“God is not a divine being”

“God is not a divine being” October 29, 2014

There’s the latest panic attack source for Reactionaries filled with the dread that, say what Pollyanna fools like me will, the pope is a heretic. The remark (not sure how accurately translated, since the Italian is “demiurgo” and looks to me like “demiurge” is meant) comes from his comments on evolution the other day:

“God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” Francis said.

Conservatives are having their customary freakouts in comboxes, while non-Christians are likewise foolishly declaring that Francis “basically just admitted there may not be a God“.

Um, no. Francis is not denying the existence of God, nor his deity (indeed, how do you deny that God is deity?). That’s what that whole overlooked “God is… the Creator who brought everything to life” bit is all about. What he is (obviously, for anybody not bound and determined to misread him) saying is that God is not a sprite, elf, leprechaun or fairy who is perpetually having to “fix” his creation with patch jobs, magic dust, and tinkering–thereby constantly magicking new species into existence. In this, he is echoing post-Vatican II damn librul St. Thomas Aquinas, who said:

“Species, also, that are new, if any such appear, existed beforehand in various active powers; so that animals, and perhaps even new species of animals, are produced by putrefaction by the power which the stars and elements received at the beginning.” — Summa theologica, Part I Q73 A1 reply3

That’s why Benedict XVI sez:

“Creation should be thought of, not according to the model of the craftsman who makes all sorts of objects, but rather in the manner that thought is creative. And at the same time it becomes evident that being-in-movement as a whole (and not just the beginning) is creation…”

Michael Flynn summarizes both Thomas and Francis (and a host of other Catholic magisterial authorities) this way:

IOW, species are four-dimensional and their evolutions over time are simply a part of the same creation, just as a fetus, an infant, an adolescent, and an adult are simply temporal parts of the same four-dimensional being.

Francis is also perfectly orthodox–far more orthodox in fact than many of his Fundamentalized conservative Catholic brethren–in denying that God is “a divine being” or “demiurge”. It is, in fact, absolutely orthodox Catholicism to deny that God is “a divine being”. He is not “a being” divine or otherwise. He is not Top Dog at the head of the gigantic list of other beings. He is Being itself. This is straight out of St. Thomas. Permit Fr. Barron to explain:

The Pope is, I promise you, a Real Catholic. Chill.

And before you so much as *begin* to say “Why does he keep saying things that sow so much confusion?” consider asking instead, “Why do I keep listening to people who sow so much confusion about what the Pope says? Why don’t I learn my faith better so I don’t keep having these panic attacks over nothing?”

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  • Dennis Mahon

    Pope Francis never said that “God is not a divine being”…what he actually said was “demiurgo”, which better translates as “demiurge”;


  • merichiara

    Amen! Well said Mark!

  • petey

    “He created beings and allowed them to develop according to the internal
    laws that he gave to each one, so that they were able to develop and to
    arrive and their fullness of being. He gave autonomy to the beings of
    the universe at the same time at which he assured them of his continuous
    presence, giving being to every reality. And so creation continued for
    centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia, until it became which
    we know today, precisely because God is not a demiurge or a magician,
    but the creator who gives being to all things.”


    so who chose to translate it as “divine being”?

    • S. Murphy

      Someone for who ‘demiurge’ was too Greek and SAT-like?

      • S. Murphy

        That’s funny. I could of* sworn I hit the ‘m’ key.

        *Chicago accent

    • chezami

      Beats me. For all I know, “a divine being” may be a reasonable rendering of the intended meaning in Italian.

      • IRVCath

        As seen above, it’s not a reasonable rendering. Demiurge connotes the heresy of the Gnostics.

  • don quixote

    So does your choice of modifier “perpetually” attached to *having to “fix” his creation with patch jobs* make allowance for miracles or are you one to disregard such “patches”? Are miracles so rare or merely overlooked?

    • chezami

      I have no problem with miracles. However, “then a miracle occurs” is not science.

    • Jacob Suggs

      There is no need to strictly identify miracles with invasive acts against the natural order. The natural order belongs to God and exists and operates at His will, so while God could set aside the natural order, that a thing does not violate the natural order does not in any way make it less miraculous, if it directly results from God’s will. The natural order itself is a miracle.

      When God does something (that at least seems to be) contrary to the natural order, it is to get our attention – because we have grown accustomed to how things usually work and lose sight of the fact that it all points to God – because we are surrounded by the miraculous constantly, we forget that it is miraculous. It is done for our sakes, not because God needs to do so to accomplish whatever merely physical end He has in mind.

      All of this is to say that if you think the idea of God bringing things about through the natural order and the miraculous somehow are at odds, then you may be misunderstanding the miraculous.

    • JM1001

      “In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power: we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.” — St. Albertus Magnus

  • geoffrobinson

    The real problem is that the science has created some major problems for Neo-Darwinism but many Catholics cling to Aquinas to go against that.

    • Dan13

      What problems has science created for Neo-Darwinism (outside of perhaps slight modifications to the Theory of Evolution like punctuated equilibrium)?

      • HornOrSilk

        “Science” has created the problem of “creation science” and terrible “science” textbooks at the Creation Science Museum.

      • geoffrobinson

        The Darwinian tree of life is in splinters: http://intelligentdesign.podomatic.com/entry/2014-09-19T13_30_59-07_00

        There is no remotely plausible naturalistic Origin of Life scenario and none on the horizon.

        They are coming up with studies all the time about convergent evolution, which Darwinism can’t explain very well at all.

      • geoffrobinson

        Forgot to mention the work of Roman Catholic Michael Behe in his work Edge of Evolution, which he was recently vindicated with his prediction about malaria drugs. Experimentally, evolution can’t produce any changes fast enough to be in line with what Darwinism needs.

        • petey

          what does Darwinism need, and who gets to say?

          • geoffrobinson

            Ultimately math and reality. You need a certain about of genetic information to get from point A to point B. And we see from experiments with organisms which are reproducing at very large rates (think single-celled organisms and viruses) that random mutation+selection is very good at breaking things which gives some sort of advantage. Doesn’t do much in terms of creating things.

  • kathie

    I thought the catechism describes God as “the Supreme Being Who made all things.” Here God is apparently a “being,” and a divine one, presumably. Can you clarify your comment, Mark, how God is not a “being,” divine or otherwise. ? thx.

    • Greg

      The problem being raised is not in saying God is a “being” but in saying that God is “a” being. In other words, God is not a member of a species, so the indefinite article “a” is inappropriate.

      • HornOrSilk

        Well, there is also the problem of employing human language to describe God, which is also what he is said to be beyond being, beyond divinity, beyond good, recognizing that those words represent something less than him.

        • Greg

          That’s true, although Aquinas took a third way on that issue (as your quote shows).

          • HornOrSilk

            Well, what he said didn’t differ from what I said, “But as regards their mode of signification, they do not properly and strictly apply to God” which is what I said above, with other words. Yet saying this is not to say we say nothing about God: even Dionysius pointed out it is not just negation, but the negation of negation. It’s complex, and this is why “analogy of being” is often used to discuss this issue.

            • Hezekiah Garrett

              Even when they agree, you’ll argue. It’s kind of impressive.

              • HornOrSilk

                Continuing a discussion = arguing? What’s impressive is your attempts to troll

    • HornOrSilk

      I answer that, According to the preceding article, our knowledge of God is derived from the perfections which flow from Him to creatures, which perfections are in God in a more eminent way than in creatures. Now our intellect apprehends them as they are in creatures, and as it apprehends them it signifies them by names. Therefore as to the names applied to God–viz. the perfections which they signify, such as goodness, life and the like, and their mode of signification. As regards what is signified by these names, they belong properly to God, and more properly than they belong to creatures, and are applied primarily to Him. But as regards their mode of signification, they do not properly and strictly apply to God; for their mode of signification applies to creatures. ST I-XIII.3

    • Will Duquette has been blogging about this recently:



      You may want to just read the whole series, to get up to speed on the technical terminology:


  • Fletch

    Here’s a rough translation of the relevant part. My guess is that someone didn’t know what demiurgo meant, so they looked up “demiurge” in a dictionary and saw that the first definition was “a divine being.”

    You are dealing with the highly complex theme of the
    evolution of the concept of nature. I certainly won’t get into it – you know it
    well – into the scientific complexity of this important and decisive question.
    I only want to highlight that God and Christ journey with us and are present
    even in nature, as the Apostle Paul affirmed in his speech at the Areopagus:
    “for ‘in him we live and move and have our being.’” (Acts 17.28) When we read
    in Genesis the creation account we run the risk of imagining that God is a
    magician with a magic wand allowing him to do all kinds of things. But this is
    not how it is. He created the beings and he let them develop according to the
    internal laws which he gave each of them so that they would develop and come to
    their proper fullness. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the
    same time in which he guaranteed their continuing presence, giving being to
    every reality. This is how creation has gone on for centuries and centuries,
    millennia upon millennia, until it became what we know today. This is precisely
    because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to
    everything that is. The beginning of the world is not the work of chaos which
    must have its origin elsewhere, but it derives directly from a supreme
    Principle which creates through love. The Big Bang, which today is posited
    as the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine creating action but
    requires it. Evolution in nature is not at odds with the notion of creation
    because evolution presupposes the creation of the beings that are evolving.

    As regards man, on the other hand, there is both change and
    newness. When, on the sixth day of the Genesis account, the creation of man
    happens, God gives the human being a different autonomy, an autonomy different
    from that of nature. This is freedom. And he tells man to name everything and
    to move forward throughout the course of history. He makes man responsible for
    creation, even to subdue creation, so that he might develop it until the end of
    time. Therefore, to the scientist, and above all to the Christian scientist,
    corresponds the attitude of questioning about the future of humanity on the
    earth, and as a free and responsible being, contributing to it, preparing it,
    and eliminating from it environmental risks, both natural and human. But, at
    the same time, the scientist must be moved by the fidelity that nature hides in
    her evolutionary mechanisms, by the ability of intelligence and freedom to
    discover and actuate, to come to the development that is in the Creator’s
    design. So, although limited, human action participates in God’s power and is
    capable of building a world adapted to human life, which is both spiritual and corporeal.
    This human action is capable of building a human world for all human beings and
    not for one group or privileged class. This hope and trust in God, Author of
    nature, and in the capacity of the human spirit, are able to give the
    researcher a new energy and a deep serenity. But it is also true that human
    action, when his freedom becomes autonomy – which is not freedom, but autonomy
    – destroys creation, and man take the place of the Creator. And this is the
    grave sin against God the Creator.

    • Joseph

      Wow. That’s brilliant. And the only thing the media picked up was a convenient mistranslation/misinterpretation leaving the meat behind.

  • Brian_Hall_1900

    Mark, it doesn’t help when you have clergy like a Roman Catholic Deacon from Los Angeles stating things like this (i.e., look for the name Eric Stoltz):


    It’s one thing not listening to the media and it’s another when people “within” the Church are propagating agendas that go counter to Church Teachings.

    • chezami

      Welcome to the big giant messy Church of imperfect people.

    • HornOrSilk

      You should never read quodlibetals from the schoolmen

  • EIA

    “He is Being itself.”

    Nothing just “is”. Only some-thing or some-process is.

    “Being itself” is an abstraction (like “roundness” abstracts from a ball, or “redness” from an apple).

    The mystery of “some-thing” or “some-process” which the living God is, revealed that He was Someone (Exodus 3:14).

    And then, that Someone revealed Himself as two persons (e.g. John 1, 1), and then three persons (e.g. John 14:26).

    • jroberts548

      What translation are you using? Exodus 3:14 doesn’t say “I am someone.” It says “I AM WHO I AM.” I.e., being.

      • Newp Ort

        No, it clearly says “I yam what I yam.”

      • EIA

        Exodus 3:14 does not just say “AM.” It says “I AM…”

        There is a subject in the sentence.

    • Jared Clark

      Who says being itself cannot be a person, or three persons?

      • EIA

        What do you mean by “being itself” or should I write” it-self?”

        It sounds like you mean something-that-is, and not just “is.”

        • Jared Clark

          The technical Latin phrase is “Ipsum Esse Subsistens”

          This post seems to be a good explanation written by someone a lot better at explaining St. Thomas Aquinas than I


          • EIA

            St.Thomas was apparently saying that essense and existence are one and the same in the case of God. His essence is the Fullness of Being.

            Note that “ipsum’ refers to a person. Therefore, one might say that according to St. Thomas, God is that person who is (or whose essence is) the fullness of being.

            That is slightly but fundamentally different than saying that God is Being or God is Existence which is to reduce Him to a concept or a principle.

            Ipsum ==> himself, herself, itself
            Esse ==> to be, exist
            Subsistens ==> stand, withstand / stop, halt, cease / stay, remain
            Link to chapter by Jacques Maritain — see p. 12

            • Jared Clark

              The contradiction exists only in your head. God does not become impersonal because He is infinite

              • EIA

                “The contradiction exists only in your head?” Is that your premise?

                Unless God is “A Being”, and not just “Being” or “Beingness” he could not be personal, or incarnate as a human.

                But He is personal, and He incarnated.

  • Charles

    THANK YOU!!!

  • wc4mitt

    it is really not inconsequential that Ratzinger always is quoted in order to defray that which is said by Pope Francis. Ratzinger was and is a brilliant theologian, prefect of the magisterium, Bishop, Cardinal, and Pope Benedict XVI. He is a giant who has been replaced by someone who seems to be only known by translation. Pope Francis doesn’t quite seem to be his own man after 18 mo as Pope or perhaps he really does think of himself as ‘Bishop of Rome’ not having it sunk in yet that he really IS the Pope of the Entire Catholic Church and as such needs to speak w/clarity and in accordance w/the teachings of Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium of the Church of which he is the leading present authority.

    • jroberts548

      He did speak with clarity. He isn’t the one who mistranslated the word for demiurge.

      • Joseph

        *We* think he spoke with clarity. Assuming that everyone else does is folly. Similar to the Regensburg speech by Benedict XVI, this will require immediate attention and clarification. This happens to be 10 times worse than the Regensburg speech, however, as everyone but those who understand what the Pope was saying thinks that the Pope just stated that God is not divine (a contradiction that goes over their head). Any amount of unauthoritative explanations we provide will only be dismissed as equivocation and we’ll be mocked for mindlessly rallying around our Pope in a panic like a bunch of brainwashed boobs to protect our precious religion (which is already happening).
        If you have evangelical and Reformed family members, you’d appreciate my concern. I hope Pope Francis doesn’t leave us out in the cold on this issue. Last thing I need in my life is to be constantly reminded of this and told I’m going to hell by my loved ones for staying loyal to Christ’s Church.

        • HornOrSilk

          What do you think will happen if he gives another statement, and it is also mistranslated? Will you again blame the Pope for what the press has done? Seriously, he was clear, but even if he did not use demiurge but said what the press claimed he said, what he said is true though could require him explaining it if people are confused. People have done so on here, so others can also issue the explanation. Of course, the press and those aiming for the Pope will try to take any explanation and find something to attack.

          Now when will Jesus start explaining his parables?

          • S. Murphy

            Yes, and when will He explain that thing about eating His flesh and drinking His blood?

          • wlinden

            I am baffled by the constant comments insisting that there is some magic formula for church statements that the “news” media could not/would not distort if only TheVatican used it.

          • Joseph

            Horn… are you naturally argumentative? Where did I blame the Pope for anything? I’m trying not to get frustrated by the fact that some people simply aren’t reading what I type before replying to me.

        • jroberts548

          He didn’t say anything remotely approximating “God is not divine.” Francis said God is not a demiurge. That’s maybe not clear to our respective Protestant family members, but it’s also not misleading, since it’s not a common word. All the fault here is on whoever idiotically subbed in “divine being” for “demiurge.”

          On the other hand, the Vatican should probably try to employ competent translators.

          ETA: I see what you’re saying. The Vatican should be able to anticipate this sort of thing by now, and provide speedy, correct translations of things that the Pope says.

          • Joseph

            I know he didn’t… you know he didn’t… but the fundies, some of which are my family who have always been all too eager to point out that the Church is the anti-Christ, think he did. Even many atheists are laughing at him right now. That’s my point. It needs to be clarified quickly by someone with authority.

          • I did a little research and dscovered that the translation in question was not done by the Vatican but by the Religion News Service. The Vatican has not yet even put out an English translation. This last may be a big part of the problem. Though heaven knows the Vatican’s own translations are often wrong, such as in the very recent valutare fiasco.

            • Marthe Lépine

              Thus I would guess that the Religion News Service’s translators are probably expected to come up very quickly with translations of material that is impossible to fully understand quickly. I am speaking as someone who has worked at translation for some 40 years. There is a very unfortunate trend nowadays to rely on computers and software to do quick translations, but such systems are not detailed or sensitive enough to catch some “nuances” of language such as in this case.

        • S. Murphy

          I do have Evangelical and ‘Left Behind’-taking-seriously family members. I like to remind them that their exegetical formula is ‘take every word in the Bible literally, unless the Catholics do.’ So I guess they should be grateful the Pope’s given them permission to continue believing that God is divine.

    • Hezekiah Garrett

      Awesome! Water Closets for Romney weighs in with unabashed stupidity!

  • Oh, wow. I’m really just catching up to this whole thing. I know I’m a pacifist and totally against the death penalty, but I’m in favor of an exception for any translator who perpetrates something like this. I’ll bet it was the same hapless soul who came up with valutare = “to value.” If you are going to translate something theological, you should have at least some working knowledge of theology. Obviously, they have a time crunch in doing the translations, but things like this slipping through can be very harmful.

    Well, apart from that, it’s interesting to speculate on why the Holy Father chose that word. It has a lot to do, I suspect, with the contrast between the pagan Greek view and the Christian view of creation. The demiurge was a big part of the Greek view. It started with Plato and went through a number of permutations, from the Middle and Neo-Platonists to the Gnostics. The Greek word (I’m not going to try to reproduce it in Greek) means “artisan or craftsman.” So variously, depending on which philosopher you’re talking about, the demiurge is a lesser divine or semi-divine being who works after the mind of God, reproducing the ideas of the divine mind in creation, but putting them into matter means they are reproduced very imperfectly. Creation, for the Platonists, is always a kind of “falling off” from God. The artisan of nature is somewhat outside of divinity. And the term does suggest a sort of mechanical hammering out of creation according to a pre-conceived blueprint.

    This is a great contrast with the Christian view, about as great a contrast as with the “magician” waving the wand. The Pope is expressing the truth that God is wholly involved in creation, much more so than if he were the demiurge, because his actions are personal and direct, but on the other hand, he does not work in the same way as the demiurge, because he is not hammering out every detail like the carpenter at his workbench, or the potter at his wheel — though the OT texts that use these metaphors certainly have their place. This is because creation, and every part of creation, is a living thing, a thing that grows and comes to fulfillment in Him.

    Well said, but poor Pope Francis! He probably thinks the people reading him were going to be smart enough to know what a demiurge is without explanation, or else sane and humble enough to know that they need an explanation. Wrong on both counts, I guess. Still, it might have worked without that stupid mistranslation.

  • Mark

    Thanks for this. I really needed it especially after seeing this link: http://www.ctvnews.ca/world/pope-francis-evolution-is-real-god-did-not-wave-a-magic-wand-1.2076772

  • Chris

    I think Mr. Shea’s point is that this is all an arguement over semantics. As Mark has tried to define the terms in his article (with academic flair that can go unnoticed or be left misunderstood), I think it simply needs to be stated what the definition of a “being” is. Once the language is plain to everyone, I’m pretty sure that everyone will go home happy.
    Christopher Jager
    Tillamook, OR
    Redeemer Lutheran LCMS

  • Chris BSomething

    Mark, I suppose your theory of what he meant is a reasonable one. Bus it’s not what he said. Even if we assume it is demiurge, I’m not sure how good is not someone who can’t do everything like a magician. After all, a lot of what Jesus did is magician-like. My advice to the pope is to start being careful with his words.

    • Glenn Peoples

      “Bus it’s not what he said.” What he said is that God is not a divine being. And in Classical and Catholic theology and philosophy, God is not “a being.” A being is a thing that has being. God, in the classical view, is perfect being, the ground of all being. So exactly as the Pope said, God is not a being.

      • Chris BSomething

        Given the nicean creed says God is one being, I’m curious who in Christendom said God is not a being.

        • Michael Boedi

          Where in the creed does it say that?

        • Glenn Peoples

          The Nicene Creed says no such thing.

          There is a line in it that says that the Son is “of one substance” with the Father, or in other translations, “of one being with the Father,” which means the same thing. But the Creed does not say that God is a being.

          I recommend delving into writers on the scholastic tradition to learn more about this. Edward Feser or Brian Davies are a good start. Here’s Feser offering some explanation, which might help: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.co.nz/2013/12/dude-wheres-my-being.html

    • Andy

      I never thought that anything Jesus did was even remotely magician-like. Miracles, which Jesus performed cannot be explained other than through an act of God. Magicians hide how they do their tricks, but the tricks can be explained. I think that it is not only the Pope that needs to be careful with his words, but all of us.

      • Joseph

        Those that didn’t believe Christ thought he was doing magic tricks, using the dark arts (the Pharisees). Just sayin’.

        • Andy

          I know – that is the root of my admonition – for a Catholic to even suggest that is troubling.

      • Chris BSomething

        The fact that they can’t be explained is what makes them like magic. But Francis seems to be trying to be pro-evolution, saying that God doesn’t do these unexplainable things.

        So what’s the pope saying? That God does things unexplainable, or that he lets the world do things in explainable ways without his direct intervention?

        • Andy

          God gives us free will, and He established laws – natural et al. He then allows us to use our free will and allows the world to follow His laws. He intervenes directly when we pray, maybe not as we would like.
          Like I said above magic can be explained through our natural ability to reason. Miracles cannot be explained through our natural ability to reason.
          The pope said God is not a magician, pretty clear. The pope also said he is not a demiurge – a “sub-God” as I read the definition. Don’t see why this is so hard.

  • Joseph

    Most Catholics may understand what Pope Francis was saying here, but the rest of the world seems to be playing tug-o-war with this. These statements are being mocked by atheists and Christians alike. The Left Behind fundies are out en masse taking this opportunity to claim they have concrete evidence that the Pope is the anti-Christ.
    We shouldn’t be shirking this off and taking it lightly. This is truly damaging. I, for one, am going to have to face evangelical family and friends who have all along been bothered by my conversion to Catholicism. Yeah, it’s pretty easy for someone to say, ‘well, it’s not that bad, who cares if people misinterpret him’ when they aren’t in the position of having to explain all over again to family and friends who think I’m going to hell that what the media has been touting is all wrong and then go through all of the Jack Chick commentaries one by one again, dispelling the anti-Catholic myths.
    But like Chris BSomething said below, this particular issue is about 10 times worse. No matter how we try to explain what the Pope said here, the translation has been widely release, the calumny is complete. I can tell you that I have at least three fundie friends who will constantly drag me back to ‘this is what the pope said’ and accuse me of equivocating.
    It’s damaging. We can’t deny it. It needs to be addressed and explained quickly by the Pope. Everyone else appears to be madly jumping to his defense, but without a clarification by him, this isn’t going to go away. Think about it.

    • Andy

      Although I agree that it is a point of attack – every time the Vatican explains what Francis says or Benedict said because people jumped on it the media reports the church is “walking back” and the crazies come out with if only he spoke more clearly. Maybe if the crazies actually read not only what the Pope says, but also some philosophy, a bit of history this wouldn’t happen.
      We are faced with lazy media, uniformed media, pitiful translators or deliberately bad translations – don’t know which one. I am not sure that the crazies or the media are ready to listen to what Francis said – they have already put their own spin on it.
      I will offer prayers for you as you face off with your fun die friends and family.

      • Joseph

        Andy, this isn’t Regensburg. This is worse than Regensburg. Everyone but us actually believe the Pope just stated that God isn’t divine and isn’t omnipotent/somehow restricted from being involved in the development of his own creation (despite not bothering to question the obvious contradiction in that statement). If the Pope doesn’t come out with a clarification, I’m basically left to face family and friends who will now be smug in their belief that I and my immediate family are destine for hell (and, though they are mistaken, their concern is sincere). The implications this has with my children is even worse as they’ll be inundated with family members desperately trying to *save* them from my wife and I. This is bad. I hope a clarification comes out soon. It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks, but this just takes the friggin’ cake. It’s not enough for internet apologists with no qualifications to be jumping to the Pope’s defense on this one. This one really hurts.

        • Andy

          I do not disagree with the concerns you have, my wife was telling me about encountering friends yesterday who urged (begged) her to leave the church. My fear is that no matter what he says/does it won’t be right. Maybe Benedict could issue a statement?
          Actually I wasn’t thinking of Regensburg, I was thinking about his reported comments on condoms, and how that was blown to levels of idiocy.

          • Joseph

            Thanks for commiserating, Andy. The statement/clarification has to come from Pope Francis. If it comes from Benedict, the media will spin it how they’ve been currently spinning it: Benedict and Francis are at odds with each other, one is a crusty old Nazi who hates gays and the other is a living saint who wants gays to copulate in the parish hall after Mass. They’ll draw this distinction to discredit Benedict, to further divide the Church (for those Catholics who are members of political movements/parties before being Catholic), and to make Catholics and the Church look even more like fools to the secular world for their infighting. That would play into their hands. It has to come from Francis alone.

            • Andy

              Will people listen or will the media actually report what he says? I have fears about that.

              • Joseph

                Probably not. But a clarification from Pope Francis would at least help me in my efforts to convince… again… my anti-Catholic family and friends that the Church isn’t the Whore of Babylon. Without an official clarification, I may as well walk away from my family now and preserve my children from the desperate attempts to *save* them. Honestly, everyone acting like this is no big deal must not be in the same situation I’m in. This royally sucks.

                • Andy

                  I pray you do nit walk away from your family – those who are anti-catholic. Perhaps asking them pro explain who/what God is – not what they think he is and then comparing what they say to the creed, which any non-Catholics follow? How about, this what my wife did, band them a bible and ask where dies it say God is a being us found.
                  Use their inerrancy ad a tool. I agree it is a big deal, because so many folks gave no idea what Francis us saying.

        • Michael Boedi

          But why? It’s church teaching since St Augustine and probably earlier. It’s what St Thomas wrote, so what’s the fuss about?

          • Joseph

            Because 100% of the people freaking out about this haven’t read St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas. It has to be explained to them in USA Today terms (8th grade reading level).

          • Mark S. (not for Shea)

            Because in the United States, 90% of people equate Christianity with evangelical fundamentalism.

      • JM1001

        Maybe if the crazies actually read not only what the Pope says, but also some philosophy, a bit of history this wouldn’t happen.

        For real. I’m not even Catholic and I understood what Pope Francis was saying (but that’s probably because I’ve read a ton of ancient and medieval philosophy). Have the people commenting on this latest dust-up even read Plato’s Timaeus? Have they read classical theists like Augustine and Aquinas on the deficiencies of a demiurge-like conception of God? That’s all Francis was saying.

        But if you haven’t done your homework, then the pope’s words will fly right over your head — which is exactly what’s happening with the people criticizing him.

        • Andy

          Thanks for agreeing – I fail to understand why people cannot take tome to read and learn. I

    • HornOrSilk

      The Left-Behind fundies are also saying the Exsultet proves the Vatican worships Lucifer.
      “Flammas eius lúcifer matutínus invéniat:

      ille, inquam, lúcifer, qui nescit occásum.

      Christus Fílius tuus,”

      They hear “Lucifer” and so go with it. There is a lot on the web on this.

      • Michael Boedi

        Ah yes, it’s fun arguing with them.

        • Joseph

          Not when they are loved ones… trust me.

      • S. Murphy

        Sounds like a boss I used to work for, who would hear one word out of an entire sentence, construct in his mind the sentence he expected me to say, and then tell me I was wrong because of what he thought I said based on his not listening. He was actually not doing it on purpose, and he was a thoroughly decent guy, but he had his idea of who and what I was, and he had his own idiosyncratic way of not grokking language…

        • Sounds like a very close relative of C. S. Lewis’ father (Surprised by Joy). One of the most delightfully frustrating characters ever described in literature.

    • Dave

      I don’t even bother trying to explain any more. Something like this seems to happen every week, and these people, who think they are using Occam’s Razor, think that it’s more likely that I am just trying to interpret the Pope’s words according to my liking than that the “plain” meaning of his words is incorrect over and over again.

      I’m not sure why this happens so much more with this Pope…

      • Joseph

        I have to try because I love my family despite their deep seated bigotry planted by years of anti-Catholic propaganda. The *least* I can do is dispel the myths and get them to believe that the Church is, at minimum, Christian. Up until a few weeks ago (the misinformation spread by the media on the Synod), I had pretty much accomplished this, with God’s help. Now, it’s back to square one… literally… every discussion has been forgotten about. To them, the Pope is firmly back in the anti-Christ seat, I am deceived, I worship Mary all over again, and the Church is ushering in the One World Government and Religion (despite the fact that the rate of conversion and the intolerance of Catholicism by Western governments contradicts this visibly). I am deceived, apparently, all over again. I need saving all over again. Am I pissed about this? You bet I am. It’s stressful… this kind of stuff makes my side of the family really hard to handle.

        • Dave

          God bless your efforts, Joseph! These things can be teaching moments if people are willing to be open-minded. With the sheer number of these mistranslations, etc., though, people are becoming less apt to believe that my explanations are worthy of respect when they seem to contradict the “plain” sense of the words.

          • Joseph

            Thanks. Yes, it’s so friggin’ aggravating. And this just to do the bare minimum. If the Church is interested at all in actually evangelising, they better friggin’ learn how to nip these things in the bud. This particular mishap has been unhelpful for Christian unity and has only made the Church a mockery amongst the atheists. No word from the Orthodox yet. All the while, the same media that is presently stabbing Pope Francis in the back is simultaneously anointing him a living saint and their darling… deliberately, I imagine, since they know that will only divide Christians further. It’s not like we aren’t well aware that they like to shove daggers in every chink of the armour of the Church at every given opportunity. It’s sickening.

    • Jennifer R

      How can the truth be damaging?
      The only thing to do would be to pray that the Left Behindists (whoever they are) and the atheists can finally come to the truth.
      If you stand in the truth, you will be assailed — but that is where true courage comes in. Would you forego the truth in order to not be assailed? Or do you stand in the truth, and let the whatever will be, be?
      Nobody ever said it would be easy, but it may perhaps be worth it in the end.

  • Andy

    A quick note – divine means from or like God. Being is related closely to having a body and/or a spirit. God is God – he is not from God, nor has the church ever taught that God has a body. The teacher in me wants to say to the world – Reading is Fundamental – do some reading before talking.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    God is not a divine being. God is not “a being.” God is BEINGNESS. He is the source of all Isness. In Him we live and move and have our being. But God is not a being. There really is no word, especially in English, that can encapsulate what God is. Even loosely translated, Pope Francis is right.
    We can hardly blame the Pope for the wilfull ignorance of the media. This morning our local news had a piece on how Pope Francis was “radically changing” the Church’s stance on evolution. No one bothered to actually read a little and find out he hasn’t changed anything. He just commented on what the Church has taught for hundreds of years.

    • Chris BSomething

      What the…. What does it even mean to say God is not “a” being, but is “beingness” ? Fiddling around with the same english word and different versions thereof, sounds like desperate justification to me.

      I mean really… even the nicean creed says God is “one being”.

      • freddy

        Actually, Chris, the Nicene creed says, or said in English: “one IN being” or more recently “consubstantial” (Latin: consubstantialem) regarding the relationship of the Son to the Father. The creed, of course, begins, “I believe in one God” (Credo in Unum Deum).
        To say that God is not “a being” but “being” or “beingness” is not rocket science, but philosophy. (Rocket science is probably easier!)
        But it’s really just pointing out our belief that God, as author of all creation, cannot be subject to the definitions we use for the rest of creation, as He’s above, or beyond our comprehension. For the philosopher, calling God “a being” reduces Him.

        • Chris BSomething

          There’s good reason why the Nicean creed is often translated “one being”.

          The English word being is the absolute minimalist verb. All it says is something exists really. Translated thus, it means that the father and son in some sense have one existence which is not too bad a way of converting the sense.

          As for whether God is a being, all the expression means is that God exists! If you deny God is a being, you deny God exists. To be is to exist, that’s all.

          • Chris BSomething

            I might also observe, that no matter how much you care for the translation of the creed as”one being” it’s a common translation, that many millions of English speakers are used to, and I never heard any accusation it is wrong, let alone heretical. All the English world is thus surprised to be lectured by a pope that God is not a being. I suggest anyone who wants to argue with the English language just had an agenda to defend the indefensible.

      • Michael Boedi

        That’s because, the english language has lost an important distinction. There is esse (sein) and there is ens (seiendes). English has no distinction between those two words besides using an “a”.
        “A” being is ens. being is esse. (excuse this crude explanation!)
        I can’t see where the Nicaene creed declares JHWH as one being? If you meant “one substance with the Father” – now this is a completely different story.

        • Chris BSomething

          If English has no such distinction, then everyone here is just railing against the English language. To say God is beingness is an F for fail in your English test, and to say God is a being, is a simple statement of fact for every orthodox Christian who also believes in good grammar.

          • Michael Boedi

            You see me confused. It was exactly my point that God is not “a” being, but being.

            • Chris BSomething

              “It was exactly my point that God is not “a” being, but being.”

              That’s wrong English. Try telling us something in correct English worthy of comment. When you tell me things in incorrect English, you may as well be speaking nonsense.

              • HornOrSilk

                Actually, it is also correct English. “A being” is quite different from “being” in English. Perhaps you would do well to listen to everyone talking to you, instead of appearing more and more foolish for the sake of ignorance.

                • Chris BSomething

                  HornOrSilk, “being” is either a noun as in “A being”, or else a conjunction, as in “he is being foolish”.

                  So if you want to say “God is being”, my response is… well what is he being? Because it sounds like a conjunction with a missing clause.

                  F fail your English class.

                  • HornOrSilk

                    No, you are making assertions which are false

                    • Chris BSomething

                      Hahaha, but you can’t tell us which assertions are false and why. Funny that

                    • HornOrSilk

                      People have already told you, and you ignored it. You really don’t know what you are talking about and show yourself to be a troll. Enjoy the bridge. I’m not paying.

                    • Chris BSomething

                      Lying is not an attractive quality hornorsilk. Nobody here has made a claim about what place the word being has in the sentence “God is being” LET ALONE quoted a dictionary in defence of it.

      • Mark S. (not for Shea)

        St. Thomas Aquinas explains it better than I can: http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/deente4.html
        Stuff like this always reminds me of that line from THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER: “If only we were weiner dogs, all our problems would be solved!” In all seriousness, misunderstandings like this are not theological so much as linguistic. English is not a language well suited to theological distinctions like this. Greek and Latin are much better for this task, although when you get right down to the bottom of it, I rather suspect the Jews have it right: The true nature of God is unnameable.

    • Jennifer R

      Maybe a term that could be used is a concept derived from Native American religious concepts: God is Everything Maker. It isn’t quite the same, but the concept could be bent to application.
      We and all the rest are the everything that God makes. (which means, unlike a divine being/demiurge, God didn’t need a schematic, materials or tools to make the specific everythings, as God made the blueprint, materials, tools, products); God is therefore within all of these things — because God made them — while at the same time without — because all of these things are not the sum of the Maker.
      This is very much not the same as pantheism or eastern spiritual systems (and it is divergent from the original NA concepts as well to a large degree — but the concept, like I said).

      Maybe that helps; maybe not.

  • Barry Coleman

    Demiurgo in Italian means “Demiurge”, i.e. the ‘creating architect’ from Gnosticism or Deism. So Pope Francis is not deying God, clearly, but the ideology of deists and those who have a fairytale view of God.

    The exact ITALIAN words are:

    ” […] perché Dio non è un demiurgo o un mago, ma il Creatore che dà l’essere a tutti gli enti.”

    Translated in ENGLISH (I know Italian very well):
    “[…] because God is not a demiurge or a wizard, but the Creator that gives being to all entities”.

    This is what Thomas Aquinas would ALSO have said:

    God is not “a being among beings”, but the being who is being itself and gives existence to all beings.

    The speech by the Pope goes further stating that the ultimate cause of the universe cannot be some “chaos” (which requires a creator itself) and that the Big Bang does NOT deny the creating intervention of God, but rather REQUIRES it (enphasis added),

    So atheists and looneys basically mistranslated and distorted (probably on purpose) the Pope’s word.

    • jaybird1951

      I was taken aback for a moment too when i saw that headline. Then it became clear that what Francis had in mind was the demiurge, a word still in use in English although obviously unknown to some translators and media editors.

    • honzik

      Having studied gnosticism, where demiurges play a large and sinister role, I see Francis’ remarks as confirming historical Christian teaching a la Irenaus’ Adversus Haereses.

      On top of that, his reference to God’s aseity (being-ness) was spot on.

      In other words, what Francis said was not at all sloppy, but was, on the contrary, absolutely fundamental in Christian theology.

      Bravo Francis!

      • Barry Coleman

        I agree 🙂

    • Marthe Lépine

      Maybe some atheists and looneys have mistranslated and distorted on purpose what the Pope’s said. However, there is also a good chance that ignorance and stupidity played a role… This is not an easy subject

    • Chris BSomething

      “Demiurgo in Italian means “Demiurge”, i.e. the ‘creating architect’ from Gnosticism or Deism. So Pope Francis is not deying God, clearly, but the ideology of deists and those who have a fairytale view of God”

      What exactly is this fairy tale view that the pope is railing against? That God is a creative architect would be something like 2000 years of orthodox Christian doctrine. So if the pope has an issue with that, it would behoove him to not speak in riddles, but say plainly what his subtle point is.

  • deogratias

    Way to jump over to the remark. Very disconcerting that you feel it necessary to interpret Francis when he should be able to communicate on his own. When were you appointed as papal interpreter or come under the employ of the Holy See. Francis is either a very sloppy speaker, or has other intentions and beliefs of his own. Either way, I am not comfortable with either you or Francis under these circumstances and these statements.

    • IRVCath

      It makes sense in Italian. It was not sloppy-in Italian.

    • Jared Clark

      He doesn’t need an interpreter if you speak the language he uses. I do not speak Italian, so I need a good Italian translator to interpret him. Turns out, the Italian translator either botched the job or lied about what the Pope said. Personally, I’m glad so many have corrected this translation.

      And it also gave a chance to teach some Thomism, which is always a good thing. 😛

    • petey

      “Francis is either a very sloppy speaker, or has other intentions and beliefs of his own.”


    • Joseph

      You see. This comment is exactly what I’m talking about. No matter how much sense we make interpreting what Francis said, the Left Behind clan will never accept it. Only Pope Francis can clean up this mess. I hope he doesn’t end up thinking he’s above the deliberate implications made by the media who is laughing and patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

      • HornOrSilk

        This again shows how you place the blame on the Pope, then act like you didn’t. How can the Pope “clean up this mess” when he didn’t create it, and whatever he says, can be reported wrong again? What is he to do, wave a wand and become a wizard himself?

        • Joseph

          Dude, I haven’t blamed the Pope for anything. Shut up already. I’m not going to give you what you want (an argument over something that has never been said). You’re as bad as the Left Behindists latching on to the media’s version of Francis’ speech.

          • HornOrSilk

            You are saying the Pope is responsible, only he can clean up a mess he didn’t make. You still have not answered how. You still are putting everything on him and the officials of the church. How, again, are they going to force things to go different? It’s like telling God, it’s his fault the Bible was made and thus his fault that Protestants exist.

    • UAWildcatx2

      Way to not read the context of the remark. It’s quite sad to see so many Catholics assume they know exactly what is meant by each remark. I’m quite confident that His Holiness is not affected by the fact that you aren’t comfortable with the translation of his statements.

  • Is it possible your approach may be improved? Rather than calling others who question something, “reactionaries,” or some other like pejorative term; use an educational approach. After all, you have an excellent forum; use it to that end. The papal quote you cite certainly catches the eye; but a quick study ignores the same because the media consistently abuses Francis quotes. Not everyone is a quick study nor has the time to study the question. Your approach should be educational. Thank you.

    • HornOrSilk

      I do not think Mark is saying everyone who questions what is said and is confused by it are reactionaries. However, those always looking for something to use as ammunition, be it atheists, or “rad-trads” saying Pope Francis is not a real pope, are there seeking to distort the message and confuse people even more. Those are the reactionaries causing problems. Their very words show they are trying to undermine the faith instead of asking questions due to confusion.

      • True. I agree; yet there are so many more that are not reactionaries in the sense you describe that can learn and absorb what is being clarified. These people are not reactionaries and they are the wider audience. Our dear Pope is at times–as transcribed by the media and others–not clear and Mark can play an educational role. I am not yielding to Mark as a papal interpreter but as one among many Catholics with a forum and an opportunity to clarify. Charity is warranted by all.

  • Hezekiah Garrett

    If nothing else, Francis has exposed the ridiculously poor catechesis within some quarters of the church.

  • UAWildcatx2

    ” do I keep listening to people who sow so much confusion about what the Pope says? Why don’t I learn my faith better so I don’t keep having these panic attacks over nothing?” <- This. 7×70 times this.

  • Kelly Reineke

    I see this an issue of trust. Once you lose trust in a person, everything he says is taken in the worst light. That trust is very hard to re-earn, so to speak. It can be difficult to set aside such a one-dimensional view of a person once you think he only lies when his lips move. I don’t think the remedy is a scolding — “just put on your thinking caps!” But I don’t know what the remedy is. I’m grateful for our pope!

  • Dave G.

    I didn’t really stop by this post earlier. Thought I would take a look today. What’s with the legion of deleted comments? I mean one or two can happen, but it’s like half of a conversation is missing. Even reading the responses, I can’t figure out what was said.

    • wlinden

      Perhaps you did not click “Load more comments” at the bottom?

  • bob

    So there we have it! God is not a being apart from His creation, but rather is being itself. Catholicism is no longer a conventional theistic religion, but rather a pantheistic one along the lines of Zen. To my fellow Catholics doubtlessly sitting zazen in light of this revelation: OM!

    • Rosemarie


      Incorrect. Catholic theology teaches that God is Existence Itself – I AM THAT I AM. We only exist because He brought us into existence from nothing AND constantly sustains our existence. Otherwise we would cease to exist. Only God is *necessary* Existence; we are not. That’s what “God is Being Itself” would mean.

      No, this isn’t pantheism, since we are not one substance with God. Otherwise we would also be necessary Being like Him and wouldn’t need Him to sustain our being. But we’re not; He created us out of nothing and only His power sustains us from falling bad into nothingness. So we clearly do not share the essence of God. He is Infinite, we are finite. He is Existence Itself; we are utterly dependent upon Him for our very existence.

      • bob

        Methinks you are trying to fudge over what His Holiness actually said. He said that God is not a “magician.” Creating the universe (including us) ex nihilo–at any point in time–would qualify as magic to atheists; the word being a cynical substitution for “miracle,” action outside the constraints of the laws of physics.

        In Eastern metaphysical thought, we and all are manifestations of the absolute called “Brahman” in Hinduism and other names in various traditions. The absolute is pure consciousness devoid of form and the material world is an epiphenomenon of consciousness rather than visa versa as is the common sense perception. This belief is called “idealism” and was shared by some Western philosophers such as Plato. Our relational existence to the absolute consciousness is tantamount to that of dream characters to ours. Their transient existences are totally contingent upon ours, which is exactly what you describe as the supposed orthodox Catholic belief. Therefore, I fail to see the distinction.

        • petey

          me, on the other hand, thinks you choose to fail to see the distinction.

          • bob

            Why do you waste the time of myself and all with a naked assertion? Cloth your assertion with your argument if you have one.

        • chezami

          Words mean what I want them to mean, no more, no less! – Atheist in Wonderland

        • Rosemarie


          Catholic theology does not teach that we are manifestations of an “absolute.” It teaches that we are creatures called into existence by the Creator and sustained in existence by Him. We truly exist yet are distinct from our Creator, as I explained above.

          You clearly don’t understand the difference. Go and learn Catholic theology; it is quite different from “Eastern metaphysical thought”.

          • bob

            We are not discussing Catholic theology. We are discussing what the current pope recently said. Perhaps you should make your proffered suggestion to him instead of to me.

            If God created (“called into existence”) us, then from what? From nothing? If so, wouldn’t He indeed then be the “magician” that the pope denies He is? Indeed, I was taught from the very onset of my Catholic education in parochial school that one of God’s many characteristics is omnipotence. Is our present pontiff aware of this? “Let there be light.” If God was (i.e, the verb to be) before we were, then how could He not have been a “being”? To argue otherwise, would be anti-definitional. We, beings, were created by another being.

            I’m uncertain what Pope Francis meant by his remarks, but Fr. Barron (offered here as presumed clarification of the pope’s remarks) seems to argue that God is not
            a being at all, but rather *is* “being.” Since I assume you would agree that we exist (at least presently), then mustn’t we too constitute “being”; and, since God *is* being, then we must be part and parcel of God according to this reasoning, exactly in concert with Eastern philosophy.

            • chezami

              What the pope *said* is that God is not a demiurge. Knock yourself out showing that this is not Catholic. The rest of what the pope said is Catholic, unless you want to seriously try to argue that creation ex nihilo is not Catholic doctrine.

              • bob

                In which language did Pope Francis make his remarks? Since he was speaking before a largely secular audience, I assume it wasn’t Latin. Therefore, was it Italian? Spanish? (I assume it wasn’t English (if the pope speaks the language) or there would be no question for us as to what he actually said.) Translators of modern languages into English cannot differentiate between “divine being” and “demiurge”? There are not separate expressions for each concept in whatever language in which the pope spoke? Spaniards and Italians are not familiar with Plato and Platonic philosophical concepts?

                This seems like the same sort of creative interpretation that liberals are wont to recourse to when trying to rationalize their favored moralistic positions against what a script actually reads as with Paul’s condemnations of the practice of homosexuality “really” meaning his condemnation of pederasty which is “what he was actually referring to.” The word “interpretation” can only carry so much baggage. One might consider Waterloo to have been a resounding Napoleonic victory if one so pleases, but the *fact* remains that Nappy ended his mercurial career cultivating potatoes on St. Helena.

                Leaving this aside, however, why do you ask *me* if I, in effect, deny that God having created the universe ex nihilo is a Catholic doctrine when I have already stated (or alluded to) the fact that it is and would therefore seem to be in contradiction to the pope’s denial that God is a “magician”? Isn’t creation ex nihilo exactly the sort of concept that atheists and other detractors of monotheistic religions would term “magic,” and what we believers would term “miraculous”?

                You are a moderator, apparently. If we accept for the sake of argument that Pope Francis actually did say “demiurge” and was mistranslated, or that he simply misspoke and meant demiurge rather than “divine being,” do you now regret attempting to use the clip from Fr. Barron’s talk in which *he* states that God is not a being but rather *is* being as clarification of what the pope intended? Is it not Catholic doctrine that God is an anthropomorphic being; i.e, not God with a human body, but rather in the sense that He is a distinct (from His creation) being and personality and is judgmental as opposed to the amoral concept of The Mind in Zen? If so, then why did you use Fr. Barron’s talk as attempted clarification of what the pope intended?

              • bob

                Okay, this article seems to indicate that you are correct that the pope did say “demiurge” and not “divine being.” Why this service made such an egregious mistranslation remains uncertain and which renders part of what I state below moot. (I should have
                researched this matter prior to having left my last (below) post for which I apologize):


                Nevertheless, I still have concerns about the pope’s denial that God is a “magician” if by that he means magician to be tantamount with “miracle worker.” I also have grave concerns with Fr. Barron’s view of God. You say it is from Aquinas. Can you please provide a reference for me to where he stated such?

                Thank you.

                • chezami

                  “Magic” is not the same as “miracle” in the Catholic tradition.

                  • wlinden

                    Depends on definitions. I like to troll occultists by pointing out that the Mass is the most important magical working in the Western tradition. Uh, what are those pain technicians doing he……

                • Rosemarie


                  Magician is not synonymous with miracle worker. The former tries to cast spells using powers other than divine while the latter relies on God to perform miracles.

                  We can look at it another way, which is perhaps closer to the pope’s meaning. A magician (say the legendary Merlin or someone more recent, like Aleister Crowley) is himself a creature, part of God’s creation, who uses other elements of the created world (wand, herbs, incense, physical gestures etc.) to cast his spells in an attempt to manipulate the natural world.

                  In contrast, the Creator is not part of creation. He exists eternally and brings all creation into existence by His creative Word alone. So by saying that God is not a magician, he may mean that God is not some kind of uber-creature who is part of the universe and has this really powerful occult magic by which He accomplishes everything. Which is true, of course. God is not Merlin.

                • pbecke

                  He seems to mean a ‘stage magician’, a conjuror, Bob.

            • pbecke

              Yes, it wasn’t sensible to decry ‘magic’. I’ve always understood it to be a synonym for the supernatural. I think the church is till bending over backwards to prevent the atheist scientists from speciously defaming it, as it has done over the Galileo business.

              What does ‘creation ‘ex nihilo’ mean, if not creation from nothing. ‘magicking’ something into existence. Not a conjuror’s trick, but supernatural act of an omnipotent god.

              Anyway, Mark is taken to task and his contentions disputed at some length, here, by an extremely gifted polymath called V J Torley:


              And yes, the media, as usual, all together misinterpreted Francis’ point. God is not a being. There is not even a concept of being independent of Him. He’s not a demiurge who fiddles with what already exists, a conjuror or ‘stage magician’.

              • bob

                Well, at least this commentator apparently thinks enough of Mr. Shea’s theological musings as to have taken the time to write such a thorough deconstruction of his views.

                Regarding your concluding paragraph, I’m afraid we’re back at square one. If God is not a being but rather *is*
                being, then we as beings must by simple logic be a part of God, a manifestation of Him, which smacks of pantheism to me.

                Let me put the question to you by way of analogy. I wrote a philosophical proof of a creator based upon Einstein’s relativity. As I note within it, it only purports to prove the existence (within an assumed paradigm
                of realism as opposed to idealism) of a creator of some kind for our universe and not necessarily for God per se. The creator could just was well be (according to my logic) an extra-dimensional computer programmer, a human being just like us. In this hypothetical occurrence, wouldn’t you agree that our creator was indeed a being, separate and apart from us?

                Now, if you substitute the Christian concept of God for this human computer programmer, what exactly would be the distinction? Would not God qualify as a
                being once preexisting us unless one adopts the pantheistic position that we are just manifestations of the basic essence of existence (God) that cannot be further sublated? In my view, it has to be one
                or the other. Either dream characters have
                their own existences (beings) independent of their dreamers or they do not (manifestations).

                • pbecke

                  I don’t follow your ‘simple logic’, your reasoning, Bob.

                  We do indeed partake of the divine nature, as baptised Christians in good faith, but by adoption, as a free gift of God, to join the family of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. Jesus spoke of it in terms of a vine his Father cultivated and pruned. But as an ant is in God, it is higher than we are in ourselves: mere creatures created ex nihilo.

                  Presumably, it is why we must die to ourselves, given our fallen nature. In heaven, the saints will have bodies glorified in ways we can’t imagine. But they will surely be at least as remarkable as Jesus’ after his resurrection, when he was able to walk through locked doors.

                  Unsurprisingly, there is a paradox at the heart of all this, in that, for all that Jesus is the full expression of the Father’s nature, we shall never know the fullest depths of God, as the Holy Spirit does.

                  Incidentally, Paul speaks in an almost panentheistic (not pantheistic) manner, as did Einstein in his fashion, when speaking of ‘the Old One’, Ancient of Days:

                  ‘Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes
                  convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit
                  vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with
                  our modest powers must feel humble.’


                  ‘The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a
                  little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the
                  ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that
                  someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It
                  does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the
                  child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—-a
                  mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.’

                  Einstein expressly stated he was not a pantheist, nor, for that matter, a theist, though he was full of admiration for Judaeo-Christianity as man’s supreme source of moral teaching.

                  Incidentally, I’ve asked many scientists the following, and none hav either denied my assertion or expressly concurred with it:

                  If Light always hits an Observer travelling at constant speed in the same direction, at its absolute speed, it must mean that its source is non-local, from beyond space-time, subject to a different framework of reference.

                  How, then, without Light’s cognizance of the coordinates of every human being, could Light, or the agent governing it, be able to dispose either its own speed or our space-time world, so that it always hit that person at its absolute speed.

                  In other words, said Light or its governing agent, must be omniscient, omnipotent and interact personally with each individual on the planet. The God of deism; the more obviously so, if, as I believe, spiritual light and physical light form a continuum.

                  • bob

                    Pbecke, once again, if God *is* being and we are currently being, then we are God. That is, A = A, B = B, C = C, etc.. I don’t know how I can clarify my point to
                    make it any simpler. This is pantheism which is indeed most certainly not Catholic doctrine.

                    As we have now established that the pope did not actually say that God is not a divine being, and in corollary never said God is not a being (of whatever nature), my point of contention is with Fr. Barron’s assertion that God *is* being rather than is a being, and with Mr. Shea who presumably posted this clip of a talk by Fr. Barron as attempted clarification of what the pope meant under the apparent mistaken belief (shared by myself when I first posted here Friday) that the pope said that God is not a divine being.

                    Mr. Shea claims that Fr. Barron’s assertion comes from Aquinas and I have asked him to cite where St. Thomas
                    made such an assertion. He has not as yet complied with my request.

                    • Rosemarie


                      You’re still missing the distinction. God is *necessary* Being, IOW He is self-existent. We are not self-existent so we are not God.

                      God is Uncreated, we are created. God is Infinite, we are finite. God has no beginning, we have a beginning. How does that all add up to “we are God”? It doesn’t. His Nature and our natures are utterly distinct.

                      The infinite, self-existent Being which is God creates, out of nothing (not out of Himself) finite creatures who are dependent upon Him for their existence. Our substance is distinct from God’s Substance. We are not God.

                      No, this is not Eastern metaphysics. We are not mere dream characters or illusions, we are very *real* beings. We are just contingent beings, relying on Necessary Being for our existence.

                      If you want something from St. Thomas Aquinas, then try this:

                      Summa Theologica Part I Question 44 Article 1

                      Particularly this quote:

                      “It must be said that every being in any way existing is from God. For whatever is found in anything by participation, must be caused in it by that to which it belongs essentially, as iron becomes ignited by fire. Now it has been shown above (Question 3, Article 4) when treating of the divine simplicity that God is the essentially self-subsisting Being; and also it was shown (11, 3,4) that subsisting being must be one; as, if whiteness were self-subsisting, it would be one, since whiteness is multiplied by its recipients. Therefore all beings apart from God are not their own being, but are beings by participation. Therefore it must be that all things which are diversified by the diverse participation of being, so as to be more or less perfect, are caused by one First Being, Who possesses being most perfectly.”

                    • bob

                      Rosemarie, thank you for your attempted thoughtful answer to my reply to pebecke, but your quote from Aquinas puzzles me. He seems to me to clearly support my position of what constitutes orthodox Catholic doctrine that God is indeed a being. Did you read the quote yourself before posting it? He states: “…are caused by one First Being, Who possesses being most perfectly.” Where did he state that God *is* being? Indeed, he seems to state the contrary: “Who possesses being….”

                      Again, I am not arguing with the pope (much less Catholic dogma) now that I understand what
                      he actually said as properly translated. I am arguing with Fr. Barron’s contention that God *is* being and Mr. Shea’s presumed agreement with him. Anyway, thank you for this most valuable Thomist quotation which in light of I hope you will reject the pantheistic doctrine that God and being are synonymous.

                    • Rosemarie


                      Pantheism is the belief that there is only a notional distinction between God and the universe; God is actually identical with the universe. I have continually explained that this is not the case – God is utterly *distinct* from creation. So I most certainly do not espouse pantheism.

                      Being means existence. God is not a thing with the property of existence, nor is He a thing that dwells within existence, as if existence were somehow a higher thing than Him. Rather, His existence and essence are identical. There is only a notional distinction between them. God is His own Existence. That’s what we mean when we say that God is Being itself.

                      Therefore God is Existence Itself, ultimate Being. This is all Catholic theology.

                      We are not Being itself. We are beings, meaning we have the property of existence. As creatures our existence and essence are really distinct. No creature can have his existence identical with his essence.

                      By a creative act, God imparts being to creatures who are really distinct from Him. But it does not logically follow that they are therefore the same substance as Him. God is Existence itself Who causes us to exist. Yet God is still completely, radically Other than us.

                      This is Aquinas 101. It is self-evident that you have not studied Aquinas at all.

                      Just because Catholic theology and pantheism may use some equivocal terms doesn’t mean they have identical definitions or understandings of them.

                    • Rosemarie


                      “First Being” doesn’t mean the first in a species of beings. It means God is the Ultimate, Primary EXISTENCE. No higher existence is possible. He causes all creatures to exist but He alone exists in and of Himself.

                      Since you don’t seem to understand the Aquinas quote, here’s one from St. Bonaventure:

                      8. Recapitulating, let us say: Because, then, Being is most pure and absolute, that which is Being simply is first and last and, therefore, the origin and the final cause of all. Because eternal and most present, therefore it encompasses and penetrates all duration, existing at once as their center and circumference. Because most simple and greatest, therefore it is entirely within and entirely without all things and, therefore, is an intelligible sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference nowhere. Because most actual and most immutable, then “remaining stable it causes the universe to move” [Boethius, Cons. III, met. 9]. Because most perfect and immense, therefore within all, though not included in them; beyond all, but not excluded from them; above all, but not transported beyond them; below all, and yet not cast down beneath them. Because most highly one and all-inclusive, therefore all in all, although all things are many and it is only one. And this is so since through most simple unity, clearest truth, and most sincere goodness there is in it all power, all exemplary causality, and all communicability. And therefore from it and by it and in it are all things. And this is so since it is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good. And to see this perfectly is to be blessed. As was said to Moses, “I will show thee all good” [Exod. 33, 19].

                      Journey of the Mind into God, Chapter 5, paragraph 8

                      He clearly calls God “Being” here.

                    • pbecke

                      I think you are scanning text too quickly. Or you have an eyesight problem. I didn’t say we were being; ‘being’ is different from ‘a being’. Admittedly, when we try to define God, it’s a hopeless task. He is too abstruse for our minds to do other than imperfectly hint at his nature. But, sure, we can say a great deal that He is not with a lot of confidence.

                      But I don’t want to get into this argument Bob. It bores me to death. See Rosemary’s first sentence, below, and you may (or may not) finally grasp the matter.

                    • bob

                      Yes, I shall readily accept Rosemary’s sentence that you point me to—as I readily do her quote from Aquinas!—with one alteration. She wrote that “God is*necessary* Being.”

                      She omitted the article “a” before “Being”’ and that one lonely letter makes all the difference as you can gleam from St. Thomas if you wanted to, I’d wager. But, as you said, you’re bored and who am I to keep you from your benign ennui?



                    • Rosemarie


                      Aquinas wrote in Latin. You are making doctrinal distinctions based on an English translation. You clearly do not understand Aquinas or Catholic theology. I don’t mean this to insult you but it is self-evident to anyone here who has a passing knowledge of Aquinas.

                      Check out the quote from St. Bonaventure below. There is no “a” there. He says that God is *Being*, not “a being.”

                      This is not pantheism. Please learn more about Catholic theology before embarrassing yourself further.

                    • Rosemarie

                      My Husband would like to address you & I made him promise not to insult you as it is his way sometimes.

                      Rosemarie’s HUSBAND SPEAKS:
                      “First you are making a fallacy of equivocation. A dog that has a loud bark does not translate into trees which have bark, which therefore, must be loud. The term “being” as defined by Aquinas means either existence or an existent. God is His own existence and His own essence. God’s essence and existence are only notionally distinct and thus not really distinct as they are in creatures. God isn’t “a being” that is an existent with distinct attributes as in creatures whose existence and essence by definition are really distinct. God because His existence and essence are identical IS HIS OWN ATTRIBUTES. Thus God isn’t a being who loves God IS LOVE thus logically we can say God is Love Itself. God isn’t a being who knows all truth but is in fact Truth & thus Truth Itself. God is not something that has the attribute of being He is his own being thus logically He is Being Itself. This is know to all Thomistic Scholars. From Traditional Thomists like Lagrange to Fr Barron to Edward Feser or Brian Davies.

                      Would it kill you to learn a little Thomism and less Theistic personalist Protestant fundamentalism which it looks like you are channeling?

                      There are beings of reason like abstract concepts. Beings of existence such as creatures and there is Being considered as Itself otherwise known as YHWH.

                      It is not hard when you know how.

                    • Rosemarie

                      ps Rosemarie’s HUSBAND SPEAKS:

                      >She omitted the article “a” before “Being”’ and that one lonely letter makes all the difference.

                      Latin does not specify definite and indefinite articles as is done in English. So can you explain from the Grammar of Aquinas’ original Latin text how he endorses your novel concept of God not being identical to his own being therefore not being Being Itself?

                      How have you figured that out from his writings but every Thomistic scholar from Traditionalists, Neo-Scholastics to modern existential Thomists missed it? That is something I really would like too know.

                      That will be all I turn it over to the wife.

                    • bob

                      (1 of 2)

                      Rosemarie and Husband, although I am hardly a Thomist scholar, I am not totally bereft of knowledge
                      of his writings. FYI, I *was* aware that when St. Thomas wrote of the “First Being” and the “First Cause” that he wasn’t speaking chronologically but rather existentially. In fact, I was involved in a discussion on this very point on the forum of William Lane Craig, the Protestant theologian and philosopher and frequent public speaker and debater. Therefore, perhaps you might consider toning down the condescending attitude.

                      My interpretation of what St. Thomas meant by that (or by his quote that you cited: “*God is very being by His own essence*”) doesn’t negate my assertion that he wasn’t denying that God is “a being” in direct contradiction to what Mr. Shea writes in his blog piece here and you appear to support. Indeed, you didn’t respond to my pointing out that in the passage from Aquinas *that you originally cited* he clearly wrote “Who [God] possesses being.” One does not possess one’s self. Rather, one is one’s self. Therefore, for St. Thomas to have stated that God possesses being (existence) he seems to contradict your interpretation that he argues that God *is* being.

                      Regarding your quote from St. Bonaventure, here I must confess that I am totally unfamiliar with his theological views. They perplex me in light of the citation I shall shortly provide here from a source that you would perhaps consider to be authoritative.

                      I am much more widely read within Eastern metaphysical religions, particularly Advaita Vedanta (“AV”) and Zen—two schools very closely allied in substance albeit coming from the different traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism respectively—, and upon reading this quotation from St. Bonaventure, I can state with some confidence that if I were to lift this almost verbatim (merely eliminating the reference to Moses and the internal citation) onto a forum devoted to AV or Zen and attributed it to a nonexistent guru or Zen master, few would bat an eyelash in accepting its authenticity as coming from within their schools.

                      I shall presently make another reply to you with the salient quotation from a Catholic source that I referred to.

                    • bob

                      2 of 2

                      Rosemarie and Husband, here is a quote from the *Catholic Encyclopedia*:

                      “When we say that *God is a personal being* we mean that He is intelligent and free and distinct from the created universe. Personality as such expresses perfection, and if human personality as such connotes imperfection, it must be remembered that, as in the case of similar predicates, this connotation is excluded when we attribute personality to God. *It is principally by way of opposition to Pantheism that Divine personality is emphasized by the Theistic philosopher*. Human personality, as we know it, is one of the primary
                      data of consciousness, and it is one of those created perfections which must be realized formally (although only analogically) in the First Cause. But Pantheism would require us to deny the reality of any such perfection, whether in creatures or in the Creator
                      and this is one of the fundamental objections to any form of Pantheistic teaching.” [Emphasis added in both instances]

                      “Divine Personality” under the table of contents


                      Here we have a quote that not only stresses that “God is a personal being” but also positions such in opposition to pantheism. Do you have a rebuttal? Would you at least acknowledge that this passage directly contradicts Mr. Shea’s contention that “He [God] is not ‘a being’ divine or otherwise.” as written above?

                      It is my view that God exists timelessly and eternally in a dimension higher than ours (“free and distinct from the created universe”). Thus our sphere of existence (our spacetime) is alien to His own and His is inaccessible to us unless He wills such (being omnipotent). God clearly exists apart from us though He, of course, created us and our dimension of existence. Indeed, my own philosophical proof of a creator (based on relativity) purports to prove such. Unfortunately, I don’t believe our host will allow links to one’s own website as self-promotion (even if free access) or I would offer it to you and others as clarification of my own views.

                    • Rosemarie


                      Why should I rebut it? How does that passage from the Catholic Encyclopediea refute anything my husband and I have written? Of course God is personal – Three Persons, to be exact.

                      Do you think that calling God “Being” somehow means that God is impersonal? Because it doesn’t. Not at all! It just means that God is self-existent; it doesn’t mean He’s not personal.

                      If that’s the problem, then no wonder we’ve been talking past each other.

                      “A being” is not a synonym for “a person”; rather, “being” is synonymous with existence.

                      And once again, of course God is distinct from creation, though He is omnipresent and sustains its existence. It’s not in any way part of Him (for God has no parts; His Nature is simple).

                    • bob

                      Rosemarie, okay, let’s say that apparently God is both being and a being, perhaps a mystery along the lines of the Trinity. Fr. Barron agrees with you that Aquinas maintained that God is being, and he is by no means espousing pantheism as is the case with you and all here, so let’s leave it at that.

                      Thank you, your husband and Paul for the stimulating discussion, as well as our host for facilitating the dialogue. There are indeed differences of opinions in most religions and Catholicism is certainly no exception as the erstwhile Mormon poster pointed out. It’s the essentials that matter.

                      Best regards,


                    • Rosemarie


                      Okay, let’s try Aquinas again:

                      “God is in all things; not, indeed, as part of their essence, nor as an accident, but as an agent is present to that upon which it works. For an agent must be joined to that wherein it acts immediately and touch it by its power; hence it is proved in Phys. vii that the thing moved and the mover must be joined together. Now since God is very being by His own essence, created being must be His proper effect; as to ignite is the proper effect of fire. Now God causes this effect in things not only when they first begin to be, but as long as they are preserved in being; as light is caused in the air by the sun as long as the air remains illuminated. Therefore as long as a thing has being, God must be present to it, according to its mode of being. But being is innermost in each thing and most fundamentally inherent in all things since it is formal in respect of everything found in a thing, as was shown above (Question 7, Article 1). Hence it must be that God is in all things, and innermostly.” (emphasis mine)

                      from Summa Theologica Part I, Question 7, Article 1

                      Did you get that? “God is very being by his own essence.” Is Aquinas now a pantheist?

                      And don’t let the lack of capitalization of the word “being” trip you up; that’s the choice of the translator. It still says that God is Being.

                      EDIT: Just one more short quote from the Angelic Doctor:

                      “…it is absolutely true that there is first something which is essentially being and essentially good, which we call God”

                      from Summa Theologica Part I, Question 6, Article 4

                      God is “essentially being.” That means that His very Essence is Being, even as His very Essence is Goodness.

                      I’m telling you, this is Catholic theology, not pantheist heresy.

                    • pbecke

                      One last try, Bob. Try using your own noddle. Books can only take you so far:

                      ‘a being’ indicates one of a multiplicity of beings.

                      OK? Now go back to sleep, there’s a good chap.

                      Best to you, Bob, sleeply-head or not.


                    • bob

                      P. S., I said that *we* are “being.” Right this
                      moment, some of us are being happy; others, being sad and still others…being bored. 🙂

                  • Chris BSomething

                    Kind of off topic pbecke, but the reason light always hits us at a constant speed is because space-time compresses as we move. So if we move towards a light source to try and make light appear faster, space time will compress enough so that light appears the same speed. If we could sit still, watching you sitting on a fast express train trying to measure it, from our still position, your ruler would appear to have got shorter.

                    • pbecke

                      Chris, thanks for connecting the dots for me there. However, that does not address the question as to why light must remain at its constant absolute speed in relation to our relative world of space-time. Indeed, Light clearly inhabits its own proper framework of reference, outside that of space-time.

                      It does not seem so anomalous, however, in the light (sic!) of what is now known about other minuscule, subatomic particles being non local – radiated from that different framework of reference proper to light photons.

                      My main point was precisely the absolute speed of light; why would that compression of space-time so that light would always hit the observer at its constant, absolute speed, mutatis mutandis, be so personal to the observer? It’s the observer’s crucial, subjective role, also, and at least as notably, in quantum physics, that atheists cannot get round, even though they would surely view the compression of space-time you refer to as automatic – the laws of nature, don’t you know!

                      So, now, in the light of the revelations of quantum mechanics, it seems even clearer that John Paul’s statement concerning the sphere’s of knowledge, respectively proper to Christianity and to science, for instance, no longer holds good acros the board, but only to classical, mechanistic physics. Physics has irretrievably entered into the world of religious mysteries, endless paradoxes, as it has approached the interface between matter and spirit. .

                    • Chris BSomething

                      I don’t think it would be really right to say that light inhabits its own frame of reference, just because it is always a constant. Rather, there is a cosmic speed limit, which light happens to run at, because it has no mass. There are other things besides light which exhibit the same properties, of having no mass and traveling at light speed. It would be more appropriate to call it the massless particle speed.

                      Because there is a cosmic speed limit, there is a limit to how much space time can compress from speed. If you could reach light speed you would be compressed to nothing, which is impossible. The compression limit is related to the cosmic speed limit. Or in other words, compression doesn’t really serve to keep light constant. Rather, light speed and compression are limited by the exact same phenomenon – the cosmic speed limit, and therefore offset each other.

                    • pbecke

                      Chris, you said:

                      ‘I don’t think it would be really right to say that light inhabits its own frame of reference, just because it is always a constant.’

                      The reason for saying this is that it does not conform with the relativity proper to space-time. It is a kind of absolute entity, to which space-time is contingent, relating to it, and not the other way around. Are you familiar with the illustration of the car headlights?

                      You’re making it too complicated, when it isn’t. Light photons, like the particles concerned, are non-local in origin, and accepted as such by physicists, and consequently predicate a different unknown (by physics) reference frame, as their origin. In fact, it’s surely the same one as the Singularity at the Big Bang.

                    • Chris BSomething

                      pbecke, light is non local because it has no mass, and all particles with no mass travel at light speed.

                      But it’s not just light that has these properties when traveling at the cosmic speed limit. It’s the cosmic limit that causes this, not light.

                      Imagine we accelerate a tennis ball to 99% light speed. We get on a rocket ship in the opposite direction at 99% light speed.  At what speed does the tennis ball appear to be coming towards us? Twice light speed? No, still less than light speed. In this experiment, no light is involved, yet the tennis ball aquires the property that you assign to light as being seemingly non local in frame.  Not quite, because 99% light speed is still not 100%, so you’ll probably see the ball coming at 99.9 % light speed or something, but you get the point. The closer you get to the cosmic limit, the closer things seem to be constant in speed regardless of your frame. But only particles with zero mass actually can get 100% of the way to light speed and appear  100% frameless.

                    • pbecke

                      ‘pbecke, light is non local because it has no mass, and all particles with no mass travel at light speed.’

                      That is not what makes it non local, Chris. It is that its absolute speed is constant in a space-time world in which the value for the speed of everything else in motion is gauged in relation to other objects in its proximity, either stationary or moving in the same direction at a constant speed..

                      ‘But it’s not just light that has these properties when traveling at the cosmic speed limit. It’s the cosmic limit that causes this, not light.’

                      See above, Chris. Speed-limit values are irrelevant. The only law of physics that is, is that of relativity, and in this case, its breach.

                    • Chris BSomething

                      pbecke, you’re not listening in that you don’t understand that physical objects have the same property when accelerated to near light speed. Two people in two rocket ships accelerated to near light speed in opposite directions do not perceive that they are approaching each other at the sum of their speeds, i.e. 2x near light speed as Newtonian physics would indicate. Rather they would perceive that they are approaching each other at slightly nearer to light speed.

                      I’ll put it again another way. If there is a tennis ball coming to you at almost light speed, you won’t be able to make that speed seem any faster by you moving fast towards it, even if you could manage to move towards it at a speed of nearly light speed.

                      I know that’s non-intuitive, but that’s the strange world of relativity. And the only special thing about light, is because its massless it travels at light speed, whereas its really really hard to get a tennis ball that fast.

                    • pbecke

                      Chris, I keep telling you I don’t expect an object with as to hit the speed of light. What you are saying is that it’s of physics. Fine, but what I’m saying is twofold If you don’t get it, we’ll call t a day:

                      a) The fact that what you have just delineated concerning mass and the speed of light being a law of physics is nothing more than a description of the reality. It is precisely in the anomalous nature of QM in relation to light I am saying is not merely a fucnton of laws of physics, but points to a different physical reference frame, beyond space-time – since (forget the value for its speed as totally irrelevant) it defies relativity.

                      Are you familiar with the two-car illustration? Two cars, at night, one following the other, headlights on. The first car is moving at a constant 50mph, the second at 40mph. The speed at which the headlights of the second car hit the first car should be the speed of light MINUS 10mph; but it does not. It STiLL hits it at its constant absolute speed.

                      Sure, this is concerns a very ordinary, humdrum fact of relativity, but you should be able to extrapolate from it that, while light enters and interacts with space-time it does not obey the relativity displayed by the rest of our universe. Never mind that its a law of physics. That’s the point! It ‘shouldn’t’ be, because it is uniquely anomalous in space-time, and clearly of non local origin.

                      PS: Of course you can’t get a tennis ball to the speed of light without its developing infinite mass. As you say, a tall order.

                      Forgot the second point.
                      Quantum mechanics is the most successful ever paradigm, and not just because it is the latest standard. What is more, it has also actually been mathematically proven that it cannot be improved upon ever by any other paradigm. It points unequivocally to consciousness taking precedence over matter in the order of reality.

                      In empirical experimental procedures, the observer is key to the whole exercise; which is why long ago now, philosophers of science hit upon the formulation, ‘intersubjectivity’; objectivity, as such, in this context, is no more.

                      It is difficult to escape the impression, therefore that we each live, are born into and leave, a little world of our own, seamlessly coordinated by God at the classical mechanistic level with everyone else’s, but the seams of which become apparent at the quantum level.

                      Despite the above ineluctable indicators of theism in relation to quantum mechanics, (because mathematically-based) the materialists, while making their living from it (70% of manufacturing industry is estimated to be based on it), when discussing theoretical physics, seem to be given a free pass to laugh it off as ‘weird stuff’, and chunder on about their own pet, but impossible, theories.

                      Best wishes, anyway.

                    • Chris BSomething

                      “Two cars, at night, one following the other, headlights on. The first car is moving at a constant 50mph, the second at 40mph. The speed at which the headlights of the second car hit the first car should be the speed of light MINUS 10mph; but it does not. It STiLL hits it at its constant absolute speed.”

                      When you say it “should” be the speed of light minus 10 MPH, you are assuming Newtonian physics, which actually is not true physics.

                      Imagine a car travelling at 40MPH relative to the ground, and another car travelling at 50MPH behind it (relative to the ground). The faster car crashes into the back of the slower car. What was the impact speed? 10MPH? Actually, it isn’t. Newtonian physics says it is 10MPH. But the reality is there are 3 different impact speeds. One relative to the ground (10MPH), one relative to the slower car (10.0000000001 MPH) and one relative to the faster car (9.99999999999 MPH). At slow speeds the relativity effects are so tiny as to be ignorable. The closer you get to the speed of light, the closer the relativity effects dominate the equation. But the point is, your starting assumption that it “should be 10MPH”, is not correct. It’s not correct for any object, not just light.

                      Does your thoughts about this point to a “different physical reference plane beyond space time”. I don’t know about that. Have you heard about the ladder garage paradox? There is a garage with a door on the front and back. A ladder is travelling towards it at a large fraction of the speed of light. The ladder is too long to fit in the garage. But because of length contraction due to relativity, the length of the ladder is compressed relative to the garage. So now the ladder can fit in the garage! The garage owner can quickly shut the doors for a moment in time and have the ladder totally inside his garage when it is too big to fit.

                      But wait, from the ladder’s point of view, it is not the one moving, is is the garage that is moving, and therefore the garage is undergoing length contraction, so from the ladder’s viewpoint, it is even less likely to fit in the garage than when it is stationary! So what happens when the garage owner closes the doors, does the ladder fit inside, or does it not fit inside?

                      The answer is, it depends on your viewpoint! From the garage’s point of view, it does indeed fit inside. But from the ladder’s point of view, the closing of the front and back doors will not be simultaneous, and the ladder never came close to being inside all at once.

                      You think that light hitting something is a special case of something not obeying the “normal” rules, but what you think are the normal rules, are not really the normal rules.

                    • pbecke

                      That was the whole point! Those cars are not microscopic, and their speeds definitely not to be viewed in the context of the speed of light, but in relation to each other: relativity. The point is that the speed of the light doesn’t change. It’s an absolute, and as such, a standalone, and not contingent.

                      The extremely small differences in speed you cite are just piffling and of no consequence to my contention. Nor are impact speeds approaching the speed of light, since the point is the relativity not the values. They are not going to rewrite the speed of light in textbooks on the basis of anything you’ve written. Anyway, nice chatting with you, Chris I don’t think we’re going to get any further.

                    • Chris BSomething

                      “Those cars are not microscopic”

                      Scale has nothing to do with it.

                      “The extremely small differences in speed you cite are just piffling and of no consequence to my contention.”

                      That’s the whole point, 10MPH is piffling when you are talking about light speed. The accuracy needed to observe a 10MPH difference in the speed of light between 2 cars is the same accuracy needed to observe that 2 cars crashing into each other at 10MPH relative to the ground, are not crashing at 10MPH relative to each other. 10MPH in the context of 670616629 MPH is piffling.

                      Yes, the SPEED of light is an absolute. It’s not light that makes it an absolute.

                      Parts of your body are now travelling at the speed of light. The electrons going around their nucleus of all atoms in the universe are traveling at the speed of light. Think about this… if the electrons in your body are going at the speed of light around their nucleus, won’t they be going at the speed of light + 50MPH when you hop into a car? No, because objects undergo length contraction when they move. At 50MPH the length contraction is minuscule, piffling as you put it. But even your own body has to obey the speed of light as you walk around the house. Did you think about that?

                    • Chris BSomething

                      Also, depending on your viewpoint, when the car’s headlights hit the other car, the speed of light really is slower, it’s just that the ruler you use to measure it has undergone length contraction, as all objects do when moving. It all comes back to perspective. The speed of light *appears* not to change for the observer. But the observer’s space time has changed. They have undergone length contraction, and their watches have undergone time dilation.

              • Rosemarie


                The Catechism gives us the official Church position on magic:

                2117 All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others – even if this were for the sake of restoring their health – are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another’s credulity.

                Magic is not a synonym for the supernatural. The supernatural is divine; sanctifying grace is supernatural. Magic is superstitious and the Church condemns it.

                • pbecke

                  Obviously, you are quite right, Rosemarie. Franicis uses the word, ‘magic’ in what is evidently a traditional Catholic manner to designate the occult. I hadn’t realised.

                  I was only aware that in colloquial speech our post-Christian society tends to lump good and bad supernatural desigations together under the one umbrella term, ‘magic’, meaning supernatural, whether good or bad. Also, of course, stage conjuring, which would manifestly not be supernatural.

                • Chris BSomething

                  Come on Rosemary, does this condemnation of magic in the catechism supposed to apply to God? Is God bound to not perform “magic”?

                  The 10 commandments say not to murder too, but it hardly is a restraint on God either.

                  Quoting the catechism is really not irrelevant.

                  • Rosemarie


                    Why would God need to perform magic? Does God need to invoke a demon to help him find buried treasure? Does He need to cast a spell to get someone to fall in love with Him? Because that’s what magic is.

                    A magician is a puny mortal who thinks he can manipulate forces or personages innately more powerful than himself in order to get his will done. Does that describe the Most High God? No, it does not. God does not manipulate forces greater than Himself for there is none greater than Him.

                    God doesn’t need to perform magic because He is all-powerful. His power is identical with His essence. He doesn’t have to call upon a force apart from Himself, which is what a magician does.

                    God also cannot be a murderer. Murder is the unlawful taking of an innocent human life. Creatures do not have the right to take the life of an innocent person, but the Author of Life has the absolute right to take the life that He imparts. So only creatures can murder; God cannot.

                    Therefore that commandment simply does not apply to God. The claim that God a magician is just as absurd as the atheist charge that God is a murderer. Both foolishly drag God down to a human level. God neither performs magic nor murders anyone.

                    Quoting the catechism is absolutely relevant because it shows the Christian view of occult magic – that it is satanic in origin: “the invocation of evil powers.” Would God invoke evil powers? That’s beyond absurd; it’s madness.

                    • Chris BSomething

                      Rosemary, I could object that you won’t find any source, lexical or religious that limits the definition of magic to the manipulation of forces higher than yourself.

                      But instead of defeating you on that point, I’ll defeat you on the point of the topic at hand, namely that it is untenable to make the claim that the pope was trying to make the point that “God is not someone who manipulates forces higher than himself”. Anybody with a simple grasp of context can see that his point was yo make the claim that “God is not someone who defies the laws of physics”. And in THAT context, the actual context we are talking about, magic and divine power are lumped together (by the pope!) In the category of fiddling with the natural order, over and against letting physics laws run their course.

                • pbecke

                  Deleted by author as repetition.

              • Chris BSomething

                “He’s not a demiurge who fiddles with what already exists, a conjuror or ‘stage magician'”

                I agree with your analysis of what the pope was saying. But even if you take the view point that God doesn’t generally “fiddle” with what exists, I think it’s the absolutist way the pope expressed this thought that has me extremely concerned. After all, the bible is a book totally devoted to documenting God fiddling with his creation. So if God simply and purely doesn’t fiddle, as Francis would have us believe, where does that leave the Christian religion, the bible, prayer, the stories of the saints, and on and on. It leaves them nowhere. Myths apparently now debunked by our new scientific world view and deterministic understanding where God doesn’t fiddle. Maybe at the next panel choosing the next Catholic saint, when they get to the part where they look for documented miracles, Francis will intervene and say no need to look because God doesn’t fiddle?

                • pbecke

                  I agree with your analysis 100%. I tend to think his hyperboles are patronizingly simplistic, and apt to be wrong, not only, prima facie, but also failing in their oblique purpose of putting over his intended message ‘by indirections’. They are figures speech, in intention, but can end up giving a very misleading impression.

                  However, he provides so many fascinatingly profound insights, some crucial to significantly reforming the church in the ways that it needs to be, I try not to dwell on the desperately poorly conceived, misleading remarks, such as the ‘fiddling’.

                  It is no problem for God to monitor and/or supervise the least actions of any number of amoebas or microbes – of which latter, also single-celled, the complexity has been found to be of a level that boggles the imagination. A kind of factory, only of a degree of sophistication scarcely imaginable by us. He can watch all of them on a sort of autopilot! Like our autonomic intelligence.

                  The sovereign irony is that science itself has actually proved theism, and even Christianity itself. You don’t have to be scientifically inclined to get the gist of the articles and posts in the blog called, Uncommon Descent, and learn how quantum mechanics exposes the theistic nature of creation.

            • Rosemarie


              I’m sure the pope learned Catholic theology. You, OTOH, need to understand the difference between magic and miracles.

              Magic is a human attempt to accomplish preternatural feats by means of powers other than divine (pagan deities, demons, forces of nature, etc.). Miracles, OTOH, are performed by the power of God Himself.

              Magic is supposed to happen according to the will of the magician: “As I will so mote it be.” Miracles happen according to God’s will: “Thy will be done.” Even saints who work miracles cannot act contrary to the divine will.

              Magic is superstitious and condemned by the Church. Miracles, obviously, are not.

              God by definition cannot be a magician because He acts by divine power.

              So no, creation ex nihilo is not magic. Only God can bring something that does not exist into existence. That is an infinite change and no finite creature can accomplish that. Not even the devil, who is behind real occult magic (as opposed to slight-of-hand magic which is just entertainment; I’m not talking about that).

              >>> Since I assume you would agree that we exist (at least presently), then mustn’t we too constitute “being”; and, since God *is* being, then we must be part and parcel of God according to this reasoning, exactly in concert with Eastern philosophy.

              No, because human nature is distinct from the Divine Nature, as I explained above. So we are not one being with God. God is necessary Existence; He exists in and of Himself eternally. We only exist because He brought us into existence and sustains us.

              We do not exist in and of ourselves as God does. We did not exist at all before God created us, and if He wanted to annihilate us He could do so without any change occurring in His Divine Nature. So we are not “part and parcel” of God.

              Creatures are utterly distinct from the Creator. Were that not so, there would have been no need for the Incarnation. The Incarnation unites Divine and human nature in the Person of the Word. If human nature were “part and parcel” of Divine Nature then that would be superfluous.

              • bob

                Rosemarie, is it possible we are talking past each other regarding the distinction between magic and miracles?

                Let’s take a simple analogy. Homicide is the killing of a person (literally “man”) by another. In law, any killing of a person by another person is considered a homicide. Whether a homicide is criminal or not depends upon motivation and circumstances. In law, a homicide may range from justifiable (such as self-defense) to first degree murder, with various stages of culpability and penalties in-between. However, in all cases of homicide the same substantive point is common: the death of a person at the hands of another.

                The Church’s view of the distinction between magic and miracles is likewise strictly a matter of definition predicated upon motivation and the source of the supernatural power. However, both miracles and magic have the same substance as both constitute an action in contravention of the laws of physics. Therefore, nonbelievers will often sarcastically substitute our term “miracle” with “magic.” As Mr.
                Torley pointed out in his attempted deconstruction of Mr. Shea’s blog piece here, Richard Dawkins has done exactly that.

                I am now convinced that the pope meant to deny that God does not tinker with His creation on an ongoing basis like a magician claiming to manipulate preexisting matter as pbecke seems to indicate. I see nothing objectionable about this in light of Catholic dogma.

                The remaining point that requires clarification I shall address to pbecke in my reply to him or her presently.

                • Rosemarie


                  >>> Therefore, nonbelievers will often sarcastically substitute our term “miracle” with “magic. As Mr.Torley pointed out in his attempted deconstruction of Mr. Shea’s blog piece here, Richard Dawkins has done exactly that.

                  Yes, they do that to insult us. It doesn’t mean they are right, though. Magic and miracles are still not the same thing in Catholic theology.

              • Chris BSomething

                “God by definition cannot be a magician because He acts by divine power.”

                So the pope’s thought process according to you is thus: God would be exactly like a magician.. Except not, because by definition magic excludes divine power.

                Or in other words, the pope was giving us all a linguistics and category lesson, he wasn’t actually saying anything about reality at all.

                Somehow I don’t think that is what is going on here.

                • Rosemarie


                  Actually, in that post I was mostly explaining the difference between miracles and magic, since some commenters were conflating the two, as if they are synonymous (they are not).

                  I give another defense in a post below of what I believe the pope’s thought process actually is. I will quote it again here:

                  “We can look at it another way, which is perhaps closer to the pope’s meaning. A magician (say the legendary Merlin or someone more recent, like Aleister Crowley) is himself a creature, part of God’s creation, who uses other elements of the created world (wand, herbs, incense, physical gestures etc.) to cast his spells in an attempt to manipulate the natural world.

                  “In contrast, the Creator is not part of creation. He exists eternally and brings all creation into existence by His creative Word alone. So by saying that God is not a magician, he may mean that God is not some kind of uber-creature who is part of the universe and has this really powerful occult magic by which He accomplishes everything. Which is true, of course. God is not Merlin.”

                  (end quote)

                  See, what’s being missed in this discussion is that occult magic doesn’t claim the ability to create ex nihilo the way God does. It claims the ability to manipulate forces of some kind in order to make someone fall in love with you, cause you to win the lottery, discover buried treasure… etc.

                  (If you study about magic you will find that the majority of “spells” deal with matters of either love/sex or money. Probably because these are areas in which many people feel they have little control, so they seek preternatural control over them.)

                  Yet occult magic does not claim to enable you to create, say, a planet or an animal out of nothing at all. It can’t, because if there is any real preternatural power behind it at all it is demonic power, and demons are mere creatures who cannot create ex nihilo. Anything that comes about through occult magic will be within the realm of what God has already created.

                  God, of course, is not limited to that. God transcends creation and truly can create a planet or animal out of nothing. So God is not a magician. That doesn’t mean He doesn’t perform miracles; of course He does! It means that His miracles are of a higher order than occult magic. To call God a magician drags him down to the level of a sorcerer. The Creator isn’t Dumbledore.

                  • Rosemarie


                    One last point:

                    Calling God a “magician” tends to legitimize the practice of occult magic. Practitioners of hoodoo/conjure often claim that Moses was a magician, and that his staff was a “magic wand.” Some occultists will claim that Jesus was a magician. It’s a way to justify their own practice of something that Christianity condemns: “Hey, God and His prophets do it, so why can’t we?”

                  • HornOrSilk

                    You are right on magic, and indeed, on God not being “a being.” It’s basic Catholic thought.

                    I think Tolkien is good on the issue of magic and how it is about domination. He represents this with Sauron and Saruman, the second showing also the connection of magic with machines, that is to say, when we use machines to manipulate and dominate the world, that is the same sin as magic:
                    By the last I intend all use of external plans or devices (apparatus) instead of development of the inherent inner powers or talents — or even the use of these talents with the corrupted motive of dominating: bulldozing the real world, or coercing other wills. The Machine is our more obvious modern form though more closely related to Magic than is usually recognised. . . . The Enemy in successive forms is always ‘naturally’ concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines.

                    Perhaps that will demonstrate the point of the Pope’s statement. God is not a manipulator of pre-existing matter, dominating it to create his own order on some eternal substance which lies outside of himself. He is not forcing himself on matter, he is not forcing himself on the world, he is not using his power to dominate our wills nor the dominate matter itself. He creates out of love, not manipulates out of a will to power.

                    • Chris BSomething

                      You quote Tolkien in the God is not a magician thesis? But people who analyse themes regard Gandalf the wizard as a Christ figure!

                  • Chris BSomething

                    Rosemary, your analysis might make sense if the pope was at a creationist rally giving a spiel in favor of creationism. But that is not the context. He’s at a scientific rally basically defending evolution. So how is giving a spiel distinguishing what are, at least in scientific terms, two different forms of hocus pocus, a cogent commentary?

                    No the pope was saying that God doesn’t wave a magic wand to bring creatures into existence in a puff of magic, but rather he uses evolutionary processes. That’s the only analysis of his statement that has any possible meaning in the context.

                    The problem is though that in THIS context, “magic” is his way of describing creation ex nihilo in contrast to evolution. I don’t have a problem with him using magic as a word for describing the supernatural. But when I hear him say, from what I can understand him saying, that God  is not in the business of supernatural events, not as a specific commentary on the evolution debate, but as a blanket principle, it makes him sound totally new age.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Chris, evolution does not describe creation. Evolution is what happens after creation. Evolution itself does not tell how life began.

                    • Chris BSomething

                      The scientists would probably disagree. They would say some long chain molecules replicated and became more complicated. Anyway, the pope is not getting into that detail. The pope is saying the universe is a machine, following the laws of physics, without “magician” directing things. Sounds even more sub-Christian than your typical Christian evolutionist. More atheist really.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      No, scientists do not disagree. Evolution is not about the origin of life. That is what is said when talking about the science of evolution. Learn science before talking about it.

                    • Chris BSomething

                      The scientists would say evolution of complex self duplicating molecules is evolution that predates what we would normally call life. None of that has any bearing on what the pope said. Do you have a point?

                    • Rosemarie


                      So are you proposing that we defend creation ex nihilo by calling God a magician? Because that would still be wrong; God is still not a magician.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Sometimes I wonder if people want to be upset with the Pope, for I cannot see why anyone would be upset at what he said. “What? I wanted a God who did party tricks, I mean, we all know he hid the wine in the casks beforehand.”

        • pbecke

          Methinks, bob, that you haven’t yet grasped that the deeper we penetrate the truth, even as regards physics, the closer we approach to a barrier of paradoxes, as regards our faith, divine, paradoxical mysteries – both opaque to he analytical intelligence, but intuited by the unitive intelligence.

          Little wonder that the Holy Trinity, as the bedrock of all truth should be so.

  • Jacob Brown

    Because I was raised a Mormon I can’t understand Catholic conceptions of diety at all. It seems so complicated and abstract. Like you have to study it for a lifetime to come close. I almost get the feeling that one overwhelming characteristic of Catholic diety is that he/she/it is un-fathomable. You can hardly discuss diety with a Catholic without being dismissed as misunderstanding God.

    Mormons have a dirty history, creative doctrine, unique dogma, and cult-like behavior. But at least they have a very simple and straight forward conception of God. He’s just a very progressed human being.

    Is it fair to say Catholics really just don’t agree on the specifics of God’s character and that there are several camps carrying on the debate even today?

    • Rosemarie


      It’s more correct to say that the Church has defined the basic attributes of God yet some uninformed Catholics don’t know what those are or have inaccurate ideas about them.

      For instance, there’s no debate within Catholicism as to whether God is a magician. He’s not. Emphatically not. Yes, He performs miracles but miracles are not magic. The latter is superstitious and the Church condemns it. Yet some Catholics apparently don’t know the difference between magic and miracles. That’s regrettable, but it doesn’t mean that theirs is an alternative, acceptable view for Catholics.

  • bob

    The discussion regarding Mr. Shea’s blog entry has thus far centered on what we now know to have been a simple case of a mistranslation of Pope Francis’ remarks regarding evolution. No one has yet addressed the more difficult issue of whether evolution, the gradual transformation of one species into another and, most saliently, the evolution of humans from nonhuman creatures, is orthodox Catholic doctrine or should be. Here’s the difficult question: If the Genesis account of the creation of Adam and Eve was merely allegorical, then why do the New Testament writers seem to contradict such an assertion?

    Although Jesus (God incarnate under Catholic dogma) never mentions Adam by name within the Gospel accounts, He clearly alludes to him in several instances. Additionally, He did mention Abel by name whom all He was speaking to would recognize as the son of Adam. Furthermore, the apostles did speak of Adam by name and as an historical person in various books of the New Testament and it is difficult to believe that they never discussed Adam with Jesus during their tenure as Jesus’ disciples while he lived (with Paul hearing of such firsthand from the apostles whom he later knew).

    Can the Church logically deny the validity of such New Testament Biblical accounts without undermining the very foundation of the faith?

    • TeachWorldToSing

      “No one has addressed the issue. . ” Not really.

  • M.Allen Taylor

    To believe that the Bible is the “Breathed Word Of God” on one hand, then try to encompass millennia of evolution within it on the other, well, that just smacks of sour grapes & speaks to a lack of faith. My guess is that God doesn’t like sour grapes any more than we do, of the other I have no doubt.

  • TeachWorldToSing

    “God is not a being, but being itself.” Sort of extreme Jesuitical oxymoron to say the least.