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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Providence



Maybe I just want to continue to pick on Christian music from the 80s and 90s, but as I sat down to write about providence, the one thing that kept running through my mind was Michael W. Smith's 1988 release, "The Hand of Providence".  Here's the truth.  The lyrics don't really say much, and neither "hand" nor "make" are five syllable words, but I digress...

I'm currently enrolled in a theology class that led me to read two essays about providence from opposing points of view, yesterday.  The thing is, friends, it is so much "easier" to be a Calvinist.  I'm not one, but it is easier.  I understand that there is some degree of comfort in believing that everything that happens in the world is happening for the purpose of some greater good, namely the glory of God, and that not only does God know every detail, but God is also planning these details, orchestrating them.  It takes all of the pressure off.  What you ate for breakfast, this morning?  God chose that for you.  Which college you attended (or will attend)?  That choice was God's.  The job you landed (or didn't)?  God did that.  When you got fired?  Yep, God was sitting on the throne cheering your boss on.  When you got really sick?  Guess who had that all planned out.  The fact that you can't have children or that you have lost your children?  Don't worry, God's got this.  After all, this was what God wanted all along.  WAIT!  WHAT?  JUST STOP!  (and when I can't yell anymore, I'll whisper... just... stop...)

Something that caught my attention in the essay on the Calvinistic view was this quote, "God orchestrates attitudes and behaviors that actually conflict with his moral will but that do so for the greater good of displaying his glory throughout history" (Boyd, 2009, 37).  Does anybody actually believe this?  Please, please say, "no".  Please tell me that it does not make sense to you that God would intentionally force people to make decisions that are contrary to God's moral will in order to bring more glory to Godself, because last I checked, one of the attributes of God was love, and one of the attributes of God was not pride.

Maybe this is simply further deconstruction, but I would like to add, "God is not cruel," to my list of things that God is not.  I know there eventually has to be some positive reconstruction.  I get it.  But can we start with a God who just isn't mean?

In my lectionary reading, today, I ran across the Scripture from John 1 where Nathanael asks, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" (v. 46, NIV).  I thought of Joseph and his words to his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good" (Genesis 50:20, NIV).  I thought of my sweet friend who grew up in an abusive home and who stopped to give a complete stranger absolutely everything in her car that belongs to her toddler son, yesterday, because the woman's baby didn't have shoes on, and she didn't want anybody to hurt like that in the cold.  Please don't misunderstand me; I know, firsthand, that God can use absolutely anything to bring about good.  Kingdom principles are upside-down.  God can use our pain and turn it all on its head, and quite frankly it feels pretty good to look back on difficult life circumstances and to be able to say, "Now I see how this will be useful in helping others".  But I'm going to dig my heels in and say that God does not cause pain in order to create something better, later.  We could choose to partner with God in redemption, without the disasters.  In fact, I would venture to say that's what God intended all along.  The world doesn't work like that, though, and so we find ourselves choosing to partner with God in redemption, despite the disasters, because God is good, even when life is hard. 

I hope we also remember that God is good when life is good, too...  

L.

Source Cited: Boyd, Gregory A., and Paul R. Eddy. Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009. Print.

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