What is God? I think that is a good question.
It seems necessary to assume God is who rather than what, but we think of ourselves and others with regard to what we are.
A man I look up to likes to refer to God in the feminine. I’m good with that. I don’t suppose masculine/feminine applies to God, so either convention works for me.
So that is a bit of the what. God transcends gender, and sex certainly doesn’t apply to spirit. However, it is not attributes like that which are prompting me to write. Sometimes we have to write to know what we think.
God is good, just, and merciful. That seems impossible to balance, so the omni-attributes seem essential. I’m still stuck with trying to figure out what that might mean.
I suppose I have an understanding of what is good, and what justice is, and what mercy is. I have to be on guard (thus the title) that I don’t start assuming I really know these thing. Moreover, I must not assume I can figure out God based on these things, and I must not presume in any way with regard to God.
It does seem that there are some things I have to expect, and accept.
God is the reason and the meaning. There just isn’t much point in worry about the notion otherwise. There are several atheistic tenets that assume no ultimate reason or meaning. And, that is what has me writing.
The orthodoxy of Christianity seems mostly required in order for me to hold a cogent and coherent foundational concept of God. The way other religions frame God leaves me flat. I find very little worth supposing. I can see how to build a thorough concept of God from some religions, but Christian orthodoxy seems to come closest. Note that I’m referring to orthodoxy primarily to identify the heterodoxies, the heresies.
When I think of God in the way Calvinists have tried to explain to me, I find a capricious God that fits justice so poorly as to judge it no different from simple atheism in the practical world. The God of Calvin doesn’t actually lead me any better than Richard Dawkins. Either way, nothing I do matters. Since I hold God as the meaning, things have to matter. Unless I want to suppose I’m just a puppet, robot, automaton for God, I cannot accept that what I do ultimately means nothing. What I do means something, even to God.
I can’t accept nothing, and I have to be on guard that I don’t accept my rejection of such as evidence of my beliefs.
To me, the God explained by the Calvinists is devilish and against me. I’ll be better off in hell than with a God like that. Or, if Calvinism is as close to the truth as religion has gotten, then it seems to me that atheism must be even closer to the truth, and I just cannot accept such as possible. Calvinism and atheism are not reasonable.
Similar results obtain when considering universalism. This notion has always been around. Jesus seems to have went out of his way to indicate there are some people he never knew, and since I accept Jesus as an aspect of the triune God, and utterly timeless, the statement indicates eternal damnation in the traditional, orthodox, sense. Some people don’t make it to heaven, and never even tried, even though some pretend to try, even doing what they suppose to be mighty works for God.
Jesus talked of hell a lot, and how the torment there never ends.
People rationalize however they want, but Jesus seemed to be trying to make a point that not everyone enters into eternal life, not ever.
Free will is not an illusion. We are finding at all levels that the nature of the universe is not deterministic. We are finding that if anything at all is real, we have a freedom of will and choice. Being finite and nearly powerless, our choices are limited. I think that is why some rebel against the responsibility of free will. Some seem to find it unbearable that they cannot choose whatever they want, so they reject freedom entirely. Some prefer to think that a random confluence of strings and quarks happened to interact such that we have an ongoing fluctuation disturbance in the nothingness that seems to give us a momentary illusion of something. In other words, the answer to the ancient question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” gets answered as, “It is all an illusion. There is nothing, never was.” I reject that notion as nonsense. It assume there is no such thing as reason, and that is not reasonable.
When I try to consider all we know, physical and spiritual, scientific and religious, it is all too much. There is more to it than we can discover. Much more than any one of us can know. It is foolish, simplistic, shallow, and worse to suppose we understand God, but I do think we can know enough to know it matters. Nonorthodox views substitute the meaningful mystery for meaningless platitudes.
If God ultimately, through punishment, or persuasion, or some set of processes and procedures reconciles all souls to Himself, what has been the point?
This life is too small in all regards. What use does an omnipotent creator have for us? We trust that He loves us, and we argue that this life lets us see that for ourselves. Yes, but if we ultimately cannot reject what He gives us, what is the difference of not having it at all? Why have this life-but-a-vapor-vanishing-away, if the end result is the same as not having experienced evil and suffering? Is there some wisdom in knowing how to harm your brother? I don’t see any possibility for it.
I believe there is a reason for this life, and I believe we all get to do with it as we please. I believe God will judge. I believe God will judge based on our choices, not on our sins. There is no choice if there is ultimately only one option. Accordingly, we would could never be judged on choice. There can be no judgement is if there is only one possibility. I choose to view God’s judgement a just, not imaginary. If there is such a thing as good, there is such a thing as evil, and there will be a day of reckoning.
Ultimately, there are two, and only two, possibilities. God, reason, meaning, purpose, reality, are real, or not. If yes is assumed, then two conditions must be real and eternal possibilities, with God, or not with God. None of it makes any sense otherwise. Of course, nothing hinges on whether or not it make sense, to me or anyone, but I just have nothing else to go on. If I assume God gave me this mind, and that reason is real, then I must do my best. My best rejects universalism at all levels.
To suppose the universe is only a few thousand years old makes God out to be a deceiver. I reject that notion and all that leads to it. To suppose universalism makes God out to be trivial and triffiling. Again, I reject that notion and all that leads to it.
There is only so much time. We’ve already used up about 13 billion years worth. That raises all sorts of questions. We don’t know how much more time there is, but a few hundred billion more years, something less than 100 times what has already passed, seems reasonable from what we know so far. And that is an unimaginable amount of time when considering less than a century for us humans.
Eternity is unimaginable even in light of hundreds of billions of years. And orthodoxy has assumed that eternity starts somewhere near the end of this brief moment of breathing. Nearly all of the greatest minds have agreed for two millenia now. Yet some think they know better. They have an easy way, and they are sticking to it. No, nothing is easy.
I believe in justice; I believe in God’s justice, and I do not think anyone is judged unfairly or without all that was needed for a favorable judgement. I don’t believe non-Christians all receive unfavorable judgements. I don’t believe the innumerable souls who died before Jesus, before Abraham, all receive unfavorable judgements. I believe each of us knows what is right, and if we choose to do it, I trust God’s mercy and judgement. Justice will be served, and that judgement comes at some point and eternity follows. There is no more time. No more possibility of appeal or commutation. The preliminaries are complete at that point, and with God or without, the real journey begins. Like the rich man in Jesus’ story of Lazarus, no one can cross over from one side to the other. Distance obviously didn’t matter, but the divide was immutable. Eternity must be immutable, or it is not eternal. (Thus, time, for now.)
If free will means anything, and nothing else can mean anything at all without it, then these are the things I must hold. This is what I must accept if I am to be honest.