“The Goodness and Humanity of God” | Crisis Magazine

The sub-title of J. Budziszewski’s 2009 book, The Line Through the Heart, reads as follows: “Natural Law as Fact, Theory, and Sign of Contradiction.” The initial dedicatory citation in the book, from which the book derives its title, is a memorable one from Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It reads: “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” Needless to say, this sentence is soul-wrenching. It compels us all to stop blaming external causes and systems for the conditions of our souls and of our society. This insight is but a graphic adaption of Plato’s affirmation that the disorders of our polities are first found in the disorders of our own souls. These disorders are not our subjective “feelings” about what ought to be if we were given what we wanted but standards first found in the reality of things that remain valid and have their defined consequences whether we ignore them or not.

What particularly struck me in reading Budziszewski’s book, however, was his attention to natural law as itself a sign of contradiction. He went into what has always been a murky moral area, namely, why is it so difficult to recognize and act on the truth of things? We might, at first sight, think that it is a rather simple problem. Show me the truth and I will change my ways! But it does not really work that way. One might say that our public order is today a massive refusal to accept the truth of human nature itself. We ultimately are forced to justify this doing what we want by denying that there is a human nature to conform ourselves to.

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We Live in a Moral Universe

Galaxies are so large that stars can be consid...

We live in a moral universe. It is a universe that has choices and values from which we can choose; e.g. love over hatred, obedience over tyranny, or right over wrong. Within this framework our Creator has endowed mankind with freewill in order that he might exercise this freedom rightly and choose the good while rejecting the evil, thereby cooperating with Christ in the salvation of his own soul. This freedom is essential to our faith and without it we would be no different from the beasts or worse yet, relegated to an existence of complete and forced servitude. Suffering and death are necessary in such a universe. For without them, our choices would have no meaning or consequence; Evil would reign eternal with the Good and neither would have more relevance or worth than the other.

Freedom is not, as many are given to believe these days, the right to do whatever we want. It is the right to choose correctly, that which is in accord with our moral standard, which is God Himself. To make ourselves the standard by which we live is to have a fool for a king. It is precisely this type of moral freedom, which is largely responsible for this age of existential tolerance; a philosophy that says we must live in accord with our own individual moral code. We might call it the “I’ve got to be me” or the “I’m OK, you’re OK” syndrome.

God is not the god of tolerance. He is the God of Love. He does not merely tolerate people, but loves, even to His brutal death on the cross, all the human souls that He has created. Pray tell what can be more precious in this universe than our human souls?  It is the only thing for which God has deemed important enough to live, suffer and die while clothed beneath His veil of human flesh. Likewise, the primary mission of His Church is precisely the same – the salvation of souls.

It is true that God bears our faults and that we should do the same for our neighbor; for we should imitate God’s zeal for the salvation of souls; for one another’s and especially our own. The sinner must always be loved but the sin must never be accorded tolerance. Do I want my sins tolerated? Or worse yet, do I want to be tolerated? The answer in both cases is no. I want to be loved by God – and by the testimony of our Lord and His Church this desire is assured. By our reciprocal love of God and obedience to faith, our salvation is promised.

Thereby we love the sinner and hate the sin. We recognize that there is good and evil in the world and exercise our freedom to choose the moral over the amoral. We strive to live according to the objective standard, the same standard of our universe, which bears our Creator’s mark. For our Creator is a moral God and His Creation is marked with no less than His indelible seal. There is objective Truth and an objective Morality. We have the freedom to pursue our eternal happiness, which is the sure consequence of our abandonment to God’s Will and our persistent love of Him. For to love His Standard is to love Him who created the universe and all the souls for which He died in order that we might live. Thank the Lord, that God is not a tyrant but a loving Father to whom we owe loving obedience. Praise Him Who loved us first and will not abandon us to our dark desires but bears with us in love that we might freely choose only Him. Thank God for giving us the honor and dignity of living in a moral universe.

Politics and Religion

The old wisdom repeated since I was a youngster was that if you wanted to keep a friend avoid speaking about politics or religion. As I grow older I can see the reason for such a guideline having experienced the loss of friends precisely for expressing my opinion within both of these forbidden arenas.

The loss of these “friends” led me to delve a bit deeper into my examination of why this is true. There are people who will only speak of politics or religion if it agrees with their opinion.  Yet they have no interest in arguing their point of view with an adversary – especially with a well-informed opponent. The controversy is never an endeavor to realize or confirm a truth (as those days are long gone). These arguments are more likely to arouse emotional rebuttals (usually name calling and slander) and do not spur any intellectual curiosity to explore, in depth, the finer points of a well reasoned argument. Therefore, truth is neither the prize to be won nor the motive of these emotionally entrenched individuals even if their positions are proved to be patently false by incontrovertible fact. The only goal and purpose of these individuals is to protect their “personal subjective truth” at all costs: usually a loss of friendship or outbursts of indignity. It seems that objective truth causes great pain and suffering to those who hold to their infallible belief that things are exactly as they wish.

There was a time, not so very long ago as human history goes, that men were eager to search for truth wherever they could find it. Great arguments from worthy foes were waged in newspapers or in public discourses that generally ended with a single victor while the most honest of the vanquished would tip their hat to the victor and readjust their thinking to coincide with provable fact and logic. What a loss it is that we no longer are eager to know the truth nor understand the practice of reason or logic. Converts were made from these debates to religion or to a political party or personage solely from the strength of the arguments.

The idea that there are alternative truths, one for each of us, was promoted in books and

Cover of "I'm OK, You're OK"

songs during the 60’s: I’m OK, You’re OK, Thomas A. Harris, MD (1967), “Your right from your side and I’m right from mine” stanza from Bob Dylan’s song One Too Many Mornings (1964). This idea might be thought of as complete anarchy from truth or the affirmation of Pilate’s derision of Christ with his eternally remembered quote: What is truth? __ Jn 18:38. So it seems that the general thinking might be summed up by, what is true for you is not necessarily true for me.

The same can be said of morality: What is wrong for you is not necessarily wrong for me. In this instance, the best way to avoid an attack of conscience is to hold to a self-imposed ethic that my sins are not sin at all. In this way if you are guilty of murder, you might just rationalize that murder is not a sin, absolving yourself of all guilt. The same could be said of any of the moral issues that confront us on a daily basis. Simply “self-rationalize” your behavior to adhere to some arbitrary subjective set of ethics and sin will no longer be sin. You may then live satisfactorily finding peace, joy and happiness in this life.

This is the reason why politics and religion are inextricably linked: in the end, both are concerned with moral values and judgments. There is no argument from me that we each view things from a perspective that is individually shaped by our lives our families and our intellectual talents. It is for that reason, religiously speaking, that our eating of the tree of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ was a disastrous thing. It gave each of us the freedom to decide what is good and what is evil.

Why is this a disaster you ask? Because we have lost the ability to see that there is an

Good and Evil

objective good and an objective evil from an unbiased perspective. This objective Truth can only be claimed by the source of all things: the living God. Our only redemption from this fall seems to be our complete submission to Truth Himself, Jesus Christ, conforming our will and conscience to His. Without this compliance, we are ceaselessly lost, forever divided and our relationships become fractured: nation against nation and man against man. We will never see the Truth on our own: He had to bring Truth to us lest we would be our own gods: Behold Adam is become as one of us, knowing good and evil __ Gen 3:22. It is the reason that we were forced from Paradise.

Indeed many of us have acted as though we are the Trinitarian God and have usurped the right to declare ourselves worthy and to label our fellow citizens as evil. Yet our Lord spoke to us affirming our wickedness: O generation of vipers, how can you speak good things, whereas you are evil? A good man out of a good treasure bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of an evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. __ Mt 12:34-37. We gained our treasure of knowledge of good and evil illicitly, having stolen what was forbidden for us. So our treasure is evil treasure. Now it is up to us to give this treasure back and make amends by putting ourselves under the guidance and obedience of the Real Good and the Real Good will give us a treasure that is truly good.

Since every idle word has eternal consequence, how can any of us live a life free from the guilt that our slightest imperfections might have caused? Indeed, irreparable harm is wielded upon all of God’s creation lest our loving Creator both forgives and repairs these mistakes: and it is precisely this gift that our Lord has promised (i.e. Rev 7:17). Therefore it is imperative that we surrender to Divine Providence and make ourselves slaves to the Truth; being obedient to everything that we are commanded. Such obedience requires us to teach his gospel (good news), whether in season (fashion) or out of season (fashion) __ 2 Tim 4:2, subjecting our self-counsel to the counsel of Him and to those whom He placed over us. A world so conformed to His Majesty is far from us but, no matter, we are commanded to fight the good fight if we would be counted among His brethren.

It seems that those who would not enter the arena of this eternal spiritual struggle are not willing to take a moral stand that is beyond the wisdom of this world. As such they are uneasy to speak of morality and uncomfortable in their defense of political or religious matters of grave moral consequence. Unwittingly, many think that they might be able to hide behind the quite transparent veil called separation of Church and state. Like an ostrich that hides his head in the dirt he exposes his derriere for the whole world to see.