Salient: Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Vol. 24, No. 11. 1961
Sir,—In replying to the article "Dwyer Cut Up" (much more appropriately "Dwyer on top") I would first refer to the premise that Miss Benefield is criticising i.e. "The very concept of Infinity is all-inclusive and absolutely exclusive." Assuming this, Mr Dwyer tried to show that if evil existed apart from God; He was no longer Infinite.
Miss Benefield attempts to prove the premise wrong and thus Mr Dwyer's conclusion as well. She concludes: "Thus beside the Infinite, there is the finite dependent on the Infinite God for its very existence." In other words, she maintains that something occurs outside Infinite God and (horror of horrors) she decides that this existence, while being separate, still "depends on God for its very existence."
Obviously Mr Dwyer has scored because after all her pseudo-reasoned orange peel Miss Benefield merely admits Mr Dwyer's insistence on the existence of orange juice i.e. that God is not Infinite.
What does Miss Benefield then do, but proceed to argue on the basis that God is Infinite, having apparently proved that He Isn't. She then goes on to state that Good emanates from God and evil "does not exist positively at all. It is an absence of Good." What is good? As Miss Benefield is chary of delineating It here I can only conclude that she is referring to the Christian code as manifested by the Church on earth. Can she deny that this Christian morality has varied in the past. One has only to look at attitudes of the clergy in the Middle Ages to see the familiarity with, and tendency towards physical violence that was prevalent in society as a whole and had a general reflection In the Christian morality of the time. Today Christians lay great emphasis on "turning the other cheek"—this emphasis has evolved since the Middle Ages and very probably a different emphasis will appear in the future. What would be the attitude of the Church In the case of war today? The categorical statement "Thou shalt not kill," will merely be passed over.
In her last paragraph Miss Benefield maintains the existence of a consistent Christian morality. She separates this from Its manifestation in the Christian Church on earth by its very consistence. How then does she define it? "A philosophic concept of God's laws regarding creation." Whose concept is this? There is no concept' which is at all generally accepted. There is a whole series of different Individual interpretations, even national interpretations.
How were these different interpretations produced anyway? Obviously the bible is the material from which they came. What is the bible?—Obviously a collection of human interpretations in itself.
To avoid the incorporation of doubtful material in her "philosophic concept" Miss B. would be able to use her bible only in fundamentals, ie. the Ten Commandments. These fundamentals will still have to be expanded before they can be applied to our continually developing way of life. Who is going to expand them? Not one common authority—but many, with the result of a plurality of interpretations.
And this moral code is supposed to delineate what is "good." Miss Benefield can find it to say; evil is merely the absence of good, "positive" good, but she does this allowing only an assumption that, by good, she means Christian morality—a variable and often vague thing which can only be ignored, even by Its exponents, if it comes into contradiction with fundamental national policies.
Simply, It appears that Miss B. only makes a case out for the real existence of evil, by claiming the real existence of good. According to the moral nature of good, it is merely a contrast to evil—on the same plane. Therefore Miss B's claim that evil "does not exist positively at all," is completely absurd. If it does not exist "positively" then neither can good—one could just as well say; good does not exist positively at all, it is an absence of evil.