When Worlds Collide
A few days ago I read through R.C. Sproul’s little book When Worlds Collide. This book was written in early 2002, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Sproul wrote it as a response to those events, as a means of grappling with the difficult questions related to God’s sovereignty and human suffering. As I read the book I was struck by how relevant it remains today, especially since 9/11 is still so real and since so many people still have not really dealt with it in their hearts and minds (and perhaps never will).
It is interesting to trace Sproul’s teaching on the subject. Here I’ll provide just a few quotes that ought to give you a sense of his logic.
The events of 9/11 were a mortal blow to relativism, because the response of Americans and the response of people the world over, after looking at this heinous attack on human life, was the very "unrelativistic" declaration that "This is evil." … One cannot have such a shocking encounter with pure evil and walk away, saying, "Well, it's a relative thing."
If we look carefully at the biblical understanding of God and construct our worldview on this basis, we see that God in His providence is a sovereign God, who not only governs nature and the laws of nature but who raises nations up and brings nations low. Within His providence come both blessing and calamity.
If God did not ordain all things, He would not be sovereign over all things. And if He is not sovereign over all things, then He is not God at all.
God's ordination of all things does not annihilate human decisions or the forces of nature. Yet at the same time the sovereignty of God stands over every human event.
I do not know why God ordained 9/11, but I know that He did ordain it because if He did not ordain it, it would not have happened. Since it happened, I know for certain that God ordained it in some sense. That is one of the most difficult concepts even for devout Christians to deal with. Yet the concept is found on almost every page of sacred Scripture. It is at the very heart of the Christian faith.
The word "tragedy" presupposes some kind of order or purpose in the world. If the world has purpose and order, then all that occurs in it is meaningful in some respect. The idea of a "senseless tragedy" represents a worldview that is completely incompatible with Christian thought. It assumes that something happens without purpose or without meaning.
Christians do not allow for meaningless events to take place, because at the heart of the Christian worldview is the idea that everything in history has a purpose in the mind of Almighty God. God is a purposive God; He is not chaotic.
In the final analysis, that which defines the Christian worldview is the glory of the cross. The cross remains the symbol for all that is loved and embraced in the Christian worldview. It is also the symbol for all that the pagan worldview despises. The cross is the symbol that causes worlds to collide. It provokes a war that will not end until the consummation of the Kingdom of God.