Is there ever a time to say NO to God? Does God always demand a yes? Would God knowingly go against His own character?
throughout the bible, we find instances of people calling God out for seemingly going against His own character. From asking for child sacrifices to threatening the slaughter of His own chosen people, God has on more than one occasion came across as not so loving or merciful? But what if that was all a test? What if God wanted to see if we knew who He really was?
This week, we are talking with Matthew Korpman, Author of “Saying No to God”. Matthew’s work does a fantastic job of bridging the gap between both liberal and conservative-minded individuals to come together within the confines of Biblical inerrancy and scripture. Matthew shows us that there is, in fact, a time to say no to God.
This week we talk about:
- Finding common ground between conservative and liberal-minded bible readers.
- Having a personal relationship with God
- How the Bible in text conveys human empathy
- Why should you say no to God?
- Our responsibility towards divinity
- What does it mean for God to test us?
- Opposing God out of loyalty to Him.
- How to see the heart of God beyond plain text.
- Understanding when and why to say no to God.
Pick up a copy of Matthew’s book here:
Cody Johnston 0:00
All right, everyone. We’re here with Matthew Korpman, author of saying no to God, Matthew, how are you doing today?
Matthew Korpman 0:06
I’m doing excellent. Now that I’m here with you guys.
Cody Johnston 0:09
Yes, we had some technical glitches, which always seems to be the case, right when we go to record, but we’re here we’re going strong. So Matthew, let’s just open this up. By this point. Everyone’s already had a small introduction to us. So I’m going to give you What’s the brief synopsis of, I guess, who you are and why you write, oh, my
Matthew Korpman 0:29
well, who I am is a student at Yale Divinity School.
But I am also someone who’s deeply committed to following and being enticed by and being embraced by that mystery which you know, Christianity calls the Christ and that grace that we believe envelops the world so that you know, I’m I’m both in the academic world as well as the personal spiritual world. I have interest in both, and I try to combine them in unique ways. So, you know, I try to pioneer and go into areas that people tend to have not gone because they haven’t thought to put that specific thing with that specific thing. But why I write is also very similar, because I’m very interested in trying to understand and kind of convey the things that I learned. But also I find writing is itself an experience in me learning about what I already believe, I think, I think it might have been, you know, JK Rowling, who, or some think it’s JK Rowling, who said, like you often find what you already believe in in terms of what you’re writing, like you’re discovering what your convictions are based on how it’s coming out on paper. And I think it’s a very healthy thing, especially when you’re dealing with such complicated topics like theology and the Bible, to take the time to really think through and explain what it is that you’re thinking, because you can have a A personal conviction, but then not have the words to describe it. It’s not that you don’t know what you believe, but you’re not quite sure how you’re supposed to make sense of saying it. And so it’s wonderful, of course, if you can express your own feelings, and then those feelings help to unlock words for other people who have been searching for that way of describing what they’ve been feeling for a very long time. Let’s go.
Cody Johnston 2:21
I love that. So saying no to God, this is a extremely interesting topic all the way around. I’ve been reading through your book. It’s extremely fascinating. Do you have so many fantastic points. So I just want to just start by that is like, I really enjoy your work. You’re very thorough, and that’s something that I enjoy more than anything. I think it’s just you take time to elaborate in multiple different ways to validate what you have to say, or at least your thoughts behind them. So what brought you into writing this?
Matthew Korpman 2:52
I’ve actually had people laugh at that fact. Even professors of mine who who say that they they’ve never seen Quite or they don’t often quite find somebody who is trying to like almost like a lawyer think through like, what objection are they thinking? And then once I say this, what’s the next objection they think of. But you know, it’s my approach, I try to create an argument that I don’t necessarily think it’s foolproof. I don’t think that like nobody smarter exists and is going to be able to poke a hole in it. But I want to make it as hard as possible for someone to poke a hole in it, because then that’s a stronger foundation for everyone to start off,
Cody Johnston 3:30
for sure. So what brought you to the point, I guess? or Why did you write saying no to God? And let’s just start getting into that, because that’s the conversation we’re having today. So
Matthew Korpman 3:38
Well, I think like, on a very basic level, everybody has kind of heard the slogan, you know, the Bible says it, or God says that, I believe it, that settles it. And there’s an implicit logic there. That’s just it just shared across the board. If you really think, say, take the doctrine of inerrancy that you know, got not even just that the Bibles were Words are without air but inerrancy as in like God’s words are without air. There’s no sense in which, if God said something to you would doubt it if you knew it was God, just that principle, really, truly conservatives and liberals are in complete agreement. They don’t really disagree on the idea, the theory, they disagree in practice on whether or not they have something that works with it. So for conservatives, they think the Bible is inerrant because they think it really is the exact words of God said, whereas liberals are like, No, we believe in inerrancy. But just this is not it. This book doesn’t fit the bill. And what my book really tries to do is to see through this kind of loop that conservatives and liberals are in and say, well, let’s just start looking at the very premise of inerrancy. And is it true that if God said something to you that would settle it if you knew God said it, and the funny thing that I found and the reason like the book started to come about was realized thing that in Scripture, there are these stories where that’s just not the case. It does not happen that way. There are people who hear things from God and they say no to those things, and God says yes to them. Because they said, No. There are things where it explicitly says that God is, you know, not exactly saying what his will is, even when he tells you what his will is. And it was those kinds of paradoxical stories that typically have are usually skipped by ministers, and, and are kind of pushed to the side because of their kind of controversial nature. That really made me wonder, as is often the case, are the things we’re looking over or kind of dismissing because we think that they’re not worthy of our time or they’re too complicated. Are those the things that actually might hold the answer? If you’ve always gone over the same texts over and over and over again, and you haven’t seen to travel very far in your conversation? Maybe It’s the texts you’re skipping over that might actually give you the engine you need to get to where you’re hoping to. And so for me, this was a very personal issue of trying to provide a new foundation for both conservatives and liberals. However, one defines each of those groups but the two poles on which people seem to bounce back and forth and religion on Can I can Does the Bible give a foundation that escapes the current conflicts we have, and would give us a whole new conversation, which we could actually begin to like meet together out in the middle.
Cody Johnston 6:34
Yeah. And I love that because I feel like it’s kind of the idea like you could pretty much pick any polarizing topic and for the most part, we agree on the outcome. We want to see the same thing if it’s a if it’s abortion, pro life versus, you know, pro choice. Most people want to see less abortion, most people want to see less, you know, people being put in that situation. It’s just the polarization on which way you want to go with that. The same thing with gun violence like one side wants less laws, one side wants more. But we all want to see less people getting hurt by guns. I feel like this the same way with a lot of this Bible stuff is we can start getting into this and you have one camp who’s extremely this one camp who’s extremely that But the truth is, we all want to try to follow God or understand God better. So what what are some thoughts you have toward just kind of getting into this for a second? Before we kind of backtrack to that? Because this is one that’s been on my heart a lot lately. How can we start to understand each other? How can we see each other side of this because I think your book does a great job of walking a line for both conservative and liberal thinkers. Well,
Matthew Korpman 7:40
I think the first thing we have to recognize is we we aren’t speaking the same language and that’s kind of part of the problem. You know, we we are in a situation where essentially people are talking past each other for one group. The only thing that really seems to matter is you know, emotions. feelings and what are the present circumstances for and you know, that will dictate everything that goes forward. On the other hand, you have the extreme on which feelings and circumstances are meaningless laws are eternal. And they take text that they assume are directly from God, and they use those texts, denying any ability on their part to think around them, contradict them, or at least in theory, they’re denying it. So what ends up happening is, you know, you can have a conversation that literally goes nowhere and my own church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, we experienced that in 2015, when we were having the beginnings of like real discussions on women’s ordination and as a church body, and there was a ordination task committee that was put together to bring different scholars from across the spectrum in our church to discuss it. And what they found was virtually nobody changed their opinion after a year of intense study and scripture and the reason why really is Herman It’s how do I read what I’m read? How do I approach what I’m approaching? Those are the basic foundational questions. And conservatives love to poke at that all the time. Like, yeah, you don’t you don’t have the hermeneutics of faith in the scriptures. That’s why you’re all adrift. But the problem is that if you want to have a conversation, you’ve got to get on some level playing field. Yeah. And on top of that, if you’re going to have a level playing field in Christianity, it’s going to need to be rooted in Scripture, not only because you think to yourself, like that makes sense, given the role the Bible has had, but also just by virtue of the fact that the Bible has had literally a it has always been the thing that shapes the conversation. You know, people say, I care more about Jesus and what Jesus says, but then, you know, people can poke at them be like, Yeah, but you know, Jesus because of what the Bible saying, right? There’s this loophole in which we always are bound back into the scriptures, despite how much we’re attempting to mitigate them at times. So I think if you’re going to tackle those issues, right and have pro lifers and pro choicers have a substantive conversation, then you’re going to have to route it in something other than, you know, my way is best because there I set it, right. And and for both groups, they’re essentially doing that even if one group has a text in which they’re trying to, and it doesn’t help very much either. If, you know, on the other side, the liberal Christian grabs texts and says, Ah, but look, you know, here’s a verse in Leviticus that seems to not mind, you know, abortion. So your numbers, I mean, they’re, you know, that that’s my verse I take, it’s not a good approach, because in the end, all you end up doing is having two sets of people throwing different verses at each other that contradict, and that can just leave someone who’s watching it going. Alright, well, then why the heck would we have this book? Yeah, what’s wrong? Oh, yeah. Right. And so, you know, the thing that my book is trying to essentially do is say, Well, actually, the problem again, is the The premise that the way people are approaching the Bible and approaching even the idea of what God’s word is to begin with, is wrong. And if we were to carefully take a look at what scripture actually says what God’s words mean, we might actually find a level playing field in which the conversation would look radically different from the way we’re currently having.
Cody Johnston 11:23
That’s really good. How do we get both camps there? What is it? And I think that’s kind of like, I guess that’s the that’s the golden question, right? Like, how do we bring both people and I think you do a great job in the first part of your book of just saying, like, hey, you’re here, let’s kind of look like where is that line? What is law versus what is thought are really I guess that kind of gets down to the meat of it of like, what does it mean to say, note of God? Can you say no to God? And that’s really where all this starts kind of playing into me. But where is that line? How do you know what is law versus what is opinion in the Bible? How do we start kind of navigating that?
Matthew Korpman 11:56
Well, I you know, the way that you began that statement, It made me immediately not even thinking of Scripture per se, but sort of thinking about God and God’s character, you know, you think about a relationship with another human being or specifically your wife, or you know, your partner, what you’re looking at, is essentially the question of, you know, we would laugh let me put this way we wouldn’t laugh and kind of be funny if we heard like, this guy, or this woman talking about the same thing you just said, but in relationship to their partner. And just like describing like, you know, I don’t know where where’s the law? And we’re in Yeah, right. It would sound a little ridiculous, right? Because love in and of itself, whether it’s, you know, familial, or, you know, brotherly or, you know, it’s, it’s romantic, you know, whichever form in which love is kind of taking its form. There is obviously an inherent law in how love works, and yet at the same time, we don’t, we don’t approach love from that kind of perspective. There are limits, but the limits are always evolving. They change And depending on the betterment of the other person, there’s almost always a dance, right? And so I think that when you start thinking of the Bible and you think of the God who has spoken up in the Bible, you won’t be able to escape the fact that the God has spoken in very personal terms, like the Bible clearly wants to state God’s description, in the same sort of description in relation you would think of other human beings and personal beings that you would have a relation with. That means that it’s probably going to be messy, it’s not going to be the sort of this isn’t like, you know, the law of gravity, right? This is this is going to be a different sort of system we’re looking at just by virtue of the fact that it’s within a relationship and it’s within a relationship of a god which you know, the New Testament like in first john is describing as love that God is love. So you already know it’s gonna get really messy, because you know, if we can’t handle our own personal relationships in real life, you know, in such a clean knit you No systematic way, what makes us think that it’s going to be super easy to get on one page in regards to understanding, you know, the culmination of that love? Mm hmm. Yeah.
Elaine Johnston 14:09
And I feel like you see more of the opposite, specifically online because it’s a little easier to become face to face with somebody and really see the motion and the heart behind these conversations. But whenever you’re just typing on your keyboard, and you’re just bickering and arguing with each other, back and forth, how do you find the love when you can’t even see the motion in somebody’s eyes whenever you’re just typing away at your laptop? And
Cody Johnston 14:34
before we even before I let you have a chance that isn’t that exactly the same problem? we’re faced with the Bible? Yeah. Like it’s a really interesting, I don’t know, I’ll open the floor back a few but I just had that thought. It’s an interesting No,
Matthew Korpman 14:45
it’s, it’s true. Like, I mean, human faces. We’re learning more and more with like the development of artificial intelligence and like teaching it, how to understand faces. We’re learning more and more than ever before, just how many things our faces are really delivering and that our eyes perceive and others so, you know, facial expressions and, and, and contexts, all these things make such a difference in regards to human empathy. And it’s always going to be difficult when you suddenly take that and put it into text, whether it’s a story or whether it’s a conversation of dialogue, it’s going to become very difficult to kind of understand always like, Alright, I can’t perceive the empathy there, right. So I’m gonna have to generate it, but then that creates those problems. So yeah, I mean, it’s kind of I think Cody’s right. It’s inherent to the text format, that suddenly we’re missing this, this huge element. And unfortunately, right like that should require us then and I believe that the Bible writers expected one would be doing that, which is imagining the story and putting in details right, but the Bible is not a very moralistic kind of book. It doesn’t go around like The Epic of Gilgamesh which is older and The Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s like every other thing is and this is why Right, why this is good. I mean, you get that a little bit in like Genesis in the beginning, but usually it’s like, this is why we got this invention, right? This is how that happened. It’s not usually so much like this is the moral reason why, you know, we’re going to make a city or do this. And so the Bible writers seem to revel in this idea that they say, as little as possible to evoke as much as possible. And that kind of evoking of your empathy and your imagination is unfortunately, something that many of us today just aren’t trained to do anymore. We’re reading these as if you know, these are strict, legal kind of texts in which we just, that’s exactly what it says. But even then, in law, law, it’s not strict and simple, you know, right. Yeah. If anyone’s been watching, you know, the presidential impeachment proceedings that happened before, right, if you paid attention to the arguments, right, there was nothing simple about there’s a reason why lawyers can have two arguments. That’s the nature even of law, there’s always going to be that opening for interpretation even when you think knots definitely settled, no. And and that’s not a bad thing. But it is when people try to deny it. And then they they deny the ability for other people to be giving their perspective. So that one has as much of a perspective as possible versus just a very narrow one.
Cody Johnston 17:18
That’s good. So before we get into the wind, which is what I think this is really kind of heading, let’s start with the how or the why. What are really start with the what what does it mean to say no to God? Let’s give a quick example here, just for people who haven’t picked up picked up the book yet.
Matthew Korpman 17:33
Okay. A really good example of God comes to you and says, I want to, you know, let’s, let’s imagine you are leading a community, you’re a mayor of a community, we’ll say, and you as mayor suddenly have a vision or not a vision, God Himself just shows up. And he says, Well, I’d like to go ahead and have I’m tired of your citizens here in the, you know, state of Las Vegas. I don’t know Say I want, I don’t like the city I don’t like I want you, I’m just going to kill them all. And I’m going to restart everything with you because you alone are like a very good, you know, card carrying member of whatever organization God currently approves of in your political affiliation. Anyways, point is, do you mean are you going to sit there and be like, Well, God just said he wants to go ahead and kill people. That’s God’s will. So I’m gonna go ahead and do it. Now. I know automatically people are listening and going, this is a joke. God would never say, God’s not going to cut First of all, God’s not going to show up. Second of all, God’s not going to go ahead and say something like that. And if it was, it wouldn’t be God. You know, it would be Satan. I’m not that right. The funny thing is, is that that exact kind of a scenario does occur in the Bible, and Exodus 32, you have Moses on Sinai, the Israelites are down below. Reading the golden calf and God turns to Moses and says, I’ve had it. I regret that I ever saved these Israelites a few days before. I’m going to murder every last woman and child and baby and infant and I’m going to murder them all. And I’m going to start over with you, Moses, like you’re a new Abraham or a new Noah. And now this is a great moment for Moses. I mean, let’s face it, these people have not been the greatest supporters, nor will they remain the greatest supporters of Moses as time goes on. Right? I mean, even his own brother and sister are going to object to him as time goes on. So, you know, it sounds pretty nifty. He’s going to kind of get he’s going to have a whole new story built around him alone and his family and his dynasty. And, and instead, I mean, and I might also add our own personal conservative convictions would want to say, Well, if God tells us something, then it’s supposed to by virtue of inerrancy be his true will. And you know, it may look bad to you Because of your fallen perspective, but in truth, this is this is a much bigger, grander plan that God has for you. And the fact of the matter is Moses doesn’t buy any of that he comes back to God and he says, you cannot do this, because it’s evil. You know, if we wanted to put Moses, you know, further down the line into our own colloquial language, and with our theology, you know, Moses would have probably said, You can’t do that, because then you’re Satan. Right? There’s it can do that, because your God and Satan, Satan, and if there’s one thing we can agree on, Satan is not God. And so if you’re talking like you’re Satan, then this just ruins the whole point, right? Yeah. And then he adds other reasons. He says, your God, you don’t break promises. If you do this, you broken all your promises, not only to the Israelite. Then he also adds in like, and by the way, why would anyone in the world ever want to worship you or trust you, if you betrayed these people trust Just because they pissed you off. Now, it’s amazing that that story is there. But the interesting thing about it right, is that in a kind of similar way we ourselves are faced with the same issue when we open up our scriptures to, you know, different laws or rules or stories in which we see God, analogous to Satan, where we see a God who says, Yeah, absolutely so and so go and kill all those infants. And then it says they did, right. It’s one thing to have a story like Moses, where Moses has the ability to object, right? God suddenly comes to you and says, bam, and then you say, No, but when you’re reading stories in which it’s already in text, it’s already sealed. It’s already there. And you still want to object. This is where these stories come really in handy. Because when looking at Moses, the first thing to understand is right if this is a story that’s supposed to help us think about what the rules Have someone with faith is, what their responsibility towards divinity is in terms of calling out a discrepancy like that, then that principle kind of falls on us as well as Christians, or believers or, you know, Jews or otherwise, to recognize that there is this higher principle on which even you hold God to, which is, you know, to recognize that when Moses in Exodus 32, is having this conversation with God, he says something very interesting. He says, you know, you, you’ve got to show me your ways. And this is kind of, in a sense, a way in which Moses is saying, These are not your ways. And the other similar story in Genesis 19 and 18. where Abraham is talking with God and he objects to God and he says, you know, Far be it from you. And that is very analogous to Moses, telling God in the story, show me your ways, you know, this is not who you are. It’s far You Now show me who you really are. The interesting trick of the story though, and this is where my book comes in really important is that two chapters later, God says to Moses, fine, I’m going to show you my ways. Go hide in that, that little, that little cave, that little cleft in the rock, and I’m going to pass by you, and I’m going to show you my waist. And when that happens, God is like I am ever loving, ever Merciful, always forgiving always, you know, gracious, always. And you sit there and you go on. Well, that doesn’t sound like what you just said. Yeah, years ago. Yeah, right now. Now it gets even more confusing. It’s not like these are two different stories. It’s the same God character in the same story, who was like, I’m gonna kill every infant because they picked me off. And now it’s like, I’m always forgiving. Well, now, you’re left wondering here, but the interesting thing right is that Moses had said, these are not your ways, right? Moses rejected the idea. idea that this genocide that God wanted was actually true to who God was. And in the end, God ends up basically affirming all the values that would have led Moses to object to the genocide. So in the end, it’s like, God was always this good thing, but not that initial bad thing. And Moses knew it. Now that is made even more complicated by the fact that in the midst of these two chapters, Exodus 33, you actually have the writer describe this interaction between Moses and God as speaking like a friend face to face, right? Like, this is really interesting. The writer of Exodus sees Moses objecting to God and fighting over it as friendship. And so the question that kind of falls from this is to ask, What is God doing here? And, you know, if you look at certain reformation commentaries like Martin Luther And john Calvin, I think they came to and they weren’t the first ones to do so. But I think they came to the right conclusion. And unfortunately, we’ve long ignored it, which is that God was testing Moses, and in other stories as well testing individuals to recognize that, you know, in this confrontation between humanity and the divine, God is really testing to see, do you know the difference between Satan? Do you know the difference between Moloch and me? Do you know that I am not just the God who technically holds power, but that I am symbolically holding the right kind of power. And people tend to think about God in terms of just authority, just power. And that’s problematic because in the end, why are you worshiping this God? Right, is it you know, I mean, I guess God could have told Moses and said, Well, you know,
why are you worshiping me, and you’re not worshipping, you know, ISIS in Egypt, is it only because I showed up? I’m here. But that’s not what God claims in the Bible. God’s not just claiming, hey, I’m the local deity who happened to save you. So thanks for worshiping me. You know, there’s this whole character to this God which is being learned about. And so in a sense, this is almost like a pedagogical tool in which somebody finds out whether they’re faithful to God, merely in the way a soldier is faithful to their drill sergeant, or whether they’re faithful in the sense that they will remain true to their convictions, despite the fact that their convictions might lead them to object to like, the current problem that’s in front of them.
Cody Johnston 26:43
I love that. It’s basically the highlight of what like every modern superhero film like where the one person has to go, you know what, despite the fact that I’m going it’s basically Batman. I mean, right like you you have to say no to standing up for what you You’re expected to so you can stand up for what you know is right. What you know is just and it was a dumb analogy, but you get what I’m saying like you. That’s in essence, that’s what you’re saying is, despite God is using these situations to say, Do you know who I truly am? Are you just following me? Because you want what I have?
Matthew Korpman 27:15
Yeah. And I mean, we see this even in democracy, we see this even in politics where like some parliamentary systems have, you know, what they call the loyal opposition. And what they mean by that is these people are opposing the current government, but they do so out of loyalty to the principles of that government. Right? They’re not disloyal, because they oppose what the current government is doing. They’re opposing it out of loyalty to these principles they think matter the most. So it’s not like Moses here is saying, I’m so much better and smarter than you God and I oppose you. It’s he’s literally saying, This is not you. There are these principles that mark divinity that makes you different than you know, Satan. And right now you are not doing that you have denied it. So I’m opposing You out of loyalty to you know that system, I want to hold you to the fire, I want to make sure that you are who you are. And God welcomes that in the story and praises Moses his faith because of that, precisely because it demonstrates that Moses knows who God is. Moses understands God, whether or not God decides to test him. It’s not like he’s gonna say, Well, you know, your will be done no matter what it is, even if it sounds like the devil’s there’s a limit in which the person clearly understands right and wrong well enough to say, That’s God, but now that you cross that line, that’s not God, that can’t happen. And unfortunately, the way we talk, especially in conservative circles about what God’s will is, it’s basically like, Oh, no, you can’t disagree on something. You can’t. It doesn’t matter if that story doesn’t sound like God’s will. That was, if God decides that he has a better morality, you’re falling. None of those things can be true. If Moses His story is true, and that’s a principle that I think I almost wish I spelled out even more like a whole page on his, you know, we often say this, right? People say there’s a rule, but if someone can find an exception to the rule, there’s no rule. Right? The exception breaks the rule. Yeah, yep. It becomes the new rule because a rule can only stay the rule within the given context, right? We could say like, gravity exists, gravity works everywhere. Well, except when you hit outer space. Oh, well, that’s exception gravity doesn’t work everywhere. There are limits to it. People have to read is and understand that if the Bible is you know, if you have a Piper of the world telling you that hey, you know, john Piper, you know, hey, you know, whatever God says, that’s exactly what it says. And that’s what you do, and you can’t question it and that’s the will of God. Okay, great. But now, if you find a story, just one even story of Moses being able to defy God And be rewarded for it. That’s the exception. Now suddenly, boom, none of the old paradigms work. And the funny thing is, it’s not the only story. There’s, you know, at least almost, you know, 10, or more stories that you can find in Scripture that demonstrate the same principle. That’s a lot of exceptions that blow away any idea or any justification for assuming that inerrancy works or that you don’t have the ability to talk to God one on one, Moses clearly is not so fallen, that he cannot recognize when God is acting like Satan. And if it was the case that our morality is so fallen, that we can’t tell the difference between good and evil, then why in the world, do we have moral teachings in the Bible? What’s the point in teaching people that can’t make up a difference between right and wrong, right and wrong? that it’d be it’d be kind of like a total waste of time. Like you’re, you’re you just like the whole Bible is like, Oh, don’t even worry about it because you know, you can’t even understand it. You just got to follow whatever, whatever rules are there. But you’ll never understand why that does not agree with how we understand life or how we experience it, we can tell the difference between what is a satanic image of destruction and harm and violence and devastation versus a heavenly, godly view of increased prosperity and forgiveness and reconciliation, we can tell the difference between those things. They’re not strange to us. And if we can, and Moses can, then if Moses can disagree, what prevents us from being able to
Elaine Johnston 31:34
something that I’ve kind of been thinking about when it comes to saying no to God is how do you discern if you’re saying no to God, because you know that it is or isn’t within God’s character or you’re just being disobedient? Because immediately what comes to my mind is when God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh, and he’s like, No, I don’t want to. Well, I feel that’s disobedience. But then with Moses and God, he’s like, hey, that’s not Your character, where do you draw the line in? Oh, I just, I’m not following God because I don’t want to, despite him telling me something, or, you know, that is the character of God.
Matthew Korpman 32:10
Right. And so, you know, I saved that chapter for dealing with that to like the second to last chapter for two reasons. One was, it doesn’t take a lot of people a long time to figure out their limits. But it seems like it takes forever to have somebody accept that the limits they currently have need to be broken. So I spent a long time in the book trying to just get the idea that you can say no down, and then finally come to this point where it’s like, Okay, well, there actually is a system here. What prevents you from just saying no to everything? What what ends up were your own emotional state is the only thing that controls the narrative. And there are plenty of stories in the Bible, where obviously, like you said, Jonah, among others, were human beings, objective God, they say no, and they don’t end up having the success story that they do. And it’s interesting that in Jonah’s case, Jonah actually admits in the book that he did, in fact, previously tell God, you know, he knew God was going to forgive the nephites. Jonah knew that was why God was sending him to condemn them. Because there’s this verse in in Chronicles where God says, you know, if you turn back to me, you know, I will forgive you, no matter what I’ve condemned, do it. And so Jonah knows exactly what God’s character is, and he hates it. And this is the key for Jonah story. It’s not the Jonah just says no, right. Jonah knows that God’s character is forgiveness and reconciliation, and Jonah hates it. That’s it’s not that he doesn’t know who God is. He doesn’t even have a warped view of God. He knows that God is this way and he knows that he doesn’t like the results that that brings. He wants the nephites to be destroyed. He wants the Assyrians to be punished. And the idea that God is not going to end up doing that isn’t something he wants to partake in as the reason why they don’t I think that that kind of reveals something important, right? Jonah wants the nephites to be wiped out man, woman and infant. Moses does not want people wiped out, right? Like we have two parallel stories here which people are fighting over who should die. And Moses is winning because it wants God to preserve life. Joan is losing because he doesn’t want to preserve life. And I mean, this is even confirmed in the Gospel of john where Jesus is being attacked. And he says, you know, you seek to kill me. But if you were from God, you would be seeking to preserve life. Right? You you seek to kill me, only Satan’s tactics lead to death lead to this kind of destruction. And that’s really important to recognize that in all the stories where God is portrayed as denying the battle between the human and him or that he says no, or even cases where God just steps back like for instance, when Israel wants a new king, and and so they reject Santa And God tells Samuel Well, they’re rejecting me, but give it to them, right? They’re gonna, they want this, I’m going to lovingly give it to them. I’ve warned them what the consequences will be from their own actions. There you go. God doesn’t have to punish them. They punish themselves by electing somebody who will end up punishing them. Because they didn’t want to listen. So when you look at the characteristics as I lay them out, right, you have stories in which God says no to people, because they said, like no to foreigners, for instance, Miriam and Aaron object to Moses, because he married a foreign wife, and God lashes out at them and it’s like, Nope, that’s that’s not gonna work. You can’t fight this. You see this again and again, with hatred and with a number of factors. The interesting thing is I laid them out in the book where you just like put a list. And when you list of all the stories where people win against God versus all the stories where people lose against God, you get a character list of values. That’s good. Yeah, where one looks like Satan and one looks like God, right? And you start to realize that there’s such a consistency between those values that you realize, okay, the issue here is the reason why the humans lose against God is when they want God to look like more like the devil, or they want the selfish benefits that come from sin. Whereas like, when they’re doing like, typically things we would think of as godly, like defend justice, love mercy, right? You’re like, Man, that is really strange. Those are the kinds of things I would not have to say no to God about, because those are who God is. Right? And that’s precisely why it makes so much sense that in these stories, God is testing his followers. I mean, you see this even with Jesus, it’s not just an old testament phenomenon. You see this with Jesus with the Syrah Phoenician woman where she goes ahead, and you know, says, Please, please, you know, heal my my daughter, but you know, in the Gospel of Matthew, it says that the woman is crying out after Jesus. And the disciples when they’re walking. And the disciples are confused, because they’re like, why isn’t the master sending her away? So they go and ask God, they’re like, you’re not helping her. So you don’t want to help her. But you’re not sending her away, which just makes her annoy us. So like, make up your mind What’s going on here? And of course, God, Jesus doesn’t. He goes into the house, she comes in. And he says, Well, you know, it’s really a zero sum game. You know, miracles are like bread, you know, I either give the food to you or I give it to kids. And you know, you’re a dog. So think about this logically what I give the food that’s meant for my children to a dog. No, that would make me an irresponsible parent. So hello, like, I’m sorry, but I gotta give it to the kids. And what does she do? She comes back at Jesus and she says, No, you’re wrong. That’s not logical. Because even when the kids eat, they’re messy and the crumbs will fall down. Eventually the dogs get to eat them. So you’re wrong. It’s not zero some some of it gets into the dogs. Now what she’s basically saying is Jesus, you’re wrong, you’re dumb, you’re illogical, you made a false statement. You didn’t think this through, right? She’s objecting to the way that Jesus is thinking through the issue. And then Jesus immediately responds and says that, for saying this, because you have faith, I’ve healed you. I failed, your daughter’s done, He rewards her. And what’s so interesting is the reward isn’t for trusting in something or for trying to stay true to she is rewarded for not accepting what he said as the final statement and basing it on the principles that God works on. Which I mean, let’s be clear here, right? logic, which is what in this case, the the battle is between is very much an issue of, of godly Providence, right? God runs the world and universe on logic. Without logic, nothing works, right things have to equal right Sin is illogic sin makes no sense, right? Sin is, you know, you slap me, I punch you, you know, you punch me, I knife you, right? It’s escalation that makes no sense, given what’s actually happening. There’s no real sense of cause and effect. There’s no justice to it. So the thing is, is that this is very much a woman. And what’s so unique, of course, is in the Old Testament, all the stories of fighting with God are men. And in the New Testament, all the stories are typically women that are successful. And it’s fascinating to see, you know, this kind of the woman here in a sense, embodying the divine mind, the kind of mind that God has in terms of trying to bring in the largest number of people, right, and in a sense, that is her faith. her faith is knowing what is true, and not accepting something false in its place. And you know, we see this with Mary in the same way where Mary his mother comes to And john to and is saying to him, you know, well, there’s this problem here, you know, you need to do something. And Jesus says, well, it’s not my time. Right and and john, this is really important because for john Jesus is definitely god, there’s no, we’re coming to understand him. He’s a messenger of God, he’s Jesus is God. That’s a story for john. Right? He says it God said it. So God is telling, you know, Mary, just as much as God would tell Moses, no, this is not my plan. This is not what I’m going to do. And then what does Mary do? She walks away and in totally heretical fashion and unorthodox and unint, you know, definitely anti inerrancy. She goes ahead and tells the servants, he’s going to do something. I don’t know what he’s gonna do. But this does not match his character. He cares even about happiness at a wedding. So whatever he says to do, go do it. Right. Why does Jesus what is happening here, Jesus ends up doing something exactly like that. He said it’s not my time, and people bicker back and forth about like, Oh, it was, did this actually change this? But the truth is right God didn’t change. And Mary knew that God didn’t change. What was the change was having God say not it’s not my time to help people. It’s always God’s time to help people. That’s what Mary knew. And that’s why Mary acted on that conviction. And it’s why Mary succeeded.
Cody Johnston 41:23
That’s good. for time sake, we’re gonna have to wrap it up there. But Matthew, where can people find your work if they want to dig into more of this and I honestly cannot encourage you guys enough to go in. So
Matthew Korpman 41:33
yeah, well, they can find it wherever books are sold. It’s certainly available on Amazon. The full title is saying no to God or radical approach to reading the Bible faithfully. You can go to its official website if you want to get more info and watch an interview with me. That’s www. saying no to God calm, or you can go to my own website and find different interviews. Links to you. And others I’ve done and that’s at WWW dot Mathew j cortman k o RP ma n.com. And yeah, I hope that people check it out less because of what I have to say. In fact, actually, I think most people tend to like the parts of the book where I’m just talking about what the Bible says. I think probably these things I actually am saying, but I’m the value that I hope that this book contributes to anyone who’s potentially hoping for some resource they can draw on is way less to do with like me giving anything as much as opening up a new way to have a conversation and opening up new verses of the Bible that have sadly been neglected and giving them the spotlight they need to help us begin to think better about the heart of God and how the heart of God is more the focus of what inerrancy should be, rather than the words of God. Why that difference is so important for going forward. Matthew, thank you so much for this conversation.
Cody Johnston 43:05
Anyone who missed the net, the links are in the show notes so y’all can go down there and grab and check it all out. Matthew, thank you so much for your time. I greatly enjoyed having this conversation.
Matthew Korpman 43:15
I deeply enjoyed it. Thank you so much, Cody, and thank you so much, Elaine. This was a wonderful conversation. I hope in the future. I’ll be able to have another one with you some point. Thank you so much. Absolutely.
It doesn't take a long time for people to figure out there are limits, but it seems like it takes forever for people to accept the limits that they currently have need to be broken. - Matthew Korpman Click To Tweet
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