Tuesday, July 17, 2012

God as Omnipotent and Omniscient

So the argument goes...

"An omnipotent god can create a being that performs an act known only to itself.

An omniscient god cannot do this.

It would appear, then, that no god can be both omnipotent and omniscient."

 
Hmmm... It sounds pretty good, doesn't it?  Once you get over the shock-factor, though, it is nothing new. 

To me, this is a repackaging of the old "If god is really omnipotent (all-powerful), can he create a rock too big for him to move?"  The philosophical argument challenges what theologians call the "immutable attributes" of God, hence trying to show that they are illogical or mutually exclusive or ridiculous (and therefore that the conception of a 'god' is also ridiculous and illogical).  The argument above seeks to find an intersection of incompatability between God's omnipotence and omniscience, His all-powerful and all-knowing aspects of His nature.
 
But let me be the first to admit some things...
 
God cannot lie...
 
God cannot choose to no longer be God...
 
God cannot do or be anything inconsistent with who He is.
 
That is basically what the argument in question is asking God to do -to create something He cannot know, to do something that is impossible.  The implication is that "omnipotence" is defined as "God can do anything -everything is possible for God, even the impossible."  I do not, however, believe that this is what "omnipotence" means, and I don't know of any thinking Christians who believe it does.  I believe it means that God can do whatever He pleases, which is always things consistent with His vast nature.  He cannot and will not do things inconsistent with His nature.
 
As C. S. Lewis wrote:
"His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible.  You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense."

Or as Augustine wrote in City of God:
"For He is called omnipotent on account of His doing what He wills, not on account of His suffering what He wills not; for if that should befall Him, He would by no means be omnipotent. Wherefore, He cannot do some things for the very reason that He is omnipotent."
 
Is this just ignorance on the part of the atheist, or is it a straw-man argument -setting up a false representation of what the theist believes that is easy to tear down?
 
God knows... *wink*

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blessed Helplessness

This morning I went, like I do many mornings, up to the woods for a short walk and time of prayer.  Sometimes I just sit in the car, but this morning was pretty cool and the parking lot was almost empty, so I took a short stroll on the path to get my thoughts out and pray.

It was a lot of the usual... telling God what was on my mind, the things I was concerned about, but then asking Him things like, "Please have this happen," or "Please don't let this happen."  I felt the tension inside me, as it always is when I think too much about things and about the outcomes, and then I took a deep breath, looked up, and it hit me:  Just be with Him.

Suddenly, I had a different perspective.  Suddenly, it wasn't all about trying to control outcomes and getting God to help me do it.  That wouldn't really be laying my concerns at His feet.  That is more like I'm still holding onto them and asking Him to help me make it turn out how I say.  I saw a moment of peace where I laid those concerns before Him and simply enjoyed His company, walking in the woods together, reminiscent of how God walked with man in the Garden in the very beginning.

"Daddy, this world can suck.  You know how it is, don't you.  But you are there."

And to Jesus, "Jesus, my Brother, my King... if anyone knows the craziness of this world and how things an go wrong -if anyone knows the suffering of this world, it is you."

A true Ally, a Companion, a Brother... who knows me, who gets it, who feels it, who I can just rest in for a few moments.

There is a blessedness to finding helplessness.  There are many ways in which we are not helpless and shouldn't consider ourselves as such.  There are many things we can do in this life, and there are many things we should do -both for ourselves and for the welfare of others.  Situations call for action and for responsible caring.  Relationships call for real involvement and love.  But, there is a limit out there that we have a hard time with.  It is the glass ceiling of outcomes.  We want to manage the outcomes.  We are like flies that keep banging into the glass, not realizing there is a boundary there, a window, keeping us constrained.  We would rather bang out heads against the ceiling, living with the added tension and frustration, than accept our helplessness.  We would rather be like a tangled up extension cord that only gets tighter and tighter, knotting itself with ever-increasing complexity, the more the ends are pulled.

But when we do accept this blessed limitation, we find that we can actually enjoy the company of our Maker.  Instead of always trying to get something from Him, we can just enjoy Him.  We can know that we are known and that Christ understands -not in some theoretical way, not as an observer, but as someone who walked in our shoes right beside us.  We can know the God who suffers under the weight of the world with us and beside us and for us, to make us His own.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Engage Life

It is easy, so easy, to not want to engage life. In fact, it is so easy that we do it all the time without any thought or effort. When life gets tough, or even for no external reason at all, we seem to effortlessly drift down the path of retreat. How so? I'll give you three main ways that I have seen. The first is the path of purposeless preoccupation. Maybe we are obsessed with Facebook or some other useless website or meaningless activity. Maybe we sit and overthink certain situations or relationships, endlessly pining and ruminating away. The second is the path of powerlessness and passivity. This often goes hand-in-hand with purposeless preoccupation. We take a limp, dead, helpless, "I can't do it," position, moping around, laying around pitying and condemning ourselves like we are helpless cripples. The third way is by numbing ourselves through indulgence in temporary pleasures... sex, alcohol, drugs, the "thrill" of the next relationship (that ends in an inevitable collapse), etc. We run the path of the fool, going after the next fun or exciting or sexy thing that makes us feel good for two seconds, running away from ourselves and from life. We're running, endlessly running from life and, mainly, from the pain and anger and other emotions and things inside. But it never gets us anywhere. I'm inspired by how men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not run from life. They engaged life, and they found it worth it -worth the fight, worth the pain, worth the suffering, worth the energy, worth the heartache, and worth the apparent pointlessness of it all at times. May I not torture myself by avoiding life, but may I full engage it. May I stop looking for a quick pleasure to numb myself out, a new preoccupation to retreat to, or another opportunity to sulk helplessly as a cripple on my bed of self-abuse.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Faithful

There are two things that I have become acutely aware of lately, with all that has been going on in my life.

First, I'm aware that people do make a direct connection between my actions and my faith in Christ.  I've been convicted about this on a few occasions.  One time was when I was out one night and had probably too much to drink.  I explained to this other person that I only began drinking about 2 years ago.  They assumed that I must be a Christian (even though my reasons for not drinking had nothing to do with being a Christian, since my decision to not be a drinker preceded my conversion to Christ by about a decade -in fact, my faith in Christ has led me to drop the rule and be more open to occasional social drinking in moderation).  Anyway, I confirmed that I was as Christian, and later I heard them make a comment about me being a "True follower of Jesus." 

I can't be sure, but I don't think it was a positive comment.  In either case, it stung a bit -convicting.  While they may think that being a Christian is all about "being good," which is a woeful misunderstanding of it all, it still stung because I again realized that I am a representative of Jesus, the King of Kings.  When people know that I am a Christian, an association is made.  Granted, people are unfair and misjudge all the time (Christian or not), and Jesus even warned that we would be judged unfairly and have trouble just for being His, but I don't want to be that guy.  I want to honor Him with my life, if I can help it.

Second, I'm aware that my actions are connected to where I am with Jesus, to my faith.  In other words, while outsiders may have no clue about what it means to belong to Jesus, and while they may mistakenly conclude that it is all about "trying to be good," so that they can mock and point their finger when you screw up or fail to live up to some standard they think you should be living up to, they aren't 100% wrong in assuming that there is a connection between our actions and our faith.  In fact, I've seen in sparkling and sometimes ugly clarity how our actions really do reveal whether we believe God or not.  I'm not talking about believing in God but about believing Him.

Disney's animated adaptation of the Exodus story, The Prince of Egypt, was on television yesterday.  I absolutely love this movie, but it was aired at an important time this time.  I was reminded of the Exodus story as a whole, including God's gracious deliverance of the Israelites and their path out of slavery and oppression and into the promised land.  The thing that struck me the most was everything that followed where The Prince of Egypt ends, namely the fickle, faithless wandering of the redeemed people of God.

But I really identify them.  I lose faith, the "sight" of what God has done and where He is taking me.  I forget how I was redeemed.  I look at the circumstances at hand, at the long journey in the desert that I am on, and I doubt God.  I doubt His intentions.  I doubt His goodness toward me.  I doubt that He really cares or really will do anything to help me when I need Him.  And after a while, I start to doubt if He is really even there.  Maybe I'm just talking to nobody?

And that doubt changes things.  When you start to believe you are just going to be left to die in anguish in the desert, you live differently.  You follow that temptation.  You start to not give a crap.  You harden your heart.  You get tired of waiting and take matters into your own hands, looking to temporary and often destructive things to fill you up and numb your pain.  You indulge in things you should not, scarring yourself and displaying to the world that God is not really worth believing and following.
 
Make no mistake.  This is a journey in the desert.  And if we believe God, if we hold on and believe Him, believing that the end is in sight and that He is with us and will bring us there, we will remain faithful and reap our reward.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Is Anybody Out There?

We have a fundamental longing to be heard and known and understood.  In pain and trial, we feel trapped and alone, aching for someone to come into our cave, someone to hear our cries.  In joy and celebration, the joy is less full when there aren't others to share in it with us.

These words, from the song "Calling" by Strung Out, jumped out at me today:

"I sold my voice to pay for my security
now I write my sentence on its walls

I'm calling, is anybody out there?
Is anybody tuning in?"

In this age, where there is brokenness and loss, where we are not enjoying communion with God in the way that we will in the age to come, where we are not enjoying communion with other people in the way we will in the age to come, where relationships are strained, where people sit in silent desperation and longing behind the smiles of their Facebook status, what can one do but call out inside.  Yet who will hear it?  It is written on our walls, on our face perhaps, but we press on, don't we?

So here I am, today.  And you know, there are many things in my life to be thankful for.  But I am broken and longing inside.  This isn't how I wanted things to be.  (the rest has been hidden)

More good tuneage