The Question of God

I have been having a great conversation over at my other blog with a commenter called Happy.. here is a part of one of his comments.. it hits to the heart of his response:
All I am stating is that the model of a omnipotent and ultimately moral God is inconsistent with what we observe in the real world. My point is that only a Utopian world can be consistent with such a God. In my humble opinion the very reason that we do not live in such a Utopian society leaves us with the following options: Either he does not exist, or he exists but is not omnipotent, or he exists, is omnipotent but simply unwilling to help which would make him immoral.
I think that many have this kind of view of God's role in the universe and those folks are stymied when people think differently. Here is one of the responses I had for Happy:
I guess my reactions to much of what you are saying is that I think that your image of what God should be is that of a divine manipulator of creation.. a God that has created a robotic existence.. a God who is afraid of pain.. a God who is not interested in having a relationship with His creation.. a God who doesn't understand what it is to love. That kind of a deity does not attract me at all. Okay if it does you though.
I think that many times people come out of painful situations blaming God for their pain.. many times this sort of reasoning is felt to be consistent with who we imagine God to be. The truth is that God created humans in His image and as such we have the capacity to choose our responses to pain.. we are free to choose His ways or we can choose our ways.. and our choices are a reflection of us and not Him.

The Erroneous Theology of Job

Last year my son and I were in the car and he advised me that he thought I was a modern day Job - I had to chuckle as I told him that Job had nothing on me. Of course we all have a story and mine is not all that different than many.. it is just different than folks who have not dealt with the death of a spouse.. or a parent who has not dealt with grieving children.. or a person who has not struggled with a disabling disease that has attacked their spouse.. we all struggle.. and our struggles are ever so personal.

So when I think about the story of Job in the Old Testament I first think about two parents who lost all of their children and their possessions.. and my heart breaks for them. I also think of a man who struggled with a disabling disease that inflicted him with boils all over his body.. a man who had friends.. and a man who was trapped by a bad theology.. a theology that yet disables many even today. It is the theology of divine judgment.

Job and his friends argued about the reasons for his hardships.. his friends blamed him.. Job asserted his innocence.. but at the heart of their cumulative thinking was the idea that someone was to blame for what happened.. and God was judging Job and his wife for some secret sin that they had committed. Even though Job asserted his innocence he did not contest the basis of his friends claims. Job also believed that his hardship was God's judgment.. he just did not believe that he was guilty of a sin worthy of the judgment.

Of course Job's hardship was not initiated by Job or by God.. the story tells us that Job was not being judged.. it says that Job was blameless.. and it also says that Satan (not God) killed Job's children and afflicted Job with a disease. Even so Job and his friends believed that God's judgment was involved.

This theology of divine judgment often rears it's ugly head even today. When bad things happened to New Orleans four years ago religious pundits were speaking about the judgment of God on this area. More recently religious prognosticators were embracing Job's theology and speaking oracles of divine judgment when a massive earthquake hit Haiti. These religious folks seem to have embraced the erroneous theology of Job by saying that hurricanes and earthquakes were God's reaction to somebody's sin.

Interesting that in Job's story God shows up at the end of the story speaking from a whirlwind.. but the wind did not seem to hurt anyone or damage any property.. perhaps God's winds are of this sort? The end of Job's story also teaches us that "sometimes" hardship ends okay - I say okay because even though Job was healed, his fortunes restored and new children were born there were still many lives lost in tragedy.

The moral of Job's story is that things are not always as they seem.. bad things happen to  blameless people.. and it is foolish to blame God or invoke a theology of divine judgment when hard times come. I reject that theology on a personal level and I also reject it for the people of New Orleans and Haiti.

Sins of a Weak Heart

The seventh chapter of proverbs is focused entirely on the temptations and consequences of sexual sin. It is so compelling to consider that Solomon, one of the wisest of all men, thought it so important to drill this information into the mind and heart of his son in so many proverbs.

"Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend” (v4)

I have often said that wisdom is an inner quality.. something that only your heart or innermost being can possess. The mind is a great tool for accumulating and assimilating information but it is not equipped to lead you in wise and insightful ways. It takes a humble heart to navigate life. It takes a strong heart to defeat sexual sin. And it is good to remember that a strong heart comes only from pumping spiritual iron.

"I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense"(v7)

In this verse we see the definition of a fool.. one who is simple and lacking in sense about the consequences of sexual sin. The remainder of the chapter is an indictment against such fools.

"With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life." (v21-23)

Throughout the psalm Solomon weaves imagery like those of these verses in warning that the path of sexual sin is the way of death. In each psalm I have considered so far Solomon has warned his son to keep himself sexually pure.. it is like he wants his son to escape the heartbreak and death that this kind of sin has wreaked on his own life.

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.

Remembering Martin

To celebrate the day I thought that I would share a few quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.. sometimes I forget that he was first and foremost a Christian man.. many of these quotes reflect the beautiful heart of a very young man..

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.”

Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'

That old law about 'an eye for an eye' leaves everybody blind. The time is always right to do the right thing.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Where is God in the Haitian Earthquake?

I think that this video presents a good response to the question of God and the earthquake.

New Every Morning

One of my favorite passages in the scripture is found in Lamentations:
"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.' "
-Lamentations 3:19-24
I have many sweet memories of singing these verses in church and in my devotions. In some sense I think that these words have molded my theology more than most. During difficult times ... times of questioning and unbelief ... these words provided me with comfort and strength. The words I sang go like this:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases
His mercies never come to an end
They are new, every morning
New, every morning

Great is Thy faithfulness O Lord
Great is Thy faithfulness

It can be said that the heart of the Bible is God's love for, and faithfulness to, His people. We are often a bit bewildered and dismayed when this love and faithfulness does not look the way we want them to look. Our pain defines us much more than we want to admit. Times of deep disappointment and trouble can call this love and faithfulness into question. When I am in such a state I find it helpful to remember that this love and faithfulness was on full display on a cross so many years ago. The writer of Hebrews says of Jesus:
"he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people." -- Hebrews 2:17
Merciful and faithful! Oh the incomparable Jesus! When we despair most He remains faithful ... and merciful! I remember speaking a prophetic word over 20 years ago that said, in essence, that when Satan demands to sift us like wheat ... Jesus prays for us (like He told Peter) that our faith would not fail. Does that encourage you? Only a merciful and faithful High Priest can intercede for us when we cannot pray for ourselves.

The following scriptures speak of His faithfulness to us:
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." -- 1John 1:7

"the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." -- 2Thessalonians 3:3

"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." -- 1Corinthians 10:13
Though we are often faithless He remains faithful ... to forgive us ... to protect us and to lead us ... great is His faithfulness. His mercy is new every morning.