Thursday, April 29, 2010

Was Man Set Up to Fail? A Look at Predestination and Fate (Article III)

Introduction: Is Man Predestined to Be Saved or Damned?

There is an old joke concerning John Calvin, who is credited with creating the idea of Predestination in Christianity.  He took a terrible fall down the stairs, and at the bottom, he was heard to remark, "Thank God I got that over with."

Now this joke is of course an exaggeration of what Calvin believed, but it seems to be a good way to introduce the subject matter for the article today.  Given that God knows the things which happen to us, does it mean we are fated to do these things?

This article approaches an objection which is the opposite of the other objections.  While most people argue that God should have stopped man from sinning but did not (that is, we should have been made free to do good but not evil), this objection is based on the claim we are not free to reject sin to begin with.

The similarity to the other objections is that the sin of man was known by God in advance. The difference is that here God is directly responsible for man being unable to resist sin.

So from the perspective of the one who believes in Fate or Double Predestination, the answer to the question “Was Man set up to fail?” would have to be “Yes.”

It is tragic that God gets the blame for foolish heresies, instead of the creators of the heresies.

What Is Fate?

Fate is a term which can be understood in the sense of "the development of events outside a person’s control, regarded as predetermined by a supernatural power" according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Thus we see the belief that if something is prophesied to be, or God knows a thing is to be, it means the person could not avoid doing a thing.

Christians have to reject this view of course.  Belief in wrong and in sin indicates a belief there is a right to compare to the wrong and good conduct which is to be compared to sin.  If one cannot help what they do, because it is fated for them to do it, how can it be an act of evil?

The Pagan Idea of Oedipus

The Greek myth of Oedipus (memorialized by Sophocles) gave us a story of a person whom the oracle said was fated to kill his father and marry his mother.  To avoid this, his father abandoned him in the woods.  However, Oedipus was found by a passing shepherd who took him in.  When he grew up, he consulted the oracle and found he was fated to kill his father and marry his mother.  To avoid this, he left home.  He ended up killing a man on the road, going to a city, freeing it from the Sphinx and marrying the recently widowed queen.  Eventually he discovered the man he killed was his father and the woman he married was his mother.

Essentially under this view, one cannot escape an evil destiny even if one wills to reject it.  Oedipus had no idea that the people who took him in were not his real parents.  He had no idea that the man he killed was his father and the woman he married was his mother.  In seeking to avoid doing the evil he was horrified by, he ended up carrying it out.  Trying to avoid one's fate becomes futile.  This can lead to the idea of fatalism (which derives from fate), which is: "the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable."

Indeed, in the ancient world, astrology was used as a way of seeking to determine one's own fate while magic was often seen as a possible way to escape a fate which was otherwise inevitable.

Fate and the Will of God

Some individuals do look at the Bible with this mindset.  Events where prophecies of evil befalling the Israelites are given, people assume that these people who persecuted the Israelites did so because God commanded.  Jesus, as God, knew He was to betrayed and handed over to be crucified.

Does this mean Judas, Pilate and those members of the Sanhedrin responsible could not avoided the tasks set out for them by God's decree?

The answer is simply NO.

The fact that God knows of things which are outside of our ability to know does not mean He decrees a person will do a thing regardless of whether he wants to or not.  Rather, God can permit a thing which men do for an evil intent for the purpose of our benefit.  Because God's knowledge is infinite, He knows the choices we will do before we do them of course, but this doesn't mean He forces our hand to act.

Let's look at it this way.  God knows whether I will wind up in Heaven or Hell.  He knows what I will do in the future.  However, this does not mean I am not responsible for what I do.  It is my willing actions which makes me either cooperate with God's grace or refuse to do so.

It is wrong to say I will do evil because God wills me to be damned. Indeed, claims that man is compelled to act indicate that doing good or evil holds no meaning: It would be wrong to say that God predestined me for Heaven… for this would mean it was irrelevant what I did which was wicked.  It would be wrong for me to say that God predestined me for Hell.  Then it would also be irrelevant what I did.

The Eternal Nature of God and the Knowledge He Possesses

While sometimes God does speak through the prophets with a warning of what is to come if the wicked do not change their ways, men often speak of foreknowledge, saying God has advance knowledge of what we are to do.

The problem with this view is that it views God with the same limitations as man.  It sees God as being in time, but merely existing without an end, something similar to the lifespan of the elves in JRR Tolkien.  This is an error.

God is entirely outside of time itself.  What happened yesterday, today or tomorrow, God sees from a perspective we who are inside time cannot see.  The prayers of Moses, of a person in Christ's time on Earth, of a person today, and even a person 10,000 years from now (assuming humanity exists so long before the Second Coming) are heard by God, who is outside time.  Hence Scripture speaking of a thousand years being like a day and a day being like a thousand years (see 2 Peter 3:8).

Because of this, He can see plainly what each man will do in his life just as plainly as we can see what we did yesterday.  None of us can say we were fated to do what we did yesterday.  We did what we did through our own fault.  God can see today and tomorrow just as we can see yesterday.  The choices we will freely make tomorrow, He sees.  Not because He foreknows what we will do, but He knows what we will choose to do.

God's knowledge of what we will freely choose today, tomorrow or fifty years from now does not mean we are compelled to act in a certain way.  To argue otherwise is actually to make use of the post hoc fallacy: God knew I would act in this way; therefore His knowledge caused me to act this way.  Knowledge of what another man will do does not mean causing a thing.

The Consideration of Prophecy and Fate

So what of prophecy?  What of those wicked men who end up fulfilling something God has said, through the prophets, would happen? Do these not mean that man was fated to continue to sin and could not help it? Does it mean those who did the evil acts mentioned in prophecy were caused by God? Here we have to remove some confusion.

The fact that God knows certain men will behave in an evil nature, and for their evil motives they will afflict the Israelites or the Christians does not mean that such evil men act because God compels them to do so. Rather such men would have acted earlier had God not protected us. If God removes His protection, the wicked afflict the Israelites or the Christians.

Calvin’s Bad Idea

Unfortunately, certain Christians in the 16th and 17th centuries adopted such fatalism, misinterpreting the prophecies as inevitable, they have said that God causes the wicked to sin and then punishes them for their deeds. John Calvin, in his Institutes of Christian Religion describes his belief this way:

The covenant of life is not preached equally to all, and among those to whom it is preached, does not always meet with the same reception. This diversity displays the unsearchable depth of the divine judgment, and is without doubt subordinate to God's purpose of eternal election. But if it is plainly owing to the mere pleasure of God that salvation is spontaneously offered to some, while others have no access to it, great and difficult questions immediately arise, questions which are inexplicable, when just views are not entertained concerning election and predestination. To many this seems a perplexing subject, because they deem it most incongruous that of the great body of mankind some should be predestinated to salvation, and others to destruction. How ceaselessly they entangle themselves will appear as we proceed. We may add, that in the very obscurity which deters them, we may see not only the utility of this doctrine, but also its most pleasant fruits. We shall never feel persuaded as we ought that our salvation flows from the free mercy of God as its fountain, until we are made acquainted with his eternal election, the grace of God being illustrated by the contrast--viz. that he does not adopt all promiscuously to the hope of salvation, but gives to some what he denies to others. It is plain how greatly ignorance of this principle detracts from the glory of God, and impairs true humility. (Institutes: Book III Chapter 21)

In seeking to give assurance to the believer that he could not be separated from God, Calvin tends to skim over the problem that others rightly object to: In order for punishment to be just, it must be over a thing which man has control over.

Double Predestination: Attempting to "Christianize” an Unjust Idea

Now, as I understand it, Calvin’s idea was formed with the intent of reassuring the Christians that if they were behaving as a Christian, it was a sign they were of the elect. Fair enough. To a limited extent, one can interpret some of the writings of Paul in such a way. The problem is with the idea if DOUBLE predestination, which not only asserts God wills men to be saved, but also wills some to be damned.

Double Predestination could be considered "Fate" in the pagan view.  In this view, before the world begins, God has determined some will be saved and some will be damned.  Neither the saved nor the reprobate will be able to change from one category to the next.

The 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia describes it as follows:

Predestinarianism is a heresy not unfrequently met with in the course of the centuries which reduces the eternal salvation of the elect as well as the eternal damnation of the reprobate to one cause alone, namely to the sovereign will of God, and thereby excludes the free co-operation of man as a secondary factor in bringing about a happy or unhappy future in the life to come.

Double Predestination is promoted by some because it is feared that man’s refusal to accept God’s ultimate authority indicates God is not all powerful. Because God is all powerful, and some people refuse to accept Him as Lord, the argument is that God chose not to save Him. Jesus died on the cross only for those who were predestined to be saved. The end result is that the person who holds this position has to do some interesting verbal gymnastics to explain why a suddenly arbitrary version of God is really good, in deliberately refusing to save Person X.

Limited Love from a Limitless God?

Of course, God, as Lord of all creation is free to save us or not as He wills. From a perspective of justice, humanity lost its right to original grace, and He is under no obligation to save any of us. However this is not the same thing as saying God chooses to save one person and absolutely refuses to save another.

Double Predestination would be like a man on the river bank who sees a number of people drowning. He has the ability to offer rescue devices to all of them, but arbitrarily chooses only some of them, leaving the rest to drown. Such a God is either limited or petty

Now, theoretically the elect could live like a porn star and be saved, while the reprobate could live like Mother Teresa and still be damned, but supporters of this view would tend to object, arguing that how a person acts shows which side of the line they are most likely on. Thus the person who lives morally upright is probably a member of the saved, while the person who lives immorally is probably a member of the reprobate.

Of course there is always the problem of the backsliding Christian. Making use of the No True Scotsman fallacy, if such an upright person is discovered having a secret sinful life; it means he was really one of the reprobates all along. If a total sleaze has a change of heart and becomes a Christian, it means he was always a member of the elect.

All of this is necessary for the believer in double predestination, because such a believer must deny free will. Because he cannot understand how God can permit a thing without causing a thing, he or she reasons that God must cause the person to be saved or damned.

Now of course this is a minority view among Christians, mostly among those branches influenced by Calvin. However, I find myself wondering how many people who rejected Christianity as being unjust were influenced by this awful view which made God into such a monster.

Since God Is Perfectly Just, We Must Reject This View

Double Predestination assumes that God wills certain people to go to Heaven and certain people to go to Hell regardless of what they may want to do on their own.  The problem is that if God is perfectly just, which Christians must believe, then Hell — which is a place of punishment — is only just if a person who goes there is there because of his own actions, which he had responsibility for.  If the person could not avoid behaving in such a way because he was fated to act this way, then the putting of such a person in hell is unjust. If a person is directly willed by God to go to Hell regardless of what he would want to do, this is also unjust.

Since Christians must believe God is perfectly just, such a view is incompatible with God. Therefore we should reject the nonsense of Double Predestination. Can God give special graces to help people to receive His salvation? Yes. Does this mean whoever does not receive these graces are hated by God? No. If we are determined to do evil, sometimes God will give us what we demand: to be left alone.

Is The Alternative Pelagianism?

Some may accuse me of Pelagianism here. Because I say that Double Predestination is false,  They might misinterpret me as saying that God does not matter and only our own works will save us or damn us. This would be an error however.  The rejection of Double Predestination does not mean a belief that man has the power to save himself.

Pelagianism is described as:

Doctrinal system associated with Pelagius and others, based on the inherent created goodness and innocence of human beings, the efficacy of the human will to achieve salvation, and sinless perfection without divine help…

…It held that every soul is created sinless, that the will is absolutely free, and that the grace of God is universal but not indispensable.

Kurian, G. T. (2001). Nelson's new Christian dictionary: The authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Pubs.

In other words, Pelagianism holds that man can get to Heaven by his own efforts, and while God helps, He isn't necessary.  This is not true.  Because man has lowered himself into a pit, as it were, he cannot get out of it by his own efforts.  God would be like a person offering us a rope to get out of the pit.  Without His help, we cannot escape the pit.  However, we can refuse to accept His help and remain in the pit.

So, to say man can be ungrateful and refuse the help God offers is not Pelagianism. Nor does it mean that God is not all powerful if a person refuses to accept His salvation.  It means God will not force us to accept His gift. He made us free to be good, but to be free means we can do wrong with our free will.

We need God if we are to be saved, but we are damned for our own actions which we are free to perform and can blame on no other person.

Denying Double Predestination Does Not Mean God Owes Us Anything

Let’s be clear on this. God does not owe us salvation. Our fallen nature comes because Adam and Eve, by their freely chosen sin, corrupted the nature God gave them. The children born to them in their fallen state share the same nature as their parents, as nothing can give a greater form of existence than one has (since Adam and Eve had lost their original grace, they could not pass it on to their offspring).

The fact that God sent His only Son so we might be saved is a gift we could not merit and did not deserve. However, there is a vast difference between not being able to merit a thing and not being able to refuse the free gift of God.

We believe God loves all of us, and desires all of us to be saved. However, because He has given us free will, we can use it to turn against Him. If we do, He is not obligated to override our Free Will.

Being Fated to Fall Is Not a Christian View, but a Sectarian View

We do know that Calvin’s claims of this being the correct interpretation of Scripture to the contrary; other Christian faiths do not accept this claim. People who think this view of God is unfair and unjust should know they are not alone in it.

The Second Council of Orange said in AD 529:

According to the Catholic faith we believe this also, that after grace has been received through baptism, all the baptized with the help and cooperation of Christ can and ought to fulfill what pertains to the salvation of the soul, if they will labor faithfully. We not only do not believe that some have been truly predestined to evil by divine power, but also with every execration we pronounce anathema upon those, if there are [any such], who wish to believe so great an evil. (Denzinger 199)

Against Calvin, the Church decreed in the Council of Trent,

Can. 17. If anyone shall say that the grace of justification is attained by those only who are predestined unto life, but that all others, who are called, are called indeed, but do not receive grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil: let him be anathema (Denzinger 827).

Finally, Augustine — so often cited by those who support Double Predestination — has had this to say in his Letter to Jerome, circa AD 415:

5. I am, moreover, fully persuaded that the soul has fallen into sin, not through the fault of God, nor through any necessity either in the divine nature or in its own, but by its own free will; and that it can be delivered from the body of this death neither by the strength of its own will, as if that were in itself sufficient to achieve this, nor by the death of the body itself, but only by the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and that there is not one soul in the human family to whose salvation the one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, is not absolutely necessary. Every soul, moreover, which may at any age whatsoever depart from this life without the grace of the Mediator and the sacrament of this grace, departs to future punishment, and shall receive again its own body at the last judgment as a partner in punishment. But if the soul after its natural generation, which was derived from Adam, be regenerated in Christ, it belongs to His fellowship, and shall not only have rest after the death of the body, but also receive again its own body as a partner in glory. These are truths concerning the soul which I hold most firmly.  (Emphasis added)

If every soul can depart from life apart from the grace of God, it stands to reason a person cannot claim predestination to be saved or predestination to be damned.

So before condemning God or Christianity for the idea that man was set up to fail because he was fated to fall, one needs to remember this is a view which is not universally Christian.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Was Man Set Up to Fail? A Look at God Creating Man as He Was (Article II)

Recap of the Last Article

Last time I discussed some general Christian Beliefs about God, Creation and the Fall in regards to the question, “Did God set up man to fail?” To recap, the premise of the challenge is that God knew man would fail, yet created the situation where free will, the serpent (the Devil) and the Tree of Knowledge existed. Therefore God set man up to fail.

In my article, I stated that man did have the ability to refuse, yet chose to act against God, knowing it was forbidden. As a result, man and his descendents fell from what God created them to be.

So let us now look at some of the questions of why God made us in such a way which we could fail.

On The Nature of Triangles

One of the common questions intended to stump believers is to ask whether God could make a triangle with four sides. The supposed dilemma is: If God can make it, it isn’t a triangle. If He can’t make it, He isn’t all powerful.

The problem with this dilemma is that it assumes that the nature of things comes before God, and not that the nature of things comes because of God.

If God wills to make a triangle, He wills to make a thing with three sides. If He wanted a thing with four sides, He wouldn’t make a triangle to begin with, because the essence of a triangle is that it has three sides and the total interior angles total to 180 degrees, whether it is scalene, isosceles or equilateral.

Things like the lengths of the sides and the degrees of each angle depend on the type of the triangle it is. A triangle is not less of a triangle because it is scalene and not equilateral for example. However, once you add a fourth side or make the angles of the interior > 180 degrees, you no longer have a triangle, but something else entirely.

So the answer to this supposed stumper is that it is nonsense to ask whether a four sided triangle can exist, because a four sided object is not a triangle to begin with, and the question can be rewritten “Will God call a four sided object a triangle?”

The answer is no, because to call a four sided object a triangle is to speak falsely, which would mean God was not perfectly good.

So what does this have to do with the creation of human beings?

On the Nature of Men

From the point above, we need to consider what the human person necessarily is. The Human person necessarily possesses certain characteristics in essence, where if you remove them from the idea of “human” what you have is no longer human.

As Christians, we believe that all people are created with an immortal soul. No soul, no person. Or to state it in the opposite way, if one is a human being, he or she has an immortal soul. We also believe that God created man with the potential for free will. So what is the significance of this?

Because man is created with an immortal soul, he will not end with death. Because he is created with free will, the consequences of his choices will exist beyond death. Because he is created with free will, he does have choices he can make, for which he is responsible.

(Excursus: The Question of the Mentally Disabled

I would like to pause here to address the issue of the insane or mentally disabled, who through birth defect or accident or age, are unable to make use of the free will which exists in all men. Does this mean such a person is not a human being?

I would say this would be as wrong as to say that a female who, through birth defect, injury, old age or disease, is unable to bear children is not a woman. The potential is there, though some individuals wind up with the inability to make use of such things because of these circumstances.)

So Why Did God make Man with Free Will?

The common claim here is that if man had not been created with free will, then he would not have been able to sin. Perhaps this is the case. However, man would not have been able to do good either. Essentially we would be not much more than two legged cattle.

Now, if God is perfect (which Christians do believe), then it follows God does not need anything. If He needed anything, it would indicate a lack. Yet the deist concept of the Divine Clockmaker is also illogical. If God merely sets the clock in motion and then ignores everything, the question then arises, “Why make the clock?”

We need to remember the statement, “God is love.” (1 Jn 4:16). Now love is not sentimentality and indulgence. It desires the true good for the beloved. Sometimes this must involve “tough love” to help us. Now since man was created with an immortal soul, it follows that the good God desires for us must take this into account.

Christians believe that God created the universe with the human person in mind, and that He created the human person out of love with the desire of giving us the eternal good, not temporal goods.

The Lover and the Beloved

Now, if this good is something which must be received, it cannot be achieved by man’s own effort because man is a finite creature. Only by being offered the eternal from the eternal God can it be received. If it is to be offered and not forced, it requires a free acceptance of the gift God offers.

So why does God not simply remove free will and give us this eternal good? This is because love is not a one way street. There is the lover and the beloved. Scripture uses many images of God as the lover wooing us, the beloved. The lover never forces himself on the beloved. If the beloved spurns the lover, God will not force the beloved to accept Him. However, with this in mind, the beloved who spurns the Lover has no cause for complaint when they have no part of the life of the Lover. Since God is the eternal lover and we are created with an eternal soul, if we spurn His love, we must spend eternity apart from Him.

So in short, God gave us free will, because we are not merely constructs of God, but people whom He loves and wants to share in His love.

This is the divergence between the one who says God set man up to fail and the Christian belief. We were not given free will so we could choose sin. We were given free will so we could choose to accept what God offers.

Parent and Child

In terms of creator and created, God does have the authority to make behaviors required of us.  However, a parent can at times leave to the discretion of the child when one wishes to teach responsibility as opposed to standing over the child with the immediate readiness to punish.  CS Lewis discusses this in his work Mere Christianity:

…anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will in one way and not in another.  It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, 'I'm not going to go and make you tidy up the schoolroom every night.  You've got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.'  Then she goes up one night and finds the Teddy bear and the ink and the French Grammar all lying in the grate.  That is against her will.  She would prefer the children to be tidy.  But on the other hand, it is her will which has left the children free to be untidy.  The same thing arises in any regiment, or trade union, or school.  You make a thing voluntary and then half the people do not do it.  This is not what you willed, but your will has made it possible.

It is probably the same in the universe.  God created things which had free will.  That means creatures which can go either wrong or right.  Some people think they can imagine a creature which is free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot.  If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad.  And free will is what has made evil possible.  Why, then, did God give them free will?  Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the thing which makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.  A world of automata — of creatures which worked like machines — would hardly be worth creating.  The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water.  And for that they must be free. (pages 47-48)

The parent who wants a thing to be done can of course stand over the child with a whip and make sure it is done this way.  However, the parent who wants the child to understand the importance of doing a thing so the child chooses to do a thing of his own free will must take a different course.  We believe this is the case in our relationship with God.  Since God loves us and wants us to choose the good, He must make us free if doing good is to have any meaning at all.

The Error in Denying that Free Will Exists.

Now it follows that if Love is a choice we must make, the possibility of spurning God is there. The risk of rejection is always there in love. God being the perfect lover will not betray us, but we can betray Him. Adam and Eve did, and so do we. He will always offer it, but will not force us to accept it.

Certain groups of Christians fear the idea that if man has to accept, it means God is not fully in control, and it puts the emphasis on man (Calvin and Luther for example seem to have leaned this way). Such individuals try to argue that the one who God chooses has no say in the matter, and the one who God rejects can never be saved because he was rejected from the beginning. Such a view [known as Double Predestination] is, I believe, blasphemous, as it makes God responsible for all evil done.  If one is predestined to be saved, we cannot call his actions good.  If one is predestined to be damned, we cannot call his actions evil.  Such a one is merely doing what he is predestined to do.

It also confuses the issue by ignoring that without God’s acting to begin with, the man has nothing to choose to accept. What God offers is so far beyond the ability of man to do on his own, that unless God offers it, man cannot receive it.

I think it would be interesting to see whether the "God set man up to fail" argument had its roots in the claims of double predestination.

Misusing Free Will Has Consequences

Now, if will is free, it follows that a person may choose to act in a way which is in violation of what was intended to be. He can do this in the sense that nobody forced him to do something in violation of what he chose to do. However, this does not mean it is good to do so, and in acting against what we were called to be, we do ourselves harm. Sometimes in the temporal realm, sometimes into eternity.

I am able to drive drunk if I choose to. However, it is not permitted for me to do so, and if I do, there will be legal or even life threatening results which will affect me in time or even eternally (if it kills me). I cannot say in response that the law, in not physically preventing me from driving, is to blame for the result.

Likewise, our using our free will to act against God is possible, and because He made us with free will, He recognizes some of us can use our free will for evil instead of for good. However, it is not God’s fault we do evil, because He gave us the ability to think on our own.

The Flip Side of Freedom

What is often forgotten today is that freedom is part of a package deal. The other side of the coin is responsibility. If a person has free will, the person has the responsibility to use their free will in a way which does not harm themselves or others. He, and not the lawmaker, is to blame for failing to act responsibly. The idea of responsibility indicates it is something we can control. If a person slips on the ice, nobody blames him because the law of gravity forces him to the ground. It is only when the circumstances are things we can control that we can be blamed for failing to do so.

Looking at Adam and Eve

Now Adam and Eve were given free will, and they were given the responsibility in using it rightly. Moreover, with original grace, they had the ability to resist temptation to do evil. In other words, they had the free will to control their own actions, and they had the responsibility to make the right use of those actions. With the ability to resist the impulses to choose wrongly, Adam and Eve could not claim that their actions could not be helped. The reason they were judged was because they were able to resist but chose not to.

So from this, we can see that in failing to resist temptation, their actions were because they could have but did not refuse the lies of the devil.

Conclusion: The Direction Next Time

I have given a demonstration of why Christians believe we have free will. However some individuals have a hard time contrasting God’s omnipotence with our free will. If God knows what we will do, does this not mean we are fated to do these things?

The short answer is no.

The longer answer will be covered in part III of this series.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Set Up to Fail? Reflections on Creation and the Fall (Article I)

Preliminary Note: This will be a series of a few articles, as the topic is too broad to deal with at once.  People wondering why I didn't address topic X in this first article should wait until I finish the rest before claiming I ignored the issue.

This article is devoted to establish the framework of the Christian belief of the nature of God, the nature of creation, and the view of the fall.  The idea of why God created us in this way will be addressed further on in this series.

Please note that being an article and not a textbook, this article must necessarily be simplified, and should not be considered the definitive and final word on the subject. Just because I draw conclusion X on the subject does not mean I reject other conclusions the Catholic Church brings forward.

Note on Linguistics: Some readers may note I make reference to man and he.  This is not due to chauvinism, but rather because the term "man" reflects the Latin humanis (person) and not viri (male).  The English language is more limited than Latin in expressing itself.  In terms of philosophy and theology, "man" refers to male and female both, while the use of male or female would be used to speak of a certain gender.


Awhile back, an atheist visitor to my site asked if I would write about whether God set man up to fail.  Unfortunately the individual never clarified what was meant by this so I needed to go search for the topic on line [So, if this individual is reading this, my apologies if if I didn't answer your specific concerns here].  The question is a valid one I think, though the answer is never merely a direct rebuttal.  Rather it requires a set up of what we as Christians believe as a starting point.

The Premises of the Challenge

Scanning various atheistic sites and challenges posted on Christian sites, the basic premise seems to be as follows (this isn't a syllogism by the way, so I won't be evaluating this part as if it were.  I'm just laying out the points the objection makes):

  1. God is all knowing and all powerful and all good
  2. God Created Adam and Eve
  3. God Created the Tree of Good and Evil
  4. Because He was all knowing, He must have known that Adam and Eve would have eaten the fruit of the tree.
  5. Therefore God set man up to fail.
  6. Therefore He either isn't all knowing, all powerful or all good

I hope this is a fair recreation of the objection.

Now, I would unconditionally agree with points 1-3.  I would conditionally agree with point 4 (my problem is with the post hoc fallacy it assumes).  I would reject point 5, and because of that, point 6 would remain unproven.

The Preliminaries to the Case

However, before we get to the argument, we need to understand how the Christian understands God, omnipotence, omniscience and being pure good.

First lets look at that which God is.  Non Christians and atheists may disagree with these things.  However, if one wants to understand the Christian view of the fall, one needs to understand how we view the God who created everything.  This is of course a very simplified and truncated view.  For fuller details, one can consult St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles.

  1. God is Eternal.  He is not a very old being.  God is outside of time itself.  Time came to be when God began creation of the universe we know.  Whether one holds to Young Earth Creationism or to evolution, the theist holds that before the beginning of creation, there was no time, but God still existed.  This is why we call God Eternal.  He isn't going to change His mind some time in the future about good and evil, or on how gravity and light functions.  Thus He is unchanging.
    1. Because of this, it would be error to think of there being a difference between the God of the Old Testament and that of the New Testament.
  2. God is All Knowing (Omniscient).  Despite claims from people like Vox Day, God is not surprised or unaware of what goes on in the universe.  Some Christians who know God is not evil will try to meet the challenge of evil in the world by denying omniscience so they don't have to deny He is all powerful or All Good.  Theologically this is nonsense however.  A God who is not all knowing is therefore limited and therefore not all powerful.  God does not learn something new about His world, us or morality.
  3. God is All Powerful (Omnipotent). Nothing happens against the direct will of God.  If He wills that event X will happen, it cannot be thwarted.  God will not be defeated.  Nor will what He decrees fail to happen as He decrees it to be.
    1. This is not the same thing as sin being against what God requires of us.  Below we will look at free will of man, which is in fact what the issue is really about.
  4. God Is Perfect and Perfectly Good.  This is necessarily a trait of an all powerful God to lack nothing in His own nature.  This is because evil is not a positive force in itself.  With the exception of the mentally deranged, nobody chooses to do evil solely on the grounds it is evil, but because there is a good end which one chooses to achieve in a way which is harmful or unjust to oneself or others.  If God could choose to do evil, he would be choosing something less good, which would deny the other traits of God.  [That is: Either He did not know it was wrong, or He did not have the ability to do good]
    1. Dawkins' claim of omniscience and omnipotence being in contradiction is also theologically nonsense.  Dawkins' claim, paraphrased, is that because God is all knowing, He can't change His mind.  Because He can't change His mind, He can't be all powerful.  Theologians reject this on the grounds that because God is all knowing, He already knows the best solution for the situation at hand.  Changing one's mind would be to go from a worse to a better or from a better to a worse.  Both would be a sign of imperfection in God.
  5. God is Fully Present Everywhere (Omnipresent).  Unlike pantheism, God is not all things nor in all things as a sort of a mist or presence that is spread out partly here, partly in Russia and so on.  That would make Him dependent on matter.  Rather it is the case that God is fully present everywhere without limits.  He is always fully present, and not merely partially present.

To sum up, we can knock down the idea that God is merely a more advanced form of sentient being.  God is not a being who is more knowledgeable than us.  He is the fullness of knowledge.  God is not merely a being who is more powerful than us.  He is the fullness of power.  He is not merely more moral than us.  His nature reflects what is good, and that which goes against His nature is evil.

So any view which looks at God as merely a "greater person" is looking at God in the wrong way, and if he or she judges God from this assumption, the judgment comes from a flawed assumption.

The Nature of Evil

Evil is visualized in a dualistic vision to be a positive force, and sometimes this view of evil leads to a distorted view of God, creation and what is good.  Christians do not accept this view of evil however.  We do not think that evil is a positive force, but is a lack or a misapplication of a good God has given us.

For example, a person who is valorous, but lacks compassion may do brave things, but this bravery will most likely lead to acts of cruelty in war because he lacks the ability to understand the suffering of others.  This would be one type of evil.

Another type of evil would be choosing to suppress something which a person possesses at the wrong time.  The idea of seeking to improve the prosperity of a nation one rules is generally a good thing.  However, if this desire comes at the expense of depriving other nations of their own prosperity, freedom or life, it is generally considered evil.  Hence there is a difference between a nation which seeks to improve its infrastructure and creates mutually beneficial trade with neighbors on one hand and the invasion of Poland in 1939 for Lebensraum.

Because of this, we do not see the Devil as an evil being who was created evil by God.  The devil is not some sort of evil God.  Rather, we consider him a rebellious being, who because of a willful choice to use the gifts God had given Him, put Himself in rebellion with God.

As I mentioned above, nobody chooses evil because they want to do evil (unless the person is extremely disordered), but because they see a good they want while lacking the discipline to seek it in context of what is right or else want what they see as a good at the expense of others.

God and Creation

Now some readers may grumble that I am over 1000 words into this article and have not addressed the Fall yet.  Quite true.  However, before we can understand the relation of God and man, we must show how we understand God and things which are false before we can understand why God created the universe He did.

Principles of Creation

Now, when we recognize that God is eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, perfect, perfectly good and omnipresent this sets some boundaries to the understanding of Creation:

  1. The Creation of the Universe was not by chance
  2. It was created as God willed it to exist
  3. It was not created haphazardly
  4. Nothing which exists came to be without God willing it to exist.
  5. God cares about His creation
  6. What He created was GOOD.

These are important things to remember.  Denial of any of these points would be considered heretical.

If one comes to look at Creation from the view of unguided evolution, there are points which are often assumed which the Christian does not believe.  Such as, one may assume the view of God as the divine clockmaker who sets the pendulum into motion and then left it alone.  Or one may assume that God merely started evolution with no idea what the end result would be.  Or, one might be tempted to take a dualistic view which holds matter is evil and spirit is good.

These are views foreign to Christianity, and any attempt to view Creation or the Fall by these views will be a view which is not Christian.

The Creation of Humanity

With the principles above we can also apply to the nature of the human person.  Man was not a product of chance.  Man was created in the nature God intended him to have.  Man was not created through a slapdash work, but was the pinnacle of His creation.  God cares about man and created Him to be good.

Now, one of the common misconceptions is that some think of Adam and Eve as the stereotypical "cave men" who were extremely primitive and limited in knowledge.  Christians would reject this view.  We would believe that when God created man, he possessed the state of natural grace and being free of sin.  Adam and Eve were not inferior to us as cave men.  They were not merely our equals in the sense of having the same concupiscence we have.  They were created as God intended them to be, free of sin and possessing mastery over their emotions and passions.

The Fall of Man

It is when we consider this, that we can see what the Fall meant.  It was not, as Phillip Pullman has said in his wretched (both in the theological and literary sense) Dark Materials books, a "fall upward."  Adam and Eve possessed the knowledge of good, and had the grace to resist the temptations the devil offered them.

Man was not forced to sin.  Nor were Adam and Eve deceived into disobeying God without realizing it.  Rather, the devil appealed to their pride arguing that God was holding them back from something good:

1 Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?”

2 The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;

3 it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’”

4 But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die!

5 No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is bad.” (Gen 3:1-5)

The temptation was to become equal to God, instead of recognizing that God is superior in power and knowledge.  The "knowledge" of what was good and evil was not the theoretical knowledge as some have claimed.  Adam and Eve had knowledge of what was good, and one could deduce what was evil through recognizing what departed from this good.  Rather, this "knowledge" was nothing more than the practical experience from doing evil.  It's like the arguments today that to understand the evils of drugs, we have to have first tried drugs, pure nonsense which assumes that experiential knowledge is the only form of knowledge which exists.

The devil's seduction of Adam and Eve was an appeal to their pride, encouraging them to think of themselves as being the equal of God, and being able to be independent of God.

The result of this (God's punishment) is not God arbitrarily taking away from man things He had given Adam and Eve.  Rather, the sin of Adam and Eve caused the break in the relationship with God and His creation.  God is telling them "Because you have done this…" X will happen.

Man has chosen to make himself God's equal, which is an impossible thing.  In choosing such a path, and rejecting God, man has chosen a path which makes him subject to the evil he has knowledge of.  It is important that this was not inevitable or fated.  Adam and Eve were free to refuse the devil's offer.  They specifically chose against God's will, knowing it was against God's will and having the ability to choose God's will.

Conclusion: The Subject for the Next Article

Now that we have set this framework, we can move on to the main part of the "God set man up to fail" argument, which seems to be "why did God make man this way?"  To answer this, we need to understand what God intended man to be, and remember that God still intends for us to become.

Of course, what He intends for us to become is not something we can do on our own.  We can lower ourselves into a well under our own power.  This does not mean we can raise ourselves up from what we got ourselves into.

At the risk of getting ahead of myself, this is ultimately why we need Christ as Savior who can deliver us, and why God needed to become man.  It is impossible for a man who has broken the relationship with God to restore it under his own power.  It takes God to restore the relationship which man has broken, though it requires man to repay what He has broken.  This is also why Christians must believe no other religion can save.  No founder of any other religion can do what Christ did.  Other religions have a glimmering of the truth in recognizing that evil exists, and/or recognizing that the Divine exists.  They do not have within them the salvific act which Christ performed for us.

So next time, a look into why God made us as He did in terms of free will.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Shouldn't EVERY Day Be a Day of Reason?

Source: - Atheist Group Calls on Obama to Endorse ‘National Day of Reason' Instead of 'National Day of Prayer'

You have to shake your head with the antics of certain so-called "New Atheists."  In calling for a "National Day of Reason," it is of course designed to be a slap in the face of religious believers by implying they are not reasonable.  Unfortunately they really ought to have thought this through.

As a believer, who was inspired by Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and the philosophers they found reasonable (Socrates and Aristotle) and by modern philosophers such as Peter Kreeft, I find that every day one has to use reason in considering the attacks of the faith.

Unfortunately, I think Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association does not come across as reasonable as he thinks he is.

He objects to a National Day of Prayer, saying:

With the religious right's influence in Congress, and with the threat to our Judiciary looming large, there has never been as important a moment in which to affirm our commitment to the Constitutional separation of religion and government, and to celebrate Reason as the guiding principle of our secular democracy.

During the past year we have witnessed the intrusion of religious ideology into all spheres of or government with such assaults on the wall separating church and state as:

  • Faith-based initiatives in federal agencies that give preferential treatment to religious organizations which proselytize and employ discriminatory hiring practices;
  • Restrictions on important scientific research on the basis of religious objections;
  • Attempts to introduce biblical creationism and its alter-ego "Intelligent Design" into our public school science curricula;
  • The appointment of judges who willingly place their religious beliefs above our laws;
  • Battles over the display of the Ten Commandments and other overtly religious icons in schools and on courthouses;
  • Religiously motivated restrictions on access to reproductive services and information

The irony is that he goes on to say (emphasis added):

What can you do to demonstrate your support for a Day of Reason?

Plan a special event to commemorate the NDR, such as a protest demonstration, special lecture, or social gathering;

  • Work to have a Day of Reason proclaimed by your state or local government;
  • Hold a press conference for your local media to promote respect for the separation of religion and government, and to draw attention to the many breaches of that principle during recent months;
  • Organize a letter-writing campaign urging your elected officials to support the separation of religion and government;
  • Visit the National Day of Reason web site to sign-up as an endorser, to view planned events, or to read some of the media coverage from previous years.

It seems to be unreasonable to object to special privileges to religion and imposing of values on one hand, while insisting on what is effectively the same thing.  If it is a breach to have the government declare a National Day of Prayer, it logically follows that to insist on a day which is effectively a rejection of religion is also a breach.

If Speckhardt wishes to argue that secularism and atheism is true, and that such a day reflects reality, then let him build a reasoned case and present it to be reviewed instead of engaging in a Bulverism by declaring that it is already established that religion is false.  Let him demonstrate as true that religion and reason are separate.  Without doing so, Speckhardt is Begging the Question, which is not logical… logic of course being a part of reason.

If government is not to endorse any sort of faith based view, then let us see the AHA demonstrate why we should consider their views to be based on Reason and not a sort of faith or ideology in itself.

We don't need A National Day of Reason… we need 365 (366 in Leap Years) Days of Reason, independent of whether it is personal or national or global.

Recommended: Article Rebutting Peggy Noonan

There is an interesting article where Peggy Noonan's WSJ articles on the Church and abuse are critiqued and shown to be in error, especially where she claims that the Church has done little and that only at the instigation of the media.

Given many people like to cite Noonan (using the fallacy of irrelevant authority) as a "Conservative Catholic" [arguing that she can't have an agenda]. I think the points made here should be considered.

You can see the article here.

A response to a conservative critic of Catholic Church | Spero News

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reflections on Obligation in the Church and Media

One of the main problems with the media coverage of the recent accusations against the Vatican is the unproven assumption that the Vatican not only knew of, but was indifferent to, the reports of abuse which they must have known of. This is a important error of assumption which needs to be examined.

Preliminary: The Difference Between ‘Ought’ and ‘Is’

So let’s start here as a preliminary. Media accusers seem to be making a profound error. This is the error over “ought” and “is.” Some of you may find discussions over linguistics to be dull. However, I think this needs to be stressed, as many of the attacks against the Church are based on the claim that the Vatican ought to have done X, but these attacks fail to consider what the actual events IS.

Ought can be defined as:

1      used to indicate duty or correctness.

†     used to indicate a desirable or expected state.

So one is correct in saying that Bishops ought to have reported abuse to the Curia and to the civil authorities. This is both the duty of the bishops and the expected state of affairs.

IS (the third person state of to be) can be defined as:

1. exist; be present

2. take place

3. having the specified state, nature, or role

So while ought indicates what is to be expected or required; IS indicates what has in fact happened. In order for OUGHT to equal IS, people must do what is required of them. I OUGHT to obey the laws on the speed limits. However, if I drive 70mph in a 55mph zone, what I ought to do is not what I actually do.

So how does this apply to the attacks on the Church? Quite simply, if the Bishop does what he ought in reporting abuse, then those he reports to are the ones to be held to blame if they do not do what they ought to do. However, if the bishop does not do what he ought (reporting the sinful priest), how can the Curia do what they ought to do? What the Bishop did (is) is different than what he ought to have done, and the expected state is hindered by the failure of the bishop.

This can work the other way. Prior to 2001, every accused priest (whose case was actually reported) was required to have an ecclesiastical trial. So the ought in this case is that the Church follows the rules it sets for fairness. Now the old rules did in fact need reforming, and they were reformed. However, one cannot change the rules in order to achieve a desired result. So when there were procedures which once took years to resolve, the Church was doing what it ought to have done in making sure the accusations were true, and making sure the penalty fit the action – provided that the bishops did their jobs in reporting it to them in the first place. If the Bishops did not do as they ought, how could the Curia do as it ought?

Analysis of the Media attacks

The media writes from the assumption that the Church willfully did not do as it ought to have done. This is the fallacy of equivocation in not defining what is meant by “the Church.” If one looks at the Church as a monolithic block, one looks at the Church wrongly. The Church is headed by the Pope in Rome, but the bishop is expected to be the episkopos (overseer or shepherd) of the diocese. He is expected to look after his people, looking after their spiritual well-being. This includes protecting them from the wicked among the ordained. Each diocese is made up of numerous parishes, with a pastor who is responsible for the well being of the people of the parish.

Understanding Subsidiarity

The Catholic Church, under the model of subsidiarity expects each part to handle things at their own level and the next level up intervenes only when there is a failure at the lower levels. Thus we see that the Pope does not deal with what liturgical music is used in a parish in California. Rather, his concern is over the whole Church. He could become involved in this hypothetical example if there was a significant crisis which affected the whole Church (say a popular hymn promoting a heretical teaching which needed to be stopped).

A chart of subsidiarity could look like this:

1. Pope (and the Curia) oversee the governing of the Church as a whole

2. Bishop oversees the governing of the Church in his diocese

3. Pastor oversees the governing of the Church in his parish.

If there is a failing in the parish, it is the task of the Bishop to correct it. If there is a failing in the diocese, it is the task of the Vatican to step in. Of course, there are different ways to handle a situation. Some are objectively better and some are objectively less good. Some of the individuals who are in the positions of authority are more competent and some are less competent.

An Analysis of Culpability

However, where condemnation is justified depends on the analysis of some things:

1. What was actually done in comparison to what one was obligated to do

2. What the person was obligated to know

3. What the motivation was for their acting

In other words the three things to be considered are, the act itself, the knowledge of the individual and the intent of the act. Each needs to be assessed. So let’s take a look at a hypothetical abuse case (I choose a hypothetical case instead of a real one because for purpose of analysis, we need to have a case where we know all the facts). Keep in mind that as a hypothetical case, I am not saying this is what happened in real life for any of the cases brought to our attention by the media. However, the principles I use here should be used to examine the media allegations. Only if the Vatican refuses to do its job can one say the “Vatican” did wrong. Of course this requires knowing what the Vatican is required to do compared to the Bishops and others.

Let us assume a case where a minor is sexually abused by a priest. The first step is to look at the bishop, right?


Obligations of the Victim

The first step is with the victim. If he or she does not report the abuse, then it is impossible for anyone who could take action to know this abuse takes place. So, if the individual stays silent instead of reporting it, we would have an act which was objectively wrong [failure to report makes it possible for a predator priest to continue victimizing others]. In such a case, we would have to look at the reasons for their actions.

Did they know they were obligated to report the abuse? If they did not know, and their lack of knowledge was reasonable [I would think this is a fair assumption. How many teenagers know what canon law is, let alone what it says], then their not reporting it due to ignorance could not be faulted.

Then there is the motivation for their inaction. Shame or fear or guilt are common tactics an abuser counts on to keep a victim silent. If the youth [wrongly] thinks it is somehow their fault, it is probable they will not recognize they are a victim, or even seek the help they need to recognize they were a victim.

On the other hand, if the victim stays silent because it seems too difficult to follow an obligation they know they have, this does hold some fault, as speaking out will protect others from being victimized. If a report is not made, the bishop cannot meet his own obligations on the matter.

Obligations of the Bishop

So let us assume that in the above case, when the victim does realize their obligation and does report it to the Bishop. Prior to 2001, the obligation to report it to the Vatican was limited to cases of solicitation in the confessional. After 2001, all cases were to be reported to the CDF.

Once the report is made to the bishop, he is obligated to investigate the claims and report it to the CDF if it is not immediately clear it is a false accusation. Now if the bishop does not report it (the act), the question is whether he knew of the duty. In this case, it seems unreasonable to assume the bishop would not know of the duty if he had been doing his job to begin with. So if a case was reported to him and if the case was credible, it seems a bishop could not claim invincible ignorance to his duties.

So when it comes to transferring a priest who was an abuser (which had tragically happened too often in the United States), we need to look at the motive. Did the bishop kick it under the carpet out of a motive such as careerism? Or did psychological experts of the time recommend that getting the priest away from the victim was the best solution? In these cases, the first obligation is wrong and condemnable. In the second, it would depend on whether or not the bishop acted in good faith. If the bishop at that time honestly and reasonably (for the time… we now know psychiatry erred on this) believed the psychiatrist was giving a professional medical verdict, his culpability might be considered lessened. If the bishop used the psychiatric evaluation as an excuse to transfer a predator priest to another diocese, knowing of recidivism culpability could be considered greater.

In other words, when considering the information the bishop had at the time he received the news was his actions, knowledge and intent in keeping with what was understood to be right?

In any case, the bishop always had authority to restrict or forbid a priest to practice their ministry for the good of the faithful. What he did or did not do would have to be assessed by the same standards.

Obligation of the Curia: Handling the Case

Let us assume that in this case, the obligations are met which require the case to be reported to the Curia and the bishop does so. What is the curia to do? Prior to 2001, it was the bishop who held the duty to handle the priest and report the results to the Vatican. After 2001, any reasonable charge had to be reported and the CDF would decide whether to take action itself or have the diocese take action. Prior to 2001, a trial was required. After 2001, a trial could be skipped if the evidence was overwhelming.

Now, ecclesiastical trials do take time, especially when one considers how small the Vatican curia are. For that matter, so do investigations of annulments sent to the Vatican. (See Morris West’s Shoes of the Fisherman for an example of how the pre-Vatican II Church was viewed on the subject). Evidence must be gathered, victims and accused must be interviewed, and a decision which is just must be made. Just for the accused and accuser alike. If it turns out the accused is innocent, he must not be punished. If he is guilty, the punishment must fit the crime.

For example: Was he a young priest who had a onetime fling with a 17 year old girl who was also interested in a sexual encounter with him? This is wrong of course, and even if the victim was willing, she would have been a minor and considered less able to make a decision. Or was he a predator, stalking youth and making many victims over a long period of time. Both are wrong of course. However the second case is far more serious than the first, and merits a harsher action… especially if in the first case the priest is deeply sorry for his act and in the second case the priest is unrepentant.

So before denouncing the Vatican for these things, we need to ask:

1. What were they made aware of?

2. What did they do in response?

3. How did that response match up to their obligation?

For cases where bishops did not report cases, the Vatican can hardly be blamed for this. In cases where they were notified, it requires us to know what was done to assess whether they did right or not.

This is where the media attacks on Pope Benedict XVI fall down. The review of the facts shows media attacks are based on the absence of information which is assumed to be indifference or squelching. Squelching a case (which the Pope has been accused of) is an action which requires evidence. Otherwise it is the argument from silence fallacy [We didn’t hear of anything, therefore nothing was done].

Before one can accuse the Vatican, the Pope or the CDF of blocking a case from moving forward, it must be proven. A case which took years prior to 2001 can move faster now. However, when it goes to trial (as I recall this was 20% of the cases), it can take time.

Obligation of the Church: Reforming Laws

Once it becomes clear that old laws are inadequate and have loopholes which the offenders can exploit, it becomes time to change those laws or rules. This is what happened in 2001 for example. It became clear that the old system allowed bishops to shift priests around without reporting it to the Vatican, so the new law made it mandatory to report the offender.

However, we must remember that just laws require time to draft. It is unfortunate that in a rush to punish the deserving we sometimes are tempted to skimp on justice in the name of “good.” However, in order to be good, a law must be just. This is why the Pope doesn’t just decree “OK, next person accused, send him to a monastery at the North Pole.” If a person is falsely accused, such a decree would be unjust.

The Catholic Church also has a mission of redeeming the sinner and calling them to repentance. If one seems truly repentant, the penalty necessarily differs from one who is unrepentant, and the Church, in her mission, must reflect the mercy and forgiveness Christ requires, without forsaking the justice Christ also requires.

Obligation of the Media: Accurately reporting

Peggy Noonan makes an error concerning the Catholic suspicion of the media. We are not angry that the media reported this at all.

We are justly angry over the attempts to smear the Pope by insinuating he willfully protected the guilty despite the evidence to the contrary. We are also justly angry over the fact that the media has portrayed the real cases of abuse and cover-ups as being more widely spread than the facts demonstrate.

This doesn’t mean the media has done no good whatsoever. In cases where certain bishops have been negligent, the media can do us a favor in bringing it to our attention. However, to be a real good, such media action requires a very different behavior from what has been shown so far. The media needs to understand what canon law teaches, and recognize that the Church governs itself with law, not arbitrariness. Getting a civil lawyer (often one who is suing the Church) to explain canon law is about as ridiculous as getting a Saudi Arabian lawyer to explain American Law.

The media is also obligated to report the facts without bias. Thus far, in media reporting of the abuse in 2002 and the recent attacks against the Pope, we tend to see agenda driven stories. Stories suggest the ending of celibacy or the admission of women priests as a required step for change. Calls for the “democratization” of the Church are common. The treating of dissenters from the Church as if they were objective commentators is also deceptive. Quite frankly, the media coverage of the Church displays a lack of interest or hostility to what the Church actually does. [This would be like asking one of these Tea parties to give an objective assessment of the Obama administration.]

The problem is the media cannot be objective if it approaches the story with an adversarial view. Being objective means reporting what is known. Being adversarial means challenging what one disagrees with or thinks is wrong. Now of course a reporter can disagree with the Church or think it ought to change. However, if the media brings these beliefs with it as an assumption behind the story, the story cannot be considered objective. The Church may have reasons why it cannot accept the personal beliefs of the reporter concerning important things. If the reporter does not consider this difference of view, his reporting will be flawed.


Ultimately the problem with the media coverage is not that they report that abuse happens, but that they draw unproven conclusions and present them as fact. As a result of media coverage, we are seeing polls where the majority seems to believe the Pope should be criminally tried, despite the fact that there is nothing more than unproven media allegations to base it on.

We Catholics are rightly angry at the jabs at the Church which claims to be objective reporting. One needs to be aware of their own biases when reporting. For example, I personally may not like Obama’s stand on Life and Moral issues, but this does not mean he can do nothing right. So when I write on moral issues concerning his administration, I do my best to keep my own political beliefs out of the analysis, hopefully succeeding and try to avoid writing on him when it does not involve issues which involve Catholic Moral Theology. [This is why I haven’t really commented on Tea parties and the like].

Ultimately, before writing the big exposé on the Church, the reporter and the media they work for needs to understand how the Church operates, reporting factually and not by misrepresenting the Church teaching or law.

If a priest or a bishop fails to do his duty towards what the Church requires, then yes report this and bring it to our attention. However, if the Church acts in a way different than the reporter would prefer based on his or her personal moral beliefs, to write a story without getting the facts straight is terribly unjust.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Of Course He Did Wrong

Source: Catholic Culture : Latest Headlines : Vatican cardinal praised French bishop for not reporting abusive priest to police

There are reports breaking over Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos praising a bishop in a letter for not turning over an abusive priest to authorities.  The priest was eventually sentenced (in 2000) to 18 years in prison.  The Bishop was given a three month sentence (suspended) for not reporting the event.

I have no doubt that some people will point to this event as "proving" the Church covered things up.  This would be false.  It seems Castrillón Hoyos wrote this (in 2001) on his own, in response to the news that the bishop received a suspended sentence from the state.

How do I justify Castrillón Hoyos?

I don't.  It's condemnable.  But he acted on his own, not as a part official Church policy.  So any attempts to link him to the Pope are groundless.

It's also false to link Castrillón Hoyos to covering up.  This letter was written after the priest was convicted.  Let's not misrepresent the situation.  What he did wrong was to call the wrongful acts of a bishop "good."  Yes, it is scandalous, and a black mark which will stand against whatever good he has done in his service to the Church.

However, he left his position in 2006, and retired in 2009, (before this story came to light).  So removing him from office is a moot point here.  Otherwise I would call for his resignation.

I don't know the context for his writing this letter, but it seems that, at the most charitable, he had grossly misplaced his loyalties and grossly misunderstood the situation.

However, let's keep this in perspective.  This doesn't provide any proof of the Magisterium covering up abuse, and indeed the 2001 laws strongly urged by the current Pope, did require all cases be sent to the CDF (which was not the case at the time of this incident).

So when the enemies of the Church wait eagerly for us to defend Castrillón Hoyos so they can attack us, they wait in vain.  Castrillón Hoyos did a terrible wrong in calling the bishop's action right.

However it would also be a terrible wrong to label his actions as an official action of the Church.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reflections on The Constitution, The Supreme Court and Justice

Much of the political debate going around today is based on the idea that because the Constitution permits a thing, there can be no complaint against it.  Setting aside for the moment specific issues of dispute in America, the theory ignores one crucial question:

Can the Constitution (or an interpretation of it) err or be unjust?

I believe the answer can clearly be yes to both.  I recall in High School civics class that the Constitution can be amended if a problem is perceived.  Certainly before 1865, the Constitution was flawed in that it denied citizenship to certain parts of the population simply on the basis of the color of their skin.

This shows the problem when certain politicians rally around the "Constitutional" Right of the woman to choose [abortion].  The right may be decreed constitutional by the Supreme Court, but neither it, nor the right to privacy it is based on can be found in the Constitution.

If the interpreters of the Constitution are unjust, it follows that the interpretations they give can be unjust.  This kind of rhetoric goes on frequently.  Today, there is a dispute over whether Obamacare is constitutional.  Nine years ago, there was a dispute over whether the Supreme Court "unjustly installed" George W. Bush as president.

What this demonstrates is [Regardless of whether the charges are true or not], we do have interpreters of the US Constitution whose decisions are binding and not able to be appealed.  If they are unjust in their decisions, there is very little we can do to stop them.

This isn't mere theory.  The Supreme Court has made some historically bad decisions and have been forced to contradict previous precedent, such as the Dred Scott case and Plessy vs. Ferguson.

I believe this shows that the Supreme Court can give an interpretation which they call Constitutional, but is also unjust.

This demonstrates that to invoke the Constitutionality of a law is no evidence as to whether or not it is just.

On Justice

However, justice in law is what separates the good forms of government from the immoral forms of government, and here the person who argues against any moral absolutes have hamstrung themselves when opposing injustice.

Justice can be defined as giving to another their due, and behaving in right conduct with other people.  All human persons are considered to have human rights simply on the basis of their being human.  Each person is entitled to the due of not being treated in a subhuman condition.  In America we have in the Bill of Rights which assumes all people have certain rights.

The Catholic Church speaks of justice between men as follows:

1929 Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:

What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.35

1930 Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy.36 If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.

In other words, because a person is human they possess certain rights independent of the government, and no government can take them away without being unjust.  Moreover, any government which denies these rights lacks moral legitimacy to their rule, and can only use force to make their decrees followed.

The Difference Between the Constitution and Justice

Whether or not the Constitution, or its interpretation, can be considered as possessing moral authority depends on whether it respects the human person or not.  If it does not respect the human person, the law may be binding by force, but it is not a law which we are morally obligated to follow, and in fact are morally obligated to oppose.

The Abortion Example

In 1973, the Supreme Court decreed abortion legal, and since then we have been told that it is based in the Constitutional Right to Privacy, which is not in the Constitution, and was not described as a right until 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut.  This invokes the Ninth Amendment, which is a circular argument which one can dismantle with a reductio ad absurdum.  [The Constitution doesn't say I can't murder anyone either, therefore I have a constitutional right to do so].

Now, one can argue that the right to privacy is a basic right which precedes the Constitution.  However, this overlooks a crucial consideration: Are the unborn human persons?  If so, then their right to life precedes the Constitutional Supreme Court Right to abortion.

The Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade entirely ignores this consideration, when it declares:

3. State criminal abortion laws, like those involved here, that except from criminality only a life-saving procedure on the mother's behalf without regard to the stage of her pregnancy and other interests involved violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which protects against state action the right to privacy, including a woman's qualified right to terminate her pregnancy.

This is entirely a circular argument, which assumes what it needs to prove: That a woman does in fact have the right to terminate a pregnancy.  It calls the unborn a potential life, but this is to be proven, not assumed to be true.

Indeed, without proving the fact that the fetus is not a person, the Supreme Court appears to have violated the 14th amendment:

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (Emphasis added)

If the assumption that the fetus is merely a potential human being is false, then the Supreme Court has created a situation where the unborn are denied the equal protection under the law.

The Roe v. Wade decision relies on an irrelevant appeal to past decisions of legal precedent, which selectively chooses certain examples and ignores others.  The reason it is an irrelevant appeal is that many of the precedents they cite are based on the scientifically erroneous ideas of quickening of the fetus, ignoring later medical advances.  From this we see the argument that since the actual forbidding of abortion in America was based on the fact that outright forbidding of abortion did not exist until the 19th century in America.

However, this is an argument from silence.  "We don't know of laws forbidding abortion until the 19th century.  Therefore it was permissible before then."  That laws were made in the 19th century does not prove that abortion was acceptable before.  Positive evidence that the nation, prior to the 19th century, sanctioned abortion is necessary.

Even from this, it does not follow that abortion is right.  To judge abortion as being morally neutral, it has to be established that the fetus is not alive.  If the fetus is a human person, it contains human rights which precede the laws of the United States.

The Quadrilemma of abortion

A right to abortion requires us to create some categories.  First, whether or not the fetus is a human person.  It either is or it is not.  Second, we need to determine whether we know this to be true.  This leaves us with four categories:

  1. The unborn is a human person and we know it.
  2. The unborn is not a human person and we know it
  3. The unborn is a human person and we do not know it
  4. The unborn is not a human person and we do not know it

In these four cases, we have three levels of guilt or innocence.

  1. In the case of us knowing the unborn is a human person, government sanctioned abortion is the murder of a human person.
  2. In the case of us knowing the unborn is not a human person, there is no problem with abortion.
  3. In not knowing whether or not the unborn is a human person (cases 3 and 4), abortion becomes a reckless, grossly negligent act.

We can demonstrate these cases with another scenario.  You and a friend are deer hunting, and get separated.  You hear motion in the bush.  There are four possibilities:

  1. The movement is caused by your friend and you know it
  2. The movement is caused by a deer and you know it
  3. The movement is caused by your friend and you do not know it
  4. The movement is caused by a deer and you do not know it

When is it legitimate to shoot?  Only in case two.  Why?

  1. In case 1, shooting when you know it is a person is willed murder
  2. In case 2, shooting when you verified you can shoot safely is morally acceptable
  3. In case 3, you are guilty of gross negligence and manslaughter at the very least
  4. In case 4, you are still guilty of gross negligence.

Yet, instead of proving when the human person begins, the Supreme Court acts with gross negligence.  it "fires into the bush" without verifying the target, when it argues:

A. The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well-known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, [410 U.S. 113, 157] for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument. 51 On the other hand, the appellee conceded on reargument 52 that no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Whether or not past law has made a statement on whether or not the fetus is a person has no bearing on whether the fetus IS a human person.  To assume that the fetus is not a human person based on interpretations of the 14th Amendment is an evasion of the issue, when it says:

All this, together with our observation, supra, that throughout the major portion of the 19th century prevailing legal abortion practices were far freer than they are today, persuades us that the word "person," as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn.

This is an appeal to irrelevant authority fallacy.  Does the lack of laws that declare the fetus a person make it so?

Dangerous Precedents

Certain nations, including the United States, have at certain times determined that certain human beings were not persons on the basis of their ethnicity.  The most extreme example is that of Nazi Germany with its claiming that Jews and Slavs were subhumans which lacked human rights.  We are of course horrified by the actions the Germans justified by a legal claim.  Through a legal ruling, human persons were terribly mistreated.

Now of course Nazi Germany was an extreme example.  However, the United States once considered the blacks to be less than fully human, and such a view was upheld by the Supreme Court.  Under the logic of Roe v. Wade past precedent could be used to deny any African American was a "human person."  After all, before 1865, there were no laws which held that view.  It instead took a war and some amendments to overturn the bad logic of the Supreme Court.

Constitutional Is Not the Same as Just: QED

We are back to the beginning, and the conclusion is clear.  Just because the Supreme Court or the Constitution says a thing is constitutional has no bearing on whether a thing is just.  So despite what the Supreme Court says, it still must be assessed as to whether it is just or not.  If it is not just, it must be opposed.

Yet, the whole problem is a thing is not defended as just, it is merely called "Constitutional" as if that was all the sanction which was needed.

Unfortunately, in America, there is little recourse to an unjust ruling by the Supreme Court.  It is the state legislatures which can vote for a proposed amendment (which first requires 2/3 of both House and Senate to vote in favor of a proposed amendment), not the people (unless the states call ratifying conventions… which happened once).

So where does this leave the Christian who feels he must oppose an unjust ruling?

An Unjust Law is not a Law

One may want to ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

—Martin Luther King Jr.  Letter from a Birmingham Jail

This is ultimately what must put the Christian unwillingly in conflict with the government of the United States at times.  When the government decrees that it is permissible to degrade the human person, we must speak out against it, not bowing the knee to the unjust law… even if it comes from the Supreme Court or the Constitution itself.

However, there is a limit to what we can do.  If it comes to a choice between doing evil and suffering evil, we must choose the suffering of evil, as we may not choose an evil means to achieve the desired end.  Nor can we participate with the evil law.

So, in short, our opposition to injustice must be done in keeping with making a Christian witness.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Reflections on The Mob

"Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you."(Mt 7:6).

Awhile back, I wrote about the mob (not to be confused with the Mafia) mentality turning on Richard Dawkins, who appealed to it against the Christians.  Currently, it is turning its hunger against the Catholic Church.

Seeing so many uninformed commentators posting on websites bashing the Church and accusing Catholics of defending sexual abuse, I thought it would be good to comment on some of the characteristics of the mob mentality sweeping the Internet

The Purpose of this Article

I don't intend to write this to attack any individual.  Most people who take part in mob mentality don't realize they are doing it.  Rather, I write this to my fellow Christians to help them deal with the attacks of the mob… which we Christians see opposed to us all too often.  If any individual reading this thinks what I say comes too close to home, remember that one can break free of the mob by refusing to follow what "everyone says" or "relying on the newspapers" to get the facts.  In other words, to investigate before attacking.

Characteristic #1: The Mob is Led by Appeals to Emotion, Not Reason

Usually an appeal to the mob is based on the appeal to emotion.  Some sort of horrible situation is either hypothesized, or a real situation (usually something which the target condemns anyway) is expressed as the norm which is approved of.  The emotion desired is that outrage over the issue as presented by the mob leader and disproportionate calls for action are the result.  Now, the one who feeds the mob may appeal to emotion by flattery, saying the members of the mob are clearly reasonable people and care about justice.  From there, the mob can be flattered into action along these lines:

  1. You are clearly a reasonable person.
  2. Those who disagree say you are wrong
  3. Therefore they are saying you are unreasonable.

This is an appeal to pride.

This brings us to the second characteristic.

Characteristic #2: The Mob cannot be reached by logic but is easily swayed by Logical Fallacies

This cuts both ways.  The one seeking to feed the mob cannot get too cerebral or they will lose the mob.  So the message needs to be kept simple in a slogan like manner.  On the other hand, the one defending their position against the mob has nothing to exploit.  Appeals to reasoned arguments will not work.  Either the argument goes above their head or there will be an agitator [See below] twisting your words to a meaning you never said to begin with.

Logical fallacies do work however… for our opponents.  We ourselves should never consider using them.  The ad hominem is very successful used against us, as is the red herringBulverisms are also effective.  Telling the mob that the argument is already proven in their favor will make them resistant to the facts showing them it is wrong.  "That's your opinion" is a common (and dishonest) tactic.

There was a biography (Soldat) of a German officer (Siegfried Knappe) who was a Russian prisoner after WWII.  He describes some of the attempts of the Russians to instill a sense of anti-Americanism in the prisoners.  So they were constantly bombarded with slogans that "Americans were for war, Russia was for peace."  Knappe reports that even there was no evidence for it, a person questioning it was often viewed as irrational by other prisoners.

This shows the disadvantage the Christian has in defending the faith.  In order to sway the mob, we would have to appeal to logical fallacies that are intellectually dishonest.

This is shown in the spurious allegations against the Pope.  The simple slogan is "The Pope covered for abusers."  The rebuttal takes far longer to state than the accusation because it has to show why the premise is wrong and then show the evidence to the contrary.

Characteristic #3: Reason drops dramatically in groups

Peer pressure and other tactics can sway individuals who, when alone, might listen to reason.  "The mob" is stupid, but this doesn't mean individuals within it are stupid.  This often happens when one person thinks something isn't quite right, but peer pressure can make them doubt their own knowledge, and give into the groupthink [decision-making by a group as a whole, resulting in unchallenged, poor-quality decisions] of mobs.

Lynch mobs historically were influenced this way.  Individuals may have thought the act was wrong, but when the whole crowd is howling for vengeance, it is easy for the individual to be influenced into setting their own judgment aside.

This is also how the Nazis came to power.  Of course there were individuals who thought Hitler was wrong.  However, when what seems to be the whole country is supporting an injustice, it is very hard to stand against the crowd without beginning to wonder if it is you who are wrong.

Those who feed the mob prey on this.  The use of the appeal to numbers fallacy is often successful: "Everyone else knows of this injustice.  Why do you support those who are guilty?"

This brings us to the next characteristic.

Characteristic #4: The slogan cannot be questioned.  If you question it, you stand with the enemy

There is a work called Fuhrer Ex, of a Neo Nazi in Germany who eventually grew sick of the movement (because he could no longer believe what they held) and left it.  One of the key elements of the book was that certain elements were so often repeated, using false sources, that it was accepted as true.  When the author began to question some of the assumptions of the group (holocaust denial, applications of violence etc.) he was unable to convince them… indeed the propaganda he helped form was cited as an authority against his arguments, and he was accused of siding with the enemy.

This is commonly employed with the current attacks against the Church.  The accusation "The Pope covered for abusers" is a slogan which cannot be questioned.  If you do, you are defending the evil in the slogan, not showing the truth in their mind.

Any attempts to rebut such an accusation is met with the accusation that the debunker is making excuses, "playing the victim card" and so on.

It is depressingly effective.  Consider all those out there who post comments on the blogs accusing Catholic apologists of "defending child rape" on the grounds that they question the slogan.   Never mind the fact that the Pope was a strong force for reforming the Church system.  Never mind the fact that the slogans are not supported by the actual facts.  If you dare to defend the Pope, you are accused of defending the system.

"You're either with us or against us" (or a variant in wording) is the battle cry.  No, this wasn't just George W. Bush (though he was appealing to the mob mentality, to his detriment).  Any group which accuses a person who disagrees with them of being on the side of the enemy uses this argument.  But this argument ignores the crucial question: Is it right that I am with you?  Do I have to be on the opposite side if I oppose you?

The mob demands we answer "yes" to both questions.  The reasoned person answers "If your position is true, I will stand with you.  If your position is not true, I will stand where the truth is to be found."

Unfortunately, the mob sees this as supporting the other side.

Characteristic #5: Agitators help influence the mob

This isn't an argument of a conspiracy theory.  I'm not talking about some person with a nefarious plot to overthrow something.  The mob generally is headless.  It can be guided and influenced but it can never be controlled.  The mob can turn on the one who tries to use it.

Rather, I am talking about true believers in a cause who have a strong hatred of whatever they are working against.  This zeal leads them to attack what they see as an enemy.  They instinctively make emotional appeals to steer the audience to their position.  These people tend to be zealous, or even fanatical in their hatred.  They are certain they are right.  However, they differ from those who are speaking the truth in that they generally will use any tactic against their enemy, justifying it on the grounds that the enemy does worse.

For example, ex-Catholics who become anti-Catholics take whatever real or imagined wrong from the Church which offends them, and use their anger as a focus to attack the Church, certain that whatever wrong they suffered (or think they suffered) was not only deliberate, but malicious as well.  So they scour Church documents for words which will justify their hatred of the Church, giving them the interpretation they choose.  If you tell them their interpretation is wrong, you are accused of lying.  Or being stupid.

Agitators are good at twisting words.  If you use a vague analogy, they will distort it.  If you use one example to lead into another point, they will use the the example and misrepresent it as being your point.  Their tone will always be condescending and mocking you… obviously you must be an idiot if you disagree with them.  [This is why Christians should avoid sarcasm and mocking.  Yes these people can make us angry, but getting angry is to lose the argument].

They will always reduce their arguments to slogans however, and will not listened to reasoned argument.  Why?  Because they aren't here to discuss the truth.  They are here to attack people who disagree with their accusation which they interpret as denying their experience.

These can either be poor at what they do, in which case you can reduce them to silence, or they can be skilled enough to make an argument futile: you won't get a fair hearing for your position.  The agitator's clever phrasing will lead the mob to think he has won when in fact, he is doing nothing to answer your actual points.

Sometimes you have to suppress your desire to get in the "last hit" and walk away from those people.  A "last act of defiance" almost never comes off looking as good as you hope it would.

Dealing with the Mob

Arguing your case before the mob is like casting pearls before swine.  If you take a position which the mob has been told is wrong, it will be distorted and the distortion will be turned against you.  They will believe the agitator's distortion is true and no matter what you say, it will be the agitator's misrepresentation and not what you said that they will believe. 

Now the temptation is to sink to their level, slinging mud for mud and insult for insult.  However, such a tactic may win points with the "living in Mom's basement" crowd who enjoys an exchange of insults, but it won't actually prove the point we are trying to get across.  It won't actually convince them either, because what the Christian calls people to is contrary to the appetite of the mob.

Christians can't feed the appetite of the mob.  Nor should we want to.  What the mob wants too often is wrong in the eyes of the believer. Whether the mob wants a scapegoat or whether the mob wants us to bless its immoral actions, we can't give them these things.

However, there is a way which we can use.  That is remembering that the mob is not a faceless mass, but is made up of individuals with different motives and levels of understanding.  You can't speak to the mob.  You can only speak to individuals.  Only individuals can be turned from error.  The mob simply wants the bread and circuses, and will support whoever will feed their appetite.

All we can do is to speak to the individual, hoping they will listen to the truth and not to what agitators distort our position to be, praying they will leave the mob.  Because of this, we need to pray that we act in accordance with God's will and try our best to act as representatives of the King.

After that we can do no more (though we must be tireless in doing this task).

Finally, we must remember that Jesus has told us men would hate us on account of Him.  They will use whatever scandal (real or imagined) they can find to fuel their hatred.  We should remember Christ's words in such a case:

22 Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.

23 Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way. (Luke 6:22-23)