God's accommodation to us

(Mervin Bitikofer) #1

The other day I remembered a scene from a movie (somewhat embellished by my memory as it turns out!) that seemed to me to be a wonderful little example of accommodation of the sort that God probably does for us.

A pair of protagonists (modern citizens from the 90s when the movie was set) was captured by an isolated Cheyenne tribe in a remote interior area of northern Montana. One of our pair is a professor who had studied the native languages enough that she successfully communicates with this tribe, and she and her partner are soon living as willing guests rather than captives. The scene of interest to me had the tribe gathered around for stories, and the chief asked their guests to tell them about the “great silver winged bird with the long white tail” (meaning the occasional jet seen overhead, of course). She began to tell them that actually there were people riding on that, which brought much mirth and laughter to the listeners. And taking stock of this reception, our protagonists joined in with their laughter at the absurdity of the suggestion. All this is but a few seconds of film that quickly slip by, so peripheral to any plot development, and yet (I think) capture such a deep wealth of profundity. She could have persisted with “No – really! These things are really giant machines called airplanes and they carry many people!” But she saw instead that they did not yet have any context of life in which any such information could even be meaningfully understood, and chose instead to enter into their world and into their contexts. THIS, I think is a beautiful glance of what accommodation might look like.

It is not commentary on comparisons of mental capacity of some groups over others – indeed in real life, there are isolated tribes that have taken stock of just such new information when they did become exposed to it – but none of that detracts from the point I draw from this vignette. And that is, that unless a culture of people has some sort of context within which they can situate some new bit of information offered to them by an outsider from a different cultural context, the new “information” will be impossible for them to understand and perhaps irrelevant to their interests in any case. Thank God that the saving word of grace is an accommodation to us, and not written for an audience a couple thousand years from now which would make it entirely inaccessible to us. So how silly of us to imagine that God would not have accommodated to cultures back when the earliest Scriptures were written and compiled. What if back then God had catered instead to interests and contexts that would not yet exist for a few thousand years hence by insisting “… really these things you see in the sky are great orbs; and I did create them and shape them over eons of time for which you don’t even have big enough numbers yet, but let’s just multiply this out for you since there will be skeptics in a far away time and land someday that will get all hung up on and distracted by these details.” No. Instead, those original cultures were spoken to within their own contexts, and then recorded those highly relevant words which we can later study and be able by God’s grace and through persistent study take stock of their context and translate / import the central messages into our own.

The incarnation itself would have to be the granddaddy of all accommodations: God entering into the culture present at the time, living, walking, suffering, and laughing with us smack in the middle of our own contexts. THAT is a miracle to celebrate.

(Mary) #2

Well expressed! And I am sure you are right that if God had tried to explain all of the science, the main point would have been completely lost! I once had the opportunity of chatting with some women who had not been to school and therefore believed the earth was flat. I tried to explain that the world was a sphere, but they thought I was making up some strange story. In the end we had to agree to disagree - each believing what they had been told and observed! I am not mocking them at all. They were clear thinkers within their cultural setting. Why would God want to deal with the science first?! For these women, it would have been a huge stumbling block.

Someone else in that culture, who was interested in science, had a creative mind for new words and expressions. My favourite was that when faced with the concept of “email”, he called it “throwing a book/letter to the wind”! All languages accommodate like this to some extent - and God is an expert communicator, so we should expect him to do this!

(Ray Bailey) #3

As I have read time and again in Speculative and Science Fiction (especially concerning time travel to the past)

“You can’t railroad, until you can railroad!”

In other words, until there are the materials, supporting knowledge, the tools, and the tools to make the tools, and the culture to support all of those things, you just can’t railroad.

(BTW, an excellent treatment of this concerning this is the Sci-Fi “Safehold” series by David Weber, and the Alt-Universe “1632” series by Eric Flint)

Friday evening I had a couple in my home for dinner who are YEC raised and bred. We had a cordial if lively discussion. I do not think I would be able to change the mind and heart of the very dear wife. It would be cruel to do so in any case. My discussion with the husband he gave me a specific challenge will be detailed over in a new topic.

There is no way to “railroad” some of the very dear and sincere YEC adherents into a new/old view of the Creation account. Best to work on the Scholars and Teachers of a new generation!

The husband did say to feel free to argue with his daughter, a young and fervent YEC adherent when she comes home from missions in China.

Ray :sunglasses:

(Mervin Bitikofer) #4

I had never heard of either of these series. I need to get out more again into the sci-fi world. We do actually have the imaginations to know that this is a real issue, and yet we so easily slip into thinking it’s only an issue for everybody else. It couldn’t be for us, right! I mean here we are writing books about it --surely we have finally arrived as the first humans ever to stand on Mt. PureObjectivity (discovered and named by those of western European descent, of course!).

(Ray Bailey) #5

Absolutely right! (And I hate when other people use the word “absolutely” when they seldom mean it, but I do in this case!)

David Weber of Honor Harrington series and Safehold series is a United Methodist lay Pastor, and writes Sci-Fi full time. He always has a religious theme running through the series. Safehold especially when a tailored religion was created to prevent the colonists from developing electrical signals that could be detected by genocidal aliens. Generations later the religion’s political power overtakes the planet. The books detail (actual detailing) the ins and outs of fighting a cultural religious war, the source and worth of “sacred” writings, and the effect on the populous of the so-called 'miraculous" events, as well as a “creation account” that has been warped to serve the purposes of the power-hungry founders.
I highly recommend if you want to stretch your imagination and give some breathing room to ideas that may indeed be fitting to our conversations here.
Warning: Weber is a prolific writer and his books are long! Some say he has a problem with “data-dumps”. But I find the data dumps fascinating.

Ray :sunglasses:

(Ray Bailey) #6

“God’s Accommodation to Us”

We have such a nasty feeling toward the word accommodation! Our current society makes all kinds of accommodations for anybody that has disabilities, a fault or weakness that not their fault. We have the “American’s with Disabilities Act,” and all kinds of “Twelve-Step” programs, and free “Family Planning” paid from tax dollars, the true sense of “helping the needy” has somehow become an unhealthy expression of elitist noblesse obligle looking "down"on the poor, the wretched, and needy. Certainly sense of the proud man praying “Oh God, Thank you that I am not a sinner like them!”

Accommodation seems to be the same kind of thing. It is okay to accommodate somebody else who is weaker, but I certainly don’t need it! I feel the YEC crows (at least the leaders and movers of the YEC) feel that the world needs to accommodate itself to their interpretation of scripture.

God does not accommodate FOR us. He is accommodating TO the original readers. That is the distinction. The YEC is expecting God to accommodate scripture TO their cultural understanding.

I believe a whole generation will have to pass away before a new generation can really take hold of EC and make the changes to Biblical Interpretation on a wide scale.

(system) #7

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