Friday, January 11, 2008

Does God care about us personally?

A reader writes:

I have encountered a sermon accredited to you at the following address entitled Let Us Pray. .

In it you stated the following: “However, believing that God isn't supernaturally powerful doesn't mean you have to believe God is powerless, naturally. Process Theology says that although God does not have coercive power, that is God can't make you do something you don't want to do, God does have persuasive power, which means that if you invite God into your life, God is immediately there with hints and suggestions that you are either free to accept or not. Because God is loving, God always wants the best for us, so God's suggestions are always the ones that, within the givenness of the past and the natural laws, are the actions we can take that will lead to the best future possible.”

Being familiar with the arguments and tenets of Process Philosophy/Theology I have always found it interesting that God is all loving and as you have stated above “…always wants the best for us…” yet these statements violate the natural laws that are the base tenet of Process. How can God want the best for us Individually when the best for me may not be the best for you, society, or the universe. The very idea of “best” would imply that an ultimate exists. If I can buy anything it is that God wants the “best” for “us” in only the most corporate sense.

Kind of makes God impersonal doesn’t it?

Here's my response:

I think your question could be stated as, “Is there ever a time when the “best” for an individual personally is at odds for the “best” for the universe as a whole? And if there was such a case would God suggest something less than the “best” for the individual in order to further the larger goals of the universe?

My initial response is “Yes” to both questions. But as you note, the problem is the relativistic way of defining the word best.

Imagine a cancer cell infecting a human person’s body. Best for the cancer cell would be unfettered growth. That fulfills the true nature of cancer. But best for the human is for the cancer to stop growing, even disappear. So what would God suggest?

I believe that God’s primary concern is the fulfillment of God’s initial and eternal aims. And I believe those aims to be generally termed as “enjoyment” which God achieves through encouraging life, first of all, and then forms of life that are capable of deep layers of consciousness and rich experience. So God does have preferences and thus gives an absolute rather than relativistic definition to the word “best.” I believe God prefers human life above cancer cell life. In order to achieve God’s larger goals for the universe I do believe that God would suggest to the cancer cell that it stop growing, and even to suggest that the tumor now shrink in size and disappear.

Although this seems far from the best from the point of view of the cancer cell it is in the absolute sense still the best. Eventually unfettered cancer growth would kill the host and the cancer with it, so unlimited growth is not a winning position for the cancer cell (just as it isn’t for the human population in the world – but that’s another story). And because eventually the entire universe is a single thing, what’s best for all is best for the individual. The cancer cell’s contribution while it existed will be remembered in God’s eternal memory, and the physical stuff of the cancer cell itself will continue to be a part of whatever the entire universe is becoming.

So I do agree with you that God wants the best for us in a corporate way rather than a personal way. But I would also say that best in the corporate is also the best for me individually although it may not seem so at first. As we mature spiritually away from ego-identification toward embracing the universal divinity of which we are a part, God’s best and our best will merge to the same expression.

1 comment:

Mystical Seeker said...

One of the things about process theology that I like is the notion that God has perfect empathy with all of creation, such that our individual sufferings and joys are also experienced perfectly by God. It seems to me that in order for God to want the best for us in a corporate sense, it is necessary for our individual experiences to also be of divine concern.

And the idea of merging God's best and our best also makes a lot of sense to me. Our own individual best is maximized when everyone else is also doing well, because we are connected to each other and because we are at our best when we love (emulating in our finite ways God's perfect love). In other words, harming others (as in cancer cells) is not an expression of what is best for us as individuals.