Friday, March 09, 2007

What does God want?

The Carnival of the Godless #61 is up at Hell’s Handmaiden. There is a specific theme this time, which is, “Things God wants.” Some of the entries aren’t serious, but many are. There are serious entries about faith, the Blasphemy Challenge, a couple of questionable facts about atheists, religious education, religion in politics, pseudoscience, greed, religious diversity, the death penalty, and what James Cameron thinks is Jesus’ DNA, but none of those say their subject is what God wants.

There are two posts about contraception, both provoked by Contraskeptic, who is caught in the vice of believing that both abstinence and contraception are sins. If so, isn’t Natural Family Planning just another method of contraception? I guess that leaves sodomy or having babies, but then you can’t be doing sodomy for contraception, or that’s forbidden, too, if it isn’t already. So God wants nature to take its course in all things? It sounds like a strange definition of God to me.

The God I know doesn’t forbid contraception for the sake of babies any more than He forbids pharmaceuticals for the sake of prayers for healing. I suppose one can confuse what God wants with what a Luddite wants.

So out of all that, some say God wants nature to take its course, to make more babies, to prove the Creator knew what He was doing thousands of years in advance with commandments that never need revision. It’s easy for me to say no, that's not God. Why isn’t it easy for someone else? Contraskeptic mentions the Bible verse to “be fruitful and multiply”. So if God really said that and if He meant that to apply for all time instead of just to his audience at that time, in this case to the first round of humans He made, apparently the same Adam and Eve as introduced in chapter 2 of Genesis, though the Bible isn’t explicit about that, then maybe God really does want to fill the Earth to overflowing with human beings. Should we check back with Him about that maybe? It has been a few thousand years.

Contraskeptic also refers to Psalm 127 which says children are a heritage from God and that a man is happy who has a quiver full of them. He quotes Martin Luther who gave a sermon against coitus interruptus, saying it violates “the order of nature established by God”, and is therefore sodomy. John Calvin said the same thing. So did others. OK, I think it’s clear that if one wants to make a god out of a few Bible verses and tradition, one can say logically that God is in charge of nature, and we should not do anything contrary to that.

Thank God that Christianity has at least adapted to the scientific revolution enough to say we don’t have to let nature take its course, at least for many Christians. We can heal people in non-spiritual ways. We can compensate for disabilities with various devices from wheelchairs to voice synthesizers. We can even perform in vitro fertilization for couples who can’t conceive naturally. And yes, we can let couples avoid pregnancy until they’re ready, maybe even permanently. Why not ask God if He has been behind this rather than assuming it is all against His will? The Bible prescribes prayer and laying on of hands for the sick. So have pharmaceuticals been against God’s will, or are they just as much a blessing from God as anything else?

For those of us who are liberal there are verses in the Bible to justify not being burdened by tradition. Everything Paul wrote in Galatians about circumcision applies to any other burden that some false teacher tries to force on someone who is free through Christ. Luther and Calvin didn’t see that as applying to coitus interruptus. Maybe they were wrong. Who knows what God wants better, Luther or God?

I’ll give this to atheists. It is a legitimate point that many religious people have ridiculous beliefs. This is one way that can happen. Take the Bible, tradition, and reason, and you can get some amazing beliefs, such as God not wanting contraception. On what principle might this make sense? If we needed more people a secular group might decide this, but that’s hard for me to see as God’s desire here. Does God really need billions more people to come up with whatever magic number of people saved He wants? That’s not my impression. I don’t hear anyone saying they’ve heard from God that this is what He wants.

I know I’m impotent to talk to many religious people about this. I’m not going to convince Jehovah’s witnesses that their prohibition against transfusion is equally ungodly. I’m not going to convince fundamentalists that Genesis is all myth. Take some part of the Bible verbatim along with reason, with or without tradition, and you can wind up just about anywhere.

Sometimes experiencing God’s voice directly doesn’t help that. It might only make things worse. I’m just as impotent at convincing atheists that what is missing from all the above folly is God. Yet that’s how this strikes me. It is a fact that not once on Contraskeptic’s blog to date is there any mention of asking God for direction, for understanding. It’s just the Bible, teachers, and reasoning. I haven’t gotten much out of that approach.

I ask God about this and get a very clear answer. This is all idolatry. It’s worshiping the Bible, teachers, reasoning. It’s about garbage in, garbage out. And that’s what passes for religion to any casual observer.

God wants love, to receive it and give it. Is that so hard to believe? People who want Bible verses that support that can find them. Yet if all the resentments atheists express mean anything, they mean God’s love goes astray among those who claim to follow Him.

Leaving God out of the discussion is one way that happens.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Hi David, just a very quick note to say thanks for your recent comments at mine, which I haven't yet had time to fully address, so apologies for that.

Had you thought of submitting to COTG? I think you could definitely spark some interesting discussion!

cheers, Tim