Wednesday, September 28, 2011

God is testing Me?

I have a hunch that in 1 Corinthians 10:13, where Paul talks about God providing a way out of 'testing/temptation', he may be echoing the provision of the ram in Genesis 22. Anyone bumped into this before?

I've been puzzling as to why James uses Gen 22 a his example of 'justification by deeds", and wondering how his "No one should say 'God is testing me' ", fits with his use of Abraham later on.

Of course all of this came from getting a little annoyed at sermons and Bible studies that present God as determining and doing evil 'to build our character'.

I'm trying to find places in the NT where God is the agent of 'testing'. They are very slim. He is always around, strengthening, encouraging etc. Very few agencies.
None with peirazmos, though God is presented as the agent of rescue from peirazmos and has victory over peirazmos.
John 6:6 is a candidate for Jesus 'testing', but it is hardly providing calamity to produce character, it is simply Jesus seeing what Phillip will do.
1 Corinthians 10, God is the restricter of perazw, but hardly its agent.
In fact, God is never directly the agent of peirazw in the NT.
The closest is in Hebrews 11:17, which the reference to Abraham, but even there, it is not directly said that the testing is from God. (And the story of Genesis 22 is rather ambiguous in itself as to whether God would ordain evil, when the narrative is taken as a whole)

So given that is the case, it seems rather careless, when faced with James 1:13, to outright say, "God tests us". Surely, even if we wanted to translate the verse as tempt, it would be reckless to say the exact opposite of the verse. Yet this is what a lot of popular Bible Study says. God tests us in order to prove our mettle.

I think this comes from a wrong understanding of God's sovereignty, which tries to comfort us in the face of evil by saying God planned it all, instead of saying God has a plan to destroy evil in his Son Jesus. It comes from Calvin's commentary on James, but ends up with a much mushier Calvinism. It ends up with 'God has a plan for your life' which rather ignores the Messiah and the sharing of Messianic woes, but instead focuses on a quasi-psychological character building.

I know the whole issue of whether God ordains evil is vexed, but I think flatly saying his agency is the same in evil as good is wrong, and mistakes infinity for totality.
Just some thoughts


kristan said...

I have nothing to add. Except to say, hey - that's cool, I was just reading James 1 this morning and trying to figure it out - like just an hour ago! Spooky :) Maybe I'm being tested ;)

Mike W said...

We've been working through it for the sermons at church. It's a blast!
I'm especially enjoying Richard Bauckham's little book on James.
That is a little spooky, though I have a spookier tale to tell with James.
Hope all is ticking along on your island. Can't wait to hear stories