RE: Coercion

From: Gough, Joshua <xzg3@cdc.gov>
Date: Mon Apr 19 2004 - 10:33:24 EDT

I think there is a difference between knowing God's priorities and being
able to look back at what is considered the record of God's past actions
in the Bible and ask the question of "must all miraculous intervention
be of this sort?" For example, making oil last longer than it should,
parting waters, transforming several pieces of food into thousands,
making many dead saints come back to life and be seen by many, turning
water directly into wine, healing illnesses from a distance, tossing
demonic spirits into swine. All of these things are clearly not the type
of thing one sees in everyday experience. At least, I have never seen
them and am aware of no documentary evidence of these things. I consider
these types of things dramatic. So, my question is thus is God's
intervention always dramatic? I think that based on the Bible this is a
valid question. Otherwise, we are left solely to investigate the world
within a framework of naturalism.

 

I believe we all approach our daily lives assuming naturalism. If we did
not, then the miraculous would not be miraculous. If people walked
around raising dead people from graves or healing people from a distance
or multiplying food, we would see these things everywhere, including on
TV during live telecasts at baseball games. We would no longer view
Barry Bonds as an exceptional home run hitter. So, for miracles to mean
anything, they must clearly defy naturalistic explanation. However, I am
not aware of any documentary evidence of miracles in our modern day and
age of video reproduction. I know of plenty fakes and charlatans, like
http://www.milkmiracle.com <http://www.milkmiracle.com/> .

 

I'm not a theologian or a philosopher, but when I read that Jesus cast
out demons from a man and transferred them into a herd of swine, I am
lead to some serious doubts about the literality of these events based
upon modern science. For example, we know that many people have
schizophrenic disorders which are caused by imbalances in the brain's
chemistry. The balance of neurotransmitters can be adjusted within
brains and may assuage the symptoms, though perhaps it may not cure it,
that is fine. If I am to believe that Satan and demons literally exist
rather than as a personification of evil and outworkings of the human
psyche then I must believe that supernatural spirits are unable to
combat chemicals. That is to say that modern medicine can modify the
brain's chemistry to such a degree that supernatural spirits no longer
can manifest their demonic attributes through the conduit host.

 

To state this another way, for demons and spirits to be real entities,
as the gospels portray Jesus as believing and interacting with, then I
must believe that the human brain must be in a certain state of chemical
constituency prior to which the demonic force cannot infiltrate the
brain to manifest satanically. So, if the brain must conform to certain
conditions before demonic activity can take place, then why go so far as
to insert the additional variable of satan and demons into the picture?

 

So, from my layman's perspective, it is more parsimonious to believe
that no such explanation is needed. Rather, it is more likely that such
beings do not exist except as part of the human psyche. But, since
Jesus is said to actually transfer them to other creatures, I must then
also therefore disbelieve the literality of the gospel in this account.
Perhaps the event was staged, perhaps it was fictional. I don't know,
but I don't feel in any way compelled to take it literally in light of
modern discoveries that provide a far more parsimonious answer.

 

There are many other non-Christian traditions that attest to miracles of
the same sort as Jesus and other bible miracle workers are said to have
done. Why must I disbelieve those in favor of Jesus?

 

And, from Howard's latest email:

 

 

The last part of your response was: "As for me, I believe God can and
does intervene when he wants, he does not always intervene when people
think he should, but he is nevertheless an attractive person."

Well, that may work for you, but it sure doesn't work for me. I wonder
how well it worked for the victims, family and friends of the 9/11
tragedy.

Howard Van Till

 

It works neither for me. Jesus said "God alone is good" or something
like that. For, when a child dies in a car accident, but his liver can
be used by another child waiting for a donor, this event is surely both
good and bad, not either/or. Surely, it is determined as such by the
perspective of the viewer, even if ordained supernaturally or from the
foundations of the universe's laying billions of years ago.

 

-Josh

 

 

Even if we knew God's objectives and priorities precisely, which we
don't, we still would not be able to help God make these decisions,
because we don't know enough about the world. In other words, we don't
know much. Consequently, we can't really hope to understand the reasons
for God's choices. I have confidence that God has honorable objectives
and knows enough to make good decisions that are in accord with his
objectives.

 

To judge God's actions in terms of the human emotions that may result
from some of his choices is to take an inverted perspective. It is
basically saying that God needs to do what we think is good and right
rather than what he thinks is good and right. Paul in Romans 9 says
[NIV], "...Who are you, man, to talk back to God? ...Does not the
potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery
for noble purposes and some for common use?" So Paul argues that we are
not qualified to judge God's decisions, even though we may on occasion
think them unfair. Jesus did not question God when the tower of Siloam
fell and killed 18 people who were no more deserving of such fate than
any other 18.

 

Does God need a new PR advisor? He's above PR. He wants the world's
love, and he goes out of his way to attract it, but he cannot change
into something other than what he is if the world still finds him
unacceptable. As for me, I believe God can and does intervene when he
wants, he does not always intervene when people think he should, but he
is nevertheless an attractive person.

 

Don

 
Received on Mon Apr 19 10:34:18 2004

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Apr 19 2004 - 10:34:19 EDT