30 November 2006

Too much thinking for one blog

How much of this was meant to be
How much the work of the Devil
How far can one man's eyes really see
In these days of toil and trouble
How much of this is failing flesh
How much a course of retribution
My, my, how loudly we plead our innocence
Long after we made our contribution

Okay, Dar just posted these lyrics from Bill Mallonee. Thanks to Forrest for introducing us to the Vigilantes of Love.

Here are my thoughts on this portion of the song. It goes along with a long, long running discussion (in my mind) about God. I don't really know if you'd call it attributes or how big is God or issues with Sovereignty or what. This song and a couple other phrases I've heard all are part of the challenge in my head to understand God. The interesting thing is that even though I cannot resolve all these thoughts or my "position" on them, they seem to keep drawing me further into God, rather than pushing me away.

How much of this was meant to be...
This makes me think of Calvinism and pre-destination. This is what if I you take it literally enough and far enough, I refer to as the micromanagement version of God. This has it's comforts that I really like. Every tiny teeny thing is powered/caused by God. Here my issues also begin...does that mean I blame him (inadvertently by assigning him this power) for really horrible evil things that occur?

How much the work of the devil...
This is where Armenianism begins to influence my idea of God, (is that right Taz? Or am I mixing it up?) This is where you do assign things to the warfare that occurs because of where we are. Then I can assign the evil things that occur to the result of the war zone and not blame God for them. This idea comforts me. Here I begin again... if you take the idea too far does that mean if something does occur that I wasn't praying enough or fill in the blank enough to make the warfare not go against me or someone else?

How much of this is failing flesh...
I think failing flesh gets mixed into the warfare thing too. Isn't some of all the things that happen the result of my own choices or the fight of the "natural man"? Is that just free will, natural order, human nature run amok? Or was every move I made pre-destined? Can I just blame some of it on the world as a deteriorating system?

Frowning providence...
I was at Anne Hathaway's house (Shakespeare's mother) near Stratford-upon-Avon, U.K. There was an old needlepoint from their day on the wall. It has the alphabet and then a prayer stitched in the cloth. Somewhere in the prayer was a phrase about accepting things from a frowning providence with grace. It's interesting that there have been long periods of time that adhere to the first version of God so much that they see him as a frowning providence that causes awful things to happen, the comforting idea is that you can accept it as from him. It's hard for me to assign that depth of severity to God.

What about the God of the old testament who was punishing the Israelites for sin and following other Gods? We don't talk about retribution much now, except when some kooky religious figure from television gets after some activist group or says something freaky about a natural disaster.

I get an email devotional. Lately it has featured sayings of Francis Fenelon, a disenfranchised priest or teacher of the 17th century, he said, "I am awed by the good that comes from suffering. I agonize and cry when the cross is working within me. But afterwards I look back and see what God has accomplished in me. Then I'm ashamed that I bore it so poorly." He is not the first nor the last theologian to emphasize the good that comes from suffering. I agree that there is great value to be had when you have to go through "the valley of the shadow of death." I balance this idea and all of these ideas really with Romans 8:28.

I know that ultimately who God is does not change according to whichever idea is strongest in my mind or heart or which one I may chose to discard or believe. The way I balance these ideas in my head is with that same verse. God works all things for good to those who are called according to his purpose. So if he manages every minute detail, it is for my ultimate good as his child. If the warfare version is true, there is nothing he cannot change into good in some way in my life. The suffering whether it comes from ill intention or good intention always produces value within me -- IF I allow God to do a work within me through it. If I choose bitterness, then I have made the choice not to take value from the suffering.

Have I blown your mind? I do this to myself all the time over and over. Ultimately at the end of my mental gymnastics there's God and whatever is "true" about him, I know he is faithful.


  1. I really enjoyed your thoughts today. I miss you guys when you're not updating. No pressure though, I haven't posted in 6 months. How long will you be "home" for the holidays?

  2. We'll be home til the 31st. Back to work the 2nd, ugh.

  3. That is what I love about great songwriters or poets or people who are good with words: the ability to capture so many emotions, feelings, thoughts, and ideas with so few words.

    Good thoughts!

  4. This is one of the things I struggle the most with as well. Like you, it seems to bring me closer to rather than further away from God.

    There are three main conclusions that I have come to. Unfortunately, they don't say too much, but they form the foundation of what I have rationalized about God and pain.

    1. I have no frame of reference for what a universe ruled by a caring or an uncaring God would look like.
    2. A holy God is a terrible (as in scary and brutal) God. This does not conflict with His love, because love is not an emotion.
    3. Failing flesh must be allowed the real option to fail.

  5. Interesting. I hadn't considered your #1 and #2 items in my own reasoning. I go back a lot to his word being true which means he IS faithful, loving, fill in the blank here. If I can't understand how that is true in a given situation, it doesn' make it less true only that I can't see it from my perspective. Also that goes back to a war going on and casualties being part of that - the failing flesh also causing problems too.

  6. Anonymous9:27 AM

    You could call my opinion a shot from the existentialist court. I experience God within my failures and he meets my needs within the frame of reference in which He has given me.

  7. all of that talk goes right over my head.. is it possible to think too much? I give up too easily.