Thursday, February 7, 2008

Tornaders and The Big Picture

This past Tuesday evening was one wild night, and I'm not talking about the elections. A huge cold front ripped across the Mid-south, bringing with it around 30 tornadoes and killing about fifty people from Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Union University was totaled; the Hickory Ridge Mall was smashed; houses were obliterated; cars were flipped; and, oh yes, people died.
Times like these can bring out the old atheistic trump card: "If God is so good, why all the destruction?" Ah, yes; the good old "problem of evil." For me, however, times like these make that "problem" a rather odd question to ask.
Consider: why did only fifty people die? (Stay with me, now; I'm not being callous.) We had thirty tornadoes cutting across three states. Why aren't we hearing about hundreds, even thousands, of deaths? Why only fifty? Those fifty are horrible and sobering on their own, but problem-of-evil proponents don't like those nit-picky details; they like the big picture (Try and tell them in the midst of a tragedy: "What about all those who survived?" They'll say: "What about all those who were killed!" See? Big picture). They'll say: "Look at the big picture! All that devastation! All those deaths!" Okay, fine. We'll stick with the big picture then: thirty tornadoes and only fifty deaths. That is not a "problem of evil." That is a miracle, and nothing else.
Consider also: Union University was slammed with a F4 tornado, the second most powerful tornado possible (the highest is an F5). The university dorms (where the F4 tornado mostly hit) were full of students. How come no one was killed? That's right: the second most powerful tornado possible strikes buildings full of people, and no one is killed. Is that an opportunity for agnosticism, or to fall down on your knees and worship? Only a narrow-minded fool chooses the former.
At the risk of sounding very cheesy (and cliche), why can't atheist just look at the bright side? In other words, why can't they see the miracles that occur in the midst of (and not in spite of) the tragedies? It's like they wear blinders that funnel everything bad and wretched right into their faces until they are smothered by darkness. I am convinced that most atheistic tendencies are the result of always seeing the glass half empty. Chesterton was right in noting that atheist and agnostics seem to be caught in perpetual pessimism: they are forced to be "gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones;" and I believe Chesterton to be right when he said, "It is not native to man to be so."
For the Christian, the big picture is joy, the joy of the Lord, the joy of knowing the Lord; and grief is merely another opportunity to know Him even more. Joy is fundamental; grief is superficial. For the atheist, however, it is reversed. The big picture is grief, the grief of man, the grief of man alone; and joy is merely a way to escape reality, to escape the despair. Grief is fundamental, but joy isn't even superficial; it is non-existent, an illusion. True Christianity is wise enough to admit that there is grief; but it is also brave and courageous enough to defiantly proclaim that grief is not the end, not the big picture. The big picture is transitory grief surrounded and penetrated by eternal joy.
There is grief (fifty people really were killed), but there is joy (many more should have died that didn't). The question is, "Where is your focus?" Solely on grief, and a man turns from God. Solely on joy, and man becomes naive (though much happier). Solely on both, and man sees the big picture; and consequently, finds God, for His presence is found in both the laughter and the pain. Amen.

2 comments:

Drew said...

Interesting thought. I am always suspicious of theological attempts to explain away pain as part of "God's greater purpose" or other such blasphemous nonsense...I was delighted to read your post, as it seemed to put the focus more on a phenomenological footing rather than a metaphysical one. God being a co-sufferer (albeit only in an analogical sense, since God does not literally suffer, as the First Cause) rather than the cause of suffering seems to be much more in line with a uniquely Christian view of evil than its Calvinistic alternative. Very enjoyable post. :)

Drew

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