Yesterday I favorably reviewed a book by Pete Wilson called Plan B. The reason I gave it such a favorable review is because I believed that Plan B will help a lot of hurting people. I think Pete got many things right and I believe that what I feel he got wrong experience has taught me that most people won’t pick up on anyways. Nonetheless since Covenant of Love is about exploring theology to a great extent, I had a difficult time reading Plan B and pushing some inconsistencies and unresolved tension to the back of my mind; so today I wanted to express my minor frustration with the theology of books like Pete’s.
I’ve read other books of the same or similar vein in the past. The two that come to mind are Shattered Dreams by Lawrence Crabb and Crucified by Christians by Gene Edwards (since re-titled Exquisite Agony) – the latter is more of an extreme example (if life sucks, good, God wants what is, and if that means life must suck for you, well, praise God – that’s Edwards position)
“Plan B” is an unconventional title because we all know that there are no “Plan B’s with God” (as preachers and authors often remind us). But in choosing a title such as “Plan B” Pete (or perhaps the publisher) immediately makes a connection with the realities of the lives of every individual. This is where reality and pastoral concern clashes with old categories of biblical theology. We speak of Plan B because that is simply the reality which people experience, but in a way our theology makes deceivers out of us, because we don’t really believe in such a thing; conventional theology forbids it and Conservative Evangelicalism condemn it.
I don’t always find it very comforting that the misfortunes of many “Plan B’s” were in fact God’s intent all along. For example, when someone’s mother dies an excruciating cancerous death I have a difficulty finding comfort in attributing this to “God’s greater good”. I would rather see it as not something God wants, but something God works in and through to bring about something beautiful in spite of disasters. This unresolved tension goes further when it is suggested that the misfortune which brought about your Plan B is God’s doing because he is in absolute control, but you must turn control over to God (isn’t he in absolute control?) and you must give up your “fear, anger and disappointment”. If God is in absolute control, then what good is it to write a book telling people to give up their “fear, anger and disappointment” – Isn’t God the only person able to do that? Aren’t you asking someone to do something which they cannot do?
“Christian Living” books lose any practical application.
If “the greatest of all illusions is the illusion of control” [p. 31] then what sense is there in telling people they need to surrender?
Am I the only one who sees an inconsistency in this? I think pastors need to develop a new practical theology that is more consistent with reality, but this may require a paradigm shift. In doing so, I urge you not to be afraid of the bullies who will call you names in an effort to intimate you into remaining conformed.