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Friday, June 14, 2013

God's Limits?

I have alluded to my belief that "things may not be the way that we think they should be" lately. I think this is especially true of our religious faith. No one is immune (and I certainly do not think I am) but some of us are probably worse about it than others. Much of this takes place at the level of assumptions. It is not even actively chosen much of the time. It is a function of our culture (religious and otherwise), our personality, and our family. Over time we do engage with the world and reflect on things, but "basic beliefs" can go a long way toward dictating our possibilities. For example, if you believe witches do not exist, you are probably going to have a different attitude about the Salem trials then you would if you thought they might exist or that they definitely exist. Some things are easier to prove than others.

One huge problem, as I see it, is assumptions create other assumptions. I was reading a discussion about the debates on God's control of everything. Some Calvinists and some non-Calvinists were engaged in a pretty heated back and forth. One person made the statement that if God was not in control of every single event that takes place then He was not worthy of the name God. Another person countered that if God was arbitrarily picking and choosing who was going to heaven and who was going to hell, then such a God was not worthy of worship. If we read those sentences and pause to think we can pick apart the assumptions about what God must be like (for these two people).

As I have said, I think the Calvinist position tends to minimize the incarnation. It does not take serious the kenosis (self emptying) of God in Jesus may be a key for understanding creation. An overemphasis on what God could do ignores what God has chosen to do. As I said another time, God could have made me 6'6" and atheletic. He didn't. It seems silly to talk about the theoretically possible world (which really could have been) and make decisions about myself based on that. In the end, it is best that I decide based on my 5'11" and non-athletic real self. Likewise, once God decided to make a world everything changed. The possible gave way to the actual. Each exisiting human being is an individual and each time and place is that time and place. Possibilities give way to actualities. What 'could have been' is interesting but a distraction. What matters is what is.

If it seems I am advocating a position which posits a 'lesser god' I think that is an illusion. In fact, I see the limits of God being a Self-imposed cost of Divine love. God made us and put us in time. If God enters time to be with us, then God must "empty Himself" of eternity in some sense. If God wants to interact with me, He has to do it in a history with a past, present and future. It is not because God is limited by time, but because I am. To be with me (or you) God must "suffer" the loss of Himself (in some sense). Jesus, God incarnate, is a revelation of Who God is. God is the one who suffers loss for our sake. The cross is not a unique, one time event, it is the perfection and focused expression of what God has done ever since the moment He said, "Let there be...." and it was.

My guess is the Calvinist will say I blaspheme. That is fine. Personally I find it bizarre that someone would make arguments to try and convince me that I do not have freedom and God totally controls everything. Arguments imply the freedom of intellect to reason and make choices, after all. My hope is, for others, this is an invitation to gratitude and worship. When we realize what God has done to be our God and our Father (and in Jesus our Brother, and in the Spirit our Life Breath) and how self gift is at the core of His loving interaction then perhaps it will inspire us to be more like Him.

If God has limits (in relation to creation), it is a limit embraced for love of us. And the cross is the image of what God is willing to endure for our sake in His limited state. I think starting with Jesus to understand God makes more sense than starting with my philosophical speculation about how God must be or should be. What about you?

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