If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.
— Saint Augustine
If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.
— Saint Augustine
Let’s suppose you missed a flight. This almost happened to me a few days ago, but as that entire event was unfolding, I thought to myself: How should we interpret this in light of God’s overall purposes for us? There are three possibilities – it is a blessing, a curse, or a trial. Now some may suggest that it simply happened without any divine purpose at all, but I cannot accept that. The biblical account of God’s sovereignty presents his control over every particular thing (e.g, Matt. 6:30, James 4:13–15, Acts 17:26), as well as His purposing of all things for His glory (Colossians 1:16). A Thomistic perspective entails this position as well, so it as at least rationally defensible. Unfortunately, I think our society despises God’s intricate involvement in their lives because they prefer to be left alone, or somehow think the notion itself is absurd. Why think that God is involved at all if a missed flight could be explained as a simple mistake on our parts? How does this situation benefit me, one could ask, or how could God do this to me? I do not presume to be capable of extensively answering each of these issues in a single post, for each of these questions have book length treatments in philosophy and theology. However, I do hope to illuminate and apply these principles in a way that could be insightful for our daily lives.
Let’s address the first question: Why think that this is the direct work of God at all? Actually, I would qualify that question because I do not think that it is the “direct” work of God at all. This is to avoid the error of occasionalism, which is the philosophical doctrine that every created substance is of itself incapable of being an efficient cause. Every effect in creation is therefore directly caused by God. In other words, the sun that vaporizes the water does not do so of its own nature, but because God determined that this is what the effect would be. But if He so pleased, He could cause an effect to do whatever He wanted – e.g, the sun would appear to turn the water into dinosaurs for no intrinsic reason. While I’d love to refute this, I think most people would already recognize this as absurd. If that’s the case though, how could God possibly be involved? Either nature does it or God does it, right? That’s a false dilemma. It’s possible for God to cause and purpose things through nature, just as a chess player works through the rules of chess for the purpose of checkmating his opponent. Every move can be anticipated and planned accordingly without sacrificing the nature of the game.
Similarly, God perfectly anticipates every event and plans accordingly, without sacrificing the nature of things. Though this is slightly incomplete, since He decided to actualize this world with all its particularities before the foundations of the world. It’s not as if God finds Himself with a world and is forced to work with what He has. Furthermore, not only does He work before and through the nature of things, He works in the nature of things as well. By becoming a man to die on the cross, He worked in the world to shape the course of history. He does all of this for His glory and purpose, but does so without fail. Now one could ask, “How do I know that God had a specific purpose for that event? Perhaps it is not essential to His plan?”. There are indeed some aspects of reality that you could consider accidental (i.e, it’s not essential to something, not that it’s outside God’s control). For example, it would be difficult to see how a blue colored ball would thwart the entire purpose of God unless it was orange. But Scripture tells us that even the hairs on a person’s head are known by God. So the least we could say is that God knows certain “trivial facts”, but how does this lead us to purpose?
First we need to understand that not every feature in the world needs to be “essential” to God’s plan in order to have a purpose. It is possible that the blue ball is a child’s favorite color such that it is a blessing to him. This is obviously extrinsic to the ball, however, as it is not as if that specific ball itself intended to be picked up by that particular child. So extrinsic purposes are possible for particular things with accidental features, without necessarily being essential to God’s plan. Though it’s not inconceivable that something accidental could work to be at least partly essential for something like Jesus’s death – e.g, Judas could have had a silver coin as child, you never know. But even if it had no essential purpose, it could still participate in God’s plan if it fulfilled some good. For example, the Christian worldview entails the idea that God desires our flourishing as creatures (Jeremiah 29:11). Part of flourishing as creatures is experiencing joy. Thus God could work through the ball to provide that child with joy, and by consequence would be fulfilling a infinitesimal part of His greater purpose. I only say infinitesimal because it is Christ that essentially fulfills this joy in us, not the ball. That does not make the ball bad, it just makes it a lesser good.
Second, I think we’re limiting our understanding of “purpose” to either whatever is good for a person or whatever is in accord to God’s plan. This is incorrect, because it just begs the question: What if the ball was never used? What purpose would that possibly serve? This question could not be answered if we did not have a Thomistic account of purposes that will hereby be called final causes or teleology. Since the ball is a human artifact, it derives its purpose from us to be used for a child’s amusement, but of itself it would not necessarily possess that feature. We are interested in what teleology the ball has of itself, not what purpose we assign to it. By final cause then, I just mean that a ball is of its own nature directed toward a certain range of effect/s as its final cause or end just as an arrow points toward the target as its final end or goal. One of the effects that the ball is directed to is the potential to be melted into goo. This effect is present within the ball regardless of whether it gets actualized. Understood this way, all created objects would have some potential to be directed toward a certain end.
Lastly, all physical beings have final causes, but not all final causes are physical beings. The intellect is capable of final causality precisely because it is intentional by nature. Anything that intends a certain end is already exemplifying a form of teleology, except in a much different way than physical things do. At this point though, I think I’m adventuring too far into purposes that do not matter to us. Or so it seems! In reality, the purposes that are most relevant to us are those that are intrinsic to our nature. For example, it is good for us to eat food but this could not be unless it was our nature to eat. Because of the different natures of things, I think God’s purposes work in different ways for all things. A human has different ends that a ball does not have. So it becomes meaningless to ask, “Does God have a plan of salvation for balls?” because they’re simply not in need of such things. Nevertheless, I do think there is a hierarchy of purposes where the lowest forms of final causes are there to serve the higher forms. A clear example of this is water serving the plant’s need for water, and the plant serving the animal’s need for nutrition.
In this way, I think God works through each thing to accomplish good for beings like us. But if there so happened to be a “ball” that did not have a purpose for the greater good of rational agents, then I do not think that threatens the sovereignty of God in any way. It’s not as if every physical thing must work for our own good in order to have a purpose at all, that’s just absurd. Just by virtue of being anything at all, the ball is said to have a degree of goodness that God at every instant of its existence actualizes. Since God is goodness, every thing that has being must be analogous to this goodness in different ways. Even Satan, who has been regarded as evil personified, must have some sort of goodness insofar as he has being. The more perfect we are in relation to our natures, the more we reflect the glory of God’s being. This is why I reject the Calvinistic notion that God is most glorified when we are most damned. Or for the elect, when we are most satisfied in Him. God’s glory is not increased or diminished by any state of man, but only our reflection of His glory within our being can be increased or decreased. Now that some objections have been removed, I’ll be focusing on the practical side in my next post. Forgive me if that bored you, this post ended up being much longer than I had intended.
A beautiful articulation of the Third Way that captures the excellence and mystery of creation. The existence of God should be obvious from any serious reflection, but unfortunately, some men can obfuscate the issue beyond what it needs to be. For example, the powers of the intellect are raised above the powers of reality, to the point that it can incoherently conceive of something coming from nothing. Or it appeals to something as absurd as brute facts. Ultimately, that’s what any atheistic explanation must reduce itself to because it cannot have an explanation for the universe in principle. I hope others could see this, but sometimes it just takes time. Please study this issue more guys, because I want you to find the deepest and most precious truths about the world.
I’d like to introduce David Rodriguez’s new blog! The posts are more academic and philosophical, so if you like that stuff, go check it out. Forgive me for the lack of posts here recently, I was in Florida for six days with the love of my life. I’m hoping to get back right on schedule with WC as I work out the direction I would like for it. For now, I have to work out what God wants for me and this blog.
Imagine having the ability to listen to, read, play, or watch whatever one wanted: movies, games, books, music, software; everything is for the taking. For most people this isn’t just a fantasy. It is a reality. File hosting, torrents, and other websites put all of the digital content in the world right at one’s fingertips. Despite its unlawfulness most people don’t think twice about whether or not they should download digital content. It’s simply not a big deal. However, I will argue in this paper that, to the contrary, the illegal downloading of such content is unethical and that the laws against it ought to be obeyed. I will first present four reasons why it should not be done. After this I will refute five common arguments used to justify illegal downloading. I will close with a final argument addressing the issue from a decidedly Christian perspective.
It would help get to the heart of the question by first figuring out what the problem is not. The problem is not whether there is sufficient legal justification for the downloading of digital content; it is relatively clear that there is none, at least in the U.S. Rather, the question is whether there is sufficient moral justification for illegal downloading of digital content. Hence, when I use the term “illegal downloading”, I’m properly speaking of the type of downloading which is illegal in the United States and violates copyright. It’s important to note that this question can be assessed independently of whether or not illegal downloading is equivalent in nature to stealing.  The real issue is whether the two are morally equivalent, i.e. whether they are both equally wrong.
“Many, however, fail to do good actions but, taking refuge in theory, think that by philosophizing they will become virtuous. They act like the sick who listen carefully to the doctor but do nothing he prescribes.” -Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics 1105b12-18
I think many philosophers fall into this trap. I know I have a couple times. There are times we think we somehow have an edge of the good life because we’re the ones who have sat there and thought about it. We think we have an edge over that little old lady down the street who helps the homeless because we’ve thought long and hard about the virtuous and how to correctly apply them. If we sit at home and not do anything, we’re no more good than a cat that licks itself all day. Part of being a Christian philosopher is not only to to contemplate the good life and virtuous actions under the headship of Christ, but it’s to go out and do the right thing. It’s to go out and pursue the good life in deed. It’s to leave the ivory tower and join the rest of humanity and do works of charity and goodness just as Christ commanded us to. It’s sad that this very thing that Aristotle speaks of is found throughout the philosophical community.
In light of the recent discussion on my post, I have decided to provide some important clarifications for the readers here. Let’s be clear that the original article never intended to be an argument for positions within Natural Law (NL), but for its metaphysical underpinnings. Don’t feel homosexuality is immoral? Don’t feel its position on lying aligns with your intuitions? Then please take that elsewhere, this is not a discussion for girls. Label it absurd, mock it, and do whatever – just don’t act as if that makes a difference in philosophy. Part of being a philosopher is knowing what makes something absurd, not simply making an assertion that it is. Does an ethical view entail the murder of a million people for the greater good? That’s absurd! Position refuted? I think not. Instead of engaging in such trivial lines of reasoning, a philosopher must refute even that which is most obviously false. Now that may seem like a worthless pursuit, but philosophy’s intrinsic value can be found in its end for a true understanding of things. Without knowing what makes something true/false, you do not fully understand its truth. Nonetheless, I admit that intuitions are still a valuable means of guiding a philosopher’s positions and indeed you should rightly seek to justify those intuitions (cf Aristotle), but it must all be done from reason. If you’re a philosopher, it would not do to simply know it is wrong, you should seek to understand what makes it wrong.
To reemphasize my point here, if you are going to attack NL then you better attack its metaphysical principles, not its positions. Ethical philosophers are too focused on their thought experiments and intuitions, that it becomes the primary means of assessing the truth of an ethical theory. Their method of critique applies quite well to ethical theories that are realist because of their intuitions. Which makes sense, because you can criticize a discovery of science through scientific means, but you don’t do so by metaphysical means unless it has metaphysical implications or vice versa. In the same way, ethical theories don’t criticize each other for their metaphysical problems but for their counter-intuitive positions. If metaphysics is used, it’s usually supplemental rather than essential. NL, on the other hand, is completely invulnerable to such attacks because it starts with metaphysics. A perfect example is this: Say a scientist objected to ex nihilo nihil fit because it considers “quantum energy” a form of nothing coming from nothing. Well, the philosopher would rightly consider this ridiculous because we’re operating from different definitions/disciplines. Science cannot refute metaphysical principles, it depends on it to exist at all.
Similarly, NL starts from a different methodology known as essentialism. You cannot criticize it on the basis of intuition, that’s no better than begging the question. In fact, as I had argued in the previous post, one needs to assume NL’s principles for any ethical theory to exist at all. This frustrates philosophers, however, because they’re so adjusted to their restricted approach to ethics that any other approach is considered absurd. The other mistake is to criticize NL on the basis of your understanding of human nature. The point of my post is not dependent on a particular understanding of some species, it just makes the point that whatever a thing is, it must by necessity assume essentialism. So for example, if you think property dualism is a good explanation of rational thought, then it still has an essence and it should still be considered immoral to act contrary to that person’s nature, whatever it may be. We may arrive at different ethical conclusions, but at least we can dispute the actual nature of things, as opposed to our mere intuitions or thought experiments. And for the record, I think property and cartesian dualism is clearly false from a proper view of metaphysics (not the pseudo-philosophy of today), but I’ll have to argue for that elsewhere.
Let’s be clear here. Rejecting NL is not even an option, and I’m not going to give you the opportunity to think you can be rational in doing so. The law of non-contradiction is dependent on essentialism, because a thing cannot be y and x at the same time and in the same sense. This is not some abstract law of thought that transcends the nature of things, it is derived from the nature of things. If you reject NL, you deny essentialism, and by consequence reject the law of non-contradiction – thereby leaving yourself hopelessly irrational. This is simple, it does not take a thorough refutation of all the views that I hold to (such as hylemorphic dualism) in order to accept this position. In fact, Aristotelian-essentialism necessarily entails much of the positions that I currently hold to right now. Because scholastics have an organized system of thought, unlike modern philosophy, it’s quite easy to refute all of my views with just one blow. Who will rise to the challenge? My guess is, no one will. At this point, you have no choice but to accept NL.
Lately, I have felt as if some of my efforts have been in vain. The vision is clear, it is the implementation and the time that remains unclear. I just do not think that I have been a good leader for Walking Christian. I have resisted the idea that I am the leader of this blog, but it seems like I am. Nonetheless, I have to remember that I must stand firm no matter what… Nothing that I do for the Lord is in vain. This is His promise to us, and we would do well to keep it close to our hearts and minds. Don’t despair, no matter how bleak things may seem. I’m struggling to find the balance between work and blogging, but perhaps it is doable, it’s just that the world is getting in the way. For those who are reading this, please pray for me – that I would be a better blogger for Christ, as well as a better follower.
I am appreciative of what God has been doing in my life, and I love every thing He has been changing in me, but lately, I have not been active on Walking Christian nor have I been active on my Youtube channel. My friends, I cannot begin to fathom where my life is heading into because I’m hindered and broken so much even though I have been holding on to Jesus.
Everyday, my relationship with my parents weakens and I always thought that being with God and following His Word is going to help me bridge the gap we always had for many years. I thought going to school was going to make them smile at me for once. I thought the new pastor of the church they are going to will help them improve their relationship with God. Now, I realize there’s no point into all of this. I am stressed, and I am already on the brink of discontinuing school. Even though, 2013 is the last year I have for school, I feel as if my time in college has been useless. I have been extremely lonely, and I’ve been denying my depression. I want time alone with God, but living in the house I am sleeping in is no longer considered to be my home. All these years, I should have known that God has already shown me that my connection with my family has been destroyed.
I feel homeless. Spiritually.
I cannot post anything on Walking Christian because I am such a horrible example of what Christian Living should be. I feel that I lost my credibility ever since I fell into this hole that has been created. My life has turned upside down since the beginning of 2012, and I have been contemplating suicide.
I don’t know what to do at all. I was looking forward to continuing Aruced and the Christian Gaming Community in Walking Christian, but the Lord has been saying no to me on everything now, and He wants me to do something that I doubt myself in.
My friends, my brothers, sisters, and spiritual family: This is the last post I will write. Until then, good bye everyone. Sorry that I have let a l0t of you down. I need time to think for myself.