Over the past few weeks, I had the pleasure of debating with a random atheist (something I hardly do anymore) via the "undisputed king" of meaningless, angry controversial debates....YouTube. I really only replied to him to correct his assumption that I believed that God "sent people to be burned for all time", but we ended up messaging back and forth for several days about different things. The main thing came down to the typical "why does God allow suffering" argument that I already refuted here a few weeks back. However, his argument made me think a bit deeper.
He argued that an infinitely powerful and loving God could not exist, because there is suffering in the world. If God was truly both of those things, he'd argue, God could have produced love, appreciation and character in us without the use of suffering whatsoever. And though I tried to find my way around his argument as hard as I could, I realized I was just avoiding a hole in my theology. One that had been engraved in me since as long as I can remember...the idea that God is limitless in power.
After thinking about it for a few days and listening to various opinions, I came to conclude that maybe God is indeed all-powerful, but only within the realm of logic. God can do whatever he pleases, but is limited(by his own choice or what I don't know) to that which, well, makes sense. For example, God could create a triangle as big or as small as he could possibly imagine, but He really cannot make a "4 sided triangle" because, well...that doesn't make any sense. A four sided shape is a square (or a rectangle), saying otherwise defies the definition and is simply illogical.
But then you might say,
Well what 'bout Biblical things like talkin' snakes, parting seas, and water turning to wine? Those things don't sound logical but God did 'em!
Regardless of the fact that such things MAY or may not have been exaggerated or metaphorical (in some cases I assume they were), I think maybe they fall more into the "highly unlikely" category, rather than completely "illogical". For example, snakes have mouths like humans, and the ability to make sounds. So a creator of the universe could easily allow a snake to actually speak a human language, if He so chose. It would be "highly unlikely" but not totally illogical. It would be illogical, however...to simeltaneously deem that snake as a toaster oven; that just makes absolutely no sense. The snake could logically be transformed into a toaster oven via supernatural means, or possibly even a snake shaped toaster oven(how would that work?), but it could not be both things at the same time.
The idea of God having "limits" was uncomfortable to me at first, but now I feel it makes decent sense. God is still far higher than us in all his qualities, but not so high that he is limited by no consistent moral or logical truths. A verse that may attest to Gods higher, yet not necessarily unlimited qualities is 1 Corinthians 1:25,
For the foolishness of God is wiser than mans wisdom, the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength
If God truly had no limits...he could contradict any definition or characteristic of himself, and still be perfect. He could tell the truth, and lie, at the same time. He could love you, and at the same time, hate your guts. He would have no moral limits and thus, it'd be impossible for us to base our life around a being that holds to no absolute, logical definitions on anything. In order to serve God or accept personal revelation from God, there would have to be a plane of morality and logic he was limited to...or he truthfully could change the rules at any moment and still not defy his characteristic of being just and fair. And if that were the case, we might as well all just give up trying to understand what God is saying to us (haha)
So then I wondered if this idea (that God is limited to the logical) punched any holes in relation to my universalistic theology? I wondered if perhaps, it would not be "logically" possible for God to save all people, even though he'd really like to(which is basically the Armenian view)? But then I thought, how would God saving all his children, from that which harms them, be illogical whatsoever? I mean, wouldn't any loving, able parent seeing their kids drowning at sea, do everything in their power to rescue them? Why would God be any different?
What would be more illogical to me, is if God was indeed the example of perfect unconditional love (after all that's what he IS, according to 1 John 4:8), but yet was willing to, at some point, burn his children in torment for all eternity? With not another chance at forgiveness or purpose for the punishment beyond revenge? That would certainly defy any logical definition of love and morality that humans were hardwired with. And I suppose the same would work for the thought that God is "just", yet supposedly requires infinite punishment for finite crimes. Which I think would again, be illogical according to any human definition of justice.
So anyway, back to what the atheist originally was arguing against. Which was, that an all powerful, all loving God would save us from any suffering and still would be able to produce in us love, appreciation of that love, and good character. In which my answer is, is that the ability to choose and experience things outside of God(be them good or bad) is logically necessary, in order for concepts like true love, appreciation, etc to come about within us. Sometimes our experience with those things outside of God are negative, and generate the suffering we see in this world all around us. But what husband could truly say he loved and appreciated his wife, if he had never met another woman, particularly one who treated him poorly? What person could say that they have a wonderful house, if they had never been outside their house and seen a rundown, decaying house? It would be logically impossible. In the same way, in order to truly appreciate the unconditional love, and good things of God, we must be given the chance to experience bad, in order to know and love that which is good. I think this is what is meant by Romans 11:32,
For God has bound all men over to disobedience, so that he may have mercy on them all
Logically speaking, God could not have mercy on anyone, if they were never allowed to fall into disobedience and the sufferings that come from that. So it would logically make sense to me, that this same mercy God wants to have on us will not fail to save one person that he allowed to fall. And while suffering is necessary to produce the good, relational love God wants for us...it will not last for anyone. Mercy will someday find every man, woman and child.