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Monday, June 06, 2005

The will of God, or a cop out?

Alright, it's time to get a little controversial, albeit hopefully without anybody taking this one too personally. There was a post over on Bike Journal a little while ago referring to peak oil and possible future shortages. Actually, from memory the thread had died a little while ago, but came back last week (as old threads sometimes do), with one or two opinions basically expressing the opinion that "Christ controls history" and attempting to place less emphasis on the effects of our own actions in terms of their effect on the world in which we live. Without wishing to insult anybody's beliefs in this post, to me it all sounded like a bit of a cop out.

Think about this, each of us individually has the power to change the world in which we live every single day, even if it's only in small ways. The way I react to an abusive motorist when cycling home from work can change the world for that moment by determining whether the confrontation escalates into something serious that could drag other people into it (possibly even the police), or whether it ends harmlessly.

I remember walking at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania a couple of years ago, and hearing a call for help from another walker who had managed to get themselves lost. Here I am faced with a choice -- do I go and offer my assistance? Or do I simply leave it to "the will of God" as to whether this person will receive the assistance they require, and walk on? As it happened, I chose the former option, and assisted this person in finding their way. In a sense, I changed the world at that moment. It mightn't have meant much to someone on the other side of the world at the time, but it appeared to mean a lot to the person I helped. Of course, somebody else may have come along 10 minutes later and done the same thing, but on the other hand, perhaps they felt that yet somebody else would come along.

While the examples I give above may seem relatively benign, it should be put into perspective -- for they also represent changes that can be brought about by one individual without a great deal of effort. Just imagine the forces that the human race could harness if it ever collectively decided to change the world. I genuinely believe that if there were enough will to do it, things like famine and war (and yes, even peak oil) could be completely eradicated from the face of the planet within a few days. Of course, it's doubtful whether there is truly enough genuine goodwill in the world to bring this about (despite the "feel good" speeches from certain politicians), but that doesn't suggest to me that people can't deal with this -- merely that many of them simply don't want to.

It's also worth remembering, that if God (whatever we perceive Him to be, or whatever name we use to refer to him) wanted to interfere, he could. If everything we read about God is true, he has the power to obliterate all of the world's problems in a nanosecond. Yet he does not, instead he has sent us to inhabit the world. This suggests to me that we have a purpose, a reason for being. It also suggests to me that we have to deal with the consequences of our actions in this life.

In short, people have choices to make about how they affect this world. I will have to deal with the consequences of my reactions to that hostile motorist that I encounter, the same way that we, as a society, will have to deal with the consequences of our use of natural resources. Neither God, nor any other deity is going to come along and fix things up for us. Oh, and one other thing, how did you change the world today?

7 Comments:

Blogger gonesh9 said...

Great insight Chris. I've got the power to change the world every single day. I've also got the power to meme you.

Pass it on!

6:36 am  
Blogger Rodney Olsen said...

I can't understand how some people who claim to be followers of Christ can't see his example and get in and get involved.

Even from Old Testament times, we were being told to be good stewards of the resources we've been given.

As you rightly point out, we are given choices every day. We're given choices to help others or to ignore their needs. The story of the Good Samaritan wasn't about someone who saw a beaten up guy and prayed for him as he passed by. The story was of someone who got their hands dirty and helped, even at his own expense.

I was interviewing a guy on the radio today who is part of the Micah Challenge. (My little effort to change the world today.)The Micah Challenge is a response by Christian aid agencies and churches to poverty. Like the Make Poverty History campaign, they're aiming to hold world governments accountable for the Millenium Development Goals they signed in 2000. www.micahchallenge.org.au

The day you saved a hiker at Cradle Mountain you were doing something a lot more 'Christlike' than those who use Christ as an excuse to do nothing.

The short answer to your initial question; refusal to wisely use our natural resources and blame it on God is an absolute cop out.

10:38 pm  
Blogger Chris L said...

Thanks Rodney, I was looking forward to hearing your views, given your faith. It's quite interesting the number of different interpretations of the bible that seem to be about.

Gonesh9, I should have the meme thing sorted out in the next couple of days -- I hope.

1:43 pm  
Blogger Aussie Writer & Cycle Tourist said...

I agree with Chris and Rodney insofar as God does expect ordinary people to be the agents of change every day. God DOES have the power and ability to change things- and one day will- permanently.

But as has been already said at this point in time He is using ordinary people on Earth to effect the necessary changes.

I don't think we need to search Scripture very far to see the idea of stewardship as Rodney talks about- any "hand sitting" using God as an excuse is simply a cop-out.

I think where responsible followers of Christ and others diverge is ecologists are endeavouring to preserve the world for ever- where responsible followers of Christ are seeking to preserve the world until He returns.

I honestly believe that even in purely secular terms despite everyone's best efforts one of those Laws of Thermodynamics (which one? my science long behind me) tells me that everything in the world is in a deteriorating downward cycle.

cheers
Dave

5:08 am  
Blogger Lis said...

Part of the problem is that "the will of God" so often involves things that make middle-class consumers a bit uncomfortable, like reduce, reuse, recycle and compassion for the poor, widows, orphans and strangers in the land.

There's a conflict between what we're socialised to conform to in Christendom type Anglo culture, which now includes so much greed and violence, compared with the spirit of Christianity.

So many people feel that to be good Christians they have to be good citizens of Babylon, something the religious power mongers don't seem too keen to correct.

Yes, there's entropy, but there's also respect, chaos theory, redeeming creation and salvation within history, not only something that happens to a few after death.

That's why so many people are of the opinion that God is Green ;-)

6:40 pm  
Blogger Chris L said...

What you said about middle-class comsumers is absolutely spot on, although "middle-class society" could apply just as easily. As far as I can see, there are people who today simply look at the bible (and many other publications for that matter) as a way of trying to "justify" their existing views of the world, rather than trying to learn from it.

Once you get politicians and so-called "community leaders" trotting out the old "it's the will of God" line, too many of the middle class comsumers you mention are simply afraid to question it.

2:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding going to the aid of the walker, the 'will of God' was that you heard his call for help and then decided for yourself what to do. It was your own Good Samaritan moment.

-- Nick

6:01 pm  

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