Regarding the Characteristics of God

By User:AnonMoos (earlier version of SVG file Sumudu Fernando)

By User:AnonMoos (earlier version of SVG file Sumudu Fernando)

14.) An all-knowing God can read your mind, so why does he require you to demonstrate your faith by worshiping him? 

 

This question is simply a trick of semantics. The answer is that he doesn’t. He doesn’t require us to demonstrate our faith by worshipping him. Worship in not the means by which we show God just how much we thank him. Worship is the act of thanking and praising him. The question would be like a man who says to his poor wife, “well you know that I love you, so I don’t need to actually love you.” 

 

Worship is an outward act that is as much about the worshiper as it is the thing being worshiped. Much like the saying “it’s more blessed to give than receive.” In the same since worship is designed to help the worshiper focus selflessly rather than selfishly.  

 

If one traffics for very long in the world of online debate between Atheists and Christians, this issue of worship is liable to come up very frequently. There seems to be a general misunderstanding in the Atheist community that worship is some kind of commandment from God, such that one must force oneself to worship God, which, one might suppose, would be similar to forcing oneself to love one's spouse. 

This entirely misunderstands the nature of worship. Worship is reflexive, not proactive. Worship is the necessary reaction to understanding the nature of God. Much like one comes to love one's wife after they achieve an intimate relationship with her, one will automatically worship God once they have come to achieve a relationship with him.  

He doesn't.

The point of worship is not to show God that we are faithful. The point of worship is to worship.

This question is kind of like asking, "Your wife knows you love her, so why are you always having to do things to show it?" You do it because you want to. Because it pleases the other person. And it builds a closer relationship and bond between you.

 

15.) If God is all-knowing, why do holy books describe him as surprised or angered by the actions of humans? He should have known what was going to happen, right? 

 

This too is a rather bizarre question. First, I’m not sure why he would be asking a Christian about numerous “holy books” (I doubt he is nuanced enough to refer to various books within the Bible). I’m not sure of any passage where God is shown as being “surprised” but there are passages where he shown to be angry. Without getting into issues dealing with anthropopathic language about God’s apparent emotions used more for the comprehension of the reader, let me simply say that knowledge of X and emotions toward X are not contrary things. God can know full well that X is going to happen and be angry when X happens. Why? Because he hates sin. If you knew that your child did something bad at school, but would try to lie about it to escape punishment, does that mean you aren’t angry when your child comes home and lies to you? Of course not. You would be angry precisely because you knew they were lying.  

 

This is begging the question and assuming that all anger is negative and uncontrolled. If anger can be positive in anyway than this question is irrelevant.  

God's knowledge of something does not preclude a reaction to that thing. One may be angered by or surprised about a thing no matter when or how long one knows about it. Consider thinking back to some bad thing which happened to you in the past. You could still react to the memory with anger despite the fact that you've known about it for a very long time. As moral agents, humans commit acts within time. God is not incapable of reacting to or interacting with human actions just because he always knows about them. God could not be a conscious or living being if he was incapable of reacting to things outside of himself, regardless of when and how he was informed about these things. Nor is God going to manifest his reactions to things he knows about at moments in time which are inappropriate to the action itself. It is also worth noting that frequently in scripture, God speaks of his feelings regarding events that have happened in the past, as if he still felt those feelings – indicating that his feelings regarding the events were as timeless as his knowledge of the events. 

God's omniscience can easily be seen throughout scripture when he talks about events which will happen in the future, or in the distant past. 

Really, to answer a question such as this you would need to have the specific biblical references that are being mentioned. However, in general there are two basic answers to this question: One, you're misunderstanding what the text says. Or two, sometimes it's in anthropomorphism. That is to say God is being described in human terms that the audience would understand.

The fact is God isn't surprised by anything we do, and there's nothing conflicting between being angry about something and knowing it was going to happen. I know that my kids are going to misbehave. I know they're going to get into things are not supposed to. I know they're going to fight, and they're going to be mean to each other, and they're going to be rebellious and disobedient to their mother and me. Knowing in advance doesn't change how I feel when it happens.

 

16.) An all-knowing God knows who will ultimately reject him. Why does God create people who he knows will end up in hell? 

 

This is one of the few insightful questions on the list, though it is not without an easy answer (even if that answer is emotionally hard to accept). In Romans 9 Paul addresses this very issue. He is describing those whom God predestined to be shown mercy and those whom he predestined to be shown wrath. He gives examples like Jacob and Esau, who before they were even born, were chosen by God for either mercy or wrath, not based on anything they had yet done. He then gives the example of Pharaoh, a gentile whom he says he raised up for the very purpose of judgement so that his plans would be made known.  

  

Paul, anticipating an objection by his reader, asks essentially the same question that Swan and many Christians and non-Christians alike have asked, when he writes in 9:19, ‘You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”’ Here, Paul knows that his protestors will basically say, “How can God condemn people who couldn’t resist his will that they be bad and therefore condemned? That’s just not fair!” They don’t ask specifically about hell like Swan does, but surely those under wrath are the reprobates bound for hell. So, what is Paul’s answer?  

  

Basically, who in the world are you to complain to God about what is fair? If God is like a potter, then he has the right to make with the clay what he wishes, and the clay cannot turn back on the potter and say, “why have you made me like this!?” What people often miss is that this is all within the broader context of Romans where we see that all men deserve judgement due to sin. Therefore, we shouldn’t ask, “why are some bound for hell,” but rather should ask, “why aren’t all bound for hell?” We should not accuse God for judging those who deserve it, we should be thankful for his mercy that so many who deserve judgement were shown grace and mercy instead.  

 

While there are multiple perspectives within Christianity on the concept of hell, we will assume for this question that hell is a place of eternal torment. The simple answer is “free will”. We are given the free will to choose if we want to accept God or not God’s goodness is not dependent on our ability to choose. Could God create a world where everyone is saved? Sure. However, if we were all provided undeniable proof of God’s existence could we still have free will? At what point does knowledge infringe on our ability to make our own choices? Can there be love if knowledge doesn’t have limits? In this case for me the answer is simple. In order to maintain free will we must have limited knowledge 100% knowledge forces a choice for a rational being. 99% or less allows room for free will to exist and thus for love to still exist.

God could have a world without hell but this would also be a world void of any true expression of LOVE.

 

Firstly and foremost, it is important to note that Creation was an act of God, and therefore exists for his purposes, not for human purposes.  

God created moral agents who are free to make choices either for or against God. This being the case, these moral agents may seek meaning, purpose, and existential fulfillment in every avenue outside of God's nature. If they cannot find such fulfillment, then God's nature is justified as being the absolute Good, outside of which, no other meaning exists. 

Humans have, indeed, explored practically every avenue outside of God's nature. But thinkers like Camus have come to the conclusion that existential fulfillment is impossible. 

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes went on a similar quest for self-fulfillment, and came to much the same conclusion as Camus. The difference, however, was that the author of Ecclesiastes was ultimately able to ground meaning and purpose in the nature of God, and therefore resolve the problem of existentialism. 

By and large, when we ask questions like this that attempt to probe the mind and motivations of God, the fact is that we are very often left with no real answer unless God has specifically revealed it to us. That’s just how it is with us trying to know what someone else is thinking. So any answer I can think of to offer here is speculation.

 

Granted I can no more know the questioner’s thoughts than I can God’s, but it seems to me that the question may be assuming that God would somehow be wrong to create people He knows will end up in Hell. However, God has no obligation to do (or not do) any specific thing with His creation. He can create whatever He wants for whatever reason He wants, and He is not wrong to do so. And He obviously deemed it worthwhile in this world He created for there to be people who would reject Him. 

  

 

17.) If God is all-knowing, then why did he make humans, knowing that he’d eventually have to send Jesus to his death? 

This question is very similar to the one above, so let me simply add another angle to it. As a Reformed Christian, I think that the 1st question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism is a good starting point for all theology: 

  

Q: What is the chief end of man? 

A: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. 

  

We commonly think of this answer in the positive – that humans are meant to actively give glory and praise to God and enjoy being in his presence. But there is a negative aspect as well (not negative in value but rather as in opposite side of the coin). Some humans will give glory to God passively by their judgement. God will be glorified in the praise of his people and in the judgement of the reprobate. What kind of world would God be most glorified in? If all believed, how would we ever praise him or give him glory for being just, righteous, holy, pure, etc. In fact, it’s not clear that we would understand the depths of his love for us in a world like that.  

  

Paul gives this answer in Rom. 9:22-23 when he writes, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…” Paul makes this explicit – God made objects of wrath so that he could display his power and wrath “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy…”  

  

Think about it. How would Christians even know just how amazing God’s love and holiness and justice and righteousness, and mercy really were, unless they understood that they were just as bad as the objects of wrath and deserved just as much punishment as they? How would we understand just how much God loved us unless we knew that 1) we deserved eternal punishment and torment, and yet 2) God in his mercy suffered in our place so we would not have to? It is not an easy truth to accept, but it is beautiful nonetheless.  

 

All of the great-making qualities of God's nature – power, justice, love, grace, holiness, etc. - are revealed on the tapestry of human history. God is what he does. He is Creator because he creates. He is Judge because he administers justice. He is Love because he loves, and so forth. 

Ultimately, all of the aspects of God's nature were drawn together in the person of Christ – who became human. In his death, he resolved the full demands of God's Justice, and allowed for God to administer absolute Grace without contradiction. 

Because human history is what it is, God was able to self-actualize his essential nature in the person of Christ. 

See the prior question for more context. However, I think the greatest thing to look at here is the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect is in a nutshell, “small actions can have large consequences”. If the butterfly effect is true then it is impossible for humans to truly know the extent of any consequence in the grand scheme of the universe. However, a God who could foresee the results would know how to balance the history of humanity. What is Jesus’s sacrifice did just that?

The simplest answer is that He wanted to.

He wanted to create the kind of people that would necessarily have the ability to rebel against Him and thus need saving. Whatever it is that God saw desirable about having free creatures who needed to be redeemed, ultimately, He thought it was worth it.

 

18.) Why did a supposedly omnipotent God take six days to create the universe, and why did he require rest on the seventh day? 

On this issue, I do not take a Young Earth Creationist view that thinks the universe materially came into existence over 6 days about 10,000 years ago. For my on my view, you can read my paper or listen to my 3 part series on Genesis 1, (hyperlink is to Part 1).  

  

Here the second part of the question is yet again a semantic conjuring trick. The simple answer is that God did not need to rest on the 7th day. He simply chose to. There is a lot that can be said theologically about this unending Sabbath rest being used as a paradigm for humans, but here let me simply add that rest does not mean that he was weary and needed some relaxation, but rather that he ceased from his work of creation. A more colloquial way to say it is that God retired from the universe creation game. You can read in my paper about Gen. 1-3 being a genre of literature known as a Temple Text, and as such would have served as a polemical attack on the gods of Egypt and other Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) cultures who would have needed temples to be built for them to lounge and rest and be fed in, whereas YHWH (pronounced Yahweh, yah-way) the God of the Israelites, would provide a temple for his creation, made in his image, not to lounge and be fed, but to be in fellowship and provide nourishment to his people. It was a complete 180 degree assault on pagan concepts of temples and deities at the time.  

It is by no means generally agreed upon in wider Christian circles as to how exactly to read the creation account. Some defend a literal six-day creation (as Swan seems to assume in his questioning), others assume much broader periods of time which are summed up in the stages of the six days - which may be read more symbolically than literally. Still others interpret the creation story as a certain genre of writing which was not meant to be historical. 

Since Swan's attack is leveled at a very particular reading of the passage, it is not within the scope of this document to defend a particular view in this regard. 

Certainly it's possible that an almighty God snapped his fingers and the universe appeared fully formed. It's possible that he did that ten seconds ago, and that all of your memories are implanted fabrications of a world that did not exist twenty seconds ago. However, so far as humans are able to discern everything that happens, happens through processes that occur over time. While God and his actions are not constrained to time, it seems to be among the elements and laws that form the universe he created. So asking why God uses processes that take periods of time is the same as asking why God created gravity when he could simply will objects to stick to the ground. 

This actually forms an insight into the question: Time is a mechanism which is part of the created order, and a law by which it is designed. God uses time as part of his actions, because it is a law that governs the creation he made.  

As to why God chose to rest, this was clearly a symbolic act on his part, which was later built into the Hebrew law as an example the people were to follow in the course of their week.  

The purpose and nature of this symbolism is speculative, but it bears no reference on the truth of Christianity.  

Genesis 1-2 have a number of interpretations. However, almost everyone agrees that despite how old or young you interpret the age of the earth there is also a additional meaning in Genesis that relates to the order of creation and God’s demonstration. Much like with worship God’s meaning is not about why he would do things the way He does but instead about what these things mean for us.

Because He wanted to.

He's got a thing for the number 7, and it sets the whole pattern for the 7-Day week with one of them being for a day of rest. Seriously, who doesn't love a day off? Plus it's not just a matter of length of time to create. An omnipotent CAN create in however long He wants to. He could do it instantaneously. Or He could bring the universe it to a boil and let it simmer for a few billion years. God did what He did because He was making a point through creation. But the answer for that is probably a bit more long-winded, and so I will just direct you to Tyler Vela’s answer.

19.) Is omnipotence necessary to create our universe when a larger, denser universe would have required more power? 

This again is a strange question. God does not look around the storehouses and think, “well this universe is going to be pretty large… let’s clear the stables and throwing everything I’ve got at it!” He doesn’t have a quantity of power known as “omnipotent” that was needed for the size of the universe. God just is omnipotent, meaning that he is all powerful and able to do anything he desires. He was omnipotent when he created this universe and was omnipotent when he created a few vessels of wine from water. Omnipotence is not a required input depending on the size of the universe. So this question just shows a completely conceptual breakdown in how Swan understand classical theism.   

This almost seems like a variation of the "could God make a rock so big he could not lift it?" question. In this instance, it seems to be asking "If God can do anything, why doesn't he do more things?" Presumably, God could have made a universe any size he chose – size being a relative measure of finite things. But the universe wasn't created for the sake of creating: it has a function and purpose which relates directly to God's nature.  

Looking at creation, for a moment, as a work of art rather than power: an artist designs things for reasons which appeal to his aesthetic. Looking at it from the direction of science: based on the laws of physics as humans currently understand them, a universe much more massive than this one would collapse in on itself. The universe is just the right size to suit the laws that govern it. 

This question assumes that the creation of the universe is God’s ultimate “project”. Why would we make this assumption? Particularly when most modern physicists point to more dimensions that we can’t know. Again the question lacks any substance due to its non-sequitur nature.

It seems to me that it is ultimately irrelevant how hard or easy it would have been to create this universe or that one. Omnipotence is omnipotence, and God created the universe he wanted to create, none would have been any more or less difficult to Him.