Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Faith in What "Should Probably" Happen

You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
    you have been angry- now restore us!
With God we will gain the victory,
    and he will trample down our enemies.

(first and last verses of Psalm 60)
In Psalm 60, David is really blunt. God has rejected him. He straight-up says it. (This makes me feel better- I often worry that I'm going to get kicked out of Christianity for saying how I feel about God.)

"You have shaken the land and torn it open... you have given us wine that makes us stagger..." and so on. He doesn't clean it up so it's churchy-sounding. He doesn't say "It seems like God has rejected us."

The heading for this psalm says it is about some of David's battles- which are mentioned very briefly in 2 Samuel 8 as military victories. Evidently, it wasn't going very well at first, prompting David to write this psalm about how God "no longer [goes] out with our armies."

So there's this theme of straight-up SAYING that God has rejected them. But throughout this psalm, we can also see a theme of hope, belief that in the future God will give them victory. "But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner... With God we will gain the victory..."

And I was really baffled- how can these two themes coexist in this psalm? God has rejected us, and God will give us victory. How can David believe that God will give him victory, if his current experiences PROVE that God doesn't always give his people victory?

They were already defeated, and that wasn't supposed to happen. God doesn't reject his people, right? And yet he did, seemingly. How can David believe that it will be different in the near future?

I think I know how.



... wut.


Whoa whoa whoa, hold up, Perfect Number. Faith? Remember how much you hate it when Christians say "faith" to take the easy way out when they don't have an answer for some apologetics question? As if it's somehow virtuous to believe things with very little evidence? That's nonsense.

Stay with me here. This is an entirely new definition of "faith" I've come up with.

David could say, with faith, that God would give them victory, because it's the kind of thing that should probably happen, based on what he believed about God. It's the kind of thing that one could expect, because it's consistent with God's character. (Verses 6-8 talk about God being the ruler of all the surrounding lands and nations. See, David believes God granting him military victory is consistent with God's character.) (And I won't get into the issues I have with the association between God and killing people- this is totally found all over the Old Testament... please note my objection in the log though.)

Of course, things happen ALL THE TIME which don't fit with God's character. Like the whole "God rejected us" thing. But, according to our beliefs, those things should be comparatively rare, right?

It's not a certainty. It's not a guarantee. Faith doesn't mean we believe this thing is 100% DEFINITELY GOING TO HAPPEN. Maybe it won't, which is fine- we only believe it's probably going to happen, so a negative outcome doesn't invalidate the entire foundation of our faith.

Basically, we should expect that God acts according to what we believe to be God's character. Sometimes he doesn't, which is baffling, but in general he does.

I absolutely do not intend to downplay suffering. That is reality. Happens to innocent people- it's not because they "didn't have enough faith" or something silly like that. Suffering is real, and so let's work to help each other and maintain a realistic view of the world.

But really, we should expect better of God than that. And we look forward to when God will come and right every wrong.

And faith is to expect that in the short-term too. Not with certainty, because we all know that bad things happen and the world is not the way God intended it to be.

Yet we must hope and pray that God will remember his own nature, his everlasting love and justice and power, and work in this world, in our own lives, to reflect that.


This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 60. To read other people's posts, click here: Don’t Base Your Theology on a Prayer.

1 comment:

  1. Kirsten OliphantJune 19, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    I like your new definition of faith! The times where reality and God's character seem to clash, I pray things like: I know you are still God and still good, so I am going to trust you in thus, but it sucks. Then I usually pray for his name to be glorified through it, however unlikely that may seem. Great reflection!