The Author Analogy
Analogies are often drawn between God and certain types of people. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, and also the apostle Paul, compare God to a potter, who shapes us like clay. Jesus compares God to a wealthy landowner who rents out his land to us in Matthew 21:33. God is compared to a husband in Jeremiah 3:20, a father in Proverbs 3:12, a governor in Malachi 1:8, and a shepherd in Jeremiah 31:10. We often hear comparisons of God to a watchmaker, an artist, a doctor, or a programmer.
These are all fantastic comparisons and each has a great deal to offer in explaining what God is like to someone who struggles with conceiving of God in some particular way.
But there is one other analogy that I am especially fond of. It's very simple, and once embraced, it seems to have extensive predictive power. What I mean by this is that certain truths that we already believe, either as humans, as monotheists, or as Christians in particular, suddenly make sense -- and even become expected -- when often they seemed virtually unbelievable or even unimaginably contradictory before.
God is like an author.
The idea of morals seems to be that of authoritative, transcendent goals for human behavior. Remove the authority, the transcendence, or the goal-like nature of a moral precept and it ceases to be a moral precept. Authoritative, transcendent goals obviously necessitate an authoritative, transcendent will (God) of some kind.
But most analogies for God fail to allow for such a thing. This doesn't make the other analogies failures -- it just means that the particular analogy has its limits. Children grow like weeds, and most agree that this is an excellent analogy, but it doesn't follow that children are green or planted in dirt. We wouldn't expect any analogy to be completely exact in all possible aspects. If it were, it would no longer be a statement of analogy, but rather, a statement of identity.
Look at the landowner analogy, for example. In this analogy, the landowner and his renters all live in the same world, and morals transcend all of them, including the landowner. The renters behave in an immoral manner, but not because the landowner is the fount of moral authority. He is subject to the same moral laws that they are subject to.
Or, consider the watchmaker analogy. The only reason a watch wouldn't do what the watchmaker "wants" is if there is an outside force preventing it: something uncaused by the engineer. Something the engineer can't control. But, if things are out of his control, then in what sense is his will authoritative?
However, from an authorial perspective, morality is whatever the author sets up as good. He makes good guys and bad guys alike, and the good are good by his will, and the bad are bad by his will. And, in a very real and meaningful sense, the bad should have behaved like the good, because that's how the author decided his created world would work. But the bad guys didn't act like the good guys, yet the author still has complete authority over the entire created world, and everything in it.
Morals, as we understand them, can actually be a thing in an authorial analogy.
The Problem of Evil
The Problem of Evil is a challenge to most monotheistic systems offered primarily by atheists. It effectively says that if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, then he can prevent evil, knows how to prevent evil, and would prevent evil. If evil exists, therefore, any kind of god that exists is either too weak to prevent evil, too ignorant to prevent evil, or else he himself is evil because of the evil he has allowed to happen.
Using many other analogies, this argument seems to have tremendous power. But under an authorial model, the Problem of Evil is obviously not a problem at all. No one considers George Lucas morally evil because of Palpatine, or Stan Lee because of Thanos. No one questions their knowledge or power to prevent the behavior of those wicked characters in their created narratives. Under the author analogy, the Problem of Evil becomes a special pleading fallacy.
The Beginning of Time
Broadly speaking, almost all people today seem to accept that time had a beginning. This appears to be the claim of the most popular Big Bang models, as well as a necessary mathematical and logical conclusion based on the impossibility of infinite regress.
Most people seem to accept this, but no one seems to understand it. In religious circles, it is often brushed off as a mystery. In non-religious circles, it is described as a singularity, which seems to have basically the same meaning as a mystery: we can't or don't want to talk about it.
In the author model, time for us is obviously nothing like time for our author. Page one, or the beginning of the story, is expected. In other analogies, it makes sense to ask the question, "What happened before the void of Genesis 1?" But in the author analogy, this is a far less reasonable question: it's the beginning. If we have a created narrative in mind, it's intuitive that nothing happened in our timeline before our narrative's beginning.
In all of the other analogies I mentioned above, the figure analogous to God innately occupies the same time-context as the figures analogous to us.
But this is not the case in the author analogy. And this isn't mysterious and inexplicable. It's predicted.
Something that isn't "predicted" by the author analogy but is totally compatible with it, is that time may not exist at all for the author. If our entire narrative exists in His mind, simultaneously, like a computer with an open PDF onscreen, then, as far as we are concerned, our author doesn't logically need a temporal context at all.
God is everywhere. This is predicted and easy to understand in an author analogy. What does it mean when thinking of God as a potter? Or a far-away landowner? Or a father, or a shepherd?
Regarding our own temporal context, God is everywhen. This is also predicted in an author analogy. Other analogies seem incompatible with this attribute of God.
The watchmaker works within a reality he didn't make, organizing items he found beside him in that environment to fashion something new. Likewise for the potter, the artist, and the programmer. But God created us ex-nihilo. In an authorial scenario, absolute omnipotence over all things is predicted.
Likewise, this is predicted in an authorial analogy (most obviously if the author is atemporal, so forgetting his own work is an actual impossibility).
Divine Simplicity is the doctrine that God is not composed of parts. He isn't a composite entity made up of several pieces. Additionally, it states that God is the same as his attributes, and if this is the case, it also follows that all of his attributes, like power and knowledge, are actually the same thing! This sounds like utter nonsense to many people at first blush, and none of the other analogies mentioned above offer any semblance of help in understanding such a bizare claim.
But what an author wills his created world to be, it is. There are zero other factors involved. Merely his will. What he wills is what is true, and he knows what he wills. What he wills is what he knows is what he causes. His will is his knowledge is his power.
What was previously virtually incomprehensible now seems almost intuitively obvious.
It seems to me that the only possible origin of rational justification for any given claim is willful authorship of the fact claimed. Any other means of justifying a claim simply passes the buck, or kicks the can down the road.
Other methods either pass on justification from one set of claims (premises) to another claim (a conclusion), or else they pass on a justified claim from one claimant to another, such as when creating AI. Only authorship allows for the origination of rational justification for claims.
Unlike an author, the watchmaker (for example) has to discover his world, time, and the elements he uses in his creation. But the author makes all of that up. Discovery necessitates a preexisting, already-justified framework for thought, enabling conclusions to be justified. But authorship justifies all premises.
Unitarianism as a doctrine states that divinity is not shared within the godhead. Particularly, God exists as both one nature and as one person.
However, the vast majority of self-identified Christians (myself included) hold to a model of God known as the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity states that God exists as one nature in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Upon hearing this for the first time, most people immediately call foul. One nature and three persons? God is one god and three gods at the same time? That sure sounds like a contradiction.
Some of you will immediately assert that Divine Simplicity cannot be true if God is composed of three persons.
Many Trinitarian Christians themselves even struggle with this doctrine, accepting it merely because they believe it to be clearly taught in scripture, or else because their church or pastor has taught it as true. But they still don't understand it, can't explain it, and can't defend it conceptually.
In an author analogy, though, non-unitarianism is actually predicted. If the author is atemporal, and the narrative is in the mind of the author permanently, and if the author has any concept of himself (as every normal author does), then he also is in his mind permanently, alongside the narrative, existing in much the same way as the narrative, but auto-biographical rather than fictional; representational rather than created.
As Jonathan Edwards describes the Son, "the knowledge or view which God has of Himself must necessarily be conceived to be something distinct from His mere direct existence."
Self-conception seems necessarily true under an author analogy, defeating unitarianism.
The Hypostatic Union
The doctrine of the Hypostatic Union is similar to the doctrine of the Trinity. Trinitarianism states that God exists as one nature, yet three persons. The Hypostatic Union is the doctrine that the person of the Son has two natures, the divine one already mentioned, and also a human nature like ours.
I was recently reading a book by an author named Clive Cussler. If I remember the story correctly, the hero was driving through the middle of the desert, and was running low on gas. He stopped at a gas station where he received some assistance from the gas station attendant. As the hero was leaving, he asked the attendant for his name, suggesting that the man looked familiar. "My name is Clive," the attendant told the hero. "Clive Cussler."
When an author writes himself into his created narrative, there is a real sense in which the character is the author, but a different sense in which he is a character like the others. This is very much like the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union.
More of My Writing on the Subject
In Printed Form
Along with numerous other authors including Don Landis, Bodie Hodge and Roger Patterson, Timothy McCabe contributes analyses of various world religions and cults in this volume from Master Books.
"What do Mormons believe? Do you consider them Christians?"
This depends on the definition of Christian. It also depends on your definition of Mormon. For "Mormon", I will take this word to mean a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), the largest and most missionary-oriented Mormon denomination in the world. If by "Christian" we mean someone who calls them self a Christian, then Mormons are definitely Christians, as they do consider themselves to be.
"Did God have to be created? Why or why not?"
God was not created. If something is created, then it is necessarily temporal -- in other words, it changes over time. Specifically, it must begin to exist, and "beginning" is itself a temporal process. However, since the only things that are infinite are things that have no end, and since past time has ended, we can say with certainty that past time is not infinite, which means that past time had a beginning.
"Hell seems designed to punish disobedience and perceived immorality. Would you agree that acting in a certain manner simply because you fear punishment is cowardly and an invalid motivator?"
The coward is the individual who, out of fear, refuses to do what is right. A coward is NOT someone who, out of fear, CHOOSES to do what is right. That man is not being cowardly -- rather, he is being prudent and sensible. Fear is an excellent and perfectly valid motivator toward good works. God uses it frequently and He instructs us, at times, to do likewise. The Book of Proverbs is filled with examples of the wisdom of a proper fear of God...
"Is there any proof that God exists?"
Yes. The existence of human reason cannot be ultimately explained by appealing to non-rational causes. It can only be ultimately explained by appealing to rational causes. Why does a calculator claim that 1 + 1 = "2" instead of "73" or "the color green"? Why do we trust the assertions of a calculator when we need an accurate answer? Alternatively, how would a Magic-8-Ball answer those same questions?