According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kony 2012 Invisible Children





KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.

HOW TO HELP:
Visit: kony2012.com
Donate to Invisible Children: stayclassy.org/checkout/set-donation?eid=14711
For info on Invisible Children: invisiblechildren.com

For official MEDIA and artist REPRESENTATION ONLY: Christina Cattarini cattarini@sunshinesachs.com

DIRECTOR: Jason Russell LEAD EDITOR: Kathryn Lang EDITORS: Kevin Trout, Jay Salbert, Jesse Eslinger LEAD ANIMATOR: Chad Clendinen ANIMATOR: Jesse Eslinger 3-D MODELING: Victor Soto VISUAL EFFECTS: Chris Hop WRITERS: Jason Russell, Jedidiah Jenkins, Kathryn Lang, Danica Russell, Ben Keesey, Azy Groth PRODUCERS: Kimmy Vandivort, Heather Longerbeam, Chad Clendinen, Noelle Jouglet ORIGINAL SCORES: Joel P. West SOUND MIX: Stephen Grubbs, Mark Friedgen, Smart Post Sound COLOR: Damian Pelphrey, Company 3 CINEMATOGRAPHY: Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, Gavin Kelly, Chad Clendinen, Kevin Trout, Jay Salbert, Shannon Lynch PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: Jaime Landsverk LEAD DESIGNER: Tyler Fordham DESIGNERS: Chadwick Gantes, Stephen Witmer

MUSIC CREDIT:

Original Instrumental Scores by Joel P. West
joelpwest.com/

“02 Ghosts I” Performed by Nine Inch Nails, Written by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, Produced by Alan Moulder, Atticus Ross, and Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails appear courtesy of The Null Corporation

“Punching in a Dream”, Performed by The Naked and Famous, Written by Aaron Short, Alisa Xayalith, and Thom Powers, Produced by Thom Powers, The Naked and Famous appear courtesy of Somewhat Damaged and Universal Republic

“Arrival of the Birds”, Performed by The Cinematic Orchestra, Written by The Cinematic Orchestra, Produced by The Cinematic Orchestra, The Cinematic Orchestra appears courtesy of Disney Records

“Roll Away Your Stone”, Performed by Mumford and Sons, Written by Benjamin Lovett, Edward Dwane, Marcus Mumford, and Winston Marshall, Produced by Markus Dravs, Mumford and Sons appear courtesy of Glassnote Entertainment Group LLC

“On (Instrumental)”, Performed by Bloc Party
Written by Bloc Party, Produced by Jacknife Lee, Bloc Party appears courtesy of Vice Records

“A Dream within a Dream”, Performed by The Glitch Mob, The Glitch Mob appears courtesy of Glass Air

“I Can’t Stop”, Performed by Flux Pavilion, Flux Pavilion appears courtesy of Circus Records Limited
           

Are Natural Catastrophes God's Judgment?


I can think of a number of verses where Christians have heartlessly assumed God's judgment upon the poor unfortunates of society. And when I hear these pronouncements I hear them as from the lips of foolish people who misunderstand God's rulership and heart. Who simply assume the worse and feel vindicated for needlessly sharing the guilts and fears of their own hearts. Too often we feeble human beings look upon the natural catastrophe's of this sinful world and simply surmise God is austerely ruling His fallen creation vindictively without understanding that nature itself has a kind of "free will" that is given to it just as mankind has its own free will (this is known scientifically as "indeterminacy").

Should we decry God's handiwork in the moral evil committed by our own hands as much as we decry His handiwork in the natural disasters that we witness falling from the skies, the waters, the earth and winds? No, I think not. For the bible teaches plainly that though God rules over all - even fallen men and natural calamities - it is a rulership that would bend these fallen events towards His Sovereign will in some manner towards a larger plan and purpose that He has set forth. That somehow God will circumvent this world's sin and evil and bring to it a holiness and order that was intended.

Nor is God the cause of these events though He is present within these events in some mysterious way that may save some while others may perish. Whether because of sin or fate it is left for God to sort out. At times the bible tells the reader that God has sent the wind and the waves by His command. That He has opened up the earth and caused fire to reign from the heavens. That He has sent sinful nations to "rain down upon" His errant people to cause repentance from wickedness and idolatry. But at other times He has prevented such awfulness from occurring for a time. Or has allowed similar events with no more influence upon it than sent by nature's own hand of chaotic indeterminacy as granted to it by the power of creational freedom (thus asking the eternal question how did sin enter into God's holy estate of creation - cf. The Origin of Sin, Hell and Universalism). And from an Open Theist viewpoint God's knowledge of these events is as they occur in real time (though not denying His foreknowledge of the event as one of many permutations from the same event each with its own infinite number of permutations). Though we might further ask whether by foreknowledge could or would God do anything? To which my standard reply would be "Anything and everything that He can!!"

However, we misunderstand God to naively voice our opinions as if God is simply judge-and-jury and not the Lover-of-our-souls. Who would stand with us in times of trouble. Who would protect us where and when He can. Who would deliver us from evil and lead us to salvation. And when He does not we cannot simply say that God is feeble, weak or less than the Sovereign-of-the-Universe. Those would be unwise pronouncements spoken from unbelief, pain, agony or despair. No, God is the Creator of all the Earth. Whose rule is from one end of heaven to the other. And it this, His very creation, that He would rule despite its fallenness. Though willful. Though harmful. Though cruel. But within this sphere of death and destruction God rules. He will guide. He will provide. He will be vindicated. He will defeat sin and death. And stand with us through every evil suffered and harm inflicted however cruel and destructive.

God will be present with us until the end. Both in this life as He will in the next. And we have this assurance that He will deliver us by His Spirit into His eternal care and salvation. This is His promise to His people as it is too all humanity. It is our Christian hope. It is neither fatalistic nor deterministic. It is neither uncharitable nor merciless. But it is one fraught with this life's infinite perplexities and confusions. Its doubts and dismays. its eternal hopes and yearnings. We are but guided by this mere element of faith that is as strong as the cords of death. And we are told to be faithful whatever comes to us in this wicked world of woe and suffering. Therefore, be ye strong and courageous. For God is our God as much as He is the God of the whirlwind and of the storm. He aches with our broken hearts. And is troubled by our woes and agonies. And whispers "Peace be still, all ye troubling waters toiling within the depths of our anguished souls."

R.E. Slater
March 13, 2012
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

ps - Some final thoughts I have overlooked in the article above:

1. We are to remember that we are directed to bring peace and harmony to this world where we can... that said, this also means that we are to cease from bringing troubles and woes to our fellow man. To share love and goodwill with one another as much as we are able.

And when disaster comes, to be in prayer and in assistance as we can for those in need, destitute, harmed and suffering. To do all that we can to bring help and rescue, aide and comfort, peace and longsuffering to all men - not only to those we consider friend - but to all men, whether friend or foe.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

2. Here is an example of Jewish believers supposing God's judgment upon poor unfortunates who had been building a tower which fell in and killed many innocents.... Jesus' response was to caution such foolish religious sentiments as indicative of "God's judgment" and reminding those pronouncing such sentiment as standing in fearful judgment themselves requiring their repentance.

Luke 13
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”


WDRB News
March 2nd tornadoes Kentucky, Southern Indiana




News Reports















My response to John Piper’s Recent Statements about God and Tornadoes
March 8, 2012

My Response to John Piper’s Recent Statements about God and Tornadoes.

During the last week or two I have received numerous e-mails, some from journalists, asking my opinion about John Piper’s explanation of the recent rash of deadly tornadoes across the South (Southern Indiana, Kentucky, March 2&3, 2012) . Apparently, he has at least implied that God sent them as judgments on particular communities and reminders of their need to repent.

My first response is that this is nothing new. John has been saying things like this for a long time. This reminds me of Oral Roberts’ ORU (Oral Roberts University) a year or two before the media had a heyday with that claim. People who knew I taught at ORU asked me about it on a daily basis for weeks. All I could tell them was that this was nothing new. I had heard Oral say things like that (and even stranger things) long before the media discovered that one and made a circus out of it. I don’t know why that particular claim went viral, so to speak.

The same is true here. If I’m not mistaken, Piper has been saying things like this for a long time now. Why is everyone suddenly so worked up about it? Also, Piper is certainly not the first Calvinist to say such things. Are people really so unfamiliar with Calvinism that they don’t expect a Calvinist to say such things? Well, most Calvinists don’t say them so publicly. But many Calvinists have believed them and said them more quietly and discretely for a long time.

For example, R. C. Sproul has long said that there is no maverick molecule in the universe, that God controls every thought and twist and turn of every molecule in the universe.

John Calvin himself said it. If you doubt it, read Chapter XVI of Book I of Institutes of the Christian Religion. See especially part 2: “There is no such thing as fortune or chance.” Then see part 7: “God’s providence also regulates ‘natural’ occurrences.” There Calvin says “…no wind ever arises or increases except by God’s express command.” Then, in section 9: “The true causes of events are hidden to us,” Calvin offers an illustration of God’s special, meticulous providence that rules over everything. He asks his readers to imagine a merchant who enters a wood (forest) with a company of companions and unwisely wanders away from them and is slain by thieves. He concludes “His death was not only foreseen by God’s eye, but also determined by his decree.”

I could give similar examples from later Calvinists including Edwards, Boettner and Sproul. And I do give them in [my book], Against Calvinism. So when Piper says that God did not merely foresee or permit the terrorist attacks of 9/11 but designed and governed them and when he says that a tornado was not merely permitted by God but sent by God, he is simply saying what conservative Calvinists (not necessarily all Reformed people) have always said.

What may be new in Piper’s statements is his apparent certainty that these events are judgments of God. Most Calvinists have been content to say they are from God without drawing that conclusion. Perhaps it’s what they meant and perhaps they said it, but I haven’t found where they assigned a particular reason to specific catastrophes.

What I would like to know is how Piper can be so sure a tornado outbreak was not only foreordained by God but also that it was foreordained as judgment. Judgment on whom? Why? Why that particular region of the country? Of course, he’s not obligated to answer those questions, but he shouldn’t be surprised if people ask and expect some kind of answer.

It seems to me the better part of wisdom not to say immediately after a calamity that it was God’s judgment UNLESS you are prepared to explain why it was sent by God then and there. Even more, it would seem to me cruel to say it was God’s judgment, while people are still burying their children, AT ALL. AND it might have the unintended (?) consequence of inhibiting people from rendering aid to victims. After all, if God sent this as judgment….? It’s an inevitable question for some people.

But let’s take this further. If Piper (or anyone else) believes ALL calamities and catastrophes are sent by God (as Calvin apparently did), I would suggest he/they bite the bullet, so to speak, and go the rest of the way. It’s fairly easy to speak from a distance about God’s judgment on a whole region of the country far away from where you are. But wouldn’t an Old Testament prophet go to that region and stand in the middle of the destruction and proclaim it and call for repentance? That would take courage and it would demonstrate how seriously you take what you are saying.

But even more: I’d like to hear one of them (Calvinists or anyone who believes God foreordains and designs and renders certain everything that happens) say publicly that it was God who caused a predator to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a child. I seldom hear or read them saying so. And yet, it would seem that, too, must be included in God’s meticulous providence AS IT IS BELIEVED BY THEM.

I once heard then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop speak on “God Killed My Son.” He spoke for almost an hour on how the only comfort he received after his son’s tragic mountain climbing accident was that it was not really an accident. It was planned and rendered certain by God. God killed his son is what he said several times. Then he went into great detail about how his son’s death was sudden and painless. But what if it wasn’t? What if his son was instead tortured to death by a psychopath? It happens. Would that also be God? Because then it involves moral evil and hideous, innocent suffering.

I am not willing to rule out the possibility that God might send judgment on a city with a seemingly natural disaster. Who knows? (But I don’t believe God causes people to do evil as in the case of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.) God is God. He may very well have reasons I can’t even fathom. And, of course, in the end, we are told God will intervene in history and defeat his enemies. I’m sure that won’t be pretty. However, EVEN IF GOD TOLD ME a natural disaster that caused untold suffering was his judgment I would not announce it publicly. Unless, of course, he told me to. Does Piper claim God has told him to proclaim these things? Or is he just speaking out of his theological convictions? I’m not sure about that.

Like most Christians, I suspect, when I hear about a natural disaster that kills people I tend to think it’s simply evidence of the world’s fallenness and the not-yetness of the new world God has in store for those us. In other words, it’s evidence of God’s absence caused by our forgetfulness of God rather than something planned and brought about by God. And I see it as evidence of the not-yetness of God’s plan to free creation from its bondage to decay (Romans 8).

I think it is the height of insensitivity to target calamities in which husbands, fathers, mothers, children have died horrible deaths and pronounce them “God’s judgment.” I would urge Christians not to do that unless they are certain God has called them to do it and given them the reason that particular disaster was his judgment. And I would urge people like Piper not to do it unless they are also willing publicly to proclaim that a kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered child was also targeted by God and why. It’s all part of a package deal in his, and their, case (i.e., Calvinists). So, my challenge to them is to bite the bullet and not just proclaim natural disasters or even man-made disasters “God’s judgment” but also to explain that they believe every child murdered, tortured, raped is also suffering because God willed it.



Further thoughts about catastrophes
and God’s judgment
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/03/further-thoughts-about-catastrophes-and-gods-judgment/

Dr. Roger Olson
March 10, 2012

This is a response to comments made in response to my previous post about John Piper’s blog entry about the recent tornado outbreak in the eastern U.S.

True, in this particular blog entry Piper does not explicitly say the tornadoes were God’s judgment on those towns. He does say, however, that the tornadoes were “God’s fingers.” In light of everything else he has written and said about calamaties and catastrophes, it is clear to me that he believes not only this tornado outbreak but every natural and man-made disaster (including the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.) are from God and not only in some attenuated sense in which most Christians would say they are from God by concurrence. (That is, by God’s permission and granted ability as the creator and governor of nature.)

So, IF Piper does not think this tornado outbreak was God’s judgment on those specific towns, what does he think about God’s purpose in sending it? He seems to believe it, like other natural and man-made disasters, is a wake up call to people to repent. But IF he only means that we all should sense our finitude and repent, that’s a Christian truism. I don’t know any non-liberal Christian who would disagree with that. But he seems to mean more than that. Not all non-liberal Christians believe that all natural or man-made catastrophes are directly from God.

What I wonder is this: IF Piper was NOT saying that this tornado outbreak was God’s judgment, what does he think about it (beyond it was from God)? The natural question, all inquiring minds want to know, is WHY would God drag his fingers across that particular landscape at that particular time? Simply saying something like “to bring people to repentance” doesn’t suffice. Of course, Piper’s no more obligated than Jesus was to explain further. (Although we don’t know that Jesus didn’t explain his cryptic comments about those who died when the tower of Siloam fell further.) However, I think he should not be surprised if people assume he thinks God’s fingers had a specific purpose for that particular tornado outbreak at that particular time and that it is God’s judgment. Think of the possible alternatives.

Option 1: God chose those particular, specific towns to destroy with those tornadoes (his “fingers”) because of something about them.

Option 2: God chose those particular, specific towns to destroy with those tornadoes (his “fingers”) randomly. (Like the TV reporter who blindly throws a dart at a map of the U.S. and then goes to the location to find a story.)

Option 3: ?

I can’t think of a third option that doesn’t fit within one of the first two. Can you? Assuming the tornadoes were “God’s fingers,” either God dragged his fingers across that particular landscape at that particular time because of something about that particular landscape or arbitrarily.

If God chose that landscape (towns, farms, etc.) randomly, then he is arbitrary. I’m certain Piper doesn’t believe that. I’m sure he believes God always has a reason for what he does. At least I hope so.
But if God was not choosing arbitrarily, randomly, then he had to have a reason for destroying the towns and farms (etc.) of that particular landscape at that time. What could it be?

How many options are there for thinking of God’s reason for destroying a town?

Now, again, I agree that a person can simply say “God did it” and not offer any further explanation, but I think such a person ought not to be surprised if people press for a better answer than that. And surely Piper himself has some idea why God chose that particular landscape to destroy at that particular time in that specific way.

Option 1: God chose them (the people living there) simply to make an example of what he can do anytime, anywhere, unexpectedly to anyone without any particular reason. Meaning, he chose it because it isn’t where people would expect God to do it so that people in such areas won’t become spiritually complacent.

Option 2: God chose them because there was something about them or some of them that made him angry or at least wanting to cause them great harm and even death. Most people would call that “God’s judgment.”

Option 3: ?

Again, I can’t think of a third option that doesn’t fit within one of the first two. Can you?

Now, remember, all of the above assumes, with Piper and all consistent Calvinists and other divine determinists, that every catastrophe is specifically from God whether directly or indirectly. That is, they are all sent by God in some manner and are not simply what happens in a fallen world.

Appeals to the book of Job to explain catastrophes raise more questions than they answer. For example, if one correlates what Piper said about this particular natural catastrophe and what he surely believes about all of them (“fingers of God”) with Job, then Satan becomes God’s fingers.

So, at the end of the day, anyone who says a natural or man-made disaster, calamity, catastrophe is from God must be thinking either that it was an arbitrary act of God, done for no particular reason other than perhaps to create fear (which still doesn’t explain why that particular place), or that it was in some sense God’s judgment.

Rule those out and you are back to God simply permitting natural and man-made disaster to happen because this is a fallen world and the kingdom of God is not yet. Rule out that and God’s arbitrariness and you’re left with God’s judgment. I would prefer to say it was God’s judgment than to say God is like the TV reporter who blindly throws a dart at a map.

Now, again, let’s step back and take a bird’s eye view of Piper’s and other Calvinists’ divine determinism. If everything without exception is from God, planned, designed and governed by God for a reason such that God is not merely permitting it but actively willing it and rendering it certain (and I demonstrate in Against Calvinism this is the traditional Calvinist view and I am confident it is Piper’s as well), then the holocaust and the kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of an innocent two year old child are also “from God” in that sense.

IF that’s true, then, I ask, why ever be upset about such things? Why react emotionally or with righteous indignation as if something happened that shouldn’t have happened? After all, God’s ultimate purpose in everything is his glory [(according to Calvinism)]. (I demonstrate that that also is the traditional Calvinist view and I have asked many Calvinists if it’s their view and the answer has always been yes.) So, one who believes that has to say that the holocaust and the kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of a two year old child glorify God. Then why object to them? Why oppose them? Why blame the perpetrators? Why try to prevent them?

This is the supreme Calvinist conundrum. Yes, every theology has its soft spots where appeal to mystery is necessary. But this is more than a “soft spot.” This is a true conundrum because Scripture directs us to be righteously indignant about certain things and to oppose them and to blame the perpetrators as if they are responsible for them. And we cannot help it. We all operate daily AS IF horrible events such as these were NOT from God for his glory even if we say, when pushed, they are.
In other words, while divine determinism (including strict Calvinism) may be able to appeal to a few verses in the Bible and while it may be touted in an ivory tower or from a nice, clean pulpit in a nice, clean sanctuary or over the internet, it is literally impossible to live consistently.



For Further Discussion

Tsunamis: Or, Why I'm No Longer A Calvinist -
http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/03/tsunamis-or-why-im-no-longer-calvinist.html



* * * * * * * * * *



Below are a couple of articles that project general Christian thought upon the topic of natural disasters and catastrophes. Rather than comment one-by-one on each instance, verse or statement, I would give these as a general basis of thought to which this website may contain further discussion as I have had time to discover or speak to each area. For the time being it is left to the reader to reflect upon the appropriateness of the thoughts illustrated below. For the most part I will concur with the sentiments so given but may differ by degree or entirely in those cases giving too much credit to the devil.

- R.E. Slater



* * * * * * * * * *



Natural Disasters in the Bible


Mark 13:7-9 ESV
And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.

“O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it....

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord....

So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent....

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth....

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go....

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous....


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Traditional Calvinism:
 
Does God Send Killer Hurricanes and Earthquakes?


Why is the world in such a mess if God is in control? How could a God of love let masses of people die from killer hurricanes, catastrophic earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks and disease? Why such bizarre carnage and chaos? Is the world coming to an end? Is God pouring out his wrath upon sinners? Why is it so often the bloated bodies of the poor, the elderly, and the children that are strewn among the rubble? These are the questions most people are begging to be answered.

Although God is often viewed as the One causing these terrible catastrophes, He is not responsible. God is not in the business of causing natural disasters and calamities. On the contrary, He is the giver of life. The Bible says, “ . . . for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but My salvation shall be for ever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished" (Isaiah 51:6). This text declares a dramatic difference between natural calamities and the work of God.

When God came to earth in the form of man He did nothing to hurt people, only to help them. Jesus said, "For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:56). He said, "Many good works have I shown you from My Father. For which of those works do ye stone Me?" (John 10:32). He says, ". . . it is not the will of your Father who is in Heaven that one of these little ones should perish" (Matt. 18:14).

It was God's design that His sons and daughters should forever smell the fragrance of exotic flowers, not rotting corpses. They should always enjoy the delicacies of tropical fruit and tasty dishes, not face hunger and starvation. He is the one who provides the fresh air from a mountaintop and cool sparkling water, not ugly pollution.

Why does nature seem to be becoming more and more destructive?

When Adam and Eve sinned it brought a natural consequence to the earth. "And unto Adam He [God] said, "Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, `Thou shalt not eat of it,' cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life (Gen. 3:17). The descendants of Adam became so violent and corrupt that God allowed the world to be destroyed by a global flood (Genesis 6:5,11). The fountains of the deep were broken up (Genesis 7:11). There was great volcanic activity. The layers of the earth's crust were formed and nature was turned out of its God-given course. The stage was set for earthquakes, and killer storms. As the consequences of sin have progressed from that day to this, the natural world is nearing its end; the results of our first parents’ disobedience is becoming more and more evident as this world is wearing out. But God is still in the business of rescuing, helping, and healing. He holds out salvation and everlasting life to all who will receive Him.

If God does not bring calamities, who does?

Many people do not believe in a real devil, but the Bible is very clear on this point. Satan exists, and he is the destroyer. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18, NKJV). Satan was once a holy angel at the right hand of God in heaven (Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28). He rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven. “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:9). Jesus said, "the devil was a murderer from the beginning, and the father of lies" (John 8:44). The Bible says that the devil attempts to deceive the whole world, and one way he tries to do this is by spreading the idea that there is no real devil. According to recent surveys, fewer and fewer people in America believe the devil really exists. The existence of a real devil is the only thing that can explain the existence of evil in a world that is predominantly good. “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12, NKJV).

The Old Testament story of Job is a classic example of how God sometimes allows Satan to bring calamities. Job lost his cattle, his crops, and his family to vicious attacks, a killer hurricane, and firestorm. Job’s friends said these disasters came from God, but a careful reading of the book of Job reveals that it was Satan who brought these evils (see Job 1:1-12).

Why does God give Satan permission to destroy?

Satan deceived Eve, and through her he led Adam to sin. Because he had tempted the first humans—the head of the human race—into sin, Satan claimed that they had chosen him as the god of this world (see 2 Corinthians 4:4). He claims to be the rightful ruler of this world (see Matthew 4:8, 9). Through the ages, Satan has been fighting against God, trying to establish his claim to this world. He points to all those who have chosen to follow him as proof that he is the rightful ruler of this world. The Bible says, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16, NKJV). God has given His Ten Commandments as eternal rules for living, for determining what is right and wrong. He offers to write these laws in our hearts and minds. Many, however, choose to neglect His offer of a new life and choose to live outside God’s will. By so doing they support Satan’s claim against God. The Bible says that this situation will only get worse as time goes on. In the last days, “evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13, NKJV). As men and women remove themselves from God’s protection, they are subject to Satan’s destroying hatred.

God is love, and His character is perfectly unselfish, and just. Therefore, His own character prevents Him from doing anything that is unfair. He will not interfere with man’s free choice. Those who choose to follow Satan are free to do so. And God will allow Satan to demonstrate to the universe what the consequences of sin really are. In the calamities and disasters that befall the earth and destroy lives, we can see what sin is like, what life is like when Satan has his own way.

A rebellious teen may choose to leave home because he finds the rules too restricting. He may find a cruel world waiting to teach him the harsh realities of life. But the parents do not stop loving their rebellious son or daughter. They do not want them to be hurt, but they can do little to prevent it if the child is determined to go their own way. The parents hope and pray that the difficult realities of the world will bring their child home, much like the prodigal son in the Bible (see Luke 15:18). Speaking of those who choose to follow Satan, God says, “I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ ” (Deuteronomy 31:17, NKJV). This is the message that we may learn from calamities and natural disasters. They can lead us to seek the Lord.

Why did God create the devil?

Actually, God did not create the devil. God created a beautiful, perfect angel named Lucifer (see Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28). Lucifer, in turn, made a devil out of himself. Lucifer’s pride caused him to rebel against God and to challenge Him for supremacy. He was thrown out of heaven and came to this earth where he tempted a perfect man and woman to sin. When they did so, they opened a floodgate of evil upon the world.

Why does God not kill the devil?

Some have wondered, “Why doesn’t God stop the devil? If it is not God’s will for people to die, why does He allow it to happen? Have things gone beyond God’s control?”

God could have destroyed Satan when he rebelled in heaven. God could have destroyed Adam and Eve when they sinned—and started over. However, if He had done this, He would have been ruling from the standpoint of force, rather than love. The angels in heaven and human beings on Earth would serve Him from fear, not love. In order for love to flourish, it must operate on the principle of freedom of choice. Without freedom to choose, there would be no such thing as real love. We would simply be robots. God chose to preserve our freedom of choice and to rule by love. He chose to allow Satan and sin to run their course. He would allow us and the universe to see where sin would lead. He would let us see the reasons for making the choice to serve Him in love.

Why is it so often the poor, the elderly, and the children who suffer the most?

Why is it so often the poor, the elderly, and the children who suffer the most?

Is it fair for the innocent to suffer? No, it’s not fair. The point is that sin is not fair. God is fair, but sin is not fair. That is the nature of sin. When Adam sinned he gave himself and the human race into the hands of a destroyer. God allows Satan to become active in working through nature to bring about destruction as a consequence of man’s choice. God does not want it to happen. He did not want Adam and Eve to sin. But he allowed it, because that was the only way human beings could have the gift of freedom of choice.

A son or daughter may rebel against good parents and go out into the world and live a life of sin. They may have children. They may abuse the children. This is not fair, yet it happens when people make wrong choices. A loving parent or grandparent would want to rescue abused children. And so does God. This is why Jesus came to this earth.

Does God send calamities to kill sinners?

Some mistakenly think that God always sends calamities to punish sinners. This is not true. Jesus commented on acts of violence and natural calamities that happened in His day. The Bible says, "There were present at that season some who told Him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, "Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, nay; but unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all other men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, nay; but unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:1-5).

These things happened because in a world of sin there are calamities and atrocities that take place that would not happen in a perfect world. It does not mean that everyone who dies in such calamities is a sinner nor does it mean that God causes the calamity. It is often the innocent that suffer the consequences of living in this world of sin.

But didn't God destroy wicked cities like Sodom and Gomorrah?

Yes. In past times, God has brought judgment upon the wicked as He did in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible says, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7, NKJV). The destruction of these wicked cities was an example of the judgments that will come upon the whole world at the end of time as a result of sin. In His mercy, God allowed His judgment to fall on Sodom and Gomorrah so that many others might be warned. This does not necessarily mean that when an earthquake or a tornado or a tsunami strikes that God is pouring out His wrath in judgment upon cities like New York, New Orleans, or Port-au-Prince. We live in a sinful world and disasters can strike at any time.

Some have suggested that natural disasters are perhaps the beginning of God’s final judgments upon the wicked. One should not rule out the possibility that sinners are receiving the consequences of their rebellion against God, but we cannot correlate particular disasters with divine retribution against specific sinners or sins. These horrible events may well be simply the result of living in a world that has fallen so far from God’s ideal. Even if these disasters might be considered early warnings of God’s final judgment, none should conclude that all those who die in them are eternally lost. Jesus said that in the final judgment it would be more tolerable for some of those destroyed in Sodom, than for those who reject His invitation to salvation in cities that were not destroyed (see Luke 10:12-15).

What is the wrath of God that will be poured out in the last days?

The Bible explains God’s wrath as allowing human beings to choose to separate themselves from God if they so desire. When the Bible speaks about God’s wrath, it does not mean that God is vindictive or retaliatory. God is love, and He wants everyone to be saved. But He allows men and women to go their own way if they insist on doing so. The Bible says that destruction comes to the wicked, because “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13, NKJV).

This tells us that God’s wrath is the inevitable consequence that comes to those who choose to separate themselves from Him. God does not want to give up any of His children to destruction. He says, “How shall I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I set you as Zeboiim? My heart churns within Me; my sympathy is stirred” (Hosea 11:8, NKJV). The Lord longs with all His heart to see everyone eternally saved. “ ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11, NKJV).

Is God on vacation? Why does it seem like He stands by and lets all this happen?

Where is God when all this happens? Do not good people pray for safety? The Bible says, "Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?" (Jeremiah 23:23). The Son of God did not remain aloof from suffering. He suffers with the innocent. He was the classic example of the suffering of the innocent. As a matter of fact, from the beginning, He has done only good. He accepted the consequence of our rebellion against Himself. He did not stay away. He came down to this world and suffered in our suffering. God himself experienced the most horrible pain imaginable upon the cross. He endured the pain of the hostility of a sinful human race. He took upon Himself the consequence of our sins.

When disasters happen, the real point is that they could happen to any of us at any time. It is only because God is love that one heartbeat follows another. He gives life and love to all. Every day, billions of people wake up to fresh air, warm sunshine, delicious food, and comfortable homes—because God is love, and He showers His blessings on the earth. We have no individual claim on life, however, as though we had created ourselves. We must acknowledge that we live in a world that is subject to death from a variety of sources. We need to remember, as Jesus said, that unless we repent we shall all likewise perish. Calamities serve to remind us of the fact that apart from the salvation that Jesus offers, there is no hope for the human race. We can expect more and more destruction as we come closer to the time of His return to earth. “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11, NKJV).

No More Pain

The calamities and catastrophes that engulf our world serve as reminders that this world of sin, pain, hate, fear, and tragedy will not last forever. Jesus has promised that He will return to Earth to save us from our world that is falling to pieces. God has promised to make everything new again and that sin will never rise up again (see Nahum 1:9). God will live with His people, and there will be an end to death, crying, and pain. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3, 4, NIV).



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Traditional Evangelicalism:

Natural Disasters: A Biblical Perspective

by Tom Robinson, The Good News

Following are points we should keep in mind concerning the biblical perspective on tragedies, regardless of their scale or circumstances:

1. God has said in Bible prophecy that natural disasters would grow in frequency and intensity as the end of the age approaches—to shake people out of their complacency and lead them to seek Him (Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:25-26; Revelation 6:12; 11:13; 16:18).

2. In His design for the world, God allows many events to run their course according to "time and chance" (Ecclesiastes 9:11), so that many tragedies are, for those affected, accidental and unforeseeable.

3. Those who die in accidents or natural disasters are not necessarily greater sinners than those who survive (Luke 13:1-5). (This was mentioned earlier in my opening comments)

4. Personal tragedies or calamities are not necessarily the result of one's sins (John 9:2-3).

5. Natural disasters or accidents should humble us, helping us to see our dependence on God to sustain and deliver us (Revelation 16:8-11).

6. Natural disasters have sometimes been the direct judgment of God on a rebellious humanity (Genesis 6:6-7, 11-13, 17; 18:20; 19:24-25).

7. Some natural disasters are made worse by man's poor judgments (Proverbs 14:12) and age-long rejection of God and His laws, resulting in worsening environmental and climatic conditions.

8. God is a truly loving God who is working out a great plan for all humanity (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Corinthians 15:22-24).

9. Converted Christians who die in natural disasters will be resurrected to immortality in the first resurrection at the return of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 20:4-6).

10. The sufferings experienced now in "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4)—this era of man's self-rule under the influence of Satan the devil—are writing a lesson of experience about what it means to live in a world cut off from God and His ways.

11. We don't know all the reasons God brings or permits specific calamities or why particular people are made to suffer by them, but we should trust that in God's omniscience and ultimate wisdom He knows how to work out what is best for everyone in the end (Romans 8:28; 1 Timothy 2:4).

12. Jesus Christ will eventually return to usher in the rule of the Kingdom of God (Revelation 11:15; Daniel 7:14), under which natural disasters will no longer plague mankind.

13. When all humanity is at last glorified, there will be no more pain, suffering or sorrow (Revelation 21:4).

14. All the sufferings of this brief present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory we will ultimately experience for all eternity to come (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18).