the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
A friend of mine in Lewiston is fond of telling me that, in Idaho, mother nature can be quite fickle. He often says “If you don't like the weather just wait 5 minutes – after all this is Idaho.” The funny thing is, people say that no matter where they live. I used to hear it all the time when I was pastoring in Denver Colorado.
But it's not his claim that Idaho has unusually volatile weather that bothers me, it is his insistence that mother nature is in charge of our daily forecast. Indeed, another assertion he makes is, “Mother nature is in charge. God can't do anything about it and Jesus can't do anything about it either.” Obviously I differ with him on that point of view. Not that I should expect anything else from him since he isn't a believer. Yet, the sad fact is, there are many Christians who have a similar mindset. No, I've not heard anyone who professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ make the claim that mother nature is sovereign over God the father and the eternal son. Nonetheless, I have heard many Christians make statements that amount to the same thing.
For instance, I'd be rich if I had a dime for every time I heard a fellow Christian say that “God allowed” this or that. To suggest God “allowed” an event to take place is to say he really didn't want it to happen but was unable to stop it from coming to pass. This puts Almighty God in the position of a father who would like to see his son go to law school but is unable to stop him from joining the circus. So, he “allows” him to join the traveling side show since that is the only way he can maintain the illusion of authority. Most recently I've heard a number of Christian say they can't understand why God would “allow” a massive earthquake and tsunami to hit Japan. Now, I'm not going to tell you I know why these things happen but I do know God did not simply “allow” them to happen.
In the book of Amos we read, If a ram's horn is blown in a city, aren't people afraid? If a disaster occurs in a city, hasn't the LORD done it? (Amos 3:6). Although it would be convenient to explain this away and suggest people saw things differently in the Old Testament, the truth is, the Bible clearly tells us that disaster (the Hebrew word is, râ-âh meaning evil) takes place as an act of God. He didn't “allow” it, he actively brought it to pass.
Again, I will not claim do to know the reasons for the catastrophe in Japan but theologians of the past were not so unadventurous. Albert Barnes (1798-1870), in his notes on this passage says, “Refer not, the prophet would say, the ills which ye suffer and will suffer, to any other causes, as people are accustomed to do. God, in His displeasure, sends them upon you. People ascribe their sufferings to fortune, accident, any cause, rather than the displeasure of God. The intemperate will think anything the cause of their illness rather than their intemperance. People love the things of the world and cannot and will not be persuaded that so many evils are brought on them by the things which they love. So then God explains through the prophets the punishment which He purposes to bring on people.”
More next week.