Monday, January 18, 2010

The Devastation Of Haiti And The Sovereignty Of God

Most of us have been stunned at the scale of devastation in Haiti. We should certainly be in prayer, particularly for our Christian brothers and sisters in Haiti. Giving is another area and one that requires wise stewardship of the Christian. Here is an article from the 9 Marks blog (the ministry of Mark Dever) which suggests a good place for our money to be well spent in Haiti in a way that honors God and is ultimately used in the furtherance of the Gospel while providing immediate relief to those suffering:

Haiti Relief - The Baptist Haiti Mission
by Ryan Townsend


Most of you have heard by now about the terrible earthquake in Haiti that has devastated the country. Some news agencies are estimating human loss at 500,000 souls. Please be in prayer for the people, specifically the believers, over these next few days. Many folks are still stuck in collapsed buildings and will begin dying without water or air. And the danger of looting and violence is very real. May God use this to turn many to himself.

Since we can't jump on planes and get down there to help out, the best thing we can do right now is fund good ministries that are on the ground. With all the confusion of who to support, I wanted to make you aware of a ministry, the Baptist Haiti Mission, that I'm confident will use funding in a competent manner both to relieve physical suffering and to give clear biblical witness to Jesus Christ.

The Baptist Haiti Mission is right in the center of the chaos and is doing amazing work. They could use our support. You can read about them and donate on their website You can see regular updates about the disaster here. Here's one sobering fact from their homepage this morning:

"The BHM hospital at our headquarters in Fermathe is overflowing with earthquake victims. We are the only hospital serving the surrounding rural mountain villages."

There are multiple buttons you can press to donate funds to them, if the Lord is leading you to help relieve suffering in Haiti during this crisis.

It is also important to explore and develop a theological response to tragedies like Haiti. How we should respond at the theological level? It has been common in my recent witnessing encounters to hear objections to God, or His existence, due to the devastation in Haiti. I thought it beneficial to revisit two articles on the question of God and suffering, written soon after hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans.

The first article was written by Tony Campolo and the title reveals Campolo's trainwreck theology:

Katrina: Not God's Wrath--or His Will
The Hebrew Bible doesn't say God is omnipotent. When disaster strikes, he cries with the rest of us.

I have only one word to describe commentary like this - disgust! How dare Campolo redefine the God of Scripture. This comment alone confirms Campolo as an idolater. In a lame attempt at defusing the idea of God having wrath, and delivering false comfort to those hurting, Campolo is willing to present to us a false god who is not all powerful and cries himself to sleep over all the evil that he cannot stop.

Campolo's assertion about omnipotence only serves to show that he is a sociologist masquerading as a theologian. The word omnipotence might not be mentioned in the Bible (the word e-mail doesn't appear either) but the truth of it is clearly taught. For the sake of time I will quote just two:

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11).

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things (Isaiah 45:7).

Campolo continues:

Certainly, God would not create suffering for innocent people, who were - for the most part - Katrina's victims.

Perhaps we would do well to listen to the likes of Rabbi Harold Kushner, who contends that God is not really as powerful as we have claimed. Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures does it say that God is omnipotent. Kushner points out that omnipotence is a Greek philosophical concept, but it is not in his Bible. Instead, the Hebrew Bible contends that God is mighty.

I have set aside the coming weeks to compare my "Anatomy of the Gospel" series with gospel presentations used by certain ministries. Here, Campolo flunks with flying colors on the very first point in my "Anatomy of the Gospel" series - The character and nature of God.

Fortunately, after Campolo managed to disturb wrestless souls even more, John Piper came to the fore. He wrote beautifully of God's Sovereignty in even the seeming worst of humanitarian disasters:

On his 89th birthday (August 31) NPR Senior News Analyst, Daniel Schorr, observed that President Bush had “staked out a non-position” on the debate between evolution and intelligent design. Bush had said that “both sides ought to be properly taught in the schools of America.” Then, with manifest scorn, Schorr linked the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with the concept of intelligent design: “[Bush] might well have reflected that, if this was the result of intelligent design, then the designer has something to answer for.”

No, Mr. Schorr, you have something to answer for, not God. God answers to no man. Come, Daniel Schorr, take your place with Job and answer your Maker: “The Lord answered Job [and Daniel Schorr] out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. . . . Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed”?’” (Job 38:1-3, 8-11).

Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Shall the pot say to the Potter, “This is an unintelligent way to show your justice and your power? Come, Maker of heaven and earth, sit at my feet—I have lived 89 years and have gotten much wisdom—and I will teach you—the eternal God—how to govern the universe”?

No. Rather let us put our hands on our mouths and weep both for the perishing and for ourselves who will soon follow. Whatever judgment has fallen, it is we who deserve it—all of us. And whatever mercy is mingled with judgment in New Orleans neither we nor they deserve.

God sent Jesus Christ into the world to save sinners. He did not suffer massive shame and pain because Americans are pretty good people. The magnitude of Christ’s suffering is owing to how deeply we deserve Katrina—all of us.

Our guilt in the face of Katrina is not that we can’t see the intelligence in God’s design, but that we can’t see arrogance in our own heart. God will always be guilty of high crimes for those who think they’ve never committed any.

But God commits no crimes when he brings famine, flood, and pestilence on the earth. “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” (Amos 3:6). The answer of the prophet is no. God’s own testimony is the same: “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). And if we ask, is there intelligent design in it all, the Bible answers: “You meant evil . . . but God meant it [designed it] for good” (Genesis 50:20).

This will always be ludicrous to those who put the life of man above the glory of God. Until our hearts are broken, not just for the life-destroying misery of human pain, but for the God-insulting rebellion of human sin, we will not see intelligent design in the way God mingles mercy and judgment in this world. But for those who bow before God’s sovereign grace and say, “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever,” they are able to affirm, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:36, 33). And wisdom is another name for intelligent design.

No, Daniel Schorr, God does not answer to us. We answer to him. And we have only one answer: “Guilty as charged.” Every mouth is stopped and the whole world is accountable before God. There is only one hope to escape the flood of God’s wrath. It is not the levee of human virtue but the high ground called Calvary. All brokenhearted looters and news analysts and pastors are welcome there.

Thanks to Piper for reminding us of Who God is, who we are, and where true comfort lies - in the Sovereignty of God.

On wednesday, we will take a look at the gospel according to Hillsong.

1 comment:

Kyle in Finland said...

Excellent post, it gave much food for thought. I look forward to reading your future editions.