Monday, September 05, 2005

God and the Flood of New Orleans

I know that many blogs are probably dealing with the sticky question of “Where was God when Katrina came to town?”  My guess would be that some are doing a better job with this question than I will here.  But, for my own sanity, I am going to work it out right here before your eyes.

I have no doubt that God knew that Hurricane Katrina was coming.  I believe in a God that knows everything, so He certainly knew this.  Further, I believe that God had the power to stop this disaster, and I believe that He chose not to do so.  

I believe whatever God ordains also comes to pass.  Look at Amos 3:6.  It reads, “If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?”  Granted, Amos’ situation is different than ours.  But the statement still has validity.  A hurricane hurtling across the ocean cannot escape the notice of God, if He be God at all.  And if He is powerful enough to stop such a disaster from overwhelming a city, then the natural question to ask is: “Why?”

The Bible is very clear on the nature of human beings.  You can take it or leave it, but you leave it at your peril.  It teaches that our “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  If you refuse to believe this, look at what is going on in New Orleans right now.  It is as if the veil has been lifted, and we can see clearly into what lurks in the hearts of men.  The only thing that restrains people from lawlessness is threat of punishment, lack of ability, and the presence of law.

Further, it teaches that we rebel against God.  We wish that we were God.  In our vanity, we exalt ourselves, and in our proud we believe that we know better than He.  We refuse to see His handiwork in creation, though it speaks of His glory like words on a page.  We will not bow to His will nor submit to His commands, even though they are made for our good, His glory, and our joy.

If these things be true, then God is just when He strikes us.  If we be rebels against God, and if God is all-good, then it would be shameful for Him not to do so.  Justice cries out for a punishment to fit the crime.

If this is true, then if God whipped up wind and wave to crash in on New Orleans, then He is just and right to do so.  No one can question Him and succeed in their case against Him.  He is altogether good and lovely, even if He should rain death from heaven.

The problem is that not everyone in New Orleans was a reprobate.  There were good men and women in New Orleans who lost everything in that flood.  Men and women who have had all their sins forgiven.  They will never suffer God’s wrath for against sin, for they own Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Yet, they are not above His correction.

The Bible teaches that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).  For the Christians of New Orleans, God has promised that even this horror will turn to their good.  The Lord Jesus Himself suffered many things, and through His sufferings He was made a perfect sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 2:10).  We, through the crucible of our sufferings, will be molded into the greatness which God has prepared for those who love Him.

For those who do not love Him, for those who do not love His only-begotten Son, this tragedy will not be for their good.  It will turn out for their bad.  God will not work this out in their favor.  It will be an end for them.  A sad, rebellious end.  

Did God send a hurricane to New Orleans because it was particularly evil?  I cannot say so for certain.  But I can say that this situation, in the end, will serve to demonstrate the majesty of God.  He is, after all, God.  If you can bare it, the Bible teaches that He spoke the heavens into creation by the Word of His power.  By His Word He formed the seas, the lakes, the land, the birds, and the beasts.  The creation declares His genius.  We are a people dwelling on a tiny blip in the universe in and our lives are as short as a breath.  The vastness of creation surrounds us for one purpose.  The universe is not about us.  The universe is not about itself.  It has one message:  Our Creator is glorious.  From the beauty of the sunrise to the terror of the storm, nature declares God’s sovereignty.  

The question is why did God allow this to happen?  The answer:  To display His glory to the world.  Love Him or hate Him, He is God, and there is no other.  Yet He is also compassionate and loving.  He withholds no good thing from those who would embrace Him.  The greatest treasure in all the universe, a treasure so great that the stars in heaven are dim by comparison, is Jesus Christ, Son of God, Son of Man.  And what did the Father do with His greatest treasure?  What did He do with the treasure that has been the object of His affection from before the dawn of time?  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  If a person had to trade all worldly belongings to see the wonder of the Christ, then there is only one word for such a trade: Gain.  Yes, it is infinite gain.

To sum up, I believe that God allowed this to happen to New Orleans to display His sovereignty and to benefit those called according to His purpose.  I cannot see it now, nor can I understand it.  The doom is too fresh, and the dead are unnumbered.  But I have faith that in the end, when God’s purposes are revealed and we see the wonder that He has wrought, I will bend the knee and cry glory.  May God grant every survivor of this disaster the grace to see such a vision.

16 comments:

Calamity Man said...

i cant help but agree, especially with your conclusion. i just had to put it in the islamic perspective as i'm a muslim.

but i agree nonetheless. same things applies to the tsunami of boxing day last year. too much of a coincidence.

He was just displaying his true might as though He was trying to tell us something.

hopefully mankind could learn a thing or 2 from these disasters and move on to better things, together, no matter which religion or God we choose to follow.

at the end of the day, only we are responsible for how this world would turn out for our children and their children.

Calamity Man said...

... and that's my blog within a blog :)

Sojourner said...

Mr. Loobz,

You said, "Hopefully mankind could learn a thing or 2 from these disasters and move on to better things..."

With that, I whole heartedly agree.

You also said, "No matter which religion or God we choose to follow."

This, I can't agree with because I think that it is the point that God is making in Creation and Disaster.

There is only One God who is the Almighty one. You and I both agreed, I believe. But who is He and what is His nature, that is where we disagree. We want to be right on this. Being right on this is the most important thing in life.

I believe that even though the Koran says that Allah is Merciful and Compassionate, I do not believe that this is the case. I believe that in the end, the Koran teaches that Allah is capricious. He offers no certainty of salvation for those who follow him. You can only hope that through your persoanl good works that you may be allowed into heaven and not condemned to one of the regions of hell. You must serve, in the end, out of fear, for the Koran does not teach that Allah is Love.

The good news of the Bible is that God is a God of Love and Mercy. We see the evidence of this mercy in the fact that God sent His only-begotten Son to suffer for our sins. God saw that we owed a debt that we could not pay, and so He paid that debt through the sufferings of His Son, Jesus Christ. Now, all that love His Son will find forgiveness through the death of Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection from the dead. The Christian Scriptures teach: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). This is the certain hope of the Christian. Yes, we do good works, but we do not count on them to make us acceptable before God Almighty. Jesus Christ has done that for us.

It is of paramount importance that we understand this in light of disasters such as the Tsunami an this hurricane. Those who will not love the Son of God are more certainly doomed than those in the way of the fiercest hurricane or tsunami. But to those who love Him, there is only life and peace, both in this life and the one to come.

I am very thankful for your visits to my blog, and I hope that you will continue to come back and read. For my part, I promise to keep the conversation respectful and to listen to your ideas on faith. When we disagree, we will do so civilly, treating each other with the honor that a fellow human being deserves. Again, thank you for reading. If you wish to correspond personally, my email is thirstysoulmail@yahoo.com.

Thanks again for stopping by!

And that's my blog within a blog within a blog.

Calamity Man said...

ha ha ha, what's all this "blog within a blog" thing we started...?

anyway yes, my argument wasnt really about which religion or God is THE correct one to follow.

im just a moderate sunni muslim who believes that all people of the world no matter what race, religion, beliefs, creed, nationality or language should just work together towards one goal instead of bickering with one another.

the jews didnt have to suffer like they did in WW2, the extremist muslims do not have to play with fire in the name of the jihad cause (which i personally dont agree with), etc etc.

the primary reason why the world's always at war most of the time is sadly because of religion. everyone wants to prove that they are right. but at what cost? are they worth it?

my answer will always be no.

Dr 4LOM said...

Okay I'll bite. Since I guess I started this blog in blog thing. I think what is most misleading about questioning God's role in this tragedy is to question God's role at all. Let's be fair about this, we're humans. Stupid stupid human beings. The works of the greatest force in this universe can not be summed up by declaring things like "God did this to punish" or "God did this to save". While I recognize that with the questioning tone of all of your "blog within a blogs" that no one is making those direct statements, I think it's valid to mention that we can't know why the path goes in any direction. Living through this all I can gather is that we are all indeed on a path towards something. We may believe that choices in one direction or another will change that path, but in actuality, we are in no control of it whatsoever. For many years I have believed that religion in itself was a creation of man to find meaning, and then found myself knowing that it was indeed a way to connect with our source. After this experience I am reaffirmed in this belief. How and why we chose what ritual or guidelines we follow on the path are merely ways to help ourselves and each other deal with the difficulties of this path. We were led to New Orleans, and it was inevitable what would happen. God couldn't "stop it" anymore than he could've "made it happen". If you want to utilize God or Jesus or any spiritual symbol as reference, and by that I don't mean to lessen anyone's faith or suggest that those beings don't exist at all, but use those symbols to justify the fact that these events were decided long before any of the scriptures were written. If you do indeed believe in the infallibility of God and the clear direction of your path in life you have to also accept that you don't have control over that path at all. What you do have control over is helping each other understand that what makes great lives is the caring and understanding of and for others. This goes back to choosing leaders that will not twist events for their own gain and instead use them to strengthen their people and bolster their courage. If we are to learn lessons of this, one lesson is that we lack in preparation. A Christian may view that preparation as accepting Jesus Christ, while a Muslim may consider it becoming knowledgeable in what God wants us to share and what God needs us to overcome, and also a Taoist may believe that to be prepared is to forget the experience to find true wisdom in the next by approaching it with no preparation at all. All of these are merely vehicles on the path. We can justify these vehicles by claiming that they keep us on track, but we can also fall into using them as tools to criticize the beliefs and ways of another. What is true, as I see it, and you may disagree completely, is that something truly larger than any of us is the dominant source of our existence. And the only way to really have faith is to let that source guide you. Listening to Jesus Christ's words is vital to the life of a Christian person, but that voice is not coming from different direction when it reaches a Muslim person by way of the Qu'Ran. Mysticism manifests itself in many forms, what is important is not the language of the voice, but the purity of it. And if we all look deep in our hearts only as individuals do we really see the way we are being led and how we are being guided. That is not to say that witnessing or converting "lost souls" is not a valid practice, but that we must recognize always that only an individual can know when they are truly lost. And if you consider yourself "found" if that be a good enough opposite, you can't help but recognize that faith is about not knowing the next direction on the path, but trusting that by living and being aware of that source is the only way to travel that path in safety and with less fear. Many many lives were lost in Katrina, and many continue to be lost everyday. But rhetoric on right and wrong will not solve this crisis or justify it. Only faith can give man hope and no one method is the way to find that faith. Just as some learn by doing and some learn by watching, every man's (or woman's) path to the end is like smoke traveling upwards. Constantly it rises, but never is there a straight line. If we share in each other's differences instead of dogmatically criticizing other's we would see that all we need has always been there. Forgive me for misplacing the location and paraphrasing, but take the plank from your eyes before you attempt to remove the spec from the eyes of another. And from another perspective, treat the infidel as your brother because he may not be lost but simply on another path to salvation. Judgement should only be reserved for God and only God knows true right and wrong. The human way to cope with this is to point the finger inward. Realizing that what we despise in others is really weakness that we have ourselves is a truth God has been trying to tell us forever. Morality is not for society to create order, but for individuals in that society to order themselves and orient their vision towards the source. Even though you may look to one side, you are still being pulled upwards. God would never leave us to suffer, being everything, that would be impossible.

Anonymous said...

dr 4lom, After reading your post, I am dizzy. Seemed to me that it was going in circles and I could not see where it was taking me. I love the fact that God loved me so much that He gave His Only Son and Jesus paid the price for my sins and my faith can even be childlike, but it is what Christ did that counts and it is good enough for me.

Dr 4LOM said...

All I can say is good for you that you've discovered a path for your life that feels comfortable and fulfilling. The circles you describe are discoveries you'll become more aware of as you go on your path in life. We're all in a circle that is larger than we can possibly imagine. The scope of God is so much larger than any human can fathom. Jesus Christ is a wonderful way to connect with that center and understand the source of life which is God eternal. Your scriptures will prepare you for avenues and hardships that will at times test your faith and other times affirm it strongly. My format may be too abstract to appreciate now, but trust me, it's not the ravings of a madman, but enlightenment with depth even I don't understand. You stick close to folks like Pastor Brad, he's a good man, an honest man and a man with perspective beyond his years. It's good an honest people like him that will help you discover the complete truth that we are all connected.

Sojourner said...

Dr. 4lom,

While well meaning, I am certain, your thoughts about God are inconsistent and extremely dangerous to yourself and anyone who believes them.

There are many issues that I have with the truth statements that you made. In fact, what you are espousing is a kind of post-modern pluralism. I soundly reject that theology as damning to the soul. You said that I was a "good and honest man" that would help folks discover "complete truth". I hope that you will take your own advice and at least give me a hearing!

Here are some absolute statements that will ruin your thoughts on God and salvation if true:

1. There is one God, and He exists eternally as three persons. The essence of God is not divided, nor are the persons confounded. The One God manifests Himself eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2. There is no salvation through any other except for Jesus Christ, God the Son, and the Son of Man.

3. Jesus Christ was crucified for the sins of mankind. He died and was buried. Three days later, He rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God the Father.

4. There is no way to God except through Jesus Christ His only-begotten Son.

Now, that's pretty dogmatic, but that is the nature of absolute truth. Either what I have said is true, or it isn't. If it isn't true, how can I hope for salvation based on a lie? You have warned us about being dogmatic, but I wonder if you will now dogmatically assert that I am wrong about this. If you do, to what court of truth will you appeal to deny the claims of Jesus Christ, who Himself claimed to be "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).

This discussion, ultimately, rests on the nature of truth.

Dr 4LOM said...

I think what is misleading about what I have written and what you consider dangerous is most definately that. Perhaps I delve a bit deep into the philosophy of theology, but to reveal my personal beliefs is really not my point at all. I understood before writing this post that the purpose of this blog, and indeed your purpose is to show the way through Christ. A deep read into what I've written should take nothing away from that. I'm not trying to play devil's advocate on those belief's in any way, but there is something very important that I'm doing also while risky. And that's attempting to bridge the differences between faiths so that people understand that they all have the same source. The nation of Islam believes that the language of Christianity was fouled by translation and that Jesus was taken by God back to heaven. This is not my particular belief, but it is a translation of a happening that many find difficulty explaining. Nothing about Islam says that Jesus is not the Messiah, but that the Earth was not yet ready for him when he came. This is also not my particular belief, but the overlap of reason is undaunting to me. I also mentioned Taoism for a definate reason. Taoist philosophy directly relates to the teachings of Christ. Casting aside your coins and walking in the path of God is just as Tao as it is Christianity. I don't bring up these overlaps as a ruse to stifle your teachings, but in fact to promote them. I must apologize for most of the vaguary, as Dr 4LOM is not so much a human as an outlet for observation. This forum grants me the ability to use that outlet and I do mostly because I can't be nearly as eloquant in text as I could ever in person. I do believe one hundred percent that there is something wrong with believing that "one truth" can only be explained in the points that you've described merely because God is so much larger to me than that. This again should not discredit anything in those statements, but I'll repeat your words, it's dangerous. And while I'm not marching on some radical ideal that sin is the same as good, I am saying that both are of God. That scares a lot of Christians because it is dangerous to contain. I also am a theological scholar through my own readings, not those of a formal church, so it is unbeknownst to be to discredit variety when all have lessons that humanity has learned from. I guess what I'm trying to get at here in far too many words is that I believe you and I believe in you. I believe in Christ and I believe in God. I believe the he rose to save mankind, but I don't believe in heaven and hell. I'm far from an agnostic as I truly do believe that I have a personal connection with God, one built on faith and trust, but even to say I truly "know" God is hypocrisy in my view. Just as to say that I "know" what lies for us in the next world is sort of misleading myself. The only thing I "know" and Katrina is a pure example is that we are in God's hands. And the moments when we feel we are most alone are the moments God is guiding us more(like that Footprints poem, you know the one). And while I can accept my own personal truth with God, I have no choice within that acceptance, but to believe that just because another person is following a different religion that they aren't accepting the exact same truth. Then again, I'm not a Baptist preacher, nor am I Baptist. I'd better be described as a whirling dervish in the desert, listening constantly, searching endlessly, but always driven and always on the path. Call me mad, call me dangerous, but I do believe we know and believe the same truth. We are merely given a different set of tasks to complete. But I don't come from any sort of authority, yours is the more complete answer, I just ask the question. Isn't God in complete control at all times?

juheba said...

AMEN! Sojourner.

Calamity Man said...

doc, i appreciate and enjoy reading your comments and others' here but would you please do us all a favour and split your comments into paragraphs coz its difficult to read. looks like a bunch of dizzying words plonked together.

i mean no offence. thank you.

Dr 4LOM said...

You're right, I'll try to. I'll also do my best to cut things down a bit. It's just difficult to get the ol' noggin back to the brevity stage.

Calamity Man said...

appreciate it doc. thanks.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, excellent work, Brad.

Stan

Sojourner said...

Doc,

It is certainly true that many elements of Christianity overlap with other religions. Things such as the "Golden Rule" and teaching not to steal, honor parents, do not murder, and etc. These are all good, and I would not even attempt to deny such claims. In fact, I make use of such truth.

This is an example of what is known in Christian Theology as "general revelation". Here is the gist of what that means from theologian Wayne Grudem:

"The knowledge of God's existence, character, and moral law that comes through creation to all humanity."

The reason that common themes appear from religion to religion is explained by the fact that God reveals himself, in a general way, through nature. Further, since the Christian Bible teaches that mankind is made in the image of God, some fragment of that image remains.

This is different from "special revelation." This comes only through the Prophets of the Old Testament, the person of Jesus Christ, and in the New Testament that teaches us what was revealed in Christ. The Holy Spirit brings these "special" truths home to us through His power of conviction and persuasion. What the Holy Spirit does is exalt Jesus Christ, who is in Himself the solace, peace, and hope for mankind. He alone is worthy of this exaltation (not because I say so, the Spirit bear witness with my words) because He alone is able to save man from his sins.

As for believing in heaven and hell, these are important issues, but there is one important issue that I want to dialogue about first. You indicated that you believe that it is hypocrisy to claim to "know" God. That, my friend, is a fascinating and an important statement, and it is one that is worth exploring. I think that you are wrong, but I also think that you are onto something.

It is certain that God is different than us. He is greater in every conceivable way. But there are two reasons why we can know Him. While no one argues that this knowledge is complete, it can nevertheless be true.

1. As I said before, the Bible teaches that man was created in God's image. This means that, at some level, we are able to fellowship with God and know Him because we are "like" Him. We aren't God, don't misunderstand me. But we were created to be able to relate with Him in deep and serious ways.

2. We can know God because we see Him incarnate in Jesus Christ. This is why the incarnation of Jesus Christ is of absolute importance to the Christian faith. When Jesus was teaching the disciples, and right after He told them that He was "the way, the truth, and the life," The disciple Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered, "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:8-9).

The way to learn of God is to look at Jesus Christ. He Himself brings God near. This is why Isaiah the prophet said that the Messiah would be called "Emmanuel", which means, "God with Us". It is stunning to say, and it is a matter of rejoicing to know, that the eternal God loved us so much that He came to dwell with us, and to suffer for us, that we may be able to know Him.

I am aware that Islam teaches that Jesus is the Messiah. They further teach that He was Virgin born. However, they believe that He did not die for our sin. This is the very hope that we cling to! We have thousands of ancient manuscripts to attest to this truth. It was universally taught in the early Church. There is no way to contribute this teaching to "early corruption." That charge simply does not hold water.

Finally, let me say that my knowledge of God is not comprehensive. Christians will spend an eternity "getting to know" God. He is, as you say, quite 'large'. Infinite, actually. But this does not mean that I can know 'nothing' of Him.

I know very little about my car engine. It is a complex machine. I know where to put the gas, and the oil, and I know how to change the oil. Past that, I am at a loss. But would it be fair to say that I know my car engine? I believe that it certainly would. I know of God what the Bible teaches me, and that is not comprehensive. However, there is enough information there, and there is the witness of the Holy Spirit in my heart that teaches me things about Him.

If you want to see a paper regarding my thoughts on hell, you can go to www.thirstysoul.org and look up the Reflection "The Glorious Doctrine of Hell." It will be in the Theological Reflections archive, I believe.

After you read that, we may have another discussion on our hands!:)

Also, it may be helpful to read, "What is Salvation?" It deals with the nature of man, sin, and how God solves it, and what it is that Christians claim to be saved from.

Thanks for commenting here!

Dr 4LOM said...

A well written response. You continue to challenge me in my understanding and I can do nothing but thank you for it. I'll have to take a look at those texts to get some more perspective on your outlook.
One thing I think is something I want to mention though is that my definition of "know" and yours are slightly different. I believe that I know what God is and how God affects every aspect of my life and everyone else's, but the hypocrisy I spoke of is more in those that believe that they understand everything about God and that to me is impossible.
While we can observe in ourselves and in others impressions of God's love and understand somewhat his methods, we could never answer questions like "why did Katrina happen?" because it's too large of a revelation for us to grasp. We can look at the science and understand how the weather patterns developed and thus understand how the storm was generated. We can make a timeline of the events and know exactly when things happened to cause it. We can know what areas were affected to get the why. We can even look to God eternal as the source of it all and understand who. But we can never really understand why, because it's just not available to us now.
We can look in ourselves and see the growth spiritually and understand a small piece of why. We can look at others and the results they display and get a bit more, but we can't ever truly understand how and why God works in the ways he does or even why anything exists the way it does. In that sense, we can't "know" God.
We could continue on this conversation for quite some time, as scholars have in years past, but where I think the trap lies is in falsely looking at our own image of God and out of foolishness believing that picture encompasses the entire entity, when it doesn't. That bit alone is the reason why I can't align to your beliefs so readily and neither can I align directly to others.
I will reflect on these comments though and read the materials you suggest. I'm glad you don't want to just string me up for throwing a little doubt in the machine.