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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Richard Brand: "Who Wants That Kind of God?"

I was just browsing and came across this column by Richard Brand (purportedly a Protestant minister) written back in August 2012. Although discussing Hurricane Isaac, his comments are a pretty standard response to anyone that believes that God may use disasters to punish people. However, to a Christian, none of his comments actually make any sense.



Rev. Brand writes:

The truth of the matter is that almost every time there have been these pronouncements about God's acting in natural disasters to punish the wicked you have to scratch your head and ask if you want that kind of God. 
As a Christian, I didn't realize that I got to pick the kind of God I wanted. I thought that I was pretty much stuck with the one we have. Which raises the issue of whether Brand actually believes in God.

Brand next writes:
There was a hurricane that came and inflicted horrible damage to Haiti. Next thing you heard was that that earthquake was God's punishment for some "pact they made with the Devil" in an effort to get the French out of their country. But why did God wait so long to inflict his judgment. Until Pat Robertson made that claim nobody else seemed to have made that connection. The gap between the crime and the punishment was too long. Who wants a God who is that slow?

I don't know whether any particular disaster is an example of divine wrath, but the idea of God being slow to punish people is actually well established throughout the Bible, where God waits until a people have become ripe for destruction before visiting them with judgment. How many years was there between the time that Noah began warning people of their wickedness and when the flood occurred? How many years between the enslavement of the Hebrews, and the judgments proclaimed against Egypt by Moses? How many years from the time Solomon allowed idol worship to creep into Israel, and when the various tribes were carried away into captivity? How many years from the time the Babylonians desecrated the Temple and their being conquered by the Persians? How many years from the execution of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem? How many years until the apocalypse?

Brand then notes:

Hurricane Katrine was described as God's judgment against the evils in New Orleans. The drinking, the gambling, the prostitution, all the sinful activities in that city were the reason for the storm. The great problem with that is that God missed his target. The storm did not hit the area known for its sinfulness. God missed. Who wants a God with such poor aim?

Brand's talk of a possible judgment against New Orleans being "off target" is nonsensical. Assuming for sake of argument that the City was targeted for judgment (which neither Brand nor I know) the City was clearly flooded, a large number of its people permanently displaced, and large sections abandoned. That would be a "hit" in my book.

Brand's real argument here, though, is really one of why would God punish innocent people. However, again turning to the scriptures, we find that innocents are often caught in the same circumstances that are used to punish the wicked. For the wicked, the disaster is a punishment; for the righteous, it is a test and an opportunity to serve others and further develop their spiritual nature. Would Daniel have become the great prophet and statesman he was if Babylon had never conquered Jerusalem?

Brand also questions whether God would punish some people with disasters while not stopping other evils (such as Hitler). He reasons:

These confident pronouncements have a way of making many of us wonder about the mind and heart of God. If God does those kind of acts, why did he not do one to stop Hitler? And if God does those kind of acts, then what evil things did the people of Japan do to deserve that tsunami? Who wants that kind of inconsistent God?
I don't know if there is any inconsistency here, nor does Brand. Of course God isn't going to stop all evil because if God were to immediately punish evil or sin, it would remove our free agency. We have to willing come to God--he isn't going to force us. As for Japan ... well, I've lived in Japan, and there is a lot to condemn. However, why should we assume that the tsunami was simply a form of divine wrath? It may prove to be a spiritual boon to Japan. Similarly, the rise of Hitler ultimately proved a disaster to the Germans, but forced the Jews to acknowledge the need for their own homeland which they could secure against their enemies.

Finally, Brand asks:

The only thing consistent in these pronouncements is that those who know this God so well know that he is against most things "liberal." Who wants that kind of God?
Duh! Social conservatives.  



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