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Thursday, March 28, 2002
A Few Unresolved Issues on 9-11
P. Andrew Sandlin | Sandlin-Wilson debate: Narrowing down the differences

It won’t come as a surprise that the more I dialogue with Douglas Wilson on RazorMouth, the less sharp I see our differences. Still, differences persist, and I’ll mention them briefly.

While I agree with Douglas in wanting to avoid the fallacy of affirming the consequent, I don’t believe this is at issue here. We both agree that prosperity no more ipso facto “proves” divine favor than calamity ipso facto “proves” divine judgment. I further agree with Douglas that the issue is the original premise — “America deserves God’s judgment” — not the reasoning itself. What we do not agree on (I believe) is whether this “America deserves God’s judgment” tells the whole story. Douglas, it appears, believes it does. I do not. I believe there are wider questions, some of which I mentioned in my previous installments.

For instance, is there a sufficient number of righteous in America to avert the hand of God’s judgment? With a more godly (though still deeply flawed) man in the White House than his predecessor, could we perhaps expect God to show leniency? With the recrudescence of active Reformed (and other) Christianity in the last 30 years, can we detect a minuscule but growing leavening that may (to mix metaphors) cast a seedling of reformation? Why have abortions and crime rates and some other social sins steadily declined in the last few years?

My only rationale for adducing these issues is to suggest that saying, “America deserves God’s judgment” does not tell the whole story. We must be careful not to seize only on the bad news, though there is truly more of it. This is why in my original RazorMouth series I took time to recount a few of the virtues of the nation. I think Douglas’ assessment, while accurate as far as it goes, does not go far enough.

So, I do not question his impeccable logic; but I do question what I see as his incomplete premise.

One Man’s Prophetic Utterance?
Douglas and I agree that no one man is authorized to speak for the church catholic, just as we agree that before she can issue such authoritative pronouncements, there must be the sort of dialogue in which he and I have engaged. My initial concern was that Douglas seemed to have preempted just this sort of dialogue by issuing such sweeping declarations as:

This [9-11 attack] is what it looks like when a people drink from the cup of God’s wrath. Throughout Scripture, God frequently speaks of striking the pundits, seers and prophets of an idolatrous and wicked people with this kind of judicial blindness, with this kind of blind stupor. There are many things about this whole event that are screamingly obvious, and yet virtually no one is willing to say them in public. So we must understand that this is what it looks like when a people drink from the cup of God’s judgments.

I could be wrong in suggesting that he was making a sort of individual (or presbyterian) prophetic utterance, but it appears this is just what he was doing.

In my view, it was unwarranted to speak of those who disagreed with his “screamingly obvious” opinion as suffering from “judicial blindness” and “blind stupor.” His, after all, was a tenuous interpretation at best. But I am relieved at the mollified language of his most recent installment, and I agree heartily that the issues he raises are worthy of the present RazorMouth dialogue.

I note Douglas’ comment about David Hume’s radical skepticism, which neither of us endorses. Without wanting to delve into deeper issues that may divert us to an endless rabbit trail, I do think I am slightly less confident about one Christian’s (or one presbytery’s) certainty on such issues as 9-11 than Douglas appears to be. I hold a “communal” view of knowledge, what Thomas Sowell terms the “unconstrained vision.” I don’t think each of us cogitating alone (or in a single presbytery or church or denomination) can know a great deal of much of anything; but I do think accumulated knowledge over many generations is rather trustworthy. This is why I am such an exponent of catholic orthodoxy, and why I tend to trust the knowledge transactions of a catholic consensus of millions of Christians over time much more readily than the dazzling conclusions of a few very bright Christians at any one time.

Douglas seems quite confident that the 9-11 attacks are God’s judgment. I am not only questioning his assurance; I am questioning whether he should seek or even whether he needs such assurance. Where the Bible speaks, I am certain. But the Bible does not tell us that 9-11 was God’s judgment. There is plenty in the Bible about which to be certain and which we can prophetically proclaim without declaring that 9-11 is certainly God’s judgment.

But, I must hastily add, these are issues on which godly, reasonable men may disagree.

And Douglas Wilson is surely a godly and reasonable man.

Related columns

The Sandlin-Wilson Debate Continues, Douglas Wilson

Playing Umpire to God's Judgment, P. Andrew Sandlin

Covenant Blessings And Curses, Douglas Wilson

Sept. 11 in Focus, Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4, P. Andrew Sandlin

Friday, November 01, 2002

As Bad as His Last Movie
David L. Bahnsen | The revelation I had about Arnold Schwarzenegger's ballot initiative

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Happy Halloween
Guest | Gerry Wisz knows the reason for the season

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

BookEdge: Mormonism's Unhappy History
Joel Miller | Reviewing Richard Abanes' One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

The Moral Slide
John W. Whitehead | What hope is there for America’s young people?

Monday, October 28, 2002

Identifying with Christ
Guest | Gerry Wisz explains why movements, cliques and churches just don't cut it

Friday, October 25, 2002

Muhammad Can Keep his Prohibition
News Clip | Man leaves Islam because he wants a drink

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Why Drink? Why Talk About It?
Joel Miller | Some RM readers tire of all the chatter about booze. Here's trying to straighten things out

P. Andrew Sandlin | Why the church shouldn't rule
Tuesday, October 22, 2002

BookEdge: A Date with Dr. Death
Joel Miller | Reviewing Gordon Preece's Rethinking Peter Singer

Flushing Religious Rights
John W. Whitehead | Amish farmer arrested for refusing to compromise principles
Monday, October 21, 2002

First Things, Part 5
Jamey Bennett | Why justification matters, really matters

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Religions of the World Quiz
Tom White | Can you match each faith with its symbol?

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Those World-Affirming Dudes
P. Andrew Sandlin | Why I love RazorMouth

The Danger of Pharisaism
Quoth the Maven | Why Christianity isn't as easy as a do-not list
Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Time to Focus on America
John W. Whitehead | An open letter to the president

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