Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Are catastrophes God’s judgement?

After reading Scot McKnight’s posting here and here. I was drawn to couple of wonderings…
Is it appropriate to say that catastrophic events are God’s judgement? At first glance, I would have to say, “NO!” If the great tsunami of South East Asia, or the hurricane that buckled New Orleans, or even the 9-11 incident are attributed to God’s judgement on people it calls into question my notion of God’s grace. Of course I scoffed at Jerry Falwell and others who claimed that 9-11 was God’s judgment on homosexuality in America.
But might that position actually be sort of handcuffing God to a preconceived notion of grace? Is it possible for us to suggest that God set up some natural consequences for our behaviour?
Kinda like this…
Re: Tsunami – If humanity is going to exploit the natural beauty this landscape and refuse to take the precautions to ensure their safety – they will be judged for their decadence and ignorance. So then God’s judgement isn’t so much about the fact these are ‘godless’ countries who promote cults as it is about the natural consequences of our behaviour.
Re: New Orleans – Again a lack of forethought seems to be what is judged here. That lack of forethought might be directly related how preoccupied the people of that city had with their ‘activities’. But what is being judged there is not so much the iniquity of the town but the way people can get preoccupied with activities that distract them from natural consequences.
Re: 9-11 – Here is seems for more clear that the U.S. foreign policy and materialist culture was a direct contribution to the attack on these buildings that represented those dynamics. God’s judgement looks something like: if you are going to tick people off with unjust policy and exploitation they will get mad and try to make you pay for it. The accusation that 9-11 is a judgement from God about homosexuality is really ridiculous.
One of the concepts that McKnight talks about is the idea of focus that we tend to have in this issue of judgement. Lots of time we wonder if God is judging the individuals or if He is judging the community or humanity in general. Of course, this is far from a settled matter in my mind – I mean is God actually judging people or are these events to be understood to be completely random and meaningless…

10 comments:

jc said...

I see no reason to take supposed US 'injust' foreign policy over Jerry Falwell's reason for God's judgement on 9/11. There is no criteria here offered to help one determine the reason behind God's wrath so any explanation will do. I find the whole exercise of trying assert these events were a result of God's judgement and guess the reasons behind it absurd. I don't think its appropriate.

Incoming... said...

you might be right
the two reasons might just be a wash.
why do you think/assume it is God's wrath that mitigates his judgement? Why can't we see, for instance, that what appears to be judgement to us is due mainly to the natural consequences of the 'rules' that God ordained the world to operate under?
Could you explain what about this investigation seems inappropriate or absurd?

jc said...

If it is God who has caused these disasters and He has not relayed to Humans why He has done these things, then I would think it might be kind of inappropriate for Humans to try and claim that God might have done it for such and such a reason. If I am anti-war then I might say God is doing this punish the policies of the current administration or past intervention policies of the USA. If I am a social consevative I might try and construe the event of 9/11 to say God is judging the sexual immorality in America. Either way there is not real way to support these conclusions or disprove them because there is no evidence to say what God's intentions might have been.

As far as being absurd.... there are natural explanations for tsunami's, terrorist attacks, and hurricanes with out trying to explain it supernaturally.

I am not really opposed to the investigation only to some of conclusions that might be drawn.

Incoming... said...

I agree that superimposing our own self-interested and presumptive agendas on the nature of God is unwise.
However...
We assert various aspects of God's nature all the time. Even to say that God is not judging the world through natural consequences is a statement about who He is. And there would be no reason to talk about God's character if it did not have some implications for our lives/existance. (I'm not really sure if it is possible to actual have the concept of God without describing what he is like.)
So in some ways i think it is natural for us to talk about whether or not God is judging humanity with natural disasters becuase we are discussing his character.
I think it is paramount to weed out those views of God's character that are inaccurate, inconsistant with the other parts of his nature, and selfish impositions on his character.
I think we might be on the same track in some ways with some distinctly different conclusions. If for instance we say that God is creator - the implications are that he at least in some rudimentary fashion controlled/supervised/fashioned the natural laws that govern our world. So that in the act of creating he actually also determines what is wisdom and folly in the world. (ie. foolish to build city in ocean - - wise to not tick off people who can fly planes into your skyscrapers)
And by setting up those parameters God is actually 'judging' the world on it ability to follow his design.

Lounge MD said...

I think it is fair to say that actions have consequences. That's seems overly simplistic but it is true. I want to mention that the tsunami and the hurricane need to be viewed differently than 9-11. I would assert that both natural disasters are the result of living in a fallen world. Before Adam and Eve took the fruit, nature was at peace. It if fair to postulate that natural disasters did not occur pre-fall. So I would say that these disasters are the result of the curse i.e. the judgment of God upon man.
We have to remember that nature itself has not been redeemed and that will only occur when Christ returns.
The reason I believe we need to place 9-11 in a different category is because the event itself was man-made. You can trace the human activity that led to the attacks on the towers. Bin Laden is trained by the CIA to fight the Soviets. After the Soviets leave, he turns his attention to a country that continues to meddle in his part of the world. He uses his expertise to fight back. There's a logical progression of human action.
Whereas I wouldn't view the tsunami or the hurricane as man-made.

peace
Jesse

jc said...

Bin Laden the freedom fighter. hmmmm

Dale, are you trying to come up with some method or way of determining the reason that God might have for causing these judgements[if they are judgements]?

Lounge MD said...

^^jc, I'm not condoning Bin Laden's actions or labeling him as something honourable ("freedom fighter"). I'm merely saying that the expertise that led to the 9/11 attacks was given to him by the same country that he later attacked.

Incoming... said...

jc
not sure if I am actually trying to determine why God does what he does. I do find it interesting that we can give credit to God for the good things that happen in this world becuase they consequentially match his good character yet we find it inconsciencable to attribute the things we don't prefer or find painful to God. I think at some level we probably need to admit that negative and even awful things may not actually seem awful from God's perspective.
But I am mostly speculating and I haven't thought through what implications that speculation leads to...

Incoming... said...

peters...
I think i sorta see what you are trying to get at but...
The tsunami for instance seems random and the trade towers seem in contrast as an intentional human act but...
I am not sure if that is really what is going on. Even the way you set it (9-11) up leads me to suggest that there some aspects of Bin Laden's actions that are not that different from what we would normally call instinct (in animals). I am suggesting (investigating) that the terrorist actions can be traced directly to the natural way God set up the world to function. This in my mind doesn't let hateful people off the hook.
In some ways there is just as much human volition in, for instance, the exploitation of the natural beauty of south east asia with hotels and other (ironically) tourist traps...

jc said...

Dale, Focussing a bit on 9/11... it seems like you frame it a sort of deterministic way. If the US strongly supports Israel, stops Iraqi aggression in 91, and seems to be buddies with the ruling elite of Saudi Arabia then one can reasonably expect an attack on their homeland. I am not really seeing the volition on Bin Ladens part here as you framed it. You have chalked OBL's actions up to instinct. One of the defining characteristics of being human is the faculty of reason. Without reason human's do not know how to survive. We do not know what food to eat, how to make clothing, or find shelter without a process of thinking. We also seem to have to choose to think. One cannot refuse to think at least about some basic necessities and expect to live for too long. The point being that OBL's action was volitionary. It's hard for me to see this as some sort of mechanism that God has set up as a natural conseqence to certain actions. Rather it seems to be the actions of a irrational human who has chosen to act on his messed up beliefs.

I find the hotel thing hard to believe. I like hotel resorts for one thing and wouldn't consider them evil. Secondly I think the tsunami was a result of earthquake which would have happened whether or not a resort was built in Thailand.