God Wills It, God Permits It: Not Quite the Same ThingI'm a Catholic, so I believe that God not only made the universe: He upholds it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 301)
It's quite easy to believe that, when the day is bright and clear and the day has gone well.
At 4:30 in the morning, with water trickling through the ground floor into the basement, believing that gets a little trickier.
I knew at the time that, even in a worst-case scenario, things could be a lot worse. When it comes to 'how bad can it get,' try what many folks in Haiti experienced earlier this year.
Still, this is my house and my family: so a bit of flooding in the house was a good opportunity for me to do some thinking.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church discusses providence, secondary causes, and the scandal of evil. (Catechism, 302-314) Not that I'd call a broken water pipe in a central Minnesota house "evil." Like I said, it could be a lot worse.
That section ends with this observation:
"We firmly believe that God is master of the world and of its history. But the ways of his providence are often unknown to us. Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God 'face to face,'184 will we fully know the ways by which—even through the dramas of evil and sin—God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest185 for which he created heaven and earth."Still: I'm not a particularly bad person. Why would God let that water pipe burst?
For that matter, why not?
Another idea: A person causing something to happen isn't the same as a person letting something happen.
Here's part of what a Pope had to say about wisdom, evil, and good:
"...Sacred Scripture assures us that: 'against wisdom evil does not prevail' (Wis 7:30). This strengthens our conviction that in the Creator's providential plan in regard to the world, in the last analysis evil is subordinated to good. Moreover, in the context of the integral truth about divine Providence, one is helped to better understand the two statements: 'God does not will evil as such' and 'God permits evil.' In regard to the first it is opportune to recall the words of the Book of Wisdom: 'God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things that they may exist' (Wis 1:13-14). As regards the permission of evil in the physical order, e.g., the fact that material beings (among them also the human body) are corruptible and undergo death, it must be said that this belongs to the very structure of the being of these creatures. In the present state of the material world, it would be difficult to think of the unlimited existence of every individual corporeal being. We can therefore understand that, if 'God did not make death,' as the Book of Wisdom states, he nonetheless permitted it in view of the overall good of the material cosmos...."
("The Presence of Evil and Suffering in the World," Pope John Paul II, General Audience (June 4, 1986))
Having All the Answers? Not Gonna HappenMaybe that water pipe broke when it did, so that I'd have an opportunity to meditate on the transitory nature of the present world.
Maybe it happened so that we'd take a hard look at that part of the house, and get some repairs done.
Maybe my household's belongings were soaked and our lives temporarily disrupted for some mystical reason that my finite mind couldn't retain: even if God gave me full knowledge of His will in the matter.
I - really - don't - know.
And that's okay. After nearly 2,000 years of effort, there are things that the Catholic Church doesn't know. (May 3, 2010) That's okay, too. A little frustrating, maybe: but okay.
I don't expect to find all the answers in this world.
But that won't keep me from looking.
- "Busted Water Pipe, Day Five: Bathroom's in the Kitchen, and a Mouse Condominium?!"
Through One Dad's Eye (September 21, 2010)
- "A Busted Pipe, Amos, and Prudent Use of Material Goods"
(September 19, 2010)
- "Reason, Faith and 'What Folks Know, that Just Ain't So' "
(June 4, 2010)
- "Baptism of Desire: Or, Two Thousand Years of Not Knowing Everything"
(May 3, 2010)
- "Haiti: About the Earthquake, Relief, and Related Topics"
Apathetic Lemming of the North (January 15, 2010)
- Yeah, it could be a lot worse
- "3rd Sunday of Easter: A Reflection"
(April 26, 2009)
- "The Presence of Evil and Suffering in the World"
Pope John Paul II, General Audience (June 4, 1986)