Divine Absurdity

In this article, I want to bring to your attention the ways in which Western culture has left behind any real notion that God still moves and acts today. I also want to put forward several ways the sincere Christian can prepare the way for divine absurdity to happen in his or her life.

The title of this article lends to a double meaning. First, the modern dispensing with God based on human reason and human sufficiency is certainly absurd. The second meaning leads to a discovery of the many ways in which God’s ways are higher than ours and which, in spite of our powers of logic, He does the absurd anyway.

Isaiah 55:8-9

8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and

my thoughts than your thoughts.

I. What is divine absurdity?dont-wirte-to-counter-absurd-arguments

  1. First, let’s define absurd.

Something that is absurd is “unreasonable, or illogical.” Someone gives me instructions, they make a claim of some sort, or they do something that, as I tap into my own reasoning powers, “the power of [my] mind to think and form valid judgements [through] the process of logic,”[1] I determine that something is illogical, opposed to that which reason will allow, and does not— in my own estimation—make sense. So, I pass judgment and say, “That’s absurd.”

Please note the definition of human reasoning: “the power of [my] mind to think and form valid judgements [through] the process of logic.”

  1. So, divine absurdity is when God winks at our reasoning powers and does the absurd anyway.
  1. Examples of Divine Absurdity

—Hannah

In 1 Samuel, we read of a young woman who was desperate for children but could not have any. The Bible says, “ . . . the Lord had closed her womb (1 Samuel 1:5).” What we learn once we can see the big picture of Hannah’s story, is that God wanted her to have a baby and to give her baby to God so that He could raise him up to be a prophet of God. So, what does God do to get the ball rolling? He closes her womb!

It does not at any time occur to Hannah that her closed womb indicated not a disconnect from God but rather a positive connection with God. It does not cross her mind, “My womb is closed, God must be doing something great in my life!”

From God’s perspective, Hannah’s womb was closed. That did not mean she was barren, just that she had not borne children yet.

From Hannah’s perspective, she was barren. Had someone listened closely, they might have heard Hannah say, “Where is God?” when in reality God was close enough to her to close her womb in order to bring about His plan.

Divine absurdity is God bringing about an important birth and starting by closing a womb.

—Gideon

In Judges 7:1-7, we read the story of Gideon’s army. Here’s what it says:

 Early in the morning, Jerub-Baal (that is, Gideon) and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. The camp of Midian was north of them in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, 3 announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ ” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.”

In essence, God says, “Gideon, I need you to fight a battle, I see you have 32,000 in your army. That’s too many! Get rid of those who are afraid. That leaves 10,000. Still too many! Get rid of some more. Get rid of those who don’t know how to drink water and remain alert and battle ready! You have 300 now? That’s about right!” That’s divine absurdity!

—Jesus is being thronged by the crowd.

 In Matthew, Mark, and Luke (the synoptic Gospels), we read the story of the woman with an issue of blood. Here’s Luke 8:42-48:

 As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. 45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” 47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

 People are bumping into Him. A little woman who has been suffering for 12 years touches the hem of His garment and He stops and asks “who touched me?

 The disciples say, “That’s absurd Jesus! Everyone is touching you!'”

Jesus could have said you need to learn the difference between a touch and a healing touch.

Gideon you need to learn the difference between a group of soldiers and the army of God.

Eli, you need to learn the difference between human emotion and the move of God!

— Jesus is called to the Wedding Feast in Cana

 In John 2:1-10, we read of Jesus and His disciples attending a wedding feast in Cana.

 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2 and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4 “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

 Jesus responds to the request for more wine by filling the water jars with water and asking the servants to serve it as wine!

 4. God Reasoned Away

The disconnection between the human powers of wisdom and logic and the truth and reality of God is the most important intellectual conflict of the last five hundred years. Men began to think it illogical to believe in a God who would reveal himself, do miracles. It was not long before they thought it illogical to believe in God at all! They said, “It is not possible for humans to understand or even perceive of God, therefore He either does not exist or there is no reason for us to consider Him since He is unreachable.”

  •  Is there a God?
  •  Has He revealed Himself?
  •  Are we able to understand that divine self-revelation?

 If you pay close attention, you will notice that politicians and people concerned with public opinion will claim a belief in God in order not to alienate themselves or lose votes, etc. of course most people believe in some version of God.

However, our scholars and scientists and philosophers have long since “outgrown” God and dismiss the religious as unintelligent, naïve. Most of them dismiss the idea of God altogether. In the case where there are willing to perhaps allow for the possibility of a higher intelligence, they assert that if He exists He would be so far above us that we could never perceive Him or relate to Him.

In the transitional period between the mid-16th century and the mid-17th century, The perception of God in the West went from a professed, confessional theistic belief in His existence and in His involvement in the lives of people to a deism which perceived God (if He exists) watches us only at a distance.

How did they arrive at such a decision? Through the powers of human logic and reasoning.

  5. When did we in the West begin to reject divine absurdity?

The “turn to the subject”

  • Pre-reformation—human rights, freedom from the abuses of the Catholic Church and from the concept of the Divine Right of Kings (fueled by the invention of the printing press)
  • Reformation—individual piety
  • Post-reformation through mid-18th century—transition from confessional to enlightenment: “the crisis of the European mind”
  • The mechanistic view of the Cosmos: the Cosmos is a machine
  • Descartes—I think therefore I am
  • Spinoza
  • The debate over God and the reality of His divine self-revelation
  • Kant—throw off every authority but your own reason
  • Nietsche—God is Dead
  • Postmodernism—truth is relative

II. Allowing Divine Absurdity to Happen in Your Life

  1. Stop trying to predict God with your reasoning. If we are not careful, we begin to believe that we can put ourselves in God’s place and imagine what He would do in a given situation where Scripture may be silent.

 I’ve heard Christians make the following statement many times: “I’ve always known God” or “Even as a child, before I got saved, I had a relationship with God.” No you didn’t!

         No one stumbles into or is born into a relationship with God! You get there one way:

Romans 10:9-13

9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 2. Learn the difference between your faith claim and the thing you are claiming.

Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to a type of person he called a “sentimentalist” whom he said were “talkers who mistake the description for the thing, saying for having.”[2]

Yes, stand on faith for the promise. But you are not done until the promise does what? COMES TO PASS!

3. All things being equal (ceteris paribus), when things look like they are going opposite to what makes sense, you may be about to experience divine absurdity!

What is ‘Ceteris Paribus’

Ceteris paribus is a latin phrase that translates approximately to “holding other things constant” and is usually rendered in English as “all other things being equal” . . . The term is used as a shorthand for indicating the effect of one . . . variable on another, holding constant all other variables that may affect the second variable.[3]

All things being equal means, you find yourself in a situation, wondering what God is doing, and you are not living with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you’re not living in willing disobedience, etc.

Let all things be truly equal: stop asking God to wink at your sin!

  1. Cultivate your secret life in God.

             Matthew 6:6

6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

[1] Oxford English Dictionary online.

[2] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims, (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1876), 94-95.

[3] http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/ceterisparibus.asp

6 thoughts on “Divine Absurdity

  1. Great sermon today! Pastor Scott, the Lord used You to speak directly to my heart! I’m buying the kindle version of your book today. I know it will be a blessing to me. Wisdom from God!

  2. Pastor Scott, I found your sermon yesterday extremely interesting, and was one of the six people who raised their hand. I believe you are spot on when you speak of the issues of humanity turning away from God and the symptomatic effects of a philosophical humanism that plaques many, and seems to be seen quite readily in the Northeast. I agree that the easy assumption is the educational elitism that seemingly permeates this region, but I also think that is an over simplification. Unfortunately, the “modern” era is full of examples that lend to this rising doubt. From the industrial revolution to the atomic age man has been falling into the abyss of uncertainty and seeking solace outside of the Word. Man dangerously began to think science would provide the answers, it didn’t. This began the slippery slope away from God to other sources of fulfillment. Hypocrisy is rampant even among “believers”. Those of us from the Northeast have seen the Name of God bastardized and used more as weapon than the uplifting hand. A crisis of Faith has been brought about by a crisis of doubt. I don’t know the answer and am opening up my heart to God. I was raised Catholic but never felt connected. At SGT, your sermons specifically, put the “fun” in Fundamentalism. They have given me Hope to forget the “benign” indifference of the universe that philosophy and modernity has tried to plant. I am a seeker of discipleship but have never been shown the Way, you have begun to shine a light on the path back to the Father. Thank You

    1. Hi Robert, thank you for your response and your reflections. In response, I would say that the interesting part of this story called “the turn to the subject” actually begins in a benign way back in the 1400s. I say benigh because, in response to abuses by Popes and kings, people began to clamor for fair treatment and human rights. This reflects a new sensitivity towards the human condition. At that time there was no revolt against God, just the Catholic Church and eventually the divine right of kings. Then, Martin Luther and the Reformation came along and were a crowning symptom of a movement that was growing in intensity. Again, we applaud a healthy humanism that cares about people and we agree (Protestants at least) that people should be able to read the Bible, pray, etc. without the priest or Pope as a mediary. But then, things got really interesting with the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo which led thinkers to begin to see the cosmos as a machine rather than a divinely sustained process. The evolution of human thought then began to lead people, in honor of God, to decide that the best way to honor Himw as to be great humans and to live up to human potential. In the wake of Descartes deism began in earnest, Spinoza rocked the thinking world with his treatise, Kant codified the turn to the subject with his Critique of Pure Reason, and by this time, Pandora’s box is openned. I am fascinated how focus enlightenment era thinkers were on the subject of God and revelation. I am also stricken by how the judgment of some key thinkers that revelation was not possible has had such an affect. James K. A. Smith (and I agree) that we are not really in a post-modern era, but rather a hyper-modern era. If Kant counselled people to throw off self-incurred tutelage, what should we call the mood today to throw off absolutely all authority?

      Robert, I hope you will continue pressing into the Father and I hope you will continue to correspond with me and share your thoughts as well! Blessings!

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