A being that wants for nothing wants nothing. That’s why it makes no sense to talk about the self-sufficiency of God. If there was nothing He felt was wanting He wouldn’t have bothered creating anything. But apparently He did. In fact the kind of world He created – including the kind of creatures He created – tells us not just something about what He felt He was lacking. It tells us a great deal.
But it doesn’t tell us everything. And there are two reasons for this. First, we don’t know the limitations on God’s creative powers. And second, if He’d exhausted His creative powers, or if He’s satisfied with what He’s done, then He’s done meddling with the world. And if He’s done meddling with the world, His druthers, whatever they may have been, are utterly irrelevant to us. God’s purposes, whatever they may be, are incumbent upon us only insofar as they impinge on ours, and they don’t if He’s incapable of any further impingements.
The only way around this irrelevance is to suppose that our two sets of purposes, ours and His, whatever they might be, have impinged, and continue to impinge, on each other’s. This is precisely what my ancient Hebraic ancestors had figured out, and – after fifteen hundred years of theological silliness – what contemporary Christian believers have rediscovered. That is, there’s a reason why God’s druthers reflect our own, and it’s not because, as the atheist insists, we project our druthers onto Him. Rather it’s because He’s adopted our druthers as His own, in precisely the way I came to want to go to Disneyland because my son wanted to go there. I was a single dad. So was God. Having a child changes one. And having us changed God.
I’m an atheist, but I’m a Scriptural atheist. Why? Because Scripture just is the story of how we’ve changed God. Try reading it this way, as does Jack Miles in his Pulitzer Prize-winning God, a Biography. It’s not that this reading of Scripture makes a whole lot of sense. It’s that it’s the only reading of Scripture that makes any sense.
Morality is an emergent property of the need to compromise with the druthers of others, from which it follows that God is in moral training no less than we are. Why? Because prior to having created us, there were no others, and so He couldn’t have had any morality, let alone a developing one.
I think I could come to like this God. I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly like people – or Gods for that matter – who think they know it all. To me the most endearing feature of another being, be she human or divine, is acknowledging that she or He is just doing the best she or He can. The first born of Egypt wasn’t God’s finest hour. But then neither was Rwanda ours. I say we cut each other a little slack.
Categories: Philosophy of Religion