My Problem with “God”
Yesterday, I started a series about The Problem of Evil. Today is part 2.
When confronted with the practical reality of the problem of evil, believers who don’t use the God of gaps often do one of two things:
They jettison their faith.
Or, they attempt to “grab the bull by the horns.” In other words, they attempt to redefine the premise of the problem … they attempt to redefine “God”.
The premises of the problem of evil are the following: that God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omnibenevolent.
And before I redefine some of these attributes in future blog posts, it’s important to recognize where these premises came from … where they originated from.
Your first thought might be, “The Bible.” Maybe. But not entirely.
Throughout Church history, we’ve made numerous capitulations to cultural philosophies. These accommodation aren’t bad … as long as they’re recognized.
As soon as accommodations become unrecognized, they become hurtful. The early church attempted to defend the faith against Hellenistic philosophers. And as often happens, we become — in subtle ways — like our opponents.
And this is how the problem of evil was formed.
To many Greek thinkers, the ultimate reality of the world had to be metaphysical because everything physical eventually falls apart and is therefore limited and corruptible.
The Greeks speculated that the metaphysical nature of ultimate reality must
never change (immutable) and
never cease to exist (eternal);
it must be more solid and
stronger than this temporal, physical world.
The pre-Socratic philosopher Anaximander stated that the final metaphysical ideal necessary to give a correct understanding of human lives cannot be found within the sphere of existence. Instead, humans must conjecture what he called the “unlimited,” which is fully beyond anything humans know.
The “unlimited” is utterly ineffable because it has no predicates…because to predicate is to limit.
Plato thought we have to base our rationality in something other than our existence. He discharged the Greek writer’s tales of the gods as anthropomorphic and looked for the perfect, the immutable and the timeless.
This he found in the realm of Forms, which exist outside our spatiotemporal world. Aristotle hypothesized an ultimate metaphysical ideal (the unmoved mover). These Greek philosophers set the stage for much of today’s theology.
Christians essentially assimilated these ideas into their views of God.
At the foundation of the whole Christian understanding of God’s nature is that if anything limits Him, He is finite and could not be the infinite, transcending God.
This “perfect being” theology that has influenced us in more ways than one.
Immutability, impassibility, omnipotence, simplicity, eternality (in the eternal now, or timelessness sense) are all terms that we ascribe to God that must be reconsidered.
In fact, it may be time to discard our misconceived Hellenistic God.
And, maybe our misconception is so large concerning God’s nature that it ends up that our vision of God doesn’t exist? And maybe — in some regards — you may have to become an atheist to keep your faith when faced with the Problem of Evil.