Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Problem of Buffet Theology

The following is an observation I made nearly three years ago in a newsletter I used to put together for the ladies who teach in our Bible study program (about 15 in all).

Sadly, these observations are still true, and they've become even more pervasive today than what I saw then. Read, enjoy, but be challenged. I know I am, and will be, as I seek to know the God of the Scriptures.

At a recent Christian conference, I was making my way through the dinner buffet line when I overheard two women discussing their views of God.

“I can believe that God is loving and that He is in control,” said the first, “but I really don’t think He’s ever the source of suffering in our lives. I mean, what about all those passages that say His plans are only good?”

The second woman thought for a moment and replied, “God doesn’t make people suffer. Suffering is always caused by sin, but then God uses it for good….”

Sounds nice, doesn't it?

Actually, the view these women held may sound appealing, and it contains an element of truth, but it’s not accurate or complete.

Scripture makes it clear that God brings both blessing and calamity (Lamentations 3:37-38), that He sometimes wills suffering for our lives (1 Peter 3:17), that He disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and that both good things and trouble come from Him (Job 1:10). Yes, they were correct in part: God is loving, suffering can come from sin, and God uses suffering, but biblically He can also be the cause of suffering.


I couldn’t help but think how these two women had a theology of God much like the buffet we partook of together. “I’ll take a little of God’s grace, and a helping of His love, but I’ll pass on His anger.” “Oh, yes, I’d love a heaping portion of His mercy, but ‘no thanks’ to His justice or wrath.”

The problem with a cafeteria-style theology of God is that we ultimately end up with a God of our own making, not the true God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself in His word.

Is your God manageable? Does He fit into a nice, tidy theological box? Is He comfortable? Then (forgive my boldness), I would submit that you don’t really know the true God of the Scriptures. That God is never “manageable.” His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9). He is unsearchable (Romans 11:33). Some of His closest followers, when seeing Him face-to-face, fell prostrate before Him in holy fear (Revelation 1:17).

Tidy? Manageable? Comfortable? Hardly!

As teachers, it’s vital that we endeavor to have a biblical understanding of God, and that we communicate as accurate a depiction of His character as possible (knowing that we will fall short). We won’t always understand Him and we won’t always be able to reconcile His ways. This is a good thing. That means that God is a God too big for us to fully grasp (He is God), and that should lead to worship and wonder.

This God, however, has also said that He can be known (John 10:14). Let’s pursue knowing Him as He truly is, and not how we’d prefer Him to be.

‘Til next time,
Joan :o)

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