Anglican Bishop Comments on Faith Shaken in Catastrophes


#1

Archbishop of Canterbury admits: This makes me doubt the existence of God

The Asian tsunami disaster should make all Christians question the existence of God, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, writes in The Telegraph today.

In a deeply personal and candid article, he says “it would be wrong” if faith were not “upset” by the catastrophe which has already claimed more than 150,000 lives.
*
Dr Rowan Williams: Prayer provides no ‘magical solutions’

Prayer, he admits, provides no “magical solutions” and most of the stock Christian answers to human suffering do not “go very far in helping us, one week on, with the intolerable grief and devastation in front of us”.

Dr Williams, who, as head of the Church of England, represents 70 million Anglicans around the world, writes: “Every single random, accidental death is something that should upset a faith bound up in comfort and ready answers. Faced with the paralysing magnitude of a disaster like this, we naturally feel more deeply outraged - and also more deeply helpless.”

He adds: “The question, ‘How can you believe in a God who permits suffering on this scale?’ is therefore very much around at the moment, and it would be surprising if it weren’t - indeed it would be wrong if it weren’t.”

news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/01/02/nbish02.xml


#2

This is the man Blair chose to lead a communion of 77 million people? :whacky:


#3

Well, I don’t blame God or question Him when natural disasters occur. God created the universe. Certain natural forces are at work. If man insists on living in the most vulnerable areas – building in earthquake zones, living in the shadow of volcanos, etc. – I can’t blame God for that. I think these countries should have had a warning system, but they’re very poor and couldn’t afford one. We could have helped them build one for a lot less than this disaster is going to cost.

This tragedy really brings into focus the difference in the standard of living in the U.S. and other countries. We are less than 10% of the world’s population and we consume something on the order of 44% of the world’s available resources. God’s gonna get us for that. Lord have mercy!

JMJ Jay


#4

If you actually read the letter to which the article refers, Rowan goes on to say something rather different than what the article writer makes of it (you can access the letter through the article cited above). I don’t know what constitutes fair use here. I’m including the most relevant part (roughly the latter half, with no “snips” in the quote. If that’s too much, I trust the moderators will snip the whole thing.

*The extraordinary fact is that belief has survived such tests again and again – not because it comforts or explains but because believers cannot deny what has been shown or given to them. They have learned to see the world and life in the world as a freely given gift; they have learned to be open to a calling or invitation from outside their own resources, a calling to accept God’s mercy for themselves and make it real for others; they have learned that there is some reality to which they can only relate in amazement and silence. These convictions are terribly assaulted by all those other facts of human experience that seem to point to a completely arbitrary world, but people still feel bound to them, not for comfort or ease, but because they have imposed themselves on the shape of a life and the habits of a heart.

Most importantly in this connection, religious people have learned to look at other human faces with something of the amazement and silence that God himself draws out of them. They see the immeasurable value, the preciousness, of each life. And here is one of the paradoxes. The very thing that lies closest to the heart of a religious way of life in the world, the passion about the value of each and every life, the passion that makes religious people so obstinate and inconvenient when society discusses abortion and euthanasia – this is also just what makes human disaster so appalling, so much of a challenge to the feelings. Sometimes a secular moralist may say in contemporary debates: “Nature is wasteful of life; we can’t hold to absolute views of the value of every human organism.” That is not an option for the believer. That is why for the believer the uniqueness of every sufferer in a disaster such as the present one is so especially harrowing. There are no “spare” lives.

That is also why the reaction of faith is or should be always one of passionate engagement with the lives that are left, a response that asks not for understanding but for ways of changing the situation in whatever – perhaps very small – ways that are open to us. The odd thing is that those who are most deeply involved – both as sufferers and as helpers – are so often the ones who spend least energy in raging over the lack of explanation. They are likely to shrug off, awkwardly and not very articulately, the great philosophical or religious questions we might want to press. Somehow, they are most aware of two things: a kind of strength and vision just to go on; and a sense of the imperative for practical service and love. Somehow in all of this, God simply emerges for them as a faithful presence. Arguments “for and against” have to be put in the context of that awkward, stubborn persistence.*


#5

[quote=mean_owen]If you actually read the letter to which the article refers, Rowan goes on to say something rather different than what the article writer makes of it (you can access the letter through the article cited above). I don’t know what constitutes fair use here. I’m including the most relevant part (roughly the latter half, with no “snips” in the quote. If that’s too much, I trust the moderators will snip the whole thing.

Most importantly in this connection, religious people have learned to look at other human faces with something of the amazement and silence that God himself draws out of them. They see the immeasurable value, the preciousness, of each life. And here is one of the paradoxes. The very thing that lies closest to the heart of a religious way of life in the world, the passion about the value of each and every life, the passion that makes religious people so obstinate and inconvenient when society discusses abortion and euthanasia ? this is also just what makes human disaster so appalling, so much of a challenge to the feelings. Sometimes a secular moralist may say in contemporary debates: “Nature is wasteful of life; we can’t hold to absolute views of the value of every human organism.” That is not an option for the believer. That is why for the believer the uniqueness of every sufferer in a disaster such as the present one is so especially harrowing. There are no “spare” lives.
[/quote]

Well, maybe, he’ll change the C of E’s position on ABORTION so that the C of E (and ECUSA which holds the most radical pro-abortion position) would agree with His Holiness on the issue of Human Life and Abortion!

That would mean his words about “NO Spare Lives” actually meant something.

This disaster is a Test, and only time will tell if we’ll pass the test.

In Him, Michael


#6

Michael- If memory serves correctly, Williams is rather strongly anti-abortion. Like the Pope, he’s rather opposed to a lot of wars, as well. Unlike the Pope, he cannot make any binding declarations such as you propose. He doesn’t have, or claim, that mojo.

Incidentally, what are the exact, official Anglican and ECUSA positions on abortion?

Also, by Test, do you mean God inflicted the tsunamies on the victims, to see how we’d respond?


#7

Yes, the death toll from the tsunami now is about 150,000 and rising.

Dead babies from abortions number about 1,500,000 every year in the U.S. alone.

Nobody wrings their hands in grief over the lives lost from abortion. Go figure.

Here’s the Anglican Church of Canada’s Official Position on Abortion:
generalsynod.anglican.ca/ministries/departments/doc.php?id=76&dept=library

The General Synod of the Church of England states (in part):

The church combines strong opposition to abortion with a recognition that there can be limited conditions under which it is morally legitimate. Such times as when a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, where the mother has been raped, where the foetus is at risk of being seriously handicapped.

The Episcopal Church of the United States:
Episcopal Church (Anglican)

http://www.religioustolerance.org/_themes/topo/topbul1d.gif1998: 69th General Convention:
All human life is sacred from its inception until death. The Church takes seriously its obligation to help form the consciences of its members concerning this sacredness…We regard all abortion as having a tragic dimension, calling for the concern and compassion of all the Christian community. While we acknowledge that in this country it is the legal right of every woman to have a medically safe abortion, as Christians we believe strongly that if this right is exercised, it should be used only in extreme situations. We emphatically oppose abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection, or any reason of mere convenience.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/_themes/topo/topbul1d.gif1994: 71st General Convention:
"*Resolved, That this 71st General Convention (1994) of the Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or nation governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman *


#8

Jay- thanks for posting those. I knew the ECUSA stance, but not the others. (BTW, The 69th convention was in 1988.

Anywho, my main point in responding to this thread was that the article did seem to take Williams’ words somewhat out of context. Not exactly a media first, now, is it?

That said, Williams is a rather complicated individual. He is indeed liberal on some issues, but abortion isn’t one of them.

zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=23738
*One of Britain’s leading pro-life groups, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, warmly congratulated Williams on his elevation.

Said John Smeaton, SPUC national director: “The archbishop has been a life member of SPUC for many years; we are delighted to see that someone of such positive pro-life views has been recommended for the most senior position in the Church of England.”

Smeaton added: “The example he gives of Christian witness to the sanctity of human life whether unborn or born will inspire other Anglicans throughout the world to recognize that society must foster a loving and supportive environment for the weakest and most vulnerable of the human race.”

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, archbishop of Westminster and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, welcomed the appointment of Williams in what he called “challenging times” for Christian leaders.

“As a theologian of distinction, a man of deep spirituality and a gifted communicator he will, I have no doubt, prove to be a force for great good in this country and throughout the Christian world,” the cardinal said in a statement. *


#9

Saw this man speaking on the news yesterday on Sky, my word what an inspiration he is to people :rolleyes:

No mention of abortion, and the Queen praising people for their generosity, it almost made me sick, it was her who signed childrens lives away.
Then they blame God, did God kill all the little babies too ?


#10

[quote=Stephen-Maguire]Saw this man speaking on the news yesterday on Sky, my word what an inspiration he is to people :rolleyes:

No mention of abortion, and the Queen praising people for their generosity, it almost made me sick, it was her who signed childrens lives away.
Then they blame God, did God kill all the little babies too ?
[/quote]

For those of use that didn’t see the show, was the topic of conversation supposed to be abortion, and he and the Queen shirked it? Also, what did he and the Queen blame God for?


#11

I feel we can look at this terrible disaster in two ways. 1. We can focus only on the death and destruction leading to the questioning of the existance of God.

  1. We can search for all the good that has come out of it so far. The miracles that have occured during the great catastrophe. The fact that lives were saved in the most unusual manner (baby floating on a matress for 5 hours), lives are being saved and that lives will continue to be saved thanks to the great outpouring of human compassion that has been witnessed. This should lead us to the conclusion that God is indeed with us at the most difficult moments. With us in this disaster and through it all the way.

Of course we need to take in both sides. Question by all means but don’t stop there. Search and see Him there.

Such a shame to see that the ‘Archbishop’ cannot see God’s hand at work.

Can we not see also that nuclear testing in this region over many years could be to blame for this huge tectonic movement??

It is so easy to blame God. It needs no further explanation. So easy to say there told ya He does not even exist. It is much more difficult to try and recognise Him in the midst of it all. he did say He would be there. Look for Him.


#12

[quote=Fergal]I feel we can look at this terrible disaster in two ways. 1. We can focus only on the death and destruction leading to the questioning of the existance of God.

  1. We can search for all the good that has come out of it so far. The miracles that have occured during the great catastrophe. The fact that lives were saved in the most unusual manner (baby floating on a matress for 5 hours), lives are being saved and that lives will continue to be saved thanks to the great outpouring of human compassion that has been witnessed. This should lead us to the conclusion that God is indeed with us at the most difficult moments. With us in this disaster and through it all the way.

Of course we need to take in both sides. Question by all means but don’t stop there. Search and see Him there.

Such a shame to see that the ‘Archbishop’ cannot see God’s hand at work.

Can we not see also that nuclear testing in this region over many years could be to blame for this huge tectonic movement??

It is so easy to blame God. It needs no further explanation. So easy to say there told ya He does not even exist. It is much more difficult to try and recognise Him in the midst of it all. he did say He would be there. Look for Him.
[/quote]

Fergal- I agree that we can always look to see the good that can come out of even the most horrific tragedies. Maybe I misread h his letter, but I get the impression that Williams was driving at the same thing. He wasn’t telling people that they should blame God, rather that he understands that is a response, tho that’s not where it stops. He goes on to say:
*The extraordinary fact is that belief has survived such tests again and again- not because it comforts or explains but because believers cannot deny what has been shown or given to them. They have learned to see the world and life in the world as a freely given gift; they have learned to be open to a calling or invitation from outside their own resources, a calling to accept God’s mercy for themselves and make it real for others; they have learned that there is some reality to which they can only relate in amazement and silence. …That is also why the reaction of faith is or should be always one of passionate engagement with the lives that are left, a response that asks not for understanding but for ways of changing the situation in whatever Ð perhaps very small Ð ways that are open to us. *


#13

[quote=mean_owen]For those of use that didn’t see the show, was the topic of conversation supposed to be abortion, and he and the Queen shirked it? Also, what did he and the Queen blame God for?
[/quote]

I didn’t see a show, it was a female news reader on an outside broadcast.
She asked him to the best of my memory how could he the vicar reconcile God with what happened with this disaster.
“They” refers to some people in general, all I’m saying is his response as a minister of God was pretty pittiful.

I was referring to the said Dr Williams, and the hyprocisy of the Queen signing babies lives away, and then some people wondering where God is in all this.
The Queen a few days ago praised people for their generosity (fine and good) but she signed babies lives away.

It’s ok to murder babies, no collection for them, collecting body part is all they are good at.


#14

Maybe I’m missing something, but I guess I’m still not quite following why Williams would have been expected to discuss abortion, or the war in Iraq, during a conversation regarding tsunamis in Asia. It seems like a big enough topic on it own to tackle in a short speech/conversation. Was the Queen on at the same time? And did she recently pass a law regarding abortion or something? (I don’t get Sky TV where I live.)

As far as somehow blaming God for these disasters, check out this quote (#9), regarding the tsunamis:

“…I’m afraid it’s a rejection of God that brings these things on mankind. Telling Christ we don’t want Him at Christmas, or any other time of year, oh well may God have mercy on us”

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=29896

Sounds like lots of folks are blaming the tsunamis on God.


#15

It looks like my own post, ok lets forget about this one. I’ve said what I’ve said.

No the Queen didn’t sign it recently, she has though to sign some things that go through Parliment, years ago she signed the abortion act.

Ok mean_owen what way would you have answered the question about how could God let something like the under water quake happen ?


#16

It is interesting that the topic of abortion and the babies lost over time takes over when there is a disaster of such proportions. Personally, I think that there is a connection between our stubborness to reform the laws allowing so many babies to be killed and the dimension of the disasters that have been hitting the world over a period of at least 20 years.

The death toll from this earthquake and Tsunami is bigger than anything that I have seen before. My faith in God has not been shaken by this tragedy, for I believe that if we, as a whole, that is all of Christianity, had been able to get our act together to be working as one body in Christ, against abortion, instead of fighting with each other over theology, then perhaps, God’s justice for our wickedness would be stayed a little longer.

The one thing that has come to my mind is that the worst hit area, the Indonesian province of Aceh is an area where there has been extreme persecution of the Christians. In Thailand, the worst hit area was that of the playground of the rich. In Sri Lanka, the worst hit area is the home of the Tamils who have been at war with their government. In India there has also been persecution of Christians by both Muslim and Hindu.

Yes innocent lives have been lost and there have been a few miracles such as the child that was taken to the morgue because they thought she was dead, and the baby floating on a mattress. There have been stories of heroism, as some have unselfishly pushed their loved ones to safety and have died in the process.

I think it is a warning for all who do not believe and who have fallen away. It is a reminder of the power of God.

MaggieOH


#17

[quote=Stephen-Maguire]It looks like my own post, ok lets forget about this one. I’ve said what I’ve said.

No the Queen didn’t sign it recently, she has though to sign some things that go through Parliment, years ago she signed the abortion act.

Ok mean_owen what way would you have answered the question about how could God let something like the under water quake happen ?
[/quote]

If I were asked point-blank, the best I might be able to muster would probably be “s#!t happens”. There’s a reason they won’t let be archbishop.

Given just a little more time, (like right now), I’d still say pretty much the same thing, though I’d word it somewhat differently. I tend to not gravitate toward the idea that God causes these things to happen either to punish us or teach us a lesson (though as both Rowan and Fergal said, we certainly CAN and should learn lessons from these disasters). Jesus told us after all that the rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked- I reckon it’s the same with tsunamis and cancer. We live in a world where these things can happen. They happen to great saints, wretched sinners, and those in the middle.

Although I don’t think God causes these things to happen to us, I do believe that He suffers with us. I don’t recall the Gospels mentioning tsunamis or cancer, but Jesus did know a little bit about suffering. That fact alone, that He loves us and suffers with us, I find very comforting. From my own perspective, I’d also like to hope that I could look at Jesus as a model for selfless suffering, and still find it in me to love and help others.

And if I had a lot of time to answer, I’d have to dig into some old, and some newer, texts on theodicy. Seems like Augustine discussed that some. Either that, or cut and paste from When bad things happen to good people.


#18

[quote=Traditional Ang]Well, maybe, he’ll change the C of E’s position on ABORTION so that the C of E (and ECUSA which holds the most radical pro-abortion position) would agree with His Holiness on the issue of Human Life and Abortion!

That would mean his words about “NO Spare Lives” actually meant something.

This disaster is a Test, and only time will tell if we’ll pass the test.

In Him, Michael
[/quote]

Gimme back my sig line :slight_smile:

Maybe JP2 could bring to an end the culture of secrecy among us, that made all those scandals possible. I can’t see any difference between the two objectionable things - Rowan’s, and Karol’s, that is. JP2 has far more power in the CC than Abp. Williams has in the Anglican communion, so he ought to be much more able to correct evils.

A case of sorts can be made in defence of abortion - but child molestation is universally admitted to be utterly vile, whatever
one’s churchmanship. All Catholic criticisms of Anglican sin will rebound upon us as long as child molestation is not made next to impossible in the clergy. ==


#19

why cares what this guy says. he’s not validly ordained and his church is a total disgrace. why not post what bon jovi has to say about this, at least he use to have sweet hair.


#20

[quote=MaggieOH]It is interesting that the topic of abortion and the babies lost over time takes over when there is a disaster of such proportions. Personally, I think that there is a connection between our stubborness to reform the laws allowing so many babies to be killed and the dimension of the disasters that have been hitting the world over a period of at least 20 years.

The death toll from this earthquake and Tsunami is bigger than anything that I have seen before. My faith in God has not been shaken by this tragedy, for I believe that if we, as a whole, that is all of Christianity, had been able to get our act together to be working as one body in Christ, against abortion, instead of fighting with each other over theology, then perhaps, God’s justice for our wickedness would be stayed a little longer.

The one thing that has come to my mind is that the worst hit area, the Indonesian province of Aceh is an area where there has been extreme persecution of the Christians. In Thailand, the worst hit area was that of the playground of the rich. In Sri Lanka, the worst hit area is the home of the Tamils who have been at war with their government. In India there has also been persecution of Christians by both Muslim and Hindu.

Yes innocent lives have been lost and there have been a few miracles such as the child that was taken to the morgue because they thought she was dead, and the baby floating on a mattress. There have been stories of heroism, as some have unselfishly pushed their loved ones to safety and have died in the process.

I think it is a warning for all who do not believe and who have fallen away. It is a reminder of the power of God.

MaggieOH
[/quote]

Maggie- Are you also saying that God not just allowed this to happen, but caused it to occur?


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