主恩–耶和華是我的力量: The Power of God

[Note: This is Part III of a triptych on 主恩. Click here for part one.]

Remembering God’s grace is always refreshing.

Puisque Tout Tourne Autour du Moi (“Reprint” of a Xanga Post)

After my reading Book II of Plato’s Republic, it seems to me that if God is not perfectly just, there is no compelling reason for man to be just or upright at all, if he can appear to be just, apart from the effects of disapproval from other, likewise hypocritical men who are fearful of losing their reputation of justice. Now Glaucus does posit that fear of suffering injustice from others is a reason for acting justly, I presume because not all are equally skilled in executing injustice and profiting from it. As long as there are any who act in a remotely just manner, though, they are foolish for being the ones who can most easily be taken advantage of. Even if there is a god but not a perfectly holy one,

[…] Men who do wrong, and sin,
Can thus dissuade [gods] from their purposes
With fair entreaty or with sacrifice,
With incense or the fat of offered meat. (Iliad 9.497, 499–501)

Compare this with what the prophet Samuel has to say to King Saul about the living God:

Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
He has also rejected you from being king. (1Sa. 15.22–23)

What good is it to restrain self-interest at all, much less give it up, unless there is something fundamentally better in this than personally acting in injustice while appearing to be good? None. Plead “social contract” all you like: in the end, acting unjustly and immorally is of the greatest personal benefit as long as one can appear not to be wicked, because there are always people who are worse at committing evil crimes from greed and self-interest and are still marvellously worse at concealing how detestable their deeds are. But is there anything apart from God that makes it better to act in righteousness than in wickedness?

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (Jn. 15.4–5)

Rédemption de Grâce

How amazing, then, that the Lord of all creation should choose to save me from this squalid condition! Because my reception of the gift of life by Christ is so remote in my memory, it is the massive difference between what may have been, i.e. what was already there ready to spring out in perversion in its season, and what is now that shows me how great God’s work has been. When I see what I know I would have done contra what God has done in me, it is a wide, wide gulf between them. I know it is God alone Who gives me any compassion at all; I may be a “humanitarian misanthrope” now, but if God had not found me, I would be alternating between the lust of nihilism and the futility of legalism (set by the measure of my own unbridled will alone), incapable of charity, without grace and without mercy. Because of what I see of unsaved-me, everything is a blessing, everything is mercy, everything in my life is the grace of God Himself.

What a blessing it is that God is a God of both perfect holiness and perfect love.

Hesed and Din: Inseparable

Yes, love: His love, however people talk about what a loving God could and could not do. What is “love” that accommodates all manner of transgression? In parenting, do we not call that “spoiling” a child? Is that love? No, to withhold shalom so as to create a false sense of non-tension is not loving. Steadfast love does not just indulge the harmful desires but seeks the true well-being of the beloved.

Which is easier, to leave another to his own devices or to pursue the purpose of shalom in his life? Is it not the first? Which of these has God done with His nation Israel and with all the world since the Fall? Has He not pursued us and loved us even as we were His enemies?

Yes, even in the sufferings He is working for our peace:

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. (Ps. 46.8–11)

What happens in the desolations? Peace! This is what the holy, jealous God desires for us and works out of and in spite of cataclysmic events of a broken world: peace. Is this a God who stands back and laughs at our plight, as I by myself would be prone to do? By no means! Instead,

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Lk. 19.41–42)

Infinity of Faithfulness

Malevolence? Never! Though He be worthy of trust above all else, I doubt, I doubt, I doubt, but who else can be wiser? Surely, then, man does what is nearly impossible, but the Lord has done the measureless and free, so great, so vast, that

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry,
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
though stretched from sky to sky.

God is so boundlessly faithful.

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6 responses to “主恩–耶和華是我的力量: The Power of God

  1. Pingback: Nouwen: The Discipline of Gratitude « Taliesan

  2. I thought like you once, but after the fog from the delusion lifted I studied all faith issues, religions, nature of god, why one believes, psychology & sciences in general. No holy, loving god [was] found with a rational mind, just a realization of how delusional faith-based thinking in fact is.

    Yes human beings are flawed (as is your bible god): we are essentially animals with intellect, & therein is the rub. It is a seemingly dual nature of our evolutionary existence. Morality is a function of human beings being social creatures & are the beginnings of religion made by ancient superstitious man – but do good because your own character & good conscience demands it, not because it is decreed by any vengeful god, [a] wrathful, judgemental yet oh-so-loving god.

    Good luck on your journey & peace of mind.
    (No reply is necessary, thx.)

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  3. […] but do good because your own character & good conscience demands it

    I realize that this is a common view, but because of man’s weakness and corruption of character he really has no power to do this on his own. A good conscience will indeed demand it, but it is possible that responding to this demand is but a satiation of one’s urges, not to satisfy hunger or slake thirst but to dull the conscience.

    It does a man no profit to think of righteousness and integrity, and before all one naturally thinks of himself and his own profit. In the same vein, seeking merely to satisfy the conscience may just be an opiate. For others performing the same actions it may be instead a quest to feed their pride. We don’t always consciously see deep into ourselves.

    We always have moral responsibility for our actions and inactions, but even when the motives can be assumed to be pure, we still lack power to change our lives. We may do good things, but there seems to me to be no sufficiently strong justification for doing good independently of profit or at least of self-benefit and gratification apart from a true and living God.

    […] not because it is decreed by any vengefulgod, wrathful, judgemental yet oh so loving god.

    What kind of vengeful God is it who emptied Himself of His divine infinity and took on flesh for the ultimate purpose of dying naked on a crucifix, having divested Himself from invoking His own omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence while He was here so that He could be a high priest able to sympathize with our weaknesses? True, He was likely not under original sin, since Joseph was not His genetic father, but what is more difficult, to suffer temptation and to have original sin or to suffer temptation and more and still, though sinless, have to bear the sin of the world?

    His just nature demands that He be holy and separate from sin, but He has not set expectation without a Way, the One and Only resurrection and life. God is not overreacting to sin in consigning sin to the depths of gehenna: sin really is a serious thing. We really do by our sins deserve spiritual death by our wrongs against God (this is to say nothing of physical death for wrongs against society). Because God is truth, He cannot be made to associate with lies, and a lie is what our life is apart from Him, firstly because apart from God there is no life, secondly because we are such frauds inside, thirdly because we are otherwise slaves to Satan’s deceptions and to sin and to death.

    Yet what are the delusions to which you referred?

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  4. Why would you say “we still lack power to change our lives”? People do it all the time, yes, for self-interest & betterment, just as an altruist would show compassion, on deeper inspection. You do good because you believe that god says so & gives you the ‘grace’? So then you are attempting to please god because pleasing god pleases you in the end, does it not, or is it god working through you, to please himself? Both are self-interests, ultimately, & shallow reasons indeed, then, by your own standards. If god is omniscient, omnipotent, etc., then he created and allowed ‘Satan’, ‘evil’, ‘sin’, & suffering, but [also] ‘saves’ us? Convoluted & absurd to a rational thinking person – “god is truth he cannot be made to associate with lies”. Don’t you see a conflict there? Where is the morality in that?

    I understand that conversing with a strong believer is most often a futile exercise in circular logic, as dispelling the delusion of faith-based thinking & god never comes from others but from the self, from within. I urge you to visit non-religious/atheist websites & read authors such as Dennett, Harris, Dawkins, to understand & research the psychology & brain chemistry of belief, religious comparison & history of religious thought, & all the sciences, of course. (I’m supposing you don’t accept evolution or the age of the earth, etc.) This is all I am attempting to do by conversing with you; not convert you to my way of thinking – just [to invite you] to think, understand yourself & life as it is, not as you wish & hope it to be.

    Faith-based thinking is a childish, irrational & compartmentalized mode of thinking, blocking out inconvenient facts for superstitious, mythological metaphors as literal truth. I think you are smarter & more capable than this mode of thought, if you chose to be.

    The delusion is faith-based thinking, a personal god, belief in revelatory or divine text as literal truth & the arguments that go along with that world view.

    I understand why you see the condition of mankind as flawed, we are. We are human animals, evolved over time with an intellect, conscience & social needs. These attributes are often at odds; yes, we struggle within ourselves & the world. You are a good person not because you are saved by god but rather because you struggle within yourself to be of good character, yet [are] internally conflicted as we all are. This is not sin, it is being human, & nobly so – the reality of life is that morals are of degree; one needs [to] ‘fully’ read the bible (not just cherry-pick the good parts) to see the immorality, inconsistency & absurdity of your ‘loving’ god.

    You see, why you don’t believe in other religions or gods can easily be applied to [your approach toward] your own. Consider why you don’t believe another form of religion, its obvious failings & absurdities, then apply that thought process to your own religious thinking.

    See where that leads you, & again, good luck on your journey.

    (I will read your response, but no further response will be made by me or, in fact, be necessary).

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  5. Hi me again, just wanted to say that you are an incredible young man from what I’ve read here on your site; a very intelligent, bright, compassionate, caring & concerned individual that will make something of yourself, no doubt.

    The main reason for challenging your ‘faith-based thinking’ is because you openly display it in public forum & ask for comments. Although I respect your right to believe whatever you desire does not mean it is above criticism, however. The ‘enlightenment’ is still taking place in our modern day, & scholars have now begun strongly urging this open challenge to faith, especially in the public arena & rightly so, methinks.

    Many people profess a faith, yet on closer inspection it is nothing more than an emotional attachment to an idea, a belief, or a ‘warm & fuzzy experience’, with illogical, irrational reasoning. These all have scientific, rational explanations – yet humans are great ‘rationalizers’ for our behaviours, be they incongruous or not. In this sense the greatest ‘sin’ (failure) is dishonesty & denial of reasoned thought.

    You are not perfect, nor is any individual, but that is ok; to strive for betterment is a noble human quality that lifts us up from the mundane to revelatory enrichment. You are more than a ‘sinner’, you should not be judging yourself guilty for being a human being, as an archaic god does.

    When I realized that this life is all we in fact have (no judgement by god, heaven or hell, etc.), & that there is nothing to prove to anyone, [to] anything or to god but to oneself, it freed me to experience life as it truly is; to cherish my life and others more deeply – for we have but a limited time on this earth – & that this life is all we will know & experience. Is this not enough? But alas…

    There are no absolutes as much as we wish them to be, but what is certain is that we are alive now, my brother, & not by spiritual blood connection but rather by natural blood relation through our evolution & human ancestry. The continuum of life.

    What we ‘believe’ [is] ‘supernatural’ is but for lack of knowledge the natural appearing as such. Can this be wisdom? Some of the greatest thinkers of the past have made this mistake; it is human. Personally, I have tread the yearning road of wishful certainty that is faith, but due diligence in study proved it false. Knowledge is superior to belief.

    You being a young man, I can understand your desire for definitive answers, absolutes & ultimate meaning in life. We all struggle with this question of why & purpose at some point. So, you are not alone, my friend, & just as we pass through various phases in our lives, so too does our understanding: we grow & learn & share. This is the human experience & mystery of life.

    I hope my sharing may help you, however humbly, to consider all matters with a fresh perspective. I sincerely hope you continue growing in understanding differentiating knowledge from belief & why belief should always be challenged in the public domain.

    Thank you, for being open to comments, & again, best of luck on your journey.

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  6. Please see this challenge to atheists!

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