Devastating bushfires in Victoria. Floods in Queensland. Australia certainly is a country of extremes!
How should we feel about this? What should we say in response?
Should we echo the response of Danny Nalliah’s ‘Catch the Fire Ministries’, which claimed that the bushfires are the direct judgement of God on Victoria for its abortion law reforms?
Surely not! Every pastoral bone in my body cries out against this.
To say that some tragedy is the judgement of God against a particular sin feels callous, arrogant, and high-handed. Hearing this kind of talk gets me all churned up.
Although … to be fair, the confidence underlying it runs in the right direction.
It’s right to be confident that God is good. It’s right to trust that no matter how bad things get, he’s not powerless against evil and suffering. He’s the sovereign Lord.
There even seems to be a general sense in which the Bible forges a link between human sin on the one hand and suffering and evil on the other. Jesus himself suggests as much (Luke 12.58-13.9).
But does this mean that God approves evil? That he’s behind suffering and tragedy? Do we have to think this horrific thought?
Alternatively, are we locked into a kind of schizophrenic flip flop between empathy and a hardline insistence on pinning down the wrath of God?
I’m not sure I have all the answers. But I feel like David Bentley Hart’s work has some real promise — his hostility to Calvinism notwithstanding.
Check out his essay on the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. It’s clear-sighted and deeply compassionate. Read it!