Friday, June 18, 2010

Empericism vs. emotion.

A well-known Christian recently announced she was pregnant. She also explained how surprising that was, given that she and her husband were told it was unlikely they could ever conceive naturally. The reason why they have their first two children is because of fertility treatments.

I think it's thrilling that someone who wants kids and is told they're pretty much incapable of doing so finds themselves pregnant through no scientific intervention. But that was quickly overshadowed by my, for lack of a better word, "logical" nature. I'd like to think that if I ever engaged with this person face-to-face, I wouldn't be so quick to critique. However, I'd be somewhat lying to myself, because it's a lot easier for me to latch onto the logical implications of a statement than the emotional ones.

For instance, when she was describing the infertility of her and her husband, she said that it was a costly process that involved lots of shots. But, thanks to God, it worked and He gave them two miracles.

My first reaction? "No, it was the fertility treatments that allowed you to have your first two children. It was scientific knowledge of how the reproductive system works that allowed you to have your first two children."

Granted, my reaction is countered with the fact that this pregnancy did occur through natural means. In this case, I understand why it's referred to as a miracle, because it was highly unlikely.

But she went on to mention that the reason why the pregnancy occurred was because "with God, all things are possible." And then used the pregnancy to encourage others in trusting God, because God is the one in control, and can make anything happen. Only that doesn't necessarily mean that God will give someone the miracle they want, for His ways are higher than our ways. But God is still great.

I think what's bothering me about this (other than my inability to just be happy for someone in this situation and my mind's inability to shut off the "analysis" mode) is a) assigning God all the credit for the first pregnancy when it wouldn't have occurred without human intervention, period. Given how powerful God is, and what God can overcome, why was human intervention necessary? Why were fertility treatments needed in order for God to bless the parents?

and b) using the second pregnancy as a way of demonstrating how powerful God is, and how He can overcome anything, and we can rest in this. Only this doesn't mean that God will do everything we pray for Him to do, as "His ways our higher than our ways." It's pretty much a contradiction. She obviously wanted children, she's obviously thrilled, she's obviously using this situation to demonstrate that anything is possible with God, no matter what physical constraints one has, and that He always has "the last word in our lives."

But then goes on to say that this doesn't mean we'll always get what we're praying for. Then why use a scenario where God essentially did provide a prayed-for miracle, to show that all things are possible with Him, only to turn around and say that this doesn't mean that God will, in fact, do everything? How does one rest in the fact that God will have the last word in your lives, based on a prayer that God answered, when one is also told that the very example that proves all things are possible with God doesn't mean that God will, in fact, granted someone the impossible with each prayer?

If such a concrete example can be used as proof of God's last word, then shouldn't a lack of an example be used as proof of God lacking the last word in one's life? It's like saying that person A proves her parents loved her because they fed, clothed, and sheltered her. Those physical examples are the proof of love. But if person B's parents didn't do any of those things, that actually can't be used as proof. It just means that person B's parents ways are higher than the ways of person B. The standards of proof aren't consistent. Rather, they're relative to what occurs in each situation. And that's why this bothers me.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

They want to be my friend, but think they're ugly.

I was listening to an interview of a Christian recently, and she said this particular line that stuck with me: "Apart from him, I have no good thing to offer." The quote was in the context of making sure that all Christians point to and glorify Jesus, for he liberates all things.

But I wonder if she considered the implication behind that statement, in terms of approaching non-Christians, especially if that statement is to be taken literally. Let's say a Christian wants to be a friend with a non-Christian. What, exactly, is that Christian offering the non-Christian in terms of friendship if the Christian has no good thing to offer aside from Jesus? After all, the non-Christian can easily have a Jesus of his/her own.

Or a Christian deciding to marry another Christian. If they have no good thing to offer apart from Jesus, then what exactly are they giving to each other? It can't be Jesus, because both Christians already have Jesus.

Or a Christian trying to parent his/her child. Again, the same thing: what good thing does the parent have to offer?

I just listen to statements like that and go "Seriously? You think you don't offer any good thing? Just one? You don't offer a sense of compassion, or love?"

In any other context, statements like that would be a huge indication of radically low self-esteem. We'd be horrified if people felt that way about themselves. Yet, in a religious context, it can be uttered without batting an eye.

And that's just in the context of a Christian considering him/herself. Given that this would be a universal idea -- that no one can offer any good thing apart from Jesus -- then, technically speaking, then that means any Christian considering me or any non-Christian would think we'd have nothing good to offer them in any sort of relationship.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

So I may have done something stupid this weekend.

Who wants to hear about it!!!

I don't remember where the blog post is, and I'm too lazy to go look it up, but I had posted a while ago about struggling with how to be friends with a Christian, and what it means. Well, I hung out with one of the Christians I referenced in that post, and somehow, we got into a theological discussion. For two hours. I still don't know how we got on that topic, after so fervently avoiding it (well, fervent on my part. She was no doubt hopeful, as it may plant seeds or something).

The highlights:

1) We talked about abortion, and her pro-life position seemed to come down to the idea of authority. The embryo/fetus was innocent in the sense of it hadn't broken any of society's laws, and so didn't deserve to die. But it wasn't innocent in the eyes of God, thanks to original sin. But it was also a soul from the moment of conception, which is why even birth control was wrong in her eyes, because it could possibly interfere with that. I pointed out that, from what I understand, birth control actually prevents the death of less fertilized eggs than a regular cycle, because a lot of fertilized eggs naturally fail to implant. Whereas birth control suppresses ovulation, and thus leads to no fertilized eggs being created. She said that would still be wrong, because birth control wasn't a natural function, and thus it wasn't up to God. Which sounded like her argument wasn't really about the sanctity of life, but about refusing to follow the will of God.

2) We talked about the nature of free will. Always a doozy. We got to this point after I pointed out that if the souls of all those fertilized eggs were in heaven, I had a hard time seeing how free will was such a gift and all, given that only a fraction of fertilized eggs were ever even able to make the choice, period.

2b) To which lead me to ask her why God couldn't simply create people that He'd know would freely choose Him, and not create anyone who would choose Hell. She said that would violate free will, because the people would only exist so long as they choose God. But I pointed out that God isn't forcing them to choose Him -- He's merely only creating those people who would freely choose Him. Why create people that you know aren't going to choose you, and thus condemn them to an eternity of suffering? She had to think on that one and may or may not come back to me with an answer.

2c) We also discussed the idea of how free will also meant that you'd have to want to choose to sin -- and thus have to be created with the ability to be attracted to sin in the first place. Ergo, created less than perfect, as since God is not attracted to sin and does not want to sin, that is part of what makes Him perfect.

3) We talked about Jesus and God and the Trinity. I pointed out that for such a core Christian doctrine, it certainly required a lot of interpretation of the texts and someone reading the Synoptic Gospels with no knowledge of Christianity whatsoever would have a hard time walking away with the idea that there was a Trinity. And that Jesus was God.

4) We talked about the penal substitution atonement theory. Always a fun topic, and always one that sends us in circles. To me, the theory violates the very nature of justice. You do not have a just character if you create people who are imperfect to begin with, and thus incapable of living up to a perfect standard, and then get angry and punish them for it. That's not justice. To her, it wasn't an issue because God took on the punishment Himself, and so the issue was now whether or not you accepted the sacrifice of Jesus. That still doesn't explain the original problem -- that there's a punishment in place for people created to be incapable of following the standards. Plus, her argument seemed to be that it would've only been unjust if Jesus *hadn't* taken the punishment, because then we would be held accountable to standards we couldn't live up to, and that was not just. Ergo, if we all had to pay our own way out this, then God wouldn't be a just God. Except I've also seen her argue that we all deserve Hell, and because God was just, He couldn't just gloss over that. That, and I pointed out to her except the Bible says that Jesus satisfied the wrath of God, which again comes down to God wrathful towards imperfect people who were created that way.

5) The best topic of all -- she mentioned her church and how they discussed those who reject God. I asked her, smiling in a non-passive aggressive way, if that included me. She got a little flustered, and did say that she still prayed for me. I don't know what came over me, but I then pointed out to her that there's a discrepancy between praying that I become a Christian, and saying that she accepts me as I am. Because if I become a Christian, everything about me changes. She disagreed. And we didn't go into more detail than that. She did look like she was uncomfortable with the discussion, and to indulge my ego for a moment, I'm thinking the discomfort was because I'm right and she can't acknowledge it. Converting to Christianity is life-changing. You go from being dead to sin to alive in Christ. You go from the old man to the new man. It's a radical change, and it's meant to influence all areas of your life. A lot of what I believe -- a lot of my core beliefs -- are either sins or heresies. You change those core beliefs, you change me. To say that that I won't in fact be changed all that much makes it sound like Jesus is merely a piece of one's life, rather than one's whole life.