Anger With God: Traditional Theological Issues

As many of my readers know, the last six months have been a trying time.  There was a lot of turmoil at the church I worked at, and, needless to say, that turmoil resulted in my job being eliminated.  So here I am, with a wife and a 16 month old baby, unemployed and with no job lined up.  Try as I might, six months of job hunting yielded nothing except for a handful of initial interviews.  I feel like a complete and utter failure, even though I’m the one of the receiving end of bad discernment and a lack of prayerful consideration.  Frustration and anger abounds where grace and love should abound.

Now, what does all this have to do with being angry at God?  Despite my leanings towards open theism, traditional theology is hard to shake; every now and then it’s easy to revert back.  In a traditional theological system, God knows everything that will happen (ie God has foreknowledge).  In this system, God, through his foreknowledge would know that this would happen to me but yet still called me to this position.  God calls, knowing that this job would last a little less than two years and knowing that I would accept.  Now, that just seems problematic to me.  I mean, why would a loving God put me through this?

In a traditional theological system, it is easy to say something along the lines of “God has his reasons.” or “God has a plan.  God just hasn’t revealed it to you yet.”  Now, don’t get me wrong here.  I don’t disagree that God has a plan for my life and that this plan might not be revealed to me all at once.  I do, however, think these phrases can become meaningless platitudes.

The other issue that I have revolves around the doctrine of God’s immutability.  This doctrine basically holds that God cannot change.  So, under a traditional theological system, my prayers go unanswered because God has already predetermined what will happen and God cannot change.

Now, since this is part of my healing process, let me ask you: Am I way of base here?  Am I just having a crisis of faith?

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7 thoughts on “Anger With God: Traditional Theological Issues

  1. Very sorry to hear of your trouble. But I think you have good reason to doubt the spiritual value of one or two of those man-made doctrines which claim ‘orthodoxy’ in a portion of today’s Christianity.

    I do think it is important to keep my notions of ‘God’s plan’ away from immediate association with everything that happens to me. God’s omniscience and omnipotence do not extend to his personally knowinig and doing everything, obviously, so there’s room for brain in there.

    I too am currently out of work (10 months now), but I don’t think God ‘called me’ to the position which I lost (it wasn’t a church position anyway). I have long felt that my choice of workplace 19 years ago was a mistake and not in line with a divine plan at the time – but I am sure that God entered into my 19 years of toil with as much of himself as could fit into it, even though my decision was not what he had in mind for me. See how that works?

    Sometimes God hangs with his original plan as we diverge and patiently waits for us to return to step one, but often I think God creates the frame of a new plan from the wreckage we make of his original aims by our wrong decision. Not because God changes, but because ‘step one’ is not in some past time and space with God but the divine Spirit of God is always creative and creating and renewing – constantly attempting to redeem and salvage and redirect his children from their current place as if it were the new ‘step one.’

    Is this open theism? I don’t know enough about what folks are referring to as ‘open theism’ these days, but I do believe more Christians need to be opened up from the inside.

    • John,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. It’s something I’ve been struggling with for months and I’m finally in a position to put my thoughts down and struggle through this.

  2. First, I must confess that I know little if anything about open theism, so I am unaware of the dichotomy that this seems to imply and the quandary in which it seems to put you. I do know that “God has his reasons” and “God has a plan” etc etc fall in the same category as “God took your baby to Heaven because he needed another angel” which I believe to be a heaping pile of smelly bovine scat. The same person who says “God has his reasons” does not also turn to the same response in the face of some good and grand thing. Besides, I kinda think that’s a moot point. Personally, I feel that God does have reason and purpose but that doesn’t answer my (or your or anyone else’s) questions about why it has to suck so bad and what would God’s reason be for what at least appears to be my harm and my definite pain? And if we say that a loving God puts you through this because of a wider plan and stop there (as if that alone should suffice), it seems that the follow up questions might be along the lines of: why does God love his plan more than me? And if God loves his plan more than me, then maybe Jesus didn’t come for my sake but for the sake of the all-mighty PLAN!

    I think God does have all knowledge, which includes foreknowledge, but I also think that if God can choose to self-limit himself to be within a human body, then it is quite possible that he can also choose to not know what is in the future. I’m not saying God has or has not, will or will not do this, simply that it is within God’s power to do so.

    Regardless of the knowledge aspect, God is not the only actor in life; we have agency, too. And that means that the people around us have agency as well. Evil is at work in the world, too. So, that’s quite a few players moving around here and all have agency…not just God….at least for the time being. That’s not an answer as to why crappy stuff is happening to you, but it is what I believe about the crappy stuff that happens in my life and that I see going on around me all the time.

    Doctrine of Immutability. I am unfamiliar with such a Doctrine and am uncomfortable any time we say that God “can’t” do anything. Personally, I believe that God is quite capable of changing his mind and that scripture shows many places where this occurs. This is not the same thing as breaking a promise or not honoring a covenant, things that I believe God will not (not cannot) change. To me, God seems dynamic and not static. Additionally, it is one thing to say that the nature of God does not change and another thing to say that God cannot change his mind or his actions. From my perspective, the notion that God is a static, unchanging and therefore unmovable god makes him no better than a pagan statue made of stone. If I am somehow misinterpreting the Doctrine to which you refer, please let me know.

    I don’t buy that God doesn’t hear our prayers and that nothing can change because God does not change. I DO buy that you feel that way, of course, so don’t think I’m trying to be a jerk because that is not my intention at all. I’m not certain that it fully fits with the God of scripture depicted as transforming the broken into whole. For example: Joseph. God was with him through all his crap and made good out of the evil intention of his brothers and others. I do not think it was God’s plan that Joseph be beaten nearly to death, sold into slavery and put in prison. I do think that God took that mess and made a good purpose out of it.

    Hmm, upon reflection, I think I must amend a sentence I wrote earlier. I said “God does have reason and purpose” and I think that I must also say it could be purpose God has made out of an evil that has occurred. God has purpose and re-purpose.

    To answer your question, I don’t know if you’re “having a crisis of faith” or not. It certainly would be understandable but it seems like reasonable questions to me. However, I am also not certain that I would interpret what you have said here as required parts of a traditional theological system. Maybe you’re asking natural questions that, based on the reflection of your own life, rise to the surface and merit light. That’s a bit non-traditional, Liberationist of me, I guess 😉

  3. Pingback: Anger With God: Worshipping Mad « Simul Iustus et Peccator

  4. Pingback: Anger With God: Forgiveness « Simul Iustus et Peccator

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