Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Understanding Verner's Law

Prof. Richard Nokes of Troy University takes us on an odyssey that is Verner's Law, revealing, of course, that language change is more regular than chaotic. Prof. Nokes links to three simple videos that explain it for us:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A 269 tie - Electoral College Doomsday?

Or so reports Joseph Curl of the Washington Times.
President Obama, with Vice President Palin? President Biden? President Pelosi? Call them the "Doomsday" scenarios -- On Nov. 5, the presidential election winds up in a electoral-college tie, 269-269, the Democrat-controlled House picks Sen. Barack Obama as president, but the Senate, with former Democrat Joe Lieberman voting with Republicans, deadlocks at 50-50, so Vice President Dick Cheney steps in to break the tie to make Republican Sarah Palin his successor.
It seems like every election season, someone brings up all the wild scenarios. Even though the results are sure to be close this time, chances are they won't be too extraordinarily surprising.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hurricane Ike: Physical vs. Moral Evil

From my pastor in this week's parish bulletin:
The last week has been a vivid reminder of the fragility of human life and of our dependence upon the human technology that has made our lives easier and richer. As hurricane Ike plowed through our area, most of us lost power, the ability to communicate through telephone and internet, and wreaked havoc on our property and lives. At the same time, we are conscious of the fact that so many people have suffered far worse than we, losing their homes, livelihoods, and even their lives. We should be grateful that we were spared the brunt of the storm, and we do well to continue to pray for those who still have many months of hardship ahead of them.

We wonder about suffering because we know that God provides for us. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages us to trust in the providential care of God: "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?'... Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well" (Mt. 6:31-33).

Our trust in God, however, does not allay the tension that evil introduces into our understanding of the divine. Catholic theology understands evil in two ways. There is physical evil and there is moral evil. Physical evil refers to the incompleteness of the physical world. In this sense, evil is regarded as a privation or imperfection. The world that God created is not perfect in the sense of being complete.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this imperfection by saying, "with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world 'in a state of journeying' toward its ultimate perfection. In God's plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, [and] both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection" (CCC, no. 310).

In addition to physical evil, there is also moral evil. This category is usually what we refer to when we speak about evil. Moral evil is rooted in the decisions made by free creatures, angels and men.

As creatures made in the image and likeness of God, we have been endowed with an intellect and a will. The intellect is one's capacity to know the good. The will is one's capacity to choose the good. Of course, the opposite is also possible. One can pursue and embrace what is evil.

If the created world is "in a state of journeying," so is the human race. This is expressed in the Catechism: "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 (emphasis added). He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it" (CCC, no. 311).

Could God have created a world without the possibility of moral evil? Yes, but it would be a creation without angels or humanity. Without free will, man would be nothing more than an animal, or worse, like a robot or machine. Without free will, we would also be incapable of good, and would act purely on instinct, as the lower creatures do.

How should we respond to the existence of evil in the world? St. Paul has a remedy. In the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle encourages us: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom 12:21). The existence of evil in the physical world and in the human heart forces us to consider that we cannot be morally neutral. The antidote to evil is our resolve to become saints and to increase the weight of good in the world.


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