An essay donated by Susan Humphreys
Is God a perfect being? Some negative answers:
No, because perfection doesn't exist.
No, because he either isn't perfect or isn't a being.
No, because he is dead, or at least dead to the world.
God has sometimes been called the “unmoved mover”. BUT how could any living thing be unmoved, undisturbed by the buzzing of billions of pesky little gnats (the cries of human suffering and pleas for help)?
The answer is found within the question itself. A living being couldn’t be unmoved or undisturbed. Even the patience of a Saint would shatter when confronted with the cries of the multitudes, as would the PERFECTION of God.
Is God a PERFECT being? There are three possible answers:
Answer one: There is no such thing as PERFECT.
Taoists have long had the concept of Yin and Yang, a concept of compliments not opposites.
Westerners see all things in terms of black and white, as opposites, opposing forces constantly at war with each other. Things are either good or they are bad, moral or immoral, right or wrong, true or a lie. God is either ALL good (and therefore PERFECT) or if not he would be ALL bad, there is no middle ground, no halfway point.
The Taoist on the other hand realizes that there is good in things that are bad just as there is bad in things that are good. All assets are also liabilities just as all liabilities can also be assets. I think the phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” stems from this basic understanding.
Moral actions can have immoral consequences.
Good intentions can have disastrous outcomes.
I might point out how the Bible has several stories about how God's “good intentions” have disastrous consequences. If you read any concept of truth into the Biblical stories the problems in the Middle East today are living proof of the disastrous consequences of Gods interventions. Also, it is a good argument for why God should keep his hands out of human affairs and leave us to settle our own disputes and solve our own problems, to be blessed by or to suffer the consequences of our own actions or inactions. Granting favors to one can lead to bigger problems on down the road for many.
The Taoist realizes there is no such thing as TRUTH since all truths are only a part of the picture and therefore contain some degree of untruth. Even the concept of PERFECT has a little imperfection within it and is therefore impossible.
Inaction is actually passive action. Now I know that will blow some strict black and white thinkers minds away. If a house is on fire and people are trapped inside and you do nothing, just stand there and stare in horror, aren’t you guilty to some degree of DOING nothing. You could at the least sound an alarm, call for others to come and help. Doing nothing is actually doing something. Not taking action to help is taking action to not help.
If people write hateful Letters to the Editor that condemn homosexuals, call them unloved by God, a threat to the moral foundations of society, or whatever, and you stand by and say nothing aren’t you guilty of your failure to say something? Isn’t your silence complicity? The perpetrators of hate see it that way and are emboldened and encouraged by your silence along with the silence of the vast majority of folks who just don’t want to get involved.
How can a PERFECT God stand by and do nothing, how can he pretend he doesn’t see and hear, when children are being blown to bits by warring factions in the Middle East? How can a PERFECT God shut his ears and turn away from the cries of starving children? How can…….. I have come full circle, returned again to the basic problem of Theodicy. Except….
I recognize that the very act of “doing nothing” is an imperfection. The very least he could do is yell stop it, enough is enough, no more, “a pox on all your houses”, when his warring minions commit evil in his name. Gods very silence becomes complicity. Choosing to remain silent is doing something.
For those that want to argue that God can’t interfere with human free will I’d like to point out: Yelling at someone to stop is not interfering with free will. Voicing your displeasure at a person’s words or actions is not interfering with their free will (or their civil/legal rights). Offering advice about a different way to handle a situation is not interfering with free will. The person is still perfectly free to continue what he is doing or he can choose to not do what he is doing and do something else.
I think the whole idea of PERFECTION is actually the perfect Catch 22. A Catch 22 is a situation where the solution to the problem is actually denied by something inherent to the problem.
To reach the stage of PERFECTION, having no favorites, seeing no differences, taking no sides, having no needs for “stuff” or for “things” (wealth, power, adulation), having no feelings or emotions, no desires to punish or to reward or please, being unmoved, not having your tranquility or equilibrium disturbed, having no WILL to do anything, means (at least to me) that you would have to be imperfect or you’d have to be dead. Silence, being unmoved (when you are physically capable of saying something or doing something) when confronted with evil and suffering is an imperfection.
I think the Buddha understood this. After he found enlightenment, he returned to this world, teaching and helping others find their way, until his physical body failed him and he finally sought his complete release from this earthly plane and the seemingly endless cycle of birth and rebirth, life and death, sorrow and joy.
Answer two: God is not perfect or God is not a being:
If we are going to be honest with ourselves we are faced with the uncomfortable choice, either we accept:
God is NOT a Perfect being. This means he can and has made mistakes. This also means that if you are looking for justification and sanctification of your actions you may not have it. If you are hoping that God will rescue you, save you from harm you may have to look somewhere else for help or will have to help yourself. This also throws into doubt whether he can come through with many of the promises he has made, i.e. eternal life for simply believing in him.
or we accept:
2. God is not a BEING and by this we mean he is not an anthropomorphic, entity separate unto his or herself with the physical ability to speak or hands, arms, and legs (or some sort of psychic power) needed to physically act (to intervene in the affairs of men, cause floods, send down fire and brimstone, cause the sun to stand still, cause miracles to happen, raise people from the dead). God is simply an abstract idea, a product of our hopes and fears and imaginations (we created God in our own image, he didn’t create us in his own image), or God is a metaphor for good as the Devil is a metaphor for Evil, or as some might put it God is the energy of the universe, or God is the universe itself. People that take this option have many different views on what such a God is.
Some might try to argue here that God is spirit not physical substance. This is in one sense, the essence of an abstract idea. They are still stuck trying to prove that the “spirit” that moves them, or speaks to them is God and not their own subconscious or not that of the Devil. Quite honestly from what we know about history many men that claimed they were moved by the Spirit of God weren’t, they have shown by their actions they were moved by their own greed and desire for power or by the spirit of the Devil. Folks are stuck trying to prove that the book they claim was inspired by God's spirit was not the work of men’s minds or of the Devil. With all the contradictions and errors, with some of the evil action that it promotes -- slavery, genocide, rape, etc, -- it looks very much like the work of men claiming -- though not necessarily having -- divine inspiration. Folks are still stuck with the reality, even when God is understood to be spirit not physical entity, a PERFECT spirit has no favorites and is beyond interaction with this earthly plane or the spirit that moves them is an imperfect one.
Answer three: God is dead:
There is still a third choice. God is dead. Or at the least “dead to the world” as some might say about someone in a coma or a deep mindless sleep. He may have existed, been a real entity at one time, long enough to set off the Big Bang, but is no more. He gave all that he had to create this universe, his last full measure of devotion. Or like the Buddha he achieved Nirvana, that stage of enlightenment (PERFECTION) that has taken him Beyond concepts of Good and Evil, beyond all the suffering and and beyond direct interaction with this planet.
Aristotle advised us to have “moderation in all things”. In the Tao teh Ching we read in #29 “the Sage avoids all extremes, excesses and extravagances.” I think that PERFECTION is an extreme and should be moderated.
In the Analects of Confucius Book 14 #3 “The Master said, The knight of the Way who thinks only of sitting quietly at home is not worthy to be called a knight.”
A personal note:
I am not God, I am not dead and if you are reading this neither are you. I am a living and breathing imperfect human being. My place and time frame is here and now not everywhere and forever as Gods would be. Things may all “wash out in the end” and I believe that they will, but for now there is great suffering in this world and I can’t turn my back, I can’t pretend that I don’t see and don’t hear, I can’t consider myself a “knight of the Way” and stand by and do nothing.
So I write. I speak up when others utter words of hate. I volunteer in my home town. I care for the environment; I reduce, reuse and recycle, I don’t litter, I limit my driving, I tend 100 acres of woods and meadows….. I try to be a good citizen and a good neighbor; I vote, I return my shopping cart to the cart corral at WalMart, I don’t park in the handicap spaces, in fact I leave the spaces closest to the doors of a store for others, I am healthy, I can walk a few extra feet comfortably, I know others can’t. I don’t own a cell phone so I don’t worry about having to turn it off in theaters or when having lunch with a friend, and I certainly don’t text and drive. I……. well I try to do what I can.
One of my favorite quotes is from J.R.R. Tolkien
“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.”
If we would all try to do a little, if we would stop our senseless and ridiculous bickering (my God is better than your God, my people are better than your people, I know the TRUTH and you don’t….), if we could get our own EGOs under control and temper our fears, and our desire for revenge, power, wealth, we could go a long way towards making this world a better place for all of us that are here now and for those that will come after.
Originally posted: 2012-DEC-03
Latest update: 2012-AUG-04
Author: Susan Humphreys