Today's sermon was a sermon defending suffering as a means to forming character. The sermon's three points were:
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Preaching this morning...
... from Romans 5:1-11. Simply outline:
1. God has been getting us ready for our sufferings.
2. God has been getting us ready for the end.
3. God is with us now, in suffering, leading to endurance, building our character, and confirming a hope that will not disappoint.
Assumptions to the sermon: WHATEVER "God requires", i.e., "Christian character", as defined in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), "He inspires". The foundation of such a belief is the "Divine Command Theory" in moral philosophy.
The Divine Command Theory does not question what God commands, as it is obedience to WHATEVER God requires. And such obedience is the "right response" to suffering, not questioning, but submitting. It is human passivity or resignation to "Fate", which the Christians call "God's Sovereignty" or "God's Providence".
The future is known by God, ( foreknowledge), as God stands "outside of history or time. He knows the beginning from the end, so whether "He predestines" or not, His concern is that one believe that "He has control" over human history, He "Knows all" and will "not disappoint in the end". This is the traditional view of God in scriptures, and in Greek philosophy of biblical times. God is Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent.
The "preacher" made a point about Japan's recent tsunami, and asserted that God did not cause the tsunami, and expressed his own concern, as a "Jesus model" of "care for the suffering". He pointed out that if any of us had known about the forthcast of the tsunami, would we not warn those that died, to prevent them from dying? He told a story about a man who had gone to pick up his son at the pre-school on the second floor. He looked out the window to watch a car being swept away when the tsunami hit, knowing also that those that had gone into the parking lot, his son's playmates, had died with their children. Yet, he had survived. Why?
Why would God not warn those that died, if He knew the tsunami was coming? It seems clear that either God didn't know the tsunami was coming, or did not have control of this natural occurrance, or He could not warn those that died. OR maybe he just didn't care about those that died, or maybe those that were meant to warn the ones who died didn't do their part? Maybe those that died "got their just desserts becasue they weren't listening to "God"? They needed to have an "inside connection" or "personal relationship", so God could have warned them!
Something seems wrong with the picture of such an untold tragedy. One cannot answer those that suffered with platitudes that God wanted to build character! How horrendously insenstive. How callous and presumptuous! Do Christians think they know the mind of "God", when they claim that "God's ways are higher and His thought past finding out"? Either Christian do know how God works, what He wants and what everyone should do and/or believe to be saved, or they can't understand the "mind of God". It can't be both! Or is God capricious? Does He destroy and then blame those that haven't done their "fair share"? Scriptures say that He creates light and darkness; good and evil. How are we to even understand that in a theological frame? except to use it when it is convienient for our own purposes, and claim "God" as the supporter to our own plans or wishes?
Are these who suffered such losses in the tsunami to "trust and obey", submitting their questions and reason to submission of scripture? They are to know that God knew beforehand what they would suffer and He is using it to form their character? He knows what we need, so we are to perservere, knowing that He will not disappoint???? But, scriptures also says that "hope deferred makes the heart sick". Just when is too much, too much? How are we to know and make the determination when another has "had it"?
God's Divine Command is not the only "moral" theory, but those that adhere to DCT, use scripture as the support of their belief system. That is, Christian character is gauged by scripture, which was written during Roman power, where Christians were mocked and despised. The Chrisitans had no power base, nor influence in society. Theirs was the lot of servitude to an overbearing government. Today, we do not have such a government. Our government is more just or tolerant. Our government allows for religious liberty and influence in the public square. So, today, a Christian is not to "trust and obey", submitting to tyranny. We are to appeal, petition, voice and protest because humans are not called to suffer under tyranny to form "Chrstian character". Leadership is accountable to "the people". Are good leadership principles applicable to "God"? It can't be under the Divine Command Theory. God is an authoritarian dictator in the DCT. Humans cannot be moral agents if they do not have choice and liberty about their lives..
Christian character can define itself differently, even within scripture. Christians, instead of the suffering servant model, can also hold government accountable, like Esther, or hold to principle or conscience, like Daniel. Character can be viewed as an absolute response, or a moral judgment within a value system. It's response is contextual historically and situationally. God's Divine Command theory believes that just because "God is God", He deserves obedience without rationale, principle, or question, which does not take into account any other possible scenario. It is a legalist perspective, instead of an ethical one.
The "preacher" pointed out that Gadhafi would be considered universally as "evil". Why would one not have to be a "Christian" to make such a judgment? because Gadhfi does not respect the rights of others to act independently from his wishes. He is a dictator. Some Christians that hold to the Divine Command Theory believe God is to be "honored" as it is God's "right" above our "rights". Humans are necessary means to "God's ends" which are not the human, but "His Glory and Will". We should never make our plans, as God has His, God is granted ultimate right to rule over and humans are unvalued except for God's designs". And, yet, we understand that the Sermon on the Mount is to be the "human response" to God's Power, if we want to "be like Jesus". We must submit, walk the second mile for our enemies, turn the other cheek, because Christians aren't to have power? And yet, power can have a corrupting influence. But, it doesn't have to.
Our Founders did not desire for leaders to be overbearing tyrants. They desired for humans to be respected moral agents that could frame and form their lives by self-governance. Self-governance means that humans take responsibility for themselves to plan their ends. And the "ends" are what motivate humans to "form their character" to accomplish their own purposes. "God" should never be useful to control, and manipulate others.
Suffering comes from natural disasters, but should never come from the hands of men. Men have choice and responsibility about causing such pain. Stealing another's property, coveting a neighbor's wife, etc. are moral precepts that work, not just because God said it in the Ten Commandments. Many believed in such precepts in ordering society long before Christianity.
Therefore, formulating a Christian character building theology, or discipline is wrong headed. Character is innate natural tendencies, as well as self-reflection and value driven character development. Some people might want to strengthen a certain character trait, while others might want it to remain weak and focus on something else, depending on what one's goals are. Different goals require different character traits. So there is no "Chrisitan character". It is only defined as character within context of given situations and it does not have to do with Divine Commands or 'God", as a requirement, at all, unless the Church wants to formulate a conformity to Church rule that abdicates individual liberty, under the Divine Comman Theory of moral development.
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