Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Satan

David Falkayn explains "Satan" to Chee Lan:

"'The enemy of the divine, the source of evil, in one of our terrestrial religions.'"
-Poul Anderson, David Falkayn: Star Trader (New York, 2010), p. 457.

The Cynthian replies:

"'But any reasonable being can see that the divine itself is - Oh, well, never mind.'" (ibid.)

Why does Chee break off and how would she have continued? Surely she could only have said, "...the divine itself is the source of evil"? And I agree. If the divine is the source of everything other than itself, then it is the source of evil. And, if it is not the source of evil, then it is not the source of everything other than itself. If Satan sinned through pride, then he could have been created without the pride or with enough good motivation and will power to resist any temptation towards pride.

We confidently predict that a good man will perform good actions without believing that his predictability precludes his "free will." Thus, an omnipotent and omniscient creator could have created a host of angelic free agents knowing that none of them would rebel.

13 comments:

  1. Hi, Paul!

    Here you touched on points theologians and philosophers have struggled with for many centuries. As a Catholic my belief is God DID create the angels with all that they needed to know what would be the consequences of the choice they were given: to love God or to hate Him. And that the choice the angels made were done with their complete free will and consent. God is not the creator of evil, but He permitted evil to exist because to do otherwise would infringe on the free will He gave the angels. Their freedom of choice HAD to include the risk of them choosing evil, else it would not truly be free.

    Sean

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  2. Sean,
    I know the free will defense but I think that my point that predictability does not negate freedom remains valid.
    Also, would anyone knowingly jump into a fire or push others into it? Some acts are physically possible but either morally repugnant or clearly against our own interests so we don't do them - if we have full knowledge and good motivations in the first place, thanks to our Creator.
    In haste,
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      Commenting on the first setence of your reply: I agree , with one qualifier, that a good man can be "predicted" as being likely to behave uprightly without that negating his free will. The qualifier being that we cannot absolutely predict how anyone can behave. Some will be good but become bad, others may be bad but repent and turn to the good.

      Also, I think you misunderstand the Catholic teaching about Hell, alluded to with your comment about the "lake of fire." The Church teaches that God does not send people to Hell, rather the damned made an irrevocable choice of their own free will at the moment of death to hate and reject God. All that God does is to regretfully ratify their choice.

      Just to sort of bring this to some kid of connection with the works of Poul Anderson, see what he says about both Heaven and Hell in OPERATION CHAOS. And Purgatory, for that matter!

      Sean

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  3. Sean,
    I am away from home with very limited Internet access so cotact will be sporadic!
    Paul.

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  4. Sean,
    We cannot predict absolutely how someone will behave because we are not omniscient about his psychology, motivations, memories, upbringing, perceptions - all the inputs to his choices and decisions. An omniscient creator not only knows all these factors fully; he even creates them, like whether a man is tempted, whether his will power is strong enough to resist temptation etc.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      I agree that when God created the angels and then the souls of physically incarnate rational beings, He logically knows all that will tempt such beings, and whether they will yield or not to those temptations. I agree that many are troubled by the idea of how such foreknowledge does not contradict or nullify our freedom.

      This might not satisfy you, but I don't think Gpd's foreknowledge cancels free will. An analogy might help: I could come into knowledge of a plot by a gang of thieves to rob a bank--but my foreknowledge of their plans does not mean they are therefore compelled to rob the bank.

      And, as a Catholic, I believe God gives us SUFFICIENT grace, if we listen to the voice of conscience and our knowledge of what is good and bad, to avoid doing evil. If we CHOOSE to do so, of course.

      Sean

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    2. Sean,
      I know that knowledge of an action does not determine the action but I am not arguing from foreknowledge.
      How do we CHOOSE? I believe that every choice is determined by previous events but suppose I am wrong on this. Suppose that I could be exactly the same person in exactly the same circumstances with exactly the same history and yet choose differently. That implies that the choice does not come from within me but is random and therefore has no moral significance.
      If there are multiple timelines, then, in timeline 1, I choose rightly because that is what happens in timeline 1 and, in timeline 2, I choose wrongly because that is what happens in timeline 2. God could have created either timeline.
      Human beings morally judge each other because we want to influence future behavior. An omnipotent creator could have created us as people who would never want to act wrongly any more than a saint feels the slightest inclination to commit murder. I am arguing from God's omnipotence, not from his foreknowledge.
      Paul.

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  5. Sean,
    (I am sending short comments because I have had trouble sending any.)
    My reference to fire was not to Hell. It was an example of something that we CAN do but would NEVER do if we are fully informed and sanely motivated. The fact that a sane, well motivated man with full knowledge of fire would never throw a child into one does not mean that he is an automaton with no free will.
    Paul.

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    1. Hi, Paul!

      Understood, what you meant by "fire." But, my view is that it is possible for a sane man to do bad and abominable things as bad as throwing a child into a fire. Morally, an abortion is no different from that. What is important, of course, is that a person be well motivated and strive to do what is right. No argument there!

      Sean

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  6. Sean,
    It is physically possible for a saintly man to torture a baby but, I would say, morally impossible for him to do it. I have more to say on the subject but am trying to focus on one point at a time.
    Paul.

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  7. Sean,
    Some of the more has got into a reply that I subsequently made to an earlier comment, above.
    Paul.

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  8. And someone who never wants to act wrongly is not an automaton. He retains full freedom of will to do exactly whatever he chooses to do but, because of the kind of person he is, he never chooses evil.

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  9. I am less likely to add new posts during this week away. As a philosopher of religion and a spiritual practitioner (although of meditation, not of worship), I strive for clarity on issues like the Problem of Evil. And such issues arise here because Poul Anderson addresses them.

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