Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Does God Intervene?

12 Comments

I like much what Rev. Adam Hamilton has to say. Rather, I like his attitude about what he has to say.   He’s the founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.  He’s written a book entitled When Christians Get it Wrong. To hardliners and fundalogelicals he would most likely not be considered Christian.  Yet he believes the main tenets required of Christian faith and that is the deity of Christ and the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

He seems genuine, compassionate, and humble.  He doesn’t pretend to have all of the answers.  He and challenges Christians to be more loving, kinder, more gentle, less judgmental, more Christ-like.

In his sermon, When Bad things Happen, he deals with the problem of suffering by saying this:

“God is God and we are not. Why bad things happen is mostly mystery.”

And there it is.  From the pulpit. God’s ways are higher than our ways.  He goes on to say:

“I don’t think that God is manipulating events on earth just to make things go one way or another. God doesn’t intervene to make this athletic team win and the other team lose. God doesn’t often interfere when a life-threatening disease strikes someone we love. 

But…sometimes God does intervene, does answer prayer, does touch our hearts. Sometimes God moves us to say just the right thing at the right time, nudges us to reach out to a particular person who is going through rough times.”

Even this pastor doesn’t believe that an all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent god intervenes….most of the time.  What makes him draw the conclusion that a god intervenes at all?  The fact that he doesn’t understand why a seemingly miraculous event occurred? God of the gaps?

So at the same time he’s challenging trite Christian platitudes he offers up one of his own.  We don’t see miracles because a god doesn’t intervene but sometimes he does.  It’s a mystery.  Magic.  What does that mean?  And even what he offers up as a movement of a god in our lives isn’t miraculous.  It’s those little everyday occurrences that we write off as coincidence.  He says everything doesn’t happen for a reason, but then argues that, yes, it sort of does.  The bad stuff isn’t attributed to god, but when some tiny blessing happens it’s god’s movement.  It’s him prompting us to say just the right thing at just the right time.

If god gets no blame for the bad things that happen, and he mostly doesn’t intervene to stop them from happening, when they do stop, when tragedy is averted, why would god get the credit?  Why would it be automatically assumed that god did, in fact, intervene…just this once.

If it breaks some kind of physical, natural laws for a god to intervene on a regular basis would it not break those same physical, natural laws for him or her to intervene on a limited basis?  What makes a person make the leap from god doesn’t intervene to sometimes he does?  How does god decide when to do so?  It’s a mystery.

While I don’t agree with Rev. Hamilton’s conclusions, I do agree that if you want to believe in the Christian god you should be careful how to represent him.  Christians don’t do themselves any favors when they presume to have the answers to life’s questions yet the answers they provide are no more than that which fills a balloon that rises into the sky and floats away.  Meaningless.  Forgotten within moments.

As a Christian, if you want to represent god, just listen.  Offer condolences or sympathies, but don’t pretend that there’s a good reason, a lesson to be learned, when your god doesn’t intervene.  Unless your reason is he really isn’t there.

Rev. Hamilton gets it right when he says, “You can see why that sort of God, the God depicted by those who say, ‘everything happens for a reason,’ is the sort of God that none of us really want to worship, it’s the sort of God that wants bad things to happen to us so that we can learn something, so that we can get something out of it.  Who wants to worship a God like that?”

Indeed.

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12 thoughts on “Does God Intervene?

  1. To sum up, God doesn’t intervene…except when he does.

    The position that God never intervenes is much easier to defend. Point goes to deists and atheists.

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  2. I’m not surprised that Rev. Hamilton has the same philosophy as I had when I was a Christian, because we are/were both Methodists. Even today, it still rings to me as the best Christian position on God’s interaction with our lives. Yet, as you wisely point out, that only goes so far. It is a God of the gaps argument, and the gap is so large and fuzzy that you can easily go on believing, given that nothing bad is ever attributed to God. But if you think deeper, it does not seem credible at all.

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  3. Obviously “God” deosn’t always intervene. Seems to me the burden of proof is on those who believe “God” sometimes does. In that I think they have failed and dodged the question with talk about mystery. Perhaps a new way of thinking about “God” is in order. Certainly this problem is one of the reasons I gave up theism. The nature of things seem to me to reflect badly on the character of a personal God.

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    • I agree with you now. When I was deep in faith I’d have argued with you tooth and nail about that citing “proof” after “proof” that he sometimes does intervene. Looking back on it I see how futile that is. A batter with God’s average would have long ago been put out to pasture. If he’s such a personal God with this grand plan for individual lives how come things are so messed up even for those who are walking uprightly?

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  4. “Mystery” or “Mysterious ways” seems like God’s get of jail free card to me. I think it’s a clever dodge, thought truth be told, it was exactly what I used to believe when confronted with God’s lack of intervention.

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    • We had to comfort ourselves somehow. When you believe in a personal God it defies logic when he doesn’t show up. So you rationalize. Been there, done that.

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  5. Thought provoking. Christians like to say “don’t blame god…” but then want to thank him for the rare appearance; I’ve been guilty of that myself. Good post.

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    • While I was in the faith I used it to rationalize much the same way as these examples. “God has a reason for everything.” “It must be in his plan.” “We may never know the why’s but God makes no mistakes.”

      I couldn’t see the duplicity of thinking that way then.

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  6. God gives everyone the choice to make our own decision. Depending on which decision you choose the path you will take. For example a non smoker chooses to smoke and suffesrs lung cancer down the line. A child chooses not to drop out of high school and later graduates from College with a masters degree. We go through trial ans tribulations not just to learn form, but a test of faith. He would never put to much on us that we can bare, when it becomes to much to bare, we pray and lay our burdens down. He may not come when we want him but he will be there right on time. Sometimes it will be a lesson to learn. God send warnings and if you dont take heed you just may have to suffer the consequences of the choice you make. A offender gets 3 strikes in jail. 30, 60, 180, after the 3rd offense they can get anywhere from 3yrs to life in prison depending on the crime. God said he will never leave us nor forsake us. So whatever crime that is done, he will give us peace and understanding. My God My God!!

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