Growing up I remember praying to God that he would answer all sorts of prayers, from a sick relative to a $25,000 prize in a yogurt box so I could buy all the toy guns I could afford. Later when I became an evangelical I had my view of God cemented that he could do whatever he wanted, especially if I prayed for it. This view of an all powerful God is a stronghold on your whole life. What I mean by that is that sometimes you even make excuses for your lack of action, or even understanding of a situation as “God has better plans for me.”
This view took was questioned by me when I came to Chicago to attend school here. I soon realized that the reason why I felt God was in control of my whole life was that in my small town I could manipulate the people I hung around and how they acted around me. Here in the city there is almost no control over that, especially when it comes to disagreements in beliefs. This led me on a long journey to my continued beliefs today.
The reason I want to write about this is because this affects so many parts of your life. from your views of the rest of theology to the amount of social justice you do in your life (which I also throw in normal day-to-day decisions in this as well). So many people have a view that God is basically a religious version of Santa Claus; from answering prayers if we are morally good to getting to go to a special place when we die (assuming we have followed all the rules).
We live in a 21st century world where an infinite amount of discoveries has revealed a world that doesn’t run as smoothly as we once thought it did. From natural laws to common cures for illnesses, areas that were once reserved for divine authority alone have been found to have perfectly natural explanations.
However, the most damning news to the old view of God was the Holocaust. The old excuses for attempting to explain away the ideas of suffering (it’s there to make us stronger, God gives us free will) is completely useless against such as offensive travesty of human lives. There is no excuse one can use to explain why it would be okay to allow such a thing to happen to one’s children.
This leads us to ponder new questions. Many people have attempted to solve this apparent problem of divine omnipotence (or any of the other “omni’s” for that matter) by simply stating that there is no God. I personally do not think it is this simple of an issue. The reason why I say this is that we all experience times when we feel in awe of something outside of ourselves. For example, every time I go back home and walk through Ohiopyle State Park I am in awe of my surroundings. This basic awe is what I would call the Divine. It is nothing external from experience of human life, but at the very center of it.
If we could get past our understanding of the Divine, then we could quit with our “spiritual” excuses for not doing good (“I’ll pray for you”) and get down to actually doing good. It would also allow us to stop looking for magic to come save us but rather look for the divine in and around us and do the saving as a human community. When we do this, I think we will see that we find our failures are all to human, and the answers are human as well.