"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Friday, December 29, 2006

My picture of God Part 1

I thought it would be helpful to the general discourse we have going here if I wrote up a little positioning statement regarding what I'm actually advocating here. So far I've gone to great lengths to illuminate why I cannot accept the Atheist option, but I have done very little to show what I actually propose in place of it. As I continue this conversation with the thoughtful few who regularly contribute I think it would be best if they actually understood where I'm coming from. There are many pictures of Christianity floating around in this world. I would like to start by giving a somewhat stereotypical representation that I feel (at least in the U.S.) haunts me.

Scenario 1

God is Omnipotent and Omniscient. Therefore all our fates are directed and sealed with no hope of alteration. Some people were created to be objects of God's love, others were created to be objects of his wrath. He has the right to do this because He created everything so who are we to question his judgment?

What we get form this is that God is petty, spiteful and a total control freak. Nice.

In order to be Christians we are to believe that the field of Science is run by a pack of arrogant Godless elitists who's sole goal is to prove there is no God by forcing their supposed "theory" of evolution down the throats of the general populace.

What happens here is that once you realize that science has shown very real evidences of this process you are forced to concede that either God makes no sense (his mysterious ways, you know) or that he wasn't there in the first place, or all scientists are liars.

The Republican party is the Christian party. The greatest threat to our nation is Gays getting to claim marriage. We as Christians must mobilize to defeat the liberal Democrats and stop this from happening at all costs. Unitarians, Liberals, Gays, Smokers, Hippies, Catholics, Calvinists, Muslims, Pro-Choicers, Porn Addicts, Bar Hoppers, New Agers, Atheists, Agnostics, Evolutionists, Fornicators, Anti-War Activists, French People and ELCA'ers are our enemies. We must defeat them.

That sounds crazy I know, but whether verbalized or not, many American Christians hold these views.

As we look around that the world and see the injustice, hate, and death so widely spread, then reflect on God's Omnipotence we must conclude that he is rather sadistic to be working out his 'good' plan by the use or allowance of these barbaric conditions.

I don't know about you but I'm not feeling inclined to bow down in worship to this sort of god. My next post will attempt to explain a picture of God that I believe is worthy of worship. It is also a picture that I believe to be more solidly rooted in His revelation. Stay tuned...

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Blogger james higham said...

I've just written a longish comment at Ian's and plan to do a post in the next few days once I can get this work off my back.

4:24 PM

Blogger Alex said...

Interesting post James,
Curious to see where that goes. As you may have noticed I'm taking a bit of a different road over here. It would be good to hear the historical side of the equation again. My head has been so filled with philosophy latley!

6:30 PM

Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Very intereseting. To my way of thinking, either God is omnipotent OR God is love. You can't have it both ways.

7:48 AM

Blogger Alex said...


One would think... But we'll see. Hopefully I can keep my next post from getting to terribly complicated. I'm finding that writing about what I don't believe is MUCH easier than writing about what I believe is true.

Thanks for popping in

8:37 AM

Blogger james higham said...

Oh, Welshcakes, both are the same. ISofHP, Happy New Year.

10:54 AM

Anonymous Not Saussure said...

Crikey! In taking on predestination and free will you have, as you must realise, taken on one of the difficult problems in theology! I really look forward to seeing how you resolve it. I've been lurking in this discussion for some time now, and hope you don't mind my sticking my oar in.

My take on it, I think (or at least this is roughly what we Catholics are taught, though I'm neither an expert in these matters nor a particularly devout Catholic), is that a just and loving God can't possibly intend anyone's damnation, so the idea that some people were created to be objects of His wrath must be mistaken.

In order to give us free will, the argument runs, He's voluntarily suspended His omnipotence to the extent we can make our own decisions and our own mistakes. His omniscience is difficult to understand since, unlike us, God is outside time. Consequently, He knows everything because it's already happened. It's difficult to put into words, since we're stuck in time -- similes involving how different the world would look to someone who existed only in two dimensions rather than three tend to get used, but I'm not sure how helpful they are.

For me, at least, the easiest way to look at it is that, when I look back either at my life, I can see how certain things turned out the way they did as a result of choices and decisions I made. But at the time I made them, I was certainly free -- at least I felt free -- to make different ones. I'm also free to try to learn from the mistakes I've inevitably made, to try not to make them in future and, when possible, to try to repair the damage I've done to others because of the mistakes I've made in the past.

Ultimately, we're not supposed to spend too much time speculating about what God may or may not intend for others, particularly people we dislike, since that's very unhealthy. It was once explained to me, and this bit I do believe without much difficulty, that what got the Good Thief saved at the crucifixion saved wasn't a last minute conversion so much as that there he was, dying in agony, and finding himself confronted with what seemed to him to be this poor loony hanging next to him burbling on about being the Son of God, he somehow managed to find the strength and compassion to ignore his own suffering and to try to comfort him by saying, in effect, 'Of course you are, and He'll soon make everything OK for you'. It wasn't so much a case of one good deed making up for past sins as his showing compassion and common humanity in such extreme circumstances opening up the possibility for Divine compassion and mercy to be shown to him.

Hope this makes some sort of sense -- I very much look forward to seeing your next post.

Happy New Year.

3:55 AM

Blogger Alex said...

Not Saussure,
Thanks for taking the time to comment. Much of what you say resonates with me. What you say is true that these are some very complicated and much debated issues in Christianity, but in many ways I feel they are very important. One's picture of God affects our ability to respond to him. Therefore I feel it is imparative for us to seek out a picture of God that gives us the highest degree of congruity between our heads and our hearts. To satisfy one at the expense of the other creates either a fool or a prig.

Hopefully I can finish up my thoughts within the next day or two. I suppose I'd also caution against expecting me to resolve these issues in any definitive sort of way. It will be more the view of God that has created the greatest degree of change in my life and inhanced my ability to respond to him in a way I had never known.

9:35 AM

Blogger Welshcakes Limoncello said...

How can they be the same, James, when you take into account human suffering?

5:17 PM

Blogger Alex said...

Human suffering = the free choices of spiritual beings + human beings. Not God.

7:15 PM


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