A friend passed along this response to a dialogue he is having on one of those discussion boards online. I thought I would give a stab at responding.

Here is the challenge posed:
"Why make creatures some of whom are destined to fall, what's the point? Why make a force capable of causing a 'powerful deception'? As disappointing as the prize in the original Highlander film, we struggle though life to achieve... 'standing in the presence of god' - was that it? Seems as if he could have saved an awful lot of trouble, pain and suffering. Setting aside all of the other illogicalities of your faith, -- , I'm still left with - is that it, what is the point of that? Hollywood does this to me all the time now, I sit through a film all CGI and car chases and all the fireworks are meant to distract me from the fact that there is no real story that makes sense. Michael Bay et al think 'well what we need at this point is another explosion' when what they really need is a script. I think much the same about your god. I'll come out of his cinema thinking 'that didn't make sense'."

Here is my answer:
To the first and second question, at one level we do not need an answer beyond “Because he wanted to.” This is not to skirt the question, and it is not my final answer, but if God is, and he is the one to whom we have to answer, it does not matter what we think he “ought” to have done or do. He is the Lord! And “who are you, oh man!” Part of our faith is trusting that in the end, when we can see the movie in full, it will be clear and make sense of the apparent senselessness of the present. And we will be compelled to sing, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!” (Rev 15:3 ESV). I guess what I want to say is that we cannot leave the theater before the movie is even over and say, “That didn’t make sense!”

On the other hand, we have to distinguish predestination and foreknowledge. I do not believe—and when you take it as a whole, I do not believe the Bible says—that God predestined the fall or any of our personal falls. I think it is clear that God has not written a final draft of a screenplay, and we are merely puppets acting out the scenes with no ad lib or genuine freedom. God created all of this because he delighted to do so—because he wanted to do it and wanted to enjoy it. “But what’s the point, if he knew about the fall?” Why do it? Let us consider this question from a different angle. What if you knew the woman you were going to marry was going to be unfaithful (repeatedly) and that she would even attempt to murder you. Would you marry her? We would never do that. We marry only because we are blind to all the pain that could and often does follow. If God creates in the knowledge of all the pain that will follow, it is because his love is still greater. In other words, he loves the woman so much that he will marry her in the full knowledge of her rejection.

This leads to the question, which I think underlies our entire struggle, resentment, and bitterness towards God, and that is, “God, do you suffer?” As Syme, at the end of The Man Who Was Thursday, says, “Oh, I could forgive you everything, you who rule mankind, if I could feel for once that you have suffered for one hour a real agony such as I—” As much as we should want to claim the path of objective reason, one does not come to this place of agnosticism or dogmatic atheism but through the path of suffering. Our crises come not because we have seen too much goodness but from evils experienced and evils observed. And crisis comes because we believe God is sitting on his throne indifferently—and perhaps even with a twinge of good pleasure—watching us suffer as it all unfolds. This may be the god of our philosophical syllogisms and it may be the god of some Muslim, Jews, and Christians, but it is the not the Lord revealed in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. This God is the one who enters the garden asking, “Where are you?” The God who reveals himself through the prophets as the husband beside himself with the pain of his wife’s infidelity. The father who daily looks out at the horizon in anticipation of his wayward son’s return. The one who weeps at his good friend’s funeral. If God is angry, he is so because his wound is deep. It may be said that, my God is starting to sound a little too human like the pantheon of capricious and horny gods of ancient times. And, it is true, it would be wrong for us to take this too far; nevertheless, these are the analogies and metaphors we are given to reveal a God who loves and who gives himself completely to the redemption of his creation. God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The logic that holds together this mystery is great, and beyond this response, but what it reveals is a God who suffers.

If we look at this narrative as a Michael Bay movie with lots of explosions and needless violence, then it indeed does not make sense. But if we see it as perhaps the story that underlies all of the great story driven movies, in which great tragedy, injustice, and darkness gives way to redemption and transformation, then we can hope against hope that the movie’s ending will resolve. This assumes biblical faith, which is not what picks up when reason ends, but an active trust in a promise.


David Malouf -- said...

GREAT response, Brett! I'm keeping it and forwarding it :-)

If I may turn the perspective a touch... all of us are more idiotic than we care to admit and are, FULLY, living in faith. The question asker (great question and I love the movie metaphor!) is living out of faith that he/she is (1) understanding 'my' faith enough to write about it [cripes, do _I_ understand my own faith that well!?!?!] and (2) that he/she has been able to figure out what 'worth it' is with enough certainty/clarity to challenge a reader's valuation of 'worth it.'

And herein is the faith aspect. From my faith-perspective, I look at the question asker's life, faith, and desire for a God-free life and think the exact same thing that is being asked of me - "Seriously, that's it? That's the life you actually WANT? Weird."

I'm not rebutting the question-asker, I'm simply asking the same question back at him/her. And all this does is point out that neither of us fully understands what is going on in the hear/mind of the other. I do think there is a solution to this dilemma, but I am not poking at that in this reply. And Brett did a good job with the solution anyway :-)

Brett Berger said...

David, you're a sweetheart! I agree that in conversations like this, we are really talking about competing faith claims. And these, as much as we wish they were, are not born from pure objectivity.