Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Things I don't understand about God

Usually, when writing posts on this blog, I do my best to sound wise and knowledgeable. If you're laughing as you read this, then I may not have succeeded! At the very least I generally try to sound like a Christian who thinks about stuff and has at least some idea what he's talking about.

Generally then, I don't tend to spend a lot of time talking about the things I know I don't understand. So I thought it might make a nice change if I did!

Like most Christians I have doubts. Sometimes I look at the world and I wonder: Is there really a God after all? Am I just fooling myself? Usually my conclusion is that there is and I'm not, but sometimes I feel firmer in that conviction than others and there are always some questions that remain unanswered. So here is one of them:

It seems to me that pretty much everything in nature - at least in the animal kingdom - is ultimately based on violence. Violence is used to determine leadership, territory and mating. If you're a carnivore then you have to be violent in order to survive. If you're a herbivore then you either need to be violent enough to resist your attackers, or have some other way of avoiding, escaping from or defending yourself against violence if you want to live for very long.

One of the central tenets of the Christian faith though, is that God is love. Indeed, this is one of my central reasons for believing in God. Love is the only thing that really gives meaning to life. Without love, life doesn't make sense. It makes sense to me therefore, that the creator of the Universe would have love as His very essence. It also makes sense to me that God would be personal - not just some sort of impersonal cosmic force - as love is personal by definition, not something that can exist on its own in some kind of cosmic vacuum.

So why would a God of love create a natural order that has violence so deeply written into it? I don't understand this. One popular explanation among some evangelical Christians is that this is a result of 'the fall' - meaning that when Adam and Eve rebelled against God, the whole of creation changed and that it wasn't like this before. But there are several problems with this.

It seems fairly clear to me that the world has been here for a few billion years, despite what the young earth creationists might have to say about it. The Biblical creation story doesn't read to me like an account that is intended to be taken entirely literally, and even if it was, it says very little about the state of nature before the fall. It makes sense to me that the relationship between humans and the world would have been negatively affected by the breakdown in relationship between man and God. It even makes sense to me for the world to have suffered as a result of this, in ways we don't fully understand. All the records we have though, suggest that violence has been very much a part of life on planet earth, for a long time before human beings appeared.

So this is a question I don't know the answer to - although it doesn't stop me from believing in God. I wonder what you think?