Rocks Alive!

Imagining God literally stopping a boulder from smashing a church

In the news recently is the story of a church that was almost bowled over by a large rock that was blasted loose and rolled down a hill toward the building.  Apparently, construction workers on an adjacent site sent the rock tumbling straight toward the church. Incredibly, the 20-ton rock stopped a mere foot away from the wall of the church, preventing certain destruction of the building.

The minister of the church, of course, credits God with saving his building – and with it, the church’s mission as a food pantry for hundreds in the local Saugus, Massachusetts, community. Reading the comments added to the article online, the trolls would have us believe that it was mere physics that stopped the rock. Which one is it?

Nevermind the attestations of faith from those on the video (“Holy sh!t” and “Oh my Lord!”), the theological answer puts the debate to rest immediately. Whether from the hand of God or not, He is always in control.  Our God is sovereign, He made the universe and everything in it. He also dictated the rules by which the universe operates, including gravity, momentum and conservation of energy. He is omniscient, which means he’s all-knowing, all the time. He’s omnipotent, which means he’s all powerful – to cause things, or in this case, to prevent things, according to His will.

Is ours a capricious god who deals with our fate and fortunes in a haphazard, willy-nilly fashion?  Does He prey upon people and cause them injury according to his whims, as the skeptics would suggest?  Not at all!  Rather, in the beginning God created a perfect, peaceful world, free of sin but with the potential for it because of the free will He endowed each of us with.  We all know how Adam regarded that gift (and lest any of us feign self-righteousness, not one among us would have acted differently!).  Fast forward a few millenia, and in today’s chaos-choked, fallen world, bad things happen too often, and often to the most innocent among us.

God didn’t make sin nor it’s consequences — his culpability stops at creating the conditions that allowed us to first choose to bring sin into His creation (the same conditions necessary to allow us to freely choose to worship Him as our Lord and Savior, as opposed to being helplessly compelled to do so).

“Sometimes rocks befall churches; sometimes they don’t.”

Nonetheless, we understand that God can derive the benefit of all things that happen, both good and bad, for his purposes, and can use them to bring Him glory. There was a larger rock slide in Oso, Washington, that swallowed up dozens of homes and buried an unknown large number of people in its muddy, mucky mess.  God didn’t cause this, but in His omnipotence, He let it happen.  Any of us with mortal consciousness will struggle to understand why, beyond simple physics of the situation: a cause (fallen world) and its effect (pain, suffering and strife).  Sometimes God intercedes, and sometimes he doesn’t.

On this side of eternity, we will rarely understand why sometimes bad befalls the good and why sometimes good befalls the bad. Sometimes rocks befall churches; sometimes they don’t.  In all things, God is sovereign and God is good!

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” — Matthew 5:45, New International Version

Copyright 2014


The Faith Deconstructed category offers an occasionally thoughtful, sometimes glib, always faithful look at today’s Christianity, from the perspective of a reformed skeptic.

The Big C and the Little C Church

Graphic comparing "church" to "The Church" As a junior newspaper editor in the mid-1990s, I remember editing articles about war crimes trials taking place in Europe. I noticed that I was always having to edit out the word “The” from “The Hague.” Some dingbat journalist clearly was pranking all the hard-working editors in the world. And my boss was in on it, because for every “The” that I removed from “Hague,” he put one back! Soon enough, I figured out that the name of the place is in fact The Hague, which on consideration makes perfect sense. As does “The Wichita” and “The Scranton.”

So if you’re like me, you might think that the only difference between “The Church” and “church” is the first guy’s desire to get rid of extra Scrabble letters. Not so, as I’ve learned. Here’s how I understand the difference:

· The Church is the collective body, across eternal time, of all mankind’s followers of this Guy named Jesus, who earned for us the title Christ. The faithful followers, therefore, are Christ-ians.

· Church, as distinguished from The Church, is the building where church-going Christians get plugged in with each other in order to carry out their faith, as actors of the mission and vision of God.

To unpack it further, and at great risk of muddying what may now be coming clear: Christians are, by definition, elements of The Church. Even those supposed heathens who don’t bring their faith into their neighborhood building with any regularity. To take back an idea that the tech sector borrowed from Christianity: church is the brick-and-mortar outlet of faith, while The Church is in the cloud.

“To take back an idea that the tech sector borrowed from Christianity: church is the brick-and-mortar outlet of faith, while The Church is in the cloud.”

Like football and couch-naps, church happens on Sundays; also like football, it increasingly takes place on other days of the week than just Sunday. Soas to not compete with this other American religion, Christian churches are content with Wednesday and Saturday nights and Sunday mornings and evenings, thus preserving Sunday afternoons and Monday and Thursday nights for the gridiron faithful.

Unfortunately, lots of people have made value judgments about church — about what takes place there and about the types of people who make up the body. To the extent that these value judgments are flawed and negative, likely reflects a lack of first-hand experience in church — although you might be surprised at how many regulars also have a poor opinion.

Our churches, like Solyent Green, are made of people — normal people like you and, ahem, me.  People who are for the most part simply trying to know their Savior better, and to let His Spirit work through them.  As a stiff-necked people, too often we don’t let Him into us, nor into our buildings, but most of the time we’re doing our best.

When it works as planned — when Christians get together with the Holy Spirit in a big building to worship and celebrate — we/they create an otherworldly place: a mystical place with its own customs, music, hierarchies, roles, language and practices. Divinely guided and rooted in thousands of years of tradition and ritual, today’s church – even in its most modern, progressive forms – can present as both Holy and mystical, and wholly mystifying, to those who don’t have experience with church culture.

If you’re intrigued or even just mildly curious about where this all is going, stick around for a few more posts. Try to understand why so many of your friends and neighbors — the ones you thought were rotten and the ones you thought were normal — skip the snooze button or the links in order to spiff up and head to their local church for a couple hours each week. They might just be onto something. Something that you’d like to be a part of, too.

Copyright 2014


The Faith Deconstructed category offers an occasionally thoughtful, sometimes glib, always faithful look at today’s Christianity, from the perspective of a reformed skeptic.