Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
Monday, April 05, 2010
“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” – The Exsultet, Traditionally Sung at the Easter Vigil
A simple answer of why God allowed the Fall of man runs like this. God did not desire man’s sin but He respected man’s free will by allowing him to eat the apple. If that works for you, then I say let it continue to work for you (and don’t continue reading).
But in fact that argument doesn’t work. Imagine the parent that placed a knife in his child’s crib, hoping that the child wouldn’t play with it. The parent does not will for the child to play with it, but he will respect the child’s free will. It would be better, apparently, for the parent to avoid placing dangerous objects in the child’s crib. The parent can preveniently protect the child from evil by not allowing him access to it. This prevenient protection does not violate the child’s free will. On the contrary, it allows the free will to be even freer since it cannot make a dangerous mistake. Likewise, God could have simply not placed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden.
Now could God have created a world without evil? Absolutely speaking, that is possible. God could have created a world where evil didn’t exist. But for at least two reasons, God desired that evil should exist. First, so that all possible good might exist, and second, that we might know Him.
The good of perseverance and fortitude cannot exist without the evil of pain and suffering. Without evil, we would lack the good of martyrs. It was God’s desire that the good of perseverance, etc. would exist.
Another reason why God created a world with evil is so that we might know Him. Following Aquinas, as quoted in my article on the Divine Metaphor, “We can speak of simple things only as though they were like the composite things from which we derive our knowledge.” Now in God there is no evil, nor is there a hierarchy of diversity, one thing more perfect than another. God is simple, but we can only know the simple through complex things. Therefore, in order for us to know God, it was necessary to create a complex universe organized into a hierarchy of diversity.
This hierarchy of diversity, which God created, is intended to show us what He is like by analogy. The Scriptures teach us that God is like a king, for example. This is meaningful to us because a king is the highest office; in that particular respect, God is like a king. Of course, we cannot compare God to a human king in any direct sense because whatever can be said of God, in truth cannot be said of anyone or anything else. Our kingship is only like God’s “kingship.” Even the goodness and beauty of the world is only like God who is truly good and truly beautiful. God the Son, is also compared to a lion. This is meaningful for us because lions hold a place of honor among the beasts. They are mightier and fiercer than the other beasts. In this regard, God the Son is like a lion. Rather, a lion is like God the Son.
To simplify this thought, imagine that all beasts were exactly the same. God could not be referred to as a beast because He would not be like a beast. He is only referred to as a lion because lions are greater than other beasts. Imagine if there were no government. God could not be likened unto any human office because no man would be above any other man. But God is above us, and in that way is likened unto a king. This is only a simple way to conceptualize the point I’m trying to make. Imagine (the absurd proposition) that God created a world without this hierarchy of diversity or distinction. If all things were equal, we could in no way relate to God because in our finite capacity, we cannot comprehend God. We only know Him by knowing things which He has revealed to us via the material world. We understand His greatness only by understanding the greatness of kings and lions, etc. and by amplifying that greatness to the best of our ability.
Evil is not a thing that God created. As St. Augustine taught, evil is simply a privation of good as a shadow is a privation of light. But the good of a king cannot be grasped without the privation of that kingly goodness which exists in his subjects. The goodness of the lion cannot be known to us without the privation of that same goodness in his prey or in the lesser beasts. That is: If privation of good didn’t exist in this world, we would have no way to understand God’s goodness.
God could have instantly given us the capacity to see Him directly (which is the Beatific Vision or Heaven), but He chose not to for reasons given above (that the good of fortitude, perseverance, etc. should exist). Thus, in order for us to know Him at all, without the Beatific Vision, it was necessary to create a world wherein privation of good existed so that there would be a hierarchy of diversity whereby we might know what God is like. Our participation in evil, which is by no means necessary, consists in turning away from the Creator and choosing a created good. Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, overcame the world by never choosing a created good over God the Creator. May we imitate Him this Easter season and until we finish the race. Amen.Originally posted at Called to Communion: Why Does Evil Exist?
Saturday, April 03, 2010
We cannot fully appreciate the sorrow of the Cross because we cannot comprehend the innocence of Jesus Christ. It’s hard to watch a man suffer, but it’s harder to watch a child suffer. The reason for this is because we know the child is more innocent than the man. When the innocent suffer, it grieves us because of the injustice done. The more innocent the victim, the greater the injustice. And as hard as it is to consider the sufferings of Christ, if we could comprehend His purity, it would grieve us all the more.
When a child sees this kind of suffering, it affects him more, relative to the degree in which he comprehends what is happening, than it does a man. This is because the child sees with a purer heart. Injustice scandalizes a pure heart to a greater degree than it does an impure heart just as dishonesty grieves an honest man more than it does a dishonest man. The difficulty or pain of seeing injustice is increased by the purity of the beholder.
Further, it is difficult to watch a man suffer. It is more difficult to watch a friend suffer, and it is more difficult still to watch a family member suffer. The more you love someone, and the more you know them, the more difficult it is to see them suffer. If you see a stranger suffer, it is painful because of your sense of commutative justice. But if you see a loved one suffer, it is as if the suffering is happening to you.
All of this has important implications for our apprehension of the sacrifice of Christ. We cannot appreciate the suffering of Christ because we cannot comprehend the level of injustice being committed. Furthermore, since we are sinful, our moral senses are dulled so that we are not as sensitive to the suffering of the innocent as we ought to be.
The most interesting implication to consider, I think, is the sorrow of Mary at the cross. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception aside, who would dare question that Mary’s heart was pure? Her purity of heart caused the suffering of Christ to be more painful for her than for the others present and certainly more than us as we consider it as a historical event. Her love for Jesus, as her only Son, further intensified the sorrow beyond what the best of us would have endured (had we been present). It is in this way that Simeon’s prophesy was fulfilled, “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35).
Origen was right in saying:
No one can grasp the meaning of the Gospel unless he has rested on the breast of Jesus, and unless he has received from Him Mary, who becomes his mother also. (Origen, Commentary on John, 1:6)
By entering into a familial relationship with Jesus Christ, we receive Mary as mother. If we increase our fidelity as Christians in the family of God, both purity of heart and love of Christ will increase. As these two increase, the sorrow of the Cross will become more real to us, but so will the joy of the triumph of Calvary.This was originally posted at Called to Communion.