Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mechanical Theology, by Kim Cone

With his permission I share with you a letter my brother-in-law wrote. He serves as a missionary with the Evangelical Free church in the Central African Republic.


Dear Fab Fam,


It is a lovely, cool, clear Sunday morning.  The Africans say it is freezing and their kinesiology shows it.  Even Luke had on a sweatshirt; however, to a "normal" American it is perfect, shirt-sleeve weather.  Ann Wester spoke in the French service and, as usual, it was both profound and very applicable.  The theme was God's sovereignty.


Afterwards, I started Westers' 1,500 W. generator, just the perfect machine for their 1 fridge, computers etc..  Then I fired up our 2,500 watter, just the ticket for our 2 fridges, computers etc..  Suddenly, the sermon and the generator sets were intertwined!  2 furloughs ago, I began to casually shop for a small generator in case we ever ended up back in the bush.  Our budget cannot handle losing $15,000-worth of solar equipment to looters again; hence, the focus on a gas generator.  One of the first stores I stumbled into suggested a rebuilt one.  They had bought it for their own purposes.  It had experienced a serious breakdown and they had completely rebuilt the engine as was attested by the bright, silicone-blue line around the crankcase.  The price was radically reduced but the wattage was a bit more than I was after THEN.  And yet, for our needs TODAY, it is . . . well . . . PERFECT.  The Honda motor can even be had locally!


Is that God or chance?  No.  The answer isn't as simple as you might think..  That awful, pious-sounding phrase "God led me to" has been used too many times to blame God for too many terrible things He had absolutely nothing to do with [in the 2nd sense of "will", see below]!  I'm not just referring to those genocides perpetrated by the Pilgrims or the Conquistadores in the name of God.  We still hear it all the time today!  Remember the little visit Roy, Paul and I paid to our BMM friends in Bangui!  John Dannenburg asked us to pray that God would enable him to start a Baptist seminary in Bangui that would, of course, teach "Baptist" theology, whatever that is [the 2 groups in this country with the greatest divergence theologically are BOTH Baptist!].  I would be willing to wager quite a bit that at some point John has accused God of "leading him" to do this.  I would wager even more that were God to do any "leading" it would be in the opposite direction!  Both Paul and I were eating extremely-good, Baptist, home-made ice cream at the time so neither of us expressed our opinion on multiplying competing seminaries in this small country.  Later Paul told me that he'd bit his tongue and had been discrete enough NOT to tell John that his prayers would be countering those of John; sort of like the prayers of farmers and fishermen.


It sounds so pious to attribute what we do to God's direction; however, such outward piety has too often been a cover for despicable hearts and destructive deeds.  Back at Grace, I was taught that there are 2 categories of God's will:  that which He decrees which includes all that happens AND that which He desires morally, most of which will not happen regularly until our Lord returns to this earth to reign.  And so, technically, the answer to our generator question is "Yes" and "Maybe".  Yes.  Certainly the 2 generators were part of God's decreed will.  And, because they are pleasing to us, we can, and even should, say, "Thank you!".  Is this a sign of God's approval of our choices relative to post-looting damage control?  Or, an affirmation of our choosing to be at Gamboula where such a generator would meet our needs when our turbine crashes?  Or, an indicator of His satisfaction with our approach to reaching the Fulani?  Ah hah!  Here's where the rub comes in!  I think humility and honesty require one to answer, "I don't know"!  Too often in testimonials, I've seen God blamed in this way for the poor choices of others.  As a result, I'm UNwilling to affirm that MY choices are simultaneously, or previously, His.  In any given situation, maybe, yes.  Maybe, no. 


Must go haul some fuel for . . . you guessed it . . . generators!    Theologically loaded generators! 



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