To begin with, it would be nice initially because there would be no crime, no jealousy, hate, anger, poverty, starvation that you see all around the world… But then, each day would be just like the last — perfect.
This may sound like paradise to Christians, but it sounds very bland to me. With no challenges would I grow and develop as a person? If never faced with a problem to overcome, I know I would become complacent, even bored.
I feel that adversity and adventure are absolutely necessary to achieve even very limited human goals in order for us to be grateful and fulfilled as human beings. My little sister plays the piano… Supposed that she could play the piano flawlessly without ever having to practice. That would be possible in a perfect world or in a Christian paradise if you are faithful.
And God just gave free handouts like the story of Zechariah, when an angel told Zechariah that his ancient wife would bear him a son named John because of his allegiance to God. But then again, do you think my little sister would take the same pleasure and pride in her accomplishment as a pianist if God just gave her such talent?
If athletic prowess came naturally and were available to everyone — suppose that everyone naturally had large biceps and a six-pack, would this diminish your sense of having done something profoundly worth doing in working-out everyday? (Working in the field of Statistical Genetics, in our niche world, supermodels are called “genetic-freaks” in a statistical sense.
Thus if all the guys uniformly had big muscles, then that trait would not even be appealing to girls anymore.) It is worth pondering whether you would wish to live in such a perfect world completely devoid of evil, trials, and suffering.
If all the accounts of the Bible are true, then God is definitely not a hyper-controlling and perfectionist parent running a uniformed and ideal “household” who has everything under control. But instead, he is a friend to all of us. And He is definitely not a subservient, Universal, Vending Machine to all of our prayers and wants. In the very beginning, God honored Adam, before his greatest trial, God provided no step-by-step degree of control.
He told Adam, you are a man; you don’t need me to hold you by the hand through this. You have what it takes. What God did offer Adam was friendship. He wasn’t left alone to face life; he walked with God in the cool of the day, and there they talked about love and marriage and creativity. God also gave Adam a job and responsibilities.
And moving on to the time of the Savior, Jesus said to all of us, “I no longer call you servants… Instead, I call you friends. (John 15:15). As Dallas Willard writes, “The ideal for divine guidance is… a conversational relationship with God: the sort of relationship suited to friends who are mature personalities in a shared enterprise.”
If you disagree with me and think God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Omnipotent and Omniscient One who has whole world under perfect control, then I dare you to spend a night in the woods… alone. There won’t be any doubts as to whether or not God loves the fire and passion of wilderness, the freedom and diversity of His creation. “Take a walk out in a thunderstorm.
Go for a swim with a pod of killer whales. Get a bull moose mad at you. Whose idea was this, anyway? The Great Barrier Reef with its great white sharks, the jungles of India with their tigers, the desert of the Southwest with all those rattle snakes” — would you then describe God as a controlling creator? It struck me that God has made all of this to be dangerous and wild, and he pronounced it to be good.
This is his way of letting us know he rather prefers adventure, diversity, danger, risk, the element of surprise. His whole creation is unapologetically wild. But what about His own life? He already knows everything that’s going to happen, right? He’s omniscient. How could there be any risk to his life; hasn’t he got everything under absolute control?
But that is just not His way… God is someone who takes immense risks. No doubt the biggest risk of all was when he gave angels and men free will, including the freedom to reject him — not just once, but every single day. Does God stop every evil bullet fired at an innocent victim everyday? No!
And unlike some hyper-controlling parents, who take away every element of choice they can from their children, God gave us a remarkable choice. He did not make Adam and Eve obey him. He took a risk. A staggering risk, with staggering consequences. Let’s think about this for a moment! He didn’t just let these two people sin, He also didn’t make these two practice birth control after they have reject Him, and as a result, He let billions of other sinners into His story from that point on.
And He lets their sinful choices shape His story profoundly in this world. If God wanted a perfect world like my presented argument at the top, He wouldn’t have to kill Adam and Eve. He would only have to make these two sinners practice birth control. Then God could have started all over again. But instead, He told them to be fruitful and multiply. It’s almost like He prefers His story to unfold this way, through these dangerous risks that He likes to take.
God likes the risk. It’s not the nature of God to limit his risks and cover his basses. Far from it. Most of the time, he actually let the odds stack up against Him. “Then the Lord intervened” is perhaps the single most common phrase about Him in the Scripture. In fact, He lets the mob and Satan kill Jesus, bury him… then He shows up. That’s the gamble He’s willing to make on His own Son for us: Let Jesus rot and wonder in Hell for 3 days.
And the biggest risk that God is willing to take, in my personal opinion, is that He is willing to love us, and for who we are. C.S. Lewis says, “Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal.” But God does give it again and again, until he is literally bleeding from it all. God’s willingness to risk is just astounding — far beyond what any of us would do were we in his position.
Because most men spend the energy of their lives trying to eliminate risk, or squeezing it down to a more manageable size: medical benefits, three weeks paid vacation and a retirement plan. When you look at the structure of this world men tend to build, it always revolves around two themes: seizing upon some sort of competence and rejecting anything that cannot be controlled. Like the guy Jesus talked about who thought he finally pulled it all off, built himself some really nice barns and died the same night.
If you look at the Bible with its full blown diversity of men and methods, there are no set formulas with God. Period. God is mostly a Mystery. In fact He told us in Proverbs, ‘It is the Glory of God to hide things from men.’ So there are no formulas for the man who follows Him. Take Joshua and the Battle of Jericho.
The Israelites are staged to make their first military strike into the promised land and there’s a lot hanging on this moment — the morale of the troops, their confidence in Joshua, not to mention their reputation that will precede them to every other enemy that awaits. This is their D-Day, so to speak, and word is going to get around.
How does God get the whole thing off to a good start? He has them walk around the city blowing trumpets for a week; on the seventh day he has them do it seven times and then give a big holler. It works marvelously! And you know what? It never happens again. Israel never uses that tactic again. There’s Gideon and his army reduced from 32,000 to 300. What is their plan of attack? Torches and water pots. It also works splendidly and it also never happens again.
Jesus healed many blinds in the new testaments. But he never does it the same way twice. So, as you can see, there are no “real” formulas for the man who follows God. God is a Person, not a doctrine. He operates not like a system — not even a theological system — but with all the originality of a truly free and alive person. And “The realm of God is dangerous,” says Archbishop Anthony Bloom.
You must enter into it and not just seek information about it.” And the only way to live this journey called life, passionately and alive with love — with all its dangers and mystery and immense high stakes — is in an ongoing intimate relationship with God. The control we so desperately crave with an institutionalized religious system is an illusion. God wants a friendship. Far better to give up a theological system in exchange for God’s offer of companionship. Set aside these stale formulas so that we might enter into an informal friendship.
Abraham knew this; Moses did as well. Read through the first several chapters of Exodus — it’s filled with a give-and-take between Moses and God. “Then the Lord said to Moses,” “then Moses said to the Lord.” The two act like they know each other, like they really are intimate allies. David — a man after God’s own heart — also walked and loved his way through life in a conversational intimacy with God.
And God exulted his kingship because of the love that they shared. And God decided to invest the fate of Israel into David’s hands and that of His descendants. There were no rigid formula for David. David’s Psalms are filled with passages about Love and Grace. (David was a man after God’s own heart — and a man after God’s Grace. Remember this is long before Jesus’s time as a Savior for mankind.)
Most of the Biblical stories tell me personally that a life and a relationship with God is dynamic, risky, and will not be boring and can never be defined by a theological system. We are incredibly important to God. But also He respects us enough as mature men and women and as His own friends whom God refuses to pamper us or control us in this incredibly dangerous, wild, and high stake creation of His. He gave us free will with responsibilities, respects our choices, leaves us to deal with most of the consequences of our actions, and rarely intervenes as a loving Friend. I would hardly ever call this life and relationship idyllic or boring knowing about everything that is at stake in this world.
If a perfect world for all the Christians to live in is anything like an idyllic and uniformed world that Conservative Christians preach about, as summarized at the very top, then the entirety of the Bible, excluding a few passages, have been misleading a lot of people by mis-conceptualized the very essence of God’s risky nature. In such an idyllic and boring, but perfect world, I don’t think I can handle it for very long to be frank, especially not for an eternity. I would need a heavy dose of tranquilizer just to get through each day.
You see, I am someone who prefers action, a lot of action and excitement. I love to see the world. I enjoy fresh ideas, exotic places, and new cultures. I love to be where the most action is at in this world at any given period of human progress. That is why I am in China right now, a country that is on economic crack. However, for many people, governments, and businesses, China is a mystery too complex to be deciphered. And they are almost right. China is a very complex country.
However, it is the threat of a new Cold War between the East and the West for global influence in competition for markets and energy that is forcing many intellectuals in the West to dedicate their lives to study China and the Chinese language and history. With the new threat of China’s growing global economic might and military muscles, Western analysts, diplomats, and politicians are anxious to scramble culture bridges and build close friendships across the East and the West.
China on the other hand is the biggest export country in the world and need Westerners to buy its products. It’s driven by pure Capitalistic greed to invest in intellectuals who are capable of understanding foreigners and their language and culture. As an export country, the Chinese cannot afford to alienate the foreigners who are so essential to their economy. So as any good salesman knows, if you want to sell something to someone else, you must try to understand not only their language but also the way they see the world.
Every successful sales representative knows how to get inside the head of a client — to figure out what the client needs or to create a desire for what the sales person has to sell. This greediness to be best and a leading export country makes China, a traditionally very conservative and closed country, more open now to the Western ideas and culture.
As you can see, in the real world, it is this delicate and fragile balance that’s keeping the world a culturally diverse (but not divided) place. It’s also a very important and a high stake job which God has placed into the hands of imperfect people for them to constantly adjust and maintain this fragile harmony to keep this physical world in constant balance. We are not perfect, but we are trying to be better, all the time.
That is an enormous responsibility and a staggering risk that God is willing to bet on by placing the world He has created into the hands of imperfect mortals. Because He respects us enough as humans (made in His image) and believes human capabilities and ingenuity can take good care of His good creation.
I personally think my life is exciting and fulfilling in this respect, because I am part of the effort trying to make the positive differences that I want to see happen — in this only world that we know about and are responsible for. I would be really mad at God, if at the end of it all, I found out that all of my work, all of my sacrifices, and all the risks that I have taken in this high-stake world had only and simply been “a test” to see whether individuals can make it to the afterlife or not.
I would be even more mad if I found out that that all the books I have read and all the knowledge of the Divine Laws of Science I have learned about in this life time didn’t really matter, because the physical world is not important. The only book that really matters is the Bible: Basic, Instructions, Before, Leaving, Earth.
No, I think God respects us so much more, as friends, in an equal partnership, in an enterprise to build a truly spectacular world here — on earth, through trials and triumphs, learning and failures. I think God respects everything that we have built through our own hands throughout history. And I think this physical world counts for quite a lot in God’s eyes. And this is definitely not idolatry in God’s eyes. This, I think, is a major difference between what Conservative Christian churches believes and that of mine beliefs.