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Is an All-Evil God as Likely as an All-Good God?

EvilGod

In the combox to a post on another subject, reader Eric asked for my opinion of philosopher Stephen Law’s article “The evil-god challenge.” I had not then read the article and did not have time to do so at that moment, but I commented briefly on the summary of Law’s views that Eric provided. To my surprise, Law posted a response to my (somewhat dashed off) comments in the same combox a couple of weeks later. I did not bother to reply, because Law’s remarks seemed themselves obviously dashed off and unserious – he misspelled my name four times and in two different ways, seemed uninterested in trying to understand or engage in any depth the views he was criticizing, and was apparently just blowing off steam. (I can understand if he was a bit testy, since my own comments in response to Eric were themselves a bit testy, though my testiness was directed not at Law specifically but more generally at atheists who do not understand the difference between classical theism and theistic personalism.) I have since learned that Law had also cited my remarks over at his own blog, and directed his readers to his response. So, evidently he does regard that response as a serious one, to which I should be expected to reply. So, here’s a reply – not only to his combox remarks, but also to his article, which I’ve now had a chance to read.

First, let me summarize Law’s position. Law claims in his article that “even if most of the popular arguments for the existence of God do provide grounds for supposing that there is some sort of supernatural intelligence behind the universe, they fail to provide much clue as to its moral character.” In particular, Law says, even if a design argument could show that such an intelligence exists, it could no more show that the intelligence in question is supremely benevolent than that it is supremely malevolent. In fact, he suggests, the overall evidence such arguments appeal to should lead us away from belief in a supremely benevolent supernatural intelligence. Law allows that what is often labeled the “logical problem” of evil – which supposes that the existence of evil is strictly incompatible with the existence of a good God – may not pose a serious challenge to theism. But he thinks the “evidential problem” of evil – which assumes only that the existence of evil is strong evidence against the existence of a good God – does pose a serious challenge, at least given that there are no strong arguments for the existence of such a God. And the standard theodicies – such as appeals to free will, to soul-making, or to the way in which certain goods presuppose evils – succeed in explaining at most only some of the evil that exists, not all of it, so that the overall evidential situation still fails to point in the direction of a supremely benevolent God.

So far all of that is just standard atheist argumentation, and Law’s overall position takes it for granted. In particular, Law presupposes that there are no strong arguments for God’s existence, that even if there were they wouldn’t lead us to a supremely good God, and that the evidence we do have points away from the existence of such a God. Law’s innovation is to suggest, first, that the hypothesis of an “evil god” – an omnipotent, omniscient, but supremely malevolent intelligence – is at least as well supported as the hypothesis of a supremely good God. And if a skeptic were to pose against such a hypothesis the challenge of an evidential “problem of good” – that is, if a skeptic were to ask why a supremely malevolent intelligence would allow the good that exists in the world – the defender of an “evil god” hypothesis could offer “reverse theodicies” which parallel the theodicies put forward by theists. He could say, for example, that free will makes possible certain evils that an evil god couldn’t realize without it; that certain evils presuppose the existence of good; that the evil god intends the world to be a vale of soul-destruction, which requires that there be some good in it so that we can be tormented by its loss; and so forth.

Now, Law is happy to acknowledge that such defenses of the evil god hypothesis would not be very strong. But he thinks they are no weaker than the parallel attempts to defend the existence of a good God. There is, he says, a conceptual and evidential “symmetry” between the two views. But everyone, including theists, acknowledges that there is no good reason to believe in the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and supremely malevolent intelligence. So, shouldn’t they also acknowledge that there is no good reason to believe in a supremely good God? Isn’t the one view as unreasonable as the other? That is Law’s “evil-god challenge.”

So, what should we think of all this? Well, having now read Law’s paper, I must say that I find that my original comments, based on Eric’s summary alone, were exactly on the mark. Law’s argument may be an interesting challenge to a theistic personalist conception of God – I’ll leave it to theistic personalists themselves to figure out how they might respond to it – but it is completely irrelevant to classical theism. And that is no small lacuna. It means that Law’s argument is completely irrelevant to evaluating the truth of theism as it is understood by writers like Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Anselm, Maimonides, Avicenna, and Aquinas (to name just a few), and as it has been defined within Roman Catholic theology and traditional Christian theology more generally.

The reasons why should be evident from my recent post on the differences between classical theism and theistic personalism (which readers who are unfamiliar with those differences might want to read before continuing on). Consider, first, that central to classical philosophy and to the classical theist tradition that it informed is the thesis that evil is a privation, the absence of a good that would otherwise obtain rather than a positive reality in its own right. Accordingly, for classical theism, there simply is no symmetry between good and evil of the sort that Law’s argument requires. Astonishingly, though, Law’s article does not even consider, much less respond to, this core element of the classical theist position, despite the fact that he evidently regards his argument as a challenge to all forms of theism, and not just to non-classical forms. To borrow an analogy from another recent post, this is like evaluating The Godfather Trilogy without mentioning that the lead characters are Mafiosi, and focusing instead only on one of the romantic subplots in The Godfather Part III.

But Law did have something to say about the subject in his combox remarks. Here are those remarks, quoted in full:

Fesser’s [sic] “refutation” of my evil god argument is awful:
 
(i) it depends on the privation view of evil, which is wrong. (Why not flip this and say good is a privation of evil?!) Actually, *some* evils, like blindness, are best seen as privations of goods. But many appear not merely to be merely privations. And in fact in some cases it is more natural to see the good as a privation of evil (look up “peace” in the dictionary). That evil is in every case nothing more than a privation of some good is a myth that even many theists reject (philosopher Tim Mawson, for example). Fester [sic] is one of those theists who, when asked to justify the privation view, waffle and refer us to Aquinas, Aristotle, etc. Ask him him [sic] to explain, clearly, *exactly* what the argument is.
 
(ii) in any case, the privation view is not obviously incompatible with the existence of an evil God (we are at least owed some explanation for why it is – this is particularly clear if we see good as an abstract Platonic Form, say. (Fesser [sic] at this point just seems to *define* God as good – well, that doesn’t establish the impossibility of an evil God!)
 
(iii) even if the privation view were incompatible with an evil God, and it could thus be shown that an evil God was impossible, the evil God challenge can *still* be successfully run, as I point out in the paper. Perhaps Fesser [sic] should read it.

Let me respond to these points in order. Regarding (i), I cannot resist noting first of all that it is rather silly of Law to complain that I “waffle and refer us to Aquinas, Aristotle, etc.” rather than “explain[ing], clearly, *exactly* what the argument is,” when what he is replying to is something I said in a brief combox response to a reader’s off-topic question, not a formal argument presented in a book, a paper, or even a blog post. This sort of thing is depressingly common on the Internet: “You didn’t prove the truth of [Thomistic metaphysics, Darwinian evolution, quantum mechanics, etc.] to my satisfaction in your latest combox remark; therefore you’re an idiot!” One would hope a professional philosopher like Law would be above it (and perhaps he is – as I have acknowledged, he was probably just blowing off steam, which we all do from time to time). Suffice it to say that I have in fact addressed these issues at length elsewhere, such as in my book Aquinas. To paraphrase someone, perhaps Law should read it.

Second, since Law is the one claiming that his “evil-god challenge” is a threat to theism generally, including classical theism, the burden of proof is on him to show that the “evil as privation” view is false, not on the classical theist to show that it is true. It would be perverse for a critic of The Godfather Trilogy of the sort alluded to above to insist that those who disagree with him have the burden of showing that the organized crime theme really is, contrary to his analysis, a significant part of the story. It is similarly perverse for Law to insinuate – and in a dashed off combox afterthought at that, rather than in his original article! – that classical theists are the ones who need to show that the privation analysis that is central to their position is something he needs to trouble himself with.

Third, that means that Law has a lot of homework to do before he can pretend to have shown that his “evil-god challenge” really threatens theism generally, because it is evident from his remarks that he doesn’t understand the privation view, much less the classical theist tradition of which it is a part. To understand that view, one must first understand classical essentialism, whether of the Platonic or Aristotelian variety. That is a big topic – again, see Aquinas for the details – but it is clear enough how a privation view follows from the thesis that things have essences. For example, if it is of the essence of the visual apparatus – eyes, optic nerves, relevant areas of the brain, and so forth – that it serves the function of enabling an organism to see, then obviously blindness is a defect and it would be silly to suggest that perhaps it is sight that is the defect insofar as it involves the absence of blindness. Law himself acknowledges that the privation view is the most plausible way to understand blindness. He nevertheless insists that such an analysis wouldn’t work in all cases, yet he doesn’t offer any examples, and if some form of classical essentialism is true, the privation analysis would apply across the board.

The only purported counterexample to the privation view Law does suggest is, not a case of an evil which is not a privation, but rather an example of a good – peace – which, appealing to the dictionary, he evidently would define (quite plausibly) as the absence of war. Now, the privation view is certainly not the sort of thing one could refute by appealing to dictionaries, because it is not a theory about how we use words like “good” and “evil,” but rather a theory about the metaphysical status of good and evil themselves. But that is beside the point in the present case, because the privation view doesn’t entail that there are no goods that can be defined in terms of the absence of evil. It holds only that not all goods are so definable, while all evils must ultimately be understood in terms of the absence of some good. That is to say, the bottom level of the analysis of good and evil will include only goods, even if there will also be some goods appearing at higher levels of the analysis. In the case of war, the analysis will involve an appeal to the idea that moral goods are to be understood in terms of the ends set for us by nature. Since among those ends is giving to others what is due to them, war can be analyzed as a certain kind of failure to give others their due, namely by using force to take from them what they have a right to (their lives, property, security of their borders, etc.). Even if peace is the absence of war, then, war itself is the absence of a certain kind of good, a good which cannot in turn be analyzed in terms of the absence of some evil.

Regarding Law’s point (ii), for Law to claim that I “just seem to *define* God as good” – as if what is in question here is some eccentric ad hoc stipulation on my part – and to assert that “the privation view is not obviously incompatible with the existence of an evil God,” is just to manifest his unfamiliarity with, or at least to ignore, the central arguments of the classical theistic tradition and the metaphysical ideas underlying it. For when one takes account of those ideas – the act/potency, essence/existence, and simple/composite distinctions; the doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals; the principle of proportionate causality; the doctrine of privation; and so on – there is no mystery at all as to why the classical theist regards a demonstration of God’s existence as ipso facto a demonstration of that which is necessarily devoid of evil. Given the underlying metaphysics, to assert that God cannot possibly be evil is no more a matter of arbitrary stipulation than saying that the Pythagorean Theorem must hold of right triangles is a matter of arbitrary stipulation.

Consider that the classical (Platonic, Aristotelian, and Thomistic) arguments for God’s existence are arguments to the effect that the existence of compounds of act and potency necessarily presupposes the existence of that which is Pure Actuality; that the existence of compounds of essence and existence necessarily presupposes the existence of that which is Being Itself; that the existence of that which is in any way metaphysically composite presupposes that which is absolutely simple; and so forth. Given the doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals, on which being is convertible with goodness, that which is Pure Actuality or Being Itself must ipso facto be Goodness Itself. Given the conception of evil as a privation – that is, as a failure to realize some potentiality – that which is Pure Actuality and therefore in no way potential cannot intelligibly be said to be in any way evil. Given the principle of proportionate causality, whatever good is in the world in a limited way must be in its cause in an eminent way, shorn of any of the imperfections that follow upon being a composite of act and potency. Since God is Pure Actuality, he cannot intelligibly be said either to have or to lack moral virtues or vices of the sort we exhibit when we succeed or fail to realize our various potentials. And so on. All of this is claimed to be a matter of metaphysical demonstration rather than probabilistic empirical theorizing, and the underlying metaphysical ideas form a complex interlocking network that is (as anyone familiar with Platonism or Aristotelianism realizes) motivated independently of the problem of evil or the question of God’s existence. That is to say, the concepts are not introduced in an ad hoc way so as to get around objections of the sort Law raises. They are already there in the underlying metaphysics, and rule out from the get-go objections of the sort Law raises, at least insofar as they are directed at classical theism.

Law’s point (iii) – which he develops on p. 20 of his paper – is equally misdirected, because it too simply assumes that good and evil are on a metaphysical par. Law suggests (if I understand him correctly) that any reasons a theist could have for denying that an “evil god” is in principle possible could be mirrored by reasons suggesting that a good God is in principle impossible. But that just begs the question against the classical theist, who holds that evil is metaphysically parasitic on good, and thus (given the convertibility of the transcendentals) on being, in such a way that whatever is Being Itself would have to be Goodness Itself and therefore in no way evil. Hence, since God is Being Itself, the claim “If God exists, then He is good” is metaphysically necessary, while the claim “If God exists, He might be evil” is necessarily false. In any event, since Law is the one raising the “evil-god challenge,” the burden is on him to show that the idea of an “evil God” is even intelligible given the metaphysical presuppositions that classical theism rests on, and not on the classical theist to show that it is not intelligible.

Now, I am not here attempting to convince the uninitiated or hostile reader that this complex metaphysical picture I have been describing is correct or even plausible. That would take at least a book, and since Aquinas is just such a book, I direct the interested reader to that. I am also not saying that no reasonable person who familiarizes himself with it could disagree with that picture. I am merely saying that before one disagrees with it, one ought at least to try to understand it. And the things Law says seem to me to show that he does not understand it. An atheist could intelligibly say “I don’t believe that the God of classical theism exists.” He could intelligibly reject the whole metaphysical picture – the privation view, the convertibility of the transcendentals, God as Pure Actuality, the whole ball of wax. What he cannot intelligibly say is “The God of classical theism might in principle have been evil.” Again, the metaphysical system underlying classical theism simply rules out the very idea of an “evil God” on entirely principled and independently motivated grounds – not as a matter of mere ad hoc stipulation – and thus rules out Law’s “evil-god challenge” on entirely principled grounds. Hence, if you want to reject classical theism and not just theistic personalism, you had better look for grounds other than Law’s “evil-god challenge.” To insist on pressing that challenge against it is just to demonstrate one’s fundamental misunderstanding of the position one is criticizing, like the creationist who rejects Darwinism on the grounds that he just can't see how a monkey could have given birth to a human infant.

The reason theistic personalism doesn’t rule Law’s challenge out from the get-go is that theistic personalism typically rests on a very different sort of metaphysics, and conceives of God in far more anthropomorphic terms. In particular, the theistic personalist tends not to think of God as Pure Actuality, Being Itself, Goodness Itself, or the like, but rather as “a person without a body,” like us but without our limitations, who might intelligibly be said to be morally virtuous and to have duties he lives up to. (Again, see the earlier post of mine linked to above.) Theistic personalism is also often associated with a conception of God’s relationship to the world on which it is at least in principle possible that the world might have existed apart from God, so that the question of whether God is the cause of the world becomes an “evidential” or “probabilistic” matter, rather than a matter of strict metaphysical demonstrations of the sort classical theists typically attempt to provide. Hence it becomes a real question for the theistic personalist whether the balance of probabilities really supports belief in a supremely powerful disembodied person who lives up to all his moral obligations, etc. – a way of framing the issue that is, from a classical theistic point of view, totally wrongheaded from the start. In any event, as all of this indicates, the way Law sets up his challenge to the theist clearly presupposes an essentially theistic personalist construal of theism. He does not seem to be aware that there is any difference between this construal and that of classical theism, or that it is the latter view that has, historically, characterized mainstream Christian theology and philosophical theism.

For those who are interested in exploring in greater depth the classical theist approach to the problem of evil, I recommend, as I have before, Brian Davies’ The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil. There is also the late Herbert McCabe’s God and Evil in the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, which I have only just started to read, but which promises to be a useful exposition of the Thomistic approach to the subject.
 
 
NOTE: Dr. Feser's contributions at Strange Notions were originally posted on his blog, including this article, and therefore lose some of their context when reprinted here. Dr. Feser explains why that matters.
 
 
(Image credit: SlideServe)

Dr. Edward Feser

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Dr. Edward Feser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a master’s degree in religion from the Claremont Graduate School, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies from the California State University at Fullerton. He is author of numerous books including The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (St. Augustines Press, 2010); Aquinas (Oneworld, 2009); and Philosophy of Mind (Oneworld, 2007). Follow Dr. Feser on his blog and his website, EdwardFeser.com.

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  • David Hardy

    Law allows that what is often labeled the “logical problem” of evil – which supposes that the existence of evil is strictly incompatible
    with the existence of a good God – may not pose a serious challenge to
    theism. But he thinks the “evidential problem” of evil – which assumes
    only that the existence of evil is strong evidence against the existence of a good God – does pose a serious challenge, at least given that there are no strong arguments for the existence of such a God . . . Now, Law is happy to acknowledge that such defenses of the evil god
    hypothesis would not be very strong. But he thinks they are no weaker than the parallel attempts to defend the existence of a good God.

    It seems the two passages above, taken together, capture the challenge. The challenge is not to the logical position of any theistic perspective, as near as I can tell, so it does not relate to whether, a priori, the God of classical theism, if He exists, is necessarily good. It seems like the argument has more to do with discriminatory power -- if the same set of facts could be equally supportive of a reverse position, then neither position can be taken to be clearly supported by them. This has more to do with making sense of responses to the evidential problem of evil than to a logical problem it poses. That isn't to say that the arguments made against the evidential problem of evil are not correct, only that they appear to fit the facts no more or less than an alternative concept that supports the evidential problem of evil.

    Given the doctrine of the convertibility of the transcendentals, on
    which being is convertible with goodness, that which is Pure Actuality
    or Being Itself must ipso facto be Goodness Itself.

    Perhaps a challenge that may seem more credible here than an "evil god" is that several religious worldviews, Buddhism and Taoism in particular, make cases for the goodness of non-being, either separately or through complimentary relationships with being. While one may reject this cases, it does point to the fact that the convertability between Being and Goodness has not been self-evident to people of every culture, and if one rests other ideas upon this principle, those ideas may not be convincing to those who accept the idea of non-being having goodness (on this subject, I do accept this idea).

    There seems to be a disconnect here: Law is beginning from a focus on how to make sense of evidence in relation to the ideas morality and God, while the author of this piece appears to focus on the logical principles of classical theism and how evidence should be taken if one accepts these principles. From a logical position, the problem of evil can be addressed. I am less convinced by the efforts to address the evidential problem of evil, for reasons similar to Law - the arguments made to address this problem are no more supported than alternative explanations that do not posit a God who is "Goodness itself".

    To me, the apparent explanation for the existence of evil is that there is no being with the power and inclination to prevent it when it occurs. I accept that alternative explanations can be made that show it is possible that a Good God exists alongside such evil. I have yet to find that these alternative explanations have clear evidential support. Therefore, unless that changes, I continue to hold the view that, where evil occurs and there are no people present to stop it, it is not stopped by God because no God with the inclination to stop it is present, either.

    • Mike

      imho this is the most important objection to a good God who loves his creatures and who would die on a cross for them.

      i think i may be mistaken that it was the main reason why ivan karamazov 'returned his ticket' to God.

      Having said all that i think the objection can be answered, ironically i think it can be more easily answered emotionally than logically.

      • Husky Fan in Mass

        Maybe that karmazov dude just had too much borshch.

    • Yeah! The Actuality does not 'exist' as defined as within the temporal sphere of Becoming or Potentiality, which is all, poor me, can find descriptive of my 'personalistic' ontology....These different concepts just have to all be put together, (made coherent, within correspondence, and consistency). through a 'sufficient' reasoning of their correlations? Somehow they are just 'all mixed up'....Maybe its, within the Western confusion, a result of putting together Plato and Aristotle, in a non-coherent way. Like Plato's Good (Classical God?) was all that was Good, and yet he said or all somehow agreed that we couldn't 'know' the Good. Even Jesus said. Only God the Father is Good. What is Absolute and What is relative both with respect to Space and Time....!!!! and God!!!!.

      It was God who the OT attributed the Word Good to the Universe, or the Logos. Perhaps God is the only Actuality that can 'see' it so. Fortunately, the term 'evil' is in many ways 'correlated' with an absence, even to the point where it is thought not to 'exist'. (relative to God, possibly? or 'of course'. But then we live within some sort of 'relativity' don't we? And even Sartre, an atheist, remarked how indeed, within various interpretations, we all in some way wish we were 'omni' or 'g/God'. As for the brilliance of coming up with a Anomini instead of a Theodicy, I can't parse the 'argument'....I just perhaps get a central drift, which I cannot put into a rational 'explanation' or something....So no conclusions here. I will just have to co-relate the non-existence of a God with the non-existence of the Devil. That should make every one happy, don't you think?
      Edit: Is there perhaps a demonstration? of Hegel's negation of the negation implied here. But that was thought by Bertrand Russel, in the final analysis to be but another dogmatic thesis, dogma being of course, without evidence.....

      • New Advent just came in. Perhaps Bishop Barron deserves 'a' final say, regarding what is Good and not...I still am very happy about making finding a possible relation between the future and the past with respect to our needs, as stated in Scripture, of both Jesus and the Holy Ghost...within a 'personalist' rather than an absolute perspective, of course. I just can't 'get to' the Absolute....as I understand, or rather can't understand it.... After all I'm a modern, and am just beginning to appreciate more - post-modernism....Here's Bishop Barron..http://www.ncregister.com/blog/robert-barron/what-precisely-is-the-gospel

        • I'm actually beginning to really appreciate Thomism, as well? especially the way this guy is able to make what I could only attempt to express as irony, as 'really serious metaphysical scholarly thinking' - and he's just musing, pondering things over, like I believe I am doing. Not arguing, you see. I believe. I think. Not attempting to 'prove' anything! That in a way everybody, scientist and theologian? is attempting to 'say the same thing' about the cosmos, the soul, or whatever, in a way, but.... https://thomism.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/sic-et-non-souls-and-pre-existence/#respond

          • Do you think I was being ironic or not, Mike.? Then comes this video clip from my 'family' =strong Irish, (once immigrants, migrants,you know ...'those Irish'.....but very what? conservative Catholic. What is your interpretation of this video: propaganda, (even Trump looks good), - what is true?. especially with another post from Just Thomism, all about the 'end times' 'miracles'... etc. etc. These arguments, just seem pale by comparison..to 'reality?' ..Is there perhaps a 'scientific' solution...to this? What? Evidence? But evidence of what?
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44vzMNG2fZc

          • Like maybe the moderators will think this is all off topic - to the argument, which is almost as satiric as some of my comments, if you really take whether a good or an evil God is in charge - well here's the just posted Just Thomism conclusion to what he posted about half an hour ago. See above. It's just that I 'see' that it really is 'on topic'. but I don't expect you will agree with me. (When I posted something on current affairs that I thought was relevant to a topic on EN - it was the beginning of my being censored. It's OK if that happens. I don't expect you to see any 'connection' -- after all it's all 'in my mind' which doesn't mean it's in yours -- no perfect correlation or cause and effect resulting from these Humean associations, is there. Maybe it would be the best thing to be banned from both EN and SN. Or perhaps da**ed. It would prevent any further 'temptation'. Do any of you from theist to atheist, from scientism, to the religious have sufficient understanding of the cause?. Does anyone have a solution? Is there perhaps - no problem? .It all depends perhaps on what is admitted as evidence and how it is 'interpreted'--- right? or wrong? ..https://thomism.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/sic-et-non-on-evidence/#respond

          • Or if a translation is needed before the evidence can even begin to be interpreted based on 'what' model?:......(maybe those scholastics (and medievalists even) were not as dumb as I thought they were, or told they were, or something, after all that training in analytic philosophy. (I just have to learn 'how' to be a saint! ) Enjoy - what? the argument???? the 'way' of thinking??? another 'language'? another solution to the problem of good and evil? yes? and/or No? https://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/source/Abelard-SicetNon-Prologue.asp

    • Rob Abney

      David Hardy said: ... accept the idea of non-being having goodness (on this subject, I do accept this idea).
      I'm not familiar with non-being, will you explain it? Feser (and Aquinas apparently) says that being and goodness are convertible, are you saying that non-being is convertible with goodness or just that non-being has goodness?
      My understanding is that having goodness and being goodness are very different, the latter is the standard, the former is to some degree less than the standard.

      • David Hardy

        From the perspectives I was talking about, non-being has goodness. Being also has goodness. Neither are, themselves, goodness, but rather the proper interrelation of being and non-being might be convertible with goodness.

        Non-being could be understood as the absence of being, and in fact what is often considered "being" in other viewpoints would be seen as necessarily containing both being and non-being from a perspective such as Taoism.

        For example, a person has empty places to allow the inhale and exhale of gases, and the passing of liquids and solids. Non-being is an opening that allows for transfer of other things than the being itself, allowing for interchange. Another example would be opening in a house where people can enter and leave, or a dish with an empty place to hold food or drink, which are necessary for their functioning. As another example, a creature that dies dissolves (moves to non-being) while its component parts are absorbed by other creatures and the soil, and help sustain the cycle of life. For a mental example, a belief or habit may be bad or harmful, and dissolving it can be beneficial. Sleep is the temporary non-being of wakefulness, but is necessary. In each case, where being is absent, or is ceasing to be, value exists. Hopefully, these examples have shown how non-being and being can be viewed as playing an interconnected role, with neither standing by itself, and clarified what I was saying.

        • Rob Abney

          Hopefully, these examples have shown how non-being and being can be viewed as playing an interconnected role, with neither standing by itself

          Thanks for your thoughtful answer. However I can't perceive the examples provided as non-being, in fact it seems to me that they are examples of being since each has a boundary that identifies it (doorframe, window frame, food container, intestines). It seems like the non-being as described is simply space.

          In each case, where being is absent, or is ceasing to be, value exists

          I see this as supportive of Aquinas' view of privation, as being/goodness is absent or ceasing to be there is less value.

          Hopefully, these examples have shown how non-being and being can be viewed as playing an interconnected role, with neither standing by itself

          I agree that they are interconnected, you cannot have a doorway without a frame or without the space it frames. But it seems that the frame has the superior position as it has the matter and the form that defines the space.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Rob,

            In some ways, the distinction between being and non-being could be seen as artificial -- certainly, the traditions I mentioned tend to see them as blending together. To an extent, it could be a matter of perspective on how they are understood and defined.

          • Rob Abney

            David, you also said: "I continue to hold the view that, where evil occurs and there are no people present to stop it, it is not stopped by God because no God with the inclination to stop it is present, either."
            On this point we agree but probably with different reasoning. I think God doesn't have the inclination to stop the evil we see because that would entail making everything good, and I define the highest level of goodness as Being, as God, and He would not be able to create others equal in goodness to the highest good. Not because He lacks the power or inclination to do so but because it is logically impossible to have more than one of the greatest good.
            Why do you say the inclination is absent? I don't think it follows that since there is no inclination then there is no God but I would like to hear your explanation, if you don't mind.

          • David Hardy

            I will do my best to expand on my position

            I think that certain evil demands intervention. Where a child, for example, is being molested, tortured and murdered, there is an ethical obligation to prevent that act. The people in question doing the evil acts are certainly not the created with and expressing the highest good. That's fine. But if I would say that a human, aware of the act and able to prevent it, would be failing in a moral sense if they did not do so, then I am left with three options regarding God. 1) God does not exist, so further questions about God's morality are irrelevant. 2) God does exist, and has demonstrated by not intervening that God is not perfectly moral, just as a human would have. 3) God does exist, and by some logic or reason allows the horrific evil that occurs on moral grounds. 3) is possible, and I have heard reasoning that tries to justify 3). However, 1) is also possible, and requires no efforts to reason that allowing evil might be moral.

            In response to your answer to this problem, I would have two thoughts. First, it would not be necessary to make everything good, only to prevent evil from harming those who are blameless or good. The concept of heaven and hell often seems much like this: the good people live in paradise, while the bad people suffer for their badness, and the two are separate. A simplification of Christian theology, and certainly not universally held in Christianity, but it does capture this concept. Second, I believe that a part of morality is the desire to make others better, and so I would still expect that there would be intervention that protected victims from being traumatized and provide some sort of disciplinary action against the perpetrators. These are the sort of acts that humans take in the name of justice, and I would hope that a purported greatest or highest justice would at least resemble this as well, and not just in a proposed final judgment after death.

          • Rob Abney

            Why would we ask for supernatural intervention that only made the situation better by a degree, if there is to be supernatural intervention it should be to the highest degree possible or else there will always be the question of why not better than that. Again I would say this is logically impossible based on there being only one of the perfect goodness.
            Regarding your three points:
            1) The notion that there is perfect goodness or justice points to God so a cry for justice rules out the nonexistence of God. 2) Is univocal as it compares perfect goodness to human morality, but you don't seem to support that 3) is the most probable with the moral ground being freedom.
            But justice doesn't have to wait for heaven or hell, it can often be served here on earth, by the one who sins or unfortunately by future generations (getting biblical here, Numbers 14:18).

            Thanks for the response.

          • David Hardy

            Hello Rob,

            Your welcome, and I hope this response is also of interest.

            Why would we ask for supernatural intervention that only made the situation better by a degree, if there is to be supernatural intervention it should be to the highest degree possible or else there will always be the question of why not better than that.

            When others help me, I am grateful, even if they could have done more. This is not a demand for more no matter how much is given. It is a matter of basic moral conduct to prevent evil. There is a point where nonintervention itself becomes immoral.

            1) The notion that there is perfect goodness or justice points to God so a cry for justice rules out the nonexistence of God.

            Moral instincts have been a central part of human evolutionary success in building strong social units, and do not demonstrate God. If anything, the general similarity but differing details in moral thinking across cultures demonstrate an instinctive trend, rather than an objective morality. I do not believe that perfect goodness or justice exist. I find that even earnest people trying in good faith to define these things disagree significantly in basic areas. I think that we all form a sense of what justice and goodness are based on our own experiences, which is subject to change with new experiences. People do change their minds on what is moral and immoral, while also judging how well situations measure up to their current sense of how the people involved should act.

            2) Is univocal as it compares perfect goodness to human morality

            I find this sort of claim problematic, as people have no issue talking about God from the standard of human morality when it is favorable, such as good things being divine providence. It is only when the standard would indicate immorality that it becomes inappropriate. On the other hand, I think that a person taking a strong agnostic position as to the morality of God would be able to present a reasonable argument that supports your point. However, the problem of evil does not apply against such a position, anyways, and Christianity does not hold this position. I do not believe one can claim morality applies to something (as it does if something is morally perfect) and then reject applying moral standards to evaluate that claim.

            3) is the most probable with the moral ground being freedom.

            We want to raise our children to be independent. It does not mean we do not intervene when they do things that are wrong to minimize damage and impose consequences that may correct the behavior, or to prevent others from hurting them. I am a generally moral person, and I know a number of other people who are also moral in conduct, and we are all quite free and distinct in our choices. Evil is unnecessary for freedom, and the desire to foster freedom does not preclude intervening against evil acts. In fact, it is often the lack of prevention of evil that is the barrier to freedom -- the victims of evil often have their freedom taken from them through the act.

          • Rob Abney

            I appreciate this discussion but I think we are referring to two different sets of assumptions about the nature of God. Feser deals with this problem in the OP. The differing assumptions are theistic personalism versus classical theism. I agree with Feser and still I had to re-read his explanations several times, he refers the reader to other blog posts.
            Basically, we'll be unable to consider the problem of evil if you view God as someone who should act in a certain way while I view God as the standard against which all acts are measured. So if you are interested in backing up a little and reading about God from a classical theism understanding then we can move forward with our discussion, otherwise you are inadvertently arguing against a straw man.

          • David Hardy

            I would agree that we have different assumptions, and here is where I think the issue may be: I do not think that something which is attributed agency can also be the standard for morality. Morality is the standard for how intelligent agency should be expressed. For example, in the Old Testament, God is said to command several genocidal acts. To me, there is a standard that can be applied to that command, and it does not endorse the command as moral. Whether this is interpreted to be the actual command of God, the faulty interpretation of imperfect followers, or something else, once something is said to have and be expressing intelligent agency, that agency can be understood according to how well it follow the standard.

            How one ought to act must be distinguished from the act itself, or morality as a standard becomes meaningless. To me, the approach you suggest sets aside moral standards entirely when it comes to God: God, being the standard, by definition becomes moral. Actual adherence to moral standards is bypassed as irrelevant. However, I see no difference between this position and a position that is agnostic as to the Goodness of God, save whether that Goodness is assumed to be necessary.

            I believe that I do understand the God of Classical Theism. I just find it to be a position that renders God into something that is immune to any evaluation that might be used to challenge whether God exists. Which is to say, the idea tries to present itself as something necessary to the standards and conditions that could be used to challenge whether God might exist. God is the ground of being, therefore nothing that exists could suggest God does not exist, since God is the ground. God is the standard of morality, therefore no immorality could suggest God does not exist, since God is the standard. I generally hesitate to accept any position if I can see no way that I would be able to test or evaluate if the position is right or wrong.

          • Rob Abney

            Thank you, an excellent response.

            I just find it to be a position that renders God into something that is immune to any evaluation that might be used to challenge whether God exists.

            Classical theism does provide very reasonable support for God's existence, although many atheists don't consider it immune from a challenge to His existence. Theistic personalism does not provide such a reasoned approach and is easier to challenge; but I don't think that you would base your worldview on the idea that theistic personalism can be used to show that God does not exist so that is the theology that should be refuted. I would think that you should try to refute classical theism.

            So we should discuss why your position is that God is not goodness instead of discussing whether actions attributed to God are good. We can discuss God's actions as detailed in the bible but that has to come afterwards. In fact I think theistic personalism originates from studying the bible without first considering the nature of God as explained by classical theism.

            Maybe you also could tell me what you consider to be the ground of all being from your own philosophy.

          • David Hardy

            Classical theism does provide very reasonable support for God's existence

            You don't need to go into detail, but I would appreciate a brief summary of the support to which you are referring, so I can identify if their is an argument with which I am unfamiliar.

            I would think that you should try to refute classical theism.

            As an amendment to the above, I would add that I will not be refuting classical theism in a dialogue. I will be responding to the concept of classical theism as held by the person or people to whom I am talking. I find that, with a concept like classical theism, there is often significant variation across those who hold it. As a result, I would rather understand the interpretation of the position held by the person to whom I am speaking prior to responding.

            So we should discuss why your position is that God is not goodness instead of discussing whether actions attributed to God are good.

            Perhaps that would be helpful. I believe that "goodness", in this case meaning moral goodness, is an instinctive drive present to some extent in all social animals, humans included. The basic drives, including respect of territory and life, cooperation, and sharing resources all help form and maintain social bonds while also defending against outside threats. Across cultures, variance in moral rules also is consistent with an instinctive drive, rather than an objective code. This suggests to me that goodness is an evolved drive, not an objective thing people are trying to understand -- put a group of people together to describe something objective, and you will generally reach a consensus eventually, but morality continues to have significant variation across cultures, despite cross dialogue.

            Maybe you also could tell me what you consider to be the ground of all being from your own philosophy.

            All being is a broad topic. The fairest answer would be "I don't know", especially since we are still discovering things that speak to the nature of all things. However, I do not want to leave it there, because I do have a partial answer. I believe the ground of our being is the expression of our evolved nature as it is in contact with sensory information from the world, and it is hard for people to separate this ground from the ground of everything. As a good example, we are conscious beings, and everything we sense is turned into perceived objects within the mind. For that reason, everything we experience does have an element of agency and consciousness -- we infer qualities in making sense of it. This, I believe, is why people tend to anthropomorphize -- for example, yelling at machines that are not working. I further suspect that the concept of God as expressed in the Abrahamic faiths is, itself, an anthropomorphizing of the abstract concept of community itself -- of patriarchy, hierarchy, moral rules and social bonds, with an additional element of good luck as divine providence.

            So, to answer your question, I believe the ground of our being is awareness. The ground of awareness is a gestalt of thought, emotion, memory, sense data, and instinctive drives within us that, through their interrelation, give rise to that awareness. As to the ground beyond that, I do not know, and I have never met someone who claimed to know who convinced me that they did actually know. I have, however, met many people who claim competing hypotheses on the ground of being with equal conviction, presenting arguments that are often quite similar to support dissimilar conclusions, because the evidence and arguments in question do not necessarily support any of the hypotheses. For this reason, I do not rule out God as the ground of being. I simply see no reason to believe God is the ground of being.

            EDIT: Fixed a block quote.

          • Rob Abney

            This is the reasonable argument that I refer to: The graduated perfections of being actually existing in the universe can be understood only by comparison with an absolute standard that is also actual, i.e., an infinitely perfect Being such as God. (from Thomas Aquinas)
            The definition you use for moral goodness seems to rely on the definition I just provided because otherwise the standard is creaturely and ever subject to change.
            But you agree that awareness is still one step removed from the ground of being, I wonder how much you've considered Aquinas' proofs to add to the awareness.
            Does this make sense, when I say we can't view God univocally that means that we can't judge him by our standards because He is in fact the standard that everything is judged against?

          • David Hardy

            I actually do think that moral standards are subject to change -- I have witnessed people alter and modify their moral understanding quite often, and seen similar shifts at larger societal levels. I do find it interesting that you seem to believe that morality must have a perfect standard to compare to in order to be meaningful, and I see no reason this must be true. People across differing religious and cultural perspectives can seek to form a "true" standard of morality with equal earnestness, yet come to sometimes strikingly different conclusions. This in contrast to objectively distinct objects and natural features, where a consensus is far more likely as the subject is examined and grasped. The best objective standard I might propose for morality is that it involves behavior that best promotes its apparent purpose -- building stronger social bonds and society.

            Regarding requiring an objective standard, would you say the same is required for other instincts? For example, is a perfect standard of food balance needed for us to draw upon in achieving nutrition? Is a perfect standard of exercises needed for us to draw upon in understanding how to act, and how to achieve physical health? Or do these instincts have some vital distinction that does not require an objective standard to be meaningful?

            But you agree that awareness is still one step removed from the ground
            of being, I wonder how much you've considered Aquinas' proofs to add to
            the awareness.

            I am not fully certain what this means, could you expand on it?

            Does this make sense, when I say we can't view God univocally that means
            that we can't judge him by our standards because He is in fact the
            standard that everything is judged against?

            It makes sense, which is to say it is coherent and reasonable, I simply do not believe it is true, or that the evidence supports it. The evidence to which I refer here is what I mentioned above, about the lack of consensus and shifts regarding morality across cultures and time, the utility of morality in forming strong social bonds and society, which provides a clear evolutionary advantage for its development, and the instinctive features of morality (In broad strokes present in all cultures, but showing significant variance across differing groups). I also maintain my prior position -- that the God to which you refer is indistinguishable by us from a God whose morality or immorality is unknowable.

  • Peter

    I would equate God being good with God being rational. God is perfectly rational and therefore perfectly good. The cosmos is perfectly rational in its evolution. Even our physically suboptimal bodies, far from being a sign of irrationality, are a consequence of the perfect rationality behind the evolution of the universe. God is good because the universe is rational and not chaotic.

    Rationality may not produce a universe which is heaven but, by avoiding chaos, it prevents the universe from being hell. A chaotic universe would be hell, not least because we would live in constant fear of a chaotic world we could never understand.

    God is good because he has made the world rational and, in doing so, has removed our fear of it. That way we can live looking upwards in confidence instead of cowering in the shadows. A truly malicious God would create a chaotic universe and watch its conscious creatures squirm innocently in fear and bewilderment at the mayhem surrounding them. There is order in our world and not chaos which means that God is good.

    • George

      I want you to know Peter, that it is posts like yours which are my fuel, not creationism. If the new atheists really do thrive off of low hanging fruit like young-earthers, you can rest assured that I seek the high-quality stuff.

      saying the universe is perfectly rational... I don't even have to say that's wrong. I have to ask you what that even means, how you know that, what good that position does for you.

      "Even our physically suboptimal bodies, far from being a sign of irrationality, are a consequence of the perfect rationality behind the evolution of the universe."

      Does this idea conflict with the answers I regularly hear on EWTN radio? Objections from bad design by skeptics are routinely, casually, and dismissively responded to with the assertion that the fall of man, the rebellion of adam and eve, is what made things the way they are. What they all imply, followed logically, is that things could have been different? Would you tell them they are dead wrong?

      "conscious creatures squirm innocently in fear and bewilderment at the mayhem surrounding them"

      without clothes, shelter, technology, and built-up stores of food, that would be our existence though. I believe it when I'm told that life wasn't always like this, and if you went way, way, way back, the top occupation was Hunter-Gatherer, and the only company was The Tribe.

      "There is order in our world and not chaos which means that God is good." This could mean anything though. Are you talking about our industrialized society? You're not ignorant of history though, so I don't want to assume that. I'm just getting the impression of a strange optimism from what you write. When you say that god removed our fear of the world, I'm just left wondering who and when are you talking about. And please don't confuse my questions with a radical pessimism. When someone says science can illuminate the darkness and free us from fear, I wholeheartedly agree. Science is awesome, go science, and all that.

      But if the standard of a "rational" universe is that individuals of a sapient species can struggle against entropy to make the next generation (usually not even all the new individuals) live slightly better lives, that just does not sound like much to me. EDIT: If the mere capability of functioning and the chance to pass on energy to one's offspring is, in the first place, a sign of godly design, I have to ask how you know that.

      Again, "There is order in our world and not chaos". Why not say that there are amounts of both? If you say the universe was one of those and one only, wouldn't that leave you without a standard to even determine which was which?

      • Peter

        There is perfect order in the universe inasmuch as the laws of nature are universal and unchanging. There are no instances or places where that order breaks down and where chaos rules. Even the unpredictability of the quantum world is subject to order in the sense that the same experiments - double slit, entanglement etc - constantly repeat themselves and the uncertainty principle holds at all times and in all places.

        The design of the human body isn't bad; it's good. Suboptimal only means that it could be better in a hypothetical sense. Furthermore, being of optimal design doesn't mean that it will never die. You are conflating two separate issue, one of optimal functionality, the other of immortality.

        Our earliest ancestors discerned order in the world scores of millennia before the scientific revolution. In fact, the ability to discern that order is what made them humans in the first place. So, perhaps, if there were no order in nature, a sapient species like ourselves with the ability to recognise it may never have arisen.

        The recognition of universal and unchanging order in the world may indeed be that which marks the transition from animals to conscious beings. It makes perfect sense that a rational God would impose order on the universe in order to give rise to beings like ourselves who can recognise it.

    • David Nickol

      I would equate God being good with God being rational. God is perfectly rational and therefore perfectly good.

      What can this actually mean? Does God think and act rationally? I don't know how it is possible to say that, because I don't understand what it would mean for an omniscient being—existing outside of time, and unchangeable—to think. God would not need to reason, would he? Reasoning is a process by which we draw conclusions. Why would an omniscient being need to reason? And how can God engage in a process, since he is outside of time and cannot change?

      • Peter

        We can discern God's rationality from the unchanging and universal order of his creation.

        • Husky Fan in Mass

          The universe has changed a lot. What are you talking about?

          • Peter

            The universe has changed, but the way it works hasn't.

          • Husky Fan in Mass

            You mean involving a lot of destruction?

          • Peter

            And creation.

  • It exhausted me, first reading the article linked on personalism, and then the sheer volume of argument. Perhaps I can get back to it in small doses, particularly as I can only take so much argument, and contradictory positions at a time. May I mention though a couple of 'rough points' that I find in my 'between naturalism and religion' attempts to find the what? logic and or image-in-a-t-I-on! The first is, that one of the 'principles' I have always admired about Thomism is his philosophy of 'personalism', particular with respect to what I have read about that in recent literature.

    Other difficulties? Other perhaps possible contradictions or dualities that I seek to resolve, as a means of getting out of the incoherence it produces for me within my own thought? Well. Of the two 'kinds?' of time: Theories A and B for one. Each suggest to me difficulties. That of time A, for instance seems, within my incomplete intellectual formations, to relate time to matter, in a way which almost negates time, (my interpretations) particularly with reference to the 'non-existence' of the 'future', although as a 'person' I am at least able to 'hypothesize' various modalities, at least 'epistemologically'. So Time A certainly has problems 'for me'. As does Time B, but I need to work more on that. You see I never may be able to finish my project at all.

    But on the other side of the argument, besides an Abstract (Type B) time, and a Relative Time, there also seems to be a similar distinction between the Classical Theist and the -here-in described- Personalist, modern perspective, that which, thank you very much for this article, I can now see as the motivation for my attempts to follow through this thesis on that article on The Kalem Argument. Time and Space. I can't read enough. I haven't got 'time' enough.
    Perhaps, I have however, indicated some 'causes' as to why my comments sometimes are definitely 'incoherent'. I can't help but find 'incoherence' everywhere!! I read, and read, and read.

    Lately on the difference, (a fine - yes discussion- I found on EN between the overlord and the Luke- who is often considered too 'religious' because of some perceived preoccupation with sin.. Perhaps, I hope, this should allow me to anticipate some 'enlightening' remarks with regard to this OP. In the meantime, that discussion on the difference between necessitarianism and a kind of regulatory philosophy, as in Kant's interpretation of the Categorical Imperative, at least gave me the insight that I cannot be a 'true' Spinozian either. The necessitarian argument, vs. the Regulative thesis. (Edit: Although I also believe it possible as per Hegel: that Freedom can indeed be the 'recognition' of Necessity. which perhaps I can describe as some ability to 'see' within the temporal sphere what can possibly be described 'objectively' as what? I'll leave the answer to your free will. Your 'personal -determinations' or rather the scientific objectivity? )(Can't explain all the thoughts I had) but this 'problematic' -for me- definitely breaks down too. I have found it more than 'difficult' to make the 'necessary' correlations.

    C'mon Luke. Let's give your all to this one. I can't wait to hear what you might say about an All Evil, Sinful, ....oh dear.... I've said enough, as usual. I won't even say LOL or grin grin.!!! Lest it be considered lacking in taste, Beauty, or intelligence, the Logos and Truth, or heaven forbid. What is the Soul? What is the Omni-------Enjoy your discussion, everyone, perhaps I will be able to get out of this OCD, sometime...!!!

    • P.S. I found it particularly amusing that the writer of the original argument has the name 'Law', particularly as I find this whole conflict is precisely that - between law, and perhaps order, with the concept of Person or Agent.... Is their a priority between the Will and the Logos. Jesus deferred to - Thy Will be done. But the will is not the aesthetic being analysed for instance within post-modern writings, in which perhaps I can at least imagine my 'freedom' of will within this 'category?' of a temporal, or personalization of both time and space, my soul? my desire, good and bad, and definitely not absolute nor 'simple' as could perhaps be speculated to constitute an absolute, an Aristotelean Thomistic Actuality, (after all the temporal is the Becoming, the ontological potentiality rather than that logical, epistemological knowing of good and evil, and its 'probability?') together with the Nothing...as against the Being, as described for instance in Hegel......I don't expect anyone to follow this. After all, it definitely is not an argument, rational, intellectual or what not? How does one put together 'all' the pieces of the puzzle? Have a good day, ye- All!

  • Mike

    ppl wonder why christians only thank God for good things but seem to not curse him for the bad. maybe that's bc they believe in the devil.

    • David Nickol

      Are we to believe that any good things that happens to us are God's doing, and any bad things were caused by the devil? It is not uncommon to hear someone say that a "bad thing" that happened to them (say, a heart attack) turned out to be the best thing that ever happened. Is a tragedy the serves as a "wake-up call," or forces you to take a look at yourself and change, or appreciate more the things you have, God's doing, or a failed attempt by the devil? How do you know?

      By the way, it is rather difficult to get a clear idea of what the devil can and cannot do, according to Catholic teaching, but it does not seem to me that Catholic teaching is very big on attributing unfortunate things that happen to us to the devil. I thought Jesus was supposed to have broken the power of Satan.

      • David Nickol

        Also, if we attribute the good things that happen to God and the bad things that happen to the devil, what about the argument that God (for the most part) does not interfere to prevent bad things from happening because he has given us free will, and if he interfered to prevent bad consequences of freely made choices, free will would be pointless?

        • Doug Shaver

          If I prevent another person from doing evil, am I interfering with his free will? If so, am I doing something wrong?

          • David Nickol

            If I prevent another person from doing evil, am I interfering with his free will? If so, am I doing something wrong?

            I think the standards that apply to God's behavior are somewhat different from those that apply to yours. :)

            But let's say you were a parent and you always stepped in to make sure your child never did anything wrong and there were never any negative consequences of your child's actions from birth straight on through into the child's adulthood. Would you be a responsible parent?

            There have been some good science fiction stories in which human beings have robot guardians that only allow the human beings to do what is best—no smoking, no drinking, only healthful foods, and so on, and so on. What a nightmare!

            Whether or not our world was created by God as he is conceived of here by the theists of Strange Notions, given the world as we have it, the idea of God respecting the free will of humans and not constantly interfering to prevent any evil resulting from freely made choices makes a great deal of sense (to me, at least). Further, I think interpreting the story of Adam and Eve as a myth about the consequences of giving up childlike dependence and making decisions for oneself (rather than as a "fall") is quite a good one.

          • Mike

            Adam and Eve as a myth about the consequences of giving up childlike dependence and making decisions for oneself (rather than as a "fall") is quite a good one.

            i've always thought of it as both kind of. like that it was a fall from grace metaphorically but also yes that now we can 'grow' into the full knowledge of the effects of our choices, we are growing into more 'fuller' human being i guess.

          • Doug Shaver

            I think the standards that apply to God's behavior are somewhat different from those that apply to yours. :)

            That must be mighty convenient for anyone who claims to get their moral guidance from God.

            But let's say you were a parent and you always stepped in to make sure your child never did anything wrong and there were never any negative consequences of your child's actions from birth straight on through into the child's adulthood. Would you be a responsible parent?

            No, I would not. Would you now like to ask a followup question?

          • David Nickol

            That must be mighty convenient for anyone who claims to get their moral guidance from God.

            I think it goes without saying that if there is a creator, the relationships between himself and any creature would be radically different from the relationships between one creature and another. I am not sure that moral guidance necessarily has anything to do with it.

            No, I would not. Would you now like to ask a followup question?

            Do you think that an all-good, omnipotent God, if he existed, would constantly interfere with human beings to make sure their actions never resulted in harm to anyone?

          • Doug Shaver

            Do you think that an all-good, omnipotent God, if he existed, would constantly interfere with human beings to make sure their actions never resulted in harm to anyone?

            I think that if we had been created by an all-good omnipotent God, no interference would ever have been necessary to prevent us from doing evil.

          • Mike

            so we'd be more like robots than things endowed with real choice.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't believe that.

          • Mike

            how could we both have real choice between good and evil and yet only be able to choose good?

          • Doug Shaver

            I said nothing about what we would be able to choose.

          • Mike

            ah i see we would have the ability but just wouldn't.

            well as you know that was EXACTLY what happened...before the fall.

            we were created in a state of total grace or whatever, innocent and we were 'told' do anything and everything but not this one thing: trust me it isn't good for you. we were tempted.

            now how could we if made by a totally good God choose evil even if tempted by a more 'powerful' angel, wouldn't God have known that that would happen? why did he make us like that if he knew that we'd succumb?

            i think the only answer to this is by analogy: why did my wife and i choose to have children knowing that they are likely very likely to rebel against us to disappoint us to figuratively rip out our hearts and stomp on them and to die as one of ours did? Love. Bc love risks all for all.

            yes it is crazy but would we expect anything less from an infinite God?

          • Doug Shaver

            as you know that was EXACTLY what happened

            I know what the story says happened. I don't find the story believable.

            why did my wife and i choose to have children knowing that they are likely very likely to rebel against us to disappoint us to figuratively rip out our hearts and stomp on them and to die as one of ours did? Love. Bc love risks all for all.

            yes it is crazy but would we expect anything less from an infinite God?

            I'm not prepared to assume that God, if he exists, is similar enough to you that I can learn anything about him by observing your behavior.

          • Mike

            which story of life do you find believable?

          • Doug Shaver

            which story of life do you find believable?

            The one told by science.

          • Mike

            amazing this thing called science that it can tell stories. i've never heard of a physics experiment that resulted in a story being discovered or a chemistry test that at the end showed that oxygen meeting hydrogen was actually a story.

            i think what you mean is that you read INTO scientific discoveries your preconceived worldview.

            anyway thx for the exchange.

          • Doug Shaver

            amazing this thing called science that it can tell stories.

            Amazing this thing called literal-mindedness.

          • Mike

            so what stories does science tell you?

          • Doug Shaver
          • Mike

            again that's not a story that science tell but a story that some person name richard dawkins tell no?

          • Doug Shaver

            that's not a story that science tell but a story that some person name richard dawkins tell no?

            Figuratively speaking, it is the story that science tells about how we human beings came into existence. If you prefer, it would be more precise to say that it is the way one scientist has decided to tell the story. You would agree, would you not, that for any particular story, there are countless ways that it can be told? Aren't the authors of the four canonical gospels all telling the same story but in four different ways?

          • Mike

            again i think that that story has metaphysical assumptions that are NOT there in the science itself but are read into it.

          • Doug Shaver

            Have you read the book?

          • Mike

            no but i know the underlying metaphysics it assumes must be correct.

          • Doug Shaver

            i think that that story has metaphysical assumptions that are NOT there in the science itself but are read into it.

            Have you read the book?

            no but i know the underlying metaphysics it assumes must be correct.

            Could I trouble you to tell me just one of those metaphysical assumptions that you believe Dawkins is making?

          • Mike

            that there is no purpose to the universe.

          • David Nickol

            that there is no purpose to the universe

            If Dawkins indeed believes that, it seems to me it would be a metaphysical conclusion, not an assumption.

            What is the purpose of the universe, anyway?

          • Mike

            well that depends as perhaps he views all biological facts and phenomenon through a lens which presupposes there is no higher intelligence no 'outside' order no purpose or intention of any sort and so then unsurprisingly doesn't find any evidence for that intelligence.

            i think the purpose of the universe is to show the glory of God.

          • David Nickol

            i think the purpose of the universe is to show the glory of God.

            To whom? And why?

            Do you think that God is showing off? Whom is he trying to impress?

          • Mike

            to us bc it is beautiful.

            yes showing off like the painter of a girl with a pearl earing was showing off. i think he is trying to impress upon us.

          • Doug Shaver

            I've been reading about the science of evolution for most of my life, and I'm almost as old as Dawkins himself. I have not found any assumption about the universe being purposeless in any of it. What I have found, in some of it, is the observation that the contrary assumption appears to lack any evidential support.

          • Mike

            then i'd suggest this little book to balance out the field alittle:

            http://www.amazon.ca/From-Aristotle-Darwin-Back-Again/dp/1586171690

          • Doug Shaver

            In what respect, specifically, do you think my reading has been unbalanced? And what have I said that makes you think so?

          • Mike

            well seeing Dawkins causes alarm bells to go off.

          • Doug Shaver

            i think that that story has metaphysical assumptions that are NOT there in the science itself

            I think otherwise. So now what do we do?

          • Mike

            but i also don't think the science BY ITSELF tells my story either.

            don't you agree that it's the interpretation of the facts that is different not the science itself?

          • Doug Shaver

            but i also don't think the science BY ITSELF tells my story either.

            You mean the biblical story? I quite agree. Science doesn't tell that story.

          • Mike

            that's not what i mean. i mean that science can be interpreted in various ways but that the "true/correct" way to interpret it, when making statements that go beyond some physics experiment, is not "in" the science itself ie chemistry results don't tell you HOW to interpret them. a philosophy of biology or science generally is for that.

          • Doug Shaver

            not "in" the science itself ie chemistry results don't tell you HOW to interpret them. a philosophy of biology or science generally is for that.

            Everybody has a philosophy of some kind that they use when interpreting any facts or scientific discoveries that they learn about. That fact alone doesn't help us decide whose interpretation we should accept.

          • Mike

            not alone but it is a starting point that many on your 'side' seem to dispute for no good reason imho.

          • Doug Shaver

            it is a starting point that many on your 'side' seem to dispute for no good reason imho.

            When you debate someone on my side who fails to offer good reasons for disputing something, you may raise whatever objections seem appropriate.

          • ClayJames

            I'm not prepared to assume that God, if he exists, is similar enough to
            you that I can learn anything about him by observing your behavior.

            But you somehow believe that he is similar enough to you in order to say how we would should have been created:

            I think that if we had been created by an all-good omnipotent God, no
            interference would ever have been necessary to prevent us from doing
            evil.

            I know what the story says happened. I don't find the story believable.

            The story is very believable. Humans, when given free will, will inevitably chose to do evil. How is that not believable?

          • Doug Shaver

            But you somehow believe that he is similar enough to you in order to say how we would should have been created:

            That statement you quoted doesn't say how God should have done anything.

            Humans, when given free will, will inevitably chose to do evil. How is that not believable?

            It is not believable to me because I have been seeing people choose to do good all my life. This contradicts your assertion that they inevitably choose to do evil. They obviously do choose to do evil, but not inevitably. I have made both good choices and evil choices, and so has every other person I have ever known.

          • ClayJames

            That statement you quoted doesn't say how God should have done anything.

            Of course it does. It says that an all-good omnipotent God should have created a world where no interference would ever have been necessary to prevent us from doing evil. This also ties into the argument from evil (which we had discussed previously) which is predicated on the point that an omnibenevolent omnipotent god should have created the world in one way instead of another. Your statement that we are not similar enough to god in order to say how he should have created things applies to both of these claims.

            It is not believable to me because I have been seeing people choose to
            do good all my life. This contradicts your assertion that they
            inevitably choose to do evil. They obviously do choose to do evil, but
            not inevitably. I have made both good choices and evil choices, and so
            has every other person I have ever known.

            People doing good in no way contradicts the assertion that everyone inevitably choses evil. By inevitably I mean that chosing evil is inevitable or sure to happen. So to contradict this point, you would have to say that some people are never going to chose evil, which you deny in your response.

          • Doug Shaver

            It says that an all-good omnipotent God should have created a world where no interference would ever have been necessary to prevent us from doing evil.

            No, it doesn't. Here it is again:

            I think that if we had been created by an all-good omnipotent God, no interference would ever have been necessary to prevent us from doing evil.

            Do you think "would" and "should" mean the same thing?

            By inevitably I mean that chosing evil is inevitable or sure to happen.

            OK, I stand corrected. However, it does nothing to make the Genesis story of human origins any more believable to me.

          • ClayJames

            Do you think "would" and "should" mean the same thing?

            I guess I interpreted your statement as ¨should¨ since it lowers your burden of proof from showing that given an omnibenevolent and omnipotent he should do X instead of it logically follows that he would do X.

            Are you then saying that god would not have to interfere because he he would have created us to not do evil?

          • Doug Shaver

            Are you then saying that god would not have to interfere because he he would have created us to not do evil?

            No. We would not be us if he had created us differently than he did. He would not have to interfere because he would have created the world differently. In a different world, we'd have had no incentive for choosing evil.

          • ClayJames

            How does it follow that if God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent he would have created a world where we´d have had no incentive for choosing evil?

          • Doug Shaver

            It follows from what I understand benevolence to be. For those who think it means something else, it might well not follow.

          • David Nickol

            how could we both have real choice between good and evil and yet only be able to choose good?

            It seems to me that we had a piece that touched on this a couple of years ago called Will We Have Free Will in Heaven? The answer would seem to be yes, but I believe it is held quite firmly that once in heaven, you can't sin and be sent to hell. Yet you must have free will.

            It seems entirely possible to have a "real choice" and to always choose good. (Catholics believe the Virgin Mary did so.) To have free will does not require that you sometimes choose evil. It requires that you always can make a choice.

            The notion seems to me quite false that we would be robbed of free will if God and his goodness were blindingly obvious to human beings, and that choices between good and evil were so stark that no one would ever choose evil.

          • Mike

            i agree. and yet we sinned committed a special sin, we were tempted with the 'knowledge of good and evil'. i suppose we knew good and maybe only abstractly knew evil but with that sin we became intimately knowledgeable of evil. maybe we got more than we bargained for.

            ironically the existence of pure evil for me is evidence enough for the existence of God.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It seems entirely possible to have a "real choice" and to always choose good.

            I agree, and I think Pope Benedict XVI agreed with you as well, in his exegesis of Original Sin. The essence of the doctrine of Original Sin, the reason it is in fact something to be happy about (at least on BXVI's reading, as I understand it), lies precisely in the implication that our flawed state is not inherent or inescapable. The Fall lies "in the middle of the story", not at the beginning or at the end. Thus, Original Sin describes an ephemeral relationship we have entered into, not something that is constitutional to our being. Therefore, our freedom and our capacity for evil, though they are so closely linked that they appear to be two sides of the same coin, are in fact separable. If this is a real possibility, on that will one day come to fruition, I would say this is very, very Good News.

            http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2008/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20081203.html

          • Donnie

            Why does evil have to be a choice among choices? Why can't all the things to choose from be good? We would still have choice, it would just be limited to good things, rather than being limited to what we are able to do in our real world right now. Our choices are not limitless, so why not limit us to multiple good choices.

          • Mike

            well there really does have to be a choice to choose evil but you may never choose it bc you love choosing the good so much. that was apparently the state of things before the fall.

          • Donnie

            Then there had to exist an evil (thing) to choose BEFORE Adam & Eve made that choice. Where did that evil (thing) come from? Thanks in advance. I truly appreciate your response(s).

          • Mike

            yes but i think the standard understanding is that evil does not 'exist' in the same way that good does. evil is just privation of a good. so 'turning' away from God the source of all goodness indeed goodness itself results in evil but only in a contingent sense. so before the fall that choice was available bc we were made with free will. apparently the devil also made the same choice. so the standard answer is that the devil a 'more powerful' angel or spirit tempted us. why did God let him? who knows but it seems to me that as the saying goes if you truly love something you'll set it free and hope it returns. i think that God risked it all for us the way that parents have children knowing that they may grow up to reject them and rebel but we do it anyway. plus since God is all powerful he knew that in the end we'd return. all of this right now is just the story of that return.

          • Donnie

            Children of human parents and our concept of good vs. evil come after the fall. Why did God create the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the first place? How was the garden a better place for having it? How would the garden be worse if there was no Tree?

          • Mike

            why in the first place? bc without it we wouldn't have had real choice. it's not enough to be able to conceptualize evil, a real choice must be there if we can be said to have real choice imho. if we could have known evil conceptually but not been able to choose it we wouldn't have had real choice it seems to me. if the tree weren't there then we wouldn't have been able to 'consummate' the sin.

            if you never and i mean absolutely never let your child choose something that is bad for them you will cause great harm to said child.

            this is a popular take on this issue:

            http://tofspot.blogspot.ca/2011/09/adam-and-eve-and-ted-and-alice.html

          • Donnie

            So when Adam chose one good plant or good animal over another before the fall, he never made/had a "real" choice (no free will?). Only when he had the choice of something evil did he finally have a "real" choice. I just don't get that. Is an evil choice necessary for "real" choice? If so, is more than one evil choice even better for "real" choice? And, what's the difference between a "choice" and a "real choice" anyway?
            (Also, I would not have to let my child choose something bad if no bad thing ever existed anywhere in the first place. But bad things do exist. I am trying to find out why they do.)

          • Mike

            i know what you mean. sorry i am not being clear. i don't mean choice as between this or that plant but free will in terms of being able to disobey or rebel or ie go it alone. if we had been created without the 'ability' to choose evil we wouldn't be the creatures we are i suppose. the question is why we chose evil, to sin not why there was evil in the first place. to my mind if there was no possibility of evil we'd be like goats or monkeys or any other animal which is totally innocent even of the most heinous crime. if a dog mauls an infant to death we don't say the dog is bad or evil and certainly not responsible.

            well as far as i know evil exists but only as a privation. so in a sense evil always exists in as much as something 'moves away' from God which is pure Goodness or whatever. so before the fall evil existed the way it does when a dog mauls a toddler today but we didn't have "knowledge" of it - we were like the dog in that situation totally unconscious of something 'wrong' having been done. in the summa thomas says that we would feel no pain and never die but be 'carried' away into heaven after some time. the point there i think is that we would not have had knowledge of evil in the world understood as a privation of a good.

            interestingly to me the existence of pure unimaginable evil i mean really really evil has always meant that something like God must exist. the more the evil the more evidence it seemed to be to me for God or some supernatural agent. see some crimes are so evil so heart wrenching - ly evil that they imho they can not be accounted for by any materialist/naturalist philo.

          • Donnie

            Thanks. (You definitely force me to clarify what I want to say.) Was the world before the Fall a better world? I say "yes". If not, why do we call it "The Fall"?. But, evil was not known before the Fall (we were, as you say, like "goats or monkeys"..."totally innocent"). Could God have kept us in the better world and not let us know evil by not ever creating the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?

          • Mike

            i think the standard telling of it is that he of course could have done that but then we wouldn't have that real choice to defy him or rebel or whatever. again he could have kept us innocent and could have kept us ignorant but decided to 'risk it all' in order to give us something i guess that is spectacular: free will and knowledge of something very strange ie "good" and "evil"; i guess that's why ppl say we are made in his image bc other animals have zero concept of these strange concepts which really don't make any sense imho unless there is some 'standard' of things.

          • Donnie

            (deleted by me :) )

          • George

            Should an ominipotent being know how to intervene without abusing it's powers and creating harmful side effects?

          • ClayJames

            Yes and in some cases he choses to intervene and in others he doesnt. To say that he should know how to intervene in all cases without unwanted side effects is to ask him to make a rock so heavy that he cant lift it.

          • George

            "There have been some good science fiction stories in which human beings have robot guardians that only allow the human beings to do what is best—no smoking, no drinking, only healthful foods, and so on, and so on. What a nightmare!"

            True. Of course guardians created by flawed humans(or even very powerful and intelligent aliens) would never be perfect. But shouldn't the protection of a perfect being not imply the risk of infantilizing us and intrusively micromanaging? Could we logically determine if we lived in a world perfectly balanced between independence and control?

            But there's an option I haven't heard discussed when it comes to god's intervention, and that's the act of simply informing us humans and empowering us to act of our own free will to make the world better. Do we have all the information we need to help literally everyone?

            It seems very possible (likely even) that there are serial killers currently operating in the world which we do not know about yet, and might never know about. Their victims will go unrescued and die alone in terrible suffering. This isn't a famine in a foreign country which could be blamed on the apathy of the first-world masses. Should the victims of serial killers take the punishment for a society's well-meaning desire to not be a totalitarian mass-surveillance state?

            God can't send a message directly into the brains of every police officer in the precinct and tell them: "Hey, this woman is being held prisoner in this guy's basement. He's going to kill her in 30 minutes IF you don't go here to his address and stop him."?

            Who's free will would be violated there? Should the victim complain that, gosh, humanity will just never grow up if God keeps on coddling us like this?

          • Husky Fan in Mass

            Is your surname meant to be ironic?

          • Doug Shaver

            I've occasionally pretended that it was.

        • ClayJames

          what about the argument that God (for the most part) does not interfere
          to prevent bad things from happening because he has given us free will,
          and if he interfered to prevent bad consequences of freely made choices,
          free will would be pointless?

          I dont think that is a very good argument. Someone can have the free will to kill someone, and someone else stopping him does not mean he didnt have the free will to kill that person. I don´t think events have to be actualized in order for someone to have free will.

          • David Nickol

            I dont think that is a very good argument.

            But it is not my argument! It is one of the most often heard Catholic/Christian arguments about (a) why bad things happen in the world and (b) why God does not intervene to prevent them.

            Why didn't God simply prevent Adam and Eve from eating the forbidden fruit? Are you really arguing that free will makes sense even if God intervenes constantly to prevent any negative consequences? If so, you are arguing against one of the bedrock assumptions of Christianity, not against me!

          • ClayJames

            I know it is not your argument. I was giving a response as to why the argument that you attributed to some Christians is not a good argument.

            I also do not think that most Catholics would say that God does not intervene in stopping an ultimate result of someone´s free decision. I actually think most Catholics would say that he does do this from time to time. What they wont say, is that he doesnt prevent every evil result of someone´s free action, and that is why bad things happen at the hands of people with free will.

            I dont know where you get the idea that God intervening to prevent a negative consequence goes against one of the bedrocks of Christianity. I am not aware of this bedrock belief.

          • David Nickol

            I also do not think that most Catholics would say that God does not intervene in stopping an ultimate result of someone´s free decision. I actually think most Catholics would say that he does do this from time to time.

            You overlooked a key phrase in my original message: ". . . . the argument that God (for the most part) does not interfere to prevent bad things from happening because he has given us free will, and if he interfered to prevent bad consequences of freely made choices, free will would be pointless."

            311 Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it: For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.

            Free will is bedrock. And the belief that God for the most part does not intervene out of respect for free will is also bedrock:

            1743 "God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him" (GS 17 § 1).

          • ClayJames

            You are right, my apologies. I thought that you were saying that any interference that changes the possible effects of a decision invalidates free will.

          • George

            I believe CS lewis said we wouldn't have free will if (in a hypothetical world) rods used with intent to beat someone always turned rubbery and soft before impact, or the air selectively wouldn't carry the soundwaves of lies and insults.

          • Michael Murray

            So the fact that when I look daggers at someone the daggers actually melt in mid air before they can kill the person means I don't have free will ?

          • George

            I guess. I find the conflicting conclusions by religious authorities, official and unofficial, to be quite interesting.

          • Michael Murray

            I have to admit to being confused by free-will. For example I'm undecided if an omniscient being knowing everything I will do (but not telling me) would mean I didn't have free-will.

          • George

            I kind of visualize the issue as a yin-yang. theists can emphasize omniscience all they want. and I can keep asking why our future actions are knowable at all.

          • Husky Fan in Mass

            Would you please finish that mug already!

      • Mike

        my understanding is that God allows evil but is all Good and uses bad things also like you mention to bring about good.

        the devil is the source of all evil.

        • David Nickol

          the devil is the source of all evil.

          This is dangerously close to heresy. Are there no Catholics out there (Lazarus, Rob Abney, Brandon Vogt?) who can respond?

          • Mike

            well we participate in evil too but i think that the ultimate source is the devil, no?

          • David Nickol

            I would say no, but I would like to see an answer from an "orthodox" Catholic. I think you are attributing to Satan more importance and power than the Catholic Church does.

          • Mike

            maybe but i am not that familiar with this area of theology/doctrine.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think you are probably right that it sort of fell out of fashion to talk a lot about the devil, but if nothing else there has always been the central role of Satan in the renewal of baptismal promises. And recently, we have Pope Francis's speaking very frequently and forthrightly about the reality of Satan. (For example: http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/20/living/pope-francis-devil/)

            Personally, I am increasingly fascinated by the role of the devil in Catholic theology. I am increasingly drawn to the idea that freedom -- and the broken-ness that seems to almost go hand-in-hand with true freedom -- exists in the universe in a way that precedes human activity (as it says in the catechism, "Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice").

            If I may ramble a bit with my own musings, I think it sort of "makes sense" from an evolutionary perspective that our capacity for evil was already latent in the universe before humans evolved. Perhaps the universe had already inchoately turned away from God in some sense, and the human-centric Fall was "merely" a pivotal apotheosis and manifestation of a dark freedom that was already there. I agree that it's all very murky the way that it is supposed to have worked, but in a vague way it sort of sounds about right to me.

          • Lazarus

            Our latent capacity for evil. The idea seems oddly but instinctively... accurate. I'm going to give this some thought, and see if it has been explored somewhere. It is a most compelling idea.

          • David Nickol

            Our latent capacity for evil.

            It seems to me that the Catholic account of the creation and fall of Satan is rather sketchy, but since according to the story he did fall (or rebel), clearly he had a "latent capacity for evil." I think there are numerous problems with identifying the serpent in the story of Adam and Eve with Satan, but even for those who find it acceptable, Adam and Eve chose freely. The Catechism says, "Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents." If Adam and Eve (or whomever they represent as mythical figures) committed such a grave sin as to be worthy of the punishment meted out to them, certainly they had to meet the criteria for "mortal sin" (serious wrong, known to be a serious wrong, committed with full consent). What kind of just and all-good God would punish the whole human race for the misdeeds of two childlike naïfs tricked by a being of vastly superior intelligence and power?

            To the extent anyone is deceived by the "prince of lies," to that extent they are not responsible for their actions.

          • Lazarus

            Oh yes, there are some very big, possibly even insurmountable problems with the template, but just the way Jim phrased it triggered something that I believe needs some thought and reading.

            And would we not have a duty to fight that decrepit? Or does such deceit negate our intent, even our free will, our choices? Are we culpable if we are deceived?

            Interesting stuff.

          • Husky Fan in Mass

            Have you reached the top of the hill yet?

          • Husky Fan in Mass

            He's calling you a heretic. Are you going to let him get away with it?

          • Lazarus

            There are several shades of gray in this answer. I am not sure that I am always satisfied with the suggested solutions, but they generally touch on free will, the Fall (in other words we caused it), evil as a deprivation of good, and the assertion that all good comes from God.

            While the devil as source of all evil has some support (see eg Plantinga) it seems to be destroyed by the book of Job. I certainly wouldn't like to argue for that position. The devil of course seems to be involved in certain acts of evil, but not as the source. It gets very muddled.

            If I remember correctly the Catholic Encyclopedia also has a few pages on the topic, but my recollection is that such discussion also raises several questions. All in all I would have to say that I'm not very confident about my grasp of the Catholic understanding of the source of evil. Even after I have read that explanation. When it gets to the explanation for the source of the so-called natural evil I give up and go for a walk.

          • Rob Abney

            Maybe this is what Mike was referring to: Summa Theological, First Part, Question 114, Reply to Objection 2. When man commits sin without being thereto instigated by the devil, he nevertheless becomes a child of the devil thereby, in so far as he imitates him who was the first to sin.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        I thought Jesus was supposed to have broken the power of Satan.

        When Paul speaks of Jesus "break[ing] the power of sin", I don't take this to mean that Jesus "took sin and death out of operation". Rather I understand Paul to mean that even sin and death -- though not desirable in themselves -- are in fact opportunities to grow closer to God, and that this is at least one aspect of what God has revealed in the Resurrection of Jesus.

        In the following video clip, a nice distinction is made between being "broken open" versus being "broken down", using the seed metaphor that Saint Paul used in 1 Corinthians. To the extent that the Resurrection reveals all "broken-down-ness" to be a sort of "broken-open-ness", I think it makes sense to say that Satan has been defeated. Satan is still out there doing his thing, but we can dimly see that even he is unwittingly working in the service of a larger providential plan. At least, I think that is one valid way of thinking about what it means to have defeated sin, or death, or Satan.

        https://www.facebook.com/Gratefulness.org/videos/vb.132840248453/10150117421417469/?type=2&theater

        • David Nickol

          Thanks for the reply. I was not thinking of Paul, however, but Jesus in Luke 10:17-20:

          The seventy[-two] returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning* from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power ‘to tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full forceof the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

          The NAB says in a footnote:

          I have observed Satan fall like lightning: the effect of the mission of the seventy-two is characterized by the Lucan Jesus as a symbolic fall of Satan. As the kingdom of God is gradually being established, evil in all its forms is being defeated; the dominionof Satan over humanity is at an end.

          Just a note here that Isaiah 14:12, in which "Morning Star" is sometimes translated "Lucifer," is not a reference to the devil but to the King of Babylon:

          How you have fallen from the heavens,
          O Morning Star, son of the dawn!
          How you have been cut down to the earth,
          you who conquered nations!

          Here are the appropriate footnotes from the NAB:

          * [14:4–21] This taunt-song, a satirical funeral lament, is a beautiful example of classical Hebrew poetry. According to the prose introduction and the prosaic conclusion (vv. 22–23), it is directed against the king of Babylon, though Babylon is mentioned
          nowhere in the song itself. If the reference to Babylon is accurate,
          the piece was composed long after the time of Isaiah, for Babylon was not a threat to Judah in the eighth century. Some have argued that Isaiah wrote it at the death of an Assyrian king and the references to Babylon were made by a later editor, but this is far from certain.

          * [14:12] Morning Star: term addressed to the king of Babylon. The Vulgate translates as “Lucifer,” a name applied by the church Fathers to Satan. Son of the dawn: Heb., ben shahar, may reflect the name of a pagan deity.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That's very interesting. I wasn't aware of the roots of the "fallen angel" imagery, so thanks for that.

            For my part, I think it is perhaps too strong to say that because the name Lucifer and the imagery of falling from heaven was written with reference to the King of Bablyon, therefore it is not a reference to the devil. Somehow in the development of our tradition I suppose (I would love to understand it better), the imagery of Lucifer / King of Bablyon and the imagery of Lord Baal / Beelzebul / The Lord of the Flies, and the imagery of the serpent in the Garden, somehow it all got swirled together through a sort of poetic association. I don't count that as a sort of transcription error, as I think you are perhaps implying. It seems valid to me to suppose that the poetic associations between these genetically different concepts appropriately reflect a perception that there is some common spiritual root that underlies all these "enemies". To mix all that together in a single literary slurry called "Satan" is to me ... illuminating.

  • For Thanksgiving: A 'serious' reflection on 'irony, satire, even sarcasm?' To begin with as a Canadian, it is perhaps ironic that a major newspaper has a full front page advertisement for Black Friday by, yes you guessed, Walmart. So why am I thankful for this propensity to find the satirical. Perhaps because even as a child, I believe it reflected some capacity I had, I know now how, to sense, what I could not understand at the time to be various 'contradictions' (logical) or 'paradoxes' a little more ontological perhaps, - I still can't get down to the 'essence'. So there is a therapeutic, protective, element within forms of satire, possibly. It can be perhaps 'defensive'. But it can also be 'mean' as my children have pointed out. It is after all but one side of the paradoxical relation of humor to tragedy, which entail all the consequences that this involves, if considered to be as per Nietzsche and even Freud to reflect, the ego, or false self?? the relative, perhaps? the mask? without a true understanding concurrent with the tragic interpretation, possibilities, realities.....

    So for someone like me who has only an historic access to the study of religion and philosophy, without any ability or opportunity to study either math or science, it is indeed helpful, defensive, and yes, perhaps sometimes even 'mean'. It does, and this is what I am thankful for, allow for at least some distance, personally, wherein I can hope, within my limitations, to 'see' both 'sides of the coin'. And perhaps, ontologically, it does give expression to Kierkegaard's 'idea' of what constitutes 'faith', or living within the 'awareness' of paradox. It allows me perhaps not to regard myself as a 'fidelist', or in opposition, the possibility that I can see the 'subjective' elements within any attempt to see the fact, the evidence, even without the ability to do the initial exercises in Mathematics, (yes, I am attempting to understand same on the website - Brilliant. No I'm not. ) And perhaps, even, for that I may be thankful. For indeed, as I have experienced, even in the extreme cases of tragedy, it is helpful sometimes to have that sense of 'distance' that can be associated, even though at a undeveloped level, so far as the attainment of consciousness or awareness is concerned, with some 'sense' of humor. Thank you, all.

    • A couple of 'questions' regarding 'interpretation', 'selection of concepts', (my interest in finding correlates?) and all the other difficulties in 'communication'.What of this 'idea' of 'privation'. I first ran across this within Kant's discussion of Quality, as in the example that 'cold is the absence of heat'. But quantitatively, perhaps, (lucky scientists') could this not be expressed within the ideas of say ' discrete 'factors'? within a continuum, (more or less!) without any 'qualitative, (I think morally, or emotionally here!!) judgment. What of that possibility I mentioned at one point: of finding perhaps that it is a contradiction, logical perhaps, that would allow one to assert that peace is the absence of war, and vice-versa. (Please note I haven't that much 'knowledge' of the terms used in logic to perhaps name them correctly!).

      So, is there not a possibility to intuit from these examples of different 'means/ways' to assess 'absence, or privation'? that we could see (cause and effect from our metaphysical perspective) 'each term' in-itself (as against our perception (based on human interest). We would thus describe according to the 'for' itself, (we could assign to the object of our investigation) that or possession of such a high level of conscious jurisdiction, that it could possibly be held that there was no difference (no cause and effect) that could be based or assigned to the object, with respect to the possible use of the concepts of absence or privation? Every term, every concept, etc. etc. even -every person and devil and god, could 'speak' for 'itself'!!!!! The "All' would be seen within the 'particular' ....in itself. Would we then be, as in the phrase of Nietzsche - 'beyond good and evil'? (Just having fun here, of course.) (Edit: with a little help from 'a friend' and David Hume) https://thomism.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/hume-as-not-deranged/

  • I think that the issue of a god being evil is basically used to draw out why natural theology does not entail a "good" god, in the sense of "good" meaning something that is inconsistent with an act of torturing babies for fun being considered "good".

    If they work, cosmological, moral and teleological arguments get one to accept there being a cause, a designer, a ground for morality. But these arguments do not require the god being one who cares about humans or their well-being.

    Indeed, the world we observe may be designed by a an intelligent mind, whose one purpose is to see humans torture and murder each other. This would be a god who lies, who gives false hope. Would this be incompatible with the world we observe? I don't see why not.

    • Mike

      thats why most pagans believed in evil spirits and gods.

    • ClayJames

      Indeed, the world we observe may be designed by a an intelligent mind,
      whose one purpose is to see humans torture and murder each other. This
      would be a god who lies, who gives false hope. Would this be
      incompatible with the world we observe? I don't see why not.

      Whether its incompatible or not misses the point. It is completely compatible with the world we observe for us to be in the Matrix and for the entirety of our observations to be nothing more than illusions. This is perfectly compatible with our observations, but this is not a valid reason for us to not accept the validity of our senses in showing the world as it truly is.

      Most theists view god as more than just a designer and it is in the revelation, texts and traditions of their religions that they come to believe who god is.

      • Indeed, there is no way to discern if there is a god whether the god is good, evil, indifferent.

        • ClayJames

          Not at all, there is a way to discern this and I gave 3 different ways how this is done. If you then want to hold a completely skeptical position that what we perceive could just be god trying to fool us (an evil god pretending to be good) then you must hold the same complete skepticism about other beliefs.

          We are warranted to form beliefs based on our experience, simply saying that we could be getting fooled doesnt change that.

    • "Indeed, the world we observe may be designed by a an intelligent mind, whose one purpose is to see humans torture and murder each other. This would be a god who lies, who gives false hope. Would this be incompatible with the world we observe? I don't see why not."

      Brian, it's not clear whether you actually read Dr. Feser's article. In this comment, you've essentially just restated Stephen Law's "evil-god" argument, to which the entire article above responds.

      Yet you don't engage any of Feser's criticisms of the argument in which he demonstrates why the world we observe may not be designed by an evil god.

  • Life is learning- right. I therefore renounce any 'absolute' reference or meaning with respect to my previous statements after having the 'courage' to reread the article. I have yet to come to the point, however, where I can make the 'necessary logical distinctions'. However, I am at least confident enough to 'believe' that my conformity with the discredited 'personalist' thesis, can be interpreted differently than how, or what I understand it to be within this OP. No. For me the problem involves definitely the relation of the Absolute to the Relative, although defining such with 'precision' can be difficult. Yes.. I've got much work to do. So hopefully, I can forgo the 'irony', and attempt to explore, within my limitations, what I cannot yet express, and perhaps acknowledge therefore that I do not fully 'understand'.

    The thesis of privation does still I believe enter into the problematic, even though it may be of a reciprocal nature in many instances, or be different depending on the abstract or empirical reference assumed within word usage.. But, for instance, can I not be in privation of the good, through the influence, (oh those terrible demons within myself that could be driven out and purged through exorcism, without the development of knowledge or understanding on 'my' part) of others, particularly for instance of those with power, external specifically, over one through 'law', or within the compass of some assumption of authority or agency?). Is the rape victim for instance, or victims of any form of abuse, the 'pure originators' of any 'evil that may become manifest within their actions, whether real or attributed to them? I have in my life spent considerable time exploring the relationship between victim and perpetrator, and how very often 'cause' and 'effect' can be perceived to be inter-changeable within various 'contexts'.

    So yes, I do not believe the argument for classical theism 'appreciates' the subtlety involved within these contexts of the relation between good and evil. The contrast with the placement of the absolute contexts of knowledge or any other form of identity with absolute God or Divinity or Goodness, goes to the 'heart' of the 'problem' as I understand it. In other words, although peace could be considered the 'absence' of war, it is also the case that war could be considered the absence of peace. This is very different from the 'fact?' that within the qualitative conceptual organization, cold is only the absence of heat? Why do these ideas relate in different ways to different contexts? the way they do. In other words, again, I feel it is possible that absolute and relative contexts of words, can be confused, one with another, which is why perhaps I continue to ask about Kant's empirical reality in contrast to his transcendental ideality, what could constitute the Transcendental Reality, although on the prospect of falling into the potentialities of madness within such speculation, it is perhaps prudent, to remain within the context of pragmatics, (not necessarily with respect to morality or 'religion' per se?????) to limit my speculation to an Idealistic context!!!!!

    Postscript: I have done considerably more study of the implications of this thesis, (eg. the work of Derrida) etc. and Kant's adaptation of Aristotle's principles within his philosophy, than I am able to convey in these posts, and thus may ever remain within my subjective field of what" ontology or epistemology????? :) as just more evidence of my 'crazy thinking'. In any case, I am still attempting to 'put it all together!!!!

    But this site remains a means of attempting to get a better perspective on the difficulties. Perhaps I cannot leave as yet. What is Time A and Time B?. Why cannot I 'identify' with the absolute of the Classical God of Theism? I'll leave that to your imagination, and possible justification for considering any attempt I make to clarify the problem that yes, 'evil gods can exist' in any way 'intelligible'. First on anyone's agenda, however, should be the need to get rid of the evil gods. The saying God is dead, is made apart from one of its original contexts, in which the Spirit was assigned not to the Abstract but to the 'State'. And of course, the saying 'Kill the Buddha' is a well recognized Koan. The difficulty therefore can be, as I 'know' with respect to myself, that I understand too little the possible meaning, history, and development of word usage. It is possible that I am not the only one who can be 'incoherent'.....But I haven't got the background to 'defeat' any of these philosophical, theological, nay even scientific 'arguments'. I am neither God, Buddha nor 'Einstein'. !!! What is the 'All' may I ask????????? The problem remains, for me, the difficulty in finding correlation, which I just realized may indeed be equated directly but how - logically, only??? with cause and effect, something that was not possible for me to consider even within some prior comments I have posted. How does one find the 'Questions?'
    Edit. Back after three hours. Enough time perhaps to sort out and be able to see some of the oddities, and perhaps 'incoherence'. Not perfect yet, but it's better.
    .

    • Well, in my attempts to understand better the traditions of Religion, (which unfortunately have excluded the possibility of studying Islam: the Koran is indeed a difficult book to read!) I follow the blogs, Tough Questions, as well as Catholic Stand. (Thank you Tracey). I found today's posting particularly informative. http://www.catholicstand.com/michael-spiritualism-hidden-history/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CatholicStand+%28Catholic+Stand%29

      The 'phenomena' of visions of ghosts, and spirits, etc. etc. etc. of course dominate considerably many religious texts, as in their reference to the 'supernatural'. It is these that are possibly identified as the 'superstition' of religion. Such visions are not confined however, and perhaps what many consider unfortunately, to those within the category of 'people of faith'. It is because, specifically, that these accepted relationships within the categorization of such phenomena, perhaps explains, to me, anyway, my ongoing interest in exploring and indeed finding 'correlates'. possible, and accepted, as they form the structures, in many cases, of the 'super' images, or reproductive images of imagination, to conscious or even sub-conscious states of mind, rather than empirical images of the productive images of 'imagination' or 'reason' alone.

      We do, I think it must be admitted even by a-theism, that we live in 'two worlds'. There are alternative choices of words to 'identify' what may also be termed the 'external' and the 'natural world', the public world, or perhaps even the empirical world.. We also have 'some awareness', (the idea of such people even as Guy Finley reminds us that it is 'this world', in which more 'work' is required, even in order to be aware of one's thoughts, images, etc. etc. within the sphere which is alternatively referred to as prayer, the contemplative, the meditative: 'the spiritual', the religious, the psychological, the psychiatric????)

      This world is not always 'identified' with any sort of 'scientific precision', may I suggest. The scientific mandate, that there is a need to relate such personal ideas, to their external counterpart, can perhaps be considered a viable thesis, but as the 'imagination' can be more extensive than the possible evidence, and that the 'rational' mind is not always 'reasonable' will remain a great difficulty for 'science'. Indeed, even the Catholic church does not always 'condone' excessive uses of the 'imagination' and indeed our areas of belief in such matters are generally, may I say, dependent on interpretation, as well as what we may consider 'dangerous', or 'contrary to the public good', or general 'self-interest'. And may I say, that such imaginative possibilities, can also include perhaps the consideration or speculation regarding the possibility, necessity and 'actuality' of both a Good and an Evil God; whether within an Absolute or Relative context? Edit: However, within the Absolute context, who would not, within the religious context even of an 'Identity' within a 'differance' of polarities, including that of good and evil, not 'choose' the Good over the Evil as the prime, and even only focus, as is the case in Platonic philosophy and the basis of the Word of God in the Old Testament? Real or Imagined. Absolute or Relative. Indeed, within at least the relativist context, Sartre demonstrated, or at least wrote about our propensity to think that we 'always?-usually?' 'assume' that we are acting towards the good, be it an inquisition, a just war, a holy war, a Jihad, a murder, a suicide, hoping possibly as with the Faith of Abraham, that the Good God will provide the 'answer' and our Faith the justification?????

      I believe that one of the reasons the Catholic Church is opposed to Modernism, is the belief that Epistemology has been placed as the priority over Ontology. But could this not characterize the history of mankind's knowledge, since the 'eating of the forbidden fruit', even in the case of the scriptures of the OT, which even as today, are the 'fruit' of what is considered to be the superior knowledge of those priests who have the 'authority' over the people, as perhaps has been the case politically, within for instance, the divine right of kings, and the jurisdiction that comes with power generally, . and thus the 'knowledgeable' access to the visions in their 'ontological' and epistemic interpretation of God's word, and indeed my understanding that with this power comes the responsibility within the Old Testament of the priest's duty within even the precedents for the provision of 'atonement'.. .The importance of such 'authority' continues today, where the term 'expert', even within the sciences, may or may not, (your consideration here) be part of the 'evidence' that the need for such agency reveals perhaps the limitations of science, particularly in such fields as psychology, and other 'human' or 'non-core' or what- the soft rather than the 'hard' sciences. (Yes, I do find them difficult!!!). How interesting then it was for me to read about the neo-Thomistic analysis of the relation of intuition to ontology, and thus find that these inter-net discoveries act as a kind of tutelage to former acquaintance with some of these writings.) (This is treated later).

      I don't know what the answers are. I merely am looking for different ways to address the 'issues', even by becoming more familiar with 'incoherences', that may or may not be personally recognized, within such efforts to be 'fully informed'. We do have within modern philosophy, the distinction between the in itself, and the for-itself. But even here, (after so many years in finding this distinction so helpful) I can begin to ask what precisely these terms are referring to with respect to our consciousness as well as with respect to the 'external world', and the 'internal world', and what can be the inter-relationship between them. (I was correct I believe in assigning the in-itself to the will, which I felt was later confirmed in subsequent readings, and the direction I understood/understand philosophy to have taken after Kant.)

      At another time, perhaps, I could convey my thinking on such issues, that my involvement with the culture and 'religion?' of Buddhism has given me, for instance, in contrast to the difficulties I still have with respect to remaining in some way 'between' the great dichotomies, found within the Western traditions, and whether these attempts as written, are in 'reality' really ontological or epistemological, and/or understanding the relationship, the incoherence, the coherence, the correlates, between them.. .
      Edit: In thanks to EN, I read a couple of articles on Etienne Gibson and the following on Jacques Maritain, the philosophers which I became acquainted, but only to a small degree, along with Bergson, etc. Again it was difficult relating my limited knowledge of Thomism to the modern context, but I am grateful that I found the reading very 'challenging', but also found some encouragement regarding my difficulty with respect to any relationship I might have as per my knowledge of the 'Absolute'. I do find it interesting, that although Kant is deemed within Catholicism as a materialist, and relativist, that my 'intuition' that his philosophy does as well follow the 'trinitarian' conceptual schemata, has also for this reason been most helpful. Although, however, I have always found difficulty with understanding the basis of his Categorical Imperative, I have recently understood that his basis of same within the intellectual categories of universalism and necessity, or reason, does differ from the Catholic placement of the Natural Law, (not natural laws of nature) within the category of order, and grace, is the choice that I would favor, and thus is consistent with my interest at this point in the Post-modern interest in aetheistics, rather than the pragmatics of will, that followed Kant. Possibly you will make find the correlations between such concepts and their theological as well as 'naturalistic' counterparts, in reason within a relativist context, in contrast to metaphysics, as a 'religious' or 'rational' endeavor only, rather than based on any 'empirical' area of 'study'., and the possible consequences that arise from such categorical distinctions, and even whether these are adequate distinctions, for indeed language has always been the object of study throughout the Western tradition, for instance.. Much work to do, yes? So 'morally' on this issue, I see the point of the Catholic critique, except also perhaps, could there not be difficulties in ascertaining what is constitutive of the 'natural order'., as I find myself back to Kant's 'understanding' of the difficulty of providing a 'schemata' for morality!!!!
      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/maritain/

      • Been doing some more - can I call it 'thinking'? On morality: The Catholic placement within 'Natural' ! Order- a category which I associate with the Holy Ghost, among other correlates, conforms within my reading of Kant, as the Power of Judgment. In his analysis, there are four kinds of 'beauty': (I cannot give you the result of my analysis here), two of which I relate to the 'interior dimension?' of our minds, that of the good, and that of the 'sublime'. Kant does distinguish judgement from reason, however, specifically as it related to the 'aesthetic' domain, of beauty, in that although we intuit that these judgments have universal context, it is not always the case, that they can be placed within a universal context of a rational 'necessity'; (ontologically, and perhaps epistemologically?). Thus, he reiterates, that we only sense, that everyone else will agree with us regarding what we 'deem' to be beautiful. The sublime, however, can perhaps be placed within the ontological proof of Allah's greatness and within the intuition of the 'sublime'. These 'ontological' relationships are thus possibly intuitive, rather than the 'logical/" intellectualizations related to 'causality', it may be noted.

        These then would they not, be in conformity which what Catholicism holds as the 'particular judgment' following our 'death'!! This is of course, may the magisterium find my error, but not necessarily excommunicate me, may be 'congruent', with the intellectual judgment of reason, that is understood to come with the 'final or last judgment'.as associated-or possible as correlative with the 'judgment' of Jesus at the 'end times'. This at least, to my understanding, would 'justify' why Kant places the judgments of universality, and necessity, as given within the intellectual criteria of his categorical imperative, 'merely' within a 'regulative' context. This contrasts, for instance, with Spinoza's ethics, which is very convincing as an examination of how indeed it is possible to perceive necessity, even as being, within the universe, but this does not seem to be an analysis within a life-context- although you may agree it can be 'very very convincing'. Perhaps it is 'best' to consider it a form of some kind of abstraction, in that sense. It is possibly, (conforming to another comment, the 'sense' in which I identified Jesus with the past, always 'He is There'! of course, because the past keeps developing, and is still there, and the Holy Ghost, (am I allowed to say this) can analogously be correlated with the 'future' within that Type of Time Context - the A Time, context? Right?

        But even in my time spent with Buddhism, I followed the advice to regard past difficulties of my life, as being necessary rather than contingent, and if you try this, you may find, as I did, how personally empowering such judgments can be with respect to the 'acceptance' of the pain one can encounter within this world. Viewed in this way, perhaps the analogy can also allow us to appreciate the importance of Jesus in one's life, as giving a sense of acceptance? of /necessity? analogous? to what I learned within the Buddhist spiritual quest? - without causing too much shock or anything. I am merely, please understand, just looking for possible correlates.....It does allow me to 'make sense' how within the Catholic tradition it is Jesus, and not the Holy Ghost that is related to the Last Judgment....Hopefully a true universalization of the 'particulars'!!! within a 'final redemption?' Of Kant's four- categories: the agreeable (pain and pleasure?) - the Good. (Morality?) as well as 'Beauty' particular judgments -within a wider context, and 'The Sublime' - an extension perhaps to the 'universal' within an 'intellectual intuition'...??????? can perhaps be related.to Kant's understanding of this as the basis for a 'sense' of 'God', an intuition of a sensus divinus. Yes. God is Great, Perfect,The Cartesian basis of intellectualization of 'clear and distinct ideas', and what is Anselm's argument? all seem to be the basis of our 'God like' awareness of.......well perhaps necessity, and universalization to begin with!!!!as well of our freedom of what? A Divine Intellectual and Creative Will? An aesthetic ordering of judgment and choice within the context of an auto-poises? How do the capacities of epistemic and ontological awareness relate to these distinctions?

        • Am deleting this, because I couldn't make the link connect. Maybe that's all for the best!!!! Edit: Here is the link. If you do not find this as humorously as well as 'intellectually' illuminating, with respect to my comments, I am certain that you do not read them anyway, but a post which I ironically identify with the kind of thinking that can also be found on Just Thomism.(As with respect to my comments on the power of authority, religious or political- how about)- https://thomism.wordpress.com/2015/11/28/a-political-hypothesis/ And possibly it is the only 'lateral' way of coming to any imaginative associations that will bring possible 'insight?' -or in any way be helpful in the search for 'correlations', at least with respect to finding the 'names' and hopefully at least, some self-understanding..Thank you BV. From New Advent: .http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151113-how-to-never-forget-a-name-again

          • Since writing the above comment, I have been thinking of this problematic within another context: that of 'self' and 'other' and of various ways this - an-other dichotomy, an-other of Derrida's polarities, within the context of good and evil. could be 'considered'? Just a reminder that there can be perhaps many variations, inter-relationships, even reversals of points of view within the interpretations of the third of Kant's categories - the limited vs. the infinite is one interpretation???? :) This perhaps can even be 'exemplified' with respect to our relationship to God???? as Good, in contrast to our 'sinful' nature- a rather 'good' application of the contrast here, perhaps at least 'better?' than the alternative suggested within this post--- I would suggest!!!???? The basis perhaps of another 'intellectual argument'????
            . But self-other/good-evil or bad, may also perhaps require much more 'understanding' with respect to etymology, specifically perhaps Word/word meaning, even, and other polarities even within the polarities of the temporal and the eternal. (Thanks for a better understanding of the term praeternatural, by the way.)

            It's just that I believe there is some point in the comparison of the religious sense of the mystery of these things with the more what? externally based? scientific concept of just 'not 'yet' having the final answer?' or not 'knowing', within what may 'appear' to be a more 'positive?' (irony here???) understanding of doubt, skepticism, your choice of word here.. But I'll accept the 'mystery'...!!!! as something for which I do not anticipate finding a solution for-. in contrast perhaps, or as an alternative to the 'scientific'....:) which perhaps could be considered in a way, (use of words) to be less 'skeptical'. In other 'words', if only I could learn to have clearer and more distinct ideas, this would perhaps lead to shorter comments, or some 'linguistic solution', of this 'dilemna' because unfortunately, I can't do better because I just don't have the 'math'!!!. Could this also be regarded as Just an - other !!!! Good or - ???? :or an - other: juxtaposition-- to 'think about'????!! :) Is there even any possibility within certain 'contexts' to 'actually' overcome such intellectual? 'oppositions'?????

  • David Nickol

    It seems to me that some of those who acknowledge an all-good God sometimes come dangerously close to setting up an all-evil god (or demigod) in the name of Satan. But even the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

    395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God's reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries—of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature—to each manand to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but "we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him."

    I think one of the greatest understatements I have run across in the Catechism is, "It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity." One is tempted to go as far as to say it makes no sense at all. Nor does it seem at all necessary to invoke the devil as the cause of this or that evil. I remember this from a few years ago:

    During his keynote address, Archbishop Chaput had also referred to
    the importance of recognizing that evil exists and that "Satan is real."

    Responding later to a question from CNA about where he sees the Devil's presence in society, the archbishop said, "Well, one of the most obvious things in the United States is internet pornography which is pervasive, and subtle, and attractive and totally destructive of peoples' lives and there's very little talk about fighting it.

    "If you talk about fighting pornography in the media you're somehow seen as
    anti-American, anti-freedom of speech. ... things that are so obviously destructive to society..." he said.

    The archbishop also named divorce and the changing definition of marriage as places where Satan is holding sway.

    Is is difficult to think of a more nearly perfect medium for pornography than the Internet. Why in the world would humanity need any help or encouragement from Satan in this regard? There is nothing at all mystifying about the prevalence of Internet pornography. Now if we want to wonder why certain presidential candidates remain so popular in spite of their lack of credentials, intelligence, and decency, then perhaps something diabolical might be going on there. But I really don't think either God (in response to "election novenas") or the devil manipulates the American electorate.

    • George

      I've wanted to ask Catholic Answers Live just that sort of question, taken a bit further: what role, what indespensible function does satan serve in catholic theology? if he were removed, would it really be all that different?

      • Craig Roberts

        Satan is the guy God made to do His dirty work.

        • Alexandra

          Hello Craig, I understand you're making a quip. But is it then fair to say that if God were to exist for you, you'd say He's all evil?

          • Craig Roberts

            God is super good. So good that he can create beings that are free, let them be evil (if they choose), and never get his hands dirty. Weird hunh? If he was evil he wouldn't let anybody be free.

      • "I've wanted to ask Catholic Answers Live just that sort of question, taken a bit further: what role, what indespensible function does satan serve in catholic theology? if he were removed, would it really be all that different?"

        For starters, there would be no original sin or earthly temptation. I'd say that's a dramatic difference--so many elements of Catholicism flow from the existence of those two things.

        • George

          Why would there be no original sin or temptation? Was the fall of mankind the work of satan or the free choice of the first parents?

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        I think this is a great question.

        I think part of the answer is that, in acknowledging the reality of Satan, one is thereby acknowledging that evil is "supernatural", by which I merely mean that it runs deeper than anything that we will ever fully control or figure out. To say it another way, Evil is free. It is fundamentally unpredictable. It has "a mind of its own". I think this is at least part of what the Biblical witness to Satan is getting at.

        In contrast to this, certain strands of not-quite-orthodox Catholic theology over the years have proposed or at least suggested that evil is something that we humans can control and conquer (as opposed to letting God conquer evil through us). The original flavor of this was Pelagianism, more recently manifested in excessively optimistic strands of Teilhard de Chardin's thinking (I am a huge Teilhard fan, but I can see that this is a valid criticism) and in certain strands of Liberation Theology (I am also supportive of a lot of "Liberation Theology", but to the extent that some strands of it suggest that we can conquer evil through a purely materialistic approach, I can agree with criticisms of that line of thinking.)

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    There is too much of value in the world to think that there is probably an all-evil all-powerful God, and too much suffering in the world to think that there is probably an all-good all-powerful God. Law's arguments seem to define the boundaries. The truth, if the personalist God exists, is probably somewhere in the middle. Like Jim Holt says in his TED talk on why there's something rather than nothing, maybe God's 100% benevolent and only 80% effective.

    I suspect that if the premises of classical theism are followed completely to their logical conclusions, the result will be Spinoza's God. I'm working through Feser's "Scholastic Metaphysics" and Ryan Mullins's paper "Simply Impossible: The Case against Divine Simplicity", and then I'll write a blog post (for my own edification) on how divine simplicity entails Spinozistic pantheism (or something very-much like it).

    • VicqRuiz

      I find it easy to imagine a God who has set a stricter moral code for his children than that with which he chooses to apply to himself, in the same way that parents smoke and drink themselves yet forbid it to their kids.

      It's the message of "do as I say, not as I do" which to me permeates the Bible. And if Christians accepted this, they could save all that time they spend working out problems of theodicy.

      • Peter

        Except that virtually all of the evil in the world, in the short run and in the long run, is performed by God's children rather than by God himself, or occurs because of the inaction of God's children who could prevent it. If they had a stricter moral code, they've well and truly broken it.

        Look at car emissions that have choked the developed world over the past 50 years and are now choking the developing world.
        Only now are we beginning to realise their lethal toxicity, not to mention their impact on the climate. What cumulative effects have they had and are they having on human populations and on the planet? Do we blame God or ourselves?

        • VicqRuiz

          virtually all of the evil ... is performed by God's children rather than by God himself

          Oh, please, Peter. We could go down the whole theodicy thread of cancer, Ebola, volcanoes, etcetera. Do we need to do that.

    • "I suspect that if the premises of classical theism are followed completely to their logical conclusions, the result will be Spinoza's God. I'm working through Feser's "Scholastic Metaphysics" and Ryan Mullins's paper "Simply Impossible: The Case against Divine Simplicity", and then I'll write a blog post (for my own edification) on how divine simplicity entails Spinozistic pantheism (or something very-much like it)."

      Fascinating! I'd love to read it, and we'd love to post it here at Strange Notions. If you're researching divine simplicity, you would do well to check out the work of Brian Davies, a Dominican philosopher who is extremely sharp. Check out his Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion or his chapter “Simplicity” in the Cambridge Companion to Christian Philosophical Theology.

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        Thanks for the resources. This blog post may take a while, and may not ever happen. It requires a couple of steps to complete.

        First, I need to make sure that Ryan's description of divine simplicity has captured what Aquinas really says (and that's why I'm reading Feser's book).

        Second, I need to make sure Ryan's argument from divine simplicity to divine necessitarianism is valid, and that the additional premises are sound.

        If both of these hold up, the rest I think follows pretty clearly. Even a weak PSR and divine necessitarianism (God could not have created the world any other way) entails general necessitarianism (the world could not exist any other way than it is). A weak PSR and general necessitarianism (the world is necessary, not contingent) in turn suggests a strong identification between God and the world that ends up something very similar to Spinozism.

        God needs to have freedom in order to avoid Spinozism. God needs to be free to make the world a different way than it is. I'm not sure if the God of classical theism is free. Ryan Mullins argues no. I now need to see if his arguments work.

        • Jim the Scott

          Divine Simplicity simply means God lacks any real physical or metaphysical distinctions in His Essence.

          God's freedom doesn't exclude the brute fact if God wills to do X that having willed to do X that he could simultaneously will to do Not X at the same time in the same sense. He can't do that.

          If God wills X then by necessity God must do what He wills thus He must do X by virtue of having willed it.

          God's Freedom to create merely means nothing external to God compels him to Will and Act (which in God are the same thing in essence) to create. Nor is there physical process or passive potency in His Essence apart from Pure Will (which is only notionally distinct from His essence)compelling Him to create.

          Hope this Helps. Brian Davies can help you fill in the blanks.

          Cheers.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I reject brute facts, for reason of deeper metaphysical beliefs.

            But I am curious about what you say concerning divine simplicity. Did you read Ryan Mullins's article? If not, I highly suggest it. If so, which of his premises do you think is wrong?

          • Jim the Scott

            >I reject brute facts, for reason of deeper metaphysical beliefs.

            So it's not a Brute Fact your last name is Rimmer & 1+1=2? ;-)

            Just checking.:D

            The Brute facts I am talking about are straight up logic & or statements of undeniable fact. The law of non-contradiction. God cannot do something that is intrinsically contradictory. He can't make a four sided triangle. He can't make 2+2=5. Some might quip "Well can't God do anything?" I might respond "2+2=5" doesn't describe anything.

            >But I am curious about what you say concerning divine simplicity. Did you read Ryan Mullins's article? If not, I highly suggest it. If so, which of his premises do you think is wrong?

            Not yet but I have read Davies extensively & I know divine simplicity is "a piece of negative apophatic theology and not a purported description of God." If Mullins is treating it as something other than this then his criticism would be a non-starter.

            Anyway this link might help.

            http://www.iep.utm.edu/div-simp/

            It was like when I was discussing DS with a Jewish person not realizing at the time the Catholic Christian definition of DS is God contains no real physical or metaphysical distinctions in his essence where as the Jew I was arguing with defined it as God not having ANY real distinctions in the divine essence (which is how he excludes the Trinity).

            Not committing a fallacy of equivocation is vital to this argument. If all Mullins is doing is telling me how DS is impossible for some isolanti Theistic personalist deity I would likely agree with him. But then again as a Classic Theist I am a strong Atheist in regards to belief in any Theistic personalist deity.

            Cheers man.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            By "Brute Fact" I mean what every philosophy paper I've read that's used the term means: Facts that are true without a reason/explanation/ground. It seems you are using the word differently?

            But I am curious about what you say concerning divine simplicity. Did you read Ryan Mullins's article? If not, I highly suggest it. If so, which of his premises do you think is wrong?

            Not yet

            Please let me know when you do. In the meantime, I'll start reading some of the references you've provided.

          • Jim the Scott

            I guess I am reading different philosophy papers than you?

            Cheers man.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Could you cite one?

            I'd be interested in finding out who is using "brute fact" to apply to mathematical claims (although that could also be consistent with the definition I've seen used in the literature; it would be bizarre).

            I'd be equally interested in finding a paper that uses "brute fact" to apply to a fact that has an explanation/reason/ground, because this would potentially show a deep confusion within the metaphysics literature (i.e. between Della Rocca, Dasgupta, Pruss, and their numerous interlocutors on the one hand, and some other area of metaphysics on the other hand, I suppose?).

          • Jim the Scott

            I was making a mild snarky dismissal of your statement. I wasn't serious so I will grant you your definition of "brute facts" over mine as the one accepted by most philosophers.

            Cheers.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well i read threw Mullians' article.

            @Paul

            Mullins's objection to DS seems similar to William Lane Craig's objections.

            Answered here by Feser who cites Davies.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html

            Pay special attention to his discussion of Cambridge properties.

            I might get into it more with you later but right now my son is being very naughty and I must deal with him before his Mother kills him or he drivers her mad or both.;-)

            Cheers.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I'll definitely follow this up. It would be nice if Feser responded specifically to Mullins's objections; for the sake of my determining whether to bother writing a short popular article on divine simplicity and Spinoza, or spending my time on something else.

          • Jim the Scott

            You could ask him but he is a busy professor. Nothing ventured nothing gained. The worst he will say no or he will take 20 minutes to do a blog post.

            BTW I appreciate you taking the time to be careful with your arguments.

            I respect the heck out of that. Good on ya guy.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            After more carefully looking at Feser's reply and Craig's objections, I don't think Feser's reply really gets at Mullins's objections concerning divine freedom. First, Mullins argues that even attributing Cambridge properties to God violate every aspect of divine simplicity, and second, he doesn't apply his position about Cambridge properties to his argument about divine freedom, and only assumes for his central argument that God's intrinsic properties could not have been otherwise.

            That said, Feser would probably raise a different objection to a couple of Mullins's moves. Mullins a couple times in the paper places God inside a possible world, and this would definitely seem to violate divine simplicity from the start. I'm now trying to sort out whether Mullins needs make this move in order for his argument to go through. If so, then it will be a non-starter, and I can find something better to do with my time than write a bad argument about divine simplicity.

          • Jim the Scott

            >First, Mullins argues that even attributing Cambridge properties to God violate every aspect of divine simplicity,

            Of course his understanding & definiton of divine simplicity is clearly erroneous. God contains no logical distinctions? I think not.......

            >and second, he doesn't apply his position about Cambridge properties to his argument about divine freedom, and only assumes for his central argument that God's intrinsic properties could not have been otherwise.

            But one can from Feser's reasoning infer that Mullins equivocates between God's passive potency vs His Active Potency. The later being what God's actual powers are vs what internal changes physical or metaphysical might occur to God's Nature/Essence.

            Divine simplicity only occupies God not having any passive potency. Since when is God's ability to act or create a passive potency?

            It's like my argument with that nice Jewish man.

            >That said, Feser would probably raise a different objection to a couple of Mullins's moves. Mullins a couple times in the paper places God inside a possible world, and this would definitely seem to violate divine simplicity from the start.

            Saying God in the classic sense is "inside a world" makes about as much sense as talking about a creator Pantheist God. Or a male goddess. It's incoherent. Like with Steven Law too many modern Theologian equivocate between Theistic Personalist god concepts and classical ones. They are not alike.

            So Mullins like Law has raised objections that rightly slam a Theistic Personalist deity but I and any other informed Catholic or Eastern Orthodox or classic Protestant confess the God of Abraham & Aquinas not the "god" of Descartes, Plantinga, Kant and Paley.

            >I'm now trying to sort out whether Mullins needs make this move in order for his argument to go through. If so, then it will be a non-starter, and I can find something better to do with my time than write a bad argument about divine simplicity.

            What ever works for you mate. Peace to you.

          • Jim the Scott

            James E. Dolezal explains {DS} as follows. ‘Though the doctrine has numerous positive implications for one’s understanding of God’s existence and essence . . . it is formally articulated apophatically as God’s lack of parts and denies that he is physically, logically, or metaphysically composite.’

            I have never heard of DS claiming God has no logical compositions. If anything I have learned God's Mercy is logically distinct from His Justice otherwise we might say God condemns according to His Mercy and forgives according to His Justice.

            So right off the bat he looses me.

          • Jim the Scott

            One last set of thoughts then I will leave you to it.

            >There is a deeper problem. Could God have refrained from
            creating the universe? If God is free then it seems that the answer is
            obviously ‘yes.’56 He could have existed alone. Yet, God did create the
            universe. If there is a possible world in which God exists alone, God is not
            simple. He eternally has unactualized potential for He cannot undo His act of creation. He could cease to sustain the universe in existence, but that would not undo His act of creating.

            I am not certain why this is a problem given Classic Theism?
            God cannot do what is logically impossible. I get the impression this guy is subconsciously channeling Descartes view of omnipotence not Aquinas?

            As Davis points out God can’t be said to not be Omnipotent just because the Divine Nature cannot ride a bike. Bike riding involves a physical being with legs siting on it to push the pedals.
            God is not physical so by definition bike riding isn’t something He can do. Sure He could supernaturally cause the bike to move around as if an invisible rider was taking it for a spin but that is not the same as actually riding it.

            Also the author is equivocating on the use of the term "world". God does not exist in the world rather the world is something God causes to exist or not. Thus the phrase "If there is a possible world in which God exists alone" doesn't have any meaning in Classic Theism.

            >Also He eternally has unactualized potential for He cannot undo His act of creation.

            God contains no passive potency in his nature no physical parts that move or some thing in his essence that becomes actual that was formally potential but that doesn't exclude God from having some things he could have potentially done but does not actually do.

            If we believe the Bible God parted the Red Sea. Thus we can assume if he wanted too He could part the Sea of Japan(MASH JOKE). Just because He hasn't &might never do so doesn't mean He isn't Pure Act in nature.

            Mullians is equivocating between God not having any passive potency with the fact God can have active potency that is never actualized. That is he can have the power to do X and yet never actually do X.

            >It is the case that proponents of divine simplicity sometimes acknowledge that simplicity entails that the actual world is the only possible world.

            Only because God has chosen from all eternity to make it actual. Logically he could have made some other potential world actual but logically no potential world God has refrained from making actual may exist.

            What I don't see is any rational argument that God could not have done other than what He has don't from all eternity by simply willing it?

        • Jim the Scott

          additional:

          “from first to last the doctrine of divine simplicity is a piece of negative or apophatic theology and not a purported description of God” (Language, Meaning, and God, p. 59).-Brian Davies

  • VicqRuiz

    If nothing happens in the cosmos that is not willed by God (through commission or omission), and if God, by definition, is completely good, then clearly there are actions which are "good" when performed by God but are "evil" when performed by humans.

    If Feser does not want to fall right into the Euthypro bear trap, he needs to come up with some new terms. "Good" and "evil" when applied to God are apparently so different from the "good" and "evil" we use to describe human acts as to be effectively not the same words at all.

    • ClayJames

      If nothing happens in the cosmos that is not willed by God (through
      commission or omission), and if God is only good by definition, then
      clearly there are actions which are "good" when performed by God but are
      "evil" when performed by humans.

      There is also another alterntaive. An omnibenevolent being could allow evil things to happen for an overall good and still be omnibenevolent.

      • VicqRuiz

        Then I would ask....are all earthly evils in the interest of a greater good, or are only some of them for that greater good, and the rest allowed to happen for no discernible reason?

        • ClayJames

          Yes, I would say that all earthy evils are allowed for the purpose of an ultimate good.

          • VicqRuiz

            Then, when we take action to prevent or ameliorate an evil, are we furthering the associated ultimate good, or hindering it?

          • ClayJames

            We are definetly furthering the ultimate good. Evil actions should be prevented, but they are a neccessary evil if we are to have free will.

          • David Nickol

            Yes, I would say that all earthy evils are allowed for the purpose of an ultimate good.

            Then why should we hesitate to do evil if we know that, whatever evil we do, a greater good will come from it? Perhaps there should be an attempt to maximize evil. Should we give thanks for the Holocaust? Think of all the good God will bring out of that tremendous evil!

          • ClayJames

            Then why should we hesitate to do evil if we know
            that, whatever evil we do, a greater good will come from
            it?

            In
            the case of free will, the ultimate good that I am talking about is that
            we are able to freely chose our own actions, whether good or evil and
            in this way, we can chose to either accept God or turn away from him.

            There
            are 3 possible scenarios here. We can either chose to freely do good,
            freely do evil or not have the freedom to chose (moral choice is a moot
            point without choice). Someone chosing to freely do evil is still better
            than someone not having the freedom to chose what to do, in the context
            of god´s ultimate plan.

            The ultimate good that I am refering to
            is not necessarily the possible consequences of an evil action, even
            though I am not entirely opposed to the possibility. I am talking about
            building the best possible world and given that, one where people can
            freely chose to do evil is better than one where we don´t have that
            choice and in this sense, it makes no sense that evil is allowed to happen for no discernable reason.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, "sin is behovely", as a great lady once said. Perhaps it is indeed the case that Satan allows the glory of God to shine through in a way that none but Jesus himself can surpass.

            But the thing is, it is not our calling to act as Satan, nor to act as Jesus. God has not called any one of us to be the "MVP", or even the runner up, on team Glorify God. We have neither the ability nor the authority to maximize goodness in any global sense. We can leave it to the consequentialists to keep on trying to invent that goodness maximization calculator, but the Christian is only called on to respond with integrity and love to the totally personal calling he has received from God.

          • David Nickol

            I really don't think that is a sufficient response to the point I am raising. If God can, from any evil, bring a greater good, then we ought at least not lament the greatest evils of the past, since eventually a greater good will come of them. In fact, we are to rejoice in "the fall" of man.

            412 But why did God not prevent the first man from sinning? St. Leo the Great responds, "Christ's inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon's envy had taken away." And St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "There is nothing to prevent human nature's being raised up to something greater, even after sin; God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. Thus St. Paul says, 'Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more'; and the Exsultet sings, 'O happy fault,. . . which gained for us so great a Redeemer!'"

            O happy fault!

            Of course, far be it from me to say this is wrong. How can we know? But it is totally and completely a statement of faith to say, "God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good." It can't possibly be demonstrated. It may be a "reasonable" conclusion following from the belief that God is all-good and omnipotent. No matter how bad things may seem, and omnipotent and all-good God will make things right in the end. (Of course, with all eternity to work with, the end might be a long way off!) But to me that seems more like a hope than a belief. It is not a satisfactory response to the problem of evil. There may be no satisfactory response to the problem of evil. If there is a God, it may be beyond our capacity to understand the problem of evil, and if there is no God, there really is no problem of evil. The only reason we grapple with the problem of evil is that it is claimed that there is an all-good, omnipotent God, and it is difficult or impossible, based on our experience, to see how things can be the way they are if there is indeed and all-good, omnipotent God.

          • Rob Abney

            “Then why should we
            hesitate to do evil if we know that, whatever evil we do, a greater good will
            come from it?”

            I think the answer to
            that is that we don’t have the authority to make the judgement. If that precept
            were the only information we had then your response might be the correct
            response. But we have much more information in the form of Christian commands of
            how we should act such as the commandments, the beatitudes, the virtues,
            corporal works of mercy, and spiritual works of mercy.

            We have a good idea of what Good looks like and how we
            should try to achieve it but we have only a vague idea of how evil may somehow
            be used for good by God.

          • David Nickol

            I think you have given a good answer to why we shouldn't try to maximize evil so that an even greater amount of good will be made of it. But the answer ultimately seems to be that we personally would be punished for doing so, for a very basic Christian principle is that one must not do evil so that good will come of it. Greater good might accrue to others, but it would not be in our self-interest. It would be so utterly unselfish as to be insane.

            However, you have not given any reason why we should not give thanks for the Holocaust on the grounds that it was so awful that God will find a way to bring tremendous good out of it. As I have pointed out, it is clearly Christian doctrine to celebrate one of the worst catastrophes in human history—the Fall—because something better came out of it (a redeemer). O felix culpa! O happy fault!

            This idea is also implicit in the way some Christians try (at their peril!) to comfort those in distress. "Everything happens for a reason," they say, presumably meaning, "Everything happens for the best." I say "at their peril" because I was just watching a brief video on the problem of evil, and one of the participants noted (quite correctly, I think) that it's generally best not to try to comfort, say, the grief-stricken by making arguments about the problem of evil, and how God will bring something good out of the tragedy they have just suffered.

          • Rob Abney

            The fall can be celebrated because we know the good that came
            from it; but the good that can come from evil is unknown even though it is
            expected.

            I agree that that sort of reasoning is inappropriate during
            times of newly-onset grief but it is not uncommon to hear more appropriately at a later time.

          • David Nickol

            The fall can be celebrated because we know the good that came from it; but the good that can come from evil is unknown even though it is expected.

            But wouldn't it be a rather uncontroversial statement of faith to say that no matter how evil the Holocaust was, God never allows evil that he can't bring greater good from? Therefore, to the extent the Holocaust was a great evil, to that extent (and more) good will ultimately result from it. All things considered, God allowed the Holocaust so he could bring greater good from it. So in at least some sense, we must be grateful that the Holocaust was permitted to happen. It follows logically and inevitably from the claim that God never allows an evil from which he cannot bring a greater good.

          • Rob Abney

            Faith without works is dead.
            We are matter and spirit so to love means to do. Allowing evil is an act of omission. The many commands we have to do positive actions far outweigh the rationale you suggest.

  • neil_pogi

    i
    think God incorporated evil in nature so that the universe is
    continually sustained.

    1.
    predators are evil. but overpopulation of preys (good) can be harmful
    to the environment. it is proven by science. so we see that evil is
    designed by the creator to 'balance' the laws of nature

    2.
    how did atheists know evil? does it matter to them if it's irrational
    to believe that a Deity exists? what are the scientific explanations
    why there's such thing as good and evil?

    3.
    water can be good to the body (supports life) but water can be
    disastrously evil too (you can drown on it).

    4.
    a fire or a flame can be good sources for energy (cook our food, warm
    houses of people who live in cold regions of this planet), but it can
    be deadly evil too (overcooked our food and even fry us alive)..

    then
    atheists protest with fist arms: 'then why God can't get rid of it?

    maybe
    think first before you protest

  • J. Paul Zoccali

    I have not read the entire article, but I'll just say that the core of Christianity is faith, believing in something you do not have concrete proof of. The suggestion of the one true God being evil is an abomination beyond compare. Apologetics and discussions such as this don't help a Christian's faith.

    By the way, I have been the subject of real, covert, atheist/anti-Christian brainwashing. I wasn't supposed to figure out that it ever happened. I did and those behind it are trying to bury me. They got me at Ohio State, one of the largest universities in the country. I've been told twice that my "whole life is an experiment." I have good reason to believe it's all connected to Scientology as well. More later. I'm in Sacramento, California. --John Paul Francis Zoccali

    • neil_pogi

      quote; 'believing in something you do not have concrete proof of.' -- i'd like to ask you if atheists have proof on these matter: 1. big bang 2. universe just 'pop' 3. a single cell evolved into different forms of life 4. non-living things evolving into living things 5. that a 'nothing' can create a 'something'.. now tell me the 'proofs' of these?