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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

God is in Trouble

Look around you. The Internet is full of it. But it's in your country, your state, your town, maybe even your home. God is in trouble. As it turns out, He has lots of enemies and apparently He has a lot to answer for.

"I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am."

"If Gandhi goes to Hell for failing to believe the right stuff, then I don't want anything to do with that God."

"I am not interested in any God that is not completely good, entirely loving, and perfectly forgiving."

In his NPR piece entitled "There Is No God" Penn Jillette (of Penn and Teller fame) says, "Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us..."

These are popular objections for many. They are commonly used to refute the existence of God, but more often simply to personally choose to ignore Him. They will not settle for anything less than "hard scientific evidence." They cite wisdom like "A God who is perfect does nothing except exist" or "If something is perfect, nothing imperfect can come from it." You've all heard the complaints, "If God is omnipotent ..." followed by some impossibility. You know ... " ... can He make a rock too big for Him to pick up" or some such. Most of all, of course, God is on trial for His problems with His image. You see, "God's sentencing of the imperfect humans to an eternity in hell for a mere mortal lifetime of sin is infinitely unjust."

One of the hottest contested areas in the field of theology is known as "theodicy," the branch of theology that defends God's goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil. The question: How can a good, kind, loving, just, omnipotent God allow the evil we see around us? Not many unbelievers care much for the answers. However, I would suggest that the questions are all wrong.

Being humans, prone to self-centeredness (oh, how we've turned that into a trite little term rather than the ominous evil that it is), we tend to think of God from ourselves rather than vice versa. So God, if He is to be good, must be "at least as compassionate as I am," as if I am the standard of compassion. We would hear, "If Gandhi goes to Hell for failing to believe the right stuff, then I don't want anything to do with that God," as if we should have the right to declare what is right for God. (It isn't, by the way, an accurate statement to say that Gandhi would go to Hell for failing to believe the right stuff.) We create our own measure of "good" and "loving" and "forgiving" and, oddly enough, "perfect," then declare that God falls short.

I would suggest the reverse. It's interesting what we can learn from etymology sometimes. The question is whether or not there is such a thing as a "good God" in view of the evil we see. But etymologically speaking, the thing we are seeking is the same thing. The word "good" is premised on the word "God". In other words, God is good. He defines it. Without Him it does not exist. And, of course, without good, we have no concept of evil. Therefore, without a "good God", the entire question falls apart.

It isn't a satisfactory answer for unbelievers, but it doesn't make a difference. The truth is that God is not measured by justice; He is justice. He is not measured by good; He is good. He is not compared to love; He is love. Without God, none of this is, and the entire question goes away.

You see the problem, I hope. The problem is that we typically start with ourselves. We are the standard by which everything else is measured. If God does not measure up to the standards we choose, God fails. Never mind that we have no right or ability to make such standards, nor any reason to believe that God should measure up to them. Take, for instance, the demand for "hard scientific evidence." Demanding that we provide natural evidence for a supernatural being is simply nonsensical. It's like claiming that sound doesn't exist because I can't see it or light doesn't exist because I can't hear it. The supernatural, by definition, is outside of the realm of science and, therefore, by definition beyond the realm of "hard scientific evidence." Yet, it is the standard we are required to meet. It is, in short, the fundamental problem of human nature: "I will be like the Most High."


Samantha said...

When I finally understood how horrible sin was, not only because I broke God's law, but because I sinned against the God who gave me life, then I understood that suffering was indeed fair and justified.

Some will say that suffering is not always a result of sin. But if we had not sinned, would our world be in a fallen state? I realize God can and will cause suffering, even for those He loves because it causes us to depend on Him more. It's also a way of discipline (not punishment, but for sanctification)

It sounds really dark, but if we can understand the state of the natural, fallen man...then we'll understand how very loving God is to save even one of us.

David said...

It really is nonsensical to claim that sound doesn't exist because we don't see it, or light doesn't exist because we can't hear it.

Stan said...

It is certainly nonsensical, but it is the same claim we hear regarding God. "Our scientific instruments cannot detect Him, so He doesn't exist." But ... He's supernatural. Why would you expect to be able to measure Him using natural means?