As a product of the Black preaching tradition, Martin Luther King Jr. vocalized much on his views regarding the question of the problem of God. In defining God's place in the human struggle, Dr. King defined God's four roles which included God as a creator, sustainer of existence, person in history, and activist. These beliefs were heavily influenced by not only his upbringing and personal experiences, but also by his encounters with various intellectual sources including Plato, the death of God theologians, Aristotle, and George W. Davis.
First and foremost, King defined God's role as the creator, the ultimate source of being. While studying Plato and other ancient Greek works, King came across the concept of creation whose existence did not depend on God. King refuted these ideologies, specifically Plato's realm of the intelligible which did not depend on any other object for its existence. Instead, he strongly believed that since man was made in God's image, human intellect was actually a gift from God. God's creation of intellect made Him more personal to humans, in the sense that He could be referred to as the ultimate source for solving human values and problems.
Just as in the case of human intellect, in all areas of life, God was the ultimate source of being. Having clearly defined God's role as the ultimate creator, it was evident to King that God had to be the ultimate sustainer of existence. This reality occurred to him while studying the death of God theologians who argued that since corruption and evil were spreading in the world, God must be dead. To argue against these theologians, King differentiated between theoretical and practical atheism. King had no problem with theoretical atheism because it actually challenged us on the question of God's existence and His omnipresence in human society.
On the other hand, King had trouble with practical atheism, meaning those who lived their lives as if God is dead. He argued that practical atheism is what humanity was struggling with. God had not died, and in fact was actually very much alive. The problem in King's view was that too many people were living their lives as if God had died, and thus spreading evil through their social mannerisms. In the end, the fact remained that God was very much alive and the ultimate sustainer of existence. Since Dr.
King believed that God is the ultimate creator and sustainer of existence, it is only evident that God had a role throughout the history of mankind. Whereas Paul Tillich was arguing that God is impersonal and Henry We iman was arguing that God is supra personal, King believed all along that God was personal for us. God not only created us and sustained us, but He also guided us with the tools to escape our inner tendencies to do evil. Hence, in doing so, God gave us the opportunity to redeem ourselves from sinning, and it is our choice to overcome our paradoxical natures and win the fight within our souls. To tie all the roles together, King summarized his views on the problem of God in describing God's active role in history.
Whereas other great thinkers such as Aristotle had argued that God is not concerned with history and instead is busy contemplating Himself, King chose to think outside the box. Influenced by George W. Davis, King believed that since God was personal, he was active in history at all levels, especially as a co-worker of the oppressed. For King, the greatest proof of God's role in this aspect was that fact that the consequences of breaking moral laws are equivalent to breaking the physical laws of nature. The punishments may vary, but in the end, the scale of justice is blindly balanced. King's views regarding the roles of God as a creator, sustainer of existence, person in history, and activist throughout history were clearly influenced by his intellectual studies of historical great thinkers such as Plato, the death of God theologians, Aristotle, George W.
Davis, and countless others. Nonetheless, these ideologies were greatly supported by King's view of God as a personal God who setup a system for humanity to redeem itself. These views, in a nutshell, are King's theories as they relate to the questions that arise from the problem of God.