Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Nature of God

Tomes have been written on the nature of God by highly learned men, which I have no intention of reading unless they turn out to be part of my purgatory.  It is Snowbrush wrestling with the contradictions of theism and atheism that has got me thinking about my own attempts to come to grips with things over the past 30 odd years.  In a number of his blogs, he has forced me to think through my own beliefs and I owe hm for that.  Him and all his readers who comment.  Now he is threatening to leave that topic so I better get busy and write.  I jotted a few things down in previous blogs WHO and WHO & HOW. And please keep in mind, this is the very finite trying to explain the infinite.

The gist of the argument is that if God is so good and loves his people so much how come he allows so much suferring in this world? I quote from Snowbrush's blog:
(1) If God is omniscient, he knows exactly where, when, and how much every creature suffers. (2) If God is omnibenevolent, he doesn’t want any creature to suffer. (3) If God is omnipotent, he has the power to eliminate suffering without eliminating any benefit that suffering might bring. 

Now the nature of God has always been described as omnipotent (all powerful) omniscient (all knowing) and omnipresent (big enough to fill the universe and small enough to fill my heart, as the song says).  I never anywhere heard of omnibenevolent but stand to be corrected (R-B?).

Yes, God knows exactly what is happening and what will happen to all His Creation and I expect it gives Him a great deal of pain to see His creatures suffer and yes, he could change all that "in the twinkling of an eye".  However, He is not going to do that.

We are taught that God has a plan for the redemption of His creation from its current sorry state of affairs.  And given that the earth is 3 to 4 billion years old and the universe much older than that, it is fair to say His planning horizons are not the 5 years in my business planning, nor the 50 years that the Japanese allegedly use, nor the 500 years the Chinese allegedly use in their political maneuverings.

As I understand it, God wants a people who will know Him for WHO He is and love and worship him OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL.  Doing everything for us is not going to help us grow up, nor is magically making us love Him going to be very satisfactory (A very crude comparison - and I know, I know, I 'm going to Hell - is using a date-rape drug vs old fashioned seduction).

So He leaves us to our own devices and so far we have pretty much mucked it up and it hasn't even begun to get really bad yet.  When you compound man's inhumanity to man with nature's inhumanity to man over a few millennia, you arrive at today. Bleah! But humans are not yet convinced they can't fix things themselves (liberals) or they have the upper hand in the game and don't want it fixed (conservatives).  At some point those who are left will come to their senses, realize that they need a power beyond themselves (how is it worded in AA?) and turn to God.

That is the tricky part as there is no end to the folks who assail us daily with the idea that THEY alone have the answers, that God has given them alone the wisdom to understand the Bible as the road map to Salvation and that the rest of us, in order to be saved should shut up and do what they say, unquestioningly. Sorting our way through that minefield is no easy task and no one is going to do it for us.

Please pass the hat.


  1. "I never anywhere heard of omnibenevolent but stand to be corrected..."

    It just means that he is all loving.

    "As I understand it, God wants a people who will know Him for WHO He is and love and worship him OF THEIR OWN FREE WILL."

    He sounds rather stuck on himself, wouldn't you say?

  2. Wouldn't you rather someone love you because they want to rather than because they have to?

    A king knows he should be respected and bowed to, but he would rather his people did it out of respect and love than with resentment or brainwashing.

  3. I know what it means, I meant I had never heard it applied to God before as in that He is ONLY all-loving.
    As to your second comment, do you want your children to love you because they love you or because they are coerced into it?

  4. Hooray for your last paragraph! Religion, as I see it, has two things going against it: the bible itself, and those who explain it.... all wrapped up in a tidy bow.

    (and I'm not referring to YOU)

  5. "Wouldn't you rather someone love you because they want to rather than because they have to?"

    God, being all powerful, could have created a universe in which we would love him freely and in which we would enjoy all the benefits that suffering might accrue, without anyone having to actually suffer. Any God who wants us all to be happy and loving but is completely thwarted by our perversity would do well to look at who made us perverse.

  6. Snow, He is hardly thwarted by our being perverse, He made us that way on purpose.

    “If your eyes become blinded by the sun, you do not say the sun does not exist.
    In the same way, you should not say God does not exist
    if your intellect is lost in trying to understand him”. Tolstoy's "A Calendar of Wisdom"

  7. Dana, now be careful and don't go figuring I know something. I don't. It is just trying to sort out my ideas is easier if I get some feedback.

  8. If he made us perverse, then he stacked the deck against us--free-will wise--wouldn't you say?

  9. Were any Bears harmed in the presentation of thee posts?

  10. Comment from May-B emailed from her Boo-berry after her internet calved.

    The other thing I wanted to write, but couldn't because my internet crapped out, is that when we (humans) have kids, we want what is best for them and we want them to love us. We do what we can to teach them, but in the end it's their decision. They do things we wish they wouldn't and they get hurt and hurt each other. As parents, we have to let them.

    Snowbrush, Yup. No one said he made it easy for us.

    RB, I'd have to ask the Bears, I guess.

  11. Poor Rob-Bear is in the long and unenviable position of trying to help me straighten out what I THINK versus what I know, versus what is....oh, nevermind.

    But I always harken back to my beloved pets. I do everything in my power to protect them and keep them from any avoidable harm. I don't make them, or expect them, to fear me. And of their own free will, they choose LOVE.

    Love can only be obtained in a "fear free" zone. Love in the face of fear is nothing more than trying to pacify the one who wields the sword.

    But THE thing that has caused such spiritual frustration in my life are the very ones (christian) who insist that I believe what they believe or they'll beat me to death with their bibles.

    Our children? It reminds me of an old Bill Cosby joke: I made ya, and I can take you out.

    Spoken by a parent, it's a joke. Spoken (or implied) by a supreme creator is not acceptable. Therefore, I do not accept it.

    So I have to find something substantial (and makes sense) that I CAN accept.


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