Is God loving through inaction? (part 1)

Piggybacking off of my previous post, Dear God?, I wanted to try to tackle a couple of interesting issues that arose there. I pulled the whole faith-based reasoning that I did there out and put it in this new post because it didn’t really belong there. All I really wanted to do was ask the question and explain in detail what I was confused by, and hopefully someone would come along and explain things. The discussion that follows is just my humble attempt at making sense of something that is a controversial subject, so if you find it doesn’t help you, as C.S. Lewis would say, just throw it out and don’t read it.

Anyway, out of the song, Dear God, the singer comes across as angry at God for not acting in a loving way towards His creation, which made me think about the nature of love and God and His interactions with us, a subject I wanted to give more depth to here. The argument is that through either His perceived inaction to rescue innocent people from the harm of others, or though His direct action to hurt innocent people through “acts of God” or natural disasters, He comes across as unloving.

First of all I want to tackle the subject of God’s inaction, from a faith-based perspective (believing that God exists and is loving). If we assume that God is loving, does not love by its nature limit the actions of the lover? In our case, who does God love? Everyone. The lover cannot force His beloved to love Him back, or for that matter, cannot force them to act anyway at all. The beloved must be free to choose God and to act in freedom or else the beloved is NOT free, but a robot or mind-controlled peon controlled by the lover who forces them to love Him and removes their will, which at this point He is no longer a lover at all but just a creator playing with complicated toys. God must either allow freedom in our world, and thus allow for there to be evil as well as good, or He must force us all to be robots with no choice but to choose Him and always act rightly. It appears that evil in this world exists because God wanted us very badly to be free so that we can freely choose to love Him and each other. This seems to have been so important that He limited Himself and allowed evil to exist in the world anyway. We are free, but it has a terrible price – our children are kidnapped, our world is filled with wars, etc. This is the hard price to pay for freedom, but the alternative is to be a robot.

So then one could argue that maybe God could allow people to follow their evil desires, but then prevent them from hurting others or themselves. I believe He tries as best as He can within the limits of our freedom to prevent us personally by frustrating our plans to hurt others or ourselves, but in the end if we are persistent, He will give us over to our tendencies towards destruction. He will not strike us with a lightning bolt. If everyone was struck with a lightning bolt and killed for every wrong action, we would never have progressed past Adam and Eve and God would have been pretty stupid to not have thought of this complication in advance before creation. How about only being struck by lightning every time you think or do something really bad? Again, no freedom – all humanity would live in a constant state of abject terror of God with no hope of loving Him whatsoever, and that any second they might think a bad thought or do something bad, which will result in becoming instant toast. We would all live in caves and probably all starve to death on purpose.

What about God protecting the innocent from people who hurt them, either knowingly or unknowingly? I would say that He does a lot of times, but what about the times He doesn’t? If the hurt ends in death, then the innocent person stands to gain because they return to God Himself. Is not the nature of love unconditional, meaning if it is in the power of the lover, to love his beloved forever, even after death? But if they are hurt and not killed, but must live the rest of their lives with the pain or hurt inflicted on them, how is this loving? Unfortunately, God cannot stop all evil all the time or else the world slides towards the lightning bolt scenario described above, and it becomes impossible to love Him or even live at all. He instead must find a way to restore the broken person. What is the process by which God chooses to intervene in one case but not another? I cannot even pretend to have the ability to make the decision that will continue to hold the delicate balance between divine intervention and the free-will of humanity. Only God, who has perfect knowledge, can make such a decision. So what of the literally millions of people who got the short end of the stick to make love possible?

My best way to answer this with integrity would be by observing my own experience in hardship and draw my conclusions from those experiences, and then tentatively apply my observations to others. If God is loving, He will be with people undergoing hardship stronger than the rest of us, either alive or dead. In my own experience, I have been closer to God, heard his voice most clearly, experienced him most powerfully during times of intense pain and hardship. Ever notice how people who have it all do not necessarily have joy? True happiness (joy) is not a matter of circumstance, but rather an internalized and perpetual state of mind. This does not appear to be something that happens by having a lot of money or by drifting through live without trouble, but rather quite the opposite. It seems to be something that is acquired by going through a lot of trouble and hardship and having God with you all the way through it. Seeing Him comfort you and speak peace into your heart in even the hardest of circumstances somehow internalizes joy that is found in the hardest of times, so it can be sustained in all times that are better. It seems that hardship in life is God’s opportunity to turn the evil He didn’t cause into something beneficial to you, bringing you closer to Him, filling you with joy, and making you a deeper more compassionate person in a world where freedom, and thus evil, must exist. And that to me is the whole point in life: to draw closer to God in a sacred romance, no matter what the cost, even if it is hardship to the point of death.

If God is loving, than it seems that we are to blame for the evil in the world, and I am most certainly personally responsible. This reasoning, at least for me, seems to be pointing towards a conclusion that He is loving because evil exists. Why blame God for giving us the choice, or get angry at God when we willfully choose evil? If He really loved us and gave us choice, shouldn’t both choices be equally appealing? We wouldn’t be free if He stacked the choice in His favor, would we? God would be pretty unfair if He gave us the ability to choose right or wrong because he wanted us to be free, and then we we choose wrong, to strike us with a lightning bolt and send us to hell for it. If it was love that motivated Him to create us to be free to choose Him or not, is it not the same love that will see the free-will struggle were are in and extend mercy without limit to us?

Why is it our tendency to shirk responsibility for the fruit of our own bad choices? Can’t we all agree, whether atheist or theist, that there is something bad inside us that we need to work hard at not allowing to influence us? Not even Sam Harris seems willing to admit this… why not? Why is it so common these days to blame anything or anyone but humanity for the evil in the world? I think the person who has free will and chooses willfully to do wrong is the one responsible for the wrong done. Bad religion, bad parents, and bad environments are influences, but they have no will, so they cannot be held accountable like the humans that do have free will and who are the ones that willfully act badly. Do I have the right to kill or hurt others just because I am influenced to do so? Am I completely excused from my evil actions because of my bad influences? Is God evil for giving me and every other human the choice to be evil and thereby is the cause of all the evil in the world?

Anyway, that wraps up my thoughts about God’s inaction in a free-will based world.  Stay tuned for part 2, where I attempt to discuss if it is possible for God to be loving through natural disasters.

    3 Responses to “Is God loving through inaction? (part 1)”

    1. Asara
      1

      Let me first say, that I very much enjoy reading your blog, though I don’t always agree with your conclusions, because of your searching, self-reflective approach.

      In this post, you mention natural disasters in the second paragraph, but you fail to interpret this in relation to God’s existence. Preventing these, and other natural phenomena (such as disease and accidents) would not involve a balance between free-will and divine intervention. You mention, also, that hardships can allow an individual to grow and progress, but what about occurences that lead to brain damage and other states of existence that forever after prevent the individual from learning and progressing through experience?

      I’m not trying to be argumentative. I really do value your thought processes, and I’m curious how you interpret these phenomena with relation to a loving God’s inaction.

      Reply to this comment.
    2. Jonathan
      2
      Author Comment

      Asara, I love discussion – you don’t have to worry about being argumentative. 🙂 That’s the beauty of having others look over my logic and thinking and being able to comment – there are so many deep thinking people out there that can fill in the gaps in my reasoning process.

      You are right… I left the whole other half of this post out (Is God loving through natural disasters?), but I forgot to mention that it is next in a two-part post series. Thanks for mentioning that… I’ll have to add a note at the bottom of this post. Right now it is just a draft, but already it is as long as this post. Stay tuned! I’ll have it out in a couple of days. Thanks again for stopping by and commenting!

      Reply to this comment.
    3. Asara
      3

      Sorry for jumping the gun on you, Jonathan. I’ll look forward to the next installment, then. 🙂

      Reply to this comment.

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