Recently I was bothered by a comment on a friends blog. I'll not point to the blog because I don't think they meant ill, but I am convinced that their response represents a growing Christian response to the overwhelming evidence of climate change. The response of fatalism!
Basically this person attributed the bit of snow we've had recently as God proving that God is still in control of the environment despite what the environmentalist whingers say. It is disturbing that ecological events, especially our erradic climate, is re-interpreted to help bring a sense of comfort. This is an inability to deal with life on lifes terms. And worse it represents an inability to deal with history.
The question of where God is in disasterous events is an important one, but it is far from an easy one. The fatalist is crippled in the face of theodicy by an inability to act. The biggest problem with this is it paints an image of God as a celestial puppetmaster yanking the strings of all created things - this is not the God of Jesus Christ and is very hard to imagine, in light of history, as a benevolant God. This God is actually evil. I am convinced that this view of God is a destructive as the view of a divine clockmaker who has no connection to the physical world. Thank God these are not the only choices!
God's response to suffering isn't to prove God is in control. Rather it is to enter into our suffering with us. This is the whole purpose of the incarnation. God takes on the suffering of humanity, taking on humanity (kenosis) and entering into our reality on realities terms. How can we move from a kenotic God to a tyrrant overlord God? Do we somehow think that Jesus was spared from suffering? Can we honestly reflect on the gospels and come to that conclusion? I think not.
I understand the impulse for surity. Surity is one way we ground our hope. I just can't hope in a tyrrant God, that sort of God is fickle and as likely to flick you away as to keep you safe. But I can hope in a God who enters into life with me. Hope is that God, who is ever present, awakens my conscience to the suffering around me. Suffering in humans, animals and the very world that is my home. It is even more home when God is present. Surity comes not from a conviction that I'll be comfortable in life - it comes from a conviction that God's redemptive purposes include the world that I am sent to. This is the conviction that let Jesus embrace the cross (Thy will be done) and it is the conviction that lets me put my hands to the plow.
The central issue here is one of grace. Do we see this life as a gift? Or is it a curse to be born in hopes of simply being purified for the next life? Or worse is this life just an inconvenience? I must confess that this philosophy of life is easily fallen into and I am just as guilty as the next person. But life, this life, is either a gift or God is a cruel tyrrant, not to be trusted at all. And if this life is a gift then how dare we throw that gift back in the face of the God of love? How dare we reject the crys of the outcast and the oppressed? How dare we continue to rape the planet? How dare we thumb our noses at God?