A Christian Perspective of the September 11th Attack
by Cynthia K. Berry
On September 11th our world experienced a great tragedy. As a result, people around the globe are looking beyond themselves for answers to some of life's toughest questions. The Christian has a unique opportunity at this ripe hour to offer hope and biblical answers.
Pastors have an especially great opportunity, as churches worldwide have been filled beyond capacity since the attack on America. Connection Magazine asked four pastors in Northeast Ohio for answers to the most frequently asked questions about the assault. The pastors include: Pastor Knute Larson of The Chapel in Akron; Pastor Ronald Fowler of Arlington Church of God in Akron; Pastor Steve Witt of Metro Church South in Middleburg Heights; and Pastor Willard McFarland of Chapel of Hope Christian Fellowship in Shaker Heights.
This is what they had to say:
Why does a good God allow bad things to happen?
Pastor Knute Larson: "Because He gives freewill. With a risky gift comes the opportunity for people to make bad choices, sinful ones. That is the main issue. He also allows bad things because He apparently can be glorified in a very special way. I can't explain that."
Pastor Ronald Fowler: "A good God allows freedom of choice, even when that choice brings sorrow to His own heart."- Pastor Steve Witt: "The world is in a fallen state and, of course, evil in the world is caused by Satan. There is a battle between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness."
Pastor Willard McFarland: "We can all speculate on answers to this question, but there's no way we can - through human intelligence alone, understand the workings of God. God has higher purposes and more lofty goals in mind than we can see fully at present. The book of Isaiah records, 'My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways not your ways, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways than your ways?' God has a plan for man, and unfortunately man (Adam in particular) fit other things (death and sorrow) into that plan. Today also, men are still bringing about the same kinds of death, sorrow and pain upon each other as at the beginning. Jesus said, 'in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.' Tragedies will continue to occur around the globe -America included. I can't say that I understand why God allows such evils to occur, But I have learned to trust Him and serve Him based upon what I do understand about God and not on what I can't understand. Everyone needs to accept the Word as given to us, repent of sin, give your life to Jesus, trust God, live the Word, and let God be God! He works everything out for good for those who love Him. Faith enables us to tread the unknown (with God) in peace."
What purpose is there in this?
Pastor Knute Larson: "That He might be glorified. In John 9 when the man was born blind, that was the answer of Jesus - that he might give glory to God. Sometimes bad things happen to us as discipline as believers, but never as judgment. Judgment for sin is separation from God."
Pastor Ronald Fowler: "There is always a purpose that God can manifest, a good that can be achieved. Romans 8:28 provides a biblical foundation that out of the worst can come the best. There is good emerging already - greater sensitivity to our own mortality, the reality of life after life, the reality of demonic forces and the nature of evil, the uniting of people around the world to revere life."
Pastor Steve Witt: "A lot of people want to call it "judgment." It was definitely a wake-up call for America and the church. The rest of the world has been experiencing such devastating things on a regular basis. According to the book of Matthew, these could be "birth pains" or the beginning of end times."
Pastor Willard McFarland: "I think it's difficult for us to see purpose in a tragedy, especially when we are close to the person harmed or killed. On occasions where I've encountered the death of a friend or family member, I pray 'Father, I pray that out of this natural death, spiritual life will begin for some other family member or friend.' Tragedy makes people consider their mortality and weakness. I think it made millions of people realize that even "super powers" are not immune to trouble, mass deaths and sorrow. It helped our nation see that it had not been trusting, acknowledging or honoring the God of heaven. Another purpose I see in this is that America's attention turned toward God from all levels of our society. They cried 'God, pray, prayer, etc' with their lips like I've never seen in my lifetime."
Are these "signs of the times?"
Pastor Knute Larson: "Of course they are, but so has all evil been signs of the time since Jesus went back to heaven. I'm not one for deciding every 10 years or so that this is the very end. I think it's embarrassing that some books get written that predict times of The End because of signs of the times! If Jesus doesn't know then we don't either! But all the evil showing up in lists of signs of the times has been present for a long time. We should constantly be ready and looking."
Pastor Ronald Fowler: "These are definitely signs - but not THE SIGN of the end of time. History is moving in the direction God said it would. Things are getting worse as we increase in human knowledge. We are seeing a multiplication of the imagination and expression of evil."
Pastor Steve Witt: "These are definitely signs of the times for America. Others have experienced martyrdom, famine, etc. all along. We have been untouched and protected. This is a wake-up call to realize our lives are limited. This is calling us back to the spiritual vs. the material. It is a call to Christians to labor in Kingdom stuff like never before, working like those running out of time."
Pastor Willard McFarland: "I would encourage anyone and everyone to read Revelations chapter 18 and take note of the close parallel between New York and Mystery Babylon. I think this and other events occurring right before our very eyes shouts loudly, 'END TIMES!' This single event almost instantly united the world around a single man, President Bush. These things depict graphically for us how easily and quickly God's word can be fulfilled. Talk of "national ID's" here and abroad and the inability to hold jobs, buy gas, board a plane, etc. without such an ID, sounds a lot like what John saw in Revelations regarding the "mark of the beast". I see that our salvation is nearer than when I first believed. Today, too many in the church are CONSUMED with materialism while they shout a praise or two every Sunday morning. But really, wealth and pleasure is their God. "Those who are wise" can discern what time we're in and what the signs are saying - that is, get your house in order and prepare for the coming of Christ."
Is there a need for repentance in America?
Pastor Knute Larson: "Of course. But let's always define repentance as a continuing turning to God with obedience, and not just an evening of repentance."
Pastor Ronald Fowler: "Absolutely. One of the core beliefs that is emerging is how desperately we need a relationship with God! We need to have our individual hearts cleansed of anger and bitterness. We have been awakened to the reality that there is no hope aside from Christ. This incident has highlighted man's need to be in a right relationship with Christ. We see the heart of God and man in much clearer terms."
Pastor Steve Witt: "Repentance begins with individuals. When we say, 'America', we mean us as individuals. There was a need for repentance in America prior to September 11th. For example, the 30 million babies aborted since 1973 and the moral decline of our country. Every individual needs to ask forgiveness for where he/she has gone wrong in helping America get to this point. The Bible says, 'To whom much is given, much will be required.' I believe the Christian foundation of our nation requires of us a higher responsibility. This tragedy has captured the attention of America. If, like Nineveh, we repent, perhaps God will spare our nation."
Pastor Willard McFarland: "Absolutely! Not only does it need to, but also it's long over due! I think President Bush missed a tremendous opportunity to bring this nation to God in repentance. When repentance is needed, how can our prayer be heard? The question really is, can America find the place of repentance? It takes a broken and contrite heart to truly repent, and I don't think America is quite near a broken heart toward the Lord yet. America is pretty much back to her old ways already. Many believers are indulging in all kinds of ungodly sins while still active in their church. We must remember that sin was not, is not, and will not ever be tolerated by God - from America, Christians, or non-believers! How can America, or even a Christian, truly repent as long as he or she feels that their sin is a non-issue to God?
Sin is why Jesus came."
How do you think God views all of this?
Pastor Knute Larson: "I believe God views tragic events with sorrow. I believe that He cries when we cry. I believe that He loves it when we help out when evil has happened and pain. He is also, I would think, gratified when His people respond to need and give cups of cold water or money or time or try to help people with eternal life. One of the very interesting parts of the Bible to me is when Jesus was asked about the fall of the Tower of Salome and He decided not to give reasons the Tower fell, but just told the people that they better repent. They could easily die but with a different tower or different train wreck the next day. We spend all our time trying to figure out what happened instead of taking care of our own hearts sometimes! I do know that all the pain that happens should drive us to the Lord, and all this evil that happened should drive us to pray and to seek help and also to stand together and help each other. It's interesting to me that there's been a great revival of unity for America, and there's some good to that.We can even swallow some of our theological differences to rebuild and pray and seek peace together. But we must hold on to those differences when it comes to conviction and eternal issues."
Pastor Ronald Fowler: "The heart of God is filled with anguish and sadness. He must look upon His humanity, which He made, and feel like He did before the flood. He must wonder, 'Why are they going in the direction of genocide instead of loving each other?' I am also convinced that God is waiting to begin a spiritual awakening within this country, a return to fundamental values. I am praying that the Christian community awakens to the ripeness of the hour."
Pastor Steve Witt: "I believe the Lord, too, is sad and hopes that hearts are softened through it, that non-Christians turn to Him."
Pastor Willard McFarland: " 'It didn't catch me by surprise.' God sees tragedy, sorrow, death, tears, suffering every moment. So this didn't shake Him or make America God's friend all of a sudden. Let's be real. America is full of sin. All kinds. Alternatively, I know our Heavenly Father didn't find any pleasure or glory in the events; God's Word says He 'takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.' Therefore, any sinner that dies in any instance probably brings great sorrow to our Heavenly Father's heart because they are eternally lost. I think God's views are similar to ours to some extent - that it is a great evil, a tragedy, and the act of men under the influence of Satan. God's view could possibly be that the world had better wake up and realize their need of Jesus Christ. Also, I think His view is that the church needs to be about the Father's business of "gathering the harvest" because the night is coming when no man can work. Another view of His might be that NY/DC was nothing compared to what is to come (prophetically). Don't live or die without Christ Jesus as your friend and Lord!"