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O Wind, That Sings so Loud a Song . . .

21 May

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O wind, a-blowing all day long,

O wind, that sings so loud a song!

(A couplet from The Wind by Robert Louis Stevenson)

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by these recent bouts of storms; especially in Moore, OK.

The song this wind sang was a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking one.  How it must have seemed, to those who survived it, to have lasted all day long.  This was a song sung in fury, with tones deep and heavy.  It was, indeed, a loud song.  Its echoes are still being heard and will continue to be heard for years to come.  It was an orchestra of devastation, of destruction, violence, and death.

It is during such times of calamity and heartbreak that questions arise that challenge faith and belief.  If God is good and all-powerful, how could he allow such a horrific thing as this to happen?  If God is sovereign, why did he not stop this from happening?

These are real questions.  These are hard questions.

Some will offer simple platitudes and half-thought-through elucidations.  They will advise with simple explanations and counsel with easy answers.

I have never trusted easy answers.  I know that easy answers are not always wrong; but, I must test them several times over to ensure they are right before accepting them.

In matters such as these, however, the easy answers are hardly (if ever) the right ones.

I remember one of my students asking if there would be any hard questions on the exam.  I simply replied, a bit facetiously, “No, the questions will be simple enough; but, the answers may be more challenging.”

In fact, that is what we have here.  The questions come quick and easy.  The answers, however, are a bit more challenging.

Again, I distrust easy answers.  This is the main reason I rejected atheism, after living about two years of my life as a practical atheist:  its answers, for me, were too easy.

I do believe God is sovereign.  I do believe God is benevolent.  I do believe God is omnipotent.

Do I believe God could have stopped this tragedy from happening?  Yes.  Do I believe God could have saved those children and adults who lost their lives in Moore, OK?  Yes.  Do I believe God is less today for not doing so?  No.

I believe this world is in a fallen state.  I believe this fallen-ness not only impacts us spiritually, but physically as well.  I believe this world is awaiting its redemption; until then, it is groaning in anticipation.

Simply put, bad and horrific things happen to good people.  Tornadoes fall from the sky, touch down on a spot of earth and proceed to devour a community and blow its hopes and dreams to kingdom come.  All sorts of disasters and pestilences and the like happen all too frequently.

That is the world in which we live.  Could God prevent it?  Yes.  Does he usually do so?  The answer would seem to be no.  (Although, I would add he may prevent more than we will ever know.)  But, it does seem, based on life and experience, these things happen because that’s the way the world operates in its present form.

Until the day of redemption, such sad happenings will continue to be a part of our narrative.  The pain will continue.  But, the hope given to us in Christ, tells us it will not always be so.  One day things like tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, starvation, diseases, senseless violence, and the like will be brought to an end.

Until that day, we must pray for those affected.  We must lend our hearts and our hands to them.  We must count each day as precious.  We must, while there is still time, be grateful and thankful for the blessings God has given.  Blessings like: family, children, homes, communities, safety, mundane days, running water, electricity, a warm bed.

During such times, after such tragedy, giving any answer is probably premature.  There is a time for answers and there is a time for action.  I remember after 9/11, someone asked on a panel, “Where was God?” A pastor passionately replied, (paraphrasing), “He was there in the first-responders.  He was there in the firefighters who ran into the towers to rescue people.  He was in the hugs and tears and prayers at ground zero.”

Again, for those today who find themselves without homes, or especially without loved ones, my heart and my prayers go out to them.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16.33)

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7 Comments

Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Grace in the Everyday

 

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7 responses to “O Wind, That Sings so Loud a Song . . .

  1. muggleinconverse

    May 25, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    This whole post was extremely interesting to me. You say that the more simple an explanation is, the harder it is for you to accept. This thought process is the exact opposite of my own. In fact, the concept of Occam’s razor states that the easiest explanation is usually the right one. The more complex or convoluted an answer, the more proof it requires. The concept of a deity is nothing if not complex.

    Even when I take the idea of original sin or a “fallen” world at face value, I have serious reservations with the implications. As I said in the blog you commented on, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any human that would allow others to suffer if they could prevent it, especially in the case of natural disasters. I think the idea of God requiring a blood sacrifice from his son and then continuing to wait for generations while his creation suffers puts his authority as a moral law giver in severe jeopardy.

    I also think it is terribly wrong to give God credit for the work of first responders and volunteers. To act as though humans can do no good on their own is to completely underestimate your own species. Not to mention the fact that if God can be present for the recovery, I still have a problem with him not preventing the actual disaster.

    I don’t doubt God’s existence because of evil or bad weather. I just don’t think it helps the case of any of the supposedly benevolent deities. I know you mentioned you didn’t care for the comments section as a back and forth the last time we talked. I enjoy the platform because others can join in but if you do want to talk and wish to do so privately, feel free to email me at muggleinconverse@gmail.com.

    Hope to hear from you soon,
    Muggle

     
    • Timothy Murray

      May 26, 2013 at 9:36 am

      Hi Muggle and welcome! I don’t know if Muggle is a good description or not, you are a mother I believe, so I know you have some magic up your sleeve somewhere! I will give a reply to your post, hopefully later today or tomorrow.
      I’m in a rush right now and I didn’t want you to think I was ignoring you. So, I will go ahead and put your reply up and I will get back to you the first chance I get.

       
    • Timothy Murray

      May 27, 2013 at 8:22 am

      Okay, I have a couple of minutes to reply (I am with the family today for the holiday). First, I would say much of what I meant by “easy” answers was the idea of “trite” answers. So, I would differentiate between “simple” and “easy” in this case. The thrust of my comments was in regards to trite or shallow answers.
      I agree that almost any human, if he/she had the ability, would have stopped the tragedy from happening. However, I do not see this as a sufficient proof for God’s non-existence. To say God could have stopped it, but didn’t; therefore, God does not exist, I think is a jump in logic. It may be that because he didn’t stop it brings up some difficult questions; but, it does not in and of itself disprove his existence.
      One of the mistakes I think that is often made in this line of argumentation is how we think of God. Whether we think of him as a reality or hypothetically. The error is that we often think of God as being like us only a little better, or wiser, or holier, or higher or whatever. This is categorically wrong. The thinking “God is like us only . . . ” is a false assumption. God is wholly-other. So, to prescribe to him X actions based on what a majority of humans would do is a false conclusion.
      I am not saying this removes all the obstacles someone may face in coming to accept God’s existence. I understand there are still troubling implications that persist. But, again, none of this disproves God’s existence.
      Part of this is that we can’t have our cake and eat it too. If God created this world and he placed within it full-functioning free human agents, who had the choice to obey or disobey, then the consequences (of either decision) must be played out. So, we can’t have a world of free human agents, who have disobeyed God and rebelled against him, and also have a world free of all suffering and problems. God could have created a world and populated it with androids or morally-bound humans or autobots or whatever else, in which case, perhaps, there would be a world with no suffering; but also one of no free agents. Which is it going to be?
      Part of that “human dignity” that you appreciate is the aspect of free-agency and with that the consequences that this freedom brought upon the world.
      I could say much more here, for example, I could discuss this in regards to the suzerain-vassal treaty structure of Gen. 1-2 and its implications on this topic; also, Rom. 8 where Paul comments on the “groaning of creation” for God to set all things right . . . etc.
      For now though, I must go and feed the kids! I will try to reply to some of the other issues you brought up in your reply to my post. I do appreciate the dialogue and conversation. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and willingness to discuss these issues.
      You are welcome to post any time.
      May God bless,
      Timothy

       
      • muggleinconverse

        May 27, 2013 at 4:20 pm

        I hope you had a nice holiday. 🙂

        I don’t think that what I spoke about is proof of non-existence. I just meant that an existent deity’s non-action would imply a lack of omnibenevolence in my view. I don’t think I’ll ever argue for God’s non-existence, I think the burden of proof lies with believers, not atheists.

        You say that thinking of God as like us is categorically incorrect. Later on, you referenced the first couple of chapters of Genesis. When I first read that you thought that the idea of thinking of God as similar to us being wrong, I immediately thought of Genesis 1:26-27. I do hope you’ll elaborate since these verses make quite a point of saying that humans were made in God’s image. Not only that, but God certainly displays very human traits throughout the Bible. He is said to be loyal and loving, as well as jealous, angry, and full of wrath. (He is also said to be just and compassionate which is kind of oxymoronic but I digress there.)

        Ah, free will. That’s a whole other ball game. Science hasn’t reached a consensus and believers still argue about whether God knows someone is damned or not before they are even born. Still, the idea of an all-powerful deity only being able to redeem mankind via blood sacrifice is unimpressive and repulsive. Not to mention the fact that he could have simply decided that he didn’t have to sacrifice part of himself (to himself?) since he is said to be the law giver.

         
      • Timothy Murray

        May 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm

        Hi Muggle, I had a great holiday weekend and I hope you did as well.

        I have not been able to answer your questions as quickly as I would like. I am self-employed and things have been very busy as late. I actually had to force myself to take about 10 minutes earlier today and post an article.

        I have a couple of minutes right now before putting my daughter to bed.

        So, do you consider yourself an agnostic or atheist? I know many of the “new atheists” have attempted to redefine atheism in terms of agnosticism. I must admit I find the new atheistic writings to be severely lacking. I find the old guys, so to speak, to be far more competent and logical. But, be that as it may, if you define atheism in terms of agnosticism, I must disagree with that definition.

        I understand why modern or new atheist are trying to redefine the terms. But, I think atheism is still the proposition for the non-existence of God or gods.

        As for the burden of proof to be with believers, I think there is much that could be said for that. Though, simply giving a logical equation for proof of God’s existence is really quite simple to do. (For that matter so is proving the negative of that.) I know many claim it is impossible to “prove” a negative, in terms of laws of logic, this is simply untrue.

        Yes, I thought you would raise a question in regards to God being categorically different and the passages in the early part of Genesis. In short, you did not let me down. That God is categorically different is a matter of ontology. One of the essential propositions of Christianity is that God is wholly-other . . . it is, to use Buber’s wording, the I-Thou relationship.

        As for the Imago-Dei passage in Genesis, it is crucial to understand the linguistic, cultural, and contextual setting of that pericope. Genesis chapters one and two are set in the form of a second millennium BC Hittite treaty form. It is a Suzerain-vassal treaty. In this structure, God (as Creator and Sovereign) is the Suzerain and invests the first man and woman as royalty (prince and princess) over his creation. The imago-dei is an important part of this “royalty” transference. Whereas God is Royalty in his own right and by his own being (again, ontology); the royal status of Adam and Eve (and, by extension all humankind) is a derived lordship. This is part of the imago-dei, or at least I believe it is. Is there more to it, yes I would say there is.

        I don’t find the classical attributes of God to be oxymoronic; paradoxical? maybe. That he is said to be both just and compassionate doesn’t violate any logical rule that I’m aware. In fact, we can see examples of such traits in human interaction as well. The hesed of YHWH is an overriding attribute.

        The issue with blood sacrifice seems minimal to me when we rightly understand its intent and purpose. Again, context is crucial to the discussion. I again espouse a progressive view of God’s dealing with humankind. That God works progressively in Heilsgeschichte (salvation history) is evident from the biblical witness. You may object to this notion, to God binding himself to cultural mores and standards; yet, in fact, I believe that is exactly what he has done. I dare say many would object if he had done otherwise. They would have lashed out that God wasn’t playing fair, that he was expecting more from humans than they could bear and the like. It almost becomes a Catch-22 of God is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

        Yes, blood sacrifice and offerings do seem barbaric to us. However, in the cultural context of the day it was a very much accepted part of life. Nothing more out of the norm for them as for us going to the market or buying a burger at McDonald’s. That God did not allow for human sacrifice, though, this too was common, is a real key to his progressing his people forward.

        I could say more to that, but I will leave it for now.

        As for free moral agency, yes you are right, science has reached no consensus on the issue, (neither have philosophers for that matter). I would argue, theologically, there is a difference between the teaching of predestination (“damning” as you say) and determinism. Of course, you are right, there are quite a few views on this matter. However, most will agree (notice I said most!), in theological terms, that humankind was created as free moral agents. This is pivotal to the unfolding of the witness of the “fall” of humanity and God’s redemptive plan.

        If God was truly oxymoronic, he would offer grace and then require that we die as a blood sacrifice for our own sins. In some ways, this may even seem a more logical thing to do. Though, I think for most, it is an uncomfortable thought.

        Well, Muggle, you have caused me to be on a little longer than I expected! My daughter has enjoyed the extra time however, as she never seems to tire of Henry Hugglemonster and Jake and the Neverland Pirates!

        I know you will have much to say in response. I do appreciate your willingness to converse and interact. I hope you have a good night.

        God bless,
        Timothy

         
      • muggleinconverse

        June 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm

        Sorry it has taken me so very long to get back to you. My daughter has been home sick this week and so blogging in general has been on the back burner.

        I know that I have read a lot of people’s definitions of atheist vs agnostic. You could probably google the definition and get a dozen different views. I consider myself an atheist because I do not believe that a god exists and have never seen proof to change my mind. The question of whether or not one can prove a negative usually gets philosophical pretty fast, which I don’t care for. Do you think of the god concept as a falsifiable one? If so, what would convince you there is no God?

        I think it may be a bit unrealistic to say that it is essential to Christianity that God be “wholly-other” simply because so many Christian teachings that I have come across emphasize the “in his image” message. God’s human-like traits and emotions are shown to us again and again throughout the Bible so I see no reason to doubt our similarities. I don’t see why he would need to be described in such humane terms if Genesis was just saying that as imagery for our soverignty over Earth.

        Justice is defined as fair and reasonble; compassion is defined as having pity for others. You may balance the two, but you cannot do both perfectly at the same time. I don’t know that I would call God’s kindness an overriding attribute. A lot of instances where he shows compassion come in the midst of murder and anger.

        You’re right, I find the notion that an all-powerful God couldn’t think of a better solution than blood sacrifice (and demanding ritual blood sacrifices) to be unsatisfying. If he couldn’t convince the people of those times of a better way, then he isn’t all-powerful if you ask me. And if he didn’t think it was worth the trying, well, I find that supremely unethical.
        I’m confused. Do you believe that God had the whole thing planned from the start? Meaning, Adam and Eve were always going to “fall” and he was already planning the drawn out redemption of humanity? If so, why is it so pivitol? He’s all-powerful, right? (This is quite a sticking point with me, though I imagine you’ve noticed that.)

        Well, we may not call it a blood sacrifice and the Bible doesn’t tell us to commit suicide but we do all die. We all die when apparently he could stop it, could have stopped it generations ago. If that isn’t a blood sacrifice, what is?

        Hope you’re having a good day!
        Muggle

         
      • Timothy Murray

        June 4, 2013 at 8:17 pm

        Hi Muggle, good to hear from you again. I don’t have much time right now, but I wanted to give a quick reply. I will try to reply more in depth to your reply in the next day or two.
        I do hope and pray your daughter is better now. I will be praying for her. I hope all else is well and the rest of the family is healthy and able.
        Until then,
        Timothy

         

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