how to respond to Tsunamis

Almost a month on from the terrible Boxing Day disaster it’s worth reflecting on the very good and the downright awful theological responses to what happened. They can be broadly divided into 2 types

The good – which curiously all are faithful expositions of scripture.
The bad – which curiously are sentimentality but little else.

For an example of the good I can do no better than point you to John Piper at Desiring God. This brilliant piece and this (also) brilliant piece sum up what I think is a faithful response.

On the flip side there is no better example of sentimental rubbish than “The Tsunami and the Infinite Goodness of God” courtesy of i-church.
The first thing you’ll notice, in contrast to Piper’s response, is that nowhere is scripture referenced. The author wants to talk a lot about God but doesn’t really have time for what God Himself has said concerning Himself.

Anyway, here we go,

We may need to update our beliefs. The all-powerful Maker of the Universe was willing to accept the laws which would have to prevail in that universe. We know that nothing is always perfect: things are only perfect by probability; that is they can be perfect most of the time. We learned that anew when Edwin Schrodinger, in 1928, calculated that particles act like waves which would probably happen. Math could calculate the likelihood. It was and is a basic discovery of quantum mechanics.

So, first we must realise that God “was willing to accept” (i.e. is subject to) the laws of quantum physics. So, at once, we’re in a mess. Scripture says that

Daniel 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

and

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

and innumerable places besides. God is not subject to anything, he is not a hostage to history – God dictates history.

Isaiah 46:9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

This is why Isaiah presents God as the true God of prophecy – only the God that dictates history can foretell history.

On such a shaky foundation, how does the article continue?

It seems to take an uphill turn, “God is infinitely good” – with which we agree. But then we slip again, “ Out of this store of goodness, God “makes good” to those who suffer.
Now, this is not necessarily true. As Piper points out, Job says,

Job 2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

and, more simply,

Job 1:21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

God gives and God takes away, He gives good and evil. Good is not guaranteed.

The article continues:

 What is missing is that God’s gift of humanity is for ever. The eternal
dimension of our lives is precisely why every moment of this lifecounts and why we must spare no effort to convince each person that his or her life is good and will be steeped in goodness for ever. Whether or not they believe in God.

No, no, no, no, no!!!!
Yes!!! Life is eternal. But that is why we must spare no effort to convince each person that his or her life is bad and will be steeped in punishment for ever!!! Does that sound harsh? Then listen to Jesus:

Luke 13:1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

In response to the question “do people die in human evil/disasters because of their sin?” Jesus has only 2 words:

No, they are no more sinful than the rest.

But, such things are a warning to us to repent. It is the greatest evil to preach God’s “eternal goodness” as some sort of universalism. It’s a travesty. Jesus Himself teaches us that disasters like this are there to persuade us to repent since we will all face judgement. Surely, then, the very worst thing to do would be to teach the opposite, to use a disaster of this magnitude to say “it’s OK, God’s very cuddly and you’ll be with Him for eternity”.

How does the article finish?

God will make it up to those whose lives have been so horribly snuffed out. God will draw from the infinite resources of the Self of God to more than compensate for, to defeat, the evil suffered by the children, young people and adults who have perished.

God has already defeated evil, He has already conquered death. But you don’t hear about it from i-church.

God defeated evil at the Cross where Christ died to take the punishment that we all deserve if we will only trust Him and His once-for-all work. But not once are we told about the cross in this article. Not once is Jesus Himself even mentioned.

Shame on you, i-church. Millions watched the Tsunami and longed to hear a word to change their lives, some light in the darkness. Instead, you’ve handed out blindfolds.

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