In the previous post, we talked about how to differentiate between different active personal forces and their roles in the events that we consider.
How do we apply this to inform our theological worldview?
In the very beginning, God designed things in this world to function in a certain way. If you cooperate with the design, you will reap the rewards deriving from your understanding and correct usage of the system. If you go against the design, you will reap the penalty of your own ignorance. The law of gravity works to keep out feet planted on the ground and prevents us from floating in the air when we walk. We cooperate with the law, and we make it work for us. The very same law works when someone jumps off a tall building. We operate against the law, and now it works against us. Note how in both cases, it works the same exact way, but the results are different.
You can’t blame a designer for misusing his design. The designer is responsible for communicating his design; the user is responsible for familiarizing himself with instructions, and if the designer is accessible – with the instructor. Well, in our case, the design is well-described in the Scriptures, and the designer is very accessible, 24×7!
So, if injury results from misusing the design, you can name the designer, but you can not blame him. In fact, in plenty of places in the Scriptures God in his designer role is used as a stand-in for his design. That usage is typically called metonymy – when a concept is not called by its own name but by the name of the thing or a person closely associated with it.
The implication of this are vast and far-reaching. Consider an example of a family suffering a head-on collision with a Ford F-150 driven by a drunken teenager. One of their family dies as the result of that, and the rest are hospitalized with varying injuries. Subsequently referring the incident, they may say “on that night that Ford took so-and-so’s life”. Well, Ford is really the last name of the person who started an automobile manufacturing company. He is long gone, and personally has nothing to do with this accident. The manufacturing company now bears his name, the F-150 pickup bears the name of the company, and neither the car itself nor the manufacturer bear no blame for the incident. Yet the statement was “on that night that Ford took so-and-so’s life”. The statement, taken at face value, implicates the designer, and not the drunk driver. When we know the context of what was being said, it never occurs to any of us to implicate Henry Ford (the designer and architect) in these tragic events.
Yet when we study the Scriptures, particularly the Mosaic Covenant, many of us check our brain in at the door, and for whatever reason start personally implicating Henry Ford in every auto-accident that we read about. That is naive to the extreme, and if believed would make Henry Ford personally responsible for more deaths that some of the worst tyrannical regimes of the past 150 years.
Now, make a switch from Henry Ford to God, and from auto-accidents to a wide range of human calamities. I will repeat the previous paragraph, with a slight modification.
When we study the Scriptures, particularly the Mosaic Covenant, many of us check our brain in at the door, and for whatever reason start personally implicating God in every human calamity that we read about. That is naive to the extreme, and if believed would make God personally responsible for all the deaths of the worst tyrannical regimes of the past 150 years. If you bring in God in his designer role – after all, those regimes used weapons made from natural resources that God had deposited in the earth, using their God-given brain and God-given intellectual capacity.
There’s is one footnotes to be added regarding the Mosaic Covenant days. I talked about it in this post, I am quoting the relevant portion from it below.
There were times in ancient Israel’s history when certain God-directed military operations were carried out, and as with every war there was violence.
Again, in general terms, I would give this example (and selfish, unconcerned politicians ruin my analogy, but just work with me here) – Western countries prize peace over conflict, happiness over pain, human rights and especially freedom over deprivation of such, etc. However, in a situation of a military response to aggression pain and loss of life may be inflicted in the interest of self-preservation. In criminal cases, deprivation of freedom can occur to contain a criminal. It’s not ideal, we don’t want wars or people going to prison, we want to prevent it, but sometimes things like this happen, and as a society we have to react.
Also, notice that there’s a world of difference between these, and purposely inflicting pain for the sake of it, taking away people’s freedom as a power trip, and trampling over human rights for self-assertion. In the Scriptures, I don’t see God ever doing things from that 2nd category.
(View part 1)