The doctrinal dance

Doctrinetheologians and bible scholars and pastors are a funny lot.

each one studies god’s word and comes to conclusions.  they are certainly not the only ones who do that.  in fact, anybody with a bible and a little time can do the same thing.  and all of us , no matter how much or how little we study…no matter how well or how poorly we understand language and history and culture and even biblical criticism…have interpretations of god’s word that are our own.

and we stand by them.

the bible is a collection of books and letters that were all written at least 2000 years ago.  there is great diversity in it.  time.  culture.  language.  structure.  intended audience.  purpose.  authorship.  historical setting.  style.  a lot to consider.

one of the things we do is create filters or lenses that we look through to better understand the meaning of the things we read.  in a simple way, it looks something like this:

“if  (this)  is true, then  (this)  and  (this)  and  (this)  must be true (or false), also.”   this is one of the ways doctrine is formed and perpetuated.

…and this is all the introduction to what i’m thinking today.

“god will never give us more than we can handle.”  

do you believe that?  i don’t, but most people who believe in god do.  it comes primarily from their understanding of this passage:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

first, this passage says nothing about god never giving us more than we can handle.  it says there will be no temptation to sin we cannot say “no” to.  it says there is no sin we cannot walk away from…there is a way out of every temptation.  always.

but that passage says nothing about overwhelming situations that can wreck us.

just ask the parents of the 22,000 kids who die everyday from preventable disease, malnutrition or dehydration.

(side note:  according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, it would take about 30 billion dollars to solve the world’s water crisis.  this year,  people in the united states will spend over 100 billion dollars on bottled water.  YOU DO THE MATH.  the staggering death totals could be…would be…dramatically reduced.)

is it all part of god’s plan for these little ones to die in this way?  does god truly never give us more than we can handle?

what about the survivor of auschwitz?   what about the family living in the car because dad lost his job?  what about the people whose home was washed away in the flood?  what about the little girl who was raped…or the addict who cannot find release from the grip of the substance…or the kid living with daily abuse and rejection at school?

  • do we tell them GOD WON’T GIVE THEM more than they can handle?
  • and if we believe that god won’t give them TOO MUCH, does that mean he’s the one GIVING them all they are going through right now?
  • is all of this happening for some greater reason that god is orchestrating?
  • does god really GIVE and TAKE AWAY at his own whim?
  • if i am being crushed by the weight of everything coming my way, why won’t god stop it?  does he keep pouring it on simply because he knows i can handle it?
  • and if i’m still breathing, am i supposed to console myself by saying, “well, i guess god didn’t give me more than i can handle?”

and your theology dictates how you answer those questions.

for the record, you will NEVER hear me say, god will never give you more than you can handle…or this is all happening for a reason…or this is all part of god’s will…in response to your crushing situation.

but you will hear me remind you that god cares about your loss and promises to bring peace and healing and comfort to your heart.  he will never leave you.  he is the good shepherd who will lead you beside still waters again.

that is how my understanding of scripture requires me to respond.


2 thoughts on “The doctrinal dance

  1. Exactly. We have cultivated a world of “victims of God’s will.” This must be an abomination to God as it undoubtedly places a barrier between us and Him. God is either bi-polar or the worst possible boss ever. Charge us with a task and then put every imaginable barrier in our way as we endeavor to carry out His directives? PUH-leeeese. I believe that God is the One to cause the “good” in “all things” – regardless of how the enemy (or we ourselves) attempt to derail us.

  2. In the midst of all our flooding and people losing everything, I had someone actually try to encourage me with the statement, “You know God sends these events so that His people can prove their love for Him.” Gag. While I recognize my worldly possessions as mere “stuff” and some items as things I have been blessed with so that I can be a blessing to others, I would not be confortable trying to comfort a non-believer with the idea that God took away everything they had spent a lifetime working towards because He needed His people to prove their love to Him – how offensive!
    All I know is that God is very real and has not abandoned His people in this devastation. He is providing comfort, and healing and peace, in the midst of constant instability. For those who do not know Him or believe in Him – they are experiencing complete strangers (believers)coming alongside them to offer support, provisions, encouragement, money, etc. Therefore, I would say that although those people may have gotten more than they can handle, they have not been abandoned either.

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