Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Great Controversy, if it only worked

There is an interesting conversation over on the Spectrum Blog under the article written by Herbert Douglass entitled The Great Controversy.

The conversation in the comments is not between others and Mr. Douglass but with the various views set forth on this unsatisfactory notion of the place of evil in the world if it is ruled by a loving God. Adventist have long thought they had the answer with what they often call the Great Controversy Theme or Motif. Though it is exceedingly rare to find anyone actually spell out what they mean by the Great Controversy theme or motif. Herbert Douglass does spend a small portion of his article describing what he believes the GCT (Great controversy Theme). He sums it up as freedom. God's love demands the gift of freedom because love only exists in the reality of freedom to choose.
The central issue in the Great Controversy between God and Satan is “freedom.”  Over that mysterious word, that word that has summoned unspeakable courage, honor, and unselfishness in its defense, the well-being of the universe has been wrenched and jeopardized.  Why did God risk all on freedom?
The problem I see with the GCT is that it requires us to make concrete, mythological Biblical stories. In this case Herbert Douglass mentions both Eden and Lucifer. Lucifer by tradition being Satan rather then the metaphor for the king of Babylon actually found in the Bible in Isaiah 14. Thus the foundation of the GCT is based upon what to many seems an allegorical creation story of Eden in perfection and metaphor's about one in a series of opponents of Israel in the book of Isaiah. The foundation therefore is a bit weak. But what about the overall philosophy of freedom and love being the root cause of evil.

That sounds bad doesn't it, but that is what this theory says. Because of love God gives the freedom to people to do whatever they want. So people can choose to be cruel. This theory does not explain how diseases and pathogens infect and shorten our lives, nor why the animal may stalk and kill the child on the edge of the village or why the storm or famine causes desolation. So the GCT is not really even that specific on what evil is. A literal reading of the book of Genesis does not let God off the hook for such things. God curses the ground and then with a flood because man is wicked he kills off everything but what is put in the ark. Yet somehow the GCT is all about love and freedom.

If one were to hold to the literal Eden story then when the two people disobeyed God they started events rolling that could not be stopped until billions were affected. Instead of God explaining to them about choices and consequences and that there was an evil being God had created and allowed the freedom to lie and deceive about anything and everything and that there were such things as facts and that God could in fact present a case for why His ways were better. He cursed them and kicked them out of Eden. Which kind of throws the whole love and freedom thing on the bonfire pretty early. It is rather like your 3 year old disobeying you and you kick him out of the house. Do you really think anyone is going to believe that what you did was out of love?

Herbert Douglass actually acknowledges this problem in his article when he writes:
The risk of granting freedom was not only that God should have a forever heartache.  He would also put Himself on trial. He became One charged with the meanest, most unfair accusations that could be leveled against our Holy Lover.  For millennia, it has seemed that Satan with his accusations has been winning.  More people, it seems, have believed Satan’s lies about God than those who have had faith in His Word, His promises, His trustworthiness. All this trading sad, self-destructive independence for genuine freedom will be covered in lessons to come.
Sounds like because of the rash act of not talking about the problem but kicking them out of Eden God opened Himself up to even more charges. So these people through the millennia don't know the truth of the situation yet somehow they are supposed to now judge God Himself as if He is on trial. They can't tell the difference between true and false yet they are supposed to judge God! Fat chance. Perhaps if God gave them all the data they need to judge, reveal to them the complexities of history and the very thought process of God maybe they could make some kind of judgment, though we have to assume then that what God grants them in knowledge is in fact true and if the question is what God says is true then we being dependent upon God for all this information are back to square one, why believe what He says or shows. Maybe He is just manipulating us?

I wish there was some unified theory of Evil and God. But there is not. Is a volcano evil or a prion or virus? Or are they part of a natural scheme to maintain an indefinitely functioning life cycle of an entire planet filled with life. That is what I tend to think, but then I don't subscribe to the literal nature of the Genesis stories. If those things are the results of curses by God...then the GCT just does not work at all. But like any theory there is elements of truth in the GCT. People do choose to love and they do chose their actions. Those actions will be good and evil. Sometimes evil may even cause something good to happen and sometimes good might in some way promote evil. So we can't simply disregard the importance of freedom. But as with any religious teaching there will be those who disagree and they will even abandon freedom. God did it, such as good old Calvinism, God chooses some to be saved and some to be lost.

The real question when one searches for reasons to understand God and evil is going to come down to what will your theory do for you and others in the here and now. That unfortunately is a judgment call for each individual. However much we may want to declare our truth, we are ill prepared to document the evidence for our truth. We don't like that, we want to think we have special truth that we can share and of course the other religions and denominations and philosophies have the same desire. It is uncomfortable to actually know so little. But honestly that is where we are.

Feel free to talk me off of this ledge, it is not a nice place to be.


Anonymous said...

Ok Ron, come down off the ledge.

But first realize that you voluntarily put yourself there.

You decided that you could out logic, out think and out knowledge God.

You have taken apart the Genesis story and you "do not subscribe to the literal nature of the Genesis stories." So you are left to conclusions that in the end leave you with no conclusions.

Consider the Genesis stories to be true - not as books of science nor total revelation of all I wish to know of the past, but as books of faith. They will make TOTAL sense in the future.

I don't completely understand Revelation now but I will someday. I don't completely understand all the writings of Paul but I will someday. I still find new meanings in the sayings of Christ even after decades of study.

But I see God and His redemption in all of them.

You say God "kicked" Adam and Eve out of Eden. I see Adam and Eve choosing a path leading to their departure. They choose to leave. They are given due warning, reinforced warning, sounds as if God walked with them in the cool of the day, may have had many, many conversations with them concerning this "tree". We don't know, Moses wrote this millennia later, but we don't have all the details.

Ron, have you ever considered that your decisions (ie I don't subscribe to ...Genesis) are based on your assumptions and that those assumptions almost always are against the literal Bible.

Have you considered that you could make the same assumptions you make, which are leaps of faith either way, in a logical, rational way in the other direction. Try this. Write a defense of Genesis. Just try it. You will be surprised at what you find. There is lots to defend. Moses did not put everything on the table, he never meant to. I don't think God ever asked him to.

It is like the conversations God, Adam and Eve had before the fall, we will never know how deep, how many, how long those conversations were before that fateful day Eve found herself at the tree.

Same with all of the discrepancies we see in science. I for one, am completely perplexed with what I see in the natural world. Would I be shocked to find the world is only 6,000 years old? I would be stunned. Do I believe that God might have that up his sleeve? Possibly. So I don't think I have to know. Just another example of how I leave God to God.

I simply know He loves me, has redeemed me from a horrible past, has changed me and continues to do so and has prepared a place for me and that He continues to surprise me with His love.


Ron Corson said...

I put myself there that is true. just as the Muslim puts himself on his perch the Hindu on his and the fundamentalist on his. Wherever we are we put ourselves there if we have any thinking abilities.

am I there because I don't take Genesis literally, yes but I acknowledge that while Bruce simply adds hypothetical's to the story. But if you do that you aren't taking it literally are you? I could add all kinds of hypothetical's and make the Genesis story fit better with what we actually see in the world.But again nothing literal about that. So yes it does not work literally and even those who claim they take it literally are not. so that kind of confusion will never help come to a solution.

I could easily take them as books of faith, but that would not make them literal and when someone tries to say literal and then says they are true again it is cognitive dissonance.

You may have faith that you will understand. But we are all still in the we don't understand phase. So you have faith that you should defend Genesis as literal and that someday you will understand it. but that is a fantasy position, you are not there yet you just believe you will be if you hold to your literal Genesis beliefs. Which is a nice circular bit of reasoning.

Yes, I do reject the literal Bible. I don't believe God would simply send a flood to kill everyone and all the rest of life. That is not a reasonable God. And God to be God has to be supremely reasonable. A capricious God is not worthy of worship, simply fear and if that was the case he would not be as silent as God seems to be.

I will leave it up to those who really do believe it is literal to write their defense. If you think you can do it go for it. I will post it here if you want.

Anonymous said...

Your last sentence has haunted me ever since I read it. I would not be able to face life without faith in God to help me through. I am also glad He is a just God. If I came home and found my family being abused and murdered, I would want justice. Maybe after generations of abuse and murder against His faithful people, God decided there was no more hope for the people before the flood although He gave them 120 years to change their minds. That is the why God will finally do away with sin for eternity. He will administer justice against what all His faithful people have endured. For those who do decide to follow He will provide a life greater than they can now dream. May we all enjoy that life with Him.