Friday, January 15, 2010

Some Thoughts About Haiti and Theodicy


Bill Muehlenberg of "Culture Watch" has an excellent post up entitled Haiti and Theodicy There are a lot of good Christian commentaries on the blogs about the tragic earthquake in Haiti, including guesses as to God's role in allowing it to happen. Perhaps what is most important is what we can all learn from such a disaster. Bill's post is one of the best!

Excerpt:


Atheists will simply use this most recent tragedy as another attempt to say, “See, I told you so – of course there is no God”. They will seek to offer this disaster as more evidence that the biblical conception of a benevolent deity is untenable and must be utterly rejected.

This of course is an age-old debate, and it is unlikely that either side will willingly cede any ground here, or offer any new insights or arguments. And one can rightly ask whether either side should be seeking to score cheap points here in the face of such unmitigated human suffering.

But like the earlier quake, such disasters inevitably bring out profound questioning, from both believers and non-believers alike. Thus we have an obligation to try to make sense of all this, at least on the basis of our own particular worldview.



That certainly describes what has been going on in the comment thread of my original post about the devastating earthquake in Haiti! Be sure to go over and read Muehlenberg's entire essay.

Here is a copy of my comment there (still in moderation as of 6:34 a.m. PT):

People at my blog have been arguing over God’s role in this disaster. Your post is one of the best that I have read so far. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

One Christian writer once summed up that the deaths of Christian believers from disasters (or any other cause of death for that matter) can be viewed as being “taken away from evil.” We know that Haiti has suffered from decades of evil influence.

We also know that God is a God of redemption. Being reconciled back to God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, is the most important decision a person can make on this earth. The Bible tells us to “redeem the time for the days are evil.”

The lives lost and the suffering of those who are injured, hungry, thirsty, and without shelter is truly tragic, heartbreaking, and terribly sad. But each time we experience such things, we know how God the Father must have felt when His precious Son was injured, hungry, thirsty, severely beaten, spat upon, cursed at, humiliated and despised by those whom he came to save.


But what did Jesus say about them?


“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”


They couldn’t murder him. He voluntarily laid down his own life “as a ransom for many.” Of course, Jesus had the added horrid experience of taking the sins of the entire world upon himself so that we could be forgiven and reconciled back unto God; a burden that believers will never have to face because of Christ’s finished work at the cross of Calvary. His resurrection from the dead is proof that He is who he says he is and He keeps his promises to those who are called by His name.

Redemption often comes out of suffering and tragedies more than when people are comfortable. Many of those who survive the Haiti earthquake of 2010 will receive the life-giving eternal message of the Gospel. Many people who are watching this tragedy unfold may re-think their current status of spiritual oblivion and will likely receive the Gospel message that they may have rejected in the past. That is the true and everlasting comfort that will come to those who have been affected by this event of natural evil.

As commenter Ewan McDonald had stated in this thread, “the length of our lives in this life is in comparison a ‘vapour.’ What matters is where we will spend eternity, not how many years we get in this life.”

More lives will be saved, spiritually speaking, as a result of this horrible devastation. Those who probably would not have been given (or accepting of) the Gospel will change their attitudes, and thus their eternal destination. That is God “redeeming the time for the days are evil.”

Hat Tip:

Culture Watch


*******
Update:

Bill Muehlenberg has posted my comment and replied! He wrote:

Bill Muehlenberg
16.1.10 / 1am Thanks Christine

Yes sadly many people do not think about spiritual matters or the state of their soul until some tragedy strikes, wiping off the gloss of this world, and reminding them of eternal verities. We need to pray for all those affected, for their physical condition as well as for their spiritual condition.

Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch


Well said and I completely agree!

Help is on the way, but I have been heard via the news that it has become difficult to get the food and supplies to the victims. I pray that the distribution of food, water, medical supplies and shelter will get to the people ASAP.

5 comments:

Sammy Jankis said...

More lives will be saved, spiritually speaking, as a result of this horrible devastation. Those who probably would not have been given (or accepting of) the Gospel will change their attitudes

In my opinion, events such as this will turn more people away from religion than towards it. The 'biblical Christian' responses to human suffering through natural disasters ("We all die eventually", "It makes God sad too", "They've escaped evil!" etc.) are extremely unconvincing and don't actually salvage God's supposed good reputation in any way.

Furthermore, what's your opinion of Murray Adamthwaite's contention in the comments of Bill's article that all atheists can say to the victims is "Tough bickies! That’s the way the earth operates. You just happened to be in the way at the wrong time!"

Do you think this is an honest reflection of the thoughts of atheists?

Gary Baker said...

Sammy,

"Do you think this is an honest reflection of the thoughts of atheists?"

I don't doubt that many atheists are sympathetic to the injured and unfortunate, and the way that you phrase the question reflects something of a gleeful anger that I don't think most Christians or deists in general have. But as far as the substantial points, yes, I believe that this is essentially the only message that atheists can offer. Isn't it true that you do believe that the universe is uncaring, that it kills or provides benefits with no conscious reason? Without God to guide things, what reason can there be? So yes, I think the basic thoughts expressed are accurate. If not, please enlighten me as to how.

Christinewjc said...

Sammy Jankis,

You are certainly entitled to your own opinion. However, it has been my experience that people who have come through devastating loss often turn to God (or back to Him if they were backsliders) as a result.

God doesn't need you to think of Him as having "a supposed good reputation." He is Who He is, and in the end, every knee (believer or not) shall bow to Him.

Rom 14:11 For it is written, [As] I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

I haven't been back to Bill's blog so I did not see Murray A's comment yet. Will read it after typing this. From what you have shared here, it appears that he was speaking from the secular, evolutionist's possible viewpoint. In another thread at this blog, Kevin (not quite sure if he is an atheist) wrote something that could be viewed as a similar sentiment:

The earth is constantly moving. That is what causes earthquakes. It has nothing to do with punishment or reward.

You asked:

Do you think this is an honest reflection of the thoughts of atheists?

It might be an honest reflection of the thoughts of some atheists, but I couldn't say it is the thought of them all. However, both of these commenters basically said the same thing - that God isn't needed to explain such phenomenon. It's just nature. So, where did nature come from? It's the age-old argument between Darwinists and those who believe that God created this world and universe. That argument basically boils down to this: did everything (all of Creation) come from nothing? Or was there an Intelligent Designer behind the Creation of all that we are, experience and see?

Sammy Jankis said...

Isn't it true that you do believe that the universe is uncaring, that it kills or provides benefits with no conscious reason?

Yes. What evidence can you provide that shows the universe is looking out for us? I see no evidence of the universe consciously determining peoples fates.

Of course, there is nothing in that to suggest that we must act with callous indifference to the suffering of others. As conscious beings we can empathise and act to alleviate the suffering of others.

Sammy Jankis said...

You are certainly entitled to your own opinion. However, it has been my experience that people who have come through devastating loss often turn to God (or back to Him if they were backsliders) as a result.

Fine, as long as you're willing to concede that your evidence is anecdotal.

God doesn't need you to think of Him as having "a supposed good reputation." He is Who He is, and in the end, every knee (believer or not) shall bow to Him.

Telling me that your god is unphased about how he is perceived doesn't really address my point. The point is that incidents such as this are extremely difficult to reconcile with an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful deity. And as I said, the common attempts to do so ("God suffers too!" etc.) are unconvincing.

From what you have shared here, it appears that [Murray] was speaking from the secular, evolutionist's possible viewpoint.

Possible viewpoint? What troubles me about it is that he doesn't even cite one atheist making such a remark - he just shoves the words into our mouths and the thoughts into our heads, and has us spruiking a philosophy we don't actually embrace.

In another thread at this blog, Kevin (not quite sure if he is an atheist) wrote something that could be viewed as a similar sentiment...

The quoted statement does no such thing. What Kevin said is a simple observation of fact. The earthquake is a result of a release of pressure built up between earth's shifting tectonic plates.

It might be an honest reflection of the thoughts of some atheists, but I couldn't say it is the thought of them all.

You know what I think? I think it is the thought of virtually no atheists.

However, both of these commenters basically said the same thing - that God isn't needed to explain such phenomenon. It's just nature.

They're right. And that's entirely different from saying "Tough bickies" to the victims of natural disasters.

So, where did nature come from?
A question science is still seeking to answer. "God did it" is an unsatisfactory answer, given that no evidence is offered in support of the idea.