If you haven’t already, it will only be a matter of time before you see some prominent Christian figure make a statement attributing God’s wrath, judgment, and will to the devastation in Oklahoma. Not only do I find such statements unhelpful and hurtful, but typically more political or moralistic in nature than theological. These statements tend to say more about the individual speaking than the God they are speaking about.
Webster defines will as: “– used to express desire, choice, willingness, consent”
Suggesting God desired the destruction, devastation, and death of the most recent storms is not explaining God’s will but bending it. Bending God’s will to our agenda is arrogant, inaccurate, and the equivalent of a theological cop-out. It’s arrogant because it suggests we can use God’s will to advance our various agendas or talking points. That somehow we can make God’s will a hammer that beats people into submission, regardless of the method or damage.
I have a hard time coming to the understanding from scripture that God would desire such death and destruction, which happens around the world on a daily basis. (I’ve talked about some of this before in a previous post on evil but it seems it may be worth mentioning again.) As I read scripture, I see a God who desires to give hope and a future (Jer. 29:11), to be found by us and give us good things (Matt. 7:7-11), and to be in relationship with us (Matt. 22:37-40). I see a God who has claimed victory over death, promised to wipe away every tear, and challenged the Church to be a kingdom presence here and now. God’s will is that we share in these promises, not wander through the wreckage.
Attributing every death, disease, disaster, attack, etc. to God’s will seems to me to be a sort of theological cop-out. Simply stating that tragic events are “the will of God” not only stifles conversation but leaves no room to wrestle with the tough and messy issues of life. This seems to be the theological easy way out. I am not suggesting it is possible for us to understand the mind of God or questioning God’s sovereignty, I am however suggesting that we do not live in a black and white world but, like Jacob (Gen. 32:22-30), wrestle with God in the gray.