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Monday, February 05, 2007

Our ADD Lord

Another news story that caught my attention recently was the sad tale of an Orthodox Jewish couple driving from Canada to New York City recently. (The relevance of my mention of their religion will be made clear soon.) Somewhere up in the stretch of NY state highway that passes through the Adirondacks, their car slid off the road. Unfortunately, they were in a dead zone for cell phones, and could not call for help. What's more, they were both injured, and could not get out of the car.

Over a matter of hours, the wife watched helplessly as her husband frozee to death. A bit later, the woman was moaning, "God, I can't take another minute." Just then, she heard a voice (as it turns out, of a state trooper) asking, "Are you people OK in there?" She was saved!

The paper quoted her son as saying, "That shows you the hand of God at work."

Now, I don't want to get into an argument about the existence of God here. What I do want to note is that the sort of God posited by the son's comment is really odd. If there is a Supreme Being who really takes actions like sending a rescuer in response to some individuals plea, then clearly he could have sent a rescuer hours earlier and saved the woman's husband, as well. Was this God, perhaps, distracted, maybe contemplating whether he could create an object so heavy he could not lift it, and then he suddenly stirred from his reverie and said, "Holy Schmokes! Those folks are in deep doo-doo"?

I think there are at least a couple of reasonable views theists might take towards an episode like the above, such as:
1) God created and set the world in motion, but does not interfere in its operation;
2) The ways of God are opaque to man; or
3) For some reason, these people's past actions led to their fates.

But I think it is total nonsense to attribute every outcome you like to "the hand of God" while absoving Him of any responsibility for the ones you don't like. One more example of that silly sort of thinking: I recall the congregation of a church in Alabama(?) that was hit by a tornado claiming that it was "a miracle" that none of them were killed when a tornado destroyed their church. OK, but then don't they have to blame God for hitting it with the tornado in the first place?

12 comments:

  1. "..."Holy Schmokes! Those folks are in deep doo-doo?"..."

    Schmokes? That is hilarious on so many levels. Kudos, it made my evening.

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  2. God is not easy to understand. If we agree that God is a seperate Being, who created us, gave us free will and has intervened in history, it still seems unclear how closely God intervenes in the World.

    I think it is of course ridiculous to attribute only the good things to God, and ignoring hurricanes and such, but I'm not convinced this is the popular view. When a disaster happens, usually people say "the hand of God works in mysterious ways", and when something good happens, "praise unto God". Think of the Christian view of grace, a sort of "randomness" is accounted for by our ignorance. Maybe God takes a sort hands of the wheels approach, but the significance of even the most apparently nonsensical and random events can have great meaning for some people, and if people can gain understanding from suffering (The Book of Job) and become more in tune with God's will, why can't someone do the same when God's will, for whatever reason, spared them certain death? Karl Barth said that when man gains faith, it is a gift from God; man does nothing to gain faith, faith is God knowing more of himself. I'm not convinced his theology is correct necessarily, but if this is correct, then any event that increases ones faith in God must involved God.

    More than anything she was probably just grateful that God's will unfolded in such a way that she was saved.

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  3. Might God have been busy fucking with Rex Grossman until the mother cried out?

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  4. Also, to play God's advocate for a moment, isn't it possible that his natural plan includes a tornado, but to sort of "tweak" the his divine plan a bit he spares the lives of the churchgoers by causing a quantum miracle? This way, the tornado can run as scheduled while he can protect the lives of his faithful. Plus, that church could have been a real eyesore.

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  5. John G: "Also, to play God's advocate for a moment..."--permit me the opinion that You're being disingenuous, if indeed the "G" in Your handle correctly stands for "God," as I suspect that it does.

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  6. Re: Job--I had a course from a brilliant (girl) teacher focusing on The Book of Job and particularly elucidating the semantic damage that successive mistranslations had done to it. When she had finished, I felt that I totally understood this most important part of God's word. How I wish that I could remember at least some part of it now.

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  7. Wabulon, you're permitted the opinion, but I assure you I'm not. My last name is the much more humble "Goes".

    Yes, brilliant girls(especially cute ones with large breasts) have that effect sometimes. The Book of Job is worth rereading, though, if you're inclined. It could stand on its own as literature.

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  8. So, John goes "Let there be light, and there was light."

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  9. (THIS IS FROM BOB, NOT GENE. BOB SAYS GOD HAS DISABLED HIS COMMENT ABILITY IN BLOGGER.)

    I completely understand Gene's point. (It reminds me of the comedian who talked about athletes always thinking God for the win. "You never hear them say, 'We were doing fine until Jesus made me fumble.'"

    On the other hand, I think you need to press this further. In the Jewish/Christian worldview, what's the point of prayer at all? It's certainly not to inform God of a situation or desire. So it must have more to do with the effect on the person doing the praying.

    By the same token, I would suggest that you stop focusing so much on this son's "silly" beliefs and instead look at his actions, i.e. why he chose to talk about that. He could've said, "I'll miss my dad" (or whatever) but he chose instead to praise God.

    A Bible-believing Christian (I don't want to speak for Jewish people) thinks God could have a plan where you get tortured to death. In fact, that's what He had in store for His own son. Yet the plan is still the best possible.

    So the point is, when that divine plan ever has anything involving earthly happiness, it's just a bonus, leading to an appropriate "Praise God!"

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  10. Deism: "Whatever is, is right." (A. Pope, I think.)

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  11. "By the same token, I would suggest that you stop focusing so much on this son's "silly" beliefs and instead look at his actions, i.e. why he chose to talk about that. He could've said, "I'll miss my dad" (or whatever) but he chose instead to praise God."

    Yeah, but he didn't choose to "praise God" for letting his mother watch for 10 hours while his father froze to death. Seems inconsistent to me.

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  12. Anonymous4:18 AM

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