Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Should you execute a plan that requires God’s intervention to work?

I have a fictional story that I’m going to use to make a point.

Here it is:

A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.

A faithful Christian woman heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to herself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”

Her neighbor came by her house and said to her, “I’m leaving and there is room for you in my car, please come with me!” But the woman declined his offer. “I have faith that God will save me.”

As the woman stood on her porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to her, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the woman again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”

The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into her living room and the woman had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and the policeman saw her at the window. “I will come up and rescue you!” he shouted. But the woman refused, waving him off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

The flood waters rose higher and higher and the woman had to climb up to her rooftop.

A helicopter spotted her and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and he pleaded with the woman, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the woman STILL refused, folding her arms tightly to her body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the woman away and she drowned.

When in Heaven, the woman stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”

And He said, “Daughter, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

I think the lesson from this made-up story is that it’s good to not make plans that are risky and reckless, and therefore unlikely to work. If your plan requires God to do anything in order for it to work, you better get a new plan. I think instead you should do everything you can to make your plan work, and then pray about it for your own peace of mind, and for a blessing that God will use it and bless it to produce a great result.

Look at this passage from the Bible.

Matthew 4:5-7:

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,

and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,

He will command His angels concerning You’;

and

On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

When you are deciding how your life is going to count, don’t try to hit a home run on the first at bat. Don’t try to swing for a knockout punch in the first round. Make a plan that is cautious and will bear fruit in time. Don’t make a plan that will only work if a miracle occurs, that would be putting God to the test. God is not honored by lousy plans that fail and make people of faith look foolish. We have to appear as if we know what we are doing, and it is easier to love and lead others if we have our own life in order, first. For example, you can’t share with others if you don’t have your own financial house in order.

Now I’ve actually done stupid things that were unlikely to work myself a few times, and they obviously did not work. But I have found a good way to avoid doing this. If you surround yourself with good advisors, then they will tell you not to do stupid things, or they will tell you how to do something else that achieves the same result. It’s good to have advisors and good to let them know what you are planning to do so they can tell you not to do it.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , ,

Bad planning and expecting rescues from God makes Christians less effective

Normally I would post a study, but I’m going to make an exception and post this bit of fiction instead.

I found the story and adapted it:

A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.

A faithful Christian woman heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to herself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”

Her neighbor came by her house and said to her, “I’m leaving and there is room for you in my car, please come with me!” But the woman declined his offer. “I have faith that God will save me.”

As the woman stood on her porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to her, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the woman again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”

The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into her living room and the woman had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and the policeman saw her at the window. “I will come up and rescue you!” he shouted. But the woman refused, waving him off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

The flood waters rose higher and higher and the woman had to climb up to her rooftop.

A helicopter spotted her and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and he pleaded with the woman, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the woman STILL refused, folding her arms tightly to her body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the woman away and she drowned.

When in Heaven, the woman stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”

And He said, “Daughter, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

If you are looking for God to help you to do something, don’t neglect the fact that God sometimes sends people to do his work, so that they can partner with him and experience him while doing his work. I think the lesson from this made-up story is that it’s good to not make plans that are risky and reckless, and therefore unlikely to work.

Look at this passage from the Bible.

Matthew 4:5-7:

Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,

and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,

He will command His angels concerning You’;

and

On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

I think what I would say is that you should make plans that are likely to work without God, and then pray for it to work extra well, with his help. Don’t make a plan that will only work if you get a miracle, that would be putting God to the test. God is not honored by lousy plans that fail and make people of faith look like idiots. We have to appear as if we know what we are doing, and it is easier to love and lead others if we have our own life in order, first. For example, you can’t share with others if you own nothing.

Now I’ve actually done stupid things that were unlikely to work myself a few times. But I have found a good way to avoid doing this. If you surround yourself with good advisors, then they will tell you not to do stupid things, or they will tell you how to do something else that achieves the same result. It’s good to have advisors and good to let them know what you are planning to do so they can tell you not to do it. It works great.

There is another good post to read if you like this post, it’s on decision making and the will of God.

Filed under: Mentoring, , , ,

What Christians can learn about morality from “Breaking Bad”

I found this post about the TV series “Breaking Bad” through J.W. Wartick’s “Really Recommended Posts“.

The author of the post argues that most of what you see in the arts and entertainment field tries to give us the idea that there is a dichotomy between small choices and big choices. But Breaking Bad rejects this by trying to show how small choices add up to your character.

Take a look:

I think Breaking Bad is a great show because it rejects this line of thinking [small vs big choices], because its running time is a five-season rebuttal to the idea that there are choices that matter and choices that don’t. Walt’s pride at a dinner table is ultimately as important to the villain he becomes as his murder, his lying as corruptive as his violence. In Gilligan’s eyes, there’s no differentiating between Walt’s pride and his rage and his enviousness and his determination to succeed at all costs, to be the Kingpin, the only one. Telling the story of how Walt chose to become the villain takes every minute of all 67 episodes aired so far.

You do not accidentally end up a drug kingpin, says the show. And the story is a five season long a fortiori argument whose conclusion is that you, viewer, also have a choice, in what to watch, or say, in how to treat people, in who to be. To echo James K.A. Smith, there are very few, if any, “morally neutral” practices. We get shaped by the things we do, or don’t do, even unintentionally, even if you’re not paying attention.

Breaking Bad echoes that not only in content, but in form. In the critical importance of little decisions (Walt’s wined-up boasting in front of Hank; his lying to his wife, Skyler; Marie’s shoplifting; Hank’s pride and arrogance affecting his job) that all compound in the direction of calamity.

“I just feel like I never had a choice in any of this,” Walt argues early on in season one, after he’s declined cancer treatment. “I want a say, for once.” When you first watch the scene, not knowing the kind of person Walt is going to choose to be, it’s a poignant moment. Walt wants to spend his last months with his wife on his own terms, rather than as a powerless and weak and hollowed out shell of who he used to be.

But as flashbacks inform the choices Walt made in the past, and as time and time again Walt refuses to stop cooking meth, to stop feeding his own pride, the scene is recontextualized as an ironic echo—as just another excuse for Walt’s behavior. The paradox central to Walt’s nature is that if you deny him a choice, he becomes furious. Because of this, most every conflict in the show stems from the interplay of Walt’s staggering intelligence and his equally impressive capacity for stupid, pride-motivated decisions.

But if you empower Walt, when he comes into real responsibility, he shirks it, he self-sabotages; he pretends he doesn’t have a choice, or never did have a choice. He becomes paranoid, and self-aggrandizing, and manipulative, until he’s relaxed from the tension of having responsibility—and as soon as that happens, he’s out looking for it again.

When all Walt has are choices, he demands a CHOICE; and as soon as it is presented to him, as soon as the danger of responsibility is there and real and able to hurt him, he denies it, labels it meaningless, and continues to victimize himself.

Walter is us. And that is a dangerous message, and it hurts. It hurts to be awakened to choices you didn’t know you were failing to make, or making poorly. It is always, always easier to deny choice than to accept it, to want to brush things off until it’s really important, until it’s a choice, and then perform well, and go back to the status quo of being a-volitional. We want to be fully ourselves already, and for our actions to be extrinsic, non-reflective. To keep separate who we are, our identities, and what we do in our everyday life.

But that’s not what it means to have character. And it’s not what it means to be a human being, created to shift and change dynamically. The tragedy of Walter White makes for a great narrative, and for really compelling TV. But the lesson of Breaking Bad is invaluable, especially in a culture like ours, that’s so allergic to prescriptive statements, to generalizations that aren’t platitudes, to Truth Claims about the nature of humanity. Breaking Bad doesn’t just make those claims—it does it with gusto. It confronts you with the ugliness of humanity like a Flannery O’Connor story, begging you to look and to look away, to see the outer extreme of an idea so that you’ll kick back and respond and fight with it, because engaging is just as much of a choice as anything else.

That reminds me of this well-known saying:

Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action; reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character reap a destiny

Something to think about when we are making the decisions about “how far is too far?”. The best way to avoid becoming a bad person is by not trying to walk on a dramatic line, but by making a million decisions every day to consciously get away from evil.

I find that in the church there is this strange and ridiculous idea everywhere that you can just do whatever you want and that God will give you the strength to be courageous and effective in these dramatic moments when you are tested – perhaps by being asked to deny Jesus or die. That will probably never happen for most of us. We overestimate how much an “act of God” can really do compared to the long, slow hum-drum day-to-day work towards a goal. A person has to die a million little deaths in order to achieve big things, like marry well and raise Christian kids, or keep a job to support a home, to get an MS or a PhD, etc. It’s the million little sacrifices that lead to making a big impact in the end.

Think abut it another way. How do the Armed Forces train soldiers in order to fight as a team and be brave? Do they just say “go about your lives, and when the time comes God will tell you what to do”? Hell, no. They drill and train and prepare for war because they know that this is what works. They have obstacle courses with live-fire machine guns and explosions to get soldiers used to making decisions under fire. They have classroom instruction and reading lists to share knowledge that will be useful in battle. All of this is to get the soldiers into the habit of making tiny brave decisions under controlled conditions. God doesn’t throw ordinary Christians out in a university auditorium and say “now perform like Bill Craig”. Bill Craig is Bill Craig because he chose to pass over fun things a million times and to instead focus on hard things like advanced degrees, reading advanced books and practicing debate. He isn’t debating in front of thousands of people because he made one “big” choice, but because he has a million little choices.

This lie about service being something that God has to lead you to is one of the biggest lies in the church today. That you don’t have to build the kind of life that honors God one self-sacrificial decision at a time. That you don’t have to have a long-term plan to be effective, but instead just do what you “feel led” to do moment by moment. That you can have as much impact as a Jim Demint or a William Lane Craig or a Ryan Anderson without having to train and prepare for it. It’s a lie to think that making an impact is a one-decision affair. We over-spiritualize the idea of serving God to give ourselves maximum autonomy and tell ourselves that “if it comes to that, I’ll be faithful”, while living ordinary lives the rest of the time. It’s probably never going to come to that, so shouldn’t you have some sort of day-to-day long-term self-sacrificial plan to achieve something for God instead?

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , ,

New study: couples who divide housework on traditional sex roles have a lot more sex

Here’s the press release from Agence France Presse. (H/T Stuart Schneiderman)

Excerpt:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as they say: the more housework married men do, the less sex they have, according to a new study published Wednesday.

Husbands who spend more time doing traditionally female chores — such as cooking, cleaning, and shopping — reported having less sex than those who do more masculine tasks, said the study in the American Sociological Review.

“Our findings suggest the importance of socialized gender roles for sexual frequency in heterosexual marriage,” said lead author Sabino Kornrich, of the Center for Advanced Studies at the Juan March Institute in Madrid.

“Couples in which men participate more in housework typically done by women report having sex less frequently. Similarly, couples in which men participate more in traditionally masculine tasks — such as yard work, paying bills, and auto maintenance — report higher sexual frequency.”

His study, “Egalitarianism, Housework, and Sexual Frequency in Marriage,” looks at straight married couples in the United States, and was based on data from the National Survey of Families and Households.

[…]”The results suggest the existence of a gendered set of sexual scripts, in which the traditional performance and display of gender is important for creation of sexual desire and performance of sexual activity,” Kornrich said.

Prior to that study, there was this Norwegian study.

Excerpt:

Couples who share housework duties run a higher risk of divorce than couples where the woman does most of the chores, a Norwegian study sure to get tongues wagging has shown.

The divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled Equality in the Home, said.

[…]“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” Mr Hansen suggested.

“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight,” he added.

Men, if you want to avoid losing everything by marrying the wrong woman and getting a divorce, then pay attention to these studies and choose wisely. Find out what you are designed to do in a marriage, and what women are designed to do. Train to do your jobs well, and pick a woman who not only does her jobs, but wants you to do yours. And respects you for doing your jobs.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Study: 70% of divorces caused by domestic issues like money or housework

This is from the UK Telegraph. (H/T Stuart Schneiderman)

Excerpt:

According to analysis of divorce cases by Gateley, a UK law firm, seven in ten marriages fall apart because couples fail to reach an agreement on decisions relating to the home, such as how monthly finances are arranged, where couples live or how household responsibilities are carved up.

Only one in five marriages ends because of infidelity, the law firm said.

The company said that couples who treat marriage as a “business merger” – and talk about domestic issues – are much more likely to stay together in the long term.

Of the seven in ten marriages that fail because people can not agree on simple domestic issues, by far the most common cause is lack of agreement over finances. One in eight of these marriages disintegrate because couples are unable to agree on where to settle down.

Elizabeth Hassall, a partner and head of the family division at Gateley, said that it is surprising how many “fundamental decisions” are barely discussed before couples get married.

She said: “Yes it’s romantic to be walking down the aisle, but the realities of a ‘merger’ are a little more cut and dry, It is often the case that people simply don’t think about it, or feel comfortable discussing life choices, but what is apparent is that going into a marriage blind could be a recipe for disaster.”

That study is from one law firm, but it reminded me about this story about a Norwegian study that discusses the importance of traditional roles within the marriage.

Excerpt:

Couples who share housework duties run a higher risk of divorce than couples where the woman does most of the chores, a Norwegian study sure to get tongues wagging has shown.

The divorce rate among couples who shared housework equally was around 50 per cent higher than among those where the woman did most of the work.

“The more a man does in the home, the higher the divorce rate,” Thomas Hansen, co-author of the study entitled Equality in the Home, said.

Researchers found no, or very little, cause-and-effect. Rather, they saw in the correlation a sign of “modern” attitudes.

“Modern couples are just that, both in the way they divide up the chores and in their perception of marriage” as being less sacred, Mr Hansen said, stressing it was all about values.

“In these modern couples, women also have a high level of education and a well-paid job, which makes them less dependent on their spouse financially. They can manage much easier if they divorce,” he said.

There were only some marginal aspects where researchers said there may be cause-and-effect.

“Maybe it’s sometimes seen as a good thing to have very clear roles with lots of clarity … where one person is not stepping on the other’s toes,” Mr Hansen suggested.

“There could be less quarrels, since you can easily get into squabbles if both have the same roles and one has the feeling that the other is not pulling his or her own weight,” he added.

For another academic study on this featuring Brad Wilcox, click here.

I think that these studies are interesting because I often hear from women that they are most afraid of being cheated on by men and that this is the cause of divorces. That is the number one threat to divorce in their minds – adultery. But the data seems to show that there are other issues that are more important – and more preventable. Feelings of love don’t resolve these domestic issues that are the real threat to marriage – it takes rational communication and planning before the marriage to defuse them. Naturally, negotiation works best when there are no distractions from crazy emotions and sexual passions. But I have often found that women are opposed to answering tough questions and being led in a particular direction during courtship. So on the one hand, they are fussing about adultery, which is a low-risk problem. And on the other hand, they are preferring an emotional roller coaster to reasonable courting discussions, which exposes them to the real threat to marriage.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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