The God Dilemma

rodin“Jesus wept.” –John 11:35

Life in the 21st century is complex and sophisticated. Humans have amassed tremendous scientific knowledge and developed the ability to harness great elemental forces. We are able to provide comforts and conveniences for ourselves that would astonish our predecessors. It’s hard not to be impressed with our accomplishments. It seems to many as though our advances in science and technology have made the concept of God defunct.

In spite of popular atheism, however, the scope of our scientific findings has revealed such an intricate, ordered world that the integrity of some has forced them to concede that all this was created by some supreme being. But, unfortunately, that is as far as some of us get. A middle road between Christianity and atheism is forming among the thoughtful, and some have gone the way of the Deists:

“The idea of a personal god is a bit naive, childish even.”

“…it’s an anthropomorphic concept, a fantasy created by man to influence his destiny and console him during difficult times.”

“The one [concept of a benevolent god] excludes the other [concept of an omnipotent god].”

The above quotes are taken from The Einstein Enigma, a novel by Jose Rodrigues dos Santos that explores theological themes and a smattering of scientific data. The author appears to offer the conclusion that there is a Creator. But the question remains: what kind of God is out there? Dos Santos seems to be saying through his characters that the existence of evil either excludes the possibility of a benevolent god, or it excludes an all-powerful one: If God were omnipotent and good, then he (she, it) would have done away with evil.

This is among the most troubling conundra of theology. How could a loving God allow the kind of tragedy and degradation that goes on here? The issue has created many bitter atheists.

It would seem arrogant to assume the atheist’s stance: there is no God. To paraphrase James Kennedy, to say there is no God is akin to the statement “there are no little green men in the universe.” In order to say that with confidence, one has to have traversed the entire universe. So to get over this difficulty, many have become agnostics and say instead, we can’t know that there is a God.

But is it so much different to say, “God couldn’t be both omnipotent and benevolent”? Wouldn’t drawing such a conclusion require having all the facts? If a conclusion isn’t based on sufficient facts, it isn’t a logical conclusion, it is an emotional conclusion. The fact is that it doesn’t feel possible for a Supreme Being to be both benevolent and omnipotent. We ache for a world where people don’t hurt one another, where they don’t get sick and die, where love and peace prevail. But we remain here, and our hurts and sorrows and frustrated plans make us question if someone is asleep at the switch, or if there even is anyone at the switch to begin with.

But we have to remember that we humans, as clever as we might be, don’t have all the information. For the atheist to say he is using logic to conclude that there can’t be a God like the one presented in the Bible is fallacious. Likewise, to say God must be such and such is an exercise in fantasy thinking just as much as saying we know from the facts that God is both good and all-powerful.

I don’t know the God of the Bible is real, I believe it about Him. Christianity is a faith-based pursuit, and so is atheism, deism, evolution and secular humanism. As much as we happen to like thinking that we come by our beliefs through rational thought, what the Christian is saying is, “I believe in the God of the Bible,” and what the author of the above quotes is really saying is, “I believe in my heart that if there were a loving God, he would never allow this kind of suffering.”

This is like the recovering alcoholic in the AA meeting that says, “My God doesn’t do such and such…” God as you understand him is an artificial construct. If we conclude honestly from our scientific pursuits that there is a transcendent source of power, strength and wisdom (God), and if we wish to have our lives enriched by engaging with Him, we must be willing to change. God is what He is. It accomplishes nothing to try to drag a god-concept into the comfortable, well-lit caverns of our fanciful consciousness. Whoever made all this isn’t likely to change to suit our expectations. The general rule at work here is that lesser things get rearranged to accommodate greater things, not the reverse. 

It almost amuses me how some people define God according to some arbitrary set of values and parameters, assigning attributes to him as though he were some kind of art project. If we are in agreement that some sentient and intelligent being created all this, we must then concede that such a being is vastly superior to us. We can’t even unlock all the secrets of existence, let alone actually create a universe. How does this place us in any position to start making assertions about what God is?

Furthermore, humans are not only limited in knowledge. We have more pressing issues. Anyone who has condeded that there is a God would be wise to give all due consideration to humanity’s morally blighted condition as well as his lack of information. God leaves all this up to each individual, and I strive not to step on anyone’s toes either. But it seems to me that the Bible presents a damningly accurate description of humanity’s woes. There is more than enough truth in it to call for a closer look at the course of action it prescribes. In my estimation, it takes plenty of courage to pray to whatever God is there, and admit, “I’m in a grave predicament and I need your help,” even when it supplants my long-held ideas and forces me to abandon my own way. 

About Douglas Abbott

I am a freelance writer by trade, philosopher and comedian by accident of birth. I am an assiduous observer of humanity and endlessly fascinated with people, the common elements that make us human, what motivates people and the fingerprint of God in all of us. I enjoy exploring the universe in my search for meaning, beauty and friendship. My writing is an extension of all these things and something I did for fun long before I ever got paid. My hope is that the reader will find in this portfolio a pleasing and inspiring literary hodgepodge. Good reading!
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