Accepting all from the Hand of God

creationhand“All the sufferings, all the humiliations and annoyances that may come upon you, come from the hand of your Father who knows what is most expedient for you. He knows by what road, by what winding paths, He will bring you to beatitude; He knows the form and the measure of your predestination.

Do not then let us be afraid of the sufferings, humiliations, temptations and desolation so that come upon us; let us try to “support God”: that is to say, to accept everything, absolutely everything, that He would have you accept.

The Father is the vinedresser who purges the vine, says Christ Himself, so that it may bring forth more fruit. He wishes to enlarge our capacity; He wishes to sound the depth of our weakness, our insufficiency, so that convinced of our powerlessness to pray, do work, or to advance, we may place all our trust in Him. Only let us remain docile, generous, and faithful. The hour will come when having emptied ourselves of ourselves, God will fill us with His own fullness.” 

Meditation by Blessed Columba Marmion

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48 Responses to Accepting all from the Hand of God

  1. Robert says:

    Accepting the Holy Will of God is one thing, but we have Free Will in other words never use predestination to justify Sin. WE must never accept Sin. Poor sinners yes BUT SIN NO.

    The Garabandal vision was Our Lady Of Mount Carmel on Nov 13 1965, Nov 13 2015 (fifty years). The story of the first Atomic explosion was 17th July 1945. The end of World War II in Asia occurred on 14 and 15 August 1945, when armed forces of Japan surrendered to the forces of the Allied Powers. The last vision at Lourdes was July 16 1858.
    The St John The Baptist (the spirit of Elias as acknowledged by Our Lord) and the Visitation. Consider that St John The Baptist (spirit of Elias) Carmel is Elis order.

  2. Plain old Toad says:

    “The Garabandal vision was Our Lady Of Mount Carmel on Nov 13 1965, Nov 13 2015 (fifty years). The story of the first Atomic explosion was 17th July 1945. The end of World War II in Asia occurred on 14 and 15 August 1945, when armed forces of Japan surrendered to the forces of the Allied Powers.”
    …yes, and Secretariat won the Belmont on June 9 1973, by a record-breaking distance in a record time. That significant fact seems to have slipped through your bizarre numerological net, Roberg.

  3. Plain old Toad says:

    “All the sufferings, all the humiliations and annoyances that may come upon you, come from the hand of your Father who knows what is most expedient for you.”

    …In other words, if Isis come to cut your head off – let them.

  4. Toad says:

    No, but seriously – the sentiments here (or so it seems to me) are utterly pernicious.
    The writer clearly states that a God, reputed to be loving, daily inflicts endless misery on humans apparently on whim or caprice.
    “All the sufferings, all the humiliations and annoyances that may come upon you, come from the hand of your Father.”
    Surely this can’t be true? Is this how any father ought to behave? If it is so, should we interfere as we do? Is it sinful to do what we can to alleviate God-given pain, as Burro does? I try to keep my family, my animals, and everyone I know,, as pain and humiliation-free as possible.
    Or have I got it wrong, as usual?

  5. Tom Fisher says:

    The writer clearly states that a God, reputed to be loving, daily inflicts endless misery on humans apparently on whim or caprice

    Well, we know that the world is full of endless suffering, and shows no sign of being either cruel or compassionate — we find ourselves in a world that appears utterly indifferent to us. So if there is an all loving god, God is mysterious. If there isn’t — the theology is simpler, but the consequences may be less palatable. Take your choice and your lumps Toad🙂

  6. Michael says:

    I think the two key phrases here are that all sufferings (as well as everything else, ultimately, whether we invoke secondary causation or not) come from the hand of God ‘who knows what is most expedient for you‘ and that He does so to ‘bring forth more fruit, or as the meditation goes on to say, to ‘to enlarge our capacity‘.

    Taken together with what Tom has written above about the necessary mysteriousness of God’s ways, and the unpalatable alternative interpretations of the evidence, I think it fair to say that there might actually be some wisdom in the way God uses suffering to draw us away from our selves and towards a life of greater capacity for love and holiness.

  7. Toad says:

    ‘to enlarge our capacity‘.

    To enlarge our capacity for what?
    Even more misery and humiliation, I suppose.
    Then why isn’t it a sin to take an Asprin – when God has given you a splitting headache in order to “enlarge your capacity”?

    “God uses suffering to draw us away from our selves..”
    I find I’m never so aware of my “self,” as I am when when I’m in pain. Probably just me.
    Hard to be holy when you’ve got a toothache, I’d have thought..

  8. Toad says:

    “Well, we know that the world is full of endless suffering,”
    Do we also know it’s the best of all possible worlds? I’m inclined to suspect we look at rhe situation and say “Suffering has to be good, or everything is meaningless and pointless. And we don’t believe that.” Wrong end of the telescope. But aren’t doctors ( and, indeed, any sane individual) saying, “Suffering is no good. Let’s try to do whatever we can to eliminate it.” ?

    Or should we goi around saying, “Lucky old me. I got leprosy and my nose fell off.” ? I think not.

  9. Michael says:

    Toad @ 10:26, 10:51:

    To enlarge our capacity for what?

    As I wrote above, for holiness and charity, and to draw us away from obsessive self-interest. You are correct that pain itself has the immediate effect of actually focusing us on ourselves more; but the long-term effect can often be chastening, can help us to empathise with the suffering of others and can help us to put the smaller things we complain about (which are very often rooted in an essential selfishness) in perspective.

    Then why isn’t it a sin to take an Asprin

    This isn’t about whether suffering is a good in and of itself – it isn’t. It is about how God uses suffering in the world (why there is any at all is a different question, and one given plenty of airtime here already) and how we react to it. It isn’t a given that we will be made holier or more charitable by our trials, but it is a pretty sure bet that if we don’t experience any trials we will not develop in these areas.

    I’m inclined to suspect we look at rhe situation and say “Suffering has to be good, or everything is meaningless and pointless. And we don’t believe that.”

    Again, suffering isn’t a good in and of itself. But there is certainly something to what you say here, and which relates to what Tom wrote earlier – when we assess the vast, complex array of evidence that life presents to us, we find great natural beauty, goodness in others, the voice of conscience within; on the other hand we find tragic events in nature, cruelty in others and evil or negligence in ourselves.

    Given this complex and often ambiguous set of data we are left with the question – do I accept that existence is meaningful, and that the times it points beyond itself to some greater significance in the end outweigh the tragedies and difficulties of life, or do I reject any apprehension of meaning I have ever had and write it all off as futile, meaningless and utterly indifferent? I think anyone that chooses the latter would have a hard time marrying that worldview up with the overall import of their actual experience.

    So yes, we do look at the world and say, not suffering is good, but there must be some reason for its being allowed beyond our comprehension, because otherwise everything is meaningless, and we reject this not necessarily because we already don’t believe it, but because we can’t honestly do so.

  10. GC says:

    Michael @ 09:48:

    I have again an often-recurring feeling here, Michael, that our torrid and troubulous Toad wants us to do Toad’s homework for Toad. No dice. Let Toad do it Toadself.

    I suspect, very probably rightly, that Dom Columba is giving spiritual direction here. Well, strangely, Blessed Columba is known as a spiritual director! What the devil, then, is Blessed Columba doing giving spiritual direction? Who does he think he is?

    Context is, as they say, everything. Linguistics 101 tells us that and it’s the difference between whether a certain utterance can be an opinion, a command or a number of other possibilities or indeed what the referents are in an utterance.

    I suggest that the Abbot is giving direction to his 100 monks here, and indirectly to lay Catholics, on how to understand the suffering or feelings of embarrassment such may experience in their spiritual growth. Yes, God sends such challenges to those striving on the path towards Christian perfection. How very odd of God. It’s not necessarily about limbs falling off leprous monks in choir.

    I suppose this could all be quite strange-sounding to toads. Can’t blame them probably. One should never expect too much from toads. But they could do a bit more of their homework themselves and be less onerous, undesirable and inappropriate creatures.

  11. Toad says:

    Superb reply from Michael. I disagree with most of it, but he appreciates what the problem is, and tackles it honestly. And this has been an extremely fruitful vein of comment, so far.
    Except for GC’s waspishness. Who falls back – as always, these days – on making snitty, pointless, comments about Toad. I don’t care in the least, but this is a forum, . We discuss things. Sensibly. At least, some of us do.

  12. GC says:

    You’ll survive, Toad. It was just a few scratches. Excellent new spectacles, by the way.

    But you did mistake the Blessed’s point. As did that glum Mr Fisher.

  13. johnhenrycn says:

    Toad, speaking of “snitty, pointless comments” – well, not snitty – well, not pointless either, but way off topic – I left a comment for you on another thread about a week ago when you were still bumping into furniture in your shack which you may not have seen because you never replied. Anyway, it had to do with a book by the recently deceased Brian Sewell, the English art critic, which you might like to read, if your eyes are up to it. Very good reviews. All the best.

  14. johnhenrycn says:

    GC: You post the most beautiful music videos.

  15. Toad says:

    Thanks, JH – I was in Paris until yesterday, bumping myopically into Les Frogs, and Les Pissoirs – and saw no CP&S until last night. But I did see the chair Voltaire died in.
    What a spikey old queen Brian was – as he’d have been the first to admit. Often did, in fact.
    I will get the book on kindle and blow up the type to 24 pt.

    Still haven’t got new specs. Next week, in Leon

  16. GC says:

    JH,🙂

    Yes it was a pretty thing, But the UK doesn’t have earthquakes, tsunamis or sunburn, does it. All very well for them.

    I couldn’t understand Mr Fisher’s remark. I thought Aotearoa was meant to be a second Eden, or so they would have us believe in the tourist literature. Only a couple of million of them seek the better life abroad, which still leaves a few million there.

    Over here the earth is so giving, life is abundant. I’ve lived and worked in places here where you have to beat Dame Nature’s largesse and beauty back with fearsomely long knives, shotguns and traps and frequently sweep out floodwater from your living room. Fruit and fish virtually jump onto your table, vegetables plant themselves and village chickens hang round your house just waiting to get into the pot (all of them free-range and organic too!). Lovely sunsets as well, but they only last about ten or so minutes at these latitudes.

  17. Robert says:

    Look at the Passion at the Way Of The Cross because this is the price of Adam’s Sin.
    The folly of God?
    Or the revelation of Divine Love and Wisdom?

  18. Tom Fisher says:

    I couldn’t understand Mr Fisher’s remark

    Not to worry GC, not to worry.

  19. Toad says:

    “The folly of God?”
    ..that would be Man, I suppose. If, so, once again, Robert and Toad are in perfect agreement.
    It would be going a bit far to suggest, that – if God really did design Man, He needed His brains tested at the time. What “a piece of work,” indeed. So. we won’t suggest that.
    The thought strikes me, that if all suffering, and pain come from “the hand of God,” by torturing and killing people in His name, we are acting as His faithful agents.
    And can congratulate ourselves on that account.

  20. Toad says:

    “…the UK doesn’t have earthquakes, tsunamis or sunburn, does it. All very well for them.”
    You aren’t suggesting God’s an Anglican – are you, GC?
    Or is it that God’s so cross fed up with the UK, He doesn’t send it as much suffering as he does to countries He likes? Such as Haiti or New Zealand? (We can see how especially fond He must be of “The Holy Land,” the way He’s dumped on it from the get-go.)

  21. Michael says:

    Toad @ 17:27, October 31st:

    Thank you for your comments! As you say you disagree with pretty much all I argued for though, do you think you could come up with one fundamental cause of your disagreement, so that the discussion might either bear more fruit or come to some sort of clear resolution (without actual agreement obviously)?

    Obviously you take the position, as most everyone does, that suffering is by its very nature unpleasant, often grievous even, and raises questions about what sort of a world we live in; but what is at the root of your inability to accept that it might have some (however hard to grasp comprehensively) place in the grand scheme of things, or that it doesn’t flat out defeat any possibility of believing in a God of love? Aside from the sense of injustice suffering provokes in us all, what stops you from being able to reconcile it with such a belief-system, particularly when one considers the alternative?

    P.S. I’d also suggest that, re GC’s comment about spiritual direction etc, that you try and look past the disagreement about tone and whatnot, and take on board the essential point she is making – that there is a difference between the philosophical/theological question of evil and the advice given to those once they have come down on one side of the argument rather than the other. This is a Catholic blog after all, and the Abbot was giving spiritual advice to Catholics, not trying to make a contribution to debates about theodicy🙂

  22. Toad says:

    Michael, I don’t know when, if ever, you will get to read this, odd things are happening to my comments.
    But first, you are dead right to question the word “disagree” in my comment. I would have been better to have said I’m “dubious” about your, as always, excellent answer.
    The fact is, the more I read and think about our world, (and that is a considerable amount these days, with no day job) the less inclined to believe in any rational force behind it. If it all seems utterly random, that’s most likely because it is – to me, and it would be dishonest for me to pretend to think otherwise. Suffering happens because we are frail, mortal, disease-prone, short-lived, animals, creatures constantly at lethal risk on a highly unstable, seething globe. It also happens because we are as a species, insane, and self-destructive, I believe. Not our fault, but that’s where the basic problem lies. We can’t accept that this life is probably all there is, like tigers do. We tell ourselves, there’s got to be more to it than this. If we aren’t immortal, why then it’s all a meaningless farce.
    I don’t know if there’s an afterlife or not, at present, I suspect not, but there is no way of knowing on this planet. You have, I can tell, been through all this rigmarole yourself, and come to a conclusion. I have not come to one, and doubt I ever will. A loving God who inflicts misery on people in order to make them holier, is not, and – I suspect, never can be – a God that makes any coherent, logical, sense to me. I might I suppose, eventually come to believe in some sort of god, but it won’t be that one.

    To ramble on, (what the heck) I saw the chair Voltaire died in, the other day. It reminded me of him saying, “Uncertainty is uncomfortable., but certainty is absurd.” Nice little chair. Had a sort of swivelled “writing table,” attachment mounted on one side. Quite “modern.”

  23. Tom Fisher says:

    Aside from the sense of injustice suffering provokes in us all

    — Sorry to intrude on a very interesting dialogue between you and Toad — But I know from experience that even great suffering sometimes provokes no sense of injustice. In the 90s I knew a young man who drowned while fishing off the often stormy east coast of NZ’s North Island. I visited his home town on the coast for the funeral. Even his closest relatives (to my surprise in those days) had no sense of grievance in their grief. They took it for granted that the sea is a vast force beyond our ken; it provides food and also kills people with total indifference. — I think this may be a common attitude among people who live from the sea. — They were all Christian (Methodist) but it is possible for people and communities to accept suffering as an essential part of a world that is neither hostile nor friendly.

  24. Toad says:

    “…a world that is neither hostile nor friendly.”
    What Mr. Tom says is true, of course. Nature is indifferent to our needs and concerns.
    But primitive man, quite reasonably, saw floods, disease, fatal lightening strikes, and attacks by other animals as evidence that there was a god, and God didn’t like them, and needed to be placated.
    We can take it from there.
    If we make a sacrifice before a fishing trip, and we all return safely, with fish – that “proves” we were right to do so.
    And if we stop sacrificing – we’re asking for trouble.

  25. Michael says:

    Toad @ 16:44, November 1st:

    Thanks for your response. Unfortunately though, I still feel that we haven’t got to the root of the problem (he says leaning back in the psychoanalyst’s chair…). All you’ve written above I have heard before, but what I would like to try and ascertain is what it is, at bottom, that makes you willing to accept an utterly meaningless universe, which view would undermine any feelings of meaning you or anyone else have had during their lives, rather than find a way to integrate the negative experiences of humanity with the positive in some kind of resolution that does justice to all our experiences?

    Many people find it possible to do just such a thing – are they all just idiots, or mad? I find it very hard to accept that as an explanation, apart from the fact that it tends to put one making the assessment in a lofty position of judgement absurd for any mere creature. Again – we are most all of us well acquainted with the fact that suffering exists, and with its consequences in our lives. Yet most peoples throughout history have been able to move past the emotive responses to suffering and find a place for it in a worldview which does not do away with meaning – what stops you from doing so? After all, even to ask whether there is any meaning is a meaning-loaded question. Rejecting meaning thus cuts off the branch on which you are sitting – one loses not just a lot, but pretty much everything by accepting the worldview you suggest above.

    I might I suppose, eventually come to believe in some sort of god, but it won’t be that one.

    Such as? An indifferent god? An evil one? None of these could possibly act as creator and sustainer of all that is, or the fundamental grounds for our moral assessments and judgments, etc. One can imagine gods that fit those bills, but not God.

  26. Michael says:

    Tom @ 07:25:

    That’s an important corrective – thank you. Yes, it is certainly possible to see Nature in such a way, and as you say, this is more likely in communities where people’s lives have been bound up with the sea (e.g.) for generations – I have encountered similar attitudes in Cornwall, where there still remain (despite steep decline over the last few decades) traditional fishing communities, often family businesses. Farmers who have lived with surplus and failure of crops have similar views too.

    One interesting (and, I think, worrying) phenomenon today is that many people, completely divorced from the natural world, see it as something completely benign, existing in an endless pattern of sunsets, lunar eclipses and deer scampering across hillsides. Presumably the conception of Saint Francis of Assisi as a medieval hippy of some kind emerged from this way of thinking. It is though, as your story above shows, not a view that can be held when one actually lives close to the land or sea for very long – then one comes to appreciate the sheer inscrutability of the natural world, and its instrumentality (for weal or woe), as opposed to something for the romantic soul to commune with.

  27. Toad says:

    “…but what I would like to try and ascertain is what it is, at bottom, that makes you willing to accept an utterly meaningless universe,”

    Michael, once more I have to qualify my answer by saying my comments are subject to very strange treatment, maybe censorship, maybe just tech glitches. Maybe someone you knows can elucidate.It makes a continuing dialogue very problematic.
    But, assuming you will get to read this any time soon enough to make sense – I’m not, in any way, “willing to accept” a meaningless universe. My own life is full of meaning, for a start. Music and art and duty are meaningful to everyone. As to the roots and “purpose” of the universe, they may appear meaningless to secular minds, and yet might not be ultimately meaningless. We just can’t tell. At least, not so far. I suspect we never will.
    However, if we are prepared to name whatever “started” the universe up “God,” then yes, I believe in Him (or Her. Nod to Kathleen.) .
    I also have a great deal of trouble over determinism. If God knows He’s going to triumph in the end, why not just get it over with right now? Why bother going through all this laborious panto? Like reading an Agatha Christie novel.

  28. GC says:

    Michael, il poverello, like most medieval saints, probably lived very close to the earth indeed. I think he died right on it at a young age, riddled with disease. Yet he seemed very grateful to God for it, unlike this rather dismal duo we are currently experiencing on CP&S:

    http://www.franciscanfriarstor.com/archive/stfrancis/stf_canticle_of_the_sun.htm

    Dom Columba lived in a rather splendid abbey, where they still make and flog monastery beer:

    Dom Columba had 100 monks, but there are now 35. And I’ll wager half or so of them are from the former Belgian Congo.

  29. Toad says:

    If the existence of monks needs justifying – this video does the business.
    Drinks on Toad!
    Next week,: Green Chartreuse – our poor dear brother Damian’s downfall, I fear.

  30. GC says:

    I’m more affected by that dishy nice abbot than the prospect of the holy ale, Toad. Oops (oops?)! Julius Caesar explained to us that the Belgae are Celts basically. That would account for the abbot’s ginger hair, possibly.

    I have just this instant returned from the Bavarian restaurant where I had 500 mls of their excellent Paulaner Munich dunkel (and not a drop more!). Paulaner, of course, is the beer originally brewed by the reformed Franciscan Minim friars in Munich. The terribly “enlightened” government in Bavaria deprived the Minims of their brewery and their hermitages while under the influence of the enlightened Napoleon and sundry Masons and such in the early 19th century. Probably so also for the Franziskaner, Benediktiner and Augustiner convent/monastery brews (I’ll have to check in a minute).

    I suppose the Belgian government will not feel they have to “nationalise” the many and various Belgian monastery beers. They can just increase the VAT percentage instead and tell the monasteries not to interfere in national life so as not to upset “the compromise” between the government and the Church – or else!

  31. Toad says:

    That’s the GC Toad has come to know and love! (Platonically, of course.)

  32. Michael says:

    Toad @ 11:33 and GC @ 12:09:

    Pushed for time just now, but will respond later if possible. Briefly though…

    1. Toad, that we all experience life as meaningful (and I don’t just mean in terms of enjoying art, music, etc) is exactly what I’m assuming here – how does one reconcile this with a view that existence as a whole is meaningless? My contention is that we can’t, and so an alternative view must be entertained.

    2. GC, I have never tried dunkel (though I definitely want to). However, I am a great fan of Augustiner Helles – delicious, and clean as a whistle🙂

  33. GC says:

    Michael, do try it.

    While you’re about it or, better, on your subsequent visit try the Hacker-Pschorr with your sausages. It’s also in the stable of St Francis of Paola’s Munich Minim friars.

  34. Toad says:

    “…how does one reconcile this with a view that existence as a whole is meaningless?”
    Existence as a whole is comprised of art, music, love, family, and so on, Just getting up and getting on with it, is meaningful, Michael. I suppose it depends on what we mean by “meaning.” Hmm.
    Is the life of a tiger “meaningless”? He wouldn’t say it was – if only we could ask him. Maybe what I’m suggesting is that possibly the point of life is simply to live. But I don’t know.
    Montaigne said, (more or less) “We are great fools. When someone says, ‘I haven’t done a thing all day,’ I say, ‘What? Have you not lived?’ ” What we are getting at here is, I believe – is life without God and an afterlife “meaningful”? And I think it is. That’s why very few of us are happy about dying. Life may be lousy, but it’s better than nothing.

  35. Toad says:

    I’d better expand a bit, on my comment yesterday at 21.17
    A life lived with one eye on the next world may well be more “meaningful” than a life that is not. But it might also be mistaken, Each religion, I suppose, believes every other religion is wrong in its concept of the afterlife. Maybe they’re all wrong, or even possibly all are right. Maybe God “modifies” the afterlife to suit the faith of the person. He could, if He wanted, of course.
    We cannot tell until we are dead. (And possibly then we will not be in a position to tell.)

    However, Michael, I’m beginning to suspect we are not at odds, here, just at cross purposes.

    Some folk appear to regard existence as nothing more than a life-long examination, conducted in the terrestrial waiting-room, for a desirable post in the Great Multinational In The Sky.
    (Might have mexed the mitaphors a bit, there.) Oh, shut up, Toad.

  36. Michael says:

    Toad @ 21:17 and 11:33, November 2nd:

    I must say I am finding it increasingly difficult to see how you cannot see what I’m getting at here – which is that any experience of meaning we may have is rendered illusory if the entirety of existence is meaningless. One can of course carry on living as if life were meaningful, whilst at the same time professing that ultimately this is not the case, but this would be both intellectually dishonest and a gross absurdity, an affront to both reason and the imagination. It would be living a lie.

    Maybe what I’m suggesting is that possibly the point of life is simply to live.

    That’s not really anywhere near good enough though – it’s tantamount to saying we should just shut our minds off and behave like animals who have no existential faculties whatsoever, when we quite plainly do. This may be an option for tigers, but it is not for us. So either we accept that our experience of life as meaningful does point to existence as a whole being meaningful and try to fit the other, less welcome aspects of it into that context, or we stand hovering over the void. We cannot have our cake and eat it.

    What we are getting at here is, I believe – is life without God and an afterlife “meaningful”?

    Actually, as hard as it is to get into that mindset, having grown up in a completely different culture, which assumes the connection between an afterlife and the existence of God, most cultures up until the Christian era, whilst believing in God or gods, did not believe in an afterlife. At best, there was often a vague sense of a shady land of the dead, but without much substance to it. One notable exception is the Egyptians, but most pagan cultures viewed things in terms of eternal cycles of existence, and didn’t feel the need for personal immortality to validate their existence.

    However, one thing they did see the need for was the existence of God – the supreme bringer into being of life, foundation of the sacral and temporal orders, someone who grounded and validated everything good and true in the world. The idea that there was just nothing, or that life was just completely random or utterly without meaning, would have been seen as (rightly) ridiculous to them – it is a modern novelty, and one that evidences both the egocentricity and the intellectual shallowness of our time.

    So, whilst there is a deep connection between God’s existence and our anticipation of potential beatitude with Him in the hereafter (and one that, I think, fulfils the incomplete ideas entertained by previous ages about the afterlife), it is the former principle that is fundamental to our discussion of meaning. If you want to get rid of God because you don’t like the idea of being judged, or rail against suffering in the world, or for any of the other reasons put forward in this area, you lose everything else into the bargain. You can always live out an absurd contradiction between beliefs and experience, as I have already mentioned, but I don’t think this approach helps in the long run.

  37. Michael says:

    GC @ 21:08, 12:09:

    I certainly will give it a try! I think I’ve seen the Paulaner dunkel in a couple of specialist beer shops in the past, so will have a search soon (along with the Hacker-Pschorr). Another monastic beer I am eager to try is the ‘Birra Nursia’, brewed at the recently reinvigorated monastery at Saint Benedict’s birthplace – I hear it’s very good. Also, I heard somewhere that the dunkel style was developed by Bavarian monks (c. 14th Century perhaps?) so as to have something more nutritious to sustain them during Lent. Not sure how true this is, but still – simpler times eh🙂

    Oh, and that video was very nice – I’ll be keeping an eye out for Maredsous beer as well, and fervently praying that the Belgian government does not get their hands on the abbey! Until then, here’s to monastic independence and the fine tradition of monkish brewing;

    http://www.stpeterslist.com/1559/2-catholic-prayers-for-blessing-beer/

  38. Toad says:

    “… any experience of meaning we may have is rendered illusory if the entirety of existence is meaningless. “
    Yes, it would be – if we could establish whether existence is entirely meaningless. But we can’t, and I doubt we ever will.

    ”..one thing they (pagans) did see the need for was the existence of God..”
    Yes, and that goes for all religions. My lurking suspicion is that God exists because people need Him to. Like Voltaire said.

    “..and didn’t feel the need for personal immortality to validate their existence.”
    Presumably, you do feel that need? Unamuno thought that. He thought we worship God because He guarantees us immortality. If He didn’t, there’d be no need to worship Him.
    I don’t think I do need that validation, myself. Interesting, though.

    However, we seem to be getting both somewhere and nowhere on this. I’m about through with it, myself. It reminds me of the philosopher and the theologian groping around in a pitch black cellar, trying to ffind a black cat that isn’t there.
    The theologian finds it.

  39. Michael says:

    Yes, it would be – if we could establish whether existence is entirely meaningless. But we can’t, and I doubt we ever will.

    I’m not sure what criteria one would use to decide something as definitively as you seem to want. But one thing that seems pretty sure (and this is the basic point I am trying to make) is that if existence is meaningless, then any feeling we have otherwise is an illusion. Next time you think about this question (of meaning, or lack thereof), consider that the very fact you are asking it itself suggests rather strongly that the world is meaningful, and that if it isn’t, your question (and all your/our thought) is an absurd fantasy*.

    My lurking suspicion is that God exists because people need Him to. Like Voltaire said.

    The idea that because belief in God might be in some respects a welcome thing to have, that this somehow reduces belief in God to wish-fulfilment is, quite frankly, ridiculous, and more evidence (to my mind) that whilst Voltaire may have been handy with a pen, he was actually rather a shallow thinker.

    We would like lots of things to be true. But this alone does not mean that they don’t exist. Furthermore, one could equally say that atheists have good reason for wanting God to not exist, as it leaves them to be the final arbiter of what is good and true, and helps them (theoretically) to escape judgment. So this whole line of argument works both ways.

    On the ‘God exists’ side of things though, it is not just a case of liking/needing Him to existence, but that His existence makes sense of our apprehension that life is meaningful and grounds our moral and logical intuitions in something objective. One can have emotional needs for God to exist, but there is also the philosophical requirement of His existence to make sense of the world.

    He thought we worship God because He guarantees us immortality.

    Perhaps some do. Again though, what desires some people might have, or what ulterior motives they may have for believing in God has very little to do with the philsophical/theological questions we have been trying to discuss. My point about separating the existence of God from personal immortality is that in these (philosophical/theological) terms the two concepts are distinct.

    Personally I think that once one has heard about (let alone believed in) the Christian concept of the afterlife, in which worshipping and following God is oriented towards an ever closer union with Him that continues in the afterlife, the connection between the two becomes inevitable. But lots of people throughout history didn’t think so, and the two things are separable. What is key to the question of meaning is God’s existence, not personal immortality (of any kind).

    It reminds me of the philosopher and the theologian groping around in a pitch black cellar, trying to ffind a black cat that isn’t there.
    The theologian finds it.

    I presume this is a post-Enlightenment, probably 20th Century philosopher (possibly wearing a black polo-neck and smoking Galoises). In which case he will most likely have already decided that there can’t possibly be a cat in the room because it would undermine his capacity for self-determination and be an affront to a concept of reason narrowly re-defined in ways so as to preclude the existence of black cats in pitch-black cellars🙂

    *Another meaning-loaded term. There is no escaping it really. But you can’t put this stuff in a test-tube or produce a mathematical proof to justify it, so I guess it’s not evidence enough.

  40. Toad says:

    “Voltaire may have been handy with a pen, he was actually rather a shallow thinker.”
    Oh, really, Michael? Could you have written “Candide,” then?
    No? Nor me. If he was a shallow thinker, I’d better get to work on my shallowness. Too deep right now, perhaps. How deep do you think, Michael? Can we measure it for depth? Or should we just go by numbers of copies sold? No, because Dan Brown would then be the world’s least shallow thinker

    On another blog, a woman told me Bertrand Russell was an idiot, because of his agnostic views on religion. OK.

  41. Michael says:

    Oh, really, Michael? Could you have written “Candide,” then?

    Erm, no, because I don’t have his literary talent. As you can see from the passage I quoted, I did not deny his considerable writing skills. What I do think is a reasonable claim though, is that when you strip his attacks on the Faith of all their satirical bluster, the arguments that remain are markedly insubstantial.

    He dealt in historical generalities and assumptions, instead of careful analysis of the facts, and whilst his critiques of the lifestyles of some clerics may have been well deserved, his arguments against Christianity as a belief system are mostly superficial rants which use a furious rhetoric to obscure the fact that they don’t really engage with their subject with any real seriousness (reminds me of Dawkins in that respect actually).

    On another blog, a woman told me Bertrand Russell was an idiot, because of his agnostic views on religion. OK.

    Interesting that you assume (presumably, from this sentence) that you think the only reason I could dare to suggest Voltaire is not a Great Thinker is because I disagree with him. Incorrect, but interesting nonetheless. Basically though I think you give him far too much credit in this area – he was famous for his ‘wit’ not for the depth of his arguments.

  42. Toad says:

    The fantastic arrogance involved here – regarding Voltaire’s brain-power – stuns even Toad – who don’t stun easy.
    I suppose it all hinges on whether Voltaire, or, say, Wittgenstein, or Bert Russell, or George Bernard Shaw, or Einstein, (or Huxley – any of ’em) – saw things in the same way that really deep thinkers, like Michael, or Mr. Doubthat, or Saint Voris Of The Immaculate Hair, do.

    Oh, well. How deeply fortunate we are to be born within living earshot of such intellectual giants.
    I’m only a toad anyway.
    So what do I know?

  43. Michael says:

    P.S. On further inspection, it seems Voltaire didn’t actually say that the only reason people believe in God is because they need Him to – he said that if God didn’t exist, we would have to invent Him, meaning by this something similar to what I’ve outlined above with respect to God’s grounding our morals and other intuitions of meaning. It was originally a retort against atheists I believe. So he and I do in fact agree on that at least…

  44. Toad says:

    Michael, I know xacly</I. what Voltaire said, It was, ” If there wasn’t a God, we’d have had to to invent Him.” He didn’t say there wasn’t a god, because he actually believed in a god. He was a Deist, not an Atheist.
    He was also a very great genius, which I am not. Do you seriously believe that “Candide” is simply an empty-headed exercise in graceful literature? No point to it? You appear to think so.
    You certainly have an amazing deal of confidence in your judgement of others, I will cheerfully grant you that. How about Diderot, while we’re at it? Another shallow chap? Or, since you bring him up, Dawkins? Monomaniac half-wit? What about Stephen Hawking? Shallow scientist, no clue about suffering and all that?
    Shallow compared to you, maybe – but what about all us millions of lower life-forms?
    Naturally, because none of the above-named believes in the incredible, metaphysical, incomprehensible, stuff that you do – for which there is not a single shred of presentable evidence. (…which doesn’t mean it isn’t true, though)
    So Voltaire’s shallow. They all are.
    Not Trad Caths.
    End of argument.
    Of course.
    Oh, shut up, Toad.

  45. Toad says:

    Revisiting my rant of last evening, – (very modish, rants) – I wonder which of us was the more absurd. Michael for describing Voltaire as “shallow,” or me for not simply laughing at him. I win the booby prize, I suppose.
    Anyway, an unedifying spectacle. Like two fleas quarrelling over the cat. My apologies to all.
    An interesting side-bar to all ths, is that Douthat’s critics point out he’s nor a theologian, so he doesn’t know what he’stalking about. People say the same about Dawkins, and Hitchens. (Even Toad sometimes.) …But it’s quite all right to do that

    [Moderator writes: Michael makes objective arguments based on logic and evidence. You Toad, give ingrained opinions based solely on your anti-Catholic bias aimed at justifying your incredulity.]

  46. Toad says:

    “[Moderator writes: Michael makes objective arguments based on logic and evidence. You Toad, give ingrained opinions based solely on your anti-Catholic bias aimed at justifying your incredulity.]”
    Well, Mr. (or Mrs.) Moderator – that is your absurdly pompous ingrained opinion – based, no doubt, on logic and evidence – so I can’t possibly argue.
    But, Anti-Catholic? Moi? Where? How? Some of my best friends are Catholic – and priests at that. A bit on the Liberal side, some of them …but still.

  47. Michael says:

    Toad @ 17:53, November 3rd and 08:08, November 4th:

    Manalive! Where to start? Well, at the beginning I suppose…

    I know exactly what Voltaire said…He didn’t say there wasn’t a god, because he actually believed in a god.

    So why did you provide a paraphrase which gives the quotation an atheistic meaning, and specifically so to back up a view you were putting forward – i.e.; that there is no God and the universe is meaningless? I presumed you were simply mistaken, but if you knew what he said and meant, what on earth were you playing at?

    He was also a very great genius, which I am not.

    Again, he may have been a great satirist, but a ‘great genius’ he was not. He seems to be a personal hero of yours, but just because you find yourself enchanted by his rhetoric and taken in by his superficial arguments doesn’t make him what you think he is.

    Do you seriously believe that “Candide” is simply an empty-headed exercise in graceful literature? No point to it? You appear to think so.

    No I don’t believe that, and that’s why I didn’t say it. I didn’t say his arguments were idiotic or empty-headed, or that there was no point to them – merely that they lacked substance, and what are essentially shallow arguments are masked by a veneer of great literary skill.

    You certainly have an amazing deal of confidence in your judgement of others, I will cheerfully grant you that.

    I don’t have the extraordinary amount of confidence in judging others you seem to think – I am simply putting forward an opinion, which I think valid, and would be perfectly willing to engage with arguments to the contrary. Instead though you have just repeated that Voltaire is a genius who I couldn’t possibly hope to criticise, and…well, that’s that.

    How about Diderot, while we’re at it? Another shallow chap? Or, since you bring him up, Dawkins? Monomaniac half-wit? What about Stephen Hawking?….

    I have nothing to say about Diderot, having not read him. As for Dawkins and Hawking, to the extent that they try and discuss a subject they not only know very little about, but can’t even be bothered to read up on (N.B. It is not because they are not ‘qualified theologians’ that I don’t take their views seriously; it is because they plainly do not even want to take the time to engage in reasoned argument where religion or philosophy is concerned, but deal in platitudes and empty rhetoric instead) then they do present shallow arguments yes.

    This doesn’t mean they are idiots either, just that when they speak about things they haven’t taken the time to engage with properly, then I don’t see why I should pretend they are doing otherwise, or that their arguments in these areas are in any way convincing.

    Shallow compared to you, maybe – but what about all us millions of lower life-forms?

    Thanks for that Toad – really classy.

    Naturally, because none of the above-named believes in the incredible, metaphysical, incomprehensible, stuff that you do – for which there is not a single shred of presentable evidence.

    And here we go again – after all the debates that have been had on these boards, over and over again, about the range of possible human knowledge, etc, you fall back on those tired old positivist assumptions (assumptions that, I might add, actually do not have a single shred of presentable evidence to support them, and are merely assertions – ones you make over and over again without giving any reason why they should be accepted).

    So Voltaire’s shallow. They all are.
    Not Trad Caths.
    End of argument.

    Yep – that’s exactly what I was saying. Brilliant.

    I wonder which of us was the more absurd. Michael for describing Voltaire as “shallow,” or me for not simply laughing at him.

    I’ll let the jury decide. Clearly Voltaire is untouchable as far as you’re concerned (though I’m still not sure why – as I say, you’ve just shown how affronted you are at the possibility that anyone could suggest he is anything less than a genius, but not given any positive reasons why he should be considered so), whereas I have at least tried to suggest some reasons for my position. Laugh away anyway.

  48. Toad says:

    If my comments were published at the time I wrote them, it would make a lot more sense out of conversational debates. But I realise I’m not only a Toad, but a Cuckoo, and probably a heretical blasphemer, and must be handled as such. Sorry about this, Michael.

    Voltaire shallow? In Paris they name boulevards after him. What’s more…

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