@jstump takes a look at natural evil, and what perspective it can give us when faced with it in our everyday lives, like during a pandemic.
Nice article. I just had to give a devotional on Sunday at a meeting, and I reread the chapter on natural evil in Christopher Wright’s book, The God I Don’t Understand. He noted that Christians tend to offer three explanations when faced with the tragedy of natural disasters: 1) All natural evil is the result of the Fall (like Jim mentioned). 2) Natural disasters are God’s judgment for wickedness and we should take them as a warning to get right with God. 3) Since God is sovereign, they are all part of his perfect plan to bring about something good and beautiful.
My circles definitely focus on 3), but often at the expense of short-cutting natural grief and anger responses to the evil itself, and often in a way that minimizes the scope of the tragedy. I think it is good and biblical to affirm God’s sovereignty when we are in pain, but not so much as an “explanation” or “justification.” In the Bible, people worship God for being Lord of the Universe even as they lament, but it doesn’t seem like they are using God’s sovereignty as an answer to “why,” so much as a comfort and assurance of God’s presence and lordship in the midst of trouble.
I liked the corporate focus at the end of the article. Sometimes I think we expect all silver linings to apply equally to all individuals, and that is not the case. We lose individual members in the corporate struggle against adversity.
Great article Jim!
Thanks Christy. Though I’m not sure I’m squarely in Southgate’s camp #3. We might get into theological hair-splitting, but I don’t think I want to say that this particular tragedy (whether coronavirus or a specific hurricane, etc.) are directly intended by God. My view of sovereignty is not that God dictates and controls everything that happens. Rather, it means that God wins in the end. So I want to say instead that God is capable of using even the bad things that happen for good (works all things together for good!). These are opportunities for us to respond in certain ways. Maybe a distinction without a difference!
None of the above. God’s Sovereignty of the physical starts and ends with grounding its being. Completely hands off. Except through our ineffably Spirit inspired ones. I infer that He is as hands on Sovereign as He can be in the transcendent. But the physical works autonomously as if He didn’t create and passively sustain it. The only exception is incarnation. We need to deal with this reality.
Yes, I liked what you had to say better than what I typically hear. It is one view of sovereignty to say that it’s God’s plan that we become mature and Christ-like, and that all the hardships we experience in life can be used by God to realize that goal and are maybe even necessary to achieve that goal. It’s another view to say that it is God’s plan that we go through such and such a hardship or that he sends hardships to us. It’s the difference between saying God gives you cancer to perfect your faith and God uses cancer to perfect your faith. I don’t think that’s splitting hairs, I think it’s a pretty big difference.
Just today I was at a Zoom prayer meeting with my colleagues and we watched a Getty video of the song “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death.” There was a line “What comes, apart from his command?” And I wanted to say, “Well, coronavirus for one, according to my theology.” Are we really going to say that God commanded the pandemic? I don’t want to say that. But I think we can still affirm God is in control of the world and shaping our corporate human destinies toward good.
If God is the creator of all and has chosen every object and sequenced every event, then we are all part of a divine finger puppet show and mistake as our will what is really the movement of a divine finger.
The notion that every detail of reality entails a divine decision seems over the top but if true then yeah, thanks for the corona virus, I guess.
Think Job. It fits my theology just fine, not as a command but as permission. Think Dale’s kidney cancer and Maggie’s distress. God uses pain to produce gain, and I will defend his right to do so.
Then there’s a suggestion that now we are making up for the Christian Sabbaths, The Lord’s Day(s) of Rest, that we haven’t been observing?
This whole thing is only “restful” for a segment of the population. Teachers and healthcare workers for example, have more work than ever.
Yes, that is understood. There are infrastructure jobs that need to be staffed 24/7, and of course healthcare workers are on the front line of this battle. Research labs are doing their part, too. But most of the population, a huge “segment”, needs to not be out and about, doing.
I will say, as the wife of a healthcare professional, I am staying at home, but not necessarily feeling restful or rested at all. It’s unfortunately more than just a state of physical being.
I was in the medical field and on call for over thirty years, and working on Sundays too. But feelings are not what it’s about. I can rest in God’s sovereignty 24/7.
And so are grocery and drugstore clerks who I’m pretty sure did not take those jobs for any noble purpose beyond earning a check to feed their family. Now they are out there interacting with all comers, usually without any well thought out strategy for their well being. Not restful for them. Not safe for them either. I have a brother and a cousin who are out there keeping food available to us all. It makes me very angry.
Yes, some states have declared grocery related jobs as emergency ones. I am not intending to leave anyone out that is helping in this ongoing struggle.
please tell that to my anxiiiiety
You’ve probably seen this before:
And enjoy this, if you have a moment:
Thanks, Steve Martin is an amazingly talented guy.
@jstump, enjoyed the article. I am in awe of you if a red light brings out your “evilest” thoughts. My level of evil thinking goes far beyond running a red light in the middle of nowhere!
In any case, my thoughts are much like yours regarding evil, though I tend to be a bit more fatalistic and feel that such pain is just the cost of living in this world. In a new world, perhaps things will differ. For now, the same friction that brakes your car, wears out your joints. The gravity that holds your drink in the drink holder makes you splat when you fall. Without viruses, as you allude to, the world would be out of balance until brought back into balance by some other development or disease entity.
And without viruses, bacteria would run amuck. But you said that.
You have a different circle then, because most people I know are working, just from home, which often requires extra work to make adjustments. Plus many are now balancing their kids’ schooling needs and childcare on top of their own work. It was social time and leisure time that got adjusted.
I personally have just as much work as ever, plus now I’m spending more time reading news and checking in with people I’m worried about. Definitely less restful. I just think it’s kind of silly to suggest that God sent a virus to force some people to “Sabbath,” when the actual result is that everyone I know is more stressed out than ever, going into more debt not getting out of it, and churches (the number one way people “remember the Sabbath”) are not meeting together. I just think Sabbath is your little pet thing and so you’re going to project it on everything, so you have another chance to link to your little essay hardly anyone agreed with the first seventeen times you shared it.