Problems with the God Machine

Entrust your life to Someone who knows you. 

A computer manages and controls all its systems well, but in the meantime, doesn’t have a lick of wisdom.  For instance, it doesn’t know what it is doing or why, has no experience, doesn’t understand the people it serves.  Even when it tries to anticipate what we want, it can only recycle past history, or existing data.  The machine doesn’t know if you’re using it to build a birdhouse or an atom bomb.     

As biblical as it is to believe that God exercises absolute control over His creation, there is a point where an emphasis upon God as “controller” starts to sound like God as mother board, and we start a long slide down into the gloom of fatalism.  This God-machine of overwhelming size and complexity, uses things and people without any relational understanding, like a cosmic Mister Spock operating on the strength of logic alone.   

However, we can only have a happy, contented trust in the God who runs the universe if He is a wise God.  

We might prefer to settle the question of whether God is loving.  But in the thick of the most miserable life recorded in biblical history—that of Job—the issue of love is never brought up.  Far more germane was God’s puzzling treatment of the man and whether it made any sense.    

In several places throughout the book that bears his name, Job rehearses what he would say if He could confront God:  

“Since his [man’s] days are determined,
 and the number of his months is with you [God],
and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass, 
  look away from him and leave him alone,
that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day” (Job 14:5-6)

In this stunning moment while his pain was talking, Job uttered something a lot of people will come to feel at some point in their lives, but don’t say—that since God has already decided the limits of our lives, why ruin our short sojourn by ordaining any further senseless suffering.  And, in fact, that God ought to leave us alone so we can enjoy our lives.           

Job was thus suddenly facing the hardest part of his life with a dreadfully partial theology—one of a God who was all-powerful and transcendent, but like a supercomputer, a faceless automaton, running programs, closing and opening circuits, updating registries.   And more importantly, making questionable decisions, like an operating system run amuck.   

The book of Job is often classified in the genre of Wisdom, fitting, because Job’s assessment of the wisdom of God was little more than lip service, and the missing ingredient in his theology that might have given him rest.

This was why at the end of the book God appears not to provide answers, but to enrich the man’s thin understanding.  He pelted Job with questions ranging from annual snowfall to mountain goats.  Only then did Job became aware that if such simple matters often proved incomprehensible to his mind, then, for certain, he knew next to nothing about his own self, and how God was operating in his life.  

Much later, Paul referred to God as “the only wise God” (Rom. 16:27), and launched into a celebration of that wisdom in Romans 11:33-36 

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?  Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

The writer of this passage doesn’t sound like he wants God to leave him alone.  Far from it, he has found life’s enjoyment while swimming in a reservoir of divine wisdom.    

These days I’m still reluctant to take directions from GPS, because I find it hard to trust the soulless robot voice coming through my cell phone.  I know it broadcasts signals from a satellite perched high over the earth.  I know it relays updated information about road closures, traffic slow downs, etc., but I also know that while it accesses an impressive array of data, it has no wisdom.  It does not understand me, my quirks, my weaknesses.  It doesn’t lead me along a particular route because of the kind of day I’m having, maybe to show me something that will encourage my saddened soul, or convict me, or teach me.  

But the Lord I serve?

He is “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24).  

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