Bruce Charlton argues that the “self-damned” have the power to hurt God. In other words, people sometimes try to lash out at God by rebelling against him and doing evil things, even to the point of damning themselves eternally. And, Bruce says, it works: They do manage to hurt God, emotionally. Because if God couldn’t be hurt, then he would not be a loving father.
You can see Bruce’s post for his argument in detail. Here are just some random thoughts of my own, stimulated by the post and some of the comments:
* You say that when you love someone, you must feel sorrow when they suffer. But that’s not always the case. There have been times when my kids were suffering, yet I could barely stifle a laugh because they were being so ridiculous. Their ridiculousness arose from their ignorance and inability to see the larger context. I wasn’t sad over their suffering because I knew they would get over it in short order and be fine.
In this life we may suffer for a lifetime, but what is a lifetime to God? Who’s to say he doesn’t find our whining and complaining ridiculous, and see us as inflating our troubles because of our inability to see the bigger picture? What else could Paul mean when he says that our present sufferings are “nothing” compared to the glory that is to be? Why can’t God see them as “nothing”, being present, as he is, in the glory that is to be? Certainly he can understand why we see them as a big deal, from our limited perspective, but that doesn’t mean he must see them that way.
If, as some suppose, people in hell choose to be there, and if you pulled them out by force they would resist tooth and nail, because they can’t stand God’s presence, will they not seem ridiculous to God, and to the blessed, for choosing such obvious evil over such obvious good, due to self-inflicted blindness?
* If God is vulnerable to emotional attacks, why is he not vulnerable to physical attacks? Is it only because he is physically far away? If he came close enough that people could attack him physically, would he let himself be vulnerable to knife and bullet wounds, or would he defend himself against physical harm? If he defended himself, would it be through physical barriers like armor, or would he utilize supernatural means of shielding himself from harm? Are there no such means available to shield himself from emotional harm? [Obviously this assumes for the sake of argument that he is capable of feeling physical and emotional pain.]
* Certainly I would agree that God can know what the experience of physical and emotional pain are like, since nothing is beyond his knowledge or understanding.
* Saying that if God can’t feel sorrow then he also can’t love, seems to assume that love is ultimately a feeling.
Emotions are fleeting physical phenomena, arising from the fact that we experience life one moment at a time. As we go through a process we might feel one way at the beginning, another way in the middle and another way at the end. But if we could see the process as a whole instead of being limited to experiencing it in tiny segments, we would not experience it through a range of rising and falling emotions.
Also, we might feel differently in viewing a sorrowful scene, if we knew how it would turn out in the end.
* Emotions and physical pain in us seem to serve the purpose of warning us of danger, as well as deterring us from certain behaviors and encouraging us to others. God, not being susceptible to physical harm, has no need of pain to warn him of danger. He has no need of feelings to encourage him to do certain things and avoid others. For example he has no need of guilt as a punishment and a deterrent for sin, because he can’t sin; nor has he need of feelings of gratification and satisfaction as a reward for good deeds, for he does nothing but good by his very nature. Likewise if suffering in us serves the purpose of building character, God has no need of character-building.