My Reading: The Uncontrolling Love of God - Chapter Two
My Reading: The Uncontrolling Love of God - Chapter Two
Book by Thomas Jay Oord
Blog Post by Sam Morse
Chapter 2: The Randomness and Regularities of Life
I don’t think a lot of you would know what the term “predestination” means unless you had been raised in a more fundamentalist part of Christianity. In its simplest terms, there is a theory proposed by a prominent Christian Theologian (Jean Calvin, 1509-1564) that since God is all-powerful and all-knowing then he is fully aware of who will receive an eternal blessing and who will be cursed with eternal torment. It is also heavily implied that since the world is directed by the will of God, then he himself has determined who shall be vessels of wrath and who are the beloved vessels of glorification. To put it succinctly, there is no randomness in the world, only the predetermined will of God. Heavy stuff, right?
From personal experience I don’t think this is a topic often talked about within the four walls of the church on a regular basis; that is unless you are part of a Calvinist denomination. I was first introduced to this idea in my late teens when I had overheard two intern pastoral students debating over its validity within the biblical texts. Now I have never accepted this to be an valid idea, but when your mindset within your personal faith journey is one which you still fully accept the omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient qualities of God, then you are locked in this impassible place of mortal wonder. When you are trying to ponder the divine within your finite scope of life, you have to truly ask, “Is this all planed out? Is this all a game?”
I don’t plan on spoiling the book as I go, but there is a very real opportunity with every chapter the author presents to have a meaningful moment of self-reflection. In this chapter he tries as best as he can to summarize the complex idea of whether this system we are living in is ordered by regularity or if it is guided by chaotic randomness; both of which could be guided by nature or the divine. These are ideas of philosophy which have crossed my mind hundreds of times, if not more. One of the fundamental ideas I have always struggled to grasp is whether free will truly exists; and randomness vs regularity is a key aspect of this debate.
Since science was always a method of thinking which I deeply connected with, I have always recognized my bias as one leaning towards the reality of free will. The fundamental systems of this world are of course directed by regulated processes. If they were not we would not have things such as chemistry, physics, biology etc. The thing that throws that system into the realm of chaos is that these competing regulated systems results in what would be perceived as chaotic results. The millions of organic organisms vying for survival by way of their chemical and biological processes results in an almost unpredictable self-writing future. What makes this world even more “magical” and unpredictable is one species (as far as we can tell) has become self aware of itself. Our gift of consciousness, curiosity, and choice has brought this perpetual motion machine of a world to a point of almost unlimited potential due to our ability to grasp and guide natural processes.
This is how I view the world within the realm of science. The question of course always returns to what if you added the element of the divine? If this complex free flowing universe has a creator then what effect does he have on the day to day actions of our world? Within Christianity I was raised to believe that this Supreme Being believes in a personal one-on-one relationship with every individual who chooses to connect with it. So if God exists how much does he alter the seemingly “regulated chaos”? The more I had believed in a personal God who was responsible for miraculous intervention, the more I was left feeling internally defeated by the moments when he didn’t choose to quell the painful chaos.
So, bringing this all back to free will, how much of my daily choices and perceived chaos are pre-written? I had often heard confusing chaos excused away to be "part of God's ultimate plan", but this often left me with internal anger towards this deity with whom I was also told to believe was "all loving". I agree with the author that the world seems to present a co-existence between regulation and chaos, but the question always returns to how will I choose to perceive this chaos? What will I believe in? Will I write God out of the story of my external world and leave all explanation to science and natural laws? Or will I continue to fight with God emotionally over this paradox of useless pain scattered in the beauty of this world?
I am only two chapters in and I am already struggling with some very real (and very old) philosophical questions with which humans have grappled. Even though these thoughts have brought forth some very genuine anxiety towards my faith, I am more comfortable in the stormy seas of uncertainty and randomness than I am in the calm waters of blind faith and "God's will". I wonder sometimes why was my mind built this way? One of my fellow podcast-ers, Stephen Bradford Long of "Sacred Tension", said something to me recently that gave me a profound sense of comfort.
He basically said that asking questions is my ultimate form of worship, because its admitting and accepting that you're not God.
My goodness, do I have some questions...
Stay Tuned for Chapter 3.