Monday, February 28, 2011

Theodicy Again

Image from Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K Orion that conducted aerial surveillance of areas affected in Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011. Crown Copyright 2011, NZ Defence Force – Some Rights Reserved.

And there were present, at that very time, some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And he answering, said to them: Think you that these Galileans were sinners above all the men of Galilee, because they suffered such things?  No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen upon whom the tower fell in Siloe, and slew them: think you, that they also were debtors above all the men that dwelt in Jerusalem?  No, I say to you; but except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish. 
— St Luke xiii, 1-5

Our Lord here teaches the moral we mortal men ought draw from every disaster, man-made or natural: those who died in the fall of the tower at Siloe, those who perished in the collapse of the spire in Christchurch, they were no worse nor better than we are; "but except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish."  Thus saith the Lord!
On Occasion of an Earthquake.
O LORD our God, We desire with the utmost Reverence to prostrate our Souls before Thee, confessing that Thou art a great God, mighty and terrible; Thou removest the Mountains, and overturnest them in thine Anger, Thou shakest the Earth out of her Place, and makest the Pillars thereof to tremble. We beseech Thee, O Lord, to awaken our Attention, duly to consider and hear the Voice of thy amazing Judgements, and to learn the Instructions they have a tendency to convey: may We every one of us examine our own Hearts, see where we have done Iniquity, and sincerely resolve to do so no more: Suffer us not, as soon as our present Consternation is over, to forget our Deliverance, or to grow vain and presumptuous, lest a worse Thing should befall us. We acknowledge it is of thy Goodness, O God, that we were not utterly consumed, and that we were not swallowed up quick, by the late dreadful Earthquake. O may a Sense of thy many wonderful Preservations of us continually abide upon our Hearts, and produce such a godly Care and Watchfulness in our Conduct, that, no Disaster in Life may ever surprize us; that Death itself, at what time and in what manner soever it cometh, may not find us unprepared; and that at length We may safely arrive at that Kingdom, which can never be moved; for the Sake of thy Mercy in Christ Jesus, our Worthy Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.
The Christian Common Prayer Book or Universal Liturgy (London: 1761), 55f.


Pr Mark Henderson said...

Dear Joshua,

The Greek does not say "do penance", but "repent". There's quite a difference, you know. We're not saved by "doing penance", but by repentance and faith.

Kind regards

Joshua said...

Indeed: without faith and repentance, penance availeth nothing. It was far from my mind to imagine anyone so foolish as to do penance yet maintain an impenitent heart, let alone believe not.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

And if you do repent and believe, Joshua, you have no need to 'do penance'.


Joshua said...

Sorry to take so long to get around to replying.

That sounds so very Lutheran - which I suppose is to be expected from you, dear Pastor!

From a Catholic perspective, it sounds rather glib, though I'm sure that would not be your intended meaning.

I recall from somewhere that perfect love casteth out sin... but a mere "I'm sorry" without any particular sign of repentance is hardly demonstrative of a true change of heart.

Consider these texts - I cite the Douay-Rheims; but, as you may prefer, I add the King James Version:

Matthew 3:8
Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance. (DR)
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance (KJV)

Luke 3:8a
Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of penance... (DR)
Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance... (KJV)

Acts 26:20
But to them first that are at Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and unto all the country of Judea, and to the Gentiles did I preach, that they should do penance, and turn to God, doing works worthy of penance. (DR)
But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (KJV)