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, December 08, 2008

Understanding Suffering (Short Version)

Note: this article is only trying to defend Christianity to those who say that it doesn't make any sense, and doesn't go beyond that and argue for its Christian assumptions... Read a longer version here, and I've recorded a podcast of it here.

How did God make us in His image (Gen 1:27)? Did God make creatures in His image by giving them reason?

We're not made in the image of God because we can reason, since computers and calculators can reason in a sense and aren't made in the image of God. So when God made us in His image He gave us something more than reason...

Let's look at the God who made us. God is infinite. How can anything finite be made in the image of the infinite? You cannot get anything more different than the finite and the infinite. If God is infinite, then how can we have anything in common with God?

And yet to say that humans are infinite like God would put us on God's level. Also, we're obviously not infinitely smart.

I think that we are made in the image of God because God puts some infinity in us, but we're not completely infinite like Him. In this way we have something in common with God, and have inferior reasoning and knowledge. See Ecc 3:11 "God has set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end".

But why wouldn't God make us completely infinite? Because only God can be completely infinite (Deu 6:4). God 'encompasses every infinity in His being', and that means that there can be only one God; God cannot make another God.

Because only God can be completely infinite, God has to make us out of finite stuff (like the brain) as well as infinite stuff. In practice, this means that we must have finite reasoning and knowledge (Matt 24:36).

We borrow from this infinite God whatever we have in common with God, like feeling, love, morality, free will and so on. What every person has borrowed from God is called their 'soul' (John 10:34).

The fact that our soul is infinite means that we can never understand it fully. Why? Because the logic of the infinite world is really different to the logic of the finite world, and we can only reason using the logic of the finite world.

Here's an example (more here): try giving infinity a value. Let's say that infinity equals the undefined value 'X'. In finite reasoning X + X must equal 2X. But infinity always remains infinity. So if we say that infinity = 'X', then X + X equals 2X... but X + X also equals X (because we're dealing with infinity). That would imply that 1 = 2.

OK, so why is this relevant to the problem of suffering?

Without our soul (something from the infinite world) there would be nobody 'in there' to feel stuff (animals also have souls but not understanding Job 39:13-17). So although we suffer because of problems like hurricanes, diseases and earthquakes, we also suffer because we have a soul that we borrow from God.

So no wonder we can't completely understand why we suffer, because we suffer through an infinite object, i.e. we suffer because of what goes on in the world of the soul (Rom 5:12-14)... creatures with finite reasoning just can't understand that stuff.

So the problem of suffering shouldn't be seen as a problem just because we don't know the answer in a way that would explain everything. We should feel able to rely on what the Bible says about it because it's impossible to get close to the answer using finite reasoning any other way.

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