Saturday, 22 April 2006

Does God risk public transport?

STIB - the public transport system in Brussels, comprising bus, tram, metro and in-Brussels trains. Efficient, cheap and comprehensive, one never has to walk more than 10 minutes to anything, if you so want - only held up briefly by an occasional tram-car smash when a typical Brussels driver tries to dash across in front of a tram at a junction. If you don't have an abonnement, you buy a Jump card, which you swipe in the machine in each transport, with one line (=1€) lasting 1h. I was chatting with a student who was saying how you could get away without swiping it most of the time, and I was having a hard time communicating the concept of doing what's right rather than what you can get away with.

"No-one notices!" he said, finally, so in desperation I lost all attempt at sophisticated explination and Sunday School-like said, "God notices!" He suggested that God would hardly mind that I'd not swiped the STIB card for a tram journey of a few stops! "God's perfectly just," I said. "But he takes risks," came the reply. [Ah, now here we have a God made in our image, as did the Greeks and Romans more obviously before us.] "No, God does not take risks." "But yes," he rejoined, "he took a great risk in dying for us! He tried it and perhaps it would work..." While delighting in our non-Christian friend's understanding that Jesus was God and that his death was on our behalf, I had to disagree. Because what he said is far from what God has revealed in the Bible, and an image of God which is far from who he is.

Implicationally, if God was taking a risk in giving Jesus on our behalf, then I have no security in salvation or in life. If God took a risk, God is not sovereign and there is no security in anything, no sure salvation to be finally completed at Christ's return, no sure return of Christ, no surety of sanctification that God will triumph over my sinfulness to make me like Christ, no certainty that the church will be presented pure and spotless to Christ, no reason to think that God will manage through his weak, sinful church to gather from every people, tribe and language, redeemed people to himself.

So I pointed out that Peter when addressing his fellow Jews says that they killed the Messiah according to God's exact plan, and that Jesus when predicting his death didn't just say, "I will die and then I hope that maybe it'll work out and that I'll come back to life." No, he said, "I will die and in 3 days I will rise again." It was at great cost that Jesus died, but not at great risk. God was in control: just as he's in control of all things.

My friend repeated, "He's in control of all things?!" "Yes," I replied. I wondered whether next would come a question about the tsunami, or the bombings in London, or the recent stabbing to death of a 17 year old in a Brussels station, for his mobile phone. My friend said, "So God's in control of STIB?!?" I confess I hesitated a minisecond - "Oui!"

It's something we shy away from - God in control of a bus, a late tram, a smooth metro system, a double decker train - but it's true and it's that on which our faith rests.

Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth... [Ps 135.6]
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Why should the nations say, "Where is their God?"
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. [Ps 115.1-3]
Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, 'My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose',... [Isa 46.8-10]


mama said...

But CSL spoke of God taking a 'risk' in creating man, a free being who could rebel against Him:

man is “the ‘weak spot’ in the very nature of creation, the risk
which God apparently thinks worth taking” (Problem of Pain)

A typical CSL remark - and he's hardly a Reformed theologian... well, he is by now :)

any thoughts?

troy said...

I could argue (primarily for the sake of argument) that God took a risk at the cross in that every one for whom Christ died has the option of rejecting the gift.

Now risk requires that the outcome of a situation be in question. Risk requires a lack of knowledge. Of course, God knows all, so it cannot really be called a risk. Our Lord knew the cost of everyone's sin and paid it "once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous..."

Andy said...

I've just done a search on risk in the Bible ( it is never once used of God: risk implies a possibility of the unkown occuring and of unforseen loss. Neither of these things are possible for the God as he reveals himself in Christ and Scripture.

There was no risk at the cross - only certain victory.

There is no risk in trusting Christ - only certain salvation.

There's plenty of risk in cheating on tram fairs - one day the conductor would get you!!! :o)

étrangère said...

Thanks for those comments - I've a couple of posts in response as it grew too much for a comment, but blogger isn't letting me post them at present.

troy said...

Leave it to Rosemary to respond to three comments with as many posts of thrice the length (at least). :)

étrangère said...

Haha, they were comments worth responding to!

Anonymous said...

To be honest I don't know about the whole God and risk thing but on the public transport issue I would like to inform you that Brussel's has the most integrtaed public transport system in all Europe. I once had to spend 3 days riding the public transport system to prove this as part of my degree - seriously.
So I hope you appriciate the amazing system you get to use regularly?!


étrangère said...

Alix, that's one crazy degree that has you riding the STIB for 3 days - what was it?! I do indeed greatly appreciate the STIB and the trains throughout Belgium (€4.50 to go from one Belgian station to ANY other!). Where are you from?