Conversation with a knowledgable apologist


It’s so true! :laughing::laughing::laughing:

But, very occasionally you help someone overcome a stumbling block. That is very satisfying.


Sophia, are you an existential and/or moral nihilist? Knowing the answer to that question might help @wesrock forumate his response.


I think, as @Wesrock pointed out, he’s using “good” in an Aristotelian sense, not a moral sense. “Good” in this sense means something along the lines of “fit to its purpose”. It has no moral value-system associated with it. The object fulfills its purpose or it does not (to some degree). So when a watchmaker makes a watch, it’s “good” when it performs its function in accordance with its purpose (telling the user time). If it doesn’t do this, it’s not a good watch. But we’re not casting moral judgment on the watch, are we? If we’re thinking of a simple God, and we think of Him as “good” in a manner not subject to our moral whims and desires, then we think of Him as eternally fulfilling His purpose when we speak of Him as omni-benevolent. I’ll let @Wesrock fill in what His purpose might be though, since he seems more eloquent than I in explaining it.


Post 1 of 2

If we can’t settle on terms, perhaps we could discuss God’s obligations or lack thereof towards creation. We could discuss what can be deduced through natural philosophy about what God will’s for His creations, and we could discuss what Christians understand about what God wills for man based on their divine revelation. What I will not back down upon though is that reference to God’s omnibenevolence refers to any moral character of God in itself.

We may well then be stuck at an impasse. If the resolution to the problem of evil makes perfect logical sense based on a Catholic understanding of nature but doesn’t make sense out of that context, that doesn’t make the problem of evil a perfect objection. The problem of evil may not make sense with your understanding of what a deity is, but I reject that idea of a deity, too, so we make no progress.

It’s not just that existence is deemed to be good as an attribute arbitrarily. Being is good. Good is being. How to say… in the sentence “Being is good,” I’m not using good as an adjective, but as a predicate nominative. I am not making a value judgment on being or qualifying it in some way; I am saying that they are convertible. That goodness is an objective, ontological part of reality insofar as being is an objective, ontological part of reality. The good is what we desire, and we can only obtain what is good if it is actual. (Edit: There is a distinction between being and good, but they are convertible with each other.)

There’s a lot of confusion about “essence,” as if it’s a separable thing in itself that can exist in some ghost-like way. Furthermore, Aristotleans make no claims that we can know an essence absolutely even from inspection of a thing. Whether we will ever pinpoint a thing’s essence is unessential to the question and so doesn’t serve as an objection, as it objects to a claim that was never made. (Continued in next post)


Post 2 of 2


Let me back up. We don’t claim there is an essence and existence distinction because we’ve pinpointed numerous essences. We know that it is a real distinction because “what a thing is” and “that it is” are real distinctions. Suppose you had no knowledge of the planet Earth or lions, wooly mammoths, or unicorns. Now suppose I describe only what they are to you and ask you to tell me which currently exists, which once existed, and which never existed. Even fully knowing what a thing is you would not be able to tell me (unless you guessed blindly) which currently exists on Earth, which once existed, and which never existed. Even full knowledge of what a thing is does not impart any knowledge about whether the “what” actually exists. Therefore all things that exist have two real (but inseparable, there’s no declaration that one could exist without the other co-principles. What they are (their essence) and that they are (their existence). These are not merely man-made categories because one can’t be reduced to the other.

It’s only unsolvable if you consider Platonism and Divine Command Theory as the only options. But I reject the notion of goodness existing as some Platonic Form and being separate from God. I also reject the notion that what is good as only based on arbitrary commands.

For one: The good is not separate from God. The Good is God, and God is The Good. It is inherent in Him.

For another: Things pursue the good insofar as they pursue or desire their own perfection, and the desire of our own perfections is a desire for God insofar as our own many perfections are similitudes of God. Every choice a person makes is in pursuit of some good we desire. This does not mean we always choose the moral good. A feeling of pleasure is a good. The taste of that cake on a table is a good. What is evil is when our priorities are disordered and we choose a lesser good even when it means acting against (and not just neutrally towards) a higher good. No one ever wills an evil for itself, but only for some good they think will come out of it (note: the person might get pleasure at the evil, but that is precisely why they do it: for the pleasure itself, sensual, or perhaps the pleasure of being right, or so on). I go on a tangent, though. What is morally good then is not just an arbitrary divine command, nor is it a standard floating out there in the middle of some Realm Of Forms, but is intrinsic to what we are. God wills His creations to be what they are as He knows them (and in his case He has full knowledge of what they are) in His Intellect.


Heh, I tried to edit this into my last post, but too many characters:

Some of these other points may be sidetracking us from what strikes me as more essential to the POE: God’s alleged obligations. But my thoughts on what would be productive/relevant may be wrong. You are defending the objection, so I’ll let you make that determination.


Neither. I find it problematic to squeeze myself into a small “box”. You know, square peg into a round hole. When I make a value judgment, I take all the “legs” into consideration, the aim of the action, the intended and the actual outcome and the circumstances. I like to call them the “what”, the “why” and the “how”. Until we have information about all of them, we are not in the position to render a well reasoned judgment.

Also, for a “good” action there is no need to justify it (it does not matter why you give a piece of bread to a starving person), but for a “bad” action the justification is necessary, because it could clarify the rest (pushing a needle into someone’s arm is justified if you administer a healing drug, but it cannot be justified if you do it just to cause suffering). In other words, I accept the “intrinsically good” actions, but “discard bad” actions.

Unfortunately I do not subscribe to Aristotelian concept. Using your example, the “watch” is neither good nor bad in the moral sense, it is strictly neutral. However, to design an implement a new virus, which would kill untold millions is morally bad (no matter how well it works), while to find a cure for heart disease would be morally good (even if it does not work all the time).

When one talks about the “problem of evil”, the only proper discussion environment is the “morally” good or bad, not the Aristotelian “does it work?”.

I see, but disagree. It is infinitely selfish to concentrate on one’s desires, irrespective of the side effects which happen to other people. After all we have absolutely no ide what God’s purpose might be, all we can do is speculate, based upon our observations. And based upon them, God does not seem to be benevolent - in the ordinary sense of the word.


I would spend time talking of the Jesuit concept of Grace with a Priest. How Catholics describe Hell has changed through the years. Pope Francis deemed that no one goes to Hell. The contemporary concept of purgatory is a place en route to Heaven to learn to live full time in God’s grace. Grace is a complex concept and I would point you to read New Seeds of Contemplation by Brother Thomas Merton to further understand.

Remember that our Savior went to Hell to free the souls. That was not a one and done event. Likewise, our Savior sacrificed himself for his Love for us for all eternity. That is not a one and done. We are living in Third Temple Judaism, since the Immaculate Conception of the Savior. We are all saved.

Regardless of Hell, if one knows of God, then one should strive to always feel God’s love and live according to His will. Praise be to Jesus Christ for our lives here. For those that do not recognize God’s grace and love, we can pray to the Saints, Our Lady, God, and the Savior for their intervention. Our Savior is still on the Cross for all of our sins, so why would anyone go to Hell for eternity? Purgatory is not roses in a garden, so is what we call purgatory actually Hell? We have to remember the language and implications used by the original Church founders, but the Successor of Peter leads us to believe, yes, purgatory in our contemporary senses is what is refereed to as Hell by the church fathers.

God is without bound, so to codify his timeline for us is heretical and does not belong in the conversation. Often, this is a slam used by atheists against Catholics/Christians.

A Priest is your best source of where the succession of Peter rests on the subject, who Jesus empowered to decide the fate of his people.

God does not demand an esoteric answer from anyone to satisfy their queries on the metaphysical. The answer is Love. Love from God for all his people and your Love to all people. Love your enemies, sinners, and saints equally. Jesus did not spend his days on Earth with righteous people.


You sure gave me “handful (earful :slight_smile: )” to ponder. Let me give you my basic premises, which you may or may not agree with.

When we speak of “obligations”, I do not place God and a human creator into a different category. After all we are supposed to have been created in God’s image - which means that both God and we are moral agents. (When someone asserts that God is not a moral agent, I am always itching to ask: “so you think that God is an immoral agent?”) We don’t have the same or even similar knowledge, and power, but we both know right from wrong - at least to a certain extent. In other words, a human sociopath performing a genocide and God doing the same are equally problematic. The difference is that the human cannot give a good reason to consider him “good” (the moral sense), but God could explain - in theory - why performing/allowing a genocide was the best course of action. Now, just because it is possible that God could give a perfectly rational explanation, it does NOT follow, that we should give God the benefit of doubt. If God WOULD present his argument, that would be different. If no explanation is forthcoming, the “duck principle” is our guiding light.

In other words, I stick to the “duck” principle, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and tastes like a duck, there is no reason to doubt that it is not a duck. Now it might happen that it is not a duck, rather a killer whale, but there better be a very good evidence to support it.

Now, about obligations. I am only talking about sentient (and to a lesser extent sapient) beings being created. If the creator wishes to cut a stone into pieces, the stone does not “care”. The sculptor has no obligation to the slab of marble.

It is obvious that the “created being” did not want to be created. A sentient being cannot be treated as that rock. If you go ahead and create a sentient being, then it is cruel not to take care of it. Are you familiar with the ancient oriental custom, that is you save someone’s life, you assume full responsibility for his well-being from that moment onward. I think it is a pretty wise principle.

Any parent is responsible for the well-being of his children. Of course that responsibility only lasts until the child grows into self-sufficient adult. However, we humans shall never become God, so God’s responsibility never expires.

Thought experiment. What if it was one day proven 200% there’s no God?

Because God has said, earth is only a blink compared to the time we will spend in Heaven,
God will IMMEASURABLY reward anyone on earth who has suffered or served Him


Please give careful consideration to this whole reply stretch across three comments due to length restrictions. All I can do is ask. And I do offer a plausible intellectually honest answer within this reply, in more concrete terms than just saying freewill must be allowed to have love returned.
I’m probably not as well versed with you on philosophical treatises discussing freewill;
so to be ‘intellectually honest,’ one must explore as much evidence as one has with the knowledge one has; to give the best answer that particular person has. As we know this is an extremely difficult question to answer; so many with a trusting attitude; not only have the premise of a Benevolent All Powerful God; though freewill has caused great harm; their trust in God is enough, and there are sincere caring people who truly in word and action with their lives exhibit sincere loving kindness to their neighbor to the utmost of their understanding without a complete explanation. Even heroically, like not divulging the whereabouts of someone who will be tortured or even killed if the oppressor got this information; taking the torture and or being killed instead. So events of striving for selflessness; without stoicism for the good of others happen every day; in varying degrees, with that much heroism being rare.
The point is that for the sake of the rest of this, I’m defining love as benevolent
willing the good of another or others; even if it results it extreme sacrifice.
But, how can the Almighty Lord Benevolent God; even with giving freewill;
decide that humankind in Providence; being stewards to protect a Portion
of Himself (with complete empathy for men, woman, and children stored up in His Heart) not only required that extreme suffering which, of course He can bear;
but require that Providence, by freewill allow even children to suffer so greatly?
Now, just like not everyone has the capacity to explore freewill; for some trusting
God is enough, and humankind’s fallen nature that needs healing had to happen
with all the suffering we see.
But some are called to explore this further; offering possible answers.
So you as a higher thinker are exploring this; with your own life experience and conscious perceptions. And, I must thank you, because you helped me ponder this question. (cont…)


So, I must continue starting with the premise of an all knowing (past, present, and future time) All Powerful Benevolent God.
Something things in mathematics and theories I’m not well versed on in quantum mechanics — helped me with this answer; where I truly think that parts, even taken
as a whole have been revealed to me by The Lord God Almighty; as a plausible part of the answer. I do not claim a private revelation, however. But, I have inklings of things contained herein being relayed by others.
~ A ‘point’ in geometry has no width, depth, or height. Being aware of evil thoughts, the thoughts converse to benevolence; not desired, not welcomed, not accepted have no power over someone. So with the premise of an All Powerful All Knowing Benevolent God Who Sends God’s Own Word out to be present, in places God does not actually reside; would be well aware of this; and the extreme dangers of these thoughts converse to benevolence. And as a person thinks, the more the person accepts thinking that way; so the person carries that out in word and action, yes?
~So please bear with me. In mathematics, to handle imaginary numbers, there
is an imaginary plane. It sure is serendipitous to this supposition that this involves ‘negative,’ numbers, even though in mathematics negative numbers are harmless. :slight_smile:
~Now take this to the level of an All Powerful Benevolent God wanting to teach
objective goodness vs. objective evil; who by definition will not allow any of God’s children to be harmed In quantum mechanics there was the Schrodinger cat thought experiment. It was really to show the ridiculousness in how we observe reality;
to consider multiple quantum realities at the same time analogous to an electron being a particle and a wave at the same time being on a large scale; but I think having to do with Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. But please consider; since the premise is that God is All Powerful; why can’t God create an extremely lucid four dimensional, (time, length, width, and height) a type of ‘halo deck,’ like portrayed in Star Trek the Next Generation? Since God is all powerful, God certainly has the ability.
However, a Benevolent All Powerful God must have a purpose for this.
The ideas of an oscillating ever recreating universe; in an of itself taken as a whole;
give the idea of futility — so if someone thinks with almost every fiber of their being
(they can’t with every fiber of their being; because we are created in the image and likeness of God.) So, my supposition involve our ‘concrete’ selves in a different plane of existence; never doing harm in that existence; but non-arbitrarily according to freewill; as a teaching lesson - with direct bearing on how much we condone, enable, facilitate, and carry out events in this plan of existence; to be written in The Real Book of Life; or the imaginary plane; where revelry or masochism or sadism will never be allowed; and with no access to the Rivers of Life from God, exist dead,
lethargic, depressed, lonely with only one’s own ego on which to ‘feed’ and drink.
~ (cont…)


An all powerful Benevolent God would never have an arbitrary reason for such a, from inside time as we know, such a difficult, long, and arduous journey; even though in the concrete solid existence; no child ever had his or spirit or God given dignity crushed; or beaten; in any way shape or form. But please take the Psalmist ideas in the poetry of reflection on reality; that with the Light of Eternal Existence; we live in this plane of existence a very short time. And the painful dark last but a night, and their is every lasting joy in the morning. And that God truly suffers every last iota of unearned suffer with each of us at every moment of time; knowing full well, that one day there will be war no more, pain no more, and every tear wiped away forever and ever. (by the way, a near death experience person came back saying that this is the ‘shadow world.’
Peace and heartfelt warm regards.


The Church teaches that the primary ‘suffering’ of hell is eternal separation from God.

If one wishes this separation, and dies wishing it, is it unjust for them to receive it? Is it merciful to force upon someone an eternal existence which one does not wish to have?


In other words, the reasonability of God’s actions is subject to – and requires – your explicit approval.

Interestingly enough, this precise dialogue appears at the conclusion of the Book of Job.

At the end of that story, Job “gets it.” As the old saying goes, “there’s a God, and I ain’t Him.”

But, that answer will be unsatisfactory for you, since your framework depends on you being able to (1) have it all explained to you explicitly by God, (2) you “getting it”, and (3) you giving your consent for God to be God.

Good luck. :+1:


What about the “secondary” suffering of being burned in the never ending flames? Of course, here and now we are separated from God; no beatific vision, no vision at all. But it is not too bad. Does not feel like hell. And of course I do accept what the church teaches, IF and WHEN it is rational and logical. And this is not.

Indeed it would be. Just show us someone, who had the undeniable, first hand information about heaven and hell, and who made an informed decision to be burned in hell. :slight_smile: Just don’t try to say that we are all given the necessary information, because that is so weak…

The actions, no. God can do whatever he wants - that is his prerogative. The assessment, however is my prerogative. God can, of course “smite” me whenever he pleases, does not need an “excuse” to do so. Would that be the proof of his superior morality?

Yes, it is interesting that you chose the most horrifying story from the Bible. Where God and Satan make a bet, and where God gives free hand to Satan to be as cruel as he wants to, except killing Job directly. But all of Job’s family are just pawns in cosmic chess game between God and Satan. Where is the “dignity” of the family? Not to mention that it is immoral to make a bet, when you already know the outcome (omniscience, anyone?).

Yes, I am aware of this assessment. God is the biggest bully on the block, so whatever he says, goes… and we should just accept it as “good, loving and caring”. Well, Job was a wuss. I am not. I dig my heels in and maintain that the duck principle still holds. Your (1) is incorrect, I would accept a rational explanation from anyone, you included, not just God. Too bad that you are unable to come up with anything. Your (2) is an empty proposition, on what ground do you assume, that I would not get it? And your (3) is a total misunderstanding - as I said, God is supreme, he does what he does, but I would not accept it as “loving and caring” if it looks like the opposite.


Do all these humans who really want to burn forever live in one place? I just keep hearing this argument and would really like to meet these people. All the people I have ever met seem to have an aversion to unimaginable pain and agony. It’s constantly repeated on here how people just really want to burn and God is just way too nice to not let you do what you want so in the fire they go. I’m not sure a more illogical situation than hell could be dreamed up. Even if I conceded people want to burn forever(which is ridiculous) God is our father right? We can never come close to understanding God. We will always be like little children to him our whole lives due to our limited capacity to understand. I can promise you kids want to do things that may get them hurt, ie; touching stove, playing in the road. It’s a parents duty to stop them from doing it no matter how bad they resist. I have a sneaking suspicion that if if God stopped someone from burning forever they would appreciate it. Even if they wanted nothing to do with him in this life.


Can I ask if it isn’t impolite WHY do you have Sophia the robot as your picture? Just curious.


Of course it is not impolite. Sophia, the robot is my “soul-mate”. She is so cool. :slight_smile:


Yes, but here on earth, we know God by faith. In the judgment, we’ll know Him face-to-face. The “suffering” is the knowing – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that He is real, and He offered you eternal life with Him, and you turned Him down. That’s what the suffering is.

Yup. Like I said, “you make God subject to your personal approval.” :roll_eyes:

It’s a story, not historical narrative. It’s meant to teach a lesson, not to say “God will smite you into little smitey bits, just for the fun of it.” :roll_eyes:

It’s funny. That’s precisely what a petulant teen would say, regarding his parents, if he doesn’t like what their house rules are.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit