Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Does God Set us UP to Fail? My answer to a reader

  photo FromWithinCreation.jpg
In the comment section to my commentary "Christmas and the Crucified God"  about the eighteenth person to call himself/herself "Anonymous" on this blog wrote:
I do appreciate your education and willingness recognize strengths/weaknesses within Christian theology. I also appreciate the uniqueness of your personal thoughts on atonement. However, I personally can't see how any of these explanations reinforce the idea of a just or loving god.

No matter how you choose to pitch it, I see Christianity promoting a system in which a god has designed a system in which every participant will fail. A person born, being sinful by nature is already on an inevitable road to destruction. The only rescue from said situation is via the same god that put us on this path to begin with.

To me, the imagery is of god placing you on a raft in a swiftly moving stream that's headed toward a deadly waterfall which will not come into view until it is too late to change course. If we realize our predicament ahead of time and cry out for help, has god really saved us, given that he put us into the stream in the first place? And if we're too ignorant, or too distracted or just misinformed and go over that waterfall, is that god not still to blame for our destruction?
 First of all the assumption that s/he seems to start with is what I said in my piece, that we feel entitled and we blame God for subjecting us to the indignity of having to exist. God owes us something for thrusting existence upon us without asking our permission. We should be given all the goodies because we have to go through the mess of living. Yet that's the opposite of the attitude my grandfather had, and my father for that matter, that living is a gift of God, God is  the good, we should just be happy to be alive.
 S/he can't see how God is jut or loving. He's obviously loving becuase he is willing to be in solidarity with us. The sign of his solidarity is that he became a man and went through it too. It's not necessary that he go through the most horrible suffering ever, he did go through horrible suffering and not that makes up for our pain but it is a sign of his willingness to identify with us. The problem we are not in solidarity with God. It's a  covenant, that means there are two sides. We don't want to be stuck with a side. We think it should all come to us and we don't have to do anything. That doesn't make sense. God in solidarity with us, that means we should be and must in solidarity with God. That means seeking to obey God, to please God and allow God to work through us as expressions of his love. To do that we have to be open to God's love. God will put love in us by means of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:1).

God is just, because he is the basis of justice. Why do we have a concept of Justice? We have no examples of it on earth. We don't even have to be conscious. If evolution was efficient we would be like ants and not think. It's efficient enough that we are the top of the food chain and survive (if we have not contrived our own extinction as a species) and yet not efficient enough to keep us form making up concepts we can't embody and can't produce because they require perfection, such as justice. That in itself might be a good reaosn to assume that God is the author of justice. Justice is what we don't want. That would mean we have to pay for your sins and we can't. Of course modern people don't feel sinful becuase they are entitled. If we examine the way people felt in ages past, we sin all the time and we never truly pay.
 Anon's next point is interesting. There are two sub points to it: (a) we are born to fail, we are not created perfect; (b) "The only rescue from said situation is via the same god that put us on this path to begin with.." There's the hidden atheist premise again. Blame God, God owes me a big whupping recompense for putting me through this. Remember the studies I've talked about that show us that atheists feel self hatred? Atheists hate themselves, thus they hate God for making them they way they are. Those assumptions would fit perfectly with this kind of thinking. The basic premise that we are all born to fail, we are born sinful we have a sin nature that will lead us a stray we can't choose otherwise, good point but the next statement just implies that God should be punished for this. What God is the rescue, he did it to us! He should be punished for forcing life upon us. Now God is the sinner and we are his judge! How screwed up can you get in your thinking? The source of all goodness, the only truly objective judge is the defendant and flawed stupid me is the judge of the source of good? come off it!

Why not be grateful that God, who doesn't have to give a rat's ass about us, is willing to give us the hope of salvation without our meriting it all we can do is feel put upon? After all God could just go impersonal on us and be like the unthinking uncaring nature that they love so deeply, the non-God they wish they had. The cancer, the car wrecks all random and unfeeling, is what they worship? No of cousre not, they worship themselves. They are only worthy things in existence! Ok pardon my sense of outrage, I have to right to impose that on them since I do this too. When I'm in a spot I start getting entitlement fever and goign 'why are you doing this to me!??" "I write his cool blog!" On second thought, maybe I better not remind him about the blog! So that's true that I worship myself because I'm selfish it's non voluntary. I am a pretty pathetic object of worship.

So let's just answer the point, are we born to fail? Every single person is made to fail and that as the stick to get us to go for the carrot of salvation? first of all Reinhold Niebuhr in his brilliant work, The Nature and Destiny of Man Vol I.   shows us that sin nature is connected to the very nature of being sentient and having a brain. The the fact that we are conscious and we can think about the future and remember the past (self transcendent) is the basis of sin. This is so because sin grows out of the anxiety that self transcendence foments. For example I can remember being hungry and cold, I can reason that if I don't pay the rent I'll be hungry and cold again, but I can't pay the rent so I steal the money to pay the rent. Thus I've committed a crime not because I need to but because I can understand the concept that I will need to and I fear it. So the anxiety of that fear had led me to treat others unjustly (stealing).

Atheists will always say "O but God is omnipotent so he could fix it up where we all our needs met and we have to do anything." That wont work, first because omnipotent doesn't mean the power to do all things it means jurisdiction over all being. It's about the circumcise of power not ability. There is no reason to think God can violate logical necessity. For example God can't smell next Thursday. Days of the week don't smell.So then the assertion that if God doesn't smell the days then something is wrong with the concept of God is merely a problem with the concept of God's power. So God can't create sentient beings that are self transcendent give them fee will and not allow them to feel the anxiety of self transcendence. Then the idea that if God is the answer that somehow makes it worse because God is unworthy to be the answer: that is merely the complain of the God hater club. God is the only worthy candidate in all of being to be the answer. The whole dilemma comes from the hidden premise "why did God make me the way I am, I hate the way I am." Learn self acceptance. That's one of the primary lessons I learned when I first God saved. That was one of the big revelations of my life I can love myself and accept myself because God loves me. I could not accept myself as an atheist. There was no basis for acceptance. How can you love yourself when you are the thing that turns you off?

God did not create us to fail. If that were true he would not give us the answer. In giving us himself as the answer he's not saddling us with the big cruel meany that made life bad, he's giving us the best thing there is. God is the first and eternal aspect of all that is, God is the basis of all things. God is the source and origin of love. So in giving us himself God is giving us the only true and objective judge, the source of all compassion and goodness, what could be better? God has perimeters for creation, he has a reason for creation he doesn't need to consult us first. We can't assume that we are of such great importance that God's purposes must be subverted to our needs. Yet he did put as at the center of creation. We obviosuly pay a key role, so much so that he organizes the whole universe so we can have this search in the heart and find God and get saved. That should be a huge honor rather than a curse.
See my essay on Soeteriological Drama to find the details of the theodicy solution, my own version of the free will defense.

finally s/he has this image of God placing us on a raft of course it's laded to make God the bad guy. Let's change the imagery. Not that I think we need a bible verse to justify an image that helps us understand but it is neat to see how many passages in the Bible use female imagery of God. This is the basis for my image to answer the raft image. So observe the imagery of the Bible in dipecting God as a mother, especially a mother giving birth.

Deu 32:11 "As an eagle stirs up her nest, and hovers over her young, and spreads her wings, takes them up, and bears them on her wings.

Deu 32 :18 "Of the Rock that bore you, you were unmindful, and have forgotten God that formed you." (that one may be hard to get, baring children--female image).

Job 38:8 "Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb."

Job 38:29 "From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the hoarfrost of heaven."

Isa 45 9-10 Woe to you who strive with your Maker, earthen vessels with the potter. Does the clay say to the one who fashions it: What are you making, or Your work has no handles? Woe to anyone who says to a father: What are you begetting? or to a woman: With what are you in labour?

Isa 49:15 "Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. (comparing God's attitude toward Israel with a woman's attitude toward her children).

Isa 66:13 As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

Hosea 13:8 "I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and will tear open the covering of their heart";

Mat 23:37 and Luk 13:34 Jerusalem, "Jerusalem, the city that kills its prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing."
Let's think of God as a mother who is going to bring forth new life, a new person, an infant. She conceived so it's our "fault" yet its not a crime to reproduce. The woman is not committing a sin yet it might be a hard birth, the kid is in danger then it has to live. So we say the mother is forcing the child to live and that's her fault? Or even the father. The mother can't be a mother without the Father being the Father. In his analogy both parents are God. Not two God but one entity that is in two parts. Sort of bienity. The problem is God is not an entity but the basis of all being. Thus we need not look at it as some pre conceived plan (no pun intended). Even though we are told it is (from the foundation of the world). It's also just the unfolding of being. The hardships and pain we go through are just the birth pangs of having life and learning what life is about. God is the center of that process. It's a rich privilege and rare gift to live we should thank God that its bestowed upon us. Finding Jesus and being saved and getting out of the flaws and problems of human sin is nothing more than the proper way to reduce the anxiety of self transcendence and learn love. That's the bottom line of all of it. God is doing all of this and bring us forth through birth and re-birth to enable us to learn and experience love and learn to give love.

We are not made to fail, we are made to find love and learn to give love.


Anonymous said...

Furthermore, this idea of god being limited by logical necessity and such is nothing more than philosophy that's developed out of the need to defend an illogical god construct. The image posited in the Bible is not that of a limited god. It's the image of an angry sovereign who favors who he likes and smacks around those he doesn't like along with anyone who happens to get uppity about themselves. Theologians can dream up these new concepts of god that are more reasonable to the modern mind, but it's just conjecture that has no authority behind it. Furthermore, the more you divorce god from the sacred writings that describe him, the less effective divine intervention as proof ties back to the original precepts and worldview. When you posit that the god of the bible isn't how he's described there (because it's just a record of god experiences), there's no reason to believe that allegiance with god is a good thing. After all, if his plague-wielding exploits are just myths, who's to say his promises are not just as mythological?

But suppose we dispense with mythology and return to the idea that god is not a big man in the sky holding court in white temples over winged men in white robes. If I understand your theology, you see god more as a foundation of being and the point of our existence is not to end up on golden streets with harps at the end of time overlooking the burning faithless, but to somehow tap into the divine nature during our lifetimes so that we can join with it once the mortal coil is shuffled off - is that an accurate statement?

In either situation, the determining factor we come back to is faith. Personally, I don't see the big attraction in faith as a determination - I'd be more inclined to see people demonstrating the behavior I want them to eventually emulate instead of a trait that will be useless once they make that post-death transition. But I will take for granted that faith is indeed the trait most conducive to absorbing godliness. If this is the situation, why would a loving god make faith so difficult to attain for so many people when it is obviously within his power and modus operandi to make it evident to others? Why should some gain the benefit of burning bushes, parting seas and hole-y hands and not the rest of us if he cares about us all? How are obstinate skeptics like Thomas or Gideon rewarded with divine intervention and not the rest of us? If we step back again (per your previous posts) and say the stories are not literal, you are still faced with the obvious impression that god pursues some while letting others find their own way. Why are they special? Am I not worth a burning bush to reclaim me? If we liberalize the texts, we're still left with the definite impression that god goes to great lengths for some, but not all. You can abstract that text as much as you like, but if there is a clear lesson there, it is that god enforces faith on chosen vessels in order to serve his purposes. Are those men robbed of their self-transcendence by enforcing faith on them? So why are we different?

Faith to me is simply an ecumenical word for gullibility.

Anonymous said...

Same poster, again. I always post as Anonymous when available to avoid spam. My name is Bill.

Forgive me if I oversimplify, but as best I can determine, your premise is basically that the world is what it is (or perhaps is to be considered the best of all possible worlds) and God is handling things as mercifully and lovingly as is possible given the situation. Is that correct? I don't want to straw man you here.

My problem with that premise is accepting that the nature of things is beyond god's control. If you accept the mythology of heaven and heavenly hosts and whatnot, god obviously is capable of creating a climate (heavenly realms) in which beings are brought into a perfect reality with direct proof of god's existence and sovereignty while still maintaining free will (those rebellious angels). Furthermore, a situation has supposedly existed since near the beginning of time in which god tolerates sin without allowing it to offend him to the point of resolution, so I don't see any reason why it couldn't continue in such a state.

What you call entitlement, I call common decency. If I have the capability to lay my newborn down to sleep in a clean, safe crib and instead lay him down on a bed of nails, what does that say about me? If I place that child in a wagon and roll it down an incline toward a ravine, will the DHS applaud me for giving him a fun ride?

I can't really jibe with the Niebuhr thesis because by this logic, self-transcendence should only lead to sin when the subject's needs aren't being met. Per your example, sin wouldn't have occurred if you weren't hungry and cold to begin with, or if you were given adequate ability/resources to pay your rent honestly. If you hadn't been put into a hostile climate that demands shelter, or if you'd been given the means to provide for your basic needs, or if god had zapped the rent money into your account, or if god had inspired the landlord to mercy, or any number of alternate scenarios would have made sin unnecessary. If god is aware that sin is the result of need and sets you in an environment of need, who's responsible for the sin?

Metacrock said...

I dont' think it's the best of all possible worlds. It's a possible word that we would choose not ot sin then we would have a perfect world. we choose to screw it not God. we choose to blame god.

you argument is merely rationalization for your choices. you choose to blame God becuase it wont do it your way.

The idea that God cold just zap everyone becuase hes' so perfect evades responsibility.

the propaganda that "I call it decency" is just a balme God game.

Adam says "they woman the one YOU GAVE ME!" you say "If you were decent god,..."

No self transcendence is not limited to needs being met. It's about anxiety and we feel anxious all the time becasue everything leads to pain we can speculate any number of senerios that lead there. we choose to jump the gun because we feel anxious.

Metacrock said...

"Furthermore, this idea of god being limited by logical necessity and such is nothing more than philosophy that's developed out of the need to defend an illogical god construct."

you ever read the bible? I sure hell doesn't say God can zap everyone.the God of the Bible is quite limited. He has to go to Sodom and Gamaroa to find some good people who doesn't know who they are. Doesn't even know if there are any.

He has to get Noah to build a boat because he can't whip one up out of dust. The word omnipotent is only used one time in the while Bible it does not mean all powerful.

Greek is Pantocator. It means that he has authority in all place but it does not mean he has all power. It's about jurisdiction not power.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hey Meta

Happy New Year. I'm enjoying your interchange with Bill here.

And Meta, hope you don't mind if I put two cents' worth into the conversation. If you'd rather I didn't or think it would muddy the waters, feel free to delete this comment & I'll let you guys have fun with it.

Anyway, here's my two cents' worth for Bill.

Bill, if you read this, keep in mind I'm a little more conservative than Meta when it comes to theology.

Big picture: If God is going to create a being out of nothing (like us), to create a being that didn't have to exist, there's one thing we can be sure of: that being is at risk of non-existence. Anything that used to be nothing, it's possible for it to be undone and become nothing all over again. (It's also possible to become permanent, which I'll take in turn, but one thing at a time.) Anyway, that risk of non-existence -- heck, that looming reality like the waterfall there -- it scares the crud out of us. And we resent it. That's natural. We want the permanence. We resent God again for his permanence when we're just flashes in the pan. We resent him for calling the shots when we don't want to die. So logically [logic of psychology here], we want to be God, to replace God, to call the shots about what's right and wrong, to live forever. That's just what it means to be some creature besides God, one who is aware and can think.

God actually wants to transform us into something permanent, something like him. The Bible (if you take that as any indication) makes that plain from Chapter 1. But first we have to _stop fighting him tooth and nail_. If we all showed up in Kingdom Come acting like we do here and now, then we'd turn heaven itself into hell. (Have you ever read the sci-fi stories where we find a perfect world and we're the alien monsters who destroy it? I expect that's what would happen to some hypothetical heaven, if God just transplanted all of us there, the way we are.) So back to where I started this paragraph: God wants to _transform_ us into something more permanent. But it does take transforming us. That takes trust. That's what "faith" is. [Here Meta might disagree with me.] It's not that "faith" is some excellent indicator or basis of determination for our eternal fates. It's that "faith" is the first part of that transformation, the change from thinking that God is evil and out to get us, to realizing that God loves us and is trying to help with that 'transformation to permanent' thing.

For myself, (tongue-in-cheek here), I decided never to take any religion seriously -- I mean, how do you know which one's right, with similarities here and differences there? -- so not to take any religion seriously until God gave an unmistakable sign that he was actually involved in one of them, and that he was real. So unless God did something to set apart one religion -- like raising one religion's founder from the dead, while leaving the rest of the founders pushing daisies -- unless he did something like that, I guess I'd have to stay an agnostic.

So all kidding aside, that nasty waterfall scenario -- I've heard something nearly like that preached by some [really bad] preachers as if it were the good news. But the more I read the Bible, the more I can smell out a bad preacher. You can read Jesus' teachings all day long without getting that "waterfall" feeling. Like, try the beatitudes [in Matthew 5]. Jesus is proclaiming God as "the God who blesses".

Take care & God bless

Metacrock said...

Hey Fisher would I mind your two cents? You make more sense than any other conservative I know, more than most liberals I know. I like what you say, thanks for your comments.

All atheists accept the notion of dying and becoming nothing forever. I figure that's the way they want it. When I was an atheist I used to think that might be best, might not but it's all we have.

It's not all we have.