Monday, October 30, 2006

What does God do?

John 5: 17-23
[17] Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." [18] For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

[19] Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. [20] For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. [21] For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. [22] Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, [23] that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

Please bear with me on this one, but what does God do?

In considering my responses to the questions posed by the Hillbilly Atheist, one observation (or perhaps I should just call it a hypothesis) kept coming back to me - God generally does everything through people, not independent of people. Or, to turn that around, God does nothing (or almost nothing) by himself.

Think of any miracle as recorded in the bible. It was actually carried out by someone empowered by God, right? Not by God himself. (For reasons described elsewhere in this blog, I'm discounting everything up to and including the flood here, sorry.)

Who parted the read sea? Moses, empowered by God.
Who got water out of the rock? Moses, empowered by God.
Who brought the lightning down in front of the prophets of Baal? Elijah, empowered by God.
And so on.

In almost every instance I can think of (with the possible exception of 'manna', although that ceased when Moses died, so may have been through Moses), the miracle is carried out by means of a person. Not by God directly.

Is this right? Does God only work through His people?

If this is true, then it means that people can over-rule the will of God in certain circumstances. For example, suppose God empowers a certain person to heal another person, but the empowered person decides not to do the healing, then the sick person remains unwell.

It may also account for some of the apparenly un-loving miraculous acts in the bible. Take the example of Ananias & Sapphira (Acts 5). Peter was empowered by God (perhaps just for general ministry purposes) but Peter used that power to kill the two offenders. Were those deaths God's choice, or Peter's?

It also may give the final answer to the big questions of suffering and death. Why did God allow the 2004 tsunami? Because He needs to work through people - and the people either didn't know or didn't have the faith or whatever to stop the tsunami.

But this brings me to the passage above - Jesus says he only does what he sees the Father doing. So we must assume that the Father does something independent of people, but what?

The passage goes on to be confusing, because if Jesus only does what he sees the Father doing, and the Father does not judge, then how can Jesus judge? But that is a side issue.

No answers here I'm afraid, only questions. What does God do today?

Monday, October 23, 2006

When is the right time ... ?

A bit of self-censoring going on here I'm afraid. I've decided to delete this post. Thanks for all the comments, they were very helpful.