I would comment in the comments box, if it weren’t for some important points to address. I think I will asterisk those.
Justin continued to clarify and within there are a few of the points of contention that those who reject the YHWH of the Bible have expressed. Plus some other things.
Follow me if you are interested…..
[warning: it’s long]
First Justin’s comment recapped:
Another quote from the Solle article: “Where God has no friends, where God’s Spirit has no place to live, God cannot act.”
If any limit exists, this is it. You say God’s self-imposed limitation rests in the choice “to make us instrumental,” which reminded me of the quote above, and also the so-called St. Francis Prayer, “Make me an instrument of your peace.” We must be willing to be shaped into a form through which God can act. Ilona, I think here we’re in accord. But we differ on the point of how God acts. If we’re unwilling to be shaped — like the rich man unwilling to part with his wealth (camel, eye of a needle) — God cannot act through us.
I cringe at thoughts of a “plan”. It implies a map at best and fate at worst. It’s like saying that potholes exist according the highway department’s grand Plan — even if we don’t understand the reasons. Until all is revealed, we have to trust that it’s for the best, blown tire or not. The ends justify the means, right?
“Will” seems a better fit, in that it describes a long-term intention, disposition, or purpose (these still don’t describe my idea… I will keep trying). God wills peace as his end, accomplished by the means of his peace. We give our lives to God’s purpose (again, I’ll find a better synonym): to act in God’s peace as a means of enacting God’s peace. We, like the kings you cite in “God’s Handicaps”, are the shaped instruments.
And I still object to “limit,” for similar reasons. Limit suggests willful abstention, in the sense that God really has the ability to fix the problems of the world, but is just holding back to let us handle them. Like a father letting his son duke it out with the school bully, when he could beat the crap out of the kid himself.
It may be true to say God’s power is limited by his agents. But “God makes Himself limited, weak- whatever term you use,” in essence, withholds his true capacity for our sakes? Why would anyone put faith in such a God?
I should make clear that by “we” I speak exclusively: “we who believe God’s promises”. I understand Solle’s “we” to be the same. In this I also make a claim about belief: it’s not mere intellectual assent — necessary as a first step though it is — but trust.
We trust God will deliver on the promises God makes. Further, when we see the effect of our sin on the world — one theologian likens this to recognizing we’re part of the problem — we act on this trust, with love, in God’s name. When we act (in trust, in faith, in belief), we are God’s agents in the world. Or, as a professor corrected me, God works through us.
(In this culture, in a small but meaningful way, we serve God’s will through our votes, through our purchases, through the way we drive…)
Another quote, this time from one John Garvey. “When Christians stop confessing that they are sinners, unprofitable servants, and to that extent that they are not Christians, the Christian faith ends.”
You’re right, much does interfere with our hearing. We’re prone to sin. We’re easily distracted, we’re forgetful, and we’re proud. Human, you might say. But though we may stray, we do know God’s will, we know it like our ancestors knew it. It takes our lives — everything we thought we were and wanted — and inhabits our bodies. Yes, in our bones.
We are in agreement on walking humbly, with the understanding that God wants the same thing for us now and tomorrow as what he wanted before. God wants us on his side.”
I don’t think I like this writer, Solle. So far both quotes have struck out with me. God can act, anywhere and in any way He wants to. That is His Sovereignty. But there are things He does not want to do. I believe the reason He does not want to do certain things is due to the fact that they are either actions that are contrary to the plan He wants to accomplish or to His character.
The only way I would agree with this view from Solle, that “Where God has no friends, where God’s Spirit has no place to live, God cannot act.” is in the idea of bringing mercy and extentions of forbearance into situations that plainly long call for termination. I use that word advisedly… you’ll see why.
Justin has siad,”If we’re unwilling to be shaped — …. God cannot act through us.” This is true, but that does not mean that God cannot use us. He can use unbelieving Tyrants and has: witness Cyrus.
“I cringe at thoughts of a “plan”. It implies a map at best and fate at worst. ”
Now, see, I delight in plans. It means direction and structure and accomplishment. Above all it portends meaning. A very important concept for me.
***”Limit suggests willful abstention, in the sense that God really has the ability to fix the problems of the world, but is just holding back to let us handle them. ***Like a father letting his son duke it out with the school bully, when he could beat the crap out of the kid himself.”
Yes, God has the ability to immediately fix the problems of the world, it is called “the end” – a total destruction of everything evil. It is for the sake of those who are given time to turn from evil that evil is allowed to continue. When there is no more will within man to be open to good and to God then we will see God fixing everything.
In some ways, God does let us duke it out. That is what all those Bible verses about fighting the good fight, warring against powers and principalities, etc. are about. We grow up exercising ourselves against evil. We mature in our character.
I say the limiting that God does is for the sake of the sanctity of free moral agency. This seems to be extremely important to God. I am kinda glad for that myself, as I like to retain my personal freedom and dignity of person. I think this is what God is doing when He limits Himself. Otherwise we would get answers to all those prayers to make someone or other do something or other that we deem best. God has powerful means of influence but he doesn’t force us to choose His way… or to be like Him. Admittedly, the alternative is not great…. but that’s because we can’t force Him either. He doesn’t have to accept our foulness and misbehaviors forever.
He leaves the choice to us. And that is limiting on the global scene of doing something about all the badness, pain, and evil. Any common do-gooder can tell you how hard that is; very complicated. Shoot, just look at all our best efforts: hunger in Ethopia, Oppression in Somalia, Freedom in Iraq, and much much more ( as they say). War on Poverty, Civil Rights, -even with the best of them working as hard as they can…..
The results are not the best. Spotty. But what would we do, what some would have us do? Like NUKE them ALL…..? Be the God we envison would take care of all this? Then what is left, and what sort of gods are we in that case? It is the old story: “Yet ye say, The way of the LORD is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?” – Ezekiel 18
“God wills peace as his end, accomplished by the means of his peace. ” This statement is fine. True and Good.
It does not, however, take care of those who say “Peace, Peace, when there is no peace”. The liars, oppressors, and the exploiters. The law has penalties for them. And most of us don’t look at those things as peaceful although their end is peace. Those things are called the sword. There are authorities for the wielding of that. That is what I think God has done to contain the proliferation of evil during the time when tolerance is extended for the sake of repentence. Because I think there is a Plan that is worked out. At least that is how I see the meaning of such verses as Romans 13:4.
“But “God makes Himself limited, weak- whatever term you use,” in essence, withholds his true capacity for our sakes? *** Why would anyone put faith in such a God? ”
Is the test of power its force of expression? Really, think on that one. That is the view of our flesh and of this world system, Cosmos.
Control is never the weak part of power. Much less, self control. We deem such gentleness with very high esteem when it is the expression of love. The way a Father is with his baby.
There will come a day for expression of power in its force and fury. That, too, is part of our Faith, and a part that many do not like very well.
Talk to any pagan…. they much dislike the Christian concept of Hell and Judgment. Most of us don’t like it any too well, but our faith is that God will have exhausted every opportunity to bestow chance, love, kindness, and patience on as many as is possible.
That is why we are called to deal with this world with patience. And for some, right now, it is patience that is not thought humanly possible when they are burnt, imprisoned, and slaughtered. Why does God allow this? This is the question that many ask. I just read recently someone questioning whether claims of some that God spared them from Hurricane Charlie felt they were better than those who were harmed. Where was God for those harmed? Evil comes, and while we pray for the hope that we will not be tested, Jesus also taught us to pray for deliverance if we find ourself in the midst of the hardest test of our lives.
God is there, though we are not spared every circumstance. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;”
And what gives all that meaning is the thought that there is a purpose for all of it.
====I imagine most people would have stopped reading ten paragraphs ago== but I go on…..
“We’re prone to sin. We’re easily distracted, we’re forgetful, and we’re proud. ***Human, you might say.”
Carnal. I think we degrade the human potential too much with that phrase “we’re just human, after all”. -Of course in being human there are limitations, and I like that word prone, because it holds out that just maybe we get things right on occasion. I think sometimes humans get things very right…. even though they lean towards getting things very wrong. I should say “we”- that universal all inclusive sort of “we” 🙂
OK. just one more thing.
“God wants us on his side” I think He wants us by His side.
Know what I mean? 😉 The semantical difference might be gender-oriented.