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.