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"Does God cause earthquakes?"


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#41 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 11:37 PM

What I have written so far allows for the traditional interpretation of the earthquake in Constantinople in 740. Yet in accepting that interpretation, we are not obliged to interpret all earthquakes or all suffering the same way. Certainly sin is the ultimate cause of all suffering, and so all suffering may be viewed as “righteous chastisement” for our sins. But that’s not the only way to look at things, and looking at things only in that way tends to cast God in the role of an angry and unloving mountain deity who demands propitiation and punishes people inequitably, heaping heartbreaks on the humble while coddling the proud in comfort.

We as Christians, schooled in the Holy Wisdom, should be able to make more sense of things. We should be able to tell those who suffer something more than that God is punishing them for their sins. We should be able to explain why some suffer and some don’t, and why the good sometimes suffer more than the wicked. The lesson of 740, all by itself, isn’t often enough.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

#42 Paul Cowan

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 11:53 PM

Yes, Fr. Raphael, you are of course correct. I was taking issue with the current state of affairs in the world and the industrialized world has raped it and caused the earthquake.

Sin due to the fall and the fallen world has broken everything and we are subject to that brokenness. Nothing in the turn of the century has caused this event to occur. Sin throughout the millenias has. It's like saying the world has warmed 1/2 of one degree in the past century and we are all going to die if we don't go "green". The world is actually cooling these past 15 years and we are still going to die if we don't go "green". Nothing in a short time frame will cause massive change. Massive change occurs over a long time period. China did not grow to 4 billion people over night. This earthquake did not either. forces were acting on it via the cosmic nature of sin through the forces of gravity to cause the damage.

I don't think I can express myself well enough here. modern man though he may be more sinful than man of antiquity did not cause this earthquake. The fall of man of from antiquity and modern man's participation in sin has allowed the brokenness of the cosmos to manifest itself in this earthquake.

Paul

#43 Evan

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 01:28 AM

AP:Religious Haitians Say Earthquake Was God Asking for Change


Deeply religious Haitians see the hand of God in the destruction of Biblical proportions visited on their benighted country. The quake, religious leaders said Sunday, is evidence that He wants change.

Exactly what change He wants depends on the faith: Some Christians say it's a sign that Haitians must deepen their faith, while some Voodoo followers see God's judgment on corruption among the country's mostly light-skinned elite.

And then there's American evangelist Pat Robertson, who said Wednesday that Haiti had been cursed by a pact he said its slave founders made with the devil two centuries ago to overthrow their French rulers and become the world's first black republic. The White House called his remarks "stupid."

As desperate believers gathered to pray Sunday across the shattered capital, the Rev. Eric Toussaint told a congregation gathered outside the ruined cathedral that the earthquake "is a sign from God, saying that we must recognize his power."
Haitians, he said, "need to reinvent themselves, to find a new path to God."

Some followers of Voodoo, practised alongside Roman Catholicism by the vast majority of Haitians, said the devastation of key symbols of power was punishment for corrupt leaders who have allowed the mostly light-skinned elite to enrich themselves while the black majority suffers.

"If all of a sudden, in 15 seconds, 20 seconds, all the physical representations of corruption are destroyed, it gives you pause for thought," said Richard Morse, a renowned Haitian-American musician whose mother was a singer and revered Voodoo priestess. "The Justice Ministry: down. The National Palace: down. The United Nations headquarters: down."
Unharmed by the quake was the famed bronze statue, "Le Maron Inconnu" — "the Unknown Escaped Slave" — noted Morse, who owns the Oloffson Hotel featured in Graham Greene's novel "The Comedians."

The destruction of every major Catholic church in the capital, including the 81-year-old cathedral, also was a sign, he said: "When there is all this corruption going on, whose role is it in society to speak out? Isn't the Church supposed to say something?"

Most Haitians are Christian — largely Catholic with a small but growing number of Protestants. But most also practice Voodoo, which along with Catholicism is an official state religion.

Several people were seen issuing apocalyptic warnings on the streets Sunday, including a man standing in front of the collapsed National Palace shouting: "Redeem yourselves! The end of the world is near!"

But Morse noted that Haitians are already very religious. His countrymen may suffer many ills, but "when it comes to spiritual strength, Haiti is one of the richest nations in the world."

#44 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 02:29 AM

I submit that the judgment that God caused this earthquake to punish the Haitians is a judgment best made by the Haitians themselves. So I return to my first words on this thread: We who are not Haitians have no way of knowing whether God caused this earthquake to punish them and should instead regard it as a not-unusual occurrence of a fallen and therefore disordered world.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 18 January 2010 - 03:18 AM.


#45 Evan

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 02:38 AM

I submit that the judgment that God caused this earthquake to punish the Haitians is a judgment best made by the Haitians themselves. The rest of us should judge it to be a not-unusual occurrence of a fallen and therefore disordered world.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick



Father, bless:

I did not intend to imply otherwise. Yet surely we can hope and pray that these suffering people continue to hope and pray?

In Christ,
Evan

#46 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 03:24 AM

Pardon me, Evan. I didn't mean to suggest that your were implying anything, but other participants in this discussion seemed to have argued in the direction of the quake as a special judgment on the Haitians or someone else. I think we should reserve judgment and, as you say, hope and pray.

Thanks for the article.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

#47 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 08:37 AM

Presumably, we have as much of an issue with geologists as we have with Darwinians.

#48 Alice

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 11:37 AM

I think that journalists that write articles such as the one a few posts above, need to be careful with the term 'religious'. Any Christian, Orthodox or Catholic, no matter how 'religious' in their Christian faith, who also practices, entertains, or delves into the black arts such as the Haitians do, is cavorting with demons and the devil and is jeopardizing his immortal soul. Period.

Never the less, I pray with all my heart that after this horror, which I pray will be alleviated quickly, that the Haitian people will turn to Christ in a pure way, unadulterated by cavorting with demons, and resist and rebuke the occult, and the voodoo which many there have embraced and which has dominated the lives of so many of them. What has happened to them is so very sad and heartbreaking. But for the grace of God go any of us. However, I admit that I have always found their fascination with demons equally sad and heartbreaking, as well as very frightening.

I thought this was interesting, since African voodoo is the same voodoo practiced in Haiti. (this is not an Orthodox source, but it was an excellent book)

From the book by Father Gabriel Amorth, 'An Exorcist Tells His Story':

In voodoo, the androgynous snake Danbhalah and Aida Wedo guides its followers with a surety and precision that gives stunning results at any hour of the day and night. This snake claims to know all the secrets of the Creator Verb through the "magic language", whose power is increased by sacred music. This is Haitian magic, which together with the original African and the imorted South American magic (particularly from Brazil) called "macumbe" has great evil power. I have already mentioned that the toughest curses I have ever exorcised came either from Brazil or Africa.



In Christ our Lord and Saviour,
Alice

Edited by Alice, 18 January 2010 - 12:07 PM.


#49 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 01:47 PM

Fr Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell wrote:

Certainly sin is the ultimate cause of all suffering, and so all suffering may be viewed as “righteous chastisement” for our sins. But that’s not the only way to look at things, and looking at things only in that way tends to cast God in the role of an angry and unloving mountain deity who demands propitiation and punishes people inequitably, heaping heartbreaks on the humble while coddling the proud in comfort.

We as Christians, schooled in the Holy Wisdom, should be able to make more sense of things. We should be able to tell those who suffer something more than that God is punishing them for their sins. We should be able to explain why some suffer and some don’t, and why the good sometimes suffer more than the wicked. The lesson of 740, all by itself, isn’t often enough.


Thanks for your comments Father.

But to be fair we should distinguish between a chastisement for 'our sins' and a chastisement for 'their sins'. Even the understanding of chastisement receives considerable nuance from most.

What most understand by "God's punishment for their sins" (the wording as found in St Nikolai's Prologue) is God calling us to repentance with the catastrophe serving as the loud wake up call.

Again I tend to see these things as being similar to social cataclysms. Thus not so many years before the Russian revolution of 1917, very, very few Russians had even heard of Lenin. The Bolshevik party was of almost zero influence. And yet the faint shock waves caused by the thoughts and actions of this one person cascaded into a tidal wave of conscious death and destruction that makes Haiti seem almost benign in contrast. Historical interpretations aside (for the details of this are not my point) here again we see that phenomenon which occurs on both the natural & social plane. Little or very little is noticed by most- only those with their ears to the ground (and these prophetic ones are very few in every generation) hear the warning rumblings. And they warn their people (something we overlook in our feeling that God is harsh) ...but their voices are not heard in the noise and distraction. Of course it could be asked what the similarity is here between a possible warning of social & natural catastrophe. No- we don't at all mean scientific warnings or forecasts. Rather we mean Christian sensitivity to reality in general, that true we do not know when the event is coming...but how is it that we are not aware as Christians that we from our own sin have inclined the total environment towards a catastrophe or wake up call? Aren't we liable to the accusation of willful blindness? And when later generations look to the unexpected catastrophe that occurred and accuse God or whomever of unfeeling meanness was it correct to overlook the state of uncaring sin that we lived in as if it was of no effect?

Thus I believe that we are very much called to be aware and awake (not paranoid) to the consequence of our sin. Yes- sin arrives at our doorways in ways in which we can prevent it from entering. But at times sin also arrives in an overwhelming way and far beyond our means to do anything else than to endure, be patient and to learn.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#50 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 02:16 PM

Our church has an Orthodox mission in Haiti of about 2000 people. I personally know one of the priests who serve this mission; our parish over the years has sent the mission donations of various kinds. During the recent disaster our church/clergy lists have also kept us up to date with announcements as to who is missing and who has been found. Add to this the fact that Canada (mainly in Quebec where I grew up where the first language is French) has a large and known Haitian community (thus the media as well as gov't involvement is very intense right now) and this means that I personally have an involvement in this tragedy and consequent sorrow.

But for all this I really do not believe that those who do not have such a level of involvement have not the ability to discern as to the meaning of God's providence. Nor do I believe that it is correct to expect that they should not probe with burning questions about God's providence. This surely is not right for even a child asks 'why' when it sees someone else suffer. This is part of being human after all which by that very fact draws us into one community. So all the more is this so for Christians who are consequently drawn together as one in Christ and then naturally seek how God relates to us His children. Shared humanity gives insights that go beyond the need for an identical experience.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#51 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 02:44 PM

Thank you, Father Raphael, for your insight. What you say makes great sense. For the sake of perspective, I'll offer these words from Luke 14:

1There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
4Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.


Of course, the perishing Christ means is not the death of the body, but the damnation of the soul and the body, for we shall all die in this body, and the reason and occasion for our dying is not always or only that God is punishing particular sins or making an example of us for others.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

#52 Anna Stickles

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Posted 19 January 2010 - 02:01 AM

I've really benefited from catching up on this thread. Particularly Fr David's and Fr Raphael's remarks.

the reason and occasion for our dying is not always or only that God is punishing particular sins or making an example of us for others.

I think you are looking at this backwards. The reason for our dying is always sin, whether ours personally or corporately. But this is not a case of God "deciding to make an example of someone" this would indeed would be cruel. However, that does not mean that we should not look at history and take examples and lessons from it and interpret in light of knowing how God deals with people. This latter certainly has precedent in Tradition.

I found ran across this quote in II Maccabees a couple of weeks ago and it stuck in my mind and I thought it might be relevant here.

"Now I urge those who read this book not be discouraged by these calamaties but to recognize that these punishments were for the discipline of our people, but not for their destruction. For it is an act of great kindness for the Lord not to allow our people to act ungodly for long, but to punish them immediately. But the Lord does not act the same way with other nations. He waits patiently until they attain the completion of their sins, then punishes them. Thus He does not judge us in this way, so as to take vengeance on us afterwards when we have reached the end of our sinning. For this very reason He never withdraws His mercy from us." 6:12-16

Just historically we can see that no culture has lasted, but has at last filled up their sins and brought God's judgement on themselves. (No doubt our time will come, but maybe God is waiting till the Church is strong enough to provide a shelter through it. I think it no accident that Russia had 100 years of revival before the Communists came to power.)
But I like how the verse above shows how God deals differently with His own people because He knows that His judgements will be provoke repentance. Although even in the case of Ninevah, when Jonah preached to them and they repented God delayed His judgement several hundred years till they had hardened themselves to the point of no return.

When Michael and I were in college our church supported a missionary from Haiti and his report was similiar to what Alice said. The spiritual atmosphere there was dark, full of oppression and fear. And historically the Haitian slaves did hold a big ceremony making a pact with one of their important spirits promising to serve him if he would free them. Reports say that approx 80% of the population follows the Haitian spiritualist religion - which has Catholic elements mixed in but which is not Christian at all but full of fear and superstition. But maybe this disaster and the attention it brings will open a door to more Christian influence. And certainly the elders of the Church while speaking of the waves of sin also speak of the waves of good will that can be passed around. How many people have had some compassion awakened in them, who otherwise would have remained cold and indifferent? How many Haitians will have some thankfulness stirred in their hearts who otherwise would have lived in indifference and despair? This cannot fail to have some good effect.

Sorry if these thoughts are a bit random.

#53 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 19 January 2010 - 03:26 AM

Anna,

No one is saying that sin is not the cause of suffering, but some of us (or perhaps only me) are warning that it is not so easy to say that a particular sin is the cause of a particular suffering. Sometimes the cause and effect might seem obvious to the discerning, but most times it is not so obvious, and if we only understand suffering in terms of immediate cause and immediate effect, we will be tempted to assume an essentially superstitious regard for "acts of God," always wondering what those who suffer did to deserve their punishment. My citation from Luke 14 speaks to that point.

Your citation from II Maccabees illustrates one way in which the Jews just prior to the Incarnation were attempting to understand their own suffering. I would caution that their perspective, on the far side of the Incarnation, is somewhat wanting (an understatement) and that while there is some truth to what was written, it misses the bigger picture. The bigger picture is that the fall has thrown material creation into disorder, and the good and the bad alike suffer amid that disorder. In the resurrection, once we are all reunited with God through Christ, we will be able, as the God-like link between Creator and creation, to restore order to world. Then there will be no earthquakes.

After all that has been said, the fundamental difference I see here in this discussion is between those who believe that God allows creation some freedom to misbehave and those who see creation's misbehavior only as acts of God. The former see God as intervening on occasion to cause or prevent suffering; the latter assume that all suffering is instigated by God in response to the particular sins of those He causes to suffer. I count myself among the former.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

#54 Owen

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Posted 19 January 2010 - 03:58 AM

God causes earthquakes in the sense that He has created Earth in such a manner that they will happen from time to time. He did not proactively will the Fall, but programmed the consequences of the Fall; likewise, He does not put a limit on our freedom of will, but does program the consequences of the choices we make. I take this to be implied in what Jesus said in Luke 15.

#55 Gloria

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Posted 19 January 2010 - 04:30 AM

Maybe I should have described the tenor of the questions differently. "Did God cause THIS earthquake?"

No.

I do not believe God causes natural disasters anymore than I believe that God makes one man rich and another poor (monetarily speaking).

Earthquakes will occur anywhere within the earth where there is sufficient stored elastic energy. I live on the San Andrea's fault, Pacific side, moving toward San Francisco at the rate of 3 inches per year. However, one day the fault will give one giant heave-ho and we will have one massive earthquake here. Not by God's hand, but by the natural forces of nature.

#56 Owen

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Posted 19 January 2010 - 06:54 AM

I'm on the same side of that fault. "And we shall all go together when we go."

#57 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 19 January 2010 - 09:55 AM

God does not cause earthquakes. God is perfect and He does not cause imperfections. God creates harmony and love.
.


Absolutely Nina!

Many years ago I read something that made a great impression on me. A true story.

A pious man, not Orthodox, spent 1/2 hr each morning in stillness, waiting to hear God's voice. He speaks to us but we have so many other concerns that we just don't listen. This man had learnt over the years to absolutely trust the voice of God inside him.

On holiday one year, a huge fire broke out in the hotel he was staying in. He was trapped in his room on the 4th or 5th floor of the hotel. He was scared and wanted to jump out the window as so many other people were doing. But he had learnt to trust the voice of God and it was telling him to wait. He panicked a couple of times, especially when his room started to fill with smoke but he put his trust in God. When he was barely able to breathe the voice told him to step onto the sill of the window. He did and at that moment he saw a fire department ladder coming towards him. Up to now there had been nothing. It was just a little lower than his window sill and he was able, with the help of the firefighters, to jump down. Coincidence?

Bad things happen but if we learn to listen to God's voice within us, and if it is God's will, we will survive.

What kind of God do we believe in? What kind of God would sentence children to lingering deaths under tons of rubble? No God that I know.


Rather, blame Haiti's corrupt governments and the exploitation of this country by other more powerful nations who have used it as some sort of cheap labour supply, taking money out of the country instead of investing in it's economy. The emergency services in this country are poor. Building codes are non-existent. Of course with an earthquake of this size even earthquake resistant buildings would collapse, but I believe that the damage might have been less if they had been built to withstand earthquakes. Hundreds of people died unnecessarily because Haiti did not have the means to save them.

Some information about Haiti http://static.rnw.nl...4doc-redirected

What is encouraging is that millions of people around the world have dug deep into their pockets to help, even though they are in the midst of an economic crisis. Of course, what we consider economic difficulties must seem ridiculous to these people who are the poorest in the Western Hemisphere.

The true heroes of our age are the brave young men who risk their lives by digging through rubble to find survivors. Our EKAB (National Emergency Services Centre) teams are our pride. These men sacrifice their lives for others.

God bless all the volunteers from so many countries who are in Haiti helping these poor people.

Effie

Edited by Effie Ganatsios, 19 January 2010 - 10:03 AM.
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#58 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 19 January 2010 - 01:50 PM

I appreciate a lot of these comments. I hadn't given enough thought to God's providence as it relates to us personally. We should keep this in mind in relation to catastrophes since we already try to keep it in mind according to what befalls us individually.
The insight on cause & effect is certainly correct as far as what most of us can see. It is in this one area that I feel that the greatest temptation lies.
I also appreciate the comments on the consequence of our choices and the relation to freedom of will. This is so fundamental to our understanding of man's effect on creation in a cosmic sense. God's providence then surely works in relation to this freedom of ours and also to the consequences that we have on His creation.

Probably a more careful choice of words is needed though when it comes to 'God does not cause earthquakes.' This is at risk of making a true point but of missing another one. For on the one hand God obviously is not the cause of death; but yet He most certainly does arrange death so that it acts as the cessation of sin. This is pointed out continuously through the Fathers; it is a major point of Christ's crucifixion; and is referred to continuously throughout our memorial and funeral services.

Where our anger comes in though I think is due to the finality of death. This no one in their right mind could calmly take or accept as loving. However what we need to keep in mind is that God has taken death and made it one of the chief doorways to life so that death is no longer a hallway with no doors leading out from it.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#59 Eric Peterson

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Posted 19 January 2010 - 07:48 PM

I think we tend, too often, to look at suffering in a temporal way. We're finite, and cannot see what God gives to those who have suffered on this earth patiently and with faith. We cannot see, either, what God's providence has planned, mysteriously, for everyone, and how the events of this life echo in eternity.

It's well-meaning to say that the God we know does not cause, for example, children to suffer. That would seem to us to be sadistic and cruel. So, we put the cause of this suffering elsewhere. I think, though, that this is a bit like putting God in a box. Nothing happens without God. We worship a God who endured suffering and death as part of His own will, in order to save mankind. I remember the holy fathers writing that we must understand passages of Scripture speaking, fore example, of God's wrath or judgment in a God-befitting way. We look at God too much in a human way. While the Word became flesh, He still remained God.

I remember some of the holy fathers writing about suffering, and saying it was a gift from God. Should we accept the good gifts He gives only, and reject the painful ones? they would ask. While suffering and catastrophe are painful, they are not at all outside of God's providence and saving will.

I remember reading, also, this saying--that there are two kinds of suffering--that endured because of sin, and that endured innocently. The innocent who suffer, suffer with Christ. And the guilty who suffer, receive forgiveness--like the Wise Thief.

I think, maybe, that this earthquake occurred for the same reason others have--and that reason is, fundamentally, a mystery. But, as a nun told me, no one goes before his time--God takes each person when he is ready to go. Chaos does not rule the world, God does.

We have a God who desires our salvation and healing. For this purpose, the Physician uses means which, while painful and mysterious, are effective for His purpose. And the end result we will know fully only on that last day. A cure might involve tears, but our Physician is the one who will wipe every tear away. And, as if that were not enough, He has provided His Holy Mother and the Saints for our aid as well. And we know from their lives the sufferings they also endured--but suffering with a purpose, even if that purpose was only revealed after their deaths.

#60 Anna Stickles

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Posted 20 January 2010 - 01:47 AM

This no one in their right mind could calmly take or accept as loving.
In Christ- Fr Raphael


I don't know. I think that if we truly accepted that death is given by God to us as His personal and loving will there is no anger, even without knowing whether it leads to life. Perfect faith is when God's will is seen as good in and of itself apart from what it may dish out to us. Christ was not angry at being called to die, and I think this was not merely because He knew He could not die, but because of His perfect love for and trust in the Father. Perfect love bears all things, perfect trust questions nothing but accepts anything even death. One of the most beautiful pictures we have of this is Jephthah's daughter in Judges 11. When she realized that her father had made a vow such that she would have to die she said, "36 "My father, you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised," This was before a belief in the resurrection. (Is she recognized as a saint? I certainly think she should be. This virgin certainly was being saved for the Lord.)

The anger I think always comes in because somewhere in our heart we are accusing God of being unjust and we are doubting that He really loves us. There is so much in our culture (and it has terribly infected the Christians) that teaches us that we are at the mercy of unchangeable, and therefore unjust natural laws that operate wholly apart from any consideration of our individual reality. If we accept the views of science then we must accept that God has given us over to a 'governor' that is wholly uncaring and unmerciful, applying equal injustice to all...except in special cases where an absent God, decides randomly for unknown reasons to intervene via a miracle and show His love or punish something particularly bad. But if this is the view we have we always end up asking, "God why did you intervene there, and not here?" The answer to the question is not to blindly say that God is good in His randomness, but to change our view to one that sees God as always intervening and showing His love. (Thank you Eric for your contribution.)

In the end any view which accepts the precepts of science and assigns final causes to the material creation leads to despair. It is one thing to be powerless in the hands of a loving God, it is another to be powerless in the face of arbitrary and uncaring forces. The heart grows in the former case and dies in the latter.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 20 January 2010 - 02:05 AM.





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