Aha! You have been exposed by iandunn
's trusty C!
! This commentary is meant to support and expand on Quizro's ideas and I heartily agree with him when he says that:
(God's) motives (insofar as we can translate them into terms our limited brains can wrap around), which would seem selfish in one of us, are entirely appropriate for God and in no way contradict His love or the selflessness He has shown in redeeming us.
I would like to offer some more thoughts about our seemingly contradictory God.
How do Christian philosophers and theologians deal with the problem of theodicy? Or the defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil. Sooner or later one comes to wonder how or why God can be so loving, exercise omnipotence, and at the same time, permit evil and misfortune to thrive in the world as we know it.
In Albert Camus' The Plague he recounts a story about a Jesuit priest in a vigorous sermon in the theme that a plague had been sent by God to punish the town of Oran for its wicked ways. Early one spring, a rat emerges into a city street and dies. Day after day rats begin to litter the streets until the street cleaners are overwhelmed with the task of disposing the dead animals. Speculation begins as to the whys and wherefores of this phenomenon, not even the doctors take it seriously. After all this is a modern time, it is the 1940's; society is thought to have great control over its environment. People begin to die at the rate of thirty a day for two days in a row before the citizens realize that they have a serious problem. When they realize that there is a plague the priest lets loose with a real fire and brimstone sermon:
If today the plague is in your midst, this is because the hour has struck for taking thought. The just man need have no fear, but the evil doer has good cause to tremble. For the plague is the flail of God and the world His threshing floor, and implacably He will thresh out His harvest until the wheat is separated from the chaff. There will be more chaff than wheat, few chosen of the many called.
goes on to relate that soon after the sermon a three year old boy falls victim to the plague and on the night of the child's death, Father Paneloux watches over the child. As the day dawns there is a small remission but this proves temporary. The disease returns with a relentless and indescribable intensity until it extinguishes the spark of life. Thus, the plague has claimed its first innocent victim. Silence after the death rattle,
says Camus, seems too come from deep within the cosmos. It is senseless by all standards.
One must put the writing of The Plague within the context of history and Camus is seeking a truth, an attempt to make some sense out of the fresh horrors of the Holocaust which occurred during his lifetime.
There was a philosopher from the seventeenth century by the name of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz, whose belief it was that this is the best of all possible worlds because it was impossible for God to choose any other. He thought that it was impossible to have a world void of all evil and this is the origins of the idea that Quizro cited God uses sin, evil, and suffering as a means of magnifying and enhancing his own grace and glory. Without mercy as precursor it frustrates the idea of the manifestation of the divine glory as well as the good that comes to man through divine grace.
Of course there are the Stoics who follow a well known doctrine of government by reason and law and is expressed eloquently in Epictetus:
Remember that you are an actor in a play, and the playwright chooses the manner of it: if he wants it to be short, it is short; if long, it is long. If he wants you to act the poor man you must act the part with all of your powers.... For your business is to act the character that is given you and act it well; the choice of the cast is anothers.
So Epictetus urges us to have at hand the belief like this one from Cleanthes
, Conduct me, Zeus, and thou, O Destiny. Wherever you have fixed my lot, I follow cheerfully. Did I not, wicked and wretched must I follow still.
The Stoics chose logos
, God and neutrality as opposed to facing God's abandonment of the world and experience rational existence.
So it would seem that the free will defense is, at best only a partial solution. Sometimes people will conclude that human tragedies and misfortunes are punishments from the hand of God. One only has to look to the buffoonery of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell in light of the recent events of terrorism inflicted upon the world. This is the theory that was presented by Job's friends-- either suffering is delivered directly to the sinners or on his descendents--this idea has never been completely discarded by the popular mind. However, both forms of the theory were explicitly rejected by Christ.
In the Christianity write up Quizro defines Christian doctrine as
.... more a claim to accurately describe the ultimate nature of reality than a set of guidelines for behavior. Arguing whether Christianity has done more or less harm or good than other religions throughout the centuries, or whether or not non-Christians are good people, is to miss a central and somewhat unnerving point: that God, in the triune person of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is the Lord and creator of not only the universe but ourselves, and our lives are ultimately in His hands whether we choose to acknowledge this or not.
I think this speaks directly to the idea of omnipotence and juxtaposed with Quizro
Even evil and death, which if they reigned unchecked would appear to be a failure of God to protect His creation from itself, are turned by His grace into an occasion for triumph.
That would hardly seem tolerable on the human scale. Sounds contradictory. So we are back to the question does God use the free will of man to magnify his glory? While it's impossible for one to fully understand the universe and God, one can accept that God is not behind the scenes pulling the strings on every single event directly-- rewarding the good and punishing the bad. Most of the difficulties that arise along this line of thinking is that many would ascribe omnipotence to God. So it's important to make sure that omnipotence is understood correctly. C.S. Lewis wrote in his The Problem of Pain that If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do what he wished.... Once one can reject this notion that omnipotence is the ability to do anything; when the Bible says with God all things are possible, the statement assumes 'if they are not self contradictory'. Some people have asked God can create a stone so heavy even he can't lift it or Can logic break God?, but these questions are meaningless. God's omnipotence means the power to do all all things that are intrinsically possible. In other words miracles can be attributed to God, but not nonsense. This is the momentous insight representative of the Christian philosophy stated by Thomas Aquinas. Nothing which implies contradiction falls under the omnipotence of God.
It has long been proposed that God is limited by the laws of logic. If it is nonsense to make triangles in which the sum of their interior angles is more than 180 degrees, it is also to an equal degree (pardon the unintended pun) nonsensical to expect God to create beings without the inherent dangers in their createdness. For example, we cannot have water that quenches thirst but does not drown people and it is impossible to have fire that will warm the home but not scorch the flesh. Nor is it possible for God to create minds that are free, yet incapable of evil. While creation of life is not to say that it necessitates evil, it is affirmed that the notion that it is absurd to expect God to make creatures who lack the characteristics and the possibilities of both good and evil.
The writers of the New Testament point out time and again the power of evil in the world. To understand that God is with us in the struggle against those evils, and that Christ has overcome them, we are left with hope because God fights with us and the final victory is in his hands. So one can say that even the most hardened existentialist might find agreement with the Christian. The existentialist is one who assumes the ultimate responsibility for his acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad. That Christians are not so very different in the end because in the face of despair both find reason to hope since both, above all, value life.
There is every reason to believe that God depends on the cooperation of his creatures. His glory is revealed and made real in and through human decisions, that omnipotence in fact should mean that God has the power to accomplish his will not in spite of but through the decisions of his people. Transcendence lies in his ability to work toward this accomplishment of his purpose with the resources that are adequate in the long run to meet and over come every obstacle to the end that he has in view. So God does indeed do all things to magnify his glory and it is for us to rejoice in being co-creator with God.
End Note: Many of these ideas I would like to attribute to Howard Mumma who was a regular member of my gym class. He recently celebrated his 92nd birthday last June and still enjoys his workouts in the gym pool. However, I am sad to report that due to advancing arthritis he is unable to join our group anymore and I sincerely miss our talks and his corny jokes.