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

Monday, July 28, 2008

Clarifying God

Clarifying God
Will G

I've been talking about why I think God allows suffering for a while now, and I think it's time I wrote a more in-depth analysis of what I believe God to be and why he must make people who suffer.

The basis of my argument against evil is that God is all that exists or can exist. But I don't mean that God the person is all that can exist. It should be obvious that I believe that other persons apart from God can exist, otherwise we wouldn't be here (unless I said that we're God, which would be heretical.) What I mean is that everything that exists is made out of God. Somehow, God can make someone else out of God. We are such people.

The central theme of my argument is that there is only one kind of material, or 'substance' that exists, and that is 'God-material.' I call it 'the perfect substance', because it is the most perfect kind of material there is. But the material is not a person. If I said that the material was a person, then since there's just one material, then there'd be just one person, so you'd run into the problem of there being no one apart from God. I think of the material, or perfect substance, as hardware. Being a person, or having consciousness is more like software, that runs on the hardware (the perfect material.)

Something that the perfect material does is create consciousness. Anything conscious is conscious because of the perfect material, because that's one of the things that the perfect material does. The material is so perfect that it can even make consciousness, and does so all the time.

When you get all of the material together, you get God. I think of God as a conscious being generated from 100% of the perfect material.

I'll assume that God really wants to make other people. If he can make other people without suffering, then he will. Suffering can only happen because God *must* make people who suffer if he wants to make anyone.

In a nutshell, where do I think that evil comes from? I think that evil comes from being conscious when not all of the perfect material has gone into making you conscious. So for instance all of the material goes into making God's consciousness, and so he's perfectly happy and good and so on. All of the perfect material together makes a conscious being who is perfectly happy and good. If the perfect material didn't make someone who was perfectly happy and good, then it would hardly be a perfect material! I'll assume that using only a part of the perfect material to make a person makes them less happy, less good, and so on. Then it would make sense that anyone made from, let's say, 50% of the perfect material would be unhappy a lot of the time and also morally bad sometimes. So one can see how that could explain a lot of human suffering, if one can show that God must use only 50% of the perfect material, or thereabouts, to make us.

There are a number of problems that come up here that could make this explanation a bit weak. First of all, if you can reuse the perfect material to make someone else conscious apart from God, then why would you ever use less than 100% of it to make someone? Clearly a given bit of the perfect material can make more than one consciousness, otherwise no one apart from God could be conscious. But why not reuse all of it? This means that God should be able to make as many people as he wants to using 100% of the perfect material, like he uses 100% of it, and therefore God should be able to make as many perfectly happy and good people as he wants. Why then would you go and make people who suffer by using only some of the perfect material to make someone?

My answer to this is to say that although God can make a different conscious awareness to him, that is no guarantee that they are different persons to him. That is, there are people, and there are conscious experiences, and there are more conscious experiences at any one time than there are people. In other words, having a conscious experience and being your own person are different things. That is my answer to why God makes people using only 50% of the perfect material or thereabouts. My answer is that God shares some of his consciousness with people who are made from similar levels of the material to him, and so those people aren't different persons to God although they have a lot of different conscious experiences to him.

I'll give a thought experiment to explain this. Let's say that you have a God who uses all of the perfect material in the making of his consciousness (the person we call God). Then let's say that God then uses 99% of the perfect material to make another consciousness. Although the 99% person would have different conscious experiences to God, since God obviously isn't 99% good and 99% happy, the 99% person would have such similar conscious experiences to God that there'd be some kind of 'conscious bridge' between them. I think that naturally there's a conscious bridge between any conscious experiences (since they come from the same perfect material) that are the same. The 99% perfect God would not share his imperfect thoughts with the 100% perfect God, because a 100% perfect God can't have any imperfect experiences, but otherwise they'd share the same thoughts and the same conscious experiences since the thoughts of a 99% perfect God are still pretty good. And since most (or a lot) of their thoughts would be shared, then you can't really say that the 99% God and the 100% God are different people. This is because what makes someone a different person to someone else is not sharing any conscious experiences. This is what I mean when I say that there are more conscious experiences at any one time than there are people.

So there's naturally a 'conscious bridge' between any two very similar conscious experiences... unless the differences between two conscious experiences are too great. If the differences between two conscious experiences are too great, then there can't be a conscious bridge between them, which means that as people they don't share each other's conscious experiences. This makes those two conscious experiences different persons as well as different experiences. There's a 'conscious break' instead of a 'conscious bridge'.

Following from this, we are as imperfect as we need to be so that we don't have God's conscious experiences, in order to be different persons to God. This means that God makes humans using maybe just 50% or so of the perfect material. This means that we use only 50% of what will make us perfectly happy, and 50% of what will give us the desire to only do good things, among other problems that humans have.

One may then ask, if this overlapping is a problem, then why don't our conscious experiences as humans overlap, since we're all made equally imperfect? The answer is that since in my theology the only genuine experiences are good experiences: being good or being happy - and experiences of being bad and being unhappy are just experiences of being good or being happy that have been messed up - then this means that only good conscious experiences can be shared between people. So since God has the ultimate in good experiences, then we're much more likely to share our conscious awareness with God rather than anyone else.

This replaces my earlier 'existence = perfection = being God' explanation. This is how I would explain reality and suffering now.

Essentially, we suffer because God had to make us very imperfect in order to be different persons to him. But this doesn't make God evil, because in the end, the value of making different persons to him justifies God making people who suffer a lot and are very imperfect.

To conclude, I think that God can fix the world if he wants to, but it requires us saying to God 'I want the world to be fixed'. This means that God must wait for us to have one thought before fixing our world, which is the thought: 'I want the world to be fixed'. But after that thought, he can fix it. I say that God needs to ask us first because we have free will, and fixing the world in my theology requires us to accept something very important that God does to us, something that requires us to make a choice.

So this theodicy may be able to explain why we suffer for one thought. We don't suffer the same because God takes suffering from one person at one time and gives it to another person, maybe at a different time. Why he does this and how it is justified I do not know, but it doesn't involve a contradiction and doesn't destroy this defense so I will accept it anyway. As to how suffering can be spiritual when we are physical beings, I say that God fits our physical world with what we must suffer, rather than what we suffer fits with our physical world (cart before the horse issues.)

Our suffering goes on for more than one thought for reasons unknown. But although the reason is unknown, it is possible to believe that there is a reason. It is true that God has delayed a perfect world (by not making it perfect after one thought) but there's still a future of eternal happiness for potentially everyone. Moreover, it's possible that God wants to accomplish something in people that requires a world with suffering (for example, for us to choose to be good people.) And if multiple moments of thought with suffering are a good thing, then maybe the average human lifespan is right for some reason?



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