Changing Your Mind About God

It should be no surprise to us that sometimes we need to adjust our thinking about God.  Is he not in his being beyond our mental categories?  When C. S. Lewis became England’s most reluctant convert – as he describes himself in Surprised by Joy – a change in his thinking about God was precisely what lead him to that point.

In St. John 9, we read of how Jesus – once again – had to adjust his disciples thinking about God.  As Jesus was “passing by”, he sees the blind man and determines to heal him. However, the disciples pipe in with a question. They must have noticed that Jesus was giving this blind man attention. But the first thing in their minds about him was this question of the reason the man was born blind. Whose fault was it? For this man to have suffered such an awful fate, it must have been the judgment of God for someone’s sin, either his own or his parents.

Jesus answers their question by telling them that they totally had the wrong idea about this situation. He tells them that the man was blind for another reason which they were not considering. They had a false concept about God, and that false concept not only kept them from understanding the ways of God but also lead them to have uncharitable thoughts toward this man and his family.

This kind of thinking about God is still with us today. It is an overly simplistic way of handling a very complex problem: how can God be good and in control of everything while there is so much evil and cruelty in the world? People try to answer that serious question – which has perplexed the minds of men for millenia – by taking the position that actually God is acting justly in this world – it’s just that we don’t always know the back story for why bad things happen. If we did, we would realize that somehow those things happened to those people because they had done something wrong and deserved it. We “reap what we sow,” they would say.

Now we know that there are occasions when God brings temporal judgment upon wicked people. We actually can reap what we sow. However, we know that that is not what is always happening. And here, Jesus pulls back the curtain of God’s ways and say, “Actually, this man is not blind because he or his family had done something wrong and so God is punishing them. Rather, God has allowed this tragedy for the purpose of his glory, so that his works could be seen in this man’s life.” Now that is really a complex answer! But it doesn’t come from philosophical speculation; it comes straight from the Son of God himself, who came to reveal the Father to us. It is actually the case. And if it happened in one man’s life, it could very well be something God has done with the lives of others.

In other words, Jesus confronts the disciples’ overly simplistic answer for why evil happens to people with a fact about the ways of God that is beyond their ability to completely explain and understand in this life. You can’t. Instead, you can only take a place of humility about it, quit making such quick and easy judgments about human life, and trust the wisdom of God.

God’s ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts and there is mystery about the reality that we live in every day.  If we would walk with God, we must accept the fact – as Lewis tells us in Mere Christianity – that reality is complex. We must beware of getting on bandwagons – be they theological or political or whatever – that use simple explanations for what are really complex matters.

And we need to ask ourselves, do we have some false concepts about God? Are we in need of a paradigm shift like the disciples? Are we perhaps making judgments about what is going on in our world, or in the church, or in the lives of other people, or even ourselves, that miss the point because we have avoided the discomfort of really thinking things through and recognizing their complexity?

Or is there more going on?  Have we misunderstood the truth, because it didn’t fit our agenda or because of some other ulterior motive we have, other than the glory of God – all in the name of the glory of God, of course!

No, this man was not born blind because of his or his parents’ sin. He was born blind for that very moment in history. He was born blind so that Jesus could, in that hour, heal him and, through him, show the works of God. If that seems unfair, we need to remember Paul’s answer to the objection in Romans: “Who are you, O man, to question what God may do with his own?” See Romans 9.

Besides, something is about to happen that is going to be a huge, huge blessing for this man, for which he will be thankful.  I don’t think he is now in heaven worrying about the philosophical implications of how he was born.

If we are growing, we are going to have periodic paradigm shifts in our thinking about God and life.  Do you agree?

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  • Scott Gay

    A paradigm shift in thought is excatly what has happened to me. To qualify my statement “paradigm shift in thought.”. I must reveal to my bemoan (but necessary) I departed seminary and became an outspoken atheist.

    “Who are you, O man, to question what God may do with his own?” I have an issue with suffering. I feel it appropriate to ask God about the frequency, duration, and severity of pain that does occur. Although the eternal reward of those who believe in Christ and his kingship is beyond comprehension it does not mute the sorrow, I feel for those far less fortunate. Contrariwise to my words above. Christ is the redeeming hope that shall set the Cosmos straight.

    I think (paradigm shift) this underscores or need for Christians to be more compassionate, understanding and less dogmatic and political.

  • David Beckmann

    Yes. The reason Jesus left the Church in the world (John 17) was so that through them the world might believe. We can hardly expect the world to listen to us if we come across as one more sector of the populace with a self-serving agenda of some kind.

    We do have a problem today, though. People in the West are so convinced that everyone has a right to their opinion because all opinions are equal and that there is no universal objective truth, when we try to call them to account to a universally True God, they hate us for being “dogmatic and political,” even if we are doing our best to be as respectful and compassionate as we can. Ah well, Jesus said the world would hate us – there you go. God has to open our eyes.

    • Scott Gay

      My first comment was ambiguous for a reason. I had hoped you would recognize this, and in part, you did but, I think you may have missed the crux of what I was saying, and that is my fault, for trying to dance on razor’s edge in a public setting.

      I would like to start with your comment on moral relativism. “…everyone has right to their opinion because all opinions are equal…”. I surmise… No, surmise is not the correct word here. The right word is “convinced.” I am convinced that we agree everyone is entitled to their opinion. But, opinions stand or fall on their own merits. I think you’re using moral relativism here as a scapegoat (in the context of my ambiguity); this is not to say that moral relativism possesses a solid theological or philosophical foundation. In fact, Moral relativism round since the 5th century and I find it antithetical to a “solid foundation.”

      I will try and clarify my position before my ramblings toss the baby out with the bathwater. “…hate us for being “dogmatic and political…”. External (Outside the Church) perceived dogma, and political jocking is not what I was trying to address. I was specific talking about the chasm or better stated “schism” within the Church.
      “…need for Christians to be more compassionate, understanding and less dogmatic and political.” I was speaking of Dominion Theology and its direct role and influence in legislation. From an outsider perspective which I was for seven years (an atheist) the primary reason, I left the seminary and the church because of the thousands of Christian denominations that can’t agree on virtually anything. This schism in the Church has been reduced to denominations trying to force their particular brand by any means. This is by far a much greater problem than moral relativism. The atheist community recognizes these issues and brings them to a forefront in many debates. We must be mindful that many outspoken atheists, were Christians and a fair amount were members of the clergy (Pastors, Theologians). So how can a house with such division stand?

      • Scott Gay

        Sorry I got so far off topic. Oh, well. I guess I needed an ear. In the future I will try to stay on topic. Thanks for your time. I will see you Sunday. Unless you want to have coffee and another morning stroll.

  • David Beckmann

    Yeah, when you’re trying to be concise (and I’m talking about myself) – especially in a theological discussion!!!! – you almost can’t hit the target just right. It’s almost like you can’t “comment” on theological stuff – as I was trying to do. I’m thinking such topics have to be handled in a discursive manner, and “posting” is woefully inadequate for that.

    Lets talk another time about the dominion thing. I think I know what you are complaining about – I don’t like it either. The word is in the Bible – I’m thinking there may be a bad kind of dominion theology and a good kind. Worth batting about.