Immortal and Moral

Part 1

By Kersley Fitzgerald

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O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,"
even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
Psalm 139:1-12
The role of God in hard times is difficult because it's easy to get side-tracked on issues that don't necessarily help. Many an agnostic has claimed his belief stems from the conviction that "a good God wouldn't allow ___ to happen." The agnostic thinks he is drawing away from the microcosm of suffering and reaching back to the meta-narrative of the core issues — does God even exist? If so, how can He allow suffering? Unfortunately, he is merely stepping back into the meta-narrative of "How can my experiences determine if God exists?" He is attempting to make a philosophical conclusion out of his experiences instead of relying on the highest meta-narrative: truth.

The agnostic doesn't realize his very pre-suppositions have given all the evidence for God that he needs. Things happen — cancer and tornadoes and war. But aside from a deity who declares it so, there is nothing that can judge such things as "bad." They may be painful or cause sadness or anger. But who is to say something that causes pain, sadness, or anger is "wrong" unless there is something/someone above the situation who can define what "right" is. This is the Moral argument for the existence of God — there can be no morality without God.

Such an argument typically leads to questions about the sovereignty of God. What gave God the right to create people to suffer? If God knew Adam and Eve would sin and Satan would seek to defeat us, why did He allow it? In particular, why do unbelievers have to suffer forever?

The answer is the emotionally unsatisfying, "Because God made us that way." For whatever reason, God chose to make a type of creature that has moral choice independent of His righteousness. And He made that creature with an immortal soul.

Sometimes God gives us a glimpse into the logic. Why do people die? Because to expose them to an eternity where they can develop more and more powerful ways to hurt each other is unkind (Genesis 6:3, 5). Why do unbelievers suffer in hell forever? Because when given a choice, they rejected God, and God grants them their desire by separating their immortal souls from Him forever (Matthew 25:46). But why are human souls immortal (Daniel 12:2)? We don't know. Why did God give us moral choice (Genesis 2:16-17)? We don't know. His plan happened to involve a creature that has an immortal soul and moral choice, and our consciousnesses — yours and mine — happen to inhabit one of those creature.

But God didn't abandon us. Being creatures with an immortal soul and moral choice is a heady thing and requires an instruction manual — the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). Which the creatures promptly ignored in an attempt to interpret their world through their own experiences and not the wisdom of their Creator (1 Corinthians 1:20). This is sin — to act according to the conclusions drawn from limited understanding instead of instruction given by an omniscient Source.

And the Source addressed the foolishness of this choice, particularly in Job 38, the great "Where were you" dissertation.
Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know.
Or who stretched the line on it?
On what were its bases sunk?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Continue to Part 2

Image Credit: Martin Cathrae; "Jars II"; Creative Commons

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Published 9-19-13