Tuesday Ear Tickler: Nathaniel Frank Distorts Scripture to Fit His Homosexual Agenda

clock December 11, 2012 02:02 by author John |

The Tuesday Ear Tickler award is Solemn Charge’s weekly recognition of teachers who “Tickle the Ears” of those who “no longer endure sound doctrine”. In the spirit of 2 Timothy 4: 2-4, this award serves to identify theological or doctrinal errors, dissent or hostility toward the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, or writing that undermines the purpose of each human soul – to know love and serve God so as to enjoy eternal happiness with Him in Heaven. I make no judgment of the writer’s intentions. Usually the winner of this award was raised in the 60’s so that right there is a mitigating factor toward their culpability for their actions. I do judge concrete actions and the quality of ideas, however…

Today’s winner is Nathaniel Frank (absolutely no relation to the keeper of this blog), who is a gay rights pusher and apparently, a Bible distorter. He tries to claim that homosexual activity is a social taboo and that it is only wrong in so far as it is not a customary thing for the culture at the time, naming his article, “Is Homosexuality a Sin?” His article is quite long and filled with error, so bear with me as I take it apart piece by piece. It takes many words to correct the many errors in his work. (Mr. Frank’s comments in the red quote boxes, my comments in black.)

When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said last week that his faith teaches that homosexuality is a sin, he was clearly speaking to social conservatives. But with the 2016 election in mind, he was simultaneously moderating his rhetoric, so he also said that while his faith "informs" him "as a policy maker," he would never use it "to pass judgment on people."

It's a logically dubious position. If a set of judgments about people informs you as a policy maker, then how can you avoid judging people, and equally importantly, why should you? Casting further doubt on his sincerity, Rubio has indeed judged gay people as unworthy of equal protection under the law, opposing letting them marry, adopt or serve openly in the military.

Rubio’s point, which is aligned with Catholic teaching is that judgment is passed on concrete acts. For example, arson is wrong. There could be factors involved with the arsonist’s decision-making process that lessen his culpability for the arson, such as mental illness (pyromania) or societal acceptance or promotion of arson that causes the arsonist to believe that the arson is morally neutral or even desirable. These circumstances prevent a person from judging the reasons behind the arson, but it is still possible to clearly identify certain actions that are wrong without condemning the actor. Frank’s argument is based on emotion, as is generally the case with moral relativists, and seems to conclude that a person cannot separate the act of identifying evil behavior from the act of condemning the actor. This is perhaps the case with a great many people in our society, but it should not be, and indeed, many people are able to make this distinction.

Rubio, who has called for Republicans to appeal more to minorities and immigrants, was trying to soften his moralizing as part of a new brand of Republican thinking after the Party's White House bid failed decisively last month. The brand takes the one page from the George W. Bush playbook that the GOP still finds useful: the so-called "compassionate conservatism" embodied by the principle of "hate the sin, love the sinner." As Rubio put it, "there isn't a person in this room that isn't guilty of sin."

This is small consolation for gays (and their proliferating supporters), who shouldn't have to feel that expressing their love sexually is a shameful transgression that's tolerated merely because other evil things are, too. But Rubio was trying to walk a fine line that's increasingly tough for Republicans to pull off: salvaging their coalition of evangelicals and more moderate conservatives by moralizing and not moralizing at the same time.

Rather than evaluate the truth and wisdom of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, Frank is more concerned with the way homosexuals “feel”. If an action is evil, and society has embraced it, that society turns on the messenger that has denounced it, claiming that they are insensitive, old-fashioned, outdated, or too legalistic. We see in these statements that Frank, like many in the gay rights movement have moved beyond simply trying to convince society to tolerate moral depravity. These statements are a direct assault on the sacred right of Christians to proclaim their faith and its moral teachings. This is pure moral relativism at its worst. These statements are a prime example of why Pope Benedict (while still Cardinal Ratzinger) called out the “dictatorship of relativism” in April of 2005:

Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching", looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

 

The Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, actually contains two different kinds of sin. One is an act considered morally wrong because it's hurtful or dangerous. This includes obvious violations of the social contract, such as murder and theft, as well as sentiments that are discouraged because they can lead to unfairness or harm: greed, envy, idleness and arrogance. It also includes violations of more minor rules that can seem like mere rituals but which evolved to keep a population safe or healthy from perceived dangers, such as rules about diet and sanitation.

The second kind of sin is a violation against social conventions. This is where the word "moral" comes from, as in "social mores." These refer to practices and beliefs widely shared by your community, but which are not intrinsically beneficial or harmful. These mores exist as a way to bind the community together, often in opposition to another group.

Which kind of sin is homosexuality, according to the Bible? Certainly in an era of tribal rivalries and high infant mortality, procreative sex was encouraged as necessary to population growth, making alternatives potentially harmful to group survival. This, at least, is a popular explanation of how both masturbation and homosexuality became taboo in biblical times and would place them in the moral category of intrinsic harm.

Yet this explanation for the origin of anti-gay sentiment is unconvincing. Only in recent times has homosexuality become such a distinct identity that it implies forgoing procreative sex, and scholars believe that, as in many non-Western cultures today, those who engaged in same-sex behavior in the ancient world often married and slept with members of the opposite sex, too.

Instead, what becomes clear from actually reading the Bible on homosexuality is that the anti-gay taboo is, above all, a badge of team membership -- of a piece with opposition to outsiders and nonbelievers. Leviticus appears to condemn same-sex desire unequivocally, forbidding "lying with a man" as an "abomination." But the word normally translated as "abomination" is more properly understood as simply "taboo" -- something forbidden by custom, largely because it's associated with other groups. Indeed, the literal meaning of "taboo" is "set apart."

This explanation is complete balderdash.  In many passages in the Bible, the word “abomination” is used and it applies to all varieties of sin from the most serious, such as idolatry: “Cursed be the man who makes a graven or molten image, an abomination to the LORD” (Deut 27:15) and murder all the way down to arrogance and deceit: “There are six things which the LORD hates, seven which are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19). There is no distinction between sins which are an abomination and those that are not. All sin is an abomination to the Lord.

Furthermore, we know that the most serious sins are punished by death in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 20: 13, God commands that “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.” Not only is homosexuality punished by death in this chapter of Leviticus, but also anyone who “gives his child to Moloch” (v 2), “turns to mediums and wizards” (v 6), “curses his father or his mother” (v 9), “commits adultery” (v 10), or commits any other sexually immoral act (v 11-21), will be put to death, “cut off from his people”, or “die childless”, all of which are generally considered to be the most severe punishments.

The Old Testament taboo against homosexuality appears in a passage that's all about the duty of Jews to honor and obey God, meant to set them apart from pagans. It begins with God telling the Israelites to worship only him and follow only his rules and not those of the whacky Egyptians and Canaanites just because they may pass through their lands. In other words, when in Rome, do not as the Romans do, or you'll mark yourself as a member of the wrong team. The so-called "abomination" really denotes a non-Israelite cultic practice, like the worship of foreign idols. It's an act that the Israelites were forbidden from doing because others did it, not because it was intrinsically bad.

I’m not sure if Frank is deliberately misleading his readers or if this is an oversight, but he claims that the taboo against homosexuality appears in “a passage that’s all about the duty of Jews to honor and obey God, meant to set them apart from pagans.” This is true – of one instance of the prohibition against homosexuality. There are a multitude of other passages, such as the one I quoted above from Leviticus 20, which forbid homosexual depravity and lumps it together with other offenses punishable by death – the most serious offenses. He gives the impression that it is only forbidden in one passage. That is patently false.

Like the Hebrew scriptures, the New Testament appears to condemn homosexuality in no uncertain terms, most notably in Paul's letter to the Romans, which bemoans men who relinquish their natural function and "burn in their lust" for each other. But it turns out that this desire is not so much the cause of harm but the punishment for a much greater violation: denying God. "Even though they knew God, they did not honor him," writes Paul. "Therefore, God gave them over" to such desires -- along with a long list of others. Like the Jews, Christians threw homosexuality into a bucket of no-nos (along with gossip, insolence and apostasy) to solidify their team membership against nonbelievers and outsiders.

Sometimes things are exactly how they appear. I’m not sure how he claims that homosexuality was not a sin, but merely a punishment for denying God. Clearly something that is “shameful” and “indecent” is sinful. They “received the due penalty for their perversion”, which indicates that they were punished additionally for the acts they committed which “God gave them over to”. God allowed them to fall into other sins because they rejected the graces He gave them. Here is the full quote from Romans 1:26-27:

Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.

We know that without God’s grace, we fall further and deeper into sin. One sin leads to another. A man cannot maintain a particular level of evil. He always looks for the next and greater evil unless he returns to God, in which case he opens himself to God’s graces.

Looked at in proper context, the biblical taboo against same-sex desire was a product of one key fact: that foreigners and apostates practiced it. That fact, above all else, appears to be what made it unacceptable, more than anything intrinsic to same-sex acts, such as their association with depopulation.

This conclusion is based on false assumptions, therefore, it cannot be maintained. Homosexual acts were clearly forbidden in both the Old and New Testaments and included with the most grave sins.

What a Christian ought to say when asked if homosexuality is a sin is whatever he says when asked if an atheist is sinning by denying God or failing to attend Church on Sunday, which is also how an observant Jew or Muslim should answer if asked if it's morally wrong to eat pork. Homosexuality is only condemned in scripture for adherents of Judaism and Christianity (and it's actually debatable whether condemnation is the only interpretation of those texts -- increasingly, people of faith are showing strong support for LGBT dignity and equality).

This also is a false conclusion based on bad logic. Homosexuality is a violation of the natural law, like murder. It was punished by God among the “foreign people” as well as the Jews to whom the law was given. God destroyed the entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for the sins of homosexuality in the book of Genesis. It was not simply a cultural guideline that only the Jews should follow, otherwise the heathens in Sodom and Gomorrah wouldn’t have been scorched to death with holy fire.

The distinction between moral rules designed to prevent harm and moral rules meant solely to mark team membership is critical, and blurring it -- as the religious right has done for decades -- is itself a moral transgression that creates more harm than it prevents, and not only for those who are wrongly judged but for politicians like Rubio who continue to think they must square a circle instead of reexamining the shape altogether.

The laws of God require no “reexamination”. They are the eternal Truth. They have lasted throughout the history of man and will continue to endure long after Frank and other moral relativists have been brushed aside like every other heretic in the history of the Church. The blurring is done by liberals who feast on confusion and moral equivocation, sowing doubt and dissent among the faithful.

I hereby award the Tuesday Ear Tickler Award for Tuesday, December 11, 2012 to Nathaniel Frank, who is again, no relation to the author of this blog.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 396-401, 415-418 – Original Sin and Concupiscence

clock November 26, 2012 01:02 by author John |

Original sin and concupiscence are the themes for today’s Catechism sections. An excerpt from one of John Paul II’s Audiences on the Theology of the Body provides the supporting material.

III. ORIGINAL SIN

Freedom put to the test

396 God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" spells this out: "for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die."276 The "tree of the knowledge of good and evil"277 symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom.

Man's first sin

397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of.278 All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully "divinized" by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to "be like God", but "without God, before God, and not in accordance with God".279

399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness.280 They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image - that of a God jealous of his prerogatives.281

400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.282 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.283 Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay".284 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground",285 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.286

401 After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin. There is Cain's murder of his brother Abel and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the Law of Moses. And even after Christ's atonement, sin raises its head in countless ways among Christians.287Scripture and the Church's Tradition continually recall the presence and universality of sin in man's history:

What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience. For when man looks into his own heart he finds that he is drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from his good creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his source, man has also upset the relationship which should link him to his last end, and at the same time he has broken the right order that should reign within himself as well as between himself and other men and all creatures.288

IN BRIEF

415 "Although set by God in a state of rectitude man, enticed by the evil one, abused his freedom at the very start of history. He lifted himself up against God, and sought to attain his goal apart from him" (GS 13 # 1).

416 By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all human beings.

417 Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin".

418 As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence").

In his general audience on May 28, 1980, John Paul II explained the concupiscence and shame that resulted from the fall and original sin:

1. We are reading again the first chapters of Genesis, to understand how—with original sin—the "man of lust" took the place of the "man of original innocence." The words of Genesis 3:10, "I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself," provide evidence of the first experience of man's shame with regard to his Creator—a shame that could also be called "cosmic".

However, this "cosmic shame"—if it is possible to perceive its features in man's total situation after original sin—makes way in the biblical text for another form of shame. It is the shame produced in humanity itself. It is caused by the deep disorder in that reality on account of which man, in the mystery of creation, was God's image. He was God's image both in his personal "ego" and in the interpersonal relationship, through the original communion of persons, constituted by the man and the woman together.

That shame, the cause of which is in humanity itself, is at once immanent and relative. It is manifested in the dimension of human interiority and at the same time refers to the "other." This is the woman's shame with regard to the man, and also the man's with regard to the woman. This mutual shame obliges them to cover their own nakedness, to hide their own bodies, to remove from the man's sight what is the visible sign of femininity, and from the woman's sight what is the visible sign of masculinity.

The shame of both was turned in this direction after original sin, when they realized that they were naked, as Genesis 3:7 bears witness. The Yahwist text seems to indicate explicitly the sexual character of this shame. "They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons." However, we may wonder if the sexual aspect has only a relative character, in other words, if it is a question of shame of one's own sexuality only in reference to a person of the other sex.

Relative character of original shame

2. Although in the light of that one decisive sentence of Genesis 3:7, the answer to the question seems to support especially the relative character of original shame, nevertheless reflection on the whole immediate context makes it possible to discover its more immanent background. That shame, which is certainly manifested in the "sexual" order, reveals a specific difficulty in perceiving the human essentiality of one's own body. Man had not experienced this difficulty in the state of original innocence. The words, "I was afraid, because I was naked," can be understood in this way. They show clearly the consequences in the human heart of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Through these words a certain constitutive break within the human person is revealed, which is almost a rupture of man's original spiritual and somatic unity. He realizes for the first time that his body has ceased drawing upon the power of the spirit, which raised him to the level of the image of God. His original shame bears within it the signs of a specific humiliation mediated by the body. It conceals the germ of that contradiction, which will accompany historical man in his whole earthly path, as St. Paul writes: "For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind" (Rom 7:22-23).

Footnotes

276 ⇒ Gen 2:17.
277 ⇒ Gen 2:17.
278 Cf. ⇒ Gen 3:1-11 ; ⇒ Rom 5:19.
279 St. Maximus the Confessor, Ambigua: PG 91, 1156C; cf. ⇒ Gen 3:5.
280 Cf. ⇒ Rom 3:23.
281 Cf. ⇒ Gen 3:5-10.
282 Cf. ⇒ Gen 3:7-16.
283 Cf. ⇒ Gen 3:17, ⇒ 19.
284 ⇒ Rom 8:21.
285 ⇒ Gen 3:19; cf. ⇒ 2:17.
286 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:12.
287 Cf. ⇒ Gen 4:3-15; ⇒ 6:5, ⇒ 12; ⇒ Rom 1:18-32; ⇒ I Cor 1-6; ⇒ Rev 2-3.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 385-395, 413-414 – The Fall of Man and the Fallen Angels

clock November 25, 2012 01:01 by author John |

Today’s Catechism sections discuss the fall of man and the fallen angels. Supporting material comes from a general audience of Pope Benedict XVI and “City of God” by St. Augustine.

Paragraph 7. THE FALL

385 God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? "I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution", said St. Augustine,257 and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. For "the mystery of lawlessness" is clarified only in the light of the "mystery of our religion".258 The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace.259 We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.260

I. WHERE SIN ABOUNDED, GRACE ABOUNDED ALL THE MORE

The reality of sin

386 Sin is present in human history; any attempt to ignore it or to give this dark reality other names would be futile. To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relation of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity's rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history.

387 Only the light of divine Revelation clarifies the reality of sin and particularly of the sin committed at mankind's origins. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc. Only in the knowledge of God's plan for man can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving him and loving one another.

Original sin - an essential truth of the faith

388 With the progress of Revelation, the reality of sin is also illuminated. Although to some extent the People of God in the Old Testament had tried to understand the pathos of the human condition in the light of the history of the fall narrated in Genesis, they could not grasp this story's ultimate meaning, which is revealed only in the light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.261 We must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin. The Spirit-Paraclete, sent by the risen Christ, came to "convict the world concerning sin",262 by revealing him who is its Redeemer.

389 The doctrine of original sin is, so to speak, the "reverse side" of the Good News that Jesus is the Savior of all men, that all need salvation and that salvation is offered to all through Christ. The Church, which has the mind of Christ,263 knows very well that we cannot tamper with the revelation of original sin without undermining the mystery of Christ.

How to read the account of the fall

390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.264 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.265

II. THE FALL OF THE ANGELS

391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.266 Scripture and the Church's Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called "Satan" or the "devil".267 The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: "The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing."268

392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.269 This "fall" consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter's words to our first parents: "You will be like God."270 The devil "has sinned from the beginning"; he is "a liar and the father of lies".271

393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels' sin unforgivable. "There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death."272

394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls "a murderer from the beginning", who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.273 "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."274 In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.

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 man and 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."275

IN BRIEF

413 "God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. . . It was through the devil's envy that death entered the world" (⇒ Wis 1:13; ⇒ 2:24).

414 Satan or the devil and the other demons are fallen angels who have freely refused to serve God and his plan. Their choice against God is definitive. They try to associate man in their revolt against God.

Pope Benedict XVI gave a great reflection on Original Sin in his general audience on December 3, 2008:

However, as people of today we must ask ourselves: what is this original sin? What does St Paul teach, what does the Church teach? Is this doctrine still sustainable today? Many think that in light of the history of evolution, there is no longer room for the doctrine of a first sin that then would have permeated the whole of human history. And, as a result, the matter of Redemption and of the Redeemer would also lose its foundation. Therefore, does original sin exist or not? In order to respond, we must distinguish between two aspects of the doctrine on original sin. There exists an empirical aspect, that is, a reality that is concrete, visible, I would say tangible to all. And an aspect of mystery concerning the ontological foundation of this event. The empirical fact is that a contradiction exists in our being. On the one hand every person knows that he must do good and intimately wants to do it. Yet at the same time he also feels the other impulse to do the contrary, to follow the path of selfishness and violence, to do only what pleases him, while also knowing that in this way he is acting against the good, against God and against his neighbor. In his Letter to the Romans St Paul expressed this contradiction in our being in this way: "I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want" (7: 18-19). This inner contradiction of our being is not a theory. Each one of us experiences it every day. And above all we always see around us the prevalence of this second will. It is enough to think of the daily news of injustice, violence, falsehood and lust. We see it every day. It is a fact.

In his great work, “City of God” (Book 22), St. Augustine comments on the fallen angels and the gift of free will to His creatures:

For it is He who in the beginning created the world full of all visible and intelligible beings, among which He created nothing better than those spirits whom He endowed with intelligence, and made capable of contemplating and enjoying Him, and united in our society, which we call the holy and heavenly city, and in which the material of their sustenance and blessedness is God Himself, as it were their common food and nourishment. It is He who gave to this intellectual nature free-will of such a kind, that if he wished to forsake God, i.e., his blessedness, misery should immediately result. It is He who, when He foreknew that certain angels would in their pride desire to suffice for their own blessedness, and would forsake their great good, did not deprive them of this power, deeming it to be more befitting His power and goodness to bring good out of evil than to prevent the evil from coming into existence. And indeed evil had never been, had not the mutable nature— mutable, though good, and created by the most high God and immutable Good, who created all things good— brought evil upon itself by sin. And this its sin is itself proof that its nature was originally good. For had it not been very good, though not equal to its Creator, the desertion of God as its light could not have been an evil to it. For as blindness is a vice of the eye, and this very fact indicates that the eye was created to see the light, and as, consequently, vice itself proves that the eye is more excellent than the other members, because it is capable of light (for on no other supposition would it be a vice of the eye to want light), so the nature which once enjoyed God teaches, even by its very vice, that it was created the best of all, since it is now miserable because it does not enjoy God. It is he who with very just punishment doomed the angels who voluntarily fell to everlasting misery, and rewarded those who continued in their attachment to the supreme good with the assurance of endless stability as the meed of their fidelity. It is He who made also man himself upright, with the same freedom of will,— an earthly animal, indeed, but fit for heaven if he remained faithful to his Creator, but destined to the misery appropriate to such a nature if he forsook Him. It is He who when He foreknew that man would in his turn sin by abandoning God and breaking His law, did not deprive him of the power of free-will, because He at the same time foresaw what good He Himself would bring out of the evil, and how from this mortal race, deservedly and justly condemned, He would by His grace collect, as now He does, a people so numerous, that He thus fills up and repairs the blank made by the fallen angels, and that thus that beloved and heavenly city is not defrauded of the full number of its citizens, but perhaps may even rejoice in a still more overflowing population.

Footnotes

257 St. Augustine, Conf. 7, 7, 11: PL 32, 739.
258 2 Th 2:7; I Tim 3:16.
259 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:20.
260 Cf. ⇒ Lk 11:21-22; ⇒ Jn 16:11; ⇒ I Jn 3:8.
261 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:12-21.
262 ⇒ Jn 16:8.
263 Cf. ⇒ I Cor 2:16.
264 Cf. GS 13 # 1.
265 Cf. Council of Trent: DS 1513; Pius XII: DS 3897; Paul VI: AAS 58 (1966), 654.
266 Cf. ⇒ Gen 3:1-5; Wis 2:24.
267 Cf ⇒ Jn 8:44; ⇒ Rev 12:9.
268 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800.
269 Cf. ⇒ 2 Pt 2:4.
270 ⇒ Gen 3:5.
271 ⇒ I Jn 3:8; ⇒ Jn 8:44.
272 St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 2, 4: PG 94, 877.
273 ⇒ Jn 8:44; cf. ⇒ Mt 4:1-11.
274 I ⇒ Jn 3:8.
275 ⇒ Rom 8:28.



Year of Faith Catechism Study: CCC 309-314, 324 – God’s Providence and the Problem of Evil

clock November 16, 2012 01:02 by author John |

The Catechism sections for today delve into the problem of evil. The supplemental material comes from St. Thomas Aquinas’ other “Summa”, the “Summa Contra Gentiles”.

Providence and the scandal of evil

309 If God the Father almighty, the Creator of the ordered and good world, cares for all his creatures, why does evil exist? To this question, as pressing as it is unavoidable and as painful as it is mysterious, no quick answer will suffice. Only Christian faith as a whole constitutes the answer to this question: the goodness of creation, the drama of sin and the patient love of God who comes to meet man by his covenants, the redemptive Incarnation of his Son, his gift of the Spirit, his gathering of the Church, the power of the sacraments and his call to a blessed life to which free creatures are invited to consent in advance, but from which, by a terrible mystery, they can also turn away in advance. There is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil.

310 But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better.174 But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world "in a state of journeying" towards its ultimate perfection. In God's plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.175

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.176 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.177

312 In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures: "It was not you", said Joseph to his brothers, "who sent me here, but God. . . You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive."178 From the greatest moral evil ever committed - the rejection and murder of God's only Son, caused by the sins of all men - God, by his grace that "abounded all the more",179 brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good.

313 "We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him."180 The constant witness of the saints confirms this truth:

St. Catherine of Siena said to "those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them": "Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind."181

St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: "Nothing can come but that that God wills. and I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best."182

Dame Julian of Norwich: "Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith... and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time - that 'all manner (of) thing shall be well.'"183

314 We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God "face to face",184 will we fully know the ways by which - even through the dramas of evil and sin - God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest185 for which he created heaven and earth.

IN BRIEF

324 The fact that God permits physical and even moral evil is a mystery that God illuminates by his Son Jesus Christ who died and rose to vanquish evil. Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life.

In “Summa Contra Gentiles” (3, 71), St. Thomas Aquinas explains how evil can exist in the world even though God is perfect:

That Divine Providence Does Not Entirely Exclude Evil From Things

[1] Now, from these conclusions it becomes evident that divine providence, whereby He governs things, does not prevent corruption, deficiency, and evil from being found in things.

[2] Indeed, divine governance, whereby God works in things, does not exclude the working of secondary causes, as we have already shown. Now, it is possible for a defect to happen in an effect, because of a defect in the secondary agent cause, without there being a defect in the primary agent. For example, in the case of the product of a perfectly skilled artisan, some defect may occur because of a defect in his instrument. And again, in the case of a man whose motive power is strong, he may limp as a result of no defect in his bodily power to move, but because of a twist in his leg bone. So, it is possible, in the case of things made and governed by God, for some defect and evil to be found, because of a defect of the secondary agents, even though there be no defect in God Himself.

[3] Moreover, perfect goodness would not be found in created things unless. there were an order of goodness in them, in the sense that some of them are better than others. Otherwise, all possible grades of goodness would not be realized, nor would any creature be like God by virtue of holding a higher place than another. The highest beauty would be taken away from things, too, if the order of distinct and unequal things were removed. And what is more, multiplicity would be taken away from things if inequality of goodness were removed, since through the differences by which things are distinguished from each other one thing stands out as better than another; for instance, the animate in relation to the inanimate, and the rational in regard to the irrational. And so, if complete equality were present in things, there would be but one created good, which clearly disparages the perfection of the creature. Now, it is a higher grade of goodness for a thing to be good because it cannot fall from goodness; lower than that is the thing which can fall from goodness. So, the perfection of the universe requires both grades of goodness. But it pertains to the providence of the governor to preserve perfection in the things governed, and not to decrease it. Therefore, it does not pertain to divine goodness, entirely to exclude from things the power of falling from the good. But evil is the consequence of this power, because what is able to fall does fall at times. And this defection of the good is evil, as we showed above. Therefore, it does not pertain to divine providence to prohibit evil entirely from things.

Footnotes

174 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I, 25, 6.
175 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, SCG III, 71.
176 Cf. St. Augustine, De libero arbitrio I, 1, 2: PL 32, 1221- 1223; St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 79, 1.
177 St. Augustine, Enchiridion II, 3: PL 40, 236.
178 ⇒ Gen 45:8; ⇒ 50:20; cf. Tob 2:12 (Vulgate).
179 Cf. ⇒ Rom 5:20.
180 ⇒ Rom 8:28.
181 St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue IV, 138 "On Divine Providence".
182 The Correspondence of Sir Thomas More, ed. Elizabeth F. Rogers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947), letter 206, lines 661-663.
183 Julian of Norwich, the Revelations of Divine Love, tr. James Walshe SJ (London: 1961), ch. 32, 99-100.
184 ⇒ I Cor 13:12.
185 Cf. ⇒ Gen 2:2.



A World Without God is Hell on Earth

clock November 14, 2012 15:14 by author John |

HellThere are many people who would like nothing better than to eliminate the faith of believing Christians. Call them secular progressives, call them atheists, or call them communists. Just don’t call them prophetic or wise. These folks have been vociferous of late, as victory emboldens the brazen. It seems that the noise coming from secularists has been amplified and focused at those things which the faithful hold most dear: family, morality, and religious liberty.

They began the attack years ago by calling for tolerance and separation of Church and State. Slowly, they moved God out of the public square. They acclimated people to immoral lifestyles by showcasing them on primetime television, books, and magazines. They promoted tolerance as a virtue, when in actuality it is antithetical to the spiritual works of mercy. We are called to instruct the ignorant and rebuke the sinner. As Christians, tolerance is not an end in itself. Tolerance implies living with evil or imperfection without attempting to change it. Clearly, this is not the call Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:19:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations

We have been coaxed into accepting immorality and amorality in our world as a condition of quiet coexistence. This has led to the situation we now find ourselves in. God is slowly being pushed out of our public lives, which ultimately results in God being pushed out of our private lives. We are seeing a slow transformation of our world into a world without god.

Hell is an eternity spent in the absence of the wonder and glory of God. God does not send us to hell so much as we choose to go there ourselves by hating God and pushing Him out of our life and grace out of our soul. An eternity in hell is one spent lamenting the decisions we made that excluded God or outright rejected Him. We are collectively pushing God out of our society. In doing so, we are only bringing sadness and hardship upon ourselves. A world without God is a Hell on Earth.

In the absence of God, evil fills the vacuum. Is it a coincidence that in our society as secularism rises, with it comes the evils of abortion, sexual depravity, and recently an uptick in religious persecution? I don’t see a coincidence. I see causality. Indifference toward evil begets acceptance of it. Acceptance of evil begets commission of evil.

There is hope for us.  Jesus gave us the assurance that evil would not triumph against the Church in Matthew 16:18:

And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

That is not to say that times will not be difficult or that evil will never get the upper hand for a time. Quite to the contrary, being a Christian is not going to be a walk in the park. Throughout history the Church has undergone persecution. As Tertullian famously said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of faith.”

We have much work to do and so little time upon this earth to do it. We must transform the culture. We must bring Christ back into our society. It will not be an easy task. If you participate in it, you will be persecuted in some way, great or small. It is only through genuine love of God and with the assistance of His grace that we will be able to take up this task and bring it to fruition. Love demands sacrifice. God loves us enough to be crucified for our iniquities. Do we love Him enough to face the same fate? Do you love Him enough to transform yourself first? Conversion of the world begins with the conversion of yourself.