The idea that God is somehow directly engaged in the tearing down and building up of nations was a common view in ancient
(see Jer. 18:7–10), but a
view that progressive Christians cannot accept. Israel
It seems to me that God has ordered life on this planet with an inordinate amount of freedom. The number of children who die daily due to malnutrition and preventable diseases is staggering. Many of these deaths are due to the systemic injustice that results in the disproportionate distribution of resources in our world. God does not intervene to make things right, nor does God intervene in natural disasters, genocides, brutal killings, torture, etc.
God’s method of creation (evolution) and the time and context required for life to emerge and evolve to its present state suggests that God values freedom over power. The very nature of creation limits God’s power. God does not micromanage the planet or our lives; God loves freedom too much.
Whenever I come across the word “Almighty” in a translation of Scripture (which translation is questionable), or in a song of worship or hymn, or in a worship litany or responsive reading, I immediately translate that in my mind to mean, “Almighty in grace or love or goodness” rather than “Almighty in power.”
An expression uttered a couple of times in the original
film has stuck with me: Life will find a way. God found a way to bring forth
life. Suffering is an inevitable part of this process. God’s power is limited
in the face of suffering. Such is the nature of life on this planet. Jurassic Park
But I do not believe the same limitation applies to God’s presence. God’s presence pervades this planet whether we know it or not. A transformative spiritual life begins with an awareness of the divine presence.
I also believe that God’s presence is an embodied presence. God partakes of flesh and blood; the divine resides incarnationally in our world and in each one of us. The divine Spirit infuses our spirit, so much so that God’s life is inseparably bound to our lives. When Paul envisioned a future day of redemption, he imagined that it included “the whole creation” (Rom. 8:22).
So while I do not believe God is capable of tearing down and building up nations or directly intervening with infinite power into human affairs, I do believe that God is moved by what we do or do not do. I believe that all our planetary and human responses to various events, experiences, relationships, etc. impacts and influences God.
When the prophet gives voice to God by saying, “I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring . . . or the good that I intended to do,” while rejecting his interventionist theology, I do think the prophet captures something essential about God.
God is engaged in the sort of intimate, dynamic relationship with this planet and human beings in particular, so much so that when we suffer, God is impacted by that suffering. In a way that is beyond our capacity to understand, God shares our suffering.
God is influenced by our generosity and animosity, our travail and joy, the good and evil we do. I don’t know how it works, but this is at the core of what incarnation is about. For Christians, Jesus’ suffering on the cross is the archetypal image of God sharing the human condition.
Joni Eareckson Tada has been a quadriplegic most of her adult life. She has put it this way: “God does not give advice. God does not give reasons or answers. God goes one better. God gives God’s self . . . If you are the one who is at the center of the universe holding it all together . . . you can do no more that give yourself.”
I believe that God gives God’s self everyday, every hour, every moment in ways that we can scarcely imagine. I believe that God is so intimately attached and intricately connected to the web of life on this planet that God is impacted in some way by everything that happens. God is not the unmoved mover; God is the most moved mover.
Where is God when bad things happen? God is right in the midst of the bad things, experiencing the tragic with us, just as God experiences the good with us—walking with us through it all.