Tuesday

God is not logical

A recent blog posted by Deborah Mitchell, or TXBlue08, on CNN has caught my attention. Mitchell, who is a mother of teenagers, authors a blog called  "Kids Without Religion."

In a CNN iReport, "Why I Raise My Children Without God", Mitchell explains that she writes the blog because she '... just felt there is not a voice out there for women/moms like me. I think people misunderstand or are fearful of people who don’t believe in God.'

In the first part of this series, I addressed her first point, God is a bad parent and a role model. Now I'd like to address Mitchell's second reason as to why she is raising her children without God.

God is not logical.

Mitchell writes:

How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue. Take for example the senseless tragedy in Newton. Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why. We write poems saying that we told God to leave our schools. Now he’s making us pay the price. If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?

The question we should be asking is this: “Why did we allow this to happen?” How can we fix this? No imaginary person is going to give us the answers or tell us why. Only we have the ability to be logical and to problem solve, and we should not abdicate these responsibilities to “God” just because a topic is tough or uncomfortable to address.

I agree with Mitchell's anger regarding pat answers to deep problems. Like Mitchell, I too would like to know why we church people answer difficult questions with "It's not for us to understand." That answer is an easy out, as far as I'm concerned. Why can't we just say, "I don't know"?

In the Bible, there are several examples of people,such as Job, Habakkuk, and David, who dared to ask God why. They asked bold questions such as, "Why are you treating me like this?" "What have I done to deserve this?" "Why don't you fix this problem?" We should do this too and teach our children to do the same. Along with the honest "I don't know" answer we would do well to add "Let's pray about it" or "Why don't you go pray about it?"

In February 2006, my first husband died of pancreatic cancer. Gordon was a pastor and a good person. He lived what he preached. Why would God allow such a terrible disease to kill him? At the time, my three boys were young. They asked the hard questions and I had to tell them that I didn't know why it had happened. When my middle son asked why God had allowed his dad to die, I told him that he needed to ask God that question. I also told him to tell God exactly how he felt - even to yell if he had to.

Well, my middle son took my advice and found some peace. God never answered our questions about this tragedy, but we knew that God was taking care of us. The reasons I know this is because of the peace I felt despite the harrowing circumstance, and by the way all of our needs were met.

I noticed in Mitchell's complaint that she used the word "allowed." This is better than the word "cause", which so many Christians seem to use when describing God's involvement in a disaster. I don't believe that God causes disaster and mayhem. I believe that God knows what's going on but that free will gets in the way of God's ability to act. Mitchell is correct in saying that humanity should accept the responsibility for the awful things that happen. We should use our minds and our knowledge to solve problems. As a follower of Jesus, I believe that God gave us our minds and wants us to make good use of them. But, if we lack wisdom, we can always ask. The book of James says that God is faithful and will provide wisdom without finding fault. This does not necessarily mean that you will have the answers. According to Matthew Henry, a Puritan theologian, it means that you will be given wisdom to make "right use" of affliction. In other words, you'll have wisdom to handle situations - ideas will come to mind that you did not think of before prayer. This has happened to me many times and it is one reason I know that God is not imaginary, as Mitchell claims.

Mitchell is correct in her other statement, "If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?" All of the "murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts" are against everything that Christ taught in the New Testament, but not everyone follows Christ. Even the so-called followers of Christ have participated in this wretched behavior throughout history. Again, it's that free will thing. Because God set free will in motion, he is faithful to it. God will not get in the way if humanity chooses to wreak havoc on itself. Christ came to teach us that God will help us live above sin. He died so that we could do that. In Genesis 4:7 we find what is one of the most important phrases in the Bible, but to really grasp its meaning, we have to go to the Tanakh:

If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it.' 

"... thou mayest ...".

This is the heart of the concept of 'free will'. It comes from the Hebrew word "timshel." It is translated differently in other versions of the Bible. In some versions, it is translated as "thou shall" and in others, "thou must."  But in the Jewish Bible, it is "... thou mayest ...". That leaves open the alternative: "thou mayest not ...".

And in the next verse, Genesis 4:8, Cain exercises his "mayest not" option in ruling over sin, and murders his brother, Abel.  Should God have interfered? Should he have stopped Cain?

Did not Jesus not only offer us the same choices, but also guidance on how to make the right choice?

You can read more about "timshel" here:

Timshel (thou mayest)

Now back to free will. Even though God does not stop us from wreaking havoc on ourselves if we so desire, there are instances in modern history in which I believe God was trying to stop terrible things from happening. For instance, before World War II began, all of the warning signs were there. Hitler's book Mien Kampf spelled out what he planned to do if given power. Once he came to power, the world leaders knew he was beefing up his military. Plus, people coming out of Germany were talking about the beginnings of genocide - heavy discrimination against the Jews and other groups, sterilizing or killing "unfit" people such as the disabled. The signs were there but humanity just didn't listen. Could we not say that God was yelling at us to wake up?

Mitchell mentions the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Maybe there were signs as well. We may never know. But why was a mentally ill person allowed access to guns? Why were the guns not locked up in a gun safe and if they were, why did he have access? There are so many variables, but there is no reason to blame God. The Religious Right did a dastardly thing by using the situation to push their "prayer in school" agenda and, as usual, God became the bad guy.

Mitchell is partially right in her complaint. God is not logical, at least to us he isn't. Scriptures says that God's thoughts are not our thoughts. So it is logical to say that God's logic is higher than ours because God sees the big picture. God limits Godself because of free will; therefore, God is not all-knowing. We humans can surprise him. The Bible has many examples of this. God also limits his power because of free will. Because God wants us to willingly follow him, he will not interfere with our power to choose. Acceptance of his grace is our choice. Timshel. "Thou mayest ... or thou mayest not."


Here is another post on Timshel.