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The Prerogative of God February 8, 2014

Posted by docgrubb in christianity, religion.
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This post could be subtitled, “Why God can/does/should do with us as He pleases, and why we ought not to grumble or complain about it, nor blaspheme.”  It will end up being a simple list.  It might contain not one original thought, the topic being a common one for millennia.  But it helps me to put it all together, and be so simplified.

Scripture may say in a few places, or in so many words, that men are liable to be condemned by their own speech.  So in putting down these words, and making them public, it may very well make my own case all the worse in the future if (and I might use ‘when’ instead of ‘if’) I violate or ignore the very premises within this list.  In other words, I give God “more rope to hang myself with”.  But that is nothing new for me to do.  I am reckless because, if God will be my judge (and prosecutor), He will also be my defense, so to speak (not to mention, became my substitute, the one who bore my sentence).   So I throw all before the court, hoping it might help some, without undue harm to myself. ]

 

Throughout history, Christians have been tempted not only to blame God for their woes (congenital or acquired, trivial or weighty, deserved or undeserved, natural or human-inflicted), but also to be angry with Him over them, and to harbor a grudge.  “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD.  Mal 3: 13.   Judaism and Christianity are most prone to this failing, and the reason is self-evident.  When you worship a god who is omnipotent, all-knowing, and utterly sovereign, then this god becomes responsible.   Ancient Greeks and Romans were not so tempted, nor are present day followers of polytheistic religions.  Various gods with human frailties, weaknesses, and limitations cannot be held accountable for circumstances not only beyond their control, but in all likelihood beyond their concern.  Indeed, it is these combined “omni-” attributes of the One True God which becomes the sand in the gears when trying to reconcile an all-loving God with His evil-containing universe (and, as contrarians point out, sometimes unnecessarily horrendous evil).  And it is why Evil is a capital “Problem” for Judeo-Christian faiths, yet less so in others; indeed, one religion deals with evil by considering it an “illusion”.   But even summarizing this biggest problem in Western theological philosophy is beyond the intent of this post.  My purpose is simply to provide a little ideological armament against the above said temptation.  So I will content myself with this list:

Why God may do with us as He pleases:

1)     The Creator right.    God made us, and we and every creature are His to do with and dispose of as He pleases.  A potter makes all manner of clay vessels, ignoble and noble, as the Bible says.  As creator, the potter can make a vase for the mantel, a bowl for the table, and a pot for the loo, and can consign any or all of them to the ash heap any time he chooses. *

2)     The Curse reason.     We are all fallen and subject to the Adamic Curse.  Therefore no comfort, no happiness, no meaningfulness is guaranteed.  Our First Father rebelled, and so have each of us independently.  Hence we have no claim upon God to do this or that. 

3)     The comparison rule.     Since we, as rebels and disobedient children of God, deserve nothing better than Hell itself, we ought then accept every earthly suffering not only with humility, but with thanksgiving.  For, as the Puritans said, “everything this side of Hell is mercy.”  Compared to what we deserve, earthly troubles are nothing.

4)     The Cross.     Since Christ condescended to the ignominious state of life on earth, and suffered absolute injustice on trial, on the road to Golgotha, and on the Cross itself, we, who actually deserve such things, ought to bear every real or perceived injustice with dispassion, and with submission to the divine will.

5)     The crucible rationale.     For the elect, all things are subservient to our salvation.  And by extension, all comfort is subservient to our sanctification.  We are refined only by suffering, and not by blessings.  This has been attested to by every generation who wielded a pen.  It is affirmed by every honest person who lives to sport grey hairs.  It is not difficult to find even the unbelieving witness who claims that their personal improvement occurred only during periods of struggle.   So also for the elect, God allows, even engineers, our hardships in order to perfect us spiritually. 

So that is my list.  In one form or another, we are taught these points (and there may be others) since childhood, when the reality of the world’s unfairness first dawns on us.  And it doesn’t take too many years of life for various propositions to enter our minds.  For instance, I suspect the following proposition is a common one.  Our lives are full of disappointments, inequalities, and insults of various sorts.  Yet, due to our confidence in God’s holy nature, we rightly think that He takes no pleasure in our misfortunes.  Therefore, we assign all the evil we experience to being either spiritual trials or testings.  Carried further, we conceive that if we could only “pass” these testings (endure them without sin), and pass enough of them “in a row”, then God would have no further need to test us, and our troubles would cease.  Certainly, I have entertained this proposition, and I am no closer to vouching for or denying its validity.   Whether there is such a diminution of woe among those who have achieved a “passing” degree of sanctification, I do not know.  However, I suspect there is not.  Nevertheless (whether there is less testing with success or not), within the Scriptures testing is certainly given in explanation for misfortune.  So much so that I probably ought to have made it the sixth point, perhaps calling it ‘the critique reason’.  For if the fifth point’s premise is refinement, surely testing is distinct from refining.  And if submission is merely called for in the first five points, submission is the actual end and acquittal of this point six.  I am reminded here of the Clerk’s Tale in Chaucer.  A peasant maiden is raised to be lady and wife to the ruling nobleman, and vows to submit to his will and pleasure.  By deceit the husband subjects his innocent wife to severe testing, to prove her worth.  The testing exceeds all sane bounds, yet she passes, and utters no upbraiding word to him.  Finally satisfied of her virtue and loyalty, the husband restores all that he had taken from her, and they finish life in heavenly bliss.  Though neither I nor the Clerk believes human imitation of the wife is feasible, yet I agree with his conclusion:  “This story…is not intended as a recommendation that wives should imitate Griselda…but that every one should in his degree strive to be patient under reverses and sharp strokes of fortune: for as a woman was so patient to a mortal man, how much more stedfastly should we endure the trials that God may please to inflict upon us.  He daily proves our constancy; and his government, however it may appear at the moment, ultimately tends to our advantage.”  Tales from Chaucer, Charles Cowden Clarke, translator.  I will let this lengthy footnote serve as my conclusion.

     *Let me elucidate this point without symbolism.  When God delivered the Law to Moses, He was very earnest that wrongly spilt innocent blood should not go unpunished within Israel.  “Murder” was one-tenth of the Decalogue.  Yet later, in the book of Job, we read how God permitted Satan to take the lives of Job’s several children.  In Job 19:7 the distraught Job said, “If I cry ‘Murder!’ no one answers;” [or ‘Violence!’, depending on one’s translation].  But he was accusing no particular person.  Job knew, probably more than we, that as Creator God gave life, and it was His prerogative to take it away.  Neither did God commit any crime when, at His command under the Flood, nearly the whole world perished.  Here is an imperfect analogy: if you spray-paint graffiti on the walls of your own house, or slash the tires of you own car, you commit no ‘vandalism’.   For you are free to do what you will with what is yours.  “The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world and those who dwell therein.”  And if He is free to end our lives, how much more is He free to visit us with sickness and injuries, setbacks and disappointments (and none of these arbitrarily, but for our own or another’s good)?  The above analogy is imperfect chiefly because, although it is no crime to ruin your own things, it could well be madness.  Yet we know God is not mad, nor malicious, capricious, nor even arbitrary.  So as a holy and loving God, He will allow or cause ruin only for some greater end.  And it is this-or-that end which we may not recognize during this mortal life, hence the requirement for faith.  Job suffered not for his own sanctification, I surmise, but for our instruction.  Likewise the blind man of John 9 suffered neither for testing nor as punishment, but for God’s glory.  But whatever the reasons, they all fall under the prerogative of God.

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