Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Pair of Ducks? No, a Paradox!

The Hump Day Hmmms are hosted by Julie, The Ravin' Picture Maven. It's a long story, but basically, she is posting a question on a Wednesday to be answered the following Wednesday on your own blog. The questions have so far been explorations in Justice and Forgiveness. She links up all the posts each week so that it is easier to click your way through all the deep thinking.

Reading this week's Hump Day Hmmm prompt, which was to consider the idea of "Accidents of Birth," my first thought was to consider things from a personal angle. But for the family I was born into, I might have been, dot, dot, dot. Two thoughts then occurred to me.

Thought One: All of my Hump Day Hmmm posts have been about me. All. About. Me. Blech. Ugh. I'm feeling more than a little narcissistic about it all.

Thought Two: Do I even believe in accidents of birth? Hmmm. . . And the answer? Yes. No. Both/And.

So now, the burden on my shoulders is to explain that; however, I don't know if I can. I tend to just "arrive" at certain conclusions like one of those cooks (the kind I am not) who can just throw in a pinch of this and a handful of that and come up with something delicious. Well, I'm actually more like the pot into which all the ingredients get thrown. After it all simmers for awhile, it is something good.

Let me tackle the "Accident of Birth? No" first. One day in high school, a friend of mine handed me a book called Illusions by Richard Bach. For those of you who are not familiar with it, it is the story of a messiah who quits. The story on its own it quite interesting. The problem is that the author believes most of what he is saying, that you are the director of your own life's film. If there is something you don't like in your life, it is because you put it there. There are lots of quotes like this: "Every person, all the events of your life, are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you." Now, this is similar to The Secret which has as its focus that you can make good things happen for yourself by believing in them enough. (My understanding of The Secret is quite sketchy and has been pieced together from what other people have said to me about it. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.) I think that The Secret might focus more on making positive things happen and Illusions is more open about believing that your life is your own creation, good or bad. If it is bad, there's a reason only you can know to explain it.

I completely disagree with that philosophy. (This also includes my differing with the Christianized version of "The Secret" which is sometimes referred to at the Prosperity Gospel or Word of Faith ministries. This version inserts your belief in Jesus, your really, really strong belief in Jesus as being the answer to your woes, material or otherwise.)

Next up? "Accident of Birth? Yes."

There are various belief systems which might hold that either there is no Creator or that while God may exist, it/he/she does not intervene in the natural order of things. Thus, whether you are born, where you are born and what circumstances you are born into is more of an accident of birth. Blame for who you are, where you are and how you are might be placed on human sociological structures or on other philosophical explanations.

If you have read this blog on any given Monday, you know I don't agree with that.

We are left with "Accident of Birth? Both/And." If I had a genie and three wishes, one of them right now would be absolute clarity of expression right now. But I don't have a genie. What should follow then is more fumbling and stumbling and I should just get to it.

I believe in God. The God. The God of Abraham. God the Father, who sent the Son. That Son. The "For God so loved the world he sent his only son that whoever believes in him" Son.

I believe that God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. (AoB: No)

I believe we have free will. (AofB: Yes)

Although I believe he knows the number of hairs on my head (AoB: No), I think I have choices to make. Choices every day which have an impact not only on me but on those around me. (AoB:Yes)

Although I believe he knew me in the womb and that throughout history, he has called specific people in specific places for specific purposes (AoB: No) , I don't think that is true of every person who is alive today or who has ever lived. (AoB: Yes)

Are you confused yet? I think I am. Are these beliefs of mine paradoxical? I think so. (AoB: Both/And)

The question remains, then, how this belief affects my view of the world and the inequities which exist in it--whether they be physical (disabilities) or material (geographic or socioeconomic, resources and privileges or lack thereof). The answer is simply that I don't know. I have my Weltenschauung (A tip of the hat to my dreaded Interpretations in Historical Studies professor.) and even within that, it is difficult to reconcile the disparities of Life. And, after some growing up, I've learned that I cannot thrust my beliefs upon someone else. I can't tell someone that their circumstances as an individual or that the circumstances of a whole group of people can be or should be dismissed by a simple "It's the Lord's will" or "God is in control." For myself, I try, feebly and with many lapses, to trust God that it will all work out for the best, that his perspective is greater and truer than mine. I try not to hold the circumstances of my life--the ones over which I had no control--against him. I try not to even linger too much on the "what ifs" of my life.

It all remains to be seen whether I am right or I am wrong.


Anonymous said...

Before a cup of coffee.

Before I've written mine, if I even will.


Mary, you've actually expressed yourself very well because I feel confused, yes and no.

Love your pot analogy. Time for breakfast.

Beck said...

I don't believe completely in the "accident of birth" theory, either - for one thing, my ancestors made the deliberate choice to be here, my parents made the deliberate choice to have me and so while my SELF, my will, is of my own making, most of the stuff about me isn't very accidental, really.

bubandpie said...

Exactly. It always irks me when Christians assume that you can take promises made in the OT to specific individuals and cut-and-paste them willy nilly onto our own lives. The fact that God called Abraham to move to a specific region does not mean that we have to wait for a miraculous sign before we decide which city to move to.

Also, I don't really think it's paradoxical to occupy a position between the two extremes of "There's no such thing as accidents" and "Everything's an accident." God can be active in the world, realizing certain possibilities and foreclosing others, while still allowing room for human actions and sheer accidents.

I noticed, though, that all the Bible-verse linky-bits were for the "AoB: No" side of things. Is the Biblical evidence for free will really as thin as all that?

Julie Pippert said...

When I finally finish reading all the submissions and get my host post up, you'll see that I tackle the concept in a similar way.

I'm not confused by what you wrote, actually. I get it,a nd I'm not sure it is such a paradox.

Design doesn't mean a solid plan with no room for choices.

The angle I took was that what I have at base---what I was born into---was simply an accident of birth in that regardless of intent or not, it doesn't make me any better or worse than another person in a different position.

Mary-LUE said...

B&P, the linkage provided definitely favors the non-free will thing. I thought about that as I was finishing up the post. I don't think the Biblical evidence for free will is really that thin. The verses I used just popped into my head and I used them, perhaps because they often get used as "proof" verses. The point you make about pasting OT verses willy-nilly into our lives is exactly what I think but isn't as easy to provide easy linkage for. And, at midnight, I was fading fast and worried that I was really going to muddle things up if I tried to explain that side of things more.

Mary-LUE said...

SB - I'm glad you like the pot analogy. I often stress over trying to explain myself and as I was writing, that picture came to me.

Ally said...

Hey Mary-Lue: This is my first time to your site. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I agree with you that there are no real accidents, that God is in control, but I too struggle with the justice aspect of it all. I know, I know- we trust that God knows the ending and has a greater plan that we can conceive of, but in the meantime, the inequities stink. Hat's off to you for trying to make sense of this topic in an articulate way!

Aliki2006 said...

This is really worth thinking about--I'll have to mull this over but I am initially inclined to believe in the accident of birth (I'm not one to believe in divine design). I do see what you're saying, though.

thailandchani said...

My belief system is different but I believe we ultimately end up at the same place.

On some level, I believe we choose our circumstances because we have lessons we need to learn ---> enlightenment.

We are born with a veil and do not remember choosing these things.

And in no way does it negate the community from any responsibility for the human condition. No way. At all.

You asked me once about how it is those of us with more eastern philosophies would reply to someone who'd lost a child.

My response would be that while we do accept the cycle of life itself, in all its vicissitudes, that doesn't remove our responsibility to each other, comforting each other, helping each other.

There are personal lessons.. and there are global lessons.. They are intertwined.

What might appear to be random chance is often something entirely different.