Friday, February 13, 2009

Failing to understand the nature of an understanding God

I found this in the Age the other day, is well-written, and a good perspective on some fairly shambolic opinions-unlike mine of course that are all completely coherent and accurately representative of God ;)

Disclaimer: Please note, this author's views have at times been known to be massively shambolic also, so no opinions high ground can really be taken.

Barney Zwartz
February 12, 2009
Christian leader Danny Nalliah's rantings about the bushfires are wrong.

CONTROVERSIAL Christian leader Danny Nalliah says the Victorian bushfires are a punishment for decriminalising abortion. Danny Nalliah is wildly wrong. He is wrong as a theologian, a thinker and a pastor, and has shocked and appalled both the mainstream community and the vast majority of his fellow Christians. They feel he has brought the name of Christ into disrepute.

At a time like this, the role of religion is not explanation; it is consolation. It is to seek to offer comfort and hope, a way of going on.

Uniting Church of Australia president Gregor Henderson speaks for most in saying Nalliah's claim is ludicrous, abhorrent and misunderstands the nature of God.

Henderson says: "God is not punishing the people of Victoria, so many of whom lost their lives, and so many more of whom are working day and night to fight fires, support the victims and provide food, clothing and shelter. God is, in fact, there with the people, in the middle of their suffering; God is made known through the love that is extended to those most in need."

Nalliah — senior pastor of Catch the Fire Ministries, a man who has enjoyed the support of former prime minister John Howard and treasurer Peter Costello — is a Pentecostal from the apocalyptic and ecstatic end of Christianity who believes God still speaks in dreams and prophecies.

He had a dream on October 21 in which Victoria was ablaze. He says he awoke, and the Spirit of God told him God had removed his protection, Victoria would be destroyed, and Nalliah should call God's people to repent and pray. He published this on his website in November.

Whether God speaks in dreams, I cannot say. The first two verses of the New Testament book of Hebrews strongly suggest otherwise (that in the past God spoke in various ways but now has spoken by his son). I can say the Bible refutes the idea that suffering is God's punishment. In the Gospel of Luke, for example, Jesus is asked exactly this question of two groups of people who died, and replies: "Do you think they were worse sinners? I tell you, no."

Another key text is the Old Testament book of Job, probably the oldest in the Bible, which ponders suffering. The answer Job is given is that there is no answer — at least, not one accessible to humans; we can only endure. God rebukes Job's comforters for offering false answers.

This might lead pastors who respect the Scripture, as Nalliah says he does, to be wary about offering explanations on behalf of God. His explanation might readily be ignored, except that something like it so often emerges at times of disaster (think hurricane Katrina and the gay mardi gras in New Orleans).

It is simply colossal arrogance to presume to speak for God in this way. To understand God fully, one would have to be God — his thoughts are not our thoughts, the prophet Isaiah says.

Do such Christians really believe God punishes the innocent to teach the guilty? Jeremiah contradicted that idea more than 2500 years ago. Meanwhile, there is another lesson from Job that impertinent pastors could ponder: "Man is born to trouble, as surely as the sparks fly upward."

I don't have the temerity to suggest any spiritual explanation for the bushfires, but there are certainly spiritual lessons — not least, what a gift life is and how precious we are to each other.

At times like this I turn to perhaps my favourite Bible verse, Romans 8:28: "In all things, God works for the good of those who love him." How and why, I cannot know — it is a matter of faith and I know that for many this will bring no consolation. But I also know that such thoughts have provided comfort through millennia of suffering.

As a young Christian exploring the denominations, I met many Pentecostals who claimed to prophesy ( "Thus saith the Lord …") and was struck by how unfailingly God's word through them precisely mirrored their own obsessions.

I don't doubt Danny Nalliah is sincerely disturbed by the Victorian abortion law. I don't even doubt he means well. I do very much doubt that his vision is from God.

Barney Zwartz is religion editor.

Practical ways to help bushfire victims

Lots of things are being donated to families displaced by the bushfires - but where to from there?

St. Vincent de Paul Society has set up in a MASSIVE warehouse in Rowville. There is a bigger pile of things than I can describe, but before it can be distributed, it needs unpacking, sorting and repacking so that it's available to people who really need it.

There's room for hundreds to help but only dozens there at the moment. There are people sorting:
8am - 8pm Monday to Friday
8am - 4pm Saturday
between now and the end of the month, at least. Or, as the lady running it told me "For as long as it takes."

If you can spare an hour or two to help, that would be fantastic. You just rock up to the warehouse, register quickly and then get to work. Lunch, tea and coffee are provided.

The exact address is Lot 7, Henderson Road, Rowville, but the building has a sign out front saying "For Lease" labelled "37 Dunlop Road, Mulgrave". It's 400m from Kellet's Road. I've put the exact location on this map:
http://maps.google.com.au/maps/ms?hl=en&ie=UTF8&msa=0&ll=-37.907692,145.242382&spn=0.011512,0.01914&t=h&z=16&msid=108540098799107343748.000462a2a625f9fb015d8

Please forward this invitation on to anyone you think might be interested.

Friday, February 06, 2009

What;s going on?

Just testing to see if this still works at all...

Been having some troubles with it.

Spewing too, cos I actually have some stuff to write about.