My friend Ryan wrote this as a response to the letter written by Dutch Sheets. Ryan is my friend and he is a stud. He's introduced me a community of haikus and occasionally hooks me up with Starbucks. He's an agnostic that probably studies the Bible more than anyone reading this blog. Anyways, here is a question he asked, and my response.
I really would appreciate more input on this subject, so please discuss it by leaving a comment and then responding to the responses you get. Thanks.
As a non-believer I'm curious as to how to respond to this.
Especially since I am one of those crazy paradoxical non-believers who study the scriptures as much as I can.
I suppose my question, or at least my biggest question, would be in regards to God's judgment and specifically God's judgment for an entire nation.
When looking at the Old Testament, I can see a precedent of God turning his back on, or allowing bad things to happen to the nation of Israel. The minor prophets especially seem to be about this particular subject matter. It is feasible, therefore, that God could also cause judgment to fall upon a modern nation like our own. However, it does seems like the New Testament represents a shift from God dealing with nation states to dealing with the individual.
Each person must account for their own actions.
Each person must come to Jesus themselves for salvation.
So here is my question:
So if an entire nation cannot be saved as a whole, How is it "godly" of God to judge an entire nation?
Especially when one considers that some eight out of ten Americans at least claim Christianity?
Also, how can one tell God's judgment apart from a natural or national disaster. Was 9/11 God's judgment? What about Hurricane Katrina?
Sorry that this response is so long, but as a seeker of truth, I am truly curious.
Initially, I thought answering this question would be easy, but it’s not.
Like you said, it’s simple to understand that God judged in the Old Testament. It’s hard to find nation judging references in the New Testament.
The Greek word for Judge—krino—is used 182 times, but never for nations.
The Greek word for Nations—ethnos—is used 168 times, but not in the context of judgment.
The Greek word for Repentance—metanoia—is never used with the context of nations either.
Like you said, again, this makes it seem that God judges individuals, not nations.
“All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
If this true, then the opposite exists—it is impossible for God to bless America.
I may be wrong in this, but this also negates any collective purpose of and for a nation—American has no God given destiny.
This is assuming we are talking about church age, too. In Revelation, nations are getting judged all over the place. Even before Revelation, Luke 21:23-25 alludes to this,
“There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.”
“And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
There are many allusions to collective national consequences, but even these verses might not seem strong enough because they aren't directly dealing with a wrathful God, but a wrathful people (the Gentiles may have a purpose against the collective Jerusalem, not God).
If God was to judge a nation in the New Testamentt, we probably would have seen Paul talk about this in terms of the ongoing persecution and slavery present in the nation. We, however, do not see this.
I’m kind of rambling and figuring out what I believe as I write this. Honestly, it seems logical to me that God judges nations since it was a prevailing theme in the old testament. Still, I don’t accept that God does not judge collective groups of people, considering His treatment, warning and guiding of the Church for the collective goal of having a “pure and spotless Bride.”
How do you reconcile the individual’s purpose vs. collective purpose in light of Revelation and the Church?