October 20, 2017

Answers to “Can You Be Too God-Centered?” + What you can learn from reactions to a provocative question

question.gifI’d like to do two things in this post. Really, this should be two posts, but I’m lazy.

First, I want to give some tentative answers to the question raised on this blog and discussed throughout the blogosphere, “Can We Be Too God-Centered?” My answers will be brief, and I’ll unpack them a bit more in Monday’s topical discussion at Connection Gate. (8 p.m. IMonk room in the public/Christianity area.)

Secondly, I’d like to talk about the experience of asking theological questions in the blogosphere, and how the responses to those questions tell us about what’s going on in evangelicalism today.

Can we be too God centered?

1) The question itself is provocative. If you interpret it to mean something like, “Can my faith and confidence in God be too strong?” then of course not. But the context of the question in regard to theological answer-giving in the aftermath of the I-35 bridge tragedy pointed the purpose of the question toward our behavior, not our faith. In the sense of our behavior and some of the underlying thinking preceding our actions, yes, we can be too God-centered.

2) We can be too God-centered if we don’t take into account other aspects of the situation being discussed. A rape raises God-questions, but there is more to talk about in a rape than just God. These other factors are important, and it’s rude and shallow to not permit those factors to be discussed because God is the only allowable topic.

I see this frequently in the discussion of psychiatric medication. There are a variety of factors to be discussed, some of them medical. But many critics will only talk about the God-aspect of the issue, and that distorts the issue.

3) We can be too God-centered when we speak as if divine causation is the only factor at work. The question of divine causation is important. Other aspects of causation are also worthy of response. For example, the political culture that prevented the replacement of the bridge needs to be examined. This is not, primarily, a question of divine causation.

4) We can be too God-centered when we act as if theological questions are the only aspect of pastoral care that matters. Pastoral care is an important part of dealing with human beings. I am confronted daily with students who have suffered all kinds of losses and trauma. The God questions are part of my care for them, but in making a response to the whole person, I do not dwell excessively on divine causation in these situations. I want to encourage a response on several levels because people need care and love in many different ways.

5) We can be too God-centered if we insist that our theological answers determine the only legitimate questions.

6) We can be too God-centered if we are parading our own intelligence by dwelling on our theological answers.

7) We can be too God-centered if we redefine theologizing to be the highest form of love.

8) We can be too God-centered if we undermine the legitimacy of vocations and causes in the secular realm. (Call this the “We all should be Mullahs!” problem.)

9) We can be too God-centered if we seek to be justified by theology, and not by faith that works through love.

10) We can be too God-centered if we behave like the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan.

Now a few words about what we learn by the responses to questions.

“Is it possible that we can be too God-centered?” is a good question. It is the kind of question that occurs in real life and it is the kind of question that, at least when I was there, a student might raise in a college or seminary class. I tend to think of my blogging experience as similar to my seminary experience, sitting around talking after classes, readings and chapels. In my own ministry setting and classes, questions are valued.

I deal with hundreds of student questions every year. “Can we be too God-centered?” is typical of the kind of question I might get from a student in our community who is experiencing our attempts at having a God-centered ministry and life together.

The response to this question is revealing.

A. In some quarters, questions like this equal heresy and apostasy.

B. In these places, such questions are only asked by people “drifting” from the faith. Curiosity and inquiry are always seen as indicators of departing from the settled truth.

C. If something prompts the question, the questioner will be told they are ridiculing and criticizing whatever or whoever prompted the question. In other words, in some subcultures, the questioner is shamed for asking the question. I see this happen all the time with bright unbelievers asking questions to fundamentalists who don’t want to go where the question is going.

D. In a situation where there is a single dominant theological point of view and a single theological culture, the question may be seen as rebellion against authority. You aren’t one of “us” if you ask the question.

E. If such a question could not be asked in a school, seminary or church you attend, then there is a question in my own mind if education is valued over indoctrination. Questions are an essential part of education. See Socrates and Jesus for details. A basic value of freedom to question is essential to any healthy community.

F. If such a question could not be asked without the implication of heresy and the accusation of drifting from orthodoxy, I would suggest you are in an atmosphere where oppressive conformity is undermining the honest questions of the human journey.

G. “Disapproved questions” are part of the same kind of religious culture that dictates to you- at the cost of being ostracized and ridiculed- what books to read, what people to listen to, what art you can view and, ultimately, what to think and believe.

And I’m sure the responses to those observations will further illustrate what I’m saying. Listen, read and learn for yourselves.

Comments

  1. Black Angus says:

    Michael, you’re spot on. ‘God questions’ are often a good excuse to keep us on the comfortable side of the road, away from the suffering. It reminds me of John 9, when the disciples wanted to turn the man’s blindness into a theological debate. Jesus cut the chatter and actually helped the man.
    And I like how Jesus often welcomed questions. A question implies the asker is actually thinking! He didn’t toss Nicodemus out for asking dumb questions. Some teachers are so insecure they see questions, however genuine, as a threat to their authority.
    Re point E, when I started as a ministry student in a Bible College in Australia I was encouraged when the faculty kept saying ‘everyone’s allowed to be a heretic in first year.’ They wanted us to ask questions, to not be afraid of ridicule, and wrestle with the issues.

  2. The Pharisees always wanted to talk about their religion, their traditions, their perfection in the Law, their observance of the 613 Laws of Moses. Jesus’ response to them was almost always negative– Jesus was practical to the “nth” degree when it came to living the life. He was God-centered because He was God, but He didn’t let that fact ever obscure His humanity–“fully God–fully human.” These questions are excellent in that they make us think “out of the box.” As Black Angus said: “Jesus often welcomed questions”. There was no question too elementary or dumb as far as He was concerned. He was most critical of the people who had all the answers, not the ones with the questions. KEEP UP THE GOOD QUESTIONS!!

  3. dan macdonald says:

    Michael
    Thanks for a thoughtful response. To be God-centered does not seem to make much sense if it means making little of His images, namely, us. God made much of man, and became one, so it would seem to behoove us to make much of ourselves, biblically speaking.

  4. Sorry for all the typos in the first go-round.

    When disaster strikes, I am not interested in threading a tight-rope to explain how God can both cause/allow such a thing and not be bad for letting it happen. Rather (and yes this is something that NT Wright has taught me) I want to say “God cares” to those who have lost loved ones. I want to say that this is not the world God intended; where loved ones are riped away from us for seemingly random reasons. I want to hug someone and tell them that God weeps with them, and that I will weep with them too. And when the question does come, “Why did God let this happen?”, my answer is not “because God wanted it to”, rather, my answer is “because we are sinful and rebellious against the One who wants more than any other to heal us and bring an end to sorrow.”

    Thank you for making me think about my response, if not for your question, I would not have reflected.

  5. Thanks for the question and your insightful take on it. It seems as if the typical evangelical response to, “Can you be too God centered” would most often be a thoughtless – “oh, the more God centered the better.” You have, rightly in my view, taken that empty headed notion and provided provisional responses as to why it is inconceivable, both theologically and practically.

    Maybe God doesn’t desire that we be too too God centered. After all, on the narrative level, Genesis has it from God’s own lips – it is not good for man to be alone.

  6. Greg Long says:

    Michael, these are good questions, and I appreciate you asking them. However…

    Black Angus, you mentioned John 9. I think you missed the point of Jesus’ response! The disciples wanted to respond as Michael Awbrey does… “This can’t be what God intended. It must be either due to this man’s sin or his parents’ sin.”

    Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

    In other words, God sovereignly ordained that this man would be blind so that God would reveal Himself through him and receive the glory!

    Yes, pastorally, it is not always helpful to “throw” Rom. 8:28 at people. And we must not fail to recognize human responsibility. But understanding the truth that “God works all things according to the counsel of His will” should bring great comfort in the midst of suffering (see the book of Job)!

  7. Greg Long:

    I’ve never questioned whether the sovereign purposes of God to bring good out of evil and ultimately glorify his son is the bedrock of our hope, our pastoral care and our understanding of evil.

    What I questioned is whether centering our responses to, for example a bridge falling, on theological questions vs ordinary ones is really wise. Is it really wise to take the focus away from those causes and factors we CAN change and understand and put the focus solely on God?

    Imagine that my wife comes home from work and says she is being sexually harassed by a co-worker. I say “This is God at work. What is his purpose?” I’ve not served her well. If I believe God has a purpose in suffering, the best response is to deal with the causes and the problem: who is doing it? How do I report it? What changes can be made? Should we seek protection? etc.

    I’m astonished that some in the blogosphere have taken this question as an “attack” and a “cheap shot” toward Piper. Is Piper guilty of this? I never said he was, and I am sure he is not. But his rhetoric and its implications aren’t above a question.

    Thanks for your comment.

  8. Michael,

    Excellent observations I think. I agree with your thoughts on the subject – especially about the importance of asking questions. When I did my undergraduate degree, some of my professors were more interested in indoctrination than learning – I tended to take classes with profs who let me ask questions.

    I think that our ability to question is extremely important – and the blogosphere is a great way to actualize it. So, thanks for being willing to ask a question.

  9. Michael, the second “God” in the first line of your response to Greg Long should be “Good” I think …

    Good, provocative question, even if I can’t seem to connect to Connection Gate.

    Wolf

  10. Wolf….email me and describe where the problem is occurring.

  11. Michael – regularly read this blog – think the recent series on too God centred has been great – as I live in N Ireland I will not be able to hear the discussions tonight at 2000 – is it recorded anywhere?

    Thanks
    M

  12. Michael,

    Thank you for your response.

    It sounds like we will find more agreement than disagreement in this area. I’m sure you would agree this is not a matter of EITHER/OR but of BOTH/AND. It is not that EITHER God is sovereign OR man is responsible but rather BOTH God is sovereign AND man is responsible.

    For example, if I were the governor of Minnesota, as a Christian I would trust that God ordained this bridge to fall for His sovereign purposes and for His ultimate glory. But I would also begin a vigorous and thorough investigation of why the bridge fell and what can be done to prevent further bridge collapses.

    Or to use your example, if my wife came home and told me she was being harassed by someone at work, we would pray about it and ask God to give us grace and strength to deal with the situation. But we would also seek to deal with the issues you raised.

    I guess although I think the questions you raised are good ones, I’m not quite sure where you are coming from. Are you saying that you believe that Piper and some on the blogosphere ARE being too God-centered? Or are you cautioning people to avoid misinterpreting what they are saying so that they (the people reading and listening to Piper, et al) don’t blame God for evil and avoid human responsibility?

    So, I believe that BOTH theological questions AND ordinary ones are what we should be asking. And I thank you for reminding us of some of the ordinary ones.

  13. bookdragon says:

    Greg Long:

    “In other words, God sovereignly ordained that this man would be blind so that God would reveal Himself through him and receive the glory!”

    This statement really hit me wrong. I think if you leave off the “and receive the glory” the man’s blindness sounds almost a blessing, but add it in and God comes across as a total prat.

    I mean, a person who delibrately sets someone else up to suffer just so he can drop in later and be a hero saving them would be defined as real jerk, wouldn’t he? How on earth could describing God this way be seen as at all comforting to one suffering or in anyway glorifying God?

    To me, Jesus reply is more like ‘Stop assigning blame and instead reach out to help and heal. In that way God’s glory is manifest.’

  14. bookdragon,

    The “works of God” in v. 3 are the same as the “works of Him who sent me” in v. 4–the works Jesus came to earth to do. This man was born blind in God’s plan so that Jesus could heal him and bring glory to Himself (Jesus). This is exactly what happened, as the man testified, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (v. 33-34)

    Interestingly enough, we have a man and a boy in our church who are legally blind. We believe they are blind in God’s providence (in fact, John 9 is the boy’s parents’ favorite passage). However, that does not mean we simply say, “Well, that’s God’s plan for them; who are we to interfere?” No, we take responsibility to care for and help them. In fact, this Saturday a group of us from our church is going to the man’s house to help clean, mow, etc.

    Once again, we must believe in both God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

  15. Greg Long says:

    Oops! The above comment was from me as well…I forgot to add my last name.

  16. Bob Sacamento says:

    Greg,

    I guess although I think the questions you raised are good ones, I’m not quite sure where you are coming from. Are you saying that you believe that Piper and some on the blogosphere ARE being too God-centered? Or are you cautioning people to avoid misinterpreting what they are saying so that they (the people reading and listening to Piper, et al) don’t blame God for evil and avoid human responsibility?

    I can’t speak for (nor nearly as well as) Michael. But some of the things I think he is complaining about, and some that I know for sure really tick me off, are when people repsond to things like this with attitudes like:

    -Wow. Must have been alot of sinners on that bridge.
    -Wow. God must have called alot of saints home from that bridge.
    -Satan really worked in Minnesota today. We better pray really quick so we can bind him from all the other bridges in the country.
    -God revealed to me that the bridge collapsed because …

    And then some better sounding attitudes that still really tick me off, like:

    -Maybe God allowed your son to die on that bridge so that you can grow spiritually.
    -Maybe God allowed that bridge to collapse to remind us to be grateful for our lives.
    -Maybe God allowed your sister to die on that bridge because he wants you to consider where you will go when you die.

    And, your answer that God allowed it for His glory (I can’t bring myself to say “ordained”. Not a Calvinist.) dones not tick me off but I am not so sure that it is helpful. True in some sense certainly, but not helpful to someone in the midst of loss and grief. God was glorified in the blind man’s life in that Jesus healed him, not in that Jesus had the right theological explanation for his blindness. To the extent that we can, we need to start healing the folks in Minnesota, and that means thinking about the sorts of questions Michael has been directing us to.

    For what it’s worth, I have always read Jesus’s words re the blind man not as “educating” the disciples in their theological ignorance, but as an ironic (got to admit, he loved irony) way of saying, “He’s blind, you morons! Stop arguing over something you will never understand, and stop offending him, and open your own eyes to this opportunity to glorify God that we have staring us in the face here!”

  17. Heteroclite says:

    Another touche essay, iMonk! A. thru D. sum up my experience not only amongst 99% of Evangelicaldom (more from the pewsters than the pulpit), but also amongst the Reformed (both pewsters and pulpit).

    A person I dated long ago commented thus, “When you asked all those questions during that Bible Study [I was a 2-yr. old believer then], I really didn’t think you were a Christian.” My reply was, why in the world would I be asking those questions *EXCEPT* for my intense desire to “put all the jigsaw pieces together into the whole picture”?! Before I came to Christ, I couldn’t have cared less about how the Scripture/the Faith applied to life and to the Big Questions. My passion to better understand was intimately connected with my passion to follow Him more closely.

    BTW, I think your excellent question would arouse less antipathy/misconstruing in certain quarters (ahem) if it were phrased something like “Can we be too theologistic?”

  18. Black Angus says:

    Bob Sacramento,
    Thanks for that summary of unhelpful Christian responses. Sorry you had to hear them. I copped a few of them when my parents died in an accident. People came up to me and said, ‘Well at least this will help you be a better pastor.’ My initial thought was to sucker punch them. Given a choice I’d much rather be a slightly diminished pastor with a living Mum and Dad! I found any attempts to answer the ‘why’ questions for me hurt rather than healed. Thankfully the majority of Christians surrounded my family and loved and cared for us and shared our grief. The minority ‘God-centred’ ones were welcome to ask their questions out of earshot.

  19. Bob Sacamento says:

    Black Angus,

    People came up to me and said, ‘Well at least this will help you be a better pastor.’ My initial thought was to sucker punch them.

    Good grief! You should have gone ahead and done it! You could have told them, “Well, at least this will give you better reflexes.”

  20. Greg Long says:

    Bob and Black Angus,

    So what SHOULD we say to people in situations like yours?

    What questions do we find people in the Bible asking? What answers do they (the people in the Bible who are asking those questions)find most comforting?

  21. Black Angus says:

    Greg,
    Thanks for asking. Job wanted ‘why’ answers. God chose not to give them, even though he knew them. So I get frustrated when people try to give those answers because they can only guess, like me. Job’s friends remind me of the people who prompted Michael to begin this thread in the first place: theologising and blaming rather than helping. The best thing they did was stay quiet for seven days! My own experience was that I didn’t want answers; rather, I didn’t want to be alone in my grief.
    To answer Job’s distress, God reminded him of his character. The people who helped me the most did the same. They didn’t try and ‘make it better’ or try to explain. They grieved with those who grieved, prayed when I couldn’t, and remembered our grief beyond the funeral. God expressed his love, compassion and wisdom through his people.
    One thing I do now is write in my diary when someone dies and ring the family on the six-month and yearly anniversaries. Or on that person’s birthday, wedding anniversary, etc. I know I really benefitted when someone did that for me and showed they remember too.

  22. As someone who has walked through a lot of suffering over the last few years, I have often been frustrated by what seems to be an assumption that my trust in the sovereignty of God is on some sliding scale relative to the questions I’m asking. So, when I’m in agony and asking questions, people think I must not be trusting God. Whereas, inside of myself, acknowledging the agony and uncertainty for me, ends up being the context where I am choosing to trust the sovereignty of God, more than I ever have before. The questions outline the shape of what I’m having to hold with open hands before God’s sovereignty. As I’ve walked through this situation there has been less and less that I (or any of my very supportive friends) can do to protect me. In that place, then, I have clung desperately to what I believe and know about God.

    There certainly is a constant tension between what I (or anyone else) can and should be doing to make a difference in this world, and a deep seated acceptance that even if what we do doesn’t seem to make a difference, I can still trust God to be in control and rest in Him. Sometimes when I choose to trust and not fight to do anything to change my situation, it looks like to others I’m being fatalistic. Other times when I know I am to act, it has looked like I’m being almost suicidal. I suppose on either end, it has been a trust issue.

    The other thing is, if my life truly is God-centered, I don’t have to prove it to Him or anyone else by making sure I put His name or a defense of His character and sovereignty in every sentence. Because, if my life centers on Him and His Holy Spirit lives in me, that affects (even without having to keep pointing it out verbally) everything I do. That is a reality as an engineer when I’m trying to understand how the bridge collapsed. When I’m a doctor trying to eradicate malaria. When I’m a pastor comforting a hurting person. Whether I’m a genius at what I do or not, it matters that the doing it grows out of my trust and relationship with God.

    The other part is that no matter how driven I am in what I do (and I think personality affects that a lot), I can work extremely hard, but without the pressure to have to be God. Meaning, if I spend my whole life trying to eradicate malaria or improve bridge engineering and people still die, I can in my grief and the anguish of my questions still trust God’s sovereignty. Which brings me right back to, for me, at least, the anguishing questions do NOT reflect a heart that doesn’t trust, but a heart that does trust God enough that I’m able to ask Him the hard questions. And rest in the middle of the anguish, whether or not He gives me clear answers. I’m not trying to sound super spiritual with that. I literally mean “in the middle of the anguish”. For me the anguish often does not go away because I’m trusting or even because God gives me peace.

  23. Michael, I just can’t rid myself of the sense that hyperspiritualism (being “too God-centered”) is a function of an underlying crypto-Gnosticism, and by crypto I mean that the (albeit wellmeaning) folks are unaware of their penchant.

    Their perspective fails to grasp the implications of (a) God declaring matter “very good” in Genesis 1, and (b) His being so concerned about matter as to take on flesh and then work in that capacity for 33 years. IOW, even if they don’t technically subscribe to Gnostic tenets, it seems to me that they suffer from an acute case of practical dualism.

    It’s the same mentality that says the only legitimate vocation is some sort of missions/evangelistic work: if you’re a garbage man, or a carpenter, or a mom, or a custodian—or even a professor, a lawyer or a scientist—well, then you’re simply not “doing the LORD’s work” (irony: Luther attacked exactly *that* RCC fallacy in some of his writings). All of those occupations are lower on the crypto-Gnostics’ spiritual totem-pole than church or missions-related ones.

    And yes, one of the reasons I’m personally not keen on Piper overall (even though some of his sermon texts have been helpful) is precisely BECAUSE, broadly speaking, crypto-Gnosticism taints his whole emphasis (now, watch all the Piper-ciples savage me!).

  24. Eclexia wrote, “…I don’t have to prove it to Him or anyone else by making sure I put His name or a defense of His character and sovereignty in every sentence.”

    YES! Spot on! Hypersanctimoniousness (subset of hyperspirituality): this incessant obsession with having to PROVE how more-pure-n-pious-than-thou we are by babbling Christianese all the time. (Please pass the pink stuff.) Linguistic slavery that flows over into spiritual slavery (or perhaps the other way around). How does the meme of talking and thinking that way square with “My burden is light and my yoke is easy”? (And how does it differ from bordering on a cult mentality?)

  25. CAndiron says:

    Michael, I agree these are all aberrations, but
    I’d disagree with the term ‘too God centered’ for 7, 9, 10.
    These are like the situation in Mt 15:3-9 (Korban controversy), but Jesus never says they’re too centered on God, but rather they’re not centered enough, which causes them to replace God’s commandments with their own traditions, so these are actually a case of man-centeredness trying to sophistically pass itself off as God-centeredness.

    In other words, ‘too God-centered’ would refer to someone who desires to follow scripture, who is compassionate, but becomes misguided in practice(Todd Friel seems to occasionally fall into this, esp. 3 in his response to the bridge). We need to distinguish between cold hearted Pharisaical piety and misguided zeal.

  26. H. Lee Angus says:

    An excellent question, Michael, and I’ve really enjoyed the thoughtful responses to it, too.

    I tend to agree with CAndiron, above, that the problem is not “God-centeredness.” What CAndiron puts in theological terms, I’d put in psychological terms, though: I think that people who continually talk about God, particularly in times of (other people’s) pain, are *self*-centered. They are uncomfortable with the pain they are seeing, and they rush in with “God words” to make themselves feel better.

    I particularly agree with Black Angus — a cousin, ya think? 🙂 — when he says “People came up to me and said, ‘Well at least this will help you be a better pastor.’ My initial thought was to sucker punch them. Given a choice I’d much rather be a slightly diminished pastor with a living Mum and Dad!”

    I’d have to disagree with the poster who said that the correct response to a question like “Why did my child have to die?” is “Because we’re all sinners.” Theologically, that doesn’t seem sound to me — Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, and he died once and for all and healed us from our sins. We don’t have to keep dying to pay off the debt! And psycholocially, that’s one of the harshest things to say to a suffering paret of spouse or child. The honest response for most normal people, unless they’ve been terribly intimidated by the “Christianators,” would be, “So you’re saying my daughter was a horrible sinner who deserved to suffer and die? Well, #%$#@ you! And #%$#@ your God, too.”

    The people who say idiotic words like “Well, this tragedy will make you a better person, and besides, we’re all sinners and deserve to die,” are probably just clueless, not actually mean. They are trying to make themselves feel better by locating a silver lining in the misery.

    But we don’t have the right to do that. When a friend (or anyone) is suffering, that’s not the time to indulge our own uncomfortable feelings by reciting stuff that makes *us* feel better. It’s the time to just be there, and maybe water the plants and bring her or him a cup of coffee every once in awhile. It’s the time to *show* the love of Christ, not describe it.

    As another poster said above, the most helpful things Job’s friends did was to sit silent with him for days, just being there. It’s when they opened their mouths to “explain” his horrible losses that they got themselves in trouble.

  27. This whole problem may be an example of what happens when you define a debate in the wrong terms. The moment you start talking about being “God-centred” then of course there should be no limit to our God-centredness.

    But the question that then gets overlooked is, “What does ‘God-centred’ actually mean?

    It seems taken as read in some circles that “God-centred” means “Concerned with explanations and actions on the theological, spiritual or moral level”. But if the Reformers were right, and our earthly vocations are inherently valid activities for Christians to pursue, then this should make us reassess what “God-centred” actually means. Perhaps the truly “God-centred” response to the bridge tragedy is precisely to be concerned (whether as a citizen, politician, engineer or whatever) with mundane questions of bridge design and inspection regimes.

  28. Bob and Black Angus,

    So what SHOULD we say to people in situations like yours?
    — Greg Long

    That situation doesn’t come up much, but when it does I usually don’t say much. Except that “Anything I can think of saying to you is going to sound really stupid, so I’m not.”

  29. Greg Long says:

    Thank you to those who mentioned Job’s counselors. This is a good reminder to anyone who is called on to comfort those facing tragedy. But when WE face tragedy, let’s not forget Job’s conclusion and what brought him comfort:

    And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

    Then Job answered the LORD and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 40:1-6)

  30. korg20000bc says:

    Greg Long,

    I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make with your last post.

    Could you explain it?

  31. As an old ex-presbyterian Baptist, I’m interested in this discussion. I’d like to toss out a couple of my thoughts just for … well .. just for.

    One is that God is sovereign and can do whatever He chooses with what He’s created. And nothing He does can ever change what He’s told us about Himself. So if my wife is killed in an accident or whatever, it won’t change what God is and I hope it would not change my opinion.

    Second, at my age, I’ve stood with plenty of children, or parents, at the coffin of their parent or child. That’s sure not a time for theologizing. All I can ever do is to tell them I love them and God loves them too and will walk through the valley with them as He has promised.

    I think the phrase for “too God-centered” is actually “so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good”.

    I’ve lost both my parents now and lost a good friend (a man) to breast cancer last year. And my sweetheart bride of 48 years is a 4-time Breast cancer survivor, so we’ve walked through some valleys. The best thing I can ever tell anyone is that God has been faithful through it all, and can be for them, too.

    -30-

  32. Greg Long says:

    korg20000bc,

    Job faced more tragedy than any of us ever will. And yet he was able to remain “God-centered.” He blessed God both for giving and for taking away. And even though he had questions and doubts, in the end he trusted God’s sovereignty. He recognized God’s hand in his tragedy.

  33. Very thought-provoking stuff (my favourite blog entries). One thing I wanted to add this discussion came from the talk about God’s soveriegnty vs human responsibility.

    I think the best way to look at this is that, while remembering Romans 8:28, and realizing that God works everything out for good, we don’t exactly know *how* He’s going to do it. For all we know, it could be through our human response.

    To sum up, and make it relevant to this blog entry, the humanity of the situation should be our priority mainly because there’s almost no way we can be certain of how God’s going to use the situation for His good (there are usually much much too many factors that we don’t even know about), so we should deal with what we can *do* in the situation.

    Okay, so maybe I lack in summarizing skills…