Monday, December 15, 2008

Trying To Control God

I read this a few days ago at nakedpastor and have been mulling it over:

"The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber believed that the enemy of true faith in God was not atheism (the claim that there is no God). In fact, he believed the enemy of true faith was two-fold: gnosticism (the claim that God is known); and magic (the claim that we know what God will do). I quote:

The two spiritual powers of gnosis and magic, masquerading under the cloak of religion, threaten more than any other powers the insight into the religious reality… the tribes of Jacob could only become Israel by disentangling themselves from both gnosis and magic.

Which reminded me of Simon in Acts 8. It says there that he previously practiced magic. But legend also has it that he was the founder of the gnostic movement, Simon Magus. Interesting that both enemy streams would merge in one person and perhaps one movement."

What I have been mulling is this: where is the line between knowing true things about God and taking that knowledge too far? And also . . . are we trying to control God by our belief that our deep understanding of Him (the gnostic error) and our belief God can be utilized by us as we wish (the magical error) and if we are, what are we losing? To me these are deep problems. Sometime I worry that we idolize knowledge and faith, attempting to make God our slaves through them. "If you know this, you will be in God's will." Or "If you just believe, it will happen." Both of these extremes are so easy to fall into. Yet both of them attempt to enslave the sovereign God of the Universe. Somehow they do not reflect what the Bible tells us about God - that rules are for humans and not for Him. As C.S. Lewis says "He's not a tame Lion, but he's good." Nakedpastor's post has been making me think: how have I been trying to control God in my own life? And how does one possibly balance faith (say as in Mark 11:24) and God's sovereignty? Difficult questions . . .

P.S. The above painting is The Conjurer, by Hieronymus Bosch (16th century).

1 comment:

Elayne said...

Good questions Mark. I am doing some reading on this topic right now...don't have enough time to really get into it until January. Reminds me again of how many people really believe in the "power of prayer" and even as that is spoken the emphasis too often seems to be on our praying and not on the One we are praying to. I'll have to read Nakedpastor!