Wednesday, September 28, 2005

God, Katrina, Rita and You

Maybe it is not just about Judgment

Want a volatile conversation? Discuss the role and relationship of The Almighty to Katrina, Rita and their cousins: earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis and lightening strikes.

In Legal and insurance language, they are called “Acts of God.” Are they? Would He? Does He dare?

Without pretending to even begin a full answer these deep matters of theology, questions of theodicy, I do want to ask a few questions to stimulate thought, and yes, risk the charge and possible guilt of arrogance by positing a few observations.

Often, in our efforts to keep from saying that God was punishing those “worse sinners,” we look for ways to excuse God from blame, responsibility, or involvement in natural disasters all together. In our attempts to keep His hands clean and reputation intact, we unwittingly shape a God to our liking, if not in our image.

In trying to exonerate God, do we at times become functional Deists: He let’s nature run its course? Or, do we become self-righteous: THEY deserved it, as wicked as they were? Or, do we unwittingly feign omniscience: we know with prophetic certainty that God was judging?

What if cruel Mistresses Katrina and Rita brought revival to America? What if they serve to awaken the church, getting her out selflessly serving others? What if their impact leads to unbelieving evacuees hearing the gospel, gaining an eternal home at the loss of their temporal one?

How about the fleeing faithful who were scattered (seeded?) across the nation, having new platforms to share Jesus, edify other Christians? Not to mention the chance to nationally mend racial wounds, help the disenfranchised, force a discussion of a more equitable society.

If these and other things happen, would we then thank and credit God for these heavy, hurtful blows? Would judgment talk shift to that of a gracious sovereign work? Or is He just good at a mop up operations after the fact? “Didn’t see that one coming.”

It seems to me that when we say God just lets nature follow its course – hurricanes happen- it does little to get God "off the hook." If He could have stopped Katrina and did not, He is as much at “fault" as if He caused it outright. Isn’t to allow it to condone or permit it, with all its attending results?

Romans nine tells us the Fall of Us’ins (that’s politically correct for Man) had a deep, ugly impact on physical earth too (Gen. 1-3). Terra firma, with its God-ordained cycles and systems, groans, longing to be redeemed, restored.

Part of what will make heaven heavenly (ala Rev. 21, 22), is that nature will finally be fixed. We read of lions playing with, not preying on lambs. Cobras will curl up with, not coil up towards, children.

We, like long-suffering Job, are stuck with God, whose ways are higher than ours, even when they seem evil, capricious or insane. Like Job and his buddies, we too often darken His counsel with our words without knowledge. Want to be humbled, bothered and comforted? Read Job 38-42.

I recently read my kids the story of Elijah when God sent a drought. God was purposeful and causative in this matter. About Noah’s Flood: whose flood? Could not judgment on our entire nation be part of what God has wrought?

Ponder author Philip Yancey’s great question: The issue is not why do bad things happen to good people, but why do good things happen to bad people?

I confess I fear our culture has bred & fed a view of God that is too little and a view of man that is too big. Let’s be honest, a Big God who can do as He wills is humbling to man. My pride chaffs at such. Yours does too.

A Big God who may be up to more than my mind can ever grasp calls me to see my smallness. My mind hates the competition, the reminder of finite-ness.

A Big God is scary. Yet a Big God is what we have here, gang. One whose ways and thoughts more than transcend ours. He is transcendent and imminent, above and beside. Remember that baby in the manger (Matt. 1-3; Phil. 2:1-11)?

What about Satan’s part in these calamities? Martin Luther said “Satan is God's little errand boy.” I like that. Better yet, I think that is fair to “the Book.”

There is no relative comparison of God and Satan - not even King Kong versus a flea – pardon the analogy. This is not a yin yang, balancing of natures’ forces. Sorry, God wins hands down. Game over.

God’s God-ness, His Theism is not open to our wants and preferences. He is and He is as He is. We are called on to worship Him, knowing that it is because we see through a glass dimly that He would seem to us to have any blemishes.

In a context of adversity, the Psalmist prayed: “You are good and what You do is good. Teach me Your decrees… It was good for me to be afflicted so I could learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:68, 71).

Since God is good and does God, we do well to humbly ask for understanding when His ways do not seem so good. And, we need to be ready to accept His answer if He chooses not to take us into His confidence about eternal plans.


Rich said...

Fleshed it out a little more today I see. It's a good discussion but you had a good bottom line yesterday about God's ways not being ours or something to that affect. I think we cheat God, ourselves and others when we don't admit that sometimes we just can't explain it. I can't stand to hear an extreme right wing fundie scream about God's judgement on 'homos' in New Orleans when babies were displace and some even died. These same crazies picket abortion clinics but show no compassion for the innocent lives lost in a natural disaster. I don't like the flipside either because as you say, it all boils down to deism.

Why can't we just admit that sometimes we don't and won't know why? That makes God no smaller, it doesn't corrupt his word, and it allows us to better reach out sincerely in the aftermath and continue to work for his Kingdom.

Kerry Doyal said...

Rich, some thots / dialogue:

"Why can't we just admit that sometimes we don't and won't know why?"

Good question. Is it the difference of knowing in the particular (God did X because) & knowing in general (God does at times do X, Y & Z because of lots of reasons, some known, some unknown)?

Since God has gone to the trouble to speak (the Word), it behooves us to know what we can... & there in lies the rub, huh?

Ask me about the "Grandma at the Wedding" story. She asked why her granddaughter was having so many diffculites right before the wedding. "Was God trying to tell her (grdghtr) something." Fun wedding reception talk . . .

"That makes God no smaller, it doesn't corrupt his word, and it allows us to better reach out sincerely in the aftermath and continue to work for his Kingdom."

Agreed, but it is not an either / or. Even IF we assume this was judgment - & I am not - we still can / must reach out. Apart from Jesus, ALL of us are rightly under God's judgment (John 3:17; 5:24...) Som any & all we ever show love too are facing just judgment.

I love this verse: "It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance"

If need be, God is kind enough to shake my world to bring me to Him.

I think we fear seeming like those extreme fundies so we swing hard the other way. Both are an imbalance.

Unfortunatley, I forgot to include Luke 13 - "What about those the tower fell on. Worse Sinners? Unless YOU repent, you likewise will perish."

fr'nklin said...

Hey! Nice blog...glad I caught it. I blogged about this in 5 parts entitled "the whispered question"( a few weeks back. I like your take. I guess my ultimate take was that we have no Biblical warrant to attribute any natural disaster to God.

Could he send a natural disaster? Sure (although the record in Scripture of him actually doing it seems sparce). Could he stop one? I believe he could, although, again, the record of Scripture seems to indicate that God rarely does so. It appears He has chosen to limit Himself and His activity in our least in those types of matters. Salvation History is a different story...

I lean much more to the "stuff happens" theory where God lets "nature take its course" based on choices WE make or the natural order of things. Hurricanes happen, with or without a God making them happen.

What makes an event good or bad? Usually our response.

Yes, this all came from a PCA calvinist. If a revival happens through Katrina it will be because we chose to respond to a NATURAL disaster in a supernatural way;).

Oh, and Satan may be God's little messenger boy...but He sure puts up one "heck" of a fight (Daniel 10:1-14...not to mention the havoc he has/will wreacked on God's creation)...I've begun to wonder if Luther hasn't overstated the case.

Kerry Doyal said...

Fr'nklin, you make ME sound like a hard core 5 pointer . . . dude. As God wills ;-)

I am stuck with the theodicy matter of if God could stop it & did not.

My mind goes back to pastoring some parents in the setting of an infant's death (twins, both died, a month apart, no apprarent reason). Could God have stopped this? Why didn't He? Why wouldn't he break His self limiting "rule" for us / them?

Job's story too

These are TOUGH & very real issues, ain't they bro?

Thanks for the thots

fr'nklin said...

KD...nothing like pastoring real people to hit you right between the eyes w/ TOUGH ISSUES. I hear ya friend...and I'm with ya.

Marcguyver said...

I've always thought that God has limited himself. Like a painter who choses oils instead of water colors, or uses pencil instead of paint. By chosing one over the other you either get 3-D effects, color, black & white, etc or not.

I think God has done the same with us and earth. He made certain rules during creation that I think have nothing to do with Him particularly. For instance, we need air or we die. If I fall in a lake and can't swim, I die. I don't think this has anything to do with God but more to do with the 'hazards' of living on planet earth and all of its natural occurences.
Just like if you live in the U.S. (depending of course on where exactly you live) you might suffer an earthquake, a tornado, a hurricane, a fire, and on and on. It's just the way it is and I don't think God is as involved in these 'natural' occurences as much as we might think. Anymore than He's involved in someone depriving themselves of food or water and thereby dying because of the deprivation. Same reason for why I can't fly....He didn't give me wings. For whatever reason He gave certain abilities to animals and other abilities to humans. Could He make me fly if he wanted to, ya...I think He could. But He just made things the way they are and decided what 'rules' or 'stipulations' would be relevant to each creation, including the earth itself.

Now, that being said, I do believe that He can intervene as He wills, but also believe that it seems He has apparently decided to actively take a part in humanity less and less as the years go by. Obviously He isn't speaking audibly, splitting the Red Sea, etc like He has done in the past. For whatever reason, He seems more content with 'working' in this planet through His new 'body'...the church.