I write this after listening to Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury talk about the tragic events at the school in South Russia.
You can hear the full interview for the BBC Sunday programme here.
It’s a fascinating conversation because it reveals the impossible position those that don’t believe in the absolute sovereignty of God get into.
Here’s a transcription of the most interesting part, from 6 minutes in:
Williams: [Freedom] often means small things, a very very small gesture
Interviewer: But choice is denied to the people who are the victims
W: That’s what it is to be a victim, your choice is restricted, you are imprisoned
I: But that’s what God allows, therefore God doesn’t give us choice, does he, in truth? He gives certain people choice, he gives the people with power choice
(just think about that statement for a moment – he’s saying ‘that means God isn’t in control at all, is he?’)
and therefore the choice is denied to the vulnerable and that is why many people will look at what happened yesterday, perhaps and say ‘how can I believe in such a God?’
I: But doesn’t the church preach that it is a merciful God?
W: Of course, this has nothing to do with God’s mercy, it has to do with the kind of reality that the created world is, in which we make our futures in relation to God.
I: But God is omnipotent
W: God is all-powerful. God has created us so that in the world we act for him, where we can
I: So those people who were acting yesterday in such an inhuman way were, in some way, acting for God?
W: Of course not, no – God calls us to co-operate with what he longs for, what he wishes to see – which is justice, love – and we are free to resist. In some cases people resist violently, horribly, as in this case.
Let’s take a time out. It’s not great, is it? God is omnipotent, except when people resist him. What sort of omnipotence is that? Williams is in a mess.
I: So what do you say to people who want to believe, who want to have some faith, look at what is happening in the world (of course it is just what happened yesterday although that may, perhaps, be the most obscene expression of it that we’ve seen) and say ‘I simply can’t believe any longer, this is not a good world’?
What will Williams say? Of course, the right answer is to take people to the Cross. To tell us all, as a minister of the gospel, that it is at the Cross that we understand how God is sovereign in suffering. That, as the believers pray in Acts 4:27-28, “truly in [Jerusalem] there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” That God can use even evil to his own ends. That at the Cross I learn that God understands suffering and participates in it and that at the Cross I see the murder and violence in my own heart and learn to turn to Him in repentance and faith.
What will Williams say? Will he call a nation to the Cross?
W: That’s not the kind of issue that can be answered over the radio in general terms but I think what I would want to begin to say to any individual about that is “what is it that makes you find the torture and death of children so appalling? What is it that makes you value human beings? Because the faith that Christians hold, and other religious people, is that each person (and especially the most vulnerable) has that absolute value in the eyes of God which means that it is impossible to treat them as a means to your own ends…
Disappointed? I can’t express my growing frustration with this man. Time and time again he has failed us as Archbishop. His first Christmas sermon hardly even touched on the reason that Christ was incarnate. He has sat back and allowed heretics in the USA to fragment the global communion.
But all these things pale into insignificance with his continued failure to point people to the Cross. The Cross should be the centre of our preaching, the constant paradigm of our lives. And yet it is almost as if this is not the case for Williams.
A sad, sad day. My home nation desperately needs to hear about the Cross and, on this day when questions of eternal significance are being asked on a national level, Williams has (yet again) failed to preach the God who rules the universe and the glory of Christ crucified.