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A Christian SF Writer Comments on the Challenge: God is Either Loving or Weak

Is there a contradiction between the theological claims that God is omnipotent and that He is love?

A short time ago my teaching pastor, Bruxy Cavey was teaching on Three Beautiful Words (God is Love) from I John 4:8 (if you’re interested in this critical message you can download the podcast for free).

After the message, as is the custom in our meetings, the floor was opened up for questions. A query was texted in by Peter (not yours truly) and from memory the gist of the question was:

A speaker on TV said that God being loving and being omnipotent was a contradiction. If God were loving, he would fix the world to take away evil and suffering. Since he doesn’t that means either he can’t (therefore he’s not omnipotent) or he won’t (therefore he’s not loving). This has bothered me a lot. How would you answer this?

Now when I encounter challenges like this, I like to think through them and this is the reason for my post.

Thinking about the definitions

Omnipotence is a theological term that describes God’s power as creator and sustainer of all things. I don’t believe it is ever used in the bible but rather is used by theologians to describe the sum of the teaching on God in the bible on the subject of His power and sovereignty.

Before one can examine the claimed contradiction, I think it is useful to understand the word “omnipotent.” The TV speaker and I likely agree that omnipotent means “all powerful” but does that mean that there are no actions that are inherently impossible even to an all-powerful being?

I think the answer to that question is “no;” there are actions inherently impossible even for the omnipotent.
For example, the following actions are inherently impossible or necessarily limit the scope on omnipotence:

1. Actions that violate the law of non-contradiction: God can’t make it rain and not rain on the same spot, in the same sense, at the same time. Choosing to make it rain means He has already chosen against making it “not rain.” The decree and its complement come as a single package.
2. In any creative process, full omnipotence is limited to the first decision. After that, all future decisions are constrained by what has already been chosen. Often subsequent choices are impossible because they violate earlier choices.
3. Omnipotence tells us what God can do, not what He will do.

Allow me to elaborate on points 2 and 3.

In any creative process, full omnipotence is limited to the first decision

As a writer I see this principle in effect whenever I start a novel. When my page is blank I may write anything I like. Perhaps:
“In a galaxy far, far away …” or
“He found the body after midnight on the moor.” or
“When Dolores opened the letter, she knew her life would never be the same again.”

After the first line, my omnipotence as a writer has shriveled enormously. I can no longer do what I want. Everything I write afterwards has to be consistent with what I wrote before. I think God faces the same limitation of particularity. When he chooses a certain course in creation, the contingent choices have to be self-consistent. When He steps into time, what He can do now, is constrained by the choices already made.

Omnipotence tells us what God can do, not what He will do

Omnipotence argues that God could lie. What prevents Him from doing so? He could put the lying words together, but choses not to because of His character. We have the same kind of power: we can all formulate a lie, but in our better moments we chose not to. This argues that there are some things God could do, but does not do them because they conflict with His essence or character.

Okay so why doesn’t God end all wickedness and suffering right now?

I think this is really the heart of the question that bothered the texter, Peter, and I don’t have a full answer. Here is what I have: what would God need to do to fix all wickedness and suffering right now? I think we would have to change the role we currently play on this planet and wrest from us all impulses and desires contrary to His will whether we want to give them up or not.

One of my favorite fantasy book series is Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time®. In it a group of gifted people, called channelers, have enormous powers over their fellow humans. One power they have is called compulsion. With compulsion they can make subtle changes the thinking in the ungifted or even the gifted they have overpowered. For example, a channeler might compel a highly competent general to make subtle mistakes in a battle that to lead to disaster. On the other hand, compulsion can be used to completely take over a person’s mind so that the compelled must worship the compeller and be willing to kill or give up their lives for him. In the books, compulsion was rightly seen as a great evil in all its forms because it turned humans into automatons.
If my memory serves me correctly, there was a vision in the last book in which all people were compelled to be kind, productive, generous etc. But their humanity was sacrificed to make them that way against their will. They were no longer human. The protagonist saw this compelled change as a great loss to evil.

I think this is the fundamental flaw in having God fix things right now—it would have to be done against our will and our nature and that action itself would be an evil even if the end were good.

So where does that leave me?

I believe God is fixing things (perhaps it might be more correct to say He has fixed things in Christ) but the full effect of the cure has not fully spread through the system yet. The need for the means and the end to be true and good means the process will take some time, but it encourages me enormously that God in Christ came down into creation as a man and suffered right along with us. He was born into a poor family, of an oppressed people. His father likely died when he was a young man. Finally, he was crucified as an innocent man, while dying for His enemies who did not value His death at the time. This gives me great hope that God deeply cares about our (and my) condition in this flawed and marred world filled with flawed and marred people.

One of my favorite pictures is the one shown at the head of this blog taken of a framed print in my home. In Michelangelo’s fresco of The Creation of Adam, God is seen as touching Adam’s finger ever so slightly. Through this lightest of touches, He is communicating His love, but also His gift of independence and free will. The touch is there so Adam can choose to move toward Him or away from Him. Alas, we have moved away. He pursues us, but the touch continues to be light to preserve our free will. It is always my choice whether I move toward the touch or away from it. If I have to choose between becoming automaton or having God work the process to bring us home when we are willing to move towards Him, I choose His timing and process.

A final comment on theologically-skeptical snipers

I must end this blog with a protest about theologically-skeptical snipers. I can’t directly complain about texter Peter’s TV speaker because I never saw the program, but I have seen many others like it. The speaker, in criticizing theism or Christianity trucks out some challenge and then leaves it hanging. In my experience, they never go on to say: “This is my world view and this is how I answer this question that I have just asked.” That would reveal that their own answers are at least as problematic as the Christian’s and thus leave them open to challenge. In other words, these skeptics are often not skeptical enough because they don’t challenge their own views along with the Christian’s.

In my mind, these speakers are like snipers who are happy to lie hidden in the brush taking pot shots at their opponents. As long as their own position is undiscovered they can happily fire away without taking any return fire.

If you are interested in these kinds of questions and you find the musings of a non-theologian, Science Fiction author helpful, why not check out my book Questioning Your Way to Faith? In story form, it discusses questions I have wrestled with, in the context of a respectful conversation between friends who profoundly disagree on the answers. ©Peter Kazmaier 2018

A Review of Robert Jordan’s THE EYE OF THE WORLD, Book #1 of THE WHEEL OF TIME Series

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1)The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is my favorite fantasy series. In The Eye of the World I particularly appreciate the wholesomeness and goodness of The Two Rivers society. The principal characters are unique, yet show a strength when faced with great adversity. They are clearly on the side of what is good and oppose evil. It’s a world in which I want to spend my time.

The plot is fast-moving and the characters grow as they face adversity. This story keeps bringing me back to read it again and again. I see something new each time I read it.

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The First Two Books of THE HALCYON CYCLE are Available from the Mississauga Library

 

THD-2_Front_PageTBFH Front Cover

 

I am delighted that the Mississauga Library system has decided to include my books in their collection (here is the link). At the moment, they have ordered the trade paperbacks. Eventually I hope the e-book version will also be available for borrowing through OverDrive (app download link). I am grateful to my readers who have initiated this expansion of the Mississauga library collection.

If you find the purchase price and the shipping is beyond your budget, you can now check out these books for free to see if they’re worthy of your time investment.

If any of my readers would like to order these books through their library, I can help you get started in requesting access. Just email at the address below or leave me a comment on this blog.

pkazmaier email

My Review of Andre Norton’s LORE OF THE WITCH WORLD

Lore of the Witch WorldLore of the Witch World by Andre Norton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This anthology consists of seven short stories set in Estcarp, the Witch World imagined by Andre Norton. I don’t normally enjoy short stories because I prefer longer tales that allow me to get to know the characters, but this collection worked for me precisely because the imagined world was familiar. My favorite short story in the set was The Toads of Grimmerdale.

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Peter’s Review of THE KINGDOM: HERE BE DRAGONS, HERE BE DREAMS

The Kingdom: Here Be Dragons, Here Be DreamsThe Kingdom: Here Be Dragons, Here Be Dreams by Joanne Rolston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoy reading independent works by authors who are beginning their writing journey. The combination of autobiography and fantasy (my favorite genre) intrigued me. I thought I would give Rolston’s book a chance and I was delighted. The book is well-written and immediately drew me in. Once I started I could not put it down. I rated it a four out of five stars meaning I enjoyed it enough to read again and again.

Why did I like it so much? It has been difficult to put it into words. On reflection I think I was intrigued that I was reading about real-life events that happened to a real person. On the other hand, it was written in the third person and so gave an analytical and objective perspective that I appreciated. It was filled with many remarkable occurrences that Materialists would ascribe to improbable coincidence and Christ-followers to providence. Mirroring the objective description of what was happening in the “seen world” was the insightful interaction with the King in the unseen world. The interweaving of the two was a delight and very thought-provoking for me.

In summary I would highly recommend this book whether you have an interest in the spiritual or not. It provides a profound and exciting view of one person’s life, both trauma and triumphs. It provides insight into the role the unseen plays in some people’s lives. I recommend it without reservation.

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THE HALCYON DISLOCATION featured on Kay MacLeod’s Indie Advent Calendar

THD-2_Front_PageMy novel The Halcyon Dislocation was featured on December 19th on Kay MacLeod’s Indie Advent Calendar. Why not check it out?

Check Out Featured Indie Authors at Kay MacLeod’s Author Advent Calendar

advent-calendar-indieFantasy author, Kay MacLeod had a wonderful idea—why not set up an online advent calendar that features Indie authors from many different genres?

It starts today. Why not check it out?

Review of SKY GHOSTS: THE NIGHT BEFORE

Sky Ghosts: The Night Before (Sky Ghosts #0.5)Sky Ghosts: The Night Before by Alexandra Engellmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sky Ghosts are superhuman freedom fighters that clandestinely fight renegades of their kind (beasts) in order to protect the innocents, that is the rest of us, from the beast’s depredations. Sky Ghosts: The Night Before, like the sequel is filled with non-stop action, martial arts and blade combat interspersed with gallows humor. I enjoy that and I find Alexandra Engellmann handles the action scenes very well.

This novella (my e-book was 40 pages) is easy to read at one sitting and will let you know if you want to go on to the much more substantial Sky Ghosts: All for One.

As I understand it, from Alexandra Engellmann’s biography, english is not her first language. I would not know that from the quality of the writing. Indeed, I had a few complaints about word construction and unexpected point of view changes in my review of Sky Ghosts: All for One, but I find these little grammatical intrusions have disappeared in this later work.

A word of caution: I enjoy stories with lots of action. This one has a  lot of “hacking and hewing” mainly of beasts. At times the language is also quite strong.

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Review of SKY GHOSTS: ALL FOR ONE

Sky Ghosts: All for One (Sky Ghosts, #1)Sky Ghosts: All for One by Alexandra Engellmann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sky Ghosts: All for One is a fast-paced, action-filled fantasy that kept me engaged from the beginning to the end. The beings, Sky Ghosts, are a faction of super humans (they can fly, have extraordinary strength, and can heal themselves of injury) that at night battle their evil counterparts (Beasts), led by a corrupted, but very powerful former Sky Ghost called Eugene.

The story begins with a fortuitous rescue of two regular humans (Chad and Dave) by Sky Ghosts Jane and Pain (Patricia) in New York City. As the story unfolds, Dave and Chad have an interest to Eugene that causes him to do his best to kill them. Their protection and ultimate significance to the Sky Ghost cause is the enduring theme of the story.

My rating of three stars means that I liked the story a lot, but would not read it a second time. This really should have been a four star story (meaning I would come back to read it over and over again). However, the author often changes point of view within a scene so, as a reader, I’m surprised suddenly to find myself in different character’s head. There are also grammatical imperfections and sometimes the wrong word is used.

Having said that, I found this story contained a wonderful, exciting plot, with characters I found interesting and that I cared about. If you like fast-paced, plot-driven fantasy with strong female leads, I think you would enjoy this book.

A word of caution: I enjoy stories with lots of action. This one has a  lot of “hacking and hewing” mainly of beasts. At times the language is also quite strong.
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In Case You Didn’t Get My Newsletter …

A short summary of what the Kazmaiers have been up to and what’s happening with Peter’s writing. To see Peter’s author page at Amazon check http://goo.gl/k4e420.
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A significant milestone in Peter’s writing:

THE BATTLE FOR HALCYON was the 2016 winner at the 28th Word Awards in the Speculative Fiction category

As one attendee at the Word Award Gala in Toronto quipped: “Speculative Fiction? I thought all fiction was speculative.” That’s true, of course, but some fiction is more speculative than others. Speculative Fiction is an umbrella term that covers Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. Winning that particular award is especially gratifying to me since my writing in some respects has a foot in both genres.

On the one hand, my interest in science means that I work pretty hard to come up with plausible explanations for some of the imaginings in my new world. Plausible explanations are a signature of Science Fiction.

On the other hand I find the Materialist worldview implicit in most Science Fiction implausible and I’m much more at home in the philosophical landscape of Fantasy such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, where Good and Evil have real meaning and are fundamentals of existence (as opposed to inventions by people). From that perspective I think my books read much more like Fantasy.

So I was delighted to receive the 2016 Word Award for Speculative Fiction for my third book, The Battle for Halcyon. If you’d like to read more … http://wp.me/p4cZo4-6c

This newsletter is my chance to re-connect with my friends. If you have a moment, I would love to hear from you.

Writing at the Cottage

I find that our time at the cottage encourages me to write. The beautiful scenery and the wonderful birds are very inspiring. Here are a few pictures from our time at the cottage so far.

What is a cottage in Ontario without loons? This one along with its mate were cavorting in our bay.
The beautiful Pileated Woodpecker can be found around our cottage. This large bird is quite shy and it has been hard for me to get a good photograph.
Dragon flies are beautiful and help keep mosquitoes down.
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Many of you have been asking me how my writing has been progressing and I wanted to provide you with an update.Our mailing address is:

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