Monday, January 25, 2010

This Will Probably Get Me In Trouble

By now, everyone has heard about Pat Robertson's comments on the situation in Haiti. He has been roundly thrashed from every corner.

Before proceeding, let me get this out of the way. I bring up Robertson's shpiel as the inspiration for this post. This is not meant as support or endorsement of his views on Haiti being cursed or making pacts with Satan or whatever else he might have said on this topic.

I want to discuss the idea that God can chastise a nation/group/person for their offenses. Much of the ire directed against Robertson seems to presume that such chastisements are impossible because "God doesn't do that kind of stuff."

Why not?

Let's just ignore the Biblical examples (of which there are many). Why exactly could God not punish a nation with storms, earthquakes, etc.? I get a mixed bag of answers.

1. God wouldn't want this to happen.

How exactly does this work without denying Providence? This would mean that God was either asleep at the wheel and the disaster just slipped by Him or He wasn't strong enough to stop it.

If you believe in Providence, you have to at least believe that God permitted the disaster to strike.

2. God loves us too much.

Too much to punish us if we do wrong? Don't tell my kids about this thinking or they will likely revolt. I know, I know. There's a big difference between sending someone to their room and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. True, but there's also a big difference between breaking a sibling's toy and abortions. Not to mention an additional big difference when the toy breaking occurs only on occasion, while the abortions are repeated thousands of times a day.

3. There would be another way of correcting the nation without a disaster.

This is a popular refrain for a lot of topics. In my opinion, this is really saying, "If I was God, I would do things differently." I usually refer folks with this mindset to Job. Besides, such reasoning seems to underestimate the mystery of iniquity. The Church and others have been decrying the vast amounts of sin in the world for a while now and folks seem to care less and less.

4. Disasters are counter-productive if God is looking to draw people to Himself.

I've never really ciphered this as being true. After hugely horrible events, whether it's natural like this earthquake or man-made like 9/11, there always seems to be a bunch of new stories about how church attendance and faith have increased. Even on a more personal, anecdotal basis, the most faithful people I know tend to have gotten that way after being completely trounced by some form of extreme hardship.

Ultimately, I think the above kinds of thinking are rooted in our inability to acknowledge our own sinfulness and the fact that said sinfulness merits punishment. All disasters like what's happened in Haiti are the consequence of sin, even if we're just talking about original sin. We cannot expect God, Who loves us, to leave us to our sins/fallenness and allow us to continue on our merry way to hell. Therefore:

For whom the Lord loves he chastises: and he scourges every son whom he receives. Persevere under discipline. God deals with you as with his sons. For what son is there whom the father does not correct? But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are made partakers, then are you bastards and not sons. Moreover, we have had fathers of our flesh for instructors, and we reverenced them. Shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits and live?

Hebrews 12:6-9

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