How Do They Know It?
About a month ago I was engaged by a professor who was Faculty Emeritus at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland. His response was to a question I posed about a particular First Century Jewish belief. The response spurred on a discussion about morality, evil, logic, metaphysics, and God. A discussion detailed below. Although a public discussion, I have left this professor's name anonymous.
"Did some Jews of the First Century maintain that Israel still remained under the curse of exile and thus was not delivered from the wrath of God?"
"I am not theologian nor a believer in any definite religion; just an agnostic. Even if some theologians would maintain the view like you quoted, how do they know it? Therefore I think that such considerations do not have much sense. The similar case took place, when some eminent rabbi was asked: 'Why God allowed for Holocaust, and among this, several millions of Jews to kill in?' The answer was: 'God could not be a witness there.' Strange justification indeed. Was God absent?"
How do you know your argument is logical and rational? Why is there confidence placed in anyone's reasoning or view, for that matter? Would you have not arrived at a worth of you creating a post on which values of reason are expressed?
Also, how are we aware of the imperfection of human wrath, such as several millions of Jews being kill in Auschwitz?
We would have to explain the origin of standard/perfection in a world consisting of amoral matter whose course is unswervingly determined by impersonal forces. If man is just a “natural accident” and his self-consciousness is just a matter of chemistry and physics, how can he trust his “thinking?” If “knowledge” can only come via the scientific method and what is verifiable, then what about history?
I think of Stalin (he was of atheistic communism), he was killing people because as a rational man he came to the conclusion that life was so unbearable that it should be wiped out. Those of us who are into rational thinking, rational thinking can go into a variety of different directions, it depends on one's initial presuppositions. If we believe that life is worth living (which, by the way, is highly debatable) we can come up with a pretty optimistic conclusion. But if we looked at life, and see that life for most people is pretty unbearable and life is evil (which is what Stalin thought) a person has no problem with mobilizing everything they can to kill as many people as they can. If we do not have faith in an ultimate authority (an ultimate authority that says "life is sacred"), what is there to stop us from doing just that, killing as many people as we can? Does it come from morality? Where do we get morality from?
Alexander Solzhenitsyn details in The Gulag Archipelago that the reason for the atrocities under communism was that he and many others had forfeited their relationship with the truth and allowed their society to degenerate into deceit and tyrannical catastrophe without mounting sufficient opposition. He decided while in the concentration camps to straighten himself out bit by bit which columnated the production of The Gulag Archipelago, the book which, in many respects, demolished any moral credibility that the communist totalitarian systems had left. One man who was determined by good example, at least in part, to stop lying, produce a book which demolished the very system that had imprisoned him.
It is lack of discrimination between the existence of the adversary as process with the existence of the anomaly as constituent element of experience that has led to some of the worst excesses of humanity and religion. Some peoples throughout history have confused the existence of threats to their security and moral integrity with evil or personalized wrath from God.
How/when was “the wrath of God revealed from heaven”? It is "being revealed." It means that the unfolding of history involves a disclosure of the wrath of God against rebellion, seen in the terrible corruption and perversion of human life. The very act of suppressing the truth is evidence that people know it and are, therefore, without excuse. The act of suppressing the truth is found in the human display of wrath. Human objection to the idea of the wrath of God is often molded, sometimes unconsciously, by the human experience of anger as passion or desire for revenge.
Whatever worldview we come to, we have to be able to address all human experiences by it.
There is something of great metaphysical potential. Generally speaking, we expect a lot from people and are not happy if they betray us. In fact, our entire culture is predicated on the idea that each person has an indefinite and intrinsic worth. The implicit proposition in our legal structure is that even no matter who you are that there is something about you that is of transcendent value that has to be respected by the law and other people. You can ask if you believe this, and you can answer that based on your behavior in your level of following the law. It is the belief that all have intrinsic transcendent worth, and this is not easily pulled out from the law without it falling apart. The understanding that you have inherent transcendent worth is predicated on the biblical knowledge that humans have a "logos" nature, that they can speak forth being forward.
Being involved in the speaking forth of our being is something about us that needs to be respected. There is a sanctity of life, a recognition of transcendent value, in the practice of law which can only be related to morals. For even the vicious criminal has a touch of transcendence which we respect. If not, you have a very barbaric legal system because no one would become protected. As soon as you make a mistake in your life, you become the damned and have no rights whatsoever, and this is not what is happening in the west. Morals, then, have a very crucial role in law. It allows one to hold out their hand to invoke one's best if that is going to be given. It is the transcendent part of you making a gesture to allow the transcendent part of me to step forth. It happens all the time.
Unlike postmodernist thought, man's universal experience has shown man to have an essential nature. There is a sanctity of life, a recognition of transcendent value, in the practice of law which can only be related to morals. Man's existence in his essential nature is shown, in part, through his transcendence and moral capacity in which he is shown to create and construct law, however somewhat differential from other societies/communities. The existence of Law, which most all humankind recognizes and conforms to, shows that there is truth, absolute Truth. Aristotle was right: we abstract universals from particulars.