Two weeks ago, as I was browsing the internet while over in Israel, I thought, “I think I’ll go check out Relevant and see how they are doing.” I did end up ordering some t-shirts from Randomshirts.com, one of my favorite t-shirt companies, so that was good; but then I ended up reading this article entitled: “The Real Story of Jonah” by Matt Conner, teaching pastor at The Mercy House. I like reading about Jonah – I like reading people’s perspectives, especially those that see it not as an account of an actual historical event, but that there is something deeper than that, below the surface, something that we are to get out of the story. I like that.
Conner’s article: not so much. [I don’t want to offend Matt Conner, because this may just have been a bit of a bad one for him, and maybe I’d agree with other stuff he writes, but…Jonah? Not so much…]
Here are a few quotes from Conner’s article that I just don’t understand at all:
- But if the spotlight is shifted away from the human character in the story and focused instead on His creator, a whole different story is waiting to be told. For Jonah was simply a pawn in this cosmic mission that God had in mind.
- If anything, the book of Jonah shows us one main idea: the lengths that God is willing to go to accomplish His plan.
- The beautiful yet incredibly humbling thing about the story of Jonah was that the character of Jonah really didn’t matter. Jonah simply obeyed and said what he was told to say, and that was it. And a great revival took place, because God not only sent him there but told him what to do and made everything happen.
Maybe he’s just taking traditional hard-core Calvinism and having some fun with it; and maybe I just am currently a bit enamored with some of the ideas behind open theism – but I have a big problem with some of these ideas. To share with people the good news of the Gospel, to invite people into a vision of the Kingdom of God, I will never assert that anyone in the Bible, let alone, anyone today, might be “simply a pawn” in a “cosmic mission” of God. To think that what I do doesn’t matter at all, that simply gives no motivation for me to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel.
To state that “the character of Jonah really didn’t matter” takes away the impact and importance of the story. Whether or not there historically was a man named Jonah who was physically swallowed by a large fish, it doesn’t matter. For people today to read a story about someone who ran away from God, and then to see how God interacted with Jonah – that is important – that helps bring the story closer to people today – that helps people see themselves in Jonah. This is what makes the story “relevant” to people today. To disassociate people from reading themselves into the text, to make the character of Jonah seem dispensible and simply not important – this makes the story irrelevant, and frankly, it doesn’t make sense for Relevant to publish such an article.
Conner implies that Jonah isn’t important – Jonah was just God’s puppet; which has to be one of the most disappointing ideas within certain strains of Christianity; that humans are just God’s puppets – that what we do doesn’t affect God, what we do doesn’t really matter to God; that we are simply pawns in God’s “cosmic mission” and game, and that God is going to do whatever God wants no matter what. To say that God is going to go to whatever lengths to accomplish God’s plan – regardless of who God uses in the way…
This is not a picture of the God I worship….this is not a picture of the God I want to co-create with, a God I want to partner with to continue to bring about God’s Kingdom here on this earth.