We’ve got something really problematical in [a recent] post on prophets… (1 Kings 20) and then, [a recent] Jesus saying– that his true kin are whoever ‘hears and does’ God’s will– seems to tie in somewhere.
A large chunk of the Bible can be read as Obedience Training for Humans!
It’s that simple? Hardly!
Adam, Eve, every ancient Israelite could have been equipped from birth with an automatic, built-in, heads-up Commandment Display. ‘Thou shall…’ or ‘Thou shalt not, and if you know what’s good for you, you better not…’ and so forth, in bright intercranial LED letters, for any conceivable occasion. God has power enough, but hasn’t used it that way.
“Free Will”? Raymond Smullyan’s ‘God’ [in “Is God a Taoist?”] says that He made people with free will because once you’ve decided to create a sentient being, that’s the only kind possible. Okay, I’d say, rather, that if you’re going to get a whiff of that Divine Breath, if there’s going to be life in a person, there’s going to be the whole Image of God living inside: which will be responding-to events, but not compelled-by.
I’m not sure how this works either. Douglas Hofstadter had a dialogue about a model of how the mind (not ‘the brain’) works… where his characters were arguing that if this model was true, everything they thought about themselves as conscious beings who did things by their own powers and wishes– was an illusion. Really, there were only little sticky balls running through structures that said balls had formed and were constantly reforming by the way those balls were running through those structures. It wasn’t at all a bad model; I think that there’d have to be a direct mapping between it and any other model capable of learning, continuing to do what it had learned, and learning to do something else instead… capable, that is, of any sort of coherent, ongoing mental process.
What to do about this? Say that our thinking-and-behavior doesn’t follow any such model?– Then we’re logically pushed to say that our thinking-and-behavior is essentially random and effectively senseless. Say instead, that our thinking-and-behavior makes sense, is a coherent and appropriate response to what we experience (internal and external)– And we’re logically pushed to conclude that some such model must exist that would potentially account for it.
But God has no such constraint on divine behavior– and is anything but ‘senseless.’ This seems to imply that while we innately must be able to construct mental models of how our minds operate, capable of ‘explaining’ why we operate as we do– No such model can ever be the truth.
Couldn’t we just have a model that sometimes made sense– but was prey to random glitches? No, that’s just a mechanical model with a limp. The glitches have to come from outside the model, from another category entirely… from whatever ‘spirit’ means.
Wow, long fertile digression! Anyway, God tells a prophet that he has to strike (and wound!) a colleague; he’s really asking for it. Instead of striking– or consulting a shrink, as we might recommend– this prophet refuses. For that, he is eaten by a lion.
First off, this is an echo of Ahab’s fate. Ben-hothead has been asking for it, but Ahab instead cuts a deal for a bazaar concession in Damascus. And that decision is going to cost him. Ahab is trying to do the right, the peaceful and practical thing, but that isn’t what God is asking here; Ahab feels it isn’t fair, and he’s right.
Does this mean we should dash out and obey whatever claims to be a Divine Voice ordering us to smite our neighbor’s loud stereo (and while we’re at it, sacrifice him and marry his widow after a suitable mourning period?) We say we’re supposed to “test” leadings, but our prophet here tries to do that, and he’s lunch!
It isn’t fair; we can’t win? Well, there’s a flaw in the model that poses that question. If God is outside of us making demands, and we are outside of God trying to decide “Are you sure you’re You, God?” and “You say you want me to do what?” then in that model we really can’t win. We have to find out how and why and what it means that God and we are one ‘Thing’.
The Ching says about ‘innocence’: “Whoever acts from these deep levels makes no mistakes.” Phew!