Here’s my simple contention: if you believe God is in control of all, then you are driven to think either (1) that catastrophes are divine judgments or (2) that God has surrendered “control” to cosmic or human forces. When 9/11 occurred, many of us watched with horror, pondered, and prayed, but very few of us had the moxie to think we “knew” what God was doing. When the tsunami devasted the Pacific coastlines, when the earthquake jolted Iran, or when Katrina buckled the knees of New Orleans, was God judging or has God surrendered the world to cosmic forces? Steven Keillor, in his new book God’s Judgments, takes on this theme, takes on Christians for their lack of nerve, critiques “worldview thinking” (more later), and proposes a Christian theory. We’ll look at this book for awhile.
I begin with an admission. 9/11 shook me and I gave a response to a small audience at NPU about “God’s presence in his seeming absence” as we sought answers from under the rubble. I stated in my classes that OT prophets would “know” what was going on; I didn’t. I also yearned — and still yearn — for discernment or a method for knowing how to make meaning of historical events like this. I wanted — maybe you did too — a prophet to stand up and tell us what God was doing, to make meaning out of a horrible event.
I joined left, right, and center in being repulsed by the quick responses of Falwell and Robertson.
But, if we believe God is in control, what can we know? That is the question Keillor asks. Are we afraid to press to the conclusion that our theological logic leads? Do our humility that we might be wrong and the politically-insensitive reality or public discourse combine to silence the Church? Do they eviscerate from the Church a conviction that the Christian faith — with its Old Testament and New Testament sense of history — involves a philosophy of history? Are we surrendering our concept God is control?
Keillor, in three quick chps, shows that the media had theories but none of them had to do with God, that right-wingers and left-wingers as well as centrists were quite confidently united in the view that 9/11 was not a judgment from God, and that the Christian worldview (next week) actually prevents Christians from entering into the biblical sense of God’s control of history and the Christian’s confidence to come to terms, by faith, with what God is doing in history.
The conservative patriot sees markets and military as consistent with God’s design for the USA and that “prophetic cries of judgment” are unacceptable because they are “unpatriotic” (41).
Centrists fear the use of exclusivist religious language will destroy the conversation of democracy.
Leftists, with “its version of the Enlightenment utopian project” seek “a people, idea or force to being justice to history: the proletariat, socialism, science, revolution, diversity, multiculturalism” (43).
Keillor’s question is this one: Why was the nation attacked? He does not seek to answer why specific individuals were in the symbols that the attackers struck.
There has been a yearning for a book like this one to be written; no one seems to want to write it; will anyone agree with it?
NB: I’ve read two chps and the spine has already snapped and pages have begun to fall out; I hope the arguments are more stable.