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The Kingdom, faith, and definition

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  • Matthew Knox
    Everyone, Given the dramatic increase in participants here, I am going to try to consolidate some responses here and explain myself. First of all let me say
    Message 1 of 8 , Jan 24, 2000
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      Everyone,

      Given the dramatic increase in participants here, I am going to try to
      consolidate some responses here and explain myself. First of all let me say
      how encouraging it is to get a chance to recieve all this input...the Web is
      a good thing apparently. Second, its getting to be difficult to reply to
      everything everyone is sending, so if you feel I am avoiding responding to
      an important point raised by you or someone else...please be sure to post me
      pointing this out.

      Part of my problem is this...why Christianity? Not why Christianity as
      opposed to Buddhism or Islam so much as, why do we believe that God is so
      narrowly defined as the qualities and distinctions suggested by any one of
      these different faith systems exclusively? I found my Dad's letter moving
      and heart-felt too, and as he well knows I don't (and haven't) ever presumed
      to dispute the fact that my youth and immaturity are a factor in this crisis
      of faith. I haven't exactly come to terms with even rudimentary and more
      obviously tangible sectors of my life, much less these issues of Divinity.
      Also I know that this process isn't about "total knowledge and security" of
      God...I am not looking for flawless and complete answers that will remove
      any ounce of risk from my faith. More over I am not trying to protect sin
      areas or self-determinism in my life by raising impossible and unknowable
      questions as a barrier between me and spiritual transformation. I would just
      like to find a few simple strands of consistency, not selective consistency
      such as "look at how much God talks about loving us in the Bible" but
      holistic consistency which acknowledges and attempts to deal with the
      negatives as well.

      But let's be really honest for a moment here. First, when my Dad mentions
      that he gets no negative discriptions of God from 20 people in five minutes
      or whatever, it is because the Christian paradigm precludes the culpability
      of God for anything evil or truly unplesant. All bad things, including the
      need for agriculture and the physical discomfort of child-birth, are due to
      OUR fallen nature, OUR decision to sin, or the role of Satan and his
      creation of evil but never to God the Creator of everything. This I find to
      be a little difficult to accept. Brian can accept an evolutionary model
      that discouages the literalist interpretation of the creation narrative,
      effectively calling into question the legitimacy of the story of Adam and
      Eve, and yet, this is where all the "bad" things that exist in the world
      descend from according to scripture including such universal biological
      conditions as hunger, the ageing process, and physical pain. This is the
      biblical explanation that allows God to be purely good and loving, and
      suffering or iniquity to never be His fault (the closest we'll get is to say
      that God "allows" bad things to happen, but He never appears in a causal
      role, like he does with all love, justice, and goodness).

      The Christian tradition maintains that this universally loving God selects
      Abraham and his descendents to be the sole beneficiaries of His love and
      affection, effectively leaving the rest of the earth's population to serve
      as props for repremanding the "chosen people" through times of temporary
      dominance, or as depositories for land, food, and wealth, which can be
      casually annihilated when its time to reward the Hebrews. Its strikes me as
      nearly impossible to call this a just or loving policy toward humanity.
      Whats more, the old-testament scripture offers forth a history of the Jews
      which supports a mythic "mannifest destiny" conviently explicating times of
      hardship as "tough" love and times of abundance as God's goodness...with
      sufficent criticism of the back-sliding Hebrews to allow for the next period
      of "trial". This is a classic mythic-historical model that is apparent in
      almost every developed religious system in the world and visible even in
      secular conceptions of nationalism...yet where we would deny it for other
      mythic histories, in this case it is somehow clearly the facts. This is
      where contemporary Judism still remains today in many ways, a fiercely
      nationalistic and seperatist people who maintain the possession of a unique
      relationship with God.

      Christianity claims to be the rest of the story of the Hebrew God's
      relationship to the world. Christ claims to be the messiah and to share a
      singular nature with God allowing him to amend and redefine the relationship
      of God to humanity as maintained by strict Judaism. It takes how ever many
      thousands of years for God to decide to include all of humanity (rather than
      just the Jews) in His relationship, but again, this is not His fault...its
      due to the total and complete wickedness of the non-Hebrews (Hebrew
      wickedness being remmediable). To evaluate this we must call into question
      the essential precondition that we seem to blindly attach to all our
      thoughts of God in the Old Testament (despite a rather capricious and
      contradictory story line); that He MUST be purely and soley good, and MUST
      be beyond anything unjust or unloving to humanity as a whole. It can be
      asserted that Christ's amendments are refiguring some truly unjust and
      capricious aspects of nationistic Judaism, but also some essential and
      scriptural characteristics of the faith as well. So the truth of Christ's
      claim is the glue that holds the scriptural message of God's relationship
      with humanity together(as understood by Christians). This makes Christ an
      incontestably controversial figure whose legitimacy must be determined. Did
      Christ arise from the dead? Was Christ the messiah? Was Christ God?

      As far as understanding Christ goes, I have to disagree with Brian's
      presentaion of Christ's message as "scandalously inclusive" and explanation
      of Hell as a political rebuttal to the Pharisees as an extremely selective
      reading. Yes, Christ certainly is shockingly more inclusive than the Jews,
      but lets not pretend that Christ was including prostitutes and social
      outcasts because of anything other than their essential humanity (as opposed
      to their essential Judaism, or gender, or class). Christ demanded the same
      obediance, self-sacrifice, love of God, and abandonment of sin of all
      people, truly inclusive, but also made clear the difficulty and suffering
      inherent in Godliness and that the majority of people would reject God and
      cut themselves off from the inheritence of the Kingdom of God. In the
      dichotomy that Christ invokes of "the wages of sin being death" and "no one
      coming to the father except through me" (as opposed to Jewish legalism,
      maintainence of ritual, etc.) recogniton of Christ's divinity and true faith
      in His promise IS undeniably established as a precondition to participation
      in the Kingdom of Heaven...not so inclusive now. Christ's imagery is
      replete with scenes of despair and loss exhibited by the many who would fail
      to successfully pursue the "Peral of Great Price" but find themselves in the
      torment of seperation from God and abandonment. Let's confront the whole
      picture clearly spelled out in scripture and not just the inclusive
      sections. Christ claimed to be a sword of division as a well as a unifying
      savior. This dosen't conflict for me with an understanding of Christ as
      being loving... blind inclusivism is extremely problematic, but it sure does
      color the way we percieve the consequence and effect of disbelief. It is an
      essential factor to the meaning of Christ's death and ressurection, because
      if there didn't exist a gulf of death and damnation between man and God then
      Christ's appropritation of the sins of the world through death is
      meaningless, and thus unnecessesary our understanding of our relationship
      with God.

      The lynch pin to this whole deal seems to me to be an understanding of God
      as pure (directly responsible for all that is good and beautiful, but not
      for anything that is bad or evil), and humanity as having itself to blame
      for everything wrong with the planet, ourselves, and our spirituality. If I
      construct a watch that is defective and can't keep time...it seems a little
      shady to me and illogical to accuse the watch. Even more so when you
      consider that apperently we have ourselves to thank for hunger, old age,
      death, sickness, catastrophe, the food-chain, pregnency, and any other
      problematic aspect of life that seems to suggest a less than perfectly
      loving creator. How do we maintain the truth of this in good faith?

      Matt
      ______________________________________________________
    • Stephen Shields
      Matt wrote:
      Message 2 of 8 , Jan 24, 2000
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        Matt wrote:

        <<I would just
        like to find a few simple strands of consistency, not selective
        consistency
        such as "look at how much God talks about loving us in the Bible" but
        holistic consistency which acknowledges and attempts to deal with the
        negatives as well.>>

        Could you talk about this a bit more? Maybe this would be helpful for
        all of us: could you extrapolate one possible solution that you would
        find satisfying? The problem of evil is so massively difficult that
        I'm having a hard time distinguishing

        <<holistic consistency >>

        from

        <<complete answers that will remove
        any ounce of risk from my faith>>

        Can you explore with us what that might look like? Perhaps brainstorm
        some possible scenarios?

        Stephen
      • BrianCRCC@aol.com
        Matt -- two other quick thoughts in response to your most recent post ... 1. Your portrayal of God s choosing of the Jews as trivializing to everyone else is
        Message 3 of 8 , Jan 24, 2000
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          Matt -- two other quick thoughts in response to your most recent post ...

          1. Your portrayal of God's choosing of the Jews as trivializing to everyone
          else is not what I believe. One of my favorite authors, Lesslie Newbigin,
          would call that an example of "the greatest heresy in history," and probably
          one of the most common too. He points out how God's calling are not to
          exclusive privilege, but rather, to be an instrument of blessing to the
          world. In other words, God chooses some and makes them a channel of his
          blessing to others. You're pretty stuck on a "who's in - who's out"
          approach, and I think that's much smaller, much more reductionist, than a
          holistic biblical approach.

          2. Your portrayal of all trouble and pain in the world being our own fault
          is also not what I believe. C. S. Lewis didn't believe that either. His
          book "The Problem of Pain" spells out a view that is much more three
          dimensional, less reductionistic, less simplistic.

          I am amazed by the speed and sophistication of your responses! I'm out of
          breath trying to keep up! -- Brian
        • DJ Chuang
          Hello Matt: I have scanned the current discussion with riveting interest, and wish I had time like Brian and Stephen to engage in more detail *grin* I ve
          Message 4 of 8 , Jan 24, 2000
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            Hello Matt:
            I have scanned the current discussion with riveting interest, and wish
            I had time like Brian and Stephen to engage in more detail *grin*

            I've wrestled with similar questions that you're presenting here,
            though perhaps not with the same intensity or perspective, for I grew
            up in a traditional Chinese home, and had to sort thru things to
            embrace Christ rather than to reject him. What I find disappointing is
            that [it seems] many Christians (and many people of any faith or
            non-faith) do not wrestle with the philosophy and worldview related to
            spiritual things. And for the more innocent and less philosophical
            Christians, they have their place in the Kingdom, and I am to let them
            be.

            re: Why Christianity rather than other religions? or why select an
            exclusive system at all?

            Where I'm at with religious systems is this, that it isn't so much that
            Christianity as a system has the totality and exclusivity of spiritual
            truths, but that Christianity for me has the most consistent and most
            helpful truths in understanding the whole of existence. Other religions
            tend to foster personal tranquility or establishes a system of rules
            that benefits society, but Christianity gives me much more room to deal
            with reality really and mystery profoundly. I met a seminary professor
            who confided in me that he is a Zen Baptist, so not all Christians
            adhere to a tightly systematic exclusive understanding of the world.

            re: who's to blame for pain and problems

            I am not sure what you'd like to do with this question. It may seem
            unfair that all the blame is put on humanity for the problems we have.
            But I'm not sure putting [some of] the blame on God is any more
            helpful. What would be the implications of doing that, if you were to
            think of God that way?

            His Seeker,

            DJ Chuang
            http://djchuang.homepage.com/

            "matthew knox" <memasterhimblaste-@...> wrote:

            > Part of my problem is this...why Christianity? Not why Christianity
            as
            > opposed to Buddhism or Islam so much as, why do we believe that God
            is so
            > narrowly defined as the qualities and distinctions suggested by any
            one of
            > these different faith systems exclusively?
            :
            > The lynch pin to this whole deal seems to me to be an understanding
            of God
            > as pure (directly responsible for all that is good and beautiful, but
            not
            > for anything that is bad or evil), and humanity as having itself to
            blame
            > for everything wrong with the planet, ourselves, and our
            spirituality.
          • Matthew Knox
            DJ Chuang, Thank you for the response, its nice to hear from a new voice and your personal story sounds very interesting. The reason the evil question is
            Message 5 of 8 , Jan 25, 2000
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              DJ Chuang,

              Thank you for the response, its nice to hear from a new voice and your
              personal story sounds very interesting. The reason the evil question is
              important to me is because in the Christian narrative it assumes such
              crucial importance. It is because of the decision against God of Lucifer
              that the Angels fall and Satan's rival camp is established, it is because of
              Adam and Eve's rebellion that all of humanity forever is held liable to
              damnation, it is because of the wickedness of Man that God floods the earth,
              endorses genocide (e.g. the Cannanites), and allows pain and suffering.
              Every biological unpleasantry is explained by the Bible as a consequence of
              Adam and Eve's decision, as is the necessity for Christ to sacrifice himself
              for the "sins of the world". Thus the presence of sin, death, pain, old-age,
              capriciousness, the food chain, hell, suffering, war, disease, infidelity,
              and uncertainty are all our own fault. Adam and Eve somehow spoke for the
              totality of humanity and because of our now fallen, sinful natures the God
              who loves us and is so purely good that no evil can exist in his presence is
              forced to remain seperate and repulsed by our iniquity. Well obviously if
              this same God is responsible for the introduction of evil and its
              continuance then he is (from the Christian perspective) a untrustworthy, who
              has, in defiance of love, created conditions which damn the majority of his
              creations and blamed them for it. Or, it calls into question the validity
              of the Chrisitian depiction of the dichotomy between good and evil and
              suggests an extremely flawed mythology...one which suggests the need for
              another perspective. While the consideration of the complicity of God in
              suffering is not necessarily comfortable or helpful to me (as far as finding
              spiritual peace), I do feel that it is important to the search for truth and
              the nature of divinity.

              Matt


              >From: "DJ Chuang" <djchuang@...>
              >Reply-To: findingfaith@egroups.com
              >To: findingfaith@...
              >Subject: Re: The Kingdom, faith, and definition
              >Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000 15:05:06 -0800
              >
              >
              >Hello Matt:
              >I have scanned the current discussion with riveting interest, and wish
              >I had time like Brian and Stephen to engage in more detail *grin*
              >
              >I've wrestled with similar questions that you're presenting here,
              >though perhaps not with the same intensity or perspective, for I grew
              >up in a traditional Chinese home, and had to sort thru things to
              >embrace Christ rather than to reject him. What I find disappointing is
              >that [it seems] many Christians (and many people of any faith or
              >non-faith) do not wrestle with the philosophy and worldview related to
              >spiritual things. And for the more innocent and less philosophical
              >Christians, they have their place in the Kingdom, and I am to let them
              >be.
              >
              >re: Why Christianity rather than other religions? or why select an
              >exclusive system at all?
              >
              >Where I'm at with religious systems is this, that it isn't so much that
              >Christianity as a system has the totality and exclusivity of spiritual
              >truths, but that Christianity for me has the most consistent and most
              >helpful truths in understanding the whole of existence. Other religions
              >tend to foster personal tranquility or establishes a system of rules
              >that benefits society, but Christianity gives me much more room to deal
              >with reality really and mystery profoundly. I met a seminary professor
              >who confided in me that he is a Zen Baptist, so not all Christians
              >adhere to a tightly systematic exclusive understanding of the world.
              >
              >re: who's to blame for pain and problems
              >
              >I am not sure what you'd like to do with this question. It may seem
              >unfair that all the blame is put on humanity for the problems we have.
              >But I'm not sure putting [some of] the blame on God is any more
              >helpful. What would be the implications of doing that, if you were to
              >think of God that way?
              >
              >His Seeker,
              >
              >DJ Chuang
              >http://djchuang.homepage.com/
              >
              >"matthew knox" <memasterhimblaste-@...> wrote:
              >
              > > Part of my problem is this...why Christianity? Not why Christianity
              >as
              > > opposed to Buddhism or Islam so much as, why do we believe that God
              >is so
              > > narrowly defined as the qualities and distinctions suggested by any
              >one of
              > > these different faith systems exclusively?
              >:
              > > The lynch pin to this whole deal seems to me to be an understanding
              >of God
              > > as pure (directly responsible for all that is good and beautiful, but
              >not
              > > for anything that is bad or evil), and humanity as having itself to
              >blame
              > > for everything wrong with the planet, ourselves, and our
              >spirituality.
              >
              >
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              ______________________________________________________
            • DJ Chuang
              Matt: Thanks for taking time to respond; I guess wanting to leave no stone unturned, we can explore the complicity of God in suffering. Actually, before we go
              Message 6 of 8 , Jan 28, 2000
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                Matt:
                Thanks for taking time to respond; I guess wanting to leave no stone
                unturned, we can explore the complicity of God in suffering. Actually,
                before we go there, I want to toss a few more ideas on the table:

                1. most biological unpleasantries and suffering and pain and evil are
                not explained by the Bible to be directly the result of Adam and Eve's
                decision; the book of Job seems to put pain and suffering into the
                category of mystery (in other words, it's not so cause & effect)

                2. pain and suffering may have been initiated by Satan, and infected to
                the human race by Adam and Eve, and by many people in succession
                throughout history, people born in that lineage haven't been able to
                avert it, tho' some have tried valiantly

                3. God doesn't sit idly by letting pain and suffering go on as if He
                didn't care, but does the most and the best that He can by sending
                Jesus Christ -- he knows suffering as well as any of us

                4. just an observation- it seems for a many people, the problem of pain
                and suffering is just a part of life (for the Buddhist, for example,
                all of life is suffering); for others, they blame it on God and resist
                Him; for Christ-followers, they blame it on Satan and cling to God

                DJ

                "matthew knox" <memasterhimblaste-@...> wrote:

                > Every biological unpleasantry is explained by the Bible as a
                consequence of
                > Adam and Eve's decision, as is the necessity for Christ to sacrifice
                himself
                > for the "sins of the world". Thus the presence of sin, death, pain,
                old-age,
                > capriciousness, the food chain, hell, suffering, war, disease,
                infidelity,
                > and uncertainty are all our own fault. Adam and Eve somehow spoke
                for the
                > totality of humanity and because of our now fallen, sinful natures
                the God
                > who loves us and is so purely good that no evil can exist in his
                presence is
                > forced to remain seperate and repulsed by our iniquity. Well
                obviously if
                > this same God is responsible for the introduction of evil and its
                > continuance then he is (from the Christian perspective) a
                untrustworthy, who
                > has, in defiance of love, created conditions which damn the majority
                of his
                > creations and blamed them for it. Or, it calls into question the
                validity
                > of the Chrisitian depiction of the dichotomy between good and evil
                and
                > suggests an extremely flawed mythology...one which suggests the need
                for
                > another perspective. While the consideration of the complicity of
                God in
                > suffering is not necessarily comfortable or helpful to me (as far as
                finding
                > spiritual peace), I do feel that it is important to the search for
                truth and
                > the nature of divinity.
              • Matthew Knox
                DJ This is kind of a tangent from where I am in my questioning right now, but I d like to give a quick response...Brian s last post is going to take a while to
                Message 7 of 8 , Jan 28, 2000
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                  DJ

                  This is kind of a tangent from where I am in my questioning right now, but
                  I'd like to give a quick response...Brian's last post is going to take a
                  while to respond to, and hopefully I'll get it out by Sunday.

                  1.) Actually, I believe on expulsion from the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve
                  are informed that the consequences of their actions involve a number of
                  biological realities for us today, mortality, physical pain (e.g. child
                  birth), the food-chain, harsh environmental conditions,etc....many of the
                  things that we relate with the presence of suffering in our ecological
                  system. Whats more the book of Job leaves little mystery about it, the
                  presence of extreme suffering in Job's life is due to a strange bet between
                  Satan and God...God wins but chastizes Job for his audacity in questioning
                  why, as a righteous man, his suffering should have been so severe. The real
                  mystery here seems to be how this fits the profile of a loving God, whose
                  unnecessary and seemingly capricious bet with the oppositional figure of
                  Satan gives Job over to the most savage vindictiveness Satan can devise.
                  God's response to Job's indignation over the fact that He literally abandons
                  Job to Satan, is to basically tell him to know his place rather than presume
                  to question the mind of God. Super.

                  2.)Satan (God's creation) creates evil (somehow) and passes it like a
                  genetic plague to humanity which somehow is damned by it on principle for
                  all succeding generations of existing humans...hmmm, I'm a little skeptical
                  about this explanation. In earlier posts I've explained why if God creates
                  Lucifer/Satan out of His own perfect goodness then it really makes
                  absolutely no sense that Lucifer/Satan initiates sin, because where did he
                  get it? He's a creation of God's...so he's perfectly good. All that exists
                  is stuff God created, and God knows nothing of evil...so where'd it come
                  from?

                  3.) According to scripture God didn't send his Son for thousands of years to
                  redeem mankind...and pain and suffering continues, Christ's symbol is that
                  of the cross...ignominy and suffering, and what we are urged to embrace in
                  order to follow Christ...transcendence not absolution.

                  4.) I think the Buddhist's have it right, pain and death comprise a large
                  part of the fabric of life...there is a dynamic tension. There is no
                  biological evidence to support the notion that life has ever existed (or is
                  capable of existing) pain free. The way we regard that pain is the key,
                  Christ offers a path of transcendence which calls for the embracing of death
                  and suffering in order to move beyond into "rebirth". However, blaming
                  Satan (as much a creature of God as any of us) seems a little questionable
                  to me as far as freeing God from responsibility.

                  Matt


                  >From: "DJ Chuang" <djchuang@...>
                  >Reply-To: findingfaith@egroups.com
                  >To: findingfaith@...
                  >Subject: Re: The Kingdom, faith, and definition
                  >Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 15:13:45 -0800
                  >
                  >
                  >Matt:
                  >Thanks for taking time to respond; I guess wanting to leave no stone
                  >unturned, we can explore the complicity of God in suffering. Actually,
                  >before we go there, I want to toss a few more ideas on the table:
                  >
                  >1. most biological unpleasantries and suffering and pain and evil are
                  >not explained by the Bible to be directly the result of Adam and Eve's
                  >decision; the book of Job seems to put pain and suffering into the
                  >category of mystery (in other words, it's not so cause & effect)
                  >
                  >2. pain and suffering may have been initiated by Satan, and infected to
                  >the human race by Adam and Eve, and by many people in succession
                  >throughout history, people born in that lineage haven't been able to
                  >avert it, tho' some have tried valiantly
                  >
                  >3. God doesn't sit idly by letting pain and suffering go on as if He
                  >didn't care, but does the most and the best that He can by sending
                  >Jesus Christ -- he knows suffering as well as any of us
                  >
                  >4. just an observation- it seems for a many people, the problem of pain
                  >and suffering is just a part of life (for the Buddhist, for example,
                  >all of life is suffering); for others, they blame it on God and resist
                  >Him; for Christ-followers, they blame it on Satan and cling to God
                  >
                  >DJ
                  >
                  >"matthew knox" <memasterhimblaste-@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > > Every biological unpleasantry is explained by the Bible as a
                  >consequence of
                  > > Adam and Eve's decision, as is the necessity for Christ to sacrifice
                  >himself
                  > > for the "sins of the world". Thus the presence of sin, death, pain,
                  >old-age,
                  > > capriciousness, the food chain, hell, suffering, war, disease,
                  >infidelity,
                  > > and uncertainty are all our own fault. Adam and Eve somehow spoke
                  >for the
                  > > totality of humanity and because of our now fallen, sinful natures
                  >the God
                  > > who loves us and is so purely good that no evil can exist in his
                  >presence is
                  > > forced to remain seperate and repulsed by our iniquity. Well
                  >obviously if
                  > > this same God is responsible for the introduction of evil and its
                  > > continuance then he is (from the Christian perspective) a
                  >untrustworthy, who
                  > > has, in defiance of love, created conditions which damn the majority
                  >of his
                  > > creations and blamed them for it. Or, it calls into question the
                  >validity
                  > > of the Chrisitian depiction of the dichotomy between good and evil
                  >and
                  > > suggests an extremely flawed mythology...one which suggests the need
                  >for
                  > > another perspective. While the consideration of the complicity of
                  >God in
                  > > suffering is not necessarily comfortable or helpful to me (as far as
                  >finding
                  > > spiritual peace), I do feel that it is important to the search for
                  >truth and
                  > > the nature of divinity.
                  >
                  >
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                  ______________________________________________________
                • Nick Tsiakals
                  Hey Matt. I ve been sitting here on the side lines, trying to keep myself afloat with all the postings. Quite a bit of material to sift through! (at least
                  Message 8 of 8 , Feb 8, 2000
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                    Hey Matt.

                    I've been sitting here on the side lines, trying to keep myself afloat
                    with all the postings. Quite a bit of material to sift through! (at
                    least with my schedule...)

                    In all this talk of faith and the nature of God and the problem of evil
                    etc etc, I feel there is something overlooked. You wrote:

                    <<
                    Satan (God's creation) creates evil (somehow) and passes it like a
                    genetic plague to humanity which somehow is damned by it on principle
                    for
                    all succeding generations of existing humans...hmmm, I'm a little
                    skeptical
                    about this explanation. In earlier posts I've explained why if God
                    creates
                    Lucifer/Satan out of His own perfect goodness then it really makes
                    absolutely no sense that Lucifer/Satan initiates sin, because where did
                    he
                    get it? He's a creation of God's...so he's perfectly good. All that
                    exists
                    is stuff God created, and God knows nothing of evil...so where'd it
                    come
                    from?
                    ...
                    However, blaming Satan (as much a creature of God as any of us) seems a
                    little questionable to me as far as freeing God from responsibility
                    [regarding the presence of evil, its origin and continuation].
                    >>

                    You know the free will argument. It seems to me to be part of being
                    made in the image of God to have personality. And part of personality
                    is the ability to choose. Just a thought.

                    The Christian God is the personal-infinite God. In this discussion I
                    hear precious few words about the personal God -- God' s infinitude is
                    perhaps the most easily grasped thing about Him... Of course there has
                    to be something in back of it all! And why not call that 'God'? But
                    His personality -- should that be accurate of God, to describe Him as
                    having personality -- seems to me the trickier part to get a handle
                    on...

                    As far as the problem of evil, I see the causal relationship you've
                    drawn from God to the presence of evil.
                    God is.
                    God creates.
                    God gives humankind an ability to choose -- to really choose.
                    Man and woman choose to disobey God at a certain point.
                    Through that wrong choice, suffering etc ensues.
                    Therefore, God is responsible for suffering etc..

                    It seems to me that moral responsibility involves a choice of some real
                    kind. So declaring God 'responsible' for evil, that's basically saying
                    that God made a morally wrong choice. The choice in question would
                    seem to be the decision to grant man and woman moral responsibility
                    (rather than not granting it). Does it necessarily follow that this is
                    a morally irresponsible thing for God to do?

                    Let me put it another way. Being a moral referee requires sufficient
                    knowledge to make the judgement call. By what basis can one
                    comprehensively conclude that God's choice (to grant man and woman
                    moral responsibility, however limited) was a wrong one? Because Hell
                    is so hellish? Because non-existence would have been a better fate?
                    That seems to pit the weight of pain against the weight of Heaven. By
                    what basis can one decide that the damnation of most makes the
                    salvation of the few not worth the enterprise, and that God should
                    never have been in the business of imparting moral responsibility to
                    anyone at all?

                    Admittedly, it's more than I can claim to know, to say that it is a
                    *good* thing to proceed with such an enterprise. I can't say yay or
                    nay to it, and I think that's the point of Job's story. Who am I to
                    presume to judge the Almighty? All I can conclude is that in the
                    inestimable counsels of God it was better to do it the way it's been
                    done... Probably not a very convincing statement for the skeptic, but
                    there it is.

                    Perhaps more comforting is the idea that all our suffering is not set
                    to waste... God does take responsibility for dealing with evil. In
                    Jesus we have a solution to the whole predicament. We are to follow
                    Him. We are to be in Him. Apparently, we are to go through suffering
                    to the land of promise. Death, resurrection and ascension. The sins
                    of our fathers are not simply wiped (as if the video tape could be
                    rewound and erased at the point of error). That seems to be 'against
                    the rules' or something. And as I think Brian said earlier, the Bible
                    is not meant to be like the manual to a board game. It's more an
                    invitation. Jesus is the one whom we should follow...

                    I seem to be rambling, but I did want to say something, Matt. Sleep
                    tight.

                    -nick



                    "matthew knox" <memasterhimblaste-@...> wrote:
                    original article:http://www.egroups.com/group/findingfaith/?start=81
                    > DJ
                    >
                    > This is kind of a tangent from where I am in my questioning right
                    now, but
                    > I'd like to give a quick response...Brian's last post is going to
                    take a
                    > while to respond to, and hopefully I'll get it out by Sunday.
                    >
                    > 1.) Actually, I believe on expulsion from the Garden of Eden Adam and
                    Eve
                    > are informed that the consequences of their actions involve a number
                    of
                    > biological realities for us today, mortality, physical pain (e.g.
                    child
                    > birth), the food-chain, harsh environmental conditions,etc....many of
                    the
                    > things that we relate with the presence of suffering in our
                    ecological
                    > system. Whats more the book of Job leaves little mystery about it,
                    the
                    > presence of extreme suffering in Job's life is due to a strange bet
                    between
                    > Satan and God...God wins but chastizes Job for his audacity in
                    questioning
                    > why, as a righteous man, his suffering should have been so severe.
                    The real
                    > mystery here seems to be how this fits the profile of a loving God,
                    whose
                    > unnecessary and seemingly capricious bet with the oppositional figure
                    of
                    > Satan gives Job over to the most savage vindictiveness Satan can
                    devise.
                    > God's response to Job's indignation over the fact that He literally
                    abandons
                    > Job to Satan, is to basically tell him to know his place rather than
                    presume
                    > to question the mind of God. Super.
                    >
                    >
                    > 3.) According to scripture God didn't send his Son for thousands of
                    years to
                    > redeem mankind...and pain and suffering continues, Christ's symbol is
                    that
                    > of the cross...ignominy and suffering, and what we are urged to
                    embrace in
                    > order to follow Christ...transcendence not absolution.
                    >
                    > 4.) I think the Buddhist's have it right, pain and death comprise a
                    large
                    > part of the fabric of life...there is a dynamic tension. There is no
                    > biological evidence to support the notion that life has ever existed
                    (or is
                    > capable of existing) pain free. The way we regard that pain is the
                    key,
                    > Christ offers a path of transcendence which calls for the embracing
                    of death
                    > and suffering in order to move beyond into "rebirth".
                    >
                    > Matt
                    >
                    >
                    > >From: "DJ Chuang" <djchuang@...>
                    > >Reply-To: findingfaith@egroups.com
                    > >To: findingfaith@...
                    > >Subject: Re: The Kingdom, faith, and definition
                    > >Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 15:13:45 -0800
                    > >
                    > >
                    > >Matt:
                    > >Thanks for taking time to respond; I guess wanting to leave no stone
                    > >unturned, we can explore the complicity of God in suffering.
                    Actually,
                    > >before we go there, I want to toss a few more ideas on the table:
                    > >
                    > >1. most biological unpleasantries and suffering and pain and evil are
                    > >not explained by the Bible to be directly the result of Adam and
                    Eve's
                    > >decision; the book of Job seems to put pain and suffering into the
                    > >category of mystery (in other words, it's not so cause & effect)
                    > >
                    > >2. pain and suffering may have been initiated by Satan, and infected
                    to
                    > >the human race by Adam and Eve, and by many people in succession
                    > >throughout history, people born in that lineage haven't been able to
                    > >avert it, tho' some have tried valiantly
                    > >
                    > >3. God doesn't sit idly by letting pain and suffering go on as if He
                    > >didn't care, but does the most and the best that He can by sending
                    > >Jesus Christ -- he knows suffering as well as any of us
                    > >
                    > >4. just an observation- it seems for a many people, the problem of
                    pain
                    > >and suffering is just a part of life (for the Buddhist, for example,
                    > >all of life is suffering); for others, they blame it on God and
                    resist
                    > >Him; for Christ-followers, they blame it on Satan and cling to God
                    > >
                    > >DJ
                    > >
                    > >"matthew knox" <memasterhimblaste-@...> wrote:
                    > >
                    > > > Every biological unpleasantry is explained by the Bible as a
                    > >consequence of
                    > > > Adam and Eve's decision, as is the necessity for Christ to
                    sacrifice
                    > >himself
                    > > > for the "sins of the world". Thus the presence of sin, death,
                    pain,
                    > >old-age,
                    > > > capriciousness, the food chain, hell, suffering, war, disease,
                    > >infidelity,
                    > > > and uncertainty are all our own fault. Adam and Eve somehow spoke
                    > >for the
                    > > > totality of humanity and because of our now fallen, sinful natures
                    > >the God
                    > > > who loves us and is so purely good that no evil can exist in his
                    > >presence is
                    > > > forced to remain seperate and repulsed by our iniquity. Well
                    > >obviously if
                    > > > this same God is responsible for the introduction of evil and its
                    > > > continuance then he is (from the Christian perspective) a
                    > >untrustworthy, who
                    > > > has, in defiance of love, created conditions which damn the
                    majority
                    > >of his
                    > > > creations and blamed them for it. Or, it calls into question the
                    > >validity
                    > > > of the Chrisitian depiction of the dichotomy between good and evil
                    > >and
                    > > > suggests an extremely flawed mythology...one which suggests the
                    need
                    > >for
                    > > > another perspective. While the consideration of the complicity of
                    > >God in
                    > > > suffering is not necessarily comfortable or helpful to me (as far
                    as
                    > >finding
                    > > > spiritual peace), I do feel that it is important to the search for
                    > >truth and
                    > > > the nature of divinity.
                    > >
                    > >
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