Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Basic Questions About the Biblical God

I've been trying to discuss the biblical God and Christianity in a Yahoo discussion group. Yet one self-professed Christian keeps saying that my skeptical questions about Christianity are too "uninformed" and "sophomoric" to merit a response other than, "Do your homework and read reams of Christian documents." But I disagree. I believe that my questions are reasonable and that Christians who have already "done their homework" should be able to offer answers powerful enough, if there are any, to compel people like myself to look further and to do it with a mind and heart open enough to behold the truth.

This is what I posted there this morning and would like to share and discuss here as well if anyone wants to read and discuss it:

Does the biblical God want us to know, love, and serve him? If the
answer is yes, why doesn't he make us certain that he exists? Some
argue that he doesn't do this because (1) it would take away our free
will and/or (2) we would be too overwhelmed by beholding Him in His
full glory.

But why would God making us certain that he exists rob us of our
so-called free will? When children know that their earthly parents
exist and will reward them for obedience or punish them for
disobedience, do they not still have the "free will" to love and obey
or to not love and disobey? Don't adults who know for certain that a
police car is driving right behind them on the freeway still have the
"free will" to speed or to remain at the speed limit? If the answer
to these questions is yes, why don't people who know for certain that
the biblical God exists still have the "free will" to either love and
obey or to not love and disobey the biblical God?

As for God not being able to show himself to us fully without
overwhelming or destroying us, are these the only choices that
Almighty God has? Either he makes us certain that he exists by
revealing himself to us fully, or he plays hide-and-seek with us? Is
there not a third alternative? Can't he make us certain that he
exists the same way that he makes us certain that we ourselves exist
or by absolutely persuasive "signs and wonders" that we can all behold
firsthand?

Doesn't the fact that we have no such certainty of the biblical God's
existence very strongly suggest that there is no such God? In fact,
isn't this reason enough in itself to be so skeptical that He exists
that one is perfectly justified in not seeking Him out?

8 comments:

copithorne said...

You sit as a resplendent miracle in a univese of resplendent miracles. And still, it is not enough? It would be hard to say what more God is supposed to do to get your attention.

Faith is not a hypothesis for which you can gather evidence. Any hypothesis is going to be about the realm of conditional objects, standing among other objects and that cannot be God. Any miracles or signs would support a hypothesis and not faith. After all, you swim in an ocean of miracles, signs and wonders and it does nothing for you.

A hypothesis of which you are certain is still not faith and would be useless here.

Jesus said; "An evil and perverse generation that seeks after a sign. For no sign shall be given unto it save the sign of Jonah."

Nagarjuna said...

<< You sit as a resplendent miracle in a univese of resplendent miracles. And still, it is not enough? >>

Do you REALLY mean to suggest that you have no empathy for or understanding of how someone could look at this universe and not see the hand of the Christian God in it?

<< It would be hard to say what more God is supposed to do to get your attention. >>

Are you REALLY suggesting that Almighty God can not do more than "he's" doing to show us that HE is the creator of this universe and us, and that more people would not find salvation if he did?

<< Any hypothesis is going to be about the realm of conditional objects, standing among other objects and that cannot be God. >>

Could you elaborate on this?

<< After all, you swim in an ocean of miracles, signs and wonders and it does nothing for you. >>

Define "miracles" and "signs."

<< A hypothesis of which you are certain is still not faith and would be useless here. >>

Why is faith that God exists inherently preferable to certainty that God exists?

<< Jesus said; "An evil and perverse generation that seeks after a sign. For no sign shall be given unto it save the sign of Jonah." >>

Why is it "evil" and "perverse" to seek certainty of the existence of an alleged God?

copithorne said...

Well, we all need to be humble and acknowledge that God is beyond our conceptions. God is not a Christian God or a Jewish God or a Hindu God. God is God. It's Christians that are Christian. It's Jews that are Jews. It's Hindus that are Hindus.

We're all in the position of being resplendent miracles in a universe of resplendent miracles. And all of us, rather than abiding in awe, joy and wonder at being invited to the feast turn instead to boredom, depression, anger, resentment. That's an interesting mystery about human nature. Rather than share life in the palace, we prefer our own miserable hovel of self centeredness. But it doesn't make sense to blame God for our own choices.

Yes, I have faith that the universe if complete and perfect as it is. I don't believe that God needs to do more for our benefit.

I might try reaching for a parable. Mr. Tom is looking for a best friend. He has a number of friends, but he isn't sure which one of them is his best friend. It's very important for him to be certain of who his best friend is. So, he invites all his friends to submit to a battery of intelligence tests, psychological tests, and reports of financial history. He asks them to participate in athletic competitions to measure their physical fitness. He creates various tests of loyalty. Who will clean his bathroom? Who will pick up his dry cleaning? If he calls each of his friends at 3:00 in the morning, how do they respond? Tom develops a scoring system to measure past loyalties and he runs all the data through a computer program that he is developed.

Tom is now certain of who his best friend is and he has the evidence to prove it. But when he announces the winner, he finds he doesn't have any friends at all.

Tom has misunderstood "friendship" and "best friend" as objective categories. In fact, they are meaningful as subjective categories.

We are showered with objective evidence of the wonder of the universe. But we are so obsessed with this objective evidence that we don't attend to what we really need to which is a subjective turning and opening of our hearts. The craving for objective evidence is just a continuation of our excuses for closing our hearts. No additional amount of objective evidence will help us turn our heart which will happen when we say, "Here I am, Lord. Take Me. Let it be done unto me according to your will."

Nagarjuna said...

<< we all need to be humble and acknowledge that God is beyond our conceptions >>

How can we acknowledge that God is beyond our conceptions until we first acknowledge that a god exists, and why should we acknowledge that a god exists?

<< God is not a Christian God or a Jewish God or a Hindu God. God is God. It's Christians that are Christian. It's Jews that are Jews. It's Hindus that are Hindus. >>

If there is only one god, why are there so many different faiths?

<< We're all in the position of being resplendent miracles in a universe of resplendent miracles. >>

Again, what do you mean by "miracles," and why must we attribute miracles to a god?

<< And all of us, rather than abiding in awe, joy and wonder at being invited to the feast turn instead to boredom, depression, anger, resentment. >>

Some of us, whether we do or don't believe in a god, abide in "awe, joy, and wonder" at least some of the time, and others, whether they do or don't believe in a god, seldom do.

<< But it doesn't make sense to blame God for our own choices. >>

If God exists, it doesn't make sense to me NOT to ultimately attribute ALL of our choices to God. For if we are God, then aren't our choices God's choices? And if God made people and the universe, didn't he make them with such natures that they would interact to produce widespread ignorance, egocentrism, and ignorant and egocentric choices?

<< Tom has misunderstood "friendship" and "best friend" as objective categories. In fact, they are meaningful as subjective categories. >>

Aren't they "meaningful as subjective categories" only when they apply to people we know to exist?

<< We are showered with objective evidence of the wonder of the universe. >>

What does this mean? That we feel wonder and there are objective ways of demonstrating the presence of this feeling? Why need this "wonder" have any connection with a god?

<< But we are so obsessed with this objective evidence that we don't attend to what we really need to which is a subjective turning and opening of our hearts. >>

Again, I don't see what's inherently wrong with doubting the existence of a god or why this doubt necessarily prevents us from opening our hearts to things we're convinced exist and that we value.

copithorne said...

"Why?" questions are questions expressing ambivalence and doubt, withholding and retreating. You want to find a place in life where you are asking "How?" rather than "Why?"

I can only really give witness. I can't give reasons. Any reasons I give would be the wrong reasons.

If there is only one God, why are there so many stars? Why are there so many species of animals? Why are there so many languages? Why are there so many atomic particles? The dazzling, superfluous diversity of creation is what I mean by miracle.

There is no need to attribute these miracles to God. There is no need to describe our wonder in terms of God. It's just a way we have of talking. Talking in this supports us in developing a relationship with this wonder and awe so that it can grow ever deeper.

Subjective reality is not dependent on objective reality. We cherish truth, love, beauty but these are not objective qualities.

You can attribute your choices to God if you like. But any blame you have about them is all yours.

There is nothing inherently wrong with doubting the existence of God. These are just thoughts about thoughts. It does not prevent you from opening your hearts to what you will.

Nagarjuna said...

<< If there is only one God, why are there so many stars? >>

Stars are not human faiths aimed at worshipping a real God.

<< The dazzling, superfluous diversity of creation is what I mean by miracle. >>

A "miracle" that, for all we know, might have nothing to do with any god.

<< Subjective reality is not dependent on objective reality. We cherish truth, love, beauty but these are not objective qualities. >>

Can there be a "subjective reality" without an "objective reality" that experiences it? >>

<< You can attribute your choices to God if you like. But any blame you have about them is all yours. >>

If I can find God responsible for my choices, why would I not "blame" him for my bad choices?

<< There is nothing inherently wrong with doubting the existence of God. These are just thoughts about thoughts. >>

If there really is a god and I am doubting that he exists, aren't my thoughts about more than just thoughts?

I don't expect you to answer these questions unless you want to. They're just some of the things that came to mind as I read your response.

copithorne said...

I think religious people would say there is such a thing as pure subjectivity. That would be pure consciousness, or truth.

The reason you would not blame is that blaming is painful. When you are self aware, you seek to avoid pain. Accept that God is making your choices. Give up all blame of everyone. That would be liberation.

I would say your thoughts are always just thoughts: a millionth of a volt forming a twinkle of words that rises and falls. The important questions are: Who is aware of the thinking? What is the experience of that one?

It isn't about God taking it personally whether you believe in Him or not. He likes cats and cats don't believe in God at all.

CC said...

Cop, what "miracles" do you see in the universe? May we start with the suns, planets and moons.

What intelligent miracles are there when different space matter runs into each other, how about with suns exploding, what about planets and moons moving closer and further away from each other?

Do these things really sound like the omnipotent and omniscient work of some "God?"

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Christianity_Debate/messages

CC