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Here are a few worthwhile reads from this past week. Enjoy!

“Spoiler Alert: The Harry Potter Craze Suggests We’re Not Telling the Christian Story Right” in Christianity Today

“I’d Like to Dedicate This Next Song to Jesus: The Freaky Origins of Christian Rock” on Slate.com (the title is misleading … this is a review of the soundtrack just released for Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher that has some really, really interesting historical facts about how music impacted the Jesus Movement in the 1970s)

“Worship: A Moment? or a Way of Life” in NewWineskins — good reminder here of what we should already know.

This post by John Piper got quite a bit of blog press this week. In it, he tells the story of putting his daughter to bed on Wednesday night after the tragic Minnesota bridge collapse. Here’s a bit of what he tells her when she asks why God didn’t stop the bridge from falling:

“…you and I know that God did not do anything wrong. God always does what is wise. And you and I know that God could have held up that bridge with one hand.” Talitha said, “With his pinky.” “Yes,” I said, “with his pinky. Which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge, knowing all that would happen, and he is infinitely wise in all that he wills.”

HT to Bill Kinnon, who writes that Piper’s statement is case-in-point why he will never be truly Reformed. I have to agree, and I think there’s something very wrong when we begin to pin (with certainty) freak catastrophes like this on the “will of God.”

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15 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve been wanting to hear the Frisbee soundtrack. I saw that documentary and the music rocks.

    PS – I highly recommend the documentary. See it.

    Reply

  2. “Which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge,”

    grumble grumble.

    Reply

  3. “…which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge…”

    We use to tell you and Mitch that if there was ever a disagreement between you and one of your teachers, we would always initially take the side of your teacher. We took this position as parents knowing that teachers know a whole lot more than the students about each particular situation. So, believing that God never does anything wrong and that “God always does what is wise.” when bridges fail or hurricanes destroy, I trust God completely. There’s really no in-between. Either you believe God is all loving and all wise or you don’t.

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  4. Posted by Steve on August 5, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Trusting God completely through a trial is a non-negotiable. If we believe anything as Christians, we believe that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love him.”

    That is quite different, I believe, from the belief that Piper and many, many people have that no matter what kind of evil happens in the world — famine, genocide, bridges collapsing, terrorism, economic troubles, death, etc. — God both knew about it and either willed it or willfully didn’t stop it. I have a problem with this theology, personally.

    I remember being in Randy Harris’ class the day after 9/11 and discussing the expected question of God’s role in what had happened in NYC. I remember very clearly him telling us that he had no reason to believe God willed for that horrific event to happen, but that it was the result of “evil / stupid people.” It’s unfair, then, to blame God for the actions of evil men. My theology doesn’t really allow for that.

    Instead, I think bridges collapsing, genocide, etc are a result of evil in a world that is “being renewed day by day.” A theology of creation suggests that God isn’t smiting the world little by little or even causing evil to happen, but is instead working to restore the Earth and put it right. That is why I have a hard time pinning blame — or even suggesting God knew about and didn’t stop — something as freakish and destructive as last week’s incident.

    Hard stuff to swallow for some, I know, because of that whole “omnicience” thing we’ve been told. But smarter men than I have written much more intelligently about why that may not be completely true.

    Reply

  5. i tend to find myself in the camp with your dad on this. when there is something that happens and i can’t get my mind or heart around it, i assume that God is more than i am.

    we make the same mistake at so many levels.

    as teens, when dad does or does not do something we think he should or shouldn’t, we assume he’s stupid or unjust or unfair or mean… seldom that he has more information than we do or more experience or more wisdom than we do.

    as citizens, when the president does or does not do something we think he should or shouldn’t do, we assume he’s an idiot or unethical or on the take… seldom that he has more information or more experience or more wisdom than we do.

    as children of God, when anything happens in the world that we don’t understand, that seems unjust or unfair or mean… there have always been those who assume that God is either unjust or unfair or mean…

    or insufficient or incapable or impotent…

    could it be that he has more information or more experience or more wisdom than we.

    theologies that always look for a warm fuzzy jolly buddy in God just make me tired…

    he’s not tame and he’s definitely not safe, but he’s good

    JMO

    peace

    Reply

  6. Posted by Steve on August 5, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Miller – I agree! And I’m not looking for a warm, fuzzy, jolly buddy in God. I’m really not.

    I’ll say more later about this … gonna go have some sabbath with my wife. =)

    peace.

    Reply

  7. Posted by Connor on August 5, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    I think this discussion culminates in one issue. What in the world do we mean by “God is good?”

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  8. Connor, the first thing that comes to mind with that question is: If one acknowledges that God IS (and your question implies a belief in God), then the very fact that he hasn’t utterly destroyed the world by now implies positive attributes about him, i.e. he is patient, loving, kind, wants the best for his creation, true to his word, willing to bless even the worst of us, etc.

    For those who have walked with him for any period of time, the answer is found in how he has treated us even when we were at our worst. I have no other way to explain the phenominal experiences I’ve had with God than that he is good. That doesn’t mean that things have always worked out like I would want, but in hindsight, I know I have been watched over by a good God.

    What has been your experience in regard to God?

    Reply

  9. steve,

    i know you’re not looking for a warm fuzzy! i know you that well for sure…

    however, the wrong perspective on a good God can lead (and has in some circles has led) to the belief in an exclusively warm and fuzzy God…

    thats all i was sayin

    peace

    Reply

  10. It’s hard for me to believe that a loving God would kill 8 people, and scar countless more by destroying a bridge to accomplish his will. I just can’t believe that the a loving God would do that. If he does work in that way than I also have to believe that God partnered with the Nazis to kill Jews.

    I do believe that God is mysterious and that we can’t understand all the things he does and doesn’t do. But I do not believe that that mystery allows him to do evil things.

    I agree Steve, the whole “omniscience” thing needs to be thought about again. As usual you post great questions.

    Reply

  11. Posted by Connor on August 5, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    While I like the general idea being thrown about that God neither caused and might not have known about the bridge collapsing beforehand I still think very tough questions are brought about. Sure, they are the same old theodicy questions that have always been and forever will be, but thats what the issue is here.

    Ignoring such freak accidents such as a bridge collapsing, if God really does act in a physical way in our world then one has to come to terms with things such as the Holocaust. Maybe God didn’t see it coming, but it was going on for awhile so whats up with that?

    Also, I don’t see much problem with God actually causing the bridge to collapse if you take stories of marauding Israelites killing whole nations at God’s command or God smiting Ananias And Sapphira to be true.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Steve on August 5, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    Great discussion, folks. I’ve been thinking about this some today.

    This is pretty sloppy, but I think the continuum in conversations like these usually looks something like this:

    Deist< ---------------------------->Calvinist

    Deist: God set the world in motion and checked out. We determine everything that happens in the world. (roughly put)

    Calvinist: Everything that happens, good and bad, is pre-ordained by God. God determines everything that happens in the world. (roughly put)

    These two poles are too absolute, too black-and-white. Too certain. Both characterize God in unfair ways that are incompatible with his character, and neither allow for the mystery that surrounds the ways of God. What we need is another option. A “middle ground,” if you will. Something besides our current two options:

    a) “God willed that the bridge collapse.”
    b) “God had nothing to do with and could not have stopped the bridge from collapsing.”

    Personally, I like this for a middle ground, a compromise, that we can all agree is true: “In all things — good and bad — God is God and works for the good of those who love him. And in the very end, He wins.”

    Reply

  13. Posted by Steve on August 6, 2007 at 7:05 am

    Well, here you have it. Fred puts it nicely again. Quite appropriate.

    Reply

  14. Some adhere to, what I believe, is titled open theology. Basically saying that God choses not to know what choices people are going to make.

    Here’s a quote from Dr. John Sanders

    That God changes in some respects implies that God is temporal, working with us in time. God, at least since Creation, experiences duration. God is everlasting through time rather than timelessly eternal… We believe that God could have known every event of the future had God decided to create a fully determined universe. However, in our view, God decided to create beings with interdeterministic freedom which implies that God chose to create a universe in which the future is not entirely knowable, even for God. For many open theists, the “future” is not a present reality — it does not exist — and God knows reality as it is

    I definitely lean that direction. Cause if God knows and has predetermined every event that is going to occur, the world is merely a figment of his imagination.

    Reply

  15. Posted by Steve on August 6, 2007 at 8:43 am

    A similar conversation has ensued over at Achievable Ends, and Bill Kinnon has written some thoughtful stuff about how Jesus can be “sovereign yet not a Robot Master.” Good stuff.

    Link

    Reply

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