Thursday, January 13, 2011

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

“Thankfully, this relationship; this decision; this exam; is not in my hands,” says the pious Christian. Do you have any thoughts on this perspective?


Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

In other words: "I'm so glad I have nothing to do, I do not need to. I can sit back and look, what God will do and provide me with."

I guess it is easier to live with this perspective...

But I doubt, that the easy way is always identical with the will of God. Jesus would have lived a way against Gods will, if we look at it from this perspective. Yet the bible assures, that everything he did conformed with Gods will.

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

Another person might mean: "I do everything I can, but I am happy, that it is not my responsibility in the end. I can not influence everything, I tried to do my part best, but everything depends on Gods acts. And I am happy to know, it is him, who cares and who acts."

Yes, it is great to have a God who is not from a/the kingdom far far away, but who lives within us. And who cares. And who acts. Everything depends on him. (Col 1, especially verse 17)

We ought to be thankful for this (and for so many things more!).

Greg said...

Thanks. Why do you think the easy way, as you put it, seems to prevalent?

And Jesus. From all the important things recorded in the gospels, we see that God had a will for Jesus and he did it. But it also seems that there are a host of things where that will would not come into play in the same way concerning the specifics of our lives.

Your second comment strikes a chord. The caring and acting God is close at hand. But what is the extent of ours or others responsibility?

In Colossians 1, Christ holds all things together, but I don't think this means that all things are his will.

carter said...

Passive disengagement was the way of the third steward in Matthew's telling of Jesus' parable of the talents. So much for the invitation in Hebrews 12 to "run with perseverance the race laid before us." As an ultra-runner, I know that distance running requires extensive training, and an active engagement with almost every aspect of life. Faith requires the same, including the awful struggle of the dark night of the soul, working out my faith with fear and trembling. Passive only works when you're dead. As Neil Young said, it's better to burn out than it is to rust. You got me wordy today, Greg.

Greg said...

Thanks. Sharp and crisp insights. Paul says something similar to Hebrews 12 in 1 Corinthian 9. In this sense, we're all to be running well.

And I love the NY addition - let's not get rusty.

Joshua said...

There seems to be two main classes of critiques on this perspective, one examining the theological soundness and the other the existential ramifications. Providence is obviously a complicated issue, and I tend to personally be highly suspicious of these popular expressions of faith. However, the existential critique tends to gloss over important distinctions. A prospect of a relationship might not be in their hands, but a decision typically are. In shifting the burden of responsibility back on to the person or persons, sometimes it confuses quasi-magical thinking (that we can somehow affect random events) verses other areas where we can assume control over outcomes in a meaningful way (like say an exam).

I tend to view this perspective as coping with randomness, sometimes to abdicate responsibility, but other times not. Both abdicating responsibility and falsely attributing the ability to control circumstances needs to be addressed, by attempting to assess the degrees of potential to affect a context and being leery of delusional thinking where we can effect outcomes, with tendencies leading to unnecessary distress and anxiety as well as pride. I think it's a caricature though that the perspective of giving control to God decreases the incentive for effort in affecting outcomes. And cause of that, we need to look at less of how they understand events and more in how they respond.

Tamra Larter said...

I know a few Christians who say this kind of thing all the time... all the while struggling with their eating habits leading to life/death surgery and/or continuing to struggle with personal boundaries staying in abusive or toxic relationships or struggling with an addiction to pain medications.

God knows what is best and what we need... and I think on some buried level sometimes we do too, but we tune out to what God wants and what we really need abandoning the gifts God has given us to know these things... am I going too much out on a limb with saying that? I think I might be back on the subject of intuition.

Perhaps the journey to authentic living, truthful, transformative living seems too scary.

I do not mean to judge anyone in this position... but I do think it can be a spiritual straight jacket.

I would love to explore more, as usual... but this is what I have at this moment.

Greg said...

Thanks. Well put. The distinction between relational prospect and decision may be valid, but not clean.

Given the boundaries of our responsibilities, it seems we do have to recognize and differentiate that which is beyond our ability to control, and a kind of slothful attitude that leaves, implicitly at least, everything in God's hands.

I agree. Seems like acknowledging God's ultimate direction for our lives and the world, should not militate against efforts to affect outcomes.

Greg said...

Thanks. Good thoughts. I don't think you're out on a limb at all. God has clearly given humans abilities and capacities and therefore probably wants us to use them to the best that we can, both in service and in accomplishing good things in the world.

This is not intuition, but giveness, and this precedes our abilities, hence, they are always situated in that which is before of us. We do sometimes know what we need, as God does, and intuition is part of that, but there's a whole lot more, theologically, existentially, and otherwise.

Illegitimate fear, as noted in the post yesterday, is crippling.

Sisyphos said...

not only the pious Christian does speak like that but also the lazy, irresponisble other, the or frightened, weak other or the ambitious, perfectionistic other. Not being able to live, to plan, to move forward - it is a drop of comfort to think: "This relationship, this decision, is not in my hands. It will turn out differently anyway. I cant control or foresee, so I just stop worrying." Imaging a God who leads us his way, is far more comforting, though, than having to wait for chaos or chance to spin us and our life around.

Greg said...

Thanks. True, this can be a more general tendency than just for the theist or Christian.

I suppose the two extremes of having no impact on outcomes, or being totally able to determine them, leave us in a position of irresponsibility.

Angela said...

Good discussion, Greg. It calls the Christian to
or to think of areas they may just be "leaving in God's hands" and to ask him where they could
be more proactive.

Often I feel empowered to act when seeking God,
his presence, his Spirit...Spirit of the risen Christ.
So, I wonder if the "it's in his hands" attitude, and
"Not up to me to decide" is really a disengagement
from God's presence and Spirit, and a lackadaisical
approach to faith.

Perhaps the pious Christian is not actually seeking
the heart of God, but a fear-based outward appearance of religion which, as Tamra was saying,
is not the transformative life God intends.

"In Him we live and move and have our being...
We are his offspring" Acts 17

Greg said...

Thanks. These are very helpful points. A disengagement from God's presence and Spirit fittingly describes the passive attitude that doesn't want any responsibility.