Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Late night thoughts on incompatability

I'm currently reading a book called there is no/a God by Anthony Flew. It's a really thick read to be honest and sometimes, I find it hard to catch onto the concepts that he is writing about, just because of the scholarly level it is written at. You see, I didn't finish high school and I've had to work very hard at educating myself to where I'm at now. Anyhow, this one concept he talks about I've been mulling over quite a bit in my head. He talks about how in Christian apologetics, sometimes it's not about being right or wrong. Sometimes, the question is incompatible with the answers. That doesn't mean much but I'll describe with a scenario I've encountered several times.

A very common question I've been asked is "how can there be a God with all the horrible things that happen in the world." One answer could be that the Lord givith and the Lord taketh away. Not something that is swallowed easily. Another could be that war, disease, natural disasters hatred for our neighbors, etc, are just government, society and ecosystem expressions or consequence of the state the world is in. There are a plethora of other answers but those are a couple. So how does that answer anything? How does any answer answer anything. It's been proven that you can't change a persons mind by arguing with them so is spewing out answers or arguing with them incompatible with the question? Is there a right or wrong answer or are all answers incompatible with those questions? Could that incompatibility be based on the state of the person asking the question? Anyway, what do you guys think?

7 comments:

Jason_73 said...

You know, not to sound generic-ly Christian, but I often see the base factor in any discussion/debate is the will or one volition. People are either able by God's grace to understand His actions or they aren't. When they are not, there will be a stalemate in conversation...

Even the most difficult theological understanding of God becomes "easier" when we are in a place of surrendering our will and understanding to his ways. That is a loaded concept, because we feel we possess the right to discover everything as scientific earthlings living in the year 2008. We don't want to, or shouldn't commit intellectual suicide when it comes to matters of faith and reason, yet the dichotomy to that is reasoning God out of everything because it doesn't make "sense". So that is my "first thing in the morning" attempt at dialogue.

Steve Oberg said...

Great post! Here's my two cents - I agree we don't often "come to terms" when we enter into apologetic debate. What results is usually more confusion, or in some cases a closed door. To broach the subject of the debate for God's inexistence based on natural evidence of suffering is to only raise the question of the existence of a "just" God. This pre-supposes the notion that there is no purpose in suffering, hardship or even natural "disasters". In some cases pain naturally accompanies an action we might otherwise call "good"- as in surgery, or losing a baby tooth - which is necessary in order to grow a new one.

We then might say, If God exists, yet these "bad things" persist, can God be good? Which then begs the question, "...what does it mean to be good?" If good is the absence of pain and suffering then by wanting what is "good" by our definition, we are merely seekers of pleasure and therefore simply "hedonists" trying to appear morally justified in our refusal to admit that there is a good God somewhere out there.
- just some nonsensical, pseudo-philosophical ramblings....things are slow at the office today.

Jason_73 said...

It's funny. We had some flooding last year because of a late spring thaw and so on... Anyway, there hadn't been big floods in our parts in the last 70 years or so. People in that time have built in the flood plains and nearer to the river. Then with the floods coming we were organizing prayer meetings asking God to have mercy on us... Is God all the sudden not good or just cause we build our homes on earthquake faults or flood plains. Because we release countless unknown toxins in the air causing illness. (Not that I want him to test me in this!). I guess this is getting away from Terry's original point, but it is interesting to think about outside our usual hedonistic perspective as Steve put it.

Terrance Wills said...

Thanks for the input guys. Steve, you raised a really important point on how or what we define good to be. I've been rolling that one around in the rock barrel for a while too. I guess at the end of the day, we have to bind the word to our perception of reality and let our thoughts flow from that, or we just run the risk of letting society shape our theology...which doesn't leave a lot of room for grace...oh man...

Steve Oberg said...

Being a person of grace doesn't have to mean that we just accept what others (or we ourselves) do and look the other way. Jesus was full of grace when He said, "go and sin no more." He also said, gouge out your eye, cut off your hand. Meek and mild, don'tcha think?

David Younghusband said...

I'm not too sure what you mean compatible/incompatible thing but I have seen a common theme in my reading lately. Thomas Aquinas, Dante, and C.S. Lewis all seem to be saying that reason and logic is a gift from God but can only take us so far. It may aid us in our journey and help us with some difficult questions but salvation requires revelation, which only God in his grace can provide.

With your example of pain and suffering in the midst of God's sovereignty I think the problem with defining the word "good" is we often confuse it with the "word" fair. Additionally it seems in the west, as highlighted in the American Constitution, attached to the concepts like fair are ideas such as "deserve" and "rights". In this case I do believe we are then asking the wrong question. We should not ask why do encounter pain if God is good? We should be asking the question: In light of humanities rebellion against God why is God's discipline/judgment/wrath (whatever we title it) partial. Why does he continue with us in patience?

Jesus reminds us in Luke 13:1-5 that disasters, and painful things should jolt us into repentance. If God was fair we would all be in Hell. However because of his love for us he is patient for a time, giving us these painful examples that we are mortal, and need a saviour.

Jason_73 said...

God continues with us in patients because while we were (still) sinners Jesus came and died for us. Something the first Adam, and the sprinkled blood of heifers could not do. If you were a non-violent atonement guy you would say that his death wasn't what made us right with God, yet his other good works. But that is a side note mostly between Dave, myself and a successful local pastor who should stick to "listening to God" Sorry, now this side thing is taking over my original comment.


But yes, this is why God is patient with us. All because Jesus condescended himself and moved into the neighborhood.