Thursday, May 30, 2013

How to Prove God's Existence

If God exists, then he must matter to life. He must show up in lives and in the world. I do not doubt that he shows up in lives, however few...

The question is, does he show up in the world enough to say that he is a personal, good, wise, powerful God? This is to ask whether he shows up in ways that are separable from how he shows up in people's lives particularly as a personal, good, wise, powerful God.

This morning I overheard people saying that both the God of the old testament and new testament were both good and angry. Well sure! And you can point to verses to support each statement. But what if I want to know whether God is both a good God and an angry God? I have not seen God avenging his people, or rescuing the oppressed. Certainly, you can spiritualize it, but then God appears to have become weak! Can he no longer work in the world in physical ways? Is he not the creator of the world, both physical and spiritual?

The problem of evil would not be a problem if we could see that it was a good God who hated sin who was in control of the whole world who we were dealing with. Then the problem would be, "Weird, what is he up to?" and not "how could there possibly be such a God?" since we would see that God. So this is the real problem: not the problem of evil, but the problem of the hiddenness of God. And for those who have faith the problem is "weird, what is he up to?" Faith solves problems, because faith is the assurance of God, and particularly Christ.

This problem is to say "whatever happened to miracles?" It is also to say "the change which you say God has brought about in your hearts is not so great." And this latter is a problem for Christians. The change which must be brought about is a change to a sort of love which is impossible apart from God--how else could it be the way that the world can tell who is Christ's disciple? I have seen it here and there, but if Christians are salt and light, then the part of the world I get to see needs more salt, and we're working with candles over here (or I'm just cranky). And this love which is to prove God by being shown in Christians, it must not be faked--it cannot be faked--it must be real, genuine, not forced. It cannot be something learned, in the way that one learns to follow the rules, rather it must become a real part of one's character so that it is what comes out when one drops all inhibitions--drunk Christians should still be loving (which is not to say that Christians should get drunk, since it is hard to see how one would get rid of one's rationality in a loving way).

Miraculous love: love the unlovable without hesitation. I don't care if it does not happen often with you, but that is the love of God you say has been put in your heart. Is it really there or not? Don't lie. Lying won't fix this problem, it is counterproductive to fixing this problem.

I can guess what people might want to say to defend themselves from this: "but we are all broken, right?" Well, yeah, but you could at least try to be honest about it. Or at least be honest about your dishonesty! Can you at least say "we are all broken, but we really aren't showing each other as much as we should be..." and mean it. And by mean it I mean, be distressed by the fact that you are dishonest and hiding your brokenness. Besides, you don't talk like God matters, or like he is personally involved in your life. And when you do? It sounds cliche a lot of the time, it sounds fake usually (and I don't doubt that it is usually fake). What kind of Christians do you think fake being good and talk about God as an abstract ideal, or as a model of right behavior to be followed? I thought he lived in you! I thought he was with you! Act like it, or admit he isn't. Faking it is ugly, and it sometimes makes me think "well, if they have to fake it, God must not be with them at any rate."

I do believe that Christianity is true. I'm just not sure I know many people who know Christ.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

On the Logical Possibility of Single Predestination

A Calvinist will argue that God predestines some to be saved and equally predestines others not to be saved. This is called double predestination. A Lutheran, on the other hand, will argue that God predestines some to be saved and merely fails to predestine the others either way, so that they default, due to their sin nature, to being damned. They are left in their condition, not actively predestined to be damned. This is single predestination.

It may be noted that I have, before today, regarded single predestination as logically absurd. That line of thinking goes like this: God is omnipotent, thus he is able to do whatever he wills. A lack of willing to save is, given what he knows (i.e., given how things are), indistinguishable in its results from a willing to damn. Thus, if God does not will to save some, then those he wills to damn. I am not now changing my position, only raising an objection to such an over-simple argument against single-predestination which will require further investigation as to whether God must intend all that occurs or merely knowingly cause all that occurs (this distinction should become clear soon, if it is not already).

In the philosophy of morals, there is a suggested moral principle, which appears to be at work in most human moral reasoning, called the principle of double-effect. This principle, which may be regarded as an outcome of Kant's second formulation of the categorical imperative (always to treat humans as ends, never merely as means), is that one may cause harm in doing good if the harm is a side-effect of doing good, and not necessary to the doing of that good. This does not yet provide a basis for single predestination.

Let us consider a variation of the classic trolley dilemmas: There is a trolley coming down the track, and if nothing is done, it will run over five men. I am at a switch. If I pull the switch, then the trolley will go on another track which reconnects to the original track before where the five men are (so that if nothing happens on the side-track, the trolley will still run over the five men). Now, let us suppose there is a large weight on the track which will stop the trolley, thus saving the five men if I pull the switch (I should note that this version of the trolley dilemma did not originate with me, but it also seems to be in a variety of places, so I am unsure of the source).

The principle of double effect may be considered as the rule that one may knowingly cause harm, but one may not intend harm. This gets us closer to understanding a possible basis for single-predestination. If I do an act, one might ask me what I am doing, and I may say "pulling a switch," and they may ask me what I am doing that for, to which I may respond "saving five people from being run over by a trolley." They may then ask how it will save them, to which I may respond, "it will make the trolley hit that large object, and thus stop before it returns to the track." Now, if there is a man standing in front of the weight, this makes no difference to my intent. However, if the weight is, itself, a very large man, then I am intending harm to a person. The first is allowed, given the principle of double-effect, the second is not.

Now, to return single-predestination, the point of single-predestination is that God intends those who are saved to be saved, but that God does not intend the damnation of the others, despite the fact that he knows that they will be damned. The argument of single-predestination is that there is no action which God does where you could ask what he is doing in any way so as to get the answer "damning some."

Now, the moral problem of an omnipotent God saving some and not others is much more complicated than any trolley dilemma (for one, most would argue that God could have saved all, or none, if he had wanted), and it is not clear that it is right to argue that anything happens in the world which God does not intend, rather there are those who hold, and take comfort from, the belief that God intends all things for his glory and our good. The above was simply to show that, implicit in the disagreement between those who hold single-predestination and those who hold double-predestination, is a disagreement about whether God intends everything or simply knowingly causes everything, while intending only a part.