The Chairman of the Bored
Not sure if it’s because of the holiday season and all the extra activity – inner and outer – during this time. But I’ve been letting this entry hang, fully aware it’s in need of revision. Which is a nice way of saying… I’m bored of theology!
Actually, I’m not bored of theology per se. If I’m predestined for anything, it’s to think about God and creation, trying to figure out how it all works, realizing I’ll always fall short due to my human limitations.
But that’s just it.
I’m finding it dull and uninspiring writing about what a bunch of men thought about God over the centuries, some of whom were probably misogynist and racist.
It just seems so stiff and wooden.
So I’m going to boil it down to two main points. Or rather, the two main forms that, historically speaking, the idea of predestination takes.
Predestination in a nutshell
The first type of predestination, articulated by St. Augustine, is that some individuals are divinely predestined to reside in an eternal heaven. Many believe the following New Testament passage supports this belief:
Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father” (Matthew 20:23, NIV).
The second type, called “double predestination” (or dual predestination), is the belief that God predestines some for everlasting heaven and others to eternal hell.
Gottschalk of Orbais, an unorthodox 9th-century theologian was imprisoned for advancing the notion of double predestination.
Again, this is only the simplest of outlines. The idea of predestination has been debated for centuries among world religions. Some of the leading questions are:
- Is God good?
- How could a good God allow some souls to suffer an eternal hell?
- Does God actively plan or passively allow eternal damnation?
- Is God all-powerful?
- Is God all-good?
- Are we in a position to understand or judge God?
- How do we envision God, after all?
- Are we free to make good or bad choices?
- Are we determined in some grand web of cause and effect?
The questions and answers are, indeed, many.¹
Time for an update?
Historically, it seems that theologians play word games to try to justify their limited outlook on God, space-time and creation.
God knows in advance how we will choose, for instance. Similarly, God permits but does not enforce our evil actions, we often hear.
This doesn’t intellectually satisfy most people because the answer is way beyond our human capacity for understanding.
With our imploding/exploding 21st-century cosmology where matter/energy and space/time are not absolutes, the old ways of looking at the issue come off even more stale and regimented.
Carl Jung picked up on this problem. His solution was to say that God is half unconscious and, really, half bad. For Jung, God learns to be ethically better through God’s own creation.
I think this is rubbish. Jung, despite his best efforts to differentiate the ego from the archetype became a bit egotistical in my opinion. True, I never met him. But from his work and biographical material it seems he occasionally fell into the power trip trap.
This morning I noticed a new article about Near Death Experiences.² It adds an intriguing piece to the puzzle.
The author says he died but came back.
During his comatose “death” he literally felt all the bad things he had done to other people. And each hell, he says, is custom made for a particular person’s transgressions.
Rather than speculate too much, I think it’s more practical to just try to do our best at being good. Deep down I believe we all know what that means. Some of us may be so messed up, touchy and unhappy that we do bad things to compensate for our hurt. We try to rationalize our bad behavior.
But in the end, we know.
And so does God, I believe.
Western philosophy is racist (aeon.co)