Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Augustine on divine punishment of the good alongside the wicked

Many today labor under the delusion that the reality of suffering is a difficulty for Christianity – as if Christian doctrine would lead us to expect little or no suffering, so that its adherents should be flummoxed by suffering’s prevalence.  As I have discussed in previous articles, this is the reverse of the truth.  The Catholic faith teaches that suffering is the inexorable consequence of original sin and past actual sin.  It is an essential part of the long and painful process of sanctification, of overcoming sinful habits of thought and action.  It is the inevitable concomitant of the persecution Christians must face for preaching the Gospel and condemning the world’s wickedness.  It is an inescapable punishment for sin, which we must embrace in a penitential spirit.  By way of suffering we pay both our own temporal debt and that of others for whom we might offer up our suffering.  By way of it we most closely unite ourselves to Christ’s Passion.  The extent and depth of human suffering thus confirms rather than disconfirms the claims of Christianity.

As I proposed in those earlier articles, bafflement at suffering is less the cause than the consequence of the modern West’s apostasy from the Catholic faith.  It also reflects the softness and decadence of a dying civilization that has become accustomed to affluence and cannot fathom a higher good beyond ease and beyond this life, for the sake of which we might embrace suffering.  Nor is it apostates alone who exhibit this blindness.  The spiritual rot has eaten its way deep into the Church, afflicting even those who are otherwise loyal to orthodoxy and Christian morality.  And in our disinclination to accept suffering, we are only ensuring ourselves more of it.

Here as elsewhere, the great St. Augustine sees clearly and speaks frankly where we moderns deceive ourselves and obfuscate.  In chapters 8-10 of Book I of The City of God, he discusses how and why evil and suffering befall the good as well as the wicked in this life.  As our own age descends into ever deeper moral, political, social, and economic disorder, we would do well to meditate upon his bracing teaching.  If the faithful believe they will or ought to be spared the brunt of the punishment that the sins of our civilization are liable to bring down upon it, they are sorely mistaken.  Things are likely to get worse for all of us, even if only so that divine providence can ultimately bring something better out of the chaos.

In chapter 8, Augustine notes that while there is in this life some connection between evildoing and suffering on the one hand, and righteousness and blessings on the other, it is very far from tight.  The wicked enjoy many good things, while the good suffer much misfortune.  To be sure, this will be redressed in the afterlife, when the good will be rewarded with eternal happiness and the wicked with eternal torment.  “But as for the good things of this life, and its ills,” Augustine writes, “God has willed that these should be common to both; that we might not too eagerly covet the things which wicked men are seen equally to enjoy, nor shrink with an unseemly fear from the ills which even good men often suffer.” 

When we wonder why God permits us to suffer even though we try to obey him, part of the reason is precisely that we might be saved.  For if we pursue righteousness only when it is easy to do so, our virtue is bound to be shallow and unlikely to last.  Nor, if the connection between virtuous behavior and material blessings is too tight, are we likely to pursue the former for the right reasons.  We cannot achieve happiness in the world to come if we become too attached to the world that is, and suffering is a means of preventing the latter.

Moreover, says Augustine, the difference between a truly righteous man and a wicked one is often exposed precisely by suffering:

Wherefore, though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no difference in what they both suffer.  For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing.  For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke… so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked.  And thus it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise.  So material a difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them.

Now, so far Augustine is addressing suffering that is unmerited.  But there is also suffering that good men can merit and bring upon themselves, as Augustine explains in chapter 9.  This is so in several ways.  First, of course, nobody’s perfect.  Even those who avoid the more blatant violations of Christian morality still typically exhibit moral failings of various lesser kinds:

Although they be far from the excesses of wicked, immoral, and ungodly men, yet they do not judge themselves so clean removed from all faults as to be too good to suffer for these even temporal ills.  For every man, however laudably he lives, yet yields in some points to the lust of the flesh.  Though he do not fall into gross enormity of wickedness, and abandoned viciousness, and abominable profanity, yet he slips into some sins, either rarely or so much the more frequently as the sins seem of less account.

But there is also the attitude that the good man takes toward those who do live especially wicked lives.  There are many who disapprove of such wickedness and would never practice it themselves, but who nevertheless, out of cowardice, refrain from criticizing it in others.  Here Augustine makes some remarks that are especially relevant to our times, and worth quoting at length:

Where can we readily find a man who holds in fit and just estimation those persons on account of whose revolting pride, luxury, and avarice, and cursed iniquities and impiety, God now smites the earth as His predictions threatened?  Where is the man who lives with them in the style in which it becomes us to live with them?  For often we wickedly blind ourselves to the occasions of teaching and admonishing them, sometimes even of reprimanding and chiding them, either because we shrink from the labor or are ashamed to offend them, or because we fear to lose good friendships, lest this should stand in the way of our advancement, or injure us in some worldly matter, which either our covetous disposition desires to obtain, or our weakness shrinks from losing.  So that, although the conduct of wicked men is distasteful to the good, and therefore they do not fall with them into that damnation which in the next life awaits such persons, yet, because they spare their damnable sins through fear, therefore, even though their own sins be slight and venial, they are justly scourged with the wicked in this world, though in eternity they quite escape punishment.  Justly, when God afflicts them in common with the wicked, do they find this life bitter, through love of whose sweetness they declined to be bitter to these sinners.

Here Augustine teaches that it is not enough to refrain from the sins of wicked men.  The Christian must also criticize them for their wickedness, and try to get them to repent of it.  To be sure, Augustine goes on to acknowledge that there may be occasions where one might justifiably opt to postpone such criticism until an opportune moment, or refrain from it out of a reasonable fear of doing more harm than good.  But he teaches here that it is not justifiable to refrain from such criticism merely because it is difficult, or because we fear causing offense and losing friends, or because we don’t want to risk losing status or other worldly goods.  For the wicked are in danger of damnation if they do not repent, and we “wickedly blind ourselves” if we shirk our duty to encourage them to do so.  Even if we avoid damnation ourselves, we will justly suffer alongside them when divine providence visits this-worldly punishments upon them (social and economic disorder, natural disasters, and the like). 

Here too Augustine emphasizes that God allows the good to suffer alongside the wicked in part to wean them from their attachment to this world, where their reluctance to criticize the wicked is a symptom of this attachment:

What is blame-worthy is, that they who themselves revolt from the conduct of the wicked, and live in quite another fashion, yet spare those faults in other men which they ought to reprehend and wean them from; and spare them because they fear to give offense, lest they should injure their interests in those things which good men may innocently and legitimately use – though they use them more greedily than becomes persons who are strangers in this world, and profess the hope of a heavenly country.

Augustine is especially hard on Christians (such as clergy) who do not have family obligations and the like to worry about, yet still shrink from doing their duty to condemn the wickedness that surrounds them:

[They] do often take thought of their own safety and good name, and abstain from finding fault with the wicked, because they fear their wiles and violence.  And although they do not fear them to such an extent as to be drawn to the commission of like iniquities, nay, not by any threats or violence soever; yet those very deeds which they refuse to share in the commission of they often decline to find fault with, when possibly they might by finding fault prevent their commission.  They abstain from interference, because they fear that, if it fail of good effect, their own safety or reputation may be damaged or destroyed; not because they see that their preservation and good name are needful, that they may be able to influence those who need their instruction, but rather because they weakly relish the flattery and respect of men, and fear the judgments of the people, and the pain or death of the body; that is to say, their non-intervention is the result of selfishness, and not of love.

The application to the present day is obvious.  Consider the sexual sins into which our age has, arguably, sunk more deeply than any previous one.  So as to avoid criticizing these sins too harshly or even talking much about them at all, even many otherwise conservative Christians lie to themselves about their gravity, pretending they are slight when in fact (and as the tradition has always insisted) they are extremely serious.  Such sins have, among their consequences: the even graver sin of murder, in the form of abortion; fatherlessness and the poverty and social breakdown that is its sequel; addiction to pornography and the marital problems it brings in its wake; the loneliness and economic insecurity of women who in their youth were used by men for pleasure, and are later unable to find husbands; a general breakdown in rationality that has now reached the point where even the objective difference between men and women is shrilly denied; and the willingness to mutilate children’s bodies in the name of this gender ideology.

Worse, many Christians deceive themselves into thinking that it is love or compassion for the sinner that prevents them from condemning these sins too harshly.  In fact, given the grave damage caused by these sins, and the difficulty so many have in extricating themselves from them, to refrain from warning others against them is the opposite of compassionate.  Yet the present age is so addicted to them that, of all sins, sexual sins are those criticism of which puts the critic at greatest danger.  People fear for their reputations, and even livelihoods, if they speak up.  Hence, as Augustine says, “their non-intervention is the result of selfishness, and not of love.”

The consequence, Augustine teaches, is that many sinners who might have repented had they been warned will end up damned as a result.  And those who failed to warn them will suffer at least temporal punishments along with them, because they were too attached to the comforts of this life to help others prepare for the next.  Augustine writes:

Accordingly this seems to me to be one principal reason why the good are chastised along with the wicked, when God is pleased to visit with temporal punishments the profligate manners of a community.  They are punished together, not because they have spent an equally corrupt life, but because the good as well as the wicked, though not equally with them, love this present life; while they ought to hold it cheap, that the wicked, being admonished and reformed by their example, might lay hold of life eternal... For so long as they live, it remains uncertain whether they may not come to a better mind.  These selfish persons have more cause to fear than those to whom it was said through the prophet, He is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand (Ezekiel 33:6).

In chapter 10, Augustine hammers on the theme that the treasure of Christians is to be found in heaven and not in any of the goods of this life, and that, accordingly, no worldly suffering can possibly truly harm them.  He writes:

They should endure all torment, if need be, for Christ's sake; that they might be taught to love Him rather who enriches with eternal felicity all who suffer for Him, and not silver and gold, for which it was pitiable to suffer, whether they preserved it by telling a lie or lost it by telling the truth.  For under these tortures no one lost Christ by confessing Him...  So that possibly the torture which taught them that they should set their affections on a possession they could not lose, was more useful than those possessions which, without any useful fruit at all, disquieted and tormented their anxious owners.

As this last remark indicates, the loss of worldly blessings – material goods, reputation, friendships, health, livelihood, even life itself – is permitted by God so that we might learn not to cling to these things at the expense of the beatific vision, the value of which trumps all else.  God thus only ever permits suffering not in spite of his goodness, but rather precisely because of his goodness.  As Augustine says, there isn’t “any evil [that] happens to the faithful and godly which cannot be turned to profit,” so that, with St. Paul, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).

178 comments:

  1. Thank you for that Dr. Feser

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  2. This is a good explanation for some suffeing but are there any theories which provide an explanation for the suffering of young children and animals as this view doesn't? Also if non- religious people are committing what Catholics view as serious sins do the persons themselves have any culpability if they do not see what they are doing as wrong?

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    1. “ Psalm 50:11: I know all the birds of the mountains; And the wild beasts of the field are mine.”

      Where suffering of animals is as part of nature, we must trust that to God. Life could not have evolved without suffering, and we must trust that the rich tapestry of dark and light is perfectly rounded in the end. “All is well” as He told Julian of Norwich. This is just faith in God’s goodness, and I have confidence that the great suffering of animals in nature will make be a necessary part of a perfect plan when we see things as they are.

      Where it’s caused by humans, we are responsible. We each are called to play our part in reducing the suffering of others, as far as we are able. I can’t judge a poor person who overworks a donkey to build a house, or buys factory farmed meat, but those who can afford to support better welfare and always choose the cheapest/cruelest must be at least partly responsible for the cruelty.

      It’s similar with children. We can’t see God’s full plan, but we know that life is short for all of us next to eternity. We can only play our part in reducing it where we can, and trust the rest to God.

      As Augustine alludes to, some who have suffered the most can become the purest, most loving people you could meet. Others become hard and cruel. God is refining us like “silver in the furnace”. If we go with the process as he asks us to, and most of the saints actually welcome suffering in themselves, we have good reason to believe that it’s to our benefit in the long run. Most difficult of course is when it’s others suffering, especially those we love. But it’s exactly the same in that we can do what we can to help (including righteous anger in the very rare cases where that is the right response), but must do all we can to avoid becoming hard and cruel ourselves in response. Difficult as it may be, we must trust. We must try to see that what is sharp and apparently meaningless in the moment, is very different from the widest perspective.

      Ultimately we are all called to follow the “suffering servant”, born to “Our Lady of Sorrows”. Which is why the modern “I don’t believe in God because of suffering” position misses everything.

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    2. Just complementing Simon* good post:

      "Also if non- religious people are committing what Catholics view as serious sins do the persons themselves have any culpability if they do not see what they are doing as wrong?"

      On catholic doctrine, ignorance of our moral duties can weaken or even destroy culpability. If i'am ignorant enough of ethics that i dont know that, say, smoking pot is wrong and could not know it, them my activity is likely not a sin.

      But there is the diference between invencible and vencible ignorance. If i cant know my duty at all them there is no sin. But if i can know my duty and do not bother knowing it either because i want to stsy ignorant or because of neglet, them i'am sinning.
      *Hey man!

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    3. Simon

      It always baffles me to see how people can claim on one hand that God can do absurd things like making thing from nothing while ex nihilo nihil fit, can be a motionless locomotive and pull a train or can be simp;e and three at the same time, but on the other hand cannot create creatures who do not suffer.
      "Evolution" in and out of itself does not entail the necessity of suffering at all.

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    4. It's not even obvious to me that we aren't making a category error by using the term suffering univocally between humans and animals. Since we definitely don't think (unless we're PETA weirdos) that we can apply concepts like justice to animas in the same way that we apply it to humans, and that suffering necessarily includes some component of injustice, I don't think we've clearly defined what sorts of pain they animals experience ought to properly qualify as suffering in a sense relevant to this discussion.

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    5. @Walter. Of course he could make creatures that don’t suffer. However He is creating creatures that will participate in the trinity. That may seem like a cheap thing to you, but it’s an inexpressible, inconceivable thing. We’re not talking about having a very powerful magician living in your house. This is about finite creatures partaking in the eternal, the very ground of being itself.

      Maybe if you were God, you would ‘click your fingers’ and have an instant ready made family of robots that have no choice but to do your will, and agree with you about everything?

      It always baffles me that people presume so much about how God should be, and what He should do, if only he was as wise and good as they are. Lucifer has spread his original error widely.

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    6. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "It always baffles me [...]"

      It baffles you only because you are determined to be baffled. One in a frenzy to show that God must fall under the rules he insists must hold sway is not likely to be anything but baffled by truth.

      "[...] that God can do absurd things like making thing from nothing [...]"

      Your proclamation that God cannot do a thing because you call it absurd is so arrogant that it is almost not worth responding to, but it must be pointed out for the benefit of others that truth does not require your permission to be and your refusal to countenance this does not affect this fact.

      Even an infinite random sequence of 1's and 0's, a strictly limited image of God, is above your understanding and it can show how wrong is your insistence of the way things must be.

      You actually know this but fight to rule anyway. You are especially in need of God's grace and mercy.

      Tom Cohoe

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    7. Simon

      There is no reason why creatures who do not suffer cannot participate in the Trinity. In fcat, according to the Fall theodicy, if Adam or Eve (or whoever) hadn't fallen, they would have partcipated in the Trinity.
      And creatures who do not suffer are not robots and neither are creatures that do not make evil choices. It's not because I cannot fly all by myself that I am not a free being.
      And if it is simp;ky a matter of choice, then God could give every creature a free choice whether or not to participate in the Trinity. No suffering needed for this.

      Repeating a bad theodicy for centuries doesn't make it a good one.

      Tom

      It just a matter of consistency. Unless something is logically impossible, God can do it. That's what "omnipotence" means, unless you are going to redefine that concept as well.

      And if i am in need of God's garce and mercy, then it is because of what I do, not because of what some ancestors of mine did or didn't do.
      Some things are actually easy to understand until apologists make them look difficult because they have no real answers.

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    8. @Walter. I didn’t see your reply here, but you really don’t understand at all. If you did, you would understand why Saint Faustina said this;

      “If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: one is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering.”

      Angels have immense power and knowledge given directly in their creation. But when St Faustina says this it’s not meaningless platitudes. It’s at the heart of what you cannot see.

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    9. Si
      Does St.Faustina have a serious argument for this?
      How would anyone know how angels would feel? It may not he a platitude, but it seems like a projection of thé Saint's personal emotions to me.
      Not very convincing.
      Now instead of assertong that I don't understand it, why don't you come up with something that shows you understand what you are claiming?

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    10. @Walter

      It’s your claim that God could just give everyone a choice to participate in the Trinity that was the main reason for me claiming that you don’t understand. Being in the direct presence of God is not a trivial thing. Even prophets like Abram, Joshua, Ezekiel and Daniel collapsed when they cane into God’s presence. They just couldn’t even stand. Peter, James and John collapsed at the transfiguration. Paul collapsed on the road to Damascus. It is clearly something inexpressibly overwhelming, such greatness that it inspires an awe and fear that is well beyond normal human experience. That’s just being in His presence. We’re talking about consciously participating in His being. This is of course beyond our imagination, even those who have experienced something of it cannot describe anything at all of it. So to assume that it’s just like you asking lodgers to stay in your house is missing everything.

      With regards St Faustina’s comments being a “projection of her emotions”, why is it that all the saints, all those who have experienced something of God see it the same way?



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    11. PS: Someone has collected a few useful examples here -> https://whitelilyoftrinity.com/saints_quotes_suffering.html

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    12. Simon

      Participating in the Trinity "inspires an awe and fear that is well beyond normal human experience" if God creates the normal human experience in such a way. And that is the point, a good God who cares about His creation would create every conscious being with the ability to be in His presence without so much awe and fear. Why would a good being even inspire fear on anyone?
      This "awe and fear" thing is a projection of emotions inspired by human leaders who indeed ruled by awe and fear. it is also inspired by theodicies that existed from very near the beginning, and it also inspired lots of Saints with a (IMO) perverse attarction to suffering. Sure, most Saints believed and still believe that suffering is necessary for unity with God for the same reason that you believe it.
      But that doesn't make those reasons any good.

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    13. Walter

      This awe and fear of being in God’s presence is not something he inspires, it’s His infinite greatness perceived by a finite creature. It’s the shock of reality unveiled. From behind the veil, at times He spills over such that we can experience a diluted form of His presence where words like gentle, tender, love, peace etc are used. For now we only see dimly, our perception is naturally tuned to dim reality, and so it’s in this diluted form that most of us can distinguish anything other than infinite ‘brightness’.

      In general you take a position that conflicts with everything revealed in scripture. So where do you get your information on what God is, what God could do and couldn’t do? If it’s just reason, then what makes you think you can understand the timeless and the infinite? We can’t even think without time. If you ignore revelation, what makes you think humans are able to understand such things any more than ants can understand Special Relativity?

      When Jesus Bar Joseph was convicted, Pilate gave the people the option to choose between him and Jesus Barabbas (“son of the father”). Two messianic figures representing two different human perspectives, one human, one divine. Peter originally saw Jesus as the human version, and Jesus responded with “Get thee behind me Satan”.

      This is made clearer by the three temptations that Jesus was given in the desert. Satan did not ask for worship, as he is more sly than that. He presented different versions of this human perspective, which relate to suffering, power, and image (being liked or admired). Satan even quotes scripture, the master theologian using scripture to sell the human perspective.

      This is what spiritual discernment is all about. You can use Ignatian exercises to help with this, you can go on silent retreat (even into the desert). You can go to weekly mass and a weekly holy hour in silence. Where you almost certainly won’t ‘get’ why your reasoning doesn’t resonate with people who trust God is in theology or philosophy books, or internet forums (interesting as they may be).

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  3. Of course Christian doctrine does not lead us to expect little or no suffering, but that is a strong argument against Christian doctrine .
    The problem of evil (or suffering) does not say that there should not be so much evil or suffering if Christian doctrine is true, it says that the existence of (so much) evil or suffering is incompatible with a tri-omni God and hence Christian doctrine, along with other doctrines about God, is false. IOW Christian doctrine cannot be true.
    It is hardly a secret that "the Fall" is one giant theodicy right from the start. But it's a bad theodicy for several reasons, the most important one being that a tri-omni God would not allow for any fall. Without the Fall human beings would have experienced the beatific vision without the need of suffering.

    Moreover, this article does not explain why the good are punished and neither does Augustine, it actually comes down to "nobody is good" or "the good are not really punished.".
    People who "shrink from doing their duty to condemn the wickedness that surrounds them" are not good, so they do not present a case af good people being punished.

    And if "the loss of worldly blessings – material goods, reputation, friendships, health, livelihood, even life itself – is permitted by God so that we might learn not to cling to these things at the expense of the beatific vision, the value of which trumps all else", that may explain why good people suffer but it isn't a punishment.

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    1. It is true that Prof. Feser's post addresses the evils suffered given the Fall and sin in the world. And so it does not address the issue of evil absent the supposition of the Fall and sin.

      Moreover, this article does not explain why the good are punished ... it actually comes down to "nobody is good"

      The article points out that everybody is "not good" in the relevant sense needed for a question of "why are the good punished". This is an answer to the question by correcting the presumption embedded in the question.

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    2. Walter,

      You claim that St. Augustine doesn't give an answer, but then you list all of his answers.

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    3. Hey Walter!

      "The problem of evil (or suffering) does not say that there should not be so much evil or suffering if Christian doctrine is true, it says that the existence of (so much) evil or suffering is incompatible with a tri-omni God and hence Christian doctrine, along with other doctrines about God, is false."

      And does not the role that christian doctrine puts suffering into at least make the argument lose force?

      Atheist: "there is no way that a perfect deity and the evil on this world could coesist".

      Christian: "And what if such and such is true?"

      I mean, it just amazes me how at least my suffering seems justified on this worldview*, i consider it a philosophical and existential advantage that christianity has against generic theism and judaism and islam.

      At least the logical problem of evil seems weaker by the sheer existence of this faith.

      *the only worldviews than seem as good as combating it are the ones with reencarnarion or atheistic ones(not that it is justified on most atheistic views, but on these you do not expect a answer anyway)

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    4. Talmid

      "And what if such and such is true".
      The point is that "such and such" makes absolutely no sense.

      Mr Geocon

      They are answer to some question, but not to the question "Why do good people get punished?"

      Tony

      The answer comes down to "nobody is actually good and therefore everybody deserves punishment". The "relevant sense" is "the relevant sense of deserving (or not deserving) punishment.
      The point is that if you are good in the sense that you do nothing wrong and do not shrink from doing youir duty to condemn the wickedness that surrounds them, you do not deserve punishment and if you still suffer, it is not punishment.

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    5. @Walter

      Fair response. But would you not agree that the at minimum creative role that suffering has on christianity weaken the problem of evil? For we do have interesting reasons for it to exist.

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    6. Talmid

      No, I would not agree to that. You may have "interesting reasons" but what you need is good reasons. And you haven't got those.

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    7. Walter,

      Yes, they are. You list all of his reasons for why.

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    8. @Walter

      Do i not? One of the classical responses a theist make to the problem of evil is to say "there are certain goods that could only be gained in a world like our own". Even platonists argue that.

      Well, the christian does have the example of the saints, whose suffering and hardships make their lifes noble and interesting* not only to us but even to themselves. To a christian, suffering is supposed to be seen not as a crappy thing, but as a way of uniting with Christ and climbing the latter to being similar to Him.

      Not only on they but on normal people, perhaps even on your case, you can see people who look at terrible times they had and see their better situation as enobled or even justified by the bad times. This even on totally secular contexts, not considering the beatific vision(who would turn everything acceptable to the receiver).

      This actually seems probably a very alien thinking to a modern unbeliever, except that Nietzsche did get there, so read eventually the start of the City of God, the part that Dr. Feser is quoting, slowly and trying to see things like St. Augustine. Perhaps it help. Likely not, for it is quite a jump.

      And remember: this is not a way to us to see this world as justified, but a way to trying to see how God could see things that way. The same God that do a lot of things we humans cant do, like kill people and all that.

      But anyway, trying to grow on this worldview i realized that the christians and a average person today, even several theists, see the relevant things with completely diferent eyes, so who knows how much this discussion can do. Existential considerations are very important.

      *which is not to argue that becoming good by suffering is necessarily better than starting good. In the christian context God created humans and angels, who represent both options

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    9. Talmid

      "There are certain goods that could only be gained in a world like our own".

      That's only true if you stretch the meaning of "goods". Of course we wouldn't be able to enjoy the "good" of extinguishing a fire in a world in which there are no fires, but in that world those goods are meaningless.
      The same holds for saints. In an good world, everybody is a saint and sainthood does not require suffering.

      Wha

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    10. I accidently posted my reply before it was finished but your "solution" for the PoE (along with Ed's and Augustine's) comes down to "there is suffering in the world because God wanted a world with suffering".
      The main point is whether we could call a being who wants a world of suffering "good".
      I think it's obvious we can't, unless it is impossible to create a world without suffering. But that is not so.
      I am sure Hitler could see his "solutions" as justified, but that doesn't make them so.
      So, you have given interesting reasons, but you haven't given good ones, unless you keep redefining "good", of course.

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    11. Mr Geocon

      I am not sure what you are repying to, but Ed does not give any reason why truly good people are punished.

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    12. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      Original sin was the fall of creation and suffering was the consequence of this fall. We are all in this fallen creation. No one is being "punished", not even Adam and Eve. They just inevitably chose sin given free will and time. Human free will can also be modelled by an infinite unbiased random binary sequence so all choices exist in it somewhere (as simple a model as you are likely to find). Adam and Eve, in time, chose to leave temporal paradise and enter the fallen creation. Knowledge of good and evil meant a return to temporal paradise was gone without the intervention of God to bring them to the new creation, the eternal (outside of time) paradise with God.

      This is where we are, all of us, people, babies, good people, bad people, dogs, ticks, mosquitos, and viruses. There is only one creation (simplicity again). We are all in it together. God did not cause multiple worlds for each to choose, and by the choice define right and wrong (for you are the one claiming to redefine things, not me). As a human with an infinite component to your mind, since you are free, you can always choose your own way to stay separate from God. In eternity (outside of time), when the new creation replaces this one, choosing will no longer be possible, so if you have elected to be separate from God, you will stay separate from God.

      The world we live in is not so by necessity. It could have been anything (modelled by the random sequence). It could have been a world in which 1+ 1 is 3 and the rules of logic could have been anything. But the world we live in is the way it is because of love. Love, not necessity. Love is why after inevitably (given endless time) exiting temporal paradise, there is still Salvation if you freely choose it. The innocent, even mosquitos (which are actually rather beautiful) will have an appropriate room in God's eternal mansion, where the leopard lies down with the kid and the suckling child plays on the hole of the asp [Isaiah 11 KJV].

      Nobody has to follow your restrictions, which center on a small and dark vision. Least of all you.

      Tom Cohoe

      PS - I have had a lot of driving and other extra things to prepare for my son's acceptance ceremony at RCIA, so I have not had time to correct this for error or good expression - TC

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    13. Tom

      I understand you have lots of things on your mind, so. I give you the time to correct all of the contradiction before I Respond.

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    14. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      I'll stick with what I wrote.

      Tom Cohoe

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    15. @Walter

      "The main point is whether we could call a being who wants a world of suffering "good."

      Well, we can't. I do call Him Goodness Itself and other cool names, though.

      A essencial part of this christian theodicy* is that God has a relation with morality totally diferent than our own, see for instance the fact that He can judge people, can kill people, can pester people until they want to do His thing(see Jonah) etc. The Book of Job lets this clear when God finally appears, for Job is trying to tread God as a equal the whole time, who needs to explain His actions to him and all that, and when He finally appears He makes very clear that Job treatment of Him as how we would do a normal person is completely ridiculous.

      So the idea that God is good yes but on a more analogical than univocal way is not a clever apologetical invention but is there on the religions of the book since the beginning. It just sounds bizarre to me to see someone argue otherwise, specially when the "the names Scripture uses to talk of God should not be understood as exactly what they mean in us" is a thing since the church fathers.

      This is important, for if God goodness is not exactly our own them His priorities can be diferent. And, well, on the christian worldview the struggle a believer has to be become holy, the life and struggles of the animals etc are goods that let the universe better.

      Notice that even we can see value in something that requires suffering. For instance, would you rather we, suppose we could, put all savage animals in zoos and other controlated environments and make the ecosistems that exist now stay functioning artificially or you would want to also let places were there are animals living like they do and only interfere to not let extinctions and things like that happen?

      *if this is the right name

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    16. (Cont.)

      And notice that until now i'am only looking at this life. It seems to me that the life that exists on this planet do have enough goodness that it could exist.

      If we take humans possibility of theosis and heaven into account them the individual suffering is also way less important that it looks if we look only at this life.

      "What about Hell?"

      Well, a molinist would argue that God can't force everyone to go to heaven, so accepting that some will deserve hell is part of the deal. The thomist, i think, would probably argue that God could save everyone but does not do it because of the goods that occour thanks to the bad existence. Both positions could be truth, who knows which.

      And, since we are talking about non-sensible realms, it is christian dogma that God DID create saints that did not need suffering: the angels. So yea, already covered.

      "What about the demons?"

      Same as humans. Either they could not be necessarily made for loving Him or they could but the demons have their own place in the game(as part of the saints trials, as pushing history to certain directions etc).

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    17. (The end!)

      It seems to me, Walter, that the proposition:

      - the world that the christian tradition says that God created is more atractive to God than one were no evil, natural or moral, ever happened thanks to the more types of goods that exist on it

      Is defensible. It seems that your best strategy is to continue to attack the idea that the Christian God can be said to be good in any meaningful sense. But this seems to me not that great of a move, as seeing how God is not good in the sense we are.

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    18. Talmid: “ Notice that even we can see value in something that requires suffering. For instance, would you rather we, suppose we could, put all savage animals in zoos…”

      I think there are even simpler examples where the suffering is so mild that we don’t often call it suffering, such as going for a run every week (assuming like me you don’t particularly like running, but like the end results). Or vacuuming the house, packing the dishwasher etc.

      For many reasons we usually consider these to be categorically different from suffering. We choose to do them, the downsides are very mild, the benefits are obvious and immediate etc. However in principle they are very similar. They are also similar in that the more we learn to accept them - even to try inwardly celebrate the service we are giving to the final cause, the less they become problems.

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    19. Talmid

      "So the idea that God is good yes but on a more analogical than univocal way is not a clever apologetical invention but is there on the religions of the book since the beginning."

      I know that in was in the books since the beginning, but that has been my point all along. From the beginning, contrary to what Ed claims, suffering was a problem and hence, from the beginning, there was a a need for theodicies.
      God may be good in only an analogous way, but an analogy has something in common with what it is compared to, and your definition of goodness is contrary to what is generally understood by goodness. What is more important is that I think you are a good person and that in everyday life you use the same definition of goodness that I do.
      And on that definition of goodness, every possibilty of evil would be ruled out if that were possible. But yiurb definition of god's goodness is simply circular "Good is what God does and whatever god does is good".

      It is indeed so that the Christian good is not all good in any meaningful sense, not just not in the sense that we are but in no sense at all.
      Using people and their suffering as a means to get a more attractive creation is not good in any meaningful sense. It is, in every meaingful sense, appalling.

      The very fact that God also created saints that did not suffer is proof that, contrary to what some of you claim, God could do it. It's just that he was apparently more attracted to a world with suffering.
      I know you didn't mean to, but "their place in the game" says it all. I don't want to be part of a game, and I don't think Pure Act plays games.



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    20. Talmid

      To answer your question.
      Yes, I would, if I could and was smart enough to know how (which would make me omniscient), put all savage animals in zoos and other controlated environments and make the ecosystems that exist now stay functioning artificially.
      That's one of the reasosn I am a vegetarian, by the way.
      You only need "the good" of a fire brigade if there can be fires. So, no, I wouldn't allow fires because I wanted the good of a fire brigade.

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    21. Tom

      So, according to you, it is possible to inevitably choose something?
      I suppose that makes sense to someone who treats logic (and God) as contingent.

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    22. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "it is possible to inevitably choose something?"

      Yes Walter. In the temporal paradise nothing would end it except a voluntary exit (freely choosing to turn away from the presence of God). So an infinitude of time was available, unmarred by fear, aging, or death.

      Now let us look at the simple model of human free will in time (in the temporal paradise) - an infinite sequence of unbiased bits, in which lies all possible intelligible choices encoded one way or other (you, Walter, can choose any encoding method subject to finite computation).

      To be unbiased, the infinite sequence would have to contain, as a subsequence, the choice to turn away from God (exit paradise). If the infinite sequence did not contain the choice as a subsequence, the infinite sequence would not be an unbiased random sequence and it would not be simple but would be complex.

      So the free choice to turn from God, given endless time, is inevitable.

      "I suppose that makes sense to someone who treats logic (and God) as contingent."

      Logic can similarly be shown to have no necessary imposition on the will of its creator, God, but the demonstration above does not depend on this. The demonstration about logic would be another discussion, which I sincerely hope you could enjoy.

      Tom Cohoe

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    23. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      BTW, I do not treat God as contingent in any sense of the word.

      Tom Cohoe

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    24. @Simon

      Good point there, we do accept suffering a lot. I just suppose that Walter would reply, that on these cases we would have the goods while not suffering anything, which is a acceptable view to the non-christian.

      @Walter

      I see what you are saying. Just a correction: on the view i'am defending God is beyond what we usually mean by good, for He has no essence separate from His essence that He must be a great exemplar of, but is THE good that we all recept a fraction, you could say. It is not a case of the voluntaristic view were God chooses things to be good for no reason so i dont see much circularity. The name "good" that we use to Him mean only that He has no lack, but it has little to do with our virtues.

      Now, could this Being, beyond our good but also its cause, choose something that we would not choose? I would say that we just cant know much of this answer a priori. Since God has no nature that we can separate from Him and say "His nature is to choose such and such" them there is a sense were, while He can by no means be evil*, He is sure hard to predict.

      Notice that the monotheistic-or-close pagans, that had no Bible, normally did not really treat God as much similar to us. This because pure reason cant really show much of how He thinks, only that He cant be bad(and what i mentioned below). This world, revelation, the Incarnation, these are all suprises that say a bit more of who He is but only say so much.


      *for being evil is to lack virtues, and God does not lack anything. One also could not expect Truth to lie or He to create us with our wills being draw to virtue(so commanding us to be good) and them command us to ignore virtue for no good reason, that would be contradictory and against Truth

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    25. (Cont)

      Of course, you can argue that the Christian God is evil either according to Christianity own view of goodness or a diferent view of goodness that is taken to be objective.

      I'am taking care of arguing against the view that God can be seen as evil on the christian own standards but i admit that this is not much because you clearly take a diferent view on goodness, seeing your argumentation and being a vegetarian, so you could aways reply "yea, this god is not evil if we accept a wrong definition of good". I suppose that this is why you say that apologists are changing the definition if goodness.

      On the christian view, God can be said to do good to us not only in giving us the chance of Heaven but even in creating we as imperfect as we are. Even existing badly is better that not existing for being is intrinsically good. Now, the zoo example and your vegetarianism* show that you disagree with this, i suppose that being is not good to you on every situation or case and, living on a world were suffering is so prevalescent, i can see were this come from, it is a judgment impossible to never make at least for a moment while living under the sun.

      So i think that i see the source of the disagreement here: you and the christian tradition have diferent views on goodness that change the perception of this world and the judgment of Goodness Itself making it. To agree with the christian message you would need a radical change on value that the christian tradition(at least on your view) need way more evidence to justify.

      Anyway, i hope that at least i could make the christian response i'am defending appear less ad hoc, for i do see it as being internally coherent. The discussion helped see the disagreement more clearly, thanks! Dont know if we should go to discussing the accounts of good directly today.

      *notice that i have vegetarian sisters and the non-christians i most respect are exactly the spiritualized ascetics that do think other animals have value as well,even if i disagree

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    26. Tom

      If logic is contingent, so is God, because the proposition "God exists" is, in that case, a contingent truth.

      If free will can be expressed in unbiased bits, then there is no choice, whatever happens is just the result of random factors. Your account of free will means that you can turn into an atheist tomorrow and I can turn into a theist, because that happens to be an unbiased bit of both our "wills".
      If you are given an infinite amount of time, you will become an atheist and a theists again and an atheist again and a theist again etc. and the result is you will never be either of them or you will be both of them.

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    27. Simon

      "I think there are even simpler examples where the suffering is so mild that we don’t often call it suffering, such as going for a run every week".
      That's because of how we evolved. We evolved in a world that contains suffering and we evolved means to cope with that suffering, and indeed, in this world, mild suffering can, in the long run, avoid more serious suffering. if I don't go for a bike ride today, even though the weather isn't very good here and the ride will not be all pleasant, I could lose my shape, which could lead to a lot more suffering.
      Notice that the main goal is to avoid serious suffering, not to cherish it.
      That's like the fire brigade. It is a good, but it is only relative. if there were no possible fires, a fire brigade would not be a good. If God didn't create a world of suffering for us, suffering (even mild suffering) would not be a good.

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    28. Talmid

      I don't agree that existing badly is better than not existing. You are arguing in hindsight. You are glad you exist and so am I, but unless you believe that all possible creatures are actual or will be actual, most possible creatures do not exist and will never exist.
      So, Quark the Ferengi Bartender is a fictional character, but, if we take your view, He will actually exist some day, because, existing badly is better than not existing. And that holds for every possible creature.
      Notive also how Jesus says that it would have been better for them if they hadn't been born.
      That much for intrenal consistency.

      On a final note, it is not a christian view that God has the right to kill just because he is God. The whole idea behind the Fall Theodicy was that only the guilty die and we are all guilty because of the Fall.
      If there had been no Fall, accoding to Tom Cohoe here that is impossible, butlets look at this hypothetical scenario, God would not have killed anybody and everybody would be in His presence without fear.

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    29. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      The little logic puzzles that you are setting are tricks that you are playing on yourself.

      "If logic is contingent, so is God, because the proposition 'God exists' is, in that case, a contingent truth."

      Contingent logic and contingent truth are not the same thing. Logic is a procedure that, properly used, takes us from one truth to another. Contingent truth is not absolute truth. "It takes an hour to swim across the lake", depends on the lake, the person swimming, and other contingent factors. God knows all the contingencies. They are in the infinite sequence which is contingent to us, but not to God, who is absolute truth. Furthermore, the infinite sequence is an _image_ of God, a Divine Idea, meaning that God knows it. But an image of God is not God any more than the pixels in your digital photo of a tree are the tree. You cannot say that the tree does not have sap because the photo does not have sap. Similarly, you cannot say that God is contingent from the entertainment of an image of God. The image does not show what God is, but it shows what you cannot say that God is not. Because people, made in the image of God, can be stupid does not imply that God is stupid.

      God has no procedure of using logic. God knows the procedure of logic that you use. He created it. That procedure, properly used, is whatever God wills it to be. Whatever he wills it to be, it still allows humans to reason from one contingent truth to another within the composite contingent truths that humans understand.

      "Your account of free will means that you can turn into an atheist tomorrow and I can turn into a theist, because that happens to be an unbiased bit of both our 'wills.' "

      Interesting then that that can actually happen but only a finite number of times before death ends the process. Infinite time in paradise ends when the inevitable free will choice to turn away from God is made. "To dust you shall return" [RSV2CE]. It is like a mouse who freely steps onto a trap door and falls from the paradise into a pit from which it cannot exit except through death in finite time. But death, because of God's love, is actually another door to eternal salvation.

      Tom Cohoe

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    30. Walter

      “ Notice that the main goal is to avoid serious suffering, not to cherish it.”

      I think you’re confusing different types of suffering. Often people don’t enjoy exercise, but they suffer it because the end result is good from the perspective of physical health. However we generally make the choice there, we understand how it helps our health. What about a young child forced not to ride it’s tricycle on a busy road, or to take some bad tasting medicine. In these cases most children don’t understand the end good. A few children may trust their parents, and so for them (and there parents!) it’s not really a problem. For others, the hurt and pain they feel at the unfairness of it all often causes them far more problems than the bad taste or the limited cycling options.

      “That's like the fire brigade. It is a good, but it is only relative. if there were no possible fires, a fire brigade would not be a good. If God didn't create a world of suffering for us, suffering (even mild suffering) would not be a good.”

      Have you had any experience of very spoilt children? Children who get everything they want, whenever they want it, can do no wrong, have people who clear their mess up, no expectations etc. Of course this is always going to be an over generalisation, and I’m not equating it directly with the process of our spiritual creation, but do they generally have an empathetic view of others? Or are they usually self absorbed and obnoxious?

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    31. @Walter

      "I don't agree that existing badly is better than not existing."

      Correct, i think that this is were the disagreement lies. Materials beings like, say, cats, are by nature corruptive, they can be hurt, cease to be and even suffer and die. Now, is these beings existence good enough that they are desirable?

      You answer "not necessarily" for, from what i remember, you reject the ur-platonist view that being and goodness are the same, so your criteria of what a good thing is probably(i can only supose) tied to happiness in a way that unhappiness in a large level is not the type of thing that should be desirable at all.

      By contrast, someone like Aquinas would argue that even beings so fragile are desirable for their existence allow for a major variety of good things and even their decay and corruption is in a sense, and only in a sense, desirable for the corruption of one material thing aways result in other things(even if not usually living) and so ad variety.

      Remember that later pagans and ancient and medieval christians took effort to argue against the gnostic view that the material world is bad because of the inevitable corruption and decay its existence creates, which seems alive on today antinatalists, so the view i'am defending does argue that even beings that can and do suffer and die are good. The realism on universals, evil as privation and "being = goodness" aspects are essencial to this to work, so i'am not suprised that you are not convinced. The disagreement on metaphysics is anything but irrelevant here, but it just is the cause of the disagreement.

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    32. @Cont)

      "So, Quark the Ferengi Bartender is a fictional character, but, if we take your view, He will actually exist some day, because, existing badly is better than not existing"

      At most this would require believe in a type of multiverse, hardly a thing considered insane nowdays.

      But i dont think that this point of yours works. One can suppose that God was interessed on a qualitative maximization of goodness, so He created all possible categories of goodness, incluiding corruptive sensible beings like cats and birds. A quantitative maximization, creating all possible beings, was not choosen likely for being not necessary, i really have no way of knowing here. Remember aways that i dont think that there is a best of all possible worlds, there is away a better, so trying to create one with ALL possible beings would be dumb.

      "Notive also how Jesus says that it would have been better for them if they hadn't been born."

      Pulling a Aquinas here, one can suggest two options:

      1. Hyperbole. This is the Parables Guy after all.

      2. He only meant that Judas would being better of dying on the womb, before choosing to betrayal God.

      Pick the better one and continue reading, my boy.


      "On a final note, it is not a christian view that God has the right to kill just because he is God."

      Abraaham and Isaac, you know. There are a few church fathers that would agree with you, sure, but that is about it.

      Anyway, it seems to me that the whole disagreement is on the worth of beings that can suffer. Like most people that opposed the gnostics, i argue that beings that do suffer are worth existing and you, having very diferent metaphysics, do not.

      Anyway, the discussion is sure being helpful, allowing to see the issue more clearly and also with diferent eyes.

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    33. Tom

      If you say that the proposition "God exists" is a necessary truth you are applying a procedure that by your own admission you cannot apply.
      So, that makes every attempt to use logic to argue for God completely futile.

      Hence, to be consistent,you would have to go with Richard Swinburne and admit that "God is necessary" cannot be proven and therefore we should consider god to be contingent.


      Your second part shows what exactly is wrong with free will theodicies. If, given a finite amount of time, I will arrive at a point when death ends the process, then it is simply a matter of random chance. Maybe just before i die, I "happen" to become a theist. Result: eternal happiness, while you, just before you die, after having lead an entire life as a devout Catholic, "happen" to become an atheist. back luck for you.

      And that's why the Fall theodicy is so incredibly weak, and had better be named "the Trap theodicy", because it seems that God has waited just long enough for the first time Adam did something wrong to condemn him. Moreover, since he was the one who put the sequence there in the first place, He knew exactly what was going to happen and when it was going to happen.
      IOW, Adam, just like the rest of us, was always doomed and has always been in need of redemption. There was no fall, Human beings were created fallen right from the start.
      And because they were created that way, whatever happened afterwards was ineviteble.

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    34. Simon

      Yes, I know some very spoilt children, and that actually proves my point. In this world (mild) suffering helps us cope with more suffering but that's only because this world isn't an ideal world. In an ideal world, no suffering would be required, just as in an ideal world without fires, no fire brigade is required.

      And even if some mild form of suffering would be good for us, it is still a very big leap to the amounts of grave suffering we see around us.

      Instead of referring to Angels, neither of us knows enough about to draw any conclysions, let's instead look at people.
      Do the majority of people envy the vast suffering of others? Do you eny that.
      Do the majority of people, including most Christians and Catholics try to relieve the suffering of others or do they say, "Well, in the end, it will turn out good for them"?

      That's why suffering , contrary to what Ed claims, is a huge problem for Christians. And Christians, deep down, know this, but when they put on their apologetic hats, they explain it away.

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    35. Talmid

      I do not necessarily reject the idea that being and goodness are the same, but if that's so, being should be good and not be bad in any way. It doesn't suffice that every being has "some" good, no, being "is" good.
      Hence, there cannot be anything bad. And that's the crux of the problem and that's why the Classical Theism isn't consistent.
      To say that even bad things should exist is simply logically impossible "if" being is good. That's a straightforward contradiction.

      Sure, if an infinite multiverse exists, then somewhere, Quark the Ferengi exists. That may not be an insane idea, but it is not the standard Christian view, which is that God could have chosen not to create anything at all.
      Your claim about qualitative and quantitative maximization is interesting here, because it contradicts what you claimed before, namely that "being is intrinsically good". if being is intrinsically good, then not being is intrinsically bad, so Quark the Ferengi not existing would be intrinsically bad. Whether my "type" of goodness exists in someone else doesn't make my non-existence a good thing.

      BTW, Abraham and Isaac came after the Fall, so Isaac was not innocent. Neither is any foetus in the womb, because they have all
      inherited Original Sin.
      I do not really care about how many Chrurch Fathers agree of disagree with me, actually. A bad argument is bad, no matter how many Chruch fathers or other people present it.

      Now, I think I have said enough on the subject. My conclusion still is that suffering is a huge problem for Christianity. And I have explained why.

      Now, thank you for the interesting discussion, Talmid.

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    36. @Walter. I originally became an atheist many years ago mainly because of suffering. This was as a late teenager, and I came to my own version of God either being all powerful and cruel, or not all powerful and therefore at least partly an illusion of primitive people. The fact that I am now a Catholic is evidence that I don’t think it’s a problem. It’s of course a very difficult thing, and the argument is not in any way whatsoever that we should just ignore suffering in others, to be indifferent to it. Quite the opposite, doing the small bit we can to help those suffering in their different ways is part of what we are asked to do. This is why I describe it as a necessary part of our complete creation, and not as a good in itself. Of course us normal Catholics don’t envy the suffering in others. However those who have the deepest relationship with God do often become keen to suffer themselves, so that they can ‘take up their cross’ and share in the sacrifice of God incarnate.

      Once you believe, there is a very different perspective, even if it’s not always easy from inside the blast furnace of our creation.

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    37. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      "If you say that the proposition "God exists" is a necessary truth you are applying a procedure that by your own admission you cannot apply.
      So, that makes every attempt to use logic to argue for God completely futile."

      I have not "admitted" anything.

      An infinite random sequence such as I have described is just a limited model of simplicity that is also, in some sense, about something that is not known or accessible, or understood by someone. Applied to my free will, it would not mean that my free will choices are not ordered to anything. It means, assuming its validity, that whatever process I use to arrive at a decision is beyond your ability to know, understand, or predict, using whatever measurement or calculation you care to try.

      I don't use logic to argue for the existence of God, at least not logic alone. I use observation. I open my eyes and see what God has made as in Romans 1:20. The logic part starts with an assumption: "There must be a simple unifying cause of all of creation". What we know as "science" cannot fill the role of logic in the argument. Science is not remotely simple, but is highly complex. The simpler explanation, we call God. It is, in fact, a definition.

      "If, given a finite amount of time, I will arrive at a point when death ends the process, then it is simply a matter of random chance."

      No, my free will choice is random to you, not to me. You cannot understand how I choose or predict what I will choose, but that does not make my choice disordered. It just means that you cannot understand or predict it. You do not just "happen" to be a theist or an atheist when you die. Your intellectual part, private as described (the reason for modelling it as random), directs your free will (it can still deliberately choose wrongly), but such a deliberate wrong choice turns you from God, where you will stay if you die in refusal. Your knowledge of the love of God plays a role in the choice, but you freely make it.

      "it seems that God has waited just long enough for the first time Adam did something wrong to condemn him"

      God did not condemn Adam or anyone else.

      "since he was the one who put the sequence there in the first place, He knew exactly what was going to happen and when it was going to happen"

      The sequence is just a model of unpredictable simplicity. It is not an ordering of creation.

      "Adam, just like the rest of us, was always doomed and has always been in need of redemption. There was no fall, Human beings were created fallen right from the start."

      Adam was not always doomed, in fact, is not doomed.

      Tom Cohoe

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    38. Simon

      Someone who believes in a version of God either being all powerful and cruel, or not all powerful and therefore at least partly an illusion of primitive people is not an atheist.
      But that is beside the point.
      I know that the fact you became a Catholic is evidence that you don’t think it’s a problem. But you deep down when you stop being an apologetic you feel it is a problem.
      Either suffering is necessary. (the way you use necessary) for the person suffering or it isn't.
      If it is necessary for the person suffering then being asked to do the small bit we can to help those suffering is a clear contradiction.
      If you are consistent, you should not be indifferent to other peole's suffering, you should actually enjoy other people's suffering.
      You should, whenever someone suffers, tell them they should be glad because they are taking up their cross and share in the sacrifice of God incarnate.
      But, you don't because the existence of suffering is still very much a problem for you, as it should for anybody who truly cares for other people. And BTW,I don't doubt that you actually care for other people.

      Now, I think it's time to stop this discussion because we don't seem to make any progress.
      Thank you for the discussion.

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    39. Tom

      You claim you don't use logic to argue for the existence of God and then you give an example of how you use logic to argue for the existence of God.
      Strange.
      Anyway, whether you call Adam (or the rest of us) "doomed" or simply "fallen" doesn't matter, because in your view, nothing whatsoever changed since the Fall. Adam "inevitably chose" the wrong path, which is Adam's problem, and not mine, because whether the Fall happend or not, I can still make free choices, which means I can make the right choice or the wrong one.
      But now you say you( and me) are actually in control of what we choose. But in that case, even given an infinite amount of time, you will never chose the wrong path.

      So, Tom, it's time to end this discussion.
      It was interesting and, as usually, it strenghtened my convinction. Thank you.

      It's as simple as that. And if "you"

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    40. @Walter. I agree we’re going around in circles. I could use an analogy of a mother shouting at her daughter to get out of the busy road, and of the elder brother feeling empathy for his sister while accepting that the telling off was necessary. However you will take that in a univocal sense where you can’t translate this onto the big picture, or focus on the idea that I’m claiming that suffering is God ‘telling us off’, which is not the point at all.

      I don’t claim to understand the whole picture, but there is a beauty in the universe that relies on this balance between the good stuff and the bad stuff, where our overcoming of difficulties are in a way more valuable because of the difficulties. Without decay physical reality would be a disgusting mess, without suffering our bodies could not have evolved. If you see the physical world as everything, and our physical existence as the peak of some very lucky random circumstances over time, as I did as an atheist, then the idea of this physical universe as a phase of an essentially spiritual creation process makes no sense at all. So instead you decide that a good God would instead just create something like angels in a paradise, and not bother with the often messy physical universe and human beings at all. Which seems to me to loose a great deal of richness from existence, for all it’s troubles. Some of the angels seem to have had this view, so at least you’re not alone!

      Thanks for the chat.

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    41. @ Walter Van den Acker,

      I am sorry that you are frustrated in your desire to be the maker of the rules. I truly am.

      "Strange"

      Nice, especially considering I didn't do what you accuse me of:

      "You claim you don't use logic to argue for the existence of God and then you give an example of how you use logic to argue for the existence of God"

      Umm, no. I said:

      "I don't use logic to argue for the existence of God, at least not logic alone. I use observation. I open my eyes and see what God has made as in Romans 1:20. The logic part starts with an assumption: 'There must be a simple unifying cause of all of creation'."

      You've decided that you can count my qualified statement as a contradiction. Now that's strange. If that is how you actually think, it's no wonder you aren't getting anywhere. But you do show some signs that you can do better. Too bad you've decided that you are the maker of the rules and of meaning. That's getting in your way.

      "in your view, nothing whatsoever changed since the Fall"

      I never said anything remotely like that. For example, I said that before the fall there was endless time to turn away from God but after the fall there was only finite time, the length of a person's life.

      "now you say you( and me) are actually in control of what we choose. But in that case, even given an infinite amount of time, you will never chose the wrong path"

      When you drive your car you are controlling it. That doesn't mean you can't lose control and hit the ditch.

      I gave you an argument based on simplicity that given infinite time you will make the wrong choice. You are just contradicting it, choosing complexity as better for some, ahem, strange reason.

      :-)

      In the infinite time of the initial Paradise, once Adam sinned he was banished so that God could prepare the new creation in eternity where his choice at death became eternal. All he, or you, have to do is hold to the right choice at your death. Given understanding, you can, through your simple free will, achieve this.

      Tom Cohoe

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    42. I agree with Walter that the "God is good only in an analogical sense, not a univocal one!" is a horrible and useless defense. As he said, when there is an analogy there is something in common; in particular, in "God is good" there is an analogy of proper proportionality. It is not a metaphor. For the classical theist, God is the source of all actualities - and that includes virtues and moral agency -, and as the source of all perfection and pure act God must FORMALLY possess all pure perfections (that is, perfections that in themselves include no limitation), but in an eminent way. The formal possession of pure perfections by God is insisted upon by many thomists (e.g. Garrigou-Lagrange) and is compatible with analogy (again, it's an analogy of proper proportionality).

      Therefore, one can only say that "God is not a moral agent" or "God is not virtuous" if one believes that moral agency and virtue are not pure perfections. But I think it's obvious that they are pure perfections; the fact that moral agency is found in us in a limited, creaturely manner doesn't make it any less of a perfection just like the fact that wisdom is found in us in a changing, limited, creaturely manner doesn't mean wisdom is not a perfection - and the theist certainly says God is wise in a literal way. God is therefore also properly said to be morally good - indeed, morally perfect - and this goodness cannot contradict what seems basic to us with regard to evil, moral value, etc. Just like we wouldn't say God is omniscient if he didn't literally know (e.g.) that we exist. This is also why I think the "Brian Davies" line of approaching the PoE is entirely useless. And it has nothing to do with classical theism per se, but rather with moral virtue being or not being a pure perfection. Needless to say, most people would agree that if God does not at all care to stop a child from being tortured, then God is seriously deficient (which should be impossible).

      Walter,

      That being said, I wonder how you can feel so confident about the presence of suffering on this earth being totally pointless, and that it would be better to have a world (e.g.) without any Fall at any point. Don't you think that lies beyond your cognitive capacities? At the very least, doesn't it give you pause? It is very clear to me that, for instance, a world consisting of nothing but innocent people being tortured without end is a horrible world and God could not make it. But while that is clear, it is not at all clear to me that it would be immoral to have a world in which people suffered for some finite time on earth, and then went on to enjoy a much longer happy afterlife. And it is far from clear to me that the finite sufferings experienced in that world could not end up contributing to making the good end-state better, or just allowing for a good amount of soul-building, etc. I think you should give more credit to skeptical theism.

      Don't get me wrong, I do see the strength in the problem of evil. But it seems to me that you are a bit too confident in the idea that there could be no morally sufficient reasons for God to create a world like ours; especially given that we might only know such a small part of life and the world (it could be like judging a whole novel on the basis of the first pages).

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  4. I'am reading the City of God right now and this part really did struck me as very well thought. St. Augustine point that, unlike the roman deities, God does not promise to give us what we want on this life is sure a very important truth to remember not only on the implicit relevance to the problem of evil it has but also on a existential level on the christian life. The fact that he writed that while seeing all that disaster and pain while did not knowing if he was gonna suffer it as well is sure a very interesting detail.

    And the censuring of cowardly christians is sure a very actual part. How much of a temptation is to just never direct comdenm our new pagan Rome!

    Sadly, most of the christians you thinked about, Dr. Feser, especially at the clergy, perhaps would not even do the "be virtuous personaly" part...
    I know this is a problem here!

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  5. In general we are governed by moral imbeciles. They need reminding of their condition because their vanity takes lack of condemnation for approval.

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  6. There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us (J. T. Adams)

    A neat division of mankind into THE GOOD and THE WICKED is probably a bit too simple and also quite dangerous.

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  7. If God knew the catastrophic consequences of original sin (and he did know) why did he create man in the first place? It seems self-defeating and cruel.

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    1. If God knew the catastrophic consequences of original sin (and he did know) why did he create man in the first place?

      Because creating man was good? Is that not a reason? To be more specific: Because creating creatures able to know and love God is a very great good.

      It seems self-defeating and cruel.

      The good of a good act is not SIMPLY canceled by evil of a later pain suffered. The good act is (and remains) a good.

      There are different orders of good, as well: The good of an act of charity is not of the same order of good as the good of health, nor of the evil of pain and illness, the act of charity is in principle a higher-order good that cannot be canceled by pain and suffering.

      The degree of evil of an act of malice does reside in the same order as the degree of good of an act of love. But the good that X agent does is not canceled out by the evil that Y agent does.

      If you want to know whether there is, on balance, more good in the acts of love in the world, than evil in the acts of malice, the answer is easy: there is more good in the acts of love. Christ's salvific act of obedience to the Father exceeds in goodness all the malice of all the acts of other persons.

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    2. Because humans are, by their nature, very good.

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    3. Why would Original Sin have catastrophic consequences die me?
      I may be guilty of my own sins, but not of those of my ancestors.

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    4. We were created in time, for eternity. We had to ‘fall’ into knowledge of good and evil, so that we could consciously choose good, even when it’s difficult. Maybe that happened before we were ready for it, and maybe if we had not disobeyed him things would be very different. But suffering is a very necessary part of our creation (even if you only look at our evolution). To deny that we should have been created at all because of suffering is not only to deny goodness or beauty in existence, but more importantly it’s to claim that this life is all there is. If you think this life is all there is, why are you even interested in why God did anything at all?

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    5. but more importantly it’s to claim that this life is all there is

      This is how I visualize Epicureanism.

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    6. It would be easier to understand God's decision to go forward with human creation if the penalty were limited to the original sinners. But to continue the penalty over eons and to this very instant be casting persons into eternal torment, is really hard to understand.

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    7. I think people sometimes take original sin too much like a theory of physics. Once you do that it can lead to misunderstandings. Perhaps think of it instead as God creating nature with a telos, in fact a hierarchy of teloi, with everything drawn towards his divine idea(l)s (using Augustines terms). What the fall represents is us starting to choose our own sub-teloi, of having “knowledge” of what is “good” for us. Once we do the conscious choosing, we generally do a pretty bad job of it, as can be seen immediately with Cain, and that has consequences that ripple across everything. Like a stone thrown into a calm pond.

      In order to recover our correct place in nature so that we can become participants in God’s original creation, working with him rather that towards our own faulty choice of sub-telos, we have to aim towards God’s original idea(l) of man.

      Fortunately He has helped us hugely here. The incarnation was not just(!) the sacrifice that gained the reconciliation of the consequences of our bad choices, it also gave us the perfect example of the divine ideal we were created to be. So in choosing to be more like him, as far as we can in our puny efforts, we become participants in God’s great act of creation that is this universe (and we get help in this). On this path even the delights of the world become good, and we can have life to the full (though not without suffering yet).

      If we don’t - but rather continue to create our own sub-teloi - then even good intentions can lead us away from completion, away from union with the creator. For those whose chosen teloi, their highest good and highest desires, are the base pleasures of the world, it is them who are choosing eternal torment. We are made to rest in Him, not in base things which will always bring their own suffering.

      I think God spells this all out very clearly in Deuteronomy 30, say verse 11 to the end of the page/chapter.

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    8. jmchugh

      That's an understatement. It is not "hard to understand" , it is absolutely incompatible with God's alleged goodness and justice.
      Unless of course, for apologetic reasons, you keep redefining "goodness" and "justice" until it fits what you want, which is what has happened right from the start.

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    9. Simon

      No, suffering is not a necessary part of our creation unless your claim is that the fall was necessary.
      The point of the Fall is that man and not God is responsible for the Fall, but nobody can be responisble for a necessary truth. that would be like saying you are responsible for why 1 + 1 = 2.

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    10. Tony
      If creating man is good, then creating Klingons Romulans and Cardassians and Ferengi is also good.
      Do you believe God also created those species?

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    11. @jmchugh:

      "It would be easier to understand God's decision to go forward with human creation if the penalty were limited to the original sinners."

      So if you were in God's position, what would you do? The way you are framing God's judgment is already incorrect, but let us go with it. So jmchugh-as-God looks into his crystal ball, sees the consequences of the Fall and decides to *not* create the current world (maybe some other world, maybe no world at all), in other words, decides *not* to create all the creatures that would have been created had the Fall happened, including all of us here, including jmchugh (*).

      So in the end, you yourself are not worth the price of the Fall and the cross and the redemption. Maybe; God certainly thinks otherwise. But I submit that if some held intellectual position entails our own non-existence, it is probably a good idea to drop it.

      (*) to deny this is to say that possibly, jmchugh could have come into existence with a different world history (say, different parents). This is commonly seen as impossible, but good luck with trying to establish it.

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    12. Walter

      “ No, suffering is not a necessary part of our creation unless your claim is that the fall was necessary.
      The point of the Fall is that man and not God is responsible for the Fall, but nobody can be responsible for a necessary truth. that would be like saying you are responsible for why 1 + 1 = 2.”

      Again, I think this is treating spiritual truth a bit like Newton’s laws of motion. The fall is a spiritual fall, it’s when spiritual death first appeared. Death can be seen as disintegration, but the modern, protestant, literalist mind always assumes this to be physical. Do you really think no creatures died before Adam and Eve ate the fruit?

      Remember also that Lucifer fell from heaven before Adams fall. There is a far larger canvas here than just Adam and Eve eating something. Creating free, rational beings seems to inevitably result in at least some of them failing in terms if pride, and therefore obedience. If it’s not inevitable, it’s at least the case in Gods perfect plan for creation.

      I do however also think that the fall was necessary at some point. We are each created unique. Some of us are like the prodigal son, and some more like his brother. There are lessons the Father wants both types to learn as part of the process of our creation that is this life. Without the ‘fall’ of the prodigal son, there is no opportunity for either brother to make the right choice to align with the father. Just as the creation of our bodies was via a process of ongoing refinement through suffering, our reconciliation with God is a partaking in the redemptive suffering of God as son of man. It’s of course true that man caused our fall. But God’s plan, from a perspective we can’t even imagine yet, is perfect. Nothing has gone wrong. Bizarre as that may seem to us at times in the middle of it, I believe this to be true.

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    13. @grodrigues

      Before anyone is even conceived God knows their eternal destination. Thus, in the act of creating certain individuals, God, by the same act, is condemning them to eternal torment. He is creating people he knows will abjectly fail and be tormented for eternity. Yes, if I were the creator I would not create a person who would enter a fallen world of suffering, who would eventually die and be tormented forever. Why would I do that to someone I love?

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    14. @Walter

      "No, suffering is not a necessary part of our creation unless your claim is that the fall was necessary.
      The point of the Fall is that man and not God is responsible for the Fall, but nobody can be responsible for a necessary truth. that would be like saying you are responsible for why 1 + 1 = 2."

      Hey man, just pointing that out:

      Simon claim at most is that the fall is necessary if there is rational creatures. Ot is what St. Thomas would call necessary by suposition(i think).

      Since God could just not create rational creatures, the fall is not a necessary truth even on Simon view*

      Knowing that, it seems that man could be responsable for the fall. if by "the fall was necessary" we mean "if humans exist them the fall has to happen".


      *if it indeed is his view.

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    15. Simon (and this holds for "Anonymous" too)

      It doesn't matter whether the fall is spiritual or not.
      Creating free rational beings does not imply some of them falling in terms of pride. It only implies this if rational creatures are created with an uncontollable sense of pride. But it does not follow that a rational creature must be proud.
      Anyway, even if it's true that some creatures "fall" in this way, that is the problem of those creatures, and not my problem. The fall is a theodicy that is supposed to show that due to the fact that some fell, we all suffer, including the "good" who do not have the sin of pride. They do not have any "lesson" to learn.because they have already made the right choice to align with the father.
      And that is why the Fall a very bad theodicy.

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    16. @Walter and anon. I’m deliberately using necessary in a way that will not be popular here. I think a huge amount of time and credibility is wasted on arguing whether God had choice in something. Pretty much all of those arguments are meaningless. There are some realities God could have brought forth that we can sort of imagine, say that there are two temporal dimensions and four spatial dimensions. Really tricky to actually get your head around, but we have at least some ability to do so. There are others where we just incapable of even imagining. To argue about God’s choices is therefore meaningless unless he revealed something about it.

      When I use necessary here, I mean it purely in that it seems necessary in order to achieve God’s plan, which is at least in part to create children who choose to be as like Him, and can therefore participate with Him in the Trinity. That is an astounding thing, a top down view of the telos of the universe.

      Arguing what is necessary from a bottom up perspective in the way that philosophers tend to, in terms of what God could and could not do, is like ants on a cathedral wall arguing about the cathedral’s architecture and construction. Yes they are builders themselves and so know something of building, but it’s several orders of magnitude higher in it’s nature than ants are capable of conceiving. So if Brunelleschi was able to hear the ants debate, he would perhaps smile, but he would not bother trying to reveal the answers to their ponderings as it would just not make sense to them. He would have to wait until their understanding was no longer constrained by their antness.

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    17. @jmchugh:

      "Thus, in the act of creating certain individuals, God, by the same act, is condemning them to eternal torment."

      You are using imprecise language. We are Catholics here, not calvinists; people condemn themselves.

      So what you are saying is in fact, that is better to not exist at all than to exist and be condemned; I never asked him, but if you have the chance to ask the devil, who condemned himself of his own free-will and is condemned for all eternity, if he prefers to exist and be condemned to not exist at all; I am pretty sure I know what is the answer he would give.

      "Yes, if I were the creator I would not create a person who would enter a fallen world of suffering, who would eventually die and be tormented forever. Why would I do that to someone I love?"

      So you would much rather they do not exist at all, and all the good that *their* existence would bring about, not come into existence at all. So if you have say, a direct ancestor that is condemned you would rather that God had not brought him to existence, and thus not bring you to existence, than bring him to existence and allow him to fall. And you call this "loving"? Right.

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    18. @jmchugh

      As St. Dionysius the Areopagite beautifully wrote "the being punished is not an evil, but the becoming worthy of punishment; nor the being deservedly expelled from Holy things, but the becoming accursed of God, and unholy and unfit for things un-defiled." (D.N. 4.22).

      God Almighty created nothing "worthy of punishment" or "accursed", and, contrary to your claim, the only man that He created was Adam, who has been redeemed by the New Adam. As St. John of Damascus wrote in Disputatio Saraceni et Christiani:

      "I find nowhere in Scripture that after the first week of making the world God formed or created anything. If he disputes this, then let him show you the form or creation made by God after the first week. There is nothing to show. All visible created things came to be in that week. God made man in the first week. He ordered him to go forth and multiply. Since man was living with a living seed, he sowed this seed in his wife. So he generated man, as the Scripture says: 'Adam generated Seth. Seth generated Enos. Enos generated Cainan. And Cainan generated Malaleel. Malaleel generated Jared. Jared generated Enoch.' It does not say that God formed Seth or Enoch, or anyone else. This we acknowledge, that only Adam was formed by God. All those after him have and still are generated."

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    19. @grodrigues

      Thank you for your reply. I wouldn't ask the devil what he thinks as he is the apotheosis of evil. But now that you mention it, why did God create Satan in the first place knowing full well what he would do? There is no way that you could argue that the actual existence of Satan is a positive good.

      Now, as to us mortals you set-up a false dichotomy. You suggest that either we accept the traditional notion of the fall and its consequences, or that we accept the non-existence of man.

      But there are more options than that. For we could accept for example universal salvation, annihilationism, or reincarnation.

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    20. @anonymous. Thought-provoking response. Thank you.

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    21. @Walter

      I was sure i placed my name there, strange. But i'am the Anon.

      Anyway, my post only established that:

      - If Simon view is true, the fall is not a necessary truth on the sense that 2 + 2 = 4 is

      - If Simon view is true, man could be guilty of the fall

      I'am sure it is clear that my actual views in Simon position are irrelevant.

      @Simon

      I agree with what you are trying to say, at least the message. The details? Probably not*, but it is true, as living this life can say, that one cant know God plans except if He reveals something(which He does do on a very small scale to the one who is listening, but not on a way that would be useful to this debate)


      *There probably could be a world were all rational creatures choosed God, but this world would lack some features our own has like conflict, grow in virtue, some virtues like empathy and courage etc, so our own was choosen

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    22. @Talmid: My condition for the “necessary” is ‘in order to achieve God’s plan’. We can of course only see that very dimly indeed, but it’s clear that the “new heaven and earth” will be more like the creation that people who reject God because of theodicy issues would expect of a good God. No more working in vain, no more pain of witnessing your children's misfortune. The wolf and the lamb eat together, even the lion no longer eats other creatures. So it seems clear to me from revelation that these things are a necessary phase of creation. When God creates he says it’s “good”, even though He knew it would contain elements that would not be part of the second creation. Once we were consciously able to choose between Him and not-Him, we often chose the latter. However it’s in making this choice correctly when it’s not obvious or easy that we ‘grow up’, as in we become as our Father intended.

      Now I agree with you that we can imagine universes where we would be free and where we could easily see what is right, where there is no suffering of us or others to make us ‘loose heart’, and where there are no bright and shiny false lights with temporary excitement and pleasure. However, like the vines planted in good, loamy soil, which produce great big bunches of grapes but poor wine, there is clearly a need for us to struggle a bit in an apparently sub optimal environment for the creation process to have a successful end point. How God knows that, we cannot know. Did He tune creation like a quantum experiment, with all possible realities happening, and from eternity selected the one that worked best? Or did He just know, because He is infinite and absolute in all things? I suspect the latter, but the point is that we see a very small part of the creation process. The people who have the most issue with it nearly always think the process is complete, and that is their downfall.

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    23. @jmchugh:

      "There is no way that you could argue that the actual existence of Satan is a positive good."

      I would argue that the existence of Satan, qua *being* is a positive good, because being is good -- this is Thomism 101. God did not create Satan as Satan; Asking why permit or allow Satan qua Satan, is asking the wrong question. Satan does not exist alone in a vacuum but as an element within the created order. The created order is good (not even Satan wants to destroy it to the point of non-existence which is what you are arguing entails, rather he wants to pervert it to his *own* perverted ends); could there be some created order that is better in some aspect or other, say, without Satan as Satan? Maybe; and? At any rate, we have no way of ascertaining such things.

      "Now, as to us mortals you set-up a false dichotomy. You suggest that either we accept the traditional notion of the fall and its consequences, or that we accept the non-existence of man."

      This is not a false-dichotomy but the necessity of origins. And I did not said non-existence of man, I said non-existence of jmchugh -- I am explicitly making things personal to make you see that playing God with only limited knowledge does not go well. If the fall had not happened, history would have been different; we -- you and I -- would not be here, presumably different people would be. But then there would have been no incarnation and no resurrection, and no Most Blessed and Holy Virgin Mary. Some goods necessitate some evils; as the Church and all the saints teach, God allows or permits some evils, to bring about a bigger, better Good from them.

      "But there are more options than that. For we could accept for example universal salvation, annihilationism, or reincarnation."

      These are "options" to what? Certainly not to the fall. There is no need of salvation if there is no fall. Both anihilationism and reincarnation have fatal philosophical and theological (speaking as a Catholic) problems. Option to hell? My guess is that you are thinking of Hell in the wrong way, but why guess when you can clarify things if you want to.

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    24. @rodrigues. Thanks. I think we are talking at each other a little bit though.

      My question been about the logic of Christian theodicy. For example why did God create Satan if he knew that this devil would lead a rebellion with such horrific consequences?

      Your reply has been that existence is worth it and that the way God did it led eventually to my own existence.

      But that is only true if we assume that the only alternative is your view of what happened or my non-existence.

      My suggestion is not my non-existence as being preferable but rather that your view of what happened is incorrect because it is implausible.

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    25. @Simon

      Exactly! The problem in the end seems* one of faith, of trusting that God knows what He is doing even when we dont. He can and does take the good out of evil, we just do not know how this is so and that is okay.

      As St. Augustine shows,we can have some idea of how the bad things are necessary to the goods on a general sense, but, as he does admit on the book, how bad things individually have their part only God knows, so in the end we need to trust.

      Walking this path is showing me that a large part of the dificult is exactly on one relation with God: someone who sees Him as distant or as a idea is more prone to not being okay with trusting. Bring that together with a focus only on this life and one will find very dificult to see how God can choose this world.

      Existential considerations seems to me important as well in this debate, and here the gap between christian and the average non-believer is quite great.

      *and i say that as someone who has a dificult with the virtue

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    26. @Talmid. Well said. As an ex-atheist, I know that whether you believe in God as the ground of being (as all real believers do), versus considering Him as “a being” (as most atheists do) affects so much of your perspective. It’s not a fact among other facts. The reality is more like our understanding is a wall, with boxed up bricks of conclusions. As humans we find it difficult to look at the contents of more than one brick at a time. From an evolutionary perspective this is understandable. When you need food, or there is a lion at the cave entrance, you don’t want to be thinking about ways to make clothes, how the sun moves through the sky etc. In the modern world the foundations of the wall tend to be physics, chemistry, maths, geology, economics, politics etc, which themselves have foundations built on a reduction to small things (pebbles). Once you believe in God, that is always the foundation stone. To me this is why literalist, fundamentalist protestants have such a problem with science, but that’s a different subject. However it’s also why people find the conversion experience so shocking, as you realise your wall of understanding is in many cases upside down.

      In terms of your asterisk point, have you tried spending an hour a week in silent Eucharistic meditation? Just hand over your questions/concerns, and see what help you get over time. I think this is a great gift that we don’t use enough. If we could see it as it is, we could charge good money for it, and adoration sessions would be full!

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    27. @jmchugh:

      "But that is only true if we assume that the only alternative is your view of what happened or my non-existence."

      You neither have disputed any of my arguments nor presented any "alternative" to anything whatsoever, so I do not know what you mean here. To recap: Satan rebelled, the fall happened. Did they had horrific consequences? Sure enough. Did something good happened because of it that would not have happened otherwise? Definitely yes, namely, you and I are here. More importantly, the incarnation and the resurrection and the Blessed Virgin mother and the whole redemption story. This pretty much sums up my rejoinder.

      "My question been about the logic of Christian theodicy. For example why did God create Satan if he knew that this devil would lead a rebellion with such horrific consequences?"

      I do not know what you mean by "Christian theodicy"; as far as the question itself, yes I did answered. On the other hand, if you mean something like finding a *moral justification* for God's actions, you are correct that I did not do, and I hasten to add that I will *not* do it, because in my view that is a meaningless question and a reading of the book of Job should cure one of such attempts.

      "My suggestion is not my non-existence as being preferable but rather that your view of what happened is incorrect because it is implausible."

      Now you gesture vaguely that there is some "alternative", but you have not presented such; I do not dispute that God could have created other worlds (in the sense of an entire universe with a different history altogether), worlds where the fall did not happen or Satan qua Satan does not exist. What I did and do dispute is that such an alternative world is better, or even better in some qualified sense. (1) We cannot possibly ascertain such things, because we have neither the criteria nor the knowledge. (2) Good things happened because of the rebellion and the fall happened, good things that would not have happened otherwise and (3) preferring an alternative world where I do not exist is incoherent, which is what the logic of your argument entails. You have not shown or even so much as explained, where any of the three points is wrong or how exactly is my view "implausible".

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    28. @rodrigues

      If I have not presented plausible alternatives that is because I lack your certainty. You are absolutely certain that your religion's story of the creation and fall is true. I hold no such certainty.

      But I do reserve the right to question. If someone comes up to me and says "your suffering is caused by X" and I ask for details and the apologist responds "Well what's the alternative, your non-existence?" I would find that a curious and non-rational answer.

      Let me say more: A judge tells me that I must do penance for an alleged crime my great grandfather did. And the judge tells me this crime would never have happened without his, the judge's, intervention.

      I immediately would have two questions. Why am I responsible for my great-grandfather's crime? And two, why on earth did you Mr. Judge, put me in this untenable situation in the first place?

      These are rational questions to put to the judge. Yes?

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    29. @jmchugh:

      "You are absolutely certain that your religion's story of the creation and fall is true. I hold no such certainty."

      I have as much certainty that it is true as you have certainty that it is false. Your original question was framed as an alleged *contradiction*, you even used the words "self-defeating and cruel". Now you are changing tack in the middle of the conversation? At any rate, you have not found any fault with my arguments; your problem is just that they do not answer every question that you might reasonably ask -- I can live with that as I was not trying to answer every such reasonable question.

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    30. @Simon

      That is completely correct! The whole christian experience is to find out not that there is a superhero out there that demands this or that, but that the One beyond being and non-being is here and that He reveals to you that your understanding is not exactly right. The Crucified God is the most bizarre thing that ever was defended, but it happened, and it only seems bizarre because we are bad judges.

      And you are right again on the eucharistic! I did have a lot of time with Him in a few situations and these are aways very strong experiences. I do need to do it more!

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    31. @jmchugh

      You cannot do penance for the ancestral sin, but you can be cleansed of it by receiving the holy baptism, and you can do penance for the sins that you commit after receiving the holy baptism. You are born of blood etc. (John 1:13) in the world of generaton and corruption and "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." (1 Corinthians 15:50), you are heir and perpetuator of a fallen and sick nature, unable to redeem itself (Romans 3:9-20), which God Almighty redeems through our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy Sacraments of His Church. One thing is to be born of the will (thelema) of man, another of the will (thelema) of God (John 3).

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    32. @grodrigues Thank you for your reply.

      I think there is room to expand the conversation. It's a big, multi-faceted topic.

      Would you indulge me some more questions? I don't expect you to have every answer or even any. This is a chance for thought. Whatever happens is fine by me.

      Also, I'm not trying to defeat you in a debate. I'm trying to grasp a dogma that at first blush is incomprehensible to me.

      Firstly, do you think questioning this dogma is understandable? Can you see why at first blush it appears strange and contradictory?

      Let's say you were a pagan with no particular views on this matter. A number of philosophers and theologians tried to sell you on various dogmas relating to the creation of man. These stories would range from pagan to Hindu to Buddhist, to naturalistic, and most certainly Christian. You are trying to choose among these stories. From a purely intellectual perspective do you think the Christian story would be the one you intellectually would most assent to?

      (Again I'm speaking purely intellectually. I'm not talking about you assenting based due to divine inspiration.)

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    33. @jmchugh:

      "Firstly, do you think questioning this dogma is understandable?"

      What is the point of this question? I would be more sympathetic, if not only you had actually engaged with the points I have made, but your view of Christianity was an informed one; as it is, the problem you seem to be having is not a rational problem (say, harmonizing two apparently contradictory statements) but a spiritual one and spiritual problems are not resolved with arguments. Of course I could be wrong, and diagnosis at a distance is fraught with problems, but that is my distinctive impression.

      "From a purely intellectual perspective do you think the Christian story would be the one you intellectually would most assent to?"

      I have no idea where you are going with this question. The "Christian story", to call it that, *is* the one I hold as true, so what answer are you expecting? You *seem* to think that all religious views are on the same footing and all are equally false; even if they were all false, to hold that they are on the same footing is just preposterous. You also *seem* to think that there is some sort of disjunction between "purely intellectual" views and theological (???) views as backed up by some purported divine revelation. There isn't; and if there was, I would be a case of intellectual schizophrenia.

      "Let's say you were a pagan with no particular views on this matter."

      How the hell should I know what I would think if I were a completely different person in completely different circumstances? Once again, what is your point with this kind of questions?

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    34. @grodrigues

      The point of the questions I thought were obvious. I'm wondering if you can conceive of why someone would ask the questions. You've evidenced no understanding of why someone would broach the questions I have. And, yes, they are rational concerns.

      You say: "How the hell should I know what I would think if I were a completely different person in completely different circumstances?"

      Undoubtedly you have heard of "putting yourself in someone else's shoes." It's a very important skill not just in apologetics but in life.

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    35. @jmchugh:

      "I'm wondering if you can conceive of why someone would ask the questions."

      So I bother to answer these questions (maybe not successfully, but an attempt none the less) and you wonder if I can conceive of someone asking these questions? Are you trolling? And how is it that a question about an alleged contradiction between creation and foreknowledge turns into a question of what I can conceive or not of any importance? The obvious answer is that the q

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    36. End of my last comment came out mangled. Apologies for that.

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    37. @grodrigues No need to apologize. I was wondering if you can conceive of not someone asking the question but *why* they might ask, in other words the logic of the question.

      Anyway, I think we've had a good exchange. I DO appreciate your responses and will re-read them.

      I wish you and yours many blessings. Feel free to put in the last word.

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  8. To bring this post down to where the rubber meets the road, I have a boss who is "married" to a person of the same sex. Am I to understand this post correctly as to be saying I have an obligation to tell her that she is living in sin, despite the consequences to my ability to do or keep my job?

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    1. You should approach him with a picket sign saying "G-d hates fags. Fags die G-d laughs"

      However, I never understood the logic of that protest. The opposite of love is not hatred but indifference. Saying G-d hates you means that you're important and He recognizes you, and that's just as good as love IMO.

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    2. No. This post is not saying that.

      You have a duty to be concerned for her welfare, including her eternal good. You are still left with a prudential judgment of weighing and balancing the goods that you can bring about through saying something about sexual morality (along with the evils that will be borne thereby) with the goods you can do by other actions (and the evils that will be borne thereby).

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    3. A good question. In line with what one of the Anonymi posted above, Augustine's rather bifurcative analysis would seem to classify your boss among "the wicked" and the employee who denounces her to her face for her SSM as among "the good."

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    4. Well said JM. I work in a hospital ICU. Most of my co-workers are sexually promiscuous. I am not. Do I criticize their behavior? Never!

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    5. There is no obligation to give correction if you have a confidence it won't be heeded. That likelihood of no good being accomplished may make it prudent to not give the correction, especially in the face of tremendous harm caused by losing your job.

      But I think it would be worth keeping an eye towards how could you situate things so that the correction would be better received (establish goodwill and trust in the relationship and being thoughtful about how you go about with the correction) and/or make the harms more manageable (diversify your income) and/or less likely to occur (be irreplaceable at your job).

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    6. Thanks all. These responses are clarifying.

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  9. There is no answer to the problem of evil that will ever be sufficient--the closest we can get is an answer that admits it can't be solved insofar as we're not in an epistemological position to solve it. Beyond the gray rain curtain of this world we can only hope that whatever evils exists in this life will seem no worse than a stubbed toe in the next.

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    1. RomanJoe! I haven't seen you online in a while. I hope things in life go well. Have you gotten more light on the effect of the gray rain curtain? lol rock on, bro.

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    2. The theodicy problem is meaningless because it is based on contradictory premises. God is not omnipotent in a potential sense, but in an actual sense: nothing can exist without him. But because of the incomprehensibility of God it is not possible to draw any conclusions from analogous statements about God, how the world has to be or what may happen in it. And God's goodness does not have its measure in our earthly well-being, but consists in the fact that we are taken up into the love of the Father for the Son, which is the Holy Spirit. No power of the world can separate us from God. Thus, faith changes the our experience of the world because suffering and death no longer have the last word.

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    3. Hi Ficino! All is well. Great to see you. I really miss the old days on the classical theism forum. I'm thinking of starting another classical theism community--just wondering if Ed would be okay with me shamelessly plugging it in the com boxes here from time to time.

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    4. Not sure if Ed will allow it but here's the new Classical Theism online community for anyone that wants to help revive it :)

      https://discord.gg/qJ82CKth

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    5. "But because of the incomprehensibility of God it is not possible to draw any conclusions from analogous statements about God, how the world has to be or what may happen in it."

      Itself philosophical controversial, but not only that, religiously problematic. Christian theists cannot avail themselves of this kind of skepticism as much as irreligious theists can. For Christians, God is supposed to truly be a loving father, and capable of preventing the evils we see in the world. There is a problem there.

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    6. @RunDec

      Starting from the Christian understanding of evil as "that which is contrary to nature", what are those evils you see in the world that God has done? And how could God prevent the evils in the world without also preventing the wonderful goods that accidentally give rise to them or to which by Divine mercy they lead? As St. Dionysius wrote "Almighty God knows the evil qua good; and, with Him, the causes of the evils are powers producing good."

      Perhaps you wish there were corruptible natures that could not be corrupted and passible natures that could not suffer (without seeing the contradiction) or you wish God Almighty to have limited His power and not created natures that through their weakness are corruptible and passible, thus preventing such natures to be actualized and participate in the Good that He is.

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    7. There are many horrendous evils that a loving father God should prevent/stop, and should be able to. For example, many cases of horrendous suffering caused by some diseases; sexual abuse and torture; etc. The list could go on and on. And Christians do believe that God does, in fact, sometimes prevent or stop said evils through (for example) miracles or providence. So it is a problem why there are still so many of these evils going on and our loving Father does nothing about it - not even when people desperately or earnestly pray and beg him for help.

      "And how could God prevent the evils in the world without also preventing the wonderful goods that accidentally give rise to them or to which by Divine mercy they lead?"

      I do not know with certainty that God could do that. But it does seem like there are many cases of seemingly gratuitous, horrible evil - which God should therefore prevent or stop. And again, Christians do believe that God does that in some cases, too (either through miracle or providence). So the problem seems pressing to me.

      I believe in God, so in the end I do think that there is some greater good that is achieved with God not-intervening, or allowing this universe to just be full of suffering and horror for some time, etc. I hope there is a morally sufficient reason for it all and that the Form of the Good (God) is not so distant from our love, hopes and needs. But this is a serious epistemic cost - because when I look at the world, it does seem like there are purely gratuitous horrendous evils, or that God should be doing better, and so on. It's a bad epistemic cost, one that I wish I could avoid, and it makes me think that some people truly are reasonable in their position of atheism. I personally just happen to find theism to be harder to deny, rationally speaking, so I think it offsets the problem of evil in the end. But I think it's a serious problem and we don't have a simple solution to it either in philosophy or religion.

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  10. "Heads I win, tails you lose."

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  11. Dr. Feser writes, :"Consider the sexual sins into which our age has sunk more deeply than any previous one." During the Middle Ages, there was widespread immorality, and this was when the Catholic Church was at the height of its power.
    https://www.brown.edu/Departments/Italian_Studies/dweb/society/sex/fornication-adultery.php

    Even during the Black Death which devastated Europe, and which some in the Church thought was a divine chastisement, sexual immorality continued unabated.

    https://notchesblog.com/2020/03/12/behaviour-which-merits-a-horrible-and-wretched-death-sex-sin-and-the-black-death-in-medieval-england/



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    1. Indeed
      And the sexual sins of contraception have actually reduced the number of abortions. If there is no conception, God cannot abort "unborn babies" and many abortions are, in fact, the work of God.
      During the Middle Ages, lots of pregnancies ended in "spontaneous" abortions and miscarriages. But I suppose the fact that God performed them makes them good things.
      Not ot mention the countless number of children who died because there simply were too many mouth to feed.
      Those were the great days when there was so much less "sexual sin".

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    2. Please explain how coitus and miscarriages are "the work of God" and how it's possible for man to prevent Almighty God from working.

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    3. That there is a distinction between God willing X and God permiting X and a distinction between X being the work of God and X being permited by God are both views defended by probably all christians and that so cant be taken of granted when doing a critique of christianity internal coherence.

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    4. "Please explain how coitus and miscarriages are "the work of God" and how it's possible for man to prevent Almighty God from working."

      According to Ed Feser, nothing would exist for even an instant if God did not actively sustain it.
      So, miscarriages are the work of God. The only things that might be considered not the work of God would be libertarian free willed decisions.

      And if Almighty God exists, man can't prevent Him from working, whether he works through miscarriages or abortions, if He wants an unborn baby to die, it dies. But that's all there is to it.
      Why is it a abortion considered a grave evil. it is simply what God wants.

      And as for the distinction between God willing X and God permitting X and a distinction between X being the work of God and X being permitted by God, there can be no such distinction is it's true that nothing would exist for even an instant if God did not actively sustain it.
      Anybody who holds that view and still argues for the distinction is simply contradicting himself. So, his view is not internally coherent.

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    5. Besides, if God made and sustains every created nature, some misunderstand this to mean that God is also the author of the so-called "natural evil" (although according to the Christian understanding evil is contrary to nature and thus "unnatural") or fancy that everything that happens in the world is "the work of God", as if secondary causes (i.e. the natures themselves, with their proper activities and limitations) did not exist.

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    6. @Walter

      "And as for the distinction between God willing X and God permitting X and a distinction between X being the work of God and X being permitted by God, there can be no such distinction is it's true that nothing would exist for even an instant if God did not actively sustain it.
      Anybody who holds that view and still argues for the distinction is simply contradicting himself. So, his view is not internally coherent."

      Only if you believe that a form of Occasionalism is true, which is hardly a christian view. Once you separate God action of keeping things existing from the effects caused by creatures on other creatures there is a easy separation between allowing creatures to do things and doing the things.

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    7. Talmid

      It is impossible to "separate God's action of keeping things existing from the effects caused by creatures on other creatures" because the effects caused by creatures are part of the things that are actively created and "kept existing" by God.

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    8. @Walter

      On a modal sense yea. But God conservation of me while i type and my typing are not the same act.

      For instance, when i drink water using a cup the cup "action" of containg the water is necessary to me to drink it on the way i'am drinking, but my action of drinking is my own thing.

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    9. Talmid

      Your action of drinking is your own thing if
      your action is not actively created and sustained by God.Without God's act there would be no action on your part because .

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    10. Talmid

      Even if I make an exception for Free Choices (and I do this only for the sake of the argument, let that be clear), it is still a fact that miscarriages are not the result of Free choices and that the "sexual sin" of contraception, masturbation and homosexual relations prevents miscarriages from happening.
      Of course, the "apologetic you" does not care about miscarriages because they are the work of God and God can do whatever He likes, but I do, and so, I am convinced, does the "non-apologetic you".

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    11. Miscarriages are truly bad, my man, i cant argue against that.

      But pay attention to the cup example, for the primary/secundary distinction is important here. All it can do is adress the "work of God" objection and not the whole problem of evil, though.

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    12. Talmid

      i have already explained why the action of drinking cannot be your own action if it's true that nothing can exist for even an intstant without God actively creating and sustaining it.

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    13. @Talmid

      "Only if you believe that a form of Occasionalism is true, which is hardly a christian view. Once you separate God action of keeping things existing from the effects caused by creatures on other creatures there is a easy separation between allowing creatures to do things and doing the things."

      Exactly, the idea that God is the only agent and the crated natures have no proper activity is not a Christian one, the same as the idea that God is the author of their deficiencies and weaknesses instead of their abilities and strengths.


      "Miscarriages are truly bad, my man, i cant argue against that."


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    14. @Talmid

      "Miscarriages are truly bad, my man, i cant argue against that."

      I don't know if a miscarriage is worse than a mentally impaired child ever incapable of manifesting even the cognitive abilities of an ape or than a child who would do the most filthy sins in life without ever repenting.

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    15. @Walter

      Your original comment probably got bugged, for i dont see you adressing directly and the post on the cup stops suddently.

      That we cant see the comment after posting tends to generate this problem.

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    16. Talmid

      I wrote a clarification for you, but it somehow got lost.
      It's actually very simple. If it's true that notthing would exist or even an instant without God actively creating and sustaining it, there simply is no room for secondary causes because secondary causes require autonomy.
      So, Ed's claim that this

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    17. It seems that the comment bugged again.

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    18. Talmid

      Yes, but you can still see my argument.

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    19. @Walter Van den Acker

      "Nothing would exist without God actively creating and sustaining it"

      If by "autonomy" you mean that a created nature can exist and have an activity of its own without God's creative and sustaining activity then there is nothing having autonomy, but that doesn't mean that its own activity and the effects that it produces are the work of God. For example if God created animals and sustains their generative power it doesn't mean that their particular generative activities and effects are the work of God. If fire exists and has the power to burn through the work of God it doesn't mean that every fire lit and every burning by fire is the work of God, but through His work He can prevent fire from doing its work, as for example in the case of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

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    20. @Walter

      That is true. But Anon got there first, for i dont really disagree with him.

      Created things have a sort of autonomy in the sense that they do really have casual powers and do really cause effects in other things. God does necessarily needs to sustain they for they to act, but a car batery is not the only one causing the driver to move, so i dont see why the autonomy of the secundary causes are not enough.

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  12. Very convicting words.

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  13. Dr. Feser, thank you for a solid post on suffering.

    A few of the comments above have brought up the problem of "animal pain." While I understand the standard response to that to be something along the lines of "necessity justified in view of the perfection of creation," I'm wondering if there is not a richer answer hidden in the back of our tradition. Specificly, I'm wondering about the role of angels in all this.

    Think of something like Tolkien's cosmology - physical evil and disorder entered into creation when the principalities and powers of the world (The Valar and Maiar) entered into conflict with each other, one desiring to fullfill the creators plan to make a habitation for the "children of illuvitar" (rational life), and others, out to make a dominion for themselves. As proper "sub-creators," God, in his secondary causality, had given spiritual beings the duties of care and creation in the physical world, and the flaws, imperfections, and downright violence of creation were due to the infidelity of some of the powers intrusted to their care. If we hold the standard line that fallen angels fell in the first instant of their creation, and, further, that they had been, nevertheless, been given dominion over certain parts or aspects of creation, then Johanine language about the "lord of this world," and Pauline language about the "princes of the powers of the air," makes a lot more sense, and can even be joined to an evolutionary cosmology.

    The universe is an odd place, and the creation of the conditions for life, let alone rational life, in an odd, (physically fallen?) cosmos could be seen as the fruit of angelic conquest over malign forces. Furthermore, evolution itself might be seen as being helped along or guided by forces trying to bring about God's will in creation.

    This sounds fantasic, even as I write it, but I'm wondering if anyone else has explored this train of thought.

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    1. I actually heard a podcast that was a talk given by the thomistic institute where they argued something very similar. I remember listening to it about a year ago but I can't at the moment find the link.

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  14. God punishes the good. This is gravely unjust.

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    1. Only God is good and everything that participates in the Good that is God receives all that is good from Him, "we can neither live, subsist, nor move but through Him and by His assistance." As far as I know God only punishes sin, and sin is a fall from righteousness, a fall from the goodness of God's created intent for us. And His punishment is curative before being retributive, the incurable getting perpetual punishment.

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  15. WCB

    Genesis 1:33 claims God created all animals vegetarians

     The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
    7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

    See also Isaiah 65. With the prophecied coming of God's holy mountain, there will be no animal predation and suffering. So animal predation and suffering were not original in God's magic garden, nor are necessary now. If such suffering exists, then it is not necessary and is all God's fault.

    Why? What is God waiting for? Maybe if all Christians prayed to God daily to fulfil his promises in Isaiah he might relent?

    WCB

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    1. How do you know this prophecy isn't speaking metaphorically?

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    2. WCB

      Anonymous
      "How do you know this prophecy isn't speaking metaphorically?"

      Yes, when the Bible claims X, metaphorically it means Not X.

      WCB

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    3. It's not necessary to remind us of the definition of a metaphor, WCB. Now answer the question.

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    4. WCB

      "Just answer the question."

      I just did. You are playing games here. Reading the Bible verses I listed it is obvious these were not metaphorical. If you play this game, then everyting in the Bible is a metaphor no matter how obviously not metaphorical any verse is. If you saddle up that donkey and ride it, you have to keep riding. Every Bible verse then is a metaphor and means nothing objectively by your own rhetorical nonsense.

      The you are now a post-modernist gibberish purveyer.

      WCB

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    5. Sola Scriptura is false, my boy.

      Anyway, were in Genesis it is said that the animal natures were changed? The Fall only results in punishments to humans and to the Serpent.

      And about Isaiah, how you know that this verse is not refering to the cease of wars and fights? If i remembering right it is what he is talking about on the prior verses and Isaiah uses metaphors to refer to politics Anf war A LOT.

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    6. There is no verse 33 in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis of the Bible ( at least in my version of the Bible). The first text you quote is also from Isaiah(11:6). Next time, look for some better atheist website that actually quotes from the Bible (the actual one) and be more honest.
      Also, notice both of the passages you cited are in future tense; if it was really about the event in the garden of Eden, it would have been in past tense. And FYI, both of the passages are about the new heaven and new earth.
      Funny, you atheists often accuse Christians of looking at the Bible through the apologist 's lenses, as if those of the atheist are any better; but as it happens, you have to resort to lies to prove the Scripture wrong.

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    7. WCB

      @Talmid
      "Anyway, were in Genesis it is said that the animal natures were changed? The Fall only results in punishments to humans and to the Serpent."

      Genesis 1:30
      30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

      So originally animals were vegetarians. Many animals are obligate carnivores, and have been so since multicelluar animals involved.

      "Sola scripture Badddd!", yeah baby. That isn't a counter argument, now is it.? Council of Trent - Fourth Session and Verbum Dei - 1965 tell us God authored the Bible dogmaticallyy. If so you are stuck with Genesis 1:30.
      Can you point to any official mmagistereum dogma that explicitly claims Genesis 1:30 is false?This is what is so fun about debating doctrinaire Christians. Buzzword and rationalization.

      WCB

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    8. It is true that there is no verse 33 in Genesis 1.
      In geneis 1:29-30; however, it is said "29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so."

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    9. WCB, serious question here: if you think your argument works, are Catholics dogmatically required to believe that the author of Psalm 23 is not a human, but in fact is a sheep?

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    10. WCB

      "The Lord is my sheperd" is obviously metaphorical. Genesis 1:30 is not. Nor is Isaiah. 11 or 65.

      WCB

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    11. "If the tree of life was necessary for Adam and Eve to live forever, one might reasonably ask, did animals have access to the tree of life? The answer seems to be no.

      If the tree of life was unique, it might have been enough for Adam and Eve to eat from, but it would never have been enough for all of the animals of the world to eat from. This may be another sign that the animals were not understood to have the tree of life for their food. If so, then the text of Genesis itself would suggest that, while man was meant to be immortal, animals were not. That would support the idea, based on St. Paul’s statement, that it was human death that entered the world through the Fall, not animal death.

      Furthermore, we should note that giving “every green plant” to animals as food does not mean that some of them weren’t also carnivores. It’s not as if, before original sin, lions ate dandelions and toadstools and only afterward did they begin picking on poor old wildebeest. This is something Thomas Aquinas wrote about in his Summa Theologica:

      In the opinion of some, those animals which now are fierce and kill others, would, in that state, have been tame, not only in regard to man, but also in regard to other animals. But this is quite unreasonable. For the nature of animals was not changed by man’s sin, as if those whose nature now it is to devour the flesh of others, would then have lived on herbs, as the lion and falcon.

      (We should add, lest anyone be tempted to think that this is a forced retreat in the face of modern evolutionary theory, that Thomas wrote these words nearly 550 years prior to the birth of Charles Darwin.)"

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    12. @WCB

      So, you dont have a direct passage, hun? That should be a good sign that your interpretation of the quoted verse is not the only one allowed. Again, Sola Scriptura, besides other problems, has this dificult were one thinks that his interpretation of the text is Scripture itself, and this is normally not so.

      Aquinas, centuries before Darwin, did argue that there was animal death before the fall:

      "the opinion of some, those animals which now are fierce and kill others, would, in that state, have been tame, not only in regard to man, but also in regard to other animals. But this is quite unreasonable. For the nature of animals was not changed by man's sin, as if those whose nature now it is to devour the flesh of others, would then have lived on herbs, as the lion and falcon. Nor does Bede's gloss on Genesis 1:30, say that trees and herbs were given as food to all animals and birds, but to some."

      https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1096.htm#article1

      You can argue that your interpretation of the text is correct, but seeing that the text never uses the Fall to explain animal predation and death when it would be the perfect moment to do so one can argue that Bede and St. Thomas view is the only one that can add harmony on the passage and the rest of the text.

      Look, besides silly american creationists there are respectable christians that interpret things like you do, so i respect the view, but be more humble, not only normally but more when you try to explain the meaning of a religious text to members of the faith. I'am reading the Quran myself but i would sure not put my views as the only possible ones when talking with muslims!

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    13. There it is! WCB is in fact the sole infallible interpreter of scripture. He is the one that gets to tell the rest of us idiots what it means and what are metaphors and what must be interpreted strictly literally.

      Silly me for, being Catholic, thinking that the Catholic Church had that authority. Yet again, we see that WCB's claims are effectively "given the I am right, you are wrong." Such logic. Wow.

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  16. Hi Ed,

    You write:

    As Augustine says, there isn’t “any evil [that] happens to the faithful and godly which cannot be turned to profit,” so that, with St. Paul, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).

    I have to say that Augustine's remark sounds very Pollyanna-ish. There are some evils which can only be described as soul-breaking, rather than soul-making. Three which come to mind are rape, mutilation and torture. These are horrendous sufferings which serve no "greater good," and which can destroy even a good individual's faith, as the following account of the 17th century "torture in the pit" illustrates:

    https://sspx.org/en/news-events/news/real-life-silences-character

    There were priests, many of them good men, who apostasized. What good was served?

    You also cite Augustine to support the following claim: "We cannot achieve happiness in the world to come if we become too attached to the world that is, and suffering is a means of preventing the latter."

    This might explain some of the suffering that befalls adults, but it fails to explain the death and suffering of a child, who has no worldly attachments.

    Finally, original sin (or the fall of Adam) is said to be the ultimate explanation for why humans are permitted to suffer and die, rather than enjoying immortality and bliss. I am not persuaded that a dumb choice by a distant ancestor makes it fair for us to be allowed to suffer soul-breaking evils of the sort described above, but let that pass. What original sin cannot explain is the fact that people (e.g. political prisoners, psychiatric patients) have been beaten or tortured to death, while screaming for Divine deliverance or at least some Divine consolation (i.e. a sense of "I am with you") at the moment of death, and in many cases, it never arrives: they die in agony and desolation. Spiritual abandonment at the hour of death is the most difficult evil of all to make sense of, and if you can make any sense of it, Ed, you're a better man than I.

    For my part, I think it's best to honestly acknowledge that some evil in this world is indeed gratuitous and senseless, and that there are some dark recesses of the human psyche which God Himself cannot reach: He can console us while we're in pain, but not while we're in agony, as that severs the communication channels. In some cases, then, we meet God only on the other side. Cheers.

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    1. Vincent, why some people are in anguish and despair when tortured, while others find themselves in the same state although enjoying all the pleasures the earth has to offer, is the drama that is human life. It's well-known that many early Christians gave up the faith when threatened with persecution but this doesn't detract from the greatness of the sacrifice of so many others. If one cannot put up a coherent case against the Christian understanding of suffering, original sin and Redemption, it does not do much good to think forever and gloomily about suffering. The effort would be better spent thinking about heaven.

      Evil is not "natural" or part of the divine plan. Men deprived of the benefits of original justice are not in a merely natural state, according to St. Thomas:

      (Ia IIae 109): "We may speak of man in two ways: first, in the state of perfect nature [state of nature]; secondly, in the state of corrupted nature. Now in the state of perfect nature, man, without habitual grace, could avoid sinning either mortally or venially; since to sin is nothing else than to stray from what is according to our nature - and in the state of perfect nature man could avoid this... But in the state of corrupt nature man needs grace to heal his nature in order that he may entirely abstain from sin".

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    2. Miguel

      How exactly does a perfect nature get corrupted?

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    3. "For my part, I think it's best to honestly acknowledge that some evil in this world is indeed gratuitous and senseless, and that there are some dark recesses of the human psyche which God Himself cannot reach: He can console us while we're in pain, but not while we're in agony, as that severs the communication channels. In some cases, then, we meet God only on the other side."

      That seems to severely limit omnipotence, and just the divine power in general. How is it that God cannot help these people in desperate need? Especially since he's still the creator of all and has to maintain everything going, to suggest that he cannot stop a torturer in any way or talk to someone in their moment of agony seems ridiculous.

      Even worse, some people are capable of helping those in need and comforting them in death. But God can't? I can do something that this God can't, like that? This is not God, this is some type of friendly alien-parent I have no intention to worship (although I would be interested in still being friends with him, more as equals)

      And if God cannot help these people at that time of need, how could we even trust him to be able to help them AFTER death? If anything it just makes it less likely. He wasn't able to do anything when people were alive, now suddenly he's gonna be able to help them after death? That seems implausible.

      What we need is full-blooded rationalist theodicy coupled with skeptical theism. There are some morally sufficient reasons for why God allows so many horrors for a finite time here, and they may well be beyond our understanding. But God must have his reasons, and he also is capable of compensating for everything in (perhaps) heaven, an infinite afterlife, etc.

      Having to hold that there are morally sufficient reasons for all the evil is certainly a bad cost, but it's still the best cost (at least in my judgment). Better than limiting God so much or embracing atheism (both seem more problematic to me)

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    4. Walter, free will is what it really means. It can choose what is right - or corruption. Human nature is essentially good, of course, and St. Thomas explains the corruption that now accompanies it as accidental.

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  17. Miguel

    Essentialy good natures always choose what is right. A perfect nature cannot corrupt itself. Otherwise it wasn't perfect to begin with.

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    1. Qualified perfection. Each created thing has a sort of perfection relative to it, and not beyond that. A newborn colt can be a perfect colt, but not a perfect horse, because it still needs to grow, get strong, learn how to fend for itself, etc. A perfect baby is incomplete as a perfect human, needing much growth, knowledge, and virtue. But a perfect human is still a creature, and what is perfect to a creature is not the absolute perfection of God. A perfect creature on this Earth with free will is, by design, able to choose a lesser good over a greater good, because of being by design a limited creature, not having absolute perfection like God.

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    2. Perhaps you are using "perfect" in a way not intended?
      Eze 28:15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day of thy creation, until iniquity was found in thee.
      Perhaps "perfect" is lacking in no essential detail. Or complete according to it's nature?

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    3. Walter, it's true human nature's perfection is reached in heaven. But on earth, its ability to choose is not a flaw. St. Thomas described what we usually call the state of nature a state of pure nature, because it would have been without the flaws that accompany human nature after original sin.

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    4. Tony

      Perfect colts make perfect horses.
      Unless something happens along thé way.

      Miguel

      The ability to choose something bad is a glow
      God has no flaws and yet He doesn't have the ability to choose something bad

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    5. And even if what you are claiming is true, the Fall does not make any difference. Before the Fall, we had the ability to choose, we still have it now.

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    6. Perfect colts make perfect horses.

      @Walter: perfect colts cannot make perfect horses without plenty of factors independent of the colt: grass, water, & good weather, just to name a few. Also a herd to run with. And, of course, time to use all those.

      The ability to choose something bad is a glow
      God has no flaws and yet He doesn't have the ability to choose something bad


      Humans do not have the ability to "choose something bad" under the aspect of its badness. The human free will is only able to choose something under the aspect of a good. However, a human on this Earth can choose a lesser good instead of a greater good, (because we can consider in a limited way diverse aspects of their good or lack of good) and this can represent an evil choosing. But this is, per se, a manner of being made in limited perfection, limited in part by the condition of not seeing the One Absolutely Complete Good directly and immediately. When we obtain that latter condition in the Beatific Vision, we will retain our free will but we will not be able to choose badly: in that Vision we will see that no other good than God could even seem to be preferable to God. And we will see all other goods fully in their reference to God.

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    7. Walter, we know by the faith (which is the only way we know about original sin) that the fall makes quite a difference; prior to it, in a hypothetical state of nature (according to St. Thomas), humans would have been able to avoid sinning even venially. As for the only state in which men actually existed before the fall (original justice), they had many other advantages as well, like not dying. The fall made quite a difference to the state of men as they arrive in the world now, as millions of Catholic sermons have not tired of repeating.

      A flawless human before the fall could still choose not to be flawless. God is not a flawless example of something; He is perfection itself.

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    8. Tony

      If the 'factors independent of the colt' are perfect, the colt will make a perfect horse.
      And that is none of the countless problems withthe Fall theodicy.
      For on the firstpages of the bible, God sees that all He has created is good, that means, the 'colts' as well as 'factors independent of the colt' .
      Your second part highlights the problem even more. If a human on this Earth can choose a lesser good instead of a greater good, that is a imperfection. A perfect human will not choose the lesser good.

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    9. If a human on this Earth can choose a lesser good instead of a greater good, that is a imperfection.

      A lamb which is killed by a lion for food is an imperfect lamb, also.

      As I already indicated, the state of a man on Earth able to sin is indeed less complete and less perfect than his state in heaven, when he is no longer able to sin, (though he has MORE, not less, freedom). This lesser sort of perfection may be called "imperfection" in one sense, or it may be called a "more limited" condition that is proper to one still in this life: Either way, one must keep the sense being used clear. Hence, one cannot employ the position that our "being able to sin" represents an "imperfection" and conclude that this contradicts Genesis saying that when God made the world, it was "good" because man able to sin is "not good". That doesn't follow. A lamb is able to die, and that's a lack of divine perfection (for God cannot die), but it's a kind of "im"perfection that is more properly understood as a lesser kind of perfection. And God intended a universe filled with beings which are imperfect compared to Him, because it is impossible for Him to have created beings that are uncreated perfection. He also intended a universe with men who were capable of sin who then could achieve later the condition of the Beatific Vision and no longer able to sin, by way of meritorious acts of love of God made even IN the condition of able to sin.

      You just want to call a universe wherein even one being is capable of failing to reach its end as "good". The Christian view of "good" is different.

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    10. Sorry: should be "You just don't want to call a universe..."

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  18. My problem is the suffering of infants who are too young to heroically accept it, and hence would not merit from it.

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    1. You can also say that they are too young to reject it and denounce God, thus getting blame instead of merit. But I don't see why the why of suffering should be seen as a kind of test to which moral agents are subjected, animals suffer in their animality even if they aren't moral agents. If suffering is used by God as a test and as a teaching aid for moral agents it doesn't mean that God's use of it is that which generates it.

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  19. You can't use evil and suffering to "prove" to Christians that God doesn't exist. They will just respond that the reality ot evil and suffering is mystery that we mortals will not comprehend until we are in the presence of God. How can you reply to that?

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    1. Show that God reasons to permit suffering would be the type of information we would have if He had they. One could also take down evidence of the christian faith and so argue that we dont really have much of a reason to think that the Christian God even exist, so we can dismiss idea that there is a combatibility between God and evil.

      It would be what i would try to do.

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    2. Evil and suffering are not as mysterious as such as some of their particular instances, and this is what, for example, the Book of Job addresses.

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