Happy Endings

Lots of us pray the Lord’s prayer fairly regularly, thereby requesting that, “Your will be done.”

Recently I heard a pastor quote a Christian writer’s prediction that anyone who can pray with perfect sincerity for God’s will to be done is guaranteed eternity in heaven.

Regardless of what we believe about salvation, weighing our sincerity in light of that comment could be a valuable tool for self-discovery. So I asked myself: can I, in perfect sincerity, pray for God’s will to be done? That would mean I could be okay with God’s will even if it included my getting melanoma, dying in a month, and leaving my fourteen-year-old Zoe to face a tough world without my help. And it would give my approval even if God’s will included my family dying by torture.

Not likely.

Remember Abraham and how God told him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice? I’ve heard preachers argue that Abe was okay with following instructions because he knew God would surely intercede and stop the sacrifice.

Phooey.

That view of Abraham may be in accord with prosperity gospels. But why then is Abraham regarded throughout the Bible as an example of faithfulness. If he felt so sure God was only testing him and wouldn’t let him go through with the act, his faithfulness was no big deal.

Here’s another take on Abraham, from Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited”:

God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son.”
Abe said “Man, you must be putting me on.”
God say, “No.”
Abe say “What?”
God say, “You can do what you want Abe, but,
the next time you see me coming you’d better run.”

I suspect Mr. Dylan, rather than advocating that view, was poking fun at an attitude common amongst fundamentalists. I taught at a fundamentalist college where the dean of the seminary convinced even some bright students that to achieve salvation, we needed to believe correct dogma.

Double phooey.

Here’s yet another view of Abraham, this one promoted by 19th century thinker Soren Kierkegaard:

Abe, whom Kierkegaard regarded as the Knight of Faith, wasn’t any more convinced that God would relieve him of the call to sacrifice than Jesus was convinced he wouldn’t actually get crucified. Rather, Abraham, like Jesus, simply believed that whatever God asked of him, he would do.

Because God asked.

Period.

After all, to refuse would be as ridiculous as if my brain told my hands to swing at a pitch and my hands on their own decided not to. Because Kierkegaard was a brilliant philosopher, I’ll call this perspective a philosopher’s view of Abraham.

Christian writers, especially those who target Christian readers, had better decide whether they trust (a) the prosperity view, (b) the fundamentalist view, or (c) the philosopher’s view.

Because the ending to most every story will imply one of the three.

Suppose you hold to (b) and yet you write a romance novel in which the hero and heroine live happily ever after. Might you be promoting (a)? And if so, aren’t you lying?

I don’t mean to accuse or condemn, but to suggest we writers question whether our stories are true to our beliefs.

Because writing is a sacred vocation, we should worry about the fate of writers who willingly lie for bucks or for the pride of publication.

A couple novels I enthusiastically recommend that deliver view c (philosopher’s view) endings are Midheaven and Newport Ave.

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4 comments on “Happy Endings
  1. Greg Gorsuch says:

    “Thy will be done.” Yes, ‘his will be done,’ but, doesn’t his will often incorporates a billion or so other wills too? Is prayer simply our attempt at finding or merely aliening ourselves with God’s predestined will? That is not where Kierkegaard is at, he is an Armenian when it comes to God’s will and the freedom of humanity, humanity has the capacity to actually affect the person of God and often change God’s will and action.

    Good start on categories of human response to God’s will, but there might be a few more possible categories to add; even worse, we need to consider different levels or types of human responses depending on the nature of the person’s relationship with God at that moment (just as in our relationships with each other).

  2. kenkuhlken says:

    Greg,

    I’d like to know more about S.K.’s opinion about us and God’s will.

    My attempt, in this post, was mostly just to call attention to the fact that we as a rule are not nearly as pious as we think we are, and to suggest that writers should, to the best of their ability, be honest to their beliefs and principles.

    Onward, Ken

  3. Carol Roberts says:

    I’ve just seriously paid attention to this post and first of all, I have to confess that after spending time in four theological schools I don’t recall ever being led to think like you have done here. To be fair, I wasn’t thinking of how my beliefs might affect my writing. Secondly, I am trying to figure out how this applies as I write my memoir. One poem I’ve written I really needed to write (I can’t say it to him, he died). But I grieve as I think of my children and grandchildren reading it: the children are holding on to the good memories and I have mostly bad ones. Anyway, thanks again Ken for who you are and what you do.

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