Friday, June 4, 2010

Christian! Where is Your Faith?

I think one temptation Christians tend to fall into (and I include myself in this category) is the belief that God will either grant us what we want in the way we want or else He is being unfair or the like.  We try to force God into some narrow categories of "He will either do [A] or He is not fair."  In doing so, we forget that God loves us and seeks for us what is the greatest good if we will let Him do so.  Sometimes this means God will lead us in a way we do not think looks ideal from our finite perspective.

This mentality is an attitude which lacks faith in God.  We do not trust Him to do what is best in our life, come what may.  We get it into our hearts that there is only one right solution, and if God fails to provide that one solution we often see people acting as if God has "betrayed" us.

As a result, some people remain believers but are angry at God while others lose their faith.

I think there is a similarity between the Christian who has this mentality and certain atheists who seeks to "scientifically prove" that prayer doesn't work.  The error of reasoning is:

  1. If God [Loves us OR God is real] He will do [what is being prayed for] (Either [A] or [B])
  2. [What we pray for] doesn't happen. (Not [B])
  3. Therefore God [doesn't love us OR is not real] (Therefore Not [A])

The problem is with the assumption of the major premise.  God can love us and God can exist without giving us what we pray for, if He deems that what we pray for to be pushing us away from what is not truly good for us

Alternately, when looking at the misfortunes of others, it is common to hear people indicate that God must be punishing them for what they did.

The Book of Job

I think the Book of Job is important to remember in these situations.  The synopsis of this book is Job, a man known for his holiness is suddenly afflicted losing all of his temporal wealth and is afflicted with bodily suffering.  Some of his friends come and seek to argue that because God has allowed this to happen, it must mean that Job has some evil deeds he is being punished for.

Job however, knows he has not done evil and is in a bitter quandary.  God afflicts the wicked.  Yet Job is afflicted and is not wicked.  Therefore he struggles with the thought that he is being afflicted unjustly.

What breaks this deadlock is the appearance of God.  God questions Job, demonstrating that the knowledge of man is vastly inferior to the knowledge of God.  From this, Job recognizes that man is unable to judge the wisdom of God and that just because man cannot perceive a reason for a thing happening does not mean there is no reason.

In the end, God restores to Job compensation many times what he lost.

I find the Book of Job to be a good reminder that what we suffer through is not without meaning or purpose, even if we cannot perceive the reason.

The Error of Vox Day

Unfortunately Christians tend to lose sight of this.  They feel trapped in the dilemma that God either must not be all powerful or else must not be all good.  Since the Christian recognizes the goodness of God (even the fuzzy minded Christians who contrast love and justice), they tend to look at the other end of the omnipotence of God and tend to water it down.

Vox Day is the pen name of Theodore Beale, author of The Irrational Atheist [A book which I do not recommend or endorse].   The book (apparently available for free download from his site.  All page references in this article will be from the Word document download) makes some good points and some points I think which are less so.  If he had just stopped at chapter 14, the book would be much less problematic than it actually is.

Unfortunately, to try to keep God's omnipotence and being Good, he tries to sacrifice God's being all knowing and falls into heresy, saying:

First, it is important to note that the Christian God, the god towards whom Dawkins directs the great majority of his attacks, makes no broad claims to omniscience. Although there are eighty-seven references to the things that the Biblical God knows, only a single example could potentially be interpreted as a universal claim to complete knowledge. (Page 262)

It is an unfortunate error on Beale's part.  Indeed it necessarily contradicts God's omnipotence and goodness if God does not know all.  So I must shake my head with sadness when I read him saying:

Regardless, a God who stands outside of space and time and who possesses all knowledge as well as all power is not bound to make use of his full capacities, indeed, who is going to shake their finger at him for failing to live up to his potential? Only the likes of Dawkins and Owens, one presumes, as their ability to logically disprove God’s existence by this method depends upon His abiding by their rigid definitions of His qualities . . . at least one of which He does not even claim in His Word. (page 264)

The problem is, if God does not "live up to His potential" that indicates a lack of perfection in God.  If He is not all knowing, then there are situations where God cannot use his omnipotence or behave in a perfectly good manner.

Beale has reduced God to a being on par with one of the Greek gods of mythology.  A being who was somewhat wiser than we are but can be caught looking the wrong way.  Beale would have been better served to consider the option of God setting the world in motion, and then intervening or not as He saw fit.

Job vs. Beale

Unfortunately, Beale does not put his faith in God.  He argues against the view that "God makes everything happen" by discussing things like Hurricane Katrina and saying atheists like Sam Harris are closer to the truth than the "Evangelical" who believes everything happens for a purpose (see page 266).

The problem is, Beale and his argument with the "God makes everything happen" Evangelicals fall into the same trap as Job and his friends.  The debate over whether God is all powerful and is afflicting Job vs. Job knowing he is not guilty and is struggling with whether God is less than perfectly good.

There is a difference between God directly causing a thing and God permitting a thing.  God does not do evil, though He may permit evil for a greater good to be brought out if it.  This does not mean He approves of the evil done.

Unfortunately for Beale, his objections were anticipated close to 1700 years before by Lactantius (AD 250-325) in his writing On the Workmanship of God.  If God sets the world in motion, creating weather patterns to bring us the needed rain for example, or creates the Earth with tectonic movements it is done for the purposes of making the Earth sustainable.

He was not caught napping when Katrina hit.  Nor did He necessarily do it to punish Louisiana.

God's Words to Job Applies to Us as Well

In Job 38, we see God putting the human assumptions in their place:

1 Then the LORD addressed Job out of the storm and said:

2 Who is this that obscures divine plans

with words of ignorance?

3 Gird up your loins now, like a man;

I will question you, and you tell me the answers!

4 Where were you when I founded the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

5 Who determined its size; do you know?

Who stretched out the measuring line for it?

6 Into what were its pedestals sunk,

and who laid the cornerstone,

7 While the morning stars sang in chorus

and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

8 And who shut within doors the sea,

when it burst forth from the womb;

9 When I made the clouds its garment

and thick darkness its swaddling bands?

The point is, God created the world and we as humans cannot even remotely pretend to understand the workings of the mind of God.

Christian, Where is your Faith?

Here then is the question.  Do we believe in God?  Do we believe He is all powerful?  Do we believe He is perfectly good?  Do we believe He has promised to look after us and provide us our needs?

If so, we need to repeat the words of Christ in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done!”(Mt 26:42). Certainly there will be times in our life when affliction comes.  Some may be done by the free will of evil men.  Sometimes it may be natural disasters.  We can be afflicted by diseases.  We can suffer in many ways.  The question is: Will we have faith in Him, come what may, that He is the Lord of our life?

If not, then why do we profess to be a Christian if we will not put faith in the Christian God?

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