Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Old Theological Fires, Quakes, and Books

What a week it's been. Can't keep Japan out of my mind. Each day brings new photos, new videos, new news about the problems with the nuke plant. How hard can one country take it on the chin? I mean, I know people are resilient creatures, but after a while, I start to wonder about breaking points and things...

There seems to be quite a number of epic-level events these past half-dozen years or so. The Boxing Day quake/tsunami, the quake in Haiti, that quake in China a couple years back, the New Zealand quakes... I can't help but be reminded of particular verses like Hebrews 12:26-29, etc., that talk about God shaking the earth and the heavens.

It also brings back to mind certain conversations I have within myself that I've rarely felt I've come to any sort of satisfying resolutions over. Such as, when things like this happen, it takes a prominent space in my mind, and I wrestle with the issue of balance. If I dwell on it for long lengths of time, it feels like it will crush me. If I squirrel it away into a corner of my mind and softly close the door, trying to "go on with life", does that minimize the severity of the event? I find myself praying about the situation over there quite constantly, at least in some part of my heart. Does everyone find their own level, as far as internally handling huge things like this, or is there a standard approach God expects of us?

Of course, the bigger discussion is one my brain goes to often, in reference to many things - but it fits this event perfectly. How involved is God in every aspect of this event, if all? Did He decide when, where and how powerful the quake would be? Did He initiate it, knowing full well what would happen? Did He specifically decide who would live and who would die? Is He deciding, as I write this, how bad things will get with the nuclear reactor over there, and every person that will be affected? Or did He merely set up a self-sustaining system (the earth) with its shifting tectonic plates, and then He oversees it as it goes about its necessary business of shifting and moving and colliding and subverting? Is a quake of this magnitude (and all that it brought with it) basically just a byproduct of a system God set in motion, and He merely presides over it, letting events unfold as they may, while intervening here and there, based on who calls out for Him, etc.?

I've expressed similar thoughts previously here about wars, and whether God directs the trajectory of every bullet fired, and decides who will get hit, who will live, who will die... or if the bullets take their own path based on physics and environmental conditions and other factors, and God presides over it all, perhaps intervening here and there, but for the most part letting it play out according to the system He set up?

How involved is He in every detail? Does He micromanage everything? Or is the bulk of it determined by the (relatively) self-sustaining set of systems He has put in place here?

I know I've waxed boring on such topics here before, I apologize for the well-worn trail I'm wandering down here. I just can't help but ask these questions again, at times like this. My brain keeps spinning it around - I wish I could settle on an acceptable answer or set of answers.

Check this video out - it will freak you out. It's only 3 minutes long, please let it run through. You don't get a really good feel for it until about a minute in.


I want to change the subject to lighter stuff - I don't want to add to the weight on hearts like mine. But I don't want to come across as needlessly goofy or absurd, like I normally roll. I think I'll keep this post mellow and save the nonsense for another time.

I decided to taste A Wise Man's Fear to see what it's like, and surprise, surprise! I'm hooked and devouring it as we speak. About 75% through at the moment. I'll have a review up soon, for those that find such things curious. KJ Parker is on hold, as is an eBook sent to me by an author named Val Gunn. It's called In the Shadow of Swords, and I'm only a scant 20 pages into it. Seems fairly standard Fantasy fare at the moment, but I'll dive in and see, and post a review of that as well.

I'm sure many of you have seen this, but I wanted to post it because it's cool, and to test and see if clicking it will pull up the ultra-high-res version for you to get a good look at the detail, or if it will re-size it to a certain size. Click it and let me know what you think. My man, Boromir! He owns.

I still have to read the Song of Ice and Fire series again before July. Hope I don't get burnt out on the series by the time Volume 5 is released.

OK, I'm done. Sorry for the serious, mellow nature of this post. I'll post again soon.



logankstewart said...

Part OneHeavy stuff, Dave. I suppose I'll offer my opinions and therefore produce the longest comment ever on your blog (it may take multiple parts).

1. Yes, God knows exactly when, where, how everybody will die. I take the word "appointed" in Hebrews 9:27 to mean that we have a specific date fixed, and that when that day arrives it's over.

2. I view natural disasters as direct problems stemming from Original Sin. After Man's sin, the earth was contaminated, and sin brought about tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. Just as Man was cursed to die because of sin, so too was the earth cursed to die, which is why God will create a New Heaven and New Earth. (Not sure if that means a physically new place or if God will just purge and clean the earth, creating it anew.)

3. God is directly involved in every thing that has ever happened and will ever happen on earth. He is sovereign over everything, causing the sun to rise on the just and unjust, sending the rain on the righteous and unrighteous (Matt 5:45).

4. God ordains disaster (Isaiah 45:7), working out in all things to the good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Does that mean that death is to the good? Yes, for the Christian, who would qualify as one who "loves God" in 8:28, death is an eternally good thing, bringing him in the presence of the Lord. For those that don't love God, i.e. the lost, all things still work out according to God's will, though just not for the good for them.

5. The real question, for me, is how much God micromanages the individual, not so much the world. It's the old Calvinism thought verses Arminianism, election verses free-will. Parts of me believe that God is sovereign and wise enough to know, pre-elect, and pre-determine everything. Then parts of me scream no, that's not it at all, that He created us with free will and choice. (Inevitably, my thoughts are always drawn to The Matrix.)

In the end, there's no concrete answers. God is in control of everything, even in the devastation in Japan. He has His reasons for allowing it to happen as surely as He has His reasons for allowing one soldier to die and another to live. I take comfort in knowing that His thoughts are not my thoughts and that they are so much higher than mine that I can never hope to comprehend them (Isaiah 55:8,9).

This is a pretty interesting article about God's position with natural disasters. Also, if you google "David Platt natural disasters" you'll see a great PDF article on how to respond to disasters.

WV: wighes, which sounds like "wise" when read aloud, which seems poignant here.

logankstewart said...

Part Two
Holy cow, that video was crazy. I would probably be freaking out if I saw something like that. Makes me think back to school and learning about liquefaction, when the ground shakes and vibrates so much that the soil behaves like water. Crazy stuff.

So, you've surpassed my progress on Wise Man's Fear. I'm on page 520 or so, so just over the 50% mark. I've really enjoyed it so far, but two friends have told me they had some minor problems with the ending and the rest of the book. I suppose I shall see.

I'm conflicted about the HBO series. It looks awesome, but, it's HBO, so it'll definitely need some editing. (Granted, the books could use some, too, but it's important to the story.) Regardless, I think I'll probably try to watch it when it comes to video or Netflix.

WV: exabsynx. That word just looks cool.

David Wagner said...

Ah, long, rich comments! Me likey! No, strike that... me lovey!

1. The issue isn't so much if God knows when/where/how, but rather does He instigate it. Does He decide when/where/how, and make it happen. Or does He watch it happen, and intervene if/when He wants, based on His own will? Does that make sense?

2. I have my own theories on why God created this earth, and why He'll create a new heaven/earth, but that's grist for another post, methinks...

3. Does He personally move the earth around the sun, or did He create the system by which the earth moves around it? Like building a toy, winding it up and letting it move based on it's design. Or does He move every part of the toy?

4. Death is the last enemy... how can it be "to the good"?

5. To me, as great as it would seem to think of God as personally, intimately involved in every detail of this world and it's people, it seems infinitely greater to me to think He set the creation in motion, and lets things play out according to the way He designed them. More on this later.

6. Yeah, no concrete answers, I've been hearing that a lot lately. Someone recently told me, in reference to the question of "where God came from", that there are some things that we just are not supposed to know.

I'll check out that article, thanks for the link.

Anonymous said...

You know those movie scenes where the aerial scene starts on the ground and rapidly scans upward panoramically to include the entire town, then the state, followed by all of the US, until the earth is a small object? I believe that’s how we are to “see” devastation, death, and events that just don’t go our way. Reset your sites; keep your eyes on the prize. If we believe all things happen for good then the following must be true regarding the earthquake God orchestrated and warned about: Some saints went to live with Christ; some went to live with their own kind (which could be called hell); some experienced a giant wake-up call regarding their life; some will get food and medical attention that has eluded them for years as aid pours in (Tokyo may be dazzling, but that’s because they don’t allow their impoverished/homeless to come into the city). God, who allows us all to experience suffering, can use these theological conundrums for enormous good. The US’s turn is coming, and if we don’t develop this kind of site, we’ll be doomed to bitterness and hatred of God. The Apostle Paul calls it “light and momentary afflictions,” and often it hasn’t felt like either of those throughout my life. The death that those “afflictions” has caused to my warped soul over the past 20+ years have not only blessed myself and my family, but have freed me to become a smidge closer to my savior and brought be closer to the goal.

Beth A.