Debate Rounds (3)
Not sure how great I'll be at debating this, but you ask many questions here that I have pondered myself on this topic - and these are my current thoughts based on listening to both sides of the argument from various people:
1. How do you explain God's existence/who created God/what existed before God?
This question is the easiest to approach, as it is simply logically flawed. If you understand the definition of God to be an infinite being, who exists outside of time, then the question doesn't make sense. Any more than asking the question "what would happen if an irresistible force pushed against an immovable object?" The simple fact is, both cannot exist - they are necessarily mutually exclusive. So it is with God. Either he/she/it just exists with no creator, or he/she/it doesn't exist - there is no logical alternate.
God just is, always has been and always will be. I know many people dislike this logic, but as soon as anything exists you have this problem. Assuming you believe that this universe actually exists (which you can't actually be certain of, but that is a whole different debate!), and you say that God doesn't exist - then what created the universe? Or has the universe just always been and always will be? But then you have the same logical issue - you have merely replaced the issue of God just always existing with the notion that the universe just always existed.
As soon as you believe that "something" exists - then there HAS to be some layer that is infinite, or has "just always" existed. Faced with this logical certainty, it makes significantly more sense to me that an infinite being or God has just always existed, rather than that the universe just always existed (or multiverse or whatever particular alternate stance you may take - it is the same).
2. If there has always been a God why didn't he create humans before?
a) - how do you know that he didn't?
b) - God exists outside of time, therefore to him/her/it there is no before - there just "is".
It's a good question though. Another good question is why did God create humans? I dunno!
3. Why did God form the Earth out of rock?
If anything Genesis 1:1 seems to suggest he/she/it created the Earth out of nothing. But then I'm not a Biblical literalist. God could have created the world in 6 literal days, or he could created the cosmos using a Big Bang or similar notion knowing the destiny of every single atom and that the Earth and stars could have formed over billions of years - making the 6 days of creation a metaphorical "storyline". To my knowledge, the Bible isn't meant to be read as a literal scientific manual.
4. What side should anyone believe?
This is a profound question! The simplest form of this question is do you believe that you yourself exist? You can see things, hear things, touch things, but that doesn't prove you're really here. I maintain that nobody can actually prove anything.
Take something simple: if you think you can prove that a table exists by examining it, walking all around it knocking against the wood or whatever, then you're ignoring the problem that you're relying 100% on your own brain being accurate in interpreted this universe for you. It is a farfetched notion, but to draw from popular culture, say you were in something like "The Matrix" - and your brain is just being manipulated into thinking you're here on Earth, and that you are walking round a table that you think exists, but in fact your brain is just plugged into a computer mainframe in space - how would you know?
The best I can do is to say that the following points are just my current thoughts and logic based on my studies into these matters in my life so far:
1) If God is all knowing, then how come he/she/it didn't stop Adam and Eve?
For me, this is the very essence of free will. The basic logic is that God COULD have made everything perfect from the outset, with no capacity for sin or to defy God. However, that would be at the great cost of not ever having allowing us any free will, and would effectively mean humanity would just have to be subservient "robots" - having to do what we are told. The only way to offer truly free will to creation was to give us the choice to do right or wrong - to obey God's laws, or to go our own way.
This is another vast topic, but my perspective in a nutshell is that free will is the key factor in why God allows evil to occur in this temporary world, and to a lesser extent it also explains why God keeps himself relatively "hidden" from us. If he/she/it was blindingly obvious, like on a big TV screen in the sky for all to see, then again it calls into question whether we would actually have genuine free will in that type of situation. The best analogy I can draw here is that it is one thing for a child to demonstrate that they can behave themselves whilst their parents are in the same room blatantly watching over them, but quite a different matter if the parents are in a different part of the house and seemingly not around.
2) Why doesn't God stop Satan?
This all depends on your perspective. As a Christian, I believe God has ultimately stopped Satan in the long run with the Cross, but until the end of this existence humanity still has free will and the capacity for evil - so bad stuff still happens.
The answer to this also depends on your frame of reference for Satan:
a) Satan is a real being, with spiritual power and a force for evil
b) Satan is the personification of human sin, and our capacity to do evil with our free will
I'm afraid I haven't come to any definitive conclusion between a) and b). Christ seems to refer to Satan as an actual being at times, but Christ also speaks in metaphors a great deal of the time - so it really could be either.
3) Why doesn't God restart again/why isn't it better now after the first restart of Noah?
For me, this is all about timing. I believe it is God's ultimate intention for a genuinely perfect restart in the form of our eventual existence in heaven for those who choose to be there with him. Similar to point 1, you could ask why didn't he just make everything perfect from the Noah "restart" onwards - but again that would screw up free will.
The fact that we have free will, and have come through this temporary imperfect existence first, offers two unique benefits in the long run:
a) Humanity has had a genuine free choice to choose heaven for themselves, and not had this forced upon them.
b) Having experienced imperfection in this temporary existence, I believe we will far better appreciate the eventual perfection in the next existence. It is a logically tricky point to think about, but would something be truly perfect if you had no frame of reference by which to appreciate that it was perfect?
A common objection to an all-perfect, all-loving God is that he/she/it can't possibly exist given all the truly evil things that happen in the world. BUT, that overlooks a very critical issue: the possibility that there might be a "greater good" that comes out of having created beings with free will, and that they get to choose the perfect existence in heaven for themselves - and also that they choose to be with God.
eg - the love I have for my wife is out of genuine free will, and I choose to be with her. If I had no choice over the matter, like say I was a robot just programmed to love my wife, I don't think you could even call that "love". Love and relationships can only exist where there is genuine free will. There is also an argument that "goodness" can only exist where there is the capacity for "badness". Otherwise, there is no frame of reference of what is "good" or "bad".
I hope that makes some vague sense; I'm not convinced I've explained this last bit at all well!
Like before, I can't say that I know for certain - as that would be to second-guess God. Also, many other Christians won't agree with some of my comments below, so I'd encourage you to search online for the thoughts of other Christians on this issue to look into it further. But these are my current thoughts on the matter:
1) Most people around the globe today (although not all) have access to the Bible - which does cover heaven and hell etc. Plus, particularly in the West, it would be unusual for somebody to genuinely be unaware of the concepts of heaven and hell - more likely it is the case that a lot of people know about them but simply don't believe in them.
2) For those people who genuinely never have had access to the Bible, then you have to have faith that if there is an all loving God then he/she/it will judge people far more fairly and lovingly than any human judge.
It is on this point that I personally can't be certain of what a lot of Christians say is definitely the case - ie that if you don't accept Christ in this lifetime, then you are damned to an eternity in hell.
Now, it could be that this is the case, however logically and morally I can't hold to that thought process. I cannot square in my brain the concept of an all-loving God with the concept of someone suffering eternally in a horrible place. Presumably this is based on passages like where Christ says "I am the way, the truth and the life. Noone comes to the father except through me."
Two key points:
a) Is hell an actual place, or a metaphor for permanent separation from God? (eg it could be that you simply cease to exist if you use your free will to reject God) I believe that life cannot exist without God, and so the likelihood of an all-loving God deliberately keeping you alive in a horrendous existence for eternity makes utterly no logical sense to me. Also, if hell is a place where you are eternally separated from God, then logically I don't see how your life could be sustained.
b) Do you get chance to accept Christ/God after you die? The above passage about "noone comes to the father except through me" is very different to saying "unless you believe in God before you die, you're going to hell".
I cannot possibly know for certain, but I lean towards the idea that "hell" is simply a metaphor for ceasing to exist - the eternal fire is also a metaphor for permanent and eternal destruction of your soul - and that it could very well be the case that you still get to accept God after you die and when you see him "face to face".
However, I have to say here that many Christians do not think this - and it is quite a gamble to assume you might still get the chance to save your soul after you die - so faced with the choice, it has to be far safer to make it in this lifetime! (Pascal's Wager)
On the point of God being fair in how he/she/it judges humanity, the way I look at it is to compare how I would parent my young daughter. If she did something wrong, but genuinely didn't realise it was wrong, then I'm not going to punish her in anything like the same way as if she defiantly did something she knew was wrong. If that is how I, as a flawed human being, would administer justice, then how much more fair would an all-loving God have to be?
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