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Friday, March 25, 2011

Didn't I Blow Your Mind?

It is a given that the finite cannot grasp the infinite. It is a certainty that God, the Creator, is so far above Man, the creature, that we will never fully understand. So it shouldn't be a surprise that we come across things that simply boggle the mind when we think about God. No, more than that, it would be expected. If your God is tame or tepid, I suspect you might not be looking at the real God. Let's look at some of my examples.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey'” (1 Sam 15:2-3).
This one so baffles people that some have decided it never happened. Some look at it and stop believing in God entirely. “If God is like that, I don't want anything to do with Him.” The advocates of God try to defend it. “God said that He was punishing them for what they did to Israel.” Yeah, sure, but surely the women and children and sheep didn't do anything to Israel. Others go further. “God said that Israel was in Egypt until the sin of the Canaanites was full.” Okay, I'm good with that ... but women, children, infants, and donkeys? The best I can do is say, “Well, God is good and He always does what is right and this was right.” But I can't really give a full explanation.
The LORD has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil (Prov 16:4).
This one is hard to dance around. It gives a primary cause – the LORD. As Creator, He has made everything. He has made everything for a purpose. And, it says, He has made the wicked for a purpose. Wait, wait … God made the wicked? I thought the wicked made the wicked. Well, I'm sure in a sense that's completely true, but here it says that God did, too. It's kind of like the story of Abimelech in Genesis 20. God tells Abimelech that he is in danger because he has another man's wife. Abimelech says, “In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” And God tells him, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against Me.” It appears, then, that Abimelech acted in integrity … and it was God that made Him act with integrity. Thus, any good that we do is from the Lord and any wickedness that we commit is ordained (not caused or forced or the like, but ordained) by the Lord.

There's a lot of other stuff out there that I don't get. God tells us that He chooses whom He will save according to “His purpose of election”, but that's all we get. If it were according to our choosing Him, that would be easy – and very human. If it were according to our righteousness, that would be easy – and very legalistic. But He tells us it's according to His purpose. That's all we're going to get. And I don't fully grasp it. Then, of course, there's the Trinity, a concept seemingly designed to blow your mind. Three in one, distinct but not separate, coequal in power, of the same essence, on and on. Scripture tells us that Jesus shed His blood for us and God shed His blood for us (Acts 20:28). We're very aware that the Spirit is the Spirit of God but seem to barely notice that He is the Spirit of Christ (Gal 4:6) as well. Yeah, that Trinity is a big mind-bender.

Here's what it comes down to. We can settle for a simple, comprehensible, tame God that fits in our thinking and categories and reasoning capacities, but defies the very essence of an infinite God. Or we can accept at face value the God who presents Himself in the pages of Scripture as One who cannot be fully grasped, completely understood, neatly categorized or compartmentalized, or even easily reasoned through. The former makes for a God much like Man, easy to grasp but not very God. The other makes us uncomfortable with His infinity and “otherness”, but is God to the extreme as He describes Himself. You decide which you'll go with. I choose the bigger one. To put it another way, if you have a God that makes perfect sense, that carries no mystery, that seems quite reasonable and offers little that shakes up your thinking, you may be looking at the wrong God.

7 comments:

Marshall Art said...

And that's pretty much the crux of my position as put forth in discussions elsewhere, particularly concerning that little 1 Samuel piece. "Why would God do such a thing?" How should I know? I can only speculate. "It is against God's nature and God doesn't act against His nature!" But such things have occurred enough in the OT that one cannot truly say it is against His nature without putting all those stories as blatant lies about God.

I agree. There is so much that is beyond my understanding regarding God and His intentions and Grand Scheme. But I will look at Scripture and begin with what I read being true, even literally true and factual, and seek answers for how it could be to the extent that I am able. If I fail, the failure is in my ability to to just that. But I will not distort or assume anything regarding Scripture because I can't understand it, or perhaps not tolerate the ramifications. I will not try to explain away those difficult parts and claim there is a greater truth that I can derive from what would then be total fiction.

Stan said...

Marshall Art: "I will look at Scripture and begin with what I read being true, even literally true and factual, and seek answers for how it could be to the extent that I am able. ... I will not distort or assume anything regarding Scripture because I can't understand it, or perhaps not tolerate the ramifications."

The perfect place to be.

Dan said...

I was thinking today of all the mass murder dictators: Mao, Mussolini, Pol Pot and Hitler. It is my belief that, for the most part, none of these people thought they were involved in evil. On the contrary I would suspect that most thought they were bringing about some great good, like social justice. For sure they didn't wake up one morning and think to themselves: how can I wrangle myself into a position in which I can slaughter millions of people. So what's my point?

We are always glad to hand over power to men and expect a different outcome even though they don't make God look bad by their antics. If God was so bad in doing these things, what does that say about man? Why do we reject God and flock to man?

Stan said...

Marshall,

I thought I ought to point out that, since God indeed cannot violate His own nature, perhaps your position that "It's against God's nature" is faulty. The trick, then, would be to find out what God's nature really is and how your perception of it is faulty.

Dan,

Anthropocentrism ... our default position.

Marshall Art said...

Stan,

I had that line in quotes because it is the line used against my position regarding these apparently offensive stories. I, personally, don't have any issue with God ordering the destruction of populations in the OT stories. I think those stories give us insight into God's nature as much as any other story of His benevolence. But it's because of those other stories regarding His love that these stories of Him ordering destruction, or directly destroying on His own, taking out children at the same time, are said to be against His nature. Sure, I'd love to believe that God is the hippie, kumbaya type of God my opponents insist He is, but that kinda conflicts with that whole hell thing and really makes the need for a Savior seem kinda silly. Save me from what? Eternity in a comfy chair?

Stan said...

Ah, I see. Then the position that it is outside of God's nature would be wrong, but, fortunately, it's not your position.

Marshall Art said...

That is correct. That is, you have understood my clarification.