I’ve already told you the meaning of life (that is, the reason for this temporal existence). It’s an opportunity for us to learn that Man’s way doesn’t work — that striking out on our own is…unpleasant. Even with all the beauty and the love and goodness we DO manage to effect, the sum total of human independence is a life we DON’T want to live.
Life is a chance to learn that.
After all, most of the beauty and the love and the goodness are aspects of God in our lives ANYWAY, so living independently merely reduces the amount of it. And, that reduced amount doesn’t make up for the genocide and the starving babies and etc.
So. Where, then, our interventionist God?
I’ll say this: I don’t believe God has an ultimate plan for the things that will happen in this world. I don’t think he’s in control, and I don’t think he’s trying to be. Oh, he’s CAPABLE of it — he’s shown before and he shows again every day that there’s nothing in this world so real that he can’t bend or twist it to his needs. But, for the most part, he doesn’t have much in the way of needs.
He needs a voice calling out his name, so that others will hear and remember what they already know. He needs a perfect life lived and a payment in blood to forgive on the infinite scale the mistakes made in this finite place. And that’s been done. I think, pretty much, that’s the plan. Oh, yeah! He needs people to be people (and learn why that doesn’t work).
That’s life, right there. That’s God’s divine plan for this world. I don’t think God has a plan that involves where you work, or what color your baby’s eyes are. Life is in OUR hands — he gave us dominion over this world and it goes all the way. And — rain on the just and the unjust — he gave dominion to ALL of us. Not just the good ones.
I’ll say it loud: God is not responsible for the state of this world. People are. People made this world.
God’s not even responsible in an initial kinda way, because he didn’t MAKE people in this world. He starts them out in Eden, and starts them out with a nature that will keep them there, but their own proud curiosity drives them (and, of course, by “them” I mean “us”) out of Eden and into this world, which we then help make more like it is.
This world, the one we live in day to day, is not of God’s making, but it (as a whole) fits within his plan for that other world, Infinity. Life is broken (we broke it), and that simple realization is an opportunity to learn why we should let go of it.
Does this all sound like I’m repeating myself? I’m actually trying to extend the argument to a conclusion. God’s Plan has nothing to do with our day-to-day lives. If God controlled that — if he exerted his dominion over how the world runs, and its general course — then life wouldn’t be able to serve the purpose it serves. It’s not that he’s an uncaring God (as some have said) and certainly not that he’s an absent God. It’s just that this life is doing what it was meant to do — it’s hurting as much as it heals. Which is a reminder that there’s a world that doesn’t hurt at all.
But what about prayer? I can practically hear you shoving each other out of the way to be the first to challenge me with that. Didn’t I say I believed in prayer? Am I shoving God out of the world entirely now?
Not at all. There are two answers here, and the difference between them is kinda subtle. (Also, one of them presumes I’ve done a better job establishing the whole nature of constructed reality than I have, but I’ll ignore that for now.)
First: people are born in Eden, entirely devoted to God’s giving, and only through living learn to try to live outside of Eden, which enters them into this world, which is Man’s dominion, not God’s. By trusting yourself wholly to God, by walking in the light, as it has been said, you begin the process of removing yourself from Man’s world and entering back into God’s. Prayer for THINGS doesn’t qualify as this — asking God to work miracles and bend the reality that we think of as reality, that’s insisting on staying within this reality but wanting it to be a better one.
But committing yourself to God, within this life, removes you mostly from it and entrusts your self to a world where God IS in complete control. That’s what Eden is all about.
That’s the first option. Your frame can be ambling around in the real world, while your spirit rests in God’s dominion.
The other option is one I offered above as a possibility: miracles, powerful prayer, interventionist deity. And I believe in these things, and I think it’s the only possible way to claim that God lets us run our own lives, but still loves us.
Because he’s there as a safety net, as a protector, as a Providence. He gave us full control, but part of that control is the capacity to ask God to help out. He is very much there, and he is very much paying attention — he’s just not running the show. A mother watching her children perform a puppet show, maybe. She’s paying attention and deliberately not interfering, for their sake, but she’s still there in her full capacity as their mother, ready to step in and save them if they get hurt, or to correct them if they take this little play too far into wickedness.
It’s a pleasant metaphor, and it gets a basic idea, but I’m not trusting it too far. Get the gist out of the image and then let it go, because it’s not a whole parallel. Still, God is there, constantly, watching and listening and dearly loving us. He answers prayers, he changes things within this world (perhaps things we could change on our own, through magic or logic or technology, perhaps things we couldn’t), but he doesn’t guide its flow. He doesn’t tell us what our world should be…or, rather, he did, once, and we saw it, and we shrugged, and we said, “Ehh, I could do better.”
And that’s this world. The other one is still there, waiting for us, and God DOES have an active hand in that world — he’s constantly maintaining it as the perfect residence for Man, and constantly inviting us back to it. We get to live in this sandbox of a Life for as long as we need to, to learn, and it’s all ours, but God’s is there, too, just as real, and always open.