Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How to use logic when understanding God

I demonstrated several blog postings ago that Jesus himself phrased some of his teachings in order for those who listened to him (and later, through the Gospel, read what he said) to understand and follow along with his statements through the use of human logic. Faith is great and the foundation of understanding God, but God also expects humans to use their brains and to be logical and intellectual about what he says and does. While listening to one of my favorite radio talk shows, mention was made of how God created humans in his image, as stated in the Book of Genesis. I realized that this would be a great example for me to demonstrate two uses of logic, in the form of deductive reasoning, that God is utilizing in explaining himself in scripture.

The first example is really obvious and demonstrates how you are using deductive reasoning to understand the scriptures when you read them, without even realizing it. Consider how we all know that angels were created by God before God created humans, even though that is not stated per se in the Bible. There are two kinds of people, those who trust their deductive reasoning, without even knowing they are using it, and those who don't trust their deductive reasoning, and therefore miss the point, think that there's some conspiracy or 'secret' information, or who simply fail to grasp facts when they are offered in that format. This is why the first example is very helpful to look at.

Genesis 1:1-13 describes how God created, in this order: light, darkness, day, night, heaven and then the earth. Heaven is not described at all, while earth is described (it has dry land, it has seas, it has vegetation produced from seeds, trees bear fruit according to their specific type of seed).

So our first fact, our first premise, is that heaven is created before the earth.

We have details about the life forms on earth, but nothing is said about life forms in heaven.

However, after God continues in his great creation, where he now creates the lights in the earth's sky, and the animals that live on earth, God now says:

Genesis 1:26 God said, "Let us make mankind in our image and likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, over all the wild animals and every creature that crawls on the earth."

Notice that God uses the word "us." Those who read the scripture with both faith and logic understand that God is referring to the angels who dwell in heaven with him when he says "us." Just because God does not detail anything about heaven, either its structure or its inhabitants, does not mean heaven is empty or that "us" means multiple gods, aliens, etc. God talks to humans in simple to understand truth. It is important to hear and receive what he says accordingly.

So the faithful are expected to use their brains, which is articulated through this simple logic.

1. Heaven is created before the earth.
2. Angels live with God in heaven, while humans live on earth.
3. Therefore angels were created before humans.

When you have an obviously accurate conclusion based on sound deductive reasoning, as demonstrated in this example, one still feels better when one "tests" the results of one's deduction with further confirming scripture.

Genesis 1:27 God created man in his image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.

Now you can draw a second conclusion based on deductive reasoning.

1. God created Heaven.
2. Angels live in heaven with God.
3. God is speaking to other beings, known as "us."
4. Since humans have not yet been created, "us" refers to God and the angels.
5. God suggests making humans "in our image and likeness."
6. We can conclude that angels and God share the same or similar "image" and "likeness."
7. God created the angels.
8. We can conclude that God created angels in the sharing of God's image and likeness.

Again, those with simple faith and sound logic draw these conclusions based on deduction without even realizing it. This is because God gives all humans everything they need to know and understand him and what he is saying. People are not supposed to be combinations of Einstein and paranoid/rocket scientist/conspiracy theorists!

So we now know based on scripture and deductive reasoning that angels were created before human beings, and that angels were the first to share with God his image and likeness. God now suggests to the angels that God, when he creates humans, likewise creates them to share in the image and likeness now enjoyed by God and the angels.

By the way, the Qur'an spells out that the audience during God's creation of human beings is, indeed, the angels of heaven, who are already in existence before human beings are created.

Now we can use deductive reasoning to understand something a bit deeper about God, which is what exactly God means by humans sharing his image and likeness? It's not difficult to believe that angels, in their heavenly forms, share the luminous wonder, and often awe inspiring to the point of terror, magnificence and power in form of God, who is all light and glory. But how do mundane flesh based human beings "share" God's image and likeness? Here is how we can use some logic and deductive reasoning to understand this.

Genesis 1:28 Then God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it."

1. God's first orders to humans, therefore, are to be fruitful and multiply.
2. God gave these first orders immediately after his act of creation.
3. Therefore we can conclude that God considers humans to be the most in his likeness when they are being fruitful and multiplying.

Someone might raise, logically, two concerns. One is, "Hey, if angels are in his likeness, does that mean they procreate?" Angels do procreate, but not biologically. Angels procreate the Word of God, the Will of God, and praise of God. In the scripture we see that angels procreate by spreading the word when commissioned by God among humans (such as the Annunciation) AND they continually procreate in service of God when they continually sing and shout His praise in heaven. So humans are expected to procreate biologically to be consistent with the likeness of God, while angels procreate the Will of God to be consistent with the likeness of God.

The second concern might be that God is endorsing that humans be like him in being creators? Nope, that is a very clearly stated prohibition, when Adam and Eve are thrown out of the Garden of Eden and humans are told not to try to seek God's Knowledge. But here in this scripture you can understand the difference. Genesis explains that seeds create trees, and trees create fruit that is natural to them (fruit is their offspring). Thus it is obvious that God is telling humans to yield their own fruit-human children-by being "fruitful" and "multiplying," not being creators themselves, which is strictly forbidden in the telling of the temptation and expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

Revelation 4:8 ...And they do not rest day and night, saying Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is coming.

Many joke, good heartedly, that heaven must get boring if one is just playing the harp and singing for all eternity! On the serious side, you must understand that the continual praise of God by the angels is their way of procreating His Word and His Will, and the saved humans who join them in heaven are now part of this work and this bliss.

Now, how can we use deductive reasoning in the scriptures to better understand how humans can share the same "image" as God, who is known to be awesome, blinding light that cannot be viewed by humans? Here is one way to understand it from the one who saw God's image close-up, the man who was Moses.

Exodus 33:18-23

Then Moses said, "Do let me see your glory!" He answered, "I will make all my beauty pass before you, and in your presence I will pronounce my name 'Lord'; I who show favors to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will. But my face you cannot see, for no man sees me and still lives. Here," continued the Lord, "is a place near me where you shall station yourself on the rock. When my glory passes I will set you in the hollow of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but my face is not to be seen."

What do we learn about something that God and humans share in their image? Both God and humans have a "front" and a "back." Humans have a biological front (where their sensory organs are concentrated on one side, such as eyes, ears, mouth and ease of touching and reach) while God has a spiritual "front," which represents the full force of his focus, which, as God explains, no human can endure and remain alive. However, Moses is given the grace and strength by God to be able to view the "back" of God, which is not biological, but, rather, the lesssening of God's full force of attention. So God has a "front" and a "back," which are not at all biological in format or in limitations to his ability to be uniformly everywhere and all powerful in all "directions" but, as humans mirror, the fullness of his attention and focus "front" being like the concentration of human sensory organs, and a deflected and less force of focus and attention being like God's "back" as he passes by Moses.

Notice that, however, God gives Moses an extra gift, an extraordinary grace, which no human has ever experienced in addition to the singular allowing to Moses alone of his viewing God in his glory: God pronounces his Name for Moses. Think of this as hearing God's voice pronouncing his Name of all Power as a small amount of what would have been his full front viewing presence of his full glory, which Moses nor no human could survive! Thus God allows Moses to see him the only way he can, which is his back in passing, but also with hearing God speak his name from His "front."

1. God shares his image with angels and humans.
2. Moses is the only human to see God in his full glory on earth.
3. God explains that he has a front and a back.
4. Therefore we understand that a key component of the shared image of God and humans is that there is a "side" that has full sensory focus and the other "side" which has less sensory focus.

Again, remember in God's case this is not a lack in any way regarding either his powers or how he "looks" but, rather, God creates his "front" when he presents himself in full glory, and God presents his "back" when he withholds some of his glory so that Moses can endure being in his presence.

The presence and image of God is so powerful that even when Moses stands in front of the Lord as he appears as the cloud, and not his full glory, Moses's "skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord" Exodus 34:29. The face is on the "front" and so powerful is the presence of God that when Moses faces even the cloud of God, each time his face is made radiant by God's image. So we can further deduce from scripture that the ability to be radiant is another shared image between God and humans, except that again, as with the front and back, God is always radiant, while humans can become radiant only in God's presence.

I guess, thinking back about how God, has a "front" and a "back" (again, please keep in mind that these are not biologically but, rather, how God radiates the fullness of his glory and focus, or veils it) that, just to have a little whimsy and humor here, the fish the most like God must be the flounder!

I hope that you have found this helpful.