Thursday, September 04, 2008

Concerning God's Judgment

I have a longish post I can't quite get control of. There have been recent church controversies spilling over into the presidential race, this week with some guest preacher at Sarah Palin's church claiming that terrorists acts were God's punishment on Israel, before that with Obama's pastor making a similar claim about America's troubles. It has popped up before as well, with Pat Robertson and/or Jerry Falwell making some claim about 9-11 being God's judgment (later softened, I think).

Some people obviously assent to these ideas, or these pastors would have no audience and be run out of church on a (communion) rail. But most people reject the concept outright, and are uncomfortable even having it brought up. Not only does it not sound like the God we worship, but we have a pretty clear idea how such ideas could get badly out of hand and lead to violence.

I am going to argue that both sides are partly right, and try to find the necessary distinctions. I'm not sure I've got the skill to pull this off without being misunderstood. But seeing something of both sides on religious issues is very natural for me. There is an old saying, "Two Jews, Three Opinions," and I identify strongly with that. I'm still surprised I haven't uncovered any Jewish ancestors. Actually, some Jews, including a rabbi, kept thinking I was Jewish years ago.

There is a blogsite with similar name - Three Jews, Four Opinions, that is quite entertaining.


james said...

If I read the Bible correctly, prophets made such claims about particular events: this or that was the judgment of God because of X. OK.
I notice that most disasters aren't so classified, and Jesus was pretty clear that you can't assume that all disasters are judgments on wicked sinners.
So, if some events are punishments, then we need somebody to tell us which and why, and I gather from precedent that this office falls to the prophets. OK.
Now there's a little gotcha about claiming to have a prophetic message from God--it is taken seriously and there's a slightly fatal penalty if you turn out to be wrong. We don't use it much, but it might be good to remind people of the downside of pretending to be a prophet. And I really don't want to be in the shoes of a presumptuous "prophet" come Judgment Day.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I should be excited that someone who actually knows something and has real credentials is weighing in, but you're stealing my thunder, james.

Fortunately, that won't stop me from commenting anyway...

james said...

Thanks! (My credentials are actually in physics :-) ) I'm interested in seeing your ideas.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Ah, I thought you were a different james, but now that I think of it, he posts as anonymous but signs as james or something.

terri said...

My take is that it's not fair to claim disaster as God's judgement unless there is a warning beforehand.

"If you don't do x..then y will happen."

That generally seems to be the precedent in Scrtipture.

Monday morning Quarterbacking is not allowed.