Focusing on the Puzzle Piece without Seeing the Whole Puzzle

“If God would concede me His omnipotence for 24 hours, you would see how many changes I would make in the world. But if He gave me His wisdom too, I would leave things as they are.”
― J.M.L. Monsabre

A few days ago, I posted the quote above on my Facebook page. A very good friend of mine who is an atheist (a mistaken belief system transmitted to him by his over-the-top-atheist father) but still a great guy asked, "Really?" And when I responded "Year, really." He responded with the following: 

So, you are okay with COVID-19, the massive over population, wars over religious and political differences, the way humans are trashing this planet, the huge difference in the quality of life between those who have and have-not.

But, if you think about it, I guess COVID-19 is an example of Darwin at work weeding out the unhealthy from the population.

If you are omnipotent and do nothing to help, you're just lazy and we are just an uncared for experiment in a petri dish.

I love this response. It is honest, but it still reeks of years of indoctrination from his father, family (who also had the diseased worldview transmitted to them) and his friends (who are largely not church-goers). To me, this is one of the bigger problems that Christians have to face in life - explaining how it is that we can still see a good and loving God despite the evil that God permits to happen. 

I like to use the analogy of a puzzle to explain things. So, let me share part of my lengthy (probably, too lengthy) response. I do so for two purposes. First, to introduce the analogy of the puzzle to explain why we lack the perspective (and, without saying so, the knowledge) to understand everything that happens from God's perspective. Second, just to demonstrate what I believe to be a respectful response - the type of response that is expected of Christians according to 1 Peter 3:15-16 ("[S]anctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and respect; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who disparage your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.")

You throw out a lot in your comment, and I don’t believe we will come to an agreement in a Facebook comment exchange. I certainly hear you, but to give you some insight into my way of thinking and why I agree with the posted quote, I want to share an analogy. I apologize for the length of this response, but these are deep and important things we are discussing and bumper sticker answers don’t give it the depth it needs.

I want you to imagine a puzzle that is extremely large – perhaps when the puzzle is put together it would be the size of the state of Wyoming. Each person living has a part in putting together the puzzle. None of us know what the puzzle will look like at the end, but we all have a few hundred puzzle pieces in our hands which are the size of a typical household puzzle. We can look at the pieces in our hand, and some will be dark and ugly while others will be colorful and pretty. The mix you get is not dependent on you, it is just what you have been handed. Based on the puzzle pieces you have been given, you may try to figure out the puzzle.

A person handed a lot of gray, ugly pieces might conclude that the puzzle is some monstrosity. But that person needs to remember that they are seeing only part of the puzzle, and the gray and black pieces are necessary to add definition to the puzzle. The person handed a lot of colorful pieces might think the puzzle is something beautiful. But that person also needs to recognize that they have only been given part of the puzzle and others will have much darker pieces. Regardless, neither is seeing the whole puzzle and neither knows what the final puzzle will look like. For that, you need to get a perspective from someone who can see the whole puzzle.

Like a puzzle, our personal experiences and actions are interconnected with others who you know. Pain, struggles, anguish: these are all things that help people mature. We learn from our pain. Others learn from us in how we handle struggles. We learn from the struggles of others. We really are very interconnected. Something you heard from someone 30 years ago may only now be understood through the passage of time. That’s where wisdom often comes from: as time passes and we experience new things (many struggles and many heartbreaks), we grow and mature. For some, they allow the ugliness of life to tear them down. Others grow and become more than they were before.

The quote I posted is about God’s knowledge and wisdom versus our own. I know you don’t believe in God, but the perspective is that God has given us a glimpse of what the puzzle is about, and even though there are a lot of ugly pieces in the puzzle, when taken as a whole the puzzle is beautiful.

You mention several things that are bad like COVID. If I had my way, COVID would be gone today because people are being hurt by it. But again, that is not seeing the bigger perspective. Paul, the apostle who wrote several books of the Bible, spoke of this problem when he said that he had been through a lot of bad things in his life – he had been shipwrecked and several times people had tried to kill him by stoning him to death among other things. Yet, he said he considered all of these things to be nothing compared to the eternal joy that was coming. It is like weighing the problems of Earth on a scale against the paradise to come. The problems on Earth may be very heavy – maybe the size of Mount Everest. But the paradise to come is like the Planet Jupiter in comparison. The problems are real and may seem monumental on this side, but in the Christian understanding they are (relatively speaking) minor compared to the good stuff coming.

So, no. I don’t agree that we are in a petri dish. But I also don’t believe that God was required to create this Earth in a way that makes us all comfortable and able to live care-free lives. Such a life would be stifling. I would not want God to do that for me any more than I would want to coddle my kids their whole lives because they would never grow and mature.

I have had some dark pieces in my life. As I get older and my body will start shutting down, I know I will have other dark pieces ahead. But the perspective offered in the quote is the perspective that comes from knowing that there is a God and that He is in charge of everything. While I don’t know how the dark pieces work in the puzzle, I do know as certainly as I know that this keyboard is in front of me that there is a great and beautiful completion coming. I hope you will consider that.


Comments

JBsptfn said…
I don't agree with either view. The Atheist just sees the physical, and Christians like you just see the spiritual. We need both physical and spiritual together. Just focusing on the eternity with God is wrong (even though that will be great). This world should be so much better, but WE ALLOW (we do, not God. Don't put evil on God) evil to persist (remember the saying: Evil wins when Good sits by and does nothing. Don't see how that's Christian).

Mark Passio talked about this before (I don't agree with everything he has said, but he is right on here):

Mark Passio: Atheism and Religion vs Natural Law

Also, he had a presentation called Fake A** Christians (the only part I disagree with is when he leaves open the possibility that Christ may not exist. He uses Kersey Graves' 16 Crucified saviors as a good source. That is a book that world-class God Hater Richard Carrier debunked):

Mark Passio: Fake Christians
dcleve said…
Wow. What a terrible post! First -- snark, arrogance, and put downs are a central feature of of it. It reveals the personal character of the poster, and that revelation is -- not pretty. Second, it contains multiple instances of very bad reasoning. Examples: a) IF the universe is too large/complex for us to evaluate whether it is well contracted or badly, then YOU CAN'T TELL IF IT IS WELL CONSTRUCTED OR BADLY. Assenting the universe IS well constructed, and trying to argue REASONS for this, contradicts your own starting premise!!!! b) Argument by analogy is pretty much always invalid, as one can make analogies supporting every direction of every dispute. And THIS analogy (large puzzle) fails in multiple ways, as one can generally get a pretty good idea of a puzzle's image quality even seeing only part of it. And the localized view limit of a puzzle does not even apply, as we can have some big picture understandings of our universe. Both you and the atheist cited USE more global perspectives to make arguments about the goodness or badness of our universe's design! So the analogy both fails on its own, and also fails to describe the nature of our views of the universe. c) Basically, you have conceded that our universe is badly constructed, by only invoking a spiritual universe as a way to make up for the failings of the physical one. You have implicitly admitted the atheist you keep denigrating is RIGHT about our world. d) Your ratioanlizations that one should not change a crappy world because parts of it over there are pretty good -- is inane. ANY decent person will correct obvious evils. A loving, caring person would be MORTIFIED to allow evils to exist in such profusion and not set them right. Yet you argue that all this world's evils should remain unchanged. WOW! You clearly are not a loving, caring person, nor follow a loving, caring God. e) The final rationalization is that, since human psychology requires challenge, that God could not change the universe to eliminate evils without spoiling it for us. IE, you think that God could change the universe, but noNOT human psychology. Also, you think that heaven also has starvation, wasting diseases, etc. because of your false dichotomy thinking. Oh wait, youa lso said heaven is prefect -- so no harms, diseases, etc, but somehow human psychology is fine with that now????

So-- this is yet another example of someone of bad moral character, justifying evil, using "reasoning" that consists of one contradiction and fallacy after another. So great post in a way. It illustrates very clearly what is wrong with your approach to religion, and to thinking.
which post are you talking about?
JBsptfn said…
I think he's talking about BK's.
dcleve said…
Yes, this was in reply to BK's blog post, and contains explicit critiques of his put downs, and bad reasoning.

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