He made some points that I ‘d like to answer in the order given:
- The idea of theodicy
- – God is omnipotent (all-powerful)
- – God is omnibenevolent (all good)
- – Evil exists
- You claim Bush’s presidency must be God’s will
- Can we conclude, then, that you doubt God’s goodness?
Hmmmm, Modern Man strikes again.
I am very happy to look at this, it addresses thinking that undergirds some faulty thinking about God, Christianity, and the Christian approach to politics. Good enough!
First, Justin remarks
Ilona, are you familiar with theodicy? You’ll find discussion at Wikipedia and a brief outline at http://www.faithnet.org.uk/AS%20Subjects/Philosophyofreligion/theodicyintro.htm. At its basic level, theodicy involves three propositions:
– God is omnipotent (all-powerful)
– God is omnibenevolent (all good)
– Evil exists
The catch is that all three can’t simultaneously be true. (Unless you fudge with the terms, that is.) For example, a good and powerful God would not allow evil to exist. Or, if God is good yet evil exists, God can not be omnipotent.
While not familiar with the official name, yes, I have run across these propositions before. In more than one context. Like many theoretical models, it breaks when reality is applied…let me explain.
This idea of God is theoretical with manufactured premises. While true they do not take into the account the person of God, Himself. Big mistake when trying to understand and explain things about God. This particular matter is one that really sticks in the craw of many Modern Thinkers.
The difficulty to explain: that while God is omnipotent, He limits Himself ( because He wants to and because He can). He is limited primarily by His own character and also by His Will. If you want to do something then you can’t do something else. That is the juxtaposition of justice and injustice, of right and wrong, of good and evil. You can’t have it both ways… not even if you are God, and particularly not if you are omnibenevolent.
Many believers in God have no difficulty with the idea that God can do anything He wants, they have trouble understanding whether it is something He wills or not. Understanding what is in line with His character and His will, so they may act accordingly.
Unbelievers have trouble with getting a comprehension of His character. They have no idea about His will.
But if you believe in the God that the Bible describes, you see over and over that God limits Himself….. and many times it is to include us. He wants to work with His human creation. He covenants with Man…. and hurts for it.
Because we are faulty, that means there are lots of detours and offers a partial explanation for that last idea: “- evil exists” and He tolerates it. There are reasons for tolerating it and a timetable involved: God won’t tolerate evil forever. Because He is good, after all.
“For example, a good and powerful God would not allow evil to exist. Or, if God is good yet evil exists, God can not be omnipotent.”
God is all good, and is all powerful. We know this because we have prolific examples of that which is of lesser power in hierarchies and we have a sense of good and evil distinctions. We know there is good partly because we know what is evil ( short definition: the knowledge of good and evil). Was evil necessary? Some say yes…. I hold out for the possibility of evil was necessary, but not its activation. But we all know the reality: it was activated. Evil does exist. True.
Abstractions of the idea of omnipotent? All mind models of our own construction. The fact is this, that God’s power trumps all others. He is, de facto, all-powerful; no matter how you want to define it because you can’t find anything that perfectly fits your definition. Not unless you are God and make it so. And that can only be in your mind model.
The question is whether you have a better God than the one revealed in the Bible to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
I say no. So the matter at hand is to know and understand what this God is about. Not think you know through your mind contortions. All reasonable persons insist on being known for who they are and not who someone wants to think they are.
Back to He wants to work with His human creation.. God limits Himself to including us in His plan, to realating with us. This is why prayer matters. Another application of the theodicy model I ran into was to propose that prayer was useless: if God was all-powerful and all-knowing what does it matter what we pray? It matters because He decided to respond to our prayers. He changes the hows and whys, if not the finality of His plan, to accomodate His men and women. Because of Who He is and because He wants to.
Second point from Justin:”You claim Bush’s presidency must be God’s will, which is as good as saying you believe God is omnipotent.”
I don’t think I claim anything like that in the sense I believe you are presenting it. I do believe God is omnipotent, but I am not at all sure that I know exactly what His will is at any given moment. I.E. What if we are due for judgments as just punishment for our sins? Maybe it is God’s will for Kerry to become president, then.
I am being facetious, but you can see why I hesitate claiming that certain people ARE God’s Will for this or that…thus saith me…um… I mean …. The Lord.
This is plain enough, though- on the spectrum of what we know of God and of His will, through His revelation of how He feels about justice and mercy and how we treat each other…. we can discern along the spectrum whether one is more or less in line with either good or evil.
I think we can now figure that Hitler was far along on the evil and that William Wilberforce was farther along the spectrum towards good. But we can get mistaken through circumstances and our own inability to properly discern.
If I look at a candidate and believe that their character and their execution of policy is closer to what God has expressed as good, then I will more likely vote for that candidate and feel that I am following God’s will on that.
But I don’t always know perfectly, and I am often wrong, or vacillate in whether I think I am right or not.
Truth. But I trust God to trump my mistakes and to do what is good for us all. Whether we work with Him or not…. because I know Him to be like that. That’s my Faith.
Third, Justin asked:
“Later, you affirm the existence of evil. Can we conclude, then, that you doubt God’s goodness?”
Have I not made myself clear on that yet? I think I have.
What I don’t have is the whole matter on why there is evil…. I understand some parts, but it is one of those things where I still see “as in a glass darkly”.
I don’t know everything.
But I am OK with that….. because I am making some progress along the way, and I keep seeking. I keep the models loose…..
I may comment some more on some of the points because I recently had an edifying conversation with a fellow Christian along the lines of how God handicaps Himself for us. See, there are many facets to this thing.