Friday, June 21, 2013

The Paradox of Fate and an American Tragedy Part II

Sorry that it has taken a long time to get back.

Of course I agree with the commenters on the last post as I think many of us here are on the same page. One may ask, "So what's the big deal if we all agree on this?"  The deal is, we are the aberration. I challenge you to walk into any evangelical church (and I've done this) and use the word "luck" as, "Poor thing . . . they have had a lot of bad luck lately."  You will get looks of horror on the faces of people. "Luck? No . . . I serve a mighty God and He is in control of everything!"

I've told the story here before about a 4 year old toddler in a previous church, who's father accidentally backed over him in the riding lawnmower and decapitated him. We were all in a state of shock and grief when one of my fellow elders took the podium (three days after the accident) and proclaimed, "What are we so down about?  I serve the God of the universe and not one hair of Joey's head could have moved without God ordaining it. We must accept what God has done because He has a purpose that only He can understand!"  The whole church broke out in Amen's. Joey's parents stopped coming to church in the subsequent months. They divorced (blamed each other for the accident . . . she left the door unlatch . . . he wasn't looking where he was going).  I assume neither ever darkened the door of a church again.

I heard an interview with Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) and he said that he had to choose between a benevolent God or a omnipotent God as you can not have both. He said he preferred an benevolent one and had to re-think God in, what I would call, this-side-of-fate, terms.  That God didn't have control of fate.

But I think you can have it both ways.  A loving God, who is in control, but under who's watch nature (fallen nature) plays itself out along lines of cause and effect and probability. Bad things can happen to Good people as good things can happen to bad people without any superstitious connections to a higher purpose.

A good friend of mine is an example of another story. It is not so severe. I will summarize it.

Craig is an extremely nice guy, one of the nicest I've ever known. His wife had a dream of creating her own business. He supported her 100%.  He liquidated his retirement (he is about 52 years old) and invested in the business.  It completely failed within six months and he lost everything.  He had no hard feelings. She, on the surface, was not troubled . . .  with "Jesus is in control" thinking. But one morning she pulled up in front of the Church (where she was very active) and he could not get her out of the car. She started a downward spiral of anger directed at him (I think from her self-doubt and anger).  She walked out of his life after 25 years of marriage. She left the church, her children and her friends and moved into a lonely apartment in another city.

Then, out of the blue, Craig's employer announced that they were shutting down the US operations and he was being laid off.  At age 52 he was unemployed.  He gave up his house and began couch surfing.

So he went from a stable, happy family with a good job and good retirement to alone, broke and no job, all in about six months. And Craig had done NOTHING wrong.

If math is the language of nature, which it is, then fate follows probabilities. On the bell-curve there are those who are born into rich families and with IQs of 150.  They grow to be 6'4", dark, extremely handsome, state all stars in multiple sports without even trying hard. They live to 105 years old, having never had a major illness.  Because they are rich they spend their lives exploring caves in New Guinea and drinking wine in France. They write books for fun, and the books are accidentally discovered and become best sellers.  Some of these people are Christians, most are not.

On the other end are the Brendas. Or I think of the babies born with terminal cancer and live a few, very torturous months.

We do have to divorce God from fate and luck or we will have the tendency to re-invent Him as the weak but loving God or the strong but cruel one.


Headless Unicorn Guy said...

We do have to divorce God from fate and luck or we will have the tendency to re-invent Him as the weak but loving God or the strong but cruel one.

You lived in Egypt for a while, and have been to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Morocco. You know which one of these two paths Mohammed took. (The same one as Calvin. And both their fanboys took it further -- more Islamic than Mohammed and more Calvinist than Calvin.)

You put it this way a couple years ago:

"An Omnipotent God, but NOT a benevolent one."

H. Lee Angus said...

Well, the rabbi didn't exactly say that God is weak. He said God isn't omnipotent, which I suppose to an evangelical Christian sounds like saying He's weak.

Maybe we just don't know. I have cancer. Did God give me cancer? Or did He give me the friends who rallied around me and helped me through the worst of the surgery and chemo? Or did He give me both? Or neither?

I just plain don't know. Theology is beyond me, and it makes me crazy. But my actual experience of God, day to day in His presence, is a strong sense of a benevolent presence. I just have to go with that.

Anonymous said...

I am presently in a boat similar to Craig. My house burned down last September, my family and I have been bouncing around from apt. to apt. waiting for the house to be rebuilt. The week that we were supposed to move in my wife suddenly took all the money out of our joint account served me divorce papers and my oldest daughter (20 yrs old) who I thought we had a good relationship with now claims I said inappropriate things to her and flirted with her (none of this is true) my youngest daughter is now afraid to talk to me. I have been depressed and devastated. (I desire everyone's prayers)
i lean upon my God but I struggle with the "god is in control" stuff that I hear in church.

j. Michael Jones said...

Anonymous, it is a terrible thing when you own life suddenly falls into the whirlwind that drags you out of the box of thinking with Evangelism's God-directing all. Suddenly you are alone because you are pressured not to speak of failures and if you do, somehow they expect you to take ownership of your failures . . . or be quiet. I think Job experienced the same.

I've had two seasons in my life where almost everything went wrong that could go wrong. In both cases I know of very little I did wrong. So hang in there, we've been there.