Having watched The New Adventures of Superman when I was younger than I have a lot of nostalgia tied up with the character. Some people find him boring but, you know, he flies and can punch through concrete and lasers come out his eyes, I still think that's pretty cool. And it came as no surprise to me when a link appeared on my Facebook feed to an article on the parallels between Superman and the Gospel. The last movie, Superman Returns, went the whole hog and played up the parallels big time by portraying Superman as a Messianic type figure including one scene where he floated above the city, arms spread out in crucifixion pose listening to the cries or “prayers” of the people,
Even in the latest film, then there was a lot of talk about “believing” in Superman with Russell Crowe even saying that he would be like a god to the people of earth. But despite drawing heavily on religious, specifically Christian, imagery and thought then both films, indeed, any positive comparison between Superman and Jesus misses the point of who Jesus is. Of course, the big difference is that Superman is fiction and Jesus is both historical reality (when he walked this earth) and eternal reality (glorified in Heaven). But laying that aside there is still much to discuss.
First it was the bankers, second it was the Members of Parliament and now it is journalists, media moguls and the police under the spotlight for corruption, dishonesty and downright disgraceful behaviour. In news that is scarcely surprising, people in positions of power will abuse their power. The whole situation is a sad one but it one from which important lessons can be drawn.
The first is that it shows the truth of the true-ism “and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32v23) and its New Testament counterpart: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6v7). It is often God’s way to bring hidden sin to light, in the lives of individuals and in society as a whole. And when this happens it should remind us that God is not unaware of our rebellion against him, he is not in the dark about the secrets we hold and the sins we commit in private. “Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD--how much more the hearts of men!” (Proverbs 15v11) A consequence of sin, aside from pain, break down and emptiness, can often be exposure. This all in turn should remind us of the day when Christ returns and all will be judged for their actions:
I think it is fair to say that at some point during every person’s life the question gets asked “where is God when things go wrong?” The recent earthquake in Haiti is a mere speck in the history of human suffering. Natural disasters, wars, famine, plagues, accidents, torture, murder, terrorist attacks, death, pain, evil… The list goes on and on and on. And when facing such a terrible account of all that is wrong with the world and all that has been wrong and all that will be wrong it is so very tempting to throw your hands in the air and say “If God exists this would never have happened therefore God doesn’t exist”
I will attempt to explain how the existence of a majestic, loving and Holy God can fit in with the evil of the world today. To truly understand where God is when things go wrong we must first answer the question: why do things go wrong anyway?
The answer is simple: sin. Back in the beginning God created the entire universe and mankind and said that it was ‘very good’. God created a perfect universe and put on Earth a man called Adam and then a woman called Eve. These were the first two humans and they were made in the image of God. And for a period of time they lived in perfect harmony with God but they had been given one rule that they were told to obey. And Satan came and tempted the Eve and through Eve, Adam and they broke this rule in direct disobedience to God, rebelling against His authority. Because of this ‘Sin entered the world”. I think it’s worth quoting part of what the curse of Sin was:
“By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
The full consequences of sin was that man’s relationship was God was broken, man lost his innocence, his personality and body became imperfect, the rest of creation was cursed and death entered the world.
So the reason why the earthquake in Haiti happened, the reason why anything bad happens is because of Adam and Eve’s rebellion against the direct command of God. This brought sin into the world and sin has poisoned all of humanity ever since. Since then every single human has been filled with sinful desires that express themselves in thought and action. Because of the curse of sin both we and the world we live in are imperfect. Sin is the root cause for all human suffering whether through nature or by man. In other words mankind only has itself to blame for the troubles and disasters of the human race.
But, why did God create mankind knowing that man would sin?
And the answer is we don’t know because God has not told us. Remember, God is much greater than we are, He is above us in every respect and He does not need to explain himself to us.
“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,’ declares the Lord.”
God is beyond our understanding, we only know as much as He has revealed to us in the Bible.
So, did God have nothing to do with the earthquake in Haiti?
Not quite, while it is true that sin and the suffering and death that results from sin do not originate from God it is also true that God can control sin in this world. Evil comes from the Devil but God can use evil as a tool if He so wishes. The earthquake at Haiti happened because God allowed it to happen; the suffering did not come from God He merely permitted it.
Why then does God permit sin to happen? Why did he permit the earthquake to go ahead?
To answer this question we need to turn to the book of Job in the Bible. Now Job was a wealthy and righteous man who followed God. At a certain point in Job’s life Satan went to God and asked God’s permission to carry out evil against Job. God gave His permission and in the course of one day Job lost all his children, all his riches and then suffered from boils and sickness. Although this evil did not come from God, God allowed it to happen. Initially Job responds by saying:
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
This is a fantastic statement of trust in God and one that shows our proper attitude. God has authority over us, He decides what happens to us and to the world at large and we need to submit to that. Yet Job still wanted answers and at the end of the book of Job God comes to him and speaks directly to Job. What God says is God’s answer to the above question:
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?”
Job 38 v 4 -5
And God asks these questions to Job for four whole chapters! Four chapters! God makes it quite clear that we should not question His actions; God is so much beyond us! We need to remember that.
But, doesn’t that make God a bad god? Ok, you say, evil, death and suffering exist because of sin and not because of God. Yet God controls this sin and permits sin to happen. And we are to submit to God and not question His actions. I don’t like that!
Firstly, if you are thinking that question, then that is pride – you are essentially saying that you know better than God! You are demanding that God listens to you because you are wiser than Him!
Secondly, what should God do? Should He stop all evil? What then would be the consequence of man’s sin? If God acted against all suffering, pain and wrong doing then it would be like God forgetting we had ever broken His law. But God is completely holy therefore sin needs to be punished and it is punished mainly through death and partly through having to live with imperfect bodies and personalities on a imperfect world. There has to be consequences for breaking God’s law.
Thirdly, perhaps you think that God should stop more evil than He does but this argument could just keep going and going until you get to God stopping all evil. Far better to trust in God and realise that only He has the wisdom to decide the full extent to which evil and natural disasters and death can happen.
Fourthly, let me ask you a question: where is God when things go right? It is easy enough to complain when things go wrong but have you ever thanked God for all that is good in your life? For your health, friends, job, income, happiness, security, etc, etc, etc. God has made his goodness abundantly clear to us and we cannot question his existence when we see evil if we do not thank Him for when we see good. Imagine how much worse this world would be if God didn’t act at all! The fact that He restrains some evil is evidence to his infinite goodness to us.
Was the earthquake a judgement on Haiti?
Yes, in a way, it was part of God’s general judgement of sin: i.e. death. The end result of sin: evil and suffering act as constant reminders to us that we are fallen creatures who live in rebellion against God. These terrible events hammer the point home that as I’ve said before:
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6 v 23
Evil and suffering focus our minds from our present lives onto the eternity which is to come. They act as a solemn signal to the consequences of sin and to God’s wrath against sin.
So what now?
If you’re not Christian you should think seriously about this. The Haiti earthquake reminds us of our own mortality. Seeing evil and suffering should remind you of your own rebellion against God and you’re need for a Saviour. Seeing earthquakes and other natural disasters should remind you that the end result of sin is death. We are all going to die. Are you ready for it?
If you’re Christian you should thank the Lord that He is good and holy and righteousness and fully deserving of our worship. You should take heart that this imperfect world so full of evil and pain will one day pass away and a new Heaven and a new earth will be created where there is no sin and no suffering and we will be given perfect bodies to worship our perfect Lord. And you should take encouragement that God is in control of all evil and sin and that we can trust in Him to do what it best!
And finally let us use this opportunity to do good! Let us give generously to the relief efforts, let us pray for those in Haiti and let us let God show his grace through us!
Benjamin realises that it is not Friday but he felt it important to write this.