Thursday, July 30, 2009
A Non-superstitious View of Bad Events.
My son Bryan and his wife Renee are expecting their first baby. They struggle financially as do most young couples. Bryan had a job that he truly loved. Then suddenly, without any warning, his job is ending . . . his company is on the verge of going under and had to lay everyone off.
The old, Evangelical Mike would have sought to find emotional opium through the thoughts that; 1) God did this for a reason, or 2) Something better is coming for sure. Unless I took the “Satan is behind it” approach, were I would have to blame Bryan to make sense about it, as if he had somehow disobeyed God and this was the consequence.
But in a Christian-materialist paradigm, where I believe that a good God created this wonderful physical (material) world and it has meaning in itself (cause and effect) then it is very liberating.
I can now know that this event was the result of common, earthly, things, like the economic down turn, the fact that certain scientific experiments didn’t work (according to the laws of biochemistry) and possibly by the fact that the CEO of a major customer company may have had some whim that he didn’t want their product. Anyway, there doesn’t have to be a meta-narrative behind every event—an angel or devil behind every bush.
Certainly you can learn from hardships, but in the old dualistic paradigm, we believed that God had a very specific lesson, which He was trying to teach, and we had a great obligation to find it . . . or we would miss out on His blessing. There is no such pressure in this new paradigm. There should also be the release of guilt for Bryan that he is not being punished by God, or the fear that God is not listening. But this is an imperfect world and crap really does happen . . . and often for no good reason.
Prayer does matter. While I don’t believe that God is working outside of his wonderful laws of nature at every turn (like many Evangelicals, especially those of a charismatic bent) do. Nor does God have to do miracles for me to love Him and trust Him. The fact that He does use the wonderful laws of nature, which He created, doesn’t cause me to think less of Him. Nor am I caught up in the psychological game of lying to myself and others about miracles that never really happened.
But prayer does matter, because scripture says it does. So I can pray for Bryan and Renee. God may do a miracle . . . or He may not. He may allow the workings of his laws to take their course. In this case His laws of social interactions, to play out where Bryan lands his own new job.
This understanding of the power of random cause and effect within God’s laws of nature also prevents that terrible cancer of the soul. This cancer begins as a quiet mutation of our cells of hope. When we are deeply disappointed by something . . . a parent dying, a child killed, a destructive hurricane or a job loss . . . that we tell ourselves, “This was of God.” Knowing (actually erroneously thinking) that God caused the event will cause that cancer to flourish eating up trust completely. We can pretend, on the surface that all is well with our souls, but the cancer has taken away a trust.
A great lesson that I learned from Phil Yancy’s (Disappointment with God) was that many times God throws up His hands and say, “I didn’t do it.” Not that He couldn’t! We can still love that God and trust Him in the face of cause and effect working themselves out, under the God-given laws of nature, but an imperfect (fallen) nature.
Posted by MJ at 7:20 PM