We have all seen various arguments for/against theism. Many have fun, fancy names such as ontological, or teleological, or start with "Problem of" as in "Problem of Evil" or "Problem of Coherence." One I have not seen much action on, though, is the "Problem of Love."
Granted, it is only designed to address a God that allegedly loves humanity, and particular the Christian God. But when I have raised it to Christians, the end result is usually, “I have no answer to that. God is mysterious.” Which is not very satisfying.In simplest form, the problem is: If God loves me, why won’t He talk to me?
To unpack this further...
I am informed that the single greatest act of love ever exhibited in the entire history of humankind was a God, taking the form of a man, dying and separating Himself from God, so that humans could be saved from the wrath of God. Setting aside the huge non-monotheistic implications of this sentiment, not to mention the historical difficulties, we shall assume for our first premise that this was the greatest act of Love.
In fact, I am assured that due to our puny human minds, we cannot even conceive the awesomeness of this God, and our pitiful human language cannot encompass the length and breadth and depth of this love. "Love" is an inadequate word. We should differentiate it by calling it "Mega-Love." Or "Ultra-Love." Or "Super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love." Something to give us just a taste of how incomprehensible this super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love is.
I have been told that God had no obligation to perform this act. That if He chose, He was within his rights of justice, due to some other fellow blowing it, to pour out His wrath upon all of humanity, and forever damn them to eternal torture. He came close with Noah. That we would be frying in flames, recognizing the correctness of this action, and acknowledging that justice demands we be there. That God was well within His rights to do so, and arguably should have done so.
It has been preached to me that even if I were the only person on earth, God still would have sent God to do this act, because of this all-inclusive super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love. That it was, in fact, my immoral actions that would require this act, and still He would do it.
Understand I cannot use enough hyperbole to even give a hint of how great this act was. Dying so that my friend can live? Piffle. Giving my entire life in service to help others? Meaningless. It was ingrained that all of our greatest moral acts summed together were the equivalent of a used tampon in comparison to the holiness of this God. That all our acts of love were mere shadows of reflections of images of whispers of fog as compared to this single act of super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love.
There is no analogy strong enough, or story complete enough to fully portray this love. (Sit through a few sermons, though, and you will hear a few. Men who watch their sons die so that their son’s friend can live in overturned rowboats. That sort of thing.) So why won’t he talk to me?
The second premise is that this God created us. We can observe our fellow humans and one thing becomes astoundingly clear—we actively seek out interaction with others. We attempt to communicate to other humans, and attempt to socialize. Your reading this blog is proof enough.
There is a reason solitary confinement is a punishment—deprivation of socialization is painful to humans. (and other species as well. We are not unique in this regard. Leave a dog at home while you work. ‘Nuff said.) We talk on the telephone, in e-mails, in letters, in books, in person, in groups, one-on-one, in coffee shops. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.
According to Christianity, we are actually designed to communicate with each other, and to communicate with a God. That, with the inability to communicate with God, there is some "emptiness" in our soul. Yet He can't initiate a conversation?
A third premise is that God has the ability to communicate with humans. We see that in the Tanakh by God actually appearing and talking. Not visions. Not dreams. Well, maybe a burning bush, but still and all, actual words to actual human ears. We see this in the New Testament, with a God appearing in human form, using human vocal cords, human hands and human facial expressions to discuss with human ears and eyes. There is absolutely, positively nothing preventing God from appearing today and talking with us face-to-face. Nothing.
Which brings us to the original question—why wouldn’t He?
Anyone with a child knows that you would do extraordinary things for that person, out of just the measly human variety of love. We worry over them, help them, bite our tongue, watch them fall (with our hearts in our throat), encourage them, etc. The simplest thing to do is talk to them. More and more commercials are hitting the airwaves exclaiming the easiest ways to prevent drug abuse is--what? Oh, that’s right, talking to your children.
If we saw a child begging for their parent to just talk to them, and the parent had the capability, yet refused, we would call that parent a monster. We certainly would not exclaim the overwhelming love the parent has!
To claim that God, because he loved humans, performed this act of super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love, but then refused to talk to humans for the next 2000 years is justifying the fact that no such God exists.
Its why he has been so "silent" It makes no sense.
Me: I just committed the greatest act of love ever done, past, present and future for my son.
Son: Thank you, dad, I greatly appreciate it. You are the best.
Son: Hey, I am up for a job interview, and you have connections with the company. The job sounds great. Can you give me a hand?
Son: Aw, I realize you didn’t help me get that job. It’s probably for the best. I am sure you had some great reasons for it.
Son: You know, I am dating this girl, Jane, and she seems really great. You have had more experience than any other person, is this the person I should pursue a commitment with? There are a few things that don’t match up, but she sure seems great, what do you think?
Son: Boy, I had a GREAT day today on the beach. The sun was shining, the water was perfect. It was like you were right beside me, talking to me. Sure, it was in my head, ‘cause you don’t talk out loud, but we sure were close today, weren’t we?
Son: Oh dear. Doc found a spot on my lung. Says he has to do a biopsy. Might be cancer. I’m really worried. Can you send me some of your encouragement? I know other people have been helpful, but that is other people. What about you?
Son: Well, the good news is that they think they got all the cancer. Thank you so much for the doctor removing the cancer. I know you must have helped in some way. I'm not excited about chemo, but I am sure you will be beside me, encouraging all the way.
Son: I have a real complication this Saturday. My son wants me to go to his game, the neighbor needs help (and you KNOW he doesn’t know you) and the church is having a prayer breakfast that could use my help. I can’t be at three places at once. Which one would you go to if you were me?
Son: Hey, dad, I am starting to have some questions. I know you are real, don't worry about that. But others say because you don’t ever say anything, and everything we do comes from human sources..... well...... don't be offended, but some don't think you exist. Silly, isn’t it? So if you could point me in a direction to get some good sources to show them how silly they are that would be helpful.
Son: I know you didn’t say anything explicitly, so I looked up some sources on my own. You know, they have some pretty valid points. In fact, I am starting to have concerns. Don’t worry, I know you are real and all, but can you point out some definitive examples that I can understand? You know me better than anybody, and you know what I need more than anyone else. I’m not so concerned about showing others, but I’m starting to need it myself, ‘kay?
Son: Dad, I am really, REALLY worried. The more I look, the more it is as if you aren’t there. My friends have pointed out that every conversation we have ever had is in my head. Again, I don’t need you to be here right this moment, but a timely word. A note, anything to point me where to look would be appreciated.
Son: Dad, I have talked to you for years. Looking back, I realize that every job I obtained, every girlfriend I dated, every opportunity I realized was by human effort. Every encouragement was through other humans. I realize that even if you didn’t exist, my life wouldn’t have changed. Not one bit. It is clear now that I am talking to myself. I am sorry, but your lack of communication, with a silly claim of love has been as convincing as all the other arguments. If you want people to believe you exist, you might want to work on your conversational skills.
Now, doesn't it start to appear ludicrous that a God that supposedly loves humans in this super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love, can't even figure out how to talk to those that want to talk to Him? As humans we have more consideration for others than what God shows.
I have seen two objections to this argument. First, "who are you to tell God what he should do?"
"Hello? McFly? McFly. Is anybody home?" Who am I? I'm the one he supposedly loves with this super-duper-fantastic-mega-ultra love, remember? In the first premise we established that. If he knows that I require (by His design) communication, isn’t the most loving thing to do is communicate?
Again, we can see this in mere human love:
Me: I love you so much, dear spouse.
Wife: Thank you. Look, I have had a rough day. Can you help out by setting the table?
Me: Who the heck are YOU to tell me what I am supposed to do? Now bring me my paper, and don’t bother me when I watch the game. Oh, and dear?
Me: I love you.
The second objection is that God wants us to have faith. Excuse me? He loves me so much that He has to test me for 70 years or so, on a pass/fail so that he can communicate with me for the next trillion years? Didn’t he have to commit the ultimate act of love, because he already knew I was a failure? What is the surprise if I fail again? And if He REALLY wanted to test me, why not inhibit all communication, prevent the New Testament from being written and see how we do?
Let’s see this work with just our version of love:
Joe: Hey, isn't that your wife?
Me: Sh. Sh. Sh. I haven’t spoken to her in 15 years. I am testing how faithful she is to me.
I see the word "love" as being diluted. It makes no sense for a claim that God loves humanity to this indescribably amount, but then is unable to commit the simplest act of love thereafter. We would not accept it in humanity, why would one accept it in a human description of a God?
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)