Category Archives: Philosophical Theology

Where is the Supernatural?

My answer to the question of this post’s title is “In two ways the supernatural is wherever we are!” First, the supernatural is a dimension of the human mind’s conceptual framework for representing reality. It goes wherever people go. Second the human mind plots human beings in this dimension of reality represented by the supernatural dimension. I argue for the first in this post and the second has been established in The Supernatural is for Love & Freewill. My argument for the first proceeds by sketching out a plausible way of organizing our thought about the structure of reality while conceding that the category of “supernatural” is demoted by many to being only for the imaginary which cannot be real.

The first answer somes from tracing out the implications of an assumption of a supernatural dimension in a conceptual scheme for representing reality. But giving it provides the occasion for sketching the framework of reality I use. I admit that my outline of reality mirrors an academic’s ideal of a university

In an effort to sketch a conceptual model of Satan, there is a need to outline a a comprehensive model of reality in which the model of Satan is to be placed. This model must provide a supernatural dimension to reality. For whatever else Satan may be, Satan is a supernatural being. In so far as I can speak for common sense,the following is a common sense model of reality for someone who believes in a God. Of course, the articulation of this allegedly common sense conceptual framework is not part of common sense. It is my construction. So, it is appropriate that I write of postualting features of this model.

Is there any point trying to provide a conceptual model for Satan in an atheistic model of reality? Hence, I could use “creation” instead of “reality.” To me it seems more accurate to write “reality as we experience it” or “creation as we experience it.” But for simplicity’s sake, I use unqualified “reality” For my use of “reality as we experience it,” see The Problem of Evil as the Cornerstone of a Christian World View .

Reality depends on the Transcendent for its existence. The Transcendent, or God, transcends reality and is, hence, not a supernatural reality.

The two main dimensions of reality are the natural and the supernatural.

The supernatural and natural have reality dimensions within them.

The dimensions of the supernatural are the visible and invisible (bodied & disembodied agents)

The dimensions of the natural are the physical, the chemical, living, the sentient, individual intelligence and collective intelligence. The various dimensions of reality contain the material for what exists, the laws for action of what exist and the forces for moving the existing entities according to the laws. In my use of Aristotelian causal concepts: The various dimensions of reality include the material, efficient and formal causes of whatever is or happens in that dimension of reality. I do not hold that elimination of all teleological explantions should be a goal of philosophy of science. For instance, there is no reason for not saying that higher concentrations of an element flow to lower concentrations until a uniform concentration is achieved. Evolutionary theory is based on a drive to replicate although evolutionary theory does not answer whether or not evolution has a purpose.

I am postulating for this model that the natural does not contain any ultimate final causes. In nature, there is no reason why there is any dimension of nature; let alone any reason why there are the dimensions of natural reality. If one only accepts the natural as reality, then nihilism is the correct religious stance. Ultimately, there is no purpose for anything; nothing matters. A philosophical pun tells us matter doesn’t matter.

At first glance, it may seem that my model is biased towards contemporary secular models of reality by separating fact from value and thereby banishing values to subjective states of human consciousness. In nature the only values are those created by humans. In the sense of “nature” used here, I do not locate values in nature. However, I do not banish values from reality. Nature is only one of the major two dimensions of reality. Values are in the supernatural dimension. There is no required separation of fact and value in reality. In many entities the factual dimensions intersect value dimensions. Reflection on the metaphorical use of “dimension” from mathematics reminds us that most curves are not one-dimensional.

The dimensions are connected -intersect-even if we have no clear idea of how they connected. The conceptual inability to represent how one dimension of reality interacts with another are occasions for postulating the emergence of one of the dimensions from the other. For instance, the goal seeking of living entities is hard to understand in terms of physics and chemistry and the lack of spatial dimensions for the mental challenges connecting thoughts and feelings with neurostates. However, simply postulating emergence because we lack an understanding of how it came about is not grounds for dismissing emergence as the correct account of how certain features came about. Unfortunately, even if emergence is a fact, the philosophic problems of how the emergent interacts with that from which it emerges continue to plague philosophy.

Even if an understanding of emergence requires accepting the emergent condition as a final cause for certain arrangements of that from which the emergent condition emerged, that does not contradict my previous claim that there is no ultimate final cause for nature. Emergent natural structures are merely final causes internal to nature; not an external goal giving a purpose for nature as a whole.

The dimensions of reality are not for any specific location of the universe. Wherever in the cosmos we might imagine ourselves to be, we view reality with this conceptual framework. Wherever humans are they are in reality and try to understand reality with these dimensions of reality. So, the supernatural and natural are wherever humans are. Of course, then, the supernatural is wherever humans are. At first glance, it seems I am inflating the tautology about human thinking that if humans have the category of the supernatural, then that category is wherever humans are into a factual claim that the supernatural dimension of reality is populated wherever humans may exist. I admit that in the culture of the West, the temptation is to reserve the supernatural as a framework for “make believe,” “once upon a time,” zombies, vampires, superheroes etc., The culture forces tempting us to reserve the supernatural for fiction are also those tempting us to hold that values are “just made up.”

Before moving on to characterizing what it would be like to have the supernatural populated by non-fictional beings, I want to address a question that might be of interest only to those who study philosophy. The question asks: Why hold that there is a reality beyond this conceptual framework along with words and thoughts when applying it,. For all questions about what to assert and reject are answered by using this conceptual framework? Holding that there is nothing but the conceptual framework can be fairly labeled “idealism” of some sort. It is also fairly clear that some fallacy is involved in interpreting the question “What is our conceptual framework for representing reality?” as “What is used to decide whether a factual claim is warranted?”

Supernatural Reality is Not a Super Nature

The purpose of this post is to support a negative thesis that the supernatural has not the the reality of a nature. In Deontic Structure of Supernatural Reality a postive thesis that the supernatural is the reality of morality. There it will be brought out that realm in which moral laws are realities is more than a bleak realm of “Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots.

The spiritual dimension of humanity is not a special field of study for those who enjoy the occult or spiritualists. The supernatural is not “spooky.” For the most part, trying to understand the supernatural is trying to understand ourselves; not trying to make contact with spirits. The supernatural is a dimension of each and every person. But the methods of natural science are not the way we become acquainted with and understand our supernatural dimension. Perhaps most become acquainted with the supernatural when “our conscience bothers us.” Our consciences bother us when we believe that we have done something really wrong. Here “really” means “real;” not something such as “seriously.” Our violation of a moral law is an existing and pernicious reality.

The so-called humanities and art are ways to experience the supernatural when our own experience is limited. The German term die Geistwissenschaften might refer to the kinds of studies I have in mind. However, if I am correct about love, the experience of willing the good for another regardless of any inclination is experiencing what is supernatural. Reflecting on that experience of love is a significant way of understanding the supernatural.

As “supernatural dimension” has been characterized, many thoughtful people, I believe, will accept the concept as marking out important areas of humanity; but with a tendentious label. Why, it might be objected, use the term “supernatural” which hints at the occult? Why not simply call it the moral dimension of humanity?

However, I do not accept reducing the supernatural to the aspects of humanity which cannot be understood by the methods of natural science. For my larger project of modeling Satan,I need to do more than make a case for using the concept of supernatural to apply to humans. Beyond the conceptual case, I need to make an ontolgical case. The ontological case is that there is a supernatural reality, albeit no supernatural nature. At some point in my Satan model building, I need to make a case that: Satan is a reality.

Grant that what I have called the supernatural is real. Why go on to assert that this reality is not a nature?

To answer we return to David Hume’s logical point about the logical gap between “is” and “ought.”

In my answer “nature” is understood as what can be correctly described by saying what is the case. A nature is what Wittgenstein called a world when he wrote: The world is all that is the case. To tell the whole truth about a nature or a world is to tell all of the facts. Statements of what ought to be done, what ought to be and for what purpose something ought to be done are not statements of fact. To be sure, some factual statements about nature studied in the natural sciences, especially psychology and sociology, report what is the case with obligations and goals humans have created. But these facts about human constructions do not give us moral laws or ultimate goals. For instance, Hume’s logical point reminds us that “Thou ought not kill” does not follow from “It is the case that people have a rule that we ought not kill.” In the nature studied in the natural sciences, man is the measure of all things, viz., measure of all norms and goals, as Protagoras taught long ago.

Suppose the supernatural signified a nature; perhaps a realm of spirits and their activities. How could there be norms and rules binding these spirits? The spirits could invent them. But inventions are not categorical moral rules: rules binding us regardless of whether or not we choose to be bound by them. Even if the spirits heard the voice of God command “Thou shalt not kill,” they know only the fact about the spirit realm expressed in “It is the case that God commanded thou shalt not kill.” Hume’s logical point about “ought” not logically implied by “is” holds for this supposed spiritual nature as well as for the familiar nature studied by the natural sciences. The spirits are not entitled to infer “Thou ought not kill” from”It is the case that God said thou ought not kill.”

In the early twentieth century, philosophers diagnosed a naturalistic fallacy. The gist of the accusation of a fallacy was as follows. Regardless of the nature of a nature, the nature only offers facts and not values. Or: the objective truth about a nature is expressed with statements of facts. In a world of facts, expressions of value are subjective; expressions of sentiments by humans.

We have reached a point where we need to make a decision about ontology. We can dismiss norms and goals as having objective reality and thereby dismiss morality as fundamental. Or we can accept them as having objective reality and try to understand a reality which is non-factual: a reality whose fundamental features are not properly reported with statements of the form “It is the case that______”

For the project of modelling Satan as a reality, I need to make the decision about ontology to model a non-factual reality in Deontic Structure of Supernatural Reality.

Example of Agency At Work

In my construction of a model of what it would be like for there to be Satan, freewill is a fundamental “buliding block” of the model. For any Satan worthy of the name has to exercise freewill in defiance of his Creator. The notion of personal agency is crucial in the concept of freewill. So, a paradigm of agency is helpful. I chose this example from my experience because on this occasion I realized that an act of agency, free choosing, is separable from being conscious of it.

On Wednesday afternoon, January 3, 2024, while standing for about an hour ironing some clothes I started to feel very tired with aches throughout my body. I thought that I might be getting a flu although I had been recently vacinated. I did not sleep well Wednesday night. I frequently awoke and noticed that 5:55AM, the time at which my alarm was set, was rapdily approaching. I dreaded the prospect of getting out of bed to began my schedule for Thursday morning. I outline my schedule to bring out that I have the character of a man who pushes himself hard at 88. That outline supports a prediction about how I might likely respond to a challenge about facing a physical hardship. But plausible predicatability is not evidence against freedom of a decision; let alone that it was not I who made the decision.

The schedule was to bring my wife coffee at 6:15AM, talk a bit, recite Matins with my wife, walk about two miles, bike a mile to my parish church for 8:30AM mass and then bike six miles to work until 1130 AM at a St. Vincent de Paul free clothing store. Then I would bike another six miles to home. The temperatures were in the low 30s. I felt very sick but I could not say clearly what was wrong: no sore throat, no fever, no coughing.

I chose to go back to bed at 6:30AM. But that is not the free choice I want to exhibit. Before going back to bed, I asked my wife to wake me up by 8AM; at which time I would decide whether to bike to mass and then to the Clothing Center or stay in bed and have my wife contact the Clothing Center to report my absence. (She planned to drive to the Center to drop off some clothing donations.) It was warm and comfortable in bed. But I slept fitfully thinking about whether or not to stay in bed all morning or bike to mass and work at the Clothing Center.

Myriad pros and cons went through my mind. I thought about being comfortable. Staying in bed would be comfortable but boring if I could not sleep. On one hand, I worried that I would be giving into weakness. On the other, I worried that I would be giving in to vanity about being tough if rested all morning. Irealized that vanity should not mislead me into prolonging whatever this sickness might be.There were moral thoughts about not spreading whatever my sickness was. There were contrary moral thoughts about the need for people to staff the Center. There was, however, no decisive moral claim. This was not to be a moral decision. I simply could not decide what I was going to do. Or better: I was not conscious about how I was to decide

About five minutes to eight, I heard my wife coming up the stairs to get my decision. What was I going to do? I was not sure even as she came through the door. Then I threw the blankets back, sat at the edge of my bed and said that I was going to bike to mass and the Clothing Center. I had the intentions of facing the cold and going ahead with my regular Thursday morning plans. That was my choice and I was conscious of it. I was not so much conscious of it as a free choice. I was mostly conscious of it as the choice I made. I was even a bit surprised that I made the choice to keep my schedule; and rather proud of myself for making the choice to confront physical discomfort.

What is the relevance of this example for freewill? Most importantly, the example shows that consciousness of the choice does not make it my choice; let alone make it a free choice. Self consciousness only reports that I made the choice and apparently could have chosen otherwise, viz.,formed an intention to stay in bed. Conscious choosing, or better, consciousness of choosing, could occur after I have chosen, as some controversial research suggests.1 The important fact reported by consciousness is that of my agency: I was conscious that I stood up with the intention of carrying on my regular Thursday routine. I was not conscious of any freedom to carry out my intention. I could have fainted upon standing, as has happened. Then my wife would seriously restrict my activities that morning. If I had fainted, I would not be the agent of my fainting. (One could be the agent of their own fainting by standing up quickly to produce orthostatic hypotension.)

What is my interpretation of my behavior? Although we consciously entertain many thoughts while deliberating, making the choice is not another conscious thought in the deliberation. The thought of making the decision comes after we make the decision. The choice is made by ourselves as agents. As agents we create something new in reality, viz., an intention to act a certain way. The intention is created ex nihilo by the agent. An intention is a thought but a thought with causal force; intentions are dynamic. Thoughts of the pros and cons of getting up do not get me up or keep me down. The thought which is the intention to get up is the thought which gets me up. The previous thoughts or physical states are relevant to the intention I form. The previous thoughts and physical states are necessary for whatever intention I form; they set severe constraints on the kind of intention I form. But they are not suffficient for it. Action of me as an agent is the factor which is the efficient cause in this situation.2

It would be inaccurate for me to say that my brain formed the intention and made the decision.

It would be inaccurate to say that an entity apart from my brain, which is my self, formed the intention and made the decision. My awareness that I made the decision is not awareness that warrants any analysis of what kind of being I am; only that I am the agent, the maker of certain decisions.

I close with an aphorism: Consciousness of choosing freely is not freely choosing. Consciousness of freely choosing only reports the fact of an agent freely choosing.

1 Libet, B., Gleason, C.A., Wright, E.W. & Pearl, D.K. ‘Time of conscious
intention to act in relation to onset of cerebral activity (readiness-potential).
The unconscious initiation of a freely voluntary act’, Brain (1983)106: 623-642. A clear summary of this investigation is in Faraday Paper 17 by Peter G.H. Clarke

2. I have been influenced by John Mackie’s notion of an INUS condition. It is a term” coined byphilosopherj John Mackie to describe a condition that is necessary but not sufficient for an outcome, and is part of a complex condition that is sufficient but not necessary for the outcome. For example, an electric short circuit is an INUS condition for a house fire, because it needs flammable material to cause the fire, and the fire could also be caused by other factors. In the case of my example, the forming of the intention to get up is like the short circuit. I formed the intention to get up before I became conscious of my intention.

Freewill Necesaary and Sufficient for Love

This post makes a case that freewill is necessary and sufficient for love. My understanding of freewill is frequently called: Libertarian freewill or contra causal freewill. In a way, I am making a case for Libertarian freewill by arguing that true love is possible if and only if there are agents with Libertarian freewill.

I do not use the term “contra-causal” because I accept agent causation. Free choices are caused by agents.

Throughout, I assume that there is love. My line of argument reveals that a critic who denies freewill,not only denies that there is love. He also denies that there is a creative God.

This post is in my project of constructing a conceptual model of Satan. So, in places, I write rather abstractly of agents choosing because I want eventually to distinguish the freewill of angels from that of humans.

I  use Aristotelian concepts of causality. The notion of final cause is crucially used in my argument that the good of the other cannot be sufficient for bringing about an agent willing the good of the other. The Aristotelian causes can be understood by common sense. We can ask of anything: What is it?(Formal Cause), What is it for? (Final Cause) What is it made of? (Material Cause), What put it here, now(Efficient Cause.)

I assume love is properly characterized as willing the good of the other. As noted in the next paragraph, this characterization of love  gives the formal cause of love.

Freewill is the material cause of love.  In other words, love is made from freewilling, The final cause of love is the good of another. In other words, the purpose of loving is to bring about what is good for the other.1   The formal cause of love is willing the good of another. The efficient cause of love is the willing of the agent, i.e., a being who can choose. Nothing acting on the agent is sufficient to bring the agent to choose the good of the other. In the spiritual or mental realm, an agent creates an intention to act for the good of an other. It is not the good of the other which brings about the choice of the good of the other.  Why not?

I use the philosophers’ stylistic device of a formal argument with numbered premises and conclusions.

The gist of the argument is that assuming that the good of the other suffices to bring the agent to choose it requires assuming that the good of the other satisfies something in the agent. The satisfying of this something in the agent becomes the efficient cause of the agent choosing the good of the other.

1. The good of the other is the final cause of choosing the good of the other, i.e., the final cause of loving.

 2. If the good of the other sufficed to lead an agent to choose the good of the other, then the agent would have an inclination for the good of the other sufficient to bring it to choose the good of the other.  (There would be some feature of the agent with an appetite or desire for the good of the other.)

3. If an agent has an inclination for the good of the other sufficient to bring it to choose the good of the other, then choosing the good of the other is doing what the agent is inclined to do.

 4. If the agent chooses what he is inclined to do, the agent is choosing to satisfy his inclination.

 5. If the agent is choosing to satisfy his inclination, the good the agent chooses is his satisfaction.

6. If the good the agent chooses, even in his choice of the good of the other,  is his satisfaction, then the final cause of his choice is not the good of the other but the satisfaction of his inclination.

 So, putting (2) through (6) together, we get:

7.  If the good of the other sufficed to lead an agent to choose the good of the other,  then the final cause of his choice is not the good of the other but the satisfaction of his inclination.

 But  the assumption (1) is that the good of the other is the final cause of choosing the good of the other. Hence, by logical step called modes tollens  (7) with (1) yields:

(8) The good of the other does not suffice to lead an agent to choose the good of the other.

  What then suffices for the agent to will the good of the other? The agent is aware of the good of the other and takes that good as a reason for choosing it for the other. When the agent takes the good of the other as a reason for choosing the good of the other, the agent forms an intention to act for the sake of getting the good of the other. The agent taking the good of the other as a reason for choosing the good of the other along with the correlative intention is the sufficient condition for willing the good of the other. This is not to say that the agent does not want or desire the good of the other. It is to say that the agent does not choose the good of the other to satisfy his wants or desires, viz. inclinations.

Why say that freewill is a necessary condition for willing the good of the other?

If we deny freewill, we assume that in any choices apparently for the good of the other, the good of the other suffices for the choice. If the good of the other suffices for the choice of the good of the other, then the agent’s choice of the good of the other is made to satisfy an inclination of the agent. If the agent’s choice of the good of the other is made to satisfy an inclination of the agent, then the good of the other is not the final cause of the agent’s choice of the good of the other. If the good of the other is not the final cause of the choice of the good of the other, then the agent’s choice is not a choice of love. Hence, if we deny freewill, any choice of an agent which is apparently a loving choice, is not a choice of love. Or taking the so-called Contrapositive: If any choice of an agent which is apparently a loving choice is indeed a loving choice, we cannot deny freewill.

So, the goal of the post has been attained.

  1. To say that the final cause in loving is to satisfy our inclination for good in the other is to deny that love is for the good of the other. It is to say that love is ultimately for our own satisfaction with the good of the other being only a side effect.

What is Supernatural Reality?

This post is part of my effort to write a booklet on Rationality of Belief in Satan

The first step in providing a model of what it would be like for there to be a devil is to construct a model of the kind of reality that Satan would be. Satan is not a transcendent being as is God, when properly understood. Satan is a creature of the transcendent. The objects and processes of the supernatural are the angels and their processes. Because there are angelic processes, angels have a history. They are not eternal even if they are everlasting. They are in a time.

I adapt thoughts of Augustine and Aquinas to develop a model of the angelic reality. The natural comprises material objects, material forces plus the feelings and thoughts of animals and humans. The material is complex and we do not have a coherent model of it as is brought out by the mind/body interconnection problem. The supernatural is even more difficult to model because any image must be rejected as distorting. We do not not have mind body problems with respect to angels. However, constantly have to remind ourselves that the type of abstract we use in modeling angels is not the same type of abstracting we use when we think abstractly to pull something out of reality to think more clearly about it. The abstraction of angels is not the type of abstraction of which we can say”It is not exactly this way, but for sake of clarity let’s not think of it as it is in reality.” The abstraction of angels from what we can imagine is to think of them as they are in reality.

Preface: Rationality of Belief in Satan

Nullus diabolus, nullus redemptor

This is a draft Preface for a short e-book on the rationality of professing the reality of a devil – Satan. I will be preparing the first draft of this booklet in a series of blog posts.

Why use “professing” rather than “believing?” I make claims implying the reality of Satan primarily as part of endorsing the belief system of the Catholic Church. I rarely think of Satan in my religious life, moral life; let alone in my day-to-day practical affairs. However, my not denying the reality of Satan and professing that Satan exists is more than only professing Satan’s reality with my lips without believing it in my heart. Honesty requires preparing myself to let events bring it about that the reality of Satan is, for me, a sincerely held religious belief. In Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis makes it clear that belief in Satan is basic in Christianity. Dismissing Satan as an outdated superstition implies that Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels was a superstitious fool. Believing Jesus to be ignorant and superstitious, is incompatible with professing a Christian religion. I would become a better Christian and, perhaps, morally better if belief in Satan became more significant in my religious and daily life.

We cannot have obligations to do what we cannot do. “Ought” implies “can.” We cannot simply choose to belief; especially on a religious topic. Faith has to be given: by God or life experiences. We can, however, choose to prepare ourselves to receive a gift of faith. What is it to prepare for faith? There may be many ways. The mathematician and philosopher, Pascal, proposed a religious way. But at least learn your inability to believe, since reason brings you to this, and yet you cannot believe. Endeavor then to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of your passions. You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. Even this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness. (Pense III 233)

I take an explicitly philosophical way: Construction of an ontology. One way is to profess what is to be believed all the while trying to construct a model of what it would be like for the belief to be true.“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy” is from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. It is spoken by the title character, Hamlet, in Act I, Scene 5

This booklet outlines my preparing myself for openess to genuine belief in the reality of Satan.

This is an essay in the philosophy of religion. In philosophy of religion a major task is to show how crucial religious beliefs can be held without superstition or fanaticism. So, the task of this booklet is to show that people can let themselves become convinced of the reality of Christian religiously adequate notion Satan, without superstition or fanticism. However, there is no scholarly work showing that my outline of what it might be like for there to be a devil conforms to theological and dogmatic claims about Satan. I have recently read two books on Satan which I am sure have influenced me although I do not cite them as sources. The books are Robert J. Spitzer’s Christ vs. Satan in Our Daily Lives: The Cosmic Struggle Between Good and Evil (Called Out of Darkness: Contending with Evil Through The Church, Virtue and Prayer,) Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2020 and Jeffrey Burton Russell’s , Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History, Cornell U Press, Ithaca NY. 2016. Spitzer’s empirical case for the reality of Satan requires showing how a conceptual model of Satan, a model abstracted from what we can imagine experiencing, allows for people experiencing the phenomena for which a contender for best explanation is demonic possession. Russell does not argue for the reality of Satan. However, he reminds us that there is no established metaphysical scheme that prohibts us from trying to develop a notion of Satan as an explanation for the facts that there seem to be evil done simply for the sake of evil, viz., radical evil.

The second purpose of this post is list links to previous posts on the reality and nature of a Devil. I develop these posts to draft chapters for the booklet.

A December 2022 post points out that the problem of evil leads to an assumption of a created evil creator in oppostion to God

<h4>The Problem of Evil as the Cornerstone of a Christian World View </h4>

<h4> The Value of Conceptual Models of Satan </h4>

<h4> Seriously: Have We Been Rescued From Satan? </h4>

<h4> Pope Francis on the Role of Satan in Sexual Abuse</h4>

Why Does Satan Want Us to Go to Hell?

What Is Satan’s Sin?

<h4>There is a Satan In Opposition To God!</h4>

God cannot destroy Satan

<h4>The Transcendent vs Nothing</h4>

Therefore the real question is whether the concept of
the Devil makes any sense p, 2 See posts on Overview of Posts Confronting Nihilismsatan

Quotations from: Jeffrey Burton Russell’s , Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History,

Inflicting suffering for the sake of suffering, doing evil for evil’s sake, the
Devil is by definition the personification of cosmic evil p2

Often people assume that in the modern world the idea of the Devil is
old-fashioned and therefore false-an objection that assumes that “the
modern world” (however defined) has discovered some metaphysical
truth (however defined) that makes the existence of the Devil less likely
now than it used to 2

Whether or not the Devil exists outside the human mind, the concept
of the Devil has a long history and the most fruitful approach to it is
historical. p. 4

In this way, the Devil is defined by the historical tradition. Efforts to
say that the Devil “really” is something different from the historical
tradition are self-contradictory p 4

Encounter With Christ as Truth Conditions for Christian Doctrine

At the beginning of Pope Benedict XVI’s encylical  Deus caritas est we are taught what it is to be a Christian. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.

This post is corrected in Christianity Requires People Bonding With Jesus Now! wherein I admit that a Christian religion becomes only an ideology unless a significant number of its members personally bond with Jesus as a real being.

My post on the incompatibility of aceptance of the Sexual Revolution with being a Christian suggests that holding some doctrine about Christ’s making atonement for our sins is a necessary condition for being a Christian. No one may  claim that any condition, let alone holding a particular doctrine, is a necessary condition for encountering Christ. Christ can meet whoever He wills and as He wills. We can say that holding some doctrine about atonement or redemption is a necessary condition for an honest claim to be a Christian by a person who also maintains that Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead thereby radically transforming the condition of humanity. Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, was such a Christian.

It is interesting to note that Ratzinger rather reluctantly acknowledged the need for a doctrine of atonement. In his Introduction to Christianity 2nd ed. On pp. 148ff. he contrasts incarnation Christology with Christology of the cross.  Incarnation Christology focuses on the work of Christ as forward looking. Christ came to transform humanity so that we could progress to sharing divine nature. Cross Christology focuses on the work of Christ as reaching back to atone for past sins of humanity. He clearly prefers Incarnation Christology but admits Christian doctrine contains both.

Here, though, the question is whether Pope Benedict XVI taught that a personal encounter with Christ is a necessary and perhaps, sufficient condition for being a Christian. In light of his well known rejection of relativism, the answer should be “no.”*  Christianity cannot be turned over to people’s personal experiences. But some, relatively few,  direct personal encounters with Christ were necessary and have been sufficient for the authentic Christianity of billions of people through two millenia. These relatively few were Jesus’ apostles, disciples and many others who encountered Him before and after His resurrection. The truth of Christian doctrine and action guides for Christian living is based on the witness of those privileged few in apostolic times who saw, heard, touched and trusted  Jesus as enabling them to find the way and for what to live. Without the experienced reality of Jesus’ public ministry, crucifixion and post resurrection appearances Christianity is, at best, reflection of ethical choices and lofty ideals.

Our current Christian faith is based on trust in the testimony of those who actually encountered Jesus.

Christianity has empirical falsification conditions as St. Paul clearly realized in Ch. 15 of 1st Corinithians. If Christ has not risen from the dead, then your faith is in vain.

I write of the direct witnesses of Christ as being a privileged few.  And, so they were, to some extent.  They experienced the reality which provides the truth conditions for Christian teaching. However, the experiences themselves did not provide the conceptual resources to articulate the doctrines. Articulation of the truths about this reality to which they were witnesess required a few centuries of testing lofty ideals about what was witnessed.

I stop here because writing about development of Christianity under the Church Fathers would be theology. I want to stay with philosophy. This post is philosophical because it makes no claim about the truth of Christian doctrine.  Indeed, it concedes how they could be false. I make the philosophical point, maybe only a banal critical thinking, point  that even if  direct experiences of some are needed to support a doctrine not only those who have direct experiences are entitled to believe the doctrines.

*In paragraph 17 of Deus caritas est, he writes of encountering Christ by seeing Him in the others we serve through acts of charity. I do not think that Benedict XVI is writing only of the expression of a lofty ideal which some, including me, express when asked why we serve the poor and needy. For instance, when asked why I dealt politely with someone obnoxiously seeking assistance, I might reply “Oh, I still saw the face of Christ in him.” I frequently make such remarks although I am not sure exactly what I mean. On reflection, I realize that I am only saying that I do these charitable works because I have the “lofty ideals” of Christian teaching and I have made the “ethical choice” to put them into practice.” Benedict XVI teaches that more than the lofty ideals of Christian doctrine and the ethical choice to put them into practice is necessary for being a full-fleged Christian. But this something more than holding the doctrines and morals of Christianity is not the truth conditions for the doctrines. It is some condition, properly called an encounter, which converts the holder of Christian doctrine into a full Christian. See my post on bonding with Christ.

Sexual Revolution Undercuts Christianity

Christianity is Incompatible with Acceptance of the Sexual Revolution

Acceptance of Christianity is acceptance of at least the Apostles’ Creed.

Acceptance of the sexual revolution is acceptance of the Moral Neutrality of Sexuality.

  Characterizing acceptance of the sexual revolution as acceptance of a thesis in moral theory  characterizes the outlook in a neutral, if not favorable, way.  People who accept. in principle, extra marital sex, homosexual acts, etc., may strongly condemn various “outrageous acts” because they deem the consequences of those acts are harmful.

Acceptance of the moral neutrality of sexuality is not logically inconsistent with acceptance of the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed. Because I cannot argue for a logical inconsistency, I shall argue that acceptance of the sexual revolution, viz., the moral neutrality of sexuality, undercuts attempts to understand the Christian creed.

The line of argument goes as follows.

If we accept the sexual revolution, then we accept the moral neutrality of sexuality.

If we accept the moral neutrality of sexuality, i.e.,no intrinsically wrong sexual act, then we use consequentialist reasoning to decide what is morally wrong in sexual matters.

If we use consequential reasoning for sexual morality, there is no rationale preventing use of consequentialist reasoning for all moral decisions.

                The objection to universal use of consequentialist reasoning is that some natural features ought never be used a certain way because the nature of those features show us that certain way is not how they ought to be used.  The nature of sexual features are paradigms of natural features  showing how they ought to be used.  If we discard sexual features as showing how they ought to be used, we at least began making a paradigm shift away from regarding internal features of acts as having normative significance towards regarding only the consequences of acts as having normative significance.

If there is no rationale preventing consequentialist reasoning for all moral decisions, rational people use consequentialist reasoning for all moral decisions.

If rational people use consequentialist reasoning for all moral decisions, then rational people recognize no intrinsically wrong acts.

If rational people recognize no intrinsically wrong acts, rational people find no rationale for Retributive Punishment.

If rational people find no rationale for retributive punishment, then rational people hold that a doctrine that Jesus suffered and died to redeem humanity presupposes an incorrect moral theory.

If rational people hold that a doctrine that Jesus suffered and died to redeem humanity presupposes an incorrect moral theory, then rational people hold that the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds presuppose an incorrect moral theory.

Putting all of these claims together we can conclude:

If rational people accept the sexual revolution, they hold that the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds presuppose an incorrect moral theory.

What is Catholic Philosophy?

Long ago, in the mid-twentieth century, when I was starting out as a professional philosopher in the Universities of Minnesota and Ohio State, the short and, presumably, most honest answer was “There is no such thing as Catholic Philosophy.” However, since it is clearly grammatically and semantically correct to modify “philosophy” with “Catholic.” the answer “Catholic philosophy is philosophy done by a Catholic” was offered as an interpretation of “Catholic philosophy.” Nonetheless, the implication was that there was no clearly philosophical material that could be usefully labeled “Catholic.”

Actually, the view applied to any adjective, even “Greek.” There was simply philosophy. Greek philosophy was philosophy done by Greeks. Indian philosophy was philosophy done in the India sub-continent, Chinese philosophy was that done in China and so forth. There was speculation that philosophy could be found in the cultures of indigneous peoples throughout the world both in the past and present. To be sure, we might have to search carefully to find the philosophical thought mixed in with all sorts of other types of thinking. But mixed in with all sorts of religious and practical thinking we might find thinking of which we could make claims such as: In these passages they were wondering about free will, personal identity, mind/body connection etc. Perhaps, philosophical thinking cannot be precisely defined. To some extent, “we know it when we see it” or read it. I write “to some extent” because philosophy is more than an intellectual exercise. It is one of the human ways of trying to get the truth. We need to make a judgment about an intent to “get it right” to label a text or discourse philosophical. There is a philosophia perennis – a cultural universal usefully labeled “philosophy.” It is what I call “philosophy” when I conclude that Reason Alone cannot set aside nihilism.

Philosophy itself deals with topics which cannot be fully understood, viz., standard philosophical problems such as mind/body connection and knowledge of other minds. But philosophical problems are not religious mysteries; they are not posed as part of a religious tradition. In any application of philosophy to religious doctrines, the basic philosophical problems will be there; unresolved as always.

The universal style of philosophical thinking can be applied to religious mysteries. The religious mysteries are open to all as mysteries. As mysteries they are not any better understood by believers than non-believers. I am writing only of religious which do not have esoteric doctrines. The mysteries are available for those who want to understand them as well as to all who are merely curious about how intelligent people could take them seriously. If there is a religious tradition, eg., Catholicism, which contains a mysterious concept, such as angels, then use of the philosophical way of thinking to gain partial understanding of this concept is part of the religious philosophy of that religion. A paradigm of Catholic philosophy is Thomas Aquinas’ teaching on angels.

Catholic philosophy, then, is use of philosophical methods to understand a mystery of Catholicism with the intent of at least getting partial truth about it. In Catholic philosophy scripture may be cited; but only as a motivation for dealing with the topic. It is unlikely that a non-Catholic would engage in Catholic philosophy. A non-Catholic might read through Aquinas’ arguments about the existence of angels merely to appreciate how Aquinas reasoned. You cannot read the philosophy of a Catholic philosopher without thinking philosophcally. But the philosophical thinking required to read Catholic philosophy is not by itself Catholic philosophy A Catholic philosopher is a faithful Catholic who engages in Catholic philosophy. I hope that I am a Catholic philosopher.

What about my own work?

My effort to provide Conceptual Model of Satan is an example of Catholic philosophy. My effort to articulate a notion of Moral Harm to provide a model of moral thinking in which there is a place for retributive punishment is by itself simply philosophy. I am only trying to bring out all the implications of human moral thought. However, my inclusion of this notion of moral harm in trying to build a model for Jesus suffering punishment for our faults is Catholic philosophy. See my Cur Deus Homo?

Faith, With & Without Mysteries vs. Nihilism

Reason alone does not overcome nihilism. Indeed, not even if reason establishes divine command morality, is nihilism decisively overcome. See results of my: Overview of Posts Confronting Nihilism . There are two dimensions in overcoming nihilism: attitudinal and intellectual. A firm sense of purpose for living provides an attitudinal antidote to nihilism. A firm sense of purpose is faith. The stability of faith is based on a purpose which is a fixed point. Reason fixes the point by closing the question of for what purpose the purpose is pursued. For instance, a person can live a purpose driven life by striving in thought, word and deed to be on the right side of the history of human development. Such a person, consciously or unconsciously, resolves not to undercut the existential significance of the purpose by dwelling on questions about what exactly it is to be on the right side of history and why it matters. Another might live to do what is right because it is right. This stoic believer in morality brushes aside any question about the purpose of living for duties sake. A third might live to do what God commands because God commands it. In this case, questioning the purpose of obeying God is dismissed as blasphemous.

The proposed purposes are universal: for all human beings. We, individually, have these purposes because that purpose is the purpose of being human. Suppose the purpose for life is said to be only for me or only for a particular society. The questions: Why me? Why us? are obviously open questions.

Although it is odd to ask for what purpose the purposes are pursued sense can be made of asking for what purpose they are pursued. The reality which give rise to the problem of evil is available to undercut even the most firm faith. See The Problem of Evil as the Cornerstone of a Christian World View and The Problem of Evil as a Cornerstone of a Nihilistic World View. Sense can be made of asking for what purpose we pursue them because reason shows that they are unattainable. Reason shows us that we are subject to sin and death. We cannot live up to these ideals. We simply have not been and are not now in pursuit of these ideals. Individually and collectively we are hopeless failures. In any event, death eventually takes away every individual and civilization. Because of intellectual knowledge of death and sin, the attitudinal antidotes to nihilism are vulnerable.

I have come to the end of what philosophy, including natural theology and natural moral theology, can accomplish in regard to providing an antidote to nihilism. Philosophy, via the reality underlying the problem of evil undercuts any purpose for life proposed by philosophy as ideology.

What is to be done? One can accept nihilism. But intellectual honesty does not require accepting nihilism even if nihilism cannot be set aside by human intelligence alone. See Does Respect for Truth Require Nihilism? William James argued well for this point in his well known The will to believe. The other alternative is to “tough it out” by holding fast to faith in some proposed purpose for life. There are two ways of holding fast to a faith. One way is to stay within the limits of reason and shut down the critical reflection that serves only to undercut that in which you have faith. These are secular confrontations with nihilism . Note that any antidote to nihilism requires shutting down the suicidal critical reflection which serves only to undercut that in which you have faith. The other is to be open to revelation which provides insights which reason could never produce by itself but which we can try to understand with reason even if we can never completely understand them. This is religious confrontation with nihilism. These revealed insights are properly called mysteries.

We get revelations from historical religions. There is a need for subsequent posts to support the thesis that revelation comes only via historical or traditional religions. Acceptance of mysteries involves less intellectual suppression than secularism for we have mysteries to think about.