Friday, September 3, 2010

Design Arguments

Design arguments for God do not interest me too much. When someone says, "God must exist because how else do we explain life? Natural processes could not have created it on their own." I tend to hear "God created a naturalistic system that failed to accomplish its highest goal without subsequent tweaking."

Arguments for or against God are more interesting when they explore the idea that God is necessary for ALL things, not just one thing here or there.


  1. And of course there is always the rebuttal - "who designed the Designer?"

    It all goes back to the ontological argument - at least Kant thought so if I remember correctly.

    But God is just too much for my mind to grasp right now.

  2. "God created a naturalistic system that failed to accomplish its highest goal without subsequent tweaking." I really like this sentiment, actually. It speaks to the oddity of the orthodox doctrine of the atonement - if God is God, why can God not simply waive our debt to God (assuming such debt exists)? Isn't it more likely that we are already endowed with everything we need (though it's probably latent) to work out our own "salvation"?

  3. Kelly,

    I totally agree. A penal substitution version of the atonement does not make sense to me.

    Do you have an alternate interpretation? I'll post one soon.

  4. Hmm... mainly, I see Jesus as "activist," if you will. Sage, prophet, commentator, charismatic leader. Social and political turmoil was high during the Roman occupation of the Palestinian coast. Without going in to much detail, I think that Jesus' life, as touched by and in tune with God, stands as a demonstration of what every person's life can be, and his death (reasonably inevitable though it was) became the proof that we must be willing to sacrifice everything for what is right (don't confuse this with sacrificing everything for what we think God wants!). Most of us would be willing to sacrifice most of what we have for a few people; Jesus was willing to sacrifice everything he had for all people (even those who hated him), because it was the only "righteous" conclusion to his life to that point (to run away from death would have made him simply another fleeting character in a history book, full of a sense of fairness but unwilling to fulfill what was necessary to plumb the depths of unfairness). In that sense, the atonement doesn't have anything to do with judgement or sin or debt, but is instead a beacon of what is attainable at the limits of human nature. Atonement is being willing to lose everything for nothing; the natural outcome of utter sacrifice.

  5. Kelly,

    Good stuff. Would you care if I put your point of view in my next post? It will be alternate ideas to the penal substitution.

  6. Steven - knock yourself out! I thought of one other thing to add, while I was considering it last night (and kudos to Evil Dr Pain for the image). Consider when Darth Vader saves Luke from the Emperor at the end of Return of the Jedi. We see this sacrifice as noble, and not only that, we can see that the character of Vader - upon sacrificing himself for others - has found an eerie and quiet sense of peace. It's written all over his face as he dies. So the last point regarding atonement is this: that performing the ultimate sacrifice, giving everything you have - "unto death," as they say - "buys" you freedom. You have done literally all you can, and so you are no longer "guilty," you can no longer be "held accountable." This is the most dogmatic I can approach in terms of the doctrine of the Atonement: that atonement is that ethereal reward you reap, that inner peace you achieve, upon giving everything you have for the greater good. It isn't a matter of debt and substitution, it isn't even "given" in that sense, but "earned." You earn your (spiritual) freedom because you have given your life, and cannot be asked to do more.
    Hope that makes sense!

  7. Kelly,

    I like that as well - the part about the cathartic effect of giving your all for the community. But let's hope that God the Father is not like The Emperor in Return of the Jedi!