I said that when I write my ramblings, they would be about thoughts, which reside inside my head, that look scary when you put them on paper. I will start with one of the most scary discussions.
I have been accused, often, of being an over-sharer. I know when I wrote my book Butterflies in the Belfry (which I’m not mentioning just to pug as I’ve come to reality that it is a commercial failure and have put it to rest) many of the readers were shocked at the level of candor of my writing. The original manuscript was even more revealing but the lawyers at the publisher required me to edit much of that out due to libel concerns (because it involved other people). In my book I describe how I had to seriously consider the possibility that God did not exist. I think it was Denise that asked me, “Do you really have to put that out there for the whole world to read?” No. I didn’t have to, but I wanted to.
One of the things that moved me to write with candor was not just my experience, but those of other who have shared in very private settings about their own questions and doubt. Having been a missionary, I’ve had many conversations with very successful missionaries, pastors, christian workers and etc., who, in their private world struggle if they even believe that God exist anymore. However, they can’t feel they can talk about it in public or they would be mentally stoned. Doubting God’s existence is just of one many private questions they tumble in their minds, but can never, ever express. That leads to a type of isolation that not healthy. It also leads them to pivotal points in their lives when they just walk away from it all.
I sense a toxic environment within many Christian cultures, especially the American Evangelical community of “Faith = Certainty.” So, if you are not certain about something, it immediately is caulked up to bad faith and you as one to be pitied. I pity those who think they are certain about anything because, we are limited mortals (now you see as looking into a mirror, some day you will see face to face) and the only way a limited mortal can have certainty is through self-delusion. Once you have made the commitment to self-delusion, you live in a fun house of mirrors, where reality is always vague. I say this from personal experience.
I also know that my topics are threatening to many people, mostly Christians. Some get mad at me for bringing these things up. Others, they feel sorry for me as a man of little faith. I want to make something very, very clear. The fact that I have this god-awful thing happening to me right now, has NOT pushed me into a faith crisis. I say this with great confidence and I say with great confidence that it will NOT push me into a faith crisis. The reason is, I have already had my faith crisis about 29 years ago and I spent nearly a decade working through it. So, my discussions at this time is simply a review and academic.
If it brothers you that I will raise several questions about if, how, and when God answers prayer outside of Natural Laws, then please stop now. It will not get better but only frustrate you more. But, before you leave please also understand the following bullet points.
- We are being bathed in prayer by many, if not hundreds of people right now and we cherish that. I want PRAYER for me and us. We need your prayers.
- Do I pray? Hell yeah, I pray! I have an invisible blue-tooth in my ear, directly to God where I petition him day and night. I usually say things like, “Oh God almighty have mercy on me, hear me, help me, see my tears, show me your mercy, please God have mercy on me as I can’t do this alone! save me from this disease!”
- Of course I hope for a miracle!
Okay, if you can turn around at this point on the path if you don’t want to opening consider questions I’m about to raise.
I had a .76% chance of getting Multiple Myleoma in my life time, about a .20% chance at my age. So, we are saying on arrow coming down on a group of 400 troops and it hit me.
When I came into the Emergency Room and found out I was in acute renal failure, I was in mental shock. When I was in Bellingham at the ICU-step-down unit and we our really smart doctor was trying to figure this out, she listed 4 possibilities for my renal failure. Possibility # 1, was easily treated and I would up and running as a healthy man in two weeks. This was the most likely diagnosis by far. Possibilities #2 and #3 were both treatable (chronically) but not life threatening and I would be able to return to a near-normal life. Possibility # 4 was very unlikely based on early blood tests. She said it was at the bottom of her list. It, however, was Multiple Myleoma. It would be a devastating diagnosis, meaning a very hard road to an eventual horrible death (unless there is a cure).
We had hundreds of people praying for us. I was praying my heart out. Then the night of the kidney bx results. The loops of henle were full of myleoma proteins proving that the worst possible answer, was the answer.
So these situation beg the question of what the hell happened? I want to lay out on paper possible choices to this dilemma. I hope I haven’t missed any. I will also expound on each. You can see why most people don’t want to go down these rabbit holes because they strain the mind. It is better to move on without thought.
- There is no God. Again, to be a honest person you have to always consider this possibility. If you rule out any possible answer before you start the conversation, then your whole thought process becomes disingenuous and then you should turn around here and go home. But let me follow the train of thought of the atheist. Again, I don’t look at this position from a hostile stance. I’ve personally considered this position many times in my life and have come out wanting, but it leaves me respecting those who don’t. And let me add, if you ascribe to the apologetic from the old hymn, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives inside my heart,” You can feel anything you want in your heart because the heart is more deceitful than anything else. You can think you are a chicken in your heart or a god-man super hero.
- So, in this case, one day, for no reason, the empty universe farted and matter split from anti-matter (one scenario) and this viable universe came into being as enormous fields of energy. The energy quickly condensed into matter at points. Those points built and compressed into stars that became fusion furnaces for the elements. Those elements went through further evolution and relocations along this fatalistic evolutionary part until planets, like earth were built. This is following, precisely, mathematical paths laid out by the laws of physics and has no variance. Those elements then evolve further and organize per these same laws into basic life forms. The evolution continues until we humans are created, including your’s truly. It has been programmed, from the beginning, that my bone marrow plasma making a single genetic “error” and leading to cancer. It is all fatalistic, controlled by the laws of physics and without meaning. Within this framework, nothing has meaning. We are not really here, only the structures that this evolutionary process has produced. We are nothing. We were never really here and there is nothing to come to give us meaning. Neither life or death has meaning only the process of the impersonal gain of meaningless events. My atheist friends think I’m not being fair about them. I am. I’ve spent years thinking about this. Atheism=Nihilism and there can be no other way out.
- There is a God or Personal Creator.
- Small God: This God is a creator of humans, but he/she resides on this side of fate. He is more of a cuddly god, giving you warm and fuzzies. Fate of the universe controls this God so he/she cannot have the power to change fate. Once you have reduced God to this level, the name of God no longer applies in my view. It is much like the Greek gods, from where we get our concept of superheros. So, with this God we all prayed and he tried to help, but the disease out-matched him and he retreated.
- Big God Type A. This is the God who created the universe and who controls all that happens within down to the littlest detail as a micro-manager. So, with my story, this God would say, “I’m going to strike Mike and his family with this dreadful disease for my good will and purpose.” Many Christian subscribe to this God as do most Muslims. It does give the feeling of a powerful God, who is always in control. Most Muslims (having spent a lot of time talking to them about their concept of God) would think that my disease was in part my responsibility because God strikes only people who had done bad things, with bad things. The Christian, who holds this view would say that my sin brought this on or, God is doing to teach me something, but it is from his hands this curse flows. These Christians claim they can still love this God, somehow. My Muslim friends never used the word “love” but respects their powerful God.
- Big God Type B. This is the most common concept of God that I see in the American Christian community, although some sects prefer God A. This is a mighty God that created the entire universe. The dark stuff in the universe (the Fall) is not his doing, but he allowed it for some reason, which we don’t understand. Of course most who have read the Bible know of the story of Satan and his fall, but this God had to allow evil to enter or if it entered without his will, he is suddenly reduced to the Small God, who himself is controlled by the fates. So, this God did not bring in the evil to push us as individuals, and is there to fight the evil with us. In my case, this God stood by and watched Satan’s ills come over me and my family and this God is there to do miracles, outside the laws of nature, at every turn. This is world where supernatural miracles happen daily and everywhere, when people pray and have faith. So in my story, either I did not have the right kind of faith, or God is using the cancer to do something that is bigger than me. Maybe we did not pray hard enough or believe hard enough and for that, this God will punish me with a horrible death. That’s why he didn’t answer the way I wanted. Many settle here.
- Big God Type C. This God is a lot like B, but he proudly created the entire universe the way it is with all of its beautiful laws, but evil entered. It is his ambition to have a perfected universe in the end. For some reason that is within his mystery, he has given humans the lion’share of fighting the evil within this world. This includes all evil, from the vices, to things like diseases and pollution. We as humanity are to struggle and over come it, but not without causalities in the fight. None of us leave this world intact. The touch of evil within this universe will eventual bear bad fruit in all of us, yet the victory in the end is God’s with a new and perfected universe with us back in it with perfected bodies. There is so much we don’t know, but what we do know is that God never intended this cancer to come over my family. It was not a punishment. He also may not intervene in any way, despite our payers, but by the way he uses the brains of humans to fight and create and to push back against this evil. This God did use supernatural means in the records of the Bible but may or may not do so today. It is not because of his lack of power or will, but the plan of delegating the working out of good over evil to humans. In this case, why do I pray? I pray for his presence beside me as I gird up my loins to go into battle. He knows that I may not survive. I pray because that I am not certain that if he rarely intervenes in this natural world to do things that violate the beautiful natural laws he has written, that he might do that for me. No one in the history of the world has survived Multiple Myleoma either by a miracle of God or science. Maybe I will be the first by either method.
I ascribe to God Big God Type C. I want to expound more on these thoughts in a part two of these Ramblings. I will also explain while I have chosen Big God C verses the others.
Once again forgive the typos as I have just enough time to hammer out this in one passing. I may proof read during dialysis tomorrow and start part II.
6 responses to “Ramblings-Does God Really Answer Prayer Outside of Natural Laws?”
I don’t believe God is subject to any laws, natural or otherwise. Mike, remember the Psalm I sent you: “Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.” Psalm 116:2. God doesn’t say if He can, He will.
God is the I AM.
It’s not a question of can, The question is of method and approach within that limitless will .
Hi Mike. I love reading your thoughts. I know it is scary putting out there what you are really thinking. I have one more idea about how this earth came about that I don’t share with many people. As you know the earth on which we live is just a little speck in the universe and “why are we here?” is the question I ask myself. I have come to wonder if we are some little kids science experiment in another galaxy and he/she is just watching to see how we react to different things that happen to us. It is like what we do to mice in mazes. Something bigger than all of us is learning from what we do. What makes us think we are so special? The more that is found in space, the smaller I feel. Just a thought…..
Yes Mike, this does suck, but if anyone can beat it, it is you.
Here are some ramblings inspired by your ramblings.
I think it’s worth reevaluating how we think about God’s bigness or his power. The problem of evil or suffering is that it’s logically inconsistent to that evil and suffering exist if God is both good and all-powerful. I think most Christians end up tossing out (or redefining) God’s goodness so that God becomes an abusive father who inflicts his will on the world with domination, oppression, and violence “for our own good”. But I’m starting to think that it makes more sense to redefine our idea of “power”. I think our modern understanding of power, especially omnipotent power, is heavily influenced by a combination of Hellenistic philosophy and the understanding of power through the politics of empire.
The idea of God’s omnipotence (all powerfulness) is a Latin idea that I think comes more from a platonic understanding of a perfect, ideal form of power, not a Christian or Hebrew idea. In fact, the Hebrew term usually translated as “God Almighty” (El Shaddai) is probably better translated as “God of Grand Teton”, that is something of both “God of the mountain” and “God: the well breasted one”–it’s not a statement of omnipotence, it’s a statement of strength and provider.
I also suspect that our understanding power, either in general or God’s power specifically, as a controlling, dominating, or oppressive force of will came into Christianity through the imperialist cultures that adopted, developed, and spread Christianity (Roman empire being the first, but also the British and American empires more recently).
One of the central themes I see in Christ’s story is that of challenging and redefining the idea of power. Jesus’s followers expected that He would manifest His power by overthrowing the Roman rule and reversing their domination by violence. But instead, he manifests his power in suffering with those who suffer and in serving and willingly submitting to the pain and persecution. He did not inflict his will on others or the world around him, but joined the poor in their poverty, the meek in their meekness, the marginal at the margin, and those who suffer in their suffering. He redefined what it means to be powerful the same way Obi-Wan Kenobi did when he said: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”.
So how does God answer prayer? I don’t know, but I think it’s through us. If we are the body of Christ–His hands and His feet–then God acts into the world through us. I don’t have certainty, instead, I have faith and hope. I have faith in God and I have faith in healing, but I’m convinced that God heals through with his hands, and his hands wear lab coats. That’s what I’m continuing to pray for: healing by a God who suffers with us, hates cancer with us, and works toward healing with us.
I agree with you in so many ways. I still pray because scriptures say to pray and I don’t know that maybe God does step in and intervene in a super-natural way. But I will also not be surprised if God explains to me some day that his tool for overcoming evil in the world, as you say, are his people (all people who are committed to the task).
It takes me a while to read and digest what you say because I really have struggled with the God doubts a good part of my adult life. I want to believe like I did as a younger person so the answers you have found are especially interesting.