History is Not Just Nature, or What’s the Living For?

   Tele-Crazy Man Pat Robertson recently recounted his belief that the Haitian earthquake resulted from an ancient pact Haitians made with the devil. For some reason, this means people should send money to Pat Robertson.

   Left unanswered is the question, "To whom did Americans sell our souls that we are punished with Pat Robertson?"

   American Christians, if you believe the Haitian earthquake is divine punishment, you need to answer a few more questions:

  • How long is God going to keep this chip on Her shoulder?
  • Why did divine retribution claim the lives of so many Christians on the island?
  • Why would you send relief, Christian, to a place God is bent on punishing?

   The previous little solipsism is a preternatural route to discuss today's topic, which is our necessity to regard human history as something other/more than random incidences of nature. The Christian Realist, beknighted as we are with a Providential view of God, holds that moral influences impact history as much as any capricious shift in subterranean tectonic plates.

   If we can discern the Providential enterprise of God in human history, we are on our way to answering some of the questions we all have about how the evil prosper and the (relatively) innocent suffer. Classical materialism, unburdened by the Christian heritage that ameliorates post-modern materialism,  is the actual umbrella under which we take our shelter and, frankly, we are the poorer for it. In coming years, classical materialism will prove more dangerous yet.

   For instance, classical materialism adopts a laizzez-faire attitude toward prosperity and suffering. Nature takes its course, we hear, and we should accept what happens.

Portion continued from yesterday

   By classical materialism unburdened by two centuries of Christian thought, I mean ancient materialism, which holds (but is not limited to) the belief that human history is bound by nature. History is a series of random events leading to certain inevitable eventualities. These random events seem cyclical largely because there are limits to the ways mass can present itself to physical sensors. Events are not actually cyclical, according to classical materialism, but repetitive, bound by immutable physical properties.

   The Christian Realist holds, instead, that God is a Providential God, One directing (some would say bending) human history to fit divine ends. God actively intervenes where God is most interested. To find God's interest we look for those places where God most actively intervenes.

   God, says the Christian Realist, disrupts nature for His/Her own ends, but ever and always for the good of man and at God's own expense. Therefore, God is the God of history and the God of nature. In the event of tragedy or disaster, the Christian Realist then has the repetitive task to search out God's intention in history and nature. This is a huge problem for the Christian Realist in a secular world where persons would like for God to just say "Stop." The problem of suffering is both intrinsic and extrinsic and, as such, the problem is its own solution, replete, sadly, with variables etched in human suffering.

   That is, God is the God of history and nature. When events occur in nature, God is present, as ever, in the historic event. If we are to damn God for the plate shifts we must also praise God for the nice day in spring but this is unlikely to satisfy. The reality of history is more than a sequence of random natural events. Historical religion, however dependent on revelation, is something more than a meditation against the fear of death. Historical Religion seeks out the Providential acts of God and so practices responses to tragedy, disaster and even joy, according to ultimate divine ends.

   The central event in human history, accompanied by various natural signs, is the Cross-Resurrection event. The Cross-Resurrection event is central because all that happened before looked forward to it and all that has happened since looks back to those three days in Jerusalem. God intervened in the highest human tragedy, e.g., ritual murder of the Supreme Innocent for the sake of the Supremely Needy. 

    In the Cross-Resurrection event, God directs both history and nature to divine ends. In this way, nature and history are shown to be intertwined and important. History is more than nature quite because both have a role in the providential purpose of God. The ground under your feet will tremble. Your feet may slide in due time. There is a reasoning being at the end of the shaking.

   This is already too long so I will continue it tomorrow. In the meantime, think about the fact that American social policy has traditionally been this; a person should support himself by work rather than by taxation laid on others for his benefit. Americans automatically feel some anger for persons who cannot or do not work. How will this trigger responses in us as we come out of this deep recession to discover that 1 in 7 American men have become unemployable? Man jobs, those traditionally held by men, are disappearing. Who will we hate then?

Indeed, just now, while unemployment nationally is at 9.7%, the rate for men is higher still; the rate for Latino men is higher again; the rate for African-American men is highest. This is historically true; it is a fact. Is it natural? How should a Christian Realist see God at work here? Are we to intervene, or just "let nature take its course?"

   The answer(s) actually lie in our response to natural, historical disasters, like the earthquake in Haiti. There, the world is tested as to its altruism and its ability to think about more than the moment. Where is Haiti going? America, indeed the world, is going the same way.

Opinions expressed here are my own, not those of the church I serve or any othe person.


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