Statesboro, GA, USA
Brad and Balladeer,
I guess I'll respond by saying that the easiest way to discount something is to make a caricature of it ... or to mistake it for an extreme. The picture of natural distasters and other occurences which may be called "divine judgement" in the Bible, is actually much more complex than any quick answer.
The biblical examples of Divine wrath being expressed through weather, war, disease, are obvious. But does that mean that every time there is ill weather, or a crippled child, that God's wrath is being expressed? I think the theology of the book of Job, and Ecclesiastes deal with that question. Such books were given to make us understand that our tendency to label are often misplaced, and cause others pain. Just think of Job, who was told by "friends" that his personal sin was the root of his affliction. Then the writer of that book had the audacity to attribute it to his righteousness! And even in the New Testament, Jesus rebukes his disciples for assuming that a man was born blind because of his sin, or his parents.
The other extreme, of course, is to discount the rest of the data we have ... to say that it's archaic, cruel, and superstitious to believe that God expresses displeasure through Earthly occurrences. But if the one position tends to self righteousness, (in telling others that their sufferings are due to sin), so does this one. We begin, humanistically, to think that we are beyond the deserving of such, that the communications of scripture which tell us that we are separated from God through sin, are wrong. "We're pretty good people", I've felt my own heart say from time to time. Until I realize how utterly presumptuous that is.
Does that mean that God is hurling lightning bolts? Does that mean that such things should be viewed as active retribution? I'm not sure. I think an equally apt picture of judgement is a removal of protection. Would God cause 9/11? Would God lift a certain layer of protection, because of an increased tendency in the country for self reliance and impiety? I think that's more than a possibility.
Is it just to hurt us and make us cry? I think that's less probable. Even Karen has reported that she's seen much human virtue arise out of such a situation. I have no doubt that priorities change quite a bit under such duress, and neglected aspects of human nature are dusted off and reconsidered. Church attendance was exposive immediately following 9/11. Was it superficial? Did it last? That's another question. But my point is that there are purposes, and reasons behind all such happenings that are connected with God's will. That's not always a bad thing, though the tragedy is no less of a tragedy.
The same includes things which happen not as "judgement" at all. Consider Job, where revelation was given, confidence restored, character sharpened. I suppose that's my answer to Brad's statement about things being "random". I'm not convinced, on one level, that they ever really are. On a strictly physical level perhaps it can be interpreted that way, but my view of the world is more multi-layered than that.
Don't tell me that I am ignoring the subtleties of life, with my view. Scripturally all of this discussed and anticipated. I'm only here to tell you that my view seems broader, not narrower than one that would discount divine wrath off hand. And whenever I hear it attacked, I feel obligated to sound a warning of "p-please don't ...". Not angry, am I. Just that I am convinced of the reality of sin and judgement, that I want to sow the seed in the minds of those who seem to reject the idea. And reintroduce a more subtle view, to those who have been offended by a more extreme view from some pulpit somewhere.
Thanks for listening,