Question for fellow Christians

In the Roman Catholic denomination, and, I think, in most major Protestant denominations, one of the themes is how God is active in our lives.

I personally believe that there is little to no divine/supernatural interaction with this world. Even though I believe that God created this world, I also believe that it is a natural world that operates under natural laws and is separate from the “supernatural” world.

Now, reading bible stories, God seems to be a lot more active and involved in those times than he is now. There are a lot of thoughts as to why. For example, there were probably lots of things that the ancient people attributed to God, that God had nothing to do with. Also, not all of us take everything in the Bible literally.

But in thinking of it, I came up with an idea that I haven’t ever heard mentioned before (of course, I’m not too religious, and except for what is taught in my own church, I don’t keep track of religious teachings).

My idea is this. God is described as our father. So, I thought of typical* fatherly behavior. When is a father there the most for his child? A father is most active in the child’s early years.* As the child grows in size and knowledge, the father steps back. Eventually the child is grown, becomes independant, and goes out on his or her own.

So, wouldn’t God be less and less involved as humanity grows? The more knowledge we obtain, the more we advance, the more he steps back. And just as a father can step in to help an adult child, I don’t rule out the possibility of God performing a miracle, although, to be honest, I have doubts if they actually occur or not.

So, anyway, what do you think of my analogy? Obviously if you’re an atheist you’ll think it’s crap because you think the idea of God is crap. Or if you’re of another religion you might not agree because you think of God (or Gods, and/or Goddess(es)) differently. But if you’re a Christian, what do you think?

*Yeah yeah, not all fathers are like this, I know.

I think it’s not a bad analogy. My (limited) understanding of the free will concept is largely along those lines - you’re taught what is right and wrong, and then given the opportunity to follow those teachings or not. Frequent intervention (miracles, etc.) would in effect take away that free will and the consequences of our actions, and that was not God’s original intent (as far as I understand it).

If you’re inclined to read more on this sort of thing, I found a couple of books by Jack Miles to be very interesting: “God: A Biography” and “Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God.” Miles’s approach is to read the Bible like a biography and to then use that story to provide insight into God’s personality. It’s very interesting, although it does go against the all-knowing persona and maintains that God is often surprised (and usually not pleasantly!) about how his creation (people) have responded to him over the ages. The books also paint a picture of people that is similar to your idea - that people have moved beyond needing frequent and personal divine interactions because they have grown enough to be able to make their own decisions. It’s just that those decisions are not often the right ones.

Atheist here; accepting the initial premise as true, it’s not a crap idea. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Totally reasonable hypothesis, and the writers of several Old Testament books must have felt the same way, according to Disappearance of God author Richard Elliott Friedman. With the conventional understanding that Old Testament books were compiled long after the events they describe took place, Friedman interprets the diminishing frequency with which God intervenes directly in human affairs as an indication that scripture writers themselves recognized their advancement as a people beyond the stage of infancy characterized by extreme hand-holding on God’s part.

I like it. Sounds like a really sound theory.

Sorry, doesn’t fly with me. Man has been around for 100s of thousands of years so a few thousand does not separate child-man from adult-man.

The reason for active god disappearing is that the bible was codified long ago so new things like the *Virgin of Guadelupe *and The Greys didn’t make it in. Note that newer religions like LDS *do *have modern miracles.

Public Animal No. 9, thank you. I don’t have much time for reading, but those books do sound interesting.

biqu thank you too. Maybe I’ll keep the link, and find links for the books given PA#9 and keep them in my favorites for when I have the time to read them.

Revenant Threshold, it’s funny, but I keep reading your name as Reverend Threshold. :smiley:

DanBlather, yes, there are claims of modern miracles, but just because there’s a claim, doesn’t mean it’s true. And yes, I know, that can be said of Biblical claims as well. As for how long we’ve been around, if you think that we’re childlike as a people at this stage, then how long do we need to be around before we’re more…I guess I’ll say, mature?

That’s kind of a tautology: Christianity is what is in the bible, the bible was written a long time ago, there are no new instances in the bible of god’s actions.

I should have said “it isn’t *necessarily *true”

Anyway, I’m curious to hear your answer to my second question. If being around for thousands of years doesn’t mean that we’re more mature and self reliant, then how much longer do we need to be around?

I didn’t say that we aren’t mature now, I meant that we were not that less mature a couple thousand of years ago. I’m comparing a couple thousand years to the 100s of thousand years man has been around.

Originally Posted by Nobody
DanBlather, yes, there are claims of modern miracles, but just because there’s a claim, doesn’t mean it’s true. And yes, I know, that can be said of Biblical claims as well.

But the OP isn’t using the Bible as a foundation of an argument but as example: 6500 years ago we needed God’s assistance - as is evidenced in the Bible, God’s direct intervention seems to have become rarer over the years, is it possible that we, like other children, have gained our independance.

And Christianity is NOT “what’s in the Bible” because the Bible includes a lot that sure as Hell isn’t Christian.

Nobody - if that isn’t a fair summation of your question/reasonning you have my apologies.

I like your analogy except that it seems to me that, with the exception of science/technology, we really haven’t come that far. We are still spoiled, petulant, petty, pig-ignorant, violent, ill-tempered-diva-brats. In fact in many ways I think the ancient Hebrews were more advanced than us.

If ever the world needed a flood it’s now.

Things that I would have thought of as miraculous as a child happen around me all the time – daily. There are scientific reasons for these events to happen, but they haven’t lost the quality of seeming miraculous to me. That’s because if don’t see science and religion as contradictory. So far, going with scientific evidence has been encouraging in my thoughts about the wondrousness of the sacred.

Are we really that different from children ourselves?

I think that sounds about right.

I’m not sure if I would agree with that. I think that, overall, the world is becoming a better place, albeit slowly. In western countries women are no longer second class citizens, and women’s rights are slowly gaining ground in other countries. Even though there are still racists, race relations are better now than in the past and they keep improving.

Yes, there are still spoiled, petulant, petty, pig-ignorant, violent, ill-tempered-diva-brats, and other bad people and nations out there, but then, there probably always will be. But I think that as time goes on, they’ll be the minority.

It’s funny, I read once that the word miracle meant something different to the ancient Hebrews than the way we use it now. I forget the exact meaning, but while it could be used for something awesome or spectacular, it didn’t automatically denote something supernatural. That meaning came later.

And I agree with science and religion not conflicting. As for if we are like children…maybe in some ways.

I overstated things somewhat :wink:

We, as individual societies and cultures may have advanced in some areas (both geographic and technological) but I don’t think we as a species have evolved all that much. I’ll give two examples to illustrate what I mean:

  1. Rwanda - The world literaly sat back and watched as 800,000 people were brutalized and slaughtered. We came in and helped afterwards but that’s a dollar short and a day late.

  2. Darfur - The Janjaweed are doing monstrous things, daily, with our full knowledge and we’ve done nothing of any consequence to stop it. The UN has declared it a genocide but because the Sudanese governement won’t “allow” UN Peacekeepers/makers in we sit back and do nothing. We don’t even really watch this time because Iraq is more FX.

Those are two examples but there are many more.

We profit from these conflicts, we feed off of weaker (economically speaking) nations, we’re still slavers but we pay a small tithe to conscience and propriety.

ETA - I meant to mention that we, in the West and not-so West, have the political and military capability to intervene and prevent these things. We simply choose not to.
I’d say we’re not that different from X thousand years ago; we just have shinier suits.

But that is the point. The Bible was written long ago so there are no modern miracles in it. There are no modern miracles because they aren’t in the Bible. If the Bible were written today it would be full of pancakes with the image of Mary, Jesus in the reflection of a window, etc.

I don’t think God is at all inactive, but undercover, and occasionally throws out a curveball to keep us wondering. Who knows how many good things happen and bad things don’t because of unsensed interventions? Sometimes unexplained healings & reaaallly interesting “coincidences” do occur. And sometimes to small groups of people, something wild happens. We’re coming up on the 91st anniversary of one such event this October 13th.

But ordinarily, yeah, it seems that God is not openly doing much in the way of the miraculous.

I beg to differ on this one. As bad as the situation may appear to be on this planet, if you weigh positive human behaviour ( ie. not being deliberately harmful in any of your actions, but not exactly striving to do ‘good’. ), against negative human behaviour ( deliberately seeking to harm, or lacking concern for others feelings.), I’d wager that the balance is still firmly tilted towards the “positive” side. Man is no longer an animal that needs to be caged behind bars of ritual and structure, imo. A consciously educated person needs nothing other than common sense to determine the harm or help an action can produce, in most cases. I’d like to believe that it is basic human decency, and our tendency to prefer conflict free lives, that prevents us from going out of homes intent on nothing but mischief, and not any laws that are imposed.

Not that I’m worried about floods, as I live at the highest point in Manchester, and if we were going to be flooded, the rain here would have done it a long time ago. :slight_smile:

ps. Btw, although I am down as a C of E protestant, I haven’t got a religious bone in my body. Hope I’m still welcome?

We’ve come a long way as a species but it looks as if there is a long way left to go.

When I was an infant nothing was my fault. Everybody else did whatever was wrong, I had no accountability whatsoever nor any need for any. As a child I started making choices, some right and some wrong, but the model I had for behavior (based on personal experience, not an external model) was that it was not my fault, although I should have held myself accountable, I did not.

I don’t think I was grown until I was able to fully recognize what is my fault and what is beyond my control. Not until I aquired insight on accountability did I even consider my free will as truly mine and no one elses (and it took me damn near 40 years to get there).

As a society I feel this is an area where we still have much work to do before we can be termed “mature”.

Many of us as individuals have crossed this hurdle (although there are still many hurdles remaining) but my opinion of society in general is that it continues to stand in defiance of personal accountability and continues to pass the buck on responsibility.

That’s just one simple observation as to when we will be mature.

As to the OP, I do think we have come a long way. Perhaps God is not as active as He once was because of this but, because we are not quite ripe yet, His presence is still quite required. Or perhaps there is an equal amount of influence as before but as opinions and observations become more variated due to ever growing populations and cultural dissonance, these actions may be overlooked or taken for granted.

Personally my vote is for the latter, although after the 20th century I would fully understand God taking a coffee break to clear His head.

  1. Jericho - God determined that all of the promised land must go to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So he wiped out the Canaanites for that reason alone.

Now we’re talking something anti-biblical :smiley: