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.