One doesn’t have to look far to finds tracts and treatises of past theologians who wrote about God’s use of calamity and destruction to awaken people to repentance. I have in front of me David Clarkson’s, “God’s End in Sending Calamities.” People faced terrible things. Plague often wiped-out major populations and most people viewed these things as the scourge of God upon people for sin. Whether providence should always be read this way is for another article, but most theologians had no problem using catastrophic events to waken the people out of sin.
Daniel Defoe’s “Journal of the Plague Year” is a perfect example. Defoe describes the people coming to the churches in droves crying for prayer and help in the face of bubonic plague. They were certainly coming to the right place. The last thing Hurricane Hilary saw, however, was people desiring to come to church. People were more interested in saving their lives by gathering in long lines for food and water.
In the 90s, David Wells expressed that one of the great problems for people today is that God’s hand rests ever so lightly upon us. The lighter providences we have received in the West, in the face of past atrocities and calamites, has not made us a strong people. We have lived such prosperous lives, having at our disposal the best of medicines and helps afforded to us, that we are convinced that there should be no pain in this life.
A life of suffering, we believe, should not be so, and the god largely offered to the masses is a god of therapy. Someone once described him as a cosmic grandpa in the sky who has a big wallet. There is a reason why theologians have designated our modern approach to God as one of moralistic, therapeutic deism. God is a god of therapy who is intended to relieve all calamity and pain. That is his job and we have come to believe this is the purpose for his existence. We will worship him on those terms.
Chris Gordon | “Hurricane Hilary and Our Culture of Fear” | August 21st, 2023
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