is that despite the way the contemporary problem of evil is framed, it can easily be constructed without reference to moral goodness. If God is good, as Christians understand him to be, then some aspect of his goodness is benevolence or love (not an emotional love, granted, but a good-will towards his creatures). But the problem of evil can be stated using this understanding of good as well. Instead of stating that God is morally bound to eliminate evil, the atheist can simply say "a benevolent/loving God would want to eliminate evil."

      Do you deny that a good (benevolent) God would want to eliminate evil (all things equal)? If you say no, then you are working with a very unusual definition of benevolence. If you say yes, then the problem of evil gets off the ground in spite of Davies/Feser's claim that God is not a moral agent.

      That is not to say that there aren't responses (e.g. a benevolent God may permit/will certain evils for a greater good). But whatever those responses may be, they are required to refute the problem of evil. It is not enough to simply say God is not a moral agent.

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    6. @Tom

      >First, you claim that my argument is an appeal to "emotion." But it is no such thing, nor do I see how you could make that accusation.

      Well I cannot find the rational component to your argument and in my past experience debating this issue with atheists they always make nebulous appeals to God's "goodness" without any formal philosophical or metaphysical definition to underlie their complaint.

      So, since reason is not present in the argumen(that I can find) I can only conclude it must be a sentimental one. If you deny the presence of sentiment well then I must still conclude it is nebulous at best irrational at worst.

      It is not enough to simply say "an all good God would allow no evil under any circumstances".

      I am sorry Tom but without a metaphysical and philosophical description of good and evil this "argument" of yours isn't really an argument.

      The contemporary argument demands an unequivocal comparison between God and creatures and no such comparison is possible.
      Yours suffers from the same deficiency.

      Even the Scotus view which allows for some univocal comparisons still adheres to the beliefs in the divine incomprehensibility and still spurns anthropomorphism. I doubt it would demand God's morality is totally identical to ours.

      Also the "god" you propose is too anthropomorphic and not Transcendent enough for me to give a two f***s aboot.

      Like I said more Ground of Being less George Burns or Morgan Fremen thought I enjoyed their films.

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    7. (1) You keep claiming that my argument is "sentimental" "emotional" and "irrational." Yet you do not even attempt to respond to my claims. You do not address the part of my argument that is "emotional" or "irrational." You may not agree with my premises, but this does not mean I am not offering an argument.

      Re-read my comment. Here is what I say:
      [b]"Do you deny that a good (benevolent) God would want to eliminate evil (all things equal)? If you say no, then you are working with a very unusual definition of benevolence. If you say yes, then the problem of evil gets off the ground in spite of Davies/Feser's claim that God is not a moral agent."[b]

      (2) You say "Well I cannot find the rational component to your argument and in my past experience debating this issue with atheists they always make nebulous appeals to God's "goodness" without any formal philosophical or metaphysical definition to underlie their complaint."

      Your past experience with atheists has nothing to do with me. First of all, even if I were an atheist, this wouldn't mean I fit into your preconceived stereotypes. Second of all, I am a theist and have said nothing to indicate I am not.

      (3) You keep telling me the "god" I propose is anthropomorphic. What claim that I have made implies this? I have not said God is a moral being. I have said that the problem of evil is still a challenge based on divine benevolence. If God is loving, then presumably he wants to eliminate evil all things equal.

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    8. @Tom

      Do you believe that there is a best of all possible worlds?

      If yes, them the theist can Leibniz his way out, even it that is not THAT persuasive.

      If no, them to any world that God could create there would be infinitely better worlds, so He would literally be not capable of creating the best world possible. If that is the case, them any world choosen is in a way arbitrary, so the problem kinda disappears. Who knows why this one was choosen, maybe a history where things start messy and end good are really better?

      Now, i would not accept that there really is a best of all possible worlds, for it seems plausible that for any world God could create one more person who ends up with the beatific vision or something. Not to mention, if there really where one best world God would choose it aways, so there would be a modal collapse, and that is contrary to christian views, and also seems implausible.

      So i don't think that these versions of the problem of evil works out even if we grant some of these presupositions. But it is a interesting argument that i thought about myself.

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    9. Also, seeing the thomistic view on predestination i guess that your argument does beg the question against the average thomist, but i admit that i don't want to deal with that topic here.

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    10. Hi Tom,

      What if we look at the issue this way:

      (1) “GOD is not a moral agent but is Goodness per se” is the foundational ground. To avoid the situation of a total/complete un-intelligibility of “GOD is Goodness per se”, we can agree that “GOD is Goodness” entails certain outcomes, such as GOD would not create a world in which there is everlasting unredeemable gratuitous suffering of human beings. This is NOT about GOD being under some moral obligation, but merely that by logical necessity, it is a LOGICAL CONTRADICTION for GOD who is Goodness per se to create such an evil world just described by me.

      (2) Next, we look at sceptics who pointed to the existence of evil/suffering in our actual world and asked us theists that “doesn’t the presence of such evil/sufferings demonstrate the falsehood of the idea “there exists GOD who is Goodness per se”? We can then use what Feser talked about (eg the necessity of evil/suffering for character-development or soul-making, the redeem-ability and compensation in the future world for innocent ones who suffered unjustly in this world, etc) to show that those empirical evil and sufferings do not contradict the foundational ground that “there exists GOD who is Goodness per se”.

      What do you think?


      :)

      Cheers!

      Delete
    11. Hi Tom,

      I forgot to mention that “there exists GOD who is Goodness per se” is arrived at via deductive reasoning and hence is impossible to be false as long as the premises used (eg the premise that a hardcopy book has continued to exist for the past hour till now) is true.

      Since any conclusion we want to draw from our observation/experience of evil and sufferings around us is base on abductive reasoning and is therefore at best only probable and never “impossible to be false”, we are logically required to reject as false any abductive conclusion (drawn from the existence of evil) that contradicts the deductive conclusion “there exists GOD who is Goodness per se”.

      Premise 1: There exists GOD who is Goodness per se (this is established by deductive proofs for GOD)

      Premise 2: Evil & sufferings exist in our world.

      Conclusion: The evil & sufferings in our world would not be everlasting unredeemable or uncompensatable sufferings.


      :)

      Cheers!

      johannes y k hui

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    12. Talmid

      If God exists and is Goodness itself there definitely is a best of all possible worlds, namely a world in which God alone exists.
      So, if God were Goodness there wouldn't be any creation. But since creation exists, it follows that God is not Goodness (or God doesn't exist).

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    13. Walter,

      Hmmm.

      If God exists and is infinite Goodness itself, there is definitely a best of all possible worlds; any world in which God exists.

      There may or may not be any creation, it wouldn't add anything to the infinite goodness.

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    14. Tom,

      Do you deny that a good (benevolent) God would want to eliminate evil (all things equal)? If you say no, then you are working with a very unusual definition of benevolence. If you say yes, then the problem of evil gets off the ground in spite of Davies/Feser's claim that God is not a moral agent.

      This is a comment along similar lines to the one Talmid made but...

      God can eliminate all evil (in one sense) by failing to create anything. This state of things would probably fail the test for benevolence; the quality of benevolence seems to involve willing and doing good for others, as far as an agent is reasonably able. To qualify as benevolent God may have to first create creatures that can benefit from his good will.

      OTOH God is an omnipotent agent so is reasonably able to do an infinite amount of good, any finite amount of good that God produces fails the benevolence test.

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    15. Jorge

      No, creation wouldn't add anything to the infinite goodness, but it would destroy infinite goodness as it 'adds' imperfection.

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    16. Unknown

      "To qualify as benevolent God may have to first create creatures that can benefit from his good will.

      OTOH God is an omnipotent agent so is reasonably able to do an infinite amount of good, any finite amount of good that God produces fails the benevolence test."

      But that means that if God chooses not to create unicorns, He isn't benevolent towards unicorns and hence, He isn't omnibenevolent.
      So, if 'has to' create creatures that can benefit from his good will, He 'has to' create (or actualize) all potential creatures, which would lead to a modal collpase.

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    17. @Walter Van Den Acker

      "If God exists and is Goodness itself there definitely is a best of all possible worlds, namely a world in which God alone exists.
      So, if God were Goodness there wouldn't be any creation. But since creation exists, it follows that God is not Goodness (or God doesn't exist)."

      That's utterly ridiculous, Walter. In what sense is a world with God alone "better" than a world with creatures in as well? It's not as if creatures subtract anything from God's goodness. Creatures participate in God's goodness, neither subtracting nor adding to it. For this reason, God alone is not "better" than God with creatures, but rather the same.

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    18. @Walter Van den Acker

      "But that means that if God chooses not to create unicorns, He isn't benevolent towards unicorns and hence, He isn't omnibenevolent."

      You're basing God's goodness on what he does. But God's goodness is not grounded in what is DOES, but what he IS. And since he IS goodness itself, you're argument doesn't succeed.

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    19. @Talmid

      I don't see how I beg the question against Thomists.

      I do think there is a class of worlds in which there are none greater. But within this class, I think the worlds are incommensurable with one another or perhaps equal in value.

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    20. @Reasonable

      I agree with your analysis. But this doesn't go against anything I have said. Notice you admit that a good God is incompatible with "everlasting unredeemable gratuitous suffering." Since you admit certain evils are incompatible with divine goodness, then it follows that an adequate response to the problem of evil will be to show that there are no such evils (or at least that arguments which attempt to show there are such evils fail).

      In other words, pointing out that God is not a moral agent and therefore is not morally required to eliminate such evils does nothing in terms of responding to the problem of evil. Even if the problem in the contemporary literature is formulated in terms of God's moral duties, the actual substance of the challenge has nothing to do with this. What generates the problem of evil is, as you seem to admit, the goodness of God. This holds even if God's goodness is not understood as moral goodness.

      So my point is that the Davies/Feser answer that God is not a moral agent does not advance the discussion. God's goodness is incompatible with certain evils regardless of if this is a logical or moral incompatibility.

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    21. @unkown.

      You say "any finite amount of good that God produces fails the benevolence test."

      I don't agree with this because benevolence in the sense I needed for my point was just that God desires to eliminate evil and suffering that befalls those whom he loves.

      My point is that if God is benevolent, he wants to eliminate evil (all things equal). This does not mean benevolence requires God create or create a perfect world. As a concrete example, if God sees a child with cancer, all things equal, he wants to eliminate that cancer.

      I think most theists would agree with this analysis. Most responses to the problem of evil would emphasize the "all things equal" portion of that claim. They would say while God would want to eliminate evil all things equal, he may in this instance prefer to permit the evil for the sake of a greater good etc.

      And that response may be the beginnings of a good response to the problem of evil. My point though is that this has nothing to do with whether God is morally bound to eliminate suffering. His benevolence means that he wants to regardless of if he has to.

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    23. Some responses to you Tom.

      >1) You keep claiming that my argument is "sentimental" "emotional" and "irrational." Yet you do not even attempt to respond to my claims. You do not address the part of my argument that is "emotional" or "irrational." You may not agree with my premises, but this does not mean I am not offering an argument.

      It is not philosophically or metaphysically defined ergo nebulous and incoherent. God is Good? In what sense? God is benevolent? In what sense? In the unequivocal sense a good human being would be those things? The answer is a sound No according to Aquinas, Feser, Davies and any classic theist worth his salt.

      Tom admit it you are defining God’s Goodness and Benevolence entirely in the unequivocal terms of a virtuous rational human being. You are presupposing God is good like us. So your argument is incoherent.

      You are just repeating James Sterba's mistakes.

      William Lane Craig is on record saying "God has no obligations to his creatures" but given his own metaphysics and philosophy and mostly Theistic Personalist conception of God
      he might not be able to coherently defend that view.

      A scholastic can.

      You wrote:
      >Re-read my comment. Here is what I say:
      [b]"Do you deny that a good (benevolent) God would want to eliminate evil (all things equal)? If you say no, then you are working with a very unusual definition of benevolence. If you say yes, then the problem of evil gets off the ground in spite of Davies/Feser's claim that God is not a moral agent."[b]

      A being who is Benevolent in the unequivocal way a supremely virtuous rational creature is Benevolent with Great Power like a superhero would immediately eliminate evil when encountering it or prevent it from existing in the first place.

      But God is not benevolent in the unequivocal way we are benevolent so your begging the question.

      BTW I know you believe in God after some fashion. But my citing my past experiences is for context nothing more.

      >(3) You keep telling me the "god" I propose is anthropomorphic. What claim that I have made implies this?

      You keep implicitly insisting God's benevolence is unequivocally identical to that of a good creature.

      Either that or you don't give me a definition I can work with? The Good and Being are interchangeable. Do you agree? If not there is nothing more to discuss. We will talk past each other till Judgement day (when I will be vindicated in my obviously correct view.....thought I might not escape punishment for my arrogance...ah well God is Just).

      > I have not said God is a moral being. I have said that the problem of evil is still a challenge based on divine benevolence.

      God is a moral being according to Davies. It is just God's morality is not unequivocally like ours. Your nebulous(in my judgement) "argument" thus far implies God is and that makes it incoherent.

      > If God is loving, then presumably he wants to eliminate evil all things equal.

      God's goodness would prevent him from allowing any evil as a final cause in itself which He could not bring forth Good. Even in the damning of a wicked soul God brings the good of divine justice. God isn't going to let an innocent soul suffer the torments of Hell. God is not completely Amoral.

      But all this is elementary unless we have a common philosophy and common metaphyics. A Catholic and Lutheran can argue what Paul said about Justification all day but Trent and Augsberg have different definitions of that concept.

      You and I clearly don't philosophically and metaphysically define good the same way. Ergo you will talk past me forever i am afraid.

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    24. Additional:

      In regards to yer responses to me boi johannes y k hui aka reasonable.

      > a good God is incompatible with "everlasting unredeemable gratuitous suffering."

      God only allows evil to bring Good out of it.
      I gave the example of God damning an un-repentant soul having God bring forth the good of divine justice and the wicked soul's suffering serves the end of Divine Justice and thus is not gratuitous.*

      All Thomists including Davies believe God does not allow any evil to exist that is a final cause to itself.

      *(of course it helps having a mature spiritual understanding of Hell rather then merely channeling what one saw in some Clive Barker movie)

      >Since you admit certain evils are incompatible with divine goodness, then it follows that an adequate response to the problem of evil will be to show that there are no such evils (or at least that arguments which attempt to show there are such evils fail).

      Without a philosophical/metaphysical description of what Good and Evil actually are in essence (Good is Being and Evil is privation of Being) then the descussion goes nowhere.

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    25. By the way, curious and honest question: can anyone tell me if Aquinas agreed with Davies's nonsense? I might be wrong, but from what I recall, Aquinas mainly discussed a different version of the problem of evil (which was more popular in his time) to the effect of "if God is all good, where did evil come from? Did he create evil?" and Aquinas's response was the privation theory of evil, etc.

      I do not recall Aquinas ever saying the type of nonsense that fr. Brian Davies popularized among contemporary thomists. In fact, I think, from memory, that Aquinas only argued to the effect of God being able to bring about greater goods from evils, etc., the standard theodicy move in response to the standard problem of evil. I could be wrong, though, and I'm curious. Could anyone point me to Aquinas actually responding to evidential problems of evil and arguing the Davies line of making moral statements about God equivocal?

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    26. Till Unknown picks a distinct name and stops pretending to be multiple people with multiple accounts I vote we exclude him from the conversation.

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    27. @Son

      (1) You say "Tom admit it you are defining God’s Goodness and Benevolence entirely in the unequivocal terms of a virtuous rational human being. You are presupposing God is good like us. So your argument is incoherent."

      I respond by pointing out I did not define God's benevolence at all in anything I have said. I have put forth a question to you, viz. does God's benevolence entail, all things equal, that he wants to eliminate evil?

      I go on to put forth a dilemma to you based on your response. But notice I do not conclude that benevolence entails anything. Moreover, even if I conclude that divine benevolence entails certain conclusions about his relationship to the world, it does not follow that I am working with any particular definition of divine benevolence or an univocal one. For instance, we can analogically say God is powerful. This, we agree, entails that God can make it rain today if he wishes. We neither have to define omnipotence nor use it univocally in order to draw that conclusion. Likewise, we may be able to draw conclusions about divine benevolence without a univocal understanding of divine and human benevolence.

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    28. continued... @Son

      2)You say "But God is not benevolent in the unequivocal way we are benevolent so your begging the question."

      I am not arguing that God is benevolent in the univocal way. I am not actually drawing a conclusion at all yet, because you have not answered my dilemma.

      I will put it to you once again, as I state above:

      "Do you deny that a good (benevolent) God would want to eliminate evil (all things equal)?" I am asking you this question. Based on your understanding of divine benevolence. There is no "emotion" in my question nor is there univocity. I am asking you, based on your analogous understanding of divine benevolence.

      Now, based on your answer, the conversation can proceed. As I note, if you say no, then I think you are working with an unusual definition of divine benevolence (and by extension, divine goodness). Nowhere did I argue that this proves your notion is false, only that it is unusual. If you accept this horn of the dilemma, I may have more to say about it. But until you do, I have nothing more to say.

      On the other hand, if you say yes, i.e. divine benevolence does entail that God would, all things equal, want to eliminate evil, then by YOUR understanding of divine benevolence, God wants to eliminate evil all things equal. But if that is the case, then the problem of evil is a serious challenge because evil exists, despite God wanting it not to.

      The standard responses to the problem of evil of course attempt to justify why a good God, despite wanting to eliminate evil all things considered, in a particular case might permit it to exist. The problem is that Davies (and to some extent although less so, Feser) does not take this route. Instead, he insists that the problem is thinking we even need to justify why God would permit evil since he is not a moral agent.

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    29. COntinued...@Son

      (3) To answer your question, yes I think being and goodness are interchangeable. That doesn't really advance the discussion.

      (4) My entire point is this: It is unclear to me how the Davies/Feser claim regarding God not being a moral agent and not being morally good have anything to do with the problem of evil.

      Granted, if you articulate the problem in terms of God's moral duties, as many contemporary philosophers do, then it follows that this retort is legitimate. However, the problem of evil can be framed without reference to moral goodness.

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  23. Another point worth making about the problem of evil from a Thomist point of view is that the free will defense is a non-starter. Feser implies in his paper that considerations of free will are important for a proper response to the problem of evil. But it seems like he wants to have his cake and eat it too by saying they are "part" of an answer but then not explaining exactly how they factor in.

    The problem is that if you think God can make it such that we always choose rightly (as Thomists traditionally have thought) then the free will defense has no place in a response to the problem of evil. Davies himself is very adamant about this point and is consistent in all of his writings on maintaining it. Feser on the other hand isn't as open about admitting it.

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    1. The Free will defense fails because God can foresee who will choose Good and who will choose evil ergo if God has moral obligations then God would only create those He foreknew would choose good.

      But God is not obligated to create anything. Any act of creation on the part is an act of supreme charity. No being is so good God is obligated to create it (even Mary) and none so Bad as long as they participate in being God should refrain from creating them (Lucifer).

      No Theistic Personalist "god" exists and for that I am grateful. It is liberating not being able to coherently blame God for my troubles or for not giving me what I think he owes me. He owes me nothing and has given me everything and will give me more by Grace if I let Him.

      So nuts to the theistic personalist shite "god".

      The God of Abraham and Aquinas is the only God!

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    2. Your statement: "The Free will defense fails because God can foresee who will choose Good and who will choose evil ergo if God has moral obligations then God would only create those He foreknew would choose good." fits in better within a Molinist framework. From Aquinas's point of view, God's foreknowledge is the cause of things and therefore he doesn't merely foreknow who will choose good but actively causes it. And those who will choose evil he knows will choose evil not because they thwart his efforts but because he permits them to do so, which, according to Thomists amounts to God not causing the creatures to choose rightly even though He could.

      My point in the comment though is to explain that I think Feser is wrong here to bring free will into the picture from a Thomist point of view. Really, free will doesn't factor in to a Thomist response to the problem of evil. Davies and his mentor Herbert McCabe OP are very clear on this. Feser is weaker on this point.

      Feser of course could reject the Thomist doctrine on this point. The problem is that he doesn't seem to want to do so. For one, in some of his writings he implicitly endorses it. And two, in this paper he doesn't want to endorse a full-fledged free will defense as though it could do heavy lifting in the problem of evil.

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    3. As far as I know, the free-will defence is not about free-will entailing that some will sin, but the inability of atheists to show that it is definitely the case that God doesn’t need to let some people sin. Like are you logically certain that it’s impossible for God to prevent all sin in free agents, if not then there’s no ability to argue that theism is contradicted by evil. Burden of proof etc.

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    4. Tom.

      I am not getting the problem?

      Quote" To be sure, Thomists do not think of either the “Free Will Defense” or
      “Soul-Making Theodicy” as the whole story where evil is concerned, nor do they conceive
      of them as exonerations of God, because God (not being subject to natural law) does not
      need exonerating. But free will and soul-making are nevertheless part of the story of why moral evil is permitted to exist."

      Explaining the role of free will and soul making is not the same as using them to excuse God for allowing evil. God needs no excusing and it is incoherent to charge Him in the first place.

      I don't see where he is rejecting Thomistic doctrine or advocating Molinism?

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    5. He was not advocating the Thomist doctrine or denying it. I actually do not know his opinion on this. He in some cases seems to endorse it (in his writings) and in others suggests he does not. My point is that free will plays little to no role at all in responding to the problem of evil in Davies's account or in any traditional Thomist account. Aquinas himself never makes use of the free will defense precisely because he thinks that God can cause us to always act virtuously without violating our freedom.

      Instead, I was pointing out that your quote was working with a MOlinist conception of freedom.

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    6. So I am confused? Are how is Feser's mentioning the role of free will and or soul formation in God allowing evil a "solution" to the problem of evil?

      I didn't get that impression at all?

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    7. Feser says, and you quote: "But free will and soul-making are nevertheless part of the story of why moral evil is permitted to exist."

      If they are part of the "story" then it seems like they are part of a solution to me.

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    8. Hi Tom,

      I just realised your comment about “soul-making” is in this thread and not the earlier one. Hence I shall put my comment/question here instead.

      What if we look at the issue this way:

      (1) “GOD is not a moral agent but is Goodness per se” is the foundational ground. To avoid the situation of a total/complete un-intelligibility of “GOD is Goodness per se”, we can agree that “GOD is Goodness” entails certain outcomes, such as GOD would not create a world in which there is everlasting unredeemable gratuitous suffering of human beings. This is NOT about GOD being under some moral obligation, but merely that by logical necessity, it is a LOGICAL CONTRADICTION for GOD who is Goodness per se to create such an evil world just described by me.

      (2) Next, we look at the objection of sceptics who pointed to the existence of evil/suffering in our actual world and asked us theists that “doesn’t the presence of such evil/sufferings demonstrate that the idea ‘there exists GOD who is Goodness per se’ is false”? We can then use what Feser talked about (eg the necessity of evil/suffering for character-development or soul-making, the redeem-ability of evil, and the compensation in the future world for innocent ones who suffered unjustly in this world, etc) to show that those empirical evil and sufferings do not contradict the foundational ground that “there exists GOD who is Goodness per se”.

      (3) The idea that “there exists GOD who is Goodness per se” is arrived at via deductive reasoning and hence is impossible to be false as long as the premises used (eg the premise that “a hardcopy book has continued to exist conditionally for the past hour till now”) are true.

      (4) Since any conclusion we want to draw from our observation/experience of evil and sufferings around us is base on abductive reasoning and is therefore at best only probable and never “impossible to be false”, we are LOGICALLY REQUIRED to reject as false any abductive conclusion (drawn from the existence of evil) that contradicts the deductive conclusion “there exists GOD who is Goodness per se”.

      Premise 1: There exists GOD who is Goodness per se (this is established by deductive proofs for GOD)

      Premise 2: Evil & sufferings exist in our world.

      Conclusion: The evil & sufferings in our world would not be everlasting un

      What do you think?

      :)

      Cheers!
      johannes y k hui

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    9. Hi Tom,

      Sorry the conclusion’s text in my previous comment has been cut. It should read as:

      Conclusion: The evil & sufferings experienced unjustly by human beings in our actual world would NOT be everlastingly unredeemable or uncompensatable or pointless.

      :)

      Cheers!
      johannes y k hui

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    10. @Tom

      The problem is God can do soul making and have free will without involving evil. But God is not obligated to do any soul making for us whatsoever since God is not obligated to create us and anything He creates is an act of supreme charity toward the created by which He gives them being which is convertible with good.

      Like I said God could have always made a better world than this one etc etc etc but God isn't obligated to create any world.
      None so Good God must create etc vs none so bad as long as it partakes of being God should refrain from creating it.

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    11. PS

      Except for the validity of the ontological argument for the existence of God (I still hold the traditional Thomist view I reject it as a good argument) I find that more likely agree with Reasonable/ Johannes.

      He can clarify my weak bits. Give him a read people.

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  24. A few years ago, I emailed Fr. Brian Davies,O.P., at Fordham Univ. He is both a philosopher and a Dominican friar and Catholic priest. I asked him to clarify what he meant about God not being a moral agent. I also asked him what he would say to a Catholic student at Fordham who sought his spiritual advice about how to think of God in relation to personal suffering. This is his reply:


    "Aquinas thinks it important sharply to distinguish between God and creatures. He takes God to account for (to make to exist) everything that is real in creatures. This leads him to deny, for example, that God makes evil to exist as something created by God, or that God is something undergoing change, or that God is something causally acted on by creatures. This is also something that leads him to assume that God, unlike human beings, is something whose goodness cannot consist in God having the classical Aristotelian cardinal virtues, or being obedient to requirements coming from outside him. This assumption of Aquinas is not committing him to thinking of God as being sub-moral, like a stone or a cat. That is because he has lots of things to say about everything that we take to be real and good as God's doing, and, therefore reflecting what God is as 'goodness itself'. Take a look at what Aquinas says about the goodness of God while not supposing that God is 'well behaved' by some standards to which he is subject. I am attaching to this email an essay by Herbert McCabe on this matter.

    For Aquinas, God is the immediate cause of all that is good in the created order. And it is, as such, that God is related to creatures. Aquinas sometimes says that, while creatures are related to God, God is not related to creatures. But by this he only means that what creatures do or are cannot make any difference to God. You can be related to me in that you are the one who hit me on the nose yesterday. And Aquinas is clear that God cannot be related to a creature in any such way as this. But he is also clear that all that is good in God's creation derives from God and somehow reflects the divine nature (on the principle that one cannot give what one does not somehow have).

    My primary function these days is to teach students of philosophy. But if one of these were to come to me worrying about some woe in his or her life, I would suggest that s/he should try to realize that everything good in the world comes from the God who makes everything that positively exists to exist. And I would advise them to think about God on that basis. hard though it might be to do so."


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    1. Yes - He was willing to die in the most horrible sufferings to restore our high place in family of God. He has given us the vaulted opportunity to participate in His goodness and glory through our gradual transformation toward being good in the finite measure we can be an image of Him in more and more profound measures of love. Love is good and God defines what that means for us as Creator. Man does not define this to himself. Christ reveals man to himself as John Paul II said. This is a world of war with evil as Satan has much evil influence in this world through his subjects. Don't be a subject of Satan. Don't be fooled by the notion that God is responsible for evil. He is calling us to free will goodness in love in spite of the growing example of evil in this world. God is perfect and we recieve our grace from Him to be more like him. We will be rewarded for all eternity for going beyond just our material world self view and responding the the Christian philosophy and Revelation truth we need to follow the gradual straight path. God is love and He defines the existence of our nature's happiness in living in a state of love in spite of evil.

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  25. So now the Gnu tactic (with an assist from the Theistic Personalists) is to argue against the aesthetics of a God who doesn't have moral obligations to His Creatures and plead for a "god" who is nothing more than Q but less mischievous and more benign Magic Cosmic Gennie.

    It is BS. I've seen Sagan talk about the Cosmos in a way that is almost religious and he gets a chubby for it and well the Cosmos isn't a kind place yet he loves it.

    Dawkins talks about Evolution and Biology in a similar way with his "Endless Forms most Beautiful" yet nature is still cruel and red in the tooth.

    So this idea the Classic Theistic God is cold and impersonal is bullshite.

    What I love about the real God is His Transcendence and Mystery and the Beauty of that concept.

    So you can love a Classic Theistic God and He loves you back because He created you. Love after all is not an emotion it is an act of willing the Good.

    Creating you is God first act moved by infinite love.

    So I again call bullshite.

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    1. Son of Ya'kov

      You are clearly enamoured of this God of classical theism , but you need to clearly perceive that it is only the RC version of that God - bare bones classical theism is of course perfectly consistant with there having been no revelations, no incarnation, ressurrection and atonement, no heaven and hell, and the reason for creation being unknown to us , just as incidentally an immaterial human intellect would be consistant with many things other than the Christian afterlife. Have you never stopped to think that your belief system might contain at least a huge dollop of human invention, which your philosophers and theologens have spent over two millenia disguising through their apologetic efforts? Just because something is patched up to be logically consistant and coherent ( if RC is ) does not mean that it is correct.

      Have you looked into the data from parapsychology and the work of idealist philosophers for hints of alternative ways that bare bones classical theism might be developed?

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    2. No but if you want to "evangelize" me knock yerself out. I am not here to tell you what to believe. You are here to tell me I am wrong and why in a coherent manner.

      So far I am stuck being Catholic. Ah Well then....

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    3. I think that you will believe anything if you think that the real presence is revealed through the accounts of the last supper and John 6, where Jesus is employing manifestly metaphorical language, because of the authority of the RC church, which again is based on flimsy 'evidence' ( can't believe that you put that Isaiah quote my way - yes Son of Yak'ov , that clearly establishes your claims about the Papacy, Magisterium, teaching authority, infallibility etc ( LOL )! But you need to establish this stuff before you can attach any credence to teachings and tradition. You have manifestly not done so though, and to any clear thinking mind not driven by the tribal needs of group membership and adherence to a theology, getting a result like transubstantiation should shriek out that you have things badly wrong.

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    4. Tedious....

      Come back when you have something intelligent to say.

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    5. Ah, I see that you are unable to to reply the points at hand. You concede then. Thank you.

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    6. All true Son of Ya'Kov. The God of philosophers doesn't speak. We aren't disembodied intellects but (sometimes intelligent) children whose love for God is mostly built on his words and extraordinary actions in this world. That's the way the human mind works. I prefer the Aquinian approach to all this; while interchangeably employing arguments from philosophy and revelation, he makes no distinction between the God of philosophy and that of revelation.

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    7. Cervantes

      But who is George?

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    8. It's true of course that false philosophical ideas need to be confronted on the same terms, and that metaphysics is a science in its own right. But it hasn't led to religion, historically. This doesn't prevent it from being the great support to religion that it is.

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    9. Metaphysics is the last refuge through which believers attempt to substantiate, and justify, the GOD Theory. Clearly it is becoming increasingly tendentious and as a subsequence, a failed hypothesis.

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    10. Oh, I don't know. It's always been there to some degree along with religious teaching in the Church. It was a lot more popular among scholars during the Baroque period, when people in the West were generally religious. One of the problems with liberal and even conservative churchmen today is their lack of sound metaphysics. Bizarre philosophies allow them to read just about anything into scriptures or Christian doctrines.

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    11. Cervantes

      You say that ' metaphysics hasn't led to religion , historically. This doesn't prevent it from being the great support to religion that it is'. Yes , religionists of all stripes - from Roman Catholics to Hindus to Buddhists- will enlist freely conjured up metaphysical notions in their apologetics, I agree. Having built this house of cards around what they were always going to believe anyway, they soon forget that they were the construction workers.

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    12. Philosophically illiterate Gnu Atheist types reject Metaphysics and philosophical arguments for the same reason scientifically illiterate Young Earth Creationists reject scientific arguments for an old Earth or for Evolution or for component scientific criticism of the Young Earth enterprise.

      Neither knows enough information on the subject matter to rationally answer the problem or just concede the point and re-think their views.

      A scientifically literate ID supporter wouldn't take it lying down. He would try to make his "scientific" case against evolution which would be way more intelligent and sophisticated than the drivel of the YEC with a 5th graders knowledge of science, if that(not that I find the ID case all that compelling but the quality of argument is better by far vs YEC).

      In a like manner a philosophically minded Atheist would formulate (or try to more likely) counter philosophical arguments/defeaters against one of the five ways or other philosophical arguments for God. Treating them like philosophical arguments instead of pretending they are some sort of "scientific" arguments because he lacks the Gnu' mindless positivist default(like Paps).

      Watching Gnus panic because their lolcow anti-Fundamentalist polemics are non-starters for more sophisticated Theists with their anti-intellectual meanderings against philosophy and metaphysics is as tedious as watching a YEC for 200th time rant about how Apes don't give birth to humans and thinking that is the final argument.

      If I ever God forbid lost my faith one thing I am certain of is my contempt for Gnu Atheists and other anti-intellectual troglodytes would remain. It would mirror my Classic Theist contempt for ID and or YEC.

      If this life is all you get spending it being an anti-intellectual simpleton seems like a waste (wither YEC Fundie or Gnu) but it must be peaceful & claim inside their simple brains.

      If you can't argue Philosophy or make a philosophical case against a particular metaphysical view then what good are you here?

      None is the answer.

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    13. BTW anybody got something to say about the Problem of Evil or do you lot want to repeat yer "Metaphysics is bad! It is woo! Trump is bad! Metaphysics is pro Trump therefore bad, I dream of Richard Dawkins naked etc"..crap?

      Transubstantiation is off topic. As is arguing over how to interpret the Bible.

      Some have attempted to do so(shout out to Tom. I think yer wrong as rain buddy but well done sticking to the topic).

      So can we do that?

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  26. I would like a Scotus partisan to chime in at this point to see what they will say? I don't think they would ever claim God has obligations to creatures other then for God to do His own will toward them.

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  27. Very interesting article, Dr Feser. Would you say that the divine hideness arguments are on the same boat as the evil ones?

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  28. Cervantes 3.34 AM

    'Bizarre philosophies allow them to read just about anything into scripture and Christian doctrine'.

    I see that you have been thinking about transubstantiation recently too!

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    1. What weird philosophies were read into transubstantiation? I’m genuinely baffled as to what special philosophy you might believe was read into the doctrine and how it’s a weird one.

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    2. Sorry Journey 516, my remark was a little flippant, but meant to be humerous. I was harking back to exchanges made earlier in the thread.

      I would contend that Jesus is plainly speaking metaphorically in say, accounts of the Last Supper, or John 6, where Catholics take him literally and so see transubstantiation. There is absolutely nothing to indicate otherwise, while surely, Jesus would have been clear and explicit about anything as deeply unusual as the 'real presance'. So here is something bizarre that has been read into scripture, although not a philosophy itself I will grant you. However, to explain how transubstantiation could possibly work when nothing unusual is observed, the apologetic metaphysical mind has then to spring into action.

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  29. Hi, I disagree that Jesus was speaking metaphorically when He said we must: “Eat my flesh and drink my blood”. He couldn’t be speaking figuratively because that expression already had a specific figurative meaning in the scriptures. In the Aramaic language of our Lord to figuratively “eat the flesh” or “ drink the blood” of someone meant to persecute, assault and destroy him. This Hebrew passage is found in this context in many scripture passages with this meaning: Psalm 27:2. Isaiah 9: 18 – 20, Isaiah 9:20, Micah 3:3, 2 Samuel 23: 15 – 17, Revelation 17:: 6 and 16. If Jesus was speaking only figuratively about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, then what He really means is “whoever persecutes, assaults and destroys me will have eternal life.” This makes nonsense of the passage.
    In John 6:35 Jesus tells us plainly that the bread is His own flesh, the very same flesh he is going to offer for the life of the world (verse 51). Think about this. Jesus equates the flesh we must eat for eternal life with the flesh that will be offered on the cross! Either they are both literal or both figurative. No Christian doubts that Jesus offered His real flesh on the cross. Therefore, we cannot doubt that Christ wants us to eat His real flesh for our salvation.
    There also eucharistic miracles that witness to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Look into this. It is real. The early church Fathers consistently affirmed the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Virtually every distinctively Catholic doctrine is clearly found in the writings of the early Fathers of the 1st, 2nd,3rd and 4th centuries. This includes the Real Presence of the Eucharist, the Mass as a sacrifice, apostolic succession, the primacy of Peter, intercessory prayer to the saints, devotion to Mary and confession to a priest.
    Every reception of the Eucharist is an increase in our being metaphysically as He is really present. It is an opportunity through our participation to being transformed into Who we recieve.

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    1. I used to Joke about metaphysical naturalists who confessed transubstantiation as a means to mock Gnu Atheists who insisted to me the Bible is clear(therefore channeling Luther's Perspicuity error) when I as a Catholic have no such presupposition. I pointed out the disconnect of a non-believer taking a side in a religious dispute since does not the Non believer disbelieve in all religions? For an Atheist is not the Lutheran and Catholic equally wrong? So how can he claim one is more "correct" than another?

      I believe an "orthodox" profession of an error is an oxymoron.

      Yet here is Unknown a self professed naturalist reproducing a standard defense of Transubstantiation against Anon who has been banging on about the last supper being symbolic because he cannot deal with the argument that God being Supernatural cannot perform natural acts within the natural world(God cannot literally ride a bike or be a moral agent). He can only ever act supernaturally.

      Well if Unknown and Anon want to fight it out as two non-believers and one wants to defend Catholicism and the other Lutheranism on perspicuity & Zwinglism on the Eucharist that might prove an odd spectacle. Or maybe it is a meta-troll?

      But I should remind them it is off topic. The issue is the Problem of Evil. Not Protestantism vs Catholicism.

      But I want everyone to know Unknown's defense of the Real Presence is lovely and off topic. Cheers to him.

      The problem of evil people. God as a moral agent vs the odd ad hoc claim a good God wouldn't allow any evil moral agent or not.etc

      That is what is happening now people.

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    2. Unkmown 5.47AM

      Needless to say, I am not an expert in the Aramaic of that time and place, but I can well imagine that whereas growling ' ill eat your flesh you scoundril' or 'i'll drink his blood' may have been threatening statements, speaking about consuming flesh and blood figuratively in a very different context may not have been. In any case, if Jesus' words really were as unexpected and startling as you claim, I would have all the more expected him to explicitly make clear that his intention was to be taken literally, so as to avert confusion and misunderstanding ( eventually to play a part in fragmenting the church ). As to John 6, yes, Jesus speaks as if he is being literal, but that is the nature of metaphore! Any ordinary person ,unburdened by your theology,
      would take the words of Jesus here metaphorically, and his audience clearly did so otherwise they would have been outraged and scandalised! People do not typically respond well to invitations to cannibalism!

      The Eucherist is celebrated very many millions of times around the world each year, and obviously, in a vanishinhly small number of cases a bit of offal will find its way into it as a practical joke say, or to feign an miracle and so whip up faith and gain converts. To show that a real miraclr has occurred , it is not enough to find a bit of myocardial tissue in the bread, but it is necessary to be able to completely exclude pedestrian explanations of its origin. Needless to say, I do not believe that has been done .

      My advice to you is stop being so gullable!

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    3. Son of Ya'kov 9.09am

      The Unknown at 7.20AM is self evidently not Unknown the naturalist you daft dingbat, but a Roman Catholic believer! Unknown the naturalist replies at 5.47AM.

      And do not preach to anyone about being on topic. You wax widely and endlessly about any topic that takes your fancy!

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    4. @Unknown

      Stop trolling it is beneath you and stop pretending to be multiple people. Your not fooling anybody even by using multiple google accounts.

      It is irrational to believe a bunch of different people would post here using the same monker "Unknown" just spontaneously.

      It is also irrational and unreasonable to do so after learning others have the same posting monker as yorself as it causes confusion.

      For example if I changed my monker to "grodriguez" and started posting so as to lead people into thinking I was him that would just make me a c***.

      Having conversations with yourself doesn't contribute to the discussion.

      >And do not preach to anyone about being on topic. You wax widely and endlessly about any topic that takes your fancy!

      That sounds like the same type of slaging off the "Naturalist" Unknown would say to me.

      Pretending to be multiple people degrades you sir. In the unlikely event you are multiple people well continuing to use the same handle degrades you and causes needless confusion".

      Grow up an contribute to the discussion and enough of the trolling.


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    5. Son of Yakov

      I am not having conversations with myself or using multiple Google accounts! Many of the Unknowns on here are me, but by no means all, and the one at 7.20AM certainly was not. Why on earth would you think that he or she was anything other than what they appeared to be - a genuine Catholic believer defending the Eucharist which had just been attacked?

      As for trolling, if Papilinton and the various Unknowns and Anonymoi are all trolls, this thread must be the most egregious example of troll feeding in this blog's history. You have rendered them all clinically obese!

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    6. You are just degrading yourself Unknown by pretending to be multiple people. I believe all the Unknowns are the same person. I do not believe your denial.

      If you where different people then common sense dictates you would use different handles to differentiate yerselves. But you don't' ergo you are the same person.

      You could do better then mere trolling. You could partake of the simple joys of a rigorous intellectual conversation. Instead you want play games like a child.

      Sad.

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    7. Son of Ya'kov 12.01PM

      Yoo do not have much discernment Son of Ya'kov - the notion that Unknown at 7.20AM is me for example is bizarre. Why would I present and promote a Catholic apologetic for the Eucharist ( indeed, how could I as I am insufficiently erudite on the topic )? Your belief is paranoid and batty.

      I say again that if Papalinton and the various Anonymoi and Unknowns are trolls, you are the troll feeder extraordinaire, as most of this thread has consisted of you making extremely long replies to them.

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  30. Son of Ya'Kov
    Here is a link to what Duns Scotus has to say about God's goodness as presented by Prof Marilyn McCord Adams
    https://www.pdcnet.org/faithphil/content/faithphil_1987_0004_0004_0486_0511

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  31. Hi Ed,

    Your reply to Sterba was eloquently argued, but in my opinion it proves too much.

    In section 6 of your essay, you write:

    "Davies is not saying that, because it is a privation, a moral evil does not in any sense have a cause (which would indeed entail that the sinner no more causes it than God does). He is merely saying that it is not the sort of privation of which God can be said to be a cause. But it still has a cause, namely the will of the sinner.

    ...[M]oral evil involves a privation or absence of reality, which absence God does not cause (though the sinner does), so God can intelligibly be said not to will it even indirectly but merely to permit it."

    The central analogy which you (and Davies) employ for God is that of the author of a novel, who stands outside the story and who has no obligations to any of the characters in the story.

    So here's my first question: is the author of a novel in any way the cause of the moral defects in his or her characters? Surely the answer is "yes." After all, who makes Draco Malfoy bad? J. K. Rowling does. And it doesn't matter whether we think of Malfoy's badness as something positive or as a defect: ultimately, the author is responsible for his or her characters. So it seems we must say the same of God.

    My second question relates to your claim that God does not will evil even indirectly, since it is an absence. Again: is it true that an author does not will the flaws in his or her characters, even indirectly? If Othello were not the flawed character he is, then Shakespeare's eponymous play would be far less interesting. And you yourself argue that without some evil characters in the human story, who get their just deserts, God's novel (which we call the cosmos) would be a much more boring one. But if evil in a character can make the novel better, then surely that is something that the author of the novel does will, at least indirectly. And the same point would apply to God.

    Thoughts?

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    1. Vincent,

      The idea that God is not the cause of evil comes from the fact that evil is a privation and not a thing in itself. God creates things, which are good because being and goodness are convertible, and evils result from the goodness of things as a side effect. God then permits these evils because you wouldn't have all the good things in the world without the evils. How can God create something that is not a thing?

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