Sterba makes five main points. The first has to do with the Thomistic view that language about God has to be understood in an analogical way. He writes:
Now Feser recognizes that when we apply predicates to God and ourselves, such as being just or merciful or permitting evil, claiming our assertions are true, we have to be speaking analogically. Even metaphorical statements made about God… which also purport to be true have to be conveying their truth, when they are true, through nonliteral, analogical language. Yet what Feser fails to recognize is that I am always using the same analogical language of which he approves, as is illustrated, for example, by my repeated appeal to “the analogy of an ideally just and powerful state” throughout my book.
End quote. It seems to me that Sterba here misunderstands what Thomists mean by analogy. For one thing, he at least appears to conflate “analogical” language with “nonliteral” language. But nonliteral or metaphorical language is only one kind of analogical language, and when Thomists say that we need to understand predications of power, knowledge, goodness, etc. to God in an analogical way, they are not saying that these predications are nonliteral. They are literal. They just aren’t univocal. (On the other hand, and in fairness to Sterba, he does seem to use “metaphorical” in a way that is possibly meant to distinguish it from other kinds of analogical language. So I’m not certain about whether Sterba does suppose that all analogical language is nonliteral.)
Sterba also seems to conflate (a) using language in an analogical sense with (b) drawing an analogy. That is also a mistake, as can be seen from the fact that even thinkers who insist that theological language is univocal rather than analogical (such as Scotists) are not saying that we should never draw analogies when talking about God.
Again, the key here is to understand that when Thomists say that language about God is to be understood analogically, they do not mean that it should be understood nonliterally. They insist that there is a third literal sort of linguistic usage in between the equivocal and univocal uses. God is, for example, literally powerful, not merely metaphorically powerful. It’s just that the word “power” doesn’t have exactly the same sense as it does when we say e.g. that a corporate executive is powerful or that a cannon is powerful, even if it doesn’t have an entirely disconnected sense either.
Naturally, this raises questions about exactly what literal but analogical usage involves, and crucial to understanding that is to note the distinction between the analogy of attribution and the analogy of proportionality, and, where the latter is concerned, the further distinction between proper proportionality and improper (or merely metaphorical) proportionality. I spell out these distinctions in Scholastic Metaphysics, at pp. 256-63, and of course there is a huge literature on the topic. (Here is a useful primer from Joe Trabbic.) The point to emphasize for present purposes is that for the Thomist, the key to understanding theological language is the analogy of proper proportionality and, to some extent, the analogy of attribution – and not the analogy of improper or metaphorical proportionality.
Yet the latter is what Sterba seems to have in mind when he talks about “analogical” language. This is evident not only from his apparent conflation of “analogical” and “nonliteral,” but also from the example he gives. He says that he is using analogical language when he compares God to “an ideally just and powerful state.” But God is not literally a state, so that this is a case of merely metaphorical or improper proportionality. And again, that is not the kind of analogical language that the Thomist has in mind in characterizing theological language as analogical.
There are deep semantic and metaphysical issues here the neglect of which vitiates not only Sterba’s argument, but much that is written today on the problem of evil by theists and atheists alike.
Drawing good out of evil
In my article I appealed to Aquinas’s view that God permits evil to exist because he draws a greater good out of it, and that no amount of evil could possibly outweigh the supreme good of the beatific vision. Sterba responds:
Here, Feser understands, as do I, the beatific vision to be friendship with God. However, I also argue that God’s offer of friendship cannot be logically dependent on his permission of horrendous evil consequences because if it were, his power would be impossibly limited. So, it must always be logically possible for God to offer us his friendship without first permitting horrendous evil consequences of immoral actions to be inflicted on ourselves or anyone else, and if God were all-good, then he would always be doing just that.
End quote. This seems to me to beg the question. Thomists, like most other theists, hold that omnipotence does not include the power to do the logically impossible. And they would also hold that the particular goods that God draws out of the evil that exists would not otherwise be logically possible. Sterba seems here simply to assume, without argument, that one or both of these suppositions are false.
In general, Sterba’s approach to the problem of evil both in his reply and his book seems to take for granted a conception of human life that Thomists, and indeed traditional Christian theology in general, simply would not agree with. In particular, he writes as if determining whether things go well overall for a human being is a matter of determining how they go for him in this life. But from the point of view of traditional Christian theology, what ultimately matters is the next life, not this one. This life is merely a preparation for the next. Hence, to judge the overall quality of a human life requires, most importantly, reference to the afterlife. If you considered only what happened in this life to, say, the Christian martyrs, you might think they lived among the most unfortunate of lives. But if instead you consider the reward this gained them in Heaven, they would have to be judged as having the most fortunate of lives.
Of course, the atheist will not agree that there is such a thing as an afterlife. But the point is that if he simply assumes this as a component of his atheistic argument from evil, then the argument will beg the question.
Sterba also seems to assume that if God exists, there is at least a very strong presumption that there would be no suffering, so that the fact that there is suffering is very surprising and indeed problematic if theism is true. But Thomists and traditional Christian theology more generally would reject that assumption too. They would say that suffering is to be expected given our nature as finite and corporeal creatures in a world interacting with other finite creatures. To be sure, our nature is good as far as it goes. But it is limited, and given those limits we are subject to injury, disease, ignorance, error, and the ramifications of those. We are also liable to moral failures, and as these mount, the damage done to the character of individuals and to the social orders of which they are parts also snowballs and ramifies. Given the facts of the natural moral law, we also come to merit the positive infliction of further harms as punishment for our evildoing. In these ways, suffering is deeply ingrained into the very nature of human life, and therefore precisely what we should expect.
It would take supernatural assistance – that is to say, special divine action to raise us beyond the limits of our nature – to prevent this outcome from occurring. And such assistance was indeed offered to our first parents. Had they not rejected the offer, nature would not have taken its course. That is the sense in which the evil that afflicts us is the consequence of Original Sin. It’s not that the Fall introduced into the natural order evil that would not have otherwise been there. It’s rather that it lost for us the supernatural prevention of evil that would have been there.
So, again, suffering is to be expected given our nature, rather than something that should surprise us. But then, why is it nevertheless not removed given that through Christ we can be restored to grace? There are several reasons. One of them is that grace, the supernatural order of things, builds on nature rather than smothering it. By leaving in place much of the effects of Original Sin, God allows us to see much more clearly than would otherwise be possible the unbridgeable gap between what we are capable of just given our own limited nature, and what we require in order to achieve the beatific vision. We see our need for grace better than we otherwise would.
For another thing, since we have in fact sinned, we merit punishment. Even the repentant do not get off scot-free. We need to do penance, either in this life or in Purgatory. And the evils we accept in a penitential spirit in this life are preferable to those we face in Purgatory. We can also accept unmerited suffering in the spirit in which Christ did so, as a sacrifice for others who need penance. More generally, we can gain virtues such as patience, compassion, and courage.
Much more could be said, but that is enough to make the point that from the point of view of traditional Christian theology, suffering is an integral part of the natural and supernatural order of things, rather than something we should be surprised by. That’s part of why the Cross is so central a symbol in Christian spirituality. If you look at the world the way that the heroes of scripture, the Fathers of the Church, and the saints do, the idea that what we should expect from God is (say) some kind of bourgeois consumer paradise – and that we should shake an accusing fist at him for failing to provide it – just seems bizarre, even superficial in the extreme.
I’m well aware that this view of things is bound to seem very strange to an atheist or indeed to the average citizen of modern, affluent, secularized Western society. But the point is that by approaching the problem of evil as if this traditional Christian view of things weren’t true, the atheist once again simply begs the question. Sure, if you look at the nature and purpose of human life the way the secularist does, then the existence of suffering seems baffling. But traditional Christian theology does not look at things that way. And Sterba has given us no non-question-begging reason to do so.
Freedom from what?
In response to my point that those who are deprived of political freedoms and the like by oppressors do not thereby lose their free will, and that that is what matters most to their salvation, Sterba objects:
Yet the failures of even the most brutal and oppressive dictators to take away the inner freedom of their subjects does nothing to exonerate them for the evil they do by depriving their subjects of their external freedom. Why should it be any different for God who could prevent all horrendous evil consequences, as needed, and thereby secure our external freedom as needed?
End quote. Sterba’s analogy fails, for two reasons. First, because unlike the dictator, God merely permits rather than inflicts the loss of freedom in question. Second, because unlike the dictator or any other human being, God is capable of drawing out from this loss a good that infinitely outweighs it.
Sterba’s objection also greatly exaggerates the significance of the worldly freedoms that are lost, relative to what we gain in the hereafter. That too may sound shocking from a modern secularist liberal point of view, but then, neither Thomism nor traditional Christian theology more generally looks at human life from that point of view in the first place. Freedom to vote, to criticize state policy, to have a job one likes, etc. are all well and good. But they are ultimately much less important than freedom from moral vice (a freedom which is still possible, even when political freedoms are lost, as long as we have free will).
As St. Augustine says, we have as many masters as we have vices, and they enslave us in a much worse way than human tyrants do. The reason is that losing the freedom to vote, to work, etc. won’t keep us from the beatific vision, but losing the freedom from bondage to sin will keep us from it. And that is what matters most in the end. So, if a world where the loss of freedoms of the kind Sterba is talking about is part of an overall order where there is an increase in freedom of the kind Augustine is talking about – with the salvation that that entails – then that is a much greater overall good than one in which the former, lesser freedoms are maximized and the latter, greater ones are less in supply.
In response to my comparison of the created world to a story and of God to the author of the story, Sterba writes:
No doubt an author who chooses to fill his novel with an endless string of holocausts each worse than the last has not done anything morally wrong. Yet it does not follow that a God who permits the horrendous consequences of a similar endless string of holocausts which he could have easily prevented without loss of greater good consequences or prevention of greater evil consequences has likewise not done anything morally wrong.
End quote. This misses the point I was making with the author analogy. The point is not that God is blameless for the specific reasons an author is blameless (which include the fact that the characters, unlike us, are not real). Rather, the point is that God’s causality differs from ours in something like the way an author’s causality differs from that of his characters, and this difference in causality entails that laws of nature and the natural moral law do not intelligibly apply to God. He is outside the causal order in something like the way an author is outside the order of the story. But the relevant moral categories in terms of which the “logical problem of evil” judges God to be guilty of wrongdoing can intelligibly apply only to creatures within that order.
Replying to my claim that, since God is not a rational animal and therefore not governed by natural law, the Pauline Principle does not apply to him, Sterba says:
Yet, earlier, Feser recognized that certain virtues, such as being just and merciful, which do not make any direct reference to our appetites, do apply to God. Likewise, here, the Pauline Principle, which does not make any direct reference to our appetites, applies analogically to God in the same way that being just and merciful apply analogously to God.
End quote. It seems to me that Sterba has missed my point, which was that God’s being rational and our being rational does not by itself entail that the same predicates can in every case intelligibly be applied both to us and to God. I am not saying that none of the same predicates can intelligibly be applied. But those that do apply must be understood in a way that reflects the differences between God and created things (e.g. God is not in the created order, does not fall under a genus, etc.). God’s lack of appetites is one of the differences, but it is hardly the only one. The problem with applying the Pauline Principle to God is that it could intelligibly apply to him only if God were part of the moral community – which, since he is not even part of the causal order of which the moral community is a component, he is not.
That’s enough for now, and no doubt Sterba would have had more to say in response to my paper if had had time and space. As it is, he had to reply to fifteen other contributors! I thank him for his good sportsmanship and for an intelligent, civil, and productive exchange.
I always liked the response that a world without sin and suffering might be a world without you. Many of us were brought into being either directly or indirectly through immoral actions. For example, if you go back far enough, the chances that one of your ancestors conceived another ancestor in your parental lineage through rape is very high. So there is a sense in which nearly all of us are good effects drawn out from evil acts. And furthermore, despite the fact that we perpetuate many evils ourselves, God continues to allow us to live and to have free will.ReplyDelete
I believe that a statement that is univocal about God can exist in the mind. First intend a propositional thought that is analogical but also weak enough to not be false like God is simple but also not in the way we think of simple. Now this statement if allowed to develop in it's conclusions would be analogous but the key step is to intend it to be judged analytically so that the concept is not weighed down by background (synthetic) assumptions into analogy. Then stop short of using judgement muscle; so that you avoid judging the proposition analytically. So, you have a non analogous or pure statement about God. Admittedly this is a very trivial and gamey way to defy the rule of analogy when it comes to God. But you only need one counterexample to defeat a rule.ReplyDelete
The key step is to intend it to be judged analytically…. Then stop short of using judgement muscle; so that you avoid judging the proposition analytically.Delete
In other words, you have to be too lazy to follow your argument through to its logical conclusion. In logic, this is referred to by the term ‘cheating’, and the ‘statement that can exist in the mind’ as a result of such a process is referred to by the term ‘error’.
So are you saying that saying: "God is simple but not in the way we understand simple" is an error?Delete
No, I’m saying that if you set up a proposition to be judged analytically, and then don’t judge it analytically, that is an error.Delete
it is possibly an error perhaps in judgement. But since the statement itself is not in error but in fact true, it is still univocal, whether an error has been committed or not. Also if you could tell me why you think an error would destroy my algorithm that would be helpful because at present I'm kind of shooting in the dark.Delete
If all P implies Q, and you are trying to show that some P does not imply Q, it is fallacious to state your P and then simply not draw the logical conclusion that Q. Unless I wildly misunderstood your phrasing, you were saying that the way to avoid Q in this case is simply not to subject P to the analysis that produces Q in all other cases.Delete
Alright perhaps its better to understand it this way: there are inert causal chains and active causal chains. I believe your assumption that judgement is one of the catalysts for Q or an analogical statements. However I would argue that more than this catalyst is needed to activate the causal chain that results in Q. You also need to observe the judgement in its final state. Ideas even ideas of statements in that way are idealistic merely existing in the mind without any other ontological baggage until you go looking for it.Delete
Also note that: P or the weak statement about simplicity does not imply Q or analogous language. P merely would mutate in the mind upon the catalyst of ideas.
And analytic judgement is not being used because it is a judgement of P->Q. It is just a convenient way to isolate P from the catalyst that changes P to Q. Plus everyone knows how to do it, since Kant. So, its a nice algorithmic tool.
Correction: not everyone knows how to make an analytic judgment. But as it is Google searchable it's easier than trying to explain my own terms that I made up.Delete
I can't help but feel poor Sterba bit off more than he could chew when he decided to respond to sixteen different authors in the same paper. It might explain in part why the quality of the response he gave Ed wasn't as impressive as it could've been. If I had to divide my effort into responding to sixteen different critics, I wouldn't be surprised if some of my arguments were below-standard.ReplyDelete
I suspect that the quality of the response was more strongly influenced by the weakness of the position Sterba is attempting to defend.Delete
Not necessarily. Give Gorgias the position and he could give some interesting responses.Delete
And yea, responding to so many people in something less than a book is really not a good idea.
There is a realm beyond metaphysical frameworks, probably associated with an aspect of our reasoning that utilises imagination, where the meaning of the argument is not conveyed with the language used. Sterba will always be arguing against a god that theists don’t believe in, unless of course he reaches a point in his life where he is able to stand back and observe all his conclusions at the same time. Until then, god as the very ground of existence will have no different meaning from god the all knowing, all powerful superman-in-the-sky.ReplyDelete
The perspectives are so different that even simple concepts are different. Pain is something we all consider bad at one level, in ourselves, in those we love, and (for those with a healthy psychology) in all sentient creatures. But of course pain is a necessary aspect of our physical existence, it’s information that has an unpleasant experiential property as part of it’s meaning. People born without the ability to experience physical pain (CIPA) have more fundamental problems than those who do. For the theist there is a similar wider perspective on suffering in general. It is certainly not a matter of accepting suffering as in any way good, or of finding it easy to experience or witness, but there is space for there being a perspective where these things are temporary, and necessary in terms of the telos of creation itself. There is a leap in logic here from the perspective of the non theist, but from the perspective of the theist, this is inherent in the basic understanding of what god is.
This is why I think it’s pointless for non theists to even try to engage in theology - they will never be studying what theists actually believe.
In my time I have been confronted by Atheists who find out I am a Catholic and immediately kneejerk they pull out their anti-young Earth Creationist polemics to do battle with me and I brutally inform them “I am a Catholic Theistic Evolutionist buddy not a wee Southern Baptist. I don't believe in a Young Earth nor do I deny Evolution took place.”. The mature & sane (yeh they exist but these days are becoming rare) among them apologize and let the matter drop. The lunatic Gnu crowd OTOH do something weird. They get upset and actually proverbially put on the hat of a Young Earth Creationist Apologist and actually try to argue Genesis MUST teach creation took place in literally 144 hours or I am “not taking the Bible seriously”.ReplyDelete
Yeh you cannot make this nonsense up!
Sterba is kind of doing the same thing here isn’t he? He is insisting ad hoc if God exists He must be a moral agent in the univocal manner a perfectly virtuous rational creature is a moral agent and this is just insane. Saying the Pauline Principle applies to God makes about as much sense as me breaking into the Tower of London and taking the Imperial State Crown and parading aboot proclaiming myself King of England!. Well I would be arrested and in theory one of the many charges brought against me can be “treason”. Imagine what the Judge would say if I with a straight face, told him “Hey why don’t you charge that woman Liz with Treason? I saw her wearing that crown thingy once”?
If I did that I might plausibly get to plead insanity……..
In short you cannot charge Elizabeth II with treason for wearing the Imperial Crown as she is the Queen and by right can wear it. You cannot apply the Pauline Principle to God because He is not a bloody created being subject to natural law.
Oy vey why don't you people get this?????
Even granting that God is not a moral agent, he is still meant to be benevolent, loving,just, merciful and so on, so if violence is not being done to the meaning of these words - indeed if they are not being completely redefined - we would expect him to brhave much as if he was, which is empirically obviously not the case.Delete
I would also like to inquire if your God can ride a bike, which would seem to be implied by his supposed omnipotence. I as because I believe this is a matter of some contention among theists. So then, can YAHWEH ride a bike or not?
So then, can YAHWEH ride a bike or not?Delete
Flippancy seldom has any value in an argument, though one notices many atheists who think it has.
The proper answer to this question, for a Thomist, is that God became man in Christ. While there were no bicycles in first-century Judaea, presumably if there were, Jesus could have learnt to ride one. I therefore have the honour to answer your hypothetical in the affirmative, with the condition that the risen Christ would have to come into possession of a bike first.
Frankly, a poor understanding from Anon about analogy. There is no redefining, but Thomists from the beginning believe that properties exist analogously in things and this applies to God. If I say a tea is hot and the sun is hot, am I redefining heat? And yet knowledge of how hot the tea is leaves us with only limited understanding of how hot the sun is. That’s not even a perfect example. A better one would be: potency is being, act is being, yet they are not the same thing but exhibit being in different ways. Similarly, colour is being and sound is being, yet they are wildly different and don’t share anything in common that we can label “being”. Similarly, God being good as the ultimate and infinite entity is different than how limited human beings are good by means of possessing some virtues. So we can’t take our definition of anything we know from experience and apply it directly to God without first accepting that said definition will morph in some ways. Some elements may apply, others not.Delete
I suspect Anon is a childish troll I usually butt heads with whose MO is to repeat the same charge over and over and over as well as to ignore actual arguments.Delete
This fellow actually boasts on other blogs his arguments are so "formidable" that Prof Feser is afraid to post them. Another more intelligent Agnostic skeptic told him "Maybe it is because you are arguing against a god nobody over there believes in". Yep.
Don't expect Anon to interact with you in good faith. He does what is known as Sea Lioning.
>So then, can YAHWEH ride a bike or not?
This refers to something I wrote in a few posts on how God not being a moral agent was comparable to the Divine Essence not being able to ride a bike.
Which is not my own original argument but comes from Fr. Brian Davies. The divine omnipotence does not entail that God can ride a bike. Bike riding after all involves physically sitting on a bike and physically moving it with yer feet. God is not a physical being ergo God cannot ride a bike. Sure God could supernaturally cause the bike to move around like it was being ridden but that would not be the same as riding it.
Sure Jesus could ride a bike but His Human nature would be doing all the secondary causation in moving the Bike not his Divine Nature which is busy being a First Cause to everything. God given His nature cannot be a bike rider. God also given His Nature cannot be a moral agent etc etc....
Trolling is all Gnu Atheists have since they are too lazy to learn actual philosophy even Atheist philosophy. I will give Sterba & other philosophically minded Atheists props for trying but not the Gnus.
God's omnipotence implies that he can do all the perfections involved in "riding a bike" minus the limitations. He can move the bike from one place to another, but he cannot be moved by the bike because he's not limited by space in the first place - wherever the bike goes, God is already present there with all his power and capacities. (Except if God chooses to limit himself in the sense of becoming a man - then God can do that if he wishes, say, riding a bike as Jesus). So there's no problem there: God can do everything powerful involved in riding a bike; what he can't do is the stuff that isn't powerful about riding a bike, but involves limitation (ergo, God doesn't need to ride a bike, he is already everywhere, and can move the bike at any place as he pleases).
That being said, fr. Davies's theodicy is indeed idiotic and you are correct about it changing the meaning of "merciful, good, loving", etc. Davies (and Yakov) basically assume that ethical statements are equivocal when applied to God (not merely analogical), such that God can be "good" even if he allows a child to be raped for no reason whatsoever, for example. Such a God clearly isn't good in any meaningful sense of the word for us, and would therefore be undeserving of worship (and would, in fact, be irrational and less perfect than His creatures, if you're a moral realist like I am). It is their prerogative to get rid of the problem of evil by biting the bullet that God may be evil (though for them "evil" can be "good" for God; for whoever presses the objection, it just is evil).
I recommend you search elsewhere for good theodicies.
Unknown(pick another mocker. Stop causing confusion) You have shown with this childish response to have not read Brian Davies nor are you familiar with the arguments of philosophy or moral theory.Delete
Fr. Davies rejects theodicy & he goes on about it quite a bit. A Theodicy is an attempted moral justification for God and since Brian Davies rejects the idea God is a moral agent in the univocal sense we are moral agents then evaluating him morally makes about as much sense as discussing David Beckham's batting average(him being a footballer what does that matter?).
So you are wrong out of the box.
You assume there is a meaning of "goodness mercyetc" outside of the Catholic and Biblical meaning and without a clear technical definition this meaningless question begging. God's mercy, goodness and love is in creating us and giving us sufficient grace for salvation. Nothing more as He owes us nothing & need not have created us. There is nothing in the Bible or Catholic Christian tradition that defines these concepts in terms of God preventing all evil or suffering or keeping us from all evil in this life. The Book of Job is rather clear on the matter. Gnu Atheist critics like yerself seem to ignore the book of Job.
As Journey 516 pointed out you are committing an error in assuming analogy doesn't contain a literal referent between God and creatures. Feser discusses this in this very same article which you should actually take time to read. Anyway God is moral because God doesn't fail to do His duty to himself. Thus God cannot fail to do His own Will. So if God wills to create us and gives us truly sufficient grace for salvation then God cannot fail to do that.
> such that God can be "good" even if he allows a child to be raped for no reason whatsoever, for example.
Of course my root beer is a good root beer even if it didn't stop the holocaust as Davies said. God is not a Cosmic Genie. No Theistic personalist "god" exists. As to not having a good reason to allow a child to be raped well if there is one then we cannot likely comprehended it (which is possible). Like a Vet causing pain to an Animal he is treating medically but the animal cannot comprehend this and can only comprehend "White Lab coat hairless monkey creature make me hurt" in its primitive conceptional way.
> Such a God clearly isn't good in any meaningful sense of the word etcx..
Clear the vet is good for the dog even if the dog cannot comprehend it.
That is an emotional argument and an appeal to feelings not reason. I note how Carl Sagan revered the Cosmos and how Richard Dawkins reverses Nature "endless forms most beautiful etc" and all that. Well blind godless Nature is completely indifferent & red in the tooth etc yet it's greatness can still be loved. Well God doesn't owe a child being raped intervention but given His nature He will send the rapist to Hell and the Beatific Vision the child gets will be infinitely greater than any suffering he or she endured.
But God who is Ground of All Being and author of existence can always be revered. God owes you nothing and you can have nothing with God.
> (and would, in fact, be irrational and less perfect than His creatures, if you're a moral realist like I am).
You cannot be a moral realist in a godless universe. There is no god ergo "morality" is yer subjective choice & preferences nothing more, unless you want to adopt a natural law view in which case you open yerself to Classic Theism and a non moral agent God since Aristotle said moral evaluation of the divine is laughable..
BTW you just contradicted yerself. You admit God can do everything powerful....what [H]e can't do is the stuff that isn't powerful .... but involves limitation.
So God is limited to moral obligations to His Creatures? Which is it? Well? It is Limited or unlimited?
>It is their prerogative to get rid of the problem of evil by biting the bullet that God may be evil (though for them "evil" can be "good" for God; for whoever presses the objection, it just is evil).
It is clear you have no clear coherent philosophical or metaphysical definition of "Good" or "Evil" so yer objection is emotion based. Like when I was a wee freshman and told my Atheist professor "If God doesn't exist all those good people who died in pain in the holocaust have no Heaven to go too. But Hitler the architect of their pain died quickly with a bullet in the mouth and he gets no Hell or justice". My Professor responded "That is in fact horrible but it has nothing to do with truth". He was right.
Emotional arguments are for the emotional and you are very emotional and I prefer reason.
>I recommend you search elsewhere for good theodicies.
Rather Davies rejects Theodicy and so should you. God is not a moral agent and as such needs a theodicy like a fish needs a bike.
Give us a coherent technical philosophical and metaphysical definition of Good and Evil otherwise stop begging the question.
Nothing anyone says here will be able to change your mind. For all intents and purposes, however, I've already synthesized the situation.
Davies does reject "theodicy" in the sense that he rejects classical theodicies (such as in the Leibnizian model), but his project of equivocal language is in fact a theodicy in the sense that it is an attempt to show how the problem of evil can be solved, how God is compatible with the existence of evil. This is the minimal definition of theodicy I was referring to.
As far as the rest goes, the situation really is just as I put it. You bite the bullet of PoE in holding that "the Good" can be so different from our (human) understanding of the good to the point where The Good might be what people would normally consider evil. For instance, for you and Davies, The Good is compatible with allowing a child be raped for absolutely no reason (otherwise one adopts classical theodicy: The Good is compatible with allowing a child be raped *for the sake of some greater good that would otherwise be lost*, which is the proposition we have to hold in classical theodicy).
Most people, however, are convinced that we have a good enough grasp of The Good to the point where it must be similar enough to our (human) usage of "good" whereby The Good is not compatible with allowing a child to be raped for no reason. Hence, there must be a specific morally sufficient reason for why The Good allows a child to be raped.
That's all it is. For you and Davies, human talk of "goodness" is equivocal when applied to The Good. For most people, this is absurd. You and Davies "successfully" solve the problem of evil by making The Good apt to be described by the common usage of "evil". In other words: you just bite the bullet and hold that God can be beyond our notions of good and evil. But for many of us, to be beyond good and evil just is to be evil. And unworthy of worship (in fact I think it is immoral to worship such a God). You just bite the bullet, and that's your prerogative.
To put it differently: for most of us, perfect metaphysical good (The Good) cannot be contrary to (our common perception of) moral goodness. For you and Davies, (our common perception of) moral goodness effectively has no bearing on perfect metaphysical good, such that our ethical statements are equivocal when applied to God (not analogical). So God can be "good" even if He allows a child to be raped for no reason; He doesn't have to protect a child from rape even if no ultimate value were to ultimately come from it (free will theodicy, soul building theodicy, harmony of laws theodicy, etc.), and he's still good even then. That's your (and Davies's) view.Delete
You'd think there could be a possible world in which God allows a child to be raped over and over again, for no ulterior reason, and God would still be "good" in such a world. (I know you don't understand possible world semantics, and hilariously think that it is somehow precluded by A-T metaphysics, but I wrote this part for the sake of others).
It's just utterly insane for most people (including a great chunk of classical theists such as myself). The Good (metaphysical goodness in its perfection) subsumes moral goodness as we correctly understand it, and as such God always acts for perfect moral goodness. This entails a classical theodicy: God cannot allow the rape of children for no reason whatsoever, it would ceteris paribus be incompatible with God's existence, so there must be morally sufficient reasons involved (soul building theodicy, or free will, or whatever other theodicies one appeals to). God is a moral agent; better speaking, God is Moral Agency par excellence, he is Moral Perfection, which is incompatible with indifference of action w.r.t. moral atrocities.
"But for many of us, to be beyond good and evil just is to be evil"Delete
But he said that it could be beyond _our understanding_.
God's intellect is infinitely beyond ours so the reason for suffering here and now may be beyond our natural - fallen or unfallen - ability to understand at all.
You cannot judge God. God judges you.
"So God can be "good" even if He allows a child to be raped for no reason"
No reason that you can understand.
The concatenation of every expression we all have made is a finite string, ordered or disordered. An unbiased infinite string contains it as a subsequence. If the unbiased infinite string is an image of God and you grant God sufficient intellect to understand himself then he certainly understands every thought expressed in the finite string and how much of it and what parts of it are an expression of truth (you also have to grant us that there is such a thing as truth). OTOH, the finite string cannot contain a comprehensive understanding of the infinite string. It is beyond us to express a comprehensive understanding of God.
"But he said that it could be beyond _our understanding_."Delete
In the relevant context it's the same thing if you read my post carefully.
We have a good enough grasp of moral goodness to the point where we hold that God tolerating the rape of children for no reason whatsoever would be morally evil. If The Good (per absurdum, since to us moral goodness is subsumed under metaphysical goodness) could tolerate child rape for no reason, it wouldn't simply be "beyond our understanding", it would be evil and unworthy of worship. A good man who protected the child would, ceteris paribus, be more perfect than God in this case (which of course is nonsense).
So either we adopt classical theodicy or (as Davies and Yakov do) we bite the bullet and hold that God can be evil (though for Davies the "evil" would just be The Good in this case; moral goodness either has absolutely nothing to do with perfect metaphysical goodness or we have such a warped view of moral goodness to the point where its perfect metaphysical source could go against it).
This isn't about "judging" God. Davies and Yakov simply think our ethical statements are entirely equivocal when applied to God; for most people, this is insane and would entail imperfection in God and in the metaphysical notion of the good.
"Unknown" you have to stop pretending you read Davies because I can see right threw it as I have in fact read him extensively. Davies never says God allows evil for no reason. That is some nonsense you made up oot yer arse. I am nor having it laddie.Delete
Davies denies there is such thing as he disagrees with Rowe's claim there is gratuitous evil. He is rather explicit about that and you would know that if you read him. I cannot be persuaded by an emotional argument or a disingenuous one. I repeat a coherent technical philosophical and metaphysical definition of Good and Evil is needed from you otherwise you beg the question. Thomist & Catholic Philosophers have one. Davies like all Thomists believes quite explicitly God cannot allow evil or will it as a final cause in and of itself. So until you do the reading and address Davies' actual views instead of the nonsense you made up oot of thin air I am not interested and I have no problem being rude about it. I hate straw manning & Red herrings more than my ancestors hated the English.
From reading yer posts I am guessing everything you think you know about Davies came from sound bites of me expounding on his philosophy. BTW this view God is not a moral agent and has no obligations to us is not Davies unique view. Dun Scotus explicitly said God given his relationship to us only ever does gratuitous good for us not obligatory. Which means if God wants to give a child rapist a brain aneurysm to stop him in his tracks and send him to Hell sooner He can do it but He is not obligated to do it.
God is not obligated to create any being. Neither saint nor rapist. None are so good they merit creation (not even Mary Herself) and none so bad that as long as they partake of being God should refrain from creating them. The argument Aquinas makes for that concept solid and I don't see how it cannot be?
I repeat a coherent technical philosophical and metaphysical definition of Good and Evil is needed from you otherwise you beg the question. Otherwise yer "arguments" are nebulous and equivocal. Like nailing jello to a wall.
>He doesn't have to protect a child from rape even if no ultimate value were to ultimately come from it (free will theodicy, soul building theodicy, harmony of laws theodicy, etc.), and he's still good even then.
That is not my view or Davies or Aquinas nor Scotus that is a view you pulled oot of yer arse. I called it you didn't read him. Fess up! I will start quoting him then you will have egg on yer face.
Some more mistakes Unknown.Delete
>To put it differently: for most of us, perfect metaphysical good (The Good) cannot be contrary to (our common perception of) moral goodness.
Rather you dogmatically believe it must be univocal to ours and that cannot be true given God is not compared to creatures univocally but by analogy. We are something like God but God is nothing like us. Analogy means God will be different from us in some things.
Even under Scotus' view(which has some univocal comparisons) God's good actions are all gratuitous not obligatory. So God is not obligated to stop a rapist from abusing his free will or save a child from him.
God cannot make allowing the rape of a child to be a final cause in and of itself and God cannot command us to do what is in fact intrinsically evil. Davies certainly believes this and so do I in fact. Stop making up yer own nonsense. I don't tolerate Straw men.
God is not required to have a "morally sufficient reason" to allow a child to be raped because God has no such obligations to His creatures. Yer view limits God by claiming He is obligated to creatures. He is not. Nor can He coherently be said to be so obligated unless He was a fellow creature.
It is very liberating to know God doesn't owe me anything and I owe Him everything. This way when shite goes sideways in life I know God doesn't owe it to me to not let it go sideways. If I thought God owed me a good life well I would resent Him for giving it to me and I would hate Him.
So I am not getting why you want to believe in such a shite "deity" who owes you stuff and clearly doesn't pay up. God given His Metaphysically Perfect Nature cannot permit evil as an end in itself or a final cause.
God read some actual Brian Davies and cite him directly from now on. I will not tolerate straw men.
Unknown stop pretending you read Davies. You clearly did not.Delete
> Davies and Yakov simply think our ethical statements are entirely equivocal when applied to God.
That is news to Davies(& myself)
QUOTE"Then again, and as I have argued, we have positive reason for saying not only that God exists (as accounting for there being something rather than nothing) but that goodness, perfection and love can be ascribed to him literally."Page 224 REALITY OF GOD AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL by Brian Davies.
Then there is yer false claim Davies(& I) believes God allows evil for no reason at all.
Quote"If God is the creative cause of everything other than himself, then does it not follow that he is the cause of evil? Does it also not follow that God wills evil as an end? If the right answer to these questions is 'Yes', then it would seem that theists have no business calling God good. For even if we are willing to agree that God's goodness cannot be that of a good moral agent acting dutifully or virtuously, it seems hard to see how the word 'good' could intelligibly be applied to an agent who directly wills evil as a goal in its own right. I shall be turning to the question 'What can we mean when calling God "good"?'
in the next chapter. For now, though, I take it for granted (am simply prepared to accept) that God cannot be thought of as good if he deliberately causes evil as an end in itself - if, so to speak, he chooses to bring about evil for its own sake. The question, therefore, is: does he? In this chapter I shall be arguing that he does not." ibid page 173
Unknown ya didn't read Davies. Please go read him first. All his works then come back and I will hear you. Nor till then.Delete
"We have a good enough grasp of moral goodness to the point where we hold that God tolerating the rape of children for no reason whatsoever would be morally evil."
Nobody is holding that God tolerates evil for no reason.
At the very best you don't seem to be saying anything or perhaps you are baiting Yakov. His statements are clear and interesting (maybe too angry), but yours are full of hypotheticals and talk of "perfect" metaphysical meaning of the good that is not grounded in God but in something else in your own mind, which is not in any non-trivial context "the same thing"
"Nobody is holding that God tolerates evil for no reason."Delete
This is a necessary condition for responding to the problem of evil without having to appeal to classical theodicy moves (as in skeptical theism, soul building, free will, etc.), which is part of Davies's project (and what Yakov wants). I don't know how this wasn't clear for you, but I can try to clarify it even more:
PoE can be formulated as "if there is a good God, then why is there all this horrendous evil around? Why does God allow this horrendous evil?". The idea is that God, if he is perfectly good, would prima facie not allow horrendous evil such as what we see.
Classical Theodicy (which Yakov and co. want to avoid) stipulates that God allows such and such horrendous evil *for the sake of some morally sufficient reason*, such as, say, free will or soul building. What is crucial here is that if it were NOT for these morally sufficient reasons, then God would NOT simply tolerate horrendous evil. Ergo, the theist must believe there is some greater explanation behind God's tolerating evil. This in itself is an epistemic cost for theists, though one that most are prepared to accept (since we generally believe that positive reasons for God's existence outweigh the costs of having to hold that).
Yakov (following Davies) wants to be totally free of the epistemic cost of holding that God tolerates evils for the sake of some deeper morally sufficient reasons (classical theodicies), and the corollary (whether he realizes it or not) is that God could tolerate horrendous evil for no reason. And that this is so because "God is not a moral agent" (and through this move they bite the bullet in making the PoE proponent's ethical statements about God count as *equivocal* rather than analogical or univocal. For the PoE proponent, this is tantamount to biting the bullet in holding that God can be evil. Though Yakov won't use the word "evil", his God will be predicated as evil by the PoE proponent).
I side with the PoE proponent here, as I take it that our predicate of "moral goodness" *must* apply at least analogically to God, and this predication would entail that God cannot tolerate a horrendous evil (such as child rape) for no reason. The corollary is there must be a classical theodicy (that is, there must be some deep reason for why God tolerates the horrendous evil, otherwise He could not co-exist with it).
If God can tolerate child rape for no reason - if omnipotent omniscient God can coexist with a horrendous evil that is purely gratuitous -, then "moral goodness" would be an equivocal predication of Him. That, however, is the bullet which Davies and Yakov bite in order to "answer" the problem of evil without having to use classical theodicy moves.
PS: notice how I didn't use the word "obligation" anywhere here. This is because, although it is controversial whether God has or doesn't have obligations, it is not an essential part of PoE. The issue with PoE is that prima facie horrendous evil exists, and we'd expect a morally good God (if this predication is not equivocal) to prevent horrendous evil. And if moral goodness cannot be predicated of God except in an equivocal sense, then God isn't perfect or worthy of worship (Yakov and Davies would deny that, but most people accept this).
Whether Yakov or Davies realize all the corollaries and premises of their position is beside the point.
"yours are full of hypotheticals and talk of "perfect" metaphysical meaning of the good that is not grounded in God but in something else in your own mind, which is not in any non-trivial context "the same thing""Delete
I'm using perfection in the traditional medieval sense. My view is not that the good is not grounded in God; my view is that God *is* The Good. But we have sufficient knowledge of what goodness consists of that we know the form of the Good (think in Platonic terms, at least to help with understanding) cannot be contrary to these things we know. For instance, The Good is incompatible with the sadistic torturing of people for fun (or with indifference towards said torturing). Moral goodness is subsumed under the form of the Good. "Moral goodness" is rightly predicated of God, though this predication has (in my view) an analogical sense, not a univocal one. The same goes for all divine attributes. God truly knows, but His knowledge is purely actual and unified and is not like our knowledge (which nevertheless is subsumed under God's Knowledge). If God were ignorant of the truth of things, however, and were more like a rock, then the predication of "knowledge" would be altogether equivocal and at best metaphorical. That goes for goodness too in my view, as well as moral agency (I think God is perfect Moral Agency, as he is perfect rationality and perfect power, will and freedom). That's just a brief sketch.
My own view is not essential to the critiques I made here, anyway.
So basically "Unknown" you going to without shame lie and ignore the fact you haven't read Davies and it is as Tom said yer just trying to bait me?Delete
So basically yer Trolling and not here to discuss anything in good will.
>If God can tolerate child rape for no reason - if omnipotent omniscient God can coexist with a horrendous evil that is purely gratuitous -, then "moral goodness" would be an equivocal predication of Him. That, however, is the bullet which Davies and Yakov bite in order to "answer" the problem of evil without having to use classical theodicy moves.
But Davies does not believe in gratuitous evil nor does he claim God allows evil for no reason. He has stated as I have quoted him that God would not be good if he did that.
QUOTE"Quote"If God is the creative cause of everything other than himself, then does it not follow that he is the cause of evil? Does it also not follow that God wills evil as an end? If the right answer to these questions is 'Yes', then it would seem that theists have no business calling God good.For even if we are willing to agree that God's goodness cannot be that of a good moral agent acting dutifully or virtuously, it seems hard to see how the word 'good' could intelligibly be applied to an agent who directly wills evil as a goal in its own right. I shall be turning to the question 'What can we mean when calling God "good"?'
in the next chapter. For now, though, I take it for granted (am simply prepared to accept) that God cannot be thought of as good if he deliberately causes evil as an end in itself - if, so to speak, he chooses to bring about evil for its own sake. The question, therefore, is: does he? In this chapter I shall be arguing that he does not." ibid page 173.
You did not read Brian Davies and you are not presenting his or my view correctly or fairly.
It is clear you are not acting in good will.
I don't see any benefit to his posts if this person is gonna shamelessly lie. Clearly he has not read Davies.
>At the very best you don't seem to be saying anything or perhaps you are baiting Yakov.
That seems to be the case. He is changing his argument and he won't acknowledge he is not giving Brian Davies actual thesis(which is the same as mine). Davies says the opposite of what he claim is his thesis.
This is called Sea Lioning.
Really these discussions are great without the philosophically incompetent Gnus and the Trolls who have nothing better to do.
This is just being disrespectful for its own sake.
Unknown has not read Davies and he is not interested in arguing anything. He just wants to be a pest.
Do better Unknown.
"My own view is not essential to the critiques I made here, anyway"
How modest, but this is quite funny. You have just expressed your view here. I don't want to be rude, but I cannot be someone you explain things to. You've made a fundamental error in attacking Yakov.
Of course, one has to believe God exists in the first place.Delete
Thank you for that Captain Obvious. Well done.Delete
The point being, such an unfounded presupposition makes every claim For God pointless, and in context, the Christian god. Honesty would suggest you open any such discussion with the caveat that your beliefs are based on faith and cultural influence.Delete
The existence of God is known via sound rational philosophical argument. Yer unstated presupposition here is positivism. The belief the only meaningful knowledge is scientific and quantitative knowledge known via verificationism. This concept itself which cannot be verified via science and empirical testing for quantitative knowledge. Ergo it is false by its own definition. It is clear from this it is your beliefs arkenaten that are based on mindless faith and cultural influence not sound reasoning. Neither philosophical nor scientific. Gnu Atheism is intellectually inferior for a reason.Delete
The God of the Philosophers and the God of the Bible are the same God. God's existence can be known by philosophical reasoning and inference. Yer positive claim the philosophical presuppositions are unfounded is itself unfounded and the burden of proof is on you to show they are unfounded by sould philosophical reasoning and the formulation of good defeaters. Good luck with that Gnu. Since yer kind refuses to study philosophy even Atheist Philosophy like what we get from Schmid and Oppy you will always sound like the YEC with a 5th grader's understanding of science trying to argue with persons with a graduate level knowledge or greater.
Now scurry on back to Strange Notions.
While your argument is interesting, it offers no evidence to support the claims you make.Delete
Do you have any evidence?
Yer demand for "evidence" is incoherent. Like demanding someone prove evolution is true using a Large Hadron Collider. You want quantitative answers to qualitative questions and that is a category mistake. We wen over this..Delete
This fellow is a troll known as arkenaten. He is basically this guy.
Only twice as stupid. Indeed he makes Paps look like a genius.
He won't learn philosophy(even Atheist philosophy) and insists positivism is the sole means of determining reality. He is tediously anti-intellectual & even one or more of the local skeptics at the Strange Notions blog has blocked him on disqus because he is that irrational and emotionally damaged.
He is not here to argue anything in good faith. He is a troll.
He has nothing to contribute here.
I was sick for a few days and so could not reply to BalancedTryteOperators on the Confucious thread. When I could reply I find that he has changed his name to Infinite_Growth. In my experience on other sites (I am a newbie here) this marks him as nothing but a troublemaker.
What do you think?
I sometimes privately think the Devil inspires trolls because given the low quality of public education he doesn't have any intellectual powerhouses to push his agenda. So he goes full Antifa mode instead. Which is sad. I rather enjoy the intellectually honest Atheists. They are lovely.Delete
So I thinks Prayers to Mary and St Michael are in order.
My wife and I say the rosary every day.
Saint Michael perhaps not often enough:
"Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen"
Good blog post. I enjoyed the full length article where you responded to Sterba. I recently had the chance to interview Joe Trabbic about his article on the doctrine of analogy: www.classicaltheism.com/trabbicReplyDelete
Love the podcast! I'm not always able to listen to every episode, but I catch as many as I can. Keep up the good work!
Thanks, T N!Delete
Is the Pauline Principle the same as the Principle of double effect? I am not familiar with the former term.ReplyDelete
Hi Tim, that's Sterba's name for the principle that we may never do evil that good may come of it. I say more about it in my original essay on Sterba.Delete
I would offer a succinct response: The principle of double effect (a) ASSUMES the Pauline Principle, and (b) refines it so that "do evil" is correctly understood in it, i.e. is qualified / narrowed under the appropriate conditions.Delete
"Thomists, like most other theists, hold that omnipotence does not include the power to do the logically impossible"ReplyDelete
Sure, but where is the strict logical impossibility in God making creatures who are "friends" with him without such creatures being subject to evil and suffering? There seems to be no logical incoherence in that idea. Indeed, according to Christianity, aren't unfallen angels exactly this sort of creature? So by Christianity's own lights this sort of creature is actual, and actuality entails logical possibility.
"...[supernatural] assistance was indeed offered to our first parents. Had they not rejected the offer, nature would not have taken its course"
What exactly does this mean? I presume that you (Ed, or others here with the same view) believe in the scientific consensus that humans evolved from previous primates, and that universal common descent is true, and that creatures have been suffering and struggling to survive for billions of years on Earth. How exactly would nature not have taken its course if Adam and Eve had not rebelled against God? For example, if Adam was about to stub his toe, would God have intervened miraculously so the stubbing wouldn't occur? Would God constantly intervene to make sure humans never got cancer, or fell from a deadly height, or burned their hand in a fire, etc? Would this supernatural assistance mean that humans would never (biologically) die?
And would this supernatural assistance apply to other creatures as well? Or would nature still be red in tooth in claw for nonhuman animals?
First, Feser is pointing out in that paragraph that suffering is a natural part of the life of finite creatures given their limitations. In light of this, Sterba's assumption that suffering is odd comes across as silly.
Second, Feser has talked about how one could reconcile biological evolution with the story of Genesis in part one and part two of "Modern Biology and original sin" and "Knowing an ape from Adam." Feser and the Christian thinkers he cites make a distinction between "biological species" and "philosophical species," arguing that there was, at a time, a population of humans who were human in the biological sense of having the genetics of homo sapiens but weren't human in the Aristotelian philosophical sense of being rational animals. God could have imbued a male and a female of that species with rationality and thus an immortal soul, making them humans both biologically and philosophically. They were our first parents, Adam and Eve. After the Fall, the children of Adam and Eve had intercourse with the non-rational biological humans, whose children were all rational animals, and this process continued until all humans today are rational animals. He goes into much greater detail on this theory in his posts, but suffice to say, I think it is a formidable theory that can't simply be laughed off. I'm not going to defend it here, however.
What I will do is point out that none of your questions after the first have anything to do with this theory. All of them have to do with the nature of God's supernatural assistance. The supernatural powers that God gave our primordial ancestors have been explored in the writings of the Scholastics. Adam and Eve had the supernatural gift of Grace - God's condescending to commune with man - and three preternatural gifts: infused knowledge, the integrity of passions, and bodily immortality. Infused knowledge gave them freedom from ignorance (meaning they knew all that they needed to know and more). Integrity of passions gave them the ability to control their desires perfectly. Bodily immortality gave them perfect health and immunity to sickness and death. These gifts were given specifically to Adam and Eve and would've been given to their children had the Fall not occurred.
"Feser is pointing out in that paragraph that suffering is a natural part of the life of finite creatures given their limitations"Delete
But suffering is not logically entailed by having limitations. There is no strict logical contradiction in the concept of a limited creature which does not suffer. And as I pointed out, this is affirmed by Christians insofar as they believe that unfallen angels are limited creatures who have never suffered.
"Bodily immortality gave them perfect health and immunity to sickness and death"
Okay, so let's suppose the fall never occurred. What if an earthquake happened and a building fell on a person, obliterating their body. How would God's supernatural assistance make this person immune to death in this situation? God would have to miraculously intervene to make the building avoid the person, or God would have to make the person's body as hard as titanium, or something like that. But all of this would mean that in such a world, God would be intervening virtually all the time to preserve human life and limb (and this is to say nothing about nonhuman animals - if nonhuman animals do not suffer or die in an unfallen world, then the amount of miraculous intervention necessary by God is even greater).
This unfallen world would be quite a "jerry-rigged" and physically ad hoc world to live in, and this doesn't really square up well with the classic idea that part of the elegance of God's creation is its operation through natural physical laws.
Unfallen angels exist in a state of supernatural grace, so you can't say that they don't suffer by their very nature. Suffering does indeed follow from their natural limitations. Supernatural grace simply helps them exceed these limitations through divine intervention. Thus, your example of unfallen angels is not a counterexample.
In an unfallen world in which humans had that kind of bodily immortality, I'd imagine that the people living there would be rather superhuman. Adam and Eve were getting their immortality from eating the fruit from the Tree of Life, and this, in turn, gave them gifts that, while beyond their nature, did not act contrary to it. I fail to see how this makes such a world inelegant.
And I notice you mentioned nonhuman animals, which I already said wouldn't be given God's supernatural and preternatural gifts.
“ But suffering is not logically entailed by having limitations. There is no strict logical contradiction in the concept of a limited creature which does not suffer. And as I pointed out, this is affirmed by Christians insofar as they believe that unfallen angels are limited creatures who have never suffered. ”
It depends on your perspective. If this life is like a larval stage of our full development as creatures, then maybe things need to look a bit ugly (from one perspective) for a while. A spoilt only child that gets everything they want, is protected from all consequences, and is regularly showered with praise, will often develop into a fairly obnoxious individual with stunted empathy and a lack of general decency. If they are suddenly refused that new games console they want, they feel hurt and angry.
A parent that gets angry with their child who keeps running into the busy road, and makes them temporarily feel really bad, could in good logic be said to love their child, despite deliberately making the child feel cruelly treated.
These are examples where the person who is the child does not understand what is in their best interest because they do not see the bigger picture. They have learnt enough to speak and think about things at one level, but their biggest problem is the assumption that they know close to everything.
On the point of Angels, they are very different to humans. They are created with powers and knowledge beyond our understanding from ‘birth’. However it is said that the angels that fell did so because they were jealous of the human race, that god gave us the choice to be sons (/daughters) of god, thereby elevating a portion of us above them. This is a very significant claim, but of course ignored by non theists in their clever arguments. We were made in the image of god, but unlike god who is innately good, as creatures we need to choose good. Which brings us on nicely to the fall.
“ This unfallen world would be quite a "jerry-rigged" and physically ad hoc world to live in, and this doesn't really square up well with the classic idea that part of the elegance of God's creation is its operation through natural physical laws.”
This is an assumption about what an unfallen world would be like. Evolution is the process of shaping the body from clay, so before the point of the fall, homo sapiens still suffered disease and death by other predators etc. The difference after the fall is in our state of consciousness, our “knowledge of good and evil”, a ‘quantum leap’ beyond mainly instinctual responses to the natural order of the world. Not only do we become more clearly able to make choices, we become aware that we are making choices. So we are now far closer to realising our nature of being in the image of god, being like little gods with our own will, but no longer naturally aligned to the order of nature (the natural telos), nor naturally aligned to the goodness of god.
So we often consciously choose badly. The natural order allows us to do this and gives us the ability to learn from it. If we learn well, we choose well, and become aligned with god. In reality the natural order that allows us to consciously learn like this is in a way too much for us to succeed to the point of really becoming aligned, and so god had to intervene, and share his innate goodness directly for those with a hunger to be true to our original telos. Scripture suggests this applies to a third of mankind, who will be “refined like silver in a furnace”.
So the fall is not a change where nothing ‘bad’ in your terms happened before. It’s the start of bad things happening due to our self conscious choice of bad things, which are like stones thrown into a pond and send ripples far and wide.
However it is said that the angels that fell did so because they were jealous of the human race, that god gave us the choice to be sons (/daughters) of god, thereby elevating a portion of us above them.Delete
Simon, in general Catholicism (and most Christian groups) acknowledge that even angels are unable to know God as He is in himself by the natural light of their own intellects, and they need to be elevated by grace to know Him and love Him perfectly, (i.e. in charity). That grace is essentially the same in angels and humans: it is a gifted participation in God's own divine life, for only God Himself is fully sufficient to know Him as He is in Himself. Thus both (the good) angels and our First Parents were "children of God" in the relevant sense.
I have heard, but do not know any provenance that makes it more than a mere pious guess, that Satan sinned out of pride / jealousy regarding, specifically, Mary the Mother of God: that a human being, whose natures are far below that of angels, would be raised up so that in the order of grace she would be above not only all humans but all angels. Since God is not limited, in granting supernatural grace, to granting just so much grace as is according to the NATURAL gifts of the recipient, He can (and does) raise up greater and lesser saints according to some other criterion than that of natural talent, and he can make a very great saint out of very poor human capacity, if He chooses. Thus he can make some human saints above the angels (or above some angels) in the order of grace, and others below.
So we often consciously choose badly. The natural order allows us to do this and gives us the ability to learn from it. If we learn well, we choose well, and become aligned with god. In reality the natural order that allows us to consciously learn like this is in a way too much for us to succeed to the point of really becoming aligned, and share his innate goodness directly for those with a hunger to be true to our original telos.
I agree that we can learn from bad choices. But in general, even without sin in the world, we could never have "learned" to love God as He is in Himself, because that requires a supernatural power, i.e. sanctifying grace. Further, a man who has turned away from God in deliberate grave sin cannot recover the state of grace by natural means alone, he can only come back to that state by a new grant of grace.
@Simon Adams. You seem to have borrowed your ideas on human growth, ability to choose etc., from Kant. Before the fall (even in a fictitious state of nature, and not in the actual unfolding of events) humans always had full possession of reason. Kant does indeed declare that the fall was part of the divine plan and a necessary step in the progress of man, but this isn't Christianity.Delete
@Mister Geocon, "the children of Adam and Eve had intercourse with the non-rational biological humans, whose children were all rational animals", an impossible hypothesis. As explained in the links you mention, such interbreeding with animals would only be possible because of similarities in behaviour between the two species. However such a scenario is impossible to entertain when one remembers that Adam's infused knowledge was not all lost through the fall. For the first humans to be brutish to such a degree and over a long period makes one wonder how the knowledge of the fall and our first parents ever reached us after (presumably) hundreds of thousands of years of utter darkness.Delete
It is easy to model this with a computer game. Free will and reason are two different things. Fully reasoning humans whose moral will is operated by angels would allow breeding with the operators of their own moral will who came through the gate from the garden (guarded by flashing swords until it was closed. It would be impossible for the children of Adam and Eve to tell.Delete
What miracle could not be imaged on a finite machine running a finite number? Which would be the image - the ordered finite number, or the infinite, unbiased random number which must contain all finite subsequences? Do you think the ordered finite number could comprehensively understand the infinite unpredictable number?
Since all created things are an image of God, this is especially true of a computer physically loaded with a finite number which would be the operating system, program, and data in memory. Therefore it would be a fine thing to use this favorite device of many of those who cannot handle that God exists to show that it implies that every miracle in the Bible can be a finite image installed in a computer. Then all that we have to remember is that it is the computer and its program that are the image of God, not the other way around. Sort of like reading a book that talks about God, which it images, but it's a running computer program.Delete
There is a huge potential in this image on a computer to kick down atheist argument, including things like modal collapse.
Mister Geocon's comment at 4:05 PM is somewhat troubling. Looking at the posts he cited one comes to the conclusion that the Adam and Eve and creation story in general is a myth - albeit one that contains no doctrinal error thanks to scriptural inerrancy, even though it may have been borrowed from pagan religions.Delete
However, Catholicism, and the words of Our Lord himself whenever speaking of such times, never question the account given of such matters in Genesis. Indeed, He reaffirms it at every turn.
Accepting Genesis as a myth that does not breach the boundaries of doctrinal inerrancy sounds more like the attitude of the kindest-hearted doubters of Amoris Letitia.
"I agree that we can learn from bad choices. But in general, even without sin in the world, we could never have "learned" to love God as He is in Himself, because that requires a supernatural power, i.e. sanctifying grace. Further, a man who has turned away from God in deliberate grave sin cannot recover the state of grace by natural means alone, he can only come back to that state by a new grant of grace."
I personally think this is a misunderstanding of predestination, a kind of protestant understanding. It's not that I disagree with your points, it's that we have genuine freedom in terms of how we respond to god's offer of grace, of how humbly we are open to it. I do not believe that scripture supports universalism, and I do believe that god is just.
From my perspective, your narrative as a response to my comments makes this whole life a bit pointless. Why doesn't god just allow us to skip this life, make us perfect and give us his grace, and take us directly to the next life, where there is no weeping? If we miss the fact that this life is a refining, and the refining is about learning to chose well, then we miss a crucial part of the story surely?
"You seem to have borrowed your ideas on human growth, ability to choose etc., from Kant. Before the fall (even in a fictitious state of nature, and not in the actual unfolding of events) humans always had full possession of reason. Kant does indeed declare that the fall was part of the divine plan and a necessary step in the progress of man, but this isn't Christianity."
My views are not from Kant, I just have a different (and fully christian) understanding of Genesis. God didn't make any mistakes in creation, it's 100% perfect. Exactly as it had to be, with all the tears, pain, tragedy and suffering. In the end, "All shall be well, and all manners of things shall be well."
If you spend some time in the wild, you get to know something of that 'primal innocence' that man once had, when we were the same as the rest of nature. We didn't work, instead we lived by pure instincts. We didn't lack intelligence as such, but we acted within nature. There is no such thing as guilt when living like that, because your actions are not consciously good or bad - just a hierarchy of given telos. Therefore there was no way to die spiritually. The fruit of the tree of life opened our eyes, so that we could be aware of our telos, and became active participants in the development of our own telos. This made us different from the nature around us, a feeling of being naked.
I don't see what this has to do with Kant to be honest, it's just Genesis.
@Simon Adams. It's very much like Kant actually. Have a read of his "Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of view" (a prototype of conservative ideology). Original sin is seen as part of nature's "secret plan" for human perfection. Early humans are brutes who gradually progress through innate forces of nature. Reason is seen as something that breaks with mindless obedience to the law of nature. Breaking with "natural instincts" by using reason was the cause of endless conflict and evil Kant affirms, but was unavoidable - a necessary step in the divine plan for human progress.Delete
But this isn't the Christian view at all. The reason of the first man was better developed than ours and he didn't conform to natural as well as divine law by "instinct"; his will and intelligence was in conformity. Nothing in the wild (unless we mean the modern suburb) is capable of innocence or guilt because it is amoral. In the state of innocence of the first humans, actions most certainly are good.
Your view of eyes being opened through original sin as a kind of progress willed by God is very much like Kant's thesis. Genesis, on the other hand, declares that in the state man was created he didn't suffer.
PS: I meant the tree of knowledge, not the tree of life.Delete
@ Miguel Cervantes. I’m willing to accept the wisdom of church tradition over my understanding, but I’ve read bits of the church fathers, Augustine etc on the story of Genesis, and don’t have a problem with those. Your view seems to have literalist elements, as if there were really only two homo sapiens on earth, and they literally had a chat with a talking snake. That would conflict with both scriptural and scientific evidence to the contrary, and as Pope JPII said so fittingly, “truth cannot contradict truth”. My view doesn’t conflict with anything in the catechism, so I don’t see why it’s “not Christian”.Delete
The two creation stories in Genesis are divinely inspired accounts of our origins, both the universe and as creatures. As such they are from the perspective of god, and therefore spiritual. For example, a day does not refer to a 24hr earth day, death is not referring to physical death, but to spiritual death.
For you to claim ‘superior reasoning’ ability of adam and eve seems baseless to me, both in scripture and in our limited science. Being aligned to god does not require superior reasoning abilities, it seems to me to be more a state where we don’t want alternatives to god. The nakedness is not a diminishing of the capability to reason, it’s a different way of seeing.
Also, I never claimed the fall as any type of “progress”. I claimed that god knew it would happen, and that it’s therefore part of his ‘plan’, as much as god’s perfect actions could even be called ‘a plan’.
I discussed these matters from the point of view of the Church, which "owns" Genesis, which is not a metaphor for changing modern theories. If we start talking about everything one can read into the texts there won't be any agreement. Please consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the subject of our two progenitors etc.Delete
The Church has always held that man was created in original justice - without suffering, with infused knowledge etc. You would have seen the problem of evil being fully discussed on this blog; suffice it to say that divine knowledge of human sin doesn't mean it is planned and willed by God.
To say that eating the forbidden fruit enabled us to become "active participants in the development of our own telos" is the same as saying that the fall was part of human progress, as Kant claimed. But he wasn't the only one by far to say this and I'm not trying to say you are a supporter of Kant, only that his theory affirmed the notion very explicitly.
What Kant's Essay shows is that evolutionism had a basis in anti-Christian philosophy long before Darwin crudely appllied it to biology. Unlike heliocentrism, which was neither here nor there as far as Catholic doctrine was concerned (many believing Christians were heliocentrists before Galileo), evolutionism in philosophy and biology has always been used as a means of questioning the Faith. Evolutionism was "believed" without any scientific basis before the nineteenth century. As for modern science, it's good as far as it goes but I don't "believe" evolutionism. All scientific theories can be questioned and should be. I believe the Church.
Yes we were shaped from clay, which describes evolution pretty well. The church has no problem with evolution theory as our best scientific description of the material process, it’s only really in the US where evolution theory is a problem. It’s not something to be “believed in”, it’s just our best theory so far.Delete
Because of the way science works, and the way god works, scientific theories will by definition always exclude god. That’s why they get stuck with absurdity with the big bang. For the materialist, that leaves evolution theory as the whole story, but to contest a valid and effective scientific theory because materialists think that it refutes our faith, is surely the wrong response? Augustine thought so.
Anyway we have evidence of homo sapiens going back well before Adam and Eve, and we have scripture showing their children coming across cities. I believe Adam and Eve were real, historical people, but your view makes no sense to me. I came to the Catholic church from atheism because I wanted to find truth, and I’m very comfortable with the truth I have found, ungraspable and enigmatic as it will inevitably remain.
@Simon Adams. The clearest and most detailed word of the Church on evolution remains that of the Pius XII encyclical. Far from saying the Church has no problem with it, he specified under what conditions experts in science and theology could “discuss” its possibility. The theory wasn’t contested merely because it had been weaponised against religion but because it popularised an image of man’s origins that was at odds with the faith. I somehow doubt the billions that have been spent to bolster evidence for the theory will ever be matched even to the thousandth degree by funding for alternative scientific explanations, and this doesn’t strike me as very scientific.Delete
Being shaped from clay could be seen as an image of evolution, but it doesn’t have to be. You need to be open to that too. In any case, I'm happy that you are in the Church. There are plenty of debates as you know and there's room for all.
Hi Miguel. I get fairly passionate about this because I think it’s a category error to argue for an “alternative scientific explanation” based on mechanistic creationism. Whatever good intentions there are, there is only one spiritual force that benefits from christians wasting energy arguing against evolution, and it’s not a good one.Delete
The theory will develop over time. Epigenetic inheritance was scientific heresy 20 years ago. Maybe the next leap will be something like morphic resonance. Whatever it is, it will not include god, because science deliberately avoids that conclusion, and god deliberately keeps himself hidden in explicit terms.
The last three popes have all made very clear statements on evolution. They all accept it as a scientific theory, but reject physicalist interpretations of it.
John Paul II: “ Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than a hypothesis.”
Benedict XVI: “ While there is little consensus among scientists about how the origin of this first microscopic life is to be explained, there is general agreement among them that the first organism dwelt on this planet about 3.5–4 billion years ago. Since it has been demonstrated that all living organisms on earth are genetically related, it is virtually certain that all living organisms have descended from this first organism. Converging evidence from many studies in the physical and biological sciences furnishes mounting support for some theory of evolution to account for the development and diversification of life on earth, while controversy continues over the pace and mechanisms of evolution.”
Francis: “ [God] created beings and allowed them to develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one, so that they were able to develop and to arrive at their fullness of being. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous presence, giving being to every reality. And so creation continued for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became what we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the creator who gives being to all things. ...The Big Bang, which nowadays is posited as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine act of creating, but rather requires it. The evolution of nature does not contrast with the notion of creation, as evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”
Sloppy language on my part. I didn't really mean an alternative scientific explanation for the universe. I meant to say that we won't see significant resources spent questioning the basis for evolution in the current ideological environment. Of course nature isn't God and no amount of biology or geology will "find" proof to the contrary, as you pointed out. The false impression given by the evolutionary hypothesis that we have explained how the universe developed is also a leap of faith that in this case is not justified, no matter how much academia satisfies itself that it has followed proper procedure.Delete
The text from Cardinal Ratzinger's advisory commission (before he became Pope) does not contract this. Pope John Paul was very explicit in leaving the final word on the subject to Pius XII. And that's where we are.
All Catholics must be open to, at the very least, the possibility that the making of man from clay in Genesis is not a metaphor. Another consideration should also be that the mistakes made by those who denounce evolution, whose science may well be questionable or ridiculous in many cases, does not excuse the other side from seriously questioning the theory if they are Christians. The notion that Adam and Eve were bred and raised to adulthood by animals without massive mental atrophy is just one motive - and no Pope would accept that there were people before Adam and Eve.
The problem is that by denying the validity of evolution theory as a scientific theory we act as if we are not interested in the truth. It’s a really fearful response, as if we’re desperately clinging on to something we don’t really believe in. Our lord is The Truth, the absolute of something we only ever get a dim hint of in the ideas upon which the relative facts and concepts of the world sit. So how can we be afraid of real facts and real evidence?Delete
I admit that there is a big and growing contingent of people claiming that evolution proves that the bible is wrong, even that god doesn’t exist. But we know they are wrong about that. It’s not a reason for us to make ourselves wrong about something, and end up with a plank in our eye. What we don’t know, is how god’s ideas shaped life on earth. Evolution theory tells us something of the mechanism, the “fitness landscape” tells us that something shapes it, something that seems to reach back to the big bang. How can we possibly understand this fully? We are not god. We have scripture that we have good reason to believe is true, which science cannot use, so we can build a wider overall picture. However any amalgamation of these two ways of knowing will always be speculative, because the science always changes. But the science that finds a continuous development of hominid species over millions of years will not change, and the important truths of scripture will not change.
God gave us reason, to allow us to make sense of the universe, and made the universe intelligible enough for us to be able to make sense of some small part of it. With the evidence we have, to be a young earth creationist is to believe that god created the world deceptively, making it look as if the processes we see today carried on into the past for millions of years. Countless layers of ancient sea beds filled with ancient creatures, lifted up to the tops of mountains over vast periods of time. Would he really trick us by emulating vast amounts of time?
Likewise with evolution, god would have to have been deceptive in making it seem like we are a branch on a tree of life that included apes, going back millions of years. In reality we know that god creates very differently from how we create. Consider the way he created a people for himself. He first revealed himself to the Jewish people, and only at a particular time did he actualise the final form, breathe his spirit into it.
If we are humble before his word, and trust it, then new understandings from science can help us to see it in new ways. He cannot be reduced to a mechanic anymore, although ironically this is a purely modern idea of creation. The breadth and depth of his creative will is so far beyond our conceptive powers that even our imagination is rightly stumped in awe. That’s a healthy place to be.
When i see the creation/evolution debate nowdays i aways wonder why exactly the creationist never suggests a form of scientific anti-realism or something like that and goes on with his life. Even if a form of creationism is true, evolution will still be the best scientific theory there is because no form of creationism can really fit the conditions to compete on the game.
Think with me, while the evidence points to evolution, all this says is that, for all we know, evolution is the best explananation of the data that can be seriously be considered scientific. Note that this does not mean that it is true, for the history of science is seeing the best explanation at some time losing its place later.
Personaly i do think that the theory of evolution is probably true, but i wonder why the creationist american spends so much energy trying to prove that the theory of evolution is not the best scientific theory we have nowdays when it being the best theory does not shows it is true.
Greetings Simon. I don't think it's fearful to demand that some fraction of the resources that have been spent substantiating evolution by convinced evolutionists be devoted to questioning it. It strikes me as a very scientific approach.Delete
If a biologist were transported back to the Garden Of Eden in a Tardis and came face to face with Adam and Eve lacking navels, would God have "tricked" him"? If God can make the universe out of nothing, the creation of the first humans as adults lacking navels should not be too difficult. I don't say this was the only possibility (although that is what is said in Genesis, where there's nothing about taking a simian rather than taking clay) but we have to be more than open to this possibility. I notice that you are still silent on this point; are you sure it is not you who is forcing God to adopt the means of creation that you are most comfortable with? I also think a distinction needs to be between the development of the universe and the creation of man. The young earthers might be as wrong about that as the evolutionists could be about the arrival of man.
Certainly we should welcome all that science can discover through its work. However, what most people now believe as certain as night and day isn't science (and definitely not religion). The evidence for the evolution of men is not a final as you seem to think. It comes in bits and pieces and the efforts at joining the dots suffer major cut and pasting every couple of decades now. The mountain of new knowledge that comes to light every day can't hide the fact that it constantly raises new problems with many theories, and not just evolution. I don't think you should put your faith in the dogma that evolution will "find a way", come what may, to maintain what validity it has. Keep an open mind. We are still where we were at the time of Pius XII, who lamented the dogmatism with which it is taught in educational institutions. The only thing which is dogma is religion, which doesn't have to be forced to fit the most recent scientific theory (as regards Genesis and what is meant to be a metaphor for it etc.). It is science that must fit religion, as St. Thomas says. If it doesn't, then it's back to the drawing board.
Yes, we ought to evaluate whether scientific theories do or do not in fact contradict religion. But this should not be done by contorting dogma out of recognition.
Hello Talmid. Obviously the energy used by creationists in the US and elsewhere is a result of the use that has been made by evolutionism as an explanation of the world without God, and therefore, the pillar of atheism. Yes, it might not have to be that way, but it is.
@Talmid. Yes I agree completely. I think it’s very helpful to think of modern science (even mankind) as being in a teenage stage of development. There is a touch of arrogance at being able to influence the world, as well as dreams of unlimited opportunity that just need a couple of tweaks in direction to make it happen. This is mixed with a kind of atychiphobia that reinforces a nominalist, empiricist and physicalist ontology. Once you accept that this is where science is, then you can be realistic about what you can expect from it.Delete
There are some signs that we may be nearing the start of the end of this teenage phase, at least in physics if not in biology and neuroscience yet. But the way to influence a teenager perhaps more by setting a good example, rather than forcing them to listen to your music.
I do fully understand the concerns that people have with the materialist narrative that nearly everything is explained in purely mechanistic physical terms, and that there is no space for god in this. This has a powerful effect on kids and the wider public in general. But making up junk science is the very worst way to confront this.
As you say, one option is to just get on with living your life and increasing god’s presence in it. You can always respond to issues on this with a wry smile, and “Yes of course, the wonders of the universe all just appeared from nowhere..”. However we can also agree to disagree with the physicalist epistemology and ontology, and address the assumptions at that level. That is where the errors exist, not in the science. The science of course has problems, in it’s ontological assumptions, in it’s unforeseen long term impacts, in it’s amoral context, and in the delusion of every age that we almost understand everything. But wasting energy on creating bad theories to replace diligent and effective theories, just because we don’t like the conclusions some people draw from them, is far worse than pointless.
“ If a biologist were transported back to the Garden Of Eden in a Tardis and came face to face with Adam and Eve lacking navels, would God have "tricked" him"? If God can make the universe out of nothing, the creation of the first humans as adults lacking navels should not be too difficult. I don't say this was the only possibility (although that is what is said in Genesis, where there's nothing about taking a simian rather than taking clay) but we have to be more than open to this possibility.”
I would need a reason to believe this, and I don’t have one. The only reason to believe this would be a literalist reading of Genesis, and it seems clear to me that the account was never intended to be read that way.
I don’t want to tell you what you should believe. If you really think that Adam and Eve were created fully formed, with no belly buttons but with all the strange evolutionary records our bodies contain including including the likes of the reptilian parts of the brain, then that’s of course your choice. There are certainly many unexplained mysteries, even simple things like why we have no hair. However you do end up with a very strange account of things, with everything else evolving and leaving fossils along the way, and then man is created to look just like the other hominds that had evolved from apes. It’s a weird story where god seems to be reduced to an alien tinkering with genetic cloning.
I do understand the concern with evolution theory, in that it insists on random mutations and environmental fitness as the only factors. But imagine that the way god shapes these things is from outside of time, that in the instant of the big bang, he knew exactly how it needed to be started for life to develop as he pleased, including two specific humans that would be the first to be in his image (i.e spiritually, from his breath). If that was the case, then how could we ever come up with an alternative theory of evolution that supports a theistic ontology? I’m not saying that this is how he created us, it’s impossible for us to know without specific revelation. However it would not contradict Genesis, or evolution theory, and it’s surely not beyond his power. So in this possible case, what alternative theory of evolution could we propose?
I agree that the creationists on the EUA(and more,even here i see some nowdays) are mostly moved by a reaction to the atheistic interpretations of the theory, that is sure true. I also want to remember again that i have no problem with evolution being true and think that it probably is.
I just wonder why exactly the strategy is to try to fit as a scientific theory a view that is not capable of fitting, even if true, when you can just stop the atheist and say "yea, evolution is sure the best scientific theory we have, but this does not means it is true, just that it is the best theory today between the ones science can accept". Once you remove the naive scientific realism, it is hard to see why one should not just laught at the guys than say that Darwin refuted Genesis.
Well, i agree that one has to accept the best theories we have unless one is a actual scientist and has a better one. The bits about the today paradigm are true as well.
What i'am saying is more of a epistemological point: a scientific theory being the best one we have does mot say much about reality. By its very nature, the scientific method can at most give us the most likely option between hypothesis. Not only it can't properly refute completely the other options but it can only compare the ones that obey certain rules.
Even with the theory of evolution being the best scientific theory we have, we can aways find new data that favors another known option or provokes a paradigm-shift that changes the theory or maybe what truly explains the diversity of life is a option that can't be considered scientific but is actually true.
This means that the creationist that see Genesis as needing to be read on a non-evolutionist way and this interpretation as being a acurate description of what happened before can just say that evolution winning the scientific game is thanks to a limitation of the data or of the scientific method itself. Why exactly the creationist movement never thinks in doing that i don't know.
@Talmid. My assumption is that the young earth / young species creationists have a specific motivation in challenging the science, and one that is very well intentioned. I think they see it as defending the faith, even defending god, against a soulless and godless account of our existence. It’s an admirable intention, but I just don’t see how it could ever work. It’s like trying to wind back to a “biblical truth” on the horizontal, as a mechanism of history, when before Newton, Descartes and Galileo, this truth was primarily on the vertical, as an unfolding of god’s ideas.Delete
So I’m essentially agreeing with you. I am a creationist - the universe was created by god, and he crested us in his image - and I fully believe that there is literal truth in the biblical account. It’s layered with meaning, as all scripture is, and the plain reading of it is not in any way invalid. However it’s a spiritual account, not a scientific description of physical mechanism. We are so indoctrinated by the physicalist cartesian ontology now that we often can’t even see the difference. We consider god as travelling through time (though it’s never clear to me whose time he is supposed to be following), tinkering away in the background like some invisible ghost with a spanner. I feel uncomfortable challenging people’s ideas of god as who am I to interfere with their relationship, and I certainly can’t write anything that will describe exactly how He is transcendent through and beyond everything, and yet at times immanent in our lives. But it seems to me that the more the young earth / young species creationists argue their points, the more they hide god from people who have a genuine spiritual hunger for Him.
Greetings, Simon. I can't see why you need a reason to believe God can produce a fully formed human giving the appearance of being old. Many aspects of Genesis that have to be read literally by Catholics, like the special creation of man (indeed every new human being through the provision of a soul), two progenitors of all humanity etc., might have no sense for dogmatic evolutionists, but you have said you're not one of those. This is where the Church does have the right to tell science it has limitations. And, as Catholics, we don't have the right to decide how the Church's scriptures ought to be interpreted.Delete
As you say, we don't know exactly how God created the world or people. It doesn't mean we have to accept evolution because there's nothing else in the market of human explanations. For me the important thing is knowing that God did in fact create. Again (fourth time now) I have to insist that we allow for the possibility that God did create man fully formed.
The similarities presented in homology don't prove evolution or disprove direct creation. It's only natural that something as specific as life in all its forms have similarities (all have water and carbon etc). Genetics only reflects the similarities and differences in structure and chemical composition. As for genetics proving the parenthood of all life forms - there are plenty of anomalies that also put evolutionary dogma under a cloud (and we don't have the genetic makeup of the first instance of life of course). What would be strange would be the creation of man as something completely alien to the rest of living things; man as a composite of silicon body and soul would indeed seem odd. So similarity of all kinds is not conclusive of anything really.
Even when the Catholic admits the theoretical possibility of evolution as the mechanism for the production of the "material" for the human body, because of Catholic dogma we can't hold that our progenitors were the bestial, grunting hominids presented by standard evolutionists as the first humans. For us, an intelligent, articulate, decent, well-mannered Adam is not only possible but essential, because we know he possessed infused knowledge (whose effects on his behavior and culture did not vanish because of original sin, we are informed by theology). While some aspects of Genesis like the seven days and breath of God can indeed be taken as metaphors (though the meaning in old Hebrew also comes into play), other aspects are historical, including the lives of Adam and Eve. This means that the dogmatic evolutionist cannot be satisfied even by the position of Pius XII. The theory remains somewhat of a problem for its true believers because it puts them at odds with things which we know by faith as certain. The Church gave its last word (so far) on what is within the realm of possibility with Pius XII. It's up to science to correspond by ensuring its work cannot do the impossible - contradict the faith. We are still waiting for a proper reply.
We will have to agree to disagree, as you are putting your faith in elements of theology that are not certain. In doing so you are risking the big things which are certain. You describe hominids before Adam and Eve as "bestial and grunting, which - apart from sounding arrogant - leaves you with other problems. Who do you thin built Catal Huyuk over 9000 years ago? Who created the Venus figurines 30-40 000 years ago? Who was using mathematical objects like the The Lebombo Bone 44 000 years ago? Who created and coloured the shell beads at the Blombos Cave in South Africa 70 000 years ago?
I just don't see why we would chose to keep our heads in the sand on all the things that have been found. The church has played a leading role in our understanding of creation. From genetic inheritance to the Big Bang, it was Catholics who lead the way. In fact you could argue that science itself is a product of the church. When it became clear that the geocentric understanding was not correct, we accepted that even though the very roots of human understanding are themselves geocentric, our use of language and our symbolic representations, eventually causing a big mess in philosophy.
What has now changed such that we would deny such simple and clear evidence? It seems to me that this is mostly driven by US protestant literalism, as I just don't see a big proportion of catholics outside of the US having a problem with evolution as a point in time best scientific theory, missing god as all scientific theories by necessity will.
For me, this quote of Augustine applies;
"Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of the world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [quoting 1 Tim 1:7].”
The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Vol 2
Greetings Simon. The science that St. Augustine refers to is the more certain one of the movement of celestial bodies, seasons, or how many legs dogs have, that we are able to verify by reason and experience. Experience can hardly verify evolution in the same way. The inferences that are made from the fossil record, genetics etc., can be debated in a way that that the things Augustine speak of cannot.Delete
The artifacts you mention were made by people, but they didn't live before Adam. On this point there is no room for disagreement among Catholics. I really can't work out what basis you can have in Catholic doctrine for such an idea.
My point about evolution's picture of the first people as bestial grunters was precisely that Adam and Eve could not have been such characters. Pius XII again, on Adam's infused knowledge: "On the day when God formed man and crowned his brow with His own image and likeness… He taught him agriculture, how to care and cultivate the garden in which He had placed him; led him to all the beasts of the fields and all the birds of the air so that man might name them. And he gave to each of them its true and fitting name… Man is great, and he was greater when created" (30/11/41).
I have to insist that the Church's view of the first man is what is certain. What is not certain is the standard picture "science" gives of him as a bestial grunter. The question of human origins is not comparable to that of heliocentrism because the faith is intimately bound up in the first but not in the second. Of course science might be seen historically as a product of the Church. But science has also been misused as a weapon against truth in recent times. The sanction of "peers" is no guarantee of truth far too often. I can't say if evolution will end up being regarded in the same light as once respected theories of social science and psychology have been. The way "orthodox" climate science deals with opposition is instructive in how the politics of "peer approval", allocation of resources etc work these days. None of this is what St. Augustine was talking about. And if it was, none of the instances of scientific knowledge could have affected Christian doctrine. Evolutionary dogmatism concerning our first two progenitors does. We are all still waiting for a "peer approved" school of evolution to depict Adam as Pius XII did.
It all adds up to shame and ridicule for science, not the faith.
Hi Miguel. In 200 years time, assuming that we haven’t destroyed ourselves, and god has not brought this creation to an end, our current science will look very primitive. Nonetheless there are some things that won’t have changed. The dating of the Blombos Cave beads uses two different dating techniques that both agree with each other, and it sounds to me like diligent archeology in terms of the different checks they did. So you have to then be claiming a date for Adam of more than 70 000 years old. When you get to 40 000 years ago, you start to get huge amounts of solid data from cave paintings to venus figures etc.Delete
Then you have the gradual development of stone tools over the last MILLION years, and I presume you deny all of that despite the evidence from hundreds of sites across the continents?
You are in a very difficult situation by taking this position, because apart from having mountains of solid evidence against your views, effectively making it look like a faith not interested in truth, you also have catholic schools and universities around the world teaching content that you claim refutes our faith. A house divided cannot stand.
Fortunately the Church outside of the US doesn’t really have this problem. Certainly I don’t see any problems with Pius XII‘s words that you quote, they are in the same spirit as Genesis. If you look at the actual words of Humani Generis, Pius is not concerned “with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter”. The reason for this is that “the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God”. In other words, it IS NOT A MATTER OF FAITH THAT THE BODY WAS CREATED IMMEDIATELY. He does mention that the evidence for the theory is not 100% convincing at that point, but that is where John Paul II confirmed that further developments and discoveries had moved the position on from Humani Generis so that evolution theory is no longer a mere hypothesis: “fresh knowledge leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than just a hypothesis."
So the church doesn’t have the same problem that a portion of catholics in the US have. I do sympathise as it’s clear from social media that it really is a battle there, between a mainly protestant, literalist christianity, and an often arrogant, mechanistic atheism. It’s not a healthy battle, people think they are ‘fighting’ for god, but mostly they just seem to be fighting for bad science.
Again, i do agree that the theory is likely true. What i was asking is more why exactly the creationists try to prive that evolution is not our best scientific theory when they could just accept that it is and point out than this does not show it is true.
The average materialist tends to see what is the best scientific theory and what is true as the same but there is no necessary connection between both. The creationist could make his life easier if he used that distinction as his basis. That is my point.
@Talmid. I think there is a problem going down that route, because you will get pulled into having a view on many other disciplines and evidence beyond biology, including archeology, anthropology, various techniques from physics and chemistry used for dating etc. We have prehistoric ‘digs’ all over the place. If you stick to a literalist interpretation of Genesis, I can’t see how you can possibly explain all of this, other than inventing new versions of all the sciences that start with an essentially physicalist interpretation of Genesis instead of the scientific process. That’s never going to end well, or look good.Delete
I hadn’t read all that Pius XII had written on this, and can feel the tension of him trying to walk a tightrope, on the one hand accepting evolution with reasonable caveats, but on the other almost suggesting a dualism to retain the literal truth of Genesis (with the body described as “pre-existing matter”). I don’t see this tension so much in more recent popes, and have more of a sense that they’re trying to leave a door slightly ajar for those who have a more literalist interpretation, purely for the sake of unity. However I do think we need to move away from imposing a physicalist mindset onto god. I don’t see Augustine, Eriugena, Duns Scotus or even Aquinas having this pseudo-physicalist ontology that many now retrospectively apply to the likes of Aquinas. From god’s perspective, “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”. If god has an idea of Adam, from outside of time, where in Genesis does it describe in detail how that idea folds out into the particulars of the material world? My imagination can get some very dim hint of how this may happen at a spiritual level, and I can’t say if that is anything at all like the reality. However I can say for sure that it looks nothing like what Miguel is describing. God is a spiritual potter, with divine ideas that shape and seed the process of creation. There is just no need with our great catholic tradition of saints and philosophers to rely on the materialist and literalist interpretation of Genesis that has come from Protestantism in the last 300-400 years.
Greetings Simon. I don't see what difference it makes for Adam to have lived 70.000 years ago. Science in 200 years will absolutely drastically lengthen or shorten the dates, if the last few decades are anything to go by. By all means enjoy the scientific theory that has the most support now, but don't put your faith in it still being around in 200 years time. Over time, these theories can always be questioned and fall; that's science. Why should we surprised to see primitive culture and technology in the distant past? Such a thing was typical of the vast majority of the world until a few hundred years ago. Evolutionary dogma tends to make scientists seek things which aren't there. Take the Neanderthals. After generations of being fed the line that they were subhuman, it now turns out that they were far more cultured than we were led to believe, that they built houses (their famous caves being shelters while they were out hunting). Keep an open mind - it's scientific.Delete
Pius XII didn't say evolution as a means of producing the material for the first man was "acceptable" or "OK". He said it could be discussed by scientists and theologians as a possibility. He lamented evolutionary theories being taught as if they were fact. Nor did Pope John Paul II say the evidence for evolution was 100% convincing. He said it was more than a hypothesis, which is true, and doesn't contradict the last sentence.
It is a matter of faith that there were no people before Adam. That the first man was also a historical person imbued with infused knowledge, as described by Pius XII in the that earlier quote, is also a matter of faith. This is contracted by evolution as it is taught throughout the world today. This is not a case of the Church failing to come to grips with science. It is scientific theory rejecting what we know by the Faith, simply because it cannot yet provide physical proof of such a thing (and because, in its current state of irreligion, that is the last thing "peer approved" science would wish to find). It is a clear case of science intruding on the territory of the faith.
The Church is in a bit of crisis these days for letting in the spirit of the world and its ideologies. It would be incredible if there wasn't a lot of equivocating over this issue in its educational institutions, which have become expert in producing generations of people who don't believe or practice the faith. I agree that Protestants don;t really understand what the Bible is. Nevertheless, the Church has made it clear that Genesis is not a charming folk story borrowed from heathens.
Science doesn’t reject what we know by faith. There are some things that are clear, namely that the human body developed over millions of years from simpler creatures. This will not change. The idea that evolution is driven by purely random mutations, could change. But it really doesn’t matter, as the unfolding of our essence from the divine idea is not something that will be part of science in our lifetime for certain.
There is no problem, just misunderstandings of both theists and atheists. It’s like two tribes, with one arguing that the sky is blue, and the other that the sky is black. it’s a waste of energy and turns people away from both.
Greetings again Simon. Perhaps you should say true science does not, and can not contradict the faith.Delete
However, any science that claims the first man was a bestial grunter does contradict the faith, because the first man was not merely something that might be squared with the definition of man as a rational animal. The first man was a historical figure known as Adam, who had infused knowledge, as depicted by Pius XII. Therefore, such science claims more than it can possibly know. Science CAN NOT prove that the first man was not what and who we know he was by the Faith. There is no misunderstanding here.
You claim the theory of evolution will not change. This is an act of faith that applies only to religious dogma.
Hi Miguel. Just to be clear, I am certain that evolution theory will change. I am also 100% against the scientism that treats scientific theories as equivalent to truth.Delete
I’m also equally comfortable saying that Adam and Eve were historical people, even that they were our “first parents”. However as soon as you suggest that they were not born from other homo sapiens, or that god literally and immediately in time shaped Eve from the rib of Adam, then I think you are confusing god’s perspective from man’s perspective.
We are very limited in what we can really understand of these things. But there is no reason in our tradition or scripture, to put faith of certainty in human assumption that conflicts with evidence. There were homo sapiens well before the historical time of Adam, we know this. Ask any catholic anthropologist. So why make up stories that Cain and Abel married their sisters and other such contortions to to fit an interpretation of scripture that we now know is not correct?
Greetings Simon. I must really be out of touch. I don’t know of one Catholic (or non-Catholic) anthropologist who affirms that Homo Sapiens existed before Adam; they would need evidence of when he lived to be able to claim such a thing.Delete
You claim not to have embraced scientism because you think evolution might be modified over time. However you dogmatically adhere to the theory that man’s body evolved over time from simpler organisms because “this will not change”. The next unfortunate step is to put this “truth” above that of things you suggest are something created from “man’s perspective”. But God can make a human body out of nothing, with or without a navel, and he can make a woman out of Adam’s rib. Adam was also the first human – this is Catholic doctrine. It’s true that our knowledge of science does not bear out these facts or possibilities, but the Faith is not experimental science.
The attitude of those who think Church doctrine must fit the way they see the world (conditioned by scientific theory in this case) is actually very like that of Protestant fundamentalists, who believe the Bible must be interpreted according to their individual lights. The Bible is one of the texts the Church draws its doctrine from, as well as a record of things that support its claims. The interpretation of these texts is up to the Church. Pius XII had the last clear and detailed word on this subject. It is rather remarkable that subsequent Popes have not substantially modified it considering the times we live in. This is an important area for the Faith and not to be touched lightly.
I do understand your concerns Miguel, and I certainly don’t claim to have a better understanding than the Magesterium. I just think we have a responsibility to not only to be faithful to the truths god has revealed to us, but also to be credible to the world as people who value truth. There are many searching for meaning, as the empty philosophies of relativism and materialism leave people hungry and hollow. God has given us the only food that can really satisfy that hunger, and called us to share this gift. We must be “wise as serpents, and innocent as doves”, which surely must include an awareness of the fact that many otherwise honest and diligent people see this literalist interpretation of Genesis as a step too far beyond reason.Delete
I’m sure many of the Scribes and Pharisees thought that they were being true to god and their tradition by putting all their inherited rituals above the heart of the law, but that lead them to oppose Jesus himself.
It’s possible that god just wants us to stick to our inherited position on this. If the holy spirit brings someone to the faith, surely that can overcome dogma that conflicts with evidence. It may even be that the goats are being separated from the sheep, and these barriers that keep people from the church are deliberate. But whilst I accept that possibility, god has not given me a reason to believe we should act as if that it the case, keeping the draw bridge high. So whilst I will remain obedient to the church, and will certainly not join all these “rad trad” rebels who reject the pope and the declarations of the magisterium, I must remain true to myself in my best understanding of things, dim, limited and sometimes mistaken as that may be. Jesus last words to Peter were “feed my sheep”, and I think there is a literalist gate keeping some sheep away from the food.
Simon, nobody wants to keep the sheep away from their food or raise drawbridges to those who wish to join the faith. You know the faith is inseparable from doctrine; it’s not a question of either charity or dogma. This argument really gets us nowhere. It’s a bit like those who said Paul VI was closing the Church to those who used contraception by writing Humanae Vitae. I doubt whether the acceptance of Church dogma is more difficult for the non-Christian than the practice of charity is for all of us.Delete
In this case, it is the Faith the sheep are looking for that declares that Adam was the first man (no room here for discussion of literal or non-literal acceptance), and that God CAN create man directly from slime, and woman from that man’s rib. There’s no contradiction between any of this and science. Human science cannot possibly disprove it; it simply couldn’t explain it.
Evolutionary theory is not a truth. All such science can be questioned in the light of evidence and the doctrines of the faith are not in this category. I don’t claim to have any great understanding and therefore rather than relying on my views which may be mistaken, I rely on the Church. To have faith in the Church on these matters, I can’t declare that I’ll follow as long as it conforms to my own idea of how God can create. We don’t have to disprove evolution to be able to say that it has left science and intruded on religious ground when it affirms that the first man wasn’t Adam, or that he was a bestial grunter, or that he could not have been created directly out of slime.
The fanaticism of dogmatic evolutionists comes from their faith in it as the explanation of the universe. Even those who feel “religious” about the universe tend to identify it with God. They can’t bear to think of a personal God who speaks and intervenes in the life of the world. I predict that, if confronted with definitive evidence that evolution is untenable, they will return to “the universe is eternal” belief of the pagans. It’s all pretty much the same thing for them all: God is nature. But Christianity is radically different, which is why it’s so nourishing.
You may find this excellent text useful…Delete
I'm not sure what the relevance of this article is to the subject, Simon. Jean Borella is a defender of Guenon and Traditionalism. Yes. I can well imagine that such people defend evolutionism as the work of God because they fail to distinguish nature from God correctly. They're not Christian.Delete
I can only recommend you read Aquinas, the antidote to all naturalism and evolutionism. It's true that esoterists often like be associated with Thomism, even though it rejects the ground they stand on. But that's part of their illogical, romanticist character. One has only to look at de Maistre; chock-a-block with heresies but determined to see the Catholic Church as a vehicle for his ideas. One meets such people all the time... They never learn.
It was just an example discussing elements of the hierarchy of being. From this more Augustinian/‘Franciscan’ perspective you can have the divine ideal of man unfolding from a seed of the essence/logos across time and space, to a point where god sees that idea realised in a specific individual. It’s an older way of seeing things, more Platonic than the newly re-discovered Aristotle, but arguably closer to Aquinas than many modern interpretations of him. It’s a way of seeing Genesis that doesn’t conflict with the evidence, even though it of course tells a very different story to the materialist assumptions of evolution theory.Delete
Anyway I think we can agree to have different takes on this. Ultimately we both accept the determinations of the magisterium, and we can just pray that god guides the church to always seek truth and avoid error.
Greetings Simon. Both Plato and Aristotle made mistakes on a metaphysical level of things concerning God and it is for the Church to judge this. If you can find support from either St. Augustine or St Thomas for any idea that creation grew out of God and is not something essentially distinct from him, or for creation as a kind of evolution comparable to what is understood by the term, you ought to produce it. Borella's opinions don't make the grade. Achtung. He is someone who, by definition, does not submit to the Church's magisterium as we do.Delete
You can take pretty much all the Church Fathers for this way of thinking. However we’ll stick with Augustine:Delete
“ "Ideas are certain original forms of things, their archetypes, permanent and incommunicable, which are contained in the Divine intelligence. And though they neither begin to be nor cease, yet upon them are patterned the manifold things of the world that come into being and pass away.”
The quote is not an example of this way of thinking.Delete
Professor Feser says:ReplyDelete
For another thing, since we have in fact sinned, we merit punishment.
So, it must always be logically possible for God to offer us his friendship without first permitting horrendous evil consequences of immoral actions to be inflicted on ourselves or anyone else, and if God were all-good, then he would always be doing just that.
Sterba seems to ignore the fact that if the evil dictators' horrendous plans and intentions - even if deprived of effect - would require punishment. And, the more horrendous the intention, the more horrendous the punishment. Sterba's notion of a God who either succesfully ropes in good people to prevent the Hitlers from achieving their perfidious goals, or steps in and blocks those achievements, doesn't do ANYTHING about the needed punishment due for those evil plans and intentions. So, horrendous suffering would still come into being. Therefore, the good God getting rid of evil results is not enough: Sterba would need to have God get rid of evil INTENTIONS as well.
Some atheists have argued in this vein, as well, but Sterba doesn't - he seems to think it sufficient that God make sure the evil plans don't come to fruition. The emptiness of that plan in the idea of how a universe could be rid of grave suffering, though, should give Sterba a little hesitation in asserting "what a good God 'should' do".
The easiest way to respond, I think, is what Thomas says about the "evils" in the natural world: animals are eaten by predators, and in turn are killed by other agents (e.g. bacteria). God intend, PRIMARILY, the order of the whole universe, which includes within it as a specific feature that some animals are prey to others. This is PART OF the beauty of the universe: it is a feature, not a bug. Ecologists remind us constantly of the beauty of the complex whole which functions almost like a single living entity. You can't take wolves out of the picture without damaging the picture. But wolves "cause suffering" to their prey. The Thomist answers: you are equating that suffering with "evil" simply speaking, and that's not how God views it. That is, it is properly speaking "evil in a sense" and not "evil absolutely." When you understand the good properly, the "evil" in a wolf eating a rabbit is "evil in a sense" and yet "good more properly".
Why would intentions require punishment? that's not as obvious as you seem to suggest.
Furthermore, the order of the universe does not require that some animals are prey to others.
Of course the order of a universe in which animals are preys requires that some animals are preys, but there is no requirement for such a universe to exist rather than one in which there are no preys.
Suffering is "part of the beauty" of a universe that was intended to include suffering, in the way a painting of intense misery is "beautiful" in that it depicts what it intends to depict.
But that does not mean that intending a universe with suffering is beautiful or good.
God is supposed to be omnipotent, that is an outrageous claim, which means that God can do everything that is not logically impossible.
Now, unless you can show (not just assert) that God could not have created a universe without suffering, the default position is that God can do it. God, being omnipotent, doesn't require "evil in a sense", unless He is such that He wants evil in a sense, but that would make Him, at least partially, evil.
Walter, I do not need to show that God could not have made a universe without suffering. Certainly he could: he could have created a universe consisting of a single proton.Delete
My point is that many non-theists consider this universe, that holds predators and prey, to be beautiful and admirable. They do so in spite of the suffering that prey suffer in being eaten. Now, maybe they are WRONG to consider such a universe admirable, but it is your burden to show it, not mine. I am merely pointing to the phenomenon that exists: people holding the universe beautiful and admirable without attribution to God, and in their reckoning the suffering thus included is (somehow, in their minds, however they do the reckoning) adequately met by the larger goodness they see.
Why would intentions require punishment?
Because they are sins. St. Thomas says "Nevertheless the order of justice belongs to the order of the universe." In a universe that holds moral beings (i.e. beings capable of moral good and moral evil) moral choices deserve reward or punishment according to their merit or demerit. Hence a universe that God creates with moral beings holds rewards and punishments.
Sin in the intentions is deserving of punishment, as is sin carried out in actions. Indeed, since sin carried out in action is the outward reflection of sin first formed in intention, due punishment more regards the intention than the action. The proper locus of the sin is fundamentally in the will, where the intention is made determinate by the will adhering to good or evil.
Hence a good God who creates a universe with moral beings who then will evil would be a universe that has punishment. The greater the evil intended, the greater the punishment.
Furthermore, Thomas's point is actually more general than merely about predators killing prey: inherent in a physical universe is the availability of the corruption of such material beings. It is not limited to living things: an amino acid can corrupt into its component atoms, a uranium atom can corrupt into smaller components, and even a proton can corrupt. That these things are not aware of the corruption as a kind of suffering doesn't affect the conclusion he makes: Now, the order of the universe requires, as was said above (I:22:2 ad 2; I:48:2), that there should be some things that can, and do sometimes, fail. And thus God, by causing in things the good of the order of the universe, consequently and as it were by accident, causes the corruptions of things,. In order to have a universe of things made out of material components, they must necessarily be capable of failing, for to be composed of parts implies the possibility of DIS-associating into parts. And to be capable of action in fact implies not merely the POSSIBILITY of failing, but implies at least sometimes that some material beings will fail: for water to form, hydrogen and oxygen must give up (cease) their independent being.Delete
A whole complex universe with no operation whatsoever, i.e. is totally static, is obviously an unfitting universe, but a universe that has material things operating has corruption of complex things in order to form other things. The "evil" of such cessations is, therefore, to be referred to the good of the whole order, of which it is a part.
(Such change is also apparent within an organic living thing: the very operation of its internal parts implies the corruption of some sub-components in order to generate other sub-components. Thus, we don't even need to go so far as one being attacking another to see examples of such change, and still call it - looking at the whole - GOOD.)
You do need to show that God could not have created a universe with sentient beings and no suffering.
That non-theist consider this universe to be in some sense beautiful is beside the point. Most non-theists (as well as theists) do find beauty as well as ugliness in the universe and one of the points of the Problem of evil is that there should not be any ugliness at all if the universe is the product of an all-good and omnipotent being.
That (evil) intentions require punishment because they are sins begs the question. Punishment is needed to prevent evil actions because those actions harm others. If there are no actions that harm others, there is no need for punishment. If there is no possibility of a fire anywhere, it would be silly to say that a fire-brigade is required.
Your comment about Thomas about a physical universe actually make my point. of course if it was God's intention to create a universe with the possibility of corruption, there would be a universe with the possibility of corruption.
But the point is that, for an all-good being to even intend such a thing would be evil, and, hence, impossible.
The all-good being in order to create anything at all necessarily needs to will less than perfect goodness, otherwise he'd be willing nothing but himself. The convertability of goodness and being shows the falsehood of the claim of logical impossibility, since to be is better than not to be. It's not for nothing that the possible world with horrendously suffering rabbits is consistent with such a conception of God. There's no world so bad that God couldn't create it. Due to him not being an univocally moral agent, unless God himself inflicts, rather than merely permits, the suffering, it's consistent with his perfect goodness, since the limitation isn't willed as such.Delete
Gerson in his paper on the necessity of evil draws the important point out quite well. The further up we step on the ontological ladder, the more imperfect the beings become. Take through human form for example, to which every human strives as it represents our perfected state. Unless we are said form, we are necessarily less than perfect than it, in fact it's impossible for us to be that perfected state and still be ourselves. This means that if the creature is willed, it's necessarily imperfect. But that also makes it obvious that there are additional assumptions to be in order to show impossibility. In fact if being is indeed good, then the assumptions are positively false
Your comment about Thomas about a physical universe actually make my point. of course if it was God's intention to create a universe with the possibility of corruption, there would be a universe with the possibility of corruption.Delete
But the point is that, for an all-good being to even intend such a thing would be evil, and, hence, impossible.
Good gravy, there's no talking to you. The corruption I was talking about is the stuff like water breaking down into hydrogen and oxygen. You're positing that because this is evil, such events prove there isn't a good God, because a good God could not will such a universe.
Never mind. Walter: please, in the future, do not attempt respond to my comments, as you seem not to be able to converse with me and I with you. Just take it as proven that we have exceeded our capacity to speak meaningfully to each other.
"Less than perfect goodness" does not entail suffering. So, your claim that "It's not for nothing that the possible world with horrendously suffering rabbits is consistent with such a conception of God" is a non-sequitur.
If it is better to be than not to be, it would follow, however, that god necessarily creates every possible being. Now, that would be a decent theodicy, except I do not know of anybody who actually believes this.
God not being a moral agent is not relevant here unless it is shorthand for "might makes right", of course.
Suffering is a privation of perfections though, and necessarily the further up the ontological ladder, the more imperfect the beings become. So how about rather than claiming I have made an invalid statement, you make an argument?Delete
I believe creation to be infinite. The One is diffusive by his own nature. I don't think talk of possible beings makes sense though since there's no individual before you exist
Suffering may be a privation of perfections but not every privation of perfections is suffering.
So, unless you provide a further argument, "less than perfect goodness" does not entail suffering.
So, infinite creation can be without suffering unless every possible individual is created, including the possible individuals who can suffer.
"It’s not that the Fall introduced into the natural order evil that would not have otherwise been there." This is a screamer. Most Catholic theologians (thomists in particular) assert that human nature is in a worse position after original sin than it would otherwise have been in any fictitious state of nature. In addition, according to Trent, the Catechism of the Catholic Church etc., man was created in the state of justice. Therefore, the "state of nature" in man (while theoretically possible) has never existed. We are not in the state of nature now.ReplyDelete
It is not a "screamer." It's a one-line summary that does not address every nuance or make every qualification one would need to make in addressing the doctrine of Original Sin, because that is not the topic of the post.Delete
@ Edward Feser. I disagree. One can say there is one God without denying or needing to make the qualification that there is also a Trinity of divine persons. However, the one-line summary here demands more than qualification because it has never been the summary of the Catholic theological or philosophical position on original sin. What becomes of the infinitely more common Catholic summary: the wounding of human nature (in addition to the loss of preternatural gifts)?Delete
If there is some (minority) opinion on the boil here as far as original sin is concerned, surely this is not the place to introduce it since, as you say, the topic of the post is surely something else. All the same, I'm sure everybody here would welcome a full history and justification of such an opinion in another post, and the opportunity to discuss it fully.
Miguel Cervantes wrote:Delete
If there is some (minority) opinion on the boil here as far as original sin is concerned...
There is no new opinion about Original Sin "on the boil here," minority or otherwise. Again, the post is not even about the doctrine of Original Sin, even if it makes reference to it. You are reading things into what I wrote that I did not intend. All I meant by the sentence you quoted was that evil would have entered the world in a state of pure nature, i.e. in a scenario in which grace had not been offered and then refused by our first parents. I did not mean to deny that the evil that entered after the refusal was even greater than it otherwise would have been.
You have shown in the past a tendency to be cantankerous, uncharitable in your interpretations of what others say, and keen to manufacture controversies where none exist. As you know, that got you banned from the blog at one point. Because you have in recent months proven yourself able to rein in these regrettable tendencies, I have given you a break and allowed you to post comments again. I urge you not to return to your former bad habits.
@ Edward Feser. I don't wish to argue which of us has been cantankerous or uncharitable in the past. My point wasn't about the evil that entered into the world after original sin, but its effects on human nature, traditionally summed up as a "wounding".Delete
There has been some legitimate range of opinion on this subject and no shortage of controversies over time even though, as Miguel perhaps relies on, the "official line" has settled down over the last few hundred years.Delete
Since most people end up in hell I don't see what the greater good is for them. The greater good in Christianity is that a few people receive the beatific vision. Everyone else goes to hell forever. God could have preserved everyone from original sin like the Blessed Virgin Mary and prevented the devil from seeking and ruining souls. But He gave us concupiscence and the temptation of the devil and very limited intellects. He orchestrated the whole situation.ReplyDelete
Since most people end up in hellDelete
I am not aware of any Catholic doctrine that specifies whether "most" people end up in hell, or the reverse.
The closest I can think of as support for that position is Christ saying "wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it." This cannot be taken to specify whether more are damned than are saved, on two bases: (1) "Many" is not a ratio between them the # of damned and # of saved, it implies a (quasi) ratio of 3 of damned vs 0. "Many" means "more than one or a few". (2) People step onto and spend time on the road to destruction MOST of their lives, and yet repent before the end and be saved. For example, if 90% of people spend 90% of their lives ON the road to destruction, but 80% repent at the end of their lives, then at any one time 81% of people will be ON the road to destruction, but 72% end up saved.
There is nothing offensive to Christian doctrine in holding that many, perhaps even most, will be saved.
Not that this erroneous assertion would save Sterba's thesis anyway. If it were necessary for God to "balance" the "total amount of created good" against the evils of suffering, the good of charity in Mary alone would suffice.
Its "many" who go down the path to destruction versus "few" who find the narrow path that leads to life. I don't think Christianity makes sense under scrutiny but no religion does. Thats not what religions do, that's what philosophies do, is try to be coherent from stem to stern.Delete
"Not that this erroneous assertion would save Sterba's thesis anyway. If it were necessary for God to "balance" the "total amount of created good" against the evils of suffering, the good of charity in Mary alone would suffice."Delete
But what dummy would say that everyone but Mary ending up damned is something a good loving father who could effortlessly avert that would do that or allow that?
Hi, Tony. If Jesus' "many and few" teaching is read in context, He goes on to say that the "many" would cry out, "But we ate and drank with You, and You taught in our streets!" It appears that Jesus is speaking of first-century Jerusalem: Relatively few accepted Him, compared to the many who rejected Him.Delete
We see this as we read on, for He says that the saved will come from the north, south, east, and west, and those who are not saved will be excluded from the great feast of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while a large (but not specified) number will rejoice at the feast.
So I think we have a biblical right to believe for and work toward a very large proportion of the people on earth to be accepted into Heaven by Christ.
Do the Chinese communists, LGBT activists, and Muslims accept Jesus more than the Jews? Do the baptized Catholics of today who give Jesus second place authority to their own feelings accept Him any more than the Jews? Hardly if at all.Delete
This is the new approach, that its reasonable to hope that hell is empty ala Bishop Robert Barron. Then heaven can be a family reunion like people want instead of the few elect who persevere to the end and are saved. Its not what the Church always taught tho.Delete
Just to be exact: I didn't say "hell is empty"; I said "very large proportion" of people saved. But that depends on us and our witness. I just think it's defeatist to assume in advance that most people will be lost.Delete
"I don't think Christianity makes sense under scrutiny but no religion does. Thats not what religions do, that's what philosophies do, is try to be coherent from stem to stern."
The idea that any philosophical system(at least a not catholic one) makes sense in the end has to be one of the silliest things commented on this blog. Is there any philosopher whose system works?
And why exactly is having people in hell so bad? At least in a molinist sense that is the person fault. Why would God not create this world? Because of these losers who can't even bother to accept the grace? Would He give up, say, the Cross, the most sublime moment on history, because of these guys?
One could say that hell is tragic, but not unfair. One could also not say than it is bad if it is accepted that retributive justice is true, for them the punishment that the damned receive is just. In fact, that seems one reason why hell shock us but the concept was okay for several saints, way more lovely people that probably all here, it is because retributive justice is not as widely believed today. Seeing something like Foucault analysis of the subject, punishment works very diferent today on the west as it did some centuries ago. A punishment that does not make the punished physically incapable of disrupting the social rules or do not make him internalize these rules is pointless and cruel on our contemporany social organization, at least to the more upper and middle class people.
Of course, your average atheist has no choice but to agree with Foucault that there is no standard to judge one way to see punishment as superior to the other, so the idea that hell is bad according to a immutable standard is not open to him. He also can't say that hell is incoherent with the rest of the christian system because christianity takes for granted a lot of views that are useful here, like retributive justice, God not being under any law, free will etc. This means that both the two most used ways to argue against hell, saying that it is bad by a objective standard or by the christian own standard, both do not work to the atheist at all
All means is that this problem with hell is on the average atheist worldview but a expression of a internalized social value, as relevant and objective as the "intuition" that one must trade gifts on christmas.
This assuming molinism, it seems to deal better with the problem of evil because there God can't save all people and have all the goods He has on this world. On thomistic predestination i don't know if it makes sense to say that God could not save all and still have all He wanted to have.
"But what dummy would say"... "Christ could have died on the Cross with the exclusive prupose of giving back to the Father all the glory which the Father had lost through man's transgression, without the human race being in any way the better for it" (i.e., without saving a single human being)?Delete
What dummy? Dom Anscar Vonier. But how could such a God be a loving father? A loving father is still a loving father, even if he has only one (only begotten) son, and no adopted sons.
Talmid, I don't know whether it is feasible, under Thomism, to say God "cannot" make a world that has humans with free will and NONE of whom sin. He hasn't revealed all that would be necessary to know the answer to that. What we CAN say is that a world that includes sin and also includes redemption and salvation via Christ is a good world, and it is unnecessary to to decide whether some other (theoretical) world without n sin or q suffering is, also, (a) possible (in every pertinent sense), and (b) better than this one.Delete
One thing we cannot do is assume that there is a "best of all possible worlds" - St. Thomas crashes that theory: there is no "best" of all possible created natures. So it is invalid to argue from some Universe X (which we are inclined to think is "possible" but we don't really know for sure) would be better than current Universe N, (the one we have), and that God - in order to be good - is obliged to create X instead of N. Since there is NO SUCH THING as a best universe, God is not obliged to pick the best in creating, and the model of "X is better than N so God must choose X over N" simply cannot work. Thus all that is necessary is to say that Universe N is a good one, and that's sufficient for God to create N.
A critical feature of "the things we do not know" to decide whether Universe X would actually be better than the Universe N that we have is whether some goods in Universe N defined in terms of "Person P overcame a habit of grave sin and turned to God, in spite of grave inclination against God" determines, in EVERY sense, a better world than an alternate universe in which P never had to overcome a habit of grave sin. In some ways we feel like Universe X where P never had a habit of grave sin to overcome must be a better universe absolutely speaking, but I don't think we can trust our feeling on that. It's too complex a matter to say for certain, because there is NO SUCH THING as "all other things being equal". You can't say "all other things being equal" of the two universes, when P having been in a habit of grave sin necessarily includes an absolutely enormous host of ancillary causes and effects, including (not least) Christians who were harmed by P praying for P and therefore contributing to his salvation.
We might be tempted to assert that we know some Universe X must be better, but I think that the Book of Job constitutes God's reply: "where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" Humility should teach us circumspection in making such judgments.
I see. I agree that there is no best of all possible worlds and that the most than reason say to us on the subject we are discussing is something like "yea, that is quite a bit beyond my limits". It is just that from what i remember Aquinas would probably say that God could have ordened the world with more liberty that the molinist would alow, but it is been a while since i read the saint on the subject.
And the point about how the non-existence of a best of all possible worlds makes the "God has to choose the best world possible" things not work is interesting. That rule truly would only work if there really existed the best option. Since Leibniz was wrong, God is pretty free in creating.
I don't know whether it is feasible, under Thomism, to say God "cannot" make a world that has humans with free will and NONE of whom sin.Delete
For my part, I can't see how one could even begin to defend that proposition. It seems nonsensical.
"I don't know whether it is feasible, under Thomism, to say God "cannot" make a world that has humans with free will and NONE of whom sin."Delete
So heaven is impossible under thomism?
Unknown, by "a world" I was referring to a worldly state of existence prior to an eschatological existence in heaven. Naturally, it is possible to have humans with free will and without sin in heaven.Delete
If it's possible in heaven, then why wouldn't it be possible in this world? Why couldn't God guarantee both free will and sinlessness (as He does in Heaven) in this world?Delete
I know there are people who argue heaven is only attainable after a process, such that human beings cannot be created as virtuous and free from the start, and they need to "grow" like that. But such an idea has always seemed obscure to me, I can't quite formalize it or make much sense of it myself.
I am not saying whether it is or is not possible for God to have put humans in heaven without first subjecting them to a prior period of potential suffering / sin.Delete
But the condition in heaven of being "free but sinless" is not a mere ACCIDENT of heaven: In heaven, the blessed "see God face to face", i.e. God is present to the mind wholly and utterly. In that state, it is impossible for a human to think that some good separated from God might be a better choice than choosing God - the utterness of God's goodness is directly manifest. So in that state we could never have that necessary precondition of sin: to perceive a good in such a manner as to have mental room to think "maybe choosing this is better than God". That's why in heaven the blessed have free wills but do not sin - there is no mental room for such a thought. And by "in heaven" I mean, specifically, being blessed by the Beatific Vision, so anybody who is not enjoying the BV is not "in heaven".
such that human beings cannot be created as virtuous and free from the start,
What's relevant is not whether humans were created "virtuous" from the start: Adam and Eve were created holy. What's relevant is whether the mind is in the "worldly" state of being able to apprehend goods as under a different degree of good (for us) than they really are, (the perceived good <> the true good) and thus able to choose them inappropriately. That God CHOSE to make Adam and Eve on this Earth (i.e. in a worldly state) able to sin by such a choice doesn't mean God HAD to create them so.
But my comment only meant to apply to humans in such worldly state, not to humans in the blessed state. That God might create humans directly in the blessed state is not germane to humans who are NOT IN that blessed state.
If God can create people already in heaven in such a way as to preserve both freedom and virtue, then it seems to me totally irrational (and less loving, but the two are connected anyway) to create people in a less perfect state where they can sin, commit evil, or (if you're an infernalist) end up in hell for eternity forever frustrating God's original plan for them.Delete
I lean towards thinking that an imperfect life before heaven plus heaven might lead to a better overall state of affairs than just starting in heaven full-stop (and better in such a way as to justify or compensate evils suffered), which would be a kind of greater-good-theodicy. Though it is also possible that humans cannot be created virtuous outright (like in heaven) and can only achieve heaven after a process of growth (this is what I thought you were defending; this view would make sense in a theodicy for me, but I find the proposal obscure right now). But if neither option is the case, then it just seems to me God really should just make us in heaven from the start.
I lean towards thinking that an imperfect life before heaven plus heaven might lead to a better overall state of affairs than just starting in heaven full-stop (and better in such a way as to justify or compensate evils suffered), which would be a kind of greater-good-theodicy.Delete
Yes - at least, in a sense. Arguably, creating humans in this worldly state where they might sin and suffer allows room for them to participate in causing good for others - which would not be true if God created all humans in the blessed state.
But I pose this so as to indicate some sort of good that would exist in such a created order U1 (i.e. where humans start in a this-worldly situation), that would not exist in the other created order, U2. I remain of the opinion that it is not necessary to posit one universe is - in an absolute sense - the best of possible created orders, and if that's not necessary, it casts doubt on the necessity of a position that must decide whether U1 would be better than U2. If U1 would be a good universe, and U2 would be a good universe, then God is free to create one of them.
"... suffering is an integral part of the natural and supernatural order of things, rather than something we should be surprised by."ReplyDelete
So how do the unfallen angels suffer?
Even perfect love suffers.Delete
Every act involves agent and patient, the one that acts and the one that undergoes, i.e., suffers the act. Whatever is received (i.e., suffered) is received according to the mode of the recipient. So every act of created existence is an act of suffering (in the broadest sense) on the part of the creature (existence is suffering, as Buddhists say). For rational creatures that suffering can be graceful or graceless, as well as pleasant or unpleasant.Delete
One way of trivialising the question, I suppose...Delete
Good is being infinite in time (future-oriented), evil is being finite in time (past-oriented), and neutral is the intersection of good and evil (present-oriented).ReplyDelete
Lots of theologies describe God as a being finite in time. In fact, most theologies describe God as a being finite or half-finite in time. It is possible to judge a theological conception of God and by extension religions as being good, neutral, or evil. E.g. Buddhism is true neutral, Islam is lawful neutral, Southern Baptist is usually neutral evil, and Latter Day Saints is chaotic good.
I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen anybody try to use D&D alignments as part of a serious philosophical discussion.Delete
I hope it will be the last.
If you're skeptical of the truth of the D&D alignment system, perhaps you've heard of the political compass? It's the same thing as D&D except with lawful-chaotic renamed authoritarian-libertarian and good-evil renamed left-right.Delete
Here are the postulates for D&D/political compass alignment system:
1. Everything exists in both time (good-evil spectrum) and space (lawful-chaotic spectrum)
2. Things that exist in space/time exist either unbounded, bounded, or half-bounded. That gives 3×3 = 9 possible configurations.
Once you accept the validity of those postulates, you logically get D&D/political compass as a result. Because everything exists in space and time, and because bounded, unbounded, and half-bounded are the only three possible relationships things can have, it follows that everything has a type in the D&D alignment system. The postulates are so simple that it's impossible to disprove D&D-style alignment.
Unbounded in time is divisible into that which has succession with no beginning and no end, and that which has no succession, being simultaneously whole, etc. This is eternity. (The Summa, 1a, Q 10, Article 1).Delete
What is unbounded in time and space has many other possible boundaries. Anything that defines it is a boundary.
But you know this. You are just kibitzing with us here and now.
It's the same thing as D&D except with lawful-chaotic renamed authoritarian-libertarian and good-evil renamed left-right.Delete
In politics, the lawful-chaotic axis is just one of six or seven OTHER major axes needed to correctly understand politics, and there are probably a dozen other minor axes necessary to fully grasp politics in a scientific way. Thus there would be something like 216 distinguishably different vectors possible.
1. Everything exists in both time (good-evil spectrum) and space (lawful-chaotic spectrum)
2. Things that exist in space/time exist either unbounded, bounded, or half-bounded. That gives 3×3 = 9 possible configurations.
Once you accept the validity of those postulates, you logically get D&D/political compass as a result.
Merely positing a set of postulates doesn't make them believable, much less proven. Heck, it is not even clear whether you mean by "time (good/evil spectrum)" that time is a metaphor for the good/evil spectrum, or part of the spectrum, or the substrate of the spectrum, or what. And calling it a spectrum makes it highly improbable that there are ONLY 3 states, "unbounded, bounded, or half-bounded" available, with no reason offered to assume "half-bounded" is the only state between the extremes. And no reason to assume "boundedness" expresses something critical to time or space that in any sense relates intelligibly either to good-evil or to law-chaos. Certainly in Thomistic metaphysics, there is no meaning to "unbounded evil", it is a nonsense term.
Unbounded in time is divisible into that which has succession with no beginning and no end
This is actually half-bounded in time. Generations go without beginning or end, and so they're unbounded in time, BUT each generation is 20 years, which is bounded in time. That makes generations both bounded and unbounded, or half-bounded in time.
I agree with what you are saying about the part of what I said that you just quoted. But you missed the part about eternity - which is "simultaneously whole".
A simple metaphor (call it an image) is that of a book and the intelligence that wrote it. The book's timeline is created by this intelligence, the author. This timeline does not exist outside of the book. You and I eat and sleep at times that are not in the book's timeline at all. OK?
The book's characters are bounded in (the book's) timeline. The universe in which these characters live has no beginning or end in time (Aquinas is not excluding this possibility in this part of his work). So the universe is unbounded in time. However the book's creator, its author, knows the whole book without experiencing the succession of time which everything in the created universe experiences, unbounded or bounded.
The author's pov is _eternal_ in this image, with a simultaneously whole view of his entire creation. If you immediately substitute "unbounded in time" here, a common meaning of "eternal", you are squashing an equivocal word into one of its meanings where the other is required.
Just think "sees the whole thing at once". A creator with an intellect is required for the concept to be meaningful.
Have you not read the part of the Summa that deals with this (part 1a, Q's 1-49)? It is very impressive. I suggest a volume that has the Latin original beside the translation. It's a good way to learn Latin and you can get the Summa right from the horse's mouth (as it were) rather than with an intermediate between you and Aquinas. Intermediates sometimes confuse things a bit.
PS - Space is also "simultaneously whole" to God. Do you get how a definition limits or bounds and so cannot be about God, who is not limited or bounded in any way? - TC
"And why exactly is having people in hell so bad?"ReplyDelete
Hell is eternal perfect suffering, you don't see why thats bad? I can see the greater good for the few who go to heaven but not for the many damned.
As i said on the rest of the post, hell being bad or not will depend on the answers we give to certain questions like "is retributive justice true?" or "do humans have free will?" or "is utilitarism true?". While some positions that go against hell existence being good are popular today, that says nothing, really.Delete
Maybe hell being bad is self-evident to a large part of today western people but that would not be so a few centuries ago. Contra the contemporany analytic appeal to "intution", a large part of what is seen as true to most people today is but a result of contingent historical and social facts. Personaly i'am a bit indiferent to it, i don't know why.
A suggestion: when you can, take a look on Aquinas discussion of why God created when, lets face it, He does not need us. When Thomas said that God wanted the greater good he meant that the intent is on a good on a more cosmics scale.Delete
"As i said on the rest of the post, hell being bad or not will depend on the answers we give to certain questions like "is retributive justice true?" or "do humans have free will?" or "is utilitarism true?""Delete
I don't think any of these questions can even make having people in hell "good". For instance, even if you accept retributive justice, having a murderer in jail is still something very bad. It's bad because that person shouldn't have been a murderer in the first place, and no amount of punishment makes up for that tragedy.
Even *if* someone could deserve hell, the state of affairs of a person becoming sufficiently corrupted so as to deserve an *eternity* of suffering and separation from God is a horrifying tragedy. It will in fact always be a defeat of God - His plan eternally frustrated, having one of His creatures (who was meant to be good and virtuous) locked into eternal pain, evil, sin, suffering. Retributive justice, free will, utilitarianism - none of these things change that fact. People ending up in hell is a horrible thing and a defeat of God and his will.
There are different conceptions of hell. The notion that hell is eternal conscious misery for ALL occupants of hell is actually a minority position. Some view hell as annihilation. Others view hell as purgatorial, but with the really wicked being in there for an extremely long time, perhaps as long as the cumulative pain that they caused other people, which might amount to millenia and beyond for some wicked. Others view hell as a state of being denied the beatific vision, the supernatural knowledge of God, but that within hell there are some fairly pleasant regions (limbus infantium is only one of them) in which one can still enjoy the natural knowledge of God, and the very unpleasant regions are reserved for genuinely heinous folk, a small minority of those who are not saved.
Hell is more complicated than what you might think.
I did not mean that only these particular questions where relevant, these where examples. Hell being good or bad will depend on the particular worldview that is true. Picking your arguments for instance, they assume that the damned being in hell is not intended by God at all but a complete imperfection or "defeat" of His.
If, on the other hand, one agrees with Aquinas in believing that while God does not intends that people go to hell as a end but as a part of a larger(though mysterious) picture, for that way there could be a lot of goods only gained by creating a certain particular world, them it is no defeat at all. That is why i recommended before looking up what Aquinas meant by "greater good".
"If, on the other hand, one agrees with Aquinas in believing that while God does not intends that people go to hell as a end but as a part of a larger(though mysterious) picture,"Delete
That's a very big "if" that many would find outright immoral and irrational. I'm not Weoro by the way. That indeed could be relevant (contrary to the other questions), but its plausibility is so ridiculous that I find it uninteresting. You could disagree, ofc. But then your point would be rather trivial - you might as well say that hell isn't bad if someone is okay with having people be sacrificed for eternal suffering and sin forever as a machiavellian means for a greater end. Well, yes, but that's something most people wouldn't bother considering - rather like flat earth arguments, say.
(Also, it would break down Christianity, except if you're a Calvinist. It's very hard to make sense of Christ's salvific work for all - and all the relevant passages - without at least granting a strong intention of saving every person, which is sufficient for drawing the conclusion that any case of hell-damnation would constitute an eternal defeat of God and His will, even if only an eternal "partial" defeat that can somehow be made up for with a greater collateral good)
Hell is more complicated than what you might think.Delete
Yes. Or at least, the THEORIES about Hell, and the supposed geographies of Hell, are many and varied.
If one simply defines "Hell" to be "the place of permanent afterlife without God", then natural the limbo of the infants would be "in" Hell. But if one were to define Hell as "the place of punishment for those who deliberately sinned in rejection of God", then the limbo of the infants would not be in Hell. Since in colloquial speech Hell is assumed to be a place of torment, mentioning that limbo "is in Hell" - without clarifying - is guaranteed to cause confusion and LACK of understanding.
In fact, we simply don't know what the "geography" of the afterlife is really like, other than that there is a Heaven and a Hell and a place of purgatorial correction. We don't even know exactly the relations of these three.
If one simply defines "Hell" to be "the place of permanent afterlife without God", then natural the limbo of the infants would be "in" Hell. But if one were to define Hell as "the place of punishment for those who deliberately sinned in rejection of God", then the limbo of the infants would not be in Hell. Since in colloquial speech Hell is assumed to be a place of torment, mentioning that limbo "is in Hell" - without clarifying - is guaranteed to cause confusion and LACK of understanding.
I don't disagree, Tony, but the definition of Hell as "the place of permanent afterlife without God" and technically including Limbus Infantium was a traditional Catholic position. I know that Limbus Infantium is not official doctrine and that many Catholics today do not believe it. I did not mean to disparage either the older tradition, or the more recent rejection of the tradition. Leaving that issue aside, my main point was what you said, the theories about hell are many, complicated, and varied. It is not as simple as Weoro was making out.
The problem is Damnation is defined as loss of the Beatific vision which of course applies to both the souls in Limbo and Hell.
Thought I am told according to the general consensus of the theologians, in the world to Come the Souls in Limbo will be resurrected and dwell in the New Heavens and Earth but will be only able to know God via their natural powers and they won't have the beatific vision. Those in Hell will go into the Lake of Fire.
Myself I along with Pope Benedict personally doubt Limbo exists but I cana rule it out.
You are acting like this is a opinion only i have, i can't from the top of my head remember someone who believes in hell but does not believe that God tolerates people going to hell for the sake of a greater good. Even your average molinist would say that God could not create the damned but He did because He wanted a certain world.
While it would be better to have no one in hell if we consider the person individually, it would be better to have this person in hell if we look at the whole picture. Does that offend? It seems to do so to the average western citizen living today but i still do not grant the premiss that this should matter at all.
And don't call me a protestant name, that is not polite. This thinking is essencially augustinian and was pretty popular. See Aquinas for instance: https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1023.htm#article3
SoY, your picture of the souls of Souls in Limbo is similar to what I grasped in my youth from the consensus of the Church's teachers, also. However, when I learned of St. Augustine capturing the notion of Hell comprising "all those permanently without God", (which would implicitly put Limbo in Hell, even if it eventually included a new Earth for them without torment", and then grasped more of the views of the ancient Jews, Greeks, and Romans about the various "places" of the dead, and the ways they don't map onto each other straightforwardly, I realized that - as Tim says - it ain't that easy to say. The Bible is very limited on the geography of the afterlife, and it's possible that it is even more complicated than we know of so far.Delete
It is true that the modern Church has backed off from a definite belief in Limbo, but I put that down to the very same people latching onto the theory of von Balthasar (and others) that Hell is empty, and that any God that would de-populate Hell by overflowing grace would do so also for Limbo. While I admit that there is (barely) enough room in the biblical passages about Hell to read them as qualified/contingent for humans (IF you die in sin, you will go to Hell) but that in fact no humans end up there, to avoid outright heresy, I can't see any similar wiggle room for demons, and I have yet to hear a plausible theological basis for such a view applicable to humans (that Hell has no humans) in the sense that God's mercy "must" get all humans out of Hell when it won't apply to angels. Since I view the position that "Hell will in fact have evil men" is far stronger than merely a common view of the Doctors, and I think that the denial of Limbo is (at least historically) connected to the von Balthasarian view which rejects that position about Hell, I view the more modern theory of Limbo as having very little going for it - though not technically contrary to settled doctrine, I grant.
I would only at worst regard von Balthasar's theory as "error" in the same sense I would regard Molinism as "error". Molinism is a theory I don't agree with but others may. The same with von Balthasar. Unless the Holy Spirit permits a future Traditional Thomist Pope to formally condemn either I dina bother and I dina fash.Delete
Given God gives sufficient grace to all to be saved and somehow in some mysterious way (even under Benaz's view which I lean toward)salvation is a real possibility with such grace then it is not hard to make the leap the salvation of everybody is really possible. (If it did somehow happen then the verses that indicate people will in fact end up in Hell must have a non-literal meaning).
Might we hope for it? Sure why not? I hope a cure for autism will happen. It is not going too but I can hope. I see no problem in hoping for the salvation of all even if it doesn't happen.
If Jesus Himself can pray "Let this Cup be taken from me" and appeal to the Father to save mankind in some other way that didn't involve Him suffering and He prayed this knowing in His Divinity He wasn't going to get a positive answer to his prayer then I dina see why people fash over von Balthasar hoping everyone or most somehow make it to Heaven?
von Balthasar pseudo Universalism unlike the formally condemned versions does have going to Hell as a real danger for souls so presumption is out. If somehow sufficient grace that is not efficacious can still have my salvation be a real possibility in some mysterious manner well damnation is still possible under von Balthasar.
Holy Fear can never be dispensed with. That is the key. I fear Hell. I would be even more of a mean bastard then I am if I didn't.:D
Cheers brother Tony.
Thanks, Son of Ya'Kov. God's grace be with you.Delete
Seems more and more to me that theology and philosophy are like games where you suppose something is true then try to build internally consistent structures around it. Even if its consistent with itself, that doesn't mean its true. People always talk about how Christ changed the world, but the world isn't demonstrably different. Just like the eucharist isn't demonstrably different. They say the substance changed while the appearance didn't. But regardless the world is what it is, still the same. People are the same, though affected by Christianitys ideas. Today they're affected by liberalisms ideas, but are still the same people. Eeclesiastes from before Christ is still true: "Surely the fate of human beings(S) is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath[c]; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.(T) 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward(U) and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”Delete
You have misquoted Eclesiastes, sticking in some extraneous "if"s.
He is saying that striving for false things does no good. Take his advice.
Weouro, H-ll is the self chosen separation from the Divine Love, also known as the Beatific Vision, of which all other "love" that we experience is a mere image that will ultimately fail to satisfy. This is metaphorically described as the "fire" of H-ll. We use the phrase, "it was H-ll" in the same metaphoric way, meaning almost always, not fire literally, but a long enduring, undesirable experience felt as some form of suffering (eg, being put on hold and forced to listen to horrible music and advertisements for a long time).
From "The Catechism of the Catholic Church" in the version promulgated by John Paul II: "The chief punishment of h-ll is eternal separation from G-d, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs."
And ... eternity in H-ll is not the "perfection" of something.
And ... the number of d-mned is not "many" versus "few" as was explained by Tony above. I don't know of a Catholic doctrine that definitively specifies that even a single person will go to H-ll, although it is erroneous to definitively state that not a single person will go to H-ll (we do not and can not know).
Part of a very common Catholic prayer (the Rosary) demands of G-d (addressed as Jesus), "Lead _all_ souls to Heaven, Especially those in _most need_ of Thy mercy" (that's you and me brother).
Why are you writing "hell" as "h-ll"? I know one can write God as G-d, especially in Jewish contexts, but never seen that for hell.Delete
I put Hell or God in an anonymous content before I started signing my name and the comments never appeared so I thought maybe there was some filter that rejected them. Certainly not for religious reasons.Delete