This is actually the second book by Gerald Schroeder I have read recently. Schroeder is perhaps best known for his book The Science of God. He is a physicist, who attempts to reconcile Genesis with what science is discovering about the big bang and the origins of the universe. Actually, he doesn’t so much try to reconcile the two, with a forced agenda as many have tried to do. His understanding of the Hebrew language has led him to uncover many misunderstandings of Genesis on the part of the religious, and to lay bare many of the shortcomings of science. He maintains that the two are not that far apart when all of the misunderstandings are stripped away. I didn’t agree with everything Schroeder put forth in The Science Of God, and there were many areas where I had to confess my own lack of knowledge when it came to areas, such as quantum physics and astronomy. But he did have some very insightful points that call for a fresh understanding of both science and Genesis. And it lead me to read another one of his books, God According To God.
In God According To God, Schroeder touches on the origins of the universe, but this time from the perspective of a deeper understanding of God. He examines many ways in which our notions of God do not match up with the Hebrew Bible. Two chapters in particular intrigued me.
In the seventh chapter, Schroeder examines the nuances in the stories of Abraham and Job. From God’s interactions with these two biblical figures, he draws some conclusions about God that I imagine would begin to make some uncomfortable. We have attributed such a high view of sovereignty to God, that there is scarcely room for pain, misfortune, or suffering. Many today would teach that these things are “God’s will” because God is in control of everything. But God can still be sovereign and mourn with us when bad things happen, without being the One who willed it to happen. We are afraid to let God be God.
God has not designed a mechanical ‘vending machine’ world where you put in two good deeds, pull a lever, and out pops the commensurate comfort of a material reward.
Unfortunately, this is what is too often being taught in churches today. Rather than being a god whose hands are always on the chess board, moving every piece, God just might be more “hands off” than we would like to imagine. But this does not mean God is neither distant nor powerless. Like Job, God wants us to argue, to protest, and to wrestle. And at times God will intervene, as it is always in God’s power to do.
Schroeder summarizes his observations in chapter twelve: “There’s no hint of a constant microengineering by God either in the world or in the Bible.” True, God can intervene when needed. But often that intervention falls far short of our expectations. When God promises Israel victory in battle, God also excuses those who are newly married lest they die in battle. If God promised victory, why the chance people are going to die? Because God is not a micromanager. The implication is that we are partners with God in restoring creation toward its intended purpose.
It is interesting that Schroeder closes with the statement, “The God that most skeptics reject, a God with unceasing hands-on control, is simply not the God of the Bible.” My own observation is that the god the skeptics reject, which is not the God of the Bible, is also the god that many Christians want to embrace. The more we are able to attribute to “the will of God”, the less personal responsibility we have to accept for ourselves. While some may be uncomfortable with the picture of God that God According To God constructs, I found it refreshing, challenging some of my own constructs.