Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Proof Of God's Grace

that people would come together to do this:

I would have LOVED to have been there for it.

Salute to Fr. Longenecker.


NFQ said...

Really? A flash mob is proof of God's grace? I hope you're being facetious.

But maybe it was a good trick to distract everybody from all the natural disasters, sickness, and suffering you must also believe your god causes. Who cares about cholera, tsunamis, and famine? Some people sang in a food court one time!

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

I have to admit, I neglect this blog terribly, and I only noticed your post this morning. While I hope you are richly blessed with God's grace and peace, that is ultimately up to you.

Now it's interesting that you claim I have to believe God causes all pain and suffering. You are apparently unfamiliar with the idea that there are things God does (e.g., sustains the universe and all its beauty; miracles, signs, and wonders), things He empowers by His grace (charitable acts varying from those of St. Damien Molokai, St. Padre Pio, and Bl. Mother Teresa of Kolkata to ... well, presenting people with a skillful rendition of a truly beautiful choral work, gratis), things He desires (our love of Him and each other), and things He permits (all the evil that we do, the way that our evil negatively impacts the created order).

I do not claim to know why God permits misfortune and disaster. Men better than I have wondered why. I trust in His love, and that He makes all things work to the good of those who love Him.

Nor do I expect anything I have to say or do will prove God's existence to you. He gave you free will, and it is a good for sapient beings. He isn't going to turn around and take it away; He will merely make you deal with the consequences of your choices.

I also wonder what you would take as acceptable and convincing evidence of God's existence.

NFQ said...

Fair enough -- my original comment was, upon reflection, too flippant. I'm sorry about that. Let me try to make my point clearer.

My argument is contingent upon the assumption that the God you believe in is omnipotent and omniscient. That everything in the world is happening according to the almighty God's plan. If that's not true, if that's not what you believe, then I apologize for overreaching. I am under the impression that this is a pretty standard facet of Christian theology, including Catholicism.

If God created everything and is able to do anything, then doesn't that mean he made the world in such a way that there would be natural disasters? Doesn't it mean that he knows when an earthquake or tsunami is about to happen, is able to stop it, and doesn't? No matter how you slice it, this God strikes me as clearly responsible for the suffering that happens in the world.

People often play this semantic game, wherein people were given "free will" and have to live with its consequences. Sometimes this includes the assertion that there exist demons and/or the Devil whose negative influences we succumb to. But it seems to me that God must have known exactly how we would use our free will before he gave it to us, and gave it to us anyway. He must have known what demons/Satan would be capable of, but created them anyway, and chooses not to stop them. I just don't think saying "it was the actions of humans" or "it was the influence of demons" or whatever really gets an omnipotent, omniscient being off the hook here.

I answered your last question in a similar way on my own blog, but I'll repeat myself somewhat here (and elaborate) -- it depends on what the characteristics of God are. Once we pin those down, we can talk about how they might be able to be observed in the world. Does God grant the prayers of believers? (The Bible promises as much in many verses.) Then I would accept repeatable, controlled studies that showed that sick people who were prayed for always got better, or at least got better significantly more often than people who were not prayed for. How else might God's influence on the world be seen?

As far as I can tell, our world is explainable by natural forces, and positing a supernatural being adds nothing to the explanation and comes out of nowhere. It may be true that you can't disprove God's existence, but you also can't disprove the existence of an invisible, floating, incorporeal, non-fire-breathing dragon in my garage. To believe in God, I'd need some way of observing his presence -- and no, "just try believing in him and then you'll know he's real" doesn't count.

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

It is insufficient to regard God as merely omnipotent and omniscient. He is also omnibenevolent; "Deus Caritas Est." Caritas is best defined as seeking to provide as a gift to one's beloved that which is most to their authentic good.

I posit that free will is one such good, no matter how dire the consequences of freely made choices may be, even so dire as damnation. Otherwise I would have to think that liberty is an abomination, and real love consists of making sure that one's beloved is controlled so that he or she can make no mistakes, and cannot suffer. If that is your belief, I would like to know why.

As for prayers, God answers them all. Many times, the answer that is truly best for us is "no." Other times, it is "not yet." But if and when the answer is "yes," it is often yes in abundance. The problem with your approach is that we lack sufficient data to claim we know better than God which prayers should be answered "yes."

As for what else might convince you ....

"MIRACLE. A sensibly perceptible effect, surpassing at least the powers of visible nature, produced by God to witness to some truth or testify to someone’s sanctity." -- Fr. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary

NFQ said...

Sorry, I forgot to check back here until now.

I feel like the point has been confused somewhat. Trying to bring it back: I only mentioned your God's omniscience and omnipotence in the context of his supposed omnibenevolence. If he wasn't perfectly benevolent, then there'd be no problem here -- God might just personally enjoy killing thousands of people at a time with natural disasters!

You wrote before, "I do not claim to know why God permits misfortune and disaster." Are you now saying that all misfortune and disaster is the result of free will?

Also, I was under the impression that Christians believed that God gave us free will but also gave us our personalities and our desires, made us "who we are." Do you believe this? Can you imagine a world where we had free will but it just so happened that nobody wanted to be a child molester? That seems consistent with allowing people individual autonomy and also not being a horrible monster.

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

The argument in your first paragraph seems to rest on the premise that because God can do anything He wants, only God is truly an agent in the created order, and able to do as he wants. I reject this premise. If God wants us to have and use free will in a universe where He knows how everything goes, then He can do so. It is not necessary for us to understand or even to be able to understand how He does it, for Him to go and do so.

As to the question in your second paragraph: Yes. Bear in mind, please, that there are actors besides God and man exercising their free will. Which reminds me; you have yet to address the question of whether free will is a good or bad thing for us.

I also believe that our abilities and proclivities are given us by God. One of those is free will. If free will actually exists, then the capacity of those who have it to do evil MUST be unlimited. As Chesterton once said, "The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog."

While he was speaking in the context of human laws, the same applies to God. If He makes us just so, and as a result we are not able to choose a particular evil, that is a limitation of the same kind as if we are not able to choose ANY evil.

If we are not truly able to choose evil as well as good, then my apparent love for God is for Him no different from the companionship of a sock puppet, and saying "I love God" is nothing more than Him engaging in an act of cosmic masturbation. As a result, I cannot imagine a world with free will where we cannot choose any evil, no matter how grave or terrible, not even so vile a betrayal as the murder of our own Creator.