Three Categories of Suffering, Double-Bind Devotional Language v. Story Framing, Analysis of St. Thomas More Quote, Mental Reservation (Approved Article), Trolleyology

August 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Dialogues

 

RE: God’s infinite opposition to suffering, but still allowing it (Taken from an earlier conversation)

It would seem to me that some kinds of suffering work to enhance our lives, and strengthen our bond with God. You don’t know what you’ve got until you almost lose it, after all. The suffering in Purgatory is a cleansing fire, but it is still suffering, after all.
Also, on a somewhat related note, the Bible also has various verses in which it mentions God using demons to further His will, probably most poignantly in 1 Samuel 19:9 when it says “there was an evil spirit from the LORD on Saul”. Most translations have it as “evil spirit”, but even if you work with YLT, it was still “a spirit of sadness from Jehovah” and sadness is still suffering. Job’s plight is all about God giving Satan authority over what happens to Job (Job 1:12 ‘Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.”’) There are also references to God “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” at particular times after the plagues. What do you make of all of these?
And lastly, you seem to take a very Kantian perspective in all of this, in that you think following the law is always the right thing to do in all circumstances, the “law” being God’s commandments. I’m not going to upset your moral philosophy in one post, but I’m curious as to what a proper Catholic response would be in the cases of the murderer at the door and the runaway freight train dilemmas, which are as follows.
Murderer/Nazi at the door: You are a commoner living under the Nazi regime, and you are hiding innocent Jews in your basement from the Nazis. An impatient Nazi soldier knocks on your door and demands to know whether you are hiding undesirables. For the sake of the argument, let us presume you can only say yes or no. Do you lie to him, break the commandment about bearing false witness, and protect the innocent? Or do you tell him the truth, with the foreseeable evil of the innocent Jews being found and shot on sight?
Runaway freight train: You are the only person on board a runaway freight train. Looking up ahead, you see a crowd of people (be it 2 or 20; does it matter?) who are unaware that the train is coming. If they get hit by the train, they will all die. However, you have in your possession a switch that connects to a y-track a little ways before you get to them, and the y-track would take you along another route in which there is only one person standing there. Let us presume that you would be unable to warn any of these people in any way. Your only options are 1) flip the switch and, in doing so, kill the one person, or 2) do nothing and watch as the crowd of people ahead of you dies. What do you do?
Again, I’m not arguing with you: simply curious as to what your responses are.

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  • Babatunde Odubekun likes this.
  • New Apologetics We will respond to this question shortly. In the meantime, we ask that no responses be posted from others.
  • Scott Maddox What evidence makes you think God opposes suffering?
  • Michael Zimmerman @Scott Maddox: this is taken from an earlier conversation originally about Christopher Hitchens that was posted on November 7th, which ends up discussing God’s opposition to suffering. You may read the original conversation there (although I find myself unable to provide a link, sorry. I recommend you do a control+F search for “Hitchens” on the whole page.)
  • New Apologetics Michael Zimmerman We intend to respond within a day or two.
  • Scott Maddox God personally approved the suffering of Job.
  • New Apologetics Scott Maddox The theology of suffering at the time of the writing of Job was very much undeveloped. However, Job is a radical improvement over the theology of the earlier Old Testament books which attributed suffering to be an indication of the moral fault of the person who suffered.
  • Scott Maddox That’s a cop-out answer.
  • New Apologetics Scott Maddox Please explain why you think so.
  • Scott Maddox Maybe not a cop-out exactly, but rather than put the blame of suffering wear it belongs, the Bible gives two conflicting and wrong reasons for it.
  • New Apologetics Scott Maddox We know that the Bible gives conflicting and wrong reasons for it. That is because it is a progressive revelation. The theology is not the same throughout. Consider that the early Old Testament books are not even monotheistic.

    You are reacting to the irrationality of fundamentalism.
  • New Apologetics Michael Zimmerman

    You wrote:
    It would seem to me that some kinds of suffering work to enhance our lives, and strengthen our bond with God. You don’t know what you’ve got until you almost lose it, after all. 

    We reply:
    You are absolutely right.

    You wrote:
    The suffering in Purgatory is a cleansing fire, but it is still suffering, after all.

    We reply:
    Couldn’t agree more.

    You wrote:
    Also, on a somewhat related note, the Bible also has various verses in which it mentions God using demons to further His will, probably most poignantly in 1 Samuel 19:9 when it says “there was an evil spirit from the LORD on Saul”. Most translations have it as “evil spirit”, but even if you work with YLT, it was still “a spirit of sadness from Jehovah” and sadness is still suffering. 

    We reply: Quite right.

    You wrote:
    Job’s plight is all about God giving Satan authority over what happens to Job (Job 1:12 ‘Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.”’) 

    We reply:
    The story is as you say.

    You wrote:
    There are also references to God “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” at particular times after the plagues. What do you make of all of these?

    We reply:
    In order to properly answer your question, we will need to delineate at least three categories:

    1) Suffering that seems to form future strategy/stance
    2) Purgatorial/Dark Night suffering
    3) Biblical language ascribing evil acts to God

    Analysis of category 1:
    We know that by experiencing pain, we often learn not to do the thing which causes the pain. We don’t deny that. However, this same “approach vs. avoid” calculation also deceives as powerfully as it instructs. We are almost universally attached to certain limiting and irrational courses of action precisely because of the pain that we’ve experienced by simply trying to do the right thing and getting pounded. There is a lot to say about this, but the above is enough to start. From God’s perspective, this is a disaster. If we try to learn from it (in itself), then we will end up bouncing from one extreme to the next, or end up as passive and frightened to act. Know anyone?

    This suffering does not come from God, but from the disorder in the world and our desire to avoid it. The disorder is the consequence of original and personal sin. God *can*, through grace, use our suffering as an opportunity to instruct us about the futility of a life of sin or worldly justice. However, the instructional element does not come from the suffering as such, but from grace and our response to it. If the suffering were intrinsically instructive, then *it* would make people holy. As you know, some become holy and others become more cutthroat and self-protective.

    Analysis of category 2: 
    The spiritual life involves great trials and anguish. Is this because God wanted things to be that way or because he needed to use such methods in order to make us ready for heaven (where, let’s recall, there is *no* pain)? On the contrary, the suffering of purgatory and the dark night (which are essentially the same thing) come from the fact that we were created for a perfectly just world which did not involve human suffering at all. We know that sounds crazy, but follow the reasoning:

    Consider that our human nature is made for the order of original justice. We were meant to have all of our needs met all the time. After the original sin, disorder appears in our experience, and we can no longer meet our God-given needs perfectly. Not being made for deprivation, our human nature grabs what it can in the ways that are most advantageous and (usually) least controversial. This is not because we are created evil, but because we are made for perfect *justice* where everybody gets their due. Even when we try by willpower to fight this drive we fail because we are (being made for justice) not meant to fight ourselves. The only way out of this clinging to things and methods that are passing away (and guaranteed to fail us) is through a kind of literal divine possession of our human faculties.

    In this world (as it is because of disorder) love now entails pain. This pain is all contrary to the plan of God for original justice. We *try* to be loving, but we are not made for suffering, and therefore we are not made for *sacrifice*. Now, here’s the key: God is *not* asking us to sacrifice regardless of what anyone says. He is asking us to let him *possess* us. He is the only one who has the infinite resources to give sacrificially without the possibility of losing. We are only able to love sacrificially by *his* power acting in us. It doesn’t come through effort or stoicism (which is itself a disordered attachment), but through passive purgation.

    Purgatory and the dark night accomplish the same effect by the same means: We come to know our sinfulness contrary to our God-given desire to see ourselves as just. We are separated from all disordered attachments which we have adopted to cope with the unjust pain of the world. The pain of purgatory and the dark night does *not* come from God. Rather, it comes only from the following state of affairs:

    1) We were not made to see our sin. In original justice, we had the right to see ourselves as perfect. Now when we have evidence of our wrong, our nature either “justifies itself” or fragments psychologically; we split in two and judge ourselves. One part is disowned, and we identify with the part doing the judging. We are made for justice and cannot find it. Passive purgation takes our false “justice-making” methods away so that we can see our *true* need. It feels like total destruction and death. The suffering is produced by our nature cleaving to faulty methods and demanding that they work. It cannot understand what God is doing by infusing a *light* of supernatural restoration which seems like total darkness. 

    To understand the role of suffering in passive purgation, consider that if a child is hiding in a locked room of a burning building, then the firefighter who rescues him does not in *any* way approve of the suffering caused to the child by his having to break through the door and forcibly carry the child out kicking and screaming. The firefighter, if he is just, *hates* it. Now consider that this suffering is also (in itself) totally irrelevant to *how* the child is rescued. 

    We are not rescued by *suffering*, but by God who carries us out of what we think is safety. There is suffering involved only because our nature mistakes God’s act of saving us for the total failure of all hope of justice. It only makes this mistake because it cannot understand the supernatural redemptive justice that is coming to it. Regardless of how we love God, our nature is literally forced to fight him in this way for a long time. We cannot understand God’s saving restoration simply because we were never meant to need restoration any more than a child was meant to be in a burning building.

    Our response will continue in the next comment…

     

  • Michael Zimmerman Tagging Anthony Stallings because I think he’d be interested in this sort of thing.
  • Anthony Stallings Who is this New Apologetics? I am very impressed with your responses.
  • New Apologetics Anthony Stallings Well, we just go to confession a lot. Falling and rising…
  • Scott Maddox What kind of things do you confess?
  • Michael Zimmerman I just wanted to mention that I was reading part of the Catechism where it discusses Purgatory, and it referenced 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 which backs up the analogy perfectly:

    “11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.”

    Some translations have the last part as “but only as escaping through flames”. Well done, admins, well done.
  • New Apologetics Michael Zimmerman We haven’t forgotten the rest of your question. 

    We have more to say about Purgatory in our forthcoming response to Tim Kesser’s current question. In that response, we are going to show that St Thérèse’s teaching on Purgatory proves that Protestants and Catholics are actually saying the *same* thing with different language… The whole “debate” is a pseudo-problem.
  • Scott Maddox I was actually looking for more detail than “sins”. I could care less about you eating a double serving of ice cream.
  • New Apologetics Scott Maddox Why would you care about our sins?
  • Scott Maddox Because I want to know what your flaws are. It’s quite possible that you’ve done worse things as a Catholic than I’ve done as an Atheist.
  • Scott Maddox And you have no evidence for the existence of “sin” being anything other than simply a label.
  • Michael Zimmerman I’m confused. Are you asking for evidence that people do bad things, Scott? Obviously there has to be such a thing as God and an objective standard of morality before there can be such a thing as sin – sin is that which separates us from God, and the word literally denotes “missing the mark.” If you do not accept the existence of God or objective morality, then naturally you would not accept the existence of “sin” as such.
  • New Apologetics Scott Maddox You are likely to be right about our sins being worse. But, in a way, the term “worse” means very little. We all have the same fundamental disorder, and the way it shows up largely depends on a combination of how we’ve suffered and what seems to help control the pain. You might have no temptation towards certain sins that someone else who is a devout Catholic compulsively repeats and confesses again and again. The way a person gets kicked around really makes a difference.
  • New Apologetics Michael Zimmerman

    You wrote:
    Also, on a somewhat related note, the Bible also has various verses in which it mentions God using demons to further His will, probably most poignantly in 1 Samuel 19:9 when it says “there was an evil spirit from the LORD on Saul”. Most translations have it as “evil spirit”, but even if you work with YLT, it was still “a spirit of sadness from Jehovah” and sadness is still suffering. Job’s plight is all about God giving Satan authority over what happens to Job (Job 1:12 ‘Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.”’) There are also references to God “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” at particular times after the plagues. What do you make of all of these?

    We reply:
    These passages you cite can be explained in terms of the following two categories:

    1) What we like to call “double-bind devotional language” [Samuel, Hardening of Pharoah’s heart]
    2) Story framing [Job]

    With regard to the second category, we have to realize that the author was not stating theology, but was telling a story to debunk the previous Jewish ideology that only the guilty and their immediate family suffer. It is not meant literally, and the Church knows this.

    For the first category, we have to understand that the Israelites had no revelation that God is love, and did not even know that God loved other nations. Further, in the worldview of the much of the Old Testament writers, there is little to no recognition of secondary causality. As far as they know, everything is done as the work of some supernatural being, and there is the implication that if they do not credit Yahweh with everything that happens, then they are essentially saying that Baal or (someone else) is more powerful. Hence, if the Ark falls on your head, it’s because God made it happen.

    This is not simply a mistake that they’re making, but is a profound emphasis of the truth that they know in the only extant language they had at the time to reverence what God had revealed to them: They knew that they were to worship God alone, and so they did – with everything they had, including their language.

    Later, the image of the Father was revealed more completely in Jesus, and we came to know that God is love. He is light and in him there is no darkness…

    Now, consider that the same “double-bind” dynamic happens with the Catholic Saints and *their* devotional language for the same reason that it appears in the Old Testament. If we take their devotional sayings literally (as theology) rather than practically (as how to live), their words violate the teaching of the Church. Consider the following from the Catechism:

    “311 Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it: For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.”

    All of this is true, but we must be very careful. “Permits” in this context must be understood to only mean “does not prevent.” We know that God does not prevent moral evil or its consequences. However, this “permission” absolutely must not be understood as “approving” of moral evil and its consequences as a “means to a good end.” It is true that God will definitely bring a greater good out of every evil, but that does not entail that God fails to perfectly oppose every evil. This subtle distinction is rarely heeded, and most religious language on this topic ends up attributing a kind of complicity with evil to God. Note further that God’s act of drawing good from evil is made possible only through the redemption. In itself, evil is simply the violation of right order. It is not (in itself) a fertile ground for new and greater good.

    Again, from the Catechism:

    “312 In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures: “It was not you”, said Joseph to his brothers, “who sent me here, but God. . . You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.”From the greatest moral evil ever committed – the rejection and murder of God’s only Son, caused by the sins of all men – God, by his grace that “abounded all the more”, brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good.”

    The meaning of this paragraph seems clear enough. Please let us know if you would like any part of it to be addressed. We will now look at some quotes of saints in light of the above quotes from the Catechism. Continued…
  • New Apologetics Michael Zimmerman

    Let’s look at what some saints say (also quoted in the Catechism):

    “St. Catherine of Siena said to “those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them”: “Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.” (CCC, )

    If taken literally, it denies the Catechism. She is not telling us that God ordains evil, but is saying (in the most perfect way she can) to trust in the effficacy of the redemption.

    St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: 

    “Nothing can come but that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best.”

    Consider that this quote from Thomas More is *not* saying that evil is a good or that God wills evil (right before the quote the Catechism states “But for all that, evil never becomes a good.”), but he os speaking from the standpoint of perfect confidence in the efficacy of the redemption to guarantee divine justice in every situation. Consider further that the Catechism just taught that “God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.” but then quotes Saint Thomas More saying,”Nothing can come but that that God wills.”In this context, Thomas was about to become the victim of a reprehensible moral evil. 

    This is not a contradiction, but there is a sublime meaning here. In these statements, the saints are not using *philosophical* language, but the language of Christian mysticism and practical spiritual advice to trust God in all things. They know that through the redemption, God has turned evil against itself. As a consequence, everything works together for the good and is once again consistent with the perfect will of God. That, however, does not mean that we are to will evil, but that we are to be like God, perfectly opposed to evil, and choose love alone. Saints Thomas and Catherine are saying the same thing as is described in the Divine Chastity article: Love is to act as if evil is not a factor. True self-offering pays no attention to the threat of evil, but is motivated only by the good. The saints are describing a kind of “middle-finger” to be extended to the devil in their sayings, and are not attributing evil to the will of God.

    Again from the Catechism:

    “314 We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God “face to face”, will we fully know the ways by which – even through the dramas of evil and sin – God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth.”

    This is true. We won’t know everything no matter how far we go in our meditation until we participate fully in the life of the Trinity without any limitations. Our position in the Divine Chastity series is not that we can explain away mystery, but is simply the following:

    1) The Church has defined suffering and death as evils.
    2) The Church has clearly defined that God is infinitely good.
    3) Infinite goodness is infinitely opposed to every evil.

    Because God is infinitely opposed to every evil, he has made a way to turn every evil against itself, and thus we can trust that all things will work to the good of those who love God. This is what the saints are saying. They are not negating points 1-3, though their language can appear to be doing so.
  • New Apologetics Michael Zimmerman
    You wrote:
    And lastly, you seem to take a very Kantian perspective in all of this, in that you think following the law is always the right thing to do in all circumstances, the “law” being God’s commandments. 

    We reply: We do not take a Kantian stance at all. Rather, the only principle at work here is “love undiminished.” It has almost nothing to do with law or rules.

    You wrote:
    I’m not going to upset your moral philosophy in one post, but I’m curious as to what a proper Catholic response would be in the cases of the murderer at the door and the runaway freight train dilemmas, which are as follows.
    Murderer/Nazi at the door: You are a commoner living under the Nazi regime, and you are hiding innocent Jews in your basement from the Nazis. An impatient Nazi soldier knocks on your door and demands to know whether you are hiding undesirables. For the sake of the argument, let us presume you can only say yes or no. Do you lie to him, break the commandment about bearing false witness, and protect the innocent? Or do you tell him the truth, with the foreseeable evil of the innocent Jews being found and shot on sight?

    We reply: Which is the stance conducive to the intended well-being of the Nazis and the Jews? That would be the stance consistent with perfect love. So, given that the Nazis are asking for information so that they can commit murder (a violation of dignity for themselves and for their victims), it follows that it would be best to allow them to be deceived by their own assumptions if at all possible. For example “Are you hiding undesirables?” Answer: “No” (with the mental reservation that the Jews are not “undesirables”). 

    You wrote:
    Runaway freight train: You are the only person on board a runaway freight train. Looking up ahead, you see a crowd of people (be it 2 or 20; does it matter?) who are unaware that the train is coming. If they get hit by the train, they will all die. However, you have in your possession a switch that connects to a y-track a little ways before you get to them, and the y-track would take you along another route in which there is only one person standing there. Let us presume that you would be unable to warn any of these people in any way. Your only options are 1) flip the switch and, in doing so, kill the one person, or 2) do nothing and watch as the crowd of people ahead of you dies. What do you do?

    We reply: A person in such a dilemma is under extreme duress such as to eliminate any culpability for either decision. It seems that there is no clear right answer, nor does there have to be. The situation you describe is such that either option (especially considering the “rigged-dilemma” is a horror), but both could be consistent with the actions of a person who has not intended to choose evil. Perhaps if the rules of the game you propose are not absolute, the better option would be to orient the train in the direction of the one person (not because the one is expendable for the many), but the individual may have a chance to see the oncoming threat and escape, whereas the crowd is unlikely to succeed at a complete evacuation. The intended action is the avoidance of near-certain death of many members of the crowd, and is not therefore the intentional killing of an innocent person in order to save others.

    You wrote:
    Again, I’m not arguing with you: simply curious as to what your responses are.

    We reply:
    Please let us know if anything is lacking. We are not completely certain that the moral dilemma responses are fully trustworthy according to the teaching of the Church. We present them as our opinion only, and defer entirely to the decision of the Magisterium on such matters. The basic principle we espouse, though is that the moral dilemma game is irrelevant to the obvious prohibition of a willed compromise with evil in a situation where the demands of perfect love are clear. In the theory expressed in the Divine Chastity article, the choice for God is either self-withholding of gifts integral to our maximal dignity as persons in anticipation of our abuse of his charity, or radical self-offering regardless of our abuse of his love. There is no dilemma apropos of this decision.
  • Scott Maddox There are objective measures of morality, without the need for God. Take, for example, vehicular manslaughter and premeditated murder with a deadly weapon. Both end up with a dead person, but we treat each situation differently because we can think about the morality of these situations objectively.
  • Michael Zimmerman I’ll provide a more detailed reply later, when I have time. However, I would like to drop this off: you seem to have lawyered your way out of the first question. I used “undesirables” as a way of injecting realism into the situation and because the Nazis were after many types of people, not simply Jews (for the record, I do not personally believe that Jews ARE “undesirable;” the Nazis, however, did). If I had said “Jews” instead, how would you have responded?
    A more complete response will come around soon enough.
  • New Apologetics Michael Zimmerman Here is a very good article on mental reservation: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10195b.htm

    www.newadvent.org

    The name applied to a doctrine which has grown out of the common Catholic teaching about lying and which is its complement
  • Michael Zimmerman I’m not sure why, but I don’t seem to receive notifications even when you tag me… later I’ll reply to your (excellent) responses to the later post I made regarding the nature of the supernatural (which was made during a period of a certain amount of spiritual desolation, as you may have guessed.)
    I’ve been carefully considering your arguments and I must profess that the doctrines you teach are sensible ones that provide a deeper and richer understanding of the nature of God than any other I have encountered. The fact that you defer to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church is particularly wonderful. Well done, you.
    However, in my attempts to reconstruct your arguments for those who are unfamiliar with them, and lacking the Charism that you guys apparently possess, I have encountered a few facts that (to my mind) challenge some of the doctrines you have proposed.
    First of all, I would like your critical input on my own response to a thread that brought up the Israelites’ taking of Jericho in Joshua 6:

    “I do not believe God intended for the Israelites to actually kill anyone. God is infinitely opposed to every sin, killing included. You will note that God did not actually order the Israelites to kill anyone, only that He had given the city to them, and set about providing a means for them to take it.
    The author of the book of Joshua also probably desired to show how God was on the side of the Israelites; hence, he cast God as being a source of great help to the Israelites during the battle itself. This is not wrong or inaccurate, but it also demonstrates the limitations of Jewish theology at the time. God loved the inhabitants of Jericho as much as He loves the rest of His creation, and while it was not His will that any should die, He was still able to use the evils of war in a way that would carry out His plan for the Israelites (and through them, the entire world), just as how He was able to use the evils of the Passion in His overall quest of salvation for the whole world. He hates evil and in no way partakes in it Himself, but He is capable of turning existing evil against itself to further carry out His will.”

    This naturally led to some heated discussion, and when I claimed that God in no way endorses or condones evil actions (including killing), a few points were brought up to me. I responded to them in my own way (for the most part successfully), but I am curious as to how you would have responded.

    1) With regard to the exact wording of the 6th Commandment: “[I]n its context “ratsakh” applies only to illegal killing (e.g., premeditated murder or manslaughter) — and is never used in the administration of justice or for killing in war.”

    2) 1 Samuel 15. This one I had a LOT of trouble with; I cannot find a way to “interpret over” 1 Samuel 15:2, in which God is directly quoted ordering Saul to kill the Amalekites. I don’t see how this can be a product of literary style or misguided theology, since God does indeed “speak” every once in a while, even to the present day (indeed, I know of one case of a former hard-bitten atheist, former President of the Secular Student Alliance, who converted after apparently having a direct experience of the divine). I am unwilling to say that the author of 1 Samuel was simply making it up based on his limited knowledge of God as well, since Scripture is God-breathed and I find it difficult to accept that God would allow Himself to be attributed to false quotes based on bad theology, if He was really the one “leading on” the authors the whole time. If He did not say these things to Saul as it is written here, He could have very easily “inspired” the author to write something different and a bit clearer. What do you say to this?

    3) Someone pointed out that, in the event of a kidnapper holding his brother (for example) hostage, he would not have any reservations about shooting the kidnapper to rescue his family. It got me to thinking: would it really be God’s will that we merely entrust the situation entirely to Him, when committing an evil action of shooting the kidnapper (even incapacitating him with a shot to the shoulder or leg is willfully committing him harm) could result in an obviously greater good? I have heard before that the Catholic Church would even deem shooting the kidnapper a sin, and require attending the Sacrament of Confession afterwards. But surely the whole point of Confession is to detest our sins and endeavor to never commit them again, while I would know full well – even while making the Act of Contrition – that if I were in that situation again, I would likewise not hesitate to protect my family by shooting again. So… is it the “good” and sinless thing to not harm the kidnapper, given the alternative of shooting to incapacitate (and in the process, willfully doing harm)? Is that really, to use the expression, what a sinless man like Jesus would do? Likewise in all cases where it seems the bigger sin is in dereliction of taking action to amend the situation: doing “nothing,” while not inherently sinful, achieves a far greater foreseeable evil than the good that a de jure “sin” might foreseeably produce, assuming no possibility for “taking a third option”.
    I realize that it is questions such as this that some philosophers dedicate their lives to addressing: nevertheless, I would appreciate your take on the matter. I would say that this is not a question of “mental reservation,” or else, the entire teaching of “the ends do not justify the means” falls flat.

    4) When I said that this had always been Church doctrine, if not necessarily explicitly, a fellow Catholic made the following argument (quoted directly), which I would like to know your response to:

    “St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa says this “”All men alike, both guilty and innocent, die the death of nature: which death of nature is inflicted by the power of God on account of original sin, according to 1 Kgs. 2:6: ‘The Lord killeth and maketh alive.’ Consequently, by the command of God, death can be inflicted on any man, guilty or innocent, without any injustice whatever. In like manner adultery is intercourse with another’s wife; who is allotted to him by the law emanating from God. Consequently intercourse with any woman, by the command of God, is neither adultery nor fornication. The same applies to theft, which is the taking of another’s property. For whatever is taken by the command of God, to Whom all things belong, is not taken against the will of its owner, whereas it is in this that theft consists. Nor is it only in human things, that whatever is commanded by God is right; but also in natural things, whatever is done by God, is, in some way, natural, as stated in the I, 105, 6, ad 1.” and here again “God is Lord of death and life, for by His decree both the sinful and the righteous die. Hence he who at God’s command kills an innocent man does not sin, as neither does God Whose behest he executes: indeed his obedience to God’s commands is a proof that he fears Him.”

    Sorry for the long post, but you understand the necessity: before accepting something as sound doctrine from whence further conclusions can be drawn, it must be tested in every way to see if it holds up. I look forward to your reply, and apologize in advance if I am late in responding to it, as well as for the lateness of this particular response. God bless all of you.