Two

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Two potential blog topics have been bouncing around in my head. Honestly, they don’t mesh well, but I think I’ll have a go at conjoining them regardless.

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First (and I know I’ve said this before); It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that I’m saved and not my nonbelieving friends. If our roles reversed as far as upbringing I’m nearly sure that our beliefs would switch as well. If you aren’t a Christian by your late teens, statistically the chance you’ll become one decreases sharply.

Also, some of them have tried. Nearly all have appealed to God at some point, put their money on Christianity… Over and over I hear “It didn’t make a difference.”, “God didn’t answer.”, “I didn’t feel Him.”. I get that God is not a genie. I understand. But that does not mean I don’t hold out some anger, some resentment. I know of those who tried God, got their ‘sign’, and are with Him today. Why didn’t my friends get answers? “Do not test the Lord your God.” Yes, yes I know, but…I’d give anything for the many I care about to have found Salvation. Seasoned skeptics let down by God and the church discourage me more than most anything else. There, I said it–I have a grudge against God.

If anyone decides not to shun me they can read on now to hear my next non-original thought. That is that there is a reason for God’s rules. We break them in search of temporary happiness or satisfaction or pleasure, and we get burnt, short term or long term, sooner or later.I’ve discovered this in my own life, but also on 7 cups. Open relationships aren’t Biblical; they don’t work. You get hurt, wonder why your significant other doesn’t trust you… Call me a simpleton  but to me it’s obvious. I hold my tongue there and try to sympathize a bit more, of course. After all, don’t we all break God’s law only to discover why it was there in the first place? Maybe not. Maybe I’m the only one who learns most things through mistakes. Ah well, I can serve as a counterexample for the rest of you.

~~~

Anyways, those are my two points; that is my poorly written blog post. Now I’m off to hopefully get at least five and a half hours of sleep before work in the morning. Goodnight.

 

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Categories: My Life, Ponderings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “Two

  1. We are all wont to spend time thinking when we should be sleeping; I think it is part of the human condition.

    My first reaction was to share with you my experiences with those who seek to *get* (e.g. “saved”, stop being afraid, etc) versus those who seek to *give* (e.g. recognizing that God is a holy God, and in awe of that, seeking to worship and serve–. . .in order to please God, one must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who seek Him”). One can lead to the other, but I’ve rarely (ever?) seen a terrified plea bargin/self-serving request lead to one’s desired response, whereas I don’t think I’ve ever seen a heartfelt longing to know and be known go unanswered. Eventually. (Although I think the time of seeking is part of the calling.) (In other words, are they let down by God, or are they not really seeking God but rather seeking something to serve/save themselves?)

    Anyhow, that’s neither here nor there, because on further reflection, I felt like that didn’t really address your real thought, which is, Is God Fair and/or Do I Have Right to Be Mad at God. At this risk of late night thoughts being jumbled beyond effective transfer, here’s my two cents:

    I think that essentially we have to choices. Believe that God can lie, and can be untrustworthy, shifty, unreliable, deceitful and cruel. Or believe that God cannot lie, not even about Himself, and so know that it *must* be true that He is just and merciful and gentle and loving *even when* all appearances seem to directly contradict that. When we believe God’s witness about Himself, we must also believe that the reality of God is greater than our reality. (A simile would be an adult who refuses to let a child eat something that appears quite tasty, but which the adult knows has spoiled and would make the child sick. The child’s reality is that it is good to eat, but the adult’s reality is larger—beyond the comprehension of the child—and knows the end result would be sickness.)

    The problem is this: when we ask if God is fair, we must first establish what “fair” is. A room full of intelligent and compassionate adults will frequently disagree on what “fair” is, so clearly there is more than one standard. If we use God’s standard, He has declared Himself just; so He must be. If we use our standard, then we are essentially reducing God to our terms—declaring Him not too great for us to understand, measure, compartmentalize, or approach as an equal. In fact, attempting to judge God does not just assume us equals; it assumes us *greater* than God. And what kind of god is a god which is lesser than a mortal? Why should such a being even be worshiped, if such a being is subservient to our understanding or judgement? One who submits to our judgements is one who is less than us—and likewise, by submitting to the judgement of another, we are recognizing them as greater than us and putting them in a place of honor and authority.

    I think that’s what the book of Job is getting at. Job just wants to plead his case to God, believing that God would be “fair” enough in Job’s book to hear out Job’s reasoning and logic and submit to it. In the end, God does come to meet with him—but not to parry with arguments or reasoning or logic or standards of fairness. He comes in glory and power and majesty and awe, and Job puts his hand over his mouth. The question is not whether God has the guts to face up to our hard questions; the question is whether or not we can dare to challenge one who is so far beyond our ability to fully comprehend or take account of.

    That’s not to say you “aren’t allowed” to struggle with God over this. It’s just to say that, by my understanding, the struggle won’t be resolved by rational logic, arguments or weighing of reason, but rather by faith. Do you believe God is who He says He is? Do you believe He knows best? Do you believe He is good and right and true and just and merciful and loving and trustworthy, despite anything you’re nearsighted and dull senses might tell you? Do you believe that His reality is larger than your reality, and the depths of His reality deeper than you can plumb? Do you believe that He loves the people He created in His image more than you ever could? And if you don’t—you’ve got a much bigger struggle than why God doesn’t always seem to come near; you have a question of whether or not your God is trustworthy and powerful and worthy of praise and worship. Which is definitely a question to be fully sought out!

    I hope that was in some way helpful or thought provoking, and if not, I am truly, honestly sorry; I confess my main goal was to get my thoughts out of my head so that I could fall asleep, but that’s not necessarily the best motivation for writing something out and certainly not a carefully measured consideration into what my help the hearer the most! But judging from your own closing, you’ll have some mercy on those who write to deliver their minds from endless recycling of the same thoughts.

    Very busy, but still always listening—

    T.

    • First, I’ll just briefly respond to what you said over on your blog since it is easier to consolidate my response into one place: Sometimes listening is healthy. It definitely isn’t my specialty, but seasons in life come and go. I’ve learned a lot about listening from my sister. She’s quiet, but she sees everything, really sees it. You know?

      Anyways, to the topic at hand…I actually shared the first paragraph of your response with someone I know who “tried” Christianity and found that it failed him. He didn’t seem to disagree, so I’d say you nailed it there. Good call. I read things like that and I realize how limited and biased my perspective is. Thanks for broadening my vision!

      As to God’s justice and such. This may be slightly off topic, but a while ago I had a conversation with an acquaintance of mine who is a philosophy major about God having told Abraham to murder Isaac. Which is obviously not “good” or biblical, to murder a person. A portion of his thoughts reads thus:

      “The philosopher Plato framed a question once which has come to be called “The Euthyphro Dilemma. ‘ The question goes something like this: Is an action good because the gods say it is, or do the gods say an action is good because it is.'”

      Through said conversation I came to believe the second. In reference to the One God, of course. But, I haven’t exactly figured out how that relates to everything else. So that complicates things…because they weren’t already complicated enough. 😉

      But ultimately it comes down to faith, as you said. “Stepping out on air and finding something there.” as Carmen puts it…You had so many good points, and I’m sure this reply doesn’t do them all justice, but just let me say again that it made me smile to hear from you. Hope your life, though busy, is going well. 🙂

  2. Going to start this comment with a bit of humor. Your mention of holding your tongue on 7 Cups made me think you sometimes feel just a tiny bit like the man in this video: https://youtu.be/-4EDhdAHrOg 😉

    Ok, now to be serious.

    On the issue of God’s fairness–I probably won’t say anything fundamentally different from what the previous commenter said, but I’ll say it in my own way. 🙂 Perhaps that will help shed light, perhaps not.

    While I understand the sentiment of motivation, it still bothers me when Christians leap to the defense of God’s “fairness.” Whether it be the personal tragedy in someone’s life, or some kind of larger social tragedy, people are quick to explain how God was “fair” in whatever happened. Often, such explanations are called out by others for their trivial excusing, or hypocrisy–and rightly so. When we appoint ourselves as God’s defender we quickly become like Job’s friends–slandering God in our ignorance.

    Now, I am certain that God is good, fair, and justice. But believing what God has said about himself does not mean I can appoint myself to explain (justify) God. Job’s three very wise friends failed at that, and it is noteworthy that when God showed up in person he didn’t bother to explain himself better. He simply riddled Job. This suggests that the problem of Job’s three friends was not just that they did a bad job at justifying God, but it was wrong for them to even try.

    We are cautioned in the Bible to “not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), but so often we find the Bible (or events) not stating what we think should be said on the issue of God’s fairness–and so we add our own explanation–an explanation which may well slander God and wound our listeners with the untruthfulness of our representation of God.

    I don’t recommend trying to defend God’s fairness beyond what Scripture itself says (much as we all dearly, dearly, want to add our own personal clarity to the topic). Scripture does give us enough to chew on for the rest of our lives if we would but content ourselves with that. The words therein are often uncomfortable statements like “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him” (Psalm 115:3) and “There is no own good except God alone” (Mark 10:18) and, “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

    God does whatever pleases him and he is good so whatever pleases him is good, and we must believe he exists and rewards those who seek him. But that explains everything while explaining nothing. It’s a circularity which derives no validation from us, and so in our flesh we find it very unsatisfying. If we must believe this truth about God–and faith/belief is for that which we cannot see/comprehend–then when we (or others) complain that God does not appear fair, the Bible answer is “Of course not! You’re not going to see that he is fair, you must believe that he is fair.” Which isn’t the explanation we want.

    The greatest revelation of God and his love (the crucifixion of Jesus) is an act which appears utterly unfair. “Fairness” is each person dying for their own sins. How is it fair that Jesus died for the sins of others? We (as Christians) tend to gloss over that “unfairness” against Christ because it so benefits us, but when we are called to be crucified for God then the “unfairness” of our suffering becomes a big issue. But Christ was infinitely more righteous than us, and infinitely less deserving of what he suffered. If anyone has right to lay charge of unfairness against God it is Jesus first. We’ll have to wait in line.

    If we can’t explain in terms of “fairness” the very foundation of our faith–how a loving God would tell his own son to suffer and die, something he did not deserve for things he did not do–then how do we expect to be able to explain the fairness of God on things a lot less important than that?

    In a round-about-way (because apparently I don’t know how to say things any other way) I am pointing out that when we struggle with the seeming unfairness of God it ultimately traces back to a struggle with the offense of the Cross. The gospel offends people because at its heart it does not seem fair.

    “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

    “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

    “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

    “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

    “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’

    “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’

    “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

    “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’

    “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

    In that parable the landowner calls his actions fair, but he is not being fair by human standards. That kind of pay inequality would get you a lawsuit in America today. But Jesus gives that parable without blushing, and we are left to face that truth with no neat explanation justifying it in accord with our sense of fairness.

    I don’t think this should make us timid in talking about God, but we should talk with a boldness of faith not a boldness based on our intellect or how well we think we have God (and his fairness) figured out. The boldness we bring to the hurting people is a call that is faithful to what is taught in Hebrews 11, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.” Can we see the fairness of God now? No, we cannot. But faith is the assurance of God’s fairness, the conviction of God’s fairness, in spite of not being seen. That is what God commends.

    That word is what we must bring to the hurting. Are they not receiving what was promised? We must tell them to believe. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (Heb. 11:13). Are the hurting we know being deprived of good things? We must answer them not with explanations, but a call to believe in faith. “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:24-26). Are the hurting you know being tortured (literally, or figuratively), mocked, and flogged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two? Then the word we speak to them is not a word explaining the fairness of God in it, but we call them to faith, to believe, in spite of what things look like. Not all Christians suffer persecution and death, but do those who do so suffer have a right to complain that God is not fair? Or do by faith such believers persevere?

    All those who so suffer in faith, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised……not yet. But that day will come when the fairness of God will be made manifest and every knee will bow and every tongue confess. But today we will only grasp the fairness of God by faith–we do not see it.

    Were those persecuted people of generations past let down by God? Did God not answer them? And if the answer of God for them was to let them be stoned, flogged, persecuted, and sawn in half–if God treated the heroes of faith like that, why should we think he will be any different in our lives?

    It really does take faith (not reason) to accept that kind of answer to the hurting and unfairness that we see in this world. But that is the answer Scripture gives to those who read and listen.

    Much to think about.

    ****

    My final observation is on a different point.

    I found it interesting reading this post because it appears your perspective has changed from when we have interacted in the past. You said here, “It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that I’m saved and not my nonbelieving friends. If our roles reversed as far as upbringing I’m nearly sure that our beliefs would switch as well.” This is a rather startling thing for you to say given our past conversations. In the past you have argued forcefully to me that our choices regarding salvation are “free.” But if upbringing=belief (or unbelief) then the choice for Jesus most certainly is not free. That view means we are bound by our circumstance of upbringing. If the upbringing of a person puts them in hell when a different upbringing would have seen them end up in heaven, then that person was not free–their choice was not free.

    There are plenty of people who do believe that we are prisoners of time and circumstance, as you summarily stated. I don’t agree that accurately represents Bible teaching, but regardless–if you believe that circumstance dictates or influences your eternal state, then your choice in that matter is not free. That position is a repudiation for you of the “freedom” you previously espoused.

    If we are all free, then we can all equally and freely choose salvation and circumstance has no influence on a persons chances for heaven. That was your old view. And if a person holds to that view then God is “fair” by human reason–ie, nobody has a greater or lesser “chance” of salvation because we are equally free. As I understand it the appeal of your old position of human freedom in salvation was that it had the logic of seeming fair by our own earthly judgement. If you no longer see God as fair in salvation it seems you have abandoned your old conviction on human freedom.

    Me, I chose option C. 😉

  3. Rundy,

    Haha, that is a good analogy. I’ve seen the video before, but hadn’t related my holding my tongue to that just yet.

    I really like your point about how defending God is pointless. So true, and so easy to forget on the spur of the moment! Also, that parable fits well. God’s logic is certainly not ours, or mine in this case. Good reminders.

    As to your final observation…I actually wouldn’t say that my perspective has changed. I don’t believe that circumstance dictates our eternal state, but I won’t deny that it effects it. And I know myself and my friends’ situation to make the statement I do. Nature versus nurture can be and has been an endless debate. I would say that I still see God as fair in salvation, however.

    Sorry for the brevity in my response. My Dad and brothers want to watch some kind of TV show on the computer, and they keep interrupting my thought process. 😉 Also, I may be a while on my response e-mail. I just found out today that I work a 48 hour week next week, so my time may be otherwise occupied. But rest assured, I will get to it eventually. I’ve found some new music picks since last time!

  4. Well, since we interrupted your thought process last night, to watch a silly show, I’ll have to try and redeem myself by adding something to this conversation. 🙂
    First, in agreement with T, there is a vast difference between coming to God asking for favors and coming to God in surrender. Faith, IMO, is mostly about submission. So many times we hear “just believe”. You can try to believe in God till you’re blue in the face, but if you are still rebelling against him in your heart, all your supposed belief will get you nowhere. Faith is so much more then mental assent.
    I have a slightly different take on the parable about the vineyard. It’s not so much about God’s unfairness as it is about grace. In a way, it’s saying that God is more then fair. That he offers the same reward to the one who only comes to faith late in life or after much rebellion, as the one who has been faithfully following him all along. This may seem unfair to the faithful servant, but it should be encouraging to the skeptic who has to fight his natural inclinations to doubt.
    Which brings me to the sermon on the mount where Jesus states without qualification, that he who hungers and thirsts after righteousness will be filled. Again, it’s the true seeker who is willing to submit, who is filled, not the one looking for miracles, signs and wonders. Although often the signs come to those who have already approached in faith and adoration, we shouldn’t come expecting them.
    I probably how a different take on Job, too, but I’ll leave that for a future blog post.
    On relationships, every good and healthy relationship is some small glimpse into Gods relationship with his people. We get this wrong pretty consistently because of our broken world, but if we don’t follow God’s rules here, we have no chance of getting it right.

    • Dad, 🙂

      Your point about faith being more than mental assent rings very true. It is hard, because I think it is so easy to both oversimplify and overcomplicate the message of salvation. I’m sure I am guilty of having done both. It is scary to think that I’ll be held accountable for that.

      As to the parable being about grace or God’s unfairness. I would argue that God’s unfairness is God’s grace and vice versa. In the end none of us deserves grace and we all have the opportunity to receive it. That’s unfair, but that’s the way it works. Praise God!

      I would be interested to hear how your views on Job differ from Rundy’s and Ti-Ti’s sometime. You are ever so much more of a philosopher than I am. And yes, the sacredness of relationships in that they mirror Christ when we follow the rules is a beautiful and very fragile thing. God is a God of story and metaphor, and we are a rebellious people.

      Love ya. Someday I hope to get around to commenting on your Easter series. Maybe today. We shall see.

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