Wednesday, October 1, 2008

How well would God do on Jeopardy?

This is a question I was pondering over the summer that goes along with what we are currently talking about in class. It seems if one is going to say that "God" (or how ever you wish to call this supreme being) is all knowing, all powerful, and at the same time wholly compassionate and forgiving, you have to give up the ideas of freewill and hell. The reason being is if you live a life that would be considered worthy of going to hell, God would have known this before you even existed, and there would be nothing you could do about this because your liefs course has already been laid out. One could try and argue that God is only wholly compassionate if you ask for forgiveness, but what does this solve if from before you had even existed God knew if you were going to do this or not.

In order to fit our best interests of free will and punishment would we not have to surrender the idea that God knows everything? You can still grant this being with the ability to know much of what will happen in the universe, but if God does not know exactly when you will ask for forgiveness, or even if that is what you will do, it then allows him to act on your actions. There is a problem with this line of thought as well, because it would have to be determined how much God could and could not know to be able to make just decisions about our lives. For example if he knew everything except weather or not you were going to use SPF 30 or 29 on Augusts 27, 2010 at 12:00, it seems he knows to much about what will happen in your life to grant you freewill. The solution to this problem would be to put God on Jeopardy and find out how much he knows... I'm kidding of course.

Another argument seems to be that if God is truly and completely compassionate and forgiving one would not have to ask for forgiveness, but I will let the responders to this blog post fight that one out.


ejmcneeley said...

I like your questions Matt. There is a book that I read a couple of years ago that kind of deals with these things. It's called 'If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person" by Philip Gully and James Mullholland. If I remember it clearly, they say that if God is all loving and all powerful, everyone will be 'saved'. They acknowledge right at the beginning that a literal interpretation of the Bible cannot be used with this thought process. The basic idea is that either God does not want to save everyone (not all loving) or God cannot save everyone (not all powerful). I do not know how their argument stands logically, but it did make me think. If God knew someone with freewill was going to not chose him, what's the point? They (the authors, both of which are pastors of two different denominations; one Methodist & one Quaker, I think) believe that either during life or after death, everyone will come to know God and acknowledge God for who God is.

Who would God be up against on Jeopardy? I see a SNL skit with God, Sean Connery & Burt Reynolds. Classic.

richie w said...

ah, the predestination paradox. the idea that god does not want to save everyone/ cannot save everyone is interesting. when you look back at things like god giving the land of canaan to the israelites, and telling them to slaughter everything in the city, man/woman/child/beast, it seems as if god does not want to save everyone. i often think about those poor souls of history who were involved in massacres. you have to assume (well, i guess you don't have to) that many of them were at least somewhat innocent, ie, did nothing to really deserve death. even if they did nothing during their lives, nothing very special or noteworthy and lived a bland existence only to be wiped away and included in the textbooks as just one of many washed over by history. does god want to save everybody? i don't know, but if he doesn't, that mean he is choosy, and the idea that god weighs decisions seems to be an entirely new theological debate.

on a side note, if god doesn't know who will choose to be saved or not, that implies there are things god doesn't know, which leads me to wonder: what news channel would god watch? cnn? msnbc? good ol' fair and balanced fox news? maybe even the daily show?!

jeff said...

This is a great thought, and something I also wrestled with this summer. Eventually, and oddly enough, I somewhat answered my questions by looking to my parents and Disney movies.

Addressing the idea of free will, I came to the belief that God is in many ways a parent. He wants the best for us, but cannot dictate exactly what happens. He has the ability to help us, but if we stray too far from the correct path, he has the ability to let us on our own to face the consequences. Anyone see Bruce Almighty? Just because he has the power to help or save, doesn't mean he will always use it. Sometimes lessons are meant to be learned for ourselves. For me, this belief somewhat answered my "Why are we here?" question as well.

However, these beliefs left an obvious gap in my theology. If God cannot dictate everything, does that not indicate a lack of omnipotence? And then I thought of Alladin. The genie had all kind of powers, but he could not affect a person's free will. My perception is that God can affect the physical and the biological, but our actions, intentions, thoughts, etc. are our own. These are what make our free will.

Obviously, many would argue this is not true omnipotence. But I don't believe that an inability to affect free will negates the existence of omnipotence. Therefore, if we adopt this definition of omnipotence, then my beliefs are perfectly in line, and have led to a great relief in my questioning of things. Unfortunately, the whole theory relies on this one very simple definition, which I would even admit is open to serious attack.

pamela1103 said...

I find the question of why would we need to ask for forgiveness if God is completely compassionate and forgiving interesting. I guess that also goes along with questions about the idea of whether or not believing in God is enough to go to Heaven. Most Christians believe that believing in God is not enough to be granted eternal life, that devotion to him and his commandments are necessary. But that creates the question of whether you can do evil things your whole life, but continuously ask for forgiveness from God and be saved? And back to your question then, do those evil doers even have to ask for forgiveness or will they just be saved due to his compassion?