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The Theodicy Question


Realspiritik
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In starting this thread, I'm not even going to try to justify or make apologies for some of the traditional Christian answers to the question of why God allows suffering. Nor am I making a claim that I can provide meaningful answers to everyone who has questions or issues around the topic of theodicy. I can only speak from my own experience. Maybe my experience will be helpful to you. Maybe it won't. Each person is responsible for his or her own choices, and I've learned the hard way that not everyone on Planet Earth is interested in looking at the world in new ways or in taking responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and actions. I only know what it feels like to start out stubborn and curmudgeonly and full of judgment, and end up (gradually, of course) in a place of calm and peace and trust and faith.

 

My journey towards redemption (which is the path Jesus has dragged me along in our 11 years together) began when my two sons were very young. This was long before I had any interest in spirituality or faith, let alone mysticism or channelling.

 

This was when my younger son Iain died of leukemia.

 

Now, if ever there was a person who's had first hand experience of what it feels like to be furious with a God who could allow such a thing, it would be me. There's pretty much no angry, judgmental thought I didn't have in the beginning.

 

I can't say I was a person of deep faith at the time. I went to the Anglican church because my husband was a devout High Anglican. But that's not the same thing as having faith. The closest I got to a "churched" experience of faith during the time my son was dying was the thoughtful supply of casserole dishes that appeared regularly on our doorstep courtesy of the Mom's Group I belonged to at the church. The other young moms had an inkling of what it must feel like to be a family stricken with this outrageously painful ordeal, and they were so kind to us. So kind. Twenty-two years later, this still resonates with me as one of the most genuine acts of spiritual compassion I've experienced in my life. Those casseroles still beat the heck out of the theology courses I've been taking in recent years.

 

Early on in my graduate work in theology we had to read Daniel Migliore's Faith Seeking Understanding. I had to struggle not to throw this book against the wall. To my way of thinking, it said almost nothing meaningful about our relationship with God the Mother and God the Father. Of course, it was a book that espoused Christian orthodoxy, and Christian orthodoxy is built almost entirely on the teachings of Paul and not on the teachings of Jesus, so that didn't help much . . .

 

You'll have to forgive me for saying so, but in my view the Doctrine of Original Sin is profoundly abusive at an emotional, psychological, and spiritual level. As I was reading about the traditional Christian views on suffering (which feature the notorious doctrine of original sin), I kept thinking, "Yeah, but when my sons when young they were so filled with emotional courage and the ability to forgive and the ability to trust and a desperate need for connection and relationship and courtesy and respect. How can you theologians say such awful things about the intrinsic nature of humankind?"

 

I want to emphasize that I don't think my children were in any way different or better or special compared to other children. I believe that all children are born with hearts and minds filled with love and forgiveness -- Augustine of Hippo's concupiscence notwithstanding.

 

On the other hand, I've seen the terrible toll on people's biological brains when they start to let go of that early nature, when they stop practising love and forgiveness towards others. I've seen what happens when people stop using all parts of their biological brain and central nervous system and start to use only selected portions of it on a regular basis. (Mostly they start to rely too heavily on logic without the leaven of love.)

 

That's when people start to get into some serious, heavy duty mental health issues.

 

I don't want to go on for too long here. These are a few preliminary comments. So please bear with me because it took Jesus years to teach me what I now understand about the journey of faith and trust that souls embark on when they choose to incarnate as human beings on Planet Earth.

 

Yes, I admit it. I believe in the existence of the soul. The good soul, not the corrupt soul of Plato, Paul, Tertullian, and Augustine. So shoot me. I also believe in a personal God who intervenes, though I don't believe at all in orthodox Christian teachings about the nature of God and the nature of humanity and the nature of Creation. I'm a liberal. And I hold humanist values. And I believe in publicly funded health care and education. And I think all these kinds of social and educational and medical choices play a MAJOR, MAJOR role in how a person's biological brain works by the time he or she reaches early adulthood.

 

If you want to argue with me about doctrines of the soul within orthodox Western Christianity, feel free. That's what I wrote my thesis on. And that's where, in my view, many of Christianity's current problems lie.

 

Best wishes,

Jen

 

P.S. I wish to express my immense gratitude to the Province of Ontario for paying the full cost of my son's cancer treatments from late 1988 until September 1989, when he died at home in his own bed. Thank you for paying for my son's bone marrow transplant at Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital. Thank you paying for his care while he was in isolation for many months. Thank you for making it possible for our heartbroken family to move forward towards healing and tears and insight without the terrible, terrible burden of debt from astronomical medical bills. This was a blessing we'll always be grateful for. Amen.

Edited by canajan, eh?
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Jen,

 

Thanks for the interesting biographical information. That helps one understand how theodicy would be a very real issue in your life. I suspect there is no experience as painful as the loss of a young child.

 

However, somehow I missed the explanation of theodicy that you indicated in another thread had become very clear to you. I assume that this due to my my personal limitations, so maybe you could spell it out a little more explicitly for the more simple minded such as me.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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Jen,

 

Thanks for the interesting biographical information. That helps one understand how theodicy would be a very real issue in your life. I suspect there is no experience as painful as the loss of a young child.

 

However, somehow I missed the explanation of theodicy that you indicated in another thread had become very clear to you. I assume that this due to my my personal limitations, so maybe you could spell it out a little more explicitly for the more simple minded such as me.

 

George

 

Sorry. Haven't got that far yet.

 

Really just signed on to say how meaningful Stephen Lewis' eulogy to Jack Layton was for me and so many Canadians this afternoon. Mr. Lewis and Mr. Layton, you've both said so much to us about what it means to be a person of compassion.

 

You've both lived the answer to the theodicy question. Thank you for your courage, your inspiration, and your example.

 

God bless.

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Jen,

So far i am enjoying the read and looking forward to more. Take all the time you need.

 

Personally, for some reason, i do not see God as needing defence or vindication for reality but i certainly at one time needed such to satisfy my mind which i no longer require but i do enjoy reading member perspectives on this..

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
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I hope it's ok if I post my own life experiences in this thread. I was raised a fundamentalist Christian in the non-instrumental Church of Christ. I was raised to believe the entire bible was the literal and inerrant word of God and there could be no errors and contradictions in its teachings. For my church, not only was Christianity the one true religion but the Church of Christ was the one true church (after all, it said so in our name) and all other churches were evil heretics who will go to hell if they don't convert to the right religion. In addition, I was also taught that homosexuality was an evil perversion and that unless you changed your sexuality, then you would go to hell for your sinful ways. Of course, none of this was ever God's fault but it was our fault for "choosing" not to follow God's perfect will. But of course hormones kicked in when I became a teenager and I started to realize I was more attracted to other men than I was to the opposite sex. For years I tried to ignore this and outwardly I pretended to be straight and would pretend to flirt with girls so I could fit in with everyone else and make believe that I was straight. Eventually I grew tired of the hypocrisy and lies and I fell into a stage of depression. I was always taught that you could change your sexuality if you just pray the gay away hard enough and try to resist the urge to watch porn. I even sought out a therapist at my church who claimed to be able to change my sexuality but no matter what I did, God didn't answer my prayers to change me and I couldn't change. I started to think that God hated me for being gay and that God didn't want me in heaven and I wondered where God was in all this. There were even times where I tried to take my own life. Since my parents were homophobic and thought gays were evil and going to hell, I couldn't speak to my family about any of this and I had to resolve this conflict all my own with no outside help expect for my online friends and the few people offline who knew about it.

 

In my struggle to change my sexuality, I started studying the bible more and reading different points of view. I came across some atheist sites that discussed some of the less talked about passages in the bible where God commits some of the most immoral actions any dictator could ever do. I was horrified that there was so much gore and pro-genocide material in the bible. I debated these passages with many Christians and none of them could justify God's immoral behavior and often times the "justification" ended up making God look even worse. As I started to read more atheist books and sites and interacting with non-Christians more, I eventually began to reject the Christian tradition and the bible as the authority in my life. God's actions in the bible were too gross and immoral to accept as the will of a loving god and with so much suffering in the world, I questioned where this loving god was that I always heard people preach about was. It was through rejecting my Christian upbringing that I was finally able to accept my sexuality and I realized that it was me and me alone who had made it through using my own reasoning and critical thinking skills and I was able to finally accept that I am an equal human being who deserves the same freedoms everyone else has and that there was nothing wrong with me. While I had accepted my sexuality, I continued to remain angry at organized religion and the bible for several years. I wanted nothing to do with Christianity and I agreed with atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens that organized religion was inherently evil and had to be done away with. Eventually I started talking with one of my friends who is a secular humanist about liberal Christianity. My friend was fascinated by liberal Christianity and secular bible scholars like John Shelby Spong and Burton Mack. He linked me to a youtube video where Spong gave a lecture on the immorality of the bible. I surprisingly was really impressed with Spong's lecture and though he didn't convince me to believe in God, he did change my mind about Christianity being inherently evil. What I found inspiring about Spong was that he didn't try to brush away all the immorality of the bible and Christianity but he fully accepted the church and the scriptures both have blood on their hands and he accepted that religion is the product of human culture and not an inerrant perfect text.

 

I knew about liberal Christians before this but I was always raised to think they were wishy washy cherry pickers and not "real" Christians and the only two options were to either be a "real" Christian or not anything at all. I started reading other progressive Christian authors like Karen Armstrong and Marcus Borg and reading other different points of view of the bible. While I continued to not believe in a supernatural god, I came to respect the bible and rediscover my love of the teachings of Jesus all over again. There are times where I wish I could go back to believing in God but I am unable to do so anymore. There's just too much suffering and pain in the world to reconcile with a loving god who can answer prayers and perform miraculous feats like raising people from the dead or parting sea water and the bible contains too many contradictions and scientific errors to believe in literally anymore. I now consider myself to be a spiritual atheist in that while I don't believe in any gods, I do believe in the teachings of Jesus and I believe in the social justice benefits of the church. Though I don't believe in gods, I can accept that prayer has ritual and psychological benefits but I still think if there is any god that exists at all would have to be a deist god who created the universe but doesn't directly intervene in human affairs which I find to be more simple and elegant than the clumsy contradictory god of traditional theism.

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My journey in search of an acceptable theodicy began with an accident during my daughter's surgery. In recovery she had a large seizure. While my wife is shouting "She's having a seizure." A well meaning friend helped me out of the way of the medical personnel rushing into the room. The friend said, "God never gives you more than you can handle." (Never say this to someone in difficult situation.)

 

Eventually I ran across Jakob Boehme, an early 17th century theologian, who was driven by the question of theodicy. His answer was that it all came from God - the good, bad, and the ugly For Boehme it was in the "friction" caused by potential.becoming actual. A materialized potential is never as perfect as the unmaterialized potential. My thinking has developed from then. What we humans judge as good or harm or ugly is all a necessary part of the evolving universe. Our focus should be on our response and our companions while on the journey.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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Eventually I ran across Jakob Boehme, an early 17th century theologian, who was driven by the question of theodicy. His answer was that it all came from God - the good, bad, and the ugly For Boehme it was in the "friction" caused by potential.becoming actual. A materialized potential is never as perfect as the unmaterialized potential. My thinking has developed from then. What we humans judge as good or harm or ugly is all a necessary part of the evolving universe. Our focus should be on our response and our companions while on the journey.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

It may be neccessary to evolve in the natural universe, but I don't see why God couldn't create a universe where you could evolve without feeling pain and suffering. In fact, according to the bible at least, God created angels on a higher level than humans yet angels live in a heavenly realm where everything is perfect and blessed and there is no suffering. If pain and suffering are necessary to evolve, then this would also beg the question, is God the least evolved being in the universe because God is supposed to be all-powerful and perfect? Edited by Neon Genesis
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Dear Neon,

 

Your post is heartfelt and truthful. Thank you.

 

Dear Dutch,

 

I know you lost your daughter. The pain never goes away.

 

It may be neccessary to evolve in the natural universe, but I don't see why God couldn't create a universe where you could evolve without feeling pain and suffering. In fact, according to the bible at least, God created angels on a higher level than humans yet angels live in a heavenly realm where everything is perfect and blessed and there is no suffering. If pain and suffering are necessary to evolve, then this would also beg the question, is God the least evolved being in the universe because God is supposed to be all-powerful and perfect?

 

Neon, I don't think you're going to like what I'm gonna say, but I'm gonna say it anyway. I'm not one of those Prosperity Gospel believers who'll tell you we can have everything we ask for if we ask in the right way. And I'm not a person who denies the reality of pain and suffering. My son's illness was real and his suffering was real and our family's suffering was real. I still carry the pain around with me. It's even visible on the base line SPECT scan of my brain physiology, where my right insular cortex is active even when I'm in a resting state -- the so-called default network. (I'm going to post these SPECT scans on my blog soon, but haven't got round to it yet.)

 

I still carry my pain around with me, as you carry your pain around with you. But neither you nor I are the same as we were 20 years ago. Each of us has had to wrestle with painful memories and messy solutions. The solutions are always messy when you're actually doing the work. Messy solutions are the best any of us can hope for.

 

I spoke briefly yesterday on this thread about Stephen Lewis and Jack Layton. If you're not in touch with Canadian politics, these names won't mean much to you. Both gentlemen -- and I use this term in the most respectful manner possible -- have been leaders of the New Democratic Party here in Canada -- the "third voice", if you will, in our political culture. Although the NDP party originally represented a far-left view, it's now slightly left of centre, and acts as the "conscience" of our Parliament. Stephen Lewis, former leader of this party, has gone on to represent the U.N. as a special envoy for the AIDS crisis in Africa. He's a brilliant writer and speaker, but more than that, he's a man of courage and commitment and faith. He says what needs to be said. I admire him greatly.

 

Jack Layton died last week of cancer, but not before leading the NDP to an important showing in the most recent Canadian election. Our Liberal Party (sort of like the U.S. Democrats) had its worst electoral showing in decades, while the NDP had its best showing, in large part because regular Canadian voters didn't have to cringe when they voted for his party. Mr. Layton, like Mr. Lewis, was a brilliant man who used his gifts in service to the people of Canada and to the values of inclusiveness, equality, compassion, and faith. His memorial service was held yesterday, and it was watched on TV by hundreds of thousands -- maybe millions -- of Canadians. This is a measure of the respect this man engendered.

 

I've said that both men were/are men of faith. As to whether either is religious in a traditional sense I can't say (although an ordained minister did give the sermon in the service, and he seemed to know Mr. Layton as a friend and minister, so perhaps it's safe to infer that Mr. Layton self-identified as a Christian). Anyway, whatever the personal religious convictions of these two men, they've worn their religious convictions under their coat sleeves, as it were, while they've worn their hearts -- their true, core selves -- boldly on their outer sleeves for everyone to see.

 

To me, this is what faith is all about. This is what it means to live the answer to the theodicy question. It means you insist on holding to the view that inside every psychopath, every man like an Anders Breivik, there's a core self that is infinitely more compassionate and courageous than the biological brain (seriously dysfunctional in the case of psychopathy) has ever permitted the expression of.

 

It took me a long time to be willing to accept the idea that the biological brain -- the 3-pound universe, as it's been called -- is the actual cause and source of man-made evils. As human beings, we can shun this idea, run away from it, as most of us have been doing for long millennia, or we can work together to learn how to bring about greater healing to both the "CPU" and the "software" that operates inside each of us every day of our very human lives.

 

I read somewhere recently (I'll try to find the reference and post it later) that 80% of the human genome is devoted to the brain and central nervous system. 80%!! Yet most of us have almost no idea at all about how our brains and central nervous systems work. Our consciousness -- our true core selves -- are hardwired into the neurons and glial cells and interconnections of our biological brains. This is the place where we choose our thoughts and feelings and actions. This is the place where we decide to take personal responsibility for our choices (or not!). This is the place where we have to deal with the messiness -- the pain and the love and the grief and the forgiveness. This is the place where addiction issues take hold and force us to wrestle with the question of who we think we are and who we actually want to be.

 

This profoundly powerful 3-pound universe is the Kingdom that Jesus taught about 2,000 years ago. Each person's brain is his or her own personal Kingdom, his or her own personal "mini-universe," if you will.

 

(This always reminds me of the scene from Men in Black where we learn that an entire galaxy is contained within a small glass ornament dangling from the cat's collar.)

 

It's very difficult to learn how to "be" this 3-pound universe, how to be sovereign of your own Kingdom while respecting the right of all other people to be their own personal sovereigns. If you screw it up in the beginning -- and a lot of people do -- you're going to have to work doubly or triply hard as an adult to reclaim your own Kingdom and grow "good fruits" in it rather than "bad fruits."

 

Anders Breivik chose, over a long period to time, to plant bad fruits in the garden of his own Kingdom. He chose to turn himself into a psychopath.

 

Of course, these bad fruits he planted will be visible on a brain scan. I have no doubt his defense attorney will try to use such diagnostic tests to "prove" that Breivik wasn't in control of his own thoughts, feelings, and actions. But it's clear that he was. He wanted to do what he did.

 

Why?

 

Because he stopped listening to the biological input that was coming from certain parts of his own brain that are definitively associated with emotions such as empathy and forgiveness. He stopped listening to certain parts of his own brain. Gradually, bad choice by bad choice, he turned himself into a psychopath.

 

He's biologically able to do this to himself because he has free will within the boundaries of his own Kingdom.

 

Before you jump all over me about the mental illness thing, and the contribution of genetics and toxins and inadequate nutrition and childhood abuse and viral infections and sepsis and head injuries and seizures and inadequate education and the many other contributing factors in major mental illness that we know about and are working on, I get all that. I acknowledge all of it. I think it's crucial -- absolutely crucial -- for us to work within the scientific paradigm of brain health as we work together to bring physical and spiritual healing into our families and communities.

 

When we raise our children in such a way that their brains receive balanced, holistic care (with everything this entails) these children grow up to be their best selves, capable of making the choice to be a "Jack Layton" instead of an "Anders Breivik." Every child is born with this potential. But every child needs lots of help from community and family and school and church to find and act upon his/her unique potential. Nobody can do it alone. (Which is why I'm not a Pelagian.)

 

In my view, orthodox Western Christianity has done an incredibly lousy job on the one thing it should be doing -- raising children up in spiritual ways so they'll know themselves as worthy children of God. Not perfect children. Or chosen children. But children of compassion and courage.

 

Thanks be to God.

 

Love Jen (with input as always from Jesus)

Edited by canajan, eh?
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Jen,

 

I think the basic theodicy question is why an omnipotent and compassionate god would allow, for whatever reason, someone such as Breivik, or Hitler, or Pol Pot, or whomever to cause so much suffering.

 

George

 

 

Not only do I second that question, but I have to ask why an omnipotent god would allow such suffering as incurable and painful disease, abject poverty, or debilitating mental in any person's life. And then I have to ask, if we accept and expect an ominipotent god, at what point do we take responsibility?

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Neon,

 

It may be necessary to evolve in the natural universe, but I don't see why God couldn't create a universe where you could evolve without feeling pain and suffering.

Practically speaking

 

If there wasn't death there wouldn't be life.

A Supernova - the last gasp of a large dying star - is the only event in which all the elements of the periodic table are created.

If my 4 yr old brother hadn't experienced discomfort my mom may have realized too late that he had swallowed some Draino.

I eat living things and if we weren't so queasy about what to do with dead humans I could return the favor.

 

Narratively speaking

 

after Ilia Delio

If Christ, the first word of love, was not continuously incarnating (sacrificing) in the on-going evolution of the universe then......

 

after Jakob Boehme

If God had not overcome the pain and wrath of opening up and making room for that which is not God but is in relationship with God then .....

 

Editorially speaking

 

Yes, we can construct a God and nail that God in a box with the accusations of the theodicy problem if we want. But I don't see how evolution can occur without our experiencing pain and suffering. Those experiences are essential to the evolving universe. I do not mean that we must suffer for some 'reason'. There just isn't a way for something as complex as us to exist without having pain receptors, gravity and and fire and emotions and bad behavior.

 

I don't believe in a God I can talk about. That is too limiting to God. I just say what makes the most sense to me.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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Yet the opening chapter of the bible portrays God creating a perfect paradise where this no death and suffering. Traditional Christianity teaches that heaven will be a perfect eternal life where roses never fade and where there's enough golden roads to make Ayn Rand blush, so according to Christianity at least, theoretically, it's possible for God to create a world where there is no suffering yet human beings have achieved an enlightened salvation. Also, suffering doesn't always result in evolution. Some species die off in the process so if God allows suffering so evolution could prevail, did God create those species who died off just so they could die for the sake of the advanced species? In humanity, suffering doesn't always result in evolving but often times many people commit suicide when the suffering becomes too extreme. It's also possible that people evolve and mature when they receive blessings.

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Neon,

 

It seems to me that the God you are describing doesn't exist for either of us.

 

I don't see where creation is described as perfect in this opening account which would mean that it is in stasis. It is described as good - unless I missed it. The first creation account was written by the Priestly authors who wanted scripture which reinforced the centrality of the temple. So it is written to support the Sabbath and to emphasize the need to offer sacrifice for the fall but an ancient reading of the leaving of Eden sees it as a story about coming of age. Adam and Eve are ready to take their place in the world and deal with trying to make decisions about good and evil in their lives.

 

Please name the Christianity you are referring to. Traditional is too vague. Which scripture are you citing when you say that heaven will be perfect eternal life. Is it the passages of Apocalyptic views written for a people under persecution to give hope that the scales of justice will be balanced sometime in the future.When Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross was that an actual scientific based statement that he made or did the mystic Jesus mean something else.

 

so if God allows suffering so evolution could prevail,
it's possible for God to create a world where there is no suffering

No it is not possible to create an evolutionary universes without suffering. Not if God becoming is going to be in relationship with creation becoming. To intervene then is be a controlling us which means he cannot be in relationship with universe. God does not intentionally allow what you call suffering - and you give it a negative connotation which it doesn't have. If God becoming is to be in relationship with creation becoming then God inherently can't intervene coercively. God can only lure us forward

 

suffering doesn't always result in evolution

suffering is a human experience not a cause of evolution but a result of it - and God is present with us -not outside the system capriciously intervening. That's how God learns about God's self.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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It seems to me that the evolutionary system we have does necessarily entail suffering (of individuals). But, assuming omnipotence, is there no other way to accomplish change?

 

I wonder if the system was designed -- if it was designed -- to achieve some higher level of goodness and not focused on one little spot in the cosmos, i.e. some extremely high level of the common good. Maybe, we just cannot see the big picture.

 

George

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No it is not possible to create an evolutionary universes without suffering. Not if God becoming is going to be in relationship with creation becoming. To intervene then is be a controlling us which means he cannot be in relationship with universe. God does not intentionally allow what you call suffering - and you give it a negative connotation which it doesn't have. If God becoming is to be in relationship with creation becoming then God inherently can't intervene coercively. God can only lure us forward

 

 

suffering is a human experience not a cause of evolution but a result of it - and God is present with us -not outside the system capriciously intervening. That's how God learns about God's self.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

 

 

Dutch, your posts are eloquent. Thanks for your thoughtful input.

 

George, maybe I'm misinterpreting your posts, but you seem to be insisting that I explain myself quickly in one of two short posts. I'm sorry, but I can't go that fast on a topic that's so complex. Also, I don't believe it's actually possible to deal with the topic of relationship with God using logic alone or words alone. At some point each of us has to make room for the heart and soul, and that's harder to put into words. (Though poets and musicians do a very nice job).

 

The mind is great, and I'm all for logic when logic is balanced with emotion and relationship. But I can't share with you or anyone insights based on Cause & Effect arguments alone. The universe doesn't operate on Newtonian laws of Cause & Effect. Meanwhile, orthodox Western Christianity (based on the teachings of Paul and his orthodox followers) has always taught that these laws not only exist, but that God is required to obey all these laws for our exclusive benefit here on Planet Earth. This is an anthropocentric, selfish interpretation of the universe, in my view.

 

Jesus has often quipped to me that nobody gets out this life alive. So when we're talking about theodicy, we have to take the reality of death off the table. It's not part of the equation.

 

It's clear from the scientific reality of existence on Planet Earth that death of the 3D body is a certainty. A number of different apocalyptic religious traditions over the centuries have promised their followers they can escape death if they obediently follow "the Law." But these same apocalyptic traditions have promised a lot of things that haven't come true. How, then, should we understand their claims? Should we blame it on God, and say that God made promises he then refused to honour? (Paul relies heavily on this line of argument in First Corinthians by saying that God simply can't refuse to honour his promises, and therefore Paul's followers should obey Paul's teachings, which are supposedly based on divine promises.)

 

It really messes with people's heads when religious leaders make claims that aren't supported by scientific realities.

 

Okay. So we have to start with the reality that we're going to die. Is this awareness in itself a necessary cause of suffering? Well, I guess that depends on the person. I'm not afraid of death. On the other hand, I'm not afraid of life, either. I live each day as passionately as I can, even though I know for a fact I'm gonna die. Change and transformation are inevitable. If you can't fight it, you may as well join it.

 

I agree with Dutch that God doesn't intervene coercively. On the other hand, I'm quite certain that God the Mother and God the Father continually express their own opinion about the choices we, their confused children, are making during our brief lifetimes as human beings. They have free will, too. If we want to have the option of fully expressing our own free will as souls-in-temporary-human-form, we have to honour and respect God's right to express and act upon their free will, too. This is the foundation of mature relationship.

 

Dutch wrote, "Yes, we can construct a God and nail that God in a box with the accusations of the theodicy problem if we want. But I don't see how evolution can occur without our experiencing pain and suffering. Those experiences are essential to the evolving universe. I do not mean that we must suffer for some 'reason'. There just isn't a way for something as complex as us to exist without having pain receptors, gravity and and fire and emotions and bad behavior."

 

I just really agree with this.

 

God is indeed present with us.

 

Love Jen

Edited by canajan, eh?
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George, maybe I'm misinterpreting your posts, but you seem to be insisting that I explain myself quickly in one of two short posts. I'm sorry, but I can't go that fast on a topic that's so complex.

Jen,

 

I have absolutely no right to insist on anything. But, frankly I did expect a quicker response as you wrote in another thread, "I was able to get some clear answers to the theodicy question." You should feel no obligation to even respond to my questions much less do it quickly.

 

In any event, I am inclined to agree with your statement above, ". . . that God is required to obey all these laws for our exclusive benefit here on Planet Earth. This is an anthropocentric, selfish interpretation of the universe, in my view."

 

We, particularly as individuals, are such tiny, insignificant members of the universe that it seems highly presumptuous to me that the cosmos would be centered on our personal sense of suffering.

 

George

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FWIW, I cannot imagine a biological system in which there is no death. To do so would entail no population limits or a system in which there is no aging or everyone is ancient. None of these are particularly appealing to me.

 

Also, as has been pointed out, pain serves a very useful purpose. But, maybe the problem is sentience, self awareness. I don't think that trees or ants or buzzards fret too much over theodicy.

 

George

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Jen,

 

I have absolutely no right to insist on anything. But, frankly I did expect a quicker response as you wrote in another thread, "I was able to get some clear answers to the theodicy question."

 

Hey! I said I got "clear" answers. I never said "brief"! :D

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Neon,

 

It seems to me that the God you are describing doesn't exist for either of us.

 

I don't see where creation is described as perfect in this opening account which would mean that it is in stasis. It is described as good - unless I missed it. The first creation account was written by the Priestly authors who wanted scripture which reinforced the centrality of the temple. So it is written to support the Sabbath and to emphasize the need to offer sacrifice for the fall but an ancient reading of the leaving of Eden sees it as a story about coming of age. Adam and Eve are ready to take their place in the world and deal with trying to make decisions about good and evil in their lives.

According to the Genesis account, there was no need to toil in the fields or for women to feel pain in childbearing until after Adam and Eve ate a magical fruit that would turn them into gods. Even though God actually lied to Adam and Eve and the serpent was right that they didn't die from eating the fruit and the whole fall could have been prevented if God didn't put the tree in a place where they could reach it.

 

Please name the Christianity you are referring to. Traditional is too vague. Which scripture are you citing when you say that heaven will be perfect eternal life. Is it the passages of Apocalyptic views written for a people under persecution to give hope that the scales of justice will be balanced sometime in the future.When Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross was that an actual scientific based statement that he made or did the mystic Jesus mean something else.
There are many passages throughout the NT where it describes heaven as an eternal paradise that exists somewhere above the skies where we'll meet Christ in the air and be given new spiritual bodies and we'll be given mansions to live in with roads made of gold. This is a view of heaven popular among many Christians and even many classic hymns have been written about how we'll have mansions on hilltops that we'll fly away to one day and about the glorious summit of Zion where roses never fade.

 

 

 

 

 

suffering is a human experience not a cause of evolution but a result of it - and God is present with us -not outside the system capriciously intervening. That's how God learns about God's self.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

So where was God when I was struggling to reconcile my sexuality with my faith? Why didn't God just show up in front of me to tell me it was ok to be gay but God was apparently going around telling other Christians that it wasn't? Why did I have to figure everything out on my own without any help from anyone at all?
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Neon,

 

Perhaps it is just my misperception of your posts but it seems to me, while you don't accept the Bible as authoritative or literal or inerrant which i would certainly agree with you, you seem to be continuing to use its traditional interpretation to oppose or perhaps question possible other explanations for theodicy presented here. If so, i would be curious Why? If not, i withdraw my question.

Joseph

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Neon

 

According to the Genesis account, there was no need to toil in the fields or for women to feel pain in childbearing until after Adam and Eve ate a magical fruit that would turn them into gods.

You have this backwards. And I will leave you to a literal reading since you want it thus.

 

So where was God when I was struggling to reconcile my sexuality with my faith? Why didn't God just show up in front of me to tell me it was ok to be gay but God was apparently going around telling other Christians that it wasn't? Why did I have to figure everything out on my own without any help from anyone at all?

 

I am sorry. Others I have known have shared the same pain. My family was destroyed in part because my father couldn't overcome the cultural and self imposed taboos concerning homosexuality. There is nothing I can write in a post that will provide a satisfactory answer at this point in your journey. Probably nothing I could say would have any weight. I can't overcome your anger and pain in a post. Only you and God can do that.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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