Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Is God Behind Catastrophes

Re-Posted from "Meditations of a Charismatic Calvinist Who Does Not Speak in Tongues"

Is God really in control of all things, including catastrophes, especially natural catastrophes, or does He simply stand by as they occur? This idea of a limited God has an attraction to some people. It is not God's fault after all; He could not help it. But a helpless God is not only not in control of everything (Ephesians 1:11; Psalms 115:3; Isaiah 45:7), but cannot work all things together for good (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20; Ephesians 2:10) or accomplish His purpose in the world (Isaiah 46:10; 43:13; Acts 2:23). Now this is not simply an issue between Calvinists and Arminians. Many Arminians would affirm that while God is allows for individual choice, He is still in control of the broad course of history (how this works is not clear to me, but I would rather have them affirm this than deny God's control of history entirely). If we take this limited view, however, we end up with a God who is not really God.

The Scriptural answer is that we live in a fallen world that is under the judgment of God (Romans 8:18-23; Revelation 21:1-5; Genesis 3:16-19). Now this does not mean that those who suffer calamity are greater sinners then those who do not (John 9:1-3); we are to realize that we are just as worthy of judgment as they are (Luke 13:1-5). We are all sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), worthy of God's wrath (Romans 1:18; Ephesians 2:1-3; Revelation 20:11-15). But God is gracious, bestowing on us good things in spite of our rebellion against Him (Matthew 5:45; Acts 14:17; James 1:17) that we might be brought to repentance (Romans 2:4). But nonetheless, in a fallen world there will be exhibitions of God's judgment of sin. Now this does not negate the need to have compassion on those who are suffering. God calls us to consider the poor and afflicted (Psalms 12:5; Luke 1:51-53; James 5:1-6) and has acted to save us while we were His enemies (Romans 5:6-8; Colossians 2:13,14; 1 Peter 2:24,25). So I do not want in any way to advocate indifference to the pain of those who are suffering. But we should not ascribe helplessness to God.

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