Saturday, April 23, 2011

The September Christchurch Earthquake

Published in late 2010 in Challenge Weekly

As I write, it is the day after the Canterbury September earthquake. I want to wish all those in Christchurch whose lives have been so deeply affected all God's blessing and strength.

I have been pondering a theological response to this event. Some might see it as the judgment of God, a warning shot to NZ or even Christchurch itself for her idolatry and sin. While this is possible as the Scriptures do warn of such events, it is a dangerous position to take without revelation to that effect. Usually when God brings such judgment there is a warning with consequences. Whether or not this right on this occasion of which I am dubious, we believers should take time to ponder whether we are truly living full of for God full on, turn from sin and seek to honour him.

Another possible perspective is to see here a pointer to the imminent return of Christ based on the signs of the second coming (Matt 24). This is possible, but seismic studies do not show that earthquakes are on the increase in any significant way. Further, we need to be very wary about excessive speculation concerning the return of Christ as so many people have got this wrong in the past! As above, whether this view is correct or not, we should take time to ask ourselves whether we are ready for Christ's return sold out to the things of God.

Another angle is to see such things as an indirect result of the Fall, a consequence of the corruption let loose in all creation through sin (Rom 8:19-23). We can see this in at least two ways. First, some believe that the world before the Fall was stable without such cataclysm. The first sin caused a rupture that rent the earth itself leading to earthquakes, tsunamis, eruptions etc. This appeals to most Christians who reject the idea of death before the Fall. Secondly, others believe that before the Fall such events happened, but God protected and sustained people through them. This view appeals to some scientifically minded believers who argue that there was death in the animal world before the Fall. While open to other views, I prefer the first of these views longing for the day when Christ returns and the world is restored to its original stability (Rev 21-22).

The final and most important thought is to see this event as a spur to action. First, that we give thanks to God for his goodness to us that no one's life was lost, we pray for those who are so deeply affected and for God's continued protection of our nation. Secondly, that we renew our efforts to give and serve compassionately to alleviate the suffering of others. Finally, that we ponder the difference between this event and the Haiti earthquake in which 230,000 died and become increasingly committed to work for global justice. Go deeper!


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