Dearest Rachel –
I know you expressed disgust for him when he was on trial, convicted and ultimately imprisoned; I don’t recall if you were around to see him released on a technicality (as I understand it, the prosecutor screwed up by bringing up accusations that were supposed to be off the table as part of his deposition and confession). He’s a free man to the end of his days, but in the court of public opinion, he has been sentenced – and deservedly so – to ostracism and expungement from the public record. Even I’m avoiding the mention of his name, but I dare say you can figure out who I’m talking about.
All of which is a shame, because some of his material was absolutely brilliant, especially in his younger years. His three-part take on the story of Noah, in particular, was a tour de force – would that all Sunday School lessons could be that entertaining (although, I’m pretty sure a lot of them could be, in the right hands. Heck, Elijah’s mockery of the prophets of Ba’al on Mount Carmel was a comedy routine in and of itself – although time and translation have knocked the corners off a few square-cut gems in his monologue. Well, even Shakespeare isn’t as funny as he used to be).
In the third part of his telling of the story, he imagined Noah, having completed the ark (“this is one heck of a job for a man six hundred years old!”), now having to deal with assembling the animals to be saved from the flood. The vignette opens with him trying to herd a pair of hippos onto the ark when the Lord attempts to get his attention:
“WHAT!?” the old man screams at the heavens in exhausted frustration.
“You’ve got to take one of those hippos back.”
“‘Cause you got two males there; you need to bring in a female.”
“I ain’t taking one back! You change on of them!”
“Come on, you know I don’t work that way!”
But does He?
I don’t quite know what to make of His response there. To be fair, He doesn’t seem to be in that business – although in this particular case, there seem to be a lot of surgeons and pharmacists that would be more than happy to help people toward this end (not that it would really serve His purposes of repopulating a flood-devastated Earth, since I’m led to understand that post-operative trans individuals are, for all intents and purposes, sterile).
In a similar vein, we’re to be starting a new sermon series at church later this month about what is and what isn’t doctrine. Pastor Scott is trying to educate our growing congregation about tenets of the faith that the average new Christian might not know (as a humorous example, speaking of Noah, he claims that there is a percentage of the American population – small, but not negligible – that seems to think Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife), but which are crucial in order to grow further in our walk with God.
Part of that process is to understand what is and is not part of scripture. You and I both know this, but it’s apparently not common knowledge that “God helps those that help themselves” is not Biblical. Sure, the Proverbs lay into people for laziness, and how that brings about ruination in one’s earthly life, but it runs counter to the whole concept (and point) of the gospel of salvation; which is to say, we couldn’t save ourselves even if we were to try.
So where did the expression come from? Turns out, it’s from a Greek myth, incorporated among Aesop’s fables, wherein a farmer’s cart falls into a ravine, and he calls out to the deified Heracles for assistance. The response from heaven not only provides the source for the phrase (although obviously, in a polytheistic society, it would read “the gods help those that help themselves”), it also coins the admonition that the farmer “put [his] shoulder to the wheel,” and expend his own strength and effort toward salvaging his cart before Hercules should deign to assist.
Extra-biblical though it might be, the point still stands. We seem to think we know what God will or won’t do – and in some cases, what we need to do, since God won’t. It’s about this sort of thing that Daniel and I have differences. Already this year, we have had several heated discussions as to what God may work in the world throughout the coming year – and the “fact” (can it be called that when we’re referring to future events that haven’t happened yet?) that the changes to be wrought will be done in a way other than that of what would be considered the normal course of events (in this case, the handing over the reigns of government by other means than the mid-term elections). I insist that this isn’t how God operates in this day and age, but I realize to say that confines Him in a way that I probably shouldn’t. To say outright, “God doesn’t (or worse yet, cannot) do that,” is a dangerous game to play, and I can’t bring myself to do so, even though I disagree with Daniel and the prophets he listens to.
I already feel as if I have allowed him to move the goalposts several times; first, that things would change by the end of June, then by July, then by August, and then by the end of the year. Now, it’s been changed to the end of this year, and I don’t appreciate the delay. In a way, it proves my point, but Daniel doesn’t see it that way, and continues to believe who he’s been told about what will happen. And I’m stuck, because I can’t bring myself to say that God doesn’t work that way, because… He might well do so, should He see fit.
At least, if the changes happen by way of what we would consider ‘ordinary’ means, I will have been vindicated, and the prophets will have been proven wrong, and it only takes one more year of waiting it out.
I don’t even know who to ask you to wish you luck to, honey. But do as you will if you can. Either way, one of us will need it.
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