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Does God Have Rights?

July 22, 2018 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

God certainly had the opportunity to create whatever He wanted to bring into being. But was that opportunity also a “right”? Was it the right thing to do? What could justify creation? We can answer this in the positive because God is also good and what He created is good, as is stated in Genesis.
Various thinkers throughout history have assigned God’s freedom a greater status than His goodness. William of Ockham, in his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, maintained that murder, fornication, robbery, and other vices would be moral if they conformed to God’s Will. Therefore, God was at liberty to command anything He so desired, irrespective of its objective value.
In this view, our fundamental relationship with God would be between His arbitrary freedom and our blind obedience. God, therefore, would be more interested in expressing His power than His Goodness. This is surely not a position that is in accord with the Judeo-Christian tradition, for it regards God as irresponsible and denies the value of human intelligence.
Nonetheless, the question concerning God’s motivation for creating the world and the souls that populate it remains.
Soren Kierkegaard, in Fear and Trembling, discussed this question in relation to God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. “But what then is duty?” asked the Danish philosopher. “Duty is, to be sure, just a synonym for God’s will!” God, as we know, did not allow Abraham to follow through, in keeping with His Love. But if duty in this sense is not compatible with reason, why, then, would a mindful God endow us with the faculty of reason?
St. Thomas Aquinas took special care in arguing against this notion that God’s Will is entirely arbitrary. According to the Angelic Doctor, “Measureless as is the power of God, nevertheless it can be said that there are certain things over which that power does not extend. . . . Just as even God cannot cause that two times two should not make four, so He cannot cause that which is intrinsically evil be not evil.”
God’s right to create is not at variance with either His Goodness or His Love. Therefore, what He creates is good and the inspiration of His creation is love. His Ten Commandments are not an expression of arbitrary power. They are expressions of His love. From our point of view, we have the ability to recognize that His Commandments are good for us, and that we have a duty to obey them. Yet, we must have a reason to be dutiful.
God did not have a duty to create us, but we have a duty to live in accordance with His Will. In exercising our duty, we accept what is good for us and share in God’s life. Our duty is a way of honoring God’s rights. The union of our will and God’s becomes a formula for peace. Dante, in the third canto of his Paradiso, states: “In His will is our peace” (E’n la sua volontade è nostra pace).
If Paradise has any meaning, it must be a place where peace and concord reign. There is no room for conflict in Paradise. We should spend our allotted time on Earth gaining a foretaste of Paradise.
The harmony of two separate wills is exemplified by Wolfgang Mozart, perhaps the most naturally gifted composer in the history of the human race, in a most extraordinary way. This wunderkind once wrote a harmonious duet for two violins by using just a single note at a time. The score was placed on a table with the violinists reading the music from opposite sides of the table. Thus, what one musician read as a G, the other would read as a D, and so forth. Each individual note would bind the two violinists in harmony, though each one was playing something unique.
Our relationship with God is something like this. From two different perspectives, God and man achieve peace and harmony while preserving their separate identities.
When we pray, we speak to God; when we read the Bible, God speaks to us. Language, as well as music, can provide a bond between God and man without either compromising His identity or integrity. And it is love that makes this union possible. Because love, as Pierre Teilhard de Chardin rightly spoke of it, is “an affinity of being for being,” it is possible for diverse beings to come together in harmony. God is Being who creates beings. Naturally, there should be a special affinity between beings. Music, language, and love all serve the interest of communion.
G.K. Chesterton remarked, in his Orthodoxy, that we owe “an obedience to whatever made us.” At the same time, we should be thankful. And how should we express our thankfulness? As the inimitable G.K. goes on to say, by humility and restraint: “We should thank God for beer and Burgundy by not drinking too much of them.” We should enjoy God’s gifts for the purpose for which they were created, to serve us well and not become intoxicated by them.
When we receive a gift of flowers, we instinctively want to place them in water and display them in a vase. We should care for the gifts that come our way. We should care most for the gift of ourselves.
The notion that God’s right to create is inseparable from His Goodness offers a parable for us to follow. We speak often and readily about our “rights” (the “right” to abortion leading the list) and rarely and reluctantly about our duties (we usually need to be reminded of them). By imitating God, we should direct our rights only to that which is good. In this instance, we are conjoining duty with thanks, humility, and restraint.
Peace and happiness will be the inevitable consequences.
(Dr. Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow at Human Life International. He is the author of 32 books including Why I Am Pro-Life and Not Politically Correct.)

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