things happen as they do and, BAM!, this article shows up in my inbox. I’m going to use it without permission but attribute it correctly so that, hopefully, I won’t get in too much trouble. If you guys don’t have a subscription to PTM’s bi-monthly magazine, you should order one. It’s free (really) and I don’t even get a bunch of requests for donations. Might have to donate at some point seeing as how I really like most of what they put out.
Katrina — instrument of Godâ€™s wrath?
Q. I read the above mentioned article in the September 6th PTM Email Update and while I agree with what you said, I still have some questions. When I hear people say that any disaster of a grand scale is because God is doling out punishment, I too feel like they are in no position to make such a statement. On the other hand, I think about times when God did send his wrath down on the earth, be it a global event such as the flood, or local like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Can you explain a little more when you say that God doesn’t deal with us today as he did in Old Testament times? I understand the point Jesus made about the Tower of Siloam and that the rain falls on the just and unjust, but how can we be sure that God isn’t using (or causing) natural disasters like this to further his will? Maybe not to judge, but to cause spiritual thinking, since we learn more in a place of sorrow than at a celebration. I guess I simply could be asking, what is God’s role in modern times, in light of the New Testament?
- 1) Of course, when an act of God happens, we don’t know whether God has allowed natural events to take their course — or whether he has directly intervened and caused something to happen at a specific time and place. He doesn’t tell us that. Therefore, we should not dogmatically conclude that God caused Katrina to happen because of sin, or that he didn’t.
- 2) However, the old covenant featured reports of activities often being attributed to obedience and disobedience — as a stipulation of the old covenant was the performance of the people of God. No such stipulation is given under the new covenant. God’s willingness to save us does not depend on our performance. This does not mean that since the cross of Christ he is no longer concerned with flagrant disobedience — but it does seem to mean that he is not going to be as actively involved in rewarding and cursing (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28) as he was under the old covenant.
- 3) The matter of how God brings people to repentance is another issue, connected to natural disasters, but disconnected as well. I believe that it is religion that often causes us to think that God uses disaster and pain to shake us up — and that such events are the primary way he reaches us. This leads to fatalistic, virtually animistic, pagan thinking — “the gods must be angry.” God has many ways of bringing people into a closer relationship with him. I don’t think God is any closer to us, or available to us, in times of disaster, as he is in times of health and prosperity — he doesn’t move. Our perception of his proximity may change, but the reality of his availability does not change.
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