Friday, January 27, 2006 by niebuhrian
First, as to Tod’s question about whether this God resembles the George Burns character in Oh, God!, I have no idea. I have not seen the movie in many years; and when I did see it theology and theodicy was not at the forefront of my thinking. Therefore, I couldn’t say, but if someone else has an opinion on that I would love to hear it.
Second, maghretta said the following:
Disinterested caring looks like the work of God to me, and good in the face of evil looks like the powerful work of God.
Do you mean that those actions God takes are suggestive rather than coercive in effect? Or do you mean that the only action God can take without coercive effect is to reveal a possible path of action to us? He can talk to us, but he can't touch us?
As to your comment, I would agree about the latter wholeheartedly. I believe that is what I meant by saying that God’s possibilities are ultimately effective (effective as an alternate way of defining powerful). Good in the face of evil is one of the most powerful acts of human beings, and in effect God. At these times human faith in God’s possibilities are at their most congruent.
As to the former, disinterested caring is an oxymoron to me. How can you care about someone without taking interest in them? It would be a going-through-the-motions-oriented action that, in my humble opinion, would arise from a human possibility rather than God’s ultimate possibility for any given interaction. To be disinterested is in effect not to care about outcomes or the interaction, and while the action may still produce a good outcome, it would not function at its best because the possibility arose from human concern rather than an act that belies the possibilities that God offers at any given moment. Being uninterested in the other is being ultimately concerned with the self. Self-interest is by definition the root of sinful action in most modern and postmodern theologies.
Let me try to move on to your questions. First, whether God’s actions are suggestive or coercive in effect. At first I said yes, but the more I thought about it, I decided I would want you to define suggestive. Even the word suggestive can be understood as coercive. Therefore, I would say that God’s desires are always present in every moment. That given the paths we have taken to get to a certain point, there is a possibility present in any moment that, if chosen would be more revealing of God’s love in the world. Your second question is closer to what I believe I was trying to say by writing about theodicy.
As to whether, God can talk but can’t touch us, my answer is an unsatisfying, it depends. I would describe being touched by God as an internal feeling of congruence with God’s possibilities. Therefore, I would say that we can be touched by God inasmuch as we can live out God’s possibilities of love, care, and respect in the world. However, given human beings penchant for self-interest, God’s ultimately effective reality for most people amounts to talk rather than feeling truly touched by God’s possibilities.
Next, Bad Alice stated and asked the following;
What you are describing sounds very similar to how God was talked about at a Unity Church I used to attend, and in my glancing acquaintance with New Thought. Do you think that evil is purely human--there is no "adversary," Satan, force of evil, etc? I find your ideas very intriguing, but a bit difficult to square with the power of a creator God. If God can be only love, and we are his creation, then how did our ability to do evil things develop? If evil is a byproduct of free-will, then God was able to establish a system in which evil is pretty much inevitable.
I want to begin here with a statement made by David Ray Griffin in God, Power and Evil: A Process Theodicy. This statement is a basic atheistic argument that there is no God.
1. God is a perfect reality (Definition)
2. A Perfect Reality is an omnipotent being (By definition)
3. An omnipotent being could unilaterally bring about an actual world without any genuine evil (By definition)
4. A perfect reality is a morally perfect being. (By definition)
5. A morally perfect being would want to bring about an actual world without an genuine evil (By definition)
6. If there is genuine evil in the world, then there is no God. (Logical conclusion from 1 – 5)
7. There is genuine evil in the world. (Factual statement)
8. Therefore, there is no God. (logical conclusion from 6 – 7)
The result of this logic is that theologians have to work around some of these points if we are to attempt to reconcile our belief in God with the fact of evil in the world. My choice was not to give up the moral goodness of God, and rather redefine how God is powerful. I also do not believe in an “adversary” and I think that our conceptualizations of Satan are more projections resulting from an inability to take responsibility for the evil that we bring about in the world through our actions or inactions as it relates to God’s possibilities. I think that evil is human, through and through, and it is a result of God’s commitment to human freedom. (In July and August of 2005 I wrote a couple of brief ideas about this under the heading of Theological Propositions, little did I know at the time I was beginning a process of internalizing some of the tenets of Process Theology, you can find the posts here, here, here, and here). If God does not coerce then there is the possibility that any given human will not choose God’s effective possibility leading to a less than effective interactivity. Where evil arises, for me at least, is through human self-interest that ultimately breaks the interrelated world that God has created.
Rather than evil being inevitable in God’s established system, I would say that evil was possible in the system established by God, due to a commitment to freewill. With true freewill, God cannot know what possibility we will choose; if God knew, then freewill is in jeopardy and God becomes indictable for the evil in the world. This, for me, would be ultimately antithetical to God’s loving nature. God’s presence in every moment of human history assures that God is able to provide possibilities that would reveal God’s love, care and respect in the world. Humans, on the other hand, have a choice of possibilities and the inability to be perfectly moral in their choices…
This is a huge post, I appreciate it if you stuck it through to the end. I hope it begins to clarify some of the things I was talking about. If not, please question, reframe or rework it and let me know so that we can do it together. Theology is best when not done in a vacuum. Theodicy, which reaches into the depths of human finiteness to understand the infinite, should never be left to one person to try and figure out. Thanks for commenting and making me think more about what I claim...
grace and peace