Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Congratulations! You're adopted!!

I was involved in a discussion on another blog, in which I claimed that God is humanity's Father from birth. I justified this with sections such as the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus tells the entire crowd that God is their Father. The person discussing the matter with me claimed that God is only one's Father after one is "saved." You are then adopted into God's family.

I find the latter view interesting, simply on how adoption works. When a child is adopted, there are two parents involved in the process. Parent A is the parent who gave birth to the child. Parent B is the parent who then adopts and raises the child, and legally is entitled to all rights and decisions regarding said child. However, Parent A and Parent B are never the same person (to my knowledge. Someone with a better familiarity with the law might want to chime in). I know that Parent A could lose parental rights, but if s/he has the opportunity to regain those rights, it's not considered adoption, which is "to take voluntarily (a child of other parents) as one's own child."

So, if God must adopt us in order for us to be children, that makes God parent B. Who, then, is parent A? Who is God adopting us from? I'm fairly certain the standard answer here would be Satan or the world or the flesh or possibly a combination of all three.

But what does that mean? The very act of creation is attributed to God and only God. Satan didn't create us, nor the world, nor even “the flesh”. If we are here, it's because God has decided that we should be born in this particular time. If God didn't decide to embark on the act of creation, we wouldn't be here.

Yet somehow, that doesn't make God a parent, nor does that give humanity the right to consider God a Father (the other blogger's perspective). But why not? That is part of what makes a parent an actual parent – s/he played a role in your creation.

Only, per this viewpoint, that’s not enough. You must choose to be adopted into God’s family (assuming a non-Calvinist viewpoint here), and then you can call God Father.

Okay. We still come back to the idea of who was our original, or first, parent? If you go with the idea of something not-God, then that calls into question how much “ownership” God has over us, and how much right God then has to demand any sort of obedience or allegiance, if He’s not even the Creator in the first place.

If we take this metaphorically, and say that Satan is our Father until said adoption takes place, then at what point did Satan become our Father? Clearly not in the aspect of creation.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Year with C.S. Lewis

I received 'A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from his Classic Works' as a Christmas present. It was from a friend who knew that I was reading religious books, and so picked this one because it really made her think. She's an evangelical, and I've heard from her, and others, that CS Lewis is a great reader. He's often recommended by devout Christians. I think they're under the impression that if non-Christians read it, it'll be completely convincing?

Not quite. Here are some of my impressions, based on what I've read.

Exploration #1: "All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that 'God is love.' But they seem not to notice that the words 'God is love' have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love." Page. 41

This doesn't seem to take into account the very character of God. First, we go with the idea that God is omniscienct. Ergo, God is all-knowing. Therefore, can there ever be an instance where God does not 'know' of His creation?

This gets even trickier when the concept of time comes into play. If part of creating the universe includes the creation of time, then God is not bound by time. God created time. So God is 'outside' of time. What occurs to us in a linear fashion would occur to God all at once. To God, Henry the VIII is king while simutaneously, I'm typing on this computer. God doesn't have to 'wait' for something to occur like we do.

So why couldn't God, if always knowing of us, and having creating time, have also constantly be in a relationship with the humans He creates? Constantly love His creation? God's love would always be directed outwards, to those whom He created. Does the world need to be 'made' in order for God to love outwards? In order for God to be love?

As it is, Lewis explores this idea: "All times are eternally present to God. Is it not at least possible that along some one line of His multi-dimensional eternity He sees you forever in the nursery pulling the wings off a fly, forever toadying, lying, and lusting as a schoolboy, forever in that moment of cowardice or insolence as a subaltern? Pg. 75

As soon as you remove God from being constrained by time, and give God that type of knowledge, the idea that there must be more than one 'Person' in God is no longer applicable.

Exploration #2: "We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men's toes and stealing other men's money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if he was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if he really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceint univalled by any other character in history." Page 49.

Okay, I'm only aware of two instances in the New Testament where Jesus specifically announces forgiveness. The first is Mark 2: 1-12. There, Jesus says to the paralyzed man, 'My son, your sins are forgiven.' The laywers says that its blasphemy, and only God can forgive sins. Jesus knows what they're thinking, and asks if its easier to say 'sins are forgiven' or 'Stand up, take your bed, and walk? But to convince you that the Son of Man has the right on earth to forgive sins .' The man does.

Luke 5: 17-26. Same situation. Jesus says, "Man, your sins are forgiven," the lawyers and Pharisees say its blasphemous, only God can forgive, and Jesus asks the same thing as in Mark, says that the Son of Man has the right, and so forth."

A few things about what Lewis says. Matthew 28:18 has Jesus saying that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to him. Given. It would have to be 'given' by God. Wouldn't that authority include the 'right to forgive sins?' Wouldn't Jesus, since he is one with the Father and the Father dwells in him, know who God forgives, and thus announce it for God?

Exploration #3: "Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even his enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that he is 'humble and meek' and we believe him; not noticing that, if he were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of his sayings." Page 49.

Okay. Let's say I'm the smartest person at math in the world. It's an obvious fact. If this is true, would it be prideful or wrong of me to acknowledge that? To tell people that I'm the smarest person at math in the world? So in the case of Jesus, if God did choose him as the Messiah, and part of being that Messiah is a light unto the world, or the bread of life ... how does that not make Jesus humble or meek if both are simple facts? It would be neither 'silliness' nor 'conceit.' It's simply what God designated Jesus to be. Jesus is the Messiah, and as the Messiah, plays a pretty big role. How is it not humble or not meek to declare that? If judgement is left up to the Son of Man, then stating that is stating a fact.

Exploration #4: The Trilimma. Arguments against that have been done to death.

Exploration #5: "Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possiblel any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -- of creatures that worked like machines -- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other ..." Pg. 57.

So, if evil must be possible so that goodness or love are worth having, what about God? Doesn't this mean it must be possible for God to do evil? Except if God is perfect, and abhors sin, then God cannot possess the ability to even contemplate evil. Not only that, but is anyone else bothered by the fact that he's essentially saying it wouldn't be worth creating something that can only do good? Could only be good? That somehow, lacking the ability to do evil means that one is a robot? (Again, I wonder what that makes God). I mean, there are thousands of ways in which to express goodness. To only express good makes one a robot?

The other thing this would call into question is the idea of 'freedom.' THe idea here seems to be that God won't 'force' someone to choose Him. However, force only comes into play if God is going against what the person wants. If a person willingly chooses God, then the person is not forced.

But the force itself only comes into play if a person has the ability to either want to choose God, or want to choose against God. To choose against God is to choose against good. So the person has the ability to choose evil or good. If the person is created to only have the ability to choose good, to only want to do good, then the person would never be forced to choose God. The person's free will would always align with good, and thus voluntarily always choose God.

So what Lewis is saying is that the whole thing is worthless unless we also have the ability to choose evil? It just seems very odd that an entity that is all good, abhors evil, would rather create something with the capability of doing evil instead of a being that can do only good. It's like He'd be going against everything in His nature to create that.

I'm only into the month of February, in terms of reading the book. I'm not sure I'll be able to finish, just because I'm finding it frustrating. It's praised left and right, and yet I'm finding it ... not that complex. At all. It's another one of those things written for those who already believe, and with every new entry I read, my reaction is, "Seriously? This is the best you've got?"

My friend did hope it would make me think. Which it's doing, only not in the way she was probably expecting.