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August 19, 2008

Comments

Eric

Well Kevin, here we go. I’m tired and find myself at the end of a long day. So here are some of my initial thoughts. I thought it would be helpful to place my comments within the text of yours so that I could follow better your train of thought. I hope you don’t mind.

Kevin....
Do I believe in miracles? No. I do not believe in miracles, as defined by an act where God suspends natural law. I reject the idea of miracles, not just because there is no reasonable proof, but because the existence of miracles would contradict the image of God revealed by Jesus.

Eric...
Ok Kevin, we’re just going to have to agree that we’re not going to squabble over “proof” whatever that may be to both you and I. Science, while a gift of God and a useful tool to explain many phenomena, is not the supreme arbiter of truth. We may just have to agree to disagree here. If that makes me naive and a simpleton, then so be it. I think there is an arrogance that is birthed out of the Enlightenment and the age of reason that presumes that for anything to be understood it must be understood rationally. Also, not sure what you mean by “I reject the ideas of miracles….because the existence of miracles would contradict the image of God revealed by Jesus.” I guess to get at this I would need to understand the vantage point from which you understand Jesus. If, you accept the traditional and historic position of the catholic [read universal] church, then I would have to say Jesus being both God and man…well, miracle.

Kevin...
Jesus embodied compassion. He also revealed God to us through the ordinary everyday realities of life. Did extraordinary things seem to happen? Yes. Jesus made us see God where others saw no God. If natural law was suspended then "objectively" all would see the phenomenon.

Eric...
Again, “Jesus embodied compassion”? Yes, but in what sense to you mean? What was the motive behind that compassion? Niceness? Thoughtfulness? Empathy? I completely agree with the statement that Jesus “revealed God to us through the ordinary everyday realities of life” But I’m not sure I follow your next sentence: “did extraordinary things seem to happen.” Jesus, at least in my opinion isn’t an illusionist.

Kevin...
Does faith change things? Yes. Extraordinary change (ex: many forms of faith healings) do not require the suspending natural law. What about the miracles in the bible? Critical analysis of the biblical miracles show that they are not historically reliable, but are literary devises to explain Jesus.

Eric...
Here seems to be the real meat of the analysis. It seems that I can’t use any of the miracles in the Scriptures to suggest that they do in fact exist and happen from time to time because you say that they are merely literary devices. I am aware of the existence of the critical analysis and have studied it quite extensively myself, but I just haven’t been able to reach the conclusions reached by many of the authors. Do I take the Bible literally…well yes and no. There are plenty of places where metaphor, hyperbole, and mythic story are injected into the text. But loving God and neighbor for instance, or serving and caring for widows and orphans, doing justice loving mercy, walking humbly, leave little to debate or imagination. Take for example the Genesis account of creation. I believe it is absurd to try to use Genesis as a scientific document from which to argue against Darwinian evolution. Not to mention the fact that if Moses did indeed write the entire Torah, how could he have been present to witness the events of prehistory that he was instructed to record. Not by personal experience but by revelation and mythic narrative; stories told throughout the generations in an oral culture until it was one day written down.

Kevin...
Did the writers believe in the supernatural? Absolutely. Jesus probably did as well. He also believed many 1st Century ideas that we would not hold today.

Eric...
True, can’t really argue with that. But again, I think that we need to be careful about the arrogance of our “modern” view of things versus a premodern view of things. I think that history has shown pretty consistently that just because we’re smarter, more technologically advanced and industrialized doesn’t mean that humanity is any better off. The 20th century for example was one of the bloodiest on record. But, I’m sure one could argue against that as well.

Kevin...
How can Jesus reveal God (be God incarnate) and not know everything? Ask the writer of Luke (Luke 8:45). We added this requirement to our idea of divinity.

Eric...
Again, your comment leads me to believe that you reject the idea of Jesus as “God in the flesh.” I do, however, believe in the historic confessions of the Church and its Scriptures that Jesus was both God and man…i.e. Nicene Creed and Paul’s Christ Hymn in Philippians. Understanding this, from at least my point of view, I see no tension suggesting that Jesus’ knowledge, in the flesh, was somewhat limited or at the very least veiled during his earthly life and ministry. I believe in no way that the “baby” Jesus had a mind that was anything more that an infant mind subject to human development. As far as “knowing everything” I guess I would have to ask the question does foreknowledge equal causation. If you know something before hand, say that a hot stove will burn a small child’s hand, and that said child touches it after being warned that it’s hot, does that mean that you caused the burn? I think not.

Kevin...
How can we believe that God allows human and animal suffering, and created the organic diversity through the struggle for life (natural selection)? Humans may get eternal life, but what about animals? What about prehuman species?

Eric...
As far as who “gets in” if that’s what you’re asking. Well I am comfortable with leaving that arena open to God and simply committing my life to embodying the Kingdom of God in the way of Jesus in order that when people see my life, in all of it’s messiness, in some of the better moments, they might see Christ in me.

Kevin...
Our tradition tells us that God is revealed by what God does. Logically we can also understand God by what God doesn't do. If God can suspend natural law, and suffering exists, then God is not compassionate. God revealed in Jesus is compassionate; therefore God does not suspend natural law because God can't. How can there be something God cannot do? God cannot sin. God cannot do evil. God cannot lie. God cannot suspend natural law because that is the nature of God, and the universe God made.

Eric...
Ah the age-old question of omnipotence paradox: Can God make a rock that is too big for God to move? Can God change God’s mind? Can God never lie? Well the Scriptures imply that on certain occasions God might seem to at least some of the above. Titus suggests that God cannot lie when it comes to his promise of eternal life at least. Hebrews 6 seems to imply that when God, who is greater than we, makes an oath, in this context an Abrahamic one, God cannot lie, cannot renege on God’s promise. The idea of God limiting Godself seems completely reasonable to me; if for example God really does desire to be in relationship with human beings then God would in some way, at least marginally limit Godself to interact with finite creatures.

Kevin...
If by miracles you mean God revealed in our lives, then I believe in miracles. I believe in the power of love, beauty, compassion, truth, justice, etc...

Eric...
Amen my friend, sincerely amen!

Kevin...
And I believe that Jesus exemplified these for us. That is why I follow him. None of these "miracles" requires the suspension of natural law, nor the existence of a compassionless God. I hope you agree or have some suggestion on how to reconcile the two ideas (suffering and God's compassion)

Eric...
Hey Kevin, there many out there who can argue the theodicy question much better that I. Some great authors who have tackled these things N.T. Wright, William Abraham, Greg Boyd, Richard Swineburne just to name a few. For as many authors as there are on either side of the issue there are some great and helpful reads on both sides of the debate. All I will say is that I do believe that one can believe in a compassionate and loving God and believe and accept the presence of suffering in the world. Just to use a human flawed example: I would never want my own children to suffer, but there are some things that they will walk into, do themselves, and experience that as much as I would rather they not, they will experience. Does that make me a bad or not good or unloving parent? I don’t think so.

Let’s keep the conversation going. Thanks for the good stuff. I don’t get to do this often enough!

Peace my friend,

E

Eric

Wow, Kevin, let me ruminate on that a bit. You seemed to have solved the age old theological question of theodicy: why does suffering exist if God is good.

Seriously, good stuff here. I just want to chew before I respond.

Peace to you.

E

Kevin

Do I believe in miracles? No. I do not believe in miracles, as defined by an act where God suspends natural law. I reject the idea of miracles, not just because there is no reasonable proof, but because the existence of miracles would contradict the image of God revealed by Jesus.

Jesus embodied compassion. He also revealed God to us through the ordinary everyday realities of life. Did extraordinary things seem to happen? Yes. Jesus made us see God where others saw no God. If natural law was suspended then "objectively" all would see the phenomenon.

Does faith change things? Yes. Extraordinary change (ex: many forms of faith healings) do not require the suspending natural law.

What about the miracles in the bible? Critical analysis of the biblical miracles show that they are not historically reliable, but are literary devises to explain Jesus.

Did the writers believe in the supernatural? Absolutely. Jesus probably did as well. He also believed many 1st Century ideas that we would not hold today.

How can Jesus reveal God (be God incarnate) and not know everything? Ask the writer of Luke (Luke 8:45). We added this requirement to our idea of divinity.

How can we believe that God allows human and animal suffering, and created the organic diversity through the struggle for life (natural selection)? Humans may get eternal life, but what about animals? What about prehuman species?

Our tradition tells us that God is revealed by what God does. Logically we can also understand God by what God doesn't do. If God can suspend natural law, and suffering exists, then God is not compassionate.

God revealed in Jesus is compassionate; therefore God does not suspend natural law because God can't.

How can there be something God cannot do? God cannot sin. God cannot do evil. God cannot lie.

God cannot suspend natural law because that is the nature of God, and the universe God made.

If by miracles you mean God revealed in our lives, then I believe in miracles. I believe in the power of love, beauty, compassion, truth, justice, etc... And I believe that Jesus exemplified these for us. That is why I follow him. None of these "miracles" requires the suspension of natural law, nor the existence of a compassionless God.

I hope you agree or have some suggestion on how to reconcile the two ideas (sufferring and God's compassion)

Sincerely,

Kevin

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