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In response to the question that I posed at the end of my last post we might point to the (alleged) inherent contradiction in supposing that a God would issue commands for us that he himself is not willing to fulfill. It would not be reasonable for God to expect us to love our neighbors if he is cruel or callous. From a Christian perspective, at least, the message of universal love found in the gospels is incompatible with the supposition that God does not love all of humanity.

I think that this response is hopeless. Even granting that the gospels do contain exhortations to universal love of mankind, I don’t see this as evidence that God himself exemplifies this expansive benevolence. There are many reasons that a cold and callous despot might want his subjects to love and respect one another: it is more conducive to internal peace which is a necessary condition for a well-functioning economy, not to mention the fact that a loving polulace might be less likely to revolt. Obviously and all-powerful being need not worry about revolution and perhaps would not be overly concerned about economics, but he may be worried about the fact that constant fighting between his peoples means that fewer people will be focused on worshipping him.  It is often man’s inhumanity to man that causes us to question God’s existence (e.g., Elie Wiesel began to lose faith because of his experience in the Holocaust).

In short it is not a contradiction to suppose that God might exhort his creation to love each other while he is himself unconcerned with our individual welfare. His reasons may be completely self-centered; he wants a stable population to worship him and fulfill his wishes; and a populace that is committed to trying to live up to the ideal of universal love will be more likely to satisfy God’s desires.

The supposition that God’s commands should match (or flow necessarily from) his nature is, I think, unmotivated. It is reasonable on the assumption that God is good; since a good being would not expect things from us that contradict his own nature. But in the context of this investigation, specifically the attempt to find reasons for believing that God is good, this assumption begs the question.

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Jason Thibodeau

thibodeau.jason@gmail.com

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