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.
One thought on “Justin Time…and under the wire”
I’m afraid our positions are irreconcilable; I concede only this much. Your position seems to be born-again Evangelical; I am a mainline Protestant.
For this reason, I may not post here again. But I will ask if you read Solle’s article, and if you agree with this:
“I have come to believe that, whether we acknowledge it or not, we all function with one of two images of God–the God of life who accompanies us or an omnipotent idol who determines everything. … How we live our lives determines which God we actually believe in.”
I believe in the first God she describes, and consider this to be the same biblical YHWH you mention; I think you worship the second, albeit in your mind without her strong phrasing.
Otherwise, we use the same Bible (which not long ago I could read parts of in Hebrew — something I recommend, if only for the sheer joy of the language). And we may confess the same creeds.
(Interestingly, Cyrus and Isaiah are incongruous. You know what Isaiah says about the end of the exile. He even calls Cyrus (whom it now seems was far from unbelieving or a tyrant) the Messiah of YHWH! From Cyrus’s perspective, of which we have record, it was Marduk who commanded Israel’s release.)
Like Jeremiah’s Israelites, most of us live as though what happens is according to a plan. God will fix everything, we say. Just wait. God’s even using the guys in power for some ultimate good, even if it looks downright evil from down here. We just need to trust it’s for the best.
But when the battle comes to our doors, we start to worry. We gather in the temple, claiming it’s God’s house, “This is the temple of the Lord,” and that God wouldn’t let this happen to us, chanting “God bless America” when the towers collapse. It’s all good. It’s God’s plan.
What did we do? We raised our flags and sent gunners off to kill the unbelievers harboring the group that trained the people responsible, and then flew off to kill more unbelievers in another country that now appears to have been in no way responsible for what happened that Tuesday.
What’s more, we asserted our right to drive whatever the hell we want to drive, just get us enough oil. We traded freedom for a sense of security (“Peace! Peace!”).
After September 11, America had an opportunity to change the way it behaves in the world. We could have changed the way we do business. But no, we chanted, over and over and over, “God bless America,” not in petition, but with teary-eyed certitude that whatever the Bush administration did was necessary and just in God’s eyes.
This is an empire at its end, grasping desperately to the last of its power. We even heard how the elections could be postponed canceled in light of another terrorist attack. You know what another terrorist attack means? More bombs, less liberty. Said Bush, “a dictatorship would be easier.”
So I repeat Solle’s words: “The fact is, we know in our bones what the will of God is. We know what it means to love our neighbors. We know what it means, in the words of Micah, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. To say that we do not know the will of God is a lie.”
We have a choice. Again, in this culture, it’s how we vote, it’s what we buy, it’s how we view the competition. And in all of this, it’s what we believe about God.
Such as: If God’s in control of our situation, there had better be a REALLY good reason for all the suffering. REALLY good.
How about this consolation: These are the end times. Just like Paul thought the second coming was imminent. Just like the countless others over these 2000 years who believed the end was in sight. But even if these aren’t the end times, we just need to trust that it’s all for the best, right? Leave everything to God? As long as we repent from our sinful ways before the end, we’re good?
Many have asked, “Where was God at Auschwitz?” It may be more pertinent to our debate to ask, “How much faith resulted from the evil that God tolerated at Auschwitz?” The answer dips well below zero. If Auschwitz was tolerated for the sake of repentence, God really made a bad bet. Out goes omniscience. What have we left?
To return to my original comment, we have three propositions:
– God is omnipotent
– God is omnibenevolent
– Evil exists
Leibniz had his answer. I choose another: A truly good, omnipotent God would not allow evil to exist for a second. He would obliterate it upon sight.
Now, if God has the power to destroy evil but chooses not to, then God cannot be good. Either such a God does not care, or such a God is sadistic. I knew a pastor who set parties against each other so he could mediate. For him, the evil he permitted between them was the way to peace. He was a sadist. God is not a sadist.
This mess is not part of some divine plan. The God who “so loved the world” could not act with such wickedness — not even some so-called “toleration” of evil. A good God could not STAND the existence of evil. Yet evil exists — not good in disguise, just waiting to be shown in its true form; not a “necessary evil,” tolerated for the sake of those who might turn from it. I mean real, cold, sinful evil.
Evil exists. Of what’s left, either God is omnipotent or God is good. You cannot have all three, and I refuse to follow any but a good God: the one who keeps his promises, who acts with love, who seeks peace, who grieves with us when we suffer, who seeks our lives. A God who wants us working with him.
You may persist with thoughts of a plan, with the limitation of power, the toleration of sin, the disguised good, the persistence of evil merely as an opportunity for repentence. You may trounce my claims and condemn me in whatever way you please. You may even call me unChristian, and I won’t disagree with you. Sometimes I’m not.
Sin has affected my life in a precise and irrecoverable way. I cannot get back what I lost, not through any amount of prayer or faith. And despite the positives that may ultimately result from this evil — which at this point seem slim — they’ll come only by God’s grace, through those dedicated to God’s work in the world.
God grieves with us, and through us God works for change. I believed this long before I would ever need to.
May God’s peace be with you.
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