James Pate (as always) GETS it! I really enjoy in his blog on his tirades against clap-happy evangelicalism, cold Calvinism and dares to duke it out with God over the injustice in the world—especially the injustice on good people while the wicked continue their party and as a consequence other people of faith urge him just to shut his mouth, dummy up,leave his brain at the door and just simply have “faith” in the most shallowly nebulous way and in turn defies their demands. He says, the prophets were angry at God—why should I? Why the difference? Why is there a NEED for a difference? Does the New Testament tell us to shut up and the prophets had somehow permission? Isn’t God the same, yesterday, today and forever—or they are “just words”—or “living active words”?! Those who demand and scream “cookie cutter”, “neatly packaged”, “smiley, smiley” answers (I think these type of people have the flu bug of the “tyranny of niceness” than anything else)—James again defies them! Here is an excerpt from his post on his blog on March 18th titled Malachi Reflections:
“You have spoken harsh words against me, says the LORD. Yet you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What do we profit by keeping his command or by going about as mourners before the LORD of hosts? Now we count the arrogant happy; evildoers not only prosper, but when they put God to the test they escape.'”Incidentally, this passage has also been used to club me over the head. One time, I was getting into a debate with a Calvinist lady. I was struggling with the problem of evil and the Calvinist portrayal of God, which doesn’t exactly present him as all that loving (in my opinion). She replied that Malachi 3:16 applies to people like me: those who question God. She seemed to imply that I should stop asking questions and just have faith.I then pointed out that there are godly people in the Bible who question God and wrestle with the way he does things. God was about to wipe out Sodom, and Abraham questioned if God would be just to destroy the righteous with the wicked. When God threatened to annihilate Israel because of the Golden Calf incident, Moses disagreed with him. The Psalmist often complains about God’s failure to stop evildoers. Don’t question? Apparently, there were biblical figures who never heard of that rule.Bravo again James and I will also tell you this as well, “Kick ass!” Read the usually intelligible words of Jame Pate at http://jamesbradfordpate.blogspot.com/2008/03/reflections-on-malachi.html.
I’ve often heard that I should be honest with God, even if that involves expressing my problems with him. When I was growing up in the Armstrongite movement, one preacher I really enjoyed was Ron Dart. He said, “One thing you can say about the Psalmist, it is that his prayer was honest. If you hate God, then you’d might as well tell him, because he already knows.” And that is the sort of advice that I’m getting from Philip Yancey’s Prayer: Does It Make a Difference?
But here’s my struggle: There are times when people in the Bible do question God, and they get punished as a result. For example, in Numbers 13-14, the Israelites weep because there are giants in the land of Canaan and they are reluctant to conquer it. God punishes them with forty years in the wilderness and the promise that they will never see the land. “But not everybody has strong faith,” I thought. “I’d be scared too! What was wrong with them being honest with God about their fears? Aren’t we supposed to be honest?”
And, in Malachi, God expresses clear disapproval with what many Israelites are saying. “God doesn’t love me.” “There’s no point to serving God.” “God gives the wicked a free ride.” But weren’t they just being honest, like the Psalmist? Not everyone has pious thoughts and feelings.