God Appreciates a Little Back-Talk Once in a While

In her sermon last Sunday, Heather addressed the different ways in which people approach scriptures, especially those parts that we tend to find disturbing. The scripture in question that day was John 3:18, the often overlooked verse that follows the famous John 3:16-17.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

I don’t want to enter into a discussion about what these verses actually mean but suffice to say that many people find them to be troubling. As Heather pointed out, there are those on one side, the more ‘liberal’ side, of the spectrum who cannot in any way accept the ‘obvious’ import of that verse so they decide that it should be ignored. Those on the other, more ‘conservative’, side will accept it’s ‘obvious’ meaning, no matter how troubling, because if it is in the Bible then it must be accepted.

Some of us, though, reside somewhere in the theological middle. Which means that we do not have the luxury of blindly accepting all that is written, especially if it creates cognitive dissonance.

We also are not willing to discard any Biblical teaching that we find troublesome. It must be in there for a reason, so if we seriously consider the Bible to be an important tool in a our search for spiritual meaning, then we owe it some serious consideration.  Which means that we will often question what the conventional scriptural wisdom is.

Our conservative critics point out that this philosophy likely represents a lack of faith on our parts – a lack of obedience to the will of God.  But, as Heather said, in reality  we do this is for precisely the opposite reason they suggest. It is our understanding of the Gospel, our devotion to the teachings of Jesus and our obedience to Christ as lord that compels us –no,demands – that we question those scriptures that seem to undermine the loving mercy of God.

Coincidentally(?), I read something later this week, in Gerald Schroeder’s newest book,”God According to God”, that echoed Heather’s message:

Schroeder shared some midrash teachings that suggest God’s relationship with Abraham cooled after the aborted attempt to sacrifice his son Isaac. Although Abraham passed the test of dutiful obedience to God, he may have failed another part of the test, a part that was to measure Isaac’s compassion and desire for justice. (Remember, the practice of child sacrifice was something which God abhorred among the gentile tribes.)There is also evidence that Sarah may have been traumatized by Abraham’s actions, as the Bible says that she died soon after.

“This discussion of the binding of Isaac and its aftermath is not intended to teach us how Abraham, the founder of the people of Israel, “should have” acted. In his time child sacrifice was what was done, although Sarah, it seems, might have thought otherwise, had she been consulted. Rather, the episode brings the message of what God wants of us, how we are to act and react when challenged by life’s vicissitudes.

We have the right, in fact the Divinely granted duty, to dissent when life presents us with demands deemed unjust and undeserved. (italics mine) Anything less than that betrays a misunderstanding on our part of God’s interactive role with Its creation. In proportion to the relationship that we have established with God during times of joy, we can demand Divine redress in times of trouble. As we would do in any loving relationship, we can argue with God. That in itself can lessen the burden.”  [Gerald L. Schroeder, God According to God]

Can an authentic, dynamic, relationship ever be built on blind obedience?

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  1. #1 by lovewillbringustogether on June 28, 2009 - 11:58 pm

    Not wishing to cause an argument 😉 but when humans argue it is generally because we feel ‘we’ are right and ‘they’ are in some respect being ‘wrong’.

    Knowing that we as humans are PERFECTLY capable of actuallly being wrong, or holding a wrong opinion/perspective of something we are inclined to think others like us can also be wrong and so there is some chance ( or point) that our ‘argument is right while theirs is wrong and if we argue succesfullly they will se that.

    Abraham even when described as ‘perfect’ actually believed HE could see a flaw in God’s intention of destroying the two cities as they may have contained some good people and so felt He was right and God was wrong and endeavoured to argue his case – end result – he lost, God got His Way after all. Lesson learned? maybe!

    My point is arguing with god as if we might be more right than He is just is not being honest with ourselves. God is perfect we are not so we can NEVER win any argument with Him – the ony point of such an exercise is to try and help us see why we are ‘in the wrong’.

    If we adopt that position in the first place and ask God to help us become more ‘right’ i think that is a much more productive and honest approach than possibly losing our temper with God to argue our imperfectly formed opinion.

    We need to overcome our foolish pride (sounds like a song?)

    <B

  2. #2 by Christian Beyer on June 29, 2009 - 11:32 am

    My point is arguing with god as if we might be more right than He is just is not being honest with ourselves

    I see that a bit differently. It’s all well and good to sit here and academically discuss the practicality of arguing with God. But when life hits you hard – when you lose someone you love or you are terribly injured or contract cancer- the typical, honest, human response is to ask ‘why’? In fact, why bother praying for intercession? What does Jesus tell us in Luke 11?

    Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’

    Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

    I can’t imagine under certain circumstances NOT arguing with God. It is not all academic with God – it is relational, it’s about love. In my relationship with my own children (or even my employees), I may not enjoy it when they argue with me. But I can’t stand it if they defer to me merely because of my authority; “whatever you say” I want them to understand me and there are times when that can only be accomplished through arguing – when they question my judgment. With time, as they mature, they will come to trust me more. But if I punished them for questioning me – or if I was unapproachable or unassailable – then that trust would not likely ever develop.

  3. #3 by lovewillbringustogether on June 29, 2009 - 10:07 pm

    ‘the typical, honest, human response is to ask ‘why’? In fact, why bother praying for intercession? ‘

    Yes that is a typical HUMAN response considering the self (or our very human feeling in flesh (ego) for someone of OURS we are ‘close’ to’) and we feel self-justified because we are suffering ‘unjustly’

    My contention is that that type of attitude is exactly what God is attempting to ‘beat out of us’ or make us see within oursleves so we can grow in spirit while dying ‘to the flesh’ if you prefer the lovey/feel good version.
    and still almost all of us just don’t understand and go on being ‘human – argumentative and selfish and full of ourselves and empty in Him. Wiling to see ourselves as knowing our lives and how we ‘fit’ into this world BETTER than He does and so believing we have some kind of ‘ability’ to argue our point as being equal to or superior to his.

    You and i seem to have a slight difference as to what the word ‘argue’ and talking back to God is relating to.

    Clearly if you read the rest of the verses following those you quoted in Luke 11 Jesus is saying VERY clearly it is ok to ASK God what is going on or for help in times of need.

    Nowhere that i can see does Luke 11 suggest we pathetic finite humans have any kind of right or ability to successfully argue AGAINST God’s Wisdom and determination of the events that take place in our lives at His Permission.

    Even if – as i think you are suggesting ( arguing?) 😉 – we might ultimately get to the Truthin doing so, that He and not we, are ever and always Right.

    My point is that we could achieve that state FAR more easily and successfully to our spirit’s progress if we see this from everyone else’s experience as well as our own and just accept that God’s Plan has our own best interests in mind and we do not ever consider ourselves as ‘intelligent enough’ to have any hope of winning any ‘arguement’ with God, but we CAN get answers to the questions we have not yet fully considered and understood as has God.

    You are a Father yourself and while you are human and therefore unable to see EVERYTHING quite as God can or have the same form of understanding or emotions.. how do you feel when your kids come to you full of hurt and argue with you – as opposed to coming to you in humility full of questions seeking your wisdom for answers to the problems they have found themselves lost in – which do YOU prefer??

    Is it human to appreciate a backchatting smart alec of a kid? or do you prefer the kind who loves your superior knowledge and asks you for hep in their life?

    Which is ‘easier’ on the kid??

    and i am fully aware that as imperfect humans we will tend to remember the lessons that hurt us better than the ones that did not.

    Your Father would prefer you not hurt, but remember the lesson anyway. Humans still have not learned this very simple ‘lesson’. 😦

    <B

    • #4 by Christian Beyer on June 30, 2009 - 6:23 am

      Love, of course it would be best if we understood and accepted what God’s ‘plan’ for us was from the very get-go. But who knows what that is? I am reminded of Job’s friends who ‘understood’ what God’s plan for Job was and the advice they gave him. Too often that is the paradigm; church authorities (be they clergy or ‘mature’ laity) telling others to stop questioning God and just accept his ‘plan’. Or, as is often the case, stop questioning the Bible and just accept what it ‘says’. Of course, what they really mean by that is to just accept what THEY say God’s Word is.

      My plan for my children is that they grow up to be loving, loved and happy adult by being loved, loving and happy children. I don’t plan every step of their journies – I know parents who have done so to everyone’s dismay.I understand that my children will make mistakes and that they will not always listen to me and this mans that they will suffer for it. With time, if I’ve done my job right, if I’ve been in the ‘right’ place, they will come around. I hope. And in the meantime I understand that this process is human. You weren’t born with this understanding you currently have. It is even possible that you heard this type of idea that you are espousing when you were much younger. Did it help, or did you end up feeling your own way to this understanding of God? And by doing so, did you not come to ‘own’ this understanding, rather than merely accepting what others have told you?

      You don’t suppose that God has everything planned down to the last detail, do you? Predestination, and all that?

  4. #5 by lovewillbringustogether on June 30, 2009 - 10:57 am

    Down to the last detail? Well – i’m fairly certain ‘He’ KNOWS everything down to the last detail – whereas we often have trouble following the details of our bank or telephone accounts. 🙂

    i’m not sure if He has included some sort of a ‘Random Chance generator’ into the system just to shake things up a bit and keep himself ‘guessing’ – what’s the point of playing a ‘game’ when you know the outcome in advance?

    As to God’s plan for ‘us’ that wasn’t exactly what i was getting at in the last comment, but i’ll add my $0.02.

    i certainly don’t have the least clue as to what the Whole Cosmic Plan looks like or is really all ‘about’ i have far too little understanding to fully grasp that.

    Being a being of limited understanding and knowledge i am not even sure i am more than 50% sure of what His Plan is just for me! 😉 Or that i am actually following it with anything resembling accuracy so far?

    However i do believe i can understand a few points rather well and possibly even better than ‘most’ 😉

    I don’t think He has made those points all that hard to follow and am a bit surprised at the relatively poor universality of understanding of them we see in the world today.

    Case in Point: the current ‘argument’ (although i feel in our case it is more of a civilised debate so far) 🙂 we each see things just a little differently and have taken slightly opposing views and are expressing our opinions of them that each may take a look and have a ‘fresh’ viewing point.

    The point i believe i am ‘looking at’ /focussing on, which forms a part of His Plan for mankind, is that God is all knowing – we humans clearly are not.

    If we Trust in God and say that He is Omniscient (He would not be much of a God if he wasn’t huh? 🙂 then why do we argue and get mad at Him whenever we get into trouble or have a less than perfect understanding of a situation and let our emotions dictate our responses which frequently result in displays of anger and rebellion? (which the Bible shows time and time again that rebellion against God will NOT be ‘tollerated’?)

    Why? – Because were HUMAN and that’s what Humans do??

    Isn’t that what Jesus and the bible are trying to TELL us – being human is NOT what we are to be – we are to be LED by the Spirit – which is of Him and not our own ego that wants to have all the glory for our human selves?

    As smart as we think we are we are clearly no match for Him when it comes to determining what is TRULY best for our lives given all the other pieces of the Universe we are forced to operate in conjunction with?

    No? 🙂

    Can we not give Him the benefit of any possible ‘doubt’ and just ask Him to fill us in in his own good and patient time?

    Sort of like our parents might have done or you might do when your kids have a problem in life they are not yet mature enough – experienced enough – to understand and deal with as you can grasp, even if they cannot at the time?

    <B

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