christianity ethics philosophy theology

father god

All speech about God uses metaphor (so does all speech about the universe, but that’s another post).  One basic idea is that God is like a Father.

Leaving to one side the less-noted ‘problem’ of good, the more-noted ‘problem’ of evil (among other things) would suggest that God is one abusive, tyrant, dictator of a Father.

I don’t mean to skip cheerfully over real pain of real people in really tough situations, but I’ve learned at least this from my less-than-two-years of fatherhood.  Pain and mistakes teach us and grow us (if we let them).  This is basic stuff, and I claim no profundity.

I want Thomas to grow up and learn.  One basic example would be that he has to fall over and over again to learn to walk.  Giraffe mothers (apparently) stand over their young ones and sweep their little feet out from underneath them – so that they learn to get up quickly and can better escape attacking predators. Maybe I’m not as loving as a mum giraffe, coz I don’t like letting Thomas fall.  I was nervous as heck-fire watching him (and encouraging him by counting each step) walk up our concrete steps the other day.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that allowing bumps/scrapes/falls/tears/sores/pain/etc. is not at all antithetical to being a good father.  In fact, I’m fairly convinced that a father who protects his child from any/all pain is probably an insecure, fearful, selfish father.  I take no delight in the pain Thomas goes through in any specific case, and I am persuaded to think that God takes no delight in our pain either.  But what I do know is that his life (and ours) is bigger than and will benefit from those brief moments of pain which I choose (and God chooses) to allow.

In this context of real, down-to-earth life – dad-hood and son-hood kind of life – the main point of the philosophical ‘problem’ of evil (the pastoral problem of evil is quite another thing) just feels like impatient thinking to me.  You can look at the world (for example, the evolutionary process) and ‘see’ a lot of death, pain and apparent pointlessness.  The author of Ecclesiastes and not a few psalmists certainly did.  But you can also ‘see’ life emerging out of that death, maturity out of the pain, an appearing plan out of the apparent pointlessness.

6 replies on “father god”

Don’t you think there is a rather large gap between a bump/bruise/scratch (which your body can heal itself rather well from unless you’re a haemophiliac) and cancer/starvation/death/[insert horrible disease here]?

The ‘problem of evil’ isn’t that god doesn’t protect us from every little piece of harm, it’s that if he is willing and able (and loving), why do such things as cancer, parasites etc. even exist? They existed long before humans came onto the scene so ‘the fall’ isn’t an excuse (as young earth creationists seem to think it is).

-KJ Moodie

re gap between bumps/cancer:
no analogy is perfect – including the above one.

re explanation for cancer, etc. & ‘fall’, etc:
related to the above post would be that God the creator has given a very real freedom to all of creation – not just humans. everything from Qualia to Quantum indeterminacy speaks of this. God is not a micromanager.
And yes, I don’t think evil before humanity is at all problematic. Even a 6-day young-earth creationist believes in evil being around before the fall.

I’m familiar with the YEC understanding. I never suggested that parasites are free in the volitional sense (i.e. that they ‘choose’). The idea is that reality is a mixture of chance and necessity (order and chaos, etc.). Natural phenomena nor human persons are ‘micro-managed’. Neither, it seems, are they free to do whatever they want – laws regulate them, etc. In this ‘freedom’, things like asteroids, cancer and tsunamis are to be expected.

Going back to your original analogy, if your son was to pick up a poisonous spider that if it bit him, would cause excruciating pain and necrosis, you would certainly want to prevent that from happening, preferably by stopping the spider from biting him in the first place. You would be willing, able and acting out of love and compassion by preventing it from happening, and no one (sane) would ever fault you for doing so. There lies the problem of evil, best summed up by Epicurus.

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”

If we’re to press the analogy (probably beyond use), God has given my son ME to protect him from spiders. He has given humanity each other to help. This is the domain of moral evil, and it’s not much of a philosophical problem. Natural evil is more interesting of a topic – which I hinted at my views above.

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