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Sunday, November 14, 2010

What kind of God 6

So how can "God be in control" and "human freedom" exist at the same time? Is God pulling the strings in brutal massacres, senseless torture, dehumanizing pornography, etc.?

Well, let's take a look at the world.
  1. Atoms. The world of atoms and sub-atomic particles is incredible. Theories about the world at the sub-atomic level are mind-blowing. The world is made up of these incredibly small bits of energy. The atoms and molecules also make people. We are, therefore, subject to the laws of physics. But all the laws of physics do not fully explain us. There is more than atoms to a human.
  2. Cells. These little packages funciton and live in a real sense. Cellular biology constantly uncovers new and amazing insights into the remarkable nature of cells.What mechanism governs this process? It is not conscious. We are made of cells (doing their thing) but we are more than a collection of cells.
  3. Organs. A huge collection of cells produces a functioning organ. Liver, brain, heart.... Each one interacts and depends on the other. Yet there is no conscious choice made about that function in 99% of the cases. We live because these organs function and the organs function as long as we live. But we are more than a bunch of interconnected organs.
  4. Body and soul. At this level we suddenly have rational function and choice. A heart does not decide to beat, there are physical, chemical, mechanical-organic laws at work which explain all that. But it is possible to do something intentionally to make a heart beat faster, or slower, or to stop. Somehow freedom enters into the equation. There is a sense where the body which I can never fully control, can be controlled. There is mechanical necessity and spiritual freedom. This is the mystery of human being.
  5. Community. Humans are impacted by their relationships. We all know that in different settings we act differently and have a different sense of self. Social sciences reveal that people are maleable and will do things that they would not ordinarilly do in a group (peer pressure). So our freedom is impacted by physical and social pressures.
  6. Divine. As we go from one level to another we see that the word "cause" has different levels of meaning. In explaining human life physics, chemistry, biology all play a part. So does personal choice and interpersonal relationships. We do not think that humans are explainable simply by looking at bonds of oxygen and hydrogen. Nor is cellular reproduction the total explanation.
So what does this mean? I think that God works at the divine level of things. This means that He is doing what He does without disrupting the lower levels (most of the time). So the laws of physical existence work on physical entities (gravity, for example). The laws of biology work on biological entities (breathing, for example). The laws of spirituality work on spiritual entities (choosing, for example) and the laws of social interaction work on social entities (group think, for example). Let's look at it:
"A man is going to the store. In the parking lot he is shot by a robber. He dies."
Why did the man die? Because of physics. A gun operates because of these laws.
Why did the man die? Because he wanted a gallon of milk and went to the store.
Why did the man die? Because a young boy raised in a chaotic home and violent neighborhood had no respect for life.
Why did the man die? Because guns and bullets are manufactured and are available to young men like this.
Why did the man die? Because the bullet entered his heart and did catastrophic injury.
You get the point, there are dozens of "reasons" or "causes" and just because one is true does not mean that the others are not true. So what is the point?
God acts at a level beyond our understanding. To say, "God decided to take the man home" may not be a helpful way of wording it (unless one is also willling to say "God decided to motivate a thug to shoot someone today.") It is enough to say that God is at work at a macro-level (and a micro-level) beyond our current assessment capabilities.
In a sense this does not answer anything, but it does broaden the discussion. The world is one mystery wrapped up in another. We are deluded into thinking that we understand more than we do. We need to be humble. It is Sunday, go to church! Worship.

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