Skip to comments.'God's retribution' — Is nature used to punish sinful acts?
Posted on 10/21/2005 11:28:26 PM PDT by jmc1969
With the most powerful storm in recorded history weakening but every bit as devastating as its predecessors, saint, sinner and blogger alike are again wondering if God really does use nature in retribution for sin.
Bill Moyers, late of PBS and CBS television and the day's keynote speaker, cited the incredible devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and linked it with the Genesis flood. He noted that millions of conservatives believe the biblical teaching that God brought the deluge to punish human sin and also accept "God-ordered genocide" elsewhere in the Old Testament.
Others also used the Katrina moment to level religious criticism of President Bush's administration, among them the leader of America's National Council of Churches, a bishop in Bush's own United Methodist Church, and a taped statement attributed to al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
"The country is not yet a theocracy but the Republican Party is," Moyers charged. "Democracy is in peril." He compared conservative Christian activists with Muslim
(Excerpt) Read more at deseretnews.com ...
And such a comparison shows just how stupid Moyers is. Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor, Islam teaches us to blow our neighbor up if he isn't a muslim of the same sect. Or as it has been said, in Christianity God sent His son to die for us, in Islam we are to send our sons to kill for Allah.
Now how does he know righteous people didn't perish in the great flood? If it's what you believe then there will be an ultimate judgment for everyone, just not perhaps all at once. To say that only unrighteous people were affected by the wrath of the Katrina God is as asinine as his assumption God gives a warning and opportunity before calamity comes. He gave us one warning, The end will come! Your life here is your opportunity for repentance and calamity will come throughout it.
Change "Allah" to "Satan."
What Moyers doesn't realize is that the Final Crusade will actually be against his ilk - the moral relativists.
Theodicy is the fancy theological/philosophical term for the attempt to justify the ways, acts, justice and goodness of God in the face of suffering, death and evil to an incredulous jury of humans. We Christians have floated some doozies.
Christian and Hebrew theologians, philosophers and kibitzers for thousands of years have struggled to come up with a plausible defense of God's goodness and power, given the daily reality of evil, because, well, God hasn't really produced an alibi for himself.
Once, at the end of the Old Testament wisdom book of Job, God could have explained it all, but He didn't. God makes a personal appearance out of the whirlwind just as the argument between Job and his so-called friends gets really interesting, meaning the finger finally gets pointed directly at God. God appears dramatically and essentially tells Job that it's none of Job's business why he's suffering and that Job wouldn't understand anyway.
The writer's elaborate, but single, point of the story of Job is that human speculation on such matters is folly at best, and idolatry and heretical at worse. But Job's message and warning don't seem to give us pause.
We Christians today, however well-intentioned, often fall off the horse on one side or the other by speculating with pious platitudes about why some terrible event has occurred. And indeed, all theodicies are pure speculation unless God has directly and specifically revealed His will and purpose to a credible prophet who comes to us with "Thus saith the Lord."
Once the speculation has begun, there's no way to judge it, evaluate it, or refute it because speculation by definition is completely subjective and unverifiable. Unchecked, the likelihood of theological mischief and stupidity is great amongst theodicy speculators.
We can even find versions of McVeigh's collateral damage attitude espoused by Christians: 1) God may allow people to be killed in order to teach spiritual lessons like the time God allowed Satan to kill Job's ten children; 2) God may kill innocent people to punish guilty people like the time God killed the illegitimate first child of David and Bathsheba to punish them for their adultery and David's successful murder plot; or 3) God may permit the deaths of as many people as necessary to accomplish His will in human history like when the angel appeared and told Joseph and Mary to flee from Bethlehem into Egypt because Herod's soldiers were coming, but the angel didn't tell the other parents in Bethlehem, and their baby boys under the age of two were slaughtered by Herod's troops. And what of the deaths of all first born males in Pharaohs ancient Egypt? Let my people go?
The first problem is that all of these collateral damage justifications sound callous and depraved unless one already trusts God and His purpose and plan. As we saw in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki decisions, and the McVeigh case, unless the public embraces the underlying objective as sound and just, they're not going to accept any collateral damage defenses. If a person has true faith in God, a theodicy isn't necessary, and if one has no, weak or little faith, a theodicy will only inflame disgust with God because the justifications will sound so cold and cruel.
Theodicies are theological and philosophical La Brea Tar Pits. Once we take the plunge, we're stuck forever, and all of our struggling only sinks us deeper and deeper into the pit. First, we're hit with the question: How can we offer a defense of God that's considered depraved when invoked by humans? Second, once we engage in the parlor game of second guessing God, anything goes.
One of my favorite examples of such speculation is provocative, subversive and highly effective at taming our wandering ways. It comes in the form of a poem by highly-acclaimed poet and Vanderbilt Professor of English Mark Jarman.
Jarman playfully pens a poem entitled "Unholy Sonnet 12:"
There was a pious man upright as Job,
In fact, more pious, more upright, who prayed
The way most people thoughtlessly enjoy
Their stream of consciousness. He concentrated
On glorifying God, as some men let
Their minds create and fondle curving shadows.
And as he gained in bumper crops and cattle,
He greeted each success with grave amens.
So he was shocked, returning from the bank,
To see a flood bearing his farm away--
His cows, his kids, his wife, and all his stuff.
Swept off his feet, he cried out, "Why?" and sank.
And God grumped from his rain cloud, "I can't say.
Just something about you pisses me off."
Nothing in the punchline of the poem is any more impious than the silly things people say to the grieving in a funeral parlor, that evangelical preachers say from their pulpits, or writers spout in evangelical publishing house best-sellers.
So what's the answer? Allow me to quote from a song, "When The Morning Comes," page 522 in my church's Baptist Hymnal: "Trials dark on every hand, and we cannot understand/All the ways that God would lead us to that blessed promised land/But He'll guide us with His eye, and we'll follow till we die/We will understand it better by and by." Rev. W.B. Stevens and J.R. Baxter, Jr. make the same point in their 1937 classic, "Farther Along." The chorus goes, "Farther along we'll know all about it/Farther along we'll understand why/Cheer up my brother live in the sunshine/We'll understand it better by and by."
Even contemporary Christian music pop diva Amy Grant gets the point as she and co-writer Wayne Kirkpatrick recycle "When the Morning Comes" and "Farther Along" in their 1997 tune off Grant's Behind the Eyes album.
On "Somewhere Down The Road" they slightly rephrase those old classics with contemporary lingo like this :"So much pain and no good reason why/You've cried until the tears run dry/And nothing here can make you understand...And you say/Why, why, why/Does it go this way/Why, why, why/And all I can say is/(chorus)/Somewhere down the road/There'll be answers to the questions/Somewhere down the road/Though we cannot see it now/Somewhere down the road/You will find mighty arms reaching for you/And they will hold the answers at the end of the road."
So, if Job tells us to harness our wild speculations, and even pop theologians like Amy Grant get the point, why can't we?
The next time you hear or read such tripe as pompous pronouncements as to how and why God caused or allowed the latest tragedy and for what purpose think about Timothy McVeigh and his collateral damage mentality.
A little dated.
God punishes stupidity. Build a city at below sea level in a hurricane area and sooner or later, it'll be under water.
I don't think any of the recent disasters are punishment, and I'm not saying that they necessarily mean anything, but read the thirteenth book of Mark in the New Testament and decide for yourselves. Once again, I'm not trying to infer anything, just suggesting some reading material.
The AP, being a vast collective, might actually stumble upon something resembling facts and balance in its reporting. Sometimes.
Moyers is an extremist ideologue wrapped up in faux "credibility."
Wouldn't matter if they had, would it? These righteous people would get to leave this wicked world, full of suffering and be with God for all eternity. It would've been "their time."
I would be hard pressed to believe Katrina, Wilma or any of these quakes and storms are God's interventing in the natural processes of this Earth. "Allows it to happen" might be more on point.
He attacked the claim that Katrina was God's judgment upon New Orleans for its "debauchery and ribald behavior."
and a taped statement attributed to al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Okay! So Katrina is God's punishment for what now? Supporting Israel, not supporting Israel, Mardi Gras? What terrible sin can we lay at the feet of poor Marco Island when Wilma hits it Monday night? Here is the problem when we begin to believe natural disasters are macro scale punishments: The concept of crime and punishment are human concepts. God is not human. Isaiah 55:8 states For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. . As was posted further up, the lesson of Job is that God is not for the likes of us to understand but I doubt, seriously doubt, these disasters could ever be construed as punishment. Somtimes, a thing just is what it is. A hurricane is just a hurricane. A natural effect of warm water, unstable air, and the rotation of the earth.
I wish it had started.
Yea. But it was amazing what krept out from under the woodwork once that hurricane hit.
It's a tie. :-)
Disasters will occur, lif'es mortality rate is 100%.
If our Master died such a cruel death, who are we to reason what manner of expiration is just for us? We are commanded to be ready.
Job was also told, "Know therefore, God exacts less from you than your iniquities deserve."
Regardless of what we encounter, God is merciful.
Moyers is much worse. He was raised in an Evangelical church, went to Baptist schools, and was ordained as a So. Baptist minister. I believe that Bill Moyers will be held more accountable since he has turned his back on God
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