Where Are We, Anyway?

April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

We’ve covered much ground thus far in this Blog and a recap is in due order.  After having 1.) established what types of knowledge exist, our general approach has been to 2.) establish certain of God’s Attributes.  This knowledge has then been parlayed into 3.) how we are to properly respond to these in thought and action; attitudes and perspectives and duties, obligations, and responsibilities.  Most importantly, 4.) this framework allows for determining our purpose in life to know God.

Qualitative Theory of Truth – There are two types of knowledge which comprise this; Quantitative and Qualitative.  The former concerns ontological facts regarding a subject’s Who, What, When, and Where questions and answers.  Qualitative knowledge, on the other hand, deals with teleological Why and How questions and answers which identify a subject’s purpose and how it is fulfilled.  The Qualitative possesses more explanatory power than the Quantitative and, when applied to our human condition, allows for identification and development of a practical manner of living consistent with God’s Will.

Knowledge of God – Like other subjects of knowledge, God has Quantitative and Qualitative aspects.  The Quantitative refers to His a priori metaphysical Attributes such as Goodness, Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence.  The Qualitative concern a posteriori ontological attributes, known as Principles of Creation.  These are established by God’s Creative Act and Power as manifested in the world.  With this Act and Power, God infused into Creation His Attributes of Goodness, Grace, Mercy, and Justice.  Qualitative knowledge of God, as derived from Principles of Creation, provides us with identification of a practical manner of living consistent with God’s Will.

Qualitative Meaning of Life – Reasoning from God’s Perfection, a Quantitative attribute, and the contingency and non-necessity of the world, a Principle of Creation, our purpose in life is to know Him.  As a perfect Being, he lacks and, therefore, desires nothing.  Thus, Creation cannot be thought of as benefitting God in any way.  Therefore, the world exists and is sustained by Him for our sole benefit.  With Creation, a duality of existence occurred; God as Eternal, Immutable, and Perfect and the world as rooted in time and space, subject to change, and contingent.  To fulfill a meaningful life, our thoughts and actions need be aligned with the most fundamental reality in existence which is God.

Social Justice – God’s Qualitative Attributes, discerned from His Quantitative ones coupled with certain Principles of Creation, establish His Goodness, Grace, Mercy, and Justice.  From this, multiple attitudes and perspectives and duties, obligations, and responsibilities follow for us.  These include the following:

* Acceptance of perceived hardship and suffering and perspective concerning them as opportunity
* Inherent goodness of Creation
* Trust in God and His Will
* Giving and service to others
* Sanctity of life (anti-abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment)
* Social Justice
* Animal rights
* Environmental protection
* Gratitude
* Authentically and urgently responding to God’s Will and our purpose in life to know him
* Loving values of acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding towards others
* Equality of persons
* Criminal Justice; rehabilitation of the criminal

God’s Will & Material, Immaterial, & Divine Love – Fulfillment of our purpose in life to know God can be had in sowing Immaterial Love and experiencing Divine Love.  As a contrast to these types of Love, Material Love need be explained.  It is an irrational, subjective, and spontaneous relationship experienced as a feeling between us and material things of the world; people, places, and things.  Material Love is defined by our selfish and self-centered perspectives of how the objects of our Love affect, benefit, and relate to us.

Conversely, Immaterial Love is rational, objective, and deliberate.  It is defined by seeking to know God through identification and fulfillment of His Will as dictated by His Qualitative Attributes and our emulation and imitation of them.  This action entails a Loving quality on account of its attempt to seek fulfillment of a purpose; realize an end; accomplish a goal.  In place of Material Love’s emphasis on self, Immaterial Love’s concern is with God and our relationship with Him.

Divine Love occurs when a person undergoes a full or partial union with God as in the case of mystical experience.  Typically pure gift to and consciously unattainable by those who have them, these experiences may in rare cases be spawned by disciplined and rigorous prayer and meditation.  They are paradoxically characterized as consisting of feelings of ineffable noetic oneness with God and the world.  As a result of these experiences, a person commonly undergoes a profound shift of perspective relative to themselves, God, the world, and their relationship with the latter 2.  So powerful are these experiences that they have the capability to obfuscate the distinction between Material and Immaterial Love wherein all things, material and spiritual alike, are Loved equally and effortlessly for the Love of God, the Creator of all.

Responding to God’s Justice

April 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

In the prior Post, “God’s Justice”, this attribute of His was established. Having done so, we can now consider what it entails for us; certain attitudes and perspectives and duties, obligations, and responsibilities. As has been the case with God’s Goodness, Grace, and Mercy, much is required.

Before addressing the perspectives and duties which God’s Justice requires from us, its relationship to His other Attributes need be addressed. Effectively understanding God’s Justice requires we recognize the necessity that it be tempered by His other Attributes. In a general sense, this is true of all of God’s Attributes; for it is logically inconsistent to suppose that the manifestation of any of these occur at the expense of or act in opposition to any other. No single attribute is qualitatively superior to any of its counterparts. Rather, they exist and act concurrently, seamlessly, and in cooperation with each other. Thus, God’s Goodness manifests to the extent allowable by His Grace, Mercy, and Justice; His Grace is bestowed to a level consistent with His Goodness, Mercy, and Justice; and so on. This need be pointed out as, in the case of God’s Justice, certain outcomes may follow which, depending upon a person’s perspective, don’t appear or are perceived to be good in themselves. The effects of Justice in some cases result in hardship and suffering to both the agent responsible for the actions which precluded them as well as faultless bystanders in the event that the former acts contrary to God’s Will.

What this spells for us in seeking to emulate and imitate God’s Justice is that it be considered and administered with an eye towards all of His other Attributes as well. From this follows certain attitudes and duties for us concerning how we relate to others and the world. Undoubtedly, an entirely separate Blog itself could be devoted to identifying and detailing the specifics of these requirements. Generally speaking, the perspectives and obligations garnered concern our relationships with others as well as greater society as a whole in terms of the establishing and functioning of effective frameworks and structures to govern and order our co-existence with one another. More specifically, this includes business dealings, money matters, and legislative social policy. However, these have already been dealt with at least in a broad sense in prior Posts (see other “Responding to…..” Posts). What will be addressed in detail in the present Post is the concept of Criminal Justice.

Typically, a system of Criminal Justiceis considered and implemented to address worldly matters. Laws are adopted and policies instituted to assist with the peaceful ordering of society and interaction of its members. In this sense, Criminal Justice has taken on a purely material flavor. That which the system calls for in this pursuit is usually construed as the aim to protect law abiding citizens from the transgressions of the criminal. As corollaries to this aim, Criminal Justice assumes a four-fold approach: 1.) Incarceration of the criminal and their sequestering from the rest of society, 2.) punishment of the criminal for their misdeeeds, 3.) deterrence of crime for the criminally-minded, and 4.) sometimes rehabilitation of the criminal so as to prevent their potential future wreaking of havoc in society.

Recalling our purpose in life to know God (see the prior Page, “The Qualitative Purpose of Life”), while also considering the need to temper our imparting of justice with the commands of God’s other Attributes such as Goodness, Grace, and Mercy, it becomes apparent that our system of Criminal Justice is lacking a key consideration. This deficiency involves the absence of incorporating these other Attributes; particularly Grace and Mercy. The effectiveness, or lack thereof, of our present Criminal Justice system, will not be addressed here. Rather, the point is that it is inherently misguided in its main pre-occupation with the material and worldly at the expense of the spiritual and the purpose of life for those affected.

Admittedly, the criminal’s incarceration and sequestering, sometimes at least, removes the obstacles posed to the latter’s safe functioning and ability of its members to peacefully and effectively pursue their purpose in life to know God. This is not only reasonable, but a good thing. But what of the criminal’s purpose? Pursuant to God’s Grace, we have the duty to give and be of service to them; and His Mercy obligates us to accept them as equals in pursuit of our commong purpose despite their shortcomings; feel and express compassion for them and their circumstances; forgive their errant and misguided deeds; and attempt to understand their ideas and viewpoints (see the prior Posts “Responding to God’s Goodness” and “…..Mercy”). Whatever we might conclude regarding the necessity and effectiveness of the sequestering component of our Criminal Justice system, what of its consideration, or lack thereof, of these other considerations? What other aspects of the system, such as punishment, deterrence, and rehabilitation, are being employed exactly and what purpose do they serve? Granted, I am no more than a layman concerning what exactly the criminal’s incarceration consists of. However, I know enough to say with confidence that this does not adequately consider our requirement to give and be of service to them and feel and act towards them with acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding.

Setting aside the necessary sequestering component of our system of Criminal Justice, what of the other three: punishment, deterrence, and rehabilitation? In light of above, we see that the first, punishment, is entirely misguided and unecessary. If we are to adhere to the responsibility imposed upon us from God’s Goodness and Mercy, we see that there exists no room for punishment whatsoever. That the criminal engages in behavior contrary to fulfillment of his purpose in life to know God, whether he is aware of it or otherwise, is punishment enough; for their actions drive a wedge between the criminal and God which further widens the impassable gulf that exists between He and them save for His Grace and Mercy. Our seeking to enact punishment upon the criminal is duplicative, superfluous, and unecessary for he is already punished through his shortcomings and transgressions in themselves. The criminal’s way of life, whether he realizes it or not, is sadly wretched. Although his hope is to commit his crimes undetected in hopes of attaining whatever material advantage sought, whether he is found out and incarcerated as punishment for his actions is of no consequence in the context of his life’s purpose. Whether caught and punished or remaining free, the criminal’s failure to act in accordance with his purpose in life spawns punishment upon him regardless. There exists no greater failure and unfortunateness than to act contrary to God’s Will and no worldly punishment, therefore, serves any meaningful purpose.

The remaining two components of our Criminal Justice system, deterrence and rehabilitation, although typically treated separately, prove reconcilable into one in light of God’s Goodness and Mercy. Our consideration of punishment employed a negative approach in that it was removed from the system entirely. Addressing detterence and rehabilitation, on the other hand, will incorporate a positive one in which they are striven for. As it will be shown, deterrence proves to be duplicative and superfluous once rehabilitation is accomplished.

The criminal’s transgressions, knowingly or otherwise, are not the root cause of his troubles. Rather, they represent merely a symptom of a much larger issue; his spiritual malady. The criminal is not aware of his purpose in life to know God; or if he is, does not act to fulfill it. Lacking an adequate spiritual foundation from which to tackle life, the criminal’s attitudes and perspectives are rooted in self-centeredness and selfishness. His view of others and the world is based on how these affect, benefit, and relate to him instead of his relationship with God. Thus, naked self interest is what guides the criminal in his oftentimes errant thought and action. He appeals to no greater context for his behavior than how it affects him instead of his standing with God. The criminal sees in his circumstance no opportunity to develop a loving spiritual relationship with Him; only the need to further seek material ends regardless of what means must be employed.

The criminal’s situation is unfortunate; for not only is he failing to fulfill his purpose in life to know God but he also makes it difficult in some cases for others to do so as well. This need be made clear to him; and ironically, it can be accomplished by approaching him from a familiar perspective; the individual criminal’s self interested perspective itself. Appeals to the common good of society as a whole and peace on earth are not likely to make any inroads with the him; for these greater ideals have likely failed the criminal in the past. Perhaps society in some way has wronged the him. The criminal has possibly been a victim as well. Thus, the approach need paradoxically revolve around the criminal himself in order for others to benefit from his rehabilitation. If he can be pursuaded to recognize his purpose in life, his former misguided disposition and energies towards crime can be rechanneled in accordance with God’s Will. With this new attitude, the criminal can begin on his path toward true fulfillment of self which no longer self-centeredly concerns how he is affected by others and the world but, rather, how his relationship with these affect his relationship with God. Here the ironic and paradoxical manifests itself; for by focusing on self and the purpose of his life, the criminal will eventually develop unselfish attitudes and perspectives compatible with the good of others and society in general. His actions will no longer be detrimental to himself and others; and not only will the criminal’s behavior cease being menacing, it will mirror the complement of his prior misguided life as his relationship with God develops and strengthens. No longer selfish, he is selfless; instead of taking, he will give; not demanding, he serves.

Having addressed the rehabilitative component of Criminal Justice, it becomes evident how deterrence ceases to be a concern any longer. If properly rehabilitated and educated regarding his purpose in life, the criminal is sufficiently deterred. While he may no longer want to run the risk of further incarceration in the future by continuing with his errant behavior, the criminal’s primary concern will be with how his actions affect his relationship with God. There can exist no better deterrent than this. The criminal’s concern is no longer getting away with crime but, rather, avoiding it altogether. Fulfillment of his purpose in life does not depend on whether the criminal is found out, arrested, convicted, and jailed as a result of his actions; for God knows either way and it is how the criminal is viewed in God’s eyes, not society’s, that matters. No longer is he solely concerned with maintaining his freedom while exploiting others. Rather, the criminal occupies himself with identifying and fulfilling God’s Will which, in turn, allows him to remain free. The material and worldly benefits he now enjoys are not the ends he seeks, but instead represent the fruits of the criminal’s relationship with God. These may be deservedly and rightly enjoyed and even further utilized to others’ benefit as the criminal’s relationship with God continues to develop and grow. However, the real intrinsic value in his life is not the fruits themselves but, rather, the effect of these; the criminal’s relationship with God.

Rehabilitation and deterrence follow from God’s Justice, but our consideration of it nicely complements other of His Attributes as well. It provides a good example of how God’s Attributes dont act alone in their manifestation of worldly Goodness but, instead, in concert with the rest. The criminal makes poor choices detrimental to his purpose in life to know God. He is unhappy and perhaps apprehended, tried, convicted, and jailed for his crimes. God’s Justice prevails. If successfully rehabilitated and educated to realize and fulfill his purpose, the criminal mends his errant ways and develops a loving spiritual relationship with God. Again, God’s Justice prevails. Based on his perspective, the criminal gives and acts in service to others. He and society benefit and the criminal’s relationship with God strengthens. Yet again, God’s Justice prevails. As a result of his selflessness and devotion to God through others, the criminal inspires others to seek a similar path. Once again, God’s Justice prevails.

What can be drawn from this concerning God’s other Attributes? Consider His Grace and Mercy; for these clearly are at work alongside the sowing of Justice. The criminal’s poor choices create consequences which are perceived to entail hardship and suffering for both himself and others. But out of these circumstances graciously and mercifully emerge an opportunity for the criminal to finally fulfill his purpose in life to know God. Thus, the effects of God’s Justice are tempered by His Grace and Mercy as would be the case with of any of His other Attributes relative to the rest. Justice’s perceived hardship and suffering is retributive only to the extent that grace and mercy allow. Conversely, the latter unfolds lovingly with acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding in as much as justice allows.

God’s Justice

April 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

In this Blog’s prior Posts, God’s Attributes of Goodness, Grace, and Mercy were addressed. From these, certain attitudes and perspectives and duties, obligations, and responsibilities followed for us. If adhered to, these assist us to fulfill our purpose in life to know Him. In the present Post, God’s Justice will be considered and established. In turn, the next Post will detail the responsibilities which originate from it.

Three concepts serve as the context in which God’s Justice will be considered. These are cause and effect, man’s free will, and God’s Goodness. Harkening back to the prior Page, “The Qualitative Theory of Truth”, the former two of these are examples of Principles of Creation while the last is a Qualitative Attribute of God. Cause and effect and free will are significant metaphysical and philosophical issues outside of our intended scope and will perhaps be addressed more fully in a future Post. Suffice it to say for now that they exist. Regarding cause and effect, Creation as God’s Creative Power and Act should provide sufficient evidence of this. With Creation, God as efficient, final, primary, and ultimate cause, spawned the existence of all subsequent effects in the world. Similarly, He continues to act as Cause in the sustenance of Creation. Some of the effects which God manifests, in turn, act as causes in their own right as well. However, it should not be construed that these, as secondary causes, exist and act to the same qualitative degree as His Creative and Sustaining Powers and Actions. For God Created all ex-nihilo, out of nothing, and is responsible for the existence of all in the world. Secondary causes, on the other hand, assert their powers and actions upon other created things which have similarly been created by Him. What cause and effect implies relative to our understanding of God’s Justice is that given an action, or cause, certain things, or effects, follow from it.

Also, while we may think of secondary causes as being themselves responsible for the effects that they generate, it need be noted that they only do so in accordance with God’s Will, Providence, and Plan. Thus, secondary causes, although having power over and acting upon their effects, are only able to do so because of the actualities, potentialities, and qualities imparted to them by Him.

With respect to man’s free will, only two things will briefly be mentioned. First, that it exists should be obvious enough from the simple fact that not everyone, unfortunately, chooses to pursue their purpose in life to know God. In the prior Page, “The Qualitative Purpose of Life”, it was demonstrated that He Created to be known and that our purpose in life is to know Him. Is it reasonable to believe that God would not intend for all to know Him in light of it being the reason for Him having Created to begin with? No, God’s intent is that all will identify their purpose in life and choose to fulfill it. However, clearly we see that it is not the case that all choose this. Inexplicably, not everyone seeks to identify the meaning of their life. And perhaps even more so, those that do sometimes choose not to attempt to fulfill it or do so only half-heartedly (see the prior Post “Responding to God’s Grace”). What can be gathered from this, therefore, is that man’s will is free as evidenced by some people’s choices which are contrary to His Will.

The second matter in need of clarification concerning man’s free will deals with God’s Omniscence. While this attribute of All-Knowingness has not yet been addressed in this Blog, it is one unanimously agreed upon by those who assent to belief in His Theistic Conception. Some argue that free will is not consistent with God’s Omniscence. They question how we can truly be considered free to act if God already knows how we will do so. This is a legitimate question but clarification of these concepts’ consistency can be had when considering His Foreknowledge. Just because God knows how we will act does not presuppose that He has caused us to act. Rather, and because of His Eternal and Infinite Being, He is not subject to the constraints of our spatio-temporal existence in the world. God is aware of our thoughts and actions prior to, respectively, our actually having and carrying them out; but He does not cause them. God’s Being, as more aptly summarized by St. Augustine, exists in the Eternal Now in which past, present, and future coalesce as one.

Shifting our focus now to God’s Goodness, it too factors into His Attribute of Justice. As identified in the prior Post, “God’s Goodness, Grace, & Mercy”, and “Responding to God’s Goodness”, all is good that is manifested by Him through His Creative Power and Act of Creation. The effects which originate with God as Cause are inherently good.

Having deconstructed and analyzed cause and effect and man’s free will as Principles of Creation and His Goodness as a Qualitative Attribute of God, the three components of His Justice, we are now prepared to reassemble them in an effort to understand the responsibilities for us that follow. Starting with secondary causes and effects, although typically considered as forces, powers, or qualities, they also include us as human beings endowed with free will. In this sense, through free will we are the secondary cause of certain effects imparted into the world. More on point, our thoughts, as secondary cause, result in our taking certain actions, or effects, which in turn, manifest as concurrent subsequent secondary causes to certain consequences, outcomes, and repercussions, yet further effects. Perhaps this is belaboring the already obvious, but the key here is to underscore that our actions as means result in certain outcomes as ends. This relationship, like all else in the world, exists as a result of God’s Will, Providence, and Plan.

Contrary to what was previously argued concerning man’s free will, this seems to excuse us from responsibility for our actions; for if they were caused by God, how are they really attributable to us? Have we not already agreed that the effects generated from secondary causes are in reality His doing? Responding to this requires that we take a close look at the relationship between cause and effect and free will. The latter is certainly one of God’s many effects and also exists as secondary cause as well. A part of God’s Creation, and no insignificant one at that, is our ability to choose freely. Also, depending upon how free will is used, we are responsible for its results. Thus, free will is both an effect and a secondary cause. However, although both effect and secondary cause like countless other aspects of Creation, it proves to be far different than its counterparts. Perhaps all other effects of secondary causes with the exception of free will are directly spawned and manifested by God; but not necessarily so with the effects which follow from the latter as secondary cause. To put it obviously and succinctly, our choices of free will trigger certain outcomes. The choices are not controlled by God but the outcomes are. Here is the key to understanding the relationship between cause and effect and free will. We are free to act, but not able to influence the results that follow. Free will, as secondary cause, acts independent of God; but the outcomes, after a momentary and rare instance of God relinquishing control to us, are then manifested by Him. With free will’s choice, an interruption to the normal chain of cause and effect occurs after which the chain is reconnected. Cause and effect then again ensues.

For example, a person seeking fulfillment of their purpose in life to know God gives unconditionally in service to others. They are eventually rewarded for their efforts by fulfilling their purpose. The giving and service represent the act of free will and interruption to the chain; fulfillment of their life’s purpose is the result of the chain’s resumption. They control the free choice; God the outcome.

Having incorporated the relationship between cause and effect and man’s free will into our account of God’s Justice, we now turn our attention to His Goodness. It accounts for the inherent good of Creation and all that He manifests in the world. We have already demonstrated that cause and effect results from God’s Creative Power and Act of Creation. Likewise, we have concluded that free will represents an interruption to cause and effect’s chain. It has also been shown that upon reconnection of the chain after a free act of will, the effects which follow man’s choice are controlled by Him. And further, in accordance with God’s Goodness, that which is controlled by Him is inherently good. Our reassembly of the components of God’s Justice is now complete: God manifests cause and effect; it is momentarily interrupted by choices of free will which exists in lieu of a secondary cause controlled by Him; cause and effect then resumes with God’s control of outcomes related to the free choice; normal cause and effect then continues until again interrupted by another choice of free will.

But where exactly does God’s Justice appear in the chain of cause and effect, its interruption, and resumption? This takes shape following cause and effect’s interruption upon its resuming. The resumption represents God’s Justice. Following a choice of free will, He again assumes the reigns and manifests outcomes, results, and repercussions. It is the effect of free will’s choice that is represented by God’s Justice. Depending on who is subject to the effect, it may be experienced as hardship or suffering; but the effect is always good although its benefits may not be apparent immediately and only after some time.

As another example, consider the thief who covets and steals that which does not belong to him. Prior to having had the thought to steal and, unfortunately, following through on it, normal cause and effect as controlled by God was running its course. With the thief’s selfish thought and act of free will, however, an interruption to cause and effect occurred. After the thought and act, cause and effect again runs its course as controlled by God. Hopefully, the thief is apprehended by police and tried and convicted in a court of law. “Justice is served”, as it is said. If not, the thief’s similar behavior repeated in the future will hopefully result in him receiving his due. But again, if not, at a minimum we can confidently assert that the thief will ultimately not succeed in fulfilling his purpose in life to know God. If not eventually caught, he may believe that he has benefitted from his errant choices, but his feeling of content is misunderstood for he will never experience true fulfillment by acting as such in light of the obstacles posed by his behavior to fulfill his purpose in life to know God.

As briefly mentioned at the outset of this Post, now that God’s Justice has been established, our attention will now turn to the attitudes and perspectives and duties, obligations, and responsibilities that follow for us. These will be taken up in the next Post.

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