THE HARD PART IS IN THE DETAIL

Don't be angry with God (4)





Author: Paulino Quevedo PhD.



It's easy to say let someone do something. The hard part is deciding what should be done and who should do everything and how, and where and when. And even before that, to decide how everything should be, to the last detail.


Brief pre-article

In previous articles we saw that God allows evil because he decided to create the best of all worlds, and because there must be evils in that world. The question that arises now is how to "distribute", allow, all those evils in the world. Certainly, so that in the best of all worlds there be all possible goods, even those that have a mixture of evil; that world must contain all possible evils that are compatible with all possible goods.

The problem is deciding how, where and when to allow the emergence of each of these evils, and what will be the assets affected. Surely it is not the case that God had created goods on one hand and evils on the other, and then decided to which good to attach each evil. In that case God would be the cause of the evils of those goods ... He would be the cause of evil! That is not possible, because God would be bad. In addition, evils do not exist, for they are only deprivations of some good, as a blind man lacks sight.

So, for the best of all worlds to contain all goods, even those with a mixture of evil, evils must arise on the occasion of the limitation and fallible nature of some goods. Therefore, God does not create evils or distribute them in the world, but creates an infinity of goods, thus covering the entire range of perfections; and among them there will be those that are fallible and that when failing, even freely, give rise to the appearance of evils. The difficult thing is to solve the problem of how that will happen to the last detail.

Although the articles in this series can be read independently, there is a relationship between them; due to which, the reading of each one will be better understood if it relates to that of the others, which can be found by activating the link offered immediately:

Don't be angry with God


Body of the article

In the second of this articles, I invited the reader to try to enter "In the sole of God's shoes" to find better solutions to their problems   with a supposed permission that He would give us to provide them    as a peculiar literary resource, intellectual exercise or trick to helps us better understand why things are as they are, and why God works as He works and governs as He governs. If the task becomes difficult my reflections can help, but each reader can venture on more personal paths.

In what follows we will pass from the general aspects of this whole theme to the detailed aspects, which will be the ones that will really allow us to compare and weigh the differences, if any, between what God decides end does and what we would decide and do.


The general aspects

In doing the intellectual exercise of getting into the sole of God's shoes seriously, we have realized that the whole issue of creation depends on four initial decisions, which are discussed below:

  1. We have to decide whether create or not create. We decide to create, just as God did.
  2. We have to decide the reason for the creative act. Since God is so perfect that nothing can be added to Himself with His creation, the motive of the creative act must be altruistic; and we decide to create for love, also including people in order to be able to communicate to them divine bliss, just as, in fact, God did.
  3. We have to decide the perfection that Creation will have. This comes down to deciding whether to create a mediocre world or create the best of all worlds. We decide to create the best of all worlds, just as God did, at least in opinion of the philosopher Leibniz.
  4. We have to decide the criteria to choose the best of all worlds. There are two basic criteria: maximize goods, even if evils are dragged (magnanimous criteria); or minimize evils, even if goods are lost (faint-hearted criteria). We decided to use the criterion of maximizing goods, as God did in fact, as is the case of the parable of the wheat and the tares (cfr. Matthew 13, 24-30).


The following consequences derive from the four previous decisions:

  • The best of all worlds is not made up of completely perfect creatures, but creatures that cover the entire range of perfections, including their deficiencies and fallibility.
  • God conceals Himself as much as possible to give us the opportunity to participate as much as possible in the conquest of our glory, so that we may deserve it and that it be fuller; That's why he is a quiet and hidden God.
  • Good must prevail, so we must seek the happiness of people and that evils disappear in the end.


The reader can now consider whether he would preferred to have made different decisions from the previous four; and then he will have to analyze the consequences that derive from his decisions. In case of doubt or requiring more information, you can always resort to reading the above mentioned articles.


The aspects of detail

As we have seen, the general aspects are of careful consideration, decision and deduction; and so they are relatively easy. In fact, they allow us to understand why God made the initial decisions He made, since most likely we would have made those same decisions. Indeed, it is unlikely that we would have decided not to create, or that we would have decided to create for selfish reasons; and in like manner that we had decided to create a mediocre world or use faint-hearted criteria.

All this gives us the feeling that if we had been in the sole of God's shoes at the time of creation, we would not have done worse than Him. Our ego feels very flattered. Difficulties begin when it comes to moving to more detailed aspects. So far everything is going very well, we already know what we want to do:

  • We want to create the best of all worlds including the full range of perfections with magnanimous criteria and for love, so that evils disappear in the end and people reach happiness.

Magnificent! And what will we do next? Please, we must be aware that we are at a moment just before creating and that, therefore, there is nothing prior to ourselves, that is, there is no creature that can serve us as inspiration or model. Moreover, as is obvious, it is not legitimate to resort to the knowledge or experience that we have acquired in our lives, nor can we ask God for any advice; we will advise Him. We have to be completely original. Cheer up! What will we do?

If we are in the sole of the shoes of God, who is a pure spirit, how could the reality of matter occur to us from nothing previous? How could we conceive the existence of embodied spirits, like men? Would we have the originality of designing an atom, a molecule, a cell, an eye, a nervous system, a reproductive system, sexual pleasure? Let's not say planetary systems and galaxies, angels and human souls, order and freedom, nature and person, knowledge and love.


And in face of the evil that will affect people at the beginning, and should disappear in the end, how would we design a plan to save them? It's not easy to play God; it's something that dazes us, isn't it? God created the full range of creatures, including people, and we couldn't imagine any of that if we didn't see it. Our imagination composes from what we have already seen. In fact we still cannot imagine many of the realities that we have not seen. Isn't it really regrettable that the best scientists can't even conceive life without water?


And for people, whom He loves dearly, God designed a wonderful plan to save those who are damaged by some evil; and we could not imagine that plan if we didn't know it by God's revelation. And many times, given its profoundness and wealth, when we are faced by it, we just don’t believe it. We are relatively good at understanding the general aspects of the divine work, but we are quite limited, unable and inept to understand the details of his works.

The conception of a decree

A decree (an it could be like that) is the divine conception or design of a whole possible creation, from beginning to end, in all its aspects, generalities and details. We live in the current decree, and we don't know if there are other decrees; moreover, we don't even know if it is possible to make several different decrees, whether simultaneous or successive, or if all of them would only form a larger global decree, which would be the true decree.

In the realization or real decree (let it be so) that the complete divine conception of a whole possible creation passes from nothing to existence, God    as the first cause    would have to give them his whole being and all his operation, at every moment, to each and every one of its parts, however small they may be; and the same must be said of the free actions of people. This is why it's true that the leaf of a tree does not move without the consent of God. I like to say that a politician's neuron does not move without God's consent.

In a decree God has foreseen and allowed every detail, however small it may be. For example, a specific and determined blink of mine, in this present decree, takes a precise time. Well, if that same blinking were designed with a slightly different duration, a fraction of a second more, or less, it would no longer belong to this decree, but to another. It is clear, therefore, that the possible decrees are infinite.

God has compared all possible decrees and chosen the best one to bring into existence; that's the present decree, in which we live; this is the best of all possible worlds. And God knows, to the smallest detail, wanting all goods and allowing all evils, everything that has happened, everything that happens and everything that will happen in the present decree, including all the free actions of people.


The global functionality of a decree

But that is not all. In a decree there is good global and integral functioning. Everything is related to everything in the best global functioning, although it includes evils, as we have already seen. In the same decree there can be no contradictory realities. For example, I could not be sitting and not sitting at the same time and in the same place. Here the contradiction is obvious and immediate, but there may be covert and mediate contradictions, distant in time and space, as if Mary had had the original sin and, years later, were the Mother of the Incarnate Word. This covert contradiction escaped Thomas Aquinas.

If we were to conceive a decree, many hidden and mediated contradictions would escape us; our design would not be functional. We would miss details of the Milky Way that must harmonize with Andromeda galaxy. A minimal difference in our actions can have huge consequences.

If it takes me a second longer to answer the phone, that time difference may be enough for the other person to hang up, so that the conversation does not take place, God knows with what consequences.

One night my phone rang at about three in the morning. The caller was a woman, already of advanced age, who long ago had attended several conferences of mine. I almost didn't remember her. She apologized for calling at that time and told me that when she opened a drawer to take the pills she was going to commit suicide with, she found an old piece of paper with my phone number on it; she had a good memory of me and decided to call me to say goodbye. I talked with her for a long time, maybe a couple of hours, and she finally gave up her purpose and decided to move on. If I had taken a few more seconds to answer the phone, maybe she would have hung up and killed herself. Only God knows.

Another tremendous example is to stop having a child, which can cancel chains of generations that would include artists, scientists, saints. ... By giving at every moment all their being and all their operations to his creatures, God takes good care that some exercise their causality over others, so that everything influences the whole. How could we foresee so much detail? It's something that greatly exceeds our limited capacity. That's why God does not reveal everything to us    it would be useless   , He is reduced to pointing out the essentials of the path.

It's not easy to evaluate and judge God's plan; less if we know Him only partly; and even less without knowing how small the part we know is, or how it fits into the total set. We should not bother to hear a dissonance in a piece of music that we hear for the first time, because we still don't know how the composer will solve it.

And so, we return to the same thing: let's try not to get angry with God, but to learn from everything he has done and and has revealed to us. And let's not intend to correct God’s actions, for God tells Job: "Let him who would correct God give answer!” (Job 40, 2).


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