The Bible, A Convo, and Choice

“Biblical thought eliminates the notion, found in many pagan mythologies, of a primordial, inescapable Fate to which man and gods are subject, a Fate that can, at times, be manipulated though incantation, divination, and wisdom. Instead the Bible is preoccupied with the moral condition of mankind, with the signs of divine providence and the wonders that accompanied the formation of Israel, and with the meaning of mundane, historical events in relation to the supreme and unconditional will of a God not limited by destiny or Fate.

Perhaps the overarching theme of the Bible is the tension between God’s will and man’s: between what should be (God’s demands) and what actually is (man’s failure, on the whole, to respond adequately to the divine expectations). As a result, the basic theological conceptions of sin and faith, holiness and redemption, justice and repentance are reworked and given new significance.” (Robert Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought, 1982).

I was just reading some of the stuff over at ‘My Jewish Learning’ concerning the epics of Ancient history and the biblical accounts…when I happened upon this 2 paragraph piece.

What I like about it is it hits the point of this ancient document called the bible and what it addresses. I had a talk with my brother over the weekend about a few subjects – fate, choice, and randomness.

I fall on the side of ‘choice’ – things happen because of our ability to choose. My brother did not feel the same way on this – life has randomness to it – and things happen that are outside our personal control. It made me wonder – what is the point of a life of randomness?

What does any of this have to do with Seltzer’s quote? Well, the bible is filled with stories and teachings that are concerned with the human society – in it’s ‘working out’ (morality and human will). The bible does not seperate the human will from morality – but it would seem – morality is subject to the human will (and thusly can help improve society). It is this I care about also in the focus of my life.

I cannot control or determine every single thing that happens in the whole world around me – as much as I like to speculate about everything. But I am in control of what ‘I do’. This is where faith becomes a central component of my existence.

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15 thoughts on “The Bible, A Convo, and Choice

  1. we are in control of what we do, however that are many factors that are out of our control… so what does this make God? is God in control of everything or not? I’d say God set forth an order of things but not all things subscribe to that order.

    for example, God takes God’s good creation and allows it to work for itself in Gen. 1. God makes the plants and trees on the land and the land produced vegitation. notice the bible doesn’t say God produced it… God empowers the land to do something. God gives it that capacity and empowers creation to make more.

    God is behind all things but not in control of all things. Well, not so much not in control but allows for free will. So it’s not that God can’t control all things, it’s that God won’t.

  2. “I fall on the side of ‘choice’ – things happen because of our ability to choose. My brother did not feel the same way on this – life has randomness to it – and things happen that are outside our personal control. It made me wonder – what is the point of a life of randomness?” SVS

    I agree that people are what they choose to be or do. And that we reap what we sow. And when it comes to judgement from G-d or our fellow humans, then these choices can be scrutinized and judged as a right or wrong, or good or bad act. And that these choices create our character, or predict our behaviours. If I was decent person in the past, then I will most likely be a decent person in the future. I live my life by choice.

    I am not random in how I act or live (I have a reason for everything I do), but I think life has a random element to it that people do not choose. If a person gets cancer, that is a random occurrence. If a storm rises up, it hits a random city or town. The person whose house gets broken in to, a thief may have chosen that house, but no one asks for it or chooses that to happen. Also what about that stray bullet from a drive by that ricochets and kills the person in the next house. In the previous scenarios, These people are innocent bystanders. These people are reaping things that they didn’t sow.

    I guess that is what I mean by randomness. Nothing can stop those things. You can go to church, live a moral life, but bad random things can happen to you as well as good things. I am not that much of a pessimist. 

  3. Also, I had to comment, because I was the brother who had the conversation with SVS. We were up til 7:00, it was good times 🙂 I loved the conversation and I can’t get enough of them.

  4. I think we have “will” or “choice”, but not “free will”. Our wills/choices are always influenced by something (or someone). Ultimately, IMO, the only being with “free will” is God himself.

    So it’s not that God can’t control all things, it’s that God won’t. (Luke)

    I disagree completely. I believe God can and does control all things, even going so far as supplying opposition to his will in order to make it manifest (there are all sorts of passages in the Bible to back this up). Besides all that, if God wasn’t in control, then he’d, to be blunt, be a very wimpy God, making humans more powerful than he is; and that is wrong, IMO.

  5. “(there are all sorts of passages in the Bible to back this up)” Shelly

    okay… where?

    “Besides all that, if God wasn’t in control, then he’d, to be blunt, be a very wimpy God, making humans more powerful than he is; and that is wrong, IMO.”

    that’s because you’re confusing human power and divine power. here’s an example of misunderstanding divine power and human power brought to you by Mark Driscoll:
    There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity.”

    Driscol takes the power of Jesus and makes it into a power that this world can understand… a pissed off guy who’s spoiling for a fight he knows he can’t lose. that is EXACTLY the power Jesus fought AGAINST! namely the Roman Empire. The same empire that was taken down by Jesus’ theology of programmatic nonviolence and covenant with neighbor.

    Jesus’ power is in the fact that you CAN beat him up bodily, but he’ll keep getting back up and offering you forgiveness. you CAN’T beat his spirit nor knock him off his course, even in the face of death. that’s true power.

    i’d say take a look at the book of Job, James, and the Gospel of Mark for the ancient Christian doctrine of apokastasis.

  6. One thing I like about process theology is that it really articulates clearly a way of conceiving of the relationship between the divine will and human freedom. First and foremost, it rejects the idea that God is in “control”. Instead, the divine will manifests itself through a divine call, or lure, that offers possibilities at each moment of time. God adjusts what he/she offers to us constantly, depending on how we respond to what God offers to us. This is the ultimate example of patience, since obviously we frequently don’t do as God asks us to do, but God is constantly there, always offering possibilities to us.

    In this sense, freedom is not something that God “grants” to us by somehow holding back on his infinite coercive power; instead, freedom is built into the very fabric of the universe, and is inherent to the very nature of the relationship between God and creation. It also sees God and the universe as essentially co-creators, with God having the chief role but all of us having the creative freedom to create as we will in response to God’s call.

    To me, this is very inspirational, because it also gives us the ability to accept that we cannot control the world around us. When we say that “I cannot control or determine every single thing that happens in the whole world around me “, I would argue that this also applies to God as well. God’s role is not to control or determine things, but to offer us the chance to be the best we can be. And it is only when we don’t listen to God that things get screwed up.

  7. “you CAN’T beat his spirit nor knock him off his course, even in the face of death. that’s true power.” Luke

    – I like this sentiment. True power is in the incorruptible spirit of a human being. Carl Jung said something like: to be like Jesus, we have to live our own exisitences with as much passion and stength as Jesus walked his. Not to mimic his life, but to follow his example of passion.

    ” God adjusts what he/she offers to us constantly, depending on how we respond to what God offers to us” Mystical

    This is interesting. I sense an element of randomness in it. When I make a choice, there is a consequence to that choice. The consequence is usually predictable but not always. So even when the consequence is not known, G-d would still offer me a new offer (like deal or no deal). Interesting.

  8. “I believe God can and does control all things, even going so far as supplying opposition to his will in order to make it manifest ” – Shelley

    I have issues with this statement. Not becuase I do not believe in G-d. but I don’t think G-d interferes with humanity in any way. I think G-d has created and then left this universe. I have no proof of this, just a personal opinion based on the fact that G-d seems very absent during horrific events.

  9. This is interesting. I sense an element of randomness in it. When I make a choice, there is a consequence to that choice. The consequence is usually predictable but not always. So even when the consequence is not known, G-d would still offer me a new offer (like deal or no deal). Interesting.

    That’s why process theology posits that not even God knows the future for certain, because free will always results in unpredictable choices that God necessarily must adjust to and respond to in new ways.

    That is also, by the way, why process theology would not say that God is absent during horrific events. It depends on what you see God’s role and activity to be. If you see God as an omnipotent intervener, then it is understandable why you see God as absent in the face of evil that God does not prevent. But if instead you see God’s role as being that of a non-interventionist but continual participant in the creative processes of the universe by means of offering possibilities to the free agents that make up the physical world, then the problem of theodicy goes away. God doesn’t directly and coercively intervene in the face of evil because that is not what God does, and it never was. God doesn’t intervene, but rather offer creative possibilities, and God is always involved in this dance of responding to what we do by offering new possibilities.

  10. “God doesn’t intervene, but rather offer creative possibilities, and God is always involved in this dance of responding to what we do by offering new possibilities.” – mystical

    If I may play the devil’s advocate. Then why should I believe in G-d or that G-d offers choices to humanity? Here is my reason for the question: If I choose a course of action, (I choose to go left) then I have to react to a new set of circumstances based on my original decision. Who is to say that G-d has offered me new choices, or that the new choices are just the normal consequences to my original action?

    Is it faith that G-d exists to offer choices, or is there a way to know that G-d offers choices?

  11. Is it faith that G-d exists to offer choices, or is there a way to know that G-d offers choices?

    Is it not always a matter of faith? I don’t know of any way of knowing anything for certain about God, or that even God exists. To me, process theology solves a lot of philosophical problem surrounding the existence of God, but it is your choice as to whether or not to accept that theology. To me, it makes sense to believe that there is a deeper, metaphysical reality, or a framework that underlies the physical reality. But others might disagree.

  12. okay… where?

    * the story of Saul’s/Paul’s conversion on the way to Damascus (Acts 9). Do you think Saul chose to be accosted by Jesus? (Take especial note of Verse 15)
    * John 15:16 (Christ chose his twelve disciples, not the other way around)
    * John 6:44 (No one can come to the Father unless they’re drawn to him first)
    * Exodus 12:1-2 (who hardened Pharoah’s heart and those of his bondsmen? God!)
    * virtually the entire book of Job (even Satan can’t do anything without God’s permission!)
    * Ephesians 2:8-9 (faith and grace are both gifts from God; it has nothing to do with our actions!)
    * Philippians 1:27-30 (belief in God is a gift, too)
    * Romans 12:3
    * Romans 9:16-18 (God is the one responsible for hardening peoples’ hearts to him)
    * Romans 11:7-8 (God has given Israel “a spirit of stupor”, et al, that exists even now)
    * Romans 11:32
    * Ecclesiastes 3 (verse 1 says that there’s a time and purpose under Heaven for everything; verse 11 states that God has made everything beautiful in HIS time)
    * The Lord’s Prayer (“THY will be done”)
    * Romans 8:19-21
    * Romans 3:11 (NO ONE is seeking out God)
    * All throughout the Gospels, Christ said that he’d come to do his Father’s will.

    http://www.martinzender.com/Zenderature/free_will_and_the_oh_well_creed.htm

    http://www.goodnewsaboutgod.com/studies/freewill2.htm

  13. “Ultimately, IMO, the only being with “free will” is God himself.” (Shelley)

    On what basis is this assumption made? I read all your scripture passages provided – but still – obvious human experience teaches me I can ‘choose’. I am also free to write my own future by those choices…one can assume that God makes it all fall into place – but that is clearly an assumption to our known experiences. I mean, we have no clue whether God is or isn’t setting it all up – since we can choose so many things to do in any given situation.

    I would also state this view leans too much on God (yes this is possible). It basically takes some level of responsibility from the human (whom God created with these faculties we speak of) and puts it all back on God. In essence, you are responsilbe for nothing you ever do if God make it all happen for you.

    “It also sees God and the universe as essentially co-creators, with God having the chief role but all of us having the creative freedom to create as we will in response to God’s call.” (Mystical)

    Now that is well said. I agree 100%.

    “Not because I do not believe in G-d. but I don’t think G-d interferes with humanity in any way. I think G-d has created and then left this universe” (Wolf)

    Not everything is that cut and dry – that’s what I would say. If there is a God (I believe there is and have had certain experiences with said Being) – then it makes sense this God would somehow communicate with us? If God leaves this place (earth) to it’s premises – which is basically true – then God has ‘left the building’…and faith in Him is rather pointless. I think people are having legitimate experiences with God – all over this planet – and this experience is helping to change the fabric of society. Obviously evil exists – and some people are having an experience with that also.

    “Is it faith that G-d exists to offer choices, or is there a way to know that G-d offers choices?” (Wolf)

    I don’t believe God is offering choices per se – but created us with choice. Now all things that fall before our path that ask of us a choice – well God created us this way and we have a divine responsibility to use our gift in the best manner possible. That’s my view…yes even choice can be a type of worship.

  14. “Christ chose his twelve disciples, not the other way around”

    they could have said no.

    “even Satan can’t do anything without God’s permission!”

    didn’t read much past the first chapter did ya? the whole rest of the book is asking whether or not God is behind the suffering or not and whether Job deserves it or not… God’s answer… doesn’t give one. But God states that God’s mad at Job’s friends which leans towards a “not everything happens is God’s will” yet God’s actions reinforce the system.

    “God is the one responsible for hardening peoples’ hearts to him”

    what kind of God does that? I want everyone to stand inside my love but i’ll purposely make some people go to hell… sounds completely logical.

    “Ecclesiastes 3 ”

    you picked the WRONG book there sister! that book essecially states that we will never know anything, so what’s the point! it’s all vanity anyway! life is full of contradictions (the rivers empty to the seas but the sea is never full) nor can we know the Will of God. it’s impossible. Even Jesus states this when he states “No one but the Father knows…” when talking about the coming of the kingdom.

    nice try, but no.

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