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God And Intervention?


Guest billmc
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Guest billmc

I thought I would post a few rambling thoughts on this subject, some notions that are sort of banging around in my head. This subject will most likely appeal to the theists in this community but, of course, everyone is welcome to join in.

For the sake of these ramblings, I’ll simply consider God to be the Creator or Source or First Cause of the universe and, without going too deeply into metaphysics (which I’m not qualified to do anyway) the Force or Energy that continues to sustain or hold it all together.

 

So the question that I’m considering is, does God intervene in the universe?

 

This question comes up from time to time here at PC and our recent thread on prayer also caused it to raise its perplexing head.

 

In my journey and explorations, I’ve seen a wide range of opinions on this topic. Some people believe that God constantly intervenes into our world or into human affairs either as answers to prayers or to affect his will if things are not going the way he wants them to. God is a meddler, even if he is a beneficent one. Other people believe that God started up the universe and then walked away. And still others believe that God used to intervene in ages past but that the “age of miracles” is over, that we now must live in the age of faith.

 

So here are my initial musings on this. I find it hard to believe that God is capricious, that he would respond to Jane but not to Dick. Or that God couldn’t heal Jane’s mother of cancer but that God helped Dick’s son make a touchdown. I find it difficult to believe that God, for whatever reason, can’t help starving or abused children, but that God is eager to help us find parking spots close to the store. This kind of theology just isn’t convincing to me. And yet I don’t find it convincing that God, as the Creator would make the universe and then go off to do other things, leaving us alone to do whatsoever we will.

 

So I’m going to be *VERY* presumptuous and “play God” here for a bit. If *I* were God, WWBD? Well, I wouldn’t be capricious and play favorites with humanity. I wouldn’t “zap” here but not “zap” there. People would think me unstable, unpredictable, even immoral. Nor would I “zap” at certain times in history and refuse to “zap” at other times. Again, people would think me inconsistent. On the other hand, if I cared about my creation, I wouldn’t walk away from it either. If I were in any sense a Father, I wouldn’t abandon my children. So how would I intervene?

 

To be honest, I’m not sure that I would. At least, not in the sense of the way that “intervention” is normally defined. Children who have parents who do everything for them, whose parents always bail them out, grow up dysfunctional. And children who have absentee parents grow up with relational problems also. So rather than intervening or abandoning my children, I would “influence” them. To me, this would be a good middle ground. They are not controlled, but neither are they abandoned.

 

Now, how would I influence them? To me, I think it would be best for me to “encode” myself into them, to put part of myself into them. This wouldn’t make them automatons, of course. I wouldn’t want robots. But it would enable them to be able to look deep inside themselves for the truth of who they are, how they should act, and how they should treat the rest of creation. To me, this seems the best way to influence them, from the inside, from the heart. After all, if I asserted all my power from the outside, they would feel controlled or not responsible for their own lives. They’d argue about whether they had free will or not, or maybe blame me for everything that happened or didn’t happen. Even worse, they would never grow up. And like any good parent, I would want them to grow up.

 

No doubt that some of them who looked deep inside and found the truth there might be considered to be prophets by others of my children. Or they might become jealous of each other and think I loved some of my children more than others. Children are, after all, children. But I would hope that the more mature of my children would, rather than dominate their siblings by claiming some kind of divine status, encourage their brothers and sisters to simply look deeper inside themselves, not only to find me there, but to discover who they truly are.

 

I think this is what I would do if I were God. Granted, this is not the typical understanding of “intervention.” This is not a manipulating of external reality. Instead, it is an influence of internal reality. It is not changing reality for the sake of the creatures, but encouraging the creatures to change for the sake of reality. To me, to ask if God intervenes is to imply that God is separate from God’s creation, to imply that God is not here and that we are, most of the time, alone. But to ask if God influences us, to me that implies the closeness of a parent/child relationship, the notion that we are not alone and that we can be and are guided by the One is both immanent and transcendent.

 

Any thoughts on this?

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Bill,

 

I hope you don't mind my quoting some of your post so i can systematically present my own personal view on the discussion.

 

 

So the question that I’m considering is, does God intervene in the universe?

 

It seems to me, technically yes, but perhaps not as some people would define God intervening because people see God differently. I like your definition in your OP.

 

 

In my journey and explorations, I’ve seen a wide range of opinions on this topic. Some people believe that God constantly intervenes into our world or into human affairs either as answers to prayers or to affect his will if things are not going the way he wants them to. God is a meddler, even if he is a beneficent one. Other people believe that God started up the universe and then walked away. And still others believe that God used to intervene in ages past but that the “age of miracles” is over, that we now must live in the age of faith.

 

I agree there are a wide range of opinions on the topic and obviously these are only four selected opinions in the quote and there are an abundance of variations and understandings. I think that some humans assume God is a person like us with a will like us and family plans. While some may believe God can or has walked away, that seems to me to be most ludicrous. Perhaps because from my experience i can't comprehend the possibility of God being separate in the sense i could exist without that presence. Also, i for one would testify that what people 'call' miracles or the supernatural still exists today in this moment. Of the past ages or biblical times, i can not testify of, but my experience shows me that time is not a limitation.

 

 

So here are my initial musings on this. I find it hard to believe that God is capricious, that he would respond to Jane but not to Dick. Or that God couldn’t heal Jane’s mother of cancer but that God helped Dick’s son make a touchdown. I find it difficult to believe that God, for whatever reason, can’t help starving or abused children, but that God is eager to help us find parking spots close to the store. This kind of theology just isn’t convincing to me. And yet I don’t find it convincing that God, as the Creator would make the universe and then go off to do other things, leaving us alone to do whatsoever we will.

 

I also find it hard to believe that God is capricious because capriciousness is more associated with a character trait of humans but i would not deny that as far as the predictability of capriciousness goes, God to us at many times seems unpredictable. To me it is never a question of what God can or can't do but rather what am i to do. Faith in God's ability to transform someone into a great football player, musician, golfer, whatever, or transform someone into a great contributor to the well being of others to me is no different except in application. It seems to me, we can do whatever we will that has been placed within our power to do and there seems to me to be only one power that enables us all yet i am persuaded that every action has consequences and reaping is related to sowing yet they remain a mystery to be seen by many.

 

 

So I’m going to be *VERY* presumptuous and “play God” here for a bit. If *I* were God, WWBD?

(snip for brevity)

Any thoughts on this?

 

Ditto your response. Perhaps It is our perception of God that is flawed.

In simple language if i were God, i wouldn't change a thing

 

Just my musings...

Joseph

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Guest billmc

Perhaps It is our perception of God that is flawed.

 

Yes, Joseph, you said in 10 words what took me 500!

 

In simple language if i were God, i wouldn't change a thing.

 

Now, THAT'S interesting!

 

Granted, I used a lot of anthropomorphism in my analogy, but staying with that for a moment -- maybe if things were "different", we simply wouldn't grow up as humans?

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Guest billmc

BTW, Joseph, I realize that all “God-talk” is metaphor. I see God as the Creator, as the First Cause, as the Source of all that is, as the Sustainer of life. Because I am human (except for first thing on Monday mornings), I can’t help but speak of God in human terms. So I am, imo, forced to resort to the best human metaphors that we have. But I think God is beyond our concepts, language, and metaphors. It’s just that I don’t know how to linguistically get there. I’m forced to think about and describe what I don’t know using only what I do know – kinda like trying to draw a rainbow with only two crayons available.

 

So I’m not at all suggesting that I have God all figured out. Far from it. I’m just musing about how the word “intervene” doesn’t really describe the way that I’ve experienced God. God has been more of an “influence” in my life, more of an invitation, more of a drawing pull. And I’m simply mulling over ideas as to how to express that.

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Understood Bill,

Please excuse my style. I was quite impressed with your entire post and languaging. Please do not allow my oversimplification and own musings to subtract from anything that you said. Everyone is different in their needs of expression and reception. Perhaps mine may be of benefit to some or even myself. Or perhaps not. I personally would place my bet that your OP did a much better job of languaging the discussion and presenting more thought provoking ideas than mine.

 

Sincerely,

Joseph

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Guest billmc

Please excuse my style.

 

Please, Joseph, there is nothing to excuse. In fact, your response has helped me. More than you know. :)

 

As you are probably aware, my wife and I are sitting down with our daughter, 15, and our son, 12, and discussing religion, faith, and sharing our own journeys with them. They have been asking questions and that seems, to me, to be an open door to sharing -- but at their level. It is also an excellent opportunity to listen to what they think about these things.

 

In doing this, one of the things I really wanted to accomplish was to stress the similarities between my faith/beliefs and those of my wife (for those who don't know, Southern Baptist). Though I now interpret Christianity in a different way than I did when I was younger, it would not help or be beneficial for me to point out all the things I think are wrong about the way I used to believe. I would rather reinforce the good things in my past experiences (and there were many) while, at the same time, offering them alternative interpretations and leaving open questions for them to explore what they think and how they themselves want to believe.

 

But...and I'm sure you know this...kids ask the darndest things. :o

 

So when my kids ask me why God doesn't do such and such in answer to prayer or why God doesn't do things now the same way he did them in the Bible, I try and look for "bridge-language" that helps me to address their questions in a postive way. Rather than simply responding, "I don't believe God acts that way", I'd rather put a positive spin on it and talk about how I believe God does act. They don't want a theological treatise on the subject, just an answer that, for the time being, makes sense and, yes, satisfies their curiousity, answers their question. At least for now.

 

I am honest with them and tell them I have few answers. They need to explore on their own. But we all share a rich heritage in the Christian religion and that particular language is familiar to us. So I am seeking metaphors and "bridge-language" to get beyond or around much of the "church language" that sometimes shuts down questions and seekers i.e. "God is a mystery" or "God's ways are not our ways." These tenets may be true, but they feel like answers that avoid the questions. To me, metaphors and word-pictures work much better for kids than exegesis and the historical-critical method of Bible study. :D So I am seeking the best metaphors and word-pictures that I can find to discuss this subject of God's interaction with the universe with them. Therefore, all input is welcome and appreciated.

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I think the question “Does God intervene” may have explosive answers. I feel it is one of those areas about which people have very strong opinions.

 

I personally do not believe in “the cosmic bellhop who sits at the end of a cosmic telephone exchange dealing with billions of calls every minute and whom the caller hopes will alter the course of events to suit the caller.” (Michael Morwood). I cannot believe in a God who could have stopped 9/11 or the holocaust but chose not to. That is my opinion.

 

I also don't think that God used to intervene and doesn't do so any more, or that God is so distant from us that God just doesn't care. I love the analogy in the movie “Love Comes Softly”. The man tells his (reluctant and unbelieving) second wife that God is like a father with his children. If the man is walking with his daughter, and his daughter falls and hurts herself, he would be there with her to comfort her and love her. He wouldn't constantly hold his daughter and never let anything happen to her, because then she would not grow into the woman she could become.

 

The term “intervention” implies someone acting from outside a situation. Imo, God doesn't act from outside, but rather from within – within situations, within individuals, within communities. I think God is here, not having to come between us and the world, or force an event to happen (or not to happen). God's love is incarnated in each of us, IMO, and it is up to us to express that love to others.

 

I am not saying that prayers are not answered. On that issue, I am agnostic. I want it to be true, but I just don't know. I know that many people claim answered prayers, and I will admit it is a wonderful mystery.

 

Since I feel so strongly about this question, I can imagine I'm going to be particularly unpopular in this thread.

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Yvonne said....

Since I feel so strongly about this question, I can imagine I'm going to be particularly unpopular in this thread.

 

If this becomes the case perhaps it will be us who are in need of prayer. :) so perhaps you can pray for us in advance. :D

 

On the serious side... You said

The term “intervention” implies someone acting from outside a situation. Imo, God doesn't act from outside, but rather from within – within situations, within individuals, within communities. I think God is here, not having to come between us and the world, or force an event to happen (or not to happen). God's love is incarnated in each of us, IMO, and it is up to us to express that love to others.

 

I most certainly agree that the word intervention does imply acting from outside or coming between, I also believe that there is a world , a soul and God and in reality the three are One. So, speaking from that reality, it seems to me, there can be no intervention but there can also not be an outside or within. However, since we are speaking concerning the three as three, from the standpoint of a self that is a physical ephemeral phenomena whether considered real or a manifestation of mind along with the world, and God on the other hand considered eternal, permanent and formless, it does not seem to me unreasonable to consider God in languaging as intervening from both within and outside the individual in this world. Also i as you do not think God FORCES anything to happen. Only humans try to do that.

 

Having said all that, allow me to change my view and speak from a different vantage point. God does not and cannot intervene because there is no subject or object for the verb " intervene ". There is only existence. Now lets see who is going to be unpopular in this thread. :D i vote me. :P

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One of the seeming paradoxes that the more literal minded have difficulty understanding about ones thinking and expressingsuch as we do here, is how it can seem we are all over the place, all expressing differing and even conflicting thoughts and ideas, while at the same time all nodding and agreeing with each other. As someone noted elswhere, ask 10 PC Christians a question about somehing and you'll get at least 20 different answers...

 

I sometimes have thought of our experience of our existence and comprehending of the greater whole we are a part of, as something like minnows in a puddle. There are minnow species in which their entire life cycle is focused around hatching following a rainfall, maturing and reproducing in a race against time, before the puddle dries up and dissappears again. The eggs produced can lay dry and dormant in a desert for years, maybe even centuries or millenium (like do brine shrimp eggs ), just wating for enough rainfall to create a puddle that will exist only briefly. In this, the puddle is the metaphor for each of our span of existence in this life.

The minnows in the puddle, even if granted some intellegence similar to ours, could not possibly comprehend the great cosmos in which their little puddle exsists. They would be physically limted, just as are we, to the scope of what they might experience and observe from within their brief existence in their little puddle world.

 

Jenell

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