[quote author=“mcelreb”]Great stuff. I guess I am trying to trip up a literalist. Anyone else have a favourite approach?
My favorite approach is the problem of evil.
Presumably, (s)he believes the following:
1) God is all good
2) God is all powerful
3) God is all knowing
4) God created the universe
5) God existed outside of time prior to creation
6) Evil exists
Now, consider a situation like the Garden of Eden, or the existence of Smallpox:
God must have known Adam and Eve would eat of the fruit, yet chose to punish man for an act he set up.
If God existed outside of time, is all knowing, and all powerful, surely he could have created a universe where hundreds of millions of children wouldn’t need to die of smallpox (or where comparable numbers of women wouldn’t need to die in childbirth).
The refutation of this argument is generally “Free will” or “Satan did it.”
(Obviously, the refutation of the ‘Satan’ gambit is to ask why God made Satan)
Mormon theology gets around the above problem, as do other theologians, by assuming God isn’t all powerful.
Presumably, their God is still powerful enough to cure cancer and smallpox and fix amputees. That such a being did not hear the prayers of the Christians and Jews who were killed in the Holocaust (or the Armenian Genocide) should tell us something about the nature of God.
Even should such a God exist… worshiping it would be sick.
(“You shouldn’t apply man’s standards to God, or attempt to know his mind” would be brought up about here… the reply resonates well with Milton. “Why did God make me to fall?”)
Can you tell I’ve done this sort of thing before?
If someone axiomatically believes in free will… they may well be holding to an axiom designed to get them out of this problem. You then have to attack the axiom, which is always challenging. My approach has always boiled down to “why did God make this universe, then.” (Incidentally, I don’t think my six points above are consistent with free will.)