- Dependence on miracles - throughout the Eirichs’s story, their faith in God rises and falls depending on what happens to them. At times, they question God’s love for them because they can’t see God working miracles for them. On a number of occasions, they describe how they ’needed’ a miracle from God to cope with events in their lives. When people rely on "miracles" to cope, faith will inevitably be fragile. The Bible warns about seeking miracles and, despite the fact that God can work miracles, makes the point that they can be counterfeited. In addition, there are times when the miraculous is used as evidence of truth. Although the Eirichs describe how they studied the Bible when considering SDA doctrine, they make the point that 15 miracles they believe they can list makes them certain that God had led them to the SDA denomination. Most Christians will want to affirm that God is capable of working miracles. But making miracles a central feature of everyday life is bound to end in disappointment eventually. The authors of this book experience disappointment frequently, but they seem very capable of rationalising all events to be either miraculous signs or satanic interference.
- Trivialisation of the miraculous - the authors claim they can ’identify 15 indisputable miracles from the Lord that surrounded [them] becoming Seventh-day Adventists’ (p. 207) One was God impressing one of the elders of the Lethbridge Church to put a sandwich sign on the sidewalk advertising the Net ’99 meeting. They write that, unless this person had been obedient to the Lord’s impressing him to do this, it wouldn’t have been there for them to see when they drove down the street. Another alleged miracle is said to be the timing of the Net ’99 program which was delayed at the Lethbridge Church and had to be recorded from the satellite and shown later. They write, ’after a two week delay, things settled down and they decided to go ahead with the series. Interestingly enough, we had not even moved to Lethbridge when the series had been originally scheduled to begin. That two week delay gave the Lord the time necessary to get us moved and lead us to see the sign. Had the church been able to start the series on time, we would have missed the seminar completely!’ (p. 207) One has to wonder why God couldn’t have miraculously got them there on time for the original starting time rather than putting the organisers through so much frustration trying to plan the program! According to the authors, Ken remembering that the Net ’99 program was on was a miracle. And God knew exactly which session they needed to go to because Ken was particularly interested in the topic for that session. And on and on it goes. For a sensitive reader, the question inevitably arises: Why is it that God spends so much time working these trivial miracles (which, admittedly, are important to the authors) when miracles don’t seem to occur in situations where they would seem to be more urgent - war torn areas; people dying from HIV/AIDS; children being abducted from their homes and raped; kids being killed by trees in church yards falling on them (these last two were real events in my local city); women being sold as sex slaves; wives victimised by violent husbands; etc etc etc. That God should spend so much time getting two people to a Net ’99 meeting to persuade them that the SDA Church is the right church seems to be completely unfair when miracles are desperately needed in life and death situations. This leads to the next point.
- Egocentric supernaturalism - the way these writers speak, God constantly works miracles for them. But they give no consideration to how all of this intervention works when there are other people in the world. On one occasion, when they were feeling particularly down, they discussed how they would love to have a Thanksgiving dinner which they had missed out on because of them moving from one location to another. Lo and behold, some neighbours knock at the door and invite them to a late Thanksgiving dinner. Why were they having Thanksgiving so late? The people they had originally invited had been ill and couldn’t make it until now. Did God make these people ill so that the Eirichs could have their Thanksgiving dinner when he knew they would want it so badly? If God is manipulating events and providing signs for this couple as frequently as they claim, then God must be manipulating events and people long before the miraculous events occur just for them. What the authors describe as miracle raises a host of theological questions about how God interacts with the world and with people.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Book Review: Amazing Journey, Amazing Grace
Ken and Nancy Eirich, in their book Amazing Journey, Amazing Grace: The Incredible Story of How God Led Two Pentecostal Pastors Into the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, tell the story of their lives from childhood, to their marriage, up until their becoming members of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. Their is no doubt that they have both been on an amazing journey. Both come from dysfunctional families with all the psychological trauma that brings. Nancy was constantly abused as a child in almost every way imaginable. Her story is heartrending. Ken’s story is also deeply affecting as he describes his childhood rejection and consequent self-destructive behaviour as he moved into adulthood. It is wonderful to see that both of these people have escaped from the prisons of their past and found love and security in God. My comments below are not intended to detract from that in any way. However, there are some disturbing aspects of their story. An over-reliance on "miracles" The Eirichs constantly claim miraculous intervention in their lives to such an extent that, by the end of the book, the miraculous becomes trivialised. Almost everything good that happens to them is attributed to miraculous intervention by God and anything bad the work of Satan trying to frustrate God’s detailed plan for them. This overemphasis on the miraculous leads to a number of concerns: