I want to find God! I want to know Him because I believe that He is the only way to ultimate truth, the absolute reason for existence!
On my own, I am incapable of satisfying these metaphysical needs and so I stumble around in perpetual unhappiness relying on a crutch of materialism.
As part of a personal spiritual initiative, I have joined a basic Alpha course at my local parish; not to discover Christianity but to try and find a path (one of many I suppose) which could bring me closer to my goal – ‘truth’. This could end up being a giant step in the right direction or a ‘minute glance’ toward that goal, one of many steps in the right direction – either way it should be a positive move forward.
At the first evening, in the discussion group, two related questions struck me:
- How can a compassionate God allow evil – why would God allow the existence of a fiend like Hitler? and
- If we are predestined, then what difference does it make what we do – so how then could we blame Hitler if what he did he was pre-destined to do?
My point of view:-
What is evil? — A secular dictionary will tell you that it is a profoundly immoral act; but compared to whom and to what? Mankind in general cannot be regarded as the ultimate moral yardstick – for that would be no measure at all, leading to the predicament of relativistic ideas with many gradations of what might or might not be evil! The ancient Greek statesman and orator, Demosthenes once said: ‘The easiest thing of all is to deceive one’s self; for what a man wishes he generally believes to be true.’
On the other hand, religion has always had the external yardstick of perfection – God; Christianity says evil is the absence of God and/or of God inspired wisdom. C.S. Lewis puts it well when he says: “The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike…”
The urban legend of Albert Einstein and the proof of evil may be the substance of myth but it does convey a concept, which helps in defining evil. Evil is very real but it is not a physical entity, it has no substance – it is an abstract description, merely the absence of a defining morality and in the case of Christian philosophy, the absence of God.
In His ineffable wisdom, God has deemed it necessary that man should have free will – free to make a choice between good and bad, between accepting and rejecting His Grace.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: (1730: … God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him).
To grant his creation this freedom of choice, especially with the foresight of sin, seems strange but is it? God wants us to love Him unconditionally … ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’. Why would He ask this of us when He could just as easily will it? It is precisely because God wants us to love Him willingly of our own accord that he grants His creation freedom to choose; else it would not truly be that agape love which God so willingly gives to us. But this comes at a cost (so to speak), given freewill man can also make the wrong choices (sin) and essentially this is the origination of evil and in a Christian sense, the origin of original sin.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states (1853: … The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man.”)
These are sins of choice (of free will) – for whoever committed them could equally choose not to commit them!
Theopedia defines predestination as:
Predestination in its broadest conception is the doctrine that because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and completely sovereign, he “from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass,” (Westminster Confession). “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
This is a severe Calvinistic interpretation based on the foundation of God’s undisputed sovereignty, though I believe the interpretation to be logically skewed.
Absolute predestination brings into question the true purpose of Jesus’ salvific act. For He came into the world to save sinners, to turn them back to the ways of God – to urge them to make the right ‘choice’! If choice did not matter due to absolute predestination then what is the point of the incarnation of the Word?
While predestination might be suspect, there remains the paradox of man’s freewill versus Gods omniscience, for truly God knows all. Yet determining man’s destiny removes any semblance of freewill and consequently any hope of a true agape love. It would be better to approach this from the Catholic position of pre-ordination. God is outside of His creation and that includes time. Simplistically, for God there is no future and no past, everything is present. So God is aware of and can see all of our actions and their consequences throughout the timeline of our mortal lives. He knows what choices we make, including and most importantly, accepting or rejecting His Grace, His invitation to salvation. In this way, it might seem that our salvation (or not) is pre-destined by God, but rather these actions are preordained by our own choices. What does this illustrate? It illustrates that while God may be aware of our ‘free’ choices, He does not cause them. Knowledge does not equal causality. We are free, not fated.
1. Agape. (2013, August 2). Retrieved August 3, 2013, from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape
2. Did Einstein Prove that God Exists? (2013). Retrieved August 03, 2013, from About.com Urban Legends: http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/religion/a/einstein_god.htm
3. Evil. (2013, August 2). Retrieved August 3, 2013, from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil
4. Fr. Michael Schmitz. (2012, June 18). Why does God allow people to commit evil acts? Retrieved August 04, 2013, from The Catholic Spirit.com: http://thecatholicspirit.com/columns/ask-father-mike/why-does-god-allow-people-to-commit-evil-acts/
5. Predestination. (2013, August 3). Retrieved August 3, 2013, from Theopedia: http://www.theopedia.com/Predestination
6. United States Catholic Bishops Conference Inc. (Librearia Editrice Vaticana). (1994). The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Washington: USCBC Inc.
 (Evil, 2013)
 (Did Einstein Prove that God Exists?, 2013)
 (Agape, 2013)
 (United States Catholic Bishops Conference Inc. (Librearia Editrice Vaticana), 1994)
 (Predestination, 2013)
 (Fr. Michael Schmitz, 2012)