Talking with Jesus (Oh yeah?) 13

“Even as a child I thought the natural world was perfect and wondered why I was such a mess. I loved it and yet it was a kind of rebuke to me. But probably you never felt that, Jesus?”

“Perhaps I knew the natural world better than you. Some years it provided no rain, and the land was parched and nothing grew and people and animals starved. Or it brought rain storms which filled the wadis and swelled the Jordan so that it flooded fields and villages. Of course, I didn’t see myself as superior to nature, but as part of it with my own droughts and storms, both of us worked on by God’s persuasion towards something better.”

“But if nature is imperfect where do its faults come from? The Bible teaches that God made the universe out of nothing, so how can it be imperfect?

“ No, it doesn’t teach that.”

“Now, come on, Jesus…..”

“So, tell me, what does it say?“

“In the best translation, by Everett Fox, it says,

In the beginning of God’s creation of the heavens and the earth, when the earth was wild and waste, with darkness over the face of the Ocean, and God’s spirit hovering over the waters, God said, Let there be light,” and there was light.

“So, yes, He made it out of nothing.”

“How can you say that? There are a number of things that exist before God starts creating: the earth, the ocean waters, and the darkness; all of which are used by God and feature in his finished world. Some will dispute the earth, since it only exists in a chaotic form, but nobody can deny the waters and the darkness. God’s persuasive words bring the chaos into a marvellous order, but he did not start with nothing.”

“Doesn’t that mean that God is limited by the materials he used?”

“Tell me. Is the carpenter limited by having wood or by having no wood?” Yes, he is altered by the wood, is it pine or oak, straight or gnarled? But limited? Surely not. If he has wood he can work.”

“But if God is altered by the materials he found, then He’s not almighty!”

“There’s a kind of exaggeration that religious people love, ALmighty, OMNiscient, as if God is a kind of celestial Putin only more powerful. God has never worked by force, but always by persuasion.”

“That’s a very human word for you to use of God, Jesus….”

“What other words are there? Even the words spoken by God, ‘Let there be light’ are human words invented by the writer of Genesis, who certainly wasn’t around at the beginning of creation to hear them! He or she was telling a story about God, as I did in my parables.”

“So, OK, tell me more about this persuasion of God.”

“God relates to everything in the universe, persuading them towards perfection; to the mountain, the rock, the molecule, the atom, the particle; to the church, the person, the brain, the cell, and he does it all..”

“Badly!”

“You accuse God?”

“No, I simply mention the obvious fact: either he’s a poor persuader or he doesn’t exist. Most people in their heart of hearts think he doesn’t. Yes, they can be bullied by priests, ministers, imams, gurus and the like into maintaining the fiction that he exists, but when the child dies, the husband betrays, the job is lost, the mortgage foreclosed, the cancer confirmed, the fairy tales crumble and they face reality, often with new courage.“

“I know the feeling, only too well.”

“Sorry, Jesus, I forgot…”

“I can’t remember if I said what Mark says I said, but I died, as you might say, unpersuaded. But here I am. And now I wonder why we refuse to grasp the appalling nature of persuasion. We know ourselves how we have tried to persuade a loved one towards something that will benefit them, only to be utterly refused. Why do we imagine that a persuasive God must be successful? Or that we know what success would look like? When Job, in the Bible, complains that God’s administration has been poor in his case, God answers him by pointing out how successful he’s been with the hippopotamus. He doesn’t apologise, but gives Job some hints as to what divine persuasion involves.

“But of course, that’s just a drama made up by a believer.”

“Are the dramatist’s views less important than yours my friend?”

“Fair enough. but if we can return to the question I raised before, aren’t you admitting that God is limited by human beings who refuse to be persuaded?

“If I am truly here with you, then you can believe that there is no limit to God’s persuasion; that the universe is telling the splendour of God’s love.”

“If you are here……..”

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