I have a friend who read the title and thought of a great Taco Bell story immediately. One that involved a cellphone, a rude customer, and me expressing my anger in an unhealthy way. But that’s not what I’m here to discuss.
Rude cellphone use, when it interferes with one’s ability to properly interact with people physical present in one’s environment, is one of my pet peeves still today. But the pet peeve under discussion goes by a few names. I think the most common one is spin.
Spin is when you’re asked a fairly direct question and your answer to it fails to actually answer it. It’s commonly employed by politicians. People who use it generally come off as having something to hide.
An example of spin can be seen in this video. William Lane Craig asks Christopher Hitchens a simple question: “What variety of non-theist are you?” Hitchens won’t answer, because none of the choices are convenient for his argument.
Spin isn’t limited to unbelievers. Christians do it to, especially where soteriology is concerned. Religious pluralism is a fairly hot topic right now, and many Christians, fearing reprisal from the culture, don’t want to adopt the “wrong” view according to culture. Yet we want to adopt the right view according to God, not the view that is going to win us the most points in the culture.
Dr. Randal Rauser, in this article, has been asked a direct question about soteriology: “So… what is it one must believe or trust [to be saved]? And how does it lead to works?” But does he answer it? Nope. He spins. Read the rest of this entry
Jennifer Fulwiler has a great post on prayer on her blog, Conversion Diary. It’s nice to see someone reflect on what prayer should actually entail. Too often God is considered to be some kind of magic genie that grants our every wish.
Jennifer, on the other hand, has it right. In a theology of prayer, a balance has to be struck between specificity and generality. What do I mean?
Right now, I’m unemployed. It’s a long story. My wife’s income isn’t enough to sustain us, so something has to happen and quickly. If I pray, “God, please grant me a new job tomorrow morning,” what do you think is going to happen when I open my e-mail?
That’s right. No job offers. I doubt my cell phone is going to ring anytime soon either.
Am I missing something?
Yes, I am. Where in the Bible does God ever promise to give me everything I have ever wanted? Last I checked, Jesus called us to deny ourselves–our physical desires and perceived needs–and take up our crosses, and follow him. The Christian life isn’t one of ease, wealth, and good health-o’plenty (despite what Joel Osteen might tell you). A Christian life is one of sacrifice and (dare I say it?) persecution.
That message doesn’t sell well, especially in the United States. So hacks like Osteen spread their false prosperity gospel quite easily, even though there isn’t a shred of Scriptural evidence for what they’re saying. People buy it, hook, line, and sinker (see 2 Tim 4:3).
Why should the followers have it easy, living in the lap of luxury, when the master lived a pauper’s life and died a torturous, shameful death? The servant, Jesus wisely quips, isn’t greater than his master (Jn 15:20).
Jennifer suggests “zooming out” a bit. In other words, instead of thinking only of your health, wealth, prosperity–your perceived needs–try to think in terms of what you actually need.
So, I’m not going to get that magical job offer in my inbox tomorrow. Do I need a job? It could be argued that I do. But I think what I really need is a way to provide food for my children. We have food stamps forthcoming. And we already receive WIC benefits. God, perhaps, is working through these programs for the time being in order to provide for us.
None of us are starving. None of us will, it seems. Ah, God has promised that in his word, for we are more important to him than lesser animals, yet those do not starve.
And I have enough marketable skills that I won’t be without a job for too long. So God has provided a short term solution for us in the welfare benefits, but has also provided a long term solution in the form of the marketable skills I have gained over the years I have been employed. It’s not a clear, concise, detailed answer that magically dropped out of heaven, but it is an answer to prayer!
Next time, instead of focusing on minutely detailed answers magically provided as if from nowhere, “zoom out” a bit, as Jennifer put it. Look for the more underlying need and pray for its provision. And, as in everything, look for God’s will. Because, really, this life isn’t about you.