Restart Story

\n"Much suffering happens because others choose to cause it," he said. "God can't just take away our freedom to choose."\n\n"But other people's choices prevent so many from enjoying the good life before they die. Surely it would be a greater good to strategically intervene so that this would be more possible."\n\n"This life is not the only place where such lessons can be learned. After this life what is wrong can be made right."\n\n"Then what is the point of this life if some get to learn and grow and enjoy life but still enjoy the afterlife while others must suffer in misery and wait for the afterlife to experience growth and joy?" \n\n\n
"You mean that there are different types of power?"\n\n"Yes. When we talk about God we are not talking about just another thing in the universe. We are talking about an entirely religious point of view, an entirely religious way of seeing the world. Maybe our understanding power then changes as well."\n\n"What does that mean for God's ability to intervene?"\n\n"It means that maybe power in the divine sense doesn't mean the ability to throw a car or a mountain a hundred miles or wipe out an army, but to have
To survey some of the complexities involved in saying that God intervenes in the world.
"So you are asking whether God simply knows what is perfectly good and simply follows that? As opposed to all goodness coming from God as its source?"\n\n"Yes," you answer. "Something like that." \n\n"That's possible," he says. "So in the case of the horrible storm, God saw that independently of himself, and in consideration of many other competing factors, God saw that the best possible good might be to not spare my family and he followed that best possible good perfectly."
"That is a problem, and I already know that appealing to God's ways not being our ways isn't satisfactory to you," he said with a smile. \n\n"That's true," you say. "And please forgive me for my insensitivity, but the problem I see is not that God intervenes, but that God appears to intervene sometimes and not intervene other times. It's the randomness of supposed intervention that is most difficult to accept. God saves some people here, does not save others over there."\n\n"That's true," he responds, "but believers must have faith in a larger plan. Besides which, we all know that everyone will die one day. Does the mere fact of our inevitable death demonstrate that God never intervenes? Because one day God will not intervene in your death, though God may intervene to preserve you several times before you die."\n\n"That's a good point," you say, "but the issue of suffering is a problem that makes intervention even more problematic."\n\n[[That some suffer far worse than others seems to point to the fact that God just doesn't intervene.]] \n\n[[That innocent people and children often suffer horribly shows God doesn't intervene.]]
"I'm not sure how you can say that," you say. "Your whole family was just killed." \n\nHe responds with a sad smile: "Yes, but God's will is not always possible to know."\n\nHow do you respond? \n\n[[So it was God's will that your family die?]]\n\n[[I'm not certain what to think of that. Why would God save some but not others?]]\n\n[[Maybe God didn't have the power to save anyone and the survivors lived because of random chance.]]
"What do you mean by limits?" he says.\n\n"Suppose that the freedom of human beings limits God in what he can do and how he can intervene."\n\n"Yes, I think I can agree about that. He could prevent a lot of suffering but he would have to limit many people's freedom in order to do so. And being free to do good or evil is essential to being human."\n\n"Still, that doesn't explain why he does just //that// numerous times in scripture--intervenes even though it means destroying or limiting someone's freedom. Anyway, that God appears in the world (even if it's just gentle persuasion of some kind) at all is really always an intervention. You can't touch the world without intervening in it, no matter how benignly."\n\n"Maybe so but if these are limitations they seem to be necessary limitations."\n\n"But wouldn't any limitation have to be seen as necessary? Otherwise, our experience would be vastly different."
You are a privileged citizen of a western nation who learns through the news that Typhoon Haiyan has decimated the Philippines. Because of your relatively comfortable life situation and reasonable education, you have the the means and the time necessary to reflect on the question of divine intervention in human affairs. One of your friends at work is a Filipino immigrant who recently moved to the United States and whose entire family was killed by the storm. Surprisingly, even in his grief he holds to the view that God sometimes intervenes to save people, though you personally are not so sure. He tells you that even though his entire family just died, he's confident that the survivors lived because [[God intervened to save them.]]
"Yes, everyone dies but not everyone suffers the same before the end. How do you explain that?"\n\n"Well, suffering happens in varying degrees with everyone. I don't see what that proves," he said. "And besides, we need to suffer in order to learn and grow and become better and stronger than we were."\n\n"There's a difference between the suffering that is everyone's lot and really unbearable suffering like a debilitating disease or torture, etc," you reply. "Why couldn't God just intervene to prevent that kind of suffering, the kind that doesn't help people learn and grow, but just makes them wish for death?"
"Maybe it was," he says. "God's ways are not our ways."\n\nYou decide to press him a little on this. "That might be true, but does that mean that maybe God isn't ultimately good? Or at least that God isn't good in the ways that we understand good." \n\n"Hmm, I don't know," he replies. "Part of what it means to be God is to be perfectly good. If part of God's will that is unknown to us is evil, God wouldn't be God."\n\nHaving studied a little philosophy in school this makes you think of Euthyphro's Dilemma, and you decide that this is how you will respond. \n\n[[Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is good?]]\n\nor\n\n[[Is is morally good because it is commanded by God?]]
by Jacob Baker
"So you are saying," he replied, "that whatever is good is only good because it came from God in some way, rather than there being some independent source of perfect goodness that God simply sees and obeys?"\n\n"Yes," you say. "Something like that." \n\n"That's possible," he says. "So in the case of the horrible storm, what God chose to do in not sparing my family was the best possible decision merely because God was the one who chose to do it, since everything God does is by definition good because God and the Good are the same thing."
Does God Intervene?
"No, I can't accept that," he responds. "God is the most powerful being in the universe."\n\n"Well, it doesn't really make sense that if God is so powerful he wouldn't save your family or anyone else that died, not to mention the deaths and suffering of people everywhere every day."\n\n"God must have his reasons," he responds. "Just because we don't know what those reasons are doesn't mean they don't exist."\n\n"That's true," you say, "but maybe there's another way to look at God's power." Do you say:\n\n[[Perhaps divine power is not the same as our understanding of physical power]]\n\nOR\n\n[[Perhaps there are limits on God's power]]