The role and nature of God

At an ecumenical Christian men’s breakfast, a mini-debate began on this issue: whether Grace is bestowed or earned. Fortunately for the rest of us, a lay Minister of the Church, responding to a question, said, “We believe that Grace has to be earned, but God may choose to bestow it.”

Supporters of human rights in a Western nation upholding the ethos of individual freedom were satisfied, as were those who believed in an all-powerful and just God. Could any challenge between religious beliefs, and any differences in dogma, ever be resolved so successfully and peacefully?

Many learned or insightful or experienced people have written and spoken about the nature and role of God. Deep meditation as a hermit in a cave at the foot of the Himalayas, or in a Tibetan monastery, or in the desert in Western Asia, or in a forest in India would, no doubt, produce insights as deep as those understandings achieved through learning and argument with one’s peers in academe, monasteries or ashrams.

Following the principle of Occam’s Razor, that the simplest explanation is best, could one accept that God as Creator (either directly or through a created intermediary) might have set up an appropriate mechanism for the Universe and all its contents to evolve as circumstances (including chance) permit? Allied to free will and (hopefully) an evolving sense of mutual responsibility, would this enable clusters of humans (possibly as tribes, initially) to make whatever progress is achievable – either materially or spiritually?

Would then there be any need for controlling priesthoods? There seem to be a few of them. On the other hand, I grew up with a priesthood which did not seek control over our lives; we paid our priests for their valued rituals. They lived simple lives. There were no diplomats, no mansions, no high tables, and so on. There was no need for control or a display of power.

To not expect God’s intervention to make human lives better would be impossible, even though any intervention is highly improbable. Why expect God’s intervention to favour a few over the multitude deserving of some alleviation of suffering? Suffering, especially materially, is universal.

Has God not permitted the near-extinction of all life on Earth more than once, the last time about 13,000 years ago? Yet, God may have a more important role to play, but operating at a distance. That is the mystery of God.