Thursday, January 28, 2010

In Search of a Tame God

One of the great desires of mankind is to find what I would call (following C. S. Lewis) a tame God. This is a God who comes when we call Him and leaves us alone when we do not want Him. He is there to start up and superintend the universe, possibly to lay down a few broad moral principles, and perhaps to rescue us if we really get in a bind. The question is, where can we get such a God?

One option is the pantheistic God who is the sum of all things. But there are problems with this. If God is the sum of all things, He cannot create or superintend those things. Nor can He lay down any moral standards, because He is present in all things good and evil. Nor can He help us in our needs, for everything is equally an expression of Him. One can call such a being God, but since He does nothing, says nothing, and requires nothing, it is difficult to understand what that means. We can try to get around that by claiming God is not what all things are, but what all things are becoming. The problem with this is, if all things are becoming something, this implies a goal outside themselves, and this is the real God.

Now if God is distinct from the world, it is not clear why would He create things and then leave us alone without making demands on us. One could believe in an Unmoved Mover (similar to Aristotle's) that was simply something that started the universe but does nothing else. God could have started the world as some sort of vast experiment or simply have other purposes. So he would be unconcerned with us. These views of God certainly conflict with our idea of goodness. Which leaves us with the question, if these Gods exist, where does our idea of goodness come from? If you are simply looking for something to start the universe, these Gods may work. But if you are looking for a God to lay down moral principles or help you in time of need, they are woefully inadequate.

The bottom line is, people believe in a tame God because they find Him convenient. And we have to ask why God should behave how we happen to find convenient. Also, a tame God fits basically good people living in a basically good world, one where we can handle most of our problems ourselves. This does not seem to fit the real situation. But one thing is abundantly clear. The God of the Bible, the God who splits Red Seas and sends fire down from heaven, the God who became a man to pay the penalty for sin and break the power of death, is not a tame God. He is not the God we want. But He is the God who really exists and who we desperately need. And maybe the problem is we are just unable to admit this.

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