The Shaking of the Foundations

The Shaking of the Foundations

In the middle of July, you may have read the blog, Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith (Guest Blogger Mary Vanderplas).  If you haven’t yet, please do, because it puts Thomas G. Long’s book, “What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith” into perspective in a very real and powerful way.  I’m pretty sure that Mary and I disagree on the main premise of this book, but I could think of no one better to introduce this blog series than a hospital chaplain who loves God, loves others, and communicates effectively.  I’ll be going through this book, one chapter per blog, and I’ve got another guest blogger lined up with a personal testimony on suffering and faith to end the series.

The first chapter is entitled, “The Shaking of the Foundations.”

Long writes about the religious background of the city of Lisbon, Portugal, where prophets of doom said God would destroy the city:

Some said by earthquake, others said by wind, some warned of fire, and still others presaged flood.  As it turns out, they were much too modest.  Lisbon’s day of hell included the catastrophe forces of all four.

First came the earthquake, sending people running from the packed churches.  Then, a shockwave leveled many buildings, which collapsed on the people in the street.  Small fires became full roaring flames because of the strong winds that day.  There was a third shockwave, and the survivors felt like the safest place to go was to the harbor.  A tsunami wiped them out.  Long writes:

No one knows for certain how many people died in Lisbon on that All Saints’ Day.  Some say 15,000; other s say as many as 50,000 or 60,000.  What is known is that the bodies of the victims floated in the harbor for weeks.

When catastrophic events like this take place, people question the goodness of God.

Another example Long gives is the Black Death, a 14th century plague.  French medical writer at the time, Ambroise Pare, wrote:

The plague is a malady come from God: furious, tempestuous, swift, monstrous, and frightful, contagious, terrible, fierce, treacherous, deceptive, mortal enemy of human life…

Fast forward a couple of hundred years.  Newton’s claims have “staggering implications for theology.”  Long writes:

If time, space, and presumably everything that moves within them can be defined without recourse to anything outside of them, then what is the role of God – or even the need of God?

Because human attempts at sense making were no longer making sense, a shift in thinking took place.  Long describes it like this:

Particular providence involves the claim that God is an active player in the specific events and circumstances of the world… General providence, on the other hand, is the notion that God cares for the world not through extraordinary interventions of divine action but through constant and unchanging sustenance and the benevolent design of creation.

Long also notes that this theological shift has been given a name – “disenchantment of the world.”

Long concludes the chapter with a sympathetic assessment of the disenchanted people caught somewhere between particular and general providence:

When those of us who preach stand up on Sunday morning, we are looking out at many educated and thoughtful Christians who want to hang on to faith, but who secretly wonder – often silently, sometimes in ways denied and hidden even from themselves – if… faith… [is] a childish fantasy.  With all that they know and see, they can no longer rest easily with the claim that the world is ruled by a good and powerful parental God, and so they wonder if the faith they are being asked to believe and live, the faith they want to believe and live, is simply a way of making us feel better in the storm, and if it is time to grow up and move on to a sadder but wiser world where we must stand up and be on our own.

Instead of offering my own commentary, I would like to conclude with the words of Christ.

“…some people came up and told [Jesus] about the Galileans Pilate had killed while they were at worship… [and] Jesus responded)”:

Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die. And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? Not at all.  Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.

What does this mean?  Does disaster happen because people don’t turn to Him?  But, the people in Lisbon were attending church the morning all hell broke loose!  So tell me, readers, how do you make sense of this?


The next blog will be on chapter two: The Impossible Chess Match

  • Lanny A. Eichert September 7, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Alice, first of all God is NOT just parental, He is also JUDGE and must be so feared as such. He is also sovereign and as such His ways are not always sensible to us. He is likened to a Potter and has the sovereign right to make and destroy whenever and however He pleases. You think we should try to make sense of what we cannot know?

    He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? {Micah 6: 8}

    • Stephen Helbig September 7, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      What is it Lanny that we CANNOT Know? What is there that our Father God will forever withhold from us in are becoming or maturing to the stature of Christ? WHAT KNOWLEGE OF HIM DOES HE WISH FOR US NOT TO COME TO?

      p.s. ~ YES we have not attained as of yet ~ BUT we also are encouraged to SEE Jesus, looking unto Him the Author and FINISHER of our Faith, and His call is to make us ONE, ~ He is The King of Kings and Lord of Lords and he is a revealer of mysteries.

  • Stephen Helbig September 7, 2012 at 4:44 am

    Mention was made to Christ about the Galileans and in His reply Jesus mentions another event, which, like the first, gave an instance of people taken away by sudden death. He told his hearers not to blame great sufferers to be accounted as great sinners. This is similar to the blind man in John chapter 9 where the disciples asked him, saying, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: ~ BUT THAT THE WORKS OF GOD SHOULD BE MANIFEST IN HIM.” Jesus continues and says “I MUST WORK THE WORKS OF HIM THAT SENT ME, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world”. So too is our call to be ~“THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD”

    Notice physical death comes to all ~Ten out of ten people die, but when this happens as in (Ecclesiastes 7: 1-5): it exclaims it is a good thing and we find Christ our Lord also on these occasions giving a call similar to Ecclesiastes with also a call to repentance. The same Jesus that bids us repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, tells us repent or we shall perish here and now, ~ at all deaths doors. Repentance is a good thing to keep before us at all times.

    p.s. ~ One must always have the compassion of our Lord and never despise and blame those who are afflicted with any calamity or what natural man believes to be a deformity, whether spiritual or physical. We find Jesus telling us that it is not the fault of man, but proceeds from the wise arrangement of God (John 9). All suffering in the world is not the effect of sin. In these cases, found in the above passages of scripture, it is expressly so declared; and there are many modes of suffering that cannot be traced to any particular transgression. We must be cautious, therefore, in affirming that there can be no calamity in the universe but by transgression, and at the same time still regard the reaping and sowing principle in our own lives. Let us see the wise and wonderful arrangement of Divine Providence. It is a part of his great plan to adapt his mercies to the woes of men: and calamity, want, poverty, and sickness, is being permitted, that he may show the provisions of his mercy, and that he may teach us to prize his blessings, and that ultimate deep-felt gratitude for deliverance that will eventually bind us to Him by His Love. Those who are afflicted should always be submissive to God, It is his appointment, and is right and best. God does no wrong, and the universe will, when all his works are seen, feel and know that he is just with His nature of Love bestowing on us LIFE forevermore

  • Lanny A. Eichert September 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Alice, WHEN did the Holy Spirit inspire the writing of {2 Timothy 2: 19} “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.”

    Where was the Lord when those words were given?

    WHEN does “that day” {Matthew 7: 22, 23} occur in which Jesus says “I never knew you”?

    Is the Lord really omniscient and there still be persons He is able to honestly say He is never capable of knowing?

    Do you remember writing? admin says: August 31, 2012 at 12:20 am
    2. Because they either never entered into a relationship with Him or began a relationship but backed out of it.

    You acknowledged this knowing is relational. Relational knowledge here means salvation. We were discussing saved or unsaved. Is the Lord really omniscient and there still be persons He is able to honestly say He is never capable of having a saving relationship with them?

    My Jesus is both honest and omniscient, so therefore His statement “I never knew you” means just that: He is never capable of having a saving relationship with them. For me: the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his. I have a sure anchor for my soul in the perfect literal Holy Bible without any false hopes.

    Is your Jesus both honest and omniscient? What about those not included as “His”? What about those to whom He says I NEVER knew you and those He denies before His Father in heaven? What about Judas Iscariot and those deliberately not written in the Book of Life since the world began?

    • admin September 9, 2012 at 6:47 am

      I would like to thank you for responding to the questions at the end of this blog, but it seems that your response is a continuation from an earlier conversation. This, of course, is not a problem. However, do you have any thoughts about the final few questions of this blog?

      • Lanny A. Eichert September 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm

        Alice, see above September 7, 2012 at 3:16 am

        You all think you should try to make sense of what we cannot know while twisting what you can know by calling what God does not linear {September 7, 2012 at 9:26 am} and your viewpoints the result of Enlightenment. You say you are capable of seeing beyond linear thinking. Don’t you know what you say? Linear thinking is straight thinking. You say then that you are capable of skewing your thinking into crooked directions because of your enlightenments.

        The topic remains your heretical universalism and I will not be deceived by this your entertainment that will wiggle back to its application any way soon enough.

        When did the Holy Spirit inspire {2 Timothy 2: 19} “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” to be written, Alice, while Jesus was in His humanity or when Jesus had already returned to His full deity? What then is the meaning of “knoweth them that are his” and “I never knew you” ?

        • admin September 9, 2012 at 7:46 pm

          Lanny, I can’t believe you keep asking this same kind of question and that now you are writing about linear vs non-linear thinking as if it were some kind of new age voodoo or something. God said, “Where are you, Adam?” Of course God knows where Adam is. God is speaking in linear terms, because according to Adam, God’s hasn’t “found him” yet. There are many, many examples of this throughout scripture, in which God stoops to the level of humanity so that we may better understand Him. Sometimes God does the opposite and speaks things that are not as though they are, because to God they already are since He has purposed it. He doesn’t have to wait until it happens to see it completed. This is just normal theological stuff, Lanny, not some satanic universalist trick.

          In 2 Timothy, the “seal” is not in any danger of being broken if it turns out that “them that are his” is a greater number than one would expect, the only danger would be if it were a lesser number, but that’s beside the point. The meaning of “knoweth them that are his” in 2 Timothy is in the context of false teachers – the Lord knows who among the group being addressed is his and who is a false teacher. The meaning of “I never knew you” is that Jesus never knew them during their earthly lives when they said and did the things mentioned in His name. Can you please stop asking me the same questions over and over again? Just because I don’t answer you the way you want to be answered doesn’t mean I haven’t answered you.

  • Lanny A. Eichert September 7, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Alice, During the age when Jesus says, “I never knew you,” there are those who do not yet respond to the relationship or reciprocate the intimacy with the Father “in Christ.”

    You cannot define “the age” with any description. They are already dead and buried and gone to hell. At the Final Judgment is when they will hear these words, “I never knew you.” Those are “final” words indeed !!! They have not yet responded and there will not yet be any more time to respond. They were not able to respond in hell between death and judgment. They have met their doom, eternal doom in eternal torment.

  • Mary Vanderplas September 7, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    The Luke text seems clearly to say that tragedy is not God’s punishment for human sin. Jesus gives no explanation for the tragic fate of the slaughtered Galileans, but he makes it clear that it wasn’t because they were any worse than others that they suffered this fate. To strengthen the point, he cites another case, this one of a “natural disaster” in which some people were killed, again ruling out that their demise was punishment for sin. The twice-repeated call to repent isn’t, in my view, to be taken to mean that those who repent will be spared suffering – or that the reason why disaster befalls some is because they aren’t producing good fruit. Rather, I think it expresses the reality that life is fragile and transitory – something we are reminded of when tragedy hits – and we never know when we will be called to stand before God to give an account of our lives. Therefore, we need to repent – to redirect our lives to embody God’s gracious rule – lest we be caught off-guard.

    So, the answer I would give is ‘no, disaster is not caused by God as punishment for people’s refusal to turn to him.” The ancients had it wrong, I think, in attributing everything that happens, including the evils of life, to God. Bad things happen – such as the Lisbon earthquake – that are the result of the forces of nature (which, granted, God created). But God is not directly responsible for such things; and he does not send or cause them as a way of punishing human rebellion. Indeed, that bad things sometimes happen even when people are engaged in acts of devotion and service to God, as was the case with the people of Lisbon, demonstrates that disaster is not divine punishment for sin. Likewise, that tragedy strikes both the (relatively) good and the (relatively) bad – and often at once – argues against seeing it as God’s judgment upon human sinfulness.

    • admin September 9, 2012 at 6:43 am

      Thanks for your response.

  • Patrick Strickland September 8, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    What does this mean? Does disaster happen because people don’t turn to Him? But, the people in Lisbon were attending church the morning all hell broke loose! So tell me, readers, how do you make sense of this?

    I would have to ask were they seeking God, or were they only seeking the idol that men taught them concerning who they thought God was? I do not know but I do know that God uses tribulations to press us into the kingdom of God. He orchestrates all of our circumstances so that the flesh man will be forced to become broken and that we may become pressed into the place of power in the spirit in his kingdom now, which He has always desired for His church to walk in. Otherwise we might settle down and rest where we are at and let things continue to go on the way they are.

    Religion wants Jesus to return and set up his kingdom and make everything right. But that is not God’s plan. If Jesus did that then we would never grow up and take our PLACE AND AUTHORITY in Him because we would want Him to do it all FOR US. God wants us all to grow up into Him and learn to rule and reign with Him now. Jesus is already right now reigning over all the earth.

    1Co 15:25-28 KJV For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. (26) The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. (27) For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. (28) And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

    He is reigning over all right now and is using the circumstances to pressure us and to push us out of just walking in the flesh to actually learning to rule and reign in Him in the spirit now over all circumstances in our lives. The kingdom of God came on the day of Pentecost but most men do not recognize it. The kingdom of God is righteousness peace and joy IN the Holy Ghost. Rm 14:17 In fact we become the kingdom of God he rules over when He comes in us and we by revelation of the spirit know we are in Him. He has made us a kingdom- priests unto our God.

    Rev 1:6 CLV and makes us a kingdom and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and might for the eons of the eons! Amen!”

    What is going on in the world is a learning process and most are failing miserably because they are waiting for Jesus to come back and make all things right when He wants us to take the authority we have in His kingdom now and learn to rule and reign over our circumstances around us thereby making things right as we learn to listen to Him and do what His spirit directs each of us to do. Jesus came back but religion missed it they are still waiting for Him to come and take us out of here so the world can go to hell in a hand basket. I am not looking for that… If I have any of the love of God in me I could not stand for one man woman or child to stay bound while I traveled to Heaven so everyone will get what they deserve. That is not the love of Christ. Besides scripture declares that we must know that He is come. we must know He is in us and we are in Him. We just need to learn to listen to Him and do what he shows us to do.

    1Jn 5:20 KJV And we know that the Son of God IS COME, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.


    Joh 14:18-23 KJV I will not leave you comfortless: I WILL COME TO YOU. (19) Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. (20) At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (21) He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (22) Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? (23) Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

    • admin September 9, 2012 at 6:42 am

      Thanks for your input.

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