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Discussion 12 to Talk Back 95
Response to Discussion 9 to TalkBack 95

by: PsiCop

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Michael Frank,

Allow me to thank you for your reply to my reply! I honestly had not expected one, but you proved that assumption wrong. That makes it one of those rare occasions when I can say I was glad to have been in error.

I’d like to go over a couple of issues that you raise.

First:

It seems that you thought I was saying that God originally created us to be only able to come to Him through faith.  That is certainly not what I meant.  We were originally created to have direct one-on-one, face-to-face, personal communication with God.  It is our sins that caused us to be separated.  Sinful beings can never be in the presence of a Holy and perfect and wonderful God.

This reasoning is fatally flawed, because … as I had pointed out in my original response to you … it does not account for the presumed omnipotence, omniscience, and infinity of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. Your position is that Adam & Eve’s sin somehow forced God to change his plans and alter his relationship with humanity.

But it is not logically possible for an omnipotent being ever to be forced to do anything! Nothing external to such a being can ever make him change what he wants or block his plans. If “sin” somehow interferes with our relationship with him, it can only be because he wants it that way, not because he had no choice in the matter. The words “he had no choice” cannot logically ever apply to a truly omnipotent being.

Instead of answering the question of why we need to know God only by faith, then, you have instead posed another (perhaps unintended), question, which is, “Why has God chosen to allow ‘sin’ to come between him and what he wants?” Why is sin so important to him that he would fundamentally change his relationship with his own creation?

The scenario you paint in no way resembles the behavior of a tangibly omnipotent being. Your scenario, instead, makes him seem much more human than anything else. The Fall presented him with a problem, and he reacted to it in a purely-human way, since he was constrained by that problem. A truly omnipotent being, though, not only cannot be presented with a problem he cannot solve, he can actually cause that problem never to have existed at all!

When discussing what God wants, did, said, etc. you have to account for his omnipotence. You cannot merely say, “X happened, so God did Y.” You have to account for how and why God allowed X to happen in the first place. Nothing can ever happen which an omnipotent being is not aware of in advance, and which he does not explicitly wish to occur.

Another point you did not address is my suggestion that Satan might have had some valid reason for rejecting God. Perhaps God is, somehow, a repugnant being; Satan and the angels who followed him became aware of whatever it was that made him repugnant; and they therefore rejected him not due to some kind of deep arrogance or character flaw, but because they decided, rationally, that rejecting God was the proper thing to do, because of something they saw in God’s character that they could no longer associate with? Perhaps Satan and his angel-followers knows something about God, that you don’t? How can you rule that possibility out, especially since you stated up-front that Satan knew God personally while human beings such as yourself can only know him by faith, which comes from God himself?

This is not a trivial question, especially since you posed it yourself and made it important by stating that God’s motivation in how he structured his relationship with humanity was to prevent the same thing from happening a second time.

Second:

I’m glad you conceded that the Bible is not the collection of “historical documents” (rather than merely “historic”) that a lot of people — especially literalist or fundamentalist Christians — love to say it is.

But you also said:

All of this, however, still doesn’t have much bearing on the point of my letter. My point is that faith comes by allowing Him to grant it to you when you hear His word(s).

I’m curious as to what basis you have for believing that the words of the Bible — which you’ve conceded are of human origin — have this power, while all other sacred texts somehow lack this “magic.” Hundreds, if not thousands, of documents are, or have been, held to have had similar power by many current and historical religious traditions. (To read a large number of them, go to the Sacred Texts Web site. It doesn’t contain every one that exists, but it has a very large number of them.)

Why is it that the Christian Bible can grant me this faith you claim God requires of me, yet you’re sure that — say — Bhagavad Gita cannot also grant its readers faith in Vishnu; or that The Bacchae cannot have granted those who saw it performed, faith in Dionysius; or that the Avestan hymns of Zoroaster cannot have granted their listeners faith in Ahura Mazda?

What you and other Christians have done is to make value judgments about the Bible, specifically about its assumed divine power, and also about other sacred documents, that none of them could possibly also have a similar divine power. There is no objective basis on which to have made those judgments.

Your claim about the Bible also raises another unanswered question, which is, “Why does God choose only to work through a Bible text to deliver faith to people?” Why is it not possible for him to accomplish the same goal in any other way? This is especially odd since, historically, the God of the Abrahamic faiths is believed to have been not only willing but able to communicate directly and explicitly with people in the past (namely, with the Old Testament prophets, and when Jesus was walking the earth in person, with the Apostles). What happened to make him change his mind about how he communicates with people? What barrier was thrown up after Jesus’ career which somehow bars him?

More to the point, given that God is supposed to be omnipotent, how is it even possible for anything to have stopped him from doing so?

Note here how easily that pesky matter of “omnipotence” figures in. Do you see, now, how often and how subtly it intrudes on any kind of speculation about the God of the Abrahamic faiths? It can and does creep into theology, often without the theologian or apologist even being aware of it.

The entire history of Abrahamic-faith theology is littered with often long-winded and elaborate speculations on the nature of its God, yet, none of them really take on the issue of his omnipotence, omniscience, and infinite extent. Rather, they all assume — usually without being aware of it — some sort of limitation on him. It’s as if they are all assuming him to be just another human being like themselves; perhaps much greater in power, but basically with the same motivations, tendencies, and limitations of any human being.

Because of this, please do not view this criticism as being directed solely at you. You are basing what you’ve said on previous religious thought … perhaps not directly, but I assume by inspiration. This flaw, then, is not uniquely your own doing. A lot of otherwise-very-intelligent people have historically fallen into the very same trap, of failing to account for God’s presumed omnipotence, and instead, viewing him as a being very much like themselves, in terms of wishes and ability to deal with problems.

While Genesis 1:27 says that God made humanity in his own image, all objective indications are exactly the opposite: That human beings have made him in their own image.