Tuesday, September 24, 2013

THE GREAT CONTROVERSY



Recently a friend wanted to comment on my blog by posting an article written by a Seventh-day Adventist theologian.  I always welcome comments on the essays that I have posted to this blog, as long as they are germane to an issue that I may have raised in the essay.  Ordinarily, I would prefer that comments not include articles written by third parties, except as links.  I did take a look at the article that my friend wanted to post and decided that it raised, even if tangentially, a number of questions in my thinking that I felt might be interesting to discuss.  So, first of all, here is a link to the article, which was written by Graham Maxwell back in 1987:  http://www.pineknoll.org/home/1211-how-god-won-his-case

This article concerns a doctrine of the SDA church regarding events predating the creation story in Genesis 1.  Anyone reading this who is not familiar with this SDA doctrine may wonder where this story came from.  My understanding is that it comes from the writings of Ellen G. White, the SDA’s self-proclaimed prophetess, who based the tale on various biblical texts scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments and on visions that she claimed to have received from God.

This is my understanding of the relevant doctrine, along with questions that it raises in my thinking.  

God has existed for eternity.  At some point in the past he created a host of beings presumably existing with him in heaven (I’ll call them angels).  So, the first set of questions:

Q: What did God do for the infinite time period prior to creating the angels?

Q: Why did God create the angels?  What function did they serve?  Did they have duties to perform, or were they just there to worship God?

It seems the angels were endowed with free will, since one of them, Lucifer, came to the conclusion that God did not deserve to continue ruling heaven.  I imagine this as being like the young wolf deciding to try to dethrone the herd’s longstanding alpha male.  Lucifer then lobbied the other angels and actually got a lot of them to agree with him(!).  He then openly challenged God for leadership.  Of course, Lucifer didn’t stand a chance.  After all, God is omnipotent.  So God threw Lucifer out of heaven along with his cronies, and the bad angels wound up on earth.  Next questions:

Q: God, being omniscient, had to know that Lucifer would do this, so why did God create Lucifer in the first place?  Free will, you say?  As I have stated before, the theory is that when humans go to heaven (I guess I won’t be there, but anyway), they will continue to have free will but will never make a wrong (sinful) choice ever again(?).  [In articles on chess, it is standard notation to use a question mark to indicate that the player has made a bad move.  Here I guess I’m using it to state that I disagree strongly with the proposition.]  So why did Lucifer (and his cronies) sin?

Q: What was Lucifer’s complaint?  Heaven should have been . . . well . . . heavenly.  What was there not to like?  Was it just Lucifer’s megalomaniacal desire to be top dog?

Q: How could Lucifer possibly think that he could overthrow God?  He must have known that God was the creator and was all powerful.  Did he think that he could convince God (or the rest of the angels) that he was right and God was wrong?  After all, just because God is omnipotent doesn’t make him right(!).  Now that last is, I think, an interesting proposition.

Q: Is Lucifer pure evil or does/did he have a palpable claim?

So how does humankind fit into this story?  My understanding of the chronology of this tale is that this all took place before God created our world and humankind.  But Satan (aka Lucifer) found himself in the Garden of Eden, tempted Eve, and the rest is “history,” as they say.

Now here is where it gets interesting and where Graham Maxwell’s little article comes in.  It appears that humankind represented a key battleground between God and Satan.  And Satan won Round One, getting Eve and Adam to disobey God--a standing 8-count for God.  But then things get fuzzy for me, and I’m afraid I really don’t get Maxwell’s argument.  My questions:

Q: Was God’s humankind experiment just that, an experiment with us as guinea pigs to see if we would give our faith to God?  I’m not really keen on being a guinea pig in an experiment.  There are a lot of good times, but there is also pain and suffering.

Q: How do the stories of the Old Testament help to make God’s case?  Of course, there’s Job who stuck with God despite Satan’s best efforts to torture him--with God’s complicity, I might add.  But it seems to me that that is more a tribute to Job than it is to God.  After all, for every Job there are numerous others who, if treated as shabbily as Job was, would have turned on God.  And the OT is filled with instances where the Israelites, the chosen people, kept turning away from God and worshipping other gods.  It seems that it wasn’t enough that God was God.  He had to prove his God-ship by getting them out of one scrape after another.

Q: And, finally--the elephant in the room--how would Christ’s life, death, and resurrection serve to clinch the case for God?  Was Satan actually threatening to win the game until God brought in his ace reliever, Christ, who quelled Satan’s rally?

This last point is deserving of its own essay: What did Christ’s life, death, and supposed resurrection have to do with God’s decision to give humans a shot at salvation?  I just don’t get it.

© 2013 John M. Phillips

4 comments:

  1. Our shot a salvation...why do we deserve that is your question. Well, only Adam and Eve really knew God personally...and it doesn't seem like they had a long acquaintance before satan got involved. So until Jesus came to show us what God is like we had a very jaded picture. True, our first parents were born without sin, the desire to protect self at the expense of others, the survival of the fittest...but they didn't have much time to develop character....self-sacrificing love. As parents we have a small understanding of what that means...we would die for our kids safety. So if we consider God, our Father, and if He loves us as a parent then wouldn't you go to great length to rescue your child from an enemy who has captured your child? My understand is that God created earth and humans in His image...so we in turn could show the universe what love means. We were giving the sacred ability to create. To come together in oneness and have an offspring. We would then love and care for this child as He loved and cared for us. We would demonstrate the nature of love, we would live out the principles of the law of love which is what life is built on, which is the very character of God.

    Think of the world we were given...every need met...beauty everywhere, love from a Godly parent Do you realize the expense people go to today, to have the perfect nursery in readiness, buy the most beautiful clothing and the best, safest baby furniture...we are just as ready as God was to provide for our children...we love them when the cry and need cleaning and keep us awake half the night for the first year...we sacrifice for them...why would God do less? What did Jesus do while here...He healed and fed and loved, forgave, fellowshipped and the "church" leaders hated everything about Him. We often, sadly, are shown a false picture of God, angels, heaven, by the very people who claim to have all the truth. Jesus tried to show them a better way, but they rejected Him and called Him a devil...worthy of death on a cross.

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    1. Lisa,

      I count that I posed nine questions in the above essay. I don't think any of them specifically dealt with whether we deserve salvation, as your comment implies. To be honest, I had a very difficult time understanding how your comments related to the essay beyond being a series of unsupported evangelical Christian assertions. I feel badly saying this, but I have read through you comments several times and have difficulty following their logic, and I consider myself a person of normal intelligence.

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  2. Thanks, John...I love it! I was writing at 1:00 at night...

    What God did before creation began of angels??? Is that important to know? Maybe planning an every expanding universe...seems like that would take a few billion years...

    Why angels...because God is love and love is shared. As I said above, I think Jesus took the form of an angel to fellowship with them on a very personal angel level...but He was still infinite, and they weren't.

    There are some things I would think the creators would do or understand that created beings could not completely comprehend...like an adult and a child...Only Angels are never immortal so they are always at a different level. Somehow Lucifer resented this, felt that God was unfair...and challenged His rule of love. Jesus showed us His great love, coming as a human and allowing satan to kill Him, to show His great love for His creation and His desire to give us life eternal, through reestablishing connection, trust and peace with us, and demonstrating to the world what satan is really like.

    I can tell you what I believe but I assume you will just dismiss it as "series of unsupported evangelical Christian assertions." That's the best I can do in 10 mins.

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    1. Lisa,

      Why did I ask these questions, anyway? The reason is that if one is open to different possible explanations, then one way to sort through those explanations is to ask whether the consequences that would follow from a particular explanation make sense or instead lead to positions that are illogical. On the other hand, if one's mind is not open to other alternatives, then I suppose that whether the consequences of a particular explanation are reasonable or not doesn't matter. I asked the question about what God was doing before creation because there are major logical problems that infinity creates. Even if God spent billions of years planning creation (and really why would it take that long for an omniscient, omnipotent God?), what was he doing before that idea occurred to him, since in terms of infinity, billions of years is as the winking of the eye, in other words next to nothing. That is, there would have been an infinity of time before God began the creation process when he was doing . . . What? One could say, "Is that important to know?" or "We will find out in Heaven," or one could say, "Maybe the God-as-creator explanation isn't such a good one." The test is whether one is open to other points of view or not.

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