Suffering and Promises, Pt. 2

A couple days ago, I gave it to an atheist who was attempting to indict God because of the bible’s “inconsistent” stance on suffering.

Now, it’s the evangelicals’ turn.

First, disclosure: I consider myself, on some level, an evangelical… Let’s do it this way:

“I believe in God, the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified dead, and buried. On the third day He rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, from there he shall come to judge the quick and dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

Hope that proves my membership in the club (I think I got all the capital letters in the right places); if there’s been a secret handshake that’s been introduced in the past few years, I might be in trouble.

Okay. Now what I mean by “evangelical”, unfortunately, would be more accurately understood as “evangelicalism”: the blind subscription to the set of beliefs handed down by spiritual leaders and digested without examination. I’m a bit closer to Luther, I think, and would say that we (the whole church, not just the folks who collect paychecks) need to do a much better job of holding sermons, bible studies, and—in particular—Christian paraphernalia to the light of scripture.

There’s a lot of error out there.

So my particular beef, today, is with “God’s Promises for You”, or maybe in a less sensitive light, “Little lies we tell ourselves to avoid the more troubling aspects of God’s character.”

Let me ask you: what does God promise you? Think about that. Now, think about the bible. Think about scripture, this Word of God that is useful for instruction and transformation. Think about what God “promised” His people through their history.

I would assert that the list of God’s promises for us is startling short:

1. God promises that He will take care of himself.
2. God promises that there is somehow a plan.

Don’t tell me that God wants my best. I see in scripture that he is willing to allow Joseph to be imprisoned, Moses to be left out of the promise land, Jeremiah to be mocked, Israel to be exiled, Christ to be crucified and most (if not all) of the Twelve to be executed. God doesn’t want my best, he wants me to worship him, and that worship could (should?) be dangerous.

Don’t tell me that there is “a lesson that God wants me to teach me,” (and that, by extension, I’ll be a lot happier once I learn said lesson). I’ll tell you that God says in scripture that His ways are not my ways (and who’d want to worship a deity that you could understand?) and that, in fact, he owes me no explanation whatsoever. Whatever I receive is grace—unmerited favor.

Don’t tell me that God is “for me.” Better to say that God is for himself. In fact, he must be for himself. For him to be unduly concerned about my well being would place too much responsibility on me. I’d rather have the One who dwells in unapproachable light just take care of things, rather than worry about my happiness.

What, I can only identify two promises? (It’s certainly not enough to sell a book with.) Yeah, but those two promises mean a lot, and will cover a multitude of situations. I don’t believe He is malevolent, mean, or remote, I just think that our attempts to belittle and over-simplify him are errant and misleading. Profitable? Sure.


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