Monday, October 8, 2007

A Conversation with a Pantheist

The following is a part of a conversation that I had recently with a Pantheist.

I don't believe that worship is required of me or that homage be paid. I think the problem is the use of the word "God" to describe many different things which are inconsistent with each other. Isn't it really a matter of definition / terminology? For me, a perfect being that is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent by definition does not require anything (by virtue of being perfect): does not require worship, does not require adherence to a moral code, does not get angry (wrathful ?), does not go around withering fig trees because they fail to fruit out of season.

So yes, I do believe that your wife's corn casserole is part of Everything That Is but I probably wouldn't pay homage to it: that is not a requirement. I don't like to use the word "God" for the reason outline above, but I guess I can say that if there must be a God, then I would prefer her/him to have no requirements, no commandments, no instructions, no preferential treatments, no anger, no jealousy, no paranoia, etc etc.

What do you love and respect? Do you delight in the beauty of a sunrise? If the Bible is true, then Yahweh (the name of God in the Bible) created that beauty. Not only did he create such beauty, but his own beauty infinitely surpasses such a sight (there are many passages that describe the lethal intensity of the beauty of God). So, if a sunrise is to be praised for beauty, then why not God?

Do you rejoice when justice is done? If a self-righteous religious person murdered your family in cold blood, would you applaud the judicial system that caught those responsible and issued a proper sentence? God’s justice is perfect. The Bible presents him as a supreme Judge that makes just and appropriate restitution for each crime committed and proper reward for each meritorious act. If a human judge deserves accolades for being just, ought not God?

Jealousy and anger are proper emotions in some circumstances. In the above example, righteous anger on the part of the one whose family has been slain towards the perpetrator is normal and not evil as long as the actions associated with that anger are just. Jealousy of a husband for a cherished wife who forsakes her vows and pursues other lovers is fully expected and right.

The ‘moral code’ (as you call it) of the Bible is just a record of God’s character. He does not lie and steal and so he does not want his creatures to do so either. That is not much different from your wanting your ETI to possess the qualities you prize (having no commandments, instructions, jealousy, etc.). Since your ‘deity’ (if I may use that term in the absence of another, more appropriate one) is of your own design, you want to craft it in your own image. How can you blame the revealed God of the Bible for asking the same of his creation?

And what is wrong with the God of the universe giving instructions or telling us about himself? If an intelligent being did create the universe, don’t you think he would want his creation to know something about himself? The things that he has created already speak volumes (“The heavens declare the glory of God” Psalm 19:1), but he wanted us to know him even more intimately, so he has spoken to many down through the centuries. From Abraham to the time of Jesus Christ, he spoke mainly to Jews. Why the preferential treatment? Since the first man (Adam), we have all transgressed God’s laws. That is, we act disgustingly different than he himself would act. As a result, no one deserves any kind of attention from God accept immediate and ultimate judgment. But, God is far more merciful than you give him credit. He could treat Abraham preferentially because it was all of mercy anyway – and when we’re talking about mercy, no one has a right to demand it.

But what was the point of all of this conversation between God and man? He said, “I’m going to forgive you.” Now, that’s hardly a distasteful thing to say. The record of God’s communication to man (The Bible) is the record of God’s intention to forgive our transgression of his law – which began with Adam – and the ultimate satisfaction of his justice. He said that he would not punish us for our unrighteousness. But, since he is perfectly just, there still must be appropriate punishment for that unrighteousness. So, he sends his perfectly righteous Son to suffer in our stead. Not that God has a biological child – that would be ridiculous. But God as a perfectly unlimited, boundless Spirit had an idea of himself. Since he has always existed, he has always had this ‘reflection’ – if you will – of himself which is his contemplation of his own infinite perfection. You see, as an infinite God reflects on his own infinite perfection, the image that he has of himself is infinitely perfect, and therefore divine in its own right and just as much a part of God as the originator is. Somewhere in this mystery, I think, is the proper understanding of God the Father and the God the Son (The Holy Spirit may be a topic for later).

Now, it should be apparent that the most precious thing in all the universe to God would be this manifestation of his glory. He (for I should really stop referring to Christ as ‘it’) is his ‘Son’ in a very real sense. When the Father sent the Son (the image of himself – one with him) to become a man and die on our behalf (for our transgression merited a human death), he declared the glories of his mercy and grace in the loudest, clearest way imaginable. This is the message of the Bible: God has sent his Son to die for law-breakers. He has cancelled an eternity of debt for those who will but love him and accept the gift. Isn’t that kind of love worthy of worship and honor and respect? The Bible is not a record of God’s cruel injustice. It is a record of his perfect justice and boundless grace.

This is why I say that worshiping the God of the Bible is more glorious than worshiping limp, uncaring dirt. But not only is ETI less glorious; what if your idea is just really wrong? Wouldn’t it be so tragic to discover at the moment you depart this life that the book you always rejected was the actual revelation of the Creator? I say that not to try to get anyone to believe in the Bible just to ‘cover their bases’, but to try to get you to at least read the Scriptures and see if they ring true. Many others far more intelligent than you or I have thought so. It is at least worth a look. I believe it’s worth your life.


Anonymous said...

How exactly is this a "conversation"? this was more a statement of your position - which is not call it a conversation however as it fails to echo a bi-directional flow of opinions, facts, ideas, etc.

Corey Reynolds said...

Note the first line: "The following is a part of a conversation that I had recently with a Pantheist." I think that clears up most of the confusion.