Sunday, November 29, 2009

The God of Non-Contradiction, Part I

In my last post, I discussed the idea that two opposing terms must be qualified if they are to correspond to reality. For instance, God is not contradictory—and we must think about this, for example, when we see God allowing nations to be murdered and destroyed and yet His Word tells us not to murder (Exodus 20). “Murder” and “not murder” cannot exist in the same way at the same time. To do so is to live with a blatant contradiction that doesn’t make any sense.

For those of you who have been reading the material here, for the last few weeks, I’ve been constantly mentioning what’s called “the Law of Non-Contradiction” (which I espoused in the above paragraph of this post). To give another example (other than murder), let’s use the words “short and tall.” No one can be BOTH short and tall at the same time. However, the opposing “heights” can be relative—for instance, “shorter than her aunt” but “taller than her grandmother” resolves the contradiction. In order for contradictions to be resolved, they must be “qualified,” or given a relative qualifier (being tall “in relation to” someone or something else). This is the key to resolving the idea of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. The biblical doctrines of “God’s Sovereignty” and “man’s responsibility” ARE NOT CONTRADICTIONS! They are not paradoxes that we must live with. Because God is consistent and logical (a God of Order), we can resolve these two biblical doctrines and uphold them both equally.

Axel D. Steuer writes:

“We seem, in brief, to be caught in the paradox that, whether we affirm or deny that God can create such beings, we end up by imposing a limit to God’s power. The options for resolving this supposed ‘Paradox of Omnipotence’ seem to come down to denying either divine omnipotence (and hence divine freedom) or human freedom...however, I believe that there is yet another way of resolving this supposed paradox...In brief, an omnipotent God is able to do whatever such a being wants to do short of involving itself in a self-contradiction. And one of the things God presumably wanted to do and in fact accomplished was THE CREATION OF BEINGS CAPABLE OF ENGAGING IN FREE ACTIONS, i.e., with freedom or a degree of self-control” (Axel D. Steuer, “The Freedom Of God And Human Freedom.” Scottish Journal of Theology, Vol. 36, pp. 171-172).

“An omnipotent God is able to do whatever such a being wants to do short of involving” Himself in that which goes against His nature. In other words, God will not make a “round square” or a “square circle,” because these two objects are contradictory in nature. It’s the same thing with humans: God will also not create a “She-Man” or a “He-woman,” because male and female are two distinct genders that cannot be crossed. One cannot be both male and female at the same time in the same way. People are often considered to be masculine in some things (like sports) and feminine in others (like watching romance movies, eating healthy, shopping, etc.). Men are even considered to be “feminine” in some cases when they cry in front of other guys. But we all know that when a man is labeled “feminine,” he is labeled as such WITH RESPECT TO crying (his emotions)—not that he is actually a woman! And when a woman is labeled “masculine” in her field (like working on cars, for example), we know that she is not really a man, but masculine IN RELATION TO her field of labor. Both genders must be qualified to coexist harmoniously.

And it is this approach must be carried over to the intensive theological debate regarding the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man:

“Now, while this ability of free human agents to control their own choices may seem to place a limit on God’s omnipotence, that is not really the case. For this self-control or freedom is a property of the human agents God chose to create and IN NO WAY REDUCES GOD’S POWER AND FREEDOM to create, destroy, intervene, or in any other way to exert divine control over the lives of all creatures. The suggestion or demand...that the Deity BE ABLE TO CONTROL, EVEN MORE DIRECTLY, THE MECHANISM OF SELF-CONTROL OF HUMAN AGENTS amounts in effect to...the demand that GOD ACTUALLY BECOME IDENTICAL WITH SOME OF THE CREATURES—for only then could God have absolute or total control over their free choices or mechanisms of self-control...since this impossibility of God’s determining the free decision of agents other than Himself is a LOGICAL IMPOSSIBILITY, God’s power is not diminished by the fact that persons cannot be created both HAVING a degree of self-control or freedom of action and LACKING such self-control” (172).

Have you ever heard the statement, “God is gonna control my self-control?” chances are, if you’ve heard it, you are one of very few and I’d like to meet you (smile)! God has given His children, via the Spirit, the fruit of self-control. Since God has given us the power to control ourselves, God is not gonna FORCE me to control myself. If God were to do that, then He would be violating the power of self-control that He gave me. This is why we think it ridiculous, for example, when a parent lets a child raise himself or herself—because children are unable to raise themselves; and how much sense does it make for a parent to let children “parent” themselves? If children are gonna be their own parents, then what do they need a “mom and dad” for? And everyday life testifies to the contradiction of children “parenting” themselves—look at how many go on to be involved in a number of sad tragedies, whether it be children engaging in unprotected, pre-marital sex or drugs or gangs, etc. We see the downward slope of contradictions all the time. Contradictions are not just silly on the surface; they are also tragic in real life. It’s amazing to think of how different the world would be if humanity spent time correcting its contradictions...

I have one more quote of Steuer’s to examine in my next post.

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