Thinking about God as parent, Abba

Learned to live with it, more likely, would be my characterization.

I like to think of Paul’s “thorn in his flesh” as being a kind of template for all of us in this regard. Most of us have probably had the experience of how insufferable somebody (or we ourselves) can be after going through long stretches of success in our lives - relatively free of any serious suffering. And of course we are fond of probably over-attributing our good stretches to our own hard work, smart thinking, and of course - faithfulness and good character (not to mention our particular brilliance in choosing to be born into communities of affluence). That Divine blessing, the good will and work of others, nurturing parentage, or even just good ol’ luck (for those who prefer that language) may have had anything to do with it - that doesn’t excite our attentions quite so much. And suddenly we’re a ‘blow-hard’ who knows it all - whether in the context of faith, or just giving life advice. Many might be somewhat jealous of them - yes - but we generally are not admiring them for who they are at that moment. Everybody else around can usually see the heaping truckload of pride shining through, and we find it more repulsive than something to envy. They may indeed know a lot and be full of some pretty good advice. But would you want to grab a beer with them?

That’s probably the spirit of the Keillor quip that this world “needs more sinners than saints.”

That was probably more a ramble that tooks wide potshots all around your question rather than answering it. As somebody who tends to be full of answers myself - I would point people toward the Job discourses, and the psalmists. And by the time they’re done there, maybe more questions will have been raised than answered. But the sacred texts tend to do that to people.

Or to attempt to put that more clearly: the religious contemplative life is usually more about getting the questioner to “step back from” his question more than it is about giving it some direct answer.


That. When I was a little child, I had no idea why my parents had to ‘go to work’, whatever that meant, for such a big part of the day. It was a mystery to me (but I don’t think it was one I spent a long time pondering ; - ).

1 Like

I don’t have a quick answer and I know that I not infrequently weep at the news, national and international. I also know that I will defend God’s goodness.

Maybe it is again analogous (just little bit ; - ) to my childhood as I just mentioned about my parents. They were good, and I would not hold them responsible if something bad happened to a friend at preschool.

1 Like

I have frequently said this is the single greatest problem challenging a belief in God, and a very old one at that (Epicurus 3rd century BC). Since I was not raised to believe in God and there is nothing demanding such a belief of me (rejecting the necessity of belief for salvation and having no problem with the idea of future nonexistence), it is an obstacle I needed to surpass. The only answer I found leads straight to God in the role of parent and thus requires an answer to the challenge which started this discussion. A “mystery” or “i don’t know” answer may be good for many things but in my case, for this particular issue, it would be quite incompatible with a belief in God.

And do you think this applies to God?

Obviously I think this does apply to God and think it is an unavoidable part of being a parent. Which is why it looks like a good answer to the problem of evil for me.

And this is not an idea which I have expressed. But it is a non answer to a question, so when an answer is required, it clearly will not do.

A judgement of human arrogance applies when someone is imposing their way of thinking on other people. It most certainly does NOT apply in defense of someone imposing their way of thinking on other people. People have both the right and responsibility to make decisions for their own life and calling that arrogance is beyond preposterous to downright pathological.

1 Like

Does God have a natural instinct for having children? I dont know, and I would be extremely hesitant to apply such a biological and sociological understanding to God. As the Trinity, it seems He is not ‘needful’ of anything if a natural instinct is understood as such. Love already exists within His very being, so He has no ‘need’ to love outside of the Trinity. But then who really fully understands the Trinity? I would suggest noone - another mystery, which I doubt any human would have made up.

I think God should be viewed as a parent, He is called Father after all. But I think the problem with saying that is the answer to the problem of evil is that He is not a human parent, very limited to what they can do. God knows and sees all. God knows the choices humans will make before they make them, but if they are choices for evil, He generally doesnt seem to intervene. Now that could be argued that is reasonable of Him to do as He has given us free will, but even a human parent will step in, for example, to try to stop their child from killing themselves with drugs. Whilst I know God does do that sometimes, it seems He often does not. For me that is a mystery - God sometimes steps in powerfully, and at other times it seems He is nowhere to be seen. So I think a parent is the best way of understanding God’s relationship to us, but that in itself does not explain this life. Hence the mystery. But perhaps that reflects an immaturity in my thinking.

Regarding human arrogance, sorry I was referring to anyone who thinks they can understand everything about God and His ways. They cant otherwise they would be God too, just as He told Job.

I would just say no to instinct. But I will argue that the most natural and logical motivation of a being who has everything, is everything, and needs nothing, is to give of His abundance to others. And if there are no others then He will have reason to create them.

But that difference only strengthens the argument and applicability to the problem of evil.

I don’t believe that. God can know whatever He chooses to know just as God can do whatever He chooses to do. But to say God must know everything whether He wants to or not is a severe limitation which makes Him incapable of most things we can do. And I see no significant difference from pantheists like Einstein who do not believe in a personal God.

I believe in a God who CAN take risks, give privacy, make sacrifices, have faith, trust, and do all the other things which are essential for a relationship of real love with another person. In a real relationship both parties write the story of their relationship together otherwise it is only the relationship of author to his made up characters and that is a pale imitation of a real relationship.

I believe in a God who can set power and knowledge aside to become a helpless human infant. Those who insist that God must first satisfy their definitions of God as omnipotent and omniscient, saying God cannot do so many things because of this, have effectively enslaved God to their theology. Real omnipotence puts God’s own will and desire first to say God can do as He chooses.

Sometime the point of speculating to find answers to these question is not to claim that one knows the answer but only to see that an answer is possible. For someone deciding whether the whole idea of God is even coherent, this is an important thing to do. So I speculate that…

  1. The laws of nature are important for they are the very substance of our life and freedom of will.
  2. The laws of nature are probabilistic rather than absolute so they don’t disallow exceptions but only prohibit an alteration of the probability distribution.
  3. Prayer is a form of taking responsibility so this allows God to do more without taking away our freedom of will.
  4. So God will intervene as an exception to show his love, but he will not change the rules which our very lives depend upon.

Yes, you’re clear now, but still wrong. Both God and a parent have options and may exercise those options, but a parent can’t violate an adult child’s free will any more than God can. If a son or daughter is bent on self-destruction, there’s only so much a parent can do other than having them incarcerated or committed to a rehab/psychiatric facility against their will (thereby taking away their choice in the matter).

Edit: Or the parent could always invoke Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and have the rebellious child stoned.


I’ve used that example for years to say the Garden was never a “test” of obedience.

Always an interesting question. Regarding “heaven,” the two options seems to be the “beatific vision” and the resurrection into a “spiritual body” on the physical Earth. I agree with the latter (See Middleton: A New Heaven and a New Earth.)

My thinking from there involves the “cost of creation” argument. (See this old thread:)

TL/DR version: Everything we call “natural evil” or natural disaster is actually a condition of life on this planet. The planet’s liquid core (responsible for earthquakes and volcanos) generates Earth’s magnetosphere, and plate tectonics scrubs CO2 from the atmosphere. Just one example.

IOW, a “perfect” world (instead of a “very good” one) would not be conducive to life. Harsh conditions, climate change (new conditions), “natural” disasters (asteroid extinction of dinosaurs), etc., have all contributed to natural selection and adaptation. The end result isn’t just human beings on top of a pyramid, but life expanding into every ecological nook and cranny of this planet. (We may or may not be a “Goldilocks” in this universe. I have no idea or opinion on that one.)

I take a similar view of human evolution in light of Genesis 1-3. If God desired to make a creature capable of freely choosing to love others (not limited to conspecifics) and God, and also capable of freely choosing between “good” and “evil,” the evolutionary path seems the only one to fit the bill.

Edit: Forgot to answer your original question about “heaven.” If resurrected humanity exists as “spiritual bodies” on a physical Earth, “sin” won’t exist, but if the earth is still filled with plants and animals and sea creatures, then death, disease and pain will still be part of the equation. Perhaps our role for millennia will be to undo the damage we have done?

Have you seen The Good Place?

(Sorry for my absence. Life got in the way. This post is already too long, so I’ll reply to others in another post.)

Always a great scapegoat it seems. I’d rather have my child gone for ever than see him destroy himself slowly.

I have to admit that you got me. I do not have a counterargument to this one

However I will point out something I’ve said before in the thread and you might missed it. Your free will(well ours ) is a fragile one.

How free really are your choices? We humanss are masters at manipulating and beign manipulated. There’s no point in our lives where our free will is entirely “free” . External agents and factors play an important role in our decision making.

So I’ll leave you the question. What free will God doesn’t want to violate if it is already violated?

1 Like

I have seen some of it, but probably not as much as you have. I very rarely watch tv shows to the end of the series – even my favorite ones.

And… that one is a comedy which tends to hold my interest less than others.

1 Like

That I will echo pretty much entirely, except that Jesus as God Incarnate doesn’t have as much joy as he will have (I don’t know about God the Father and the infinitude of his joy)(and I may have quoted this a time or two before, probably not more than once per week :grin:):

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

1 Like

I don’t agree that human culture(s) are dominated by evil. Children are enculturated first by their parents and extended older kin (grandparents, aunts, uncles), then by their peers, then by the “local” culture, teachers, community elders, chosen role models, etc. The ripples go on and on like a pebble dropped into a pool, and all along the way, children encounter both good and bad examples.

On your second point, I’ll tell you a story. My mother, Anita, and uncle Jay were born in Denver to a couple who fled German hyperinflation in the late 1920s. When the Depression hit, my biological grandfather skipped town and my biological grandmother turned on the gas stove in their apartment and attempted suicide with her kids inside. A grocery deliveryman smelled gas and broke in. His mom, my adoptive “grandmother,” was a German immigrant who owned the grocery store and also a boarding house. From the time my mother was 8 until she married my father at 18, she was essentially a slave, doing everything from cleaning and cooking to laundry for the guests in the boarding house. As it turns out, Grandma G never actually adopted my mom or uncle. But patriarchy being what it is, he wasn’t put to work like my mom.

There’s no shame in offering a possible answer to some dilemmas, as long as we realize the probability that we may be wrong. The harder the question and the longer the chain of reasoning, the greater the need for intellectual humility.

I would never choose such a thing. And this is why I suggested long ago that you tread lightly.

I get that. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Me neither. And like I said, I don’t think most parents do either. It was one of the reason I didn’t agree with Pculbert’s objection.

Even reading it several times, I don’t think I understood the relevance of the story.

Indeed. Like I said in my other post, the main point is solutions are possible.

Sure. I’m pretty sure I’ve solved one problem, and multiple PhD’s from various disciplines have agreed with my conclusions. But I still hold them lightly and acknowledge the probability I could be wrong. The longer the chain of reasoning, the more likely it is that a mistake was made somewhere along the way.

My own mother was a “free servant” not even by birth. Her supposed rescuer (Grandma G) took her in not out of pity or any sense of “Christian charity,” but to exploit her as unpaid child labor for a decade and increase her own wealth.

All human cultures are not dominated by evil, but they certainly have arisen and indeed still do arise. All we have to do is look at the evening news. Bullying cultures can arise in police departments. Hazing in sports teams, fraternities and probably to some extent sororities, gangs, military divisions,1 the list goes on, and evil can become widely enculturated from national leadership on down – our country is definitely at risk. Large proportions of the refugees at the southern border of the U.S. are fleeing cultures dominated by evil.

It’s not for no reason that Christians are told to be in the world and not of it, to be salt and light. One can only wonder what institutions and cultures could have been preserved or their deterioration slowed with more or even any righteous influence.

1 I remember reading shortly after the Russians were expelled from Bucha about the vicious hazing Russian of military recruits and that it was merely symptomatic of the brutality of the wider military culture. It’s no surprise that the torture and murder of civilians was commonplace.

1 Like

Oh… that wasn’t made clear in the story which was complicated and full of many different things going on unrelated to that aspect of it.

It made me realize something though (and maybe this was your intent???) … If the culture were dominated by evil then parents are going to do that more often and are less likely to care about whether they are bringing children into a culture dominated by evil.

But since I was not raised in a situation like that… this explains why I hold parenthood to a higher standard… and thus expect God to meet that ideal as well.

I often shock people with the story of my life which filled with such extreme liberalism on the part of my parents. And according to the expectations of many people it seems terrible. But perhaps the fact is that it was a far kinder and more sheltered childhood than most. And while I came to the conclusion my parents were wrong in many things, there was also much to admire in what they did.

1 Like

Even if as a child someone had bad parents, they can still imagine and recognize what a good father would be like, so the Fatherhood of God, the very definition and archetype of a father really, is still a legitimate and useful metaphor.

1 Like

That’s almost exactly what Orthodox catechesis says.

I think you’ve got it backwards. God is omnipresent and omniscience emerges directly from that, so knowing everything is a natural attribute of God. But that doesn’t mean He can’t, as the Old Testament has it, turn aside His gaze, so to speak.
Though thinking of the Old Testament, this perhaps links to the Second Temple Judiasm understanding of dual powers in heaven, the YHWH-Elohim Who is always in Heaven and the YHWH-Adonai Who shows up on Earth in physical form: the former sees and and knows all, while the latter has to investigate things and can be surprised. To us this seems contradictory, but Judaism has never really shared our Western demand for consistency.

Thus the YHWH who comes to Earth. Paul’s kenoticism isn’t really novel on this, he just makes it a bit clearer something that is implied in David’s assertion that “YHWH said to my Adonai”, that there is a YHWH without limitations yet a YHWH with limitations, a YHWH-Elohim and a YHWH-Adonai. The striking element in Paul’s formulation is that YHWH-Adonai in this one case didn’t just take on a temporary human form but actually became human.

If it was a test, it was a test of loyalty because it was a matter of love: when there is no choice, love is meaningless, and so God provided a choice.
A case can be made that the experiential knowledge of good and evil had nothing to do with the tree pe se because it wouldn’t have mattered what the prohibition was, the result was going to be experiential knowledge of good and evil. But trees are naturally symbols of drawing sustenance from properly grown roots, and fruit is a natural symbol of taking something from outside into ourselves, so the tree and fruit worked as visible poetry that would have been lacking if God had instructed “Don’t sit on this boulder” or “Don’t pick up red pebbles”. Thus in a sense the designation of a certain individual tree was arbitrary since in itself it was just an ordinary tree.

Why should there be a difference?

That’s not terribly good geology – earthquakes and volcanoes are really phenomena of the surface layers of the planet; the core is only involved because of heat flow moving upwards.