Friday, January 16, 2009

Calvin, Providence and Jets in the Hudson

January 17, 2009
Matthew 10:29,31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”

Calvin: “Now it has been commonly accepted in all ages and almost all mortals hold the same opinion today, that all things come about through chance…Suppose a man falls among thieves or wild beasts; is shipwrecked at sea by a sudden gale; is killed by a falling house or tree. Suppose another man wandering through the desert finds help in his straits; having been tossed by the waves, reaches harbor; miraculously escapes death by a finger’s breadth. Carnal reason ascribes all such happenings, whether prosperous or adverse to chance. But…all events are governed by God’s secret plan...We read that at Joshua’s prayers the sun stood still in one degree for two days; and that its shadow went back ten degrees for the sake of King Hezekiah. God has witnessed by those few miracles that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature, but that he himself, to renew our remembrance of his fatherly favor toward us, governs its course.” (I.16.2)

Yesterday a flight from New York to Charlotte landed in the Hudson River because the engines went out shortly after take off because they hit a flight of geese (how unlucky). But it landed in the cold, icy Hudson and a normally smooth flight and day turned into a nightmare (how unlucky). But there were no boats on the water in its path (how lucky), and no homes were hit (how lucky), and everyone got out alive (how unlucky). Luck can look at the same event and see it as good luck or bad luck. Christians see God’s providential hand and trust that God has it under control. If not a sparrow falls to the ground without God’s care, surely not a 747!. NBC News called it a “miracle.” That is not a common word in a secular society. But miracles point to God’s control and to God Himself.
Calvin would not have us be blown back and forth interpreting/reading signs of luck. Instead he would have us be balanced and steady trusting in God’s leading and loving care. There is something freeing about not depending on luck or fate- which are impersonal and incontrollable. Instead of this blind, accidental belief, there is a trust that God is in control. Admittedly, it would be harder to talk about providence if everyone died. Maybe a secular person would sing praise to the pilot alone, or the skills of putting technology on the plane that made it safer in such a situation. But clearly it was not just a pilot or an engineer that created this miracle! I believe. I believe in miracles, and God’s providential hand guiding us.

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