Timothy Johnson, M.D.

Dr. Timothy JohnsonBev was reading to me this morning from Timothy Johnson’s book, Finding God in the Questions. We both thought that it was pretty courageous to write this in light of his public celebrity. I was especially impressed with his comments about freewill.

A bit of context is in order. Johnson talked about the Sermon on the Mount and the ‘probability’ that, if we live according to its principles, it will significantly increase the probability that we will experience personal contentment. Then he talks about freewill.

In other words I believe God has designed our world in a way that allows us to become partners with God in helping to determine the outcomes of our lives. We are not puppets at the ends of cosmic strings attached to the fingers of God. Rather we are like athletes, in this case entered in the race of life itself, who must make choices about how to use (or abuse) those gifts and opportunities we have been given.

Johnson then continues by talking about the way we humans want to say that He caused events in our lives–most often events that go in our favor.

And I become particularly upset when I hear people talk about the safe return of loved ones from war as the result of God’s direct action that by implication resulted in the death of others…At an utterly trivial level by contrast, I also cringe when I hear God’s name invoked as the author of victory on the athletic field, implying that God arranged the defeat of the opponent; or I hear God invoked as the author of victory in business competition, once again implying that God is the reason for someone else’s loss. My reading of the Gospels suggests that God wants all his creatures to “win” in terms of life fulfillment and no one to “lose” in the game of life.

I think part of the confusion arises from taking passages about God’s involvement in the affairs of ancient Israel or the early Church and applying them to the day-to-day, menial affairs of humankind in general. In the Bible God was advancing his eternal, ultimate plan for mankind, not micromanaging what kind of chariot an ancient was going to buy or whether an individual was financially successful.

A friend told me recently of well meaning people who told her that the death of her child was God’s doing. It was no comfort to her, and I would caution those who make such pronouncements to slow down and think about whether they really think that God is busy snuffing this person and letting that one live, blessing this business and cursing that one.