I have been a bit quiet here for the last week, but with good reason. I have just moved house, possibly one of the most exhausting things one can do (apart from physical things that are fun and exciting!). However, we have just one room and about twenty boxes to go, so I shall be back on track soon. I have started reading a book by Pinnock on the Openness of God, so expect more posts on this rather interesting way of thinking about God soon…
Now for a brief change of pace: I am moving house in five days (aagh) and bought the Age on Saturday 13th August for the dual purpose of protecting fragile items as I pack, and in the hope that there would be something of interest to read. I was rewarded with an article on the Lord’s Prayer by Michael McGirr, with the following eye-grabbing sub-heading:
“A person who has never dropped a four-letter word in the presence of God has never really prayed.”
Now we are all familiar with the euphemism “four letter word” and I must confess that the word it replaces is not usually on my prayer language repertoir. According to McGirr, “God can make the innocent blush”. There is plenty in the bible that is blush-worthy, so I would have to concur here! McGirr spends a bit of time on the “rough and tumble” of prayer, and rawness of emotion. A challenging thought really – how often do we come before God in the rawness and diversity of our emotionality? Times of crisis come to mind, but as I don’t live there too much (thankfully), what characterises my prayer the rest of the time? Casual conversation over a cup of coffee style more often than not. I think there is a place for this kind of dialogue with God, and I do not wish to diminish it. But the lack of the whole gamet of human emotion throughout my prayer says something, even if at this moment I am not exactly sure what. Maybe I am too comfortable. Maybe I am dispassionate about the things that move God’s heart, and should break mine. Heart-wrenching examples of raw and unpolite prayer can be found littered through the words of Job in the Old Testament. McGirr says this of Job:
Job was a “simple man who encountered a complex God. These days it is much more common to find the opposite: complex people who have teamed themseles up with a simple God. They keep God as a mascot for their political prejudices, a soft toy hanging from the rear-vision mirror of the car in which they go where they like.”
What would it be like to beseech God with the passion and unbridled honesty of Job? If only we could connect with God in that way, er, without the boils…
In my last post I rather triumphantly announced my discovery of an alternative perspective to Calvinism and Arminianism – open theism, or open theology. I am still coming to grips with what that is about, and have not reached any personal conclusions yet, other than that I am excited about the possibility of unpacking another way of understanding how God relates to his creation. So please consider this post and others that follow on the subject as a work in progress. This website seems to have some good thoughts to kick off this process, and until I can get my hands on a theological book or two, I will just work my way through some of the thoughts presented on the site.
The first premise is God’s sovereignty over all – no problems with this one. Love is defined the primary attribute of God – present before creation. Holiness and justice of God are expressed in relation to his creation – very similar to some of the stuff John Franke spoke about at Forge, and the subject of a previous post on this blog. Again, I am feeling on comfortable territory here.
The second point refers to “sovereign freedom” – where God decided that our requests and actions can impact on His actions. This means God can be influenced by what we do. To some extent, most practising Christians must believe this – or why would we seek God’s interventions and pray for healing etc? I think there is a biblical precedent for this, rather poignantly reflected in the discourse between Abraham and God. Abraham pleads for God to spare the city of Sodom, initially if fifty innocent people were found. By the end of the discussion, God agrees to spare the city if only 10 innocent people were found. Is God in his justice able to be bargained with? You can read the story for yourself in Genesis 18:23-33. The Biblegateway topical reference to this story calls it the condescension of God. This would suggest that God patronises Abraham. I don’t think that this is the case. It seems to me that God is genuinely listening to Abraham. Just before God has this discussion with Abraham, God tells him that he is going to pop down to Sodom to see if the people were as wicked as he heard them to be. After the discussion the Angels of the Lord meet Lot, and God is merciful to him. I think that it is possible to interpret this story to say that our intercession before God has impact – in this case it saved lives. In God’s justice, he could have wiped out Sodom. The appeal to his mercy appeared to alter God’s course of action.
Have you ever wondered why some people respond to Jesus and the gospel narrative, while others are either disinterested or even actively hostile? There are some clever theories out there to explain this – ranging from “everyone has the free will to accept Jesus, or not” aka Armenianism, or “some are chosen to be saved, and some are not” aka Calvinism. (Please note that while I have linked to the wikipedia for each of these terms, I am not espousing the wikipedia as my theological guide for life, but it seems as good a place as any to begin reading about these terms if you are not familiar with them!). I have posted about this issue before, and if you have poked around my blog you will see that I am somewhat bothered by both of these positions. I have always wondered if maybe there was another view, a third position, floating out there in theology land. Today I had lunch with a few people as part of our Forge internship. In the midst of our discussions the issue of universalism (the view that ultimately everyone will be saved) came up, particularly in relationship to mission. Calvinism of course stands in stark opposition to this perspective. Today I learned the name of another position to explore on this whole matter – open theism. Here is a snippet from the Wikipedia concerning this perspective:
“Open theism asserts that the future exists partly in terms of possibilities rather than certainties. That is, there are aspects of the future that are indeterminate. This means that God’s knowledge of the future, being perfect, would also consist largely of possibilities and not certainties. God has knowledge of some future certainties such as those things that He ordains, and He knows all future possibilities such as the possible free will choices of His created beings.”
This idea is going to take some time for me to sift through, and will probably require slightly heavier reading than the wikipedia!
Enough for now…. but expect more on this to come.