Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 1:
We have already seen that there is a God. Inability to comprehend every detail in the universe does not prove that there is no God, but merely the limited capacity of the finite human mind. However, the human mind can propose certain principles which go a long way towards the removal of difficulties.Firstly, evil is really the negation or privation of good, and if there is evil in the world, there is also much good which can be accounted for only by the existence of God.Secondly, the fluctuations of this mutable life cannot affect God's existence. I mean that you cannot have God when things seem to be all right, and annihilate Him when things seem to go wrong. If God exists before things go wrong, He still exists despite the unhappiness of an individual. And note that word individual. Viewing the race as a whole, we find that life is a mixture of comfortable and uncomfortable things. When we are happy, others are suffering. When we are suffering, others are happy. And we cannot say that God is existing for the happy ones, and simultaneously not existing for the unhappy ones. We must not take local and individual views only, but a universal outlook.Thirdly, and particularly as regards the uneven distribution of this world's goods with consequent starvation for some, God's providence has not failed. Man's administration is at fault. Whilst individuals suffer want, we know that the world has produced enough wheat, fruit, meat, and wool to feed and clothe everyone. God has not failed to provide enough to fill every mouth. But He has given this world over to the administration of men, and it is their bad management they must correct rather than blame God. At least their incapable administration should teach them the saving grace of humility.
A satisfactory explanation could scarcely be given, were this life all. But it is not. God permits these things only because He knows that there is a future life where He will rectify and compensate all inequalities. In the meantime He draws good out of these miseries, for they teach men not to set their hopes entirely upon this world as if there were no other, and help to expiate the sins of mankind. If we cannot be entirely happy here, let us at least make sure of being happy in the next life.
If He were not almighty there would be no volcanoes to erupt, and no human beings to be injured or killed. These physical events happen according to natural laws established by God, with the operations of which He is not obliged to interfere because the finite minds of men are surprised by them. Nor does the death of such people terminate their real existence. The transition from earthly conditions to our future state is as normal as the transition from infancy to adolescence. Death is a natural law for all, and God permits it to come in various ways to various people.
Because God is Love, He asks the freely given love of man, and not a compelled love. Because He is just, He will not deprive man of the free will which is in accordance with his rational nature. Nor is this against the omnipotence of God, for even His power does not extend to contradictory things. Man cannot be free to love and serve God, without being free to reject Him and rebel against Him. We cannot have it both ways. Even God, if He wants men to be free, cannot take from them the power to choose evil. If He enforces goodness, He takes away freedom. If He leaves freedom, He must permit evil, even though He forbids it. It is man's dignity that he is master of his own destiny instead of having to develop just like a tree which necessarily obeys natural law. Men, as a matter of fact, misused their freedom, and sin and brutality resulted. But it was impossible to give man the gift of freedom and the dignity of being master of his own destiny without risking the permission of such failures.
Being all-powerful, there is no reason why He ought to do our bidding as if we were all-powerful.Being just, He is not going to give us a tin trumpet and let us think that to be our real good when it is not.Being loving, He will not usually allow man to have those riches which may cause difficulties in the way of salvation. I do not want Him to say to me, "Amen, I say to you, you have had your reward." We are Christians, and Christians are disciples of a crucified Master. We have no right to complain if we also must tread the path of suffering.
God is certainly good, and if He permits evil of any kind it is only because He knows that He can draw greater good from it in the end. The human race misused its freedom, abandoned God, and found not happiness but misery. It is good to be just, and God's justice permitted this misery. Also, in His wisdom, He may permit a child to be born deformed who with health and strength would fling itself into pleasures which would end in eternal loss. Again, an imbecile is incapable of sin, and it would often seem to us a mercy had some apparently sane people been born imbeciles. Poor people, whether mentally or bodily deformed, do not spend the whole of their lives in misery and suffering. We must not judge them by our own experiences. Likewise, we must remember that what we call "the whole of their lives" is not confined to this earth. There is a continuance of existence in eternity, where all will be rectified.We might say, "If God be good, why did He allow His Son to go through excruciating torture?" Sin is the real evil, not suffering. Christ found happiness in proving His love by suffering, a greater good than mere health. And the miseries of this world have driven thousands to God who would have been self-sufficient and independent only for the naturally insoluble problem of suffering. If only for this reason we can discern an indication of God's goodness in it.
We must disinguish between God's positive will, and His permissive will. He positively wills all the good that happens. Suffering He permits to occur, and this only when he foresees that good can result from it. He positively wills that I should be holy. If He foresees that I will make use of good health to sin and to lose my soul, He may mercifully permit my health to be ruined, and thus lead me to Him where He would otherwise lose me. There would have been no diseases had men not sinned. God did not will sin, but having made men free, He permitted it and its consequences. This permission was a less serious thing than would have been the depriving us of our freedom.
God has permitted it, but it has come about firstly, by mistaken conduct, with all good will, on the part of man; secondly, by faults both on the side of some capitalists and of some workers; thirdly, through mere force of circumstances. It is not against God's positive will to try to remedy these things. But, meantime, the present state of affairs would not exist, were it not for His permissive will.
Everything is not hard. Some things are. The things that are difficult are made easier by the grace of which so many people deliberately deprive themselves. All difficulty cannot be removed, for God has a right to ask us to overcome at personal cost our self-inflicted bad habits, sins, and other injuries. Men's complaints are often about as reasonable as those of a man who cuts his throat, and then blames the doctor because it hurts to have it stitched up again.
There has been a succession of world depressions and world recoveries through history. In any case temporal trials do not mean that life is becoming worse. It may be a means of great good. It is easy to follow all our lower instincts; difficult to battle against them. If your policy is to do only that which is easy and pleasant in life, you will never be much of a man. Christ came to make men better, and offers His grace and assistance whenever virtue demands what is difficult and painful to our lower nature and sensitiveness. He offers His special grace to those who have the good sense to pray for it.
This is not always the case. However, when this does occur, it is not difficult to understand. The godless do not deserve to be invited to share with Christ in a life of suffering. Also, all men do some good in life sometimes. No one is entirely evil. God's justice rewards natural good, therefore, by natural prosperity, and that may be all that such men will receive. "You have had the reward of such good as you did," may be said at their judgment, "and now answer for the evil of your irreligious lives." On the other hand, those who love God are not given worthless and perishable rewards, but will receive a full return of supernatural happiness, the only kind that really matters. If Christ promised us happiness in this world, then let us murmur when we see the infidel prosper. But what did He promise? He promised what He Himself received, suffering here, and happiness hereafter. The disciple is not above his Master.
That is so. These things are facts, and no problem can be fully solved except in the light of all the facts. I am quite prepared to justify these facts. Meantime, without them, no reasonable solution of the problems of God's providence can be found at all; with them, the solution, even though inadequate, is at least rational and intelligible. The world with its miseries may be a problem difficult to reconcile with the existence of God; but that same world without God is a far greater problem, leaving exactly the same miseries to be endured in hopeless despair. Christianity does not deny the existence of suffering, but it can give happiness in the midst of suffering, and this practical solution is the true solution God gives to men of good will.