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Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

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"Lan astaslem."
I will not submit. I will not surrender.
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Friday, September 01, 2006

God isn't loving?

An online friend had this to say:

The Christian God isn't really loving... I suggest Atheism...

I stated they were misinformed and eventually asked for a specific to see if it would stand up to scrutiny. This is what was offered:

God created hell. Even if indirectly, his foreknowledge of Lucifer's fall when he created Lucifer lends itself to that idea. By creating Lucifer with the foreknowledge of his uprising and subsequent banishment, he created hell. He, in turn, allowed the condemnation of his "children". How could a "loving" God create the instrument of his children's torture.

[please note that our definitions of "loving" may be so different as to make this impossible.]

A very short reply during my lunch break was followed up, when I got home, by this full reply:

First of all we need to examine this idea of applied torment, regarding hell. The descriptions of what awaits those who reject God are in the context of a society that held honor/shame in much higher regard than we do. With this understanding in mind and with the knowledge that rabbinical writings and even the OT used apocalyptic and extreme imagery when speaking of divine judgement, we can see that Dante's inferno and other literal takes on the matter are quite in error. This leaves us with those who have rejected being cast out of the community and experiencing the internal torment of bitterness, resulting from that shame and dishonor. How can God do otherwise, if he is to allow them the choice? It would certainly not be wise or just, to allow the community that has accepted and loves God, to be held hostage to those who choose differently. We also know from scripture that any punishment is proportional and it should be noted that a being that transcends time would have no difficulty making proportional punishment last for eternity, should that be the case. There is also the possible matter of God's undiminished glory being of such a nature that those who have not prepared themselves to accept his presence, can only experience pain, if even in their own minds. By withdrawing his active presence from them, he may be offering a final mercy to those who continually reject salvation and the very presence of God.

Regarding the definition of love, I would think that it should result in hatred for that which exploits and destroys that which is loved. Love must not be misunderstood as merely disinterested liking of the object. If we truly care for someone we do what we can to help them be better, even at times, saying things they would rather not hear and might make them unhappy at the moment. To only be interested in one's "happiness" would be less attention than we give to our pets. This is a great mistake parents make when they refuse to actually be parents and act merely as friends of their children, but not even as good friends, who would tell the child they're doing something that could harm them. But with this we must consider that God is not just a God of love, in the true sense of the term, but also of justice, which I would think is tied up within that as well. Shouldn't we be grateful that God avenges against evil and exploitation? I've seen the argument for evil used to deny the God of the Bible exists, but then it is also argued that when God punishes evil, that also proves the God of the Bible can't be a loving God. Such jumping around seems to reflect an a priori desire to reject the God of the Bible rather than seek truth in the matter.

So, why would God go ahead with creating this world, if he knew some would reject Him? I would ask in reply, what other options are there really? Create nothing? But that certainly cannot be compared to anything that is actual, as to exist is value in and of itself against that which has no value by it's complete lack of actual existence. What of creating beings that do not have the ability to choose and thereby only love God? But certainly this isn't really love, if no choice is actually available. Some might argue that not having true love, would be worth it, if there were no sin. But this ignores the great value that we all place upon free will. Even if some say that free will doesn't really exist it is acknowledged that we at least need to act as if it does, so that justice and civilized society can function. If merely pretending that free will exists is valuable, then the actual thing much be magnitudes greater.

At this point, we have two things of great value, free will and true love, the later, which can only be accomplished by the former. But if beings are capable of making choices, then it cannot be guaranteed that some will choose badly. That is simply a logical impossibility. Is it really a reasonable option, to say that we must guarantee that no evil or suffering must occur, if it the only way to do so, is to eliminate free moral agency and thereby true love? I would say this would leave a world of beings nothing better than the lowest creatures, despite any physical resemblance to ourselves. For those of the libertarian view or varieties thereof, freedom from govt. intrusion is highly valued, even though it allows us the opportunity to bring harm to ourselves. That we should then expect just the opposite from God, would ignore this natural human impulse and expect the creator, exactly what many would reject from human government over such minor things as wearing seat belts while driving. Moving to the more important matter regarding eternity, leads me to say that we should value even more, the freedom to choose, despite the potential to harm ourselves that such a choice may allow. But with that, and only by that, we have true love and the great gift and responsibility of moral agency that can result in a loving relationship with God for all eternity.

Within the context of a world of actual value, which therefore cannot help but allow the possibility of evil, we have to wonder if too much is then allowed. I would say it's clear that the world has a net balance of more good, as we are not all in despair and contemplating suicide and tragedy is still shocking rather than so common place that we merely shrug at such news. We need to also consider that evil is not ultimately triumphant. Even now, acts intended to only harm, cause others to respond with good that would not have existed otherwise. For the innocent who suffer, we can see in scripture, Job comes to mind, that such will be restored in time.

Finally, the primary purpose of the world is not merely physical comfort, but knowledge of God that leads to eternity in His presence, which would be greater than any possible comfort one could have in the finite time of their life in this world. The final result will be a community of those who will experience God's joyful presence face to face, by free choice and freely given love. Some will have only arrived at that by way of suffering, through their own choices or by the choices of others, keeping in mind that even those choices that harm others, result in more good being created, precisely because of free moral agency. But for the innocent we know such suffering is recompensed and that such temporal experience will easily be outweighed by the eternal experience of God's love and joy.

Sorry that was so long winded but I think some of my reply naturally leads to further questions and I hope to have covered those. To summarize, this is the only way to the best possible world. A community that has freely chosen to love God and desire his presence. What is logically necessary to allow, so that untold multitudes can have that choice, will in the end, be overthrown and defeated. Even now, evil acts result in more good, despite the intention and result in some coming to God that would not have otherwise. A God that takes the great risk that some will choose otherwise and still allows us to exist and have that choice and thereby the ability to love with the final result being our eternal experience of joy and love is truly just and loving and worthy of our adoration.


The above is really just my internalization of several articles (provided below) that I've come across in my research, various thoughts from C.S. Lewis and from defending those views in debates. The point is, that Christainity does have good answers. We need not fall back and say, well I just believe, and not provide good reasons. I hope all of this can be helpful to my brothers and sisters in Christ and to any who may be seeking truth. 

Good question Why didn't God stop the process before it started, if He knew of the massive amounts of suffering that would befall many of His creatures??

Honor and Pain - A Refocus on the Atonement and Eternal Punishment


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