Why God's blessings but not His judgments?

MagnaliaChristi (Tim, w/thanks to Mark K.) John Piper has put just the right point on the presence of God's holiness and wrath in this present world. Here's his blog post on the rogue tornado that struck the Lutherans meeting in Minneapolis at the very hour they were to undertake the legitimization of sodomy.

Read the comments and you'll find John excoriated for making such a boringly Biblical point. Why are insurance companies permitted to call earthquakes and floods "acts of God" while pastors are denied this privilege? No pastor dare open the mind of God in notorious judgments, and yet he is expected to open the mind of God in blessings and may lose his job if he refuses.

"God has blessed America with peace within our borders, and the greatest prosperity the world has ever seen; God bless America, now and always. Amen."

We've all heard a superabundance of such statements made by believers and pastors without a single protest that "this or that pastor claims to know the mind of God in speaking of God's blessings."

Who would ever object to the specific declaration of God's blessing? I've never heard anyone claim God's blessings are inscrutable.

But His judgments? Oh my, yes.

When it comes to blessings and grace and mercy, men speak with omniscience concerning God's will and agency, but when it comes to God's judgments, somehow everything becomes inscrutable and the man who dares to interpret those "acts of God' is a monster.

We all need to read Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, or The Great Works of Christ in America, Book VI, titled, "A Faithful Record of Many Illustrious, Wonderful, Providences, Both of Mercies and Judgments on Divers Persons in New England--In Eight Chapters."

While acknowledging the caution that must be exercised in the interpreting of God's providences, good and bad, lest we take the Name of the Lord our God in vain, Mather goes on to list God's providences, blessings and judgments. And doing so, he's boringly normal across all Church history.

Consider, for instance, his two sermons titled, "Terribilia Dei: Remarkable Judgments of God, On Several Sorts of Offenders, in Several Scores of Instances, among the People of New-England: Observed, Collected, Related, and Improved; in Two Sermons, at Boston-Lecture in the Month of July 1697" on this text:

My flesh trembles for fear of You, And I am afraid of Your judgments. (Psalms 119:120)

Two excerpts from these sermons' twenty-six pages:

We are assured in 2Peter 2:9,10, "At the day of judgment shall be punished chiefly they that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness." And it is no rare thing among us to see judgment in this world also overtaking them...

We have seen many, many, many to "die in their youth;" because their life has been among the unclean. We have seen 'em to mourn at the last, when their flesh and their body has been consumed. We have seen 'em getting a wound, and a dishonour, and a reproach that is never wip'd away. It may be, the just God says upon the unclean "Write this person childless." Or, it may be, the Lord says, "I will kill their children with death." Or, 'tis possible, some very miserable disasters have attended their offspring: peccatum seminus punitur in semine (the sin of the seed is punished in the seed)...

And how many young women have been executed among us for murdering their bastard-infants! But, at their execution, this has been their exclamation: "Oh, that all young people would beware of the snares of uncleanness! By continuing in those awful snares, without any speedy repentance, we have been ruined!" One of the first in this land that came to such an end (her name was Martin) had yielded unto a wicked man soliciting her chastity; said, "if ever she were overtaken again, she would leave herself unto (God's) justice to be made an example." She remembered not her vows, but was again overtaken. She conceived, she travailed, she privately destroyed her child, using two several attempts before she could wholly dispatch it. Afterwards ...the murder strangely came to light... She own'd the whole truth, and she dy'd for it...

And:

But our Indian wars are not over yet: We have too far degenerated into Indian vices. The vices of the Indians are these: They are very lying wretches, and they are very lazy wretches, and they are out of measure indulgent unto their children; there is no family government among them. We have shamefully Indianized in all those abominable things. Now, the judgments of God have imploy'd Indian hatchets to wound us, no doubt, for these our Indian vices.

A thousand more such things may occur to a serious observation. Sirs, consider the wondrous works of God.

The hand of God is everywhere, and normally, the man who denies it is telling us more about his own presumption in the face of God's holiness than his own meekness and humility in the face of the sanctity of God's Name and the secret things belonging to Him, alone.

To buy Mather's The Great Works of Christ in America

Comments

This story of the Scarlet Letter woman, is interesting because we had this sort of discussion with Rachel Pierson recently where we were all talking about if God "punishes" his people. Stephen Baker said that the more appropriate word for believers is "disciplines" which I can see but what of the woman recounted above? Truly there is no place for any payment for what is owed in America, and I've wondered at this many times. What would they have done to a man who aided such a woman? Universally what even Christians will say about abortion today is that Earthly punishment is not applicable, but shouldn't it be? Isn't murder at least as bad as, driving without a seat belt?

But yeah, it's "God bless the whole world - no exceptions!" - we can rub the genie in the bottle and he HAS to gives us what we want, like a celestial vending machine since surely we always have correct change.

-Clint

"And how many young women have been executed among us for murdering their bastard-infants! But, at their execution, this has been their exclamation: "Oh, that all young people would beware of the snares of uncleanness! By continuing in those awful snares, without any speedy repentance, we have been ruined!"

Another thing a preacher isn't allowed to say in public today without being excoriated . . . puts in mind a particular, ahem, NYC pastor, doesn't it?

Kamilla

Probably the major reason I'd hesitate to ascribe the tornado to God's judgment since I'm not a prophet. Moreover, I would have to assume that the bigger cause for God's judgment would have been decades ago, when ELCA abandoned the authority of Scripture, started ordaining women, kept ordaining the divorced, and so on.

There is also a problem for ELCA members that dwarfs the issue immediately at hand; they can be almost guaranteed that their shepherd is a hireling. Yikes.

“Bastard” -- now there's a very useful word that has fallen on hard times, though there is much more need of it now than formerly.

Bike, I'm not ascribing this to you necessarily but I think the "I'm not a prophet" mentality has really crippled the church. No pastors want to be responsible for misleading anyone so they also are never responsible enough to lead them anywhere. They stick as closely as possible to their strict doctrine and never veer off, they say that this is good leadership (it is a huge part of good leadership) but you never face any difficult issue because scripture hasn't removed every ounce of risk in your preaching, teaching and leading then you'll virtually never proclaim anything, which is what we're seeing - church becomes the only place people never hear the truth.

-Clint

If we believe in a God whose superintending providence governs every aspect of His creation( and no other God is conceivable) then we are compelled to accept every natural disastor as a species of divine judgement or chastisement. The only alternative is to posit a world of contingency. " Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?"

http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/interpreting-providence/

This well known and highly placed Reformed Theologian says on this subject.

"As I pointed out in those places both as a matter of history and, more fundamentally, as a matter of biblical revelation we are clearly taught not to try to interpret providence. It is a temptation that we must resist. When God has not revealed himself (either explicitly or by “good and necessary inference” from Scripture) we should be silent. The plain fact is that we don’t know why a tornado struck that steeple just at that moment."

> "The plain fact is that we don’t know why a tornado struck that steeple just at that moment."

We certainly don't want to be superstitious when looking at plain facts, or anything.

But like has already been said, people will invariably credit God with any number of good things that happen.

Maybe it was totally random when someone was spared when their car was run over by a 18-wheeler?

Maybe it is just a meaningless coincidence that Obama is president?

> "The hand of God is everywhere, and normally, the man who denies it is telling us more about his own presumption in the face of God's holiness than his own meekness and humility in the face of the sanctity of God's Name and the secret things belonging to Him, alone."

In Presumption We Trust

> "...we are clearly taught not to try to interpret providence. It is a temptation that we must resist."

This would require us to rebuke anyone who presumes to call anything a miracle of God. Healing from cancer, whatever.

When hurricane Katrina struck, one of my daughters( then seven years old )asked me if God intended to kill those people. She apparently accepted that God had caused the hurricane. When I told her that nothing comes to pass that God has not foreordained, she asked "did those people deserve to die"? I answered " yes sweetheart, and so do we. So let us be grateful that it didn't happen here." I get the impression that my seven year old daughter understands God's providence better than your reformed theologian.

>>This well known and highly placed Reformed Theologian says on this subject.

Dear Brett,

First, I think your introductory comment isn't helpful. Scott Clark teaches men preparing for pastoral ministry and writes to instruct the church in various venues. Reading your introduction, I thought you were referring to someone who's stood the test of history, so I was surprised to end up simply at a seminary teacher's blog. Possibly others were not misled, but I was. (I clicked through the link before reading the final sentence of the quote, by the way.)

Second, do you really think all our church fathers who have done what John here did were wrong? I take Scott's argument to be an abuse of Deuteronomy 29:29, resulting in a sort of practical deism that lulls men to spiritual death rather than awakening them to repentance and faith.

Yes, there are dangers to be avoided and safeguards to be observed in this sort of thing, but there are also dangers equally grave in refusing to observe God's present blessings and judgments, or testifying to them in the Assembly.

The esteemed and highly placed theologian, Cotton Mather, gives a superb exposition of those dangers and safeguards in the two sermons I cite above. And having done so, he goes on to testify in the Assembly concerning God's present blessings and judgments--just as thousands of the faithful do in Scripture.

And their doing so is recorded as an example to us today for us to emulate.

To discourage such faithful witnesses is harmful to precious souls and Christian faith.

Love,

* * *

“First, we are to teach the people that all tribulation, not only of the spirit, but also of the body, is sent from God, whether it is poverty or illness, danger to children, peril of possessions, or hunger. God would thereby admonish us and awaken us to penitence. As we read in I Cor. 11 (32): ‘But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world.’

Now it is not enough to know that God sends such experiences. We must also teach that in the midst of these tribulations we are to call upon Him and confidently believe that He will help, as we have explained above in regard to prayer. So God says in Psalm 49 (Psalm 50:15): ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’

-Luther’s Works, Ed. Lehman, Muhlenberg Press/Phil., 1958, Vol. 40, p. 287, “Instructions for the Visitors of Parish Pastors”.

It seems most of those commenting on Scott Clark's blog want to force a confrontation between the ground of God's wrathful providences and the ground of his blessings. So, for instance, one commenter asks what it means that a recent Jehovah's Witness convention in his area had good weather if bad weather in Minneapolis was God's judgment on the ELCA....

The end result of such thinking is a providence (and providence obviously includes creation) rendered opaque rather than the chorus of God's nature and character that Scripture, including the New Testament, declares it.

Clark and his allies may think they win the argument by this trick but it's simply a false dichotomy. They oppose the ground of judgment to the ground of mercy--something that cannot be done by any respecter of Scripture. Disaster is always related to sin. No earthly disaster anywhere ever is unrelated to human sin. We may not always know the specific sin that brings judgment, and in such situations Jesus' statement about the tower of Siloam should teach us not to guess at it, but from Genesis 2 to Revelation 22 Scripture declares that sin and cursing derive from man, not God, yet goodness and blessing derive from God.

Grounding Divine judgment and blessing equally in the inscrutable character of a sovereign God reveals a lack of basic Biblical understanding--and, frankly, a healthy dose of Pelagianism. Though human sin is the cause of Divine judgment, human goodness is not therefore the cause of Divine blessing. Blessing comes from Divine grace and mercy, judgment derives from human sin. Both blessing and judgment are in accord with the character of God, but in the case of judgment, God's character is revealed in response to human sin, in the case of blessing, God's character is revealed in the freedom from any human consideration of His grace.

It may seem consistently logical to say that because blessing and cursing both come from a sovereign God we can't look further into either but must simply accept them. Yet Scripture tells us God is not tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone, but each one is tempted as a result of His own lust; lust gives birth to sin; sin, when full-grown, leads to death.

So, scripturally, we should understand specific sins as the ground of specific deaths but not of specific tornadoes? Not specific earthquakes? Not the burning spire of York Minster three days after David Jenkins is consecrated Bishop of Durham?

This is the kind of bloody-minded logical consistency the new Calvinism of our era demands. No space exists for mystery, for God not being the author of evil or temptation in the same way that He is the author of all that is good. God's sovereignty has no mystery to it, it's fully comprehensible by the human mind and coterminous with human logic. His sovereignty over sin is exercised in exactly the same way as His sovereignty over blessing.

We know this must be so because human logic demands it. And any Scripture that might seem to suggest otherwise should be handled only through the gloves of logic. God is the author of logic, God must always act logically. Good human logic is the most reliable grid for approaching Scripture. Any verse that strikes us as mysterious or illogical should therefore be ignored.

Honestly, the tendency of many in the Reformed world to confine God to a box of human logic makes the charismatic movement seem inexpressibly beautiful at times. There at least God is supernaturally powerful and mysterious. Obviously, the grass is always greener elsewhere, but the Reformed world's denial of mystery and the numinous is often nothing short of blasphemy.

>>This well known and highly placed Reformed Theologian says on this subject.

I do believe Bret's tongue poked clear through his cheek on that comment.

Tim,

I couldn't agree with you more. My direction to the Rt. Rev. Dr. Clark was done to give people the opportunity to dissect his sentiments. This you have done in a noble fashion.

To divorce God from his providence is to turn His world into a Mechanical realm, or in an opposite direction into a mystical realm (think animism). Clearly, while we need to be careful in saying "this is that" we must be able to connect God's providence to God's mind in a general sense supported by Scripture.

Tim, I think you misread Brett. He's not in agreement with Scott Clark, he's marveling at such strong opposition to discerning the mind of God in painful providences.

Tim,

I think it’s important to distinguish two issues here. The first is whether or not it’s consistent with God’s character and authority, as presented in the Bible, to punish or discipline using “natural” means (please note the scare quotes), like the weather or illness. Clearly it is consistent with his character, as we find instances of God doing this in the Bible. Thus, it is certainly *possible* that this particular event was an instance of God’s judgment or discipline.

The second issue is whether or not we as Christians ought to make claims that this or that “natural” disaster is, or probably is, an instance of God’s judgment or discipline. We can certainly make them about Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as about every example where God tells us in Scripture that a disaster was/would be brought about for certain, specific ends. And I think that if the circumstances are *extremely* clear, then even today we can make a public claim that God did X to judge/discipline Y, but only in the clearest of circumstances. (I don't have necessary and sufficient conditions for when I think the circumstances are right. A no-brainer would be a man getting struck by lightning immediately after challenging God to strike him down. The case at hand seems to me to be beyond the province of no-brainers, especially in light of damage done elsewhere. Here’s the *USA Today* report: http://www.usatoday.com/weather/storms/tornadoes/2009-08-19-minnesota-tornado_N.htm?csp=34).)

So then, given that I believe that God is sovereign, and so was in control of the weather, and given that I believe that God is such that He can, does, and will use “natural” disasters to judge and discipline, then why am I opposed to your public agreement with Piper that the recent event in Minneapolis was an instance of God’s judgment/discipline? The answer is *not* simply that you might be mistaken. That's part of it, but not the whole. After all, we make claims all the time that might be mistaken. The complete answer is that this kind of claim is one that is extremely incendiary and polarizing and upsetting to many, and is one for which we have insufficient evidence and no divine mandate for affirming. Let me be clear: I am *not* saying that we as Christians ought to avoid making claims that are incendiary and polarizing and upsetting. We as Christians can't altogether avoid making claims that have these effects. But, even so, if we don't have overwhelming evidence for a particular claim that we know will have these effects---if neither the Bible, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the empirical facts compel us---and if we're not commanded by God in the Bible to make that particular claim, then we ought to avoid it. To do otherwise would be to go looking to polarize, incite, offend, etc., for no good reason.

I'm relieved, Bret. Thanks for the correction. And David, I'm so thankful for God's gifts through you to us.

Love,

Dear John,

Running out of time, but a couple quick thoughts:

First, very, very many texts in Scripture teach us to resign ourselves to bearing the reproach and shame of the offense intrinsic to the Gospel, yet your thrust seems to be that we are remiss if we fail to do our very, very best to avoid that offense as much a possible, only bowing when it's completely impossible to do so and still remain in any way faithful to the Lord. Of course, you don't use those words, but I think they're a natural conclusion some (including I) would come to reading your words, "I am *not* saying that we as Christians ought to avoid making claims that are incendiary and polarizing and upsetting. We as Christians can't altogether avoid making claims that have these effects."

"Can't altogether avoid" is nowhere close to texts such as these from God's Book:

(Luke 6:22, 23) 22 “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 “Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.

(Matthew 10:16-28) 16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! 26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 “What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

(Luke 6:26) 26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.

And are the only disasters coming on the land today those explicitly revealed already in Scripture? Are we not to observe the clouds and report our findings? Or has this ceased with the close of the Canon? Do you really think there's no danger in the watchman being silent because of his fear of polarizing, inciting, and offending sinners and errant believers?

(Ezekiel 33:1-11) 1 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, 3 and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. 5 ‘He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. 6 ‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’ 7 “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. 8 “When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. 9 “But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life. 10 “Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus you have spoken, saying, “Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we are rotting away in them; how then can we survive?”’ 11 “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’

Brother, the real danger today is that the hatred of the wicked and the failure of the righteous to pray for and support godly ministers as they are hated will cause those ministers to turn away from boldness, retiring instead into the realm of didactic spiels of unimpeachable truth Sunday mornings in the pulpit and Thursday nights in session meetings and Friday afternoons on blogs.

The world is full of mute dogs who cannot bark and think it admirable how beloved they are by the pagans and milk-Christians who buy their books by the millions. The world is full of Reformed pastors, even, who justify their muteness by chop-logic arguments such as my brother David so ably exposes above.

With real love and affection, I say to you as one beloved from my own flock, that I don't need such help. Rather, like the Apostle Paul, I need brothers for adversity who will not be ashamed of my all-men-don't-speak-well-of-me calling and will pray that the opposition to my trumpet will not seduce me to blowing unclear and off-pitch notes on my bugle; or worse, to giving up and becoming altogether silent.

Rather, please pray for my boldness:

(Ephesians 6:19, 20) 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

And let us know that the Apostle Paul's constant boldness (look the word up in the New Testament) did not have the result of souls thinking he was careful and judicious in his warnings, but rather that they tried to kill him again and again and again--just as they did with our Lord and Master.

With love and affection,

Tim,

Thanks for taking the time to respond.

In response:

“And are the only disasters coming on the land today those explicitly revealed already in Scripture?”

As I said in my comment: No.

“Are we not to observe the clouds and report our findings? Or has this ceased with the close of the Canon?”

If by this you mean “Are we not to claim that events like the relevant one in Minnesota are God’s judgment?” then, as I said in my comment: Yes, we are not to do so. If by this you mean “Are we not to call people to repentance and correct false doctrine when we see it?” then I answer: Yes, we are to do so. I think you may be conflating the two questions.

“Do you really think there's no danger in the watchman being silent because of his fear of polarizing, inciting, and offending sinners and errant believers?”

Of course there is this danger. But being silent instead of calling sinners to repentance or correcting false doctrine is distinct from being silent instead of claiming that the Minneapolis incident (or 9/11 or Katrina) was God’s judgment. Obviously we cannot be silent in the first sense. I’ve argued that we ought to be silent in the second sense. And if keeping silent in the second sense makes it more tempting to sin by keeping silent in the first sense, then that’s a temptation we have to fight.

-John

Dear John,

Thanks for your response, dear brother.

God bless you,

Like shiny objects, questions that begin “Are we not to…” often confuse me. In my responses to the two questions that begin this way in my last comment, I should have said “*No*, we are not to do so” and “Yes, we are to do so.”

Apologies.

-John

If anyone has brought up the following point in any blogs concerning this, I haven't noticed it yet. Most commenters seem to say that either "everyone" or "no one" has ability or authority to interpret signs as being from God. But prophecy is a spiritual gift not given to everyone. Some people may be completely mistaken in their judgments, but that does not exclude the possibility that someone else actually has wisdom, discernment or prophecy through the Holy Spirit. Of course, the greatest test for whether something comes from God is whether it lines up with all the truth of Scripture.

Romans 12:6-8

6Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

1 Cor 12:6-11

6There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,

10and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

Well, whatever caused the tornado, the Lutherans weren't deterred in the slightest.

Which is why it doesn't hurt to think God may have been trying to get their attention, instead of gaffing it off as a mere coincidence.

God sent Israel all sorts of calamities, disasters and plagues, and they never seemed to get the message.

God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, and so are people when it comes to ignoring His warnings to return to His ways.

> But prophecy is a spiritual gift not given to everyone.

Yes, but we're not talking about predicting events, just interpreting ones that have occured.

Thinking of what brother Tim was saying about being hated, I am reminded that all the "real" prophets in the Old Testament were hated and persecuted by the people they were sent to warn. The real prophets told the people that catastrophic events going on around them were judgments sent by God to get the people's attention so they would turn back to Him.

It didn't go over any better than talking about all the bad things happening to us today.

Abraham Lincoln said the Civil War was a judgment from God on America [not just the South]. He wasn't a real prophet.

John mentioned 9/11 and Katrina. I think of them the same as the Tower of Siloam. I'm no better than any of the people affected, but I have the opportunity to take these incidences as a personal warning to turn from my own wicked ways. If all America took such disasters to heart and repented, then America would be a more godly place today.

But we don't.

Abraham Lincoln Letter to Thurlow Weed - March 15, 1865, wherein he discusses his reference to the judgment of God on America in his Second Inaugural Address

http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=1098

...

"Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the Almighty and them. To deny it, however, in this case, is to deny that there is a God governing the world. It is a truth which I thought needed to be told; and as whatever of humiliation there is in it, falls most directly on myself, I thought others might afford for me to tell it."

Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=35

We don't even know for sure that Lincoln was a Christian, yet he said the Civil War was a judgment from God on the country [due to slavery]. Now even Christians shouldn't say such impolite things about divine judgments due to abortion, homosexuality, or general depravity.

It seems a bit odd.

Yes, but Lincoln was dodging his responsibility for the war by shuffling off the blame on God.

It was a very convenient political move that probably allowed him to sleep at night.

You definitely got me there, Bret! Excellent point. The South wanted to leave peacefully, but Lincoln wouldn't let them.

And now we're stuck with all this modern tyranny coming down from Washington.

>Yes, but we're not talking about predicting events, just interpreting ones that have occured.

... The real prophets told the people that catastrophic events going on around them were judgments sent by God to get the people's attention so they would turn back to Him.

Just a note of clarification: in my mention of prophecy, I'm including interpreting "events going on around them." I don't mean to restrict prophecy to telling the future. The OT prophets could clearly see and interpret the present sin of the people and the present (and future) judgments resulting.

Also, I am not saying that only prophets should try to interpret and understand circumstances. All Christians should be willing to look at the world in light of God's character and actions as revealed throughout the Bible. We should ask something like, "If that was true then, it must be true now. Therefore, in what circumstances might it be manifested? Is this one?"

One of my points was that there may be times where God may reveal things to and through those with the gift of prophecy; yet people will readily deny that God chose to speak through that individual, thinking that it's just another ("hateful") human opinion no better than their own ("enlightened") opionions.

Hope that makes sense...

Interesting points by Clint & others; I will think on these things. Your keystrokes have not been wasted, brothers.

Though I still think that the point for divine wrath ought to have been decades ago, when ALC/ELCA jettisoned the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture, not now, when the bus is simply arriving at a new station.

> Though I still think that the point for divine wrath ought to have been decades ago...

Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.

> God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.

I think the inertia is such now that He would need to actively step in to prevent us from destroying ourselves.

>I think the inertia is such now that He would need to actively step in to prevent us from destroying ourselves.

That's been true since Adam... Maybe He'll send us a Jonah.

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