The Glory of God and the Total Perspective Vortex

Douglas Adam’s book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe features a hellish device called the “Total Perspective Vortex”: When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it there's a tiny little speck, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, "You are here." The notion is that this will fill you with a sense of your smallness and inadequacy in the face of the magnitude of the Universe, an … [Read more...]

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Mercy and Long Time Horizons

We Christians seem to spend a lot of time telling folks what not to do.  You mustn’t do this, you mustn’t do that, we say, or else you’re going to be a greasy spot on the pavement after the lightning strikes you.  At least, that’s the popular conception.  God is an angry God, and He’s just looking for the proper moment to strike you down, and we Christians are all down with that.There’s a kernel of truth to this perception—though just a kernel, or there’d be greasy spots in many surprising pl … [Read more...]

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His Bright Materials: the Saints and the Forge of God

Recently my eldest son left home for good, so we thought, on his way to Air Force boot camp.  Physically he wasn’t a likely specimen for military service, being not at all athletic, and skinnier than a rail with it—in the weeks before he left we had to fatten him up so that he’d meet the minimum weight for basic training—but it was his own idea, something he wanted to do, and so we took him down to the airport and saw him off with many a tear.  He held it together for a month but the physical asp … [Read more...]

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Knowing is Not Enough; and the Doing is Hard

Continuing through Cam’s comment on my post about suffering in Heaven, he asks, Your first argument seems to revolve around knowledge, yes? You're saying we won't have suffering in heaven because we will have perfect knowledge. This knowledge is somehow caused by something God is or does, and the exact mechanics of that probably won't matter for my comment….Secondly, your first argument seems to rest on an assumption often used by Christians in the service of theological issues (such as div … [Read more...]

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When Your Fist Strikes My Face, That’s a Choice

This week I’m still mining Cam’s excellent comment on my post about suffering in Heaven.  Cam begins, 'suffering': just for present purposes, when I use this word I follow your lead and refer to the subset of a person's total suffering caused by the free exercise of their personal choice. This is a tiny tiny minority of total suffering and I have a moral duty to acknowledge that. Anyway as you explained, your recent posts aren't intended to address the kind of suffering lay people usually want t … [Read more...]

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What He’s Researching, I’m Studying

Commenter Cam left a long and thoughtful comment on a recent post of mine about suffering on earth vs. Joy in heaven.  There's a lot to talk about in it, but I want to start with a point about rational argument.  Cam says, …it might be worth noting a difference between some Christians and some atheists here. An atheist might approach an argument by saying: 'there may be some gaps in my argument, and these gaps may or may not be fatal'. A Christian however, who holds their belief on faith, will n … [Read more...]

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We Suffer Because We Are Human

In my previous post I ended by suggesting that God couldn’t remove all suffering in the world without changing humanity: without making human beings something they are not.  In this post I’m going to explain why I say that.  It comes down to free will, which leads to some surprising places.We human beings have free will in a sense that other animals do not seem to.*  We can choose from among many choices; and though we always choose from among the things that seem good to us, we know we can c … [Read more...]

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Why Doesn’t God Prevent Suffering?

My atheist interlocutors have presented me with a vast number of questions on my post “Which Monotheistic God is God”, a rich lode that I suspect I could continue to mine for a very long time indeed.  Many of the questions have to do with the question of suffering: if God is truly good, and truly all powerful, why didn’t He create a world without suffering?  Why doesn’t He prevent suffering before it happens?This is one of the truly great questions, naturally, and as entire books have been wr … [Read more...]

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Which Monotheistic God is God?

Last time I looked at theological systems that aim at the divine as the ultimate reality, and rejected pantheism and deism for monotheism.  That still seems to leave a lot of ground to cover, but it's actually not so bad.As I've said before I've had personal experiences of the presence of God.  I don't want to make too much of them, but there they are, and they are part of my experience.  I don't claim that you should believe on the basis of my experience, but contrarily it is something that … [Read more...]

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