The Value of Conceptual Models of Satan

In Seriously Have we Been Captured by Satan?, I sketched out a conceptual model or philosophical theory on humanity being captured by Satan. What is the purpose of such a model? Most Catholics who hear about the temptations of Christ, demonic possessions or hell have no interest in such abstract discussions. We read the words of scripture and hear homilies. We accept the words and, more or less, heed the instructions not to take any images as portraying spiritual realities. We need not rely only on own own imaginations for imagery to set aside. We enjoy an immense artistic tradition illustrating Satan and his “works and pomps.” For instance, see Temptation of Christ by Vasily Surikov (1872) and Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel . What is the value of all of this imagery? Of course, much of it has artistic value although, for the most part, not by presenting what is beautiful.

It must be emphasized that the imagery of Satan et al. is to be ignored for purposes of representing what was the case in natural and supernatural reality. The religious value of the imagery is as a heuristic to lead us to take the words of scripture seriously. By catching our imaginations we pay attention to the words. It must also be emphasized that imagery is not be ignored. In so far as, the imagery helps appreciate and follow the words of scripture and doctrines developed from scripture, the imagery is valuable.

What is the value of the scripture and doctrines?

The scripture and doctrines tell of our relation to God and how we are to live our natural lives so that we can be happy with God in heaven. The scripture, doctrines and heuristic imagery of Christianity form a vast conceptual scheme. It is a way of speaking and living. Here the attention is on the speaking. As a twentieth century philosopher who wrote his Ph. D. dissertation* on Wittgenstein, I class the Catholic way of speaking as at least a language game . There is no need to digress into the literature on language games. Here the important point is about what is the right thing to say. The word “game” suggestion that what is right or wrong in the game is contained in the game’s rule, explicit or implicit. The language game specifies what is correct to assert and correct to deny. Reality beyond the game need not be consulted on how to play the game, viz., say the right thing. Call the right thing to say “warranted assertions.”

I write mostly of Catholicism. But what I write can be applied to other religions.

Catholic faith is trust that the warranted assertions of the Catholic teaching and practice, the Catholic language game, tell us what is the case with the natural and supernatural and how to live properly in it. Simple faith is trust that the warranted assertions tell the truth without any consideration of what it would be like for them to have truth conditions in reality – to represent what is the case.

It might be proposed that Catholic faith is trust that the warranted assertions of Catholicism tell us what is true, and not merely warranted, because they come from a language game developed from the reality of Jesus’s teaching, crucifixion and resurrection. However, there is a problem of understanding how the first century reality of Jesus’ teaching, death and resurrection justify, outside our Catholic language game, assertions in the twenty first century. This is a problem which calls for a philosophical model.

Faith seeking understanding is hope that we can have some understanding of what it is like for there to be truth conditions for the warranted assertions. In particular, the value of conceptual models of Satan is to sketch out how there can be truth conditions for talk of Satan.

However, the conceptual models will be ignored by most, unverifiable by any empirical tests and controversial amongst the few who pay attention? (There is always quarrelling about any philosophy.) The fact that there are philosophically minded Catholics who are trying to understand how assertions about the transcendent and supernatural can be true becomes part of the language game of Catholicism. This contribution to the Catholic outlook, the Catholic language game, is an antidote to non-cognitivism about religious belief and, in particular, in Catholic religious belief.

Roughly, the non-cognitivist interpretation of religious assertions is that they do not tell us the truth about a reality independent of the religious beliefs. The purpose of religious assertions is to guide conduct and lead us to having a purpose driven life. Truth and falsity are irrelevant. Explicit non-cognitivism held by a large number of the members of a religion will be the end of that religion.

Non-cognitivism requires another post to appreciate its appeals and perils. It suffices as a conclusion to this post to claim:
The value for Catholicism of there being some awareness of a few Catholics pondering how doctrinal claims can be true in addition to being orthodox, viz., warranted assertions, is protecting claims that truth is being taught from being mere rhetoric.

* An improved version of my dissertation examining Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Remarks on the Foundation of Mathematics is in my book: Strict Finitism, The Hague 1970

Seriously: Have We Been Rescued From Satan?

I have volunteered to be a discussion group facilitator in my parish’s presentation of The Rescue Project . The goal of the Rescue Project is strengthening belief in the Christian Salvation story.
The project is guided by the maxim: “We live our lives according to the story we believe” The website announces:

“We passionately believe that the most urgent task is the compelling proclamation of the gospel, one that not only shares it in an attractive – and concentrated – way, but that also offers people a way of seeing reality, and of making sense of the world, history, and life that is vastly different from the story our modern culture tells.” N.T. Wright is quoted: “This is how stories work. They invite listeners into a new world, and encourage them to make it their own, to see their ordinary world from now on through this lens, within this grid.”

The project is structured around eight videos in which Fr. John Ricardo dramatically lays out the Christian Salvation Story. There are group discussions after each video.

The third video is titled “The Enemy is the Enemy.” Fr. Ricardo speaks in an emphatically realistic way about Satan, the devil or the evil one as OUR ENEMY. In the fourth video, Fr. Ricardo dramatizes how humanity, with the disobedience of the first two humans, were captured by Satan. The fifth video describes Jesus’ crucifixion as rescuing all of us from him.

I am uncomfortable about participating in discussions of Satan. I cannot decide what I believe about the narratives. I do not want to undercut the point of the Fr. Ricardo’s narratives by indicating my skepticism. So, I tell myself a “metaphysical story.” What is the story? I begin by adapting St. Augustine’ doctrine that angels are essentially messengers. I use, and maybe misuse, Thomistic notions of matter and form. My metaphysical story should not be blamed on St. Augustine or St. Thomas. There is a glibness in my “metaphysical story.” I grasp at metaphysical straws to build a conceptual structure. Telling a metaphysical story is my rationalization for participating in discussions about Satan. In a subsequent post, I will exam why I seek a rationalization. via metaphysics.

In creation the transcendent God has there be out of nothing potentiality for being formed in various ways for various purposes. The transcendent God has, also out of nothing, there be entities conveying to potentiality the various ways of being formed for various purposes. These entities for conveying ways of being formed for various purposes can be regarded as messages from the transcendent; as such they are angels. They are not the Word of God. They are the messengers bringing the Word of God.to potentiality.

The ways of being formed for various purposes come into existence together with that to which they bring form and purpose. Athough they are not identical to that to which they bring form and function. For example, the angels for fishes bring form and function to the fish species. So, to fit in with the Genesis narrative: creation of the fish is creation of the fish angels. Hence, the entities conveying form and function to humans are created concomitant with creation of humans. Just as in the Genesis narrative humans are the summit of creation so are the concomitant angels the highest angels. The conveyers of the form to potentiality, viz. matter, have the form and function conveyed but without forming matter. So, the angels forming humanity have the forms of free will, self-consciousness, thoughts of God and obedience to laws of God. However, these angels are spiritual entities because they have no matter. This means that they have no potentiality for taking on accidental forms by which they can be spatially located and distinguished from one another; they can only be what they are essentially. However, these angels can change if their essence, the forms they have, provide for the attainment of a goal, eg. informing matter or making a decision as would be the case for angels conveying the form for free will. There is a formal succession; a before-and-after succession which cannot be tracked by an spatial succession.

This metaphysical speculation has set the stage for Fr. Ricardo’s anthropomorphic tale of the fall of Satan and Satan’s enslavement of human beings. The conceptual structure makes anthropomorphism plausible. For the angels for humanity have the forms of the traits they convey to humans. We think of them as similar to people while trying to ignore any spatial imagery of them.

( This is not platonic self-predication in which the form of man is a man. It is the conveyer of the form of man to potentiality which has the form it conveys.)

Some of the highest angels, perhaps those charged with bringing the highest intelligence to humans, were envious that humans would share with them eternal life. They believed that the humans tied down in matter should not share their high goal of eternal life. In their pride, with their free will they chose not to convey the form of eternal life to humans. With their choice not to convey the form of eternal life to humans, they chose not to be what they are essentially, viz., conveyers of the Word of God. By choosing not to be what they are essentially, they chose total death. Total death is annihilation; not being at all. But they cannot be annihilated for they have the form of eternal life. The result is that they have chosen eternal torment of having as their chosen goal being annihilated while they can never be annihilated. Simply being is an eternal torment for them. There is no rest. That is hell.

In their hellish state, they still envy humans having eternal life with being with God as their good. Other angels fulfilled the function of conveying the form of eternal life to humans. Perhaps, the other angels taking over this function could be portrayed as St. Michael casting Satan and his angels down from heaven. In their envy, they wish to pervert the good of eternal life in humans into the eternal torment to which their disobedience perverted their eternal life. Satan persuaded the first humans, viz. the humans from which the forms and purposes of humanity would be transmitted to other humans, to choose not to be with God by choosing to disobey God. By choosing not to be with God, these first humans chose for humanity not to have the goal of being with God. For humans not to have the goal of being with God is not to be. For humans not to be as they ought is not to be. So, the first humans who chose the forms for subsequent humans they chose the final form as not to be. Thus, humans, by this primeval choice have their final goal as the perverted good of not being. But it is perverted because they have the form of eternal life while having the goal of not having life, viz. annhilation. Thus, humans now have the hellish condition of the fallen angels. They eternally seek annihilation; a restless striving for a total death which never comes.

To be sure, humans have a type of death for death is what has been chosen. The death we get is not being full humans because we are all ultimately to be separated from matter, viz., biological death. We still have the form of eternally being which is now a curse for our choice is not to be. So, with Satan we have the eternal torment of seeking not to be.

Thus, Satan has captured us by making our destiny the same as his, viz., eternally tormented spiritual beings. For each of us the capture is completed at our biological death. For in the spiritual condition we are completely in his realm. So, it is biological death, becoming disembodied, which is the doorway to hell. In this sense, death is as much our enemy as Satan. Overcoming death, as disembodiment is the way to rescue humans from the hellish destiny of Satan.

I shall not attempt a rationalization of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection as overcoming death. I try to understand the Paschal Mystery with philosophy. But these philosophical speculations are only faith seeking understanding. I regard philosophical speculations as rationalizations when used to excuse anthropomorphic stories about spiritual beings.

Overview of Posts Confrontating Nihilism

This is a review of posts directly confronting nihilism to assess what has been accomplished toward showing that an intelligent educated person need not and ought not fall into our cultural default outlook and attitude of nihilism. The review brings out that necessary conditions for intellectually setting nihilism aside are beliefs in theism and objective moral laws as divine commands. Two recent posts, referenced in items (14) and (15), point out how efforts presenting nihilism as true subtley presuppose that nihilism is not true.

Beliefs in theism and objective morality can be supported by philosophical theology. However, confronting nihilism requires continual attitudinal support as is indicated in The Problem of Evil as a Cornerstone of a Nihilistic World View . The attitudinal support is faith.

My assessment of confronting nihilism is that only Epicureanism provides the intellectual and attitudinal support for nihilism. The intellectual support is the metaphysical theory that basically there is nothing but atoms and the void. Only by chance do atoms form complexes which by chance come and go. The maxim “Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” However, there is a caution attached to the maxim. Try not to think of the “tomorrow we die” part. If thoughts of death thrust themselves upon you, then think of the metaphysics to realize that there cannot be any punishment after death. For at death your atoms scatter into the void. Confronting nihilism requires continual philosophical critique of atomistic metaphysics, which in various forms, is presupposed in our current age. It also requires the work of public intellectuals to uncover the misery of in accordance with”Eat, drink and be merry.” For an example of a public intellectual’s critique of current hedonism see my review of Christine Emba’s Re-thinking Sex.

1 In My Book and Nihilism on October 13 2013, I expressed some initial reflections on nihilism.
Nihilism is a combination of thought and sentiment. There is a thought that nothing matters and a melancholy mood that life has no significance. Both the thought and the sentiment are required for nihilism. An atheist may think that nothing matters but is not a nihilistic because, being blessed with an upbeat temperament, loves being alife. A believer in God many think that people ought to live to please their creator but feel that life has no significance. Despite nihilistic feelings such a theistic is not a nihilist He can use his belief in God to struggle to overcome his nihilistic feelings. Nihilistic feelings are a “dark night of the soul” for mystics and contemplatives.

2. In Progressive Progress to Nihilism on August 11, 2020, we see how people can be taught scientism without ever teaching the inconsistency that we know only science gives knowledge. Teach the merits of science and the demerits of religion and ideologies. When students convert to scientism, justify the conversion by explaining it as the natural response of a mind aware of the merits of science and the demerits of religion. I note that the education to cause a belief in scientism is also effective for causing belief in nihilism. Nonetheless, the major point is that scientism and its associated nihilism cannot be blocked by simply charging it with logical inconsistency. Causal factors leading to scientism need to be confronted.

3.In Confronting Scientism, Secular Naturalism and Nihilism on August 31, 2020, I argue that intellectually nihilism needs to be confronted by developing a metaphysical scheme superior to metaphysical schemes supporting scientism or secular naturalism.

4,In Confronting the Nihilistic Ontology of Secular Naturalism on September 10, 2020, I observe there is no well developed metaphysical scheme, or ontology, to support scientism or secular naturalism with its elimination of final causes. If metaphysical thinking is legitimate, there is reason for thinking that nihilism can be confronted and defeated on the theoretical level.

5.In Nihilistic Soteriology and Eschatology on September 20, 2020 I diagnosed the despair underlying acceptance of physian assisted sucide. I concluded with the following observation. In theological language the line of thought is as follows. Permissibility of suicide presupposes an eschatology of death as non-being. This eschatology leads to a soteriology as salvation is non-being. No morality is required for this salvation since “All men are mortal” entails that all are saved.

6.In Moral Deism is not an Antidote to Nihilism on March 23, 2022, Moral Deism was characterized as merely classifying our morality as Divine Commands. Unfortunately, moral deism undercuts the rationale for understanding morality as based on divine commands. Man is still the measure of all things. Whatever man measures is interpreted as what God commands. God is not cited in moral reasoning.

7. Very recently in Theism Compatible with Nihilism on December 15, 2022, I noted the following. God did not have to give a meaning to human life as we understand having a meaning for life. If our lives have meaning, it is because of the goodness of God.

8. In Nihilism as an Antidote to Nihilism , on December 17, 2021, an antidote to nihilism is characterized as: A complex of thoughts and intertwined sentiments which removes or alleviates the anxiety provoked by thinking and feeling life has no meaning . In this sense, the “eat, drink and be merry” maxim of nihilism can, for the fortune few, be a recipe for setting aside anxiety about the meaning of life. Epicureanism helps the fortunate few avoid thinking about nihilism.

9. In Gibt est kein Gott, nur die Pflict Steht gegen das Nichts on July 5, 2020, I summarize the theme of my book on sexual morality. I argue that living to make ourselves people who obey invariant moral laws is something indestructible in ourselves for which to live – that is duty die Pflicht. I go on to argue that we must find such laws governing our sexuality. Stoics overcome nihilism in their hearts and minds. But doubts about the reality of moral laws threatens our composure.

10. In Hell Saves Us From Nihilism on December 11, 2021, I elaborate on the syllogism:
If there is no hell, everything is permitted.
If everything is permitted, then nihilism is correct
—————————————————-
So, if there is no hell, nihilism is correct.
Hell is meaningless existence. An alternative to hell provides meaningful existence.

11.In Invoking God to Confront Nihilism on December 4, 2021, I answered my doubts, in (9) above about stoicism giving a satisfactory response to nihilism. I wrote ” Life in accord with eternal moral laws which we are commanded to follow needed to be characterized as more attractive than resolutely making ourselves into people who obey these laws despite any and all inclinations to do otherwise. I was led, then, to religious reflections on what it meant to obey the moral laws. So, through a long series of posts on obeying a moral authority, I realized that we had to interpret moral laws as commands of God. Hence,I confront nihilism by making a case for Divine Command Morality.” But later, as in (6) above a Divine Command morality must be more than Moral Deism. Recently, in Theism is compatible with nihilism on December 15, 2022 I realized that belief in theism needs to be accompanied by faith in the goodness of God to set aside nihilism.

11.In Does Death Prove Nihilism on December 8. 2021, I quote extensively from The Book of Wisdom to remind us what needs to be included in a strong philosophical antidote against nihilism. In addition to establishing the existence of a divine moral commander, there is a need to establish survival after biological death and the reality of postmortem reward and punishment. These thoughts led to those in (9) above about the reality of hell as part of a belief system overcoming nihilism.

12.In Jesus has saved us from nihilism being a correct account of the human condition on August 4,2017 I outline my unprofessional theological interpretation of the Paschal Mystery as Jesus carrying out accepting annihilation to save humans from having annihilation as our fate. The gist of my speculation is that human’s original sin is to set the moral obligation that humans’ fate is to be annihilated. We have chosen that human destiny ought to be no different than that of any other animal. But this obligation is incompatible with being like any other animal who have no obligations.

This incompatibility is resolved by the human nature of Jesus suffering annihilation and then being restored with a human nature that has fulfilled the obligation to be annihilated. Jesus suffered what we have required humanity to suffer. His death was not a sacrifice to God. His death was a fulfillment of the human moral demand for human annihilation so that human nature could be free from this moral imperative that nihilism be humans’ fate.

13.In The Transcendent vs Nothing on August 7, 2021, I model the creator as being in a struggle with non-being, the uncreated or nothing. Some creatures with free-will, choose not to be dependent beings. But for a creature not to be dependent is not to be. So, some creatures are choosing not to be or nothingness. The goodness of the creator thus faces oppostion to creation.

While writing this synopsis, I return to thoughts of There is a Satan in Oppostion to God. . The first creature of God, choose not to be dependent which is a choice for nothing – not to be. This first creature becomes Satan who wills that there be nothing at all if he cannot be the creator. Satan is evil for he chooses the absence of all good. Satan tries to carry out his choice for non-being by leading other creatures with free-will to choose not to be. Such creatures, viz., humans, choose not to be by not choosing their good. These theological speculations start to build a model on how God “solves” the problem of evil which philosophical thought showed at line 11 in The problem of evil is the corner stone of a Christian world view God would “solve.”

14. In Does Respect for Truth Require Nihilism On December 28, 2022, I dismiss a claim that we ought to be nihilists because respect for our rationality forbids believing any more than what natural science tells us. Authentic nihilists do not respect rationality as a source of moral obligations.

15. In I rage, therefore I am , on December 30, 2022, we see that raging against reality because it provides us only a nihilistic fate, presupposes that vainishing into atoms and the void is not our fate.

I Rage, Therefore I Am

Is Proud Defiance Acceptance of Nihilism? No, it is a philosophical rejection of nihilism

The first two stanzas of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night” command defiance of not being – the dying of the light. For “wise men at their end know dark is right.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Explicitly professing nihilism to rage against it is not good psychological advice. Actually, as we shall see, it rejects nihilism by defying it. In my eighty eighth year, burning and raging about what I dread might be my fate seems foolish. Distracting oneself with pleasant memories is better advice.

I do not accept nihilism. I seek to understand and hold fast to Catholicism. In philosophical theology I find good reasons for Catholicism. However, the reasons are not totally conclusive “Because their words had forked no lightning.” Hence, I have a dread of total annihilation at death. Still, the Canticle of Simeon gives better psychological advice: “Now, Lord let your servant go in peace. For my eyes have seen the salvation . . .”

However, I do not interpret the poem as psychological advice on facing dying and death. Dylan Thomas offers inchoate philosophical instructions on how each and everyone of us can demonstrate that nihilism is not true. This raging against not being – against the dying of the light – is intense assertion of oneself as existing. At death, the raging self assertion enters eternity.

Right up to the instant at which for you there is no further coming into existence or passing out of existence – changelessness- your self is raging. Eternally, there is his raging self. That final instant raging self can no more come into existence or pass out of existence than the number 2.

This is not an effective demonstration that nihilism is wrong because we can make our self eternal. It depends upon an empirical assumption that people can be conscious up to the instant of brain death. Before brain death there is change in a person – coming into existence and passing out of existence. Furthermore, persisting as an abstract object such as the number 2 is a survival not worth wanting. The number 2 is for nothing; neither is an eternal raging self.

This raging is the desperate hope that if I cry loud enough to Being, She will pick me up.

Does Respect for Truth Require Nihilism?

The naturalistic evolutionary account of the development and origin of homo sapiens sapiens tells the truth. This true narrative tells of no more significance or purpose of homo sapiens sapiens than that of any other species. If that is the only true account of the origin and development of humanity, nihilism is correct.

Grant that the evidence for this evolutionary narrative is better than any supplementary account of the origin and development of humanity, an anthropology, which finds a special significance and purpose for human beings. This is not to grant that there is no evidence for the supplementary account.

Maintaining that one is not entitled to allow belief in any account with weaker evidence than that for evolution is incompatible with nihilism. It presupposes that there is a source of obligations on how to use our reason. It is presupposed that there is a way we ought to be with respect to our rationality. Accepting that there is a way we ought to be is to accept that there is a point to our living.

Holding fast to assertions of nihilism because that is what duty to truth requires is an instance of a stoic stance defying nihilism. If there is no God, still the truth and our duty to it stand against not being – nothingness.

The Problem of Evil as a Cornerstone of a Nihilistic World View

Undercutting any solutions for the problem of evil is the cornerstone of nihilism.

Of course, this post connects with The Problem of Evil as a Cornerstone of a Christian World View. In that post, I developed a line of argument in philosophical theology adapting a line of argument reaching back at least to Epicurus’ classical formulation of the problem of evil, around 300 BC. It culminated with:

10. If God has delegated creation of reality as we experience it to subsidiary creators, He had a good reason for delegating creative activity and has a good reason for correcting the experienced reality produced by susidiary creators.

11. So, ultimately there will be a correction of reality as we experience it although we cannot imagine experiencing it!

These lines (10) and (11) provide an intellectual rationale for developing a world view of some type of salvation history. Salvation histories are histories of reality as we experience it using language of ordinary history plus reference to religious beings, processes and events. The world view of Christianity is a salvation history. My paradigm salvation history is given in the Catholic Bible plus interpretations of the Christian Church Fathers and expressed in the Nicene Creed. At the risk of being cryptic: Salvation histories are solutions to the problem of evil. Salvation histories make sense of life – tell of a point and purpose for living despite the sin and suffering all experience by living.

Most likely, the intellectual rationale behind a salvation history comes, in fact, after the salvation histories have been told for generations. However, being a subsequent rationale for narrations of the salvation history does not reduce the rationalization to unimportant additions to a salvation history. A dimension of our being rational animals is being theological animals. Experienced sin and suffering drives us to seek understanding of our believed salvation history.

Good reasons have been given for theological theories behind Judeo-Christian salvation history. Unfortunately, despite being good reasons, none of the rationalizations are compelling. The theories of philosophical theology simply do not have mathematical certainty. There are no intellectually compelling solutions for the problem of evil. Logic allows hardening the heart and saying: No!

Hence, the problem of evil provides a foundation for nihilism. Nihilists find loop-holes for setting aside the theological rationalizations and let the experience of sin and suffering lead people to despair of there being any point or purpose to living. All history, secular and salvation, tell only “sound and fury signifying nothing.”

When I think of loss of the naive faith of a child or even of an adult, I think of a nursery rhymme about an egg named Humpty Dumpty.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All of the king’s and all of the king’s men.
Could not put Humpty together again.

Faith and rationalization are now needed to go on living with hope that the salvation history tells the truth about the point and purpose of living. Both faith and reason are needed in religion just as both are needed in science. This religious faith that sustains hope is not naïve fideism justifying believing because one wants to belief. Religious faith justifies nothing. It is a gift that comes and goes sustaining hope that ultimately “all manner of things will be well.”

Theism Is Compatible With Nihilism

A theistic metaphysics is compatible with nihilism. For it is possible for God to give no significance to human life. We readily think that God sets no enduring destiny for Woodticks. He could, then, allow humans to vanish into non-being which is the fate to which we consign ticks.

In attempts to understand Christianity, I occasionally speculate that God originally intended that humans never pass into non-being. Humans had a choice to share in God’s never ceasing to be. However, there was some original choice by humans not to share completely in God’s way of being by not always willing as God willed. So, humans chose to have their own way of being as do the other creatures of God. Other creatures have temporary being; they come into existence and pass away. For an elaboration of these speculations, see Jesus has saved us from nihilism being a correct account of the human condition.

However, God had set as the good for humans never ceasing to be. God loves his creatures which means God wills the good of his creatures. So, even after humans had chosen ceasing to be, God stilled willed that humans not cease to be. There is no necessity for God to will never ceasing to be for humans. For God did not need to create. God did not need to create beings with a good of everlasting being.

The point remains. God did not have to give a meaning to human life as we understand having a meaning for life.

If our lives have meaning, it is because of the goodness of God.

The Problem of Evil as the Cornerstone of a Christian World View

As links reveal, this post coheres with efforts to find foundations for divine command morality. A factor of my motivation for understanding morality as based on divine commands is to understand retributive punishment. I believed that retributive punishment is crucial to understand the Christian world view that evil has been introduced by God’s creatures which God in His love for His creatures will correct. A Christian world view is a plausible account of what it would be like for line 11 below to be true.

A significant challenge to prevailing secular world views would be showing that an intelligible line of thought in philosophical theology leads to claims well explained by the Christian world view. Lines (1) through (10) below are philosophical theology. If I were to document sources for any of these lines, I would cite historical figures recognized as philosophers and not as theologians for any particular religious tradition. If I would cite sources on how to develop line (11) I would cite scriptures and theologians such as Church Fathers. I should be citing sources because I do not want to claim any originality for what I write. I admit originality only for what is not worth taking seriously. Perhaps, line (1), then, is original. Still, I believe line (1) is correct.

1. We cannot imagine experiencing reality without physical and moral evil.

2. If God is omnipotent, all good and the sole creator of reality, then reality is without physical and moral evil.

3. So, if God is omnipotent, all good and the sole creator of reality, then reality of which God is the sole creator is a reality which we cannot imagine experiencing.

4. We can, because of our experience, only too well imagine experiencing reality with physical and moral evil.

5. So, God is either not omnipotent or not all good or not the sole creator of the reality as we experience reality.

6. If God exists, God is omnipotent and all good.

7. God exists .

8. Hence, God is not the sole creator of reality as we experience it.

9. If God is not the sole creator of reality as we experience it , then the other creators are less than God and have been created with God’s permission to be subsidiary creators of reality as we experience it.

10. If God has delegated creation of reality as we experience it to subsidiary creators, He had a good reason for delegating creative activity and has a good reason for correcting the experienced reality produced by susidiary creators.

11. So, ultimately there will be a correction of reality as we experience it although we cannot imagine experiencing it!

Some remarks on the lines of the argument:

On line (1): An observation in a homily by my pastor, Fr, Matthew Hoover, gave me the insight that we pose the problem of evil but have no clear idea of what would solve it.

On line 9: I have sketched out how Satan could be the primary subsidiary creator.

Contrition is the Sorrow of Moral Harm

Starting with my 2014 book*, I have sought to understand the harm produced simply by violating a moral law. This is harm over and above any harm brought about by the act violating the moral law. I called this “moral harm.” To understand moral harm as a genuine harm, it needs to be shown that the occurrence of moral harm can be an object of human concern.

In this post, I answer that feeling sorrow over moral harm is feeling contrition, perfect contrition.

I have characterized contrition as not loving as God what loves. Awareness of not loving as God loves is awareness of a violation of a violation of a moral law. Awareness of a violation of a moral law reveals three conditions over which a human being can feel genuine sorrow.

First, there is awareness of the basic human good intended by the moral law which is set aside for the lesser good aimed at by its violation. There is a type of grief for the basic good set aside. For instance, a married man feels a special grief over setting aside the good of conjugal intercourse with his wife when he has a “one night stand” on a business trip.

Second there is awareness of choice of lawful control of our inclinations, passions and desires set aside by the violation of the moral law. There is a type of anxiety about becoming a slave to our inclinations, passions and desires. For instance, the man who had the “one night stand” starts to worry that he is one a path to destroying his marriage with serial affairs. This is also an anxiety about becoming irrational.

Third, there is awareness of the moral need for harm for the violation – retributive harm. There is a type of regret that some harm ought to be done. For instance, the man who had “the one-night stand” regrets that he ought not have the same satisfaction in his married life as before. This type of regret leads some unfaithful men to make the mistake of confessing an infidelity to their wives to get her to punish him and thereby remove the ad hoc norm requiring some harm for their infidelity. Forgiveness is obtained when the ad hoc norm is fulfilled by punishment.

Another example of regret for the moral need for retributive punishment occurs when someone feels a double regret when reading of one young man murdering another in the gunfights which happen a couple of times each week in big cities. We regret the loss of one life and the waste of another with the morally required imprisonment of the “winner” in the shoot-out.

In conclusion, note that addressing these three dimensions of sorrow provide an outline on how to convince someone of the truth of a basic moral law.

* Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism, Tulsa OK, 2014
A free copy of my book is available by emailing kielkopf.1@osu.edu

Love of God is Essentially Love of Neighbor

The formula “Loving God is Loving What God Loves “ answers questions about the relation between morality and benevolence. There are two types of questions.

1. Does doing it because it is right diminish, if not eliminate, doing it because it is good for the other?

2. Is doing it only because it is good for the other amoral- without moral worth?*

The answer to the first question is No. Doing it because it is right is doing it because you love what God loves. God loves the good of the other. So, doing it because it is right is doing it for the good of the other.

An abstract answer requires an example.

Once I had an assignment as a Vincentian – a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I was to be a companion with Edward who was battling depression and other behaviorial health issues. I talked with him over coffee except that he wouldn’t drink coffee. We attended a few movies, sports events, some political meetings. I visited him when he was hospitablized in behaviorial medicine wards. On the whole, I found time with him dissagreeable. I could tell that he found me agreeable because I accepted his dislike of so many things and complaints. Over the years I slowly disengaged myself from him because he did connect with a few more people and I stopped driving. After not hearing from him for about three years, there was a message on my phone that Edward called. I did not want to return the call. I was going to ignore the call. Then I thought that I ought to return the call. By being his companion for quite awhile, I made some comitment to give him attention. That was my thought about morality.

With my moral thought, I intended to call Edward. Most likely, I would have called sooner or later. However, I started to think about Edward and “put myself in his place” to imagine how he might be hurt by ignoring the call but have positive feelings if I returned the call. So, for Edward’s good I made the call immediately. It turned out to be a pleasant call. Edward wanted to update me on his improved current status. I returned the call that I thought I ought to make for Edward’s good.

This example suggests another question about the role of morality and benevolence.

Edward might have been humiliated if he realized that I returned his call because I thought that I ought to and that it was for his good. He might think that I didn’t do it for him. Morality and what is good for him are not who he is. I slighted him.

The question intermediate between the two above could be posed as follows.

May doing it because it is right and for the good of the other fail to do it for the other?

The answer is clearly Yes. In personal relations, especially romantic love, there is a way of interacting which could be called doing it simply for that other person. Willing it simply for the other is a different type of love than willing it for the good of the other.

But simply doing it for someone without contraints of morality and consideration for the good of the other can be very destructive for oneself, the other and society. Think of a wife who enables her husband to contiue in substance abuse simply because he claims that if she loves him, she will give the money he despartely wants now. Think of a man’s mistress who demands that he kill his wife if he loves her.

I am not denying the reality and value of the personal relationship of acting simply for the other. When contrained by morality and consideration of the basic human goods, it is a component of friendship.

The answer to (2) above depends upon the kind of good being provided.

If it is a basic human good** or a direct means to a basic human good, there is a moral obligation to promote those goods and never intentionally inhibit them. So, doing it because it is a basic good for the other is inevitably doing what you ought to do and thereby is a moral action, i.e., has moral worth.

For instance, parents want to promote the health and knowledge of their children. That is what they ought to do.

If the good is amoral such as some condition or object the other desires, doing it to satisfy the other may well be amoral but of value for making life agreeable. It has no moral worth in the sense of being neither right nor wrong. Classing an act as amoral is not classing it as immoral. Most of what we do in daily life is amoral.

For instance, parents enjoy satisfying desires of their children. For the most part, that is just acting naturally.

Of course, if what the other desires is only good in so far as it is something he desires, providing that good has negative moral worth; it is wrong. The enabling wife and man manipulated by his evil mistress are examples of this type of wrongdoing.

So, morality and love harmonize

* I am obviously concerned with a controversy about Kantian morality. But I am not here concerened with Kantian exegesis. I tried Kantian exegesis in my book pp. 178ff. Contronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexuality as an antidote to nihilism. Tulsa OK, 2014
A copy of my book is available without cost by emailing kielkopf.1@osu.edu

** I use a modified version of New Natural Law morality. The New Natural Law view holds that practical reason, that is, is reason oriented towards action, grasps as self-evidently desirable a number of basic goods. These goods, which are described as constitutive aspects of genuine human flourishing, include life and health; knowledge and aesthetic experience; skilled work and play; friendship; marriage; harmony with God, and harmony among a person’s judgments, choices, feelings, and behavior. From an essay by Christopher Tollefsen on The New Natural Law Theory .