two rooms, two experiences, two theologies

two rooms, two experiences, two theologies May 15, 2013
2 rooms cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
(click on image to check out David’s online gallery of art for sale)

I remember the trouble I caused when I first posted this cartoon years ago. It upset a lot of people. But that exactly is the problem. If we are not able to hold two contradictory ideas in our mind at the same time then we are unable to think maturely, deeply or wisely.

Integrative thinking looks at this cartoon and says, “Of course. This happens. Both are right.”

The inability to do this is called fundamentalism, plain and simple.

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  • Al Cruise

    Good one David. There is a lot of mystery about God, that we cannot understand, so we make something up, plain and simple. One thing that I have experienced as a follower of Jesus, is what he taught about love. When I love like he did, I see the effect of it on people, there is no guessing about it. When a group does that (ie. Church) the effects are even more amazing. It’s so simple yet so difficult.

  • I think you know when god doesn’t answer prayer. I think the difficult claim is identify if it was god that did answer your prayer instead of some natural causal result. If you can’t tell this, it becomes rather difficult to hold both.

    I think the default would be that god didn’t have anything to do with either. I can certainly hold that in my mind quite easily.

  • Wait, you are saying both are right:

    (a- room 7) There is a spirit/god that intervenes in the world to cure illness

    (b- room 6) There is NOT a spirit/god that intervenes in the world to cure illness


    (b) prayer for sick works

    (c) prayer for sick doesn’t work

    Assuming both of these work is just sloppy thinking or emotionalism and has nothing to do with integrative thinking.

  • klhayes

    When my mother got sick, I said “God get me through this.” Of course I still hope for a miracle, but I would never think that I am someone special or “had God on my side” if she was miraculously cured. I think God is on everyone’s side.

  • what i mean by both of these are right is that both of these happen… both frames are true stories. that’s what i meant.

  • Worthless Beast

    An option: Maybe the person in the bed in Room 6 was really suffering a lot, so the fact that they just nodded off and died is a blessing in disguise because they are not suffering anymore.
    … I once (when I had more religious certitiude than I do now) prayed for a family member to *die* rather than live for just that reason, that and how their lingering was affecting the family.

  • So much for the ‘theology of glory’.

    The theology of the cross is the only w ay to fly (and stay real).

  • Adam Julians

    Yes, i think the problem you have highlighted is the desire for secutiry. If tings are certain then there is secutiry. I woudn’t be as tough on the inability or difficulty to hold two conflicting ideas. People are in different stages and to be tough on someone to not be able to do this is akin to being tough on a child because they don’t understand caculus mathematics.

    Evereone is of worth whatever level of maturity they are at. And some folks who have reaced a higher level of intellectual maturity have difficulty in relating to those at other levels. Intellectual pride can be the product.

    I like what you higlighted in there being the differences in theologies – I think most people would sit somewhere in the middel rather than being at the extremes. It is a problem to think of God either always andswering not answering prayers the way someone expects him to.

    One paradox is what Jesus said in seeing the kingdom – needing to be come like a child. Or in Paul when he said he was at his strongest when he was at his weakest. Another where Christ siad anyone who hols onto their life will lose it and anyone who loses their life for his sake will gain life. The human ego is often the problem. Scripture says to trust not in one’s own understanding.

    Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other. Carl Jung, “On the Psychology of the Unconciousness”, 1917

  • Adam Julians

    Surely what you have written is proof of what David is saying?

    Isn’t right theology about both the cross and glory. If not glory in this life then a shared glory with Christ in the life to come?

  • curtismpls

    How about (d) There is a spirit/god that is with us, both in the pain and sorrow as well as in the joy?

  • Sure, that would be a spirit/god that chooses (for some odd reason) to only interact emotionally and not physically. I wager that has been tested and found to be false too, just like answering prayers for the sick has been tested and found false.

    But the point is: having two contrary thoughts like this amounts to I-want-to-feel-good nonsense when it comes to empirical claims. And this cartoon points and empirical claims about healing.

  • Jakeithus

    I think both of your descriptions are incorrect, or lacking in some form. I would state it as

    a) There is a spirit/god that chooses to intervene in the world

    b) There is a spirit/god that chooses not to intervene in the world

    Coming to grips with both of these realities is integrative thinking, and the key to a mature faith and thinking on this topic.

    Of course, in the process of writing this, I have issues with “intervene”, as it points to a God who is separate from creation and who only interacts at select times, rather than a God who is the foundation for, and permeates all of creation.

  • Well, as a students of logic know if you allow something to be both true and not true, then everything is possible. And in my world, it is clear that everything is not possible.

    It appears we view “thinking” differently.

    The empirical questions is simple:
    If someone prays for another person, should they expect the person’s health to improve — emotional or physical — via a change in a spirit or god’s workings? Do prayers change the way things are working — pantheistic or theistic gods, it matters not, the question is the same.

  • Jakeithus

    You only create issues in logic if you deal in absolutes, and when you deal in absolutes, then you run the risk of falling into a fundamentalist mindset, which is raised in this post.

    “Do prayers change the way things are working” – Answering that question sufficiently requires a greater understanding of the theology of prayer than I have at this moment. What is clear to me is that prayer is not some magic formula for expressing control over the divine,

  • “Theology of prayer” does not change anything — ’tis a matter of how you set up the experiment to test an empirical question. But it seems you agree that magic prayer (intervention prayer) does not work — though many claim it does. They are wrong and holding that they are both wrong and write is not good thinking or “integrative thinking” — it is just sloppiness that someone is trying to valorize with word-knots.

  • Jakeithus

    I bring up a theology of prayer, because there are many different ideas about what prayer is, why do we pray or why are we commanded to pray, and does it work. While you may be focusing entirely on an empirical question, I believe there is more to it than that.

    Just to be clear, I don’t consider all intervention prayer and “magic” to be the same thing. I would say magic is the attempt to control supernatural forces based on a set of rules and actions, but I don’t consider prayer in and of itself an attempt to control God in that way.

    In my own experience, I’ve had intervention prayer both “work” and “not work”, although there are those who will disagree and say that the fact a prayer worked is just coincidence. Of course, if the purpose of prayer is something other than achieving a specific result (like I believe), then a prayer can “work” even if the end result is not that which is being prayed for. This cartoon seems to agree with me on that.

  • I have a very simple, not at all mysterious, explanation why events happen like this cartoon depicts. God had no hand in which patient lived and which died, and harkened to neither prayer, because God doesn’t exist.

    There used to be a lot of mysteries that we could not understand, so we made God up, plain and simple.

  • Someonewithaphd

    It is not about different stories, it is about learning that theism is the wrong model for thinking about God.