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Aslan is Not a Tame Lion: The Christchurch Earthquake Beyond Our Questions

April 16th, 2011 by John Tertullian

In the aftermath of the second Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand, “official” Christian spokesmen were exercised to assure people that God, the Living God, had nothing to do with earthquakes. They defalcated. Their theodicy was that their god was absent. In the face of likely outrage, church officials revealed that they worship, in fact, the idol god of eighteenth century Deism, not the God of Scripture.

Aslan - Not a Tame LionA piece written by Chris Trotter (the left-wing commentator) appeared in the Christchurch Press. We reproduce it in full, as an antidote to the official nonsense.  And, what does it tell us about our age when a left-wing, non-Christian, neo-Marxist shows he has a better understanding of the Bible than “official” Christians?  God will have His glory attested to, even if it has to come out of the mouth of Balaam or Balaam’s ass. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Not A Tame Lion: Reflections On The Christchurch Earthquake:

Chris Trotter

WAS GOD PRESENT in Christchurch on 22 February 2011? It’s a question many New Zealanders have wrestled with over the past month, and the tragedy which engulfed Japan on 11 March has given it added urgency.

Officially, we’re a secular nation, yet Census data confirms that more than half of New Zealanders retain a belief in God. That belief is sorely tested by natural disasters. If God was present in Christchurch on 22 February, why didn’t He prevent the earthquake?

But, in posing this question aren’t we separating God from the natural world? Seating Him on a divine throne beyond this earthly realm? Requiring Him to demonstrate his mastery over his own creation by, in this case, countermanding the movement of the earth’s tectonic plates?

Yes, we are. But we can hardly be blamed for doing so. Because, when all is said and done, this is the view of God we have inherited from the Bible. He is the maker of heaven and earth and if it pleases him to command the sun to stand still, or the oceans to o’ertop the world, then it will be so. He is Jehovah, “I am that I am”, the God Charlton Heston (in the role of Moses) invokes when Pharaoh’s army traps the Israelites against the margins of the Red Sea.

“Behold His mighty hand!”, Charlton cries, and low, the waters of the sea are parted.

There are, of course, plusses and minuses to the Jehovan conception of divinity, as the celebrated author, C.S. Lewis, well understood.

In The Horse and His Boy, one of his Chronicles of Narnia, he makes it clear that his own rendering of the Jehovan God – the golden lion Aslan – is not a pet to be called for and dismissed at our convenience. On the contrary, he is an altogether dangerous being. As one of Lewis’s characters indignantly observes: “He’s not a tame lion!”

And, yet, it was to a rather tame deity that the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Peter Beck, appeared to be appealing in the aftermath of the earthquake. In answer to the question: “Where was God on 22 February?” he responded:

“God is in all these people. God is in the midst of all this. God is weeping with those who weep. God is alongside those who are finding the energy to just keep going. God is in the people who are reaching out and seeking to sustain one another. God is about building community, about empowering people.”

And, when a journalist demanded: ‘Yes, but where was God was when offices pancaked and burned and hundreds died?’

He replied:

“Well, we live on a dynamic, creating planet that’s doing its thing. For whatever reason, our forebears chose to build this city on this place. They didn’t know we were on this fault line. God doesn’t make bad things happen to good people. We make our own choices about what we do.”

Doing its thing?! What exactly is the Dean trying to say? That the natural world is a conscious entity? That it has its own volition and (God save us!) its own agenda? And did Cantabrians, thanks to the poor choices of their “forebears” simply find themselves in this “dynamic, creating planet’s” way? And was Jehovah, in fulfilment of some hitherto undisclosed self-denying ordinance, required to turn his face from the imminent suffering of Cantabrians and keep his mighty hands in his pockets?

If so, then God has a rival – a divine competitor in the omnipotence business. And the Dean is in flagrant breach of the Nicene Creed, the first article of which states, unequivocally: “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”.

Perhaps the Dean should return to his Bible and ponder the God that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. The God that gave man counsel from the whirlwind, and moved before the Children of Israel in a pillar of fire. Perhaps he should consider the God that laid Jericho low and sent fire from heaven to consume Sodom and Gomorrah. A red God, a wrathful God, a jealous God. The God that was ready to drown the whole world. The God who, when his son, nailed to a cross, cried out “Father, why have you forsaken me?”, remained silent.

Shock and awe. These words have been sullied by the Pentagon’s bloody hands. Yet it is only in those moments when all our human conceits are battered down and laid to waste that we, shocked and awestruck, come close to understanding Jehovah as the authors of both the Old and New Testaments understood Him.

Was God present in Christchurch on 22 February? Oh yes, He was there. And He is with us always. Beyond our questions; beyond our understanding; beyond our judgement.

Not a tame lion.

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14 responses so far ↓

  • So the question ‘Yes, but where was God was when offices pancaked and burned and hundreds died?’ has only one correct answer? What is that answer in a few palatable sentence, and how could Dean have explained that to millions of viewers world wide, considering he is not a Theologian or Philosopher

  • When I saw that column originally it was right what I needed to read at the time, which as a believer proves to me that God can even use unbelievers to speak to his people. The bit about “not a tame lion”.

    I don’t know why God allowed the earthquake, or any of the other natural disasters that have been happening around the globe recently. It’s a question we may never have an answer for.

    CS Lewis wrote in ’til we have faces: “I know now Lord why you utter no answer. You yourself are the answer. Before your face questions die away”

    But I do know this – God is there in the middle of the trauma. Even when I couldn’t “feel” his presence, or was unable to even pray because of the effects of shock, God was still with me.

    God never promised we would have a wonderful, prosperous life when everything goes right for us. But he did promise he would never leave me nor forsake me, regardless of what happens. He does promise that neither height nor depth, life nor death, the present nor the future can separate us from His love. And even in the times of darkness and grief, when He seems so far away, in some mysterious way at those times he is closest to us.

  • Guys, it was an earthquake.

    They’ve happened before, they will happen again, regardless of whether you’re naughty or nice, Christian or non-Christian, regardless of whether you pray or do not pray.

    If you don’t like the prospect of a further earthquake having a detrimental effect on your lives then the answer is simple – move house to somewhere that has a lower incidence of quakes and a lower magnitude of those that do happen too.

    England is nice this time of year. 🙂

  • pretty sure this fellow is a Christian.

  • Can God send disasters?

    Yes he can.

    How do we know when he sends a disaster?

    Because he warns people beforehand laying out the reasons for him sending the disaster.

    Was there any such warning before the earthquakes?


    Therefore God did not send this particular disaster.

  • Yes, my understanding is that Chris is a Chrtisitan. He certianly shows those tendencies in his historical writings.

    As for “left-wing” and “neo-Marxist” – one struggles to know what these mean and I suggest Tertullian has no clear understanidng either – except to see them, in his mind, as terms of abuse.

    As for Chris’s finish “Was God present in Christchurch on 22 February? Oh yes, He was there. And He is with us always. Beyond our questions; beyond our understanding; beyond our judgement.”

    Sound like building a castle out of ignorance to me no matter how forcefully he presents it.

  • I agree that the attitude people have risks creating two gods… the Creator god and the Nature god. People really need to just accept that unfortunately God is somewhat dark at times. Hard thing to face – but once you get rid of this omnibenevolent nonsense a lot of pseudo-problems disappear 😉

  • Question protected and unargued universals, and a lot of mind-gods suddenly disappear.

  • Actually I agree Max. 🙂

  • Paul has a point too.

    Jesus gave a parable about a wise man who builds his house on rock, and a foolish man who builds his house on sand. The area Christchurch is built on is basically sediment (sand) all the way down.

    You’d think a town called Christchurch would have learned a few lessons about building from the master builder.

  • PaulB. The trouble is of course there are few places on our planet that are free of natural disasters. Witness the terrible spate of tornadoes which the U.S. now contends with. Our growing understanding of plate tectonics, subduction zones, thrust faults, et al raises more questions than it answers. The Sovereign God (of geological processes) understood the implications of the peopleing of the ring of fire which engulfs the massive Pacific.

  • Jason – you do not know if there was any warning beforehand. The person(s) who may have received a warning may not have publicised it.