Monday, May 9, 2011

Written Mar '10: False Attribution

Christians commonly attribute every good thing/happening to God. I believe this is a faulty perspective for two reasons: 1) the same good things happen to bad people, 2) bad things also happen to good people. Addressing reason #1: Christians frequently exclaim how God has blessed them in a specific way, and I immediately think of non-Christians who have been fortunate in the same exact way. For example, a pastor says God has blessed his small church with enormous growth. Has God blessed Mormonism or Islam with enormous growth? (I’m sure they’ll say so) The things we call “God’s blessings” are commonly attained without Christianity. It’s faulty and dangerous to view prosperity as affirmation from God, as many misguided churches have done. With this same argument, it is faulty to view essentially anything as affirmation from God, short of God speaking directly. An ordinary life example, a man gets a bonus at work and says “Wow, God is so good! He must want me to open that small business, like I prayed about.” The problem is that all the other employees got that bonus too. Since the bonus was ordinary and not unique to the Christian, I don’t understand how the Christian can assume there is spiritual significance behind his bonus. Allowing yourself to be guided by this superstition is dangerous, as when the small business tanks because it was too risky. Addressing reason #2: The Christian who believes God is in total control, and who’s in the habit of attributing all good things to God, can get awfully tripped up when something bad happens to him. He’s left confused, “I’m not really sure what God is trying to tell me through this, I don’t understand why God let this happen.” He’s trying to make sense of a situation that simply may not make sense. The world is a crazy place, and when Christianity prompts us to try and make sense of it, it is actually detracting from our personal peace instead of providing peace as it promised. It’s much less confusing to conclude that something is random than to conclude there is a hidden meaning which we should struggle to understand. Pardon my French, but this is the philosophy of “shit happens,” and it’s often the best way to move on.

Is God in control of the world, or has he surrendered control to Satan? Christians want it both ways, depending on if the situation appears good or bad. So let’s assume that both God and Satan have some type of control over the world. When something bad happens, Christians may insist that our fallen world is under evil power, but nevertheless God will somehow use the situation for good. To me, this reasoning looks like a strange attempt to rationalize a delay in God’s goodness and control. In order to use a bad situation for good, God will have to exert control in the future and cause something good to happen where nothing/evil would have happened otherwise. It’s no different than had he caused good things to happen instead of the bad event already in question. If that bad event was outside of God’s will, then why would we think God’s future will (to use the bad situation for good) will not also be thwarted by the control of Satan, or by the random nature of this world?

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