Category Archives: Goodness

On the Fall of Man

Technically, the natural happiness enjoyed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was due to a special protection granted to them by God. They enjoyed immortality of the body, perfect health, and a beautiful environment in which to live.

This protection was God's to give and God's to take away; it was a privilege not a right. It was completely different from the perfect security of happiness of the blessed in heaven.

So, when God cast the first parents out of the Garden, He also lifted this unique grace. It cannot therefore be said that God hurt Adam; He merely withdrew an extraordinary benefit to which Adam had no claim in the first place and put him exactly where he belonged in his as yet unregenerated state -- in the wild.

But other than that, the whole thing was a complete setup! And the way it happened, through Eve and the crafty snake and the apple -- it's the stuff of a sitcom. It's hilarious!

In short, the fall of man is marked by both tragedy and comedy; or more precisely, the angelic fall was a tragedy, and the human fall was a farce.

The Trinity’s Missions

It's useful to grasp that the Holy Spirit mission to the world is uniquely His own. He acts without any "supervision." He is fully God, does everything according to His own counsel, and does nor answer or report to anyone, including the Father or the Son whom He is equally great as.

At the same time, when the Father was creating the world, the Holy Spirit's mission was already taken into account and fully calculated. The persons of the Trinity held a discussion, as it were, and the entire course of divine providence, from the creation of the heavens and the earth to the return of the last saint into heaven, was mapped out in complete detail.

So, God does not make mistakes.

We can see that the divine persons' glory is equal in magnitude but radically different in kind.

The Numbering of the Persons of the Trinity

Let me suggest that the Holy Spirit should properly be considered the 2nd person of the Trinity, and Son, the 3rd.

First, in regard to the relations within the Trinity. The Father's intellect and the possible worlds He knows and contemplates, and His own act of understanding them, are His own nature. His ad extra power to create is His unique characteristic and also entirely His own. But His love needs to proceed outward and cause effects. The Holy Spirit then is both the means by which the Son is begotten, and, since love is a unitive force, and the Father and the Son love each other through the Holy Spirit, what unites them into one God.

The Holy Spirit then is in between Goodness (the Father) and Being (the Son and creation). He proceeds indeed from the Father through the Son. As a result, He is second according to understanding.

St. Thomas provides reasons for the traditional numbering, but I do not like them.

Second, regarding the missions of the persons to the world. The Father created the original world marked by mutual independence of creatures and their natural happiness.

The second creation, consisting in the breaking down of this "aseity" and indifference of creatures to each other, began right after by the Holy Spirit. The aim is to integrate all creatures into one communion through love. And the process started with the fall of the angels, indeed long before the Son was crowned king of this communion. The good angels are now glorified and as full of charity as they'll ever be. The divine grace, which is teaching humans how to love, has been given to us since the beginning of our species. It has intensified since the coming of Christ, but it was not lacking in the world before.

In addition, the world was carefully prepared for the Incarnation of the Son, starting explicitly with Abraham and the nation of Israel. But the Incarnation occurred within known recorded history, a crowning event of the divine plan. It's true that the Son's mission is now complete, while the Holy Spirit's is ongoing; nevertheless, the latter started much earlier. Hence, it makes sense again to consider Jesus the 3rd person.

The Union of Humans with the Material World

I've already mentioned this point, but it bears further stressing.

Love of friendship people feel for each other results in spiritual interpenetration, mutual indwelling; it is ecstatic; it causes the lover to consider the beloved another self, such that he feels his pain and pleasure; he is prepared to work for the beloved's ends as zealously as for his own, not by compulsion but at his own interest.

Love between humans and their material creations is, of course, entirely different, but it's love nonetheless.

So, our end is not to foster charity just between ourselves, such that we will each other's good and succor each other, but also between ourselves and our art -- not just paintings and statues obviously, but airplanes and lawnmowers and computers and factories.

That requires progress in natural sciences, so we understand how to create complex art. We need to develop new tech to enable building it. And we need to become artists -- master studying, designing, and building cool new things and enjoy our work.

We need an economic system that efficiently connects supply and demand, so that the things we create are useful to the entrepreneurs or pleasant to the consumers.

Collectively, all this involves exercising graceful and extensive control over mother nature. Perhaps in 200 years, we'll be able to prevent earthquakes and tsunamis. That would surely be an awesome achievement and glory to the human race. Some unique new problems have now appeared since we've had considerable success at economic improvement, such as space trash and oceans pollution. I am optimistic that we'll make headway in solving them even in the not-too-distant future.

A man who despises nature or matter or practical trades or does not sharpen or enjoy using his skills in the active life does not qualify for the kingdom of heaven.

Fall of the Angels: The Verdict

I judge my first theory to be interesting but probably false, because it's an attempt to make similar the stories of the fall of angels and men.

And angels are so different from humans that the tragic fate of their kind was rather considerably different from the end of human natural happiness.

So, I hereby endorse the more traditional second explanation.

Fall of the Angels, 2

My account may be a tad untraditional. The more standard understanding follows.

The Holy Spirit did not "bite" the angels but simply gave them the constructive grace of charity for human beings. But charity came with a requirement for the angels to serve, to abase themselves in a sense before humans. And some angels refused to serve.

Now to begin with, charity does not impose an obligation. It is a free movement of the will, and working on behalf of a dearly beloved is like working for oneself. It is not a sacrifice; it is not "altruism." All angels were expected to, and the good angels do now, joyfully help upon coming to love. What was there to rebel against? Extra work?

Moreover, the demons did not avoid exertion, anyway. They are hard at work trying to destroy mankind. Why choose destructive work over creative work, if work must be done one way or another?

So it couldn't have been just an issue of "labor," only of serving something lower in dignity. But if all loved humans, what did it matter that they were lower?

Here's the story then. God gives an angel in his natural state some grace. The angel ponders: shall I accept it and love humans? What's the downside? Well, I have to serve humans. If he is bad, he thinks: "No way am I serving these guys. No, I'm not accepting the grace." But choosing to stay indifferent to the human world and in his natural state and fail to love humans does not entail becoming an enemy of mankind.

But then God said: "Hey, I'm incorporating every creature into a single spirit through charity. No one is excepted. You can't refuse the grace." The bad angel is so crazy with pride that he gets mad and says, essentially, "F--- you, God." I still do not see how any punishment to that angel would turn him into an enemy of humans. God's natural response would seem to be (1) never to have made angels so psychologically perverse, or (2) cast out the rebels into some sort of prison. Why sic them onto humans?

Well, the wicked angel is still at this point in the presence of God. So, he says, "You know, what, Father? Those 'humans' I'm supposed to bow to? I'm going to kill all those motherfuckers. Then there'll be no one either to serve or to love. How's that for a response?"

This is still the Father's angel. He created him. The angel has rights. He can do what he wants. Moreover, the Father is goodness which is beyond being. He is an ad extra creative force and Himself not part of the creation. So, it's not His business to "imprison" creatures. But if other angels (and humans) imprison him after perhaps a great battle, then that's just life. So, God says: "Go and do your thing, you little son of a bitch."

Note one uncomfortable thing this means: God created the natural Lucifer already messed up in the head, even though this aberration did not manifest itself until the giving of grace. But so what? "The Lord said to him: Who gives one person speech? Who makes another mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" (Ex 4:11) God creates everything according to His own counsel, and it is a part of faith to trust that it is wise.

On the Fall of the Angels

To continue with the theme, the angels, created in their natural state, even if they for whatever reason decided to cast their gaze on the human world, would look at it with utter indifference.

They had no need of the humans in any capacity. I think they could look past even God the Son, being connected with the Father directly through their essence as intellectual substances and the immense powers of contemplation of their minds.

We might say they -- all angels, Lucifer included -- were created in their own celestial Garden of Eden, in the state of considerable natural happiness.

That was not part of the plan. So the Holy Spirit bit them, my guess, by deliberately darkening their intellects. He said to the angels: "Now you are weak; so look down upon the earth and the humans upon it. Fall in love with them and serve them as a sign of your love until the happy end for their world. Then your powers will be restored; nay, you will be glorified and exalted 100-fold above your natural capacities."

It may be that the angels grieved of their wound, but finding us as badly off, were moved by sympathy with us and came to think of us as brothers.

But with the creation of the potency to love among the angels came the potency to hate. Some angels rebelled against the Holy Spirit's painful grace and, as I mention below, decided to try to destroy mankind so that there would be nothing for them to love in the first place, and the divine plan would thereby unravel with unknown consequences.

That, too, however, was foreseen and provided for.

St. Thomas taught that the angels' one action of choosing to obey or disobey sealed their entire fate and immediately confirmed them either in goodness or evil. There is no going back for any of them. Christ did not die for the angels. On the one hand, this would then make withholding glory from them pointless. On the other hand, their service to mankind is not yet finished. I think, therefore, that they are glorified and so are equal to or greater than the human saints in heaven, but serve more through charity than obligation.

The Two Temptations of Jesus

We read that Jesus was tempted by by the devil in Mt 4. What's remarkable about this episode is that it is clear that Jesus aced the test. Moreover, He defeated the devil simply as a man, through merely human righteousness; thus, St. Thomas writes: "And Christ resisted these temptations by quoting the authority of the Law, not by enforcing His power, 'so as to give more honor to His human nature and a greater punishment to His adversary, since the foe of the human race was vanquished, not as by God, but as by man'." (ST, III, 41, 4)

So that was peanuts for Jesus. But His passion was a different thing entirely. We can get an idea of His anguish from the agony in the garden: "After withdrawing about a stone's throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, 'Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.' [And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.]" (Lk 22:41-44)

There is no mention of such intensity of feeling or spiritual perilousness of the situation regarding the devil's temptation.

Again, St. Thomas writes that during His passion Christ endured practically all manner of suffering, and the "pain of Christ's passion was greater than all other pains." (ST, III, 46, 5/6) That was now not the devil's intent but the Father's. What the Father wanted was to tempt Jesus with hating mankind. He did all He could to provoke in His Son the feelings of rage, contempt, and hatred for men for the monstrous crime they were committing against Him. This time, the temptation was not addressed to the man Jesus but explicitly to Him as God. It was the temptation of infinite and perfect God the Son. There was no "quoting the authority of the Law" this time to breezily dispose of the matter.

Yet there is no sign whatsoever that the Son ever fell prey to this temptation. His last words to the thief were, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." That is the glory that now belongs to the Son as distinct from the glory of the other two persons of the Trinity: that He loved us despite the horror of our sin against Him personally (as now the vine) then and sins we presently commit against each other (as now the branches).

The Stages of Creation

Tentatively, there are 8 steps in the unfolding of creation:

  1. The original creation;
  2. Uplifting of the Son's intellect;
  3. Partial destruction -- the Holy Spirit's giving His tricky grace; the fall of angels and men;
  4. Uplifting of the Son's will;
  5. Election of Israel;
  6. Incarnation -- uplifting of the Son's power;
  7. Sanctification of the sinners -- the Holy Spirit knitting all rational creatures into a vine-and-branches;
  8. Entrance to glory and life everlasting for humans.

God the Son is the best possible being before (7); the Son + the world is the best possible state of affairs until (3); the Son, good angels, and human saints united through holy charity will be the still better possible both being and state of affairs upon (8).

Note that (2) does not require that the entirety of the Father's knowledge of the actual world be revealed to the Son. Thereby passages like

"If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." (Jn 14:28);

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Mt 24:36);

"Why do you call me good? No one is good -- except God alone." (Lk 18:19) are explained.

Jesus marvels at the faith of the centurion, is "deeply moved" at Mary's grief, and weeps at Lazarus's death. At least some of the events of His life may have come to Him as a surprise.

At the same time, Jesus knew secrets thoughts and predicted numerous things that came true. But He obtained some of the empirical knowledge during the Incarnation, not before.

Whether God Can Do Evil?

The previous note regarded creation; this one regards providence.

First of all, the answer depends on which end regarding the universe God seeks to attain. He might be aiming to maximize the number of saints, or minimize the number of the damned, or maximize glory in heaven, or cultivate the greatest amount of charitable feelings, or whatever. Having adopted a goal like this, can God deviate from his own plan?

It is clear that God is not so irrational as to change His mind in the middle of production. Nor can He, anyway, because He is eternal and fixes the providential plan once before creating and for all. His plan influenced precisely which possible world was to be actualized. So, the answer is no, God cannot out of some crazy whim ruin His own grand design.

But a second question may arise, namely, whether God can adopt an en evil end. Yes on the 1st level: God is free to do evil: He is unconstrained, for example, by any moral duty or external law.

Mark Twain is said to have remarked: "George Washington could not tell a lie. I can tell a lie but won't." This means that in any circumstances, Mark Twain, though staying free to lie, would prefer not to. But that need not be so for God. So, yes on the 2nd level: God has the power to do evil; doing evil will not make God any less happy than He is.

On these 2 levels, then, God can be a total psycho. He can throw everyone into hell right now and make a huge feast for the devil and his angels.

But not on the 3rd level: God's goodness will not permit it. God is not good because He does good things, though His doing good things is evidence to us of His nature; God does good because He is goodness. His creative self-expression includes our own salvation.

Why Is God Goodness?

For 3 reasons. First, on the part of the first cause: creation does not spring from any shameful defect in God, such as a potency that would be actualized through the world or dissatisfaction which the world would help alleviate.

Second, on the part of the effect: while God may be a some kind of utilitarian who creates happiness-for-humans, His main task is rather to create humans-who-seek-happiness and do so ex nihilo. Surely, it is good for the universe to be.

Third, on the part of the mode of causation, viz., self-diffusion of divinity. This is a sort of artistic creative self-expression of God that is neither physical nor teleological. God is Light that would burst Him asunder, if He were not infinite. This Light's impulsion is to create.

Levels and Simplicity

Again, the simplicity of the 1st level of God means that God is not composed of material parts that interact according to some law of nature that defines and conditions God. God is not a body, nor is composed of matter and form.

The simplicity of the 2nd-level God the Son I describe in (the admittedly flawed) Understanding the Blessed Trinity:

God's essence as a thinking being is manifested in God's having thoughts. What are the thoughts about? Himself. God comprehends Himself in a single self-image or self-conception.

But comprehending oneself which in this case is holding of one's image in one's mind is owning oneself which pertains to power. (God's power to create the world is due to His 3rd level of goodness.)

Further, since God's happiness lies not in anything outside God but rather within Himself (such that the Son suffices Himself), for God, again, love of concupiscence is the same as love of self. In keeping Himself in His mind, God ipso facto unites Himself and His understanding of Himself. But love is the only 2nd-level unitive force. Hence, God to His thought is as lover to the beloved. Insofar as God loves the thing He owns, He loves and enjoys Himself.

We see that the act of God's intellect, the act of His power, and act of His will are one and the same thing, namely, God's conceiving and contemplating Himself. Consequently, the distinction between the three faculties is illusory. God is one (and so is a simple pure act) and supremely so.

In addition, the Son is not a union of past, present, and future life but lives in eternity -- a simultaneously-whole and perfect possession of interminable life.

Further aspects of simplicity are described by St. Thomas in (ST, I, 3), where he argues that God is not composed of (1) essence and concrete object, (2) essence and existence, (3) genus and difference, or (4) subject and accident.

(1) The abstract essence known by the Father and the Son's suppositum are one.

(2) The procession of the Son from the Father is essential to God. It is the nature of the Father to beget the Son.

(3) The Son is not composed of any relevant property he shares with another thing + another property by which He is different from it.

Thus, "God is not related to creatures as though belonging to a different 'genus,' but as transcending every 'genus,' and as the principle of all 'genera'." (ST, I, 4, 3, reply 2)

(4) Every divine property is essential to God. If God is essentially omniscient, then He would cease to exist entirely, if omniscience were somehow taken away from Him. Conversely, if God ceased to exist, then omniscience could not be predicated of anything else.

It may be that all 4 of these dualities apply to all 3 levels, but not in the same way. For example, the Father's essence is His existence in one sense. The Son is also a union of essence and existence but for a different reason, viz., if these were separate in the Son, then they could be cleaved from each other, and so it would be possible to kill the Son. But this danger would interfere with His perfect happiness which is unfitting. Even the 1st level may feature the identity of essence and existence, lest it ceases to be pure act.

Levels and Via Negativa

Anything asserted positively about level N in God is asserted negatively about level N + 1.

For example, God is pure act on the 1st level, simple and free. But about the 2nd-level Son we need to say that He is not composed of material parts or limited in the pursuit of His own happiness by any external impediment, constraint, or law.

Again, the 2nd-level Son lives in eternity; the 3rd-level Father is not such as to proceed from the past through the present into the future.

Or: the Son is happy; it is not the case that the Father is unhappy.

This is because the glory of level N is completely overshadowed by the glory of level N + 1, and we want to draw attention away from the lower things when focusing on the higher.

The Names of God

St. Thomas proposes the following caveat:

Although it may be admitted that creatures are in some sort like God, it must nowise be admitted that God is like creatures; because...

"A mutual likeness may be found between things of the same order, but not between a cause and that which is caused."

For, we say that a statue is like a man, but not conversely; so also a creature can be spoken of as in some sort like God; but not that God is like a creature. (ST, I, 4, 3, reply 4)

The likeness of a creature and God simply means that a proposition that is true of a creature is also true, though not necessarily univocally, of God. The reason for the rider and to deny that God is like any creature is that God transcends creatures.

For example, God the Son has an essence, and a man has an essence; God exists, and so does the man. But only for God is His essence identical to His existence.

God the Father knows possible worlds, and so do humans; God can create a world, and humans can shape matter into art. But God knows all possibilities, and for Him what is possible is conceivable, and vice versa; and only God can create ex nihilo.

We can see that the purpose of naming God "analogically" as "a mean between pure equivocation and simple univocation" is to describe both how God is like creatures, and how He differs from them by some spectacular excellence in degree or in kind.

Levels and Time

I have written:

Experience teaches that our lives are fragmented into four parts: the past, the present, the future, and timelessness, such as enjoyed by abstracta like "2 + 2 = 4." Our past is gone, our future is not yet, timelessness is accessed only when we do math or philosophy (with propositions apparently outlasting our own lives), and our present is fleeting and evanescent.

Far be it from God to suffer from so many imperfections. But He neither abolishes time nor keeps it unchanged but rather transcends and perfects it. For God those 4 time periods are folded up, unified as if in a package and present themselves as single eternal Moment of boiling divine life.

It cannot be doubted that such a life is superior in intensity, poignancy, and happiness it can generate to our human experience.

Now that we have sorted out our levels, we must distinguish between the timelessness of the Father and the eternity of the Son. The latter does not include timelessness but is a roll-up of just 3 out of 4 aspects of time: past, present, and future.

The Father is entirely outside of time; the Son is in time perfected.

Goodness and St. Thomas

I have maintained that God on His 3rd level is goodness who communicates being. But St. Thomas seems to object to that characterization as follows: "For He is assuredly the cause of bodies in the same way as He is the cause of good things; therefore if the words 'God is good,' signified no more than, 'God is the cause of good things,' it might in like manner be said that God is a body, inasmuch as He is the cause of bodies." (ST, I, 13, 2)

Well, God (the Father) is not the "cause of good things"; He is the Knower of essences and Infuser of being. In combining essence and existence, He is Begetter of the Son (in whom essence and existence are one) and Creator of all other things.

The things God creates are good only insofar as they enjoy existing and agree to stay in existence. Things are metaphysically good as secondary causes; God is goodness as first cause.

St. Thomas' third objection is that "this is against the intention of those who speak of God. For in saying that God lives, they assuredly mean more than to say the He is the cause of our life, or that He differs from inanimate bodies."

We call God Goodness to differentiate it from Being which He creates in order to express Himself. No being including the Son, but only the Father, has the power to create ex nihilo. The Father's goodness diffuses itself into Others; once brought into being, those Others, again including the Son, pursue only their own personal projects. It is the most fundamental way in which God is different from creatures.

To say that God lives, on the contrary, is to liken Him to creatures.

Both ways of describing God, namely what the study of creatures reveals about Him, and how He transcends creatures, are valid and indispensable.

The Divine Levels Again

The main property of the 1st level, "matter," is pure actuality, and especially simplicity and freedom.

The main property of the 2nd level, "spirit" is perfect and unlimited happiness.

But that includes virtually pure actuality. For if God the Son is perfect, then included in the meaning of perfection is complete safety from losing any perfections or the happiness stemming from them. The Son is pure act, because there is no potency in Him toward either greater or lesser happiness, knowledge, or anything else predicated of Him.

But not vice versa: perfection is a value judgment; pure actuality is entirely descriptive. So, a thing may have no potential for change yet still be imperfect.

The main property of the 3rd level, "goodness," is unconstrained creative power.

That again includes virtually both complete happiness and pure actuality. Suppose that God was not completely happy and created because, for example, He wanted company. Then it would no longer be true that God "wills nothing except by reason of its goodness." (ST, I, 19, 2, reply 3) He would have created because of the utility to Him of the creation which would be good as a means to the satisfaction of God's "selfish" ends. In other words, there would be an evil in God which the creation would help remedy; and therefore, the creation would spring from something evil rather than from something good.

But again, not vice versa: thus, God the Son is maximally happy in Himself but has no creative powers and so is not good like the Father.

The One God

It's important to grasp that the Father as Creator and Goodness on the 3rd level + the Son as the perfect and maximally happy Spirit on the second + what we call God's pure actuality, simplicity of Matter, and efficient freedom on the first is one God.

Just as a human being is a machine-like spirit who features both level 2 and level 1 united into a single creature, so God by His nature consists of all 3 levels.

While distinguishing the persons of the Trinity, we must not overlook God's complete unity.

Therefore, any assertion like "the Father on the 3rd level is not related to time at all" must be coupled with the understanding that the 2nd-level Son -- and hence God as a "whole" -- lives in eternity. Pure actuality might not be predicted of the 2nd-level Son; but God is exactly that, because He still comes complete with a spectacular 1st level.

Again, the Son's integrity and fusion of the intellect, will, and power is a separate unity that the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is precisely my previous conflation of the two that introduced a defect into my system which has now been fixed.

The Equality of God the Father and the Son

Regarding knowledge, the Father knows all possible things / worlds directly as abstracta; the Son knows them through His real self.

Regarding power, the Father has the ad extra power to beget the Son; the Son has the ad intra power to persevere in His perfect nature.

Regarding love, this is easy: the Father loves the Son as His most complete self-expression; the Son loves Himself by willing happiness to Himself.

Garden of Eden Revisited

As per the understanding below, how was the human nature injured by the Holy Spirit in the Garden of Eden, and how did that injury conduce to charity?

Adam and Even essentially traded innocence for wisdom. Without wisdom, the natural happiness afforded to them in the Garden was sufficient and fitting for them. But it was small happiness. I restate my opinion that in the Garden, Adam and Eve were "little more than zombies."

Upon obtaining wisdom, humans became insatiable in their desires. We no longer want just the amenities of the Garden. We want everything -- let's borrow a clue from St. Thomas and call it the "sole contemplation of God seen in His essence," such that "the blessed... see Him, and in seeing Him, possess Him as present, having the power to see Him always; and possessing Him, they enjoy Him as the ultimate fulfillment of desire."

Upon the concomitant loss of innocence and withdrawal of divine favor, we also came to suffer a great deal. We feel sorrow and pain that demand to be alleviated.

Thus, we now both suffer positively and are deprived of pleasure negatively. These provide the materials for interpersonal charity which is our willing good to each other: Smith could succor Jones either by relieving his suffering or by providing pleasure.