Monday, 20 February 2012


It does not retract from God's omnipotence, that He cannot make things which are contradictory in themselves, as, e.g., a square circle, or that He cannot commit a bad action; for there is such a contradiction between evil acts and an infinitely perfect being that the two are together incompatible. Hence, all the works of God are good and participate in His own perfections; He cannot create any being with the purpose of making it unhappy. Creation is the free act of God's will. 1. Freedom in respect of finite objects is inseparable from intelligence; 2. If the First Cause were not free, it would be under some compulsion. But the First Cause cannot be under any compulsion (a) either from within, for that compulsion would form part of its nature and would make the First Cause depend in some way on something distinct from it; but this would be an imperfection in the First Cause; or (b) from without, for then there would be an agent outside the First Cause able to exert such compulsion; but there is none, since we are dealing with the very First Cause. All created thing's are (a) totally and for ever distinct from the First Cause, since they are effects which do not belong to the life of the First Cause (i.e, they are not the result of immanent action); (b) not emanations of any sort from the First Cause, for emanations would mean there were parts, quantitive or potential, in the First Cause; that is, the First Cause would not be simple; (c) yet dependent on the First Cause, for what cannot exist by itself cannot continue in existence by itself; (d) therefore, contingent and finite imitations or copies of the divine perfections. These are fundamental notions which bear on many points both of theory and practice. Objections Answered.-1. Out of nothing, nothing can be made—Answer: Quite so; nothingness cannot become the material out of which to make things. But an all-powerful agent can make things. without any pre-existing material. 2. But the cause must obtain the effect and God contains no matter. —Answer: God contains matter eminently and virtually and that is enough. Namely, God has all the perfections of matter without its imperfections and He can exercise all the powers found in matter; He can produce even matter itself, since He is Almighty. 3. The world is eternal and needs no Maker.—Answer: Even if it were eternal, it would be eternally dependent on God for its existence. But modern science affirms this universe was made in time; mankind had a beginning We also know from Revelation that the world is not eternal but had a beginning. 4. The act of creating would have produced a change in God.—Answer: Yes, if this act were not eternally in God. All the change is in the world, but extrinsic to God, leaving Him as He is. (2) Preservation or Conservation is but creation continued. At every moment the creature's existence remains a gift of God without whom it would return to nothingness. (3) Co-operation on the part of God is needed for every action by creatures because in every new effect there is something which no finite being can alone produce. However, neither God's concurrence with our free actions, nor His certain and eternal foreknowledge of them all, interferes in any way with our freedom. Mystery surrounds both God Himself and His activity. It must be so, because our finite minds cannot measure or comprehend the Infinite. Still, our natural reason finds such solid arguments for the existence and the personal attributes of the Deity as to render doubt absurd and atheism or disbelief ridiculous. (4) God's Fatherly Providence is wonderfully exercised and manifested in man, the crown and glory of the universe. Divine Providence is the will of God by which all things are ruled by right reason and all events so ordered that the purposes of creation may be realized. In particular, God provides for every human being the means of working out his destiny. This is how He expresses His relation to us as our Father and Lord, who knows our needs. This Providence is our reason and motive for prayer, it is God's hand leading us on in His service. As the poet Young has said: "Prayer ardent opens heaven" (Night VIII), or as Tennyson expressed it: "More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." And another poet has truly said: "Prayer moves the Hand that moves the Universe." II.—The Omnipresence of God is the application of His immensity to the universe. God is present everywhere by His substance, His knowledge and His power. He is present as a spirit, all in all and all in every part of the universe. III.—By His omniscience God knows all things that are knowable, even the conditional free actions of men. Just as God's infinite wisdom is clearly evident from the order of the universe, so is God's omniscience evident in as much as it is absolutely necessary for His wisdom. Objections.-1. If God rules all events, men need and can do nothing —Answer: God rules all events but lets free causes act freely knowing meanwhile how to draw ultimate good from present evil. 2. Many things happen by accident, not by design.—Answer: By accident, that is, not foreseen or planned by men, but foreseen, and willed or allowed by God.. 3. At least the wicked plots of murderers and thieves are not directed by the providence of God.—Answer No, God cannot direct the free will of evildoers to evil but their physical actions (e.g., theft or assault) and the effects of those actions cannot exist without the actual concurrence of God and His permissive Will. - 4. A wise Providence would not tolerate so much injustice among men.—Answer: Much misery is caused by man himself, which God need not hinder for the present, but which will be atoned for in due time. Moreover, physical suffering may have good moral effects. Finally, God is not bound to give all men an equal share of His gifts. About God's Knowledge —1. What God knows will happen, must necessarily happen. Therefore, either God is ignorant of the future or man is not free.—Here "necessary" has two meanings. God knows infallibly, for certain, what I shall do next month, yet I shall do it freely. This is necessary in the logical order even with freedom of the physical order. If I see a man walking, he must necessarily be walking, else I could not see him walk, yet he walks quite freely. 2. Then God's knowledge depends on our own choice.—All knowledge supposes objects; there are causes of our knowledge, but only conditions for God, and in this there lies no imperfection or real dependence. IV.—God is Infinite Goodness. To be good is to be desirable and perfect. God is good in Himself and is the source of all goodness and the object of our desire. In the sense of bounty or beneficence, goodness means the earnest will to make others happy. In the sense of conduct in conformity with reason, it means Holiness. As the inclination to aid men in their misery it is Mercy, and as the disposition to render each one his due, goodness is called Justice. Divine justice and Mercy do not always manifest themselves in our present life, yet they are divine perfections and therefore infinite and will, finally prevail. The eternal act by which God contemplates and enjoys all the goodness of His nature constitutes His infinite beatitude. Objections Answered.—If God is all-bountiful, He should make all His creatures happy.—Answer. God seriously wishes all to be happy, we grant. That He should make them happy against their will, we deny. The manifestation of divine goodness is limited by God's wisdom but also by man's free will. 2. If God is all-holy, why does He allow sin to exist?—Answer. God absolutely detests and forbids all sin or moral evil and He can show this in two ways: by preventing its existence or by repairing the evil done. He does not punish crime and reward virtue at once because He can do so in the next world and for eternity. V.—The existence of evil does not disprove God's justice, providence and goodness, nor can it prevent the complete working out of His plans. Note that evil is nothing positive but only a defect or privation. Blindness and ignorance are physical evils; crimes and wrongs by free agents are moral evils. Evil is opposed to good; evil is what is missing in a being that is good; hence evil as such cannot be willed or produced by an agent. (a) How does evil come to exist?—We find much inequality and misery on earth. (1) Much of it comes from the vices of men which God does not check for the present, but which must be atoned for in due time. (2) Often sufferings are part of God's merciful designs on souls. He never intends directly physical evil (sickness, poverty, ignorance and death) but only as a means for a good end, e.g., sufferings help man to acquire virtue. He does not make evil (since evil is no reality). He only leaves natural causes to work according to natural laws, or lets men use their freedom. Therefore, never think of God as choosing one man for suffering and another for blessing. But think of Him as the Author of laws made for all men's blessing, the breaking of which must naturally bring pain and suffering. The Providence of God is a loving and most patient power, working to produce in man the aptitude for eternal bliss; but it works by law, because only in that way can man be educated for the glory which awaits him. (b) God, the First Cause, abhors all sin or moral evil. 1. The First Cause has for aim only good. But moral evil or sin is opposed to the intentions of the First Cause and to the order established by it. Therefore, the First Cause which is infinitely perfect and wise cannot approve moral evil, but must abhor it. 2. The free responsible agent himself is a participation or an effect of the Infinite Good. Therefore, for him to turn away from the Infinite Good, his Maker, by committing moral evil, is a grievous disorder, a serious offence to that Infinite Good. 3. Conscience bears witness to this. Remorse follows actions that we know to be against the order fixed by the First Cause. (c) God is not Bound to Stop Evil:- 1. Man is an intelligent, free, responsible agent, made so by the First Cause. Therefore, he must be left to his responsibility. It would be nugatory to make an agent free and responsible, if his maker interfered whenever the free agent was about to misuse his freedom and bring evil upon himself or upon his dependents and descendants or if, after man had done so, God interfered with what he had done. The First Cause is not bound to stop, 1. Physical evil; because it is not real evil; it is often useful; it is not necessarily bound up with moral evil, which is real evil. 2. Neither is He bound to stop moral evil. Of all the objects which may engage a faculty, the highest and noblest is the one most worthy of the acts of that faculty and best suited to them. But perfect happiness, the possession of the supreme good (namely, the last end of man) is the highest object of man's free will; also; all our other free acts take their moral value from their connection with that perfect happiness to the last end. Therefore, it is most fitting that, with regard to these acts, man be left to his responsibility. Again, God's intervention to deprive us of free will would turn us into mere machines incapable of either moral good or moral evil. God wants from us a higher kind of service, out of our own free choice, so that we be pleasing to Him and deserve His reward. By freely choosing what is good we become most like unto God Who loves all that is good. There is nothing more valuable than a will which freely chooses what is good. N.B.- The occurrence of physical evils in a person is not proof of the existence of moral guilt in the sufferer. To think otherwise is unreasonable and sometimes inhuman and unjust as in the case of lepers, the born-blind, widows or the insane. In conclusion, we may say that God neither wishes moral evil to happen, nor does He wish to prevent its happening in fact. He only wants to let moral evil happen as a fact, never as a right; and this He can do because He is good enough and powerful enough and wise enough to derive some good even from evil. Of this we can have no doubt; but the manner in which God proceeds sometimes remains for us a mystery. In such cases the certainty that God is good and provident should not be overshadowed by our ignorance about God's ways. Apparent contradictions never suffice to make us give up facts well ascertained. Objections Answered.—1. If God is good how does He permit evil to happen and if He is almighty, why does He not prevent it from happening?—Answer: The answer has just been given. God's omnipotence and goodness are well ascertained attributes of His, even if we fail to understand their working here on earth. Besides (1) only free creatures, never God, cause moral evil or sin; (2) as to physical evil, it is often a blessing in disguise. 2. God makes men whom He knows will turn out criminals—Answer: There are good reasons for it. In giving these men free will, God does a good thing for a good purpose, namely, His honour and their good. If they abuse His gift, He knows how to draw good out of evil, by exercising His mercy in pardoning or His justice in punishing. Nihil Obstat: RECCAREDUS FLEMING, Censor Theol. Deput. Imprimi Potest † EDUARDUS, Archiep. Dublinen., Hiberniae Primas. Dublini, 8 die Oct., anno 1939