First, someone posted this story:
Dwight Nelson told a true story about the pastor of his church.
He had a kitten that climbed up a tree in his backyard and then was afraid to come down.
The pastor coaxed, offered warm milk, etc.
The kitty would not come down. The tree was not sturdy enough to climb,
so the pastor decided that if he tied a rope to his car and drove away so that the tree bent down, he could then reach up and get the kitten.
He did all this, checking his progress in the car frequently, then figured if he went just a little bit further, the tree would be bent sufficiently for him to reach the kitten.
But as he moved a little further forward, the rope broke.
The tree went “boing!” and the kitten instantly sailed through the air — out of sight.
The pastor felt terrible.
He walked all over the neighborhood asking people if they’d seen a little kitten.
No. Nobody had seen a stray kitten.
So he prayed, “Lord, I just commit this kitten to your keeping,” and went on about his business.
A few days later he was at the grocery store, and met one of his church members.
He happened to look into her shopping cart and was amazed to see cat food.
Now this woman was a cat hater and everyone knew it,
so he asked her, “Why are you buying cat food when you hate cats so much?”
“You won’t believe this,” and told him how her little girl had been begging her for a cat, but she kept refusing.
Then a few days before, the child had begged again, so the Mom finally told her little girl, “Well if God gives you a cat, I’ll let you keep it.”
She told the pastor,
“I watched my child go out in the yard,
get on her knees, and ask God for a cat.
And really, Pastor, you won’t believe this, but I saw it with my own eyes.
A kitten suddenly came flying out of the clear blue sky, with its paws outspread, and landed right in front of her.”
never underestimate the power of prayer…..
To which my friend Chris responded:
Actually, Dwight Nelson *is* the pastor. The story — which is of course not true — was a funny illustration he apparently used in a sermon some years ago; and it has been circulated widely ever since. Whether Dwight himself originally passed it off as a true story or not I have no idea.
What I really really wonder about is this.
The story is cute; but how on earth is it a useful illustration for any aspect of Christian teaching?
On the other hand, if we can find an atheist preacher, I’ll bet they could use it. 🙂
Dwight Nelson is the senior pastor at the Pioneer Memorial Church (Seventh Day Adventist) in Michigan.
Someone else wrote:
It’s a ‘feel good’ thing for the faithful. I can see at least one teaching implication anyhow.. the idea that events and circumstances are used by God for his glory and purposes.
To which Chris responded again:
OK; I can accept that.
In fact, it appears to resonate somewhat with other points I have been trying to make in the creationism threads.
Creationists often portray evolution as a denial of God, despite the fact that evolutionary biology is accepted without qualm by many Christians, and that there are Christians active in research and development of evolutionary biology.
The usual position of these Christians is that God is active in all the natural processes of His world, and so natural processes should not be seen as a conflict with God as creator.
Such Christians have found, to their satisfaction if not to everyone elses, a reconciliation of their faith in God’s action and providence, consistent with what science is able to learn about the natural processes involved in rain, in harvest, in their own individual growth from a single cell, in the development of humanity from ape like ancestors, in the development of all life from more ancient forms over billion of years, in the formation and growth of our planet Earth, and the unfolding of the universe from its hot dense beginnings of the big bang about 13.7 +/- 0.2 billion years ago.
If people cannot see the hand of God in natural processes, then discovery of natural causes for a thing stands as a disproof of God’s responsibilty.
The kitten was received as a gift from heaven.
Actually, it was flung out of a tree by a foolish pastor.
Are these two accounts of the kitten’s arrival mutually exclusive alternatives? On learning of the natural processes resulting in the kitten’s delivery, do you conclude God was not involved?
Would the Pioneer Memorial Church welcome me a visiting preacher? 🙂
Good point Chris. I follow that. However… as an atheist you would have to conclude that God in never involved as he does not exist.
The questions I ask above are targetted to help people think about how they conceive of God’s relationship with the world. My view (God does not exist) is consistent with the notion of a pastor flinging a kitten around the neighbourhood. My view is not the only view around.
I don’t particularly want everyone to adopt all my views; but I do encourage people to think about what they believe. For some, that leads to a loss of faith; for others it leads to a stronger faith. People are different I guess. I can respect people who have thought about what they believe, even if I do not accept or understand their conclusion.
The converse syllogism to your final sentence is this: God is not involved in the scientific model of various phenomena therefore God does not exist. I don’t accept that argument as valid.
I recognize that many conceptions of God go way beyond the idea of a powerful genie-like creature whose actions are an alternative to natural processes.
Hence, for example, if we discover rain is caused by natural processes of evaporation, condensation, etc; this stands as an alternative to and inconsistent with the idea of a rain-spirit gathering waters and pushing them around. The monotheistic creator God, on the other hand, is presented as being over all things; and the maker and mover and foundation of all processes including condensation and evaporation.
Although I do not believe in God, I also recognize that study of meteorology is not a disproof of God’s responsibility for rain. It does, of course, give an entirely acceptable account of rain which has no need of God as an aspect of the scientitific model. And I still do not find philosophically satisfying the concept of a God working through such natural processes. But that is not an empirical argument.
Back to the kitten. If someone tells this story, as a story, with the point of illustrating how God can use natural causes to bring about his purposes; I’d be curious if they would accept the application that God could use evolution to bring about his purposes. This example has special force, because it turns out that Dwight Nelson is a creationist.
Notice though, how it is being afforded credibility even in this thread? These ministers who issue these stories would have to know that they will be believed by many. I have personally heard ministers tell these tales, here and in different churches. I have never heard one say, “This is not a true story”.
It is hilarious to see people saying “I don’t know whether it is true or not”. Of course it is not true. I invite anyone to find a nice springy tree and see how far you can fling a kitten with it. If you can even get it even a few meters, I’d be surprised.
“Walked all over the neighbourhood”… good grief!
This kind of “analysis” on “could it have happened”, of course, completely detracts from any intended point of the story, good or bad. (Creationism has the same problem.)
My identification of Dwight Nelson, by the way, was from a page on “Questionable Sermon Illustrations” by a concerned Christian who collects these kinds of stories and tries to track them down. An unusual hobby… <http://ledgewood.1stbaptist.org/questionable_illustrations.html>
I propose that after we have completed a full analysis of “Kittens from Heaven” we go on to consider in depth “Dynamite Dog”
Cheers — Chris