Just a quick note to the readers of this blog. Here is the point in the book where I let off some steam. You have to understand that when I first wrote this, I was never intending anyone to read it. The work was not written for you; it was written for me. I’m just at a point in my journey where I can share some of what that journey looked like at certain points in time. You can read it as a religious polemic, which it is, or you can read it as autobiographic data, which it is even more. But if you want to know me better: where I have been and where I am going, I encourage you to read through the ugly bits. They can’t be left out of this sort of exploration.
By the way, I don’t disavow anything that I wrote. I still believe the points I was making hold up under scrutiny. I just probably wouldn’t present in this way if I were writing today, and for an audience.
Enough palaver. Let’s get to it.
God of This World
As I approach the end of this work, I can feel my anger level rise. I do not know at whom to direct my anger as I no longer believe in the god of the bible. Therefore, I direct it outward at those who use the manmade holy book to browbeat the beleaguered. I direct it at every messiah who came before and after Jesus and used myth to manhandle the meek. I direct it at the ignorant people in my life who raised me up on fable and fear. Most of all, I direct my anger at the god of this world that allows evil and suffering on a scale that overloads the mind.
At this point, I cast off any attempt to make a clear and cogent argument. At this point, I am just pissed. Consider this final part a lifetime of stored up ranting.
The All Mighty God
The omni god is perhaps the most difficult of all doctrines to grasp and to accept. It is the aspect of god that requires more blind faith than any other. Omni means all. God is all everything, without limits. Here, logic and reason have no place. We are asked to check in our natural skepticism at the door as there can be no rational foundation for such claims. From what I have read and observed, when a believer ceases to believe in one of the omni principles, his faith in god is challenged, if not destroyed.
The reason for this is simple to understand. If god is not all powerful, why would anyone want to follow a god that might not be able to help them. If god does not know everything, what is the point. Perhaps some other power will win after all. Even if you believed in such a god, you would not feel obligated to dedicate your life to him.
Consider god’s omni characteristics. God is all powerful. That means that there is nothing he cannot do. Never mind the logical fallacies that seek to trip god up on this point. We do not have to ponder the rock too heavy for god to lift before having problems with this one. All we have to do is ponder the condition of the world. According to the bible, his desire is that all people should be saved. Yet he cannot do anything to make it happen. He seems to be powerless to stop the wicked from harming the innocent. He cannot stop mindless natural disasters from wiping out the faithful. He has no power over disease, hatred, bigotry, or evil in general. The list of things he can do seems small compared to the list of things that render him impotent.
God is more than just all powerful, though; he is all sovereign. There is not only nothing he can’t do, there is no will that can oppose his will. If god wants something to happen, it will happen just as he planned it. If god wishes for a thing to not happen, rest assured, there is no power on earth that can make it happen against his will. Ancient Christian formulation requires a person to say that he or she will do a thing only if it is the lord’s will. It suggests that the sovereignty of god cannot be thwarted by our plans, nor can our plans be accomplished if god does not ordain them.
Since god is all sovereign and all powerful, that leaves nothing that can happen in this world that is beyond god’s control or desire. If we are to be faithful to the omni god, we must stop exonerating him for the presence of evil and suffering in the world. It did not slip in past his guard. It did not happen through an agency acting against his will. Nothing can overpower him or subvert his will.
God also cannot be surprised by anything that will happen as he is all knowing. That’s right, he knows everything. He knows everything from the extremely mundane like how many hairs are on each person’s head, to the extremely essential like the name and location of the attacker who lies in wait for your preteen daughter.
Speaking of location, he is fully present in all locations. There is no place that escapes gods notice. He does not only observe every evil thought or act, he is there when it is done. He is present with you and every other person on the planet. He is with you where you are and will be at your destination when you arrive. He will also be there, as he is now, at every step along the way. While we’re at it, let’s just throw in omni-temporal for free. That means that god is not just in the moment, he is in every moment past, present, and future simultaneously.
If this makes god sound like some indifferent, universal force of nature, that cannot be further from the truth. This is obvious when you consider that god is all loving. This is an important point since the bible makes god out to be the personification of love, itself. Still, in order for us to understand what it means to be all loving, you have to modify your definition of love.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1Cor 13:4-7 NLT-SE)
Love is patient, kind, not boastful, proud, or rude? Really? Have you ever read the book of Job? In that book, god is portrayed as all the above, and worse. Love is not jealous? Really? At least five passages in the bible plainly declare gods jealous nature. Love does not demand its own way? Really? What is a command from a sovereign if not a demand of his own way? Love is not irritable? Really? How many times has god shown irritation with his people? Love keeps no record of being wronged? Really? Love never gives up? Love never fails? Really? Why are so many people going to hell?
Does god allow the innocent to suffer? Does god brutally punish his children for minor offenses? Does god kill babies and commit acts of genocide? Does gods wrath last for generations before being appeased? Is god the personification of the kind of love you want to have anything to do with? Love for the human has been clearly defined. Defining god’s love is not so straightforward.
God is all resolute. That is to say, his resolve is unshakable. He never changes his mind.
“And Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to someone else—one who is better than you. And he who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will he change his mind, for he is not human that he should change his mind!”” (1Sam 15:28-29 NLT-SE)
In this scene, Saul just got some bad news. He was about to lose everything. The prophet assures the soon to be deposed king that god’s mind will not only remain unchanged, but implies that it cannot be changed. His argument is that god is not human that he should change his mind. This is very clear in the above passage but it conflicts with countless others where god was presented as more reasonable and would, on occasion, change his mind. If god did not change his mind, Moses would have been killed prematurely because god had set his mind to do it. Moses, pleaded with god to spare the people time and again. Yet we are to somehow believe in the immutability of god. Really?
The point of all of this omni stuff is to show that god is ultimately in control of every aspect of his creation. Nothing is out of hand or beyond his reach. We do god an injustice by suggesting that some things are happening against his will. That cannot be. Rather than seeking the source of all unpleasantness in the world, we should be asking god why he causes such calamity.
The Buck Stops Here
“I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” (Is 45:5-7 KJVS)
“Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and Jehovah not have done [it]?” (Amos 3:6 DRBY)
Before moving forward, I will note that the word evil in the above passages does not refer to a moral act. Rather, it refers to bad things such as disasters. Even so, I am not convinced that moral activity and calamity are all that different in concept when referring to an act of god. In spite of the fact that god vociferously insists on his role in causing bad things to happen to people, we are even more insistent that some other force was the cause.
There are four forces other than god that get the blame for all of the evil in the world. There is mankind, natural causes, the fall, and the devil. I do not have a guess as to which of these forces is blamed most frequently. When people talk about the problems of the world, they tend to use some combination of all of them. It seems what people are really saying is that the cause of the problem is anything but god. That seems a little odd seeing that god is the only one with any real power.
The one with the least power is mankind. The bible portrays man as a powerful agent of evil. In fact, throughout most of the old testament, man is identified as the cause of all of the bad things that happen. We are desperately wicked. We are so filled with wickedness we cannot even realize how much wickedness we have in us.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9 KJVS)
“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.” (Rom 7:18 NLT-SE)
“For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.” (Psa 51:5 NLT-SE)
In the above passages, it is painfully clear that humankind is infused with evil from birth. We are the instigators of inhumanity toward one another. We enslave those who are weak and vulnerable. Guns do not kill people; people kill people. Rape, plunder and pillage cannot be blamed on natural disaster. There is nothing natural about the way we treat one another. We lie, we cheat, we steal, we murder, we lust, we covet our neighbor’s wife. Why do we do all these horrific things? As we all have said at some time in our lives, we’re only human.
Is it really fair to blame man for the evil that he does? Do we call the shots, or is someone else pulling the strings?
“And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.”” (1Kings 22:19-23 ESV)
I seem to recall that god hates a lying tongue above most other evils. Why will the prophets be filled with lies? Is it because they chose to do evil, or because god put a lying spirit in them? For that matter, why did Pharaoh not let god’s people go? Was Pharaoh that stupid, or did god actually harden his heart so that god could deliver his people in the fashion he wanted? Does god just decide to make some of us vessels of evil?
“For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.
Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding? Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?”
No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?” When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who were made for destruction.” (Rom 9:17-22 NLT-SE)
Well, I guess that answers that. Paul asks a rhetorical question about why god blames us for not responding to him when we are simply doing what he makes us do. It seems to me this question deserves a response. The only response we get is that we do not even have a right to ask the question. God does what he does. We have no more right to question god than does clay in a potters hand. I do not believe we can blame man for the evil in the world.
Another favorite whipping boy is nature. We say that a person died of natural causes. It wasn’t us and it wasn’t them. No one caused it to happen, he just died. Nature is the cause. That is what we say when a storm blows through a village and takes out all the homes and the people in them. When Hurricane Katrina blew through New Orleans, some speculated that god was acting against that city for his own undisclosed reasons. The louder cry came from those who assured us that god does not act in such an indiscriminate manner. They obviously never read large portions of the bible.
I started this section with god taking the credit for the disasters that had befallen his people. The passages seemed to imply that there are no natural disasters. God is the cause of all such evil. To be sure, it would require a powerful being to wrest control of the elements from the all mighty god. As for it being a mindless process, does the rain just happen to fall, or does god cause it to fall.?Let’s just say that is why we call it an act of god.
We have willful man and mindless nature to blame for evil, yet that is still not enough to exonerate god. Even if you shoehorn all the bad things that happen into these to categories, the question remains, how did man become wicked and nature become a force for calamity?
This is a touchy issue. The question deserves a bit more attention. After all is said and done, god is the one who made man and nature. God is perfect and declared his creation good. What, then, accounts for all the evil in the world. The answer is that the world, like Humpty Dumpty, had a great fall.
This is probably the first arrow in the quiver that people reach for in defense of god. It is the most basic answer to the question, why do bad things happen to good people. It is because there is sin in the world. We have had a great fall. The fall suggests that at some point in creation, all was well. Creation was perfect and man was, in some way, a reflection of the image of god. Something catastrophic must have happened in order for sin to enter into the world.
“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. …For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. …For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many…
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone… Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners…” (Rom 5:12, 14-15, 17-19 NLT-SE)
In the above passage, I cut out all the parts about grace so that we could focus on the ultimate cause of sin entering the world. Paul makes it very clear that he blames Adam for the fallen condition of the world. This is a bit odd as in another of his writings, he blames Eve. Still, the choice to sin was made by mankind. That did not just have an affect on the ones who sinned; that brought sin into the world. It is through Adam we die, not through ourselves. While it is true that we all sin, the psalmist says that he was born a sinner. Adam brought sin into the world.
Just how did Adam accomplish this total collapse of paradise? He was just one man. He was not a god with the power of god. Adam could not create. I doubt he could build a fire or fashion a wheel. Remember, he was so innocent, he did not even know he was naked. He was a newborn babe. He could no more be held responsible for bringing down the ecosystem of perfection than a baby can be held responsible for starting a war.
Yet there it is, writ large in scripture for all to see. The newborn man must shoulder the blame for bringing down the mighty work of god. How did he do it? He ate some fruit that was sitting there in the middle of his garden home. That’s it. There goes the neighborhood. Clearly it’s not god’s fault. Except… Who put that tree there in the first place? Who made the fruit desirable? Who put the talking, cunning serpent in the garden, a serpent with the ability and inclination to deceive the woman? Could it have been anyone other then god that set up all those conditions.
One more question. If the serpent was already in the garden and had the inclination to subvert god’s plan, why does Adam get the blame for bringing evil into the world? The serpent was clearly evil. Therefore, evil was already in the world long before Adam took a bite. In his attempt to exonerate god for the condition of the world, Paul created an argument with an irresolvable internal consistency. Adam was tempted by evil to do the first evil. That is not possible. Evil in this world preexisted Adam. Adam did not cause the fall; he was a victim of it.
Who, then is responsible for the fall? Who is the author of sin that now dominates this world? There is no doubt that sin is having its way. It is everywhere: omnipresent. It knows just how to trip us up and when we are at our weakest: omniscient. Its power to entice and deceive even the very elect seems to be without bounds: omnipotent. Time to stop blaming Adam for the mess we’re in. Only a god could cause this kind of damage on a global, spiritual level. Will the real god of this world please stand up?