Opinion Columns & Blogs

Pondering the mysteries of the divine

I have always had an interest in theology, and I enjoy the back and forth debating that’s been going on between Telegraph columnist Dr. Bill Cummings and his loyal opposition in the letters to the editor section. I don’t get the feeling that his detractors are enjoying the debate as much as I am, but I find it to be intellectually stimulating.

I sometimes feel like these discussions can be too limited however, as they seem to rehash the same points of contention over and over. Debates about things like whether the more supernatural things described in the Bible should be taken literally or allegorically and whether or not one can be a Christian while living a homosexual lifestyle are topical and interesting, but there are other fascinating questions relating to God that I’d like to see discussed and debated. Here are a few off the top of my head.

Where did God come from? Was there ever a time when he did not exist, and if so, how did he come to be? The most common response I hear to that query is that God is eternal and unchanging and has just always been around. But that contention creates a quandary if you think it through.

When asked why they believe that God exists, many people cite what is called the “watchmaker argument.” The universe is such an awesomely well-ordered place, goes the argument, that it must have been designed by some intelligent force. It just seems illogical to many of us to think that something as complex as our universe could have happened by accident.

There’s a problem with that line of thinking however, and it’s a pretty significant one. If you contend that our universe must have had a designer because complexity always implies design, then wouldn’t the designer of our universe (who I would think would have to be even more complex than the things he created) also require a creator of some kind?

Theologians usually try and wave this conundrum away by flatly stating that God is a unique and special case, a “First Cause” that is eternal and unchanging, but that’s what is known in logic analysis as the fallacy of “special pleading.” It creates an exception to its own basic precept (complex things cannot just come into existence without a designer to implement them) without really giving a reason to support the exception, thus failing a very basic rule of logical reasoning.

Now let’s switch gears and consider Satan. A lot of what we think we know about him comes from a very small number of passages in the Bible and a lot of imagination to fill in the blanks. But the idea that he was once the most powerful angel in heaven (known then as Lucifer) before he was cast out of heaven for rebelling against God with some other “bad seed” angels is pretty widely accepted as his origin story.

I have always wondered how, exactly, Lucifer and his cohorts were planning to overthrow an all-powerful, omnipresent being. If there is a path to victory there, I really can’t see it. It’s hard to imagine that a reasonably intelligent being would even attempt such a thing.

In any case, once Lucifer was cast down and became Satan, and he seems to have acquired some pretty awesome super powers as a consolation prize. Since we seem to blame Satan for being the motivating force behind every bad thought that comes into our heads, it seems that he must enjoy a constant and intimate telepathic connection to every human who has ever lived.

It could even be argued that this Satanic influence is necessary for us to have our free will, since we couldn’t choose between the good and the bad if both options weren’t constantly buzzing in our brains. It wouldn’t do for God to be beaming naughty thoughts into our heads, would it? So it might be further argued, therefore, that Lucifer’s fall and recasting as the scourge of mankind was a necessary component of God’s plan for us and had to happen just as it did.

These are just a few in a long list of things I wonder about the nature and workings of God. Maybe some of the armchair theologians that read this fine publication will enlighten me with their wisdom on these matters.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com.