Friday, January 15, 2010

What would Jesus say

Reflections emerging from the horrifying news of the Haitian earthquake include an article by Craig Uffman on Covenant, also on Fulcrum, with a developing thread on Fulcrum Forum. Even after six posts that thread is nicely juxtaposing the main varieties of responses Christians have arrived at through 2000 years (prominent theologians cited include Calvin, Aquinas, and a contemporary of ours, David Bentley Hart who recently had a book published which is a response to the horrific tsunami-and-earthquake destruction wrought on Boxing Day 2004).

Coincidentally one poster draws attention to a passage that has come to my mind this morning, Luke 13:1-5, where Jesus speaks of man-led suffering (Pilate murdering some Galileans) and (possibly) man-made mixed with nature suffering,

"What about those eighteen people in Siloam who were killed when the tower fell on them?"

If we invoke - as some Christians do - the idea that "God is in the suffering" then the theological foundation is (normally) incarnational: God has already identified with us in suffering by being incarnate in human flesh through Jesus Christ so God understands fully what this particular instance of suffering means for the sufferers. That - for me - heightens the possibility that any such thinking should be extended to incorporate what the Word made flesh may have said when in the midst of humanity. Funnily enough, the Gospels do not give us many words from the lips of Jesus on the question of human suffering. Luke 13:1-5 is a rare passage if we seek what Jesus would say to the Haitian earthquake sufferers and to those around the world with questions about God's whereabouts when tragedy strikes.

But what to make of these words? What conclusions could we draw? Is the mystery of suffering much lessened by Luke 13:1-5?

A helpful prayer by Diana Macalintel can be found here (H/T Bosco Peters).

Here is a perhaps provocative thought for Kiwi readers of this post: we live in a land where earthquakes frequently occur, mostly coped with by virtue of having developed some of the most robust earthquake proofing measures in the world for our buildings, but always we live with the knowledge that 'the big one' could occur tomorrow. (If the big one were of magnitude 8+ as we are told has happened in Haiti even our well-constructed buildings would be under severe pressure and loss of life if likely). So, as far as it goes, we Kiwis have made a choice to make a life in our fair islands with a known risk built into that choice: tomorrow we may have cause to wish we had chosen differently. When the big one comes will we be questioning God about God's absence from the event or ourselves choosing to be present in these Shaky Isles?

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