Archive for December 28, 2008
Two weeks ago, I wrote in this post about the many unanswered petitionary prayers and about embarrasing testimonies of people claiming that God intervened supernaturally in their lives when their case is more than doubtful.
So, how are we supposed to deal with unanswered prayers and embarrassing testimonies?
I propose that our theology is wrong. God is both blamed and given credit for more than He ought to, because human freedom cuts both ways. If a man makes the wrong choice by deciding to murder my daughter, I can’t blame God; it was not His decision. The only blame we can put on Him is that He has given us so much freedom.
If we blame Him, we cut off the proverbial branch on which we are sitting. It’s only due to our freedom that we can blame Him at all. If we blame Him for our freedom, we blame Him for our very ability to blame Him. Conversely, we don’t have to thank God that we have discovered our wallet on the roof of the car; God probably didn’t intervene supernaturally at all.
What I can thank God for is His being the Source of everything existent: the One who upholds every atom of the universe I live in. I can also thank Him for the order in which He created everything and for the power of choice He has given me.
This power of choice, however, this freedom, necessarily creates a world in which there are real consequences to my actions. If I’m not careful enough to keep watch over my wallet, I might lose it and not find it again. I might pray to God, and sometimes He might perchance intervene supernaturally to help me undo the consequences. But in most cases, I think, His answer is:
“Play by the rules. If you don’t learn to be watchful, you lose things. If you cross a street while reading a book, you will be run over by a car. If you jump out of a helicopter without a parachute, you will die; I won’t change the gravitation of the earth for you, even if you fervently pray in your last minute on earth for me to do so. I can’t change the rules of the game all the time; that would create an extremely confusing world in which no one, once he starts to think about it, wants to live.”
A movie that illustrates this pretty well is Bruce Almighty. Field reporter Bruce Nolan thinks that God isn’t doing a good job and should let someone else take His place, to which God says in essence, “Okay, Bruce. It’s your turn.”
He allows Bruce to play God for a while. And what does Bruce do? He thinks that his almighty powers now give him the right to change the rules of creation as he chooses. For example, thousands of people pray to win the lottery, and Bruce answers every one of them, as a consequence of which everyone wins only a few dollars. From the weather to traffic, nothing is safe from Bruce’s interference. The end result is utter chaos—a completely unpredictable world.
Do we want that? What do people stuck in a traffic jam expect God to do when they pray that He should help them be on time? Move all the other cars out of the way? Magically create a bigger road?
No. He will say, “If you don’t want to get stuck in a traffic jam, talk to your minister of transportation. You know the rules of this world. If your roads don’t have sufficient space for the amount of cars you manufacture, you have to change something. If you can’t find a parking space in a city, don’t ask Me to help you find one; either build more parking spaces or allow fewer cars in the city. Should I create more parking spaces for you or make cars disappear? Which cars should those be? Not yours, that is for sure. Or if you pollute the air, don’t ask Me to clean it for you; you will have to find ways to stop the pollution. You know the rules.”
God honors His creation too much to continually mess with it. Christianity says that He is present in His creation; yes. He does talk to people and guides them; yes. But it is a guidance from within, not from without. He is speaking to the hearts of men in order to help them make the right decisions, not by writing letters in the sky or continually changing the laws of creation. Any change of order must by necessity be an exception. Otherwise chaos will result.
If God answered most prayers in the way we expect Him to, there would no longer be merely one God; there would be millions of gods—millions of Bruce Almightys—all trying to direct the universe according to their will.