Guidance

Ella S.

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That seems to me the greatest freedom we have, that desire ...

I think desire and freedom are technically opposed to one another. To desire something usually implies a lack. To have freedom is to have the power to attain something.

If we were truly free, we would be free of desire and suffering, but we aren't.

Our free will is to choose whatever options God has given us and to endure whatever he decides the consequences of those actions will be. This is freedom in a sense, but in a very narrow one.

There's a whole debate here.

I don't think it's a limit so much as a necessary condition. Of course, my interpretation is all interwound with biblical metaphysics (as I read it), but put simply, my lifepartner very early in our relationship set conditions, like not turning up on the doorstep unannounced at 11.00pm after being 'off-grid' for two days ... basically I couldn't get away with the nonsense I was used to getting away with ...

I really think if we want to know God there are conditions, and that is right and fitting, or else everybody has the right to everything just because they want it. God doesn't demand we get to know Him, and people live fantastic lives, from a worldly point of view, without giving God a second thought, whereas others think about God a lot, and are wracked with trials and tribulations ... all part of my contingent world view.

I'm not answering your objection, so much as offering a commentary on my way of seeing.

I appreciate the insightful perspective.

All I suppose I'm saying is everything has conditions, according to its nature, and those conditions have to be met.

Suppose I believe God loves me, you, everybody unconditionally ... then we both know that there are those who will abuse that love, because they will know they can get away with anything. So wiser to keep that one quiet.

This is where you kind of lose me. It's not just that I disagree but that I genuinely don't understand how you can look at children dying of bone cancer or the black plague and think that it's the hand of someone who loves us.

That seems evil to me. Perhaps more evil than any human has ever had the capacity to be.

I can see the argument for letting humans harm other humans, like a parent who doesn't want to get involved in the petty disputes between his children, but the suffering caused by nature?

Perhaps demons cause that. That was one explanation for awhile. I don't know if that's still too common of a belief, though.

Even then, to prioritize someone's free will over preventing them from suffering, I don't know. I don't really think that's good, either, but at least it seems more misguided than callous. This is assuming that God can't somehow find a way to both give us free will and freedom from suffering.

My course director, who happened to be a Biblical scholar, fluent in Hebrew Greek, Latin, French (enough to read philosophy) Ugaritic, even! He sat on a panel to review translations of the Bible. He was talking once about the famous meeting between Moses and God on the mountain:
"Moses said to God: Lo, I shall go to the children of Israel, and say to them: The God of your fathers hath sent me to you. If they should say to me: What is his name? what shall I say to them? God said to Moses: I AM WHO AM. He said: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you." (Exodus 3:13-14)
Not to debate the Hebrew, but Fr John said, look at this as God roasting Moses. Moses asks (on the people's behalf) 'who are you?', to which God replies, 'Bloomin' cheek! You go and tell them I AM, and I AM asks who the heck d'you think you are?"

It was all very light-hearted, but there is a point here, hopefully @RabbiO might add in, that the people have got some nerve asking God to validate Himself ... that kind of thing.

Have to say, some of the most hilarious, heretical, blasphemous conversations I've had were with theologians at a college noted for its Catholic orthodoxy. (OTOH, we had moments when we look round thinking, "Is He in the room? (But then we catlicks are dead suckers for all that spooky stuff!)).

I'm not sure how we have "some nerve" to ask that someone who demands our total obedience prove that they're worthy of our servitude. I don't encourage total obedience to anyone, but I think if you're going to submit so totally to anyone you should make sure they're a decent person, whether that's God or your King or your branch manager.

God being so powerful means that we should be more critical of how he uses that power, not less.
 

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... but that I genuinely don't understand how you can look at children dying of bone cancer or the black plague and think that it's the hand of someone who loves us.
I don't. I think that's the nature of nature, of this particular dimension of creation, not of God per se.

That seems evil to me. Perhaps more evil than any human has ever had the capacity to be.
But nature isn't evil, is it? It just is what it is.

If you're going to have finitude, then it's inescapable. And finitude is a necessary dimension of infinite.

I'm not being flippant here, but maybe we drew the short straw? Maybe there are perfect worlds, but not this one.

This is assuming that God can't somehow find a way to both give us free will and freedom from suffering.
Perhaps He can ... but not in this world.

I'm not sure how we have "some nerve" to ask that someone who demands our total obedience prove that they're worthy of our servitude.
I personally don't think the Christian God asks for either 'total obedience' or 'servitude'. Having said that, I admit that often that's the way it's represented.

God being so powerful means that we should be more critical of how he uses that power, not less.
That rather assumes we're in a position to judge God.
 

muhammad_isa

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That rather assumes we're in a position to judge God.
I'm not so sure that that is a good idea. :)

"Serving G-d" would be because we respect Him, and not because we are forced to, imo.
In fact, we are taught that we should respect authority .. unless it's obviously totally corrupt, of course.
 

Ella S.

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I don't. I think that's the nature of nature, of this particular dimension of creation, not of God per se.

But nature isn't evil, is it? It just is what it is.

If you're going to have finitude, then it's inescapable. And finitude is a necessary dimension of infinite.

I'm not being flippant here, but maybe we drew the short straw? Maybe there are perfect worlds, but not this one.

Nature has no agency. It can be personified as cruel and callous (and often is personified that way), but because it has no directed intention, those aren't wholly accurate terms.

For somebody to specifically design a world with suffering in it, then that creator is clearly not trying to minimize our suffering but has specifically designed us to suffer. That would make them at least a little ethically dirty under Utilitarianism.

Perhaps He can ... but not in this world.


I personally don't think the Christian God asks for either 'total obedience' or 'servitude'. Having said that, I admit that often that's the way it's represented.

Your views are coherent. I'm not trying to critique all of Christianity here.

That rather assumes we're in a position to judge God.

As I will continue saying, I don't think this is an assumption. I think it's a necessity. We have to use discernment about who we praise, why we praise them, who we follow, why we follow them, and so on. Most Christians seem pretty comfortable judging God to be good, so why is it different when we judge God to be evil?
 
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Thomas

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As I will continue saying, I don't think this is an assumption. I think it's a necessity. We have to use discernment about who we praise, why we praise them, who we follow, why we follow them, and so on.
I agree wholeheartedly. (And so does He!)

Most Christians seem pretty comfortable judging God to be good, so why is it different when we judge God to be evil?
Well, theologically we get into choppy waters. Theologically, the good is what God wills, evil goes against the Divine Will, so if God is the source of evil, God wills what He does not will, if you see what I mean? He wills against Himself? Contradictions start to play into the discussion ...

That God allows evil, whole other ballgame. A prerequisite of finitude and contingency.
 

Ella S.

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Well, theologically we get into choppy waters. Theologically, the good is what God wills, evil goes against the Divine Will, so if God is the source of evil, God wills what He does not will, if you see what I mean? He wills against Himself? Contradictions start to play into the discussion ...

That God allows evil, whole other ballgame. A prerequisite of finitude and contingency.

Oh, okay, duh. There's the main point of contention, I think. We're using different definitions of good and evil.

Sorry for wasting so much time.
 

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We're using different definitions of good and evil.
Sorry for wasting so much time.
I've never thought discussing, or reading, you, is a waste of time.

I understand we come from different places. Can I ask for your views on evil?
 

Ella S.

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I've never thought discussing, or reading, you, is a waste of time.

I understand we come from different places. Can I ask for your views on evil?

I think there are two main ways of looking at evil. There are "evil agents" and "evil actions."

An "evil action" is an action that directly leads to net harm. "Harm" here refers to a reduction in health, both physical and mental. Although health is a somewhat nebulously defined term, there are working definitions for it in a variety of fields that work as decent enough approximations for most contexts.

An "evil agent" is a being that intentionally attempts the performance of evil actions, although they might fail and accidentally perform good actions just as a well-meaning person might try to do the right thing and have it lead to unintended consequences.

This understanding is based in evolutionary ethics, where humans are considered to have evolved morality as a survival strategy. Health in particular is being used mostly as a measure for how well one can survive, since poor health (including poor mental health) reduces lifespan. Thus, the most evil action is to take the life of another person, erasing their survival entirely and destroying both their mental and physiological health beyond repair.
 

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I agree with all of this, so I'm not sure where you disagree with what I said?

Just wondering ...
 

Ella S.

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I agree with all of this, so I'm not sure where you disagree with what I said?

Just wondering ...

You said that good is what God wills and that evil goes against his divine will. I may have misinterpreted this, but it sounds like divine command theory, where good and evil are defined specifically in reference to God's will.

Under that perspective, anything God wills is good by definition, since that's how we define good to begin with. Goodness would also exist even if humans weren't alive, because God would be the ultimate law-giver.

Under evolutionary ethics, "good and evil" are concepts that formed as a natural product of the human mind. We can still judge nonhumans as good or evil, but they aren't concepts that existed before life evolved and they might not have relevance if humanity went extinct.

The important difference between the two is whether God can be considered evil. Under divine command theory, that concept is essentially a non sequitar. Under evolutionary ethics, it can depend on a number of a factors that are mostly discernible by man, or can at least be approximated.
 

RJM

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Darkness is not the opposite of light, but the absence of light. Total darkness is the complete lack of light -- locked in a cupboard with any chinks taped over that could admit light. That is totality of darkness. But a candle brings light, and a sun or twenty suns is not close to infinite totality of light?

Could evil be the absence of good, by similar analogy?

We see through a glass darkly ...
 

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Absolute zero would be the total absence of heat, where atomic movement stops, but there is no limit to heat. There is no upper level to how hot anything can be. God is what enables existence. Can evil be compared to complete stasis?

We cannot form a mental picture. We cannot form a mental picture of a four dimensional object. But nature gives us clues?
 

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Stagnation in nature is stasis, and the end is death. In nature whatever is not growing or moving forward, is dying. There is no ultimate standard of good and bad in nature, except that, subject to certain qualifications, the ultimate evil for the individual creature is death.

Gravity in nature drags all things down eventually by subduction to the fiery centre of the Earth. But man looks upward to the eternal stars, and knows that gravity is not all. The universe expands, continually creating itself.

I don't know, just thoughts ...
 

Ella S.

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Darkness is not the opposite of light, but the absence of light. Total darkness is the complete lack of light -- locked in a cupboard with any chinks taped over that could admit light. That is totality of darkness. But a candle brings light, and a sun or twenty suns is not close to infinite totality of light?

Could evil be the absence of good, by similar analogy?

We see through a glass darkly ...
Absolute zero would be the total absence of heat, where atomic movement stops, but there is no limit to heat. There is no upper level to how hot anything can be. God is what enables existence. Can evil be compared to complete stasis?

We cannot form a mental picture. We cannot form a mental picture of a four dimensional object. But nature gives us clues?

Or maybe good is the absence of evil and purity from vice, with no end to the depths of potential human depravity.
 
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Or maybe good is the absence of evil and purity from vice, with no end to the depths of potential human depravity.
Nature shows us there is a 'down' limit, but no 'up' limit. A bushman sitting in the desert knows that?
 

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He dreams, and when he wakes he wonders what if the waking is the dream, and the dream the waking? What lies beyond the threshold of the physical death?
 

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What makes me wiser than him?

brain-cell-galaxy.jpg
 

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I map the universe and split the atom and build great lighted cities -- but the questions are still there?
 
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