A Response To “Bathing In the Pool of Uncommon Common Grace”
Then the LORD God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”– Gen 3:22 -NRSV
Pastor Jeremy Lundmark, in his blog post, is conducting an interesting study of his new book The Fury of God, The topic of this post is concerning the idea of the Grace of God and how one must first realize God’s Fury before one can fully understand and appreciate God’s grace. The author gives examples of man’s early troubles in the garden and the perceived freedom in choosing life over death. In chapter one the author lists four things God gave the humans; existence , earthly necessities, purpose, and lastly freedom.
In writing I like to be upfront that I am an agnostic. And the book written by the good pastor Jeremy was not meant to be used as an apologetic text , but one for believers. However, since I have an interest in theology and biblical literature, I decided to respond as a non-believer to some of the claims made in his book and study at TheologyMix so that readers may have some view of how such ideas are seen from the secular side. Many times the music written on both sides are only directed at the perspective choirs, and assumptions about how the other views each group ends up being stereotypical at best. And much of the time this misinformed view results in being substituted for the reality.
The goal of this post will be to show that the topics in Chapter one of The Fury of God, go far deeper then the good pastor had pages to write about. His intent is well taken and it is known that had the topics been explored at length there would be a whole encyclopedia to buy. But there are a few issues that create a rub for the non-believing on lookers that can not simply be swept away. Also, for me personally, I do not believe that the science of psychology, or ideas of philosophy will address every question of the human spirit. However, I would ask those believers who maybe reading to give me a little ground to stand on, as I have given the good pastor the time to read his book.
In his blog post titled “Bathing In the Pool of Uncommon Common Grace” Pastor Lundmark starts the discussion off with an example of disciplining children and how at times they may not realize all the good things the parents give and that the parents are at times disappointed at some of the reactions. He states at the end of the third paragraph “One of the most important things we overlook as believers is that, in the Garden, God gave us something we can never repay him for. He gave us our very existence.”
The account of the creation and fall of man is a beautiful account. In a few short chapters the Hebrews described how the universe and earth was created, how the animals were named, how humans came to work hard, why women have birth pains, why snakes crawl on their stomachs, why humans are afraid of snakes, why snakes bite, why humans kill snakes, how humans came to die death, and the list goes on. The text is written in the most beautiful fashion, that if one starts to read the primeval history of the Hebrew text of Genesis, it is quite hard to put down. However, in relation to the “fall of humans” psychology has done a great deal to explain what all these accounts might refer to because we go through the processes everyday and may not even know it. Researchers like Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Erich Neumann, Otto Rank, Earnest Becker, and others have laid the foundation on how we view such processes today.
The ideas are changing as we study and learn more, but the findings have been enlightening. Terms like Individuation, Transference, Self-actualization, and Narcissistic parentification all have roles in the account of the creation of humans. Some have brought up the idea that culture shapes our moral values. An excellent post covering the topic would be “Morality is a Culturally Conditioned Response“. In the post the writer Jesse Prinz argues:
“The problem with divine commands as a cure for relativism is that there is no consensus among believers about what God or the gods want us to do. Even when there are holy scriptures containing lists of divine commands, there are disagreements about interpretation: Does “Thou shalt not kill?” cover enemies? Does it cover animals? Does it make one culpable for manslaughter and self-defense? Does it prohibit suicide? The philosophical challenge of proving that a god exists is already hard; figuring out who that god is and what values are divinely sanctioned is vastly harder.”
So I find it interesting that evangelical parents and others believe that their child sins when they are simply learning the expectations of the family and social constructs. And as they become more independent they wish to separate themselves from the parents and develop their own independent actions, thoughts, feelings, and even create defenses to the biggest anxiety of all humans, which is death. So while one might give all to their children and hold it over their heads to get them to comply, the push back is a natural process that will one day allow them to responsibly move out of your house and have their own place!
Good heavens! Imagine if every child stayed with their parents forever and not self-actualize and become individuals. Imagine if we were all narcissistic parents helicoptering over our kids blackmailing them into doing good and into what we perceive as perfection. We would be raising little terrors who would do us in at the end!
I know that above was a simplification of the terms for volumes have been written on each one. But there is one we have not covered and it plays an important role in how we view the world and ourselves and that is transference. On the topic of transference Ernest Becker, on page 154 -155 , in his book The Denial of Death. gives us a glimpse of the issue.
“Do we wonder why one of man’s chief characteristics is his tortured dissatisfaction with himself, his constant self-criticism? It is the only way he has to overcome the sense of hopeless limitation inherent in his real situation. Dictators, revivalists and sadists know that people like to be lashed with accusations of their own basic unworthiness because it reflects how they truly feel about themselves. The sadist doesn’t create a masochist; he finds them ready made. Thus people are offered one way of overcoming unworthiness: the chance to idealize the self, to lift it truly to heroic levels. In this way man sets up the complementary dialogue with himself that is natural to his condition. He criticizes himself because he falls short of heroic ideals he needs to meet in order to be a really imposing creation.
You can see that man wants the impossible: He wants to lose his isolation and keep it at the same time. He can’t stand the sense of separateness, and yet he can’t allow the complete suffocating of his vitality. He wants to expand by merging with the powerful beyond that transcends him, yet he wants while merging with it to remain individual and aloof, working out his own smaller-scale self expansion.”
So here we have a glimpse of one hypothesis on why the humans ate of the tree of “good and bad” and also why the heavenly beings feared man would eat of the tree of life. It was not only of eating of the tree of “knowing good and bad” but also they mated with divine beings and giants roamed the land, they tried to build a siege tower to the heavens. In short, while clinging to the powerful, they wanted expansion like we all do, but in an independent way. To transfer ourselves to something more heroic and powerful, but not become enslaved to it.
Also transference works another way. One can pin all hopes, wishes, anxieties, on an object and be let down. I am sure the biblical Job was surprised when all he had was taken from him by the very object he transferred to for a defense against the onslaught of life and the reality of his mortality and insignificance. As each servant came to tell the account of all the destruction, Job becomes a compliant victim, but like few others have done, took issue with the divine to the point of wanting to put the God on trial for his actions.
In real life we Jobs do NOT get everything back. Each human believer/non-believer faces the same issues in life, and all have the same anxiety of death and annihilation. But some groups have constructed creative ways to ease those fears, either through art, psychology, science, other humans, bloodletting, scapegoats, dictators, which all have the promise of some salvation to shield them from the real “terror of god” the smallness of the self and the harsh vastness of the universe which has not emotion nor pity. Which has teeth that constantly chew and stomachs that process. And the deity we praise and thank, is at the same time possibly growing cancer inside us, pushing us towards an early demise. And the reality of things make it a “Common Constructed Grace” rather then an “Uncommon Common Grace”.
“Your speech is pompous sounding, full of pride, as fits the lackey of the Gods. You are young and young your rule and you think the tower in which you live is free from sorrow: from it have I not seen two tyrants thrown? The third, who now is king, I shall yet live to see him fall, of all three most suddenly, most dishonored. Do you think I will crouch before your Gods, -so new-and tremble? I am far from that.” ― Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
– Post By A.D. Wayman
Pastor Jeremy’s book: