Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Imperfection Theology

Imperfection Theology
Will G
(Redated to front.)

As I've done more thinking about the defense of Christian philosophical doctrines, I've found one approach has been highly useful in preserving orthodoxy while also giving great answers. I call this kind of approach 'imperfection theology', and I think it'd be worthwhile to create a post on it. In keeping with the theme that I should make my ideas more accessible, I've created a picture illustrating the core idea, below.

1. God cannot create perfect persons outside himself. Anything of God is completely perfect, anything apart from God must necessarily be somewhat imperfect. God is so great that only he has total perfection - only the greatest possible being can have total perfection. Therefore, something separated from God to any degree whatsoever is imperfect to the degree separated. This includes beings that God creates, because to create a being with a different 'mind' from God, that being must to some extent be separate from him (see the note on 11 regarding angels.) This is not a 'limit' on God's omnipotence, really, because if we understood the ways of the universe and philosophy better, we'd see how it must be so as a matter of non-contradiction; just like the way two and two cannot make five.

2. Due to the 'nature' of any reality, if there are imperfect people in it then the moral experience of that reality is flawed, meaning, there is a lot of evil in it. One interpretation of how this might be the case is that the universe is 'part' of God or intimately sustained by God in some way, and therefore just like our imperfection/evilness destroys our relationship with God, so our imperfection destroys our relationship with the universe which is part of/sustained by God, thus taking away good things from reality, which is the same as bringing evil. This leads to evolutionary evil because an imperfect reality had to be created for imperfect people (millions of years of animal suffering before sin), that humans collectively must suffer a proportion of evil to good in reality (natural evil) and that sometimes humans are mysteriously allowed to do very evil things to fulfill this 'privation of good' quotient (moral evil) by their free choices.

3. The imperfection affects everyone who is created differently. Some people are affected and become horribly evil. Some people are affected so they cannot choose to be saved. In order to overcome our necessary imperfection, God has to use his Holy Spirit with the soul of a person, and if that person accepts a huge loss of autonomy (and individuality?) and accepts the complete sovereignty of God, then God can effectively overcome this imperfection, but it requires a very serious choice. The alternative is a state similar to limbo, of no happiness or pain, forever. Some people will rationally and reasonably choose, based on their characters, to go to limbo forever rather than heaven. Everyone is given that choice in the afterlife, but they won't choose any differently than on Earth, nor can God do anything to change the choice from no to yes. If a person thinks, actually, no one would choose to go hell/limbo, well, perhaps they (and we) can't conceive of just how limiting or autonomy-losing the choice for heaven really is. My position is that it's as limiting in terms of individuality and autonomy as it needs to be for it to be plausible that rational people will sometimes choose to go to this kind of a limbo/hell rather than this kind of heaven (but we can't be robots and have to have free choice involved somewhere.)

4. In heaven, since everyone will be perfect having made this choice, there will be no evil and be perfect happiness forever. The problems calling for the creation of this universe and its evil will have been overcome.

These are the core themes of imperfection theology. I've created an appendix of other elements for those interested.


5. Out of all humans who will ever live, a minority will choose to go to heaven, and a majority will choose to go to hell. God allocates these people into history according to his mysterious will. People who are Christians can know they're saved; it's a lot more uncertain for those who never hear the gospel. Since I'm a Christian, I think that it's Christianity which can tell a person whether they're saved, but I might point out that God doesn't actually have to have a religion in the world, that people believe in. I assume there's a reason for having Christianity in the world and advertising it, but I don't know what that is. Whether God introduced Christianity into the world or not, it wouldn't, under my view, have made a difference to the numbers of the saved or the amount of evil, but I assume that the existence of, and spread of, Christianity, must serve some kind of purpose he has in mind.

6. God hides himself because firstly, it wouldn't make a difference to the number of the saved if everyone believed the truth of Christianity (see 5), secondly, it wouldn't make a difference to the amount of evil (see 2) and thirdly, believing in God and not wishing to make the choice for heaven might hurt the rejecter's free will to decide otherwise (see 3). This explains why God 'hides' himself as much as he does, making the evidence of his existence ambiguous, and only demonstrating his existence to people in a way the proof of which cannot really be communicated to others.

7. The main function of the atonement, I think, was for Jesus to take on humans' imperfection on himself in some way, in some way allowing us to be made perfect in the afterlife and not suffering the consequences of necessary imperfection in cutting us off from God. I don't think it required a physical atonement, but physical atonement was involved - I think it was more of a spiritual action that was accomplished. Nor do I think God necessarily had to advertise this, but bringing Christianity into the world serves some purpose. To have an effect on a person they have to be connected to God/Jesus in some way, i.e. connected to the Holy Spirit by choosing to be saved.

8. When people pray, they are really asking for God to reallocate evil from someone to someone else. God is reluctant to do this a lot of the time as it only redirects evil. If a prayer is not about evil, God may have various reasons for saying no.

9. Because God loves everyone equally and shows no favoritism, he hasn't chosen to make only non-Christians suffer: Christians and non-Christians suffer equally.

10. I don't know why the Bible is imperfect, but God will not let anyone lose faith because of this, assuming that I, as a Christian, am right about Christians being those who will make the choice to go to heaven. Everyone who will be saved is going to be saved, and if they believe in Christianity will never stop believing, even if stuff in the Bible, or anything else, bothers them. Those who lose faith because of this or for any other reason were never going to choose to go to heaven in the afterlife (although I think they certainly believed.) So although it's puzzling why God allows people to apparently gain and then lose their faith, it doesn't really affect the broader picture.

11. There can be perfect angels, because they have in some way already undergone a perfection process or some kind of other method of creation, but this doesn't defeat my idea in the sense God can create perfect angels, because only a proportion of angels could be perfect - just like for humans, and I say humans can be perfect. Note the existence of fallen angels.

Edited 1/16/08


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