A major cognitive stumbling block for those who are unconvinced about God is the problem of bad things and good people. In particular, they find it extremely difficult to accept that God allows unfair and tragic things to happen to others – eg a child who dies of cancer, a fatal car crash. I want to distinguish these kinds of tragedies from those that occur as a result of inhumanity – holocausts, war, torture, as the notion of evil of this ilk adds even further to the complexity of this issue. I have been asked – why does God allow these things to happen to good people? Or to anyone for that matter. These questions elicit a mumbling response from many of us as Christians as we recite learned responses that sound somewhat unconvincing as the words are spoken. It’s to do with the fall. God works all things for the good. Or perhaps more honestly, “I don’t understand either”. While I haven’t blogged on it for a while, I am still making my way through books and mp3s on open theism. I think that the problem of bad things happening to us is related to our disconnectedness from God and the existence intended for us as a result of “the fall”, and I do believe that God is able to bring about good things in the midst of tragedy. But does that mean that God chooses for bad things to happen? I have been listening to an mp3 by Piper, a man who vehemently opposes open theism. He argues strongly that while terrible for us, events such as a tragic car crash are fully intended by God. John Sanders (in The Openness of God) sums up this perspective thus:
“From God’s perspective there is no gratuitous or pointmess evil; each individual “evil” – say, liver cancer or the death of your child – is actually for a good purpose when it is considered as part of God’s overall plan. If a tragic event happens to you, you should not necessarily consider it a “good” for you individually, but it is certainly good for the universe as a whole.”
So where does praying for God to intervene in a situation fit into this understanding? If God does intervene (in a way that seems favorable to us) does it mean
1. God changed His mind about something He was going to bring about and thus overridden His own plan (therefore God is “changeable” – an open theism proposition)
2. God always planned for the event and outcome. Our supplication is part of that plan.
3. God did not plan the bad thing (open theism would pose that God did not know it was going to happen), and intervenes as a result of our supplication.
I don’t think I can fully accept that God rules a universe where he watches over everything and muses to himself, “My oh my, look what’s going on down there. I had no idea that was going to happen.” Somehow, that is no more reassuring than God who intentionally brings about something horrible. This is more than a single post issue. I don’t know the answer, and probably never will. For now, I will keep on reading.
I found this article about a new Bible translation hailing from the Netherlands (thanks to a post from from Backyard Missionary). The Western Bible. Holier than swiss cheese, the Dutch have boldly gone where no-one has dared go before – at least in print. Don’t want to give your goods to the poor? Do you feel that dying to self is a useless construct drowned out by the western mantra where the most important person in the world is YOU? Get your hands on the Western Bible. The thoughtful translators have saved us the effort of ignoring or trying to rationalise these difficult passages by simply leaving them out. Chunks of the beautitudes, ten commandments, proverbs, anything to do with justice or selfless living has got the axe. Jesus obviously didn’t study economics, according to De Rijke. The rationale? “We don’t use them anyway”. Ouch. Interesting that these passages have to be removed from the bible before we sit up and take notice, and that would appear to be the point of the whole exercise. You can read more here. Here’s the challenge – what bible do we live by?
My posts on morality have sparked the most conversation I have had on this blog so far, and I can’t resist having a final word or two. Morality. It seems to be the issue that drives and divides Christian politics, and self-righteous Christians everywhere. I have high moral standards for myself. As much as I possibly can, I strive to do what is right – not just for me (as in if it feels good do it), but what I believe to be right as a Christian. However, I would like to add that morals upheld by Christianity are not exclusively found amongst Christians. They are represented in various ways across all societies and cultures, perhaps as a marker of how we are all created in God’s image, and all of us reflect this in some way. Back to the point: I work on and value my “personal” morality. I am growing in my awareness of what it means personally to practice “public” morality. I think there is a distinction, and it is not necessarily best reflected in the areas of legislation that typically dominate the Christian political landscape that have already been discussed on this blog. Morality is about right and wrong conduct – constructs that are very much shaped by our underlying value systems. Christians seem proficient on advocating for personal morality, but how do we fare on public morality? By public morality I mean “right and wrong” on a societal level. Do we fight for equality? Freedom from poverty, oppression, exploitation? How loudly are our voices heard crying out for justice? Does our justice roll on like a river (Amos 5:24)? Chapter 5 has a lot to say about trampling of the poor, injustice. God speaks out that he hates the religious feasts (I reckon this could relate to Sunday church in our context) etc (verse 21), but wants to see justice and righteousness. For those of us who have a political voice, let justice be our cry. Let our actions be likewise. Let us be slow to speak in judgement over others, but quick to stand up for those who our society considers least.
It has been a while since I last posted, and I have had serious trouble finding a moment to get near my computer. However, it has been with good reason. I don’t usually post daily life events here, but I guess my blogging drought is not caused by an everyday event. I have just had my first baby (Jemima is now 9 days old, and of course, perfect).
Jemima’s www debut at 1 day old