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« Re: Rethinking the Great Commission | Main | The Way I See It »

May 17, 2007

To a "Modern-day Nobody"

Cup So caffeine, if you haven't noticed, covers over a mulitude of sins. I'm sure that's in the Message Re-mix somewhere. (I'm joking, of course. The more I write for a Christian audience the more I discover we can be an utterly humorless bunch. I'm on a mission to change that.) Anyhow, running on fewer hours of sleep than normal, I decided to stop by Starbucks on my way to work this morning. On my cup of Java is this quote, "The Way I See It #247," submitted by Bill Scheel from London, Ontario, who describes himself as a "modern day nobody." He writes:

Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imagination for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.

How would you answer Mr. Modern-day Nobody? Here's what I might say...

First of all, Bill, I think it is good that you are trying to be consistent with your own worldview. If you don't believe in God, certainly it doesn't make much sense for you to talk to Him when the going gets tough. Many of us flit between worldviews depending on our mood, the audience, and the circumstance. So kudos to you for noting the inconsistency. I, on the other hand, do believe that God is more than a figment of our imagination. I also believe that it is a lot easier to create catastrophe than to endure it.

Back in science class, I remember learning about the second law of thermodynamics. Basically, it is the tendency of things to go from order to disorder. This is kind of gravity of the universe. As the poet Yeats penned in "The Second Coming," and African writer Chinua Achebe borrowed for a title, "Things fall apart." I don't think it takes any great strength to create catastrophes. Looking around my apartment or my desk, instead I notice disorder comes quite naturally.

It doesn't take great strength, but pedestrian weakness to disorder our lives, the lives of others and the lives of nations.

What does take great strength is not just enduring those catastrophes, but shaping order from disorder. This is working backwards, it is like swimming upstream. For ages, people have looked outside themselves for such strength. Even people who haven't believed in God, have quickly discarded the myth of self-sufficiency. In the aftermath of Katrina, or Hiroshima, or civil war, people might have looked within themselves for power, but they quickly realized they'd need to look outside themselves also. We need one another. Only the fiercely arrogant or the stubbornly foolish would dare to think otherwise.

I would think we would at least be able to agree on this.

I would take it one step further though, but I'll respect your right to disagree with me. Sometimes other people aren't enough. There are many crises in my life where other people have been God's hands and fingers taking hold of me, but there were other crises, where everyone, including the people who cared most deeply for me, were utterly powerless to help. My soul couldn't help but cry out. It is reflex. Like a child crying for mother, when we are powerless to help ourselves we cry out for someone more powerful.

You say we are cognitive beings. I agree. But I don't think you can think your way out of this. I'm not saying the response is irrational. I'm saying it is instinctive or even, meta-rational. I believe that it suggests a deeper reality. The most probable explanation is that there exists someone who is fully capable of meeting my needs when no one else can. I know Him. I've experienced this. I can't force it on you. But I pray that when a crisis overtakes you, and when you have found yourself impotent to meet it, you will like a child cry out. I pray God will meet you and graciously shatter your preconceived notions. I'm sorry if it is offensive to you that I would pray this. If God is merely a figment of my imagination, then there's no real harm done. If He is real, I pray He would make Himself known to you and that you would not shut Him out.

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David Cervera

Now how are we supposed to fit all that on a coffee cup?


A poem by Calvin Miller:

"A humanist in a tossing sea,
asked for help and presently
received in full intensity, advice.

You must swim if you would be.
Rescue breeds dependency.
That's nice, he said.
And floated easily.
And dead."

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