Over at Mablog Doug Wilson continues to write on how to go about reading the meaning of historical events in terms of what God is saying. Wilson’s contention is that Christians ought to be able to read the times and by doing so proclaim what God is saying by events that happen in history. The belief that Christians ought to have the ability to do this has long historical legs in Christian thinking. St. Louis IX the Christian Crusader King concluded that God was afflicting him for his sins by not giving him the victory he was looking for on the Crusades in which he participated. The Puritan forebears in the early colonies understood God’s hand to be against them for disobedience when calamity came against them. Many of the Southern Theologians in the 2nd War for American Independence explained their defeat as God’s just judgments against them for their sins as a nation. In the same way you can find the opposite conclusions that God was giving success to undertakings because of obedience rendered by the people. You can find the kind of thing that Doug Wilson is contemplating all over Church history.
Now the positive aspect of this kind of approach is that it reminds us that what happens in history does not happen by way of mechanical necessity. This approach reminds us that God is intimately involved in history.It reminds us that Hurricanes are God’s Hurricanes. It reminds us that a rising to or falling from power is done by God. It reminds us that prosperity is ultimately due to God’s favor. Christians raised in a world where science is sovereign and so everything that happens has to be explained in terms of science need to learn that everything comes from a sovereign God who remains the sustainer and governor of the Universe.
Of course the problem with this enterprise is that it may be beyond human endeavor to climb up into God’s filing cabinet in order to say a “Thus saith the Lord” by way of precise explanation for why Hurricane Katrina happened or why 9-11 happened or why there are floods in the Midwest. Sure, we can always give the necessary observation that if towers fall and kill people what the living should do is repent unless something worst should happen to them (Luke 13:1-4) but that is a far piece from saying that the tower fell because of some legislation that passed that was anti-Christ.
On this subject here are a few things that I would like to recognize.
1.) Immediate blessing is not always the consequence of obedience and immediate cursing is not always the consequence of disobedience. The Covenanters were an obedient people but for decades they were mercilessly persecuted. The same goes for the Hugenots and the Puritans. Immediate blessing doesn’t always follow obedience.
2.) Whenever God does curse a people that curse is a blessing to God’s people who live among the cursed people. This is to say that for those who belong to God, whatever God does is blessing to them. The Heidelberg Catechism gets at this when it says “that God will make whatever evils he sends upon me (His people), in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage.” This means that if God sends a natural calamity it is both a cursing and a blessing. It is a cursing to God haters but a blessing to those God loves. God may chasten those He loves but that chastening is a blessing.
3.) Similarly whenever God blesses a people that blessing is always a curse to the reprobate. God may act favorably toward a people for the sake of His people in their midst but that very favor is judgment against the reprobate in their midst.
4.) The ability to say “This is That” gives the person who takes that upon himself to much power. If people really believe that somebody can tell them why God does such and such in history that person speaks to them with the voice of God and so has a leverage that probably isn’t going to be healthy. Cults form around people who presume to be able to be God’s interpreter on why what happens, happens.
It is my conviction that we should go very slow on taking up the prophetic mantle in order to do a “this is that” commentary at what happens in history. We don’t have the advantage of being inspired so as to have divine insight into the meaning of God’s working in this world as did the prophets in the Scriptures. On the other hand we need to cultivate the sense that all that happens, happens by the working of a Sovereign God bringing about the ends he has decreed.