Saturday, March 10, 2012

Shameless Foundations: Part 4-God's Position

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

So God must be pretty pissed off at us for screwing up right? If we listen to much of the tradition that is what we would gather. This tradition does not act out of mean intent. Rather out of a desire to build the glory of God. However, the tradition has taken as its model of glory an understanding that has arisen out of the chaos that we have become subjected to.

Inadvertently, and with the best of intentions, the tradition has portrayed the glory of God as a petulant seven-year-old: "I made this and it is mine, now you messed it up, so I am going to play mean now." As if God is so insecure that he would have a tantrum. As if the Creator of all worries about his rights.

God doesn't need our defense of his glory to feel good about himself.

Remember in Part 1 I mentioned the dangers of turning God into a set of principles and deriving an ideology from those principles? This is a case in point.

The traditional notion of God's glory and what it means to us comes out of a set of supposedly ultimate principles that are supposed to describe the concept of God. First, I see no good reason why God should either have to or even want to conform himself to a set of principles that we have set up as conditions for us to conceptualize him as God. Second, God can do what God wants to do. The Creator of all has no obligation to behave in ways that we set out for him.

So our only really legitimate course of action is to look at what God does to figure out the the way God behaves.

When we look at this we do not see a petulant child. We do not see a God who says, "You messed this up, screw you all."

When we disobeyed and ate from the tree that God had commanded us not to he didn't slam down in a bolt of lightening and beat the crap out of us. He talked to us. He took us seriously enough to ask us what was up (as if he didn't know) almost as though he actually did intend to work through and with us to get his plan accomplished.

He comes into the garden and asks, "Hey, where are you guys?" We were hiding and said so and said that we were hiding because we were ashamed that we were naked. We had not been ashamed before. God knows this and asks "Who told you that you were naked?" And goes on to observe, "Oh, you must have eaten from that tree, why would you do that?" Our response its to start passing the buck of blame. Our primordial understanding of the character of God lacked the revelation of God's care for and committed interest in our well being. I have always wondered, in light of the span of the later story what would have happened if we would have, instead of passing the blame, said, "I screwed up. I disobeyed you. I did what you told me not to do. I should not have done that."* However this is not what happened. We persisted in our resistance.

Now the unfortunate results of our disobedience are not at all out of proportion to that disobedience. God doesn't destroy us. God doesn't beat the ever-loving crap out of us. God didn't impale us and stick red hot pokers in our eyes. God had designed and commissioned us to carry out his plan of bringing this world to completion. To go out and subdue the chaotic and futile earth. We rejected the connection that would have enabled us to carry out that plan. God merely released us into the world to experience for ourselves the chaotic futility that he had designed us to overcome.

He releases us but he does not reject us. Rather than berating us for our stupid insistence on the evils of nakedness he gives us clothes. And he lets us die rather than live forever in our subjection to futility.

We find a similar sort of story with Cain and Abel. And then we go out and multiply and fail to subdue the the chaotic futility. Rather, we wholeheartedly contribute to it. God had made us to complete this world because he wanted it completed and he wanted to do it through us and we were tearing it apart. In frustration and regret God decides to start over. Take it back to before the garden and then decide whether to try again.

But no. He finds a way to keep this plan on track. There is at least one person who is willing to obey him. God says, "I can work with that. We can try to reset to the garden with someone who is willing to obey."

So, Noah and the Flood.

After the reset,  God reminds us that we created us for and recommissions us, but it is different this time, "Be fruitful and multiply; increase abundantly on the earth and multiply on it." There is no subduing. The breath is gone from us. We have not the power to carry out our full purpose. God is just hoping for obedience at this point, but with his finished earth final goal still fully in view he decides that if it gets this bad again he will figure out another way to get his plan done than flooding out the world.

What can we say about God?  He is committed to overcome adversity in order to get his plan accomplished. This plan is for the completion of the world. He created us as central to getting that plan done. He is committed to us and getting us back on track with the ultimate plan. Our place in that plan involves a radically tight bond between us and God. Our disobedience to God endangers that bond.

This is the conclusion of this series. In the next one we will look at how God interacts with us to finally accomplish his grand strategy and get the completed world filled with humans, fully alive and in radical union with him: his very presence in this world.

*This interaction points right back to Part 2. Nudity is not the point. God himself makes the conclusion: "Who told you were must have eaten from the tree, you have clearly come to your own conclusions as to what is good and what is evil and are obeying that in opposition to obeying me." (Obviously this is an extension of the text, but it is fully warranted and right as well.)  We had set up our own system of morality and were obeying that rather than God. We can obey a system of morality or we can obey God. Not both. This is important. Notice that we were naked before we gained the knowledge of good and evil. It was only when we gained that knowledge that we decided that nakedness was bad. Before we gained that knowledge all we had was "Yes, Father." The very notion of good and evil was meaningless. When the totality of our assessment of action is limited to "Yes, Father" the categories of good and evil have no content. In obeying a system of morality, a law, we are withholding obedience to God and giving it to another.

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