Writings by Cole Huffman

Hell is the Only Infinite Disaster

They’re cleaning up from Isaac on the Gulf Coast. Isaac followed a similar path Katrina did (and Gustav—remember him in 2008?). I remember going to New Orleans a month after Katrina. Though not as intense as Katrina, Isaac re-damaged areas inhabited by damage-weary people.  As I write this, Leslie in the Atlantic is causing swells in Florida.

Our meteorological advancements can track storm paths and intensities and forewarn residents down to the precise minute of impact. But no technological advancement can as of yet fend off a hurricane or a tornado or an earthquake. Everyone seems more prepared for raging storms post-Katrina, but no more immune.

I think back a few years ago to when Florida was enduring multiple hurricanes. During one storm-related press conference then Governor Jeb Bush, after declaring the requisite state of emergencies and evacuation calls, was asked a question along the lines of how much natural bombardment could Floridians take. Embedded in the question was this reasoning: If some of the inhabited places in our world are so given to recurrent natural disasters, should we really inhabit them? Is it worth it, enduring the destruction of life and property only to rebuild in those same places and then a few years later find yourself in the path of another storm of equal monstrous intensity? Bush had to shrug and admit for all Floridians, “This is the price we pay for living in paradise.”

As long as the world continues there will be disasters of all kinds. It is the price we pay for not living in paradise. Florida is nice, but only Eden was paradise and we all live “east of Eden” now, the direction our first parents headed as outcasts.

“For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:18-22).

Even if the scientists working on it do find ways to stop or minimize ravaging storms like Isaac, creation still groans. Even if beachfront coastal properties are forsaken to avoid their expensive losses, creation still groans. Even if we build more durable storm-proof structures, creation still groans. Even if Memphis never makes international news via the tectonic rupturing of the fault line our city sits upon, leveling buildings and we ourselves become evacuees from a badly shaken city, creation still groans. 

Creation is not awaiting technological marvels from people but a theological glory from God. Creation is not awaiting rebuilding but renewing. Creation is not paradise but will give way to it. This day—even if it bears disaster—this day means God’s patience with a fallen, futile creation continues.

The liberty of creation from its bondage is our liberty too. The revealing of the sons of God is our revealing as we will be in Christ—no longer groaning, suffering, or enduring, but entirely glorified. As Tim Keller writes in his book The Reason for God,

“The Biblical view of things is resurrection—not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater” (p. 33).

This is what constitutes the hope Paul writes so confidently of in Romans 8. This is why we wince and cry and get angry in the face of disasters, because of the temporal pains they cause us, but we do not despair. 

Disasters in this world are limited, finite. Hell is the only infinite disaster. God uses even events like Isaac to gather more sons and daughters for glory, and in so doing He is plundering the population of Hell. Creation groans but it also waits expectantly. Because embedded in creation is a definite knowledge that something better comes, and it can be tracked too: The reign of God, the kingdom of this world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ (Rev. 11:15). He will reign not over wreckage, but over everything He puts to right.

Posted by Cole Huffman at 8:43 AM
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