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The Call Me The Ponderer

December 1, 2016

If you recognize that as a play on words from the title of a Dion and the Belmonts song your age is showing.  If you thought “Huh?” in response to that first sentence your age is probably showing too.

My wife is always telling me that I ponder the strangest things.  I will be in a conversation, or watching a news program or even just observing life around me and suddenly I will sort of mentally checkout of whatever was going on as my mind goes off into the weeds thinking about it.  Peggy knows the “look” that comes over me when I am pondering something.

As Christmas approaches I am reminded that I am in good company when I ponder things.  Luke 2:19 tells us that Mary, having just given birth to Jesus, “…treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  I make no claim that my pondering is as profound as Mary’s. I am as likely to ponder how soy can be the foundation of so many food products (soy flour, soy milk, soy hot dogs, etc.) as I am world-changing events.  But, still, it is nice to have something in common with the Virgin Mary.

This all hit me this morning when I read two things just a few minutes apart.  The first was an article from an evangelical scholar I admire where he cautioned that “we need to be aware of the theological trajectory of the doctrines we hold dear.”  He cited the predestination/freewill controversy as an example.  Take the “God is in total control of everything” position and your trajectory runs the risk of creating a “monster God” who consigns billions to hell just because he can.  Take the “man has free will” position and your trajectory runs the risk of creating an “impotent God” who waits helplessly for us to decide.  (To be sure, these are extreme positions and it is not likely a supporter of either view does this.  It is common however for supporters of both views to accuse the other side of exactly these extremes.)

The second event was receiving word that an acquaintance suffered a miscarriage.  My first reaction, other than grief, was to remember how much I hate the term “miscarriage.”  The implication is that someone who was “carrying” a child somehow “mis-carried” it.  The term twists a heartbreaking event into some kind of personal failure.  We really need a better word here.  But, in any event, off I went into a session of pondering.

It started with doing some research on miscarriages.  I found this quote from the Mayo Clinic: “About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. But the actual number is likely higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn’t realize she is pregnant.”   This led me to try and find out just how many of these earlier miscarriages take place.  Since the vast majority of them happen without any awareness it is hard to judge but the estimates I found suggested (using a rather stark medical language) ran from 30 to 50 percent.

All I could think on reading that was – wow!  If true, that means somewhere between 40 and 70 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.  And then the concept of theological trajectory clicked into my head like a punch in the gut.  I have long held the standard evangelical view that life, and personhood, begins at conception.  While I’ve winced at terms like “baby killer” some use, I’ve thought that, right from the start, that an embryo was a baby.

If that is true then the trajectory of that belief is hard to swallow.  It means that more than half the people who ever lived, were never born.  They never had a brain capable of entertaining a sinful thought or a body capable of committing a sinful deed.  So where did these people go?  As an evangelical I’ve always believed that we go either to heaven or hell; there is no option C.  The theology of total depravity suddenly sounds horrifying.  Are these billions consigned to hell?  I’m left desperately searching for a verse that gives me a theological “out,” simply declaring a loving God won’t do any such thing, or needing to re-think the theological conclusion altogether.  Oh how I wish I could un-ponder this.

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From → Christianity

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