Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Kind that God Uses (and a Bit about Reformed Theology)

In order to keep continuity between the morning worship services (targeted to all ages) and the evening service, the 545 (especially for college students and 20somethings), Bidwell Presbyterian Church uses the same text throughout the day, but not usually the same preacher. As a result, we're taking on the book of Esther this Sunday (September 20th).

To be honest, it's not a story I'm entirely ready to addresss. The book of Esther strikes me as two parts exciting, one part weird, and three parts confusing. The primary plot is that Xerxes the powerful Persian (which we would now call Iranian) king is unhappy with his wife, Vashti. So, being despot and all, he choses another to join his harem, based on her astounding beauty. Enter Esther. The unknown quality about Esther is that she's Jewish--which was not a good thing in that day, around 500 BC. When another court official, Haman, gets into a tirade about the Jews and wants to annihilate them, including an adversary in the royal court, Mordecai, Esther takes action. She parades her hot-ness and finds favor with the king. The result? The Jews--all the Jews in the Persian Empire--are saved.

Did that retelling make sense? (And for those Esther scholars, did I miss anything?) The issue for me is that imbedded in all this is the rank use of power by Esther and Mordecai (the "good guys"), not to mention to Xerxes and Haman. Sexuality used to manipulate and some brutal killing find their way into these 10 chapters in Esther. From a moral point, of view, everything is frankly more than pretty gray.

So what do I do with this and what does Reformed Theology (the kind that I subscribe to) have to say? Well, I return to that amazing teaching of providence--that God will use even really mixed motives to accomplish what he wants. Providence put another way is dual causation--that we can describe any event from below (what did the natural or human actors do) and from above (how is God involved in this).

It's a little disturbing, at least if you're given over to pristine characters. But it does answer the question of what kind of person does God use? Yes. God can use just about anyone.


John said...

it's not just esther who was opportunist in her efforts. as earl palmer liked to point out, paul, too, pulled strings with those in high places.

i think many christians feel like it's wrong to be wily or crafty or sly, but i think it's sometimes just another resource at our disposal to exert our own wills.

GCootsona said...

I think you're essentially right, but I would like to have Christians exert their influence in ways that are consistent with the faith.