God and the Random Element
It’s been a quiet couple of days. Unfortunately, those are non-productive times for me.
It’s been tough. I’m still fighting myself – fighting the fact that I have the most terrible time getting motivated on just about everything.
Still, I’m not going to cry in my beer at this point. The best thing to do is continue to fight and work toward overcoming my personal obstacles, as well as my professional ones.
To that end, I’m going to write something different here today. There are many times I like to sit down and record my thoughts on various subjects – whatever strikes my fancy. Here is as good a place as any to do so.
When I was a lad we had in the house a version of the Bible aimed at young readers. When I say “young” I don’t mean just pictures with a few simple words. The entire Bible was covered, in eight volumes, including classic illustrations from various artists throughout history. Instead of the traditional methods, the stories were instead written in straightforward prose style, making them very easy to read and understand.
I was about 10 or 11 when I started reading those volumes, eagerly devouring them in the process. Although I had previously heard many of those stories in Sunday School, it was both pleasant and exciting to read them first hand.
But there were a few times I found what I read very puzzling. One particular story that comes to mind is in First Kings, Chapter 13 (Protestant version) about an unnamed prophet who chastised King Jeroboam during his reign.
The prophet called Jeroboam to task for burning incense on an altar. Although it doesn’t go into specifics, the king was probably making sacrifices to false gods, something the prophets – including this one – found abhorrent.
When Jeroboam ordered the man seized, he was struck with paralysis of his hand. The king then begged the prophet to call to God to heal him, which he did. After he was healed, Jeroboam invited the prophet to dine with him. However, the prophet refused, explaining that the Lord had ordered him not to eat or drink anything for a specific period of time.
The prophet then headed toward the town of Bethel. While resting by the roadside, he was approached by a man, who invited him to eat and drink with him. The prophet again refused, explaining that God had forbidden him to do so.
According to the Bible, the man said: “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’ But he lied to him.”
The prophet, believing the other man’s story, went to his house and dined there. Afterward, the prophet again set out on his journey.
But the Lord, angered that the prophet had disobeyed His command, sent a lion which killed the man. The lion made no attempt to eat the prophet, nor did it attack the donkey which the prophet had been riding. It’s only purpose was to punish the prophet for disobeying orders.
As I said earlier, I was very puzzled by this when I first read it, even though I just a kid. I kept asking myself “Why would God met out such an extreme punishment for violating what was essentially a very minor thing?”
There are some who would argue that God had commanded it, therefore God decides what punishment is just.
To which I say – nonsense!
If you recall, just a few chapters earlier, King David committed a much more horrible crime when he arranged to have Uriah the Hittite killed so he could take Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, for his own. David’s punishment was a good and thorough chastising from the Prophet Nathan, who really put the king in his place, let me tell you. But it really comes up short when you realize that God ordered the unnamed prophet killed for violating a very minor matter, compared to David’s penalty which was essentially a slap on the wrist for murder.
So why such a bald-faced inconsistency from God, when there should be none?
Some would give arguments that “It’s the Lord’s will,” or “It’s one of the great mysteries that we mortals cannot understand.” But I think I have a much more logical explanation.
Throughout our lives, many of us desire explanations for things we don’t understand – particularly when something bad occurs. Even myself, when I had a cancerous tumor removed many years ago, I kept on asking “Why me?”
This is often harmless, but many, many times, we often turn to God as the explanation. When things go wrong – very wrong – we say to ourselves – we must have done something to bring the Lord’s wrath down upon us.
This can be dangerous, very dangerous. Because then we start assuming that there must be something we did to warrant such treatment.
Case in point. When young children die – children who are innocent. People often ask themselves why would God strike down an innocent child. Because God is not suppose to have any wrath for the innocent, the parents are often blamed. They believe – or they are told – “God took your child because you sinned against him.”
To me, this is utter foolishness. We would not tolerate the idea of a human ruler taking the life of a child because a parent broke the law, so why put the blame on God when such a thing happens?
Going back to the nameless prophet in the Bible slain by the lion. I’m certain that incident happened. But when the scholars sat around, discussing the matter, they must have said to themselves “He must have done something wrong. Why else would God cause one of his prophets to be killed.”
Finally, finding no solid logical reason, someone must have suggested the order against eating and drinking. Because nobody could come up with a better explanation, this is how the story was presented in the Bible.
Sadly, this is all too prevalent in our way of thinking about such situations. If something bad happens, there has to be a logical reason for it, and doing something to get God upset is many times reason given.
I said earlier that I have a logical, alternative explanation for this. So here it is. Basically, there’s a random element in the universe that is a necessary part of our existence. It performs just as vital a function as birth, death, and the laws of physics.
The random element is why the lion happened to be in a particular place when the nameless prophet passed by on the road. The lion probably attacked the man out of fear, which was why it did not eat the prophet.
The random element is the reason why innocent children are afflicted with leukemia and other terminal diseases. There’s no malice in such things, no divine retribution for some imagined sin. It is simply the nature of things, and something which we must accept without the notion that there must have been something we could have done to prevent it.
Now, there is of course the question, if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He prevent such things from occurring to innocent people. Why does He allow such things to happen.
The reason, I believe, is because this random element is part of God’s make up. As such, it is as necessary and as unchangeable as God Himself. Without it, existence as we know it would not be possible.
Whew! Really tied one on that time. But don’t worry, I didn’t forget. Here’s today’s bad joke.
Wife: “Dear, the Invisible Man is at the door.”
Husband: Tell him I can’t see him right now.”