Welcome to my FAQ page. Here I answer questions that have been posed to me over the last few years since I covered from agnosticism to Christianity. What is Liberal Christianity? Why did I convert? What are my views on the Bible, theodicy, ontology, epistomology, and other questions related to religion?
Initially this will be a section where I will put down my thoughts. Eventually I will try to put these things into some kind of order.
Can God be evil? Or: What if God were evil? Sometimes atheists pose these questions. However, like many Christians I define God as "omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent". If God didn't have these attributes, then He wouldn't be God. So, by definition, the question of whether God can be evil is moot.
Now, it is possible that the Creator is evil. And, it is possible that the evil Creator must allow some good, if it results in a greater evil. So we can't really tell whether the Creator is good or evil. Still, for the Creator to be considered "God", it must have that attribute of "omnibenevolence".
God as creature
Atheists will sometimes talk about God as the "Sky Wizard". Eventually it dawned on me that this is how many atheists actually believe that Christians think of God: as a creature like any other. The "Flying Spaghetti Monster" falls into the same category: God as creature.
There are many ways to think about God, but "God as creature" is usually not one of them. It is in effect limiting God to something that exists within the universe, or co-existing alongside it. I think that if we start attributing our ideas about God to that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, then the Flying Spaghetti Monster will be no more meaningful than thinking of God as an old man with a white beard. The underlying elements will be the same.
God and the logically impossible
Some say that God cannot do the logically impossible, but I don't think that is quite accurate. The problem is: how can we say anything meaningful about the logically impossible? How can it be used in a logical argument? Obviously it can't.
So: even if God can do the logically impossible, there is nothing that we can say about it. And that is a limitation on us, and not on God.
CS Lewis and "Lord, Liar and Lunatic"
CS Lewis never claimed that there were only three options: Lord, Liar and Lunatic. Obviously there are more: mistaken, misunderstand and myth. What CS Lewis said was, if you are a Christian who believed that Jesus said the things in the Gospels BUT didn't think that Jesus was God, then you are left with those three options.
Even this doesn't constitute a sound logical argument. But in fact, Lewis never proposed this as formal logic. He never tried to logically eliminate any of the legs in the 'trilemma'. It is a piece of rhetoric, directed at some Christians. One may decry this use of rhetoric, but it shouldn't be mistaken as Lewis making a logical argument.
God and Free-will
Does an omniscient God 'cancel' free-will? No. As the peer-reviewed academic resource the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:
Knowing – whether by God or a human being – some future event no more forces that event to occur than our learning that dinosaurs lived in (what is now) South Dakota forced those reptiles to take up residence there.
Why am I a Christian?
I was an agnostic for much of my life. It's not that I actively decided that there wasn't enough evidence for God, but that it simply wasn't something I thought about. If there was a God, great. If not, also good. I'm in Australia, so this is a fairly common view. None of my friends or family are religious at all. I have no idea if they most of them believe in God or not. I don't think we've ever really talked about it. A few years back, when I declared to my family and friends that I was now a Christian, one of my brothers looked at me and said, "You're weird!" I learned then that he was an atheist. The rest of my family and friends just shrugged their shoulders, and life continued the same.
So why did I become a Christian? I didn't initially. I started reading some taoism and zen while living abroad in Asia for a number of years, and I started to think "Why am I acting the way I do? What makes me, me?" At the same time, I was reading process improvement and assertiveness training books, and it hit me that there was a common theme: the decision to act on what you think is right. But how to know what is right? What is the standard? How can we say that the standard exists in any way? There were also other questions: What is good? Why something instead of nothing? etc.
I struck me that God was an explanation for this. Not the God of the Bible, or the God of any one religion, but God as a hypothetical being. It made sense to the questions that I was asking. Now, I had -- and still have -- no way of knowing if my answers are correct. I could have just said "Not enough information, so no decision possible." But I felt that this continued agnosticism was the coward's way out: I did have an answer to my questions, why not apply it until better information comes along?
So, at that point, I became a theist. I had no real interest in any religion, and certainly not the Bible, except as anything other than a text which gave as insight into ancient cultures (I love reading about ancient and modern cultures). What attracted me to Christianity was the myth of Jesus and his resurrection, and how that played into grace, repentance and rebirth. The symbolism of the cross -- that is, the meaning that was applied to it by later Christians -- is a wonderful concept. There are similar things in other religions, but nothing that resonated with me as strongly. And so I became a self-described Christian.
I also started to read the Bible. Now, I have never thought it anything other than a wonderful cultural artifact. There are some great things in there, as well as some horrible things. But I've always been more interested in what it can tell us about how people thought back then. I've never thought that I had to apply that to our modern society. It's clear to me that the earliest believers probably didn't believe in a virgin birth. I'm convinced that Jesus' body went missing, though agnostic about whether the body was thrown into a ditch somewhere or resurrected to heaven. It doesn't matter to me. It wouldn't even matter to me if there were no Jesus, but that's another argument. What does matter is trying to live within a worldview that matches what I understand about myself and the world. If I'm wrong -- if no God exists, or a different God exists -- then at least I've felt I've lived up to what I think is correct.