We saw a movie last night where the phrase “act of God” was bandied about quite a bit. I don’t want to give the movie away or the main plot elements, but the phrase stuck with me.
What constitutes an act of God?
Christian theologians differ on their views and interpretations of scripture. R.C. Sproul implies that God causes a disaster when he speaks of Divine Providence: “In a universe governed by God, there are no chance events” Others indicate that God may allow a tragedy to occur. Others accept unfortunate events as part of life and reference Matthew 5:45 (KJV): “for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
And as a legal term:
Act of God is a legal term for events outside of human control, such as sudden floods or other natural disasters, for which grammar can be held responsible.
Huh? Where does grammar come into this?
As interesting as that is, I think we need to define it for ourselves. In my parlance, I would say an act of God is something beyond my control, unforeseen circumstances that added up to some kind of catastrophe.
This movie portrayed at least 3 separate instances discussing the main event. The protagonist was there each time. The first time, another, goofy, cancer-striken man was discussing his sickness. Symbolically, he was “the fool”.
“I know God gave this to me,” he stated emphatically, citing the rarity of his kind of cancer. “I was chosen. I certainly never asked for it. And when I begged him to take it away, He didn’t” (Susan paraphrase). This seems to depict a capricious, uncaring view of God. God doesn’t give good gifts to His kids; in point of fact, he gives them lethal diseases. The character, close to death, went on to cite how much he appreciated each breath of life, even as he puffed on a cancer stick.
Later in the movie, the lawyer hired to defend the protagonist says he was trying to add the clause “act of God” to their legal brief, dodging any perceived responsibility on the part of the character.
As they survey the incredible damage caused by this act of God, the main character says, “What kind of God would do this?”
That theme resounds throughout the movie. What kind of God, all powerful, residing in heaven, lets awful things happen to His children? What God allows sickness, death, crippling injuries?
As the plot progresses, we learn of the main character’s role in the disaster. He was not 100% while performing his duties; he was, uh, impaired. Was it his fault? Or was there more going on, beyond his control? The whole story hinges on that.
But it brought up questions for me. If you’re an addict, are you still valuable as a person? Our society doesn’t think so. Why does God allow horrible things to happen in this world, the age-old question?
Insurance companies dodge offering protection for “acts of God”. They simply can’t cover for the unexpected. They won’t reimburse you for that freak windstorm that dropped a limb on your roof, bisecting your living room.
The Free Legal Dictionary says: Many insurance policies exempt coverage for damage caused by acts of God, which is one time an insurance company gets religion. At times disputes arise as to whether a violent storm or other disaster was an act of God (and therefore exempt from a claim) or a foreseeable natural event. God knows the answer!
Some terrible things happen through our own bad choices or sin – free will at its worst. Some things are simply consequences, a ripple affect. We get caught in the wake. But it seems to me that only God Himself can help you in an act of God. Only He can save and rescue when you’ve bottomed out. Those things that floor us and crush us serve to bring us to Him. They all bring us around to the same truth: without Him we can do nothing. Having the control in our lives is an illusion. Being on your knees is not such a bad place to be.