Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bargaining

Have you ever bargained with God? People who don't even believe in the existence of God have been known to suddenly enter a bargaining frenzy when faced with a critical situation like a terminal illness or the potential loss of a loved one. I wonder how many promises to turn up to church more often or live a better life or care more for that person are kept in the long run?

After 9/11 people in the USA flocked back to church - for a while. Over time, as things moved back to normal many of them dropped off again and church attendance resumed its former patterns. Of course there was a simultaneous outcry amongst those whose faith was tested by this tragedy - how could God do this to so many good Christian people?

I'm not sure that its fair to blame God for the suffering that occurs in our lives. However, if we let God off the hook here, can we really give credit when something good happens? Harold Kushner's book "When bad things happen to good people" is one of many that try to address these questions. I can't say that it gives perfect answers but its well worth a read.

5 comments:

David said...

I would refuse to bargain with a mass murderer. I would refuse to bargain with someone who refuses to use His power to alleviate suffering in the world.

If God existed, I would hate Him.

JDK said...

Actually that's pretty much the perspective that Harold Kushner's book tries to address (and every other Jewish theologian post WW2).

The problem of suffering (theodicy) is one of the reasons why we should ask not just 'is there a God?', but 'what kind of God are we talking about?'. Kushner (and others) rationalise that if God allows suffering then God cannot be either good or all-powerful.

Regards, JDK

David said...

Do not Christians have "the authenticating witness of the Holy Spirit" to provide certainty or near certainty in these matters?

Or does this witness not contain any assertions of fact or doctrine - only fuzzy feelings of the type that some get from visiting a psychic or tarrot card reader?

There is really no evidential-based scientific approach to theological matters, is there?

Theology seems to be the art of constructing (impressive) syntactically correct arrangements of words that only give the appearance of semantic content.

JDK said...

Theology is the endeavour to try and articulate meaning in the human experience of the sacred. If you don't see yourself as having experienced or identified anything of the sacred or divine in your life, then theology will make little sense.

Regards, JDK

David said...

Does theology really depend on personal experience in that way?
Why can't you convey that sense in words?

Are you confusing the feelings of awe, amazement, wonder or similar that can occur to anybody that thinks about life and the universe?

Are you saying theology is an illogical jump from such feelings to the conclusion that there are spirit beings behind phenomena? Isn't that a bit like primitive tribes thinking that the "spirit of the clouds" produces rain, or a magical being is responsible for making the sun rise each day?