September 12, 2009

To the Readers of this Blog:

Read/Post Comments to this Blog (4)

Good morning! I am sitting on a Greek island as I write this. As usual, when I come to Greece my little gray cells (what few I have left) start working overtime. I am working on a column on miracles and would like to ask for your help. When I write for the newspaper, the column can only be 500 words—it can be slightly longer for the blog. Here is the request. I am going to give you some of my random thoughts and I am asking you to help me shape them into a completed blog article.

Here is where I am so far:

What put me on this line of thinking is an essay by Plutarch (a first-century “pagan” writer, a priest of Apollo at the Greek Oracle of Delphi). Plutarch observed that oracles (statements) by the Oracle (the person who channeled the Word of the God) were no longer given in verse. It seemed odd to him and so he explores why that might be so. I have felt the same thing about the miracles in the Bible (the grist for the mill of our thinking). The Bible miracles form the basis for our thinking about God still doing miracles in our Judeo-Christian culture: God did them then and he is still doing them now, so the thinking goes. But what I have noticed is there is a disappearance of what I would call public miracles, those miracles open to the view and critique of the general public—like the sun standing still to help the Israelites win a battle (of course it, as was we now know, not the sun but the earth that stopped rotating), or the feeding of the 5000 with a few loaves and fishes, or Moses crossing the sea on dry land. People witnessing such things would be forced to admit the miracle. There are still many private miracles attested or so we argue: a private miracle is something evident to only a few, such as the turning of the water to wine at Cana (John 2:9—only the servants were privy to the miracle, everyone else thought the best wine was served by the host at the last), or the healing of Jairus daughter (was she dead or only asleep? Mark 5:39). Private miracles are subject to the interpretation of the viewer.

There have been many missed opportunities for God to perform significant public miracles in modern times, such as 9/11 or at the destruction of New Orleans. So the question becomes why does God miss or pass up, so many opportunities for public miracles--or better, why have public miracles ceased or declined?

I am still processing this conundrum and I need a little help from the gray cells of my not so-readers. Any help you offer will be duly processed.

Charles W. Hedrick
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University

Posted by Charles Hedrick at 1:00am

Next Page>>

Hi Charlie,

What made me think you were of the main stream Christian faith is what I read in your bio. The second paragraph tells of your Baptist education and that you were a pastor in Needles, Ca. But what got my attention was further down in your "Research Interests". Among the many Christian studies were Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism. This made me think your mind was possibly open a bit wider than the fundamentalist viewpoint. It was between this and your question on the front page that I based my "Christian assumption". My bad.

Also, I will say you have far more formal education than I do. I graduated from high school in 1969. No college or university. Yet I have always been interested in the field of psychology. I started reading self help books at thirteen years of age. I've been a cabinet maker/woodworker most of my employed life. But with my interest and studies in psychology for over forty years, I have also done much healing work with many people for the last ten to fifteen years. I have my favorite modalities and they work quickly and quite well.

But where religion is concerned, I came out of the Mormon religion in 2002. As a result, I lost my wife of sixteen years and my family of five children. She chose the church over me. After many years of wondering about this and that, I had many unanswered questions instead of the blind faith she needed from me. It all made her very uncomfortable. When the church couldn't answer my questions, I did my own research. What I found tore my world apart. But I could not deny the absolute sense of it. It was finally all clear to me and I could no longer be a member in good standing because I knew the truth.

This is exactly why I made the comments to you that I did. If you were a true Bible believing Christian, you were asking the wrong questions. The answers may very well turn your world up-side down or even tear it apart. And I'm talking about what I now hold very comfortably as the real answers. Not the ones that make a good Christian feel good because they fit right back into the old mold all snug and cozy.

But even more, because the church is where I got my concept of God from, I could no longer accept that viewpoint. So I went looking again for what "made sense" to me. What I now have came from many different sources over several years, But what it gives me is the calm assurance that I am safe no matter what and that I will go home free of any fear of God. It also perfectly answers any question that challenges Gods existence or the "Whys" of His ways. Knowing all of this does not automatically make my life perfect, but when I look towards "Home", I feel loved and welcome. But even more, I feel understood and forgiven deep in my heart.

This brings me to your question which is basically, "Why have miracles ceased?" And although you mention the private miracles that a few might be aware of, I will even disagree with this. Yes, there are those amazing things that happen that defy explination, and there are those who would swear on a stack of Bibles that they saw an angle, but in all of this I believe we as mere humans forget how powerful we are or that we have more to do with these manifestations that we will allow ourselves to take credit for. We fear the audacity of usurping Gods power.

Do I believe in angles? I believe that we go on and that there are those on the other side who can interact with this world. I also agree with Arthur C. Clarke when he said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". I believe in the laws of physics. And I believe that God works only according to the laws He set up. We as humans simply are not privy to all that's possible for us to do yet. And when we do inadvertently apply the laws in an unfamiliar way, we call it magic and miracles.

Concerning the miracles of the Bible and why God doesn't do them any more... I think you would know better than I, but it is my understanding that the books of the Bible were brought together by a man with an agenda. What's more, the stories of the Bible are fables written by men long before that event in an effort to teach members of their own tribes deeper realities that lived within each of them... and us at this very moment. Realities that even Jesus said most were not ready for. That's why He taught in parables.

But still the question remains... "Why doesn't God get involved with His human children like the Bible depicts in days of old?" I will now reveal one element of my concept of God... He has no opinion on these matters. None. We are free agents who are full of the opinions of men who have their own greedy reasons for wanting to control the population. And they use fear, guilt and shame to do so. But as far as God is concerned, we - every one of us, even the greedy ones, are free to choose what we will think and do and God will not judge right or wrong about it, period.

This has become much too long, so I will end with this for now... You may wonder how I can hold such a view if I actually believe in a real and just God. And I would like to start that explination with this question... "If a wolf kills a rabbit in the middle of the Yukon wilderness of Alaska, does God know about it?" Tell me your answer to this. If you think not, this will tell me that you believe in a very limited god. Not a problem. But if you answer yes, then please tell me how you think He does it.

Posted by Jim Shane on 9/17/2009 at 6:37pm

Hi Jim,

Just in from shopping in Pigathia—three more days and we head for Athens. I will try to keep this brief to encourage others to engage the issue you presented me with. First a few brief comments on what you said.

Education: many people have a lot of education and never wonder “why is that?” You are doing just fine in your thinking. You follow what I regard as my cardinal rule: faith cannot insist that I believe something I find to be patently false.

Know the truth you said: But from my perspective, truth is always relative!

Things defying explanation: What are the public ones; don’t bother with the private ones, since thay are always subject to individual interpretation. I include Benny Hinn in that statement; those are scarcely public.

I don’t believe in angels (or demons for that matter). In the first century the educated folk (Plutarch) believed that daimones (compare Socrates’ Daimon) communicated the will of the god to the oracles or the sybils.

Fables: Obviously you are correct. But the word fable only means story, I believe. I think that you mean legends (such as the temptation of Jesus). And yet nevertheless some things are historical.

Parables: I have a different view of how parables work—check it out. I would be interested in your opinion.

Now my response to your question: If a wolf kills a rabbit in the Yukon wilderness does God know about it?

First a caveat: How can I possibly know what God knows? I don’t even know what other people know even if they tell me. I can question them, but I cannot do that with God. And how could anyone even if they could question God know what God knows? Job comes to mind. Nor do I know what other people think even if they tell me what they think. I am never sure what my wife is thinking and have spent most of my life with her!

That is the caveat; here is the answer: it depends on what you think about God! If you think that God is omniscient, then of course God knows—but only for you and others that share your view. In other words God is what and who you believe God to be. Your question to me assumes that you tend to think of God as “person” rather than “impersonal force”—God is like us in some ways. I on the other hand am not so sure of that. So I will do the unforgiveable thing of answering a question with one. Why should I think that God cares enough about the welfare of the rabbit and the wolf even to have their behavior come into God’s consciousness? What I see all around me in the world suggests that without our private interpretation of events God may have simply left us to our own devices.

OK, readers someone needs to engage this conversation and lay your views on the line. Someone needs to counter my rather pessimistic view.

Posted by Charlie Hedrick on 9/18/2009 at 6:30am

Hello Mr. Hedrick,

My name is Jim Shane and I live here in Phoenix, Arizona. I was Stumbling (a Fire Fox thing) and came upon your blog. Your question really peaked my interest...

"So the question becomes why does God miss or pass up, so many opportunities for public miracles--or better, why have public miracles ceased or declined?"

Your question is very meaty, fraught with many implications that most Christians dare not confront because of that whole facts/faith challenge. After much change, research and study, I have come to understand God in a way that makes me smile when I encounter questions like yours and I find great comfort in this. I know why He doesn't do miracles. The only problem is I can't encapsulate it in a sentence or paragraph. Nor can you stand back, poke it with a stick, nod and say I understand.

The reason I say this is because in order to truly understand why God does not do public miracles any more may require you to change your whole concept of God... and the mind must be prepared for this kind of change over time. Does this make sense?

In other words, I believe your question is a direct challenge to your concept of God. My question to you is, how deep are you willing to go down the rabbit hole for the answer?

I am attempting to open a dialog with you, if you're interested. Don't know that it would be good for a Christian blog, if you know what I mean.

Posted by Jim Shane on 9/16/2009 at 5:11pm

Hi Jim,

Thanks for poking back at me. Your comments are exactly the kind of thing I am trying to draw out. However, before you tag my blog with the epithet “Christian,” you should read the rest of my blogs at the site (also check out my book “House of Faith or Enchanted Forest....” Or for that matter “When Faith Meets Reason....” Using your imagery, I am standing on the other side of the rabbit hole looking back up, or at least I naively think so. I write on Christian subjects because they continue to interest me, not the least because of the general gullibility of the Christian who has never thought about either the roots of their own tradition or the language in which they express their faith. And you are entirely correct in the rabbit hole one’s views change! Read my essay in “When Faith Meets Reason”; it is entitled “Out of the Enchanted Forest.” In that essay I set out precisely what I believe and currently think (better look at them fast though; my views are constantly changing). I will happily read anything you direct me to which you think will help me understand your position better. After we have done that we can join the dialogue. But, perhaps, you would be willing to begin by briefly describing for my readers what your views are. If they have read my blog they pretty much know where I am coming from. Giving us a brief view of your own positions may draw some of the other readers to address the issue. All views welcome. And for you: welcome to the blog!


Posted by Charlie Hedrick on 9/17/2009 at 2:42am

Next Page>>