There are Seven Major World Views.
Skeptics doubts God’s existence, the agnostic doesn’t know if God exists, the atheist knows God does not exist.
Three kinds of atheism.
Atheists believe the universe is uncreated, self-sustaining and self-perpetuating.
Atheists believe evil is one of the primary evidences there is no God.
Atheists believe that since man is merely a random collection of chemicals then nothing he does has eternal value. They believe morals are relative and situational. Goodness is defined by whatever works and achieves the desired results.
There are more problems with Atheism than we can cover here, but here are a few.
1. Atheism is materialistic and does not believe in anything immaterial, thus they define the immaterial God out at first. But materialism doesn’t even answer the question of the atheists’ mind. It is immaterial, does it not exist either?
2. Atheists make great moral claims and often pillory Christianity for many who claim to be Christians but do immoral things. But if material is all that there is, I question their moral basis. Materialism has no moral underpinning and morality is absolutist in nature. We know something is wrong because they violated a moral principal. Moral principals have an origin of absolute right from an absolute creator.
3. Atheists like to argue the straw man argument against Christianity. They don’t understand Christianity and don’t really want to. They create a straw man or a false representation of Christianity and then easily refute it. But they have only refuted their ill formed construct of Christianity not the real thing.
Deists believe in a creator God much like theists but he does not interact with the universe. He set all in motion on natural principals and he merely observes. Therefore there are no miracles. This view sprung from the eighteen century enlightenment and from such notables at Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Hobbs, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine.
Deists believe God is beyond the universe, personal, all-good, all-knowing. They even pray to Him. However they don’t believe he will ever interact or intervene. They don’t believe in the Trinity and they don’t believe Jesus was God as that would constitute a miracle.
Deists believe the world was created by God (The biggest miracle) and that the world is the only revelation about God.
Deists believe evil stems from the heart of man. Some even understand a principle of evil in man. Most blame evil on the abuse of reason in one’s life. Depending on how one behaves in this life will determine the reward or punishment in the afterlife. Some deists are Universalists.
Deists hold that all moral laws are grounded in nature and can be extracted by reason. There is disagreement on what laws are binding and how universal they really are. Many deists recognize the human desire for happiness as the single moral principal that guides all actions.
Deism if a form of Godliness but without its’ power. They are the sad sacks of faiths. God isn’t interested in them and just created everything like a big clock and went off to play and eternal celestial golf game. When He gets to the eighteenth hole He will come back and settle scores.
But God wants to us to know Him intimately and the scriptures are full of such claims.
The wise must not boast
in his wisdom;
The mighty must not boast
in his might;
the rich must not boast in his riches.
But the one who boasts should boast in this,
that he knows Me – that I am the Lord,
showing faithful love,
justice, and righteousness on the earth,
for I delight in these things.
Here God Himself refutes deism in saying we are to know Him intimately and saying He has an impact on the earth. Deism is a little like those who deny that God is really active in the miraculous today. It is an argument of paucity and weakness and is actually against what the scripture says, but is based on a life that lacks such things as intimacy and the miraculous and devises a theology where those things are absent so they won’t have to persue such scary things.
Pantheists believe the universe is God. He is the absolute being that inhabits and
unites all things. Hinduism, Taoism and
some forms of Buddhism (Zen) are pantheistic as are the Western religions such
as Christian Science, Unity, Scientology, Theosophy and New Age Thought. Pantheism is also in
Some pantheists say God is above multiplicity, some say He manifests himself in many forms and others say He is a force, which permeates all things. Most believe reason is of no avail in understanding this ultimate reality and that anything we can understand is only understood through contradictions.
In Taoism (Tao = The Way) the condition for coming to know anything about God (or the Tao) is to meditate to empty the mind of reason and then contemplate such question such as, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”. These questions, which have no answer except the question itself. Hence God is all in all and man exists to realize that he is God too. Pantheists believe God is mind and that there is no material existence, because mind is all.
The universe was not created by God but eternally radiates from Him. (ex deo)
The material part of the universe is illusion (Maya) and matter, pain and evil are also illusion. Thus there are no supernatural miracles. There can be supernormal events which are performed by people who realize they are actually divine and are using the divine power all around them.
Evil and good are intrinsically the same. If God is all good then evil is just an illusion, if God is dualistic then evil is just a part of God and reality. Pantheists are filled with moral appeals for goodness and self-sacrifice. However these are for only the “lower levels” of spiritual attainment. The ultimate goal of the initiate is to achieve union with God (Nirvana) and thus to go beyond all moral dictates. Ethical conduct is a means for spiritual growth but the question remains why? There is no absolute basis for morality.
Pantheists say that reason cannot show us anything about God. This statement is a self-defeating statement, reason just revealed something to us about God and showed that the statement if false. Also, to say “I just realized I am God” is absurd as God cannot change and has realized all along that He is God. There is much dissonance in pantheistic thought. For instance if the material universe is illusory and nothing but a “dream” of the individual, then why are we all having the same dream? Those that deny evil or make it part of God certainly don’t want any of that part of God put on them! Christian Science members, though denying the material world as real still suffer sickness and die in that material world. Mark Twain pointed out the dissonance in proverb and practice in his treatise on Christian Science.
“Nothing exists but Mind?”
“Nothing,” she answered. “All else is substancless, all else is imaginary.”
I gave her an imaginary check, and now she is suing me for substantial
Dollars. It looks inconsistent.”
Pantheism also has no proper cosmology or creation picture. If God is the universe how could He create the universe. That is like saying “the book wrote the book”. There would need still be an uncreated creator or an uncaused cause.
Pantheism also doesn’t deal with evil in a consistent or coherent manner. Evil is just one of the dualistic natures of nature and in one view doesn’t need to be dealt with. But Hinduism has a huge philosophy for dealing with evil. Karma is a kind of you get what you gave idea. Say a man beats his wife (maybe he was just worshipping evil?) so karma says you will come back as a beaten wife. But to have a beaten wife requires a wife beater and so the circle comes around infinitely and nothing is really solved. There need to be a grace injection in this infinite circle to stop it. Karma has no grace in it. It does not deal effectively with evil.
Panetheism is halfway between theism and pantheism. Panetheism is also known as process theology. The universe needs God to exist, but God also needs the universe to express Himself. God is outside the universe but is also within the universe. He exists in two poles. One pole, outside the universe, (Primordial Pole) does not change and actualizes itself in the world. The other pole, inside the universe, (Consequent Pole) is temporal and changing along with the universe. The potential pole is what God can be and the consequent pole is what He is right now.
The potential pole inhabits the universe just like a soul
inhabits a body. Thus the universe or
the body tends towards perfection. This
philosophy has no major adherents in the world religions but is taught in
several seminaries. The Perkins
Evil exists because of limitations in God’s consequent pole. God is not omnipotent and cannot control all the world nor the evil in it. God simply cannot control the evil, nor can He guarantee it will ever be eliminated. In fact evil is looked on as creating new possibilities for the self-actualization of God. It helps Him become more perfect and thus has a use.
Process thinkers believe values originate in the nature of God. There may be an ultimate moral value inherent in the primordial pole of God, but that does not concern us. It is His consequent pole that changes where we must look and thus our values change with the changes in the consequent pole. All values are tendencies towards a discordant pole or an ordered pole. Hartshorne writes, “the only good that is intrinsically good, good in itself, is good experience, and close to summing it up … to be ethical is to seek aesthetic optimization of experience for the community.”
So by this definition of “good” a community of cannibals is
quite alright in stalking and killing those of other tribes for their
feasts. And the community of
Panetheism views God as having an intimate relation with the universe, but the question remains how did the whole thing get started anyway? If the primordial pole came before the consequent pole, how was anything actualized? The consequent pole could not have come before the primordial because it had no potential to become. They could not have existed forever together because the universe is not infinite temporally. It took something bigger to design this panetheistic God.
Also how can we know that everything is changing if we have no standard by which to measure change? Panetheism cannot answer this as their God is constantly changing.
Finite Godism believes like panetheism that God is subject to limitations. He is limited in His power and nature. Many pagan thinkers from Plato onward have held this view. In modern times Rabbi Kushner recently popularized it in his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. In wrestling with the premature death of his son, Rabbi Kushner concluded, “God wants the righteous to live peaceful, happy lives, but sometimes He can’t bring that about…there are some things God does not control.”
The finite godists believe God is beyond the universe and created it, but they say that the finite nature of the universe only demands a finite God and the imperfect nature of the universe only demands an imperfect God.
Evil’s existence is the reason the Finite Godism came into being. They reasoned that pantheism’s rejection was wrong and Leibniz’s explanation that this is the best of all possible worlds would lead to the conclusion that God must have some real problems. As Peter Bertocci stated: “If God is omnipotent, and therefore the creator of so much evil, how can He be good? Or, if He is good, and did not intend evil, can He be omnipotent in the sense defined? Must there not be something beyond the control of His good will which is the source of evil in the world?” Thus the only way to understand evil is that God cannot control it.
Values give Finite Godists headaches. Plato believed in intrinsic values and absolute morality. William James, father of American pragmatism, believe whatever was expedient was right. God may or may not have established a moral order. That establishing a moral order may not have been in His power to do.
If God is finite then He also needs an uncaused cause as any other finite thing. Evil to an omnipotent and all good God can be in the process of being overcome. Finite Godists have trouble with believing their experience is the sum of the issue. We will devote more to the existence of evil later.
Finite Godism is God in the little box. By definition this God cannot be God. Ah but many Christians actually believe a form of Finite Godism as they really don’t believe in the awesome power of God to move in their lives, their prayers exhibit a staggering unbelief.
Polytheism believes in many finite gods that reign over
separate realms of the universe. The
gods of ancient
Polytheists reject the thought of a single God ruling over
the universe. They site the chaos and
the multiplicity of the universe to show there must be many gods with
discordant plans. Some polytheists say
that the gods arose from nature, while others claim they were once men. The Mormons posit an infinite regress of gods
begetting gods, so that all gods are the offspring of an “Eternal Father and
Eternal Mother” yet there is no first cause for their existence. In the case of the pantheons of
Polytheists believe the universe is either eternal or is made of eternal matter. It is usually viewed as having its own life principle, which explains why it is possible for it to give birth to the gods. The Mormon Book of Abraham says, “And the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth” (4:1). The material the gods used was called by Joseph Smith Jr. “element”, which is chaotic material that “had no beginning, and can have no end.”
Evil is a necessary part of nature for polytheists. The Greeks saw evil in the first power struggle between the Titans and the gods, which resulted in the creation of the world. Thus creation is a mixture of both good and evil from the beginning. Mormonism says that evil is necessary for the progress and existence of all things, for without opposition there is no challenge to overcome moral choices.
Some polytheists say that moral laws are given by the gods, and the gods punish whoever breaks their laws. Others say absolute laws are from monotheism and are foreign to polytheism. David Miller says “Values cannot be absolute”, because, “truth and falsity, life and death, beauty and ugliness, good and evil are forever and inextricably mixed together.
If the polytheistic gods are finite then they must come from something greater. An eternal substance or element or matter cannot be the answer, as we already know the universe is finite and not eternal. The anthropomorphic nature of the gods also poses a problem. We would expect man’s and God’s nature to resemble each other but the pantheons are mostly just outsized men and women. They hardly can command any love or allegiance except by a limited power to kill. The ultimate answers elude this philosophy as well.
Where did evil really come from? Does free will provide the tension for evil to come forth?
God can only create three possible worlds.
1. A amoral world. A world where there are no moral choices possible. A world of rocks, trees, plant and some animals.
2. An immoral world. A world where there beings who can make moral choices. But God overrides their moral choosing ability and forces them to love him. Forced love is fundamentally rape and is immoral.
3. A moral world. A world where there are beings who can make moral choices and where the DO make those choices. They can choose to love God or not love Him. They can choose evil rather than good. God establishes the moral absolute standard and man chooses to accept it or reject it. Here evil is clearly seen as the result of the free will of the moral being man.
1. It must have a cosmology that works. God must transcend the Universe and not be an infinite regress. There is no material that is eternal as the Universe if finite and had a beginning.
2. If God transcends the Universe then His relationship with man must be explained.
3. There must be a consistent and coherent explanation evil.
4. There must be a method for eliminating or dealing with evil.
Monotheism with Christianity answer those question most effectively. Monotheism has a God who is transcendent to the Universe and created the world from outside. He created a moral world where man had free choice and chose to not love him and create sin. But God continued to love His creation and did something a transcendent God alone could do and that is inject Himself into the world and become like the people. He then died to pay the price for man’s sin and is even now dealing with the sin problem.