Friday, March 17, 2006

A Digression into Theology

Whether you have a religious belief or not, here is a question to consider:

What is the logic behind "The Fall"? God is said to love all of his creatures. This means he would love, among others, the tiger, even though the tiger devours other animals including the occasional human being. The tiger is following his nature when he preys on other creatures, and in so doing is not committing a sin. Instead he is being a true tiger worthy of God's love.
God also created the angels, including Lucifer. Being all-knowing, God would not be surprised at any of his creatures' actions, so he would expect Lucifer to become the great tempter of humanity. So just as the tiger fulfills his role in the world by being a true tiger, Satan is living up to God's expectations when he promotes the "downfall of man", and in so doing is worthy of God's love. As with the tiger eating in order to survive, Satan fulfills his mission by taking man's soul to hell. Is the act of one being consuming another for nourishment an expression of the divine order? Is the process of man losing his soul to the devil a manifestation of God's love? If so, is there such a thing as evil?


loutran said...

Howard, what you've written reminds me of a Joseph Campbell story about how Satan is God's greatest lover.

The Christian story is that God created angels and then told them to bow to no one but himself. Then God created man and told the angels to bow to them which Satan refused to do. However, in the Persian story, Satan is God's lover and refuses to serve humans out of God's first command to love God above all things.

So I guess you can say Satan himself is a manifestation of God's love. Right?


Anonymous said...

Since you mentioned Satan, this is an intersting topic. Forgive me if I meander and digress at moments.

After having recently reread Jung's "Answer to Job", I couldn't help responding. It is a fascinating text, for it posits the notion of an almost Daoist/Dialectical version of Yahweh. If God is the source of all things, he must therefore be the source of both good and evil. The question is that if Yahweh is omniscient, why would he permit Satan to tempt his most faithful servant, especially when is knows Job is righteous? Jung explains - and it important that we remember that the bible was written by human beings, not God - that we are witnessing a transformation in the Hebrew's conception of their diety's personality. In Job, Yahweh behaves likes a capricious human being with little self-awareness. He has seemed to have forgotten that he claims to be a just God, and if this were true, as Job reminds him (and this reminder on the part of Job earns him Yahweh's wrath) he should not be putting Job through - or permitting Job to be put through - these trials and tribulations. Job makes Yahweh aware of his lack of self reflection and that Satan has tempted God himself, and as Jung says, "...Yahweh has to remember his absolute knowledge, for if Job gains knowledge of God, then God must also learn to know himself... Whoever knows God has an effect on him."

Job is fascinating because it is one of only three places in the Bible where Satan actually speaks. It is also fascinating because it raises questions about why a just God would permit suffering. Jung doesn't really answer that question, but rather engages in a session of psychotherapy with Yahweh. But what's also intersting is that you mentioned the fall. Pascal really caused me to think about this in his Pensees. For Pascal, the fall becomes a metaphor for the birth of conciousness. In Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, man lives in union with God, but the birth of conciousness, i.e. language - the foundation of all human acheivement, the most important and powerful tool humans possess and the one which makes questions like "Is there a God?" possible - has also banished us to a realm that separates us from God. We no longer live in spiritual unison with and divine knowledge of God, and as linguistically determined beings, as Nietzsche or even Derrida might put it, we are unable, through language, to understand or prove the reality of God or any other spiritual mystery. Language fails us. This is where the sticky issue of faith enters the picture. This is why no beliver, Muslim, Hindu, or Christian can PROVE the existence of God, for if it were possible, God would be reduced to a subject of human study, a subject of science and logic now expalinable by man and perhaps because of this inferior to man. The need for faith would be abolished.

This is my argument for anyone who suggests that atheism or agnosticism are weak stances. On the contrary. For unless you are consumed by faith, they are the only intellectually honest stances to adopt.