Saturday, August 12, 2017

Doing well and doing good

Peter Abelard draws some distinctions that are germane to theodicy in general and Calvinism in particular:

When the Father handed over the Son and the Son handed himself over, as the Apostle mentions, and Judas handed over his master, certainly the handing over of the Son was done by God the Father; it was also done by the Son, and it was done by the traitor. Therefore, the traitor did what God did too. But did he do well to do it? For even if it was good, it was not at any rate done well, for something that ought to have been beneficial to him. For God doesn't think about the things that are done but rather in what mind they are done. The merit or praiseworthiness of the doer doesn't consist in the deed but in the intention. 

Often in fact the same thing is done by different people, through the justice of one and the viciousness of the other. For example, if two people hang a criminal, one out of a zeal for justice and the other out of hatred springing from an old feud, then although the hanging is the same action, and although they certainly do what is good to be done and what justice demands, nevertheless through the difference in their intention the same thing is done by different people, one badly and the other well. Peter Abelard, Ethical Writings (Hackett 1995), 12-13.

Indeed it often happens that the same thing is done by different people in such a way that the one does it well and the other evilly, according to their intention. For instance, if two people hang some criminal, the one solely because he hates him but the other because he has to carry out this justice, this hanging is accordingly done justly by the latter, because it was done with the right intention, but unjustly by the former, because it was done not out of love of justice but out of fervor for hatred or wrath.

Sometimes too, evil men, or even the Devil himself, are said to work together with God in doing the same deed, in such a way that the same thing is asserted to be done both by God and by them. For look, we see the things Job possessed taken away from him by Satan, and nevertheless Job himself professes they are taken away from  him by God. He says "The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away".

The Lord Jesus Christ's being handed over into the Jews' hands is mentioned as being done by Jesus himself, by God the Father, and by the traitor Judas…Yet although in such doings either the Devil or Judas did the very same thing God did, nevertheless they shouldn't be said to have done well, even if perhaps they seem to have done something good. Even if they did or wanted to be done what God wants to be done, or have the same will as God has in doing something, should they for that reason be said to do well because they do what God wants to be done? Or do they have a good will because they want what God wants? Of course not! For even if they do or want to be done what God wants to be done, nevertheless they don't do or want to do it because they believe God wants it to be done. Their intention isn't the same as God's in the same deed. And although they want what God wants, and God's will and theirs can be called the same because they want the same thing, nevertheless their will is evil and God's is good since they want it to be done for different causes. So too, although different people's action may be the same because they do the same thing, nevertheless according to the difference in intention this one's action is good and that one's evil. For although they accomplish the same result, nevertheless this one does the selfsame thing well, and that one evilly. Ibid. 143-44.

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