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Monday, December 11, 2006
(10:18 AM) | Stephen:
Omni: Sucky Car, Sucky Theology*

Neil has a post at Ezra’s place about the newest Creationist strategy: “Fine Tuning.” The idea is that this universe is uniquely suited for the existence of life, such to the point that the slightest variation in any number of variable would cause it to either be hostile to the formation of life or not exist at all.

That this is bad science is handled quite well by others. Neil of course shows that the philosophical underpinnings are equally weak. The real problem, insofar as this relates to larger issue of Christianity and its future in the USA, is that Creationism – Fine Tuning, Intelligent Design, whatever – is terrible theology. I said as much in a comment to the above thread, pointing out that a God who only spruces up the universe so that we can live here isn’t much of a God in the first place, and in the second, the presence of so many things that go wrong in this universe (from our perspective, of course) makes a mockery of God’s supposed power.

To understand why it’s so important for the RR to be able to gain acceptance for their interpretation of Genesis, we need to to take a look at what has happened to the Christian worldview through the millenia.

Much is made of the “omni-“ categories: omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient. These categories pose a real stumbling block to people who try to engage Christianity from outside it. If God is all these things, then why evil? Why disaster? Why the myth of free will? Indeed there is the discipline of theodicy, which seeks to defend God’s goodness against the charges that people make against it. And Calvinism has developed into a theological tradition that doesn’t really count free will into its equations, seeking to emphasize the sovereignty of God and the mystery of his will and plans – a mystery that we cannot hope to understand or fully know, but that includes tsunamies, earthquakes and AIDS and that will one day be known to us as a fully loving and gracious plan.

As a Wesleyan, I reject all this. I reject predestination – excuse me, I reject double predestination, the idea that some people are chosen for heaven and some for Hell in a choice made before the creation of the world. Rather, I believe in the idea that we are all predestined, predestined to believe in God and be reconciled to him through Jesus Christ. However, we have the ability to choose, because God wished to have companions, creatures made so closely in his image that he could relate to them almost as equals! – equal partners, at least, in terms of relationship if not power.

That segues nicely into the omni- categories. They aren’t in the Bible. Any hint of them is not in the Bible. They are Greek philosophical categories, and they don’t mesh too well with the Hebrews that populate the Christian Bible.

Of course, Greek ideas are present. John’s Gospel in particular uses Greek philosophical ideas to explain things about Jesus, and Paul uses some Greek dualism in several of his letters. This has led to problems for later Christians who did not understand Hebrew philosophical ideas as well as Greek. This came to a head with Anselm, he of the oft-used Ontological Argument: God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. So pretty much God maxes out all the stats. That’s why video games make invulnerability “god mode,” because just like Kyle Katarn with that cheat enabled, nothing can hurt or disturb God or set him off his track of where he wants to go.

Except that this is not what we see in the Bible. Immediately, it seems, Adam and Eve rebel. Cain murders his brother. Abraham claims his wife is his sister, and she is, ahem, brought into another man’s “household.” Jacob steals from Esau. The Hebrews make God so mad in the Sinai desert that he tries to make a secret deal with Moses: “I’ll kill these morons and go find you a people that doesn’t suck as much.” “No way, God, if you do that, everyone will make fun of you. You gotta work with what you have.” Then there’s the example of Jesus. He came to offer God’s salvation, and we murdered him.

What is the Bible if not the story of God being continually rebuffed and thwarted, and yet being able to constantly offer redemption to his children? This is the story of a powerful and loving God, but not of an Immovable Mover, an immutable and passionless Ground of Being who directs all that there is in a grand game of chess in which God is apparently playing himself. To preserve our ideas of an omni-God, we need to believe that God caused Adam and Eve to sin, that God had Jesus’ death planned before he even created the world. Indeed, many people believe this. But that doesn’t do justice to the biblical record.

According to the Bible, there is no omnipotent God; rather, God is strong enough to see us through our hardships and to accomplish his plans. There is no omniscient God; rather, God knows us, knows our sorrows and joys, knows our hearts and secrets, knows our longings and desires, knows our pain and our evil and loves us still. And there is no omnipresent God; rather there is a God who is Emmanuel, God who is with us. He is with us no matter where we are, no matter where we go, no matter how lost we become. It may be that God really is an omni-God. However, at the least he has self-limited his power as it relates to us, in order to allow us a true, not illusory, free will.

*My first car was a brown 1985 Dodge Omni hatchback, with a brown interior. Brown. My girlfriend said, "please don't get a brown car. I don't want to ride in a turd." It is my belief that I was incredibly handsome in high school, perhaps the best-looking guy there. The reason is that I was able to go on dates and have girlfriends while driving a brown 1985 Dodge Omni. My friend Scott drove around a blue 1980 Chrysler Land Yacht. This was back when "Love Shack" from the B-52's came out. "I got me a Chrysler, it's as big as a whale, and it's about to. set. sail!!!" Nobody sings about brown Dodge Omnis.

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