Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Quodlibetal Questions

1. My five-year-old asked me, "Does God love the people in hell?" Good question.

Yes, insofar as they exist, God loves them. He does not love them as much as He loves those who are not in hell, but He loves them more than He would love something that did not exist at all. God's love does not respond to a good; His love makes the good in a thing. If a thing is good, it is because God loves it; that alone is the cause of the goodness of a thing. This is called predilection: literally, to prefer. In theology it does not only mean to prefer, but that since God's preferences are facts, not mere wishful thinking, it is God's love that is the source of the gradation in the goodness in things. In this case, the 'pre' can be thought of as signifying that how God feels about a thing is the goodness the thing possesses before it possesses it, which is the cause of the thing possessing this goodness. If the people in hell aren't really as good as the people in heaven, it is because God doesn't love them as much. If He didn't love them at all they wouldn't exist at all. (This is not to say that God is the cause of evil in things - evil doesn't exist - only good exists - evil is the absence of a good that is suppose to be there. The person is the cause of the evil in things. God is the cause of the good.)

To Plato's question in the Euthyphro - Are things good because the gods love them, or do they love them because they are good? - we would have to answer, it is because God loves them that much that they possess that much goodness. We should remember that this is not arbitrary, because in God will and fact are the same thing.

All of this has implications that Thomas merely touches on in his Summa, 1a, q.104, aa. 2 & 3. Does God annihilate things? No, says Thomas. He seems to suggest that it would be immoral for Him to do so, although he also says that God is under no obligation to keep things in being. Perhaps it is not obligation, in other words, a matter of justice per se, but, rather, on account of His great goodness which transcends any mere obligation. So it is good that He doesn't annihilate things, but He is not obligated in justice to keep them in existence. In other words, it is better for people to exist in hell than not to exist at all, therefore it is in some sense good that people are in hell, therefore that God loves that there are people in hell, therefore He loves the people in hell.

2. Was Nietzsche an anti-Semite? (Rebecca didn't ask this one.)

This question came up in my Modern Church History Class today.

No, he was not. Yes, he had a great influence on Hitler, but Hitler obviously did what he wanted with Nietzsche. In this Hitler was aided by N.'s sister, who compiled and malformed her brother's Will to Power - his final, unfinished work - while N. was in the insane asylum. Also, N. was a great fan of the anti-Semitic composer's, Wagner's, music. They were at one time close friends, until N. began to seriously dislike him. N. would later write against him, focusing especially on Wagner's anti-Semitism. N. wrote a great deal against anti-Semitism, which is interesting since he thought that Judaeo-Christianity was the enemy of mankind. Yet this was not racial, it was ideological. He did not think Jews were racially inferior. Rather, he thought that these two religions of the Bible were terrible blights on humanity - for reasons too complex to get into right now, but which one should study, because his writings are extremely interesting!

3. Who was the greater pope - Benedict XIV or Leo XIII?

If asked more than a few weeks ago I would not have hesitated to say that it would be our current pope's namesake from the 18th century who was greater. Now, I am at a loss, and I walk about all day ringing my hands, searching for an answer, questioning people I meet on the street, and running about in the woods at night in sorrow, wailing at the moon.

Benedict XIV was the first systematizer of the process for beatification and canonization, a great patron of learning, admired by as paradoxical a fan as Voltaire. Leo XIII, as many more would know, was the first great papal writer on social justice questions, but he was, in addition to this, a forward-looking promoter of Biblical studies, and could appreciate the then unfamiliar virtues of liberal democracy, and, most importantly, he was a great lover and protector of the Jewish people in an age of growing hostility toward them.

As a footnote, I am becoming quite the fan of Paul VI too - you know, the guy behind Humane Vitae, you know the neglected pope compared to grandpa John XXIII - every body's favourite nice, sweet old man. I think Paul VI was never given his due by history. But it was John XXIII who basically made him pope, in the same way that JP II had Benedict XVI made pope.

Finally, as a footnote on popes, the one I have a great deal of trouble with was not one of those Renaissance warrior popes like Julius II, whom Protestants love to mock us with, but, rather, Clement XIV, the pope who suppressed the Jesuits in 1773. The Jesuits were the greatest gift to the Church since the Franciscans and Dominicans in the 13th century. They were Catholicism for two centuries. Oh the shame! On this matter I live my life to refute His Grace, Archbishop Prendergast, who says that the only people who pray for this pope are the Jesuits. I pray for him too. (Actually, what the Archbishop really said was that the Jesuits are the only ones who visit his tomb to pray for him.)

4. How ought we to view Muslims?

This question comes about as a lingerer from my previous post on "gay-marriage." A reader was good enough to voice his 'discomfort' about the way I referred to Muslims. And this forced me to really think about the whole question. I said that Christians must always defend the innocent and the weak. A Muslim could qualify as one, or both, of these. But, of course, Muslims, like gays and every one else, deserve justice and compassion. I tend to consider Islam as a danger to the West, which it is. But the threat that I think Judaism is (to the Christian religion) does not translate in me into anything like an actual lack of positive feeling for Jews, so I should watch it regarding Muslims. Of course, there are no fundamentalist Jewish states plotting wickedness as there are a few Muslim states doing such things - especially in Africa! Islam can be a real force for evil in this world, but I just do not know enough about Islam to be able to draw a direct connection between it and terrorism. I suspect that it is largely - although probably not entirely - an aberrant link. I have a feeling that terrorism is to Islam what communism is to Christianity. In many ways, Judaism is only less of a threat to Christianity than Islam is because Jews have more thoroughly conformed to the mores of the nations in which Christians have historically predominated. Further, it can be persuasively argued that religious imperialism (along the lines of the jihad) has not been a part of the Jewish religion since the time of Josiah, 2700 years ago.

It is one thing to think something, quite another to try and force one's beliefs by any means. I think women should stay at home with their children, if at all possible. I think that homosexuality is a mental illness, or several mental illnesses. In neither case, however, would I attempt to force society to conform to these ideas of mine. I would never be rude to a homosexual if I could absolutely help it - although I got to say that this whole affected lisp thing gets on my nerves. Nor would I ever put pressure on a woman to get home with her kids, unless they were being gravely neglected, of course.

Feminist, homosexualists and all those "human rights tribunal" people would like to have us believe that to be morally opposed to homosexuality is the same as to hate homosexuals, is the same as to do violence against them. In this they show their rabid intolerance and bigotry; in this they reveal how very dangerous they are to the commonwealth. But, of course, they are incorrect, their thinking is incoherent, and their minds are weak.

Now, on the subject of Muslims, I cannot fear or condemn a man who thinks that women should be wrapped up like Christmas presents, that all people should be Muslims (after all, I think all people should be Christians!), that the West is evil and decadent (hey, I do too!). I should fear and condemn a man who uses violence to impose these things on me. I have trouble with homosexuals in that they often think that Catholicism is the great evil of the Western World - of course, not all do, but I let a man think what he wants. We'll never be buds, of course, but he'll not disturb my peace, nor would I ever consent to him being locked up as an enemy of the state for maintaining wrong ideas. His ideas are wrong, but there is a great difference, again, between believing something and doing something about it.

Having said all this, do I think that the borders should be thrown-open to Muslim immigrants? I have to be honest enough to say that I'm not crazy about that idea, yet rigorous enough of a thinker to admit that I don't have a cogent reason to back up my gut-feeling. This world would be a better place if there were no Muslims nor homosexuals - unless these people were to be replaced with Nazis, then the world would be the worse for their loss. This world would be a better place if there was no cancer. This does not mean that all people with cancer should be killed, far from it.

So the moral of the story is that I have to try just as hard to love Muslims - not because they are Muslims, but because they are human beings - as I try to love homosexuals, feminists, fans of 'Lost,' and people who say 'irregardless.'


  1. Colin, I am already raising money for your beloved Academy; please don't make me raise funds for your defense against the Human Rights Tribunal.

  2. I was having a depressing day until I read this - thanks so much! But you know, I am afraid that someday my flippancy will catch up with me and I will be fed to the lions.

    And, it's nice to know I have friends who would help me with the tribunal. It's only a matter of time.