** AMENDMENT** According to legend, Oliver Cromwell famously responded to an artists painting of him without his warts by saying, “Show me as I am, warts and all”. Reviewing this post just a few days ago (April 28, 2017), I found that there is a line in here that I would not write if I was writing this today. It is an ugly line and come from a place when I had an inferior appreciation of what God has done for me through suffering. I would remove it except that I believe that one of the huge problems with the church today is that we do not understand that the human journey is a path where we are continually growing and changing. If you read this site, then you are seeing my journey as it happened. Warts and all.
Aren’t you forgetting that god could simply have created us as he wants us? Why test us if he knows what we will do anyway? If he knew the tests would fail, why create us imperfect? The angels did not need testing. You start with the premise that god loves humans – they then did he create everything such that man could fail him? These are the questions that the Christian needs to answer.
You seem to infer that he cannot create the perfect companion nor do you explain why omniscience needs companions. You are still presupposing many things for which you offer no explanation. If humans are to be judges over angels, 1/3 of which abandoned him, then your god created two failed species. How does this speak to his supposed omnipotence and omniscience? Is your god experimenting? How is this omnipotence or omniscience?
These are the words of MyAtheistLife responding to my previous post where I was attempting to go through my belief’s concerning God’s plan. His words really annoyed me and I overreacted a bit to his second comment. So before I begin, allow me to apologize to him for overreacting.
The reason I got so annoyed is that I have been struggling with how to present my ideas on this subject for a long time. In A Rational Faith, I cover these ideas in Section 3 and at other points, but I have never been satisfied with those presentations. Those of you who have done some writing will know what I mean. You have a set of ideas but you cannot present them in an elegant way. Because I was stuck, I started with a section that I am happy with (Section 4) and the first comment I get is that I need to do Section 3. Arggh!
I really don’t know what I am doing here. I just started to write and hoped it would lead somewhere beneficial. After years of futilely trying to come up with a good way of explaining these ideas, I am going to see if just answering the questions works.
Aren’t you forgetting that god could simply have created us as he wants us?
What if he couldn’t? I know that Jesus says with God all things are possible, but what if self-contradictory “things” were not a part of the set of “things” that Jesus is talking about? What if his words should really be translated, “The existence of all things that are possible can be realized by God”? How can you create a car with 50,000 miles on it? If the car is newly created, does it not by definition have no miles on it?
If God cannot do certain things because they are self-contradictory, then maybe creating human beings “as he wants us” is one of those self-contradictory things? How could creating human beings “as he wants us” be self-contradictory? Let us make a simple statement that is suggested by the Bible and see where it leads.
Goodness and self-existence are essential to one another.
The Bible clearly says that God alone is good and the Bible clearly tells us that God alone is self-existent. What if these properties were inextricably linked? What if everything that was self-existent had to be good and everything that was good had to be self-existent? What if being one and not the other was like having 2 + 2 = 5? What would this mean?
One of the corollaries of this statement is that all created beings must be evil. Why? Because if they were good they would be self-existent and they would not need to be created. (I am here using a definition of evil that is very effectively pointed out in this propaganda video. I do not believe that Einstein ever said the words attributed to him, but the definition of evil is a good one.)
At this point, I know I am going to get a raft of objections. Allow me to list them and give the short form answers as to why they are invalid.
- Adam was good in the garden – No he wasn’t. Adam was sinless in the garden. If Adam had been good like Jesus Christ, he would never have fallen.
- The holy angels are good – No they aren’t. They need God and they know it and they will rebuke a human being who attempts to say they are worthy. (Revelation 22:9)
- We are not all Nazis as is implied by you saying that we are evil. – Evil in the sense that I am using it does not mean Nazi, it really means selfish and self-centered. A Nazi is an evil person that has become depraved.
- There is no reason to believe that goodness and self-existence are inextricably linked. – This is true, all I have is the fact that God ascribes both of these properties to himself in the Bible and to no other being.
So if goodness and self-existence are inextricably linked, then God can only create evil beings. Being good himself, God cannot use violence of force to make people good. How would that even work anyway? “Be good or I will beat you over the head!”? The only way for God to make good human beings is for his Holy Spirit to live within us and live through us “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me”, but God cannot force his help on us (forcing someone to do something they do not want to do is not good), so he puts us in circumstances where we learn what it is to choose evil. Why does he do this? This is in Section 5 which I do like and will post soon.
“Why test us if he knows what we will do anyway?”
There is a difference between a test and a demonstration. In a test, there is some question as to how the test will turn out. In a demonstration, a certain result is expected. God knew we would fail “the test” but we did not know that. As human beings we think we are good enough on our own and we don’t need God’s help. This error is the entire reason for the pain and suffering of the world.
“If he knew the tests would fail, why create us imperfect?”
If good and self-existence are linked, then he could not create us perfect and this was not an option.
“The angels did not need testing. You start with the premise that god loves humans – they then did he create everything such that man could fail him?”
Given that all created beings are evil (selfish and self-centered), there are evidently three kinds in God’s plan:
- Angels have absolutely no doubt about the goodness or the existence of God when they choose whether or not to be like God.
- Human beings have every doubt about the goodness and the existence of God when we choose whether or not to be like God.
- Animals are incapable of choosing to be good. They live with the created nature and cannot choose to be like God.
Because human beings demonstrate a trust in God that is greater than the angels if they choose to be like him, the eventual state of human beings is higher than that of angels. “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:3) So human beings can rise higher than angels, but it is because we start lower. Starting lower was the fundamental aspect of God’s plan for human beings and this is why we were put in a place where we were guaranteed to fail.
“You seem to infer that he cannot create the perfect companion nor do you explain why omniscience needs companions.”
God cannot create perfect companions and he does not need them. God created imperfect companions and helps us to be like him because wants to bless us beyond anything we could ask or think.
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
“You are still presupposing many things for which you offer no explanation. If humans are to be judges over angels, 1/3 of which abandoned him, then your god created two failed species. How does this speak to his supposed omnipotence and omniscience? Is your god experimenting? How is this omnipotence or omniscience?”
God’s omnipotence and omniscience do not allow him to do self-contradictory things. Creating human beings “as he wants us” is one of those forbidden self-contradictory things.
“2 – Your god is said to love humans, so it is difficult to understand why he would create us as failed beings all the while knowing that he would create us as failed beings and which of us would not pass muster thus being condemned to eternal torture before we are born. Further, knowing we would fail, he created existence exactly as it needs to be for us to fail. Why? Why did he create Satan and let him loose on the garden/world to do as he pleases. He could have just started out with heaven since he is omnipotent.”
Eternal torture is a reference to hell. I have a post describing my beliefs on hell which are different than what you have been told by other Christians. This bears some explanation. (Can you begin to understand why I hate these kinds of discussions? They go hither, thither and yon and we only spend a couple of seconds on a large number of very important issues.)
I became a Christian nineteen years ago when I was in graduate school. All of my Christian beliefs were filtered through my skeptical and critical faculties. Other Christians learned their theology out of a popup book when they were in Sunday school. Turn to page 4 and the cardboard flames jump out to burn you! Their thinking is flawed and must be rejected as the artifact of a medieval understanding of the Bible. (Also see my posts on understanding the Old Testament if you want to see other ways in which medieval thinking contaminates modern Christian theology.)
As for your question about Satan and giving us every opportunity to fail, I need to turn this question back on you. This world was designed to make it obvious to you that you need God’s help to be good. Do you deny it? Are you so perfect that you could live selflessly enough to be a part of an eternal paradise? (The point of my previous post.) Billions of people deny their need of God. They are self-righteous and do horrible things and have not even the faintest inkling that they need God’s help. People are, in fact, so bad at this that even the itsy bitsiest tiny amount of faith that you need God is enough for God to say “Okay! you’re in!”
And yet look at how much of the suffering and pain in this world is our fault. Murder, rape, theft, lies, fraud, betrayal, corruption. Look at the movie Black Hawk Down. People want to blame God for the starvation and the suffering associated with that Ethiopian famine, but it was actually corrupt human beings who stole the food aid. There is a song in the musical “Paint Your Wagon” which goes, “Snow can burn your eyes but only people make you cry”. This has long been one of my favorite lines in any song and it perfectly illustrates where I think the bulk of the blame belongs for the pain and the suffering of this world.
3 – You speak of a chosen nature, one learned over a lifetime. Despite 2 days or months not being long enough for a child to learn much before death, he is supposed to be omniscient and already knows before your birth what your decision will be at death. Given that this would seem to be the case according to what we’re told of your god, what then is the point of this life?
This is the best and the most difficult question you have asked so far. It is very tough and I have asked it many times myself. (Especially in contemplating why it is I have to remain in this God forsaken hell hole. I don’t much care about the rest of you to be honest.) The best that I can do is to say that I think that God keeps us here after the decision has been made because there are things we can learn here that we cannot learn in paradise.
4 – That simple math that you talk of will give us a figure of less than 1% of all humans to have ever lived will go to heaven if Christianity (or your sect of it) is correct. It would seem that your god is fairly picky about who gets to heaven. Why is this acceptable to your god for so many of his loved creations to be condemned to eternal torture by design of “his grand plan”?
Eternal torture is hell again. Bottom line if you read my post, hell isn’t really that bad if you don’t choose to rebel against God before the Great White Throne. Otherwise, it is still not literal flames, but you live in the presence of evil that makes Stalin and Hitler look like a couple of choir boys. That will not be fun, but nobody goes there who doesn’t want to go there.
So there you have it. A brief and totally unsatisfactory “drive by” overview of how I approach the question of God’s purpose for pain and suffering. It took me all day and it is still crap. I quickly pass over topics that deserve a good deal more discussion. Oh well. I will have to give the question of how to present these ideas a good deal more thought.