Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Interesting Comments

Interesting points were made yesterday in response to my post about blaming God. I'm not going to address them all, but there are some I think shouldn't stand unchallenged.

First, there is no way to draw a connection between earthquakes and environmental irresponsibility (some have suggested that global warming may have contributed to the tsunami -- I am not aware of any evidence to support such a claim). I am not debating whether or not we have been poor stewards of creation -- clearly, we have. But I do not think we can see this tragedy as some kind of payback from mother earth.

Second, KR may be mistaken about some things. God did not wipe all of humanity off the the face of the earth via a flood. The story says that Noah and his family were spared, and the rest of the folks were given 120 years' worth of Noah's message -- plenty of warning. Also, God's sovereignty does not necessarily imply that every event falls into the category of God's causative will. There must be a distinction between his causative will (that which God actually causes) and his permissive will (that which God simply allows). Later Calvinism of this sort often has a difficult time distinguishing between the two. Also, humans were not cursed by God as a result of the Fall. If you look at the text, it says God cursed the serpent (Genesis 3:14) and the ground (Genesis 3:17). Again, later Reformed theology -- theology developed during the time known as the "period of orthodoxy" (1559-1622) -- is better described as philosophical, rather than biblical, theology. Writers like Theodore Beza, William Ames and John Owen largely built upon philosophical premises (such as the sovereignty of God -- especially in terms of predestination) instead a strict adherence to sola scriptura. Oh...one other thing: theodicy (a theoretical justification of God's goodness in the face of the presence of evil in the world) is really a product of the Enlightenment period -- much like the particular brand of Calvinism subscribed to by KR. The only two theologians to really address the issue prior to the Lisbon earthquake in the mid-18th century are Irenaeus and Augustine.

On the other end of the spectrum it seems that DennyPet comes close to Deism. Of course, I know DennyPet, and he would never admit that. Still, he comes awful close. I really like the second point -- the one about how this should serve as a reminder of our own mortality and call us to live in a state of readiness. But he may overstate the case by suggesting (though not actually saying) that God is only concerned with the saving of souls. I arbitrarily inserted the word "only" -- a frequent point of contention between DennyPet and myself -- we're both guilty of doing this to each other. Still, it seems that God is also concerned for many other things. In fact, upon our resurrection we will not be disembodied souls floating around; we are promised new bodies. I assume these bodies will have physical properties.

Wow! This has gotten really long, and I didn't intend for that to be the case. I'll say two other things and then wait eagerly for the next barrage of comments and email.

Dribble wants us to buck up and take responsibility for this -- as if it's our own fault for getting in the way. But that seems overly simplistic and callous. I was born in a particular time and place -- I can only assume this was by God's gracious design (how's that for a nod your way, KR?). However, most of the people who have lived on planet earth were not as fortunate as I have been. Most people cannot choose where they live. They simply live where they are born. They make less than $100 a year, concerned mostly with survival. The thought of picking up and moving to some other place -- some "safer" place -- is unthinkable for them. Besides, as the tragedy of 9/11 demonstrated, there are no safe places anymore.

Finally, I do not pretend to have all of this figured out. People way smarter than me have wrestled with this issue. If I come across as smug or arrogant, I apologize. I am merely continuing my theological and philosophical education in a public forum. Please give me grace in my ignorance.