Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Blog ... at least for this year!

I'm not sure why, but I just can't let this year close without a parting comment. Maybe it's a numbers thing--I want to hit 20 for the year. I've already exceeded the 2007 total, although posts-per-month is down.

Anyway, here goes the final thought for the year...

We were talking a while back about whether the things that happen to us are caused by God, allowed by God, or just happen without God's involvement in any way. I think your beliefs in this regard have a lot to do with what you think God is like, and how much you've thought about where your beliefs lead you.

If you believe things happen to us without God's involvement, and perhaps without any special interest on God's part, then I think you don't believe in the God of the Bible. God is clearly portrayed in both OT and NT as being actively involved in creation. The stories of Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, and Paul, Peter, and countless others show that God directly influenced their circumstances and that they were not surprised by this.

The other two possibilities are a bit more difficult to deal with if we are to be honest. The problem is that some of God's attributes are not easy to reconcile with each other and our experiences. God is all-powerful (omnipotent), meaning that God can to anything that can be done. God is all-knowing (omniscient), so the smallest detail is not overlooked or forgotten. God is also the definition of love, loves us, and wants the very best for us.

The problem this causes is we have difficulty answering the question, "Why do bad, unpleasant, downright nasty things happen to us?" God surely knows they are happening, could take action to prevent them, and loves us. So why do they happen? It actually matters less whether God actively causes them to happen or passively allows them to happen. In either case they happen because God intends them to happen. I actually prefer the active explanation because I think God is in direct control of all of creation, not just some portion.

I think our difficulty with this question comes from our unspoken belief that we're at the center of the universe. From that viewpoint, good things happening to us are good and bad things are bad. But maybe there's another viewpoint. Maybe we're not the center of the universe. Maybe it's good for bad things to happen to us. I don't claim to understand how or why that might be so, in fact I find it appalling that God could want it that way.

I'm left with the belief that God is good and loves me more than I can imagine. I don't see how having bad things happen to people is "good", and I guess I'm OK with that. God is God and I'm not.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Thought I Can Call My Own?

Have you ever come up with an idea you thought was truly original? It seems to me that this has happened to me more frequently than normal in the past few months. The problem is, the Internet stands ready to show me how unoriginal and outdated my "original" thought actually is. Even this potentially-original blog topic has been endlessly discussed (for example, here, here, and here). There's even a seven-step process to have your own original thoughts.

Of course, this is not an Internet phenomenon. Have a look at Ecclesiastes 1, especially verses 9 and 10:
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, "Look! This is something new"? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.
Wow, talk about a lack of originality! My "novel" topic was discussed thousands of years ago. It's almost enough to make a person surrender to the sound-bite mentality of our modern world. Almost.

We don't spend enough time on any one topic to really think deeply. Most of our understanding of things is superficial, even of the important issues of our day. How many people in this country spent more than 15 minutes thinking about how they were going to vote? How many Christians have thought much about abortion, euthanasia, war, salvation, predestination, the nature of God, or any of a dozen other thorny issues? Not enough of us discipline ourselves to make the time required for deep thoughts.

Paul warned Timothy about this tendency in us in 1 Timothy 4,
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
So, I guess I'll continue to search for my original idea even though I know it is unlikely to exist. The purpose is the looking, not the finding.