Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Sam Shamoun and the length of our years

Ultimately, our life is in the hand of the sovereign Triune God who has decreed the length of our years.
So said "Sam" -- I think Sam Shamoun, the master debater -- over in the third comment to an article at

Sam's comment made me think of that story about a holy man who was told there would be a flood. Another man came to the holy man's house and said, "holy man, come with me now in my car, I will save you from the flood." The holy man said, "No, God will take care of me." So the other man drove off in his car. It began to pour so hard that the wise man had to go up on his roof, as the water level rose and rose. A man in a boat came by and said he would save the holy man, who said, "no, God will save me." So the boat went away. Finally a helicopter came, as the water was rising above the man's roof. A ladder was lowered, and still the holy man said, "no thank you, God will save me." So finally the helicopter flew away. After a while, the holy man drowned and went to heaven. Standing before God, the holy man said, "God, I believed in you. Why didn't you save me?" And God said, "I sent you a car, then I sent you a boat, and then I sent you a helicopter!"

God often works through the things of this world and through earthly limitations, including through ourselves, so from that point of view, it's partly up to us when we die and how we die. And there is real human freedom, so perhaps God does not always determine in advance how or when we will die.

Ultimately everything is turned to the Good and the Eternal, but not immediately. I do think the length of our years is sometimes determined in advance by heaven. But the world and human destiny may be complex enough that God does not always or entirely decree the number of our years. I suspect there is sometimes flexibility. Sometimes there seem to be dialogues between man and God, converse that happens in dreams, or near death, or otherwise, and thus people sometimes confer with the divine about whether years can be prolonged. Or shortened. I recall an account from a woman who lost all vital signs, clinically died, felt her soul rise out of her body and into a heavenly world where she met a being of light she perceived to be God or Jesus. The Being asked her to come and be with Him. She felt great joy, and she felt tremendous love coming from the Being of light, and she laughed and said "But I want to go back, I haven't danced enough yet!" At that, Jesus laughed with her and agreed to her going back. Whereupon she found herself again back in her body.

I believe in God, but I think God's superlative qualities do not include omnipotence or omniscience, insofar as human freedom is real. Since our decision processes are real, the outcome of our decision processes cannot always be known in advance, not even by God. If God knew in advance everything we were going to decide, then our decision-making processes would not really be decision-making processes. They would be a sham, because the outcome would already have been decided in advance. And for similar reasons God is not omnipotent: human freedom is real, perhaps especially since Christ's incarnation. I suspect the notion that God must be omnipotent and omniscient comes from man conceiving God in the image of earthly tyrants; and we know a lot about that from Islam. Nicholas Berdaev wrote at times about how the true Christian God was a God of freedom, and about how authoritarians and tyrants had tried to reconceive the Christian God in an authoritarian image, to help enforce earthly authorities. Charles Hartshorne claimed there is nothing in scripture that really requires the notion that God is omniscient or omnipotent.

I wouldn't be surprised if all this is familiar to Sam...including whatever parts he might think false.

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