Jan 16, 2010

Does God Hate Carribean Islands or is He Unable to Intervene?

In the face of vast, cruel natural events such as the Haitian earthquake, it may seem as if, if indeed it is true that God exists, he is either an evil loser or an impotent (rather than omnipotent) weakling; if not both.

I have never been involved in a devastating natural disaster. Sometimes things that have happened to me have seemed a little like devastating natural disasters, but it’s not really quite the same thing. We are indeed blessed in NZ. Unless of course God does not exist, in which case it is no more the case that we are blessed than it is that atoms have girlfriends, or pandas wear pinstripes (as a general rule.)

But where is this God? Serenely sitting on His throne ignoring the scurrying ants below? Perhaps, shock/horror, He/She doesn’t even exist! It is hardly as if the possibility has not occurred to me. Or yet, perhaps God does in fact exist. I typed “dies” instead of “does” there initially. This brings to memory a central fact – that God understands death and loss intimately and not only that rather grand, strange, claim, but we can be quite sure that He does. In theory, the Bible could just say “God understands it all, you know; believe brotha!” or God could step down into history and walk the talk. Which would be more believable? Which would be more loving? Which happened?

The Christian community claims that death has been defeated. What a strange claim when perhaps hundreds of thousands of impoverished people trying to eke out their living have just got flattened by the hand of ‘fate’. How bizarre, how truly bizarre. Death is pretty active for someone who God has put in his place. Perhaps, if God is in a way timeless, the defeat is not complete, but we see the firstfruits which included the resurrection of Jesus, the consequences of which flood out in the world today (take my life as an example.) Surely though (it may be claimed) they deserved better? And yet; the alternative (to a world with God in it) seems to be that these people in fact deserved nothing. Perhaps some theory of rights could be constructed (though I am a little dubious) such that their fellow humans owed them a “better” (though I wonder if even the kind of conception of the ‘good’ required for this also becomes problematic) living. ... (A pause for thinking.)

Yet a violation of such assumed rights by the universe could hardly be unexpected or, even less, “unfair”! The message of a universe sans God is “screw your concept of ‘unfair’ – it’s all atoms (with some forces in there somewhere), I don’t care - about you; I don’t care about babies, kittens or self-fulfilment; and you can be equally sure I’m not talking to you, it is (at best) just freaky atoms somehow co-operating to give an illusion in your head.” What a message. Preach it brotha - not.

So, the alternative is depressing; therefore evangelical Christianity wins the day? Well, yes actually, for reasons including the following: evangelical Christianity is more coherent than the alternatives of which I am aware in making sense of our moral sense, even our horror at the catastrophe in Haiti. There is a 'good' and an 'evil' and God is maximising the first. There are various explanations that may be offered, yet I acknowledge that this side of heaven they will be incomplete. I believe that natural evil is, as the Bible claims, traceable to rebellion against God, particularly human rebellion; yours and mine. I also believe that God, as an omnipotent personal actor in the world’s affairs is eminently able to bring good out of our evil.

Some of the evil in Haiti was avoidable – though no-one may choose to take the blame, there is nevertheless responsibility, including on the affluent apathetic ‘developed’ world which has by-and-large left the Haitis of the world to fend for themselves, in between exploiting them. It is truly ‘unfair’, as these people have genuine worth and do not deserve any worse than us. It is another question as to whether all humans in fact deserve a living hell or perhaps termination of some kind. There is however a solution to this madness, this ugliness of the 'real' world (though note, the evil and indifference we see or suppose is by no means the only facet of the world which does in fact exist); I did not invent it; and the work in this long-term (on what other time-frame could God work?) scheme has already been completed and the battle won. The world God has worked for is not yet fully revealed, but we see sufficient shafts of light to buy in. God has taken our problems upon His own shoulders, in the form of a cross.

God is neither powerless nor weak. He has a plan and, yes, bizarrely it even involves evil. We were free to choose evil and we have chosen it time and time again. He, being omnipotent and just, is free to leave us in our mess, or fix it by his own means. He has chosen the latter (and it makes a hell of a difference.)

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