Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Theology: The God Who Intervenes?

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. (Colossians 1:15-17, New King James Version)

I take a kind of perverse pleasure in taking various sorts of personality quizzes on the internet. Some time ago, I took the "whats your spiritual-type" quiz over at Beliefnet. Leaving aside the nonsense "spiritual vs. religious" distinction the quiz rests on, it also starts with one of those terrible questions that has no correct answer, but it's useful because it serves to bring up a problem in much modern discussion of God. The question goes as follows:
Q1. I believe that God:
1. Exists and intervenes in daily events
2. Exists but does not intervene in daily events
3. Is a spiritual ideal, not an actual being
4. Does not exist

All of these answers are wrong, but the first is the one that's important for the purposes of this post, because it's the one I, as a believing Christian, am supposed to pick, but it's terribly wrong. 
You see, the god who intervenes is a fundamentally deist god. At first, this seems like an absurd statement. Afterall, the very definition of the deist god is one who does not intervene in creation. What is crucial, though, is that the deist's god is a thing like all the other things in creation, he just happens to have been first, and be more powerful than what he has made, but in roughly the same way. If you took some natural thing, and cranked it's power up to 11, it could match the deist god. It is because of this that the deist god can create the world and then leave it to run. 

The god who intervenes is merely a modification of that god, a being who made other beings which run on their own, and from time to time sticks his hand in to shuffle things around. But that isn't the Christian God. The Christian God is not merely the creator of the world, nor is He merely another agent intervening in that world - He is the creator and sustainer of all things. All things subsist in Him, He is the ground of being. This isn't to be a pantheist, God is separate from His creation, but His interaction with it is not like our interaction with it. To talk of God intervening implies that God could not intervene, or that anything which is could in some sense be without Him. 

Truly, in Him we live, and move, and have our being. 


  1. Nigel Tufnel: You see, most things, you know, will be at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten. Where can you go from there? Where?
    Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
    Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
    Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
    Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
    Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make every thing ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
    Nigel Tufnel: [pause] Our god goes to eleven.

  2. You nearly made me laugh out loud in class. Hurrah!