Thursday 10 September 2020

How can God help us?

My phraseology is intentional - 'can' is the word I mean. Although God is the creator, God cannot do everything.

(The false and incoherent idea that God is omnipotent and omniscient is not truly Christian, but was imported from pre-Christian Classical philosophy.)

In particular, this is a living 'universe' and reality is full of Beings - each of which is an agent, and each Being can (although not necessarily) generate intention: can think from himself. 


As usual, the analogy (which is also literal) of God as parents, and Men (and other Beings) as children makes matters clearer. A parent may compel a young child to perform certain actions, or prevent other actions - but a parent cannot compel what the child wants, cannot eradicate sin... An ideal, loving parent may teach, but cannot ensure that a specific child will learn.

God created and continues to create this world for our experience and learning; but He cannot compel us to learn from our experience - indeed we may learn the opposite of what was intended. 

(That is why this mortal world was built. If learning was not necessary, mortal life would not be necessary.)

For instance; any act of divine compassion may be (and has been) interpreted as aggression; just as happens between loving parents and an evil-motivated child. 


So, when it comes to God helping us in this current absolutely dire global situation of totalitarianism triumphant - where the forces of evil hold nearly all the power, and with the active consent of nearly-all ruling humans and the tacit acquiescence of the masses - what God can do (and does do) is to continue to create opportunities for learning, for each and every one of us. 

God is doing this on an individually-tailored basis. God has, in your here-and-now, created a situation from-which you (personally) are intended to learn some-thing of importance for your spiritual development and/or salvation.

...Not the general situation, but your situation; not for people in general but for you exactly. 


God cannot, and does not, try to 'fix' any global problems created by the evil nature of choices of great masses of Men - except or unless if to do so may be specifically helpful for specific persons. And you cannot know this, neither can I, nor can anyone - because all such outcomes depend upon the concordance of massive numbers of future choices by persons (and other Beings) who are free agents. 


What you need to know, and what I need to know, is related to our current circumstance; and that we can know - and we can know this directly (as-it-were mind to mind, without any 'mediation' such as language). We can know it by intuition from our true selves (i.e. that which is divine within us, being as were are children of God); and we can know it from the Holy Ghost - which is everywhere a source of guidance and comfort - in prayer/ meditation.


And once some-thing has been learned, then there will be some other thing to be learned. 

Life is never 'sorted-out'; there is no limit to the number of things we can learn - and one leads on to another; which is why the greatest saints were never complacent, and always aware of how much they had not learned.

What we have not learned may be termed our sins, and the process of learning can be termed repentance; which is why even the greatest of saints know themselves to be sinners. 


The Christian antidote to fear is trust in God, our loving Father the Creator; who can and does turn all actual events into possibilities for our personal learning; aimed at resurrection (of me, of you) to everlasting life in Heaven. We can trust that this will happen, but it is up to us - from our freedom - to make use of the opportunities God is providing.



Owen said...

So, from a spiritual point of view ie. the Ultimate point of view, everything that happens to us is the best possible thing to happen to us?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Owen. No. Such absolutes and infinties are a snare.

Instead, what happens to us can, if learned-from, be a significant value in terms of life eternal.

But what happens to us also happens to others of God's children, all of whom must be considered - the (literal) family analogy makes it clear. Loving parents do what they can be each child, in context that they are doing the same for their other children.

So (even ideally) 'the best' does not refer to any single child in isolation, but to the family. In a deep sense that is indeed 'the best' for each of us - because we live eternally in and for family; but to the (unloving, God-rejecting, this-worldly) modern mind, it seems like 'compromise'.

Stephen Macdonald said...

There is much that it is intuitively compelling about Bruce's theology, if I may call it that. This inner sensibility concerning the degree to which human ideas conform to absolute Truth is all we ultimately have. I agree that traditional "Greek" rationalizing about aspects of God's nature (the snares to which Bruce refers) tends to lead us away from this ineffable Truth.

Karl W said...

Dr Charlton, apologies for an off-topic questions but I was reading your old blog posts about Byzantium and was wondering if you still hold to your high evaluation, or if you feel in retrospect you may have been idealising that culture somewhat when you were in your pro-Orthodox phase?

Many thanks.