Down the Yellow-Brick Road of False Logic
The title of this blog points to an argument very often used by atheists and agnostics to try and prove that a good God does not exist. It is also a question many God-loving people struggle to answer. How can a good God allow evil to bring so much misery and suffering into the lives of those he supposedly loves? Another variation of this logical fallacy is this: If there is a good and all-powerful God, then he would be powerful enough to remove evil and suffering from the world. Since he doesn't, he is not good and all-powerful. Therefore, there is no God.
What's the bad logic I refer to? To begin with, it is impossible to prove universal or absolute non-existence, unless the one making the argument against the existence of God was God ... which would be a contradiction. Such an endeavor would be classified as a futile exercise of fallacious logic. Those who employ it are trying to sneak the argument in under the radar of right reason. Atheists who invoke this argument are trying to use a variation of the straw-man tactic. The proponents of this tactic present us with a false, fictional, and non-existent man (or any other entity) instead of the real man (or any other entity). Then they attack the straw-man hoping that we will interpret the straw-man as being the real man (entity). The above debate uses, shall we say, the straw-god tactic. They present a God to us who creates evil as well as good, does not really love those he creates, and is not powerful enough to "uncreate" the evil. This is a god that does not exist, nor does any Christian believe exists.
The premise can only be entertained by those whose knowledge of a Triune God is seriously lacking. Let's begin to rectify that now. Much of the following is an excerpt from The Science & Theology of Salt in Scripture, Vol. I.
God is a Trinity That Always Expresses
Now we'll talk about the real God instead of the straw-god. God is a Trinity of three Persons which are in an eternal and unceasing relationship. In other words, it is essentially a relationship that is alive. Better yet, it is a relationship that IS life. Let's say that I walk up to a street corner and stand by another person who is also waiting for the light to change. If neither of us communicate with the other in some way (e.g. looking at each other, making a facial expression, talking to each other, etc.), then we are related because we are both part of the human family, but we are not in relationship … there is no living relationship. Aquinas writes, "The very nature of God is goodness … Hence, what belongs to the essence of goodness befits God. But it belongs to the essence of goodness to communicate itself to others." 
Fr. Martin von Cochem writes: "From all eternity, before anything was made, God magnified Himself, and the three divine Persons rejoiced in Their majesty and grandeur. … This is shown in the revelations of St. Mechtilde, to whom Christ said: 'If thou desirest to honor Me, praise and magnify Me in union with that most excellent glory wherewith the Father in His almighty power and the Holy Spirit in His loving-kindness have glorified Me from all eternity, in union with that supreme glory wherewith I in My unsearchable wisdom have glorified the Father and the Holy Spirit from all eternity, and wherewith the Holy Spirit in His ineffable goodness has magnified the Father and Me from all eternity.'"
Notice that Christ, speaking through St. Mechtilde, is employing verbs to describe the Trinity. God is eternally expressing, doing, and communicating. St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (circa 1274) develops an understanding of the Trinity that revolves around four themes. They are: 1) the theme of beatitude, goodness, charity, and joy. He tells us that these cannot be achieved in a God who does not pour himself out completely; 2) the theme of perfection which entails the begetting of a Person of the same nature' i.e. Divine fruitfulness; 3) the theme of simplicity, and; 4) the theme of primacy which, from a metaphysical standpoint, indicates the fullness of the source. This primacy designates the fruitfulness and the "wellspringness" of primordial reality. God is pure act. There is nothing of Him that is potential. God is perfect and eternal. Bonaventure concludes, "In God, this fecundity [fruitfulness -- SML] relative to God can only exist in act [SML]."
Referring to John 1:18, Benedict XVI tells us, "Only the one who is God sees God - Jesus. He truly speaks from his vision of the Father, from unceasing dialogue [SML] with the Father , a dialogue that is his life [SML]." St. Hildegard writes, "For this life is God, who is always in motion and constantly in action [SML]."
Is creation, itself, an expression of God? Scripture gives us the answer. In Genesis, we read, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Gen. 1:26, cf. 3:22-23). There is much that can be gleaned from these ten words. This is not simply an idle conversation between the Three Persons of the Trinity. First, they are in dialogue about creating, and the design of that creation. They are 'dialoguing' about how man is to be created. Second, they are telling us that all three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are involved in creation. The unity of the Trinity is such that, absolutely everything God does, is accomplished through the actions of all Three Persons. Third and last, because all Three are involved, we can conclude that all creation is an expression proceeding from the Trinitarian dialogue. Simply put, God speaks creation into existence. The ramifications of this will become clearer when we talk about the consequences of the fall of man. The psalmist wrote, "For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood forth" (Ps. 33:9; cf. Ps. 33:6, 104:30). In the Book of Judith we read, “Let all thy creatures serve thee: because thou hast spoken, and they were made: thou didst send forth thy spirit, and they were created, and there is no one that can resist thy voice” (Jdth. 16:17 DRA). This verse is like the previous, but it adds another component. God sends the Holy Spirit and the creatures were made. Furthermore, a "voice" is something that only occurs when an expression is sent out. A voice is not involved in a thought that is not sent out. All sending/sending outs are expressions. All 'works' are an expression, whether it be of God or of man. In Ps. 8: 3-4, 6, the heavens are the work of God's fingers and all God's works are under the power of man. Since all creation is an expression of a good God, it follows that creation reflects the knowledge that God has of Himself. The result of the Father's knowing himself is the generation / begetting of the Son. This knowledge had to be of infinite goodness, otherwise the Holy Spirit could not have proceeded from the Two. This is why God tells us that all of creation was very good (Gen. 1:31). In other words, creation was made perfectly ordered, reflecting all the perfections of that same God (cf. Ps. 19:1) whom the Father created through the Word sent / expressed in the Holy Spirit.
Hildegard writes, "And why is he called the Word? Because he has awakened all creation by the resonance of God's voice and because he has called creation to himself! For whatever God expressed in a verbal way was ordered by the Word with his resonance, and whatever the Word ordered [not as in commanded, but as in making harmonious, coherent, ordered, etc. -- SML] was spoken by God once again in the Word." The book of Wisdom tells us, "But thou hast arranged all things by measure and number and weight" (Wis. 11:20).
Since the Son is begotten from all eternity (see Scripture passage below), then creation would, necessarily, have been expressed, through the Word, by God continually and unceasingly throughout all of created time. After all, it would be impossible for there to be a point in history that is not within the eternal 'now' in which the Son is begotten. Also, take special note of the phrase, "whatever God expressed in a verbal way" in direct relation to creation. Let us look at a couple of examples in Scripture that help us to understand God as eternally expressing.
1) "He said to me, 'You are my son, today I have begotten you'" (Ps. 2:7). In the eternal 'now' of God, the Father is eternally and fruitfully begetting the Son, which would necessarily encompass all of creation … within 'time'. Does the term "today" suggest that two years ago, or two days ago, the Son had not been begotten?;
2) "Jesus answered them, 'My Father is working still, and I am working'" (Jn. 5:16). This can be understood further by Genesis 2:2, where it is written, "And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done." As I said earlier, working is also 'Doing', and all doings are expressions … all creation is an expression of God;
3) "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing'" (Jn. 5:19-20). Hmm. There's a lot of doing / expressing going on in this verse;
4) "I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me" (Jn. 5:30). How would the Son know what the Father's will was, unless the Father communicated it to him? Also, being 'sent' is an "expression" of the sender, and;
5) "No longer do I call you servants … I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you" (Jn. 15:15). Again, doing, hearing, and befriending are all forms of expression.
If God is an eternal dialogue among the three Persons of the Trinity, then we can ask the question: are all three Persons necessary for God to be God and for God to be Love? God tells St. Hildegard (one of only four women declared a Doctor of the Church), if any one of the three Persons were missing, then God would not be God. Ergo, God could not be Love. This is because the three Persons of the Trinity are one indivisible unity that cannot be separated. She writes, "In the Father is the Son, in both the Holy Spirit, and They are one, and work inseparably with each other … They are undivided unity." They are … together … Love.
The Consequences of the Fall of Man.
What happened to creation when Adam and Eve sinned? The very first consequence was the immediate death about which God had warned them (Gen. 2:17). It was not an immediate bodily death (that would come to all later in their biological life), but the death of the spirit. The spirit did not cease to exist, but it no longer received the life that is of God. When they sinned, they lost supernatural grace. They lost their ordered and harmonious nature and became disordered, unharmonious, and incoherent in both body and spirit. To understand what death is, we must understand what life is. As we said earlier, the Life of God is the eternal, fruitful, and unceasing family dialogue occurring between the Three Persons of the Trinity … which is the Life of God. To sum it up, mankind could no longer be described by God as "good / very good." Therefore, we could no longer be an expression of God, since God knows no evil.
Remember, the Son is eternally and unceasingly begotten by the Father. Therefore, creation, too, was intended to be unceasingly expressed by the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. One thing God cannot do is contradict Himself. The God who is unchangeable Truth, cannot send out an untruth. If God were able to unceasingly express an "evil / bad" creation, then we would be forced to conclude that God, too, was "substantially / essentially" evil. No being can truthfully express or love what they do not know. If you ask me to give a one hour class on calculus, the only truthful thing I could say is: I know nothing about calculus, nor can I tell you whether I love or hate calculus … because I know nothing about it. Since no person (including the Three Persons of the Trinity) could express what they do not know, it must, therefore, follow that if God were capable of expressing evil, then God, himself, must be evil. Would anyone want to live in a world created by an evil God? If we think things are bad now, we have no idea how bad it would be with an evil God as our creator. All of us, being created in the image and likeness of this evil God, would ourselves be essentially evil. That sounds like hell to me.
All too often I hear the question, why did God create evil? Let's set the record straight. Since all of creation described in Genesis as being good was the result of a creative expression of an infinitely Good God, evil could not be a part of that creative act. God, who alone IS being, is the only giver of being. That means that evil is not "being," it is, in fact, non-being. It is nothingness, and death (Gen. 2:17, Rom. 5:12). It is somewhat analogous to a vacuum (e.g. in outer space). A vacuum is not something … it is an absence of something, i.e. oxygen. St. Paul writes, "… creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay … We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:21-23). This decay of all creation, including man, is a result of man's death (death results in decay). Because God could no longer eternally express anew a creation which had become bad, Truth and Life could no longer be "sent" into creation … so all creation died, and are thus subject to decay.
God's Dilemna (so to speak)
Understanding this dilemma is something few people really contemplate deeply enough. When creation turned bad through the sin of our first parents, God was left with a couple of options. He could have just stopped willing our existence. In which case, all of creation would cease to exist. Nobody, no matter how good you believe yourself to be, would be spared this fate of non-existence (cf. Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19). God could force people to be good, but that would take away free will, which is an essential element of being in the image and likeness of God. If we knew what was in store (after our bodily death) for those of us who truly seek God, that option would not even come close to a desirable choice. Remember what St. Paul wrote, "No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor. 2:9).
Some would say, why doesn't God get rid of only the bad people? The answer is, God's plan is perfect. God would not be God if there existed the possibility of a more perfect plan. God's perfect plan incorporates the option God would choose to use after man chose to sin. The "bad" people were part of his plan to redeem and purify us, by teaching us to love unconditionally … even our enemies … even when it hurts (see also the parable of the weeds, Mt. 13:24-30). This can also be seen by the words of St. Hildegard. She writes, "Of all the strengths of God's creation, Man's is most profound, made in a wondrous way with great glory from the dust of the earth and so entangled with the strengths of the rest of creation that he can never be separated from them [SML]." Even though God could no longer eternally express fallen creation (at least until the accomplishment of Jesus' mission), he chose to keep all creation in existence by His omnipotent Power. The first part of his plan was to gradually purify us from the outside in, via Actual grace. Then, in the fullness of time, His Son would come into the world and redeem man. Having done so, we could begin our journey to purity of the heart by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, given to us via our becoming members of the Mystical Body of Christ in Baptism. As a result, we are now purified from the inside out. By doing this, we become again newly and everlastingly expressed by God.
As the first creation took place in six "days," the six stone jars at the wedding feast of Cana symbolize the new creation that will become reality with the culmination of Jesus' mission - when all things are made new (newly created). St. Paul writes, "For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" [through the Sacrament of Baptism -- SML] (Gal. 6:15). St. Leo the Great writes, "Let God's people then recognize that they are a new creation in Christ." According to Pope Leo, not only people but also "things" have been newly created. In other words, all of creation has been made new by Jesus. Why? Because we are now part of the eternal begetting / generating by the Father of the entire Person of Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, through whom all things are made. If we are now a new creation, why is there still evil? Even though Jesus obtained forgiveness for our sins, our disordered nature, a consequence of the sin of our First parents, remains. Our hearts and bodies are not purified. Unfortunately for us, the redemption of the body will not be fully accomplished "in time" until the resurrection of the dead.
To sum up: the original creation of the the world occurred as a result of an expression of the thoughts of an infinitely good God; the death of creation occurred when God stopped expressing creation because man, through disobedience, caused it to no longer be good / very good; the last creation occurred when, as a result of our union with Jesus, creation was again eternally expressed anew by God. Let's ask ourselves the following question. Who among us would choose to have those we love most dearly, simply disappear into non-existence … ourselves with them? Would you desire them to no longer exist rather than being given the opportunity to make the free-will choices necessary for them to partake in the Divine Nature of an infinitely loving God for all eternity? If the answer to those questions is yes, than maybe you are not, yourself, very much of a loving person. Maybe you are confusing biologically / hormonally induced false compassion with the love of an inner heart in which the Holy Spirit dwells? The same false compassion that Satan employs to induce us to believe that death is better than suffering, as is the case in the "culture of death" in which our society has become enveloped. I thank God there is evil in the world. It shows me God loves me, even after death entered into the world, even after I was born into that death. Through a nuptial union with Jesus, I now have a chance at eternal joy and happiness.
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. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 1, a. 1
. Fr. Martin von Cochem, The Incredible Catholic Mass (Benziger Brothers, 1896; Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1997), 167-168. Used with permission from Tan Books.
. Giles Emery OP, "The Threeness and Oneness of God in Twelfth-To-Fourteenth Century Scholasticism," Nova Et Vetera, English Edition 1, 1 (2003), p. 62-63. Cited by Giles: Bonaventure, 1 Sent. D. 7, a.1, q. 2, concl.,;d. 27, 1, a. 1,q. 2, ad 3 (Opera Omnia, vol. 1, 139, 470)
. Ibid. Cited by Giles: Bonaventure, 1 Sent. d. 2, a. 1, q. 2, fund. 4 (Opera Omnia, vol. 1, 53
. Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Jesus of Nazareth Part One, translated by Adrian J. Walker (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2007), Kindle Edition, p. 265-266
. Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works: With Letters and Songs, Translated by Robert Cunningham, Jerry Dybdal, and Ron Miller. Edited by Matthew Fox. (Santa Fe, NM: Inner Traditions International/Bear & Company, ©1987) All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of publisher. Kindle Locations 533-535
. Hildegard, Scivias, (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1990), 419 (© Paulist Press; all rights reserved; all quotations from Hildegard's book, Scivias, are used with permission of Paulist Press)
. Joyce A. Little, "Creation." In Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine, 152-155. Ed. Russell Shaw, Huntington, IN.: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 1997.
. Hildegard of Bingen's Book of Divine Works: With Letters and Songs. All rights reserved. http://www.Innertraditions.com, Reprinted with permission of publisher. Kindle Locations 2316-2318
. Hildegard, Scivias, 418
. St. Hildegard, Scivias, 419 (© Paulist Press; all rights reserved; all quotations from Hildegard's book, Scivias, are used with permission of Paulist Press)
. St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, trans. Suzanne Noffke, O.P (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980), 56, 73, 76, 142
. Ibid., 76
. St. Hildegard of Bingen. Scivias. ((© Paulist Press; all rights reserved; all quotations from Hildegard's book, Scivias, are used with permission of Paulist Press)), 98
. Pope St. Leo the Great, Sermon 71, (Third Millennium Media L.L.C., The Faith Database L.L.C., 2008)