Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God? -Epicurus
Today’s Atheism for Lent reflection is this quote from Epicurus, the Greek philosopher who lived in the 4th century BCE. It is one of the oldest surviving arguments against the existence of God. And I am musing quite heavily on it this morning.
Last week AfL was a contemplative preparation of sorts. We read a comic book excerpt about finding a place with conflict can exist without war, we considered the enigma of belief, the necessity of both silence and words when we consider God, and then the value of disruption. We set the stage. Now, we are taking long hard looks at writings that question the very existence of God. Or, as Rollins puts it, “the critique of God as being.”
We are jumping off the high dive. I have zero answers to that above quote. And that is okay. Because belief is an enigma, and I can say that “I don’t know.”
I have to admit, I consider myself an agnostic Christian. I do not know that there is, in fact, a God. I cannot prove it. But I’ve chosen to hang my coat, as it were, in the Christian tradition. Because Jesus offers a great hope for the world. He offers love and meaning. And when I offer up a song of “I need you” or I confess that I have experienced trauma at the hands of a church to a pastor or I talk about the evils of capitalism with a friend, Jesus is within our conversation, offering hope and a better way of being. Whether or not God exists, it means something to me.
Lent is about going into the desert with Christ. Identifying with him in our weakness. The Lectio Divinia reading from yesterday I did today. It was an interesting juxtaposition: read and consider one of the oldest critiques of God and then contemplate Matthew 4:1-11: Jesus going into the wilderness to be tempted.
Jesus fasts for forty days. And it is not until he is at his weakest that temptations come his way.
As I was meditating, I imagined a mirror image of Jesus, this one clean, fed, strong, a regal Son of God telling the dirty, hungry, weak Jesus, the fully human expression of the divine, to “bow down and worship me.” The temptation coming from within himself, to be something the world might consider better than this suffering homeless rabbi. “Be strong! Take what is yours!” Jesus tells himself. “No. That is not why I came here,” Jesus responds.
“Feed yourself. You have the power.”
“No, I will live off the words of my Father.”
“Throw yourself down. Prove your divinity.”
“No, I will not test my power.”
“Worship me! You deserve the respect, glory, and power of the nations!”
“No. Only God is worthy of worship.”
Jesus passes through suffering to become what he came to be: a fully human expression of the divine, here to bring heaven to earth. He could have taken what was his. He could have taken power. He could have become what the world thinks he should have been: a conqueror, a Lord, a God. But he remained the humble Jesus of Nazareth. And showed us all a better way to live.
I’m journeying into the desert this week.
Grace and peace.