[The following blogpost was originally published on 9/12/05.]
Upon seeing photographs of the devastation of New Orleans and hearing reports of the catastrophic loss people have suffered as a result of hurricane Katrina, many people were once again asking the question voiced so often after 9/11, namely, "where was God in all of this?"
Following September 11th, the anti-theologians could easily appeal to the popular notion of 'free-will.' As obviously wicked humans were involved in hijacking the airplanes on that "fateful" day, it was simple work for those who claim the name of Christ and yet have failed to conform their thinking to Scripture in this area to subtly slander God Almighty by clnging to traditions that claim our Lord's sovereignty is limited by the decisions of sinners.
But the recent crisis, being weather-related rather than terrorist-related has presented a more focused challenge to those with an inadequate view of God as Sovereign Creator-Sustainer and Holy Lawgiver. As their 'free-will' philosophy is irrelevant to explain "natural disasters," another aspect of the traditionalists' false philosophy has been exposed, as briefly examined in my previous two posts, The God of the Storm and the Uncovering of Blasphemous Theology
, and Natural Disasters and the Sustaining Power of our Sovereign God
. For in raging and taking counsel against the Sovereign LORD
[cf. Psalm 2
], people imagine that His reign is not only limited by the decisions of the wicked, but also by Natural Laws that He has established. According to this view, God is truly a cosmic Dr. Frankenstein who is now being terrorized by His uncontrollable creation.
But anyone who has truly been wondering, "where was God in all of this?" and has been filled with anxiety or has reached unbiblical conclusions has certainly not contemplated God's work in the death of Christ. People ask, "how could God be in this when there is so much suffering?" or, "how could God be in this when innocent people died?". But these questions reveal a deficiency in a true, biblical faith toward Jesus, who is truly God and truly Man, as well as the sacrificial Lamb of God ( John 1:29
For the Prophet declares:
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12 NKJV, emphasis added)
And as the Apostle Peter proclaimed at Pentecost:
"Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know-- this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:22-23 NASB)
And the earliest church prayed:
"For truly in this city 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, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. (Acts 4:27-28 NASB)
From these passages we know that this greatest example of human suffering, Christ's death on the Cross for our sins, occurred according to the LORD's pleasure (Isaiah 53:10), for His satisfaction (Isaiah 53:11), following His predetermined plan and foreknowledge (Acts 2:23), controlled by His hand and His purpose (Acts 4:28).
Therefore we know that the only truly innocent man to ever die, God's own Son, suffered and was executed entirely according to His will and His power, though uncoerced sinful men were the direct agents of this grisly work. For Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles and the Jews who crucified Jesus, followed their own sinful desires, believing that they were acting according to their 'free-will,' but God was working out His master plan for His glory and our good through their evil plans (Gen. 50:20
, Rom. 8:28
, Eph. 1:11
Similarly, the natural world around us has been placed under a curse (Romans 8:20-21
) due to the sin of Man, who had been given stewardship over the created order (Genesis 1:26-30
). And so, as noted before, the natural world is often grossly inhospitable to the people for whom it was originally created to provide. Yet even the most horrible crises of nature serve God's good purpose, demonstrating the need to sinners for immediate repentance and purifying the devotion of the saints, as God informs us in the book of James:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV 1984)
Please pause to give praise to God, who is entirely in control and who gives us hope through any circumstance.
Labels: Christian worldview, Reformation Theology