Tuesday, January 17, 2006

He Loves me, he loves me not...

We have all seen various arguments for/against theism. Many have fun, fancy names such as ontological, or teleological, or start with “Problem of” as in “Problem of Evil” or “Problem of Coherence.”

One I have not seen much action on, though, is the “Problem of Love.” Granted, it is only designed to address a God that allegedly loves humanity, and particular the Christian God. But when I have raised it to Christians, the end result is invariably, “I have no answer to that. God is mysterious.” Which is not very satisfying.

In simplest form, the problem is: If God loves me, why won’t He talk to me?

We need to unpack this further.

I am informed that the single greatest act of love ever exhibited in the entire history of humankind was a God, taking the form of a man, dying and separating Himself from God, so that humans could be saved from the wrath of God. Setting aside the huge non-monotheistic implications of this sentiment, not to mention the historical difficulties, we shall assume for our first premise that this was the greatest act of Love.

In fact, I am assured that due to our puny human minds, we cannot even conceive the awesomeness of this God, and our pitiful human language cannot encompass the length and breadth and depth of this love. “Love” is an inadequate word. We should differentiate it by calling it “Mega-Love.” Or “Ultra-Love.” Or “Super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love.” Something to give us just a taste of how incomprehensible this super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love is.

I have been told that God had no obligation to perform this act. That if He chose, He was within his rights of justice, due to some other fellow blowing it, to pour out His wrath upon all of humanity, and forever damn them to eternal torture. He came close with Noah. That we would be frying in flames, recognizing the correctness of this action, and acknowledging that justice demands we be there. That God was well within His rights to do so, and arguably should have done so.

It has been preached to me that even if I were the only person on earth, God still would have sent God to do this act, because of this all-inclusive super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love. That it was, in fact, my immoral actions that would require this act, and still He would do it.

Understand I cannot use enough hyperbole to even give a hint of how great this act was. Dying so that my friend can live? Piffle. Giving my entire life in service to help others? Meaningless. It was ingrained that all of our greatest moral acts summed together were the equivalent of a used tampon in comparison to the holiness of this God. That all our acts of love were mere shadows of reflections of images of whispers of fog as compared to this single act of super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love.

There is no analogy strong enough, or story complete enough to fully portray this love. (Sit through a few sermons, though, and you will hear a few. Men who watch their sons die so that their son’s friend can live in overturned rowboats. That sort of thing.)

So why won’t he talk to me? The second premise is that this God created us. We can observe our fellow humans and one thing becomes astoundingly clear—we actively seek out interaction with others. We attempt to communicate to other humans, and attempt to socialize. Your reading this blog is proof enough.

There is a reason solitary confinement is a punishment—deprivation of socialization is painful to humans. (and other species as well. We are not unique in this regard. Leave a dog at home while you work. ‘Nuff said.) We talk on the telephone, in e-mails, in letters, in books, in person, in groups, one-on-one, in coffee shops. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.

According to Christianity, we are actually designed to communicate with each other, and to communicate with a God. That, with the inability to communicate with God, there is some “emptiness” in our soul. Yet He can’t initiate a conversation?

A third premise is that God has the ability to communicate with humans. We see that in the Tanakh by God actually appearing and talking. Not visions. Not dreams. Well, maybe a burning bush, but still and all, actual words to actual human ears. We see this in the New Testament, with a God appearing in human form, using human vocal cords, human hands and human facial expressions to discuss with human ears and eyes. There is absolutely, positively nothing preventing God from appearing today and talking with us face-to-face. Nothing.

Which brings us to the original question—why wouldn’t He? Anyone with a child knows that you would do extraordinary things for that person, out of just the measly human variety of love. We worry over them, help them, bite our tongue, watch them fall (with our hearts in our throat), encourage them, etc. The simplest thing to do is talk to them. More and more commercials are hitting the airwaves exclaiming the easiest ways to prevent drug abuse is--what? Oh, that’s right, talking to your children.

If we saw a child begging for their parent to just talk to them, and the parent had the capability, yet refused, we would call that parent a monster. We certainly would not exclaim the overwhelming love the parent has!

To claim that God, because he loved humans, performed this act of super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love, but then refused to talk to humans for the next 2000 years is justifying the fact that no such God exists. Its why he has been so “silent” It makes no sense.

Me: I just committed the greatest act of love ever done, past, present and future for my son.
Son: Thank you, dad, I greatly appreciate it. You are the best.
Me:

Son: Hey, I am up for a job interview, and you have connections with the company. The job sounds great. Can you give me a hand?
Me:
Son: Aw, I realize you didn’t help me get that job. It’s probably for the best. I am sure you had some great reasons for it.
Me:

Son: You know, I am dating this girl, Jane, and she seems really great. You have had more experience than any other person, is this the person I should pursue a commitment with? There are a few things that don’t match up, but she sure seems great, what do you think?
Me:

Son: Boy, I had a GREAT day today on the beach. The sun was shining, the water was perfect. It was like you were right beside me, talking to me. Sure, it was in my head, ‘cause you don’t talk out loud, but we sure were close today, weren’t we?
Me:

Son: Oh dear. Doc found a spot on my lung. Says he has to do a biopsy. Might be cancer. I’m really worried. Can you send me some of your encouragement? I know other people have been helpful, but that is other people. What about you?
Me:

Son: Well, the good news is that they think they got all the cancer. Thank you so much for the doctor removing the cancer. I know you must have helped in some way. I’m not excited about chemo, but I am sure you will be beside me, encouraging all the way.
Me:

Son: I have a real complication this Saturday. My son wants me to go to his game, the neighbor needs help (and you KNOW he doesn’t know you) and the church is having a prayer breakfast that could use my help. I can’t be at three places at once. Which one would you go to if you were me?
Me:

Son: Hey, dad, I am starting to have some questions. I know you are real, don’t worry about that. But others say because you don’t ever say anything, and everything we do comes from human sources…..well……don’t be offended, but some don’t think you exist. Silly, isn’t it? So if you could point me in a direction to get some good sources to show them how silly they are that would be helpful.
Me:

Son: I know you didn’t say anything explicitly, so I looked up some sources on my own. You know, they have some pretty valid points. In fact, I am starting to have concerns. Don’t worry, I know you are real and all, but can you point out some definitive examples that I can understand? You know me better than anybody, and you know what I need more than anyone else. I’m not so concerned about showing others, but I’m starting to need it myself, ‘kay?
Me:

Son: Dad, I am really, REALLY worried. The more I look, the more it is as if you aren’t there. My friends have pointed out that every conversation we have ever had is in my head. Again, I don’t need you to be here right this moment, but a timely word. A note, anything to point me where to look would be appreciated.
Me:

Son: Dad, I have talked to you for years. Looking back, I realize that every job I obtained, every girlfriend I dated, every opportunity I realized was by human effort. Every encouragement was through other humans. I realize that even if you didn’t exist, my life wouldn’t have changed. Not one bit. It is clear now that I am talking to myself. I am sorry, but your lack of communication, with a silly claim of love has been as convincing as all the other arguments. If you want people to believe you exist, you might want to work on your conversational skills.
Me:

Now, doesn’t it start to appear ludicrous that a God that supposedly loves humans in this super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love, can’t even figure out how to talk to those that want to talk to Him? As humans we have more consideration for others than what God shows

I have seen two objections to this argument. First, “who are you to tell God what he should do?”

“Hello? McFly? McFly. Is anybody home?” Who am I? I’m the one he supposedly loves with this super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love, remember? In the first premise we established that. If he knows that I require (by His design) communication, isn’t the most loving thing to do is communicate? Again, we can see this in mere human love.

Me: I love you so much, dear spouse.
Wife: Thank you. Look, I have had a rough day. Can you help out by setting the table?
Me: Who the heck are YOU to tell me what I am supposed to do? Now bring me my paper, and don’t bother me when I watch the game. Oh, and dear?
Wife: Yes?
Me: I love you.

The second objection is that God wants us to have faith. Excuse me? He loves me so much that He has to test me for 70 years or so, on a pass/fail so that he can communicate with me for the next trillion years? Didn’t he have to commit the ultimate act of love, because he already knew I was a failure? What is the surprise if I fail again? And if He REALLY wanted to test me, why not inhibit all communication, prevent the New Testament from being written and see how we do? Let’s see this work with just our version of love:

Joe: Hey, isn’t that your wife?
Me: Sh. Sh. Sh. I haven’t spoken to her in 15 years. I am testing how faithful she is to me.
I have already discussed how the word “justice” has been mangled in theism. I see the word “love” as being equally diluted. It makes no sense for a claim that God loves humanity to this indescribably amount, but then is unable to commit the simplest act of love thereafter. We would not accept it in humanity, why would one accept it in a human description of a God?

7 comments:

  1. well put. I have always wondered why all the miracles in the Bible happened 2000+ years ago, and nothing post-Enlightenment.

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  2. So your logic here is that a loving God MUST talk to us verbally, with vocal cords on demand?

    You don't allow for the logical possibility that this divine being might know things you don't? That he might have purposes that you are unaware of thereby making his actions odd to you?

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  3. Jeff: So your logic here is that a loving God MUST talk to us verbally, with vocal cords on demand? Well, How would you define love? You notice how you hyperbolized my argument? I ask God to speak to me, and you dramatize it with “must” and “on demand.” But even then, such a thing is possible if He wanted to, true?

    And you might, just might have an argument, if it was just me. But how many Millions, 100’s of Millions of people, even Billions have asked for verbal communication with a god and received silence? Not one peep. “Demand,” “must,” notwithstanding, we all get silence. Jesus talks so much he wears out in a one (three) year period. Then is never heard from again.

    Jeff: You don't allow for the logical possibility that this divine being might know things you don't? Of course I allow for it. I would think it inherent in the definition of “God.” We aren’t talking about what God knows. We are talking about the human claim that this God loves us so much that he did the ultimate act of Love, but then can’t communicate to us. That he might have purposes that you are unaware of thereby making his actions odd to you? And this would make sense as well. But this one is REALLY odd, right? I mean, to say He loves us, but can’t talk to us? We don’t even do that as humans. In fact, He ORDERS us to not do that as humans. But then He does?

    Admit it, this is just an excuse for God. You are just as puzzled as we are, as to why he can’t talk, or at least while he was here, why not give an explanation as to never speaking again. You hope there is some greater purpose. A purpose you don’t know. I did warn you that the only response I ever see from Christians on this issue is “God is mysterious.”

    You can’t explain it, but you rationalize it for God. Why? Jeff, you would NEVER accept this in a human that claims to love, and humans are lesser creatures than a god. Why accept it in a God?

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  4. I really didn't intend to hyperbolize your argument, simply distill it. I think I did that correctly therefore the claim of hyperbole is unfounded.

    So you are amending your argument from "a loving God must verbally speak in response to a request" to "a loving God would have, at some point, responded verbally to one of millions of requests".

    Ignoring the fact that if this claim were made (and it has been thousands of times just in recent years) that you'd discount it as unverifiable, biased testimony...
    Why? Again, I don't see the logical imperative. You can say that you don't like it, and it's not the way you'd be if you were promoted to God, but how can you use it as proof He doesn't exist?

    You think this constitutes evidence He's non-existent. Well, it's not nothing, perhaps evidence but not proof. What do you do in light of the counter evidence that He does exist? When that evidence is weighed it outweighs your 'evidence' of his silence.

    So now what? The fact is that the concept of the Christian God is such that we cannot, in many cases, say what He would or wouldn't do. That's part and parcel with His proposed status as omniscient.

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  5. Jeff. Let me help. If God loves us, yes, at least once he must communicate with us. It is amazing that he hasn’t communicated to anyone for 1800 years. (Depending on your view of inspiration.) Oh, I know that very many people claim that God has verbally spoke to them. Some you believe? Some you don’t? By what methodology do you make that determination?

    Have you noticed how many times I ask for methodology? See, I don’t want to hear the facts. (To be honest, I’ve heard them.) I want to know how we devise a way to determine truth from non-truth. Jane says Allah told her to get that job. Bill says God told him to kill his children. Alice says that God told her Mormonism is the proper religion. Henry says God told him….. First, note we never get two people hearing God, it is always one person. Either internally, or when no one else is around. Second, devise a method we can apply (not post-diction of “what they say agrees with what I believe) in which I can determine Alice is from God, but Henry is not.

    A method that we can apply every time we hear the claim “God told me..” and come out with consistent results. Or is it catch as catch can?

    You can say that you don't like it, and it's not the way you'd be if you were promoted to God, but how can you use it as proof He doesn't exist? I can’t be promoted to God. There isn’t one. It has nothing to do with what I would or would not do as a God. I am simply reviewing what the theist tells me and seeing if it makes sense. The Christian tells me, “Jesus loves you so much he died on the cross for you.” I review that in light of all the evidence, not just the cross, but his actions post-cross. And what I see are the actions that are exactly contrary to the concept of love.

    Just like, Jeff, you may review another religion and see what attributes they claim their God has, and see if they align with what you observe. I am just turning that light on your God. Just like you come to the conclusion that their claim of attributes of their God do not fit reality, I am bringing the same question to the Christian God.

    You think this constitutes evidence He's non-existent. Well, it's not nothing, perhaps evidence but not proof. At what point do we have enough evidence for a proof? Or is there one piece of evidence that will destroy the entire concept? (By the way. I tend to use “body of evidence” as being a proof. Most consider “proof” as irrefutable evidence, like a mathematic proof. It is not how it is used in my industry, so if I cause confusion, please forgive.) Jeff, it is evidence that saying “God is Loving” is a contradiction in terms, in light of what we see.

    What do you do in light of the counter evidence that He does exist? Exactly what you propose. Weigh it in light of the evidence He does not exist. Remember, in all of history, more people agree with me that your particular God does not exist, than agree with you. Regardless of one’s belief of which particular God, it is ALWAYS a minority position. Everyone else is atheistic toward your God. Just like you are atheistic toward everyone else’s god. The one thing that we have more of than anything else is people atheistic towards other gods! :)

    The fact is that the concept of the Christian God is such that we cannot, in many cases, say what He would or wouldn't do. Exactly! Because it was made up by humans. Upon further investigation, with further technology, just like Zeus, and Ra, and Chemosh, we can safely discard that God as being impossible. What I can’t understand (now, of course) is why humans want to keep making excuses for this God of theirs.

    A God that allegedly commits the greatest act of Love and then disappears is a contradiction in terms.

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  6. I'm enjoying poking around your archives, dagoods. Really enjoyed this entry! I had a very similar conversation with my brother-in-law just yesterday: how come God was all communicative with his OT peeps and Jesus was physically with his contemporaries, but we get squat?

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