Isn’t it funny that most of us here are about to celebrate Easter, but this here will be a post about the Epiphany?
…ok, maybe not. I dually apologize for my lateness as well as for any offense I may commit.
Anyway, several months ago, a friend asked in a Facebook status:
So this question will probably get a lot of people very angry and probably provoke passionate responses as to why it is a bad question to be asking, but I’m going to ask it anyway. What if Christ’s mission wasn’t to bring /us/ closer to /God/, but to bring /God/ closer to /us/?
Indeed, this post was controversial, although I was pleased with how that acquaintance defended his position. From the discussion, another friend linked to a post at the Slacktivist about the Epiphany (again, I know…wrong holiday for this weekend!) From it:
…the epiphany that unfolds from this freaky incarnation works both ways. If the person and the life of Jesus Christ taught us humans everything we need to know about God, that life also taught God what it is like to be one of us.
Some Christians balk at this notion of God learning. An almighty and omniscient being, they say, doesn’t need to learn. But this is part of the story. The story tells us this happened too.
“Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house,” the messenger tells Job. “And suddenly a great wind came across the desert, struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.”
When Job learned that his children had died, he wept. But God did not weep.
…Lazarus got sick and then, like Job’s children, Lazarus died. And when Jesus saw Lazarus’ sisters weeping, “he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.” And then God Almighty — God who laid the foundation of the earth, who determined its measurements when the morning stars sang together, God who commands the morning and causes the dawn to know its place, God who bound the chains of the Pleiades and loosed the cords of Orion — wept.
That’s an epiphany. That’s the Epiphany we celebrate on Thursday.
Honestly Fred you are the first – VERY FIRST – Christian person of any persuasion who has ever suggested to me that God can learn. I’m honestly a little… is shocked the right word? Not because it’s a bad thing, I don’t think it is, but it’s just so outside the realm of my experience I’m definitely not sure what exactly to say to it.
But I can honestly say that I like it. If I still had my faith I think I might be offended at the notion; but I don’t, and instead find it… kind of awesome (in the original sense of the word).
Another commenter, Hashmir, wrote (I really wish the link would work…it’s on the 2nd page of comments) [P.S. sorry for his language]:
…when you think about it, it’s fairly obvious why a god would want to create humanity. I mean, if humans got the technology to create a universe and/or sentient life, wouldn’t we jump at the chance? Maybe not every individual, but as a species, we will create just about anything imaginable if given the tools; and if we don’t have the tools, we’ll create those.
…Moreover, knowing humans, it’s reasonable to say that we would like the beings that inhabit the universe we created to know of our existence. And hell, we’d like to keep them from warring with each other and suffering natural disasters and being sick. And we might even try to set something up where all of that would be nonexistent.
But when you get down to it, shit’s complicated. And I bet you anything that no matter how enlightened we may be by then, we won’t have figured out how to make a universe with constants such that sentient life can develop without anything happening in the universe that could be dangerous to them. And we won’t have figured out how to set up a stable biosphere without predators and bugs and diseases that make people’s lives both unpleasant and considerably shorter. And we won’t have figured out how to externally influence a society so that they don’t form tribes and cliques and develop prejudices and bigotry and so on.
So you may have gathered by this point that there is one thing I’ve implied but never yet stated: God is neither omnipotent nor omniscient. (And yes, I make this claim as an atheist.)
Seriously, though. There is so much invested in the idea that God is literally perfect. Bullshit. Nobody’s perfect. And when you’re making an entire goddamn universe, I guarantee you that you fucked something up. Maybe the speed of light is off, and it’s all gonna fall apart 80 quadrillion years earlier than it needed to; maybe you ended up with two species too close together, and one annihilated the other’s planet.
Point is, if God isn’t perfect, then there’s a lot more room to cut him some slack. Maybe he tried to fix some bad stuff earlier and it backfired, because shit’s complicated. Maybe that made him reluctant to try again, and maybe he was wrong and missed a chance where he could have actually fixed it. Maybe he tried to get his message through as best he could, and so we got Jesus and the Bible. And maybe the Bible got sort of written, and then there were a couple other guys who wrote stuff God didn’t really want in the Bible, and it got in anyway, and some important stuff got dropped because it was humans who decided what was canon, and at that point, what’s he gonna do, make another human avatar and do all that again?
So — again, as an atheist — I would say that I could actually probably get behind that god. I mean, I don’t believe he exists, but that’s a god where I can say, if he does exist, I’m cool with him. Because that’s a religious view that acknowledges that any deity out there needs our forgiveness and understanding as much as we supposedly have his.
I’ve probably chased away 70% of my audience. Depending on whom you read, maybe the idea of God lacking either in omniscience or in omnipotence makes you antsy. Especially when atheists find these god concepts more appealing, as in the couple of comments I’ve pasted here. Especially on Easter weekend!
Alternatively, maybe these modifications to the classical formulation of God seem superior to other formulations. This would be consistent with the Mormon transhumanist New God Argument as well(which was addressed by Sam Harris with a bit of a Mormon twist, actually).
…For me, I find that, like the commenters above, I could sympathize and identify with such a god. If I had traditional faith, I recognize I might be offended by these notions, but I don’t, and so I find these notions to be awesome — in the original sense of the word.
I guess, one of my “hangups” with formulations of deity that are more popularly espoused (especially the kinds in non-LDS Christianity — or even the LDS Christian kind) is that they don’t seem to fit with reality — at least as I experience it. And so theodicies and goyologies seem like a way to mash the complexities of reality into unsatisfactory worldview boxes. A traditional Easter story or traditional Epiphany doesn’t speak to me. Real life just doesn’t seem that wonderful.
Perhaps when people insist that the church is true, but people aren’t (with its attendant problems) or something similar, we might instead argue that maybe the reason why God allows certain things to happen is because he’s learning too.
Or maybe you can just go back to your Easter celebration…