What Kind of a God …?

… plants a poisonwood tree in the middle of the garden He designed for His children, right close to a tree that would give life forever?

… lets the Adversary persecute and torture a just man like Job?

… permits His very own, innocent Son to be stripped, whipped, beaten, spat upon, mocked, and hung by nails until dead?

I struggle with that. I struggle with all the hurricane and tsunami and terrorism questions: What kind of a God allows all that?

Tony Campolo says that the Hebrew Bible never calls God omnipotent; just “mighty.” Maybe not, but the Greek part of the Bible prays: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine …” That’s pretty powerful. As Han Solo says, “I can imagine a lot.”

I don’t know all the big words that cover the big concepts regarding God.

But I believe He’s a God who is Love. He sees life and death and suffering and temporality very differently than we do. He doesn’t see them as un-real; very much the opposite. (Else why would He spend His time in eternity wiping away tears, as He is pictured doing near the close of the Revelation?)

He sees death as part of His plan for life, and suffering as a reminder that sin and its consequences make giving up our lives in exchange for eternity with Him an attractive prospect.

He planned for choice as the opportunity to un-do everything done wrong since He shared that garden.

He understands that choice has no value if there are no real, oppositional alternatives to choose between.

He’s doing everything within the limitation of our free will – which is His will for us to have, and His idea in the first place – to persuade us to see every”thing” around us as temporary. Grass of the field. A flower that blooms but a day. A vapor that vanishes.

Yet eternally important. Because now is the time we choose. Now we choose the future; not just for ourselves and our children and their children on this little world. We choose forever in the next world.

We choose.

Choice is a great, great good. We take it for granted in our nation, where blood bought political freedom to choose. We take it for granted in our churches, where blood purchased freedom to choose between life with God or death without Him. We think of it too cheaply.

We think too little of what choice costs.

We think too little of the God who bought it for us.

We think we know better; that we can create a God in our own image and box Him in with our philosophical cleverness. We think we can answer the questions He thrusts at Job, in our enlightened scientific brilliance. We think we’ll be able to cheat Death somehow by our own craft.

With apologies to the Broadway musical of the 1970s – we think His arms are too short to box with us.

With apologies to J.B. Phillips – we accuse God of thinking that we are too small.

God forgive us.

Please keep on being so great that You let us ask the questions in our frustration and ignorance, even when we can’t understand all the answers; even if You gave them all to us.

God forgive us.

Please go on being patient with us until we can get over ourselves and into Your heart.

God forgive us.

Please always be the kind of God You are.

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4 thoughts on “What Kind of a God …?

  1. “<>He sees life and death and suffering and temporality very differently than we do.<>” I think this is so true. God looks at all of space time at once. He sees our beginning along with our end. In the grand, full picture that he sees, a hurricane, flood, disease, lost job, lost loved one or any other tragedy that is life altering for us is somewhat insignificant to Him. In that light, he’s not afraid to allow us to suffer, if it means we will grow and draw closer to Him.

  2. I’ll only disagree with the phrase “somewhat insignificant” … and I have to struggle for a way to express a replacement phrase. I believe God sees our losses as very significant – formative, even – and part of His “grand scheme” to win our hearts. He still wants us to look to Him, I believe, for even the most seemingly insignificant of our wants and needs; you’re quite right … in your apt words – “if it means we will grow and draw closer to Him.”And, incidentally, I don’t disagree with Tony Campolo’s conclusion about what our reaction should be to crisis and catastrophe – just his suggestion that God might be less than He is.

  3. I’ve always liked Campolo, but his last book (Speaking My Mind) was kind of a crazy, rant-infested mess. He made the statement that “God is NOT in control.” I think Open Theology has some good stuff to say to overly calvinistic folks…but taken too far it leaves us with a God that is not nearly as awesome as I have believed him to be, and not a trustworthy as I know him to be.

  4. Or perhaps he doesnt interfere at all since changing the life of one person effects the life of every person on earth.Any change made will have both positive effects on some and negative on others even if you do know what will happen in all the possible futures.Even then though his work would be further complicated by free will and our ability to make our own decisions even if they are contrary to his wishes.Hence why it is probably best that he doesnt interfere, mearly watch since the end result is the same in either case. Some people get hurt others healed.

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