The Glory of The Lord? Natural Disasters, Sovereignty, and Sin in Perspective.
My Friends, we all know what Pat Robertson said, and we know that the sovereignty vs. compassion debates will be going on all throughout the next few weeks about God’s role in natural disasters. With bible verses flung aplenty to judge the living and the dead.
Some might say, “If God is in control of Everything, then He willed this earthquake, and the only thing that makes sense of that is judgment.” This is the Pat Robertson camp. I’d like to believe he had no clue what he was saying, is too inept to follow the logic of what he said and meant nothing judgmental by it. However, the effect has been disastrous.
The camp that endorse a Robertson type statement see meaning in everything and have managed to combine a world that looks like clockwork with a spiritual interpretationof the world that assumes God’s opposition to us. For this worldview the cause is God, the effect is His glory, either via blessing or judgment. At least, that’s a fair summary of the argument, though it could obviously be nuanced better, argued more at length, and defended far more vigorously. I’m not in the mood to do that.
The reason for a statement like Robertson’s is a failure to understand God’s relation to humanity, Sin and Judgment. So I’d like to take the time to elaborate my response now that I’ve calmed down a bit, stopped calling him a fascist and have started repairing bridges not just with him but across a community that could use togetherness. So it is my hope that this post will bring us together, not tear us apart. Despite my tendency to hyperbole, I’d like to be real, and share my heart on this. Despite my anger, our anger, I’d like to forgive Robertson and not say he needs to be exiled into some cave somewhere. God’s justice demands his reconciliation to Love, not a separation from it. But we’ll get to that.
Natural Disasters always present some problems for people of faith, any faith. Such massive pain caused by such an impersonal event has the power to cause a faith crisis in anyone with a heart for the rest of their brothers and sisters in the world we find ourselves in.
But, as I tell my kids at church, and as I tell others on a regular basis, Christians are not Theists. We do not believe in God. We believe in Father Son and Holy Spirit, and that makes all the difference.
If we’re going to begin to understand where God is in all this, we must look to God as revealed by Jesus Christ. We can’t go looking for God elsewhere, because the Bible tells us that Jesus is the fullness of God, and in Him we have seen the Glory of the Lord. God’s glory is the glory revealed not in the resurrection but the cross. Of course they’re inseparable, but if you do not begin with a crucified Christ and looking for Jesus in the midst of chaos, kinda like a Where’s Waldo, you’re going to miss the whole point of the picture you’re being shown.
The presence of Waldo on a Where’s Waldo page makes sense of the entire picture and is the reason for it, and the same applies to life. When we seek to make sense of the chaos we’re presented, no matter the event we’re tasked to find the crucified Christ and once having found him, make sense of the picture we’re being shown.
We have to interpret the whole image we’re presented not through the idea of God in general, that’s like saying anything in red on a Where’s Waldo page is good enough for you, but that misses the whole point. Anyone who looks like Waldo or is dressed the same as Waldo but isn’t Waldo simply is not good enough. So too, when Christians look at the world unless we find the Crucified God who suffers because of His love for the world that is revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ, we’re not reading the world rightly and the whole picture becomes a blur.
The reason the Crucified God asks us to be taken seriously and not just a resurrected Jesus is because Jesus always validated His identity after the resurrection through pointing to the crucifixion. At Emmaus it was breaking bread that reminded Cleopas and the other disciple of Jesus recognize Him. Jesus lets Thomas see his wounds and even touch them if he so wishes. The Jesus who got out of the tomb was the Jesus who was crucified, even in his glorified body, he remains able to bear the marks of suffering, and continues to suffer in our behalf.
The bible says that The cross is the power of God unto salvation, it’s foolishness to the world. But it’s the power of God unto salvation, thus, it seems pretty simple to say that for Paul, the cross is God’s glory. God’s suffering with us and not some idea about sovereignty is where Paul finds the Glory of the Lord. I think we should do likewise.
I know that once I’ve found Waldo, I love to keep staring at the page and see how cleverly hidden he was, and how what he’s doing can help me make sense of the rest of the image. It’s a really delightful pass time but this is the task of a specifically Christian worldview. I want a Waldo worldview that seeks to find the Crucified God in the picture and then look at the rest of the world through having found him. The Gospels, really the entire bible are like the key for what we’re looking for in terms of this Jesus, the Christian tradition also informs us about the nature of this Jesus through the lives of the saints who have known him very closely.
Thanks for reading, remember to go out and look for Waldo, he’s hiding in plain sight. The Crucified God is everywhere, and if we don’t begin with Him, we’ve missed the point of the picture.