Playing God

Today I am not writing an ordinary post, I am asking an extraordinary question.

We live in a world in which there is much suffering. We experience it ourselves in aspects of our lives, even if it is only from time to time. Pick up a newspaper and you will find accounts of suffering which are almost unbearable – we find it hard even to get our imaginations around the sorry lives of so many innocent people. Yet this is the world which God has made.

So I am going to ask you to put aside your religious beliefs, and even put aside God, for just a few moments. Because I am going to ask you to imagine that you are God. My question is: what would you change in creation if you had the power of God to do so?

Of course you can dismiss the question by claiming that since God is infinitely wise he must of course have done everything perfectly. But that’s a cop out. For this exercise you have to stand back and use your own noddle. The only tip I would give is that when you see a possible change, just check the unintended effects which your change might bring about.

Good luck!

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in evolution, Moral judgment, Quentin queries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Playing God

  1. St.Joseph says:

    Quentin,
    If I were God, I would stand in the Sky so that I could be seen by the whole world and frighten the life out of everyone who did not believe !That’s what I would do.

  2. Nektarios says:

    Quentin

    This is really an old chestnut of a question – the sort of thing we would discuss in the late 60s and early 70s, until we began to know God better.

    If I remember rightly, it’s a long time ago now, that If we could get rid of anything, it would be those poor deluded souls who like to play god. We noticed those who did in history usually came to a sticky end, not to mention what would happen to the souls of those people when this tin god met the God who is there.
    We also came to other conclusions concerning the troubles on account of sin which started in heaven with the pride of the devil.
    We noted not only those who like to play at being god, but the same pride that was in Satan who desired to be equal and superior to God, is the source of all the trouble and sorrows of humanity in most of its history, caused by the the devil, duping people, pushing people to extreme positions, not to mention sin and ignoring God altogether.

    Concerning the troubles of mankind, we noted from Scripture, before the world ever was, God had a plan, and a plan that involved the Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    We found we could not improve upon it.

    So, we finally concluded, that while as Christians we can change the world, if we are changed, but not before, this is what the Apostles did, what the Saints did, and what people filled with the Spirit of God did, turning the world upside down, or the right way up. Lives changed, marriages restored, people coming together to worship God, people who knew something of God’s plan and what Christ had done.
    At the end we had in all honesty to say, Let God be God. Everything, despite appearance to us is moving along God’s plan of Salvation to the end. But then, wonder of wonders it is not the end, there is to be a restoration, but this time without sin, the devil, sorrow or suffering all will be restored, a new heaven and a new earth.
    Then there is more, much more that God has planned for those that love Him…..
    But what we have here now is but a foretaste of that which is to come.
    Ah, this, no matter what inventiveness our minds can conjure up cannot top that, get beyond that
    or improve upon that. Glory to God!

    • pnyikos says:

      Nektarios,

      As usual, you put a much more negative interpretation on what you are reading than what is warranted. Job came pretty close to telling God what he would do, were he God.

      Sure, he got slapped down for it, but it wasn’t he whom God chastised in the end, it was his “comforters” against whom God’s wrath was kindled because “you did not tell the truth about me, as has my servant Job.” And God rewarded Job abundantly.

      As for me, I will have to think long and hard about the question. One thing is certain: I would not want to do what St. Joseph would want to do.

      And, to end this post on a positive note: I heartily agree with the sentence beginning with “So, we finally concluded…” and hope you are right about what you wrote after that.

      • Nektarios says:

        pnyikos

        When you think of Job or the Apostles, Saints and other Spirit filled people you may have heard or read about, how does that compare with ourselves?
        One difference I see clearly, is they were making history, here, we talk and argue and speculate about it – are we making history in our day?

        Concerning, ‘As usual, you put a much more negative interpretation on what you are reading than what is warranted.’

        You cannot but read the Espitles, especially by Paul, where he constantly laid out his arguments in the negative, then in the positive.
        In the interest of balance I sought to do the same.

        On your last point: ‘I heartily agree with the sentence beginning with “So, we finally concluded…” and hope you are right about what you wrote after that.’

        It is certain! God declared it in His Word. Faith receives it, lives, walks and breathes it,
        gradually comes to understand it as the Holy Spirit enlightens us.
        We must remember that the certainty I claim is not what we do so much, as what Almighty God has done and will do. Oh yes, it is certain.

  3. galerimo says:

    What a great licence – thanks Quentin.

    I would not bother with humanity after the sheer stupidity of eating from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. How crass. Only one simple thing to remember surrounded by all the joys of paradise and they go and do the one and only thing they were asked not to. I would not give that lot (humanity) a second thought. That one I would have nipped in the bud. And I realise the consequences would be that none of this reality of ours would exist. Just right too. I would like to keep ducks.

    Another thing – God would have responsibility for the planet not humanity. The place is such a mess as a result of that blessing – I would have kept it our of our hands. And yes I realise there would be none of the benefits of our inventiveness in agriculture and husbandry. But GM makes it difficult to think of what they would be.

    No rats. No Plastic Wrapping. No logic. No Mondays and No Jazz.

    universal application of the death penalty but only for those who believe in the blessed trinity or any other impossibly complex and ludicrous religious idea. This would be prior to the abolition of Religion in any shape or form. Definitely,definitely no religion.

    Maybe I better stop here – I haven’t really thought through the consequences of having no jazz.

    Just one more maybe – Free travel for all.

  4. Alan says:

    I had considered this question when you first mentioned it Quentin. The challenge you had posed to the group you meet with regularly. Without going into details you mentioned the unintended consequences that you said had been thrown up as a result.

    My first thought was that I would not create anything at all. Not an original thought as it turns out! I have read some criticisms of the idea. They seem to me to lean towards claiming particular characteristics for God that suit the circumstances we find ourselves in.

    I presume you have identified some negative consequences in the changes people have suggested in the past. I’d be interested to know if you found any positive unintended consequences in the changes people have suggested in the past. Perhaps once there has been more time for people to post here you could give some examples?

  5. St.Joseph says:

    The way I see it with the comments so far and that is, (I may be wrong in my thinking)
    that is that God has not done His job right.,
    We as Christians have tried and failed.
    There is only one Person now who can change the World., that is He who made us in the beginning!
    We had our chances now He is giving us the last chance, and that will only be when the last Coming takes place,
    He will appear to the whole World on His Throne of Glory as Christ the King, with Our Blessed Mother and St Joseph by His side, not this time born in a Stable, poor and cold wrapped in swaddling clothes, hiding from the Kings of this world, but the Mystical Body of the Church,
    The whole world will bow before Him and ask for forgiveness for our sins, beg if necessary!
    I f we wait for another 2000 years things will get worse and not better,
    If I was God as was the question Quentin asked I would give the whole World the last chance of Salvation then my suffering would not have be in vain,

  6. Martha says:

    It seems somewhat blasphemous to be thinking about this too much, but in the spirit of the subject so to speak, I would want human, and animal probably, brain and chemistry arrangements to include an analgesic which would gradually come in to operation in cases of extreme and long lasting unendurable pain, and a tranquilliser for similar mental and emotional agony. This would not deprive us of the experience and value of suffering or of sharing in Christ’s own suffering to a certain extent, but it would limit situations which are almost unimaginable and seemingly unending with the welcome relief of death often witheld for years or even decades.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Martha.
      I don’t believe it is blasphemous to think about the End Times.
      Jesus is the answer, the Eucharist is the answer and the CCC is the answer.
      With the help of the Holy Spirit which has not failed, only we have done that.
      Perhaps we all need a shake up! God would be Himself if He gave the World time to change our lives, and really examine our conscience ‘deep down in our hearts and soul’ I have discovered that more deeply in the last 2 years.
      He gave me time!!!

  7. Vincent says:

    I can at least begin to understand Christian suffering, but there are people around the world who know nothing of Christianity yet suffer from wars, illnesses and natural disasters. What are the benefits which make all this worthwhile. Or does God just leave us to it?

  8. Iona says:

    I haven’t yet read any of the above comments, but will go back and do so after posting this one.

    Yes, lots of people suffer, and not only as a direct or indirect result of their own ill-advised choices, or even as a result of others’ selfish or thoughtless choices. So, even without getting into restricting human freewill (in order to reduce suffering caused by human choice), I could reduce some suffering by eliminating “natural disasters” such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. This would entail the cessation of tectonic plate movements, which would have I-know-not-what additional effects, but I suspect profound ones. Probably life wouldn’t have evolved as it has; maybe it wouldn’t have evolved at all. It’s earthquakes and eruptions that bring metal ores near the surface of the earth, and without access to metals human civilisation would look very different.
    Then there are diseases. Suppose I could eliminate all the viruses and bacteria and parasites that have plagued us throughout history. I can’t see any obvious negative side-effects to this.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Iona
      We will never be able to change the past, not saying that is what Quentin meant and I like your comment, however in the ‘present we could change the future’.
      As I said in my first post. it seems to be an answer to the world wide destruction against God’s Will. Although it sounds farfetched but so do many stories in the Bible..
      We speak about God as Love but He also has to be worshipped for who He is,
      And that is not happening .
      Our Blessed Mother has appeared and apparently still is, people are ignoring Her.
      It is prophesised the second coming of Christ in all His Glory my be the time is nearer than we think!

  9. Martha says:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/10/30/creation-groans-but-why-rjs/

    This link is to an interesting article based on St. Paul’s famous words in Romans, about the whole of creation groaning in one great painful act of childbirth. Some of the discussion which follows raises very basic issues about a creation which depends on so much destruction and painful cycles of life and death.

  10. ignatius says:

    St Paul in Romans ch9 v 21 also raises a rather chilling subject:

    v 20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”v 21Does not the potter have the right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special occasions and another for common use? 22What if God, intending to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the vessels of His wrath, prepared for destruction?…

    There are many references to ‘refining fire’ in scripture, e.g Zechariah ch13:8

    8″It will come about in all the land,” Declares the LORD, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. 9″And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'”

    Personally I baulk at trying to interpret them because the implication is that God is happily sanguine with testings and destruction. I would probably prefer a less scary sort of God.

  11. Geordie says:

    I have always been puzzled by the Old Testament’s descriptions of God and His wrath and anger. God is unchanging so He can’t become angry. If He is angry, then it must be constant and unchanging. I don’t believe this. The Old Testament seems to give Man’s interpretation of God.
    Our Lord taught us that God is a loving and caring father. Therefore He is loving and caring all of the time without change. It is we who must change continually and God teaches us to change. God is strict but not a scary God.

  12. St.Joseph says:

    I am in hospital with jaundice so apologize if i don’t reply to a post. I know I can trust in you for your prayers thank you.

    • Martha says:

      Very sorry to hear that St. Joseph, and hope you will soon recover. Prayers especially tomorrow when Mother Teresa is canonised, and hope you will be able to watch or listen.

  13. Iona says:

    Prayers for you, St. Joseph. I hope you’re not in any discomfort.
    I read a book once in which an elderly American Jewish man encounters God in his basement, and has various chats with Him. At one point he (the man) asks Him (God): “If you started over again, is there anything you would do differently? God (who also appears as an elderly Jewish man) ponders for a bit and then says “Yes. The avocado. I made the pit too big.”

  14. ignatius says:

    Welcome the Stranger

    Welcome the Stranger
    Postby ignatius on September 4th, 2016, 11:35 am

    Come in, God,
    this is my living room.
    The painting on the wall
    I did myself
    Do you like the yellow?
    it’s a bit strong I know,
    but sets the chairs off well.
    You remember the chairs?
    oh of course, I guess you would
    you were there
    when I bought them.

    How about the plant?
    You like the plant?
    Good, I’m pleased you
    like the plant and I’m
    a bit less nervous now.
    though still unsure
    why it is, that
    on your cloak I smell those
    cold antarctic wastes,
    and in your voice I hear
    the cry of orphaned children?.

    Do you always bring
    these things with you when
    You visit, God?
    I guess you must.
    This will sound a bit
    naive to you, but
    I had hoped for calm,
    for joy unspeakable,
    like it says in
    those nice hymns we
    sing each week.
    Those pretty cards and books,
    scented bookshops;
    I like that stuff best God,
    not this dread,
    Nor the sense of death in distant lands.

    Lynnette Peters

  15. John Nolan says:

    If I were God, I would chastise the present age, in a condign and unmistakable manner, for its arrogance, ignorance and barbarity. Arrogance in assuming that technological advance is equivalent to progress and that the way society is organized must be superior to past ages. This means not only tolerating behaviour that in more enlightened times would have been considered grossly immoral, but actively promoting it and penalizing those who might make a stand against it, and disparaging the past for not falling into line with the transient fads of the present.

    Ignorance in that learning (particularly a knowledge of the classics) is despised, education (even higher education) being seen as training for an individual’s role in the economy. The result is that the products of even the best universities would have been regarded by our not-too-distant forebears as being half-educated at best. The English language is debased and manipulated so that instead of being a medium for clarity of expression, has become a means of obfuscation and distortion for dubious ends; Orwell’s nightmare of ‘newspeak’ is now a reality.

    Barbarity in that we live in an age which idolizes ugliness on the one hand and banal vulgarity on the other, and whose artistic achievements are nugatory compared with past centuries. Indeed, those who have made lucrative careers out of ‘the arts’ are quite happy to concede that there are no objective standards by which artistic achievement can be measured.

    If I were God I would reserve a large measure of my chastisement to those who claim to act in my name, particularly the leadership of the Catholic Church whose decision to sell out to the Zeitgeist has left it not only increasingly marginalized but effectively rudderless.

    • Alan says:

      What is it that could be holding God back?

    • Alan says:

      Brendon,

      Merciful not to offer further clear warning against behaviour that God condemns? You see unintended negative consequences in the course of action John describes?

    • Alan says:

      Sorry, Brendan not Brendon!

      • Brendan says:

        Church speaks clear ; Mary the Mother of God speaks clear ; Popes ,Bishops , prophets …potentially you, me….what more does the world need ?
        John Nolan is right to point out ‘ fear of the Lord ‘ consequences , in his view. God has his own way . We can speculate on ‘unintended consequences’ , but His mercy is impenetrable to human understanding . Faith ‘ sees ‘ the truth in everything. Justice with ‘loving’ mercy is the hallmark of God-in -action. Mercy of its own is inadequate without justice. Left to our own devices we could not ever agree unanimously even on the ‘ right ‘ course of action to take . Trusting in Divine Providence is all.
        Saint Teresa of Kolkata pray for us ! Lord Jesus , have mercy on us !

      • Alan says:

        Brendan – “We can speculate on ‘unintended consequences’”

        If the responses here are anything to go by then this seems like quite a difficult thing to do in practice.

  16. Geordie says:

    Well said John Nolan.
    Perhaps God has already begun to chastise us; e.g. wars, terrorism, political confusion, financial crises(one after the other), earthquakes, floods. No doubt you could add to this list. One of the most recent pieces of news is the mental health of the young; if no-one tells them about the purpose of life, no wonder they are apprehensive and confused. Then there is the arrogance of Mankind; they think they can control the climate.
    The house of cards will come tumbling down. We leave the innocent in God’s hands.

    • Martha says:

      Wonderful, Ignatius, thank you for posting this.

      • Martha says:

        This refers to Lynette Peters’ poem posted on Sept. 4th. I tried to make another reply at the same time, so it has moved.

    • Martha says:

      I think Our Lady has given us the answer in her messages at Fatima. She seems to be repeating them now even more urgently at Medjugorge, We must do penance, and fast, as well as pray. Personally, I was somewhat led away from this necessity by some of the interpretations and teachings which followed Vatican 11, and the relaxation of previous requirements for Lent , Advent, Fridays, vigils of feasts. Leaving so much to individual choices has been rather hard for weaker vessels.

      • Brendan says:

        So true Martha ! Present company accepted. Post -Vatican ii ‘ teaching ‘ – very often so it seems contrary to what the Council Documents actually intended – concentrated on a more anthropocentric approach to Salvation at the expense of the accumulation of ‘ practical ‘ traditional Catholic devotions which were deemed an habitual necessity for the Catholic believer down through time. This concept of the ‘ cleaning effect ‘ that grace has on the penitent whether actual or supernatural is important along with forgiveness of ones sins. This is something which distinguishes the dogmatic Catholic position from the Protestant ( Lutheranism )…..” Without transformation through interior grace as if God would cover our sins without converting and cleaning our heart .”
        ( ‘Preferential Option for The Family ‘- 100 question and answers relating to the Synod 2014-2015 ).
        I suspect for many Western Catholics today , consciously or unconsciously, demonstrate this ‘ Protestant ‘ way of thinking as holding sway. Applied to ‘ mercy ‘ in this context ; as a virtue it should first free the person who is afflicted by a ‘ sinful ‘ disposition preventing him from living his covenant with God—-following of course repentance and the promise of amending ones former sinful position in life.
        That’s why the Church recommends frequent ‘ cleaning ‘ of the soul in The Sacrament of Reconciliation to effect this ‘change’ on ones way to perfection /holiness ( whole-ness )

  17. Martha says:

    For some time I, and I suspect many others, was only too pleased to hear messages that we have enough unavoidable suffering in all our lives, so it is not necessary to offer any extra penance, also that it is better to do something positive and good than to offer up a sacrifice, as if one cannot do both. Siren voices?

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