Ambiguity and Life’s Rules

Comments originally aired on Luke’s ‘Am I Wry? No!‘ (For Luke who doesn’t get enough credit for some of the great stuff he writes)

If the cross is the sign of anything, it’s the sign that God has gone out of the religion business

Can someone please, and I am begging now, please tell the church this? lol

“I’m frustrated that more and more people i meet are lamenting “why did this happen to me? I’m a believer!”” (Luke)

I have been thinking about this for a few days actually – and was going to blog on it – but that blog will start here.

Humans don’t like ambiguity. And I mean this in the way of ‘vagueness or uncertainty of meaning’ (online dictionary). We humans want defintions for everything – purpose to be set out when we begin the endeavors we end up in…we desire some certainty, promise, guarantee.

Life is not so kind to oblige.

In an ideal world that functioned by rules and mores for every situation – we’d be loved by parents and siblings, treated kind by everyone, accepted as we are not for what we can do, would never get ill, would avoid any accident or tragedy, marry and have a great home-life, have a great and meaningful job, retire and live out our dreams (write a book, make a movie, lead a movement, etc), pass on our wisdom to the youth, and then pass away into eternal life in heaven.

I don’t know about you – I am holding out hope for heaven yet. LOL!

Life offers us challenges and ambigious situations where we are tested to the very core of our being – some make it – some will not. Humans are idealists though – and should never suffer any ill fated thing…and I agree with them…doesn’t make it reality though. Doesn’t make God any less real in my opinion either. Just makes human life what we though it was (once we grew up) – a challenge.

I grew up in some very dark places and around some very dark people. If anything, I should rail against a God that allowed this stuff to happen to me and scores of others in my community – since God must be to blame. But that’s a cop-out of the Nth degree (there is no end to that excuse being used – in every and all situations that suck for us).

Word to the wise – life ain’t easy and ambiguity is part of the equation. No one ever promised life was going to be easy – not even the bible (and if anyone wnats to debate on that – I am game!).

I also read Sabio’s stuff about what the bible says to the people in the hospital – and how you seem to be reading it according to the interpretation of Luke. I’d say he’s a tad off.

I’ll address one simple easy point – about asking. It is true the NT does address this concern and in that whatever you ask ‘believe the Father will give you’. I think that is fine – however – we need to define one simple thing…what can be asked for and what can’t be asked for?

Now although that definition don’t exist – James sheds some light on it in his letter ‘ask for wisdom’. Why would James go there – to the intangible? It seems these might be the kinds of ideas God looks into?

Also we have the idea of God’s will versus us asking? Now although we cannot know God’s will in any specific situation – we might be slightly surprised by it and we should not rule anything out.

In the end, life happens – and I don’t think getting here was chance (read up on a sperm’s journey)…we need to accept reality and the sooner we do – the more life we have to face it in an honest and kind way.

Addendum: I will say this though – life is about as easy to control as relationships…and that’s the bible in a nutshell.

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “Ambiguity and Life’s Rules

  1. wow.. i don’t get credit for what i write? thanks for the compliment man! i’m gonna sit with this for a while and think about it. you raise many good points.

  2. OK, by your criterion, all the following are true:
    a) God will give us what we ask for (if it is in his will)
    b) God will not give us anything we ask for (unless he cares to)

    Which do you think sells better?
    Which sets up false expectations?

  3. “what can be asked for and what can’t be?… In the end, life happens – and I don’t think getting here was chance (read up on a sperm’s journey)…we need to accept reality and the sooner we do – the more life we have to face it in an honest and kind way.”

    i’ve been pondering how i view God and how i interact in the hospital and here’s what i came up with on the assumptions i am operating under:

    1. the world is how it is supposed to be. there is no shalom, no perfect state, the world is set up and i’m taking it as is.

    2. people are the variables. relationships and ppl in general are messy, chaotic, and only predictable to a certain degree.

    3. people want a different world than they see. they think it’s unfair and chaotic and yearn for God to come and set it up since as Sabio put it “a) God will give us what we ask for (if it is in his will)
    b) God will not give us anything we ask for (unless he cares to)”

    but we already have something… drum roll please… GRACE. the question then becomes do we want to live in a world that is fair? or one that is grace-full?

    my money is on the grace… to live in a world of grace is better by far than to live in a world of absolute fairness. i would prefer to take my chances living in a universe where i don’t get what i deserve. life will end up being far worse this way.. possibily. or far better. i have to endure the bad i do not deserve but i am also given a whole lot i don’t deserve as well that is really, really good. i’ll focus on the good:

    1. i am here… i didn’t ask to be. i’m thankful for it.
    2. i have friends and family that love me.
    3. my wife and daughter.
    4. the fact i’m type’n on this computer while i should be typing a paper for GRAD school when many have neither a computer nor literacy to type said paper nor have any education to speak of.

    quietness, contentment, and simplicity are finding a place in my theology which normally rages against the magical and superstitious thinking. i’m quiting and entering a Kairos. i can meet peeple where they are and at my best be an answer to their prayers (Hand of God) and at my worst just offer a prayer or listen to theirs (Ear of God).

    I believe all prayers are answered, but not in the way we would expect. and sometimes no answer is an answer. oh the paradox of being!

  4. Drum roll, please: If this is a world of grace, heaven has got to be scary.
    I really don’t have to go through the list of suffering in the world, in history and ask you how you can cal that a “world of grace”, do I? I get it how people can say, “Grace means God forgives you in spite of your sins, so don’t feel guilty, just try to be good in the ways that show you are forgiven. And because you are forgiven, you will go to heaven.”
    I get that, even if I think it is wrong.
    But to call this a “world of grace” ! Wow, that is hard to translate for me.
    It sounded like you said, “yeah, life can suck, that is just the way it is. But ah, this is a world of grace. I like my life and so others should like theirs and feel the grace too.”
    Am I mistaken?

    Classic:

    I believe all prayers are answered, but not in the way we would expect. and sometimes no answer is an answer.

    And tell me, what would the world look like if no prayers were answered?

    My point in a) and b) above was that even thought they say the exact same thing, a) sells much better.

  5. “I really don’t have to go through the list of suffering in the world,”

    so you’re saying we aren’t living in a world of grace? and we’re not living in a fair world, that’s for sure.. so what type of world would you propose? a completely random one? or something else?

    and you don’t have to go through the evidence. i see it every day. but i always point to Valjean in Les Mis. He sought to get what he thought he deserved at first. he didn’t deserve his sentence and it was unfair… but yet so was the mercy showed by the bishop. His suffering and his redemption both unfair.

    others then counter with the holocaust because 1. we’re never more than 4 sentences away from hitler on any given topic and 2. because we can’t fathom it still after so many years because it wasn’t FAIR.

    what would a fair world look like? like i hear it described in christian and atheist circles… i believe in Christ/reason and the world should work out this specific way but it doesn’t. my artery shouldn’t have clogged because of Christ/work out routine. i shouldn’t have had that stroke, car accident, war, drought, etc. etc. etc.

    to go back further, a fair world would be run by dinosaurs, because as far as i can tell, it was unfair of that meteor hitting earth. that wasn’t fair. plus they’d rip our soft-hides apart. in fact, why isn’t the lion or baboon or some other animal on top of the food chain? because humans know how to play unfair… why? because the world isn’t fair!

    however, i am sticking to my “grace” model because i believe if we become more grace-full, we start trying to keep our planet green. try to meet one another with kindness. it is my belief that love wins the day, that nonviolent methods are the most useful because they work the best. when reminded of our common humanity good things happen which is Christ’s example. South Africa followed it post-aparteid and things seem to be working out despite some kinks in the system. but it definately wasn’t fair. that concept we need to give up on altogether or drastically redefine.

    a fair world is not a biblical concept. the ancient Israelites get wiped out and conquered how many times? there is a yearning for it in the pslams and prophets but they tend to trust in God and carry on. when they are at their best, they resist in ways that emphasize the common humanity and that we are all created in God’s image. of course you can counter this with various bible passages to the contrary as we all have our canon within the canon.

    “And tell me, what would the world look like if no prayers were answered?”

    can’t say. i don’t live in that world. can you give me some insights as to what such a world would look like?

  6. @ Luke
    Hey, I don’t think the only options are Grace, Random or Fair worlds. How about a karmic world (if we are going to continue to use religious language) — a world of cause and effect. Again, as I posted in my “Roadkill Theology” post, to throw some teleological blanket over our eyes and ignore nature and dream about humans being different and special in their fates of disease, accidents, wars, losses and such, is naive.

    I am not really sure what you are saying. Maybe I am reading philosophical descriptive positions into your emotive, normative statements. Maybe you are just saying:
    * I love mercy
    * We should try to be graceful to others
    * Please love your neighbor
    * We need to be better than fair, we need to be forgiving and graceful

    Maybe you aren’t trying to describe how the planet works but how you want humans to behave. Maybe we are missing each other because I am simply saying “No gods or spirits control reality and make it a ‘graceful reality’.” And maybe your are simply saying “We need to live gracefully to make our world a ‘graceful reality’.”

    If so, we are talking past each other. Because I agree with that translation of you.
    Maybe my confusion is due to your attachment to all the generic Christian phrasing with its history of cosmologies that I find mistaken. Because it seems to me you could say it all so much more simple and straightforward without waving the banners of Christian theology as you declare yourself wrapped in their imagery. Just my thought. But I guess to fit in the club, those accoutrements are helpful.

    Last question:
    You said,

    “And tell me, what would the world look like if no prayers were answered?”

    can’t say. i don’t live in that world. can you give me some insights as to what such a world would look like?

    Were you implying I don’t practice love in my life because I don’t view the world through God-glasses? I am sure you don’t think that. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what that last sentence must have been trying to say then. Thanx.

  7. yes! i’m sorry i didn’t define myself more clearly! i get in trouble here on the inet as it is much different than the face to face. the assumptions in the writing aren’t always clear to me. how i’m stating about the “world” is how humans SHOULD view it and interact in it. the world itself, in terms of being sacred, secular, fair or graced, it is largely neutral. it is us, the self-conscious animal that establishes the feedback loop and interprets it a certain way. i argue that grace would be the best model.

    “Were you implying I don’t practice love in my life because I don’t view the world through God-glasses? ”

    nope! i’m saying that i do and i find great meaning in it. the strange and mystical experiences… the coincidence and connections i see operating each day.. attaching them to God helps me be more thankful and more graceful. not because i fear judgment or smiting but because that is the example i see.

    i’m saying that when i pray i remember what i asked for… every time i get an answer. that’s how i operate and have been taught to operate and it works for me. i wondering how it works for you, someone who doesn’t ‘pray’ that i see (based on the stereotypes of atheists and our conversations in general). i’m not saying you’re not thankful, or loving, or any of that. but the world without God-glasses is one i don’t know. (granted i’ve been called an agnostic by many a believer due to how i describe God, but that’s another post).

  8. “OK, by your criterion, all the following are true:
    a) God will give us what we ask for (if it is in his will)
    b) God will not give us anything we ask for (unless he cares to)” (Sabio)

    I really say nothing of the sort – in all honesty. I am the one writing on ambiguity – lest we all forget.

    It seems to me you want proof of these ideas – and they are not built for proof in some scale that we can make A + B = C. The concept of prayer is rather ambigous itself and the formula for a literalist is this:

    I pray + God hears my request(s) = I get what I asked for

    I merely throw in a few obvious holes in the formula.

    (a) What if pray for something that is against the will of God? What if I am not even seeking the will of God and ask? What is the will of God?

    (b) What if I am praying for something that is not legitmately going to be answered? Are there things that we pray for that stand a chance of being too selfish?

    In case (a) it’s obvious we can only ascertain pieces about the ‘will of God’ (which is how Jesus teaches people to pray – the Lord’s prayer for example). It also seems the will of God is rather quite tricky and intense. Who would of thought their teacher, whom by all accounts God loved, would suffer such a horrible fate – and he bases this on the ‘will of God’? Or that after Joseph’s travels to Egypt the Israelites would become enslaved for an extended period? Or the babylonian exile? Etc.

    By all accounts life is a lot more tricky than even we want to admit. And this transfers over to prayer. My prayers, as honest as they are, still face God and are out of my hands in many ways (ambiguity). However, I view prayers as goals personally so I may not be the right Christian to talk about this subject according to the formula aforementioned.

    But even if the formula was accurate and someone prayed for ‘the destruction of their enemies’…what is meant by such a phrase and what is just? Destruction how? And according to what system of justice? By what measuring stick is that prayer going to be looked at…and we can only speak as humans (obviously)…what if it was asked to you? Does this prayer also give the praying person the right to seek such endeavors themselves – as some part of the answering? Even simple prayers reveal so much complexity.

    The second part (b) is also quite tricky. We all want to have money – of this I am pretty assured – but what if the prayer is to be ‘rich’? Will God answer a prayer that seems quite self induced for one’s own pleasure? Also what is ‘rich’? Is God concerned with financial security…and if so…how much is ‘rich’? That prayer is ambigious at best and even if it was answered the concept is different between all of us blogging, 3rd world countries, the scriptures, etc.

    But let’s get to the heart of the matter – why won’t God answer some prayers? My personal opinion on the subject is (a) we have abilities to solve many of our problems and (b) prayer is really goal setting and in that process of supplication (sharing it with God) – we follow through on what we say.

    We ask – most definitely – but do we recieve? I think James gives us the best inclination on this process – alongside the works of Paul. It all depends on what we ask for…for James wisdom seems like a smart thing to ask for. I agree with James. Concretely I want a house and a family, but wisdom (or love – to include Paul) is really at the heart of my quest. Maybe the way we seek for answers needs to change?

    I have had answered prayer and I have had unanswered prayer ( have seen both). The unanswered aspects of my prayer usually arise from my praying for something I really have no insight into or control (healing is a great example).

    I lost a brother to cancer some 13 years back – and I wasn’t sure about it all….threw me for a serious loop (my faith was changed immensely at that point). However, it was treatable cancer the person refused treatments for (chemo is quite a trying process in and of itself). To this day I have regrets about that situation – I should of not just prayed – but did something more proactive about this issue. I did not live up to what I said in those prayers…it changed the way I pray.

    In a second scenario (more recent), I prayed about my marriage – which was at the seams in early January. My wife had left me and I was alone (first time in 9 years). I can’t exactly explain the cry of anguish I gave to God one day – except to say – I have never been more honest. I knew what I was praying and the huge turmoil that accompanied it if it were answered – even made me scared to think about the reprecussions from the fallout and reconciliation. I stuck to my guns – I said it and I will damn well live up to it.

    I had given up on the prayer in a few weeks – when I was feeling better about the situation and was about to truly move on to a new life. Then it happened, she did come back – baggage and all. I was faced with a monumental decision (for me) about my state of affairs…concerning love, life, and moving on. My prayer was answered – and as mystifying as it all is to me – it happened when I was at my strongest (not when I was at my weakest – the condition I had actually prayed it in). Then came the aftermath – could we both handle this reconciliation?

    In the end I learned, prayer is not a formula. It similar to what the Stones say in one of their songs ‘you can’t always get what you want, sometimes you get what you need’. I tend to think of prayer as something we also accompany along – not as some outside force moving the cosmos so we can have what we ‘want’ – but more like a sharing of that goal with the cosmos and we come away with what we ‘need’.

    I wanted my brother to be healed and I wanted my wife to come back – in the end I got what I needed. I cannot say a word on behalf of the other parties involved except what it actually did to me…and as ambigious as that all is I can only think from inside a very limited frame – me.

  9. “We all wrestle with personal struggles in very different and complex ways. I am glad prayer has helped you.” (Sabio)

    Thanks Sabio! Again I am only one voice speaking about this issue – I likely have more doubts about prayer than most people I know…in fact I don’t really pray much.

  10. I wonder when discussing faith and prayer how much you have to take into account the person’s experience they have had. I would imagine any ex christian would not be that open to the possible benefits if they themselves did not experience any. Theist or Atheist are equally biased. I think both absolutes miss much of the middle ground benefit.

  11. “I would imagine any ex christian would not be that open to the possible benefits if they themselves did not experience any. Theist or Atheist are equally biased” (John)

    I agree – I think we are all trying to make the case for/against prayer on both sides…and obviously our biases about our own personal experiences will color any conversation on the topic. I like prayer personally – for certain reasons and in certain situations…however, I can totally understand why people dislike the concept – I kind am there with them.

  12. What does it even mean to pray? I use the Hebrew word ‘daven’ rather than the word ‘pray’ because what I would call praying is probably not at all what Jason means when he talks about praying. In fact, the things he talks about as relating to praying are not things I would relate to praying at all. So sometimes it has nothing to do with biases, it has to do with what we mean by the terms we use. Just my 2 cents….

  13. LOL Gotta love the sports prayers….Tebow crying through his Jesus make-up while across the field Ingram is praising God for giving him the win…good grief already.

    Just make sure your prayer is properly formulated for Thor. I hear he’s kind of picky about those things. If you don’t do it right, he will put the Vikings into a stupor and we sure wouldn’t want that to happen…..again…. 😀

  14. “So sometimes it has nothing to do with biases, it has to do with what we mean by the terms we use. Just my 2 cents….” (Yael)

    True. If anything I am not an expert on prayer that’s fo’ damn sure (lol)

  15. “You probably know more about it than most of the ones who claim to be ‘prayer warriors’.” (Yael)

    What I lack in zeal they lack in awareness?

  16. Very interesting discussion so far which has inspired a few thoughts:

    I sometimes think that mankind talks too much about the “will of God.” I include modern man, the Scripture authors and even Jesus in this category. If something goes right it was the will of God. If something goes wrong it was the will of God. If I pray for it and get it, it is the will of God. If I pray for something and don’t get it, it is the will of God.

    Argh.

    If I thought that the Bible was divinely dictated then I guess I’d have to believe that the main way to pray would be to ask God for stuff. However, I don’t think the Bible was dictated. I think that, at worst, the Bible is a collection of thoughts made up of attempts to figure out God and to perhaps put words in God’s mouth. However I think that, at it’s best, there are a few incredibly deep insights into the possible nature of God, reality and mankind’s place within it. (Which is why I continually come back to it, despite my best attempts to flee!) 😉

    Wow, has this reply gone off topic or what?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s