The title of this blog comes from 1 Timothy 1:11. There Paul refers to God as “The Happy God”. He uses the Greek word makarios, which refers to a pleasant state of satisfaction. Why is God happy in view of the trouble in the world? Why would a good and powerful God permit evil? The philosophical term for this question is theodicy.
What are my credentials? Mainly, that I have spent about 40 years so far, trying to find Jesus’ footsteps, not only in the pages of the Bible but also in the dust of life and the whispers of conscience.
I’m no different than most readers in that I haven’t been able to think of this as a full-time job; the pressing needs of raising 4 fantastic daughters with a wonderful wife and soulmate; the challenges of running a business and dabbling with farming and ecological yearnings have made theology, and theodicy, an avocation. Which means you’ll have to test what I say against realities and real authorities (such as the Bible, if you have vetted it yourself). But you should be doing that anyway, right?
Tent-making-wise, I am a filmmaker, photographer, and communications consultant; fellowship-wise, I have invested lots of my life in efforts to serve fellow believers in mostly non-denominational settings. I’ve listened to a lot of speakers, read a lot of books, written a lot of articles and booklets, and had the opportunity to speak at various Christian gatherings around the country. My circle has expanded to include the home-schooling community, especially the Christian debating community which my wife and I served by founding Christian Communicators of Ohio. I enjoy a wide circle of fellowship among both Christians and Jews. I can’t really fit into any category or denominational belief system. Probably “heretic”, meaning believer of Bible teachings unacceptable to some, is the best word to describe me, and I’ve never met a group that wouldn’t think me a heretic in some area.
But if you’re one of those really broad-minded cats, I’ll gladly answer to “follower of Jesus”.
So why am I blogging? Because it seems to me that we’re right on the cusp of finding out, once and for all, what God is up to. Either He’s there, and involved, and planning some things, or he’s not there and the earth doesn’t have a pilot at all. I choose to believe the former, and I think I have good reasons… and I think that the title Paul gives to God that heads this blog cuts right to the heart of the matter.
If God is real, and he’s truly happy, what are his almighty reasons for contentment with the worldwide perception that he is an absentee, incompetent father? Here are two that I am convinced of: he wants to temporarily hide his will and plan so that the masses of mankind can explore the world and make their mistakes prior to the formal and complete education that he has arranged for them; and so that his special family of faith can be developed in a womb of trouble … just able to hear his heartbeat and receive his nourishment, but unable to hold his hand or see his smiling face. (Temporary?! For all of human history?!!! — yes, plenty of time for us but really only 6 days for God… and the 7th, I believe is almost here. You know, the Sabbath… the day Jesus preferred for his healing foretastes….the “day” he said he would be the Lord of….)
I enjoy the fellowship of a wide variety of Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters, in every kind of denominational setting as well as outside the institutional framework, where I mostly reside.
I am too focused on the Bible and too impressed with heretical thinkers to be very acceptable to the denomination of my youth. But I love them and value their wisdom and collective faithfulness — and the profound and special friendship of a great many of them.
I am too aware of the weaknesses of faith communities and the power of God’s ultimate expressions of love to be worried about the destinies of the many wonderful atheists, agnostics, and just plain Joe Sixpacks I have met. They’ll be just fine. Guys and gals who are unintentionally obeying God’s command to populate the earth and try to leave it in better shape than they found it, if nothing else.
And so I feel compelled to engage in dialog with my Christian friends who are worried about the lost; I feel driven to try and show them the failures of institutional Churchianity, as well as some of what is supremely, reliably true about Jesus and the Bible that they seem to be ignoring.
And I have to encourage everyone who is sighing and crying for the abominations done in the “city” of theological confusion … whether they be the humanists, Israelites, atheists, or the myriad burned-out Christians who’ve been disillusioned of late. In the time of a bitter harvest of the Christian religion, it seems that just about everyone (except the Baptists with blinders 🙂 ) seem to need encouragement.
I don’t want the Christians to give up, because they’re learning how to be humbler, how to listen … the kinds of skills that future mediators will need. And I don’t want the atheists to give up in the face of overwhelming logical evidence that there is not a caring God somewhere. For them, I try to buttress my claim that the Bible and its God is better than even its friends fully know.
I want to encourage all the heretics like me — the universalists, the Emergent folks, and the many splinters of any number of restorationist sects — to keep standing for what they know is true, regardless of their isolation from the main stream. And finally, I want to encourage my Jewish friends to trust their gut… they know there’s something fishy about evangelical Christianity. I want them to cling to their Jewish roots, and rely on the unvarnished promises of their prophets … and if they trust their instincts and their Book they’ll be vindicated when the universal vision of a worldwide redemption, centered in Jerusalem, finally hits the ground running.
That’s a lot of conflicting stuff for one blogger to write about… so I hope if you stumble upon these pages that you’ll see that the unifying theme is the only anchor that any of us will be able to hang onto in coming days. God is indeed happy…. satisfied with where we are and where we’re going … because he’s interested in developing a conversation with the human race. He’s not into threats and punishments, but into insight and deep thinking and the lessons of real love. And he knows that with his quiet, ample power, all the “bad work” that prophets like George Carlin and Mark Twain have spoken about will be resolved for the maximum beneficial impact. War. Oppression. Cancer. Death. Even _____ (fill in the blank with your personal object of derision) and the Ice Capades. And God’s promise to bring all people a feast, wipe away all tears, restore all things, swallow up death in victory … well, that happy eventuality would be the only thing, ultimately, that could possibly make any of us happy when today we face the darkest hours of the human experience.