God is God. We Aren’t.

This one’s going to be a little bit more theological than previous posts. Fair warning if you’re not particularly interested.

Anyway, so one thing I’ve seen relatively often is people saying that the God of the Bible is either nonexistent or not actually loving, and then having their evidence be essentially comparing God to human beings—usually found in parodies and the like, but oftentimes found in more serious things as well. Things like the Canaanite genocide/ethnic cleansing often come up here, but you run into other things as well. Well, this used to cause me some trouble, until I did some reading, a bit of thinking and talking, and after an unconscionably long time came up with the only answer that makes sense theologically and logically.

God is God, humans aren’t.

I’ll explain.

Here’s the thing about people. We tend to give human characteristics to non-human entities. This especially occurs when such an entity—in the only case so far available, God—invites the comparison by doing so himself. This is all well and good, and is oftentimes quite useful.

However, there’s a problem we run into when we take the analogies too far, and we start believing that the analogy contains the full nature of the entity described. The problem is that we start believing that we get to define the words of the analogy, and then proceed to define them based on our own experiences.

Our experiences that are entirely found in dealing with other broken, fallen, created beings.

That last adjective is the most important. Here’s why.

For instance, a lot of people are uncomfortable with the notion that God made the universe for his glory. This is because people don’t like other people who do things for their own personal glory, and this is right. However, here’s the deal. Despite the fact that we are fallen beings, there are still fragments of the original state of man that, by God’s grace, reside within all of us. One of those, I suspect, is that whenever people claim glory for themselves, there’s a niggling feeling that they’re claiming something that is at least partially someone else’s. This is because someone helped them get to whatever goal they reached, no matter what happened–even if it was something like giving them the physical/mental/spiritual emotional ability to do what they did.

However, here’s the thing: None of that those last three sentences are true of God. The uncaused cause, as some philosophers put it, he owes no one anything, because he made it all and made us all to begin with. In other words, unlike human beings, he actually deserves all the glory. All of it.

There are numerous other examples of this sort of thinking, but the other one I’ll address is the notion that God getting to make the rules because he created everything means he’s some kind of tyrant.  Often analogies are made to various fictional mad scientists making various sapient entities, or species “uplifting” other races to sapience and demanding their worship/servitude. This sticks in most people’s craws, as well it should.

However, this doesn’t really work, for the same reason that the last one doesn’t really work. In either one of those situations, the originator in question is attempting to usurp a position that is not his to take. Why? Because the originator was created himself, in some shape, form, or fashion. What that means is that, in attempting to establish absolute power over his creation, he is asserting power that he got from somewhere else, which means that he cannot and should not assert absolute power because he does not and cannot possess such. There’s basic wrongness to the notion.

God, however, has absolute power, because he is the uncreated creator. It is not, therefore, wrong for Him to do as He will. Indeed, He is right to do so.

I know this won’t particularly mollify the hostile, or quiet all the questions. If you still have some, or think I missed something, drop an e-mail or comment or something, and I’ll get back to you right quick.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness

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4 thoughts on “God is God. We Aren’t.

  1. Good article, full of helpful clarifications on analogy, but I do think you missed something important. In the last bit, you say, “God, however, has absolute power, because he is the uncreated creator. It is not, therefore, wrong for Him to to as He will. Indeed, He is right to do so.” While this is true, I don’t think it is clear from the blog post why that is so. What you are describing is a divine command theory of morals, in which something is right because God makes it so. This is fine as long as the arbitrariness charge of morality is addressed. Without pointing out that external-to-humans, objective morality must be non-arbitrary, you could fall into the dilemma posed by the Euthyphro argument. Just because an all-powerful Being demands something does not make it right necessarily. For instance, why couldn’t God command the opposite of what He did? Why shouldn’t rape and murder be right and kindness be wrong if it were so commanded?

    The answer, obvious to the Christian theist, is that God would never do such a thing. Why that is so is that while God commands certain moral behavior, morality is not just based on God’s command, but ultimately on some infinite universal standard. As morality is a personal thing, the metaphysical grounding and justification for why right is right and wrong is wrong is easily explainable by appealing to an infinite universal and Personal standard- God’s very nature. God is a personal, moral Being, and will never contradict himself logically or morally. Thus an infinite, ultimate, perfect God can ground morality in his non-arbitrary character. He is both the objective moral standard for what is right and the doer of what is right, without contradiction. Thus God’s commands are not to be rejected as arbitrary or less than some greater standard of Good, but loved as good and obeyed.

    • Problem with that is that you’re still stuck with the Euthyphro problem, if problem it is, except you’ve changed one of the words. Now we have a “divine nature” theory of morality instead. How is this less arbitrary?
      Answer: It isn’t.
      By the way, I’ll be addressing thought experiments in another post. I’m not sure when.

      • Changing a word does change the meaning of the question. A “Divine (moral) Nature” theory provides an adequate metaphysical grounding for non-arbitrary morality, whereas a “Divine Power” one does not obviously do so. At some point, all explanations must come down to some ultimate explanation beyond which one cannot go. By placing that explanation in a personal yet infinite God, there is no arbitrariness as morality rests on an ultimate basis of a personal God for a personal standard. He is an ultimate explanation,so there is no sense in going back “further.” Turtles-all-the-way-down simply do not suffice. For the materialist, such an ultimate basis for morality must be dead, unthinking matter. For the theist, an ultimate explanation for morality and personality is Mind. Which is better?

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