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1.05.2006    |    Annoying piety
With absolutely no apologies to Stephen Covey, one of the habits of highly ineffective Christians is when some Christian goes on and on as to how the Lord had, take your pick, a) spoken, b) written, c) e-mailed, d) instant messaged, e) otherwise directly intervened in that person's life. Such people apparently believe that God has nothing better to do than to provide order to their mundane little lives. Or disorder. Or whatever.

Don't misunderstand me. God works His will on us, in ways we know (e.g. the Bible) and in ways we can only guess at. However: when someone says something like "God prevented me from tripping on the sidewalk, praise the Lord", then my first reaction is to simply stop listening to everything else that person is saying. Glad you weren't hurt, but do you really think that it was God taking care of you?

Yes, yes, no sparrow shall fall, and all of that. Is that why you think that God intervenes in your earthly affairs? Beware of proof-texting, grasshopper. What about 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, which might be also cited to make the opposite point that God no longer is speaking directly to us. Let alone giving us a helping hand walking down the street.

God truly does love us, of course, just as it says in 1 Corinthians 13:8: "Love never ends." And I'm also confident that He does, indeed, number the very hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). But I am also confident that God does not intervene in our affairs in such a mundane fashion as keeping us from tripping.

It is possible He does, of course. Just not likely. This world was given to us to take care of. This includes taking care of all of our business, including not tripping on the sidewalk. God gave us the wherewithal to take care of business, and one of His best gifts to us is that big ol' chess club brain. I say we use it, and not try to claim that God is giving us minute-by-minute assistance.

To make such claims is to enter a realm of annoying piety, where one makes claims about God's working on, in, and through them. God loves us all dearly, but that does not mean He's going to prevent me (or thee) from falling on the sidewalk. His love includes giving us the freedom to make such mistakes.

God is present insofar as the Holy Spirit is always with us, and, if we are faithful to Him, we'll gain our reward. But that reward won't be anything as mundane as not tripping on the sidewalk.

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Blogger Mark Hunsaker said...

John Luke,

I read your blog every day and 99.4% of the time come away saying something like "that John Luke, why can't I write things like him?!?"

Here is that .6% of the time. I really do see what you are saying, and I really do understand where you are coming from. I could grab my 26 proof texts to challenge you (and let me know if you are interested) on your conclusions, but I'm going to merely ask you some logical questions.

In your previous post, regarding the tragedy of the miners, you mentioned that you hoped (and I'm assuming prayed) that God would grant you a quick death. How would he do that? Intervene? If so, then what is the line of demarcation of when he intervenes and when he doesn't?

Now I readily note that we could get into a silly discussion about how much he intervenes (did he make me have to backspace five times to complete that line of reasoning or was it my own fat thumbs?).

That is not my point. I suppose my real question is this: do you think God intervenes in our lives via circumstances? Does he "guide and direct our paths" as the Psalmist said? Does he prepare a plan for us as the prophet said?

Just so you know, I do not have the exact answers myself, I'm currently studying this issue very deeply myself. You see, my 17 year old neice was killed in a car accident last month...one little (very little) twist of the steering wheel was the difference between her life and her death.

Did God intervene? Did he fail to intervene? This is a question I struggle with.

Through my study of his Word, I know that Ashley is with Him now because she trusted in His Son, but I am still struggling to understand.

I certainly reject Calvin's approach where we are all on strings. But, your post today struck me as equally incorrect (to far the other way)...and yet I see what you mean. I think the real question, which eludes me, is where is that line of demarcation?

Regardless of your opinion on this difficult issue, I still love your blog and appreciate your words daily!

1:36 PM, January 05, 2006  
Anonymous Amy said...

Now that's handy. I can read John Luke and Mark Hunsaker at the same time. I look forward to John Luke's response... but apparently he's headed south.

7:16 PM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Gaddabout said...

... Such people apparently believe that God has nothing better to do than to provide order to their mundane little lives. Or disorder. Or whatever.

I don't know about you, but my God is everywhere at all times. He has no limitations of time or any sense of "mundane." I don't know if He prevented me from tripping or if He simply gave me the ability of balance. Either way, I know God's will was served.

There are people who think they have the "annointing" but they really have the "annoying." That much I will grant you. But I see nowhere where annoying people who claim to hear God's voice at will are any proof for the claim God has stopped speaking.

8:28 PM, January 06, 2006  
Anonymous Dave said...

Your post made me smile and shake my head. Proof-texting and extrapolation from personal experience make for 'annoying piety.' But you really ought to re-read your post. 'Annoying piety' is a good example of what it criticizes.

8:08 AM, January 11, 2006  

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.