The God of Happy Accidents…

There’s something that’s been bugging me for the last few days. It’s one of those things that most don’t consider a topic for polite company and I’ve swung from one side to the other debating whether this was the right place to even bring it up… or whether I should bring it up at all or just let it be one of those questions that agitates me quietly forever in the back of my head. Since I use this site as a platform for pretty much every other flavor of Buddycontroversy, I don’t suppose religion should be more off limits here than any other topic has been in the past.

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m not exactly what you’d call religious. I’m not sure I can even get away with describing myself as “spiritual,” as many people seem to prefer these days. It’s not exactly that I’m anti-religion, but I’ve never quite been able to accept faith as the ultimate evidence of things not seen. I’ve always liked my evidence to be something a little more corporeal. Despite that, I’ve always had a healthy level of curiosity about world religions and have a tendency to pay attention when they are discussed academically.

This past weekend I heard a theologian argue that we can’t really blame God when something bad happens. In the next breath, this same panel member argued that we should praise God for all the good things that we enjoy in the world. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where my train of thought came off the rails. It seems to me that if we’re going to worship an all knowing, all powerful deity that is responsible for every good thing that happens, the very nature of an omnipotent God demands that He also be responsible for bad things when they happen. To think otherwise suggests a divine duality – one god responsible for all good things and another responsible for only bad things. That’s a pretty problematic concept to tinker with when the world’s major religious groups are pretty well established as monotheistic enterprises.

After writing that last paragraph, someone is sure to argue that I just don’t like religion in general or Christianity in particular. Because I know my own mind, I can say that’s not exactly true. I’m fine with religion and with Christianity (as long as they’re not being forced on anyone at the point of a sword)… what chaps my ass is hypocrisy. If someone of faith had the stones to go on national television and simply say “sometimes God just lets bad shit happen” I think I’d be fine with it, but to absolve your particular deity from responsibility because it doesn’t fit with the traditional narrative that God is Good requires a level of mental gymnastics that I’m not comfortable carrying out.

Although I’m not a theologian by any stretch of the imagination, it seems to be that if there is a God and He is, in fact, all powerful and all knowing, then we’re doing Him a disservice by only giving Him accolades for the happy accidents of life. Sorry, but if He wants the credit when things are going well, He’s going to have to share in the blame when it’s gone to hell in a handbag, even if it’s only because free will was His idea in the first place. How’s that for a controversial stance?

7 thoughts on “The God of Happy Accidents…

  1. the only thing that in my opinion might answer your question is that God made humans with a free will. That way when people believe and worship Him, He knows it is because they really mean it. This means that people are in control of their own actions. Which in some cases is horrific. ;-)

    • I get the idea of free will, in theory at least. In my admittedly addled mind, that makes the deity an enabler… kind of like the guy we all knew when we were in school who would buy beer for you even though he knew you were underage. He’d buy it for you, but you had to make the decision to drink it or not. ;-)

  2. Hey Jeff! I just wanted to give a response, if you will, to your legitimate worries! I think, in a sense you’re right (if I understand you correctly). What I may say may also derail you, but hopefully not. Anyway…I don’t know exactly what the person said, but I think a distinction should be made. We shouldn’t just try to evade the issue of evil by praising God for all the good He does (like some sort of scale or something). That would be truly disingenuous! So maybe these might give you something to help you get back on the rails.
    1. Suffering and evil is a great mystery. It’s very tragic what happened, especially the lives that were shuttered before the children could grow into adulthood. Let’s not deny that fact!

    2. God gives us free will and our freedom to do terrible things is a sign of his great love for us…he risks it all, so to speak, with us. We have the equal freedom to do great good, too, though! If we didn’t have this, and were always programmed to do good, we would be nothing more than robots. But, he trusts us and lets us mess up. This could be described as a radical gift of love. What’s better? A micromanaging boss or the boss that gives you the freedom, even to the extent that you mess up? I know you wrote a nice little book of sorts about the former :)

    3. Even though we abuse our freedom to do great evil (i.e. the shooting in CT), God, since he is omnibenevolent, etc, brings good out of it (he makes a rose bloom in a desert, so to speak).

    I hope you’re doing well, Jeff! Happy (almost) Christmas! -Peter

    • Insightful as always, Peter. I just hate when complex ideas get watered down into soundbites either because someone has to hit the next commercial break or our collective attention span is way, way too short for some kind of legitimate, meaningful dialog about the world around us.

    • Shawn – Great link. Thanks for sharing. I definitely think it’s a discussion worth having. Sometimes you just have to sit back and wonder if this free will thing is all it’s cracked up to be. ;-)

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