Monday, March 30, 2009

Doin' the DO: March 30

Reading Morning Prayer today I found the story of the man born blind, in the 9th chapter of John's Gospel, juxtaposed with Paul's comments on predestination in the 9th chapter of Romans.

I like Jesus' take on theodicy in the Gospel text -- which is less of an explanation than an invitation to be a part of God's redemptive, healing work in the world; in other words, instead of standing off to the side of a misfortune asking "Why?", be a part of the solution, as God's hands and heart in the world.

Paul, on the other hand...I've said before that if I ever met Paul at a church convention I'd probably scurry to the opposite side of the room as quickly as possible. He thinks too much and talks to much...and this is coming from the Mayor of Overthink, in a tradition that tends to place Paul on a special pedestal among the saints. The comment about the pot backsassing the potter, "Why did you make me this way?", certainly rings true to numerous conversations with the Almighty I've made over the years. But he should have stopped there. Who, other than an old-school Calvinist, wants to consider the possibility that s/he has been specifically preordained to be a disposable "object of wrath"? Damn, Spanky...that's harsh.

But it seems to be a sentiment shared with folks like Ted, a Southern Babdist antagonist on Beliefnet -- who usually lives down to my most pessimistic, Falwellesque broad-brush cariacature of that persuasion -- who loves, really loves, talking about how God is going to thump all the Bad Other People Over There. The other day he wrote this:

"No one is born a child of God it is something that is gained when we are born-again. When we receive the birth of the Spirit. You have apparently confused creating with parentage. God created all of the wild beasts of the field but He is not their Father. Peter even explains that those who refuse him are, in God's eyes, just like the wild beasts of the field...'But these men (those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority) are blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like brute beasts they too will perish.'

So, get the picture! All those who refuse God's offer of mercy, and it is mercy because all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory and therefore under the law deserve death, will be destroyed just like dogs and cats and birds and horses and elephants and rhinoceros and mice and squirrels and lions and jaguars and the list goes on and on. God made all of them, too, but He is not their Father. They were made for our pleasure and each has a purpose in God's creation, but they are not His children."

Of course, though, in Ted's theology Ted is God's child; one of the special ones. He couldn't possibly be an "object of wrath." Thumpers never include themselves among the number of the thumped.

Frankly, if this is how it goes I'd rather be in Ted's zoologically hyperbolic list of beasts. (Among other things it would mean not having to spend eternity listening to either Paul or Ted.) Even if God doesn't love me in this scenario, I'm still God's Useful Idiot; and you know we Lutherans, as Garrison Keillor points out, live to be useful.

Okay. I'm confused, and I'm pissed off. (Which may in fact be a sign of a successfully engaging encounter with Scripture.) If anyone has any insight into Paul's discourse on pottery and predestination that I am missing in my confusion and pissed-off-ness, please share!


John said...

There is, as the preacher once said, “nothing new under the sun. It is easy to forget, at times, that the world in which Jesus lived was a very simple, primitive one. No matter the problem, there could be an answer. If something bad happens, you must have done something wrong. It’s called the “blame game” and we have all, at one time or another played it. When something bad happens, we look for easy answers. While decisions which we make do, indeed, have consequences, there is a difference between doing something and getting a result and trying to find a convenient excuse for something bad.
Job’s friends were convinced that there was something bad that he had done to bring all of the misfortune upon his head. Folks were concerned that someone, at sometime, must have done something bad on behalf of blind, beggar man.
All Jesus knew was that “stuff” happens. The beggar was blind and he, Jesus, could fix him. We don’t even know if the beggar sought sight restoration. Jesus does it with nary a concern for all of the commentary, letting chips fall where they may.
Like blind beggar man, Jesus comes along and fixes our “stuff.” What is important is our response.

ladybellringerm said...

It seems to me that we are sets of pots, with good and bad within us. Much as the field contains wheat and weeds, the ore contains gold and dross and the vine has productive and non-productive branches. Each of us will be weeded, refined and pruned in order to be the best children of God we can be.

By the way, I don't know about you, LC, but I'm convinced that our animals (and many others) await us at heaven's gate.