Rollins talks about Seneca and his critique on the traditional notion of God. Seneca basically says that a child is better than God (in the traditional sense of the Religious notion of God). He says that because God can’t lose, or be defeated, or suffer, God actually lacks in a way. This is the critique: A child falls and gets back up over and over again. By facing fears, and trying again after being defeated by something the child is doing something even more wonderful than God can because God, in the traditional sense, can not lose, or suffer or be defeated. By knowing what it feels like to lose a game, or a toy, or a loved one, to live with pain and to embrace loss, allows the child to have courage and to know what it means to taste life.
There is something beautiful in that imagery, and hopefully it challenges your notion of God. It does mine…or should I say my notion of God challenges Seneca’s notion (which is in itself a critique. Seneca had a deeply profound notion of God and he’s challenging the status quo with this critique, just as Peter is doing with this series.). I think God has lost. I think God does suffer. The hardest one to grapple with is “can God be defeated?” Or “Has God tasted defeat?”
This is tough. Ultimately the answer is no! God cannot be defeated. So then, does Seneca have a point? God’s plan already has been established and it will come to fruition. Nothing we do can thwart God’s plan of restoration. I have long wondered, though, how many times we (as humans) fail to live up to what God asks or wants of us and therefore, either unknowingly or otherwise, we play a part in failing God’s plan. How many ‘plan Bs’ does God have to ensure the end goal?
I think that’s something worth pondering.
But in the end, God knows just how to achieve the end goal, and it will be done. What I think is awesome is that he asks us to participate in making it happen! How much or how little we do is up to us.
Now, some might say the very fact that sin has infiltrated humanity and our world, which was not part of God’s initial plan (or at least we have no reason to believe that he wanted that to happen) would point to God’s defeat. Did Satan defeat God to take power over his creation? Maybe.
Some would probably argue that quite strongly. One of the major atonement theories in the Christian Church is that God offered Jesus as a sacrifice to be the ransom paid to sin – that is to say that Sin or Satan had kidnapped humanity and was holding us up for ransom. That would mean that Satan had power of God and God had to give into Satan’s demands or otherwise stay defeated, so he sacrificed himself in his Son, Jesus.
That might make total sense to you. It might not sit well with you at all. Fortunately there are many atonement theories, all of which might be true and might not be – the mystery of what happened on the cross is just as grand and how the Trinity works. All we know is that sin was atoned for and we have several ways to explain that so it resonates and makes sense to a variety of people.
So, I’m not entirely sure how I sit on answering the question “has God ever been, or can God be defeated?”
But I do think God has lost – or at least experienced the feeling of loss. Let me preface this with a statement: I DO NOT PRESUME TO KNOW HOW GOD JUDGES. I CAN’T SAY DEFINITELY WHO IS IN HEAVEN AND WHO IS NOT, NOR CAN I SAY IF ANYONE ISN’T OR IF NOT ALL SOULS WILL EVENTUALLY BE IN HEAVEN. I HAVE SOME THOUGHTS ON ALL THOSE THINGS, BUT I TEND TO LET GOD BE GOD AND I WILL NOT PRESUME TO KNOW HOW GOD’S MERCY IS EMPLOYED UPON JUDGEMENT.
I think that God has felt loss from the moment sin infected us. The relationship God had with humanity was nearly perfect – it was very good! And the moment we turned autonomous God lost us. Or we lost God, but either way it wasn’t the way it was, or the way it was meant to be. God lost us to sin, and it’s arguable that God loses those whom God loves to sin eternally too. So yeah, I think God has lost and knows what it means to lose something She loves.
I also believe that God has absolutely suffered. The loss of humanity to sin in the first place would be incalculable suffering. But aside from that Christ suffered for all the sin of the world on the cross. We’re talking loads of physical suffering but also immense, unfathomable spiritual suffering! I also believe that God suffers with us when we suffer because His love for us is so great that She can’t help but feel for us. Not only that, but with the Holy Spirit residing within us, how can God escape (and why would God want to escape) us when we are in pain. Instead He is available for us.
So, those are some of my thoughts on that. It’s a little off topic of where Rollins was actually trying to go, but it caught my attention and I couldn’t’ avoid arguing against it, WHICH, I think Seneca would have wanted me to do in the first place.
How about you? What do you think about any of this?