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Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?

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Will we have free will in heaven?

If so, does that mean we might sin and fall again?

If not, what kind of free will would we have there?

And if God can harmonize our free will and sinlessness in heaven, why doesn't he do so in this life?

Here are some thoughts . . .

 

A Robot "Loves" Me. Big Deal.

NOTE: This is part of a series on the problem of evil. Click here to read the previous posts in the series.

In a previous post, we looked at a common answer to the problem of evil--that God allows sin and the suffering it causes to exist because the only way to eliminate them would be to eliminate free will.

Without free will, according to this view, something important would be lost.

If we didn't freely choose good--to freely love God and love our fellow human beings--then these actions would lose something very important.

It would be like being "loved" by a robot--a being programmed to do nothing else.

The Love of the Saints

What about the saints in heaven? They don't sin. Does that make their love less valuable?

It would go against the grain of the Christian worldview to say that the saints in heaven love God in an inferior way compared to the way we are able to love him in this life.

Sainthood--understood as being with God for all eternity--is the goal of the Christian life, the fulfillment of the Christian life, not something inferior to it.

So what's the answer?

 

The Timelessness Solution

One solution might be based on the popular idea that when we die, we leave time and enter the timeless realm of eternity.

On this view, the final moment of our earthly life is the final moment of our existence in time.

Whatever our choice regarding God is in this final moment, it carries over into eternity.

Our wills regarding the choice to love God, therefore, would not change, because we would be in eternity and not have the capacity to change.

How successful is this answer?

 

And Yet . . . It Moves

The problem with the answer is that we do continue to move (change) after our deaths.

While God may be completely outside of time, we aren't, even in the afterlife. This is something that you can explore here.

We certainly continue to experience change in the afterlife:

  • We can be purified of the consequences of our sins in purgatory.
  • We can enter the full glory of heaven upon leaving purgatory.
  • We will be reunited with our bodies at the General Resurrection.

We can definitely experience change after our deaths.

Even if this change takes place through something other than time as we experience it in this life, it still happens.

And if we can experience changes in the state of our souls like those described above, why can't our wills change?

It would seem that there are two possibilities:

  1. The nature of our will is altered so that it can't change, or
  2. We enter a condition where the fundamental orientation of the will does not change.

What do these options mean?

 

Option #1

God might change the nature of the will so that a person can only choose good. He removes its ability to choose evil.

This does not mean removing all free will.

One might, for example, be able to choose among different good options, but not any evil ones.

This would be free will; it would simply be a different kind of free will than we experience in this life--a freedom to choose only among different goods.

 

Option #2

On the other hand, God might not change the will's fundamental capacity to choose either good or evil. Instead, he might place us in a condition where--although we could still theoretically choose both--we in fact never end up choosing evil.

Why might this happen?

A common suggestion is that when we have the Beatific Vision--when we have full awareness of God's goodness--the vision of good will be so compelling that we never choose evil.

 

Impeccability

In either case, the blessed in heaven would be impeccable--that is, not able to sin--either because of a change in the nature of the will or a change in the circumstances in which the will operates (or both).

Precisely how this works is an open question. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

Whilst the impeccability of the blessed appears to be unanimously held by theologians, there is a diversity of opinion as to its cause [s.v. "Heaven"].

 

The Problem

Whatever the reason for the saints' impeccability, it raises a question for the problem of evil: If God can make our final state one of impeccability, why didn't he make our initial state one of impeccability?

It would seem that doing so would be within the realm of God's omnipotence. That is, he has the ability to create beings that are confirmed in the state of good from the first moment of their existence.

There doesn't seem to be a logical contradiction in the idea of God simply creating new saints in heaven who never lived on earth, and anything that doesn't involve a contradiction is something God can do.

So why doesn't he?

 

The "No Obligation" Answer

One answer would be that, even though God could create beings already confirmed in good, he is under no obligation to do so.

Creating beings with free will of the type we experience in this life--the type that can be misused--is a legitimate move.

If some of those beings end up misusing their free will, that's not God's fault--precisely because their wills are free. They are the ones that choose evil, not God.

While this answer is possible, it will strike many as unsatisfying.

One reason is that it cuts against the free will defense we have considered previously--that God finds something valuable in the exercise of free will of the type we have in this life.

Is there a way to reconcile the value he sets on it in this life with the fact that we will not be able to choose evil in heaven?

I think there is . . .

 

Choosing to Commit

Of the two types of rational created beings we know about--angels and humans--God has given both a chance to choose for or against him.

The angels had this experience in the past and then either became good or evil, depending on their choice.

Humans have the chance to choose over the course of our earthly lives, at the end of which our wills become fixed on either good or evil.

In both cases, God gives to his creatures a choice to commit one way or the other.

It is not an endless series of choices, where our wills can fluctuate back and forth forever. Sooner or later, we must commit.

It's not the ability to switch back and forth between good and evil forever that God values. It's the free choice of an ultimate commitment.

God wants us to freely choose to commit to him--or not.

Is it reasonable to value this type of commitment?

I think it is. We place a similar value on freely made commitments in this life.

 

A Marriage Analogy

While there are many situations in this life in which we freely make commitments to each other, a particularly striking one is the case of a marriage.

We would not value the love of a robot. Stepford wives are just creepy.

And we would not want to impose marriage on someone against their will. That would involve the abomination of rape, among other things.

We want our mates to freely choose us. This is true even in societies that have arranged marriages. There must be a fundamental, free consent on the part of both spouses or the marriage will not be valid. (Not from the Catholic Church's point of view, anyway.)

But marriage isn't a momentary choice that involves no commitment. It's a life-long commitment.

What we value, then, is a free choice that leads to a permanent commitment.

And that is what we have here.

 

The Divine Marriage

The Bible is full of marriage imagery applied to God and man. It occurs in the Old Testament, between God and his people Israel. And it occurs in the New Testament, between Jesus and his Church.

Through the centuries, Christians have elaborated this theme further.

It is thus possible to see this life as the time of courtship between God and the individual soul--when a free choice for or against God must be made--and heaven as the marriage--the time of freely chosen commitment--which follows.

Unless God is jilted at the altar.

What Now?

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Jimmy Akin

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Jimmy Akin is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a member on the Catholic Answers Speakers Bureau, a weekly guest on the global radio program, Catholic Answers LIVE, and a contributing editor for Catholic Answers Magazine. He's the author of numerous publications, including the books The Fathers Know Best (Catholic Answers, 2010); The Salvation Controversy (Catholic Answers, 2001); and Mass Confusion: The Do's & Don'ts of Catholic Worship (Catholic Answers, 1999). Many of Jimmy's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Follow Jimmy's writing at JimmyAkin.com.

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  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    Of course, at the moment God makes us, he does so with perfect awareness of which path we will choose. He knows which people will make choices that will send them to an eternity -- an eternity -- of torment. And he makes those people anyway.

    This is why many atheists consider such a god to be a moral monstrosity.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Fiction writers, as I understand it, will often say that their characters "take on a life of their own". They evolve according to a logic that the author has given them, in a context that the author created, but in ways that even the author cannot predict. When we speak of God knowing all things, that represents a view of God in which he stands beyond time, like an author who has finished his novel. We inevitably end up saying ridiculous things (or, to say it more charitably, we end up saying "mysterious" things) when we toggle between this view of God standing beyond time and another view in which He is acting in history. Insofar as we are talking about God acting in history, or "still writing the book", I think we would have to say the He does not know which paths we humans will choose. Perhaps (I think this) God IN history does not even know the paths that will be chosen by inanimate matter, and plants, and animals. In any event, he seems to have developed us humans as such complex and freely acting characters that we are actually able to write ourselves out of the book, if we want to.

      It makes me think it would be interesting to hear both Catholic and atheist novelists speak about the ways the characters in their stories take on lives of their own.

      • josh

        "Fiction writers, as I understand it, will often say that their characters "take on a life of their own"."

        Just imagine the guy who dreamed up the Genesis myth, or the writers of the New Testament if they could see what their creations have gotten up to in the years since.

        • Crews Giles

          I do imagine, but not at all as you seem to.

          First, that "guy" was at least two guys.

          Second, those guys had mystical visions, which were similar, and contained mystical truths which they found compelling. They told them or wrote them and the content was shared by the mystical community-- eventually joined into one narrative.

          They remain even today because the mystical community understood them as mystical visions, imparting truth of the relationship between God and man (the definition of "myth")-- what unites us, what separates us, and hints at purpose.

          Now, you hand a copy of that to persons with no mystical experience or no mystical understanding and the interpretations by such persons are far from what the mystical community has always understood them to be.

          That began to happen more frequently as a natural, but unfortunate, result of Gutenberg and the Enlightenment.

          Gutenberg-- because it placed spiritual texts in the hands of person with too little spiritual aptitude; and
          The Enlightenment-- because the culture at large was seeking physical truths even in mystical texts.

          That is when you get the creation date of 4,004 BCE, as one example. Archbishop Ussher did some simple math (I did the same math as he did) with known historical dates of ancient events in the Bible and came up with that year.

          He tossed the concept to the Universities to discuss and debate. Most dismissed as an inappropriate use of mystical texts-- but not all did. The Reformation was afoot, and you can see how the differing view points fell along those political lines.

          Some of the Church attempted to adapt to that culture and the new tools, attempting to marry the two. It was a false marriage, but lingers today.

          The spiritual teachings are not rightly at odds with the physical; but neither are the two the same. Metaphysics, for example, often attempts to focus upon where the two-- the physical and the spiritual-- might intersect; but too often results in such debacles as Alchemy.

          Does that help?

      • Crews Giles

        Interesting.

        I struggle to write fiction, but share little of it, although some published authors prod me to submit some manuscripts they have read-- but for a variety of reasons, I do not.

        The manner in which a character develops and then acts is as you describe. I do not know, until my fingers begin to type or takes up a pen. I do not even know where the story is going.

        I have a dear friend who is a singer/songwriter. Several of her songs strike me as almost magical-- I cannot conceive of how she can do what she does.

        I said so one evening just before she went on stage, and she said, "Yes you do. You are a writer, and I have read your stories. You do not know where it comes from, it is just suddenly within you and you just put it down." I was stunned. How did she know? It is like that for everyone?

        Since I do not understand even though I do it, I will toss out some speculation which does not really lead anywhere but is interesting because of its connections to antiquity: The Muse.

        I found several, some at least medieval, references to muses being one of the choirs of Angels-- Powers or Principalities, I forget which, or maybe it was either-- depending upon the source. We don't know.

        At any rate, back in the time of my life in which I was preaching regularly, I often asked my flock to "write yourselves into the story" as a reference to not just the Bible stories, but the whole of God's work throughout time.

        There is a Jewish custom of having two children at the Passover play the roll of the wise son and unwise son. They are each asked what they are to remember on that night. The "unwise son" answers to the effect of, "On this nightt God acted for our ancestors to lead them out of bondage."

        The "wise son" answers, "On his night, God acted for US..."

        The point is just that-- write yourself into the story.

    • Raphael

      Where do you believe you will go when you die?

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Don't know. Why do you ask?

        • Raphael

          Curious to see what atheists believe. If you had to choose between Heaven and Hell, what would you choose?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Heaven.

      • Ben Posin

        I don't think there will be a "me" to go anywhere. I won't exist anymore. Them's the breaks.

        • Raphael

          Suppose the "me" is your soul and it continues to exist. What would you choose, Heaven or Hell?

          • Ben Posin

            Why did you ask me what I believed if what you want me to do is pretend to believe what you believe? I'm not going to act as if the discussion I've seen here of heaven and hell are coherent, but sure, given a choice between going to "happy place" and "sad place that is possibly on fire" I guess I'd rather be in "happy place." If going to happy place depends on me believing that God exists and is super awesome, then I'm probably going to sad place--which wouldn't be a testament to God actually being super awesome.

            Is that enough to get us past a few tedious rounds of socratic dialogue? Why not just tell me what your message is?

          • Raphael

            No message. I just asked a simple question. Why the rhetoric?

          • Ben Posin

            I don't think you're being honest right now, and it's a little disappointing.

          • Raphael

            Have I said any lies?

          • MichaelNewsham

            The great Buddhist scholar DT Suzuki, when asked the same question, assuming Christianity is true, said he would have to choose Hell, in order to try and bring relief from suffering to the souls of the damned.

          • Raphael

            For DT Suzuki it would have been futile for in Hell "the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."

          • MichaelNewsham

            The futility would not matter to him. What matters is the efforts of the reliever- after all, Mother Teresa didn't end the suffering of the poor in India.

            A bodhisatva is one who could have attained Nirvana,but has turned back to the world and vowed not to accept Buddhahod until all sentient beings have been released from suffering.

          • Raphael

            What kind of relief would DT Suzuki bring to the damned in hell?

          • Crews Giles

            Actually, some surviving, non-Biblical very early Christian texts address that issue. One is (falsely) attributed to Enoch, and I think the other may be (falsely) attributed to Peter-- I could look them up with time.

            The shared concept is that the Holy Ones do exactly that-- they see the suffering of the damned and interceded for (some of) them-- to the relief of the damned. Finding forgiveness, and the prayers of the Saints on their behalf, they too, are embraced.

            Perhaps Suzuki saw Christianity as a rival and so colored his interpretations and assumptions? It is only human.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Given what I know, Suzuki didn't see Christianity as a rival; I think what he was reacting to was the genuine evil of eternal torment for finite crimes, and the urge of the truly good to alleviate that suffering.

    • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

      Hey Rob - This is a very Calvinistic view of God, one that makes very little (if any) room for free will. I wouldn't have too much trouble finding such a god monstrous either, and agree with Peter Kreeft when he writes:

      God is not pre or post anything. He is present to everything. God does not look down rows of dominoes or into crystal balls. He does not have to wait for anything. Nor does he wonder what will happen. Nothing is uncertain to him, as the future is uncertain to us. There is not predestination but destination, not predestiny but destiny. This follows from divine omniscience and eternity. But our free will follows from the divine love. To love someone is to make them free. To enslave them is always a defect of love. Now since divine love is God's very essence, while omniscience and omnipotence are only attributes of that essence, therefore if one of these two truths had to come first—in the sense of being more primordial and non-negotiable than the other—it would have to be freedom.

      The whole article is worth reading:
      http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/freewill-predestination.htm

      • David Nickol

        God is not pre or post anything.

        It seems to me that when God is depicted (as in the Bible) or talked about, it is always as a being within time . . . except when the topic is free will.

        Now since divine love is God's very essence, while omniscience and omnipotence are only attributes of that essence, therefore if one of these two truths had to come first—in the sense of being more primordial and non-negotiable than the other—it would have to be freedom.

        This strikes me more as playing with words than reasoning. How can God be divided up as essence and attributes? And how can attributes be secondary to some particular essence?

        To love someone is to make them free. To enslave them is always a defect of love.

        There is an enormous gap between freedom and enslavement. What loving parent would not intervene, even at the expense of depriving a child of a certain amount of freedom, if the child (even an adult child) were about to commit suicide? And of course suicide is trivial compared to choosing hell.

        Also, allowing a person freedom is not the same as remaining silent and doing absolutely nothing. If I know someone I care about is on the verge of making a disastrous choice, even if I totally respect that person's freedom, autonomy, and right to make all decisions for himself or herself, if I possess important information about the likely consequences of that choice, I am going to make sure I impart that information before the person I care about commits to that choice.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        First, God's omnipotence and human free will have always struck me as logically contradictory.

        Second -- why have Hell at all?

        • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

          First, God's omnipotence and human free will have always struck me as logically contradictory.

          Why? Do you mean omniscience - God's foreknowledge of our actions? In the Catechism (600) it says that "to God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy," and the word "predestination" appears in quotation marks. So insofar as omniscience is shorthand for God's temporal foreknowledge, I would deny that God is omniscient in that sense. He sees all things as present, and isn't "pre" or "post" anything. It's only when we anthropomorphize God that this problem tends to crop up - not to mention a whole host of others.

          Second -- why have Hell at all?

          It seems that hell follows from two premises mentioned in Kreeft's article: God is love, and we are free. The possibility of the free and final refusal of love logically follows - and I can think of no better definition of hell. As Dostoevsky put it, hell is "the suffering of being unable to love."

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Matthew, if God is omnipotent and the creator of a
            person – if He invented the man, crafted his psychology, built the world he lives in, is the all-knowing creator of everything he ever encounters, and made
            every one of His creative choices knowing exactly how it would play out (or is playing out, if He sees all things as present) -- then yes we can say that He does control the man, that the man has no free will, that he is God's pawn.

            Second. why not allow people accept God's love after death? Why does God set up a system that says, "Too late, Hell for you!" Also, why can't Hell be a lovely place, a place of maximum natural happiness, as some have conceived limbo.

            Also, what does "being unable to love" have to do the many ways the Catholic Church says you can end up in Hell?

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            A theological quibble, maybe, but worth clarifying for clarity's sake. Whether or not you meant omniscience, that is where the contradiction with free will seemingly occurs - and believe me, I don't belabor the point for my own sake.

            In your reply you enumerated God's powers as "all-knowing creator," concluding with the image of God sitting there, "knowing exactly how it would play out." The emphasis is clearly on the "knowing" (omniscience), not on the "making" (omnipotence). An omnipotent God, whether he is all-knowing or not, is powerful enough to do anything, including create creatures endowed with freedom. There's no logical contradiction there whatsoever, unless you believe that man is solely composed of matter, which is patently un-free. (But if we're allowing the existence of a Creator hypothetically, we're hardly restricted to metaphysical materialism in the same hypothetical.)

            The logical contradiction only seems to arise when we think of God knowing in advance everything we're going to do, then declaring simultaneously that we are free to do it.

            But again, I would argue that you're boxing yourself into that corner unnecessarily. You're thinking of God as standing before the beginning of the universe 14 billion years ago, and pushing a giant domino row. But if God is outside of time and present to all things in their immediacy, there is no contradiction, but a cooperative synergy between God's will and our will.

            To answer your other comment: No. 1 Timothy 2:4, "God wills everyone to be saved." In the Kreeft quote I would've highlighted the last sentence, which is the entire point of the essay. The sentence you bolded is only frightening if you apply it to human beings in equal measure and skip over the last sentence.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Matthew, I have to tell you I don't buy your temporality argument. Whether God stands outside of time or not, he knows which of his creators freely choose Hell and he makes them anyway.

            As for the question of free will, I'll amend my argument taking out omniscience:

            If God is omnipotent and the creator of a
            person – if He invented the man, designed of the man's nature, crafted his psychology, built the world he lives in, and is the Creator of everything he ever encounters -- then yes we can say that His choices control the man.

            Put more simply: If one Being is omnipotent, if one Being has all the power, then no other Being can have any. Saying that an all-powerful God is powerful enough to create creatures with free will, then you're getting into "Can God make a stone so heavy He can't lift it" territory.

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            That's the Church's understanding, at any rate. But notice: you re-stated the same notion of a predestining God, just in a more benign fashion - which is not the Church's understanding. ("He knows which of his creators freely chooses Hell and he makes them anyway.") This is foreknowledge, again - the Calvinist God.

            Saying that an all-powerful God is powerful enough to create creatures with free will, then you're getting into "Can God make a stone so heavy He can't lift it" territory.

            Again, there's no logical contradiction between being all-powerful and creating a free creature. A logical contradiction proffers x and non-x simultaneously. But a universe with free, ensouled creatures (creatures who can choose to act or not to act this way or that way, regardless of their impulses or environment) is a possible world, just as a universe with un-free creatures, or a universe with no creatures at all, or simply no universe at all. All of these are within the power of an all-powerful Creator, and without contradiction to that omnipotence. The question surrounding free will since Augustine has been in relation to God's omniscience, not omnipotence - the case against God is stronger there because there is an apparent logical contradiction.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Yes, exactly! I've "re-stated the same notion of a predestining God, just in a more benign fashion." That's my point. Here's that Kreeft quote again:

            Not only is everything done that God wills to be done, but it is also done in the way he wants it to be done. It happens without freedom in the case of natural things like falling rain and freely in the case of human choices. A power a little less than total may get what it wants without getting it in the way that it wants it. But omnipotence gets both. And the way omnipotence wants human acts done is freely.

            First, I don't see how that last sentence gets you out of the notion that God wills some people into Hell (a clear and obvious conclusion of the first sentence).

            Secondly, though, this highlights the contradiction: Apparently God wills everything that is done but working through our free will? If God is willing my free will to achieve what He wills, how can my will be free?

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Rob - Sorry, had a dentist check-up. Found out I need a root canal (second in a year), so I'm mostly contemplating the problem of suffering right about now, but let me try to transition back to the matter at hand. Great discussion by the way! Really got me thinking.

            You seem to be saying (correct me if I'm wrong) that the Catholic notion of God is indistinguishable from (or reducible to) the Calvinist notion of God. My worry was that you were ascribing the Calvinist view to Catholicism without a full consideration of Catholic teaching. But here you've raised a few interesting questions as to what actually distinguishes the two.

            First, read Kreeft's entire article if you haven't - it's a better statement on the subject than I could hope to give.

            Second, I do see your point about the first sentence. Good point. Let me say first that whether we can reasonably hope that everyone is eventually saved is an open question theologically. In fact, a huge debate about this keeps popping up in the Catholic blogosphere. Brandon Vogt's new boss Fr. Barron was a vocal participant, and came down very clearly on one side. So we need to keep that in mind in this discussion.

            Third, if people are in hell, it's because of their free choice, not God's will for them. The doors of hell are locked from the inside. In that sense - assuming masses of people are in fact in hell - Kreeft misspoke in letting the first sentence apply to the last. "God wills everyone to be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4), and I believe that with my whole heart. I suspect he has ways to draw us in beyond all reckoning - even at the moment of death. As Greene put it in "Brighton Rock," we can't fathom the "appalling strangeness of the mercy of God."

            But at the end of the day, we are free and responsible for our freedom, and that freedom is key. To love someone is to let them be free, and love is what God is - omniscience is simply an attribute. Lovers don't constrain or boss around their loved one like a puppet - they appreciate, assist, adore the other. So if one "side of the coin" takes primacy, it's God's love (meaning our freedom).

            This is related to your second point: how can our will be free if God wills it? I would say that the two things aren't always the same. God wills us to agape love - insofar as we do that, we are fully alive, and cooperating with God's will. "The glory of God is a man fully alive." Insofar as we don't do that...well, you know the rest.

          • josh

            "That's the Church's understanding, at any rate."

            Matthew, that's a dodge. Rob isn't describing the Calvinist God as distinct from yours. He is pointing out a contradiction that arises from the Catholic notions of God. Calvinists have embraced one horn of the dilemma, but it's no defense to say that 'the Church doesn't understand the dilemma', which is essentially what you are saying. You may not want to accept the Calvinist conclusion, but that doesn't free you from the dilemma.

            "Again, there's no logical contradiction between being all-powerful and creating a free creature."

            This isn't at all a given. Free will itself remains an incoherent idea, but a created free creature is an even more pressing contradiction. The immediate conflict is not between 'all-powerful' and 'free', it is between 'created' (in the religious sense of owing all aspects to) and 'free'. A 'universe of free creatures' isn't a 'possible world', particularly if you want to assign moral responsibility for those 'free' actions.

          • Geena Safire

            ...then yes we can say that He does control the man, that the man has no free will, that he is God's pawn...

            In addition, he can't get off the hook for creating the situation where so many would suffer so much, including millions of innocents.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think it is true that God "can't get off the hook for creating the situation where so many would suffer so much". All of Creation, to the extent that it is conscious of itself through us, is separated from God, and all separation from God is suffering, and that separation wouldn't have occurred in the first place if God hadn't willed it.

            The question is how we respond to that suffering. One naturally and rightly reacts against glib proposals about how others should respond to their suffering. I think it is best for each one of us to begin with how we can respond to the suffering in our own lives.

            People who have suffered far more than I ever have have told me that their suffering was a gift from God, because their suffering was an invitation to actively and consciously and willfully grow closer to God. I don't tell anyone that they *should* see it that way, but it is just a fact that many who suffer greatly *do* see it that way. I try to learn from them.

          • Jennifer Mann

            I so agree with you......why oh why indeed. If we are unable to love...why wouldn't that be able to be cured be God after we die....all our tears and sickness are wiped away....I mean even killers who are deemed sane....are not normal and therefore sick...why can't they be healed after death too?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            By the way Matthew, I definitely meant omnipotence. My reasoning has nothing to do with the naive question of "How can we have free will is God knows what we're going to do?"

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Matthew, so God wants some people to go to hell? From the Kreeft article you sent me to:

        But this from Kreeft scared me:

        Aquinas reconciles freedom with predestination by saying that God's love is so powerful that he not only gets what he wants but he also gets it in the way that he wants. Not only is everything done that God wills to be done, but it is also done in the way he wants it to be done. It happens without freedom in the case of natural things like falling rain and freely in the case of human choices. A power a little less than total may get what it wants without getting it in the way that it wants it. But omnipotence gets both. And the way omnipotence wants human acts done is freely.

        Emphasis added.

    • Dave

      That doesn't sound like Catholic teaching to me. You sound like a Calvinist who believe that God created us to either go to heaven or hell, which by the way is contrary to Catholic teaching and has for the last 500 years been condemned by the Catholic Church as heresy. I think you should go back to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) and study what the Church actually teaches before you comment any further here.
      Just got done reading other posts and I am sorry you don't believe God. So how again to you plan on getting to heaven if you don't believe in Him or His Church?

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        I understand that's not Catholic teaching. Rather, it's the logical consequence of an omnipotent, omniscient God.

    • Crews Giles

      No. Not, "of course." That concept of predestination is a theory hanging by very thin thread.

      Let's assume it is valid (which I doubt), but if God's intent is to create love (which I do not doubt), then free-will demands that some will and that some will not love Him-- since without free will, there can be no love.

      In which case, the options are that:

      A) God will not create humans so that none will fail to love one another and/or fail to love Him; or
      B) God does create humans knowing that many will love one another and/or love Him and those He keeps.

      Only with Option B does the God of love abide by His own nature.

      My "and/or" has to do with an rather unexpected teaching by the Christ recorded in The Gospel according the Mathew, where some persons who assumed they were God's own are surprised that they are judged upon their lack of love for one another; and conversely, some who did not know God (much less love Him) are surprised to learn that He calls them His own, because of their love for one another.

      Just like you and me, we want all people to love, but clearly not all do; yet we would rather be loved by a few than by none. There is nothing inconsistent, much less nefarious, in that. We see what some do with free will.

      That, I think, is the argument against the scenario which you proposed.

  • Ben Posin

    For those keeping score: the previous article in this series utterly failed to address that "free will" does nothing to justify "natural" evil we see in this world. Furthermore, it failed to address the ways in which an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God could reduce 'human" evil while not impacting free will any more than civil government does, and possibly quite less. This article seems to acknowledge that the first article's argument was unsound, and instead solves the problem of evil by saying God may just be a jerk (see the "no obligation" section above).

    I can't wait to see what comes next!

    • Crews Giles

      I somewhat agree.

      If the article had been passed to me for an edit, while agreeing with the general premise, I would have struck much and suggested better arguments in others. I honor the attempt, but had much the same impression as you did.

      I'm not going into it again, but the problem of evil is one which I attempted to address last night and earlier today in this same thread. The first post which aims at answering that question begins "Is it possible that the question fails..."

      Good questions and counter points follow, but I answered as the Church taught me-- albeit from within an Anglo-Catholic environment (but I don't think there is any difference in this matter).

      One last point addressing your observations:

      I tend to think what we see is a catholic fed-up with being tied to the attacks against Fundamentalism. While we strongly disagree with the Fundamentalist unyielding stance and sometimes indefensible posturing; it is not desirable to throw them under the bus. Rather, there is an attempt to coerce them to reconsider.

      That takes a subtle touch, and I think the author of the OP was working with that aim.

      There is a practical aspect, too. Just because his flock is catholic does not mean they are isolated from, or able to distinguish the difference between, other teachings by other, perhaps louder, denominations.

  • Steven Carr

    'It would be like being "loved" by a robot--a being programmed to do nothing else.'

    Does your dog love you?

    Why do people care that their dog loves them?

    Do they think that their god gave their pet free will?

    Does Jesus love you? Could he do anything else?

    So what if Jesus loves you? He is still going to watch you burn in Hell.

  • http://theyhavenowine.wordpress.com/ Bob Drury

    Any discussion of human free will should acknowledge the fact that one cannot choose any end as evil, but only under some aspect of its being good.

  • David Nickol

    I think this piece does more harm than good to the case Akin is trying to make. His explanation of the problem is much better than any of his proposed solutions.

    The problem with the marriage/commitment analogy is that people don't lose their free will when they get married. I think any married couple, and especially any couple who has been married and divorced, can tell you that making the initial commitment is not the difficult part of marriage. Keeping the commitment is, and keeping a commitment is a matter of will. Keeping the commitment is also something that, here in the United States, people who make that commitment to marry for life fail to do half the time. One very important function of the institution of marriage is to create pressure on the two parties who marry to stay together. Until quite recently, society could criminally punish adultery. Marriage also places numerous other legal obligations and restrictions on both parties and may step in when one partner does not abide by the marriage contract.

    If indeed someone is "locked in" to loving God by making a commitment, from the moment that person is locked in, he or she does not have free will and becomes a "robot" who made a free choice once but cannot act freely any more.

    Furthermore, if the moment of commitment is the moment of death, for most people it comes arbitrarily. People who were once sincere believers and do not die as believers, but subsequently lose their faith and die as unbelievers would seem to be likely candidates for hell. On the other hand, people who are unbelievers and do not die as unbelievers, but convert to being believers and then die, are candidates for heaven. I think according to the beliefs of most Christians, it is in God's hands whether or not a person dies at a specific time. Consequently, it is within God's power to save some people's lives when they are in danger of dying and being damned, and to decline to interfere in other cases. Unless a person has never wavered between doubt and faith or commitment to God and lack of commitment, God can choose whether a person will be saved or not by deciding for the person to die (as Catholics would put it) in a state of grace or in a state of mortal sin.

    • Geena Safire

      People who were once sincere believers and do not die as believers, but
      subsequently lose their faith and die as unbelievers would seem to be
      likely candidates for hell.

      Especially since apostasy is the one unforgivable sin.

      “I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be
      forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak
      against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be
      held against you forever.” — Mark 3:28-29 (CEV)

      • Lionel Nunez

        That passage doesn't refer to apostasy; it refers to the fact that anyone who attributes God's divine power to evil forces (i.e seeing a miracle done by God and believing it to be the work of the devil) is practically hopeless.

        • vito

          But how are you supposed which miracles are "correct"? Chesterton once said he admits Muslims also have miracles, but there's are from the devil, while "ours" are from God. And even within the same religion, even within the same denomination, disagreements are abundant. Take Mejugorie for instance: some say it's God, others say its the devil. Absent a definitive decision by the Catholic Church, all you can do is "believe" one way or another. What if you are wrong?

      • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

        I've usually seen that passage as being interpreted to mean "reject" the Holy Spirit, which would mean either despair (thinking you can't be/aren't worth saving so God won't) or pride (thinking you don't need to be saved).

        So basically, the one unforgivable sin is "not looking for forgiveness."

        • Steven Carr

          That is not what the passage says.

          Forgiven for what? I haven't even done anything that has brought me to the attention of the police, let alone your imaginary god.

          Have I killed anybody? No.

          Has your god? Yes.

          Who should ask for forgiveness? Me, or somebody your book claims kills people for touching his stuff.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            If you can't make an attempt to be respectful...

  • Steven Dillon

    They say you take the first bite with your eyes, and unfortunately, Mr. Akin's piece is written as if Catholicism is a fait accompli. But, getting to the core of it, his position seems to be this:

    God would give us the ability to choose evil in this life, but not in Heaven because he wants us to commit to him.

    But, why would he want us to commit to him in this life and not the next? That is, if genuine commitment to God requires in us the ability to choose evil, then it requires in us the ability to choose evil whether on Earth or in Heaven.

    • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

      Great point! It's as if he didn't want us to be Stepford wives for our short tenure on Earth, but afterward and for all eternity? Well, sure!

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      I think his point was that the commitment is made in the transition from this life to the next. By the time we get to the next life, we've already committed.

      • Steven Carr

        All those babies who die in infancy have already committed,,,,

      • Steven Dillon

        Either those in Heaven are committed to God, or they are not. If they are, then genuine commitment to God doesn't require the ability to sin. If they are not, then the commitment to God made on Earth expires at death. So, either genuine commitment to God doesn't require the ability to sin, or any commitment to God that we make on Earth expires at our death. It seems to me Akin's theodicy impales the theist on one or other horn of this dilemma.

      • josh

        So if someone 'commits' to atheism after some period on earth, it is better in God's eyes that they keep that commitment than be allowed to change it?

        This whole commitment angle that Akin is pushing doesn't resolve any of the fundamental problems. Why do people in heaven remain committed to God? Because of the Beatific Vision. But then God could have made people who immediately had said vision and 'freely' chose to commit to him at the instant of their creation.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          People become committed to God (I'm part inferring and part patching in other doctrines) because of the outpouring of God's love into the soul. At death, at the committal point, they say yes to grace (we all get grace, some people say yes knowingly, some unknowingly, some say no), and they get HUGE grace points, which allows them to live in love with God. Since we are rejoined with our bodies in an unfallen state, the body is no longer a source of temptation. Since we are outside the world (also fallen) that is no source of temptation, and since the Devil isn't in Heaven, that's no more a source of temptation. So, no sources of tempting us away from God, no sin!

          That's probably how I would've framed the argument, were I Jimmy.

          • josh

            But do you see how that doesn't address the problem? Why not give us all 'unfallen bodies' now? Why make physical death the committal point? Why not give everybody big grace points at the moment of their creation? Why not pour out love into everyone's soul? Why not give those who say no an eternity of happiness anyways, in which perhaps to change their minds?

            And lest we forget the elephant always in your room, why think any of this is even approximately true in the first place?

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

        We can think and guess all we want. Maybe the real God is a step up from Yaweh. What if über-god gave Yaweh and other gods the free will to create universes to test Yaweh's goodness. What if Yaweh's test was to create us in such a way that sin didn't enter the world and we always half free will. But Yaweh is evil or weak. And so on.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          Can you clarify this? Why is there a distinction between "real God" and Yahweh?

          • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

            The real god created Yaweh and is more powerful than him.the real God desired to have beings in his own image. Beings that, like him could create universes and othe sentient beings.

            Or it could be aliens. The point is, that when we don't know, we do not know.

  • David Nickol

    Will we have free will in heaven?

    Do we have it on earth?

    • Raphael

      Yes

      • David Nickol

        Yes

        What will there be to do in heaven that can't be done without free will?

      • David Nickol

        Do our choices reveal who we are, or do our choices determine who we are?

        If our choices reveal who we are, then they are determined by who we are. But if our choices determine who we are, by whom are they determined?

        • Raphael

          More importantly, our choices determine what we do or don't do. Love the sinner, hate the sin.

      • josh

        No.

  • Danny Getchell

    As regards the marriage analogy:

    It is important to me that I am loved by my wife. If she were to cease loving me, I would be devastated.

    Is God devastated because I do not love him??

    • Geena Safire

      Apparently he is, because he will punish me eternally for not loving him, or even believing in his existence.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        In that case Geena, perhaps atheism is the philosophical equivalent of a restraining order.

        • Geena Safire
          • Kevin Aldrich

            These statements put together form a totally warped view of God, which is rightly condemned.

          • Geena Safire

            Yet I could provide multiple Bible verses in support of each one.

            Granted, I could provide multiple Bible verses in opposition to each one. Darn, I hate multiple-choice tests.

            Sincerely, though, Kevin, thank you for your gentle, loving words, as always. I hope your God is as good as you envision him to be, and nothing like the one in the Bible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Most of these statements could be given a true and non-abusive interpretation.

            Isn't it possible that abusers mimic the truth to get away with their abuse? "This is for your own good" could be the truth coming from a phlebotomist or a lie coming from an abuser.

          • Geena Safire

            So how do you know that the God character in Genesis is not the bad guy and the serpent is not the good guy? God told Adam he would die that day if he ate it, and he didn't. But what the serpent told them was true.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Christians from the very beginning have seen Gen 3:15 ("I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel") as the protoevangelium or first announcement of the Gospel.

          • David Nickol

            protoevangelium or first announcement of the Gospel

            This is a classic case of Christians claiming to find a reference to Jesus in Hebrew Scripture that isn't there. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary says the following:

            The snake is cursed, condemned to crawl on its belly, eat dirt, and be forever the enemy of the woman he deceived and of her offspring. he shall strike at your head: "He" refers to offspring, which is masc. in Hebrew. Christian tradition has sometimes referred it to Christ, but the literal reference is to the human descendants of Eve, who will regard snakes as enemies.

            E. A. Speiser, in the Anchor Bible volume Genesis says in a footnote to verse 15

            offspring. Heb. literally "seed," used normally in the collective sense of progeny. The passage does not justify eschatological connotations. A Dr. put it, "We must not read into the words more than they contain."[The abbreviation "Dr." is a reference to S. R. Driver, The Book of Genesis. 12th ed., 1926, reprinted 1954.]

            I don't think I am going out on a limb to assert that no pre-Christian reference can be (or ever will be) found that interprets those verses as a promise of a redeemer, a messiah, or anything of the kind.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic "answer" to your objection is here:

            http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19861217en.html

            As St. Augustine put it, "In the Old Testament the New lies hidden, and in the New the Old lies open."

          • David Nickol

            Even if what St. Augustine said is correct, that doesn't mean that this particular passage has the New Testament "hidden" in it. And clearly the passage would not have been interpreted as some kind of promise of a savior or redeemer until Christianity was established. It is difficult to see the point in making a "prophecy" that can only be identified as a prophecy after it is fulfilled.

            I can't understand why anyone would accept as a matter of faith that a particular text says something because some of the Fathers of the Church claimed to find it there. And certainly this kind of biblical interpretation is not going to be in any way convincing to nonbelievers.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is difficult to see the point in making a "prophecy" that can only be identified as a prophecy after it is fulfilled.

            Why can't a prophecy be for the benefit of those who come after rather than only before?

            Catholics accept that that verse in Genesis 3 is the first announcement of the Redeemer because it is a Church teaching. There are plenty of other Old Testament prophecies of a messiah that Jews find and nonbelievers can scrutinize if they wish.

          • David Nickol

            There are plenty of other Old Testament prophecies of a messiah that Jews find and nonbelievers can scrutinize if they wish.

            There are no prophecies of a Messiah in the Old Testament. Messiah is a concept that developed after the last of the Old Testament documents were written.

          • Kevin Aldrich
          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Messiah would be born of a woman.

            They're really going out on a limb there, aren't they.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ha!

            But seriously folks, back in the day, some people denied that God would never go through that "indignity" but would just pop into existence on earth.

            So the point that he would be born of a woman is not trivial.

          • David Nickol

            But seriously folks, back in the day, some people denied that God would never go through that "indignity" but would just pop into existence on earth.

            Prior to Christianity, there was never an idea in Judaism that a savior or redeemer who was God himself would in any way be born as a human being. Within early Christianity, there were those who claimed Jesus was not really a man, but God assuming a human body. But to the best of my knowledge, they never denied that Jesus was born. They just denied he had two natures (human and divine).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Docetism claimed that matter was corrupt, so Jesus could not have a human body. Somebody else died on the cross in his stead, they thought.

          • David Nickol

            So the point that he would be born of a woman is not trivial.

            I would say it is trivial. Any human being that is born is born of a woman. It would have been a startling prediction that God would experience a human birth. But unless you assume that someone will be born, it is trivial to predict that he or she will be born of a woman.

            It strikes me as ironic that Christians claim the Old Testament is full of prophecies about Jesus coming as the Messiah (which I do not think is true) and then claim that Jesus was rejected because he was not what the Jews expected. The idea of a Messiah developed after the Old Testament was completed, and there is no Old Testament mention of the word Messiah as an anticipated figure. However, the idea that did develop within Judaism of what the Messiah would be was not compatible with the figure of Jesus. So Christianity has to say that Jesus was the Messiah, but everyone was wrong about what the Messiah would be like.

            It seems to me that the only reasonable conclusion is that the Jews' messianic hopes were for a figure very different from Jesus, and consequently, Jesus was not the Jewish Messiah. Jesus did not fit the description of the Messiah, so Christianity redefined what a Messiah was so that the concept fit Jesus.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            DN
            Any human being that is born is born of a woman.

            KA
            The Docetists claimed Christ was a phantom and somebody else took his place on the Cross.

            DN
            The idea of a Messiah developed after the Old Testament was completed, and there is no Old Testament mention of the word Messiah as an anticipated figure.

            KA
            Why would that rule out the OT containing prophesies of a Messiah?

            DN
            There is no OT mention the word Messiah as an anticipated figure.

            KA
            Jesus Christ said this about himself, quoting Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." (Lk 4:18-19, quoting Is 61:1). Messiah means the anointed one.

            DN
            It strikes me as ironic that Christians claim the Old Testament is full of prophecies about Jesus coming as the Messiah (which I do not think is true) and then claim that Jesus was rejected because he was not what the Jews expected.

            KA
            Some Jews rejected him and some did not. Certainly, Jesus was not the warrior-king-prophet-priest that was expected. Who would have guessed that he would redeem by being the suffering servant Isaiah foresaw?

          • w w

            How do you figure they are going out on a limb?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            That was a little sarcasm. It seemed pretty silly to claim significance for such a basic "prophecy."

          • w w

            Yet this is very significant, born of a women would indicate the Virgin Birth, born of a women would also indicate that the coming messiah would be of earthly origin as apposed to possible angelic or something spiritual.

            Born of a women would refer back to Genesis 3:15
            And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Born of a woman does not indicate a virgin birth (which isn't even a correct translation of the noun, anyway). Ever commenter here was born of a woman, along with with every person who ever lived.

          • w w

            yes it very much does indicate that.
            almah (Hebrew word translated "virgin") It can mean a young women, but her characteristics would of been that of a virgin.
            But i noticed you missed the other things i posted as well
            Her seed will bruise satans head. Very significant.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I think you're missing the point. "Born of a woman" applies to everyone you know. Everyone. So it's hardly mindboggling that this one applies to Jesus. It applies to me, too, and to you as well. Prophecying that the messiah will be born of a woman is a bit like prophecying that he will breathe oxygen. It's not so much as prophecy fulfilled as a "Well, duh!"

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            "Her seed will bruise satans head. Very significant."

            Um, no. It says the descendents of Eve will hurt snakes. Satan isn't even mentioned. And even if you think he is, this is another example of a prophecy that would then apply to every human ever born. So it doesn't exactly single out Jesus.

          • David Nickol

            The so-called protoevangelium is either one of my blind spots, or else an example of how religious interpreters can find just about anything they want in just about any text.

            There is no hint whatsoever in the text that the serpent is anything but a serpent. If the serpent is actually Satan, why do all serpents get cursed? Also, the OT figure of "satan" is "the adversary," a figure in the heavenly court, not a fallen angel who resides in hell.

            The meaning of the passage (Genesis 3:15) is clearly that there will be hatred between Eve and the snake and between Eve's descendents and the snakes descendents. This is indeed the case, since in every (or almost every) culture known, humans have an (almost) innate fear of snakes, as do other nonhuman primates. Genesis gets one thing right that I have never seen a religious person crow about, and that is that the evolutionary ancestors of snakes had legs. So as a "just so" story, the story of Adam and Eve does explain why men have to work hard to provide, why women suffer in childbirth, why people have an aversion to snakes, and why snakes crawl on the ground.

          • w w

            Satan is called the serpent and if you understood Scripture, The serpent in the book of Revelation is Satan.
            Her seed is Jesus Christ, born of what? A women? no way, ahh but yes way.
            Nice try though!!

          • MichaelNewsham

            And then along came Joseph Smith and brought the final explanation.

          • Geena Safire

            Or maybe it was just their explanation of why humans (and chimpanzees) are innately fearful of snakes and snake-shaped things.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Can't a statement have many interrelated meanings?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The passage does not say they will die "that day"; it says they will "surely" die. The serpent lied in that he said they would be "as gods" but they already were--Adam was "son of God" (Lk 3:38).

          • David Nickol

            The passage does not say they will die "that day"; it says they will "surely" die. The serpent lied in that he said they would be "as gods". . .

            But God confirms what the serpent says in the serpent's very words!

            Genesis 3:5 [The serpent says] God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.

            Genesis 3:22 Then the LORD God said: See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil! Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever?

            Here are a few different translations of 2:17:

            But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (KJV)

            . . . but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die. (NIV)

            . . . except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die. (NAB)

            . . . but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die. (RSV)

            But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death. (Douay-Rheims)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Without me interpreting the text for you, how do you account for the fact that the writer or writers of Genesis saw that very seeming contradiction and left it in?

          • David Nickol

            A footnote in the NAB says the following:

            You shall die: since they do not die as soon as they eat from the forbidden tree, the meaning seems to be that human beings have become mortal, destined to die by virtue of being human.

            This is an honest approach to the issue. A dishonest approach would be to say, "The Hebrew says 'you will die', but since they don't die, it must mean something else, so we will translate it differently."

            . . . . how do you account for the fact that the writer or writers of Genesis saw that very seeming contradiction and left it in?

            It is not necessary (or possible) for me to come up with an explanation of what was in the heads of all the people who were in some way instrumental in forming the story or putting it into writing. John L. McKenzie says in Dictionary of the Bible:

            It may be concluded from this that the story of the fall of man existed in several variant forms in Hb tradition, of which only two have been preserved in the text of the OT. It is furthermore easily assumed that the stories circulated in oral tradition before they were fixed in writing. The presence of these external descriptive and symbolic features [discussed earlier] makes it difficult to accept the hypotheses that the Hebrews enjoyed a divine revelation of the fall of man, since it is unlikely that these somewhat common mythological traits would be contained in a direct divine revelation. . . . Hence modern scholars prefer to treat the account as a story through which the Hebrews enunciated their belief that man fell from his primitive harmonious relationship with God. The story was constructed by the use of elements drawn from the beliefs and traditions of the ancient Near Eastern world, but it was governed by the unique Hebrew conception of God which made it impossible for them to accept the beliefs concerning the origin of man found in ancient Near Eastern myths.

            As with any legend or myth that formed in this way, it is impossible to treat it as the work of a single author who had a single idea in mind. That is one reason why it is so fascinating. For example, I recently read a post over on first things, and the author pointed out this sentence: "So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it." Are we to assume Adam stood silently by as the serpent tempted Eve? The thought had never occurred to me. I had always pictured Eve alone with the serpent, but I don't think there is any way to tell from the text. Whe God questions Adam about eating the fruit, Adam says, “The woman whom you put here with me—she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it.” Now, of course, Adam is trying to make excuses for his behavior, but I have always assumed he was telling the truth. But if he was right there with Eve, heard her conversation with the serpent, and ate the fruit when she handed it to him, it puts his already feeble excuse in an even harsher light. But my point is that the text really doesn't answer these questions for us. We can only speculate.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If McKenzie means it is unlikely that the story of the fall is a direct divine revelation, like the ones Mohammad supposedly received, or that it is unlikely it was a tradition faithfully passed down from Adam and Eve through Noah to Abraham and then to Moses, etc., I could agree.

            If he means that Genesis 3 is not what God and the human authors intended, I'd have to disagree.

          • David Nickol

            If he means that Genesis 3 is not what God and the human authors intended, I'd have to disagree.

            Certainly McKenzie, whose Dictionary of the Bible has an Imprimi Potest, and Imprimatur, and a Nihil Obstat, is not denying the meaning conveyed by Genisis 3 is not inspired by God. He is saying that the authors and editors of Genesis, through a long and complex process, took existing elements of creation accounts and adapted them to tell a religious truth about God and man unique to the Hebrew point of view.

          • Jennifer Mann

            I didn't know that...Adam also had the power to drag Eve away if he was there with her ....yep looks like he was tricked too. This passage has caused women a lot of pain and suffering thru out the years....

          • Raphael

            There is no contradiction in Genesis 2:17 in the original Hebrew. Search the internet for "dying you shall die" and you will find several commentaries.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for pointing this out.

          • David Nickol

            Thanks for pointing this out.

            Yes! "Look it up on the Internet" is very helpful advice! ;)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, since I had referred you to an internet link, I couldn't fault Raphael for doing the same.

            The point is that "surely you will die" or "you will die today" is a translation from the Hebrew of a phrase that is rendered literally as "dying you shall die" and is used numerous times in the OT. "Dying" is an intensifier. So the phrase means "You will really die."

          • David Nickol

            I googled "dying you shall die," and found a variety of answers. But I would have to say that the most persuasive answer I have found so far is from The New Jerome Biblical Commentary:

            you shall die: "To die" here means to be cut off, excluded from community with God, as in Ezek 18 and other P texts; the man and the woman will be driven from the garden of God, not killed. A different anthropology in early Judaism and Christianity insisted that God made humans incorruptible (Wis 2:23; Rom 5:12), and from this arose the Christian theological tradition that death is a result of sin. In the ancient Near East, not to die would mean that one would have to become a god, since only gods were immortal.

            Here is a very condensed excerpt from Ezekiel 18:

            If a man is virtuous--if he does what is right and just . . . he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD. . . . But if he begets a son who is a thief, a murderer, or who does any of these things . . . this son certainly shall not live. Because he practiced all these abominations, he shall surely die; his death shall be his own fault. . . . But if the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced. . . . Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord GOD. Return and live!

            It seems to me a persuasive case can be made here that P (the source for the passage just quoted and the part of the story of Adam and Eve we are discussing) is not talking about physical death in Ezekiel, otherwise he would be promising immortality to the people who he says will live. So a case can be made based on the text that when God says "you will surely die," he does not mean "you will drop dead."

            The fact that God says "you will surely die" and yet they don't die is not sufficient (in my opinion) to use as a justification for claiming "you will surely die" means something other than "you will surely die." However, it is sufficient reason to question the meaning of the passage and see if, based on the text, "you will surely die" means "you will drop dead on the spot" or has some other meaning. Finding what seems a quite probably meaning of "you will surely die" elsewhere in material from P that does not seem to mean "you will drop dead on the spot" allows a plausible case to be made that words in Ezekiel and the words used in Genesis can be interpreted the same way, for example, "you shall be cut off." I can accept that. But just based on the text of Genesis itself, I cannot accept an explanation that, since Adam and Eve didn't die, the words attributed to God mean "you shall die a spiritual death" or "you shall die eventually when otherwise you would have been immortal."

          • Geena Safire

            .

          • Geena Safire

            The passage does not say they will die
            "that day"; it says they will "surely" die.

            It depends on the translation of Genesis 2:17. Most are like Young's Literal Translation: "and of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou dost not eat of it, for in the day of thine eating of it -- dying thou dost die."

            The popular NIV has: "but you must not eat from the
            tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

            New American Standard Bible
            but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you
            shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

            King James Bible
            But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou
            shalt not eat of it:
            for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

            Holman Christian Standard Bible
            but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die."

            International Standard Version
            but you are not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of
            good and evil, because you will certainly die during the day that you eat from it."

            The serpent lied in that he said they
            would be "as gods" but they already were--Adam was "son of God" (Lk 3:38).

            Do you even check these things before you answer? Try
            Genesis 3:22:

            New International Version
            And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

            New Living Translation
            Then the LORD God said, "Look, the human beings have become like us, knowing both good and
            evil. What if they reach out, take fruit from the tree of life, and eat it? Then they will live forever!"

            English Standard Version
            Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”

            New American Standard Bible
            Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become
            like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand,and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever "

            King James Bible
            And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

            Holman Christian Standard Bible
            The LORD God said, "Since man has become like one of
            Us, knowing good and evil, he must not reach out, take from the tree of life, eat, and live forever."

            International Standard Version
            Later, the LORD God said, "Look! The man has become
            like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, so he won't reach out, also take from the tree of life, eat, and then live forever—"

            NET Bible
            And the LORD God said, "Now that the man has become
            like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

            GOD'S WORD® Translation
            Then the LORD God said, "The man has become like one of us, since he knows good and evil. He
            must not reach out and take the fruit from the tree of life and eat. Then he would live forever."

            Jubilee Bible 2000
            And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live for ever,

            King James 2000 Bible
            And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever:

            American King James Version
            And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

            American Standard Version
            And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can see your point, Geena. Can you see mine?

          • David Nickol

            My mother's favorite example of biblical interpretation:

            "He [Judas] went away and hanged himself" (Matt 27:5). "Jesus said, 'Go and do likewise'” (Luke 10:37).

          • Raphael

            Unrelated, out of context.

      • Mary B Moritz

        Geena, yes, he is, but for the reason that He knows that His loves befits us most and our love to Him too. In case, someone comes to eternal punishment - and I say: in case (!) - it is not that He punishes someone, but the person rejects the Love, and He respects our freedom, and does not force himself upon anyone.

        • Steven Carr

          I see.

          So your god respects the freedom of Muslims to pray to him 5 times a day, but will send them to Hell anyway because they reject him.

          Didn't your (imaginary) god blind Paul? How is that not forcing himself upon anyone?

          Revelation 2

          I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

          I guess striking people dead doesn't count as forcing your love on to people.

          God certainly doesn't want people to be forced to love him by the act of being lovable.

          He lets people die of cancer and be crippled for life by cystic fibrosis rather than force his love upon them.

          • Jim (hillclimber)
          • Steven Carr

            That was no answer.

            Are Muslims saved if they reject Jesus, sincerely believe he was never crucified, and pray to God 5 times a day?

            RATZINGER
            'We are no longer ready and able to think that our neighbor, who is a decent and respectable man and in many ways better than we are, should be eternally damned simply because he is not a Catholic.'

            CARR
            What does your god say about Ratzinger's ideas?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I guess I don't know for sure what God says about Ratzinger's ideas. But I think I stand on safe ground when I say that the Catholic Church, in electing Ratzinger as our previous pope, exhibited a very high opinion of his ideas.

          • Steven Carr

            Yes, the Church realised they could no longer sell the idea that Muslims went to Hell.

            Because people weren't buying it.

            So they stopped trying to sell that idea.

            So why be a Christian? When your god is going to allow in atheists like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            "So, why be a Christian?"

            Ratzinger's sermon addresses exactly that point, and I don't think I can express it any better. But, lest I be accused of dodging, let me try to put it in my own words.

            The Christian path is about THIS life. Belief in heaven is meant to liberate you to live THIS life the way it was meant to be lived. It is meant to enable you to bear your crosses in this life, i.e. doing the right thing even when it sucks, even when there is no earthly reward. It is absolutely possible (and very common) for non-Christians to do the right thing even when there is no earthly reward. They will know the same heavenly reward that a good Catholic will.

            All of the differences relate to how we live this life. I won't attempt to speak to the Islamic perspective, but I will say that my own pre-Christian approach of doing the right thing "just because" tended toward a very joyless forbearance of the real heavy-duty trials of life. The Christian path offers a way to meet the heavy-duty trials of THIS life with joy. I am a Christian because it liberates me to live this difficult life with joy.

          • Steven Carr

            I agree that Christians can be just as moral as atheists.

            Do you think a sincere Muslims who sincerely believes that Christians are going to Hell for worshipping Jesus, will he get to go to Heaven, if he prays 5 times a day and does his charity work?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If that sincere Muslim does those things with a pure heart, then yes, he will get to heaven. Jesus said it himself in the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God". There is no requirement that one has perfect, or even moderately correct, understanding. Pure heart gets you there, period.

          • Jennifer Mann

            But if that Muslim hears about the gospel and denies Christ he is damed to hell according to what most Christians and Catholics are taught.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Mandela was a Methodist.

          • Mary B Moritz

            Steven, sometimes, it is strange how misunderstandings happen so easily - and I do not think it is just because of my having a different mother tongue. Anyway!

            Did I ever say that I believe Muslims going to Hell? Maybe studying a little bit more what the Catholic Church says would be of some benefit. First, live a morally integer live (10 commandments are written in our hearts, if we keep them ready and open and sincere), and then, if you know the Christian faith you should follow it, but if you don't know it? Then your non-knowledge may be of culpable or non-culpable,.... Please study this a little bit more in detail.

            And yes, God uses people as instruments, if you wish to say so, if they let Him into their lives. Paul persecuted the young Church but he was a fervent and faithful jewisch scholar, with an open heart for God. And Mother Teresa of Calcutta asked God to use her to show His love to the poorest of the poor, and she said not only to her sisters, but to everyone who was listening: "Let God use you. Give permission!"

        • Jennifer Mann

          Why did
          Jesus let Thomas touch Him so that he could believe? Some say we have Holy Spirit now...but if Thomas had only the Holy Spirit's prompting would he have believed? I think your friend coming back from dead and you feeling him is more convincing to some...esp. a doubter....then having the feeling you were visited by your dead friend. If God loves us all why did only a few get to meet Jesus in the flesh and be His friend? Why are douting Thomas's now sent to hell?

      • Kevin Aldrich

        How do you know you don't believe in and love God? Maybe you are just rightly rejecting something that you are convinced is false and ugly.

    • Lionel Nunez

      Yes, he is.

  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    Two suggestions for future articles:

    Why does our window of opportunity to accept God and Jesus end with our death? Why can't we accept him after death? After all, this is the religion of the prodigal son.

    Second: why does Hell have to be so awful? If God loves us, then why can't "Hell" be a secular paradise with no suffering -- a state of maximum natural happiness, like Limbo?

    • MichaelNewsham

      I think the current Christian answer to the second, since the idea of a jealous angry God is no longer fashionable, is that God is the cause of everything good- he's the reason water quenches thirst and food quells hunger- and when you reject him you reject everything that has goodness in it.

    • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

      1. God does not want to keep bugging people forever. There is a time for a lover to pursue the beloved and a time or the lover to accept rejection. 2. Hell is awful because we remain made for God. We can try and satisfy ourselves with human pleasures but they ultimately become empty. Then God contines to love those in hell. He can't do anything else. God is love. Yet love is like a torture to those in hell.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        God does not want to keep bugging people forever. There is a time for a lover to pursue the beloved and a time or the lover to accept rejection.

        Why does God not allow us further time after death to accept Him?

        Yet His love is like a torture to those in hell. It s a constant reminder that they are not what they should be.

        Here you contradict yourself. Previously you said people in Hell don't want God's love and wouldn't want it forced on them. But now it's clear you think at least some of the people in Hell do now want God's love.

        • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

          Further time? So when should the further time end? Never? That means eternally being bugged by God to repent? That is precisely what sinners don't want.

          I don't think there is a contradiction. People can have an internal longing for something yet never have the ability to do what needs to be done to get there. They want to be self-centered yet they are never at peace as self-centered beings. I think many people are living that today. They are living a contradiction of sorts. It is just not the sort of contradiction that is impossible.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I didn't say never. I didn't say eternity. I said a little more time. How about getting a couple days after seeing God to accept Him?

            As for the whole self-centeredness argument, that's an insulting straw man characterization of atheists, many of whom do seek God and truth, many of whom search for something greater than themselves to center their lives on.

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

            I didn't say all atheists are self-centered. I said all people in hell are. Even that requires a bit of explanation. People can want God but not bad enough to give up this or that thing for Him. God takes that as not wanting Him. Remember that heaven is an intimate and complete surrender to God's grace. So being willing to meet God half way is just not enough. It is still leaving yourself as the center. You set the terms and conditions. God wants you to drop all terms and conditions and let Him be your God. If your life shows you are not interested in that then He will accept that.

          • David Nickol

            Remember that heaven is an intimate and complete surrender to God's grace. So being willing to meet God half way is just not enough.

            How does this square with the Catholic doctrine that a person may be absolved in confession of mortal sin with "imperfect contrition." It seems to me that Catholicism teaches that you do not need to love God to be saved. You just need to be frightened enough of hell not to commit mortal sins, or if you do commit them, you must be frightened enough to go to confession and get absolution.

            1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

            1453 The contrition called "imperfect" (or "attrition") is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin's ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance.

            If I murder someone, and I am not sorry that I took another human life, but I am "sorry" because I know I can go to hell for it, I can obtain "forgiveness" by confessing the sin, prompted not by love of God, but by fear of the punishment he will mete out to me if I don't go to confession.

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

            Imperfect contrition is on the road to God. You are not there yet but you are at least trying to go on the right direction. You say out loud to a priest that you did this and it was sin. That is something. It is not enough but God is willing to accept it as a starting point.

            God is likely to lead him into greater and greater holiness. If he really does not want to go there he will balk at some point. God's plan might not be clear in that confessional but it will become clear eventually and he can vote with his feet.

          • David Nickol

            Imperfect contrition is on the road to God.

            But you said:

            Remember that heaven is an intimate and complete surrender to God's grace. So being willing to meet God half way is just not enough. It is still leaving yourself as the center. . . . God wants you to drop all terms and conditions and let Him be your God. If your life shows you are not interested in that then He will accept that.

            However, if I am a wicked, wicked person on my deathbed, suddenly become terrified of going to hell, summon a priest and confess all my sins with imperfect contrition, and drop dead with fear of God but not love of God, the Catholic Church would say I have attained salvation. According to Jimmy Akin, I would be locked in at the moment of death, and I would have made a commitment to God. That is not me dropping all my terms and conditions and surrendering completely, except in the sense that I believe God is powerful enough to subject me to eternal torment if I don't recognize his authority and power and go to confession.

            One might say that gives God a toehold and conjecture that the wicked person must spend a long, long time in purgatory being purified. But it seems to me if we are locked in to our fundamental choices at the moment of death, the wicked man who confesses on his deathbed with imperfect contrition is someone who fears, but does not love, God. And that is apparently all the Catholic Church requires.

            I appreciate all of the attempts to "humanize" God, with arguments that he doesn't send people to hell, but beneficently grants them the right to choose eternal torment for themselves. But who would choose eternal torment over eternal bliss if they were making an informed choice? The Catechism says:

            1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a stateof mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

            So hell is punishment with eternal fire, and although I believe the nature of the eternal fire is not defined, surely it is not pleasant!

            The paragraph goes on to say the following:

            The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

            It seems to me that getting what you chose and what you wanted—separation from God—is not a punishment unless it turns out to be not what you expected or what you really wanted. But if it is not what you expected or really wanted, you chose it in error, in which case it was not benevolent of God to give it to you.

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

            The deathbed confession thing can be confusing. You need imperfect contrition. That is not just wanting to avoid hell. It is being sorry you committed the sins. One question to ask, if you were not on your death bed would your desire to repent go away? If so then you are not really sorry you sinned. You are just playing games with God. That is why you can't plan to have a deathbed conversion. Nobody can plan to have real contrition, even imperfect contrition.

            If you are truly sorry then you will be forgiven. I am not sure what your problem is. Not wanting hell and wanting heaven are the same thing.

            People are given information. The process of rejecting sin and growing in holiness is informing us about heaven. The process of continuing in sin and refusing to repent is informing us about hell.

          • David Nickol

            If you are truly sorry then you will be forgiven. I am not sure what your problem is.

            The problem is that being "truly sorry" in the case of imperfect contrition is being sorry because you regret having done something that is going to get you punished. You and others try to make salvation seem like it is all about love, but (from my point of view), what the Church teaches is that if love isn't there, fear will suffice.

            I acknowledge that the use of imperfect contrition (aka attrition) cannot be used opportunistically. The bar is not set so low that someone can plan a life of wickedness and escape hell by including a confession with attrition as close to death as possible. However, the Church teaches that fear is an appropriate response to God, and sorrow for since because of fear of hell is enough to obtain absolution (but only in the confessional).

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

            Salvation is about love but it can start with fear. God takes us where we are at. We can't all honestly say we love God. We can all honestly say we have sinned and fear coming before a God who is pure love and justice. Eventually perfect love casts out fear but it can take time.

            Think of the prodigal son. Why does he come back to his father? To eat. He didn't return because he loved his father. He returned because he loved food and he was starving where he was at. So he asked if he could not be a son but a slave. The father made him a son anyway. If we come to God to be His slave He will make us His son.

          • Argon

            Actually, David, your comments about the timing of contrition brings to mind the final scenes of "The Rapture" where conditions lead the devout head character to choose purgatory while a lifelong atheist goes to heaven.

            Another link to a review here.

          • MichaelNewsham

            IIRC, the 'devout' head character rejects God because of his injustice in allowing her husband to be murdered. Since she refuses to love God, she is in Hell, not Purgatory- she acknowledges to her daughter, who does make the cut, that in rejecting God she is sentencing herself forever.

            Actually, given the Fundamentalist backdrop of the film, I doubt that Purgatory was even in consideration

          • Jennifer Mann

            Why do Christians have kids? How can a beliving parent enjoy heaven when their unbelieving child is in hell?

          • David Nickol

            I didn't say all atheists are self-centered. I said all people in hell are.

            Do you know any personally, or can you cite any studies? :)

          • Argon

            Understandably, a person would probably find it hard thinking of anyone but themselves while submerged in the Phlegethon, a lake of boiling blood located in the seventh circle of Hell (ref. Dante).

          • Jennifer Mann

            Why does God care if I drink and not hurt someone...or if I love my own sex and not hurt anyone....or if I have dolls with faces....or if I have statues of saints?? All these are sins in some Christians eyes....and we must repent and turn away from these when we accept Jesus....
            So Randy...there are no fat people in heaven...glutiny and all that??

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

            God does care if you want to do things your own way and not acknowledge why He gave you those things. Knowledge is important. You might not grasp that is God's plan and that plan is good. He judges the heart. Is it an act of rebellion or truly an act of ignorance?

          • Jennifer Mann

            Randy,
            Yes, I get that. But why is it God's plan?? I mean why is God offended by doll's with faces--or saint statues--or statues of Jesus--or homosexual committed love/sex (if they are disgusted by the opposite sex and will never marry or procreate why do they have to refrain from same sex sex) ???
            If you don't harm anyone then you are loving your neighbor--but if you still doing those above things (others) you are harming God---but why???? Why does He get offended over those things?? WHY does He want what He wants??
            AND Jesus said He came to not take away from the Law but add to it--some Christian sects think we may need to still follow the Law--Paul says no--which is it??
            How can God change His mind??
            Some Christians say that the Law was to show the Jews how impossible it was and Jesus was the answer to the impossible rules--BUT some of these rules like no homosexuality practice, no masturbation, no sex before marriage, no divorce, no contraception, THESE are still pretty impossible.
            Does God really want more babies born in poor countries to married straight couples?? The men of those cultures won't abstain so the women and children suffer--is that what God wants??
            I don't get it??

          • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

            It is good to ask why God has commanded us not to do certain things. Our faith needs to be purified by reason. I am not sure what you are saying about dolls and statues. Catholicism has always accepted them as valid ways to express yourself artistically and even valid aids to worship. Don't assume God's will is just what one small sect of Christianity teaches. Look at the whole of Christian tradition.

            Having said that there are some things God has clearly condemned. Gay sex is one of them. So still ask why. Yet ask why with a humble heart. Not asking how could God be so stupid? Ask how could I be so stupid? Then you get an answer. Not only is there an answer but it is so amazing and so beautiful it blows you away. Sex is designed to lift us to heaven when we say Yes not just spending our life with that person but to possibly raising the child that comes from this act. When we get our mind around that then it makes some sense why God would command what He does.

            God revealed Himself to us over time. There has been a series of major covenants but even without a new covenant we can have a deeper understanding of revelation. The deeper understanding always involved a greater grace and a greater expectation. So God gives us more and expects us to live to a higher level. Yes, "rules like no homosexuality practice, no masturbation, no sex before marriage, no divorce, no contraception" are impossible without a great grace. The good news is Jesus has given that to us. We have the sacraments (especially the Eucharist where He give us His very self), we have the teaching of the church and we have the community of believers (both those on earth and those interceding for us in heaven).

            This gets quite complicated but the principle of greater grace and greater expectations remains. No we have to avoid contraception even though technology has made it very easy. Yet we are given insight into how our sexuality ties in with the essence of who we are and who God is. Truths only the church's great mystics understood not that long ago.

          • Jennifer Mann

            Randy,
            I appreciate your time and response. It still doesn't make sense that those sins are sins to me.
            Some of the abstinence from those sins causes terrible tragedies daily.
            For example the lack of birth control use do to the rational it is a sin leads to many more babies/children then food in some counties. This causes suffering that could have been prevented. Does God to watch these babies suffer? The babies didn't ask for it and the majority of time the mothers didn't either. Being a wife and praying your husband stops wanting sex I'm sure doesn't get answered much.
            What about the boy who prays and prays and prays and tries dangerous sexual adversion techniques handed out by some Christian Psychologists. He ends up more often than not so damaged from going against his own chemical/biological make up that he commits suicide or abuses substances or has major depression or other disorder. Does God like to watch that suffering?

            The dolls with faces is a sin in the Amish Christian interpretation.

            If God is the same today, yesterday, and tomorrow why aren't all us Christians Koscher? Yes, God reveals Himself overtime, I can buy that, but He can't change as the Bible states.

            I am looking for answers that make sense and WADR to you I have heard your reply many many times. Also, I think my post wasn't answered in full by you.

            Let's just agree to disagree and I bid you adue.

          • Jennifer Mann

            Randy and Rob...wouldn't God know how to heal are disbelief?Why doesn't He send Jesus to us doubters like He did for Thomas.....like I said elsewhere here.....maybe Doubting Thomas wouldn't have believed Jesus rose if he just had the Holy Spirit's prompting..Also, why doesn't God cut some slack for non believers......a lot of people believe with all their heart until they read the Bible and its contradictions and mistakes and interpretation changes ( Ham being banned to Africa was interpreted to many churches that slavery was God's will...these same churches now have believed differently).

          • josh

            It's the sort of contradiction that only a wholly cruel God could create.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Hell is awful because we remain made for God.

        So Limbo is just as bad as Hell?

        • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

          I would not say just as bad because you are not under the power of sin the same way you are in hell. Still you are lacking the beatific vision. It is a serious lacking. It is very reasonable to question whether God allows this to continue indefinitely or not.

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

        But apparently god needs 100 years to "bug" some people, but 1 minute for others?

    • Argon

      That's an interesting topic of at least a couple scifi books which posit that there is a polishing off period in the afterlife...
      Philip José Farmer: To Your Scattered Bodies Go (Riverworld series)
      Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle: Inferno

      • Octavo

        I loved "To Your Scattered Bodies Go."

    • Jennifer Mann

      Yes....why??!!!!!!!!!

  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    How can Heaven be bliss? If you know your some of your loved ones are suffering eternal torment with no hope of escape, how can you be happy? And how could you not feel a growing bitterness for the Being who decided that the mistakes of these good-hearted people deserved a literally infinite punishment?

    And with all eternity for this bitterness to grow, how could there not eventually be another rebellion and war in heaven?

    • Ben Posin

      I could actually use a refresher on what the current Catholic claims regarding Hell are, with a minimum amount of metaphor. Is it still a place of physical torment? Or do we now talk about "permanent separation from God"--without clarification as to whether this involves an eternity of waterslides vs. being lit on fire?

      • Lionel Nunez

        Hell is...(basic definition incoming)

        a place where you are completed separated from all good things (since God is the source of all good things) for all eternity(i.e forever) by virtue of your personal choice. You have no body but that doesn't matter since you would have nothing to interact with (nothing in the strictest sense). The only thing you would have left would, presumably, be your thoughts since you are not obliterated.

        • Steven Carr

          Well, that's just something people made up.

          How can you have thoughts without a body?

          Oh I forgot, Christians don't use their brain to think with.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Deleted for not moving the conversation along.

        • Steven Carr

          Well, people in Hell certainly don't need a brain to think with.

        • josh

          Since all bad things are an absence or lack of good things on Catholic doctrine, a complete separation from all good things would simply be non-existence. You would have to be obliterated to make this consistent.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            This is a valid theological point. To be completely separated from God would mean non-existence, because God sustains our existence. So you can't be completely separated, metaphysically.

            Instead you have completely closed yourself off to God's love, and since all love finds its root in God's love, you are shut off from all love. I think this is a more nuanced interpretation of Hell.

          • Lionel Nunez

            That's only really true if you have a sort of "pre-destined" mindset about this (i.e God makes you go to Hell as opposed to you choosing to go by virtue of your choices). A better understanding of this would be to say that when you die; God invites you to be with him for all eternity, but after spending a lifetime avoiding him, you refuse to be with him or accept anything he offers. You reject having a body and you reject having things with substance. This view is more consistent with still having a mind (since in the bible Jesus makes it clear those in hell are not obliterated but rather suffering) since it's quite impossible for anyone to truly reject the sheer act of existing.

            EDIT: I'm aware of biblical passages referring to God as a judge and people being "cast into darkness" but the bible also makes it clear that people choose their end in life so you would have to discuss this particular issue with someone who has a more enhanced understanding of the bible than me.

        • Ben Posin

          Glad I asked, wouldn't have guessed that this is the official Catholic position. I'm at loss though as how to respond further without hitting too high a score on the snark meter. Put me down in the this-is-a-strange-and-unreasonable-thing-to-believe columnb (possibly stranger than the classic Hell where everyone's on fire, as at least that has a purpose in a sort of narrative).

      • vito

        Unless the Church-approved apparitions of St. Faustina and Fatima children, to name but the most prominent, have been somehow cancelled, it think it still stands that it is a place of terrible torment (does it really matter if its physical or spiritual or both? I consider it a technicality). I had a discussion with Fr Barron (or someone else named 'wordonfire' on youtube, where he had a video on hell), where he tried to water it down merely a place "without God", but when I mentioned the said apparitions, I never got a response, although just before that we had had a very lengthy exchange. I also asked him if he knew any approved apparitions that would speak against actual torment of souls in hell, and no response there either.

        • Geena Safire

          (does it really matter if its physical or spiritual or both? I consider it a technicality)

          I agree with you. Six times infinity of one, a half dozen times infinity of the other.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Go the the Catechism 1033-1037. Here is the link:

        http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm

        Just type 1033 in the search box.

    • MichaelNewsham

      Uh-oh- you've left an opening here: "We can't say if God actually condemns any particular person, so maybe your particular loved ones aren't suffering in Hell for the sin of not believing in God, so that makes it okay that all those other people are".

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      If your loved ones love you, then whether they know it or not, whether they would call it this or not, they do love God. If they idolize you AS God, that is a problem, but if they express their love of God through love of you, then I think you are all going to have a good time in heaven.

      • Jennifer Mann

        But again you must repent and turn away from all sin after you receive Jesus as savior....so according to most churches love ain't enough.

    • http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/ Randy Gritter

      People choose what they choose. When we are in heaven we will know better than ever that the people who are excluded are excluded for good and just reasons. People who never showed an interest in being close to God on earth would not want intimacy with God being forced on them in heaven. If that is true about your loved ones then you would know that. It does cause pain yet you know that heaven requires the exclusion of those who are unwilling to be made pure. It is like being sad because a woman does not want to marry you. It is sad but her unwillingness is a show-stopper so you get over it.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Hi Randy:

        1. What makes you think I'm talking about "People who never showed an interest in being close to God on earth"?

        2. Why is the only option "intimacy with God being forced on them in heaven"? Why can't we accept intimacy with God after death?

        3. If "heaven requires the exclusion of those who are unwilling to be made pure" then why can't people be made pure after death?

        4. "It is like being sad because a woman does not want to marry you." Why can't we change our minds after death?

        And finally, why does hell have to be so awful? Why can't it be a place of maximum natural happiness, the way some people think of Limbo?

        Rob

        • Jennifer Mann

          Also some if not most people would not just be sad but devastated if their loved one suffered say under Hitler....couldn't go on without their loved one. The loved ones pain ended but just being without that person was enough to be terminally sad over.......So in heaven some of thses people now miss their loved ones for eternity and know their loved ones torture ( of any kind) will never end and all is hunky dory...these people now understand??
          And what of thses Jews who suffered under Hitler and didn't except Christ and didn't love their neighbor who was torturing them.....are these Jews in hell?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Rob, I think your basic question is a good one. However, the Catholic teaching is that nobody enters the condition of hell due to a mistake and nobody is in that condition against their will. I can't see how a good-hearted person could not be in heaven.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        That's a lovely thought. I'm not sure the Magisterium agrees, but I hope so.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The Magisterium does agree. Or rather, I agree with the Magisterium.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Yes.

          • MichaelNewsham

            Well, from both personal experience and historical examples there doesn't seem to be any evidence that Christians are more good-hearted than other people, so we might have a Christian-minority Heaven?

            A separate question- is it possible for a Catholic to be a universalist in terms of the exclusivist, inclusivist,and universalist positions on salvation?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            If by universalist we mean all people will be saved, then no. The Church will not say that any one person is definitively in Hell, which I think is telling. However, its more like an assumption that somewhere in the history of the world, someone probably died, and upon dying, rejected God. The odds are good that in the history of human beings, some people went to Hell, probably.

            If you mean all people can be saved, then yes. Anyone who upon dying accepts God would be saved. There's no rigorous checklist for who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell.

          • MichaelNewsham

            I was more thinking on the lines of George MacDonald, who held that all those in Hell, and even eventually Satan, will repent and be forgiven.

          • Jennifer Mann

            What about those who died too quickly to repent of their sin...or those that repented but couldn't stop sinning...or those who were compulsive liars or who were actively gay??

      • Jennifer Mann

        Kevin if you don't accept Jesus or don't repent and turn from sin you go to hell according to church doctrine. So you believe that the doctrine says it is ok to be a good hearted homosexual Muslim and you still go to heaven??

        • Kevin Aldrich

          @disqus_U21EvGazR6:disqus You might try studying church doctrine before declaring what it is.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So what is church doctrine on the subject Kevin?

            There is lots of talk about the new version of Hell on this site, but the catechism seems quite clear on this...

            1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"616

            So perhaps you could clear some of the confusion that resides in some of us less able to understand.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            As Amos points out below, the catechism (surely a source of Church doctrine if ever I saw one) is quite clear: no conversion; eternal damnation.

            I know that the Church also claims that god can make allowances - but the circumstances of that are unclear.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I thought we have had this discussion so many times on SN that the veterans would have Catholic doctrine on this question down pat. The pertinent catechism points are 846-848.

            Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve
            eternal salvation.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Exactly. Unclear.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yes, yes, yes..ignorance is bliss....well a bit of it anyway. But what about what your church thinks Jesus said? Isn't that even more pertinent?

            How does one know the Christian God enough to seek him with sincere heart and graceful conscience, yet be ignorant of the gospel of Christ? How does that even work? How does that stack up in light of what Jesus is supposed to have preached about Hell and who was going there and why?

          • Jennifer Mann

            I have Kevin and this is why I ask. Being an active homosexual is not a mistake neither is being Muslim in the Caholic (and other) churches eyes......that is why you have confession to priest (or in others to God)....you can not continue to ask for forgiveness and keep sinning---key is to turn away otherwise sin is purposeful. Muslims (and other non Christians) do not have Jesus and most know about Him.....once you know and deny that is sin.....
            So again, a "good hearted" active homosexual Muslim will not enter heaven according to Church doctrine.
            BTW some Christian sects believe Catholics will burn because they are sprinkled not dunked. Most Christian sects believe that good works (being "good hearted") isn't even needed--all that is needed is Jesus and a turn and repent of sin. Catholics do believe in good works + Jesus + turn and repent.
            Maybe you can be "good hearted" and not tell people to do something which clearly you have not.
            i am here to discuss. On a personal level I wish for answers--to make sense of all the dogma--and on an intellectual level (of study) I am interested in the different Christian sects and Judaism.
            You sir did not answer my question posed to you and instead attacked me without provocation and without fact checking.

          • Jennifer Mann

            Kevin--with that said--why do you believe the way you do--how are you interpreting what scholars secular and non view totally differently than you?? I am interested also if this was a long ago view and whose it was.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Jennifer, I was using the term "good-hearted" in a loose sense, because that is the term Rob was using. He wrote that he thought Catholics think a good-hearted person could be sent to hell for a mistake.

            This is a more precise theological statement:

            Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. (Lumen Gentium 16)

            Does this help?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Then the gay Muslim, no matter how noble, no matter how many lives she helps, or evils she puts down, no matter the joy and happiness she gives to others is, according to your faith, irrevocably damned.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If a gay Muslim, moved by grace, strives by her deeds to do God's will as it is known to her through the dictates of conscience, she will be the opposite of irrevocably damned.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But then she could not be Muslim and gay, right? Homosexual = intrinsically disordered. Damned, no matter what other good she does. Muslim = violation of first commandment. Damned, no matter what good she does.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Having same sex attraction is not grounds for damnation. Neither is being born in a Muslim society or sincerely adhering to the tenets of Islam if that is the best you can do.

            If prostitutes and tax collectors can enter the kingdom of heaven, why can't a Muslim with SSA?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Kevin, why are you fudging the hypothetical to suit your, need I say very awkward, position?

            I don't think Jennifer, Solange or I for that matter, had merely attractupion in mind. Or being born into Islam and having to make the best what can done.

            Perhaps you require more detail...

            So you believe that the doctrine says it is ok to be a good hearted homosexual [sexualy active] Muslim [say converted from Christianity or brought up in a western education, but denys Jesus as saviour, preferring him as just another profit] and you still go to heaven??

            Or even just one or the other if you like?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Nice Freudian slip.

          • Ignorant Amos

            If prostitutes and tax collectors can enter the kingdom of heaven,...

            Well it is publicans and harlots if one is KJV reared, but that is not the point. The parable relies on those of a sinning way to repent.

            How do you know they can enter heaven? Because the author of Matthew said Jesus said so in a story aimed at getting sinners to repent?

            Don't forget, the publicans and harlots, or prostitutes and tax collectors if you like, were not Christian. They were Jews, in a place where there was no concept of hell as suchlike we know of today. But as I say, this parable saying of Jesus suits your needs, while more strident words do not, what is one to think?

          • David Nickol

            They were Jews, in a place where there was no concept of hell as suchlike we know of today.

            When Jesus spoke of hell, he was not inventing new, non-Jewish concepts. The ideas of hell, Satan, and other fallen angels were Jewish ideas that developed after Old Testament times but before the time of Jesus.

            Entering "the kingdom of heaven" does not necessarily imply dying and "going to heaven." It is a tricky concept, but Jesus seems to have been implying that God's kingdom was beginning to be realized on earth.

            I think Kevin is basically correct. I don't think it is inaccurate to say that, according to Catholic thought, anyone who lives according to his or her conscience will be saved. This includes gay Muslims. I always think of Huckleberry Finn, who follows his good instincts (helping Jim, the slave) even though he has been taught it is wrong and thinks he will go to "the bad place" for it. Huck is following his conscience even though he thinks what he is doing is wrong, because he has been wrongly taught.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But then we have the sticky problem of conscience. Honor killings are a matter of conscience. Stoning is a matter of conscience.

          • David Nickol

            If someone commits an honor killing or stones another person sincerely believing it is the right thing to do, then he or she will not be condemned by God for doing so (according to Catholic thought). According to Catholicism, one is guilty of serious wrongdoing ("mortal sin") if and only three conditions are met: The act must be seriously wrong; the person must know it is seriously wrong; the person must give full consent to it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Now that opens up a charming can of worms.

          • David Nickol

            Well, not exactly, since judging whether a person is saved or not is a task only God can do. If a man robs banks because he honestly and sincerely means it's the right thing to do, he's still a bank robber and can be put in jail. A person believing something to be right doesn't make it right. So the law can punish wrongdoers. And the Church (according to Catholics) can make pronouncements about what is objectively right and wrong.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That seems to contradict what you just said. Either honor killing is morally acceptable or it's not, correct? So even a person operating within his moral framework with the highest ideals is damned unless his actions exactly conform to catholic doctrine? So all practising homosexuals are damned?

          • David Nickol

            Honor killing is not morally acceptable. A person who does it is doing something objectively wrong. But if that person is acting sincerely and according to his conscience, he will not be condemned, because he does not know he has done something wrong seriously wrong. God would not a person to hell for doing what that person honestly and sincerely believed was good, even if that person was very wrong.

            The Catholic Church judges acts. It does not judge people and declare them damned. It believes only God can do that. It does, of course, declare that certain people (saints) have gone to heaven. But it does not say that any particular person (Judas, for example) has gone to hell.

            The ultimate moral rule in Catholicism is to live according to one's conscience. Thomas Aquinas said it would be better to die excommunicated by the Church than to violate one's conscience.

          • Ignorant Amos

            This is why the whole Catholic edifice has my head twisted.

            Before Vatican Two it was very simple...everyone was going to burn in hell damnation for eternity Now it is all very high brow wishy washy, but if you see the light mumbo jumbo...

            http://www.religioustolerance.org/rcc_salv.htm

            Just how I interpret the stuff...all the Catholics I speak to have a fiery pit sort of place in mind, so why isn't their church doing much more to dissuade this archaic attitude?

            Was Hell a place of eternal pain and suffering in a fiery pit of damnation? Or is it just separation from God? The former is used to scare the bejezus out of youngsters, the later seems an okay proposition.

          • David Nickol

            Before Vatican Two it was very simple...everyone was going to burn in hell damnation for eternity . . .

            I don't think that is quite fair. The primacy of conscience has been important in Catholicism for a very long time. After all, I was quoting Thomas Aquinas (13th century) above. It was long before Vatican II that Father Feeney was excommunicated for insisting on a strict literal interpretation of "outside the Church there is no salvation." My mother was a Catholic and my father was a Protestant who never went to Church. I don't remember ever being given the impression in my 12 years of Catholic education that my father would go to hell because he was not Catholic.

            Was Hell a place of eternal pain and suffering in a fiery pit of damnation?

            I just ran across this passage in one of my favorite references, Fr. John McKenzie's Dictionary of the Bible, at the end of the entry on Gehenna, after McKenzie runs through a long series of the New Testament passages on hell:

            These passages suggest that the apocalyptic imagery of other NT passages is to be taken for what it is, imagery, and not as strictly literal theological affirmation. The great truths of judgment and punishment are firmly retained throughout the NT, and no theological hypothesis can be biblical which reduces the ultimate destiny of righteousness and wickedness to the same thing; the details of the afterlife, however, are not disclosed except in imagery.

            Having said all of the above, I couldn't agree more with your quote:

            This is why the whole Catholic edifice has my head twisted.

            I feel my Catholic education so thoroughly twisted my own head that untwisting it is impossible. As Lenin said, "Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." And they had me for 12 years!

          • Ignorant Amos

            Great...Fr. McKenzie paints a nice idea...imagery, to scare, educate, control..whatever. But this sits contrary to what I read elsewhere. Take the Catholic Encyclopaedia for example...

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07207a.htm

            It is all harrowing stuff. I can barely understand it. What chance has the average Joe? He hasn't. Very much. According to that link, Hell is a very real place, it is the antithesis of Heaven. Most of the Catholics I have spoken to have the same concept...mind you, that is in Ireland where the church ruled with an iron fist. Perhaps it was different elsewhere, though that in itself begs the question.

          • Ignorant Amos

            David, there are ex-Catholics on this site who remember their teaching on what eternal damnation and Hell meant. I don't recall it be all that light and made up.

          • David Nickol

            David, there are ex-Catholics on this site who remember their teaching on what eternal damnation and Hell meant.

            And I am one of them!

            I don't recall it be all that light and made up.

            The whole topic still scares me silly. But it is necessary to make a distinction between what we learned in Catholic school and what the truly "official" teachings of the Church were and are. I have made a distinction between what I called "everyday piety" (of something like that) and theology. We mostly know about the hell of "everyday piety."

            There is often a problem when talking about "the Catholic Church" and "what the Church teaches" because it is rather difficult to pin down what is meant by "the Church." I think "orthodox" Catholics often try to use that to their advantage in defending "the Church." I am trying not to do that, but I am also trying to be as fair as I can in pointing out that a fair amount of what I was taught in Catholic school probably was not in harmony with what many Catholic theologians were thinking at the time. It is difficult to be clear about what was the fault of "the Church," because the nuns who taught me in grade school, and the brothers who taught me in high school were certainly in and of the Church, but they weren't the Church itself.

          • Ignorant Amos

            We'll I'd have to agree with you there, but shouldn't those with the resposabilty upstairs so to speak, get it sorted out into a less contradictory form and relay it to the bums on pews? People are not as daft as they used to be. I think contradiction in the truth claim I going to be a stumbling block going forward.

          • Ignorant Amos

            And I am one of them!

            Exactly. Even within this thread the definition is misunderstood among the faithful. See Raphael's take in these couple of comments...

            For DT Suzuki it would have been futile for in Hell "the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."

            What kind of relief would DT Suzuki bring to the damned in hell?

            ...he seems to have a specific kind of Hell in mind and I'll stick my neck out here and suggest it is not just out of communion with God or lack of his love.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Dante's version of Hell seems to be out of fashion with sophisticated Catholic theologians at the moment. But that's what the documents indicate.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Not just Dante, but Pascal. His wager seems a bit moot, or at least toothless.

            Basically, a person in good conscience, is either going to Heaven, if there is such a place, or nowhere. Should the alternative that is Hell exist, it is just an eternity without God...no brainer then. I'm going to heaven, nowhere or Hell(not the place of scripture), win win all round. This theology stuff is really neat.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Leaves far too many doors open in my opinion.

            A homosexual brought up in the Catholic tradition must be in a state of head melt.

            The act of sex is seriously wrong without the prospect of procreation according to the RCC, the person knows, according to their faith, it is seriously wrong, and I assume the act has consent by participants. Ergo, being an actively physical homosexual means eternal damnation. No?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yup. That's clear.

          • David Nickol

            Ergo, being an actively physical homosexual means eternal damnation. No?

            No, not if your conscience tells you the Church is wrong. The teachings of the Church on contraception rest on the same foundation as those on homosexuality. Most Catholics reject the Church's teachings on contraception. Few would say that all Catholics who use contraceptives are going to hell. And arguably, they are doing something more seriously wrong (according to Catholic thought) than those engaging in homosexual acts.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Really? The Catechism says that conscience trumps doctrine? Woah.

          • David Nickol

            The Catechism says that conscience trumps doctrine?

            1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

            1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin."59 In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.

            1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.

            1793 If—on the contrary—the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What does "invincible" mean in this context?

          • David Nickol

            Invincible ignorance is ignorance you can't possibly (or reasonably) be blamed for. For example, some Protestants will argue that if you do not explicitly accept Jesus, you will go to hell. If you ask them if that applies to Native Americans before Europeans brought word of Christianity to the Americas, they will say yes. The Native Americans (and any others) who never even had a chance to learn about Jesus all went to hell, because they did not accept Jesus as their savior. The Catholic Church says no. A person can't be blamed for invincible ignorance. Those who lived in the Americas could not possibly have known about Jesus, and so their ignorance was invincible.

            There is plenty of room for argument between "conservatives" and "liberals" on whether certain kinds of ignorance involving moral decisions are vincible or invincible. It can be argued that there are certain things (moral principles) that everyone knows, or ought to know, even if they have never been taught. But of course when it comes to who goes to hell or not, the decision about invincible ignorance is not made by the Church. It is made by God.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It seems to me that in the age of electronic information, invincible ignorance doesn't apply to anyone with access to the internet.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Even in the age of electronic information, invincible ignorance is very much in play because of deep cognitive biases. That is a point on which theists and atheists can happily agree!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not according to Dave. Failure to learn the truth is unforgivable when it is available.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, as a side note, David is a damn smart guy, but I don't think he is the final authority.

            Anyway, no, I don't think that is what David said. I think he had it exactly right when he wrote:

            There is plenty of room for argument between "conservatives" and "liberals" on whether certain kinds of ignorance involving moral decisions are vincible or invincible.

            It seems perfectly reasonable to interpret the catechism line about invincible ignorance as:

            If a person, through no fault of his or her own, has been prejudiced against the fullness of the truth in ways that he or she is incapable of realizing, then the fullness of the truth is not available to that person, regardless of what documents or other evidence might be readily accessible.

          • David Nickol

            Very good. No one should ever take me as the final authority.

            On the other hand, I am always right. :P

            But those are two different things.

          • David Nickol

            Failure to learn the truth is unforgivable when it is available.

            If I gave that impression, it was unintentional. Even supposing Christianity is "the truth," there are many reasons, in my opinion, why a person who even learns a great deal about it might be intellectually "blocked" from accepting it. I occasionally quote Lenin, who said, "Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted." Childhood indoctrination in any non-Christian religion (or in no religion) might leave someone incapable, for all practical purposes, of embracing Christianity. Someone who was molested or otherwise abused as a child by his or her father might have a great psychological barrier to accepting a religion taught to them that is full of father/son imagery.

            And as I noted, assuming Christianity is true and God judges people and sends them to eternal reward or eternal punishment, it is not up to the Church to make up guidelines for God as to what constitutes invincible ignorance. You may find "conservatives" who consider any exposure to God or Christianity at all (seeing an old rerun of Touched by an Angel) sufficient to rule out a claim of invincible ignorance, while on the other hand, you may find "liberals" who will argue that someone who goes through the seminary, spends thirty years as a priest, and then rejects Christianity might be judged as a victim of invincible ignorance for some reason or another. But it doesn't matter that conservatives and liberals may strongly disagree. If Christianity is true, it is God who makes the judgment, and he can be expected to understand human motivation infinitely better than the Church. The Church claims no authority or power to send anyone to hell. If it happens, it is God's doing, not the Church's.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Childhood indoctrination in any non-Christian religion (or in no religion) might leave someone incapable, for all practical purposes, of embracing Christianity.

            And perhaps even more likely in America in the last century: misguided attempts at indoctrination *in Christianity* might leave someone incapable, for all practical purposes, of embracing Christianity.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But then how can we ever distinguish between "invincible" and "vincible" ignorance? My understanding was that the church allowed as god might save those who through no fault of their own failed to appreciate the gospels and convert. But does that really include a simple refusal to disbelieve as non-fault?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ah. Well, I'm still confused.

          • Ignorant Amos

            No, not if your conscience tells you the Church is wrong.

            Is that why there are so many Catholic murderers, liars, cheats, thieves etc.,? How can thee one true church be wrong? And who says what's wrong if my conscience tells me the RCCis wrong?

            The teachings of the Church on contraception rest on the same foundation as those on homosexuality. Most Catholics reject the Church's teachings on contraception. Few would say that all Catholics who use contraceptives are going to hell.

            Yet, as a mortal sin, catechism says that is exactly what will happen...

            1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."

            Aquinas seems to agree.

            And arguably, they are doing something more seriously wrong (according to Catholic thought) than those engaging in homosexual acts.

            While I agree that there are some things I'd say are far worse than others on lists of mortal sins, the church doesn't diversify. Envyings, for example, is just nonsense. How can anyone control having a thought until after they have had it? Vis a vis murder for example. No, it is plain stupid.

            Anyway, as I said, nothing about this subject is easy, and the continuity man of the RCC should get the sack

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In other words, those who obey the doctrines of the church only. A practising gay (I do so love the delicate terminology of theists) is eternally damned, no matter what other good she does.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. (Lumen Gentium 16)

            The minimum is you have to do is to strive to obey your conscience. It is not even necessary that you succeed.

          • Jennifer Mann

            Kevin--
            Right (thanks). That is what I meant. I knew this doctrine. I was interested in your view....which is this...ok got it......My point was the whole "accept" thing.
            Now do you interpret this arrive at "explicit knowledge" to include people who hear the gospel but deny Jesus anyway??
            Are you thinking there is a loophole?? Kinda like doubting Thomas and touching Jesus--that was the way Thomas came to believe.
            I thought about that loophole--- but most if not all mainstream Christians and Catholic doctrine site the Holy Spirit as our proof and if after hearing the gospel we deny Jesus we have not listened to the Holy Spirit's prompting. Thus we go to hell.
            The way mainstream Catholic/Christian view it is that it is fine for people who don't know about Jesus--they gotta chance--but if you tell those people about Jesus and they deny Him--they haven't a chance.
            Makes me very uncomfortable that Christians go out and spread the gospel. Jesus commanded it yes--but wouldn't a good Christian risk their afterlife to protect many others???
            If I went out and preached to a whole tribe (lets say) who had never heard of Jesus or the gospel and only 50% accepted Jesus then I would in essence be responsible for the other 50% going to hell.
            AND finally, if this "explicit knowledge" was once interpreted as a loophole--when?? by whom?? what scripture verse (s)???
            I have never heard/studied that it was......even Christian/Catholic Universalists don't site any verses that would lend to "explicit knowledge" as a loophole to the ones who deny Jesus. I would sure like it if the loophole was there.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Jennifer, you wrote:
            If you tell those people about Jesus and they deny Him--they haven't a chance.

            That might be true if your were the best evangelizer in human history. As you said, even Thomas did not believe Peter and the others until he saw and touched the wounds of the risen Christ.

            Just because we speak does not mean people can hear.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Apologies that this is a bit of a tangent to this thread, but here is an interesting tidbit. This will be old news to some but it was only pointed out to me recently: the Gospel of John is (pace Caravagio) silent as to whether Thomas actually did reach out and touch the risen Christ. All we know is that he was invited to believe, and the invitation moved him to faith. Thomas may have been no better off than we are today with regard to empirical justification of his faith. (Apparently the commentary around this point has traditionally had a stronger development in Protestantism, but our priest invited us to reflect on it in a recent homily.)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think we are among those “Blessed . . . who have not seen and have believed.” Yet we, too, like doubting St. Thomas, need evidence that Christ has risen from the dead.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What is your evidence? And why is it evidence? And why do you truest it rather than evidence for Ganesh or Shiva?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            To the limited extent that I understand Ganesh and Shiva, I do trust them as intimations of the Infinite. However (again, to the best of my understanding), Ganesh and Shiva stand outside of time and so are silent on the connection between the Infinite and finite human history. They come from a tradition that did not recognize the linearity and direction of time, so in a sense they cannot offer a connection to history. They don't seem to attempt anything nearly so brazen as the provision of an insanely intimate bridge between finite, particular, messy human history and the Infinite. That is why, while I recognize truth in those traditions, I do not recognize the fullness of truth in those traditions. I remain open to learning more, of course.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm curious: isn't the christian god also supposed to stand outside of time? If so, why doesn't the same argument apply? And what exactly do you mean by "the connection between the infinte and the finite human history?"
            And yes. We can certainly discuss Hindu theology. I'm not an expert, of course.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Let me generalize a bit, because I am uncomfortable making specific statements about Ganesh and Shiva. But generally speaking, what I am saying is that I am open to seeing Hindu deities as revelations of the Christian God who stands outside of time. What I am saying about the connection to history is ... the Hindu gods don't seem to provide any. The stories told about them are ahistorical, in the sense that they are unsupported by any historical evidence and also in the sense that they make no attempt to provide a narrative of human history.

            There is, I believe, a very strong sense with certain Hindu deities that they are intimately present to us in this world, and that I am open to viewing as an intimation of the Christ (not as an intimation of the historical Jesus, but as an intimation of the Christ, through whom all things were made). I just think that those intimations of the Christ can't possibly be as full a revelation of the Christ as the real human who was the Christ.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I've been thinking about how to better articulate this. I'm sure others have done it better in many places, but I like trying to do it in my own voice:

            The Christian story contains some blend of myth and history. Where one ends and the other begins seems very difficult to say, maybe impossible to say with regard to some aspects of the story. This gospel blend of myth and history is, to me, a providentially selected genre for describing the union of the infinite / timeless and the finite / historical). But, whatever historical octane one rates the gospels with, the intent of the gospels is clearly to describe very specific, particular events that involve real historical figures, including you and me (We are the gentiles in all the nations to whom the gospel was to be proclaimed. The gentiles in the story are not metaphors for us. They ARE us ... or rather, "They ARE we", since the verb "to be" doesn't take a direct object, but I digress ...). In the Bible, history has reality and direction and particularity. It is not just the wheel of life occurring over and over. Pure myth may have some genesis in the events of the past, but it only really attempts to communicate timeless truth. It doesn't take any interest in particular, messy, historical details. It doesn't involve this strange intimate weaving together of the historical and the timeless.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            “The tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered empty by a group of women on the Sunday following the crucifixion.” It is common for people to venerate the tomb of a great man, as John the Baptist’s disciples did. Even today people visit the tomb of Abraham Lincoln. From the time these women discovered no remains and John and Peter confirmed this, no followers of Christ have made the remains of Christ an object of veneration or even implied there were remains to be found.

            There was no expectation in Judaism that the messiah would rise from the dead and none of Jesus’ disciples suspected he would. Yet, “Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ.” He appeared to Mary Magdalena at the tomb, to the disciples in the upper room and in Galilee, to 500 disciples all at once, and last of all to Paul on his way to Damascus.

            “As a result of the preaching of these disciples, which had the resurrection at its center, the Christian church was established and grew.” The Resurrection of Christ is at the very heart of the Gospel message that the apostles and disciples both preached and laid down their lives for. [1]

            [1] These three quotes are from http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection. The commentary is my own.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm curious about the third point (I have comments about them all, but we have to start somewhere). Why does the fact that the story of christ contains a resurrection narrative constitute evidence? I'm not entirely understanding why you consider that evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The apostles and disciples saw themselves as witnesses of the story of Christ. The heart of this story is the resurrection. On their own admission, the story was of no value without that detail. So first, they thought it was true.

            Second, many or most of them were put to death for professing this story. They said they saw the risen Christ and were willing to die rather than unprofess it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            OK, so two points here: the apostles believed the story to be true. Do we have good evidence for their martyrdom? The followers of Mohammed were willing to die for their cause; why do you consider a willingness to die for something evidence that the something is true? According to you, any Mulsim who dies for his faith is deluded. Why can't we make the same argument about Christian martyrs?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The crux of the matter is not the willingness to die for a cause. The apostles claimed to be witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. The parallel--if there was one--would be Muslims willing to die for their witnessing the angel Gabriel dictating the Koran to Muhammad.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            More precisely, the apostles are claimed (by someone else) to have been witnesses to the risen christ - NOT the resurrection. The Muslim equivalent might be that they had seen the actual manuscript that Gabriel dictated.
            And the stories we have of their deaths are all, so far as I know, apochryphal.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There would not be anything special about the manuscript because it would just be paper and ink. There certainly would be something special about a resurrected and glorified body.

            According to Acts, the deacon Stephen was stoned to death and James was executed by Herod.

            I think apochryphal is not the right word for the rest. They are based on oral traditions. There is no reason to doubt Paul was executed in Rome. He was brought there in chains.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Of course everything in Acts is accurate and true.

            You do know that the consensus of scholars date Acts to the second or third decade of the second century.

            The alleged martyrdom of Stephen in Acts is anti-Jewish rhetoric with a religio-political agenda and he was stoned for blasphemous anti temple preaching, although the narrative displays his reverence for the Law, not for refusing to denounce Jesus.

            "Perfect Martyr: The Stoning of Stephen and the Construction of Christian Identity"

          • David Nickol

            You do know that the consensus of scholars date Acts to the second or third decade of the second century.

            I would say that the consensus view puts the composition of Acts somewhere around 80 to 85, based on the discussion (pp. 51-55) by Joseph A. Fitzmyer in The Anchor Bible volume The Acts of the Apostles. Or perhaps it's wiser to avoid claiming there is a consensus at all and acknowledge that there are arguments for both earlier and later dates.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Sorry, it should read...

            You do know that the growing consensus of scholars date Acts to the second or third decade of the second century.

            Certainly later than 100 AD and as late as 150 AD.

            Acts was long thought to be a first-century document, and its author Luke—a disciple of Paul—an eyewitness or acquaintance of eyewitnesses. This view is no longer tenable in light of new findings, say scholars involved in the study. According to the forthcoming report, the author of Acts relied on literary sources like Josephus, Homer, Vergil, and a Greek translation of the Bible known as the Septuagint to craft an epic of Christian beginnings. Acts was most likely written in the early second century. It cannot be used as a reliable source of information on the apostle Paul or the first-century Christian movement.

            http://www.westarinstitute.org/programs/scholars-challenge-first-century-date-book-acts/

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And the nice point here is that for the purposes of my argument, it doesn't matter at all.

            Religions offer me a sacred text, traditions, theology, and martyrdom stories.

            Why pick one religion over another?

            Kevin seems to think there is something unique about Catholicism, but I can't get him to articulate what that is.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Here is a half hour podcast you might be interested in, or maybe not?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Oral traditions are simply long-term telephone chains. We have no accurate information at all on how any of the apostles died. If you're basing your position on the martyrdom of eyewitnesses, you should probably be sure they really were martyrs, don't you think?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            There would? The vague descriptions don't mention anything odd about the resurrected body. He ate and drank as I recall. Looked normal.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Didn't you just point out that more blessed are those who have not seen and believed? How does that play into this?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't understand your question.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            To clarify my point below, what I as an atheist am trying to understand is the evidence.
            All religions offer the same basic kinds of evidence: sacred texts, miracle stories, tales of martyrdom, sophisticated theology, personal experiences, etc. To the unbelievers, there's really nothing to distinguish them. So what I'm trying to find out is why you consider your "evidence" better than any other religion's "evidence".
            Does that help explain my questions?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            All religions offer the same basic kinds of evidence: sacred texts, miracle stories, tales of martyrdom, sophisticated theology, personal experiences, etc.

            Atheists make this kind of claim all the time. Is it true? All religions?

            Catholic "evidence" is unique in this regard in that it argues its case based on what it holds in common with its audience. In the case of atheists, the only thing we have in common is reason.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's not at all clear. Could you clarify? And we make the claim because it's true; all religions also claim their evidence is special.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ha! It is not clear what is not clear! You have made the claim that all religions use the same kind of evidence. I think that is a sweeping generalization that cannot hold up to scrutiny, but since it is your claim, I'll leave the burden of proof on you.

            I wrote:
            Catholic "evidence" is unique in this regard in that it argues its case based on what it holds in common with its audience. In the case of atheists, the only thing we have in common is reason.

            To expand, the Catholic approach to evangelizing non-Catholics is to use what both sides already accept as evidence. It is assumed that reason is always accepted by both parties. So, with Jews, Catholics can argue for Catholicism over Judaism based on the Old Testament. Catholics can argue with Muslims based on the concept of monotheism. Catholics hold that there is some truth and goodness in practically every religion (maybe not the Aztec religion). Catholics can argue with atheists on the basis of reason. So, the evidence varies based on what the other party accepts as evidence.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm sorry, I missed it. You're still not clear about what's unique about Christian evidence for the truth of its claims. The religions that proselytize all use pretty much the same approach.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Another sweeping and unsupported generalization . . . the religions that proselytize.

            Catholicism uses every kind of evidence that is appropriate for its claims. For example, historical evidence and arguments for historical claims, scientific evidence for scientific claims (that is, scientistic claims made against Catholicism), anthropological and sociological evidence for its claims about the family and society, ethical arguments for its moral teachings, and so on.

            So, there is no reason why Catholic evidence for its claims would have to be unique.

            Maybe the way to clarify this is to compare two comparable doctrines, one from Catholicism and another from some other religion, and then examine the evidence for their truth.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But you're the one who claimed the Catholic evidence was unique. You've back off that, apparently.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think you are the one demanding that Catholic evidence would have to be unique to distinguish it for unbelievers from other religions.

            I wrote that "Catholic 'evidence' is unique in this regard in that it argues its case based on what it holds in common with its audience."

            I also wrote, "So, there is no reason why Catholic evidence for its claims would have to be unique."

            I don't think those two statements are contradictory. Catholic apologetics is unique in the way it treats evidence (it uses the evidence or method its audience accepts), but there is no reason other religions and atheists could not do the same.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It certainly appears that you have directly contradicted yourself. Is catholic "evidence" unique or not?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I really don't know what you are asking.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            To explain yourself. Do you consider the "evidence" Catholicism offers for its truth claims to be "unique"? If so, why? If not, why did you claim it was?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But that's not the point I'm making. Let's look at a few religions:

            Judaism: sacred text, miracles, martyrs, sophisticated theology..

            Christianity: sacred text, miracles, martyrs, sophisticated theology

            Hinduism: sacred text, miracles, martyrs, insanely sophisticated theology

            Buddhism: sacred texts, miracles, martyrs, sophisticated theology

            Islam: sacred texts, miracles, martyrs, sophisticated theology

            What part of this are you having trouble with?

            And by the way, Catholicism has no scientific evidence that supports Catholicism.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            When you start examining what sacred text, miracle, martyr, and theology mean in these different religions you find that they mean sometimes wildly different things.

            "Catholicism has no scientific evidence that supports Catholicism." What kind of scientific evidence do you expect to find to validate Catholic beliefs or practices?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You're the one who made the claim about scientific evidence; I assumed you weren't simply making that up. As for your other point - it certainly doesn't appear so. No religion makes identical claims after all; but all they can offer as EVIDENCE is the same stuff.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay, I wrote "scientific evidence for scientific claims." (1) If you claim that science disproves some aspect of the faith, the Church can use science to show that your claim is not scientific. (2) If the Church makes a claim that a certain healing is scientifically unexplainable, she uses scientific testimony to back up that claim. (3) When Fr. Spitzer argues that findings of modern physics serve as evidence in a philosophical argument for the existence of God, then those findings can be verified by scientists whether or not they are valid according to modern physics.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            1) Science disproved the existence of Adam and Eve. The Church response was NOT to "use science to show the claim was not scientific". The Church repsonse was to change the story to be untestable scientifically.
            2) Scientific testimony is NOT a scientific claim. It is an admission of current ignorance.
            3) Spitzer's failing is not in the scientific evidence, but in the argument. The same scientific evidence can be used in arguments AGAINST the existence of God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know enough about your example for #1 to discuss it. My point in #1 is that when people claim science says x against Catholicism, an appeal to what science actually does rules out that claim.

            #2 the point is that medical evidence is carefully weighed to rule out a natural explanation. The scientific evidence does not prove it is a miracle, nor could it ever.

            #3 you'll have to take up with Spitzer. He argues against what you claim on philosophical grounds. Have you actually read his book?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But I just gave you an example: science says "no Adam and Eve"; when we appeal to the science, it shows the church's claim is false. You claimed people used an appeal to the scientific evidence to refute the claim, but that's false. Every time the church has been shown to be wrong on a point of science, it has retreated to non-scientific claims.
            2) Sure. But that's not using science; that's a simple god-of-the-gaps fallacy: science can't explain it RIGHT NOW, therefore MIRACLE!
            3) Yes, I have read Spitzer's book. It's a rehash of Aquinas using more modern details; it suffers all the same problems Aquinas has always suffered from.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            3. Which book of Spitzer have your read? Which particular of the five arguments presented do you think is just a rehash of Aquinas?

            By the way, have you read Feser's Aquinas? He does a nice job of "unhashing" modern people's misunderstanding of Aquinas.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy All of them. Spitzer's book contains, as I recall, no NEW arguments for god; he just offeres more current data to support the usual cosmological, etc. arguments. It's been at least two years since I read it.
            I have read Feser's Aquinas. I don't care for Feser personally - I think he's a raging homophobe with anger management issues - but it's clear enough. Not sophisticated philosophically, but well-written.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What are your qualifications to judge them? Have you actually engaged any of these kinds of folks?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ah! The old, "I don't like or aren't willing to take the time to engage your arguments so I'll claim you don't have the credentials to talk about" response. A pity. I thought we were making progress.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I didn't claim you don't have credentials. I'm asking you what they are. Either you are a professional philosopher, or you have studied philosophy on your own enough to judge philosophers and philosophies, or you are (like me) just doing your best to understand it all.

            How do you define "making progress"?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I thought we might actually be having an interesting discussion. But when folks play the credentials game it usually means they're out of arguments.

            Oh, well.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            2. The Church does not do what you say it does with
            medical miracles. a) a person is in dire straits. b) somebody prays to a particular person. c) the sick or injured person recovers. d) the event under c is extensively investigated. e) theologians examine whether it is reasonable to link the person prayed to to the person who recovered. f) the pope declares it a miracle if he wants to.

            The entire process and the conclusion is really only of interest to Catholics.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I agree with your last point - no one else cares.
            And you're leaving things out - the incident must not have a scientific explanation; or are you changing what you said earlier?
            Has the church investigated all the incidents where a person in dire straits prays to a particular person and dies anyway? Without that kind of research, there's not way to distinguish your "miracles" from "statistical flukes".
            It appears to me that the church is singularly undemanding in its standards for miracles; I understand the JP II even eliminated the Devil's Advocate so he could fast-track more saints - primarily because he thought that having more saints was a good thing for people. That hardly sounds like pressure to only promote genuine workers of miracles.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            D includes complex matters that might run to thousands of pages of testimony and evidence.

            Everyone dies and I'd hazard practically every Catholic in dire straits prays to someone so your demand that the Catholic Church investigate every one of these cases is a little unreasonable.

            Your claim about the inability to distinguish between a miracle and a mere fluke without such a study is unwarranted.

            I cannot find any authoritative source that discusses the reason JPII changed the canonization process. One reason he canonized so many saints was that he canonized some big groups of martyred Catholics, for example in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. What evidence do you have that miracles are being fudged now?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why is it theists never seem to read the actual posts? I never said miracles were being fudged, now did I? Nope. And you've just made am point for me: if every catholic in extremist prays to somebody, then there are excellent odds that spontaneous emissions might occur. If course, the fact that spontaneous remissions occur the world over also demonstrates that these probably aren't miracles.

            Do you have any actual evidence?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Actual evidence . . .

            I wrote an OP for SN on this about the cure worked by St. Josemaria Escriva.

            There is also the post on SN by Jacalyn Duffin, the agnostic hematologist and historian of science.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'll read your post. Though spontaneous remission generally fails as evidence for reasons I've already given.

          • Ignorant Amos

            See Proof #7

            http://godisimaginary.com/i7.htm

            A simple experiment

            If you are a Christian who believes in the power of prayer, here is a very simple experiment that will show you something very interesting about your faith.

            Take a coin out of your pocket. Now pray sincerely to Ra:

            Dear Ra, almighty sun god, I am going to flip this ordinary coin 50 times, and I am asking you to cause it to land heads-side-up all 50 times. In Ra's name I pray, Amen.
            Now flip the coin. Chances are that you won't get past the fifth or sixth flip and the coin will land tails.
            What does this mean? Most people would look at this data and conclude that Ra is imaginary. We prayed to Ra, and Ra did nothing. We can prove that Ra is imaginary (at least in the sense of prayer-answering ability) by using statistical analysis. If we flip the coin thousands of times, praying to Ra each time, we will find that the coin lands heads or tails in exact correlation with the normal laws of probability. Ra has absolutely no effect on the coin no matter how much we pray. Even if we find a thousand of Ra's most faithful believers and ask them to do the praying/flipping, the results will be the same. Therefore, as rational people, we conclude that Ra is imaginary. We look at Ra in the same way that we look at Leprechauns, Mermaids, Santa and so on. We know that people who believe in Ra are delusional.

            Now I want you to try the experiment again, but this time I want you to pray to Jesus Christ instead of Ra. Pray sincerely to Jesus like this:

            Dear Jesus, I know that you exist and I know that you hear and answer prayers as you promise in the Bible. I am going to flip this ordinary coin 50 times, and I am asking you to cause it to land heads-side-up all 50 times. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
            Now flip the coin. Once again, after the fifth or sixth flip, the coin will land tails.
            If we flip the coin thousands of times, praying to Jesus each time, we will find that the coin lands heads or tails in exact correlation with the normal laws of probability. It is not like there are two laws of probability -- one for Christians who pray and the other for non-Christians. There is only one law of probability because prayers have zero effect. Jesus has no effect on our planet no matter how much we pray. We can prove that conclusively using statitical analysis.

            If you believe in God, watch what is happening inside your mind right now. The data is absolutely identical in both experiments. With Ra you looked at the data rationally and concluded that Ra is imaginary. But with Jesus... something else will happen. In your mind, you are already coming up with a thousand rationalizations to explain why Jesus did not answer your prayers:

            It is not his will
            He doesn't have time
            I didn't pray the right way
            I am not worthy
            I do not have enough faith
            I cannot test the Lord like this
            It is not part of Jesus' plan for me
            And on and on and on...

            One rationalization that you may find yourself developing is particularly interesting. You may say to yourself: “Well, of course Jesus doesn’t answer me when I pray about a coin toss, because it is too trivial." Where did this rationalization come from? If you read what Jesus says about prayer in the Bible (see this proof), Jesus does not ever say, "don't pray to me about coin tosses." Jesus clearly says he will answer your prayers, and he puts no boundaries on what you may pray for. You invented this rationalization out of thin air.
            You are an expert at creating rationalizations for Jesus. The reason you are an expert is because Jesus does not answer any of your prayers (see this proof). The reason why Jesus does not answer any of your prayers is because Jesus and God are imaginary.

          • Ignorant Amos
          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yes, Matthew 7:7, Matthew 17:20, Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:24, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:19 and James 5:15-16 are INCREDIBLY difficult to reconcile with cancer, war, poverty, domestic violence, and Justin Bieber.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            1. What has the Church explicitly changed about Adam and Eve in light of the study of genetics? People have written about it (here is, I'm told, an important example:
            http://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/papers/kemp-monogenism.pdf) but the Church has been silent as far as I know.

            Please support or at least explain your claim that Every time the Church has been found to be wrong on a point of science she retreats to non-scientific claims. What are examples of the Church being wrong and then making a non-scientific
            claim?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The church has retreated from its original position (the singular biological parents of all humans) to a position that Adam and Eve were the first to have souls. A clear retreat from a provable scientific claim to an unprovable non-scientific claim.
            Oh, lord, where to begin. Galileo? Bruno? Age of the earth?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Please show your evidence that the Church has retreated from her original position on Adam and Eve? I just said above that the Church has officially said nothing recently, although some theologians have.

            "Oh, lord" is not an argument.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Never said it was. Let's start here: http://www.catholicreview.org/article/work/catholic-church-has-evolving-answer-on-reality-of-adam-and-eve. Unless you don't believe the opinions of a catholic priest?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I looked at this earlier today. I already granted that theologians have said things. A priest writing an OP does not constitute the Church saying something.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Then look to Humani Generis. 36 & 37 are even in conflict. When I have access to my files, I'll look up earlier quotes.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are not using your thinking cap. You said every time the church is proven wrong based on something discovered by modern science, she retreats to something non-scientific.

            Humani Generis would be something that can be claimed has been proven wrong, but the Church has not reverted to a new doctrine or explanation. No such reversion has taken place.

          • Ignorant Amos

            . A priest writing an OP does not constitute the Church saying something.

            You wouldn't think it reading some of the OP's and comments here...or is it a case of cherry picking for purpose again?

            So, what does the Church say...exactly?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So the good Father is lying about the church's history?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. He can offer his opinions like you or I and he may have a lot more warrant to do so, but he is only speaking for himself.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So in your opinion his opinion is wrong, or is he just plain wrong?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So you claim his comments are simply wrong?

            Council of Trent on Adam's Sin

            Humani Generis 36 & 37

            And if course... Paul.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            (1) He is quoting Magisterial documents. (2) He is interpreting them. (3) He is presenting his opinion of what science says (4) He is making judgments or offering opinions about how his interpretation of the Magisterim's teaching and his understanding of science should interrelate.

            He is speaking for himself on (2) - (4).

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But is he wrong? You're claiming a priest of the church and a historian is either a liar or a fool?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is a bizarre forced choice you are insisting on.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Who would have thought such a thing possible? Or, or, or maybe not....who knows the truth of the one true Church?

          • Ignorant Amos

            I feel a fudge session coming on.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's what it's looking like. Suddenly we have calls for credentials and refusal to accept what a priest says about the history of the church's position.

          • David Nickol

            This, in my opinion, is exactly right. I hope Kevin doesn't disagree.

            He [Franciscan Father Michael D. Guinan, professor of Old Testament, Semitic languages and biblical spirituality at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif. ] added that “the question of biological origins is a scientific one; and, if science shows that there is no evidence of monogenism and there is lots of evidence for polygenism, then a Catholic need have no problem accepting that.”

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Well, some religions emphasize some aspects more than others.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree, faith needs to be based on belief that is reasonable. And for belief to be reasonable, there must be evidence to support it. But the evidence isn't what moves us, or Thomas, to faith, the evidence is just what makes the belief reasonable. (Sorry I am sort of just talking to myself here ... just trying to articulate it in my own words.)

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, no. That makes sense, in a way. My observation is that faith, the sensus divinitatus of Calvin; the "intuition to the divine" is simply a characteristic of some people. It's not correlated with intelligence, or age or race or anything else. Different people have it to different degrees, and its strength seems to vary over time. Religions are complexes of interrelated narratives humans have developed to explain that sensus
            The point is that the religions don't particularly matter; the one you have is the one you grew up with (with exceptions and changes).
            To those who possess the sensus, evidence confirms it - evidence that would utterly irrelevant to anyone else. A Muslim would find Kevin's evidences laughable or unconvincing.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Not sure if you were suggesting otherwise, but I have, if anything, the opposite of the faith that I grew up with.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not necessarily relevant. My point is that people need narratives that fit; in general, that's the one you're raised with, but some people need alternatives. Were you rasied Christian?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I suppose I was raised, if anything, according to the perennial philosophy. In our house, Jesus was considered one spiritual genius among many (probably in third place, behind the Buddha and Joseph Campbell :-), but certainly not God Incarnate.

            That perennial philosophy was presented against a backdrop of disdain for all but the left-most fringe of Catholicism.

            On the other hand, all of my grandparents were, so to say, conventional Catholics, and my fondest memories are of the grandmother who was the most Catholic of the bunch, so I would have to admit to being predisposed to it an emotional level.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm not sure I see how that is the complete opposite of the religion you now espouse. Your background soaked up Catholicism. In what ways do you consider it opposite?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            As you indicated at the outset, I'm not sure this is all very relevant or worth pursuing ... but since you asked:

            At a cognitive level, in terms of the words that my parents actually spoke to me, it was the opposite of Catholicism. In their view, if there was one religion that definitely didn't have it right, it was Catholicism. And they knew, as ex-Catholics.

            But you are right, in a very ex-Catholic way, I was soaked in the language of Catholicism. No matter what words my parents may have spoken, Catholicism was an inescapable part of my cultural heritage. Pre-cognitively, it was not the opposite of Catholicism.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So you have a "Catholic background" even if your role models had a negative attitude. Interesting. I would have far more surprised if you had been raised Buddhist or Jain.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Just to clarify here, my up vote was for the first paragraph only :-)

            I would definitely disagree that evidence only confirms one's pre-existing sense of the divine. Evidence also informs it, even forcing radical revisions at times. At the very least, evidence can force a radical reinterpretation, or re-articulation of the faith that one has.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Really? Do you have any good examples?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I can try to offer a brief overview, though I don't expect it will be convincing to you.

            I was quite fond of, and quite happy with, the perennial philosophy approach that my parents raised me with. It fit my pre-conceived thought patterns to a T and it helped me to make sense of my life. In particular, the perennial philosophy is very consonant with the sense of American democracy that I was raised with, where everyone's opinion is sort of equally valid. The notion that Jesus might be God, what with all the talk of "Lord" and "King" was repugnant to those sensibilities.

            To my dismay, both historical and theological evidence eventually convinced me that neither the historical Jesus nor the Jesus of faith were in any way reconcilable with the perennial philosophy. I had to either promote Jesus or kick him out of my superheroes club. I chose the former. It was troubling to me at first. Not so much now.

            As far as cognitive bias, it's there for all of us, but for what it's worth, I've made a good career as a Ph.D. statistician working in the biomedical sciences. People pay me pretty good money to help them avoid finding patterns in the data that aren't really there. I'm open to learning more, but I think I have a pretty good grasp of how that works.

          • Jennifer Mann

            Kevin,
            So then are you answering that you interpret "explicet knowledge" in the above doctrine as denyers of Jesus or people who can't hear as you said, will still have a chance at Heaven?

            On what Bible versus is "Explicit Knowledge " based on?

            Who interpreted it to mean doubting Thomas' of future days could still get into Heaven? What church fathrr?

            When was it a mainsream view ? How come it isn't today?

            Thanks.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Jennifer, what religion are you? If you are a Protestant, what denomination? If I know that, I can better answer your question.

          • Jennifer Mann

            I am a searcher. I also study Christianity and Judaism from the historical and scholarly secular prespective with a minor in the religious prespective.
            My family was both non practicing Protestant and Catholic. I have a great affinity to St Anthony of Padua.
            But I don't know how that will help you answer my questions as they regard your "explicit knowledge"post ......your beliefs on that..... the Bible references and interpretation on that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your beliefs are relevant, since one Catholic tradition or approach is to engage people based on what they already believe to be true. In your case it would not be the Old Testament (since you don't already believe that to be God's word) or the Christian Bible (for the same reason).

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's not a particularly catholic approach. All proslytizers operate that way. Except the utterly inept ones, I suppose.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is the approach Thomas Aquinas used in his Summa Contra Gentiles.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            First, that's not actually true. Second, it's not peculiar to Catholics. Everybody used it except morons.

          • David Nickol

            Assuming there is a God and there is eternal reward and punishment, it is God who judges people. God doesn't need to read the Bible or the Catechism of the Catholic Church to decide who (if anyone) goes to hell and who doesn't. The Church doesn't make the rules and then make loopholes to the rules. God is not a fundamentalist, forced against his better judgment to follow scripture to the letter as anyone, including the Catholic Church, interprets it. According to what I was taught in the first grade, God made us to know, love, and serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in heaven. It is impossible to believe that a God whose intention that was set up the rules of salvation and damnation so that missionaries who bring the Gospel to those who have never heard it before are responsible for more of those they evangelize going to hell than would have been the case had they never heard of Jesus. God is not like a bureaucrat who has to say, "I'm sorry. I'd like to help you. But rules are rules."

          • Jennifer Mann

            David,
            Most of your belief isn't taught in main stream Catholic or Christian churches. Note that mainstream is not Fundalmentalist.
            The Bible and its rules are the foundation for those churches and depending on their interpretations many loopholes have been created.
            Loopholes are reasons for the mainstream churches to change their interpretation, even in cases where the Bible clearly states otherwise. One of the greatest loophole catalysts is the interpretation that God reveals Himself overtime....even tho the Bible states God is same yesterday todsy and tomorrow...but that's another story.

            Exaples::: In the early days of the church (Catholic) those fathers interpreted that bsbies who arent babtized go to hell when they die....that didnt sit well with parishioners and possibly some priests so voila purgatory was created.
            We no longer hold slaves.. Woman don't have to cover their heads in Catholic church anymore. I could go on.

            However, the mainstream Catholic and Christian view from the Bible is that if you deny Jesus as your savior you go to hell. Again, you must know about the Bible and Jesus in order to deny Him. (Also you must turn from other sin). You can't deny Christ if a missionary never tells you about Him, as I said.
            The mainstream church follows the Bible as the inspired word of God. God has rules.
            Now my post wondered if that doctrine ...Kevin posted...was interpreted by fathers as a loophole for people who can't reason Jesus is the way....
            ..I can possibly interpret that to mean that because the person who just can't believe in Jesus isn't denying Him because if that person met Jesus in the flesh with his frieds around and touched Jesus he would believe.

            It would be nice if what you say about God is true....and I hope all of us go to a better place when we die. But this view is a Spiritual New Age type of view. That opens up a whole new can of worms. Spiritualism is a compelation of many views and of interpretations of different religions that aren't the scholarly mainstream intrrpretations.

            So it brings me back to one of my main questions. How do we know what religion or non religion is right? The major religions have books and rules and interpretions....the Spiritualists have many religions and non religions rules and interpretations they interpret in their own way.

            Why would God not make things clearer if so many souls are at risk of damnation? Then I look at people like you who's beliefs are nicer than the mainstream God of many religions. I think where does this compassion come from...surely God...and His compassion must be even better. Then I look at all the suffering in this world
            .....made by God if He made us and our capacity to do evil....
            .....made by God if He made the world then He made natural disasters.....
            ......made by God if He made diseases and deformity....
            ......made by God if He made the devil and let's him run amuk....
            I see people working every day to ease or end suffering.....surely God could do better so why doesn't He.....

            and so I keep searching.

  • Steven Carr

    What Heaven?

    There is not the slightest piece of evidence that Heaven exists.

    It is something that is just made up.

    You may as well ask 'Will we have free will in Narnia?'

    • Lionel Nunez

      These types of posts are the reason Catholics who read the comments don't like to respond; they offend reasonable intellectual discourse.

      • Steven Carr

        Is it supposed to be a secret that Heaven is something that was made up by people?

        Are we not allowed to spill the beans?

        • Lionel Nunez

          If you figure out why any Christian, who knows anything, would have a problem with the statement you made; then you'll know why only 4% of the population is atheist. I'll give you a hint too; it doesn't have to do with fact you're sure heaven is a myth; just about everyone is emotionally indifferent to it.

          • Steven Carr

            So your inability to produce any evidence for Heaven, even when it is pointed out that your beliefs are made up, simply provides more evidence that Heaven and Hell are made up.

            Only 4% of the population is atheist? No wonder the world is full of evil.....

            It's the vast majority that are spoiling it for us tiny minority.

  • Slocum Moe

    This is stupid. Nobody knows what happens after we die. Whether or not there is a heaven and hell and what the nature of our being might be after we die and what the actual mechanics and rules of any afterlife might be.

    An afterlife is something persons should only concern themselves with if they have died and find themselves in it. Otherwise it is not a valid concern nor is it a functional part of the before death Christian experience. Live in faith, love, hope and charity.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      "This is stupid" is not a legitimate SN reply.

      • David Nickol

        "This is stupid" is not a legitimate SN reply.

        Kevin,

        I agree that there is a more civil way to make the point, but it seems to me that what we read in Akin's post is largely conjecture on his part. The question of whether or not we will have free will in heaven is a good one, provided you believe all the things that Akin presupposes (Catholic teaching), but I don't believe Akin's answer to the question is anything more than his own personal conjecture. He says,

        Is there a way to reconcile the value he sets on it in this life with the fact that we will not be able to choose evil in heaven?

        I think there is . . .

        So far as I know, when Akin says, "I think there is . . . ." he is speaking solely for himself. He doesn't cite any Church documents or any theologians. I don't claim to know everything the Catholic Church teaches, but I don't think the Church teaches that going to heaven (or hell) is like committing to a marriage, and once done, you have definitively exercised your free will and it is no longer an issue.

        So, as with many posts on Strange Notions, I don't know what this one has to do with dialogue between Catholics and atheists. It is a conjecture that is based solidly on assumptions and Catholic teachings that atheists can't possibly accept, and the conjecture itself isn't really Catholic teaching. It may be compatible with Catholic teaching, but it is not itself Catholic teaching.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That's stupid, David. (Just kidding!)

          Actually it is very hard not to write stupid things, since thinking and writing are so hard. And some things seem stupid that are not, because the reader falls short.

  • David Nickol

    Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?

    I just said this in a very long message, and now I'll try to say it in a short one.

    First, this is a question that cannot possibly be of any interest to atheists. Second, Jimmy Akin's answer is his own personal conjecture which, while it may be compatible with Catholic teaching, is not actually something that the Church teaches (as far as I know).

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      More than conjecture. But less than doctrine. It's inference from the given principles, but there's no Nihil Obstat on it (literally or figuratively). Not to detract from Jimmy's project, he writes a lot of great stuff, but he isn't the Magesterium.

      • David Nickol

        I occasionally read Jimmy Akin on his own site, and he can be interesting. But it seems to me his intent is usually to make Catholic thought plausible to people who are already Catholics and might be doubtful or confused.

        I suppose it would be more than conjecture if I wrote an article titled "Will Jimmy Durante Have a Big Nose After the Resurrection of the Dead?" Our bodily imperfections will not persist in glorified bodies, which is a belief well grounded in Catholic thought. But is Jimmy Durante's big nose an imperfection, or an essential quality? That is only partly facetious. I once read a very thoughtful comment by a man whose young son had Down syndrome. He said, on the one hand, that if all that was disabling about Down syndrome were to miraculously disappear in his son, he guessed he would be pleased. But on the other hand, would it still be the same boy he knew and loved? Many of the claims of religion raise at least as many questions as they purport to answer.

        • Geena Safire

          I wonder if that man has read "Flowers for Algernon"?

      • Geena Safire

        Magesterium

        Magisterium

        there's no Nihil Obstat on it

        Nihil Obstat (nothing stands in the way) is a message of approval, not of disallowance.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          Thank you, and yes, I was saying no Magisterial approval has been given. Also, no disapproval has been shown. For what that's worth.

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    A: if god has the power to prevent evil, and wants to prevent it, he would. Since evil occurs, god must not exist, not want to eliminate evil, or be incapable.

    T: actually he is able, and willing to prevent evil, but not at the cost of violating our free will. Eliminating the possibility of evil would destroy free will.

    A: what about heaven, the saints, the angels, there is free will there but no possibility of evil.

    T: yes, of course God is capable of maintaining our free will but eliminating evil

    A: then why doesn't he always do this?

    Your move T.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      A: If god has the power to prevent evil, and wants to prevent it, he
      would.

      KA: One way God shows his total goodness is by giving maximal importance to persons (angels and men), so that what they do can be really good or really evil. God honors this gift by never taking it away. If he would prevent them from doing evil, or even not create them because of the evil things he knew they would perform, then instead of love being the major principle of God's action, prevention of evil would be. Evil would have triumphed over good before creation even got set in motion.

      • Geena Safire

        However, Kevin, when people do evil, they do take away the free will of the people they impact by death, dismemberment, brain injury, brain damage due to starvation, etc. If God allows that, knowing it will happen, it is God's responsibility -- every bit of suffering is on him.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You are assuming there is no victory over evil.

          Moral evil (on the part of angels and men) results in suffering. God redeems through suffering out of love. God associates all suffering with his redemptive suffering. So the thing which caused the suffering is overcome by its effect.

      • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

        So before man and angels were created, God's love was less than it is now? So he allows some children to be raped to death because it allows him to love maximally?

        If taking away the possibility of evil is something God would never do, why does he allow this state of affairs in heaven? People commit to God all the time on earth, yet this by no means immunizes them from evil. However, if killed by a freak accident just after this, they are immunized.

        It doesn't hold up. If god really was interested in our well being he would act like it.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          BGA
          So before man and angels were created, God's love was less than it is now?

          KA
          I don't understand the question. God does not change. His love is the same before creation and after.

          BGA
          So he allows some children to be raped to death because it allows him to love maximally?

          KA
          God gives human beings real power, which is one of the things that makes this life both terribly and beautifully real.

          BGA
          If taking away the possibility of evil is something God would never do, why does he allow this state of affairs in heaven?

          KA
          In heaven, evil is not prevented, it is overcome.

          BGA
          People commit to God all the time on earth, yet this by no means immunizes them from evil.

          KA
          Yes for the reason given above. God gives human beings real power, including the tyranny of the strong over the weak.

          BGA
          However, if killed by a freak accident just after this, they are
          immunized.

          KA
          In heaven, evil persons have no power to harm anyone.

          BGA
          If god really was interested in our well being he would act like it.

          KA
          He did by redeeming the world. The victory over permitted evil has been won through love alone.

          • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

            You said above that a prevention of evil is tantamount to a reduction in gods love. Accordingly before the creation of agents whose actions can allow evil to exit, all evil was prevented. Is this tantamount to a reduction in Gods love or not?

            God gives us power, but has limited our ability to cause evil. One human cannot kill a thousand with a thought. God could have given us that power which would have enhanced our choices to be good. But limiting our capacity to cause harm, is his love reduced? If not, why not limit it further? Create us in a way that allows us to reproduce, but not be raped?

            If evil is overcome in heaven, why keep creating billions out souls that risk a fate other than heaven? God now has all the angels saints etc for heaven. Does he need more?

            Victory over evil? There surely was never a chance God would lose? And this idea of permitted evil goes to the heart of it. God creates humans and permits evil to overcome some of us, subject millions of us to devastating suffering. All so there will be a select place for some of us eternally and either annihilation or eternal conscious torture for the rest? This does not sound like a good and moral plan to me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your comment was hard for me to understand but here's an attempt to respond.

            BGA
            Before the creation of agents whose actions can allow evil to exit, all evil was prevented. Is this tantamount to a reduction in Gods love or not?

            KA
            Do you mean did God love less before he created? No. God did not love more or less before he created than after he created, since he is all love, all of the time.

            BGA
            God gives us power, but has limited our ability to cause
            evil. One human cannot kill a thousand with a thought. But limiting our capacity to cause harm, is his love reduced? If not, why not limit it further?

            KA
            I think you are just saying, God should have created a world in which no one could harm anyone else. The point I am trying to make is that you are making “prevention of evil” the organizing principle of the universe, whereas to God the organizing principle is love.

            BGA
            Why didn’t God give us that power which would have enhanced our choices to be good?

            KA
            He could have: “With infinite power God could always create something better” (CCC 310), but why would this be required?

            BGA
            If evil is overcome in heaven, why keep creating billions
            out souls that risk a fate other than heaven? God now has all the angels, saints, for heaven. Does he need more?

            KA
            God doesn't need anything. He is doing this for us: “This one, true God, of his own goodness and “almighty power,” not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through
            the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel “and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal....” (CCC 293)

            BGA
            There surely was never a chance God would lose?

            KA
            I don’t understand what you mean.

            BGA
            God creates humans and permits evil to overcome some of us.

            KA
            No one can be overcome by evil if does not want to be and
            God wants to forgive any evil we do.

            BGA
            God subjects millions of us to devastating suffering.

            KA
            If you mean on earth, God does not subject anyone to suffering. God is completely opposed to suffering. If you mean in hell, no one has to undergo that condition.

            BGA
            All so there will be a select place for some of us eternally
            and either annihilation or eternal conscious torture for the rest?

            KA
            The idea of the redemption you reject seems to be Calvinistic.

            BGA
            This does not sound like a good and moral plan to me.

            KA
            I agree. Your view of the Redemption is rightly to be rejected.

  • Ben Posin

    While we are on the topic of free will, I submit the following:
    Catholic doctrine (to the extent this series reflects it) has things exactly backwards on the subject of free will and God's existence. God is denying us the ability to exercise our free will by giving us insufficient evidence of his existence.

    A meaningful exercise of free will requires an actor to be informed. We don't hold people fully responsible for their actions when they were not aware of the consequences. A person cannot be free to love or hate God, "accept" or "reject" God, when he has not been provided sufficient evidence to even believe God exists. How could it be otherwise?

    Ultimately, the existence of God is a question of fact, it's a descriptive statement about the nature of the universe that has a right and a wrong answer. I'm not aware of any other context where people suggest that having a better knowledge of the facts diminishes one's free will. The effect of knowledge is to provide one with a better understanding of the consequence of a given choice, but doesn't remove the ability to make a choice. Only with regard to God do some say this. And this is clearly wrong, and should be rejected as the non sequitur it is, a meaningless bit of noise meant to stop one from reaching the natural conclusions on issues like the problem of evil.
    We are giving this wrong, false idea too much respect in our arguments here, and should just reject the premise from the start.
    Are we so resolved?

    • Jennifer Mann

      Ben....I have heard the response is God gave us the Holy Spirit...this is why we don't need to see Him and/ or have other proof.....see my above posts about doubting Thomas.....do you believe he would have accepted Jesus rose without feeling Jesus wounds?
      And God made the tree of knowledge....an evil tree...or a tree that eating from would cause evil......does anyone know how good can make evil ?? And God allowed a cast out being to get his rocks off tempting Adam and Eve and testing Job? Doesn't all of this imply that God can be in the presence of evil as He walked in the Garden and satan had an audiance with God about Job? Why can't God be with sinners in hell then?

  • picklefactory

    In fact, the very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is information about what Pope Benedict said about the book of Revelation.

    What on earth is *this* about?

    • Geena Safire

      Marketing. Self-promotion. An advertisement, if you will, which he may consider as part of his compensation from Strange Notions.

      • picklefactory

        How secret can this info be if he'll email it to you just for signing up?

        • Geena Safire

          'Secret' is a marketing word, like 'new' and 'improved' and 'expert' and 'refreshing.'

    • Danny Getchell

      "Be Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine"

  • Abe Rosenzweig

    I read the title of this as "Will We Have Free Food In Heaven?"

    Dissapoint.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    Is it reasonable to value this type of commitment? I think it is. We place a similar value on freely made commitments in this life.

    I don't think the marriage analogy is especially helpful. Yes, Catholics require marriage to last until death. But we all know that in many cultures, including modern pluralist society and also pre-Christian Judaism, divorce is/was considered permissible under certain circumstances.

    To me as a secular humanist, commitment isn't intrinsically valuable unless we're talking specifically about commitment to something we agree is good. Commitment is great when it helps us attain good things and avoid bad things, which it often does. And if my lover freely commits to me, that's a great and wonderful thing. But essential to that is that my lover's commitment must stay free. Freely entering into slavery, so to speak, is still slavery. It would be much nobler to have a commitment to each other that can be broken but that my lover and I continually choose not to break.

    Do Catholics really value unbreakability in commitments? Why? Would you really rather that your spouse could never remarry even if they became deeply unhappy with you, or doesn't your love for them include, as with children, the ability to let them go when necessary?

    How much more then, when people make a decision with terrible consequences, the loving thing to do is to always allow and encourage them to change their decision. Commitment to a bad thing is just bad and isn't worth honoring at all. Women (or men) whose marriages turn abusive should get out of that bad relationship.

    If the Christian god were real and good, wouldn't it be better if he let the people he sent to Hell change their minds, since their decisions turned out to be terrible ones?

    If that's somehow not possible with Hell and people's free will set up the way god supposedly chose to set them up, wouldn't it be better if he just changed how Hell works or how people's free will works in Hell?

    Whatever y'all think makes the best sense, it's profitable to contrast it with some alternatives. Universalist theists cut through all the "mystery"/doubletalk and say that a loving omnipotent god just sets things up in such a way that everyone actually ends up in heaven; they don't need a free will defense for hell or its attendant contradictions. And for atheists there's no problematic Hell or God stories to reconcile in the first place. We aren't omnipotent and can't always undo the consequences of our actions, but part of what it means to be human is that we can always, anywhere change our minds. To know and love a human is to be ready to accept and work with that.

    • Jennifer Mann

      I so want to believe in this Universalist view...but...even non believing and believing scholars agree that the greek and other issues in the Bible do not point to this....

  • Kathleen S.

    This reminds me of St. Augustine's distinction between those on earth and those already in heaven: the former is posse non mori and the latter is non posse mori. Able not to die and not able to die.... Yet he considers the saints to have greater freedom than those on earth because of this "disability". The same goes if you swap "mori" with "peccati". Those in heaven are not able to sin, yet are greater and freer than those on earth, who are only posse non peccati. The saints, being deified, are more free because they are like God in His disabilities. God Himself cannot sin, cannot diminish His infinite being, yet He is considered to be ultimately free and omnipotent.

  • Jennifer Mann

    Why would I chose a husband on earth that constantly tested me about my love for him? Why would I chose a husband on earth that saw me hurt or suffering by his hand or another and did nothing. How could I love such a person? Well I might still love him...but I would also fear him and be traumatised that he is so mean to me. I would pick a husband who loved me and had my back and didn't test me.If God loved us why wouldn't He have made us in a sin free world/heaven...with nothing to chose but good...if we didn't like it He could then let us not be anymore. Furthermore...if God knows our heart than why test us....just let us not be anymore that don't love Him and get on with the ones of us that do?

  • Crews Giles

    Is it possible that the question fails to give the Resurrection its due?

    Are we not to be raised perfected? Are we not to be gods? Are we not to be joined to the Godhead through the Son? Is the Union of God and man (exactly like the Incarnation, and represented by marriage in which two become one) not forged by mutual love?

    If the answers are all in the negative, then where is room for sin? Where is the perfected, godly will to err?

    It is by death that this was accomplished for us, and by our death to be fulfilled in us. In that, the Serpent, the Tree, and the Garden fulfilled their created purpose, leaving only the Incarnate God to complete ours, first by His Death and Resurrection, and then by our own.

    The Serpent will be no more, we will have Eaten from the Tree of Life, and instead of a Garden, a New Heaven and a New Earth. Or so the Church taught me.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      It would have been simpler for god to start with that.

      • Crews Giles

        I can see how it would seem easier to begin that way, but what God began with, according to our received teaching, is Three Persons united in perfect love: One God.

        That One God is also, by nature, creative, ordered, loving, omniscient, just, and so on. The expression of the many qualities of God's nature is the universe, and the crowning piece is humankind.

        This being Towel Day, I must add: 42. Anyway...

        Humans are special, made in His image and likeness, but lacking His perfection-- lacking His ability to conceptualize evil without being it-- some "otherness" which is not desired; and instead of creative is destructive; instead of just, unjust; instead of loving, contemptuous; and so on.

        So He exposes us to evil and we learn it, and choose.

        God is creating something with these, His special humans; and by our free will allows us to learn and to choose, and know that what we lack is what God is.

        Remembering that God's self identity, not attribute, but identity, is that He IS. So death is also part of to what we creatures are exposed --another opposite.

        The Easterns see the Yin and Yang as equal and necessary. I'll conceded they are necessary, but only one is eternal.

        So, HOW God starts, and WHAT He starts with, according to His nature, is creating more like Him, and while we started wih "image and likeness" then knowledge of good and evil, and ultimately life and death-- which He experienced in time-- that was the link which changed our own trajectory-- that God could become one with man, and could die.

        Of course the Resurrection is what sealed our teleological end-- and THAT changed the whole universe.

        How does God start with that?

        He started with light. At present, His creation included creatures in His image and likeness which love, and create, and choose Him, and which He calls "friend" and seeks to call "Bride."

        And the two shall become one.

        I say, God started according to His nature, and this, now, IS the start.

        God does not create God; He creates "other." His nature is love, and He will love that other. By our creation, love has increased. An impossibility when all that was was Three in One.

        There is much, much, more to say, but one's own soul can fathom, and does not need me.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          All very nice, but without evidential support. Why not create creatures who freely and uniformly choose the good and true? An omnipotent could have, an omnibebevolent god would have. Yet here we are. No tri-omnibus god is a far more parsimonious explanation.

          • Crews Giles

            I would have put it differently but see the "A Robot Loves Me. Big Deal." in the main article above. That is the stingy method with stingy results.

            Love itself is creative-- physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

            There is plenty of evidence to make that certain.

            The Christian revelation matches this truth, which merely makes it reasonable, but does not prove the faith nor its doctrines.

            I'm not an evangelist. I know what the faith is, but I do not know how to give it; so if you are looking for evidence, I do not even know where to tell you to go. God found me before I was searching for Him-- or even knew to search.

            That is important, because I share your, "Wouldn't it be easier..." question. In my case, I wonder, why has God not courted all others as He courted/courts me?

            I cannot see how any reasonable person could reject the Christian faith-- IF they had my experiences. The Fathers, particularly the apologists, satisfied my mind, but the Christian mystics spoke a language I thought I was alone in speaking-- until I read them.

            A few who spoke that language watched over me until I matured enough. They taught me, nourished me, but never told me why. That is the Church's purpose-- to do as those few did.

            I had already given an intellectual assent to the Christian doctrine, but it was the mystical in which I realized I was desired, sought after, and loved-- a suffering (passionate) love. That kind of love is barely seen in the Church, but is only candle compared to the Sun of God's love.

            John of the Cross writes of it somewhere (Ascent of Mt. Carmel?) as two young lovers stealing away in the night to be alone until their love can be consummated.

            So why don't ALL others have such experiences? That would be easier, and if He does it for me, it is certainly not because He is stingy.

            I can only answer that it is now, always has been, and always will be about the relationship. Only then does it answer Why? Why the Gospel?

            That is, Why did God become man so that we might become god?

  • abm

    If evil is the result of free will, what determines the direction of the will? Lucifer was good at one time and then chose evil. Why would he do that ? Was Lucifer created perfect or imperfect ? If we go to heaven do we have free will to choose to leave it if we decide eons later that we want something else? Lucifer may not have been a robot but was his WILL like the random toss of a dice? I cannot see how this is much better than being without a will.