Monday, December 24, 2007

God and free will, part 2

Since God is truly a free being is it possible that in the same way that he was free to give the moral law, the 10 commandments and other laws associated with them, he could also take them away, or at least some of them? Yes the bible says that God does not change. The bible also says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

But if it is impossible for God to undo a law that he gave on Mt. Sinai, i.e., the 10 commandments or any part of them, is he then not free? Is he forever bound by his own inherent goodness and resoluteness of purpose in having given those 10 commandments?

Of course, most if not all, of those commandments are an expression of himself. It is said that God is love. I, personally, wouldn't want "thou shalt not kill" or honor thy father and thy mother . . ." to ever be done away with. But could not God, if he wasn't feeling so "jealous" as the bible says he was in giving the commandment about not having "other gods before [him]", decide well, he would prefer that the creatures he created only worshipped him, but if they wanted to worship other gods, for whatever reason, then they have been given free will, and could possibly worship other gods as long as they did not harm each other or themselves? Of course, this is only hypothetical. In ancient Israel, and in modern applications of the command against idolatry, there is more to worshipping idols than bowing down and focusing your fondest thoughts on graven images, etc. There were the orgies and such that probably was the main, though not the only, alluring aspect of idolatry, then and now.

The commandment about the day of rest is another one that, theoretically, he could decide, well, six thousand years ago that one day was set aside to commemorate either creation or freedom from slavery, but if those he had created wanted to worship him on another day, or--not worship him on any given day, then what would be so universe-shattering about that? Does not a mother have at some point to let go of her child, and the child let go of his/her mother as they both get on with the essence of living their lives?

I've always thought that to be required to obey God in order to not be destroyed doesn't sound like freedom of choice. If there were a third option, as long as it did not harm either God or others he created, then one could say that one truly had freedom of choice. If one could truly choose or not choose to obey God, but would still be free to live out your life as freely as one chose to do so, wouldn't that be true freedom of choice?

Or imagine the ultimate freedom of choice of being able to decide to follow God or not follow God and still live forever? Such an option would have to have some fail safe mechanism in place to provide free beings who live outside of God's system the impossibility of interfering with those who did choose to live within God's way. But then, that wouldn't be true free will, would it?

Of course, since God is God, he could very well state that in order to live forever you had to do it his way. God has to be in control somehow. After all, he created the cosmos to begin with. He could also choose at any moment to uncreate it. But if he did that, he wouldn't be a loving God, would he?

Is God free to change his mind regarding some things? Or is he forever bound to go along with statutes or commands or decisions that he outlined thousands or millions of years ago?

Does God have Free Will?

God gave us humans free will. For that we are grateful. We'd never have known that we didn't have it had we been created to do only what he wanted us to do.

As I sat in Sabbath School this past Sabbath the thought just popped into my mind. Does God have free will like we have free will? The thought startled me. I was even more concerned when the following text came to mind: "And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. . . Genesis 3:22. Now this probably means that God learned about evil, not from first hand experience, like Adam and Eve learned about it, but by being acquainted with Lucifer and his originating of the concept of evil.

Now, of course, I wouldn't want to suggest that God is capable of evil if he wanted to, being a free moral being that he is. But then I thought that since he is good because he is God and can only be good and never evil, then we are more free than he is by being able to choose good or evil. Of course, having chosen the latter, as it turns out, is not so pleasant, after all.

If you don't use the bible as your yardstick for matters of good and evil--bear with me for a bit---then an objective observer might think that God in wanting to destroy all he had made because humanity had turned to evil--except for Noah and his family--was less than good. Also, a very clinical observer might think these humans, although evil, were the work of God's hand. How could he be good if he wanted to destroy them all because he had regrets for having created them in the first place?

Now a subjective reaction to this might be that since God created humanity in the first place, he had every right to destroy it just as a potter has a right to reshape a pound of clay into something more perfect. Of course, the potter could also decide after he had finished the jar or glass vase, or whatever other work of non-living art, that it was imperfect and though he loved it a bit, it was better to destroy it and start again. After all does not the artist or the potter have every right to do what he wants with something he creates?

I read a while ago, that the Jews at one time attributed all of the vicissitudes of life to God. The good with the bad. The verse from Job, "the lord giveth and the lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" addresses this issue somewhat. Later on, Jewish thought attributed the bad things in life to Satan (the accuser) and the good things in life to God only.

Do we attribute only good qualities to God because that's what we would prefer him to have? Of course, there's the matter of violation of his law and the need to punish the guilty which most religious people feel that God is justified in doing.

These issues suggest, to me at least, that matters involving free choice and good and evil are more complex than many people facilely state they are.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Minimizing Evil

One really must have been given the gift of love for God and faith in God in a world that's full of evil. Without that prior gift, it is well nigh impossible or unlikely that anyone would have those attitudes. Not everyone receives that gift or can live with it successfully once it's given.

Of course, you can also focus on the beauty and goodness in the world and it will partially negate the evil that is also present. Not all of life is evil unless we only focus on that side of it. Those of us who believe in God, in spite of the imperfections of living in an evil world, must really want to or need to continue believing in God regardless of the things we see and hear.

Some people would say either there is no God and all this evil is a mystery which humanity is partially responsible for. Or they would say that there is a God and he allows the evil to continue when he could very well stop it tomorrow. Or they would say that he might want to stop the evil, but is not able to do so.

Perhaps that's why some churches are full of people who want to reassure each other that in spite of the evil in life, past and present, it's still okay to believe in God and to believe that he wants the best for us at all times.

Regarding the Bible, I'm finding that I have to focus more and more on the positive parts of the Bible, the promises of hope and love while at the same time not dwelling on the negative and, sometimes unpleasant passages one sometimes comes across.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Jehovah Witness Cut My Hair

A barber who says he's still studying with the Watchtower Society cut my hair last Friday. I'm not usually in the position to argue fine points between the Watchtower folk and Adventism, but I had no choice as he had a pair of scissors in his hands and wouldn't stop talking.

As a young man I used to be terrified of Jehovah Witnesses. They seemed sinister to me, or so I was led to believe by some unfortunate encounters I had had with two or three. To be honest, it wasn't so much sinister, just heavy-handed or intolerant of the views of others that appalled me years ago. Now I feel more warmly towards the Watchtower folk as long as they don't wake me up on Sunday mornings when I'm trying to get some shut-eye.

But here was this inquisitive man with the scissors and I had nowhere to go.

In the end, he had some problems with the Jehovah Witnesses' abhorrence of Thanksgiving and Christmas. He likes spending both with his family and can't accept their negative spin on holidays.

I told him he could be Adventist, see his family for all the major holidays, but not Halloween, which he was glad to hear.

I told him I'm with the Adventists because of their interest in Righteousness by Faith. He had never heard of that term. I told him next time my hair needed cutting, I'd stop by and we'd talk again.

Future of God

Alternate title: Future of God and Humanity

When God said let us create humankind in our own image, did we or did we not inherit emotions or states of mind such as wonder, surprise, excitement, awe, hope, optimism, and other positive human qualities? What I'm getting at is that these good qualities had to come from God; we did not develop them ourselves. Therefore, what is so illogical about a God who also gives himself the luxury of experiencing awe, wonder, surprise and hope? Or is our God a being that has always been devoid of surprise, wonder, and exploration? I realize I'm seeing the man in God and not vice-versa, but are we not created just a little bit lower than the angels?

This may sound shocking to some, but it reassures me, in a way. Why do you suppose God created--had to create so many of us--at such a great cost? Think of the impossible although, of course, when you think of it, nothing is ever really impossible. What if we all are God's insurance of perpetuity in the same way that parents' offspring are insurance should they somehow never live out their full life span?

Why did God give so much in Christ to save us, mere flesh and blood? Might he not have more at stake then just some wayward children who needed rescuing at any cost? If you really believe that humans are children of God, then like human children eventually becoming like their parents at some future time, might we also not have been designed with the potential--perhaps millennia from now--to become as perfect as our creator through the self-actualizing gift he stored in our very DNA? It's not easy to even write these words. Nevertheless, the very idea gives me a strange hope and sense of well-being for the future of humanity on planet Earth, as well as any non-terrestrial colonies humans may yet develop in worlds beyond our own.

Finally, and this takes lots of faith and courage, what if, we are now, or may one day come to be, all that's left of the perfect and self-sacrificing being we commonly refer to as God? We not only owe it to ourselves to take care of each other and of our home planet, but we also owe it to him, our creator, God.