Friday, September 6, 2013

Does God Get Into The Details?

Once my childhood faith was shattered by the trials of life (not to mention the fact that questions that had been burning in me sense my teenage years began its own erosion of it), I was left trying to make sense out of what was left. That on many levels life seems to be designed always bothered. The fact, as Einstein pointed out, that we are able to comprehend existence has always intrigued me.
Deism was an obvious safe haven for me - at least for a while. It allowed me account for the cosmos in a reasonable way at the same time it allowed me to unload some of the other theological baggage that weighed me down. I was willing to dismiss (sometimes uneasily) as coincidence many of the things that I had always regarded as evidence of God's dealings with me - although this always bothered me a bit. After all, the God of the Deists brought the universe into existence and then stepped back in order to let it unfold on its own.
Prayer became problematic for me. Most Deists don't pray. At least not in the way most theists do. In the delightful movie Oh, God! - which does feature an anthropomorphic and casually involved God (humorously portrayed by George Burns) - there is the following interesting dialogue between God and grocer Jerry Landers (portrayed by John Denver):
Jerry Landers: People are always praying to You. Do you listen? 
God: I can't help hearing. I don't always listen.
Jerry Landers: So then You don't care.
God: Of course I care! But what can I do?
Jerry Landers: What can You do? You're God!
God: Only for the big picture. I don't get into details
Not surprisingly, the movie also address the problem of evil in much the same way, as in another exchange between Landers and God:

Jerry:: How can you permit all the suffering that goes on the world?
God: Ah, how can I permit the suffering?
Jerry: Yes!
God: I don't permit the suffering. You do. Free will. All the choices are yours.

I'm not a big fan of the free will defense. I think it says some things but doesn't get us all the way to a satisfactory solution. Is free will so important that horrendous evil is justifiable? I have never spoken to a person who would admit they would overlook an egregious evil that was in their power to prevent just because free will should be preserved.

Then there is the alternative of a God who is God of the picture but, at the same time, who doesn't get into the details. That sounds a lot like the Deist's God.

Also, there are those who feel they have experienced God in their lives and not just as some abstract principle that explains the universe. For me that doesn't necessarily entail a miracle working God of special providence. It might be a guiding force, that utilizes a persuasive rather than coercive power. (I dislike the idea of special providence perhaps more than I do the idea of the free will theodicy.)

Not only that, perhaps God isn't the best word for what I'm suggesting. It is, however, a handy symbol for what I'm talking about, and is something most people can associate with. I like the old Greek concept of a Logos back of the Cosmos. Or maybe the Emersonian Oversoul. I'm not signing onto to either of those here, but just saying they are more in line with the way my thinking about the matter has turned.

The idea of an anthropomorphic God creates way too many problems and doesn't give enough good solutions. At least not in my humble opinion.


  1. Ya know, Doug, I am okay with what anyone believes, as long as they are okay with what I believe. I am no Star Trek fan, but one of my all time favorite lines is from that old TV show, comes down to, If there were no questions, then mankind would be very bored. I'm okay not being bored.

    1. Certain it is we will never get bored. Life is filled with mystery and I can't help thinking about it and weighing answers that have been offered, and maybe offering a few possible answers of my own.

  2. "The idea of an anthropomorphic God creates way too many problems and doesn't give enough good solutions. At least not in my humble opinion."


    1. I'm still searching. Despite this, I did enjoy those George Burns God movies.