Aaron B put up a provocative post over at BCC and my response was too long for the comments there so I thought I would respond here.
In the post Aaron confesses that he prefers the idea of a God who can’t intervene in our lives to the idea of a God whose intervention he can’t predict or explain. (Frankly his position seems illogical to me. How is a predictable impotent God preferable to an unpredictable yet loving powerful God? But that is sort of off topic…) The post sort of veers into a theodicy discussion as well. Aaron concludes by asking four questions about divine intervention. I’ll respond to these questions below and try to show where I think Aaron is missing the point with this subject in the process.
1. Do you believe that God has ever personally intervened in your life to prevent great tragedy?
2. If so, why do you believe he intervened in your case, but not in so many others?
This question reveals to me that Aaron is looking at this question and even God incorrectly. God is not a vending machine. One does not perfunctorily drop in a few prayer coins and get a miracle dropped down like a soda. God is a person. And as such our relationship with him must be personal. So when I have personal conversations with God in my times of great need or times of prosperity he responds to me in personal ways. I can’t answer for the personal relationships others have with him. I can say that even though Kristen and I, with help of many others, were able to talk God into intervening on behalf of our son, he denied our requests to preserve the life of a great and beloved man in our lives as well (even if God was willing to miraculously extend that life). But even that denial came with some level of personal explanation to me and many others involved. Sometimes we children can talk our heavenly father into things and sometimes we can’t.
3. Does your belief stem from the idea that God is constantly involved in the decisions and activities of your day, large and small, and so He must have been involved by definition, or does it stem from a personal spiritual manifestation you had which confirmed that He injected himself into your affairs to prevent certain tragedy in a particular instance?
God isn’t constantly involved in my decisions any more than I am constantly involved in the decisions of my children. When he intervenes in my life it is usually after I ask him to. Of course sometimes he’ll call out promptings and preventative warnings and if I am paying attention they always prove to be miraculously helpful. But I specifically ask for those “pings” and I work hard to listen for his still small voice all of the time. Of course the ability to always have his spirit to be with us is the primary day-to-day benefit of belonging to Christ’s restored church in my opinion. If we aren’t utilizing that revelatory pipeline we are wasting our Mormonism in my opinion.
4. If you believe that God intervened in a particular instance, are you sure your good fortune wasn’t just coincidence, or dumb luck? How? Please explain how you distinguish coincidence, or random good fortune, from the hand of Providence. Or do you think you don’t have to because, in your case, God is always micromanaging your life’s outcomes?
Sometimes I get lucky and sometimes I am unlucky. But I know when I get promptings and when I heed them things always land on the “lucky” side for me. (I’ve joked that the “luckiness” associated with heeding promptings is the Mormon super power.) How am I sure it isn’t just luck you ask? Well, through personal revelation. I knew when God finally (and seemingly joyfully) basically said “Uncle” as I wrestled with him over Quinn. I have also known when his message has been “sorry, but no” in other wrestling attempts. If my good or bad fortune does not include some level of personal revelation I assume it is just run-of-the-mill good or bad luck.
So I think that God does intervene when we ask properly. Sometimes we have to wrestle with the Lord to get blessings though. Sometimes he simply tells us “no” to our requests for whatever reason. Why he says yes or no cannot be answered as a generality though — that must be dealt with on a case by case basis I think. We are talking about personal relationships here after all… And when it comes to our personal relationship with God, I think Moses said it best:
And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them! (Num. 11:29)
[Associated radio.blog song: Bob Marley – Waiting In Vain]