Saturday, June 14, 2008
God is helpless to help people without relying on other people.
Subject to revision and restatement. The start of a discussion.
Idea born at Lee's joint, Strawmen Cometh.
So if people help other people, it's because that's one of the things people do, and God is only in it so much as that the universe he created works accordng to laws that eventually advantaged a species (or several, we are discovering)capable of altruism.
Helpless to help others without using people might be one way to describe that...a perfect creator who doesn't have to go back in and mess around with the creation is another way to see it.
I always sort of picture God when people pray to him with their vending machine prayers as saying "I gave you a whole frickin universe, and you want me to help you find your car keys? WHAT?"
The more you expect to see God's work, the more you will see it. This I know for sure.
I wouldn't say God is "helpless" without human beings to act on the Divine behalf and behest. Yet, since we call the church "the Body of Christ", it seems to me that when the Church is actually being the Church, we are indeed being God, acting for the world. That doesn't rule out God working through thunderstorms, or miraculous Providential power. It is just one way God acts.
If so, then who helped Him with that particular project?
If not, then how did the human race survive?
Besides as has been asked here what might help be?
Other people? God only works through people? Is the Holy Spirit people? Are people themelves then just puppets of God?
The concept and the question presume God at such a low level that they can not adequately be discussed much less answered.
And say, where do the avatars come into the transactions? Every religion is chock full of avatars of one kind and level or another.
Besides if God only helps people through people you really would have to ignore much of the Old and New testaments wouldn't you?
But if God does not brak, bend, or mutilate his own laws; how could he even have people help people with out doing so?
Pass the koolaid.
Thus he stays within the "law" because he moves up/down, backwards/forwards, over/under or any other dichotomous pairing. All we see is the forward flow.
While he plays in a 360 degree x 360 degree time sandbox. Could be you know.
Shades of DR. Who?
Cry for all the innocent ones
born into a world
that's lost its heart
For those who never
learn to dream
because their hope is crushed
before they can start
And we shake our fists
at the air
and say, "If God is love,
how can this be fair?"
We are his hands, we are his voice
We are the ones who must make a choice
And if it isn't now, tell me when
And if it isn't you, then tell me who will save the children?
Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.
The LORD looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
God saw that there was no one,
God was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so God's own arm worked salvation,
and God's own righteousness sustained...
I'd like to change my answer to both/and.
And, Teresa, I love this: '"I gave you a whole frickin universe, and you want me to help you find your car keys? WHAT?"
Yes, "helpless" seems too strong a word.
Keep in mind that the idea came to me during a converation with an apparent Richard Dawkins groupie, name of Daryl, over at Lee's place. He seemed to be saying that "The Good" (within the context of the discussion, "God)" requires human beings.
Daryl said: "What seems to be consistent with all the evidence is that "The Good" only has power through human beings. Humans can be inspired by The Good to make positive changes in the world, to fight for justice, to take care of the sick, etc. But if humans don't do it, it doesn't get done."
ER said: "Right. Not sure what the point is, unless you mean there can be something that humans call good that is apart from humans AND apart from God. Which I don't see. Without humans, or God what is good? I'll ask my corgi! ;-)"
OK, back to basics:
Any statement that starts as "God is..." can not be true. Not even my favorite "God is Love".
Because I believe this:
“God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore, to argue that God exists is to deny him.”
I am still searching for whether God is being or action or both, I think strongly maybe both (all catagories inclusive), i.e. energy and matter. (Yes, I did violate the rule)
Jesus existed (even if not "real"), all avatars exist, and the God they emanate from created "them" but not "himself" He was before creation. Said another way he created everything but not himself. God is not nor did not create ex nilo.
Therefore God created "Good", but God is not "Good". For good to be seen even requires "Time" and time is not an essence or quality or anything that God is, or is under the current law of time as experienced by humans.
From the Human perspective then God only does good through humans for humans are the only ones who experience "Good" (Are we? What about other emotional animals?). However to say that God is helpless and can only do good through humans is to lock God into a sequence and flow of time. To do that is to diminish him to an "is" which he ain't.
So don't discount Daryl completely, he is nibbling at a truth.
Doctor Lobo has spoken........
"The more you expect to see God's work, the more you will see it. This I know for sure".
Doesn't that just mean that you choose to interpret things as being his work? Since you can't really tell one way or another, how can you say that this isn't just wishful thinking on your part?
"This is my body, broken for you..." Jesus is making a statement, not only about his upcoming passion, but he is also saying that we are his body now. That idea is mirrored when Jesus not only says "I am the light of the world" but when he tells his disciples, "You are the light of the world."
And in Luke, when Jesus preaches his inaugural sermon, "‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
"Fulfilled in your hearing" is often believed to have a much broader context of "doing" rather than just hearing.
Yet all that doesn't mean that we don't disappoint God by failing those who need help.
God is mainly in the pondering of God, I say, ponderingly.
To your first question: Yes.
To your second question: I assure you that Trixie's answer, should she opt to provide it, you will find as unsatisfying as my own to similar questions.
How do you know? is as silly a question to ask her, or me, as How do you not see? is a silly question for someone to pose to you.
Speaking of "good." I think DrLoboJo bruished against what i was sort of half-baedly thinking when I started this post.
If "good" itself is part of the Creation, but does not effectively exist apart from man (assuming no other critters have any such concept), doesn't it make sense that for God to cause, allow, create good for humankind it would necessarily require humans as the vehicles or executors of it? I freely admit the assumption that "good" has no meaning or import outside human experience is, well, human-centric. ... I don't know. Riker and Bailey think weiners off the grill are "good," I think, and they think lemons are "bad" -- but then I'm anthropomoprhizing my dogs now ...
I just WISH this were all as simple as Dawkins, et al., seem to think it is. ;-)
What's an example of God doing good without the intervention of humans? Maybe the initial creation of the universe counts (then I would ask: what has God done lately?)
I know that some people attribute certain good fortune to the intervention of God. For example, people do survive cancer, people survive falls from high places, people survive encounters with bloodthirsty terrorists, people find love when they least expect it. However, are these the active intervention of God?
The argument against is that there are certain kinds of intervention that God never engages in. The best example is amputees. Cancer may spontaneously be cured, but an amputated arm or leg never grows back. Why not?
This assumes that a grown-back limb would be "good" or "God's will" or "healing," by definition.
God, it might be said, has other cards up God's sleeve than what appears to be the obvious.
St. Paul, in an admittedly different context, opined:
"We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."
Not sure I'd be surprised at a holy aversion to having much to do with arms and legs, actually, considering the circumstance surrounding a certain pair of nails, certain pairs of arms and legs, and a certain couple of pieces of lumber fashioned into a cross.
Sure, you can say that it is God's choice when to intervene and when not to. But it seems to me that God is being pretty predictable here. He chooses never to intervene in the case of amputees.
God is fairly predictable in that regard. When yer time's up, it's up.
Not sure God's done any restoration of sight lately, either, if you're keeping tabs.
But I'm not altogether positive about either. With all the reports of images of the Lord appearing on cinnamon rolls, growing into melons, and such as that, it might be hard to get a genuine leg grown back into the news.
Daryll, I'm assuming since you're claiming that God doesn't regrow our limbs you're open to the notion that He does grow the limbs of starfish? :) Nah, didn't think so.
Maybe he just likes starfish more than us. Wouldn't surprise me, they're pretty cool. ;)
Hum, well, not so simple a proposition...
"Powdered pig bladder made Lee Spievak's sawed-off finger grow back. Is this the future of medicine?"
The military is heavily invested in limb and skin regeneration. Multiple examples in current Popsci magazine.
However one man's good is another's evil even though they be the exact same thing.
"A rare condition compels its sufferers to want to amputate, or paralyze, their own healthy limbs. Inside the strange world of what sufferers call Body Integrity Identity Disorder."
When these dudes cut off the offending limb or part, they feel well and "balanced".
What is good?
I do agree that God does not intervene, but do his avatars?
Re, "I do agree that God does not intervene, but do his avatars?"
Isn't that sort of the eternal question? And as regards Christianity, isn't it, like, the central tenet?
The more hands we have, the more fingers to pull triggers, make fists and push buttons to drop bombs.
Perhaps we haven't proven ourselves fit for more limbs and starfish have?
ER: "Isn't that sort of the eternal question? And as regards Christianity, isn't it, like, the central tenet?"
Yes, that's the point.
Ever wonder why Jesus is never referred to as Jehovah's son? Why his name Joshua a variation on YHWH actually means Jehovah's Salvation. Joshua of the "Old Testament" is not misspelled in the early Greek translations (i.e. Septuagint) of such. Why is this Jesus/Joshua misspelled in the Koini of the early Christian writings and carried down as such till today?
Is Jesus a new Hellenistic Avatar of the One True God: Jehovah/Zeus? Iesus = Ie Sus = Hail Zeus.
Sometime we should look at the math of it too.
And another question: Is this kind of discussion threatening to any Christian who is not a fundamentalist-literalist-bibliolator? I mean, it's not mainstream, exactly, and it might rattle long-held assumptions, but why is it threatening?
Heck, even Edward Fudge, whose missives I post here from time to time, referred to Jesus as not only the Word (Logos) but as (possibly) Wisdom/Sophia the other day!
Here it is:
A gracEmail subscriber writes: "If Abraham's three visitors in Genesis 18:1-15 were men, and one of the men was also 'the Lord,' wouldn't that man have been Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, a pre-incarnation? As I said, it's of no particular importance, just something I wondered about."
* * *
Many people think they see an appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus at various points in the Old Testament – Abraham’s visitor (Gen. 18:1-15), Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17-20), the captain of the Lord’s host who appeared to Joshua (Josh. 5:13-15), the fourth man in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:24-25), and so forth. My sense of the matter now is that none of these is Jesus pre-incarnate.
Abraham's visitor is called "the LORD," a euphemism for Yahweh or God. Genesis portrays Melchizedek as a mortal man. The person who confronted Joshua calls himself "the captain of the armies of the LORD" and is likely Michael the Archangel. To the pagan king, the fourth man in the furnace looked like "a son of the gods."
To the extent that there are divine appearances in the Old Testament, I think it is appropriate to consider them manifestations of God (“theophanies”) rather than appearances of Christ ("christophanies"). "Christ" is a title God gave to Jesus. “Jesus” is the name of Mary’s miraculously-conceived son who was Immanuel--God with us. Precisely speaking, Jesus did not exist before his conception, although the Son of God who in Jesus took on humanity forever, also identified as the “Word” (Logos) and perhaps as the “Wisdom” (Sophia) of God, had always existed with God whom we call "Father" (John 1:1-4; Prov. 3:29-20). Your question is both interesting and legitimate, although it is not one to which Scripture permits a total or dogmatic answer.
Copyright 2008 by Edward Fudge. You have permission to forward or copy and distribute this email all you like so long as you do so without changing, chopping or charging.
I think we can all agree that God does not predictably intervene on the side of what humans view as Good. People who lose limbs don't have them restored. People with cancer are (often) not cured. Innocent people are not saved from tsunamis, typhoons, earthquakes, terrorist attacks. Nothing stopped the mass murder in Nazi Germany, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Sudan.
I suppose you can explain it all by saying that God's notion of good is not the human notion. Fine. But then what reason is there for thinking that the human notion of the Good has anything to do with God?
ER said that he felt the presence of Christ in people feeding the hungry, fighting for justice, protecting the innocence, etc. That presence is what I'm calling The Good. What reason is there for believing that The Good has anything to do with God, the omnipotent, the creator?
That was the point of my comment that gave rise to this thread. There is no reason to believe that The Good has access to any supernatural power. Is there?
"There is no reason to believe that The Good has access to any supernatural power. Is there?"
None what so ever.
The only universal connection of "The Good" to any Deity seems to be summed in the commandments of "Love God, and your neighbor as yourself." Or perhaps in the variations on the golden rule.
In each case the "believer" is commanded to be good and do good, for their own sake. Again the Key is: For their Own Sake.
Now the colliery is also true.
There is no reason to believe that "The Evil" has access to any supernatural power. Is there?
Plus, I dislike terming God "supernatural." I think everything is natural. Or maybe everything is supernatural. Not sure. I do know that things deemed utterly run-of-the-mill today would have been deemed utterly unfathomable at various points in time. My Zippo, for instance.
Also, I don't cotton to the notion of God "somewhere" "out there" at all. God's Godness is part and parcel of God's own Creation. I got a little pantheist streak, I reckon. Human beans being the pinnacle (as far as we know) of the Creation, I'd say, then, that while God is not limited in any way to working through people, God might be expected to work through people for the good of people. God might work through dolphins for the good of dolphins.
He didn't cause them either.
(To be honest, I've really never understood this line of thought. Bad Things happen, therefore no God. Since clearly Good Things happen, but that doesn't lead those very same people to suddenly believe in God.)
An excellent essay on theodicy can be found here:
But, speaking of theodicy, I would like to quote the words of those great philosophers of our times, Pink, who sing,
If God is a DJ
Life is a dance floor
Love is the rhythm
You are the music
If God is a DJ
Life is a dance floor
You get what you're given
It's all how you use it.
"The religious question is, therefore, not: “Why did this happen?” But “What then shall we do?” That is why, in synagogues, churches, mosques and temples throughout the world this weekend, along with our prayers for the injured and the bereaved, we will be asking people to donate money to assist the work of relief. The religious response is not to seek to understand, thereby to accept. We are not God. Instead we are the people He has called on us to be his “ partners in the work of creation”. The only adequate religious response is to say: “God, I do not know why this terrifying disaster has happened, but I do know what You want of us: to help the afflicted, comfort the bereaved, send healing to the injured, and aid those who have lost their livelihoods and homes.” We cannot understand God, but we can strive to imitate His love and care. "
Amen, and Amen! I love that. Not "why?" but "what shall I do?"
How do you know that?
To be honest, I've really never understood this line of thought. Bad Things happen, therefore no God. Since clearly Good Things happen, but that doesn't lead those very same people to suddenly believe in God.
The question I'm asking is why assume that God cares one way or another about Good versus Evil?
As I said in the beginning, to the extent that there is a force of Good in the universe, there is no evidence that it has any power other than the power to influence us humans.
From my point of view, you're jumping ahead here. I'm questioning whether the force for Good that wants us "to help the afflicted, comfort the bereaved, send healing to the injured, and aid those who have lost their livelihoods and homes" should be considered the same entity as the omnipotent God who created the universe.
The atheist asks: What reason is there for believing that God or a Force for Good exists? I'm asking a slightly different question. If we assume that they both exist, what reason is there for thinking that they are the same entity? Maybe God doesn't care about Good versus Evil.
I am serious. I'm asking you how you know.
I'm a Christian, not a Godian -- and I don't mean to be snippy. Jesus is the model, by his teachings, what we have of them, as tattered and patched together as they may be, and his example, which, despite the tatters and patches, still is so revolutionary, whehn it comes to concepts of God up to his time, that we're still talking about them. Jesus model for prayer, for example, is a lot simpler. The Lord's Prayer, I mean.
I've given my own answer to this above in my remarks about "belief" as intellectually assenting to a set of suppose facts, versus "trust" and "hope."
I go all the way out on the limb and say, "I don't know," and then I'll crawl out further and say, "knowing" is not, after all, what religious faith is about.
Okay, I read the article on "Why does God allow terrible things to happen...". I don't have any problem with it, but it seems consistent with the claim that God doesn't intervene in the world. He set up the rules and are letting them play out willy-nilly. If that's the case, then it is the case that God does not work for good except through humans. (I originally said "has no power to intervene", but I suppose that you can always interpret it as choosing not to, rather than being unable to).
False dichotomy. There's no reason to believe that not intervening to stop a hurricane means that God can't intervene directly in other ways in other situations.
As I've said before, I have no problem with the notion that God works for good through humans. In fact, I've stated rather strongly that I believe that is absolutely true. I just don't ascribe to the false dichotomy which says therefore that must be the only way he works.
As for God causing calamities, you're asking me to defend a position I don't believe in. Ask Pat Robertson, he's the guy who thinks Hurricane Katrina was sent to wipe out the gays in New Orleans. Even if one discounts everything written in the Bible that refutes such a stupid idea, I think, objectively, one has to question it on the basis of poor aim alone. It seems a little odd that God would use His power to create an incredibly destructive Hurricane in order to kill the gays and then miss them almost entirely and hit a bunch of poor people instead.
And then one must wonder about the current flooding in the Midwest, Iowa not being the queerest state in the Union. Maybe he's sending a message about California gay marriage and just missed by a couple thousand miles. LOL
Sorry, Darryl, but you're totally putting the cart before the horse. If we can't initially agree on the aspects of God's nature (ie. Goodness) then asking what he'd do with that nature is meaningless.
(And again, I don't really understand the purpose of the question. Why would anyone care, if they don't believe in God in the first place? It's not like these questions are original or anything, and it's not like there aren't libraries of books on the subject. You're not actually expecting either a satisfying or convincing answer are you?)
If we can't initially agree on the aspects of God's nature (ie. Goodness) then asking what he'd do with that nature is meaningless.
The discussion is precisely about the nature of God. If you want to claim that Goodness is an essential aspect of God, I want to know why you believe that, and what it means.
I understand a lowly human notion of Goodness, and that has to do with protecting the innocence, fighting for justice, feeding the hungry, etc. God doesn't do any of those things (except indirectly, through humans).
And again, I don't really understand the purpose of the question. Why would anyone care, if they don't believe in God in the first place?
Who said I don't believe in God?
But I don't understand your response. You're only interested in discussing things with people who already agree with your conclusions?
Well, we're even then. :)
"You're only interested in discussing things with people who already agree with your conclusions?"
Yes, that's exactly it. LOL
"Alan, but what reason is there to believe that God ever intervenes?"
Asked and answered. I've answered this a couple times already, as have other folks in the thread in various ways. Simply repeating the same question over and over isn't really a "discussion".
"The discussion is precisely about the nature of God. If you want to claim that Goodness is an essential aspect of God, I want to know why you believe that, and what it means."
Ah, clearly I'm confused. I thought we were discussing whether or not God helps people with or without relying on other people. But that assumption was only based on the rather clear and obvious original blog post itself. ;) My bad.
Asked and answered. I've answered this a couple times already, as have other folks in the thread in various ways.
I didn't see anything in what you wrote that I would consider to be an answer to the question. Your responses make it clear what you believe, but not what reason there is for believing it.
In response to the statement: ""The discussion is precisely about the nature of God.", Alan wrote
Ah, clearly I'm confused. I thought we were discussing whether or not God helps people with or without relying on other people.
You don't think that has anything to do with the nature of God?
Look, Alan, ER started this thread in response to a comment I made (on another blog). That gave me the impression that he was interested in discussing my points. You, on the other hand, seem to be interested in getting me out of this discussion. If ER wants me to drop out, I certainly will, because I'm only here because he invited me to join in.
Alan can get a wee bit testy in these discussions. So can I. So, yellow flag. Please.
Re, "I want to know why you believe that, and what it means."
The problem here, as I see it, Daryl, is that no one who askes such questions, ever accepts the answers that are given. "I believe" is answer enough. Why? Because I can't help it. That shouid be anseer enough. To persist asing questions and ignoring the answers eventually comes across as insincerity, at best, and harrassment, at most.
Experience and testimony are rejected out of hand -- and that, more than anything, I think, is why there can be no common ground on which to stand.
How do I know Jesus? I've met him. How do I know it was Jesus? Who else would it be? Do you doubt? Yes. Does that mean you don't believe? Hardly. Aren't you afraid your doubt will sink you? No, no more than my moments of fervent conviction and belief will save me. Is God? God is. How do you know? How do you know not? How do you see? I see. How do you see not?
What's missing???? Questions asked. Questions answered. If you don't understand, try harder is my standard reply.
Thanks, ER. (I can't call you your full nom-de-blog, because I grew up thinking of the R word as being approximately equivalent to the N word.)
"I believe" is answer enough...How do I know Jesus? I've met him. How do I know it was Jesus? Who else would it be?
I think I'm having trouble getting across my points. I'm not questioning that you personally know a force for Good that you call "Jesus". I'm questioning the theological baggage that many people associate with that. In particular, the connection between this personal Jesus and any omnipotent creator of the universe. Do you need for there to be such a connection?
It seems to me that one can be loyal to The Good (or Jesus, if you identify the two) without needing all the other stuff--Virgin Birth, Life after death, Heaven, Hell, a God who answers prayers, the resurrection, etc. Why do we need any of that other stuff? Can't we chuck it all?
ER writes, "The problem here, as I see it, Daryl, is that no one who askes such questions, ever accepts the answers that are given"
Exactly my point.
I've already stated my answer: Both/and, not either/or. I've stated it several ways and provided other folks' takes on it to augment my own answer. And yet, the same question gets asked again and again.
What reasons do I have for my beliefs? A zillion that are all wound up in my life, my living in this world, the lives of friends and family, and even *gasp* the testimonies contained in the Bible, etc., etc., etc. Again I ask (for at least the third time) are those reasons going to be satisfying or convincing for you, Daryll? If so, then we have plenty of Scripture we can discuss. Or we can save a lot of time and electrons just by admitting that Biblical answers are probably not going to be accepted in the first place.
"You, on the other hand, seem to be interested in getting me out of this discussion."
Not in the least. But if my answering your questions only results in you asking the same question again, then I find it hard to believe that you actually want me in this discussion either.
Coming from some people, it IS equivalent to the N word.
Re, "I'm questioning the theological baggage that many people associate with that (The Good, which ER's associates with Jesus). In particular, the connection between this personal Jesus and any omnipotent creator of the universe. Do you need for there to be such a connection?"
Jesus, according to the spotty records we have, was a Jew who prayed to God. I think it would be extremely difficult for someone to take Jesus seriously without taking seriously the fact that he prayed to God. Damn near impossible, actually, although people have tried for a long time.
Re, "It seems to me that one can be loyal to The Good (or Jesus, if you identify the two) without needing all the other stuff--Virgin Birth, Life after death, Heaven, Hell, a God who answers prayers, the resurrection, etc. Why do we need any of that other stuff? Can't we chuck it all?"
I'd say that one can be loyal to Good, and even imitate Jesus, without any of the other stuff. And I will gladly work side by side with you. I expect you -- the universal you -- to work side by side with me. The Good done for others is more important, to me, than the nuts and bolts of theology, doctrine, belief or world view.
I would say that one cannot be loyal to Jesus, the living Christ, without at the very, very, very least, acknowledging that Jesus points to God. (Christology being "beyond the scope of this article," I'll leave it at that.
The Resurrection? Essential. Non-negotiable as a historical fact. BUT, the NATURE of the Resurrection is an old family fight even -- especially! -- among followers of Jesus. It continues. It will never be resolved. But the fact of the Resurrection is non-negotiable.
Efficacy of prayer? Life after death? Virgin birth? Sidebars. Fun to discuss. And they must be discussed, mulled, pondered, and taken seriously, by anyone who is taking Christianity seriously, in my opinion, even if ultimately rejected or reduced.
That's correct. I don't consider anything in the Bible to be evidence of anything other than the fact that people have been thinking about the nature of God for a long time.