Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ye Olde Journale - Creatione & Destructione

Part II of the forgiveness post is taking me longer to articulate than I expected. Sometimes getting things from head and heart to paper (or blog) is like giving birth. Things tear and bleed and hurt.

In any case, while I get an epidural, here is a blast from the very distant past. I journaled a bit when I was a teenager, and I believe the following snippet was written when I was 17 or so. My actual thoughts have shifted quite a bit since writing this (I'm almost twice as old!), so don't go commenting as if this something I accept today. Since a lot of the conversation I've been hearing lately has been about the journey of faith, I thought I would look into mine a bit more. As far as I remember, this is my first written attempt at articulating the relation of God to creation, and the beginning of my rejection of creation ex nihilo for creation ex dei.

Does anyone see any glaring problems in the following framework?

...which does bring up another good point to pursue. Why is Satan still here? Why is it that God can destroy the entirety of civilization with Noah with the justification that they are evil and have turned from Him, yet not destroy Satan himself? I think that we have to look at the way the universe is set up to explain.

Physics tells us that all things are constant in the universe. Nothing is either created or destroyed. Matter is always conserved in a reaction; energy is always conserved in a process; momentum is always conserved in a collision. Granted, there are times when matter can be converted to energy and vise versa, but the rule is that all things are conserved. No exceptions. When we die, our bodies decay and rot and become life again while our souls soar towards the heavens and eternity. Everything is conserved. Almost as if God is not willing to destroy anything that He as created.

Which makes sense to me. God created the universe, and after each step said “It is good,”. Why would he destroy something that He Himself has deemed good? He may destroy, like He did Sodom and Gomorrah, but isn’t that just the destruction of something man made? Don’t those atoms still exist, just in a different form? And don’t the souls of those who died still exist? You see, God didn’t really destroy, He just changed the things that he had created. And it seems that changing and creating is the only thing God ever does. Lack of destruction on the part of God gives a new meaning of sacredness to the things He has created.

Satan, however, is a different story. Satan has a spirit of destruction within him. Satan destroyed the bond between God and Adam in the Garden of Eden. Satan destroyed the bond between brothers when Cain killed Abel. Satan destroyed the connection between man and woman with lust and perversion. And Satan destroys the bond between me and God. The times I feel furthest from God, have the craving and desire to destroy. Not only to destroy, but to obliterate from existence, so that nothing remains of the object of my anger. Satan is a destroyer.

Which may, in fact, be the definition of sin to God. The act of destruction. God could no longer be with Adam because Adam had taken part in the destruction of something God had created. And this continues. God cannot be with man because man has destroyed something that He as created, and that is an abomination to Him. And God despises Satan because Satan is the Destroyer. Probably, that is what separated God and Lucifer in the first place. God created Something, and Lucifer thought that the Something would be best destroyed. God refused to destroy the Something, so Lucifer tried to go behind God’s back and destroy it. Hence the separation of God and Lucifer. Other angels thought that Lucifer had the right idea, that destruction of the Something was the way to go, so they were cast out of heaven also.

Whether or not Lucifer succeeded in destroying the Something is irrelevant, and whether or not Satan has the ability to create is fairly irrelevant also. The fact is that Satan destroyed, if not the Something, then the relationship he had with God. And the destruction of what God had created was reprehensible.

God still refuses to destroy, which is fine by me. Even in the End there will be no destruction. Except for the destruction of evil, which is something that God never created anyway. All of our souls will live eternally, either with God or in the Lake of Fire, and Satan and his henchmen will burn in the Lake of Fire as well. And what an amazing end for them. They will be conserved, these spirits that burn but are never consumed, yet the evil that caused them to destroy will be burned away forever, leaving only the glorious things that God has created.


Tracy P. said...

Well, although I don't have time to dig in and search it out thoroughly I'd say that it seems to give Satan credit for being more powerful than he is. I'd call him a liar--and if he can deceive us to the extent that we act on his lies, we may destroy ourselves or the people and things in our path. But honestly, I think I can be destructive without him.

Benjamin said...

Agreed - this framework makes Satan look like a rogue agent, out of God's control, with destructive powers able to undo God's creative efforts. Some theologians (like Greg Boyd) find this to be at least a semi-accurate description of Satan, but I'm not convinced. The God and Satan at war motif (the creator and destroyer) is awfully ying-yang and smacks of Hinduism. If one thinks of God creating ex nihilo, then there is nothing wrong (at least philosophically) with destruction back into nothingness. God's creative work seems more important than that, though. Perhaps his creation isn't truly ex nihilo after all?

To be honest, though, that is one of my minor concerns with this framework. I'm much more concerned with the last paragraph. Any thoughts on that?

Benjamin said...

That last paragraph gives me some heartburn for a number of reasons.

First, I spent all this time making God into a creator and not a destroyer, and then summarily make him into a destroyer like its no big whoop. I mean, Satan is destroying that which he did not create as well. Why doesn't he get off the hook?

Next, it makes Hell into a purgatory. Notice that hell seems to be a place in which evil is burned away and destroyed, instead of everlastingly tormented, which seems to be the biblical witness.

Lastly, it makes God saddistic. If evil is burned away, leaving only that which he has created, then why are souls in Hell for eternity? Wouldn't true justice demand their release, since they are indeed reformed for their crimes?

At the end of the day this framework, has some problems. It makes God into a destroyer and apathetic judge, and Hell into purgatory.

Not exactly a defensible Christian position, wouldn't you say?

Tracy P. said...

Whew! I hoped if I waited long enough you'd let me off the hook. :-) God's judgement and justice (in the sense of punishment) is something I've not taken a lot of time to ponder. But it's sort of interesting to picture a hell without evil (since it is destroyed in this scenario), since that sort of does release the reformed criminal.

I always picture the "fire" of hell as a place of fully informed regret over THE PERFECT eternal relationship offered but rejected. Is there anything more painful and gnawing than "if only..."? How does that sit with you?

Benjamin said...

That sits with me pretty well. In fact, there were conversations in Seminary in which we pondered the translation of 2 Thessalonians 1:9.

The Greek in that passage is a little ambiguous, and could possibly be read meaning that those who are in "Hell" (which is an English word, appearing nowhere in the Greek or Hebrew) are those who are tormented "from the presence of the Lord" KJV. Does this mean they are punished because they are separated from (i.e., away from) God, or because the very presence of God to them is unbearable (i.e., emanating from His presence)? Either is a valid translation, in my opinion.

Because of the influence of Kierkegaard in my thinking, I tend to think that God's unveiled presence is like a consuming fire to those who those who cannot humble themselves to Him. Or, to use Kierkegaard's language, those who chose to define themselves as themselves.

I was in a theology class in which we were reading Kierkegaard, and I mentioned how Hell could very well be standing before God, insisting to define yourself in the way you see fit while the infinitely intense presence of the Creator looked upon you, asking you to redefine yourself in the way He intends. My professor (who is a younger guy), looked up at the ceiling and said, "Dude, that would suck."

I'm still in process on this, too, but I could get on board with something akin to your idea.