Thinking about God as parent, Abba

At the start yes, the relationship with God would be severed by any disobedience at all. This is something that people in sports and the military and similar situations recognize: training to obey an order immediately without questioning is necessary in order to get immediate obedience when it is necessary. Before I went up a mountain where we had to rope together and drive pitons to anchor the rope we drilled on obeying whatever order the lead might give, and part of that involved deliberately including commands that were in themselves pointless. It’s part of effective training in discipline.

No – all you can say is that it is natural now; anything else is bad science and bad theology. We can’t know what would be natural for children if there had never been any sin because that is not a situation we have observed nor have any basis for extrapolating to.

That has nothing to do with disobedience. You’re doing bad science and using bad logic.

You have a serious fixation on this “power over others issue” – what’s the real issue going on? It leads you to misrepresent what I’ve said, repeatedly, along with doing bad reasoning.

You’re changing the meaning of what the words mean. Experiencing evil is not the same as being able to recognize it. Those first parents could have learned to tell the difference without having to cripple themselves by experiencing evil through doing it and having it impact them – just as agents of the U.S. Treasury learn to discern counterfeit money not by handling any counterfeit bills but by getting to know the real thing thoroughly. For that matter, I don’t learn to identify a coastal pine tree by comparing it to every other pine tree or similar species, I learned to identify a coastal pine by becoming thoroughly familiar with coastal pines!

No, it’s ignoring theology and doing solid scholarship on the language itself.

Your observations about the study of literary texts show a total lack of familiarity with such study. It’s a hard grind with little room for opinion; indeed publishing a paper where a position is taken that appears to be opinion, including theological bias, is a good way to get shredded by every other scholar out there. Write a paper on the meaning of some word in Genesis – a good example is the words for “image” and “likeness” – without solid objective justification for every assertion, and including pointing out your own weak points, and it isn’t likely to be published (oh, it could be gotten away with somewhat when there was almost nothing to go on, but even then sheer speculation such as was done by some church Fathers and some Reformers was a good way to get ridiculed in scholarly circles).

There is absolutely no basis for such a meaning, not in ancient Hebrew or any cognate languages, so all you’re doing is making up something that pleases you. Making things up that way is how religious tyranny is born; demanding that the text be adhered to is the only escape from such tyranny (as demonstrated by the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages when they had to resort to forbidding people from even reading the text; going back to the original languages and seeing the original meaning is what shattered religious tyranny (at least on those parts of the continent where coercion to maintain Rome’s ability to make up meaning as pleased them).

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I think this discussion has become repetitive and there is no point in continuing. You know my position on the matter so why should I repeat myself any more?

It did imply that. It implied that God does nothing like a father does nothing for his sick or helpless child. Simple

At least the paren has options. God doesn’t seem to hense he will violate free will.

Am I clear now?

Thinking of God as a parent . . .

Let’s say a parent places a pile of rat poison shaped like candy in the middle of the room and places their two toddlers right next to it. The parent tells the toddlers, “Don’t eat it, it will kill you!”. The parent leaves the room. The children eat the rat poison. Who’s at fault?

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But the fact is that parents do tell their children, “don’t play in the street or you will die.” It is a perfectly natural part of child rearing. I agree the notion that this is some sort of test is ludicrous. Parents don’t do that. But the dangers in life are a part of what life is – a part of our very being.

Are you are suggesting that God childproof the world so there is nothing dangerous so He doesn’t have to warn them of anything. Except the parental commandment is a necessary step for the child to learn how to be responsible for their own life. So the suggestion becomes so the children never grow up and world becomes one that is hardly worth living in for anyone with any intellectual abilities.

To be sure there are many versions of this which make little sense – including a literal treatment of the story. But this doesn’t mean it cannot make sense if some elements of the story are symbolic.

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Too late at night . . . I can’t recall at the moment if scripture ever speaks of the whole thing in the Garden as a test. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was something from Augustine.

My immediate reaction is to wonder what heaven is supposed to be like. Is heaven going to be filled with sin, disease, pain, and death like Earth is? If not, then why couldn’t Earth have been made like heaven?

Yeah I don’t have the traditional view of heaven which is so idyllic that it seems lifeless to me. But this comes from thinking of it as a reward when I do not. I am confident we will have every reason to regret the bad things we have done and be grateful for the good things regardless of where we go and I don’t think there is any escape from this. I think heaven and hell is a different matter – only about how we deal with self-destructive habits – whether we let them consume us or we seek the painful process of removing them.

I remember the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she is brought back from heaven and how the experience made her so much weaker. I don’t think I can believe in a heaven like that.

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Turning once again to my older brother the mathematician . . . .

He maintained that the real difference between here and heaven is that here we’re stuck with three dimensions we can move in and one we’re just dragged along with, while in heaven we’ll have both more spatial dimensions and even more time(-like) dimensions and it would probably take us a few million years to explore it all and grow into living there.
And an Episcopal priest I met pointed out that just because there may be no suffering or calamity doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges to tackle – and no, don’t ask him what those might entail because if he could answer that obviously he must have died and was already there.
An uncle who was a naval officer said that heaven will be like the Navy except the “seas” we sail will be like “the deep” of Genesis and would be able to take us anywhere, especially places we could never even imagine – and that we would be shown tasks to do as teams (with officers, of course) and would sign up for whichever ones drew our interest.


‘For God to then bring children into a world with evil already there is not something I can believe in.’

Are all human parents then bad parents? All people who choose to have children do so on the understanding that not only will they encounter evil in all its guises, but also that their children may become evil themselves.

Im not sure if angels ‘fell’ before or similarly to humans, but I dont see the logic of your argument.

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That’s a fair question. And only God knows the answer. It seems He is tolerating sin and rebellion for a certain time, and has given His Son as the answer to it, but His tolerance will not last, and one day sin and rebellion will cease. That will be the new ‘age’.

I think as humans we have to accept we dont have all the information, but God does.

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I can respect that type of answer. I much prefer an honest “I don’t know, it’s a mystery” to “let me make something up just to have an answer”.


The scope of responsibility is different. Many do feel it is wrong to bring a child into the world because they do think it is dominated by evil. But for the most part, parents don’t expect their children to be exposed to evil because they don’t have this weird theological definition of that sees it everywhere and they certainly do their best to exclude real evil from the lives of their children as much as they are capable. Are you saying that God is not capable of doing so?

So you would see no problem with bringing a child into a place dominated by evil. I think there are many people like that – those for whom children are just free servants which you have just to increase your own wealth and standing in the world. But I expect a great deal more from God. I will give no regard or worship to a God who is indistinguishable from a devil.

Except that you don’t believe in such a God. For those of us who decide to believe, we need a better answer than just it is a mystery.

I was under the impression that some mystery was allowed in Christian theology, but I am more than happy to be corrected on that matter.


I certainly am clueless how God orchestrates providence, and it’s a great mystery, but I love it, even when it’s hard, because he “recycles pain into gain” I think a song says.

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Allowed??? What has that got to do with anything? If you say you need evidence in order to believe. Then shall I respond… “I was under the impression that believing without evidence is allowed in Christianity.” If that reply is unhelpful/meaningless to you then why would your reply be any more helpful/meaningful to me?

…perhaps I didn’t state my meaning carefully enough. I was certainly not saying what all Christians need in order to believe… though even in that case your reply makes little sense to me. I was talking about those raised without a belief in God and what it takes for them to come to a belief in God. Earlier in this thread you were explaining an inconsistency about thinking of the Christian God as a parent. Perhaps you can praise someone for saying it is a mystery but would this remove that obstacle to your belief in the Christian God?

God is capable but currently does not. It seems He largely chooses to work through us. But He will deal with evil in due time, but that is for Him to decide not us.

Whilst there are undoubtedly some parents like that, I would suggest having children is for most a natural instinct and bring up their children well, rather than for selfish reasons. Many children cause their parents pain due to the life choices they make.

I find the idea there is no mystery in God or His ways to be odd. Why would any human fully understand Him? As Spock would say, that is only human arrogance. We are not God.

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The problem of suffering is a serious problem and a serious obstacle for me. It appears that others have overcome that obstacle, and I really do appreciate their honest explanations of how they see the world.


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 ; - ).

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