Monday, 1 August 2011

God made simple!

I worry about Marcus Borg's representation of God and it's not particularly because he suggests that the Bible is sometimes wrong. He appears to have built a perfectly sealed box that contains his neatly dovetailed theology of God's responsibilities and human rights. Where the biblical record stands outside of that box, he declares that it's wrong.

In the case of Saul, (1 Sam. 14) Borg suggests that since God, by reason of love, is incapable of wholesale extermination Himself, He could not have commanded Saul to slay the Amalekites, especially as it involved the slaughter of innocent babies. Yet, most of the Old Testament presents the God who exterminates individuals, whole societies and civilisations by various means, including war, famine and natural disasters. Even the reasons seem weak, e.g. punishing by death an attempt to steady a cart carrying the emblems of His presence among His people. Soldiers are burned to death for merely carrying out their orders to capture Elijah. The treacherous schemers who conspired to have Daniel executed, are not punished alone, but with their whole families. The prophets regularly make these events instructive by declaring that what is suffered is not a mere coincidence, but an act of retribution commanded by God.

Should we believe that major disasters involving the indiscriminate loss of life are beyond the purview of an omniscient God? Is it not within His power to devise an ingenious form of suffering (if the theology box allows for it) that magically spares innocent, promising young lives? Oh, and old, frail ones too? Certainly, if I had everything that God has at His disposal, I would...In fact, God should...and if not, He, or those who present Him otherwise are wrong.

The Old Testament writers grapple with uncomfortable ideas about God, including the fact that suffering is not just permitted, but ultimately executed by exclusive divine prerogative. God doesn't give us easy answers to His exercise of prerogative. Theology can't successfully merge God's declaration that He runs the entire universe with the reality that, in many cases, severe suffering, brutality and ruin affects innocent lives. Yet, the OT prophets do move us away from the capriciousness of heathen gods.

My mind can't be privy to most of God's reasoning. If I was, I'd be God and I would magically make everyone good and drop a really big book from the sky called 'God made simple' instead!

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