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January 15, 2010

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Danny

Thank you for sharing this story. I'm constantly amazed at how much we stand to gain just by conversation.

Jeff

Scott,
You know that I love you dearly and agree with you on a great many things, however, I cannot escape the very clear (to me) Bible teaching that God does indeed control what even secularists and insurance companies refer to as, "acts of God." I am not sure you were giving Pat Robertson a very fair shake in the first place. I think he was simply stating that a sovereign God may have myriad reasons for bringing destruction and devastation that good may come from, including causing a great number of people to consider Christ.

Let's also remember (not you, but your readership) that Pat was making these comments while also sending millions of dollars in help. His 'Operation Blessing" was one of the first groups on the ground to offer help in Haiti, as they also are in similar situations throughout the world.

Scott Jones

Jeff,

Sorry, but, frankly, I find the idea that a sovereign God intentionally brings tragedy on anything to be an unsupportable theological position.

And to quote my friend and Methodist minister colleague Kevin Durand, if one does believe in a divine being that intentional harms people in this way then the only moral option is open rebellion against such a deity.

Jeff

Scott,

Please explain to me a tenable position that deals with the numerous Scriptures that teach otherwise. I am uncertain how we arrive at conclusions about God outside of His Scriptural revelation to us. Are we to worship a god of our own design and imagination, or the One scripture points us to?

Jeff

Scott,
So far as our worship of God, I trust that He has dimensionally greater and different perspective than I do, many times greater intellect than our brightest thinkers, and, with Isaiah (who believed God sometimes wrought havoc, from our perspective) I say, "His thoughts are above my thoughts." I also echo the sentiments of His chosen disciples. They said, at a time when many so-called followers abandoned Him, disappointed that He was not as they imagined, "Where else would we go? You have the words of eternal life."

Scott Jones

One way to begin a response would be with the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Scripture is not nor could it ever be our only source as it is and never could help but be sifted through the lens of the community and its traditions, reason, and our experience.

If there was one, obvious, clear interpretation of scripture, then there would be no disagreement, no varied denominations, etc.

Clearly the interpretation of scripture is open and so the best of our thinking and practice must be brought to bear upon it.

Scott Jones

Also, it is very much a minority position in Christian tradition that God is the efficient cause of everything. Malebranche and Arnauld seem to be the main propents of such an idea, though Descartes is believed by some to have held the view. It is not clear to me that Calvin even believed it, but it is possible

Jeff

Scott,

I am referring specifically to what we label "acts of God," which is a fairly narrow and specific list. God is rather puny (whether directly responsible or not) if He was helpless but to let this (and other far worse tragedies) happen.
Historically speaking, it is a rather late theological construct that allows for any wiggle room on that. Philosophically, God is certainly in some sense "ultimately" responsible for the earthquake in Haiti. To deny that leaves us with a God Who is far too powerless to matter, in any real way, in both the lives of His followers, and in the supervision, and transcendence over historical events and history in general.
To cite the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is (in my opinion) incorrect, as John Wesley never enunciated such a methodology (later credited to him) and in any event would have made tradition, reason and experience so far subservient to Scripture as to most likely side with Robertson in this instance.
Perhaps an equally important (even more valid) criticism of Robertson's statement would be to question the historicity of the supposed Haitian "deal with the devil" in the first place.
Of course I am very familiar with the sort of theological (neo-orthodoxy) that allows for Scripture to be so elastic as to pour into it whatever our experience and reasoning suggests to us should be there, but such practice invariably leaves us with very little (if any) of substance to stand on, regarding our faith.
I remain cordially yours,

Jeff

Scott,
Look. Certainly you are siding with the clear majority of modern theologians/thinkers, however labeled (conservative, liberal, ortho, hetero, neo, etc.) when you make your points about Robertson, and I am no die-hard defender of the man. However, I am persuaded that I usually learn more from the minority position holders than from the majority.
I am also, in this instance, persuaded that (while inarticulately stated) I am glad that Robertson made a larger point, which is that as believers we stand with, help and minister to every hurting person, and WE DO NOT STAND IN JUDGMENT of them and therefore dismiss their suffering as somehow self-inflicted and therefore not our responsibility. Robertson's Operation Blessing was among the first on-site in Haiti.
In Robertson's world-view he was simply helping some viewer answer the age-old "Why do bad things happen to good people," question, with one possible answer. He did not even say that this was the reason for this tragedy, or the only answer. As I've listened to the statement I'm not even sure he implied such a thing. He may be wrong when he asserts that he believes the Haitian people may be "cursed," but he's not spouting some mad heresy, and he certainly did not say it hatefully. it was more like saying, "We really need to help these poor Haitian people. They have been suffering for a very long time."
As I've traveled in ministry throughout the world this was not the first time I had heard this very explanation for Haiti's plight. I've heard it from Haitians. They believe it may account in some way for the poverty they experience, even though they share an Island (and similar resources) with the second best economy in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic.
Is there the slightest possibility that the fact that Robertson is a well-known homophobe may be coloring your views of statements that he makes?

Scott Jones

True, I've never liked or respected Pat Robertson, even when I considered myself a conservative Southern Baptist. But I do generally just ignore him.

We start from different premises, clearly. To me power is less important than goodness when it comes to divinity. That some being might be creator or powerful would not make that being worthy of my worship. Its goodness would.

And the interpretation of any text, particularly a text of holy scripture, is what you call "elastic." That's simply a fact, as far as I see it and nothing to have any anxiety about either. That fact has no bearing or diminishment on the revelation of the word of God as a guide for faith and practice. A text proves itself to be valuable to a faith community because it is a living document that continues to speak to the community over time and to bring meaning to their life as a community.

Scott Jones

I forgot the acts of God and God's power.

Here's something I wrote after the tsunami on that point: http://escottjones.typepad.com/myquest/2005/01/god_acts.html

I believe that all-mighty (as opposed to the concept of omnipotence which I reject as a non-biblical notion derived from the Greek concept of perfect being) means that God can do all that can be done.

Simply put, I do not believe that God could stop the Haitian earthquake. If I thought God could stop it and didn't, then I would quit worshipping said God as a malevolent being. And unlike some theists I refuse to take some explanation about greater good, higher reasons, etc. I think that all of those attempts to answer have posed greater problems for the faith.

Jeff

Okay, clearly we violently (philosophically, not physically :)) disagree as to a number of things, not the least of which, in my estimation, is that we mere humans would have any say whatsoever as to the worthiness of our Creator to receive worship from us. He alone is worthy. We are of no value except that given to us by Him (by grace) in the first place.
To me it's extreme audacity, bordering on blasphemy, to suggest that God has to somehow condescend not only in the way He already has (on the level of relationship), but now, with this new wrinkle, to the level of our understanding.
The very brightest of us (and I guess in most groups I'm considered at the top there :)) is but a fraction of His intellect and has an even smaller portion of His knowledge base.
We can (and should) do our very best to comprehend His nature, but when that amounts to trying to fit Him into our neat little construct, one that neuters Him of His power, and redefines His "goodness and kindness" according to our far from perfect understanding of either temperament, we are treading far too close to heresy for my comfort zone.
This somewhat impotent god of peace, love, kisses and kindness, bereft of judgment and any meaningful power sounds like a great next door neighbor, but a terrible excuse for a god. The God of my worship has ways that are above my ways, and thoughts that are above my thoughts. Although I am highly educated, intelligent and literate by man's standards I would never dream that, like Lucy, God has some "splainin' to do" to me.
I am not nearly that smart.
Love you man.

Scott Jones

I think that's a false dichotomy.

That a divinity must act in a way worthy of worship does not mean that that divinity does not transcend human understanding or remain fundamentally unknowable or mysterious. All of which I agree with.

I think Harold Bloom maybe characterizes it best with his description of YHWH as "uncanny."

Jeff

Okay Scott, I'm going to have to just bail on this one. I've written everything pertinent I have to write on the subject.
I think I took this whole thread off track from your very touching point, which was that you, "realized that I had actually had a surprising spiritual moment on the 700 Club prayer line. I had called angry and with a genuine concern, and entering into complete prayer with this stranger who could have been put off or on the defensive by my words, had removed my anger and made me feel as if I had done my part, that I was heard, found fellow feeling in another human, and that we had gone together to God in prayer."

In my typical "can't see the forest for the trees" way I failed to even comment about what was most germane, and instead worked you over for something else.

I disagree (duh) with what I think is your unbiblical distortion of God, but I see your larger point as far more constructive, well presented, conciliatory, and instructive to the body of Christ.

Love you,

Scott Jones

Oh, Jeff, I greatly enjoyed the discussion. There isn't enough of that on this blog these days, though there used to be. Trying to frame respones to each of your posts required a great deal of thinking. Each time I spent some time considering before writing. So thanks.

Jeff

You too bro.

Chuck

I myself am more into the spirit world and what can happen if you open a door, dealing with things not of God there will be trouble,you will reap what you sow.
There are different doors that can be opened,the door to a nation,city,village,hut,house,goverment,church,and your own life. GOD plays know part in anything done wrong fire-water-killing-Jesus has altered that with his life.
you are a spirit you live in a body and has a soul God knows why people do things wrong because he can see the spirt world and how demons effect people lives.
What is happening now is from effects of what people are doing and how there living if morals would change we wouldnt be headed for the end as we know it.
Most people ask why cant God stop all this, mainly i think spirts cant be destroyed but the can be held not to do harm but this is only for Real christians who use the name of Jesus to do warfare.
check out all the new shows dealing with spirits they have know idea what there really dealing with just about money, find your place in the battle JESUS IS THE ONLY LORD and has given us all we need,but without true LOVE "not this i love you thing"you put your life aside for others. Jesus has all answers

Pam

Please, I am asking for you all to pray for my nephew Zack, who is 9. He is at cooks children's hospital tonight undergoing test to see why he is sick. Thank you

Sharon K Riddle

Please PRAY for my sister Lindy she in hospital since wed 7-13-11 haven seizures

karlene Carpenter

Please pray for me (Karlene), my lower stomach has been hurting now for 7 weeks, been to 5 doctors and still nothing. Pray for healing.
Also my sister is haveing eye surgery on the 18th pray that everything comes out ok.

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