According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Be Amazed by God's Weakness... Not by His Divine Power!

Cirque of Unclimbables, Nahanni National Park, Northwest Territories, Canda

I am not familiar with today's author, David Henson. Not his beliefs. Not his theology. However, in today's article I felt he has touched upon a subject that we have looked at before. A subject that asks how we are to imagine God's power in relationship to God's creation. A creation which appears all-powerful, and oft times, out-of-control, or unsubmitted, to God's rulership.
I say "all-powerful" because many of the astronomers, cosmologists, and physicists of the world become geeked-out over the depth, the wonder, the strangeness of our infinite universe (or universes!). In the eyes of a godless science it only sees unending power stretching across the vast voids of time and space. But for the Christian scientist, s/he sees the God of the bible who stands behind the universe's emptiness and amazing wonders. Who Himself had cast its beginning from the span of his hands and very heart. Who has shared Himself through a universe and creation which we sometimes tremble before in its displays of deadly power and terrible acts of random destruction.
Certainly we know God's creation to be out-of-control.... Are we ourselves not the essence of this statement by our heads, hearts, souls, and spirits, as we strive against one another instead of with one another? Are we not unsubmitted to the Creator God of the universe who fills our hearts with timeless wonder before the ant or sun, the rainstorm or rolling expanse of mountain, desert, and saged prairie? Before endless meadows, the violent turbulent seas, and endless icy plains of snow and tundra?
And yet, in the sublimity of God's holy creation He would empty Himself of His omnipotence and share this power to His handiwork... to we ourselves as even to the created realm we find ourselves... to use, work, and live within, by His allowance, will and divine submission of power. To wield His creative majesty as would please ourselves and not Himself (not that I would ascribe existential willfulness to mortal-less matter... ). For this is the essence of creative indeterminacy and human free will. To exert power at the behest of the created thing or man. To allow the wind to become a deadly storm. The water a fatal force. Or man a wicked thing.
More simply said, when God did create, He created at the same time the freedom that we find in ourselves and observe within our ecosystems, sun, moon, and stars. This "creaturely freedom" the bible calls "sin." For in the granting of indeterminacy to nature, and of freedom to man, God did allow for its immediate affects and causations. But, God did also immediately begin exercising His divine sovereignty (how could He not by being who He is!?!?) by implementing His plan of redemption back to all. This we have observed in the progressive evolution of the universe, and of nature, and of man. However, within this redemption is the purposefulness that is held in what can be known as the "weakness" of God.
And it is to this biblical expression of God that I have found today's article quite helpful. So rather than asking the wrong question of "Why isn't God all-powerful?" Or by making the incorrect statement that foolishly asserts "God isn't all-powerful!" Let us behave our theological tempers and learn to appreciate the "weakness of God" emanating pervasively throughout His creation. And to likewise discover what this means to us, most implacably. That God has granted to man the use of His power. That it is we ourselves who must bear God's divine responsibility of using our freedom aright. That it is we who bear His divine accountability. Who must seek to behave our human willfulness. To learn God's heart of grace and merciful forgiveness so that we might more ablely share some small portion of God "Power" back with one another. And to the ecosystem that we live within.
To me, this is the better question to ask. Questions that we should ask of ourselves. Of our responsibilities within the larger redemptive scheme of things. And to pay attention to the smaller nuances of the biblical record as pertaining to Jesus who not only was God's representative to us on this earth. But was very God Himself come to show to us God's "weakness' in the wisdom of His purposeful creation. To show to us what it meant to "empty" Himself of His divine power in submission to the flesh through Incarnation; to the powers of this world; to the cross of redemption; and to the sinful freedom of man's willfulness.
This then is the ultimate example bourne by God's "servitude" to the redemption of both man and cosmos. That in the re-ordering of all things according to His will, mind and heart, it is God's purposeful "weakness" that we most find God. Not by demonstrations of His creative power (not that we haven't observe this in the biblical record). Nor by His amazing feats of coercive miracle (again, something we have also observed within biblical passages). But by His willing submission of His power to redeem all. Be amazed at that... and not by God's subjective use power demonstrations for we-of-little-faith. Rest then in the sleep of Jesus, wearied upon a boat at sea, thrashed by violent waters, and know even then that our God reigns!
R.E. Slater
May 29, 2013
Sleeping Through Storms: Rethinking Theodicy, Natural Disasters and God’s Omnipotence
May 28, 2013
God is not all-powerful.
At least, not in the ways we tend to define power.
For us, power means that we get our way, that we can impose our will upon the world around us, that we can conform others into our images in order to achieve unity and security. In our minds, we equate power with control, sovereignty.
So, when the world spins out of control as it did in Oklahoma this week, and at the Boston marathon a month ago, and at Sandy Hook Elementary six months ago, we begin to wonder what happened to this all-powerful God to whom the skies and seas and nations are supposed to bow.
Are the heavens really declaring the majesty of God when an E-5 tornado destroys an entire town?
Only the most deranged and pathological of leaders suggested in the tornado’s wake that God was in control of the situation or was somehow, ultimately, responsible for the deadly twister. That includes, apparently, folk like John Piper and our own president, who seemed to imply that the tornado was a part of God’s plan. I’m sorry, but tornadoes are not part of God’s plan. Most of us can admit that without losing our faith, just like we can admit that God isn’t really calling the shots when it comes to jet streams, weather patterns and 200-mile-per-hour winds.
Instead of attributing the destruction to God, we tend to reassure ourselves that, in spite of it all, God is with us in the destruction, with us in the suffering, weeping with us. What we imply in this, but don’t often say, is that, deep down, we know God is not in control. And secretly, we give thanks for that. Naturally, we then ask where exactly is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering. This existential question doubles as an unconscious and fragile prayer of thanksgiving and relief. While we may feel desolation and alienation from God in the midst of great natural disasters, we also feel grateful — hopeful, even — that God isn’t orchestrating all the pain and destruction in the world. It is a relief not to be worshipping a God who sends tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, disease, and pestilence. It is a relief not to pray to a God who indiscriminately kills children with the same heavens which declare God’s glory.
God is not in control of the weather. Thanks be to God, God is not in the business of controlling anything.
But if God isn’t in control in the midst of such destruction, then who is? Something more sinister? Maybe something more dangerous than a sinister being. Perhaps no one — and nothing — is in control. It is a scary and disorienting thought to begin to consider God isn’t our bodyguard protecting us like the divine Secret Service from the suffering and tragedy in our world.
We find this idea jarring because I think we misunderstand what divine power is. God doesn’t control the weather, because that isn’t the nature of God’s power. God’s power is something stranger, more paradoxical.
God’s power is in the act of becoming empty (kenosis), in becoming one of us.
God’s power is in incarnation and immanence, not omnipotence and distant transcendence.
In the gospel of John, Jesus tells us that when we see him, we see God. There’s a popular aphorism based on that notion, suggesting the radical nature of the Christian faith is not that Jesus is like God, but that God is like Jesus. And Jesus is in the business of emptying himself of power to the point of utter alienation and forsakenness by God. So what if God is indeed like that, like Jesus?
But, you might argue, there is a story in the gospels about Jesus and his power to control the weather. And it’s true. In the gospel of Mark, a terrible storm rises on the sea, threatening to swamp the disciples and the boat they are in. They are terrified, undone at the prospect of capsizing and drowning. They are baling water from the boat, struggling with wind-whipped sails, hanging on for their lives.
Jesus, meanwhile, is sleeping.
“Don’t you care that we are perishing?” they finally shout at him to wake him.
Jesus rebukes the wind and commands it to quiet down. “Peace! Be still,” he says, and it is a rebuke directed as much at the disciples as it is at the wind.
The disciples marvel at his power, asking, “Who is this, then, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
We are like the disciples. We want God to calm the wind and seas. We want to shout at God, “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you see we are perishing? Don’t you see so many of us — children, even! — have already perished? Wake up, God! Stop sleeping when we need you most!”
Like the disciples, we believe the power — the divine — is in the ability to control things. We assume, like the disciples, that the miracle is in Jesus rebuking and calming the storm.
But if you notice, Jesus only reluctantly uses his power. He doesn’t seem to want to do anything. He wants to keep sleeping! He goes so far as to rebuke his disciples for even asking for his help. He calls them faithless. This storm-calming power isn’t the kind of power Jesus came to demonstrate. Rather, it is the exact kind of power Jesus came in order to give up, to empty himself of. It is the same power he rejects when he refuses to throw himself from the pinnacle when he is tempted in the desert, the same power he turns down when he refuses to kneel before the Adversary, that same superficial power that controls earthly things.
As much as we might like, this isn’t a story, I don’t think, about Jesus’ ability to control the weather. He is bothered to do it and is bothered that his disciples even asked. This is a story, rather, about how little we believe God to be with us in the midst of an overwhelming storm. It’s about how, deep down, maybe we don’t really believe that a God-with-us is actually enough. It’s about how what we really want is a God who is in control. And it is an indictment of the disciples and of us.
I don’t really think the miracle in this story is about Jesus calming the storm and taking control. The miracle in this story is that Jesus with the disciples in the water-logged and weatherbeaten boat, experiencing the same terrible storm, the same terrible waves, the same terrible danger.
And that alone should have been enough.
God’s power isn’t in the control of creation or of people, but in being in covenant and relationship with them. It isn’t in imposing the divine will or insisting on its own way but in sojourning with us as we fumble around and make our way in the world. God’s power is not in miraculous interventions, pre-emptive strikes in the cosmic war against suffering and evil, but in inviting us to build a kingdom out of love, peace and justice with God. God’s power is not in the obliterating of what is bad in the world, but in empowering us to build something good in this world — even if that is something as small and life-changing as constructing storm shelters at every public school on the tornado-strewn plains.
And isn’t this true power? Instead of enforcing control and solutions onto the world, God’s power is revealed in coming alongside us, journeying with us, suffering with us, and even staying with us in the boat when the storms come.
The omnipotence of God isn’t about having all the power. That’s would turn God into an insecure narcissist. Rather, the omnipotence of God is in the sharing of power.



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