Tuesday, April 18, 2006

York Minster

Christians often debate whether natural disasters are signs of the punishment of God. After all, insurance companies often refer to them as "Acts of God". Recently some Christains have suggested that Hurricane Katrina was a punishment on New Orleans, a self promoted City of Sin. Of course that begs the question of why Las Vegas is still standing, but we might examine whether there are Biblical grounds for suspecting this.

There is a history here. The Genesis Flood was apparently punishment on the whole earth for their sinful ways and the destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah was as a result of the Angels failing to find even 10 righteous people.

On the other hand the evils that beset Job were the consequence of God giving permission to Satan to test him to demonstrate that he wasn't what we would nowadays call a rice Christian. In Luke Ch 4 Jesus himself warns us not to assume that those on whom disaster falls are greater sinners than the rest of us - those whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices (v 2) and those on whom the Tower in Siloam fell (v 4).

However, early in the morning of the 19th July 1984 York Minster was partially destroyed by fire shortly after the installation there of the heretical David Jenkins as Bishop of Durham. It had apparently been struck by a lightning bolt out of a cloudless sky. Some Christians at the time saw this as an Act of God. Jenkins had denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus, saying he wasn't interested in a "conjuring trick with bones". They said that it was just what God would do when mankind had tried His patience just too much; nobody was even injured. The magnificent Rose Window was destroyed - but that could be seen as an example of idolatry. There was more concern over the destruction of a work nof art than about an insult to God, or about an intellectual damaging the simple faith of thousands of ordinary Christains.

This suggestion met with short shrift from the hierarchy of the church. A vengeful God like that was not what Christianity was about.

In response I wrote this poem - not because I necessarily thought that God would rain down lightning vengeful bolts, but because I objected to the complacency that assumed that he would for ever restrain Himself.

York Minster

Would you really
Rain fire down merely
Because of doubting?
Really flame those windows out
Fusing fine and thrilling lines
Of laid up treasure?
Derive pleasure from unmaking?
Want us quaking,
Knees shaking,
Slaking the pride of God the vandal;
Who wreaks havoc and upheaval
On one small, self-seeking scandal?

No, God is love and meekness, kindness:
Shows complete, benevolent blindness
To our foibles.
Long suffering, He forgives, forebears,
Does not notice when we err.
Forty-winks at deviation,
Falling short or reprobation.
Wouldn’t make a fuss
About us. Don’t worry,
Gomorrah will be here tomorrow.
Sodom is safe.


Cowtown Pattie said...


On another note, no email address?

Terry Hamblin said...


Frank Harvey said...

It should be recognised that no one was killed in the fire. The cathedral was/is just a pile of wood, glass and stone; vanity personified.

If I remember correctly there was a clear sky that afternoon and evening and there were no other lightning strikes recorded in the city that night.

There was a great deal of opposition to Jenkins' consecration amd I am under the impression that Jenkins was extremely controversial beyond the allegations regarding his views on the Resurrection. For example, he was said to have doubted Mary's "immaculate" conception and to have liberal views on homosexuality. He was certainly considered unsuitable as a Bishop by many in the Church.