Essay / Theology

A Chance to Attack Theism

The Guardian decides that this is a good moment to attack theism. Like the village atheist who uses any death of a child to bloviate on his creed, the Guardian decides that at time of raw emotion is a good time for philosophy. Following the normal internet skeptic rule of asking tough questions while ignoring tough minded answers from philosophers of religion, the Guardian uses tragedy to advance the secular agenda. It was bad enough when our own Democrats used the disaster to attack Bush, but their friends in Europe are using it to attack God. Happy New Year. The good news is that God is not insecure, like the editors of the Guardian, in his world view and so will most likely ignore the whole thing. However, those of us still stuck in the City of Man have no such option. Our Beloved may ignore the insult, but no Gentleman could pass on the chance to defend His God. The Guardian is in pink. My own thoughts in black. A non-scientific belief system, especially one that is based on any kind of notion of a divine order, has some explaining to do, however. Yes, amazingly this thought has occurred to, well, every theist in history. (Next month the Guardian will ask, breathlessly, if God can create a rock so big he cannot move it.) Our thinking on this issue could begin with the Book of Job. A standard Christian response can be found here. A philosopher speaks here. An Oxford don, closer geographically to the Guardian, writes Providence and the Problem of Evil. Writers at the Guardian that cannot use Google are in real trouble in the modern world. What God sanctions an earthquake? First, earthquakes serve a good function in the world. Without earthquakes the world system would not function in a dynamic way. Second, the problem (obviously) is not the earthquake, but human suffering in the earthquake.What God protects against it? Why should God protect against it? Is all suffering bad for us? Did God force humans to live in places with earthquakes and near water? Has human sin cut us off from hearing the voice of God that may be warning us? Is it just time for some of us to die, something we are all going to do? Does the Guardian claim knowledge that each death was not appropriate or is it just trading off our pain to assume that all the deaths were useless? Why does the quake strike these places and these peoples and not others? It strikes these places because God designed a world where earthquakes occur in certain places and rarely, if at all, in others. Humans make a choice that (in a fallen world) they will chose to risk this know problem in exchange for certain benefits (being near the water). Persons take this sort of risk when they get in automobiles. God does not decide to force people to live in such places anymore than he forces people to live in winter climates and drive automobiles. In a world where death exists, God allows people to choose risky behavior. Humans measure risks against rewards. Sometimes they choose badly. Mostly God allows us to live with our choices, which makes them meaningful. Sometimes He spares us from those choices. Why? There are many possible reasons: a person has some important work left to do in the Divine Economy, a person is not ready for death, a person receives divine mercy. God is a person and so behaves for reasons. In any given case, we cannot know the reason (that is between God and the person), but we can anticipate what some of those reasons might be. This enables the rational believer to know that such reasons do exist. Why does death exist? Christians believe death exists because humans rebelled against God. Death was God’s divine mercy on humanity which otherwise would have gone on living apart from God. Death is good in that it brings to an end man’s twilight struggle to save himself. It brings us back to God. What kind of order is it that decrees that a person who went to sleep by the edge of the ocean on Christmas night should wake up the next morning engulfed by the waves, struggling for life? It is exactly a cosmic order that allows such a thing. God is a rational, not a whimsical, person. He acts in a consistent and persistent way and allows the cosmos He has created to do so as well. Men who choose to sleep by the beach in a rational universe are taking a risk. When this risk does not work out, then they demand a whimsical universe where everything is “good.” However, this sort of universe would make science impossible and keep us from being able to count on God. People do die. It is tragic to us when they die before we wish they would. However, as hard as it seems it is no less tragic when someone dies at one hundred years of age, full of desire, in the heart of Britain. Death is a tragedy not escaped by National Health and wrapping ourselves in bubble wrap. The paper also seems to want to excuse the human beings who failed to heed American warnings or have a system to warn people when they received those warnings. Humans, native to the area, who knew the sea escaped. Humans who built and lived by the sea but remained ignorant of it did not. From at least the time of Aristotle, intelligent people have struggled to make some sense of earthquakes. Earthquakes make sense. The notion that the cosmos exists as a cosmos (ordered place) is fundamentally a theistic idea. The answer to the problem of evil is not to destroy order, worship randomness, and so end up with a problem of Good. An ordered universe will function as it was designed to do. Humans, ignorant of its workings through being apart from Divine Revelation and with inadequate science, Earthquakes do not merely kill and destroy. They challenge human beings to explain the world order in which such apparently indiscriminate acts can occur. The earthquake is a natural act, part of the cosmos God created. As such it does not discriminate. The Guardian cannot have it both ways. They cannot have a universe that is lawful so as to have science and then blame the Universe when the laws work. Nature is just, it does not discriminate. Europe in the 18th century had the intellectual curiosity and independence to ask and answer su
ch questions. But can we say the same of 21st-century Europe? Or are we too cowed now to even ask if the God can exist that can do such things? Obviously we are not so cowed as this writer shows. But are we so foolish that we prefer to lose any hope of meaning to this tragedy by getting rid of order and of God? Should we deny any hope that science can exist by denying God’s existence and divine order? The problem of course with answering this sort of question is that any philosophy at such a time, cool reason, is inappropriate. This is a time for mourning, for hot passion, for being sorry that the human condition is such that these things happen. God mourns with us. He would not have us behave in such ways. He did not create us to be cut off from His loving, warning Father’s voice. Skeptics want to ask a rude question at the wrong time and then mock our answers as insensitive. God help us to know that this is an ordered universe and we are out of place in it. It is man who is chaotic and who persists in behaving in a multitude of stupid ways. Men live by the sea and refuse to take adequate precautions to prevent tragedy. Men live careless of their own souls, not realizing that they know not their time, and life can slip away quickly and easily. Modern man thinks he knows and is immortal. When his own mortality is exposed, he looks for someone to blame for his human nature: God, government, George Bush. Instead, the problem is us: ignorance, folly, and sin. Were the people of Asia worse than the people of Britain? No. The people of Britain, every one of them, will also face death that undiscovered country. Most will face it at a time and place not of their own choosing. It will be sad, for God would not have it so, and when they die those left will miss them. Best reason, and best human experience, tells us this world is but a shadow of the World to Come. In that place, justice will be brought to fruition and all accounts will be paid. From the time of Plato forward, men have known this is true. God help us to use this tragedy to live prepared for death, the one thing certain to come to each one of us in this Shadow Land.

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