Understanding God's will...guardian angels

So. As far as I understand, all things that happen are permitted to happen to us, by God. Satan, for example, has no power over us that God does not permit for him to have. And since God wishes us no evil, what happens to us is always designed for our greatest good, that is, the kingdom of Heaven. The only thing that stands in the way is our own free will, our own ability to sin and spoil the repeated opportunities that the Lord affords us.

Why, then, do we have guardian angels? What do they protect us for, if nothing befalls us that is not God’s will?

Prayer I understand. We act with right reason because we do not know God’s will, and we pray for what we hope to be good, and God does what is really the most good, and our prayer is a development of our love for God and our dependency upon God. That makes sense-- we can pray and that completely meshes along with the will of God.

What I’m failing to understand is why we need protection of guardian angels. A demon cannot lift a sword against us that God has not permitted-- therefore what are the angels doing? Preventing something that God has deemed good for our souls? (Let it be known that this is a rhetorical question-- clearly this is not what happens)

Help me to understand. In fact, the problem runs deeper than just angels. It really is applied to all of intercession. I guess I just don’t get it. If God is the Father of Love and Mercy, there is no creature more merciful than God. I believe in Mary’s intercessions, and the intercessions of the saints and the angels-- I’m not saying I don’t! I just don’t get it. God isn’t “strong-armed” into something by the petitions of others, so why do they matter?

Again, I’m not saying I am against the teachings of the Church, I am for them, I just don’t get it and hope to understand it better.

Okay, first of all, thinking that anything that happens to a person (good or evil) being God’s will is generally taught more in Islam than in Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity. Many things that can cause suffering and death of a person are due to the sinful choices of other people. For example, God would never will the death of an unborn child through abortion; God would never will the Holocaust; God would never will the death of millions through war, etc. It is also absurd to think that God would will slavery, rape, or drunk driving (though God did permit the Israelites to be enslaved and permitted them to have slaves of their own). These are all ways the sinful choices of others can cause suffering and death to others. Part of the function of guardian angels is to protect us from harm - both spiritual and physical. Spiritually, guardian angels aid us to fight temptations, though we are still free to choose the evil choice. Physically, we, as humans, probably face death a million times a day (I’m exaggerating a little bit, but you get the point). Believe me, I’ve been physicallly saved from death by my guardian angel on many occasions. Angels are vastly more intelligent and more powerful than humans. However, guardian angels are not God. They are creatures created by God to serve mankind and help us fulfill our destiny to live with God forever. As such, even though they are powerful agents from God, they are not all-powerful and cannot protect us from everything that befalls us. If we freely choose evil acts, they cannot prevent us from committing such evil acts. As for your question on intecession, I think it better if someone else answers this - I believe saints do intercede for us to God, but I too have a hard time understanding how it happens.

I’m not sure that evil befalls us without God’s consent. I believe it is quite the opposite. Take, for example, Nebuchadnezzar.

God was seeking the punishment of the Israelites. It was accomplished through Nebuchadnezzar. Because he was the instrument that God used to punish the Israelites did not mean either a) that Neb was coerced (it was his own free will that he inflicted harm on the people of Judah), nor b) that Neb has impunity because he was “the rod” of God’s wrath (for, it was Neb who decided to harm the Israelities-- it was God who permitted it)

See also, Satan and Job. And countless other examples in Biblical history.

Take this, also, for example: the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori.
ewtn.com/library/SPIRIT/UNIFORMI.TXT

Here is some excerpt (search for this text in the link provided to go straight to it)

Furthermore, we must unite ourselves to God’s will not only in things
that come to us directly from his hands, such as sickness,
desolation, poverty, death of relatives, but likewise in those we
suffer from man – for example, contempt, injustice, loss of
reputation, loss of temporal goods and all kinds of persecution. On
these occasions we must remember that whilst God does not will the
sin, he does will our humiliation, our poverty, or our mortification,
as the case may be. It is certain and of faith, that whatever
happens, happens by the will of God: “I am the Lord forming the light
and creating the darkness, making peace and creating evil.” From God
come all things, good as well as evil. We call adversities evil;
actually they are good and meritorious, when we receive them as
coming from God’s hands: “Shall there be evil in a city which the
Lord hath not done?” “Good things and evil, life and death, poverty
and riches are from God.”

God does not desire sin, but sin is a choice that we make. Evil does not exist as a positive entity-- it is simply a privation of God and goodness. Nebuchadnezzar may, for example, seek to ruin the people of Jerusalem. This is his sin. It does not need to have bearing on whether or not the Jews are punished, however. He could just as easily fail as succeed in the eyes of God. His success is Providential-- it is from God, it is God’s will. Not that he sin, but the material results of punishment for the people of Judah (He chastises who he loves)

Read even the next paragraph.

It is true, when one offends us unjustly, God does not will his sin,
nor does he concur in the sinner’s bad will; but God does, in a
general way, concur in the material action by which such a one
strikes us, robs us or does us an injury, so that God certainly wills
the offense we suffer and it comes to us from his hands. Thus the
Lord told David he would be the author of those things he would
suffer at the hands of Absalom: “I will raise up evils against thee
out of thy own house, and I will take thy wives before thy face and
give them to thy neighbor.” Hence too God told the Jews that in
punishment for their sins, he would send the Assyrians to plunder
them and spread destruction among them: “The Assyrian is the rod and
staff of my anger . . . I will send him to take away the spoils.”
"Assyrian wickedness served as God’s scourge for the Hebrews’’ is St.
Augustine’s comment on this text. And our Lord himself told St.
Peter that his sacred passion came not so much from man as from his
Father: “The chalice which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink
it?”

Sadly EWTN does not list the permissions of the Church in this digitized writing, however, I have a copy of this work (similar but not exact) with Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat. I do not believe that any of this is heterodox (if it were, it should not have such approval of the Censors)

I wish I had the time to answer every person on this forum for the are honest and good questions. In a nut shell God permits things which means does not prevent but it does NOT mean allow or approve of them. God opposes all suffering and death with the fullness of his power. The following explanation explains it:

"Though omnipotent, God has irrevocably set a limit to his own power:
“God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature.” (CCC, 1884)

In gratuitous generosity, God has arranged that real power in shaping the world be given to human beings and angels for the sake of imbuing created persons with authentic importance as co-creators. In offering himself totally to creatures, God has given himself away in a most radical manner: All powers and roles of importance that can logically possibly be entrusted to others have, in fact, been given to human beings and angels for the sake of imbuing authentic and irreplaceable importance to each creature made in the image of God:

“We can never give too great prominence to the Scholastic principle that God never does through Himself what may be achieved through created causality… For any result which does not require actually infinite power, God will sooner create a new spiritual being capable of producing that result than produce it Himself.” (Abbot Anscar Vonier, The Human Soul)

There are areas of responsibility that can only be acted upon by God (e.g. the creation of the universe out of nothing, or the governance of the entirety of reality via omniscient providence), and these cannot be given over to creatures due to the limits of logical possibility. Even so, the self-emptying of God is such that many of those actions which can only be accomplished by God himself (such as the forgiveness of sins, or the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ) have been entrusted to human beings as intermediaries through the sacramental ministry of the priesthood. According to God’s generosity, if something can possibly be done or mediated by a finite power, God creates a finite creature to do it rather than doing the thing directly. Since this is a true giving, and not merely the appearance of gift, it follows that creatures now have a kind of power in the world that God does not have.

Even though sin and the suffering caused by it is an infinite offense to him, God is (though metaphysically omnipotent) functionally dependent on the actions of creatures
obedient to him in order to manifest his will and justice in the world. God is in no way controlling things directly, and if a created person chooses to do evil, then real damage is done." NewApologetics.com

God is not controlling things directly. He never allows a demon to attack or possess someone. It happens because God gave all creatures powers that can be abused and they are very much are (he cannot take them away for that would be an evil that would dimiish his creatures). It is our gift to fight the powers of darkness with prayer. Intercessory for one another is a gift although it can feel like a burden. We pray to Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints because they have the full gift of God which is complete union with Christ. They take part in Christs intercession and it is for there glory. God wishes to glorify all of us and its all good because he has infinite Glory.

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:22)

Your answer has elements that jive with but also, ostensibly, conflict with St. Liguori’s writings (unless I am misunderstanding one or both of you).

I appreciate both responses so far. If either of you should have time (and I know we are busy, but this writing was recommended to me by a monk and I believe it to be good), read the work by Liguori on EWTN (or elsewhere), so that you might be able to better mediate between these two (ostensibly) conflicting ideas and help me to make sense of them. For I myself am lost.

What is that doesn’t seem right? Also not everything said by the saints is church doctrine.

That which does not seem right to me is this: the idea that God wills neither sin nor its material consequences.

Sin is offensive to God, but its consequences are not (at least, this is my belief, this is what I understand from the Saint and from the Scriptures also, as I will try to prove [in addition to the Scriptural proofs of the Saint listed above]_

The choice of a demon to possess a man is offensive to God, but the possession is not necessarily (for he casts out demons when he becomes weary of them possessing man). If it were an evil of God to strip away the effects of free will, that is, the consequences of sin, e.g. demonic possession, then Jesus would have been committing evil in obstructing the demon’s will to possess a man. But Jesus did cast out a demon. If Jesus wanted all who were afflicted with demons to be freed, why should he not, then, cast out the demons? Why did he cast it out of some but not others? Does our Lord will good on some and not others? But of course he loves us all, and so leaving some possessed and others freed, he must see some ultimate benefit, that he allows evil to run its course.

Let’s talk about Job. Satan doesn’t go off and harass Job, but God grants him permission and tells him exactly what he may do. God assures us that no temptation will be too great for us. If the free will of man led to consequences for mankind that were beyond the scope of God’s power, then God would not be able to say “no temptation shall be too strong.” For the only reason it is not too strong, is that God prevents it from overwhelming us. When we are tempted, it is his good pleasure, for he sits refining his silver. We are scorched in the furnace until we are perfected. Not a moment too long do we sit in the furnace, but he knows exactly what is best for us.

You said: “Sin is offensive to God, but its consequences are not.”

I reply: Sin is offensive because it causes suffering and death. God is good and he can only desire which is good for us.

'… Even though man’s nature is mortal, God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned is thus the last enemy of man left to be conquered.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1008)

“Sin offends God, that is, it saddens him greatly, but only in so far as it brings death to man whom he loves; it wounds his love.
.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

You said: "The choice of a demon to possess a man is offensive to God, but the possession is not necessarily (for he casts out demons when he becomes weary of them possessing man). "

I reply: God is offended by all suffering and death. This includes demon possession. He cast them out only through us. If no one prays they will not be cast out.

You said: "If it were an evil of God to strip away the effects of free will,

I reply: Because it would diminish other gifts given to us.

You said: that is, the consequences of sin, e.g. demonic possession, then Jesus would have been committing evil in obstructing the demon’s will to possess a man. But Jesus did cast out a demon."

I reply: The explanation is that God cannot intervene in the world because it would diminish our gifts The demon can have his will but Jesus in acting in a finite capacity can cast out demons with his gifts. The explanation goes as follows:

"In the incarnation, God assumes a created human nature, and acts with finite powers that are proper to man. As a necessary aspect of the incarnation, God begins to act within the world according to the normal and limited sphere of influence that would be given to a human being as part of the created order. We therefore see a singular exception to the prohibition of direct divine intervention in terms of finite affairs.

As true God and true man, Jesus performed miraculous healings and exorcisms within the finite human capacity that was appropriate to him according to created human nature. He healed those who came to him as a sign that he had come to bring justice to the world. He showed, through every action, that suffering and death were enemies to be defeated, and that he has come to bring justice to the world by delivering man from the power of evil.

This power of healing has not left the world.

In remaining consistent with the principle of giving all that can be given, after his ascension, through the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus entrusted his human ministry of healing and deliverance to his Church, most particularly to the apostles and their successors, the bishops. As with any other power given by God, it is truly given, and it is presently in the hands of the Church. If this gift is not taken seriously, then there are consequences for the whole world because of the omission. In the same way that a lack of teaching and preaching has its effect on the world, so it is that a lack of prayer for miraculous healing will cause many people to suffer unnecessarily." New Apologetics

You said: " If Jesus wanted all who were afflicted with demons to be freed, why should he not, then, cast out the demons? Why did he cast it out of some but not others? Does our Lord will good on some and not others? But of course he loves us all, and so leaving some possessed and others freed, he must see some ultimate benefit, that he allows evil to run its course."

I reply: He does want all demons to be cast out. The gifts is in the hands of the Church. Jesus cast out demons from every person he came across. When a demon(s) are not cast out it has to do with how strong the demons are and how many. It also has to do with:

“Because of omissions within the Church (i.e. the sins of Christians), the lives of even those who are obedient to Christ’s call to heal the sick and preach the gospel are reduced in their efficacy because they are not upheld by the gifts of the others who would be acting in conjunction with them throughout the world by lives of prayer and sacrifice. Because of the unity of humanity, when one member of the Church is not living a holy life, all are affected in a negative way correspondingly. As more individuals within the Church begin to live under the power of the Holy Spirit, then the ministries of healing and preaching will begin to reflect the same power of the ministry of Jesus himself.” New Apologetics

You said: Let’s talk about Job. Satan doesn’t go off and harass Job, but God grants him permission and tells him exactly what he may do. God assures us that no temptation will be too great for us. If the free will of man led to consequences for mankind that were beyond the scope of God’s power, then God would not be able to say “no temptation shall be too strong.” For the only reason it is not too strong, is that God prevents it from overwhelming us. When we are tempted, it is his good pleasure, for he sits refining his silver. We are scorched in the furnace until we are perfected. Not a moment too long do we sit in the furnace, but he knows exactly what is best for us

I reply: The bible is progressive revelation. People were gradually coming to know of who God is and he is love. The book of Job is not a literal theological teaching on God. Woe to us if it was!

“God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering… We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 385)

Here is the Catechism:

303 The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God’s absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases."162

311 Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.176 He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:

For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.177

Thus, with the Scriptures, the Saint and the Catechism, I think it is well established that God truly lets “evil” befall us because it is for our own good-- in fact, that if it were not, that he would prevent it, as the last sentence establishes. To say otherwise would mean (I think) that our salvation were conditional upon circumstances-- that is to say, that one person born into an uglier situation would have a harder time of arriving at Heaven because the evil that befell them would have no good fruit in them. If that were so, then some would have a higher chance of being damned just by chance of their births! But our God is not so flippant as to let the free will of men and demons condemn a soul.

(You might ask, why then does Jesus speak so harshly of those who “cause little ones to stumble?” For surely a man cannot damn another man. But this is figurative, I argue. The temptation is God’s prerogative, the little one stumbles himself, and the tempter sins by tempting. The part he played was by God’s design, but the sin was not, and so he is punished. The temptation of the little one is God’s design, but his sin is not, and so likewise is the little one punished for failing.
The chastisement of Jerusalem was God’s plan, but Neb’s sin was not-- yet God used Neb to chastise Jerusalem for its own good.)

Every “evil” that befalls us is a moral test, a good, a refinement that we have the opportunity to (with the grace of the Spirit) take or reject (sin, or at least, neutral action).

If this is suitably established for all of us (and please stop me if it is not), then why does intercession happen? For what can the intercessors intercede? Why did Moses have to intercede for the Israelites? It should seem that God either would or would not punish the Israelites, and either way it would be for their ultimate good-- the intercession of a man does not change reality! What purpose, then, does his intercession serve?

Be it Moses or guardian angels, or Mary-- they intercede on our behalf (this is a fact!). But they cannot change reality, and reality is that the best thing will happen to us (be it ostensibly, to our feeble, short-sighted eyes, good or evil). Right? So what’s going on here?

Powerful arguments, powerful arguments!

You said:
Sin is offensive because it causes suffering and death. God is good and he can only desire which is good for us.

I reply:
I agree with you. Sin does have consequences of sin and death. I was playing fast and loose with words. What I meant was, the material consequences of sin (I punch someone and they are punched) are not offensive to God. The spiritual consequences of being in a state of sin, resulting from my decision or action of punching, are offensive to God. The punch, however, was permitted by God and “For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.177”

Therefore, the material consequence of being punched, that is, the material consequence of evil, shall have good emerge from it, and therefore it is permitted.

You said:
The explanation is that God cannot intervene in the world because it would diminish our gifts The demon can have his will but Jesus in acting in a finite capacity can cast out demons with his gifts.

I reply:
On this I concede.

But I am quite tired now, and have to go to bed. Nevertheless I think perhaps we are on opposite sides (maybe less opposite than we believe but opposite nonetheless) and we will have difficulty convincing the other…

You said: "303 The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God’s absolute sovereignty over the course of events: "Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases."162

I reply: Sovereignty should not be confused with “controlling things”. I will quote the catechism with what you quoted:

" 311 Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil."

You quoted: “He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:”

I reply: Permits it means non-intervention. It does not mean allows or approves of it. I have explained the non-intervention.

You quoted: “or almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.177”

I reply: This is true. He wouldn’t ever allow any evil to exist if he could not bring a greater good. But it is not the same as saying “He permits it to bring a greater good.” The later says the God is not fully opposed to evil and it harmful view to God and us.

Remember that: "The end does not justify the means."1759

“God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering… We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 385)

My, this is getting a little big. There’s too much going on to reasonably look at each and every assertion (some of mine have, no doubt, been a result of moving too fast, and have been erroneously worded, though my intent was not malicious. For example, I do not wish to imply that God wants us to suffer-- he wants us to come to salvation. He would have us come to salvation without suffering, ideally, but with our free will we have frustrated this).

Let’s down-size. All I want to know, is this.

Did God use Nebuchadnezzar as his rod to smash the people of Judah (for their own good)?

Or do you assert, rather, that Nebuchadnezzar smashed the people of Judah and it was not in accord with what God was seeking?
Or is it something else you assert?

I affirm that God, although not wanting the Jewish people to suffer, understood that this was the least way for a suitable chance of salvation to occur. In not punishing them, in “sparing the rod” he would “hate his child” by failing to correct them, and that all of these events were guided by Providence, shrouded in Mystery.

Thank you for your continued presence in this thread. In fact, what you said earlier has actually inspired in me an understanding of the reason for intercession. I’ll maybe have a chance to make a separate thread asking about the orthodoxy of the concept later, but it has to do certainly with God’s desire to have men and women share in his work, his glory, and that he does not do anything that he can have a lesser functionary accomplish for him.

I think that God simply allowed the sinful actions of the Israelites to take their natural course, and relinquished His special protection of the Israelites for a time due to their abandonment of Him. The direct reason why the Israelites were pulled into exile was because their rulers tried to double-cross the Babylonians.

No I do not think you were being malicious. The whole Catholic/Christian world view is under confusion into the nature of God and suffering. The Catholic Church hasn’t diminished the image of God. Many Catholic Apologists do.

The stories in the bible must be interpreted in light of the teaching of the Catholic Church. God is infintely good. He does not will suffering or death on any one.

"These two punishments (eternal and temporal) must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. (1472 CCC)

With that being said God can call his people to fight evil in order to protect others. I haven’t read the biblical passage so I can not really say what is going on. But I can say that a lot of the Old Testaments horrible and hideous acts are attributed to God when it shouldn’t.

Perhaps the quote will help:

"Fundamentalism is right to insist on the divine inspiration of the Bible, the inerrancy of the word of God and other biblical truths included in its five fundamental points. But its way of presenting these truths is rooted in an ideology which is not biblical, whatever the proponents of this approach might say. For it demands an unshakable adherence to rigid doctrinal points of view and imposes, as the only source of teaching for Christian life and salvation, a reading of the Bible which rejects all questioning and any kind of critical research.

The basic problem with fundamentalist interpretation of this kind is that, refusing to take into account the historical character of biblical revelation, it makes itself incapable of accepting the full truth of the incarnation itself. As regards relationships with God, fundamentalism seeks to escape any closeness of the divine and the human. It refuses to admit that the inspired word of God has been expressed in human language and that this word has been expressed, under divine inspiration, by human authors possessed of limited capacities and resources. For this reason, it tends to treat the biblical text as if it had been dictated word for word by the Spirit. It fails to recognize that the word of God has been formulated in language and expression conditioned by various periods. It pays no attention to the literary forms and to the human ways of thinking to be found in the biblical texts, many of which are the result of a process extending over long periods of time and bearing the mark of very diverse historical situations.

Fundamentalism also places undue stress upon the inerrancy of certain details in the biblical texts, especially in what concerns historical events or supposedly scientific truth. It often historicizes material which from the start never claimed to be historical. It considers historical everything that is reported or recounted with verbs in the past tense, failing to take the necessary account of the possibility of symbolic or figurative meaning…

Fundamentalism likewise tends to adopt very narrow points of view. It accepts the literal reality of an ancient, out-of-date cosmology simply because it is found expressed in the Bible; this blocks any dialogue with a broader way of seeing the relationship between culture and faith. Its relying upon a non-critical reading of certain texts of the Bible serves to reinforce political ideas and social attitudes that are marked by prejudices—racism, for example—quite contrary to the Christian Gospel." ewtn.com/library/curia/pbcinter.htm

"the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God: if God’s revelation through creation has already obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word’s manifestation of the Father obtain life for those who see God."139 The ultimate purpose of creation is that God "who is the creator of all things may at last become “all in all”, thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our beatitude."140 (CCC 294)

Thank you both for your contributions in this thread! :thumbsup:

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