Thursday, September 27, 2012

Slaves to nature

Throughout the Hebrew Bible, God vows repeatedly to punish those who break the Covenant. But, in truth, how many of us have seen God directly intervene in the lives of sinners? I don’t know anyone who has. However, I have seen people who try to live by their own rules thwarted one way or another.

Following enlightened reason, we observe the immutable laws of nature. Wisdom is knowing these laws and living by them. I know if I let go of something, it will drop and probably break. This and millions of other assumptions, varying from the simple to the complex, guide our daily lives and choices.

That God directly intervenes rarely if ever in the workings of the universe makes sense. Imagine if at some point I dropped something, God stopped it from falling. Imagine if at some point I bought something I couldn’t afford, God gave me the money. Imagine if at some point I murdered my boss, God brought him back to life. While beneficial to me personally, God’s interventions would disincentivize what was self-evidently good behavior. There would be no recognizable order or reason for me to act one way or another. There would be only the whim of a micromanaging God.

The Word of God written into our hearts does not capture the extent to which we are, in a manner of speaking, slaves to God. As flawed human beings tainted with sin, we are constantly tempted to serve other priorities, usually selfish.

“There is nothing we could not do. Invisibility, levitation—anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wished to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of those nineteenth-century ideas about the laws of nature. We make the laws of nature.” –O’Brien, 1984

Hard as we try to rewrite the laws of nature, we will fail. God has set us up to fail. Witness, for example, the misery of people on welfare. We thought we could make inequality and envy an artifact of the past. But it’s in our nature to resent income we do not earn, and yet cling to the security and comfort it provides. Witness also the divorce of sex from procreation. Our obsession with sex, reduced to a fleeting pleasure, has sapped energy and joy from the long-term duties of family. As a result a decadent, childless society is our current path.

In summary, wisdom is the prescription for living under a detached God. “The discerning person looks to wisdom, but the eyes of a fool to the ends of the earth.”

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