Monday, December 23, 2013

On Testing God

A weird synchronicity-type thing happened yesterday. In confirmation class, we were talking about testing God. One of the students, the only adult taking the class, mentioned testing God as a sin. I informed her, and this may be a surprise to many of my readers, that the Bible is not consistent on this matter. Like so much in scripture, what we have is a conversation. Yes, there are some places that pretty clearly mark testing God as something you are not supposed to do:
"Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”- Matthew 4:7

Yet in Judges 6, Gideon tests God without God getting angry. God seems to willfully and almost happily acquiesce to Gideon's testing. And in Isaiah 7, Ahaz and Isaiah openly argue whether it is okay to test the Lord by asking for miracles, with Isaiah clearly being guided by God to command the king to test God.

So, indeed, what we have here is a conversation on an important issue.  Is it okay to make deals with God or to test God? I don't think we can simply take the Bible whole cloth as our foundation for making a decision on this issue. What we can do, is take Jesus' words as being the supreme message, the foundation of the house, as it were. Jesus' interpretation of the text can guide our own, and that is what it does for me. I take Jesus' words here to be preferable to the Old Testament conversation, perhaps even being the settling word on that conversation. But to take the Bible this way, to weigh things differently in terms of importance, is just to deny a plenary inerrantist view.

The interesting thing is that the Isaiah 7 passage ended up being the Old Testament reading for the day in Church, which I had no inkling of. It is funny how God does these things, creating connections in the world. Anyways, I thought perhaps the point was to have me bring this up on my blog, which I have now done.

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