Thursday, June 28, 2007

Is God an Anarchist?

This thought occurred to me after reading this entry (and the comments) on Marie's blog.

So it's not a new idea that part of the explanation for evil/sin in the world and God's apparent reluctance to stop it is that God loves us so much that he has given us free will. Our free will to choose him is the most important thing, in fact, more important than protecting an innocent from the evil free will of an attacker or criminal. God, empirically speaking, seems unwilling to restrict anyone's freedom, even the Hitlers and janjaweeds and rapists of the world, because of this overriding, loving, value of free will.

But does this not make God a kind of divine or spiritual anarchist?

an·ar·chy (ăn'ər-kē) n., pl. -chies.

Absence of any form of political authority.
Political disorder and confusion.
Absence of any cohesive principle, such as a common standard or purpose.

11 comments:

marie said...

that is very interesting! i am going to have to digest that for a bit

Mystical Seeker said...

The "free will" argument never made any sense to me. Preventing evil doesn't interfere with people's free will; they are still perfectly free to make morally neutral decisions that don't adversely affect other people. I think there's a much simpler solution to the problem of evil: God is not omnipotent. This is the view of process theology, and I think it solves a host of problems.

HeIsSailing said...

Hi slapdash. I don't think the Christian God is an anarchist. But for the life of me, I have no idea why not.

Must be that vestigial belief still inside me saying that.

Slapdash said...

mystical seeker --
Yes, I am for the first time really grappling with this idea that for us to appreciate love, evil must exist. I think lowendaction might have made this point somewhere on marie's blog... but the idea of balance - that we need war to appreciate peace; hatred to appreciate love; sin to appreciate holiness?

So I'm just not sure that that's true, or why it's true. I don't need to hate one person in order to love someone else, or appreciate loving that other person.

Similarly then, it seems like God could prevent evil and I don't think that that would eliminate good or eliminate our free will.

It would put LIMITS on our free will. But God doesn't act in such a way that he seems to want to put any limits on us. Hence, anarchy, and expecting us to work things out for ourselves.

Good grief, most thinking human beings realize the chaos that would ensue with true anarchy; civil and political and military institutions are created to instill some boundaries and limits on what we can do to each other. B/c WE get that otherwise we could do great harms to one another.

Why God leaves the management of our free will completely to ourselves really eludes me.

Heather said...

**Why God leaves the management of our free will completely to ourselves really eludes me. **

I agree. In terms of understanding or compassion or any of that, I imagine that we are to God as children are to adults. We definitely put limits on a child's free will, because children can do dangerous stuff. Sometimes out of ignorance and other times because that's just how a child is. We dno't let them have true free will, we let them have free will within reason.

Shouldn't a loving and just God do the same?

Bible student said...

Just as a loving parent lets us know which direction to take, God does, in the Bible. When I was told “fairy tales” as a child, there was always a “moral to the story.” Can’t Bible stories have the same effect?

Slapdash said...

Hi bible student, thanks for stopping by!

Does your comment connect to the theme of this post? I'm not following, so please feel free to clarify if so. But let me offer a thought.

I was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical church in which the Bible was held as infallible, literal truth. Regarding it as a "fairy tale" like book that has some good moral teachings was positively heretical. My understanding of the bible was definitely set up as a "take it or leave it" proposition - there was no in between.

If we grant that there might be an "in between" way to interpret the Bible, a la your fairy tale moral of the story approach, I think problems still arise.

Namely, what "morals of the story" would you take from the Bible? Which would you ignore or leave behind? And how would you decide which are worth paying attention to and which to discard?

Bible student said...

Hi Slapdash, sorry for the unclear comment. I was surprised as I read your post and the comments following, that the Bible wasn’t mentioned. In my impetuousness, I typed. Since then I have read some of your other posts.

I’m sorry to read of your de-conversion. We have come from different directions to arrive at opposite poles. I am now comfortable with sola scriptura, (the first time I’ve come across this term) after being raised Roman Catholic. Maybe it’s my teachers.

Yep, the truth, not fairy tale. As far as which scriptures to use or not, I remember 2 Timothy 3:16,17 that begins “All scriptures…” Since God didn’t waste any words, I’m enjoying finding out what each verse is good for.

I would like to hear your thoughts on a couple of phrases that you have used, "practicing Christian" and the Bible as a "take it or leave it" proposition, when you can.

Slapdash said...

Hi BS :)

***I would like to hear your thoughts on a couple of phrases that you have used, "practicing Christian" and the Bible as a "take it or leave it" proposition, when you can.***

Practicing Christian: I accepted Jesus as my personal savior and Lord at the age of 3. I grew up in the church, attended AWANA, Bible studies, prayer groups, youth group, young adult fellowships, missions trips etc from that age until about the age of 25. So by practicing I mean I was immersed in all the things evangelical protestant Christians do. Wholeheartedly, I should add.

By "take it or leave it" I mean the view of the Bible as literal, inerrant truth...that everything in it has been perfectly transmitted to us and is the only source we have, or need, to understand God or to have any question in our life answered. In the tradition I grew up in, there was no room to interpret Noah's ark as myth or to view the Genesis accounts as non-literal days. There was no "in between" way to understand the Bible. Their (my denomination's) way of understanding it was *right*.

Chris said...

Perhaps, in the same line of as heather's comments, it comes back to what we mean when we talk about free will? Free will is, at its simplest, the ability to freely make a choice about any given thing - and this is what God gives us. But that's not to say God doesn't set boundaries or consequences to those choices - among the top ten being death, pain, and severe diarrhea.

This, then, is where I don't see it as anarchy - again, taking heather's example from this tack, we DO put boundaries, expectations, and consequences on a child's behavior, which is how we attempt to guide and shape it; but at the end of the day, the child still is free to choose. We are not able to interfere with that, even if we wanted to. Although it's not a perfect metaphor, I think God does shape and try to guide our choices in a 'similar' way - but he does not violate that basic choice. Still, this is different from anarchy - which would be 'go and do whatever you want - it's your choice, and I won't even attempt to influence your decision. Have at it you revolutionaries.'

Slapdash said...

***This, then, is where I don't see it as anarchy - again, taking heather's example from this tack, we DO put boundaries, expectations, and consequences on a child's behavior, which is how we attempt to guide and shape it; but at the end of the day, the child still is free to choose. ***

Right, except if our kid on the playground starts to hit another kid on the playground, we immediately intervene to stop it. We don't let our kid continue to beat on someone else and then let him experience the 'consequences'. Good parents will STOP their kid's behavior if it is harming someone else.

Again, this is where I find the "free will as explanation for suffering and evil" argument to fall flat on its face.