If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?
In the summer of 1996 I was contracted by AT&T’s Sports Marketing Division to provide technical and logistical support for one of their video conferencing products at the summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Our aim was to stage high-profile videoconferencing events in hope that the unique setting would generate worldwide interest in the product, and the venue of choice was the Centennial Olympic Park.
On twenty-seven of July terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph exploded a pipe bomb in the park which killed one and injured 111 others. Initially the blame for the attack was placed on a security guard, Richard Jewell. During the investigation I did not believe Richard was the responsible party. My intuition proved to be accurate: Eric Rudolph was later hunted down and prosecuted; Richard was cleared of any wrong doing.
Following the attack the Olympic Park was temporarily closed for repair. I was given leave of absence but ordered to remain on call in the city until the park reopened. I decided to take advantage of the free time and explore Atlanta. One afternoon I determined to hunt for books to add to my collection. I learned by word of mouth about a trendy section of Atlanta called Five Points. Here, I was told, stood many bookstores and would find the history, philosophy, and theology works I was searching for.
In transit to my destination I stopped at the Martin Luther King Center. I visited his home and The King Center bookstore. Dr. King is universally known as a nonviolent civil rights activist, but he does not get sufficient credit as a theologian and expositor. I do not think of him as overtly skilled in this regard; however, it should be noted that he was a pastor and preacher first and foremost. An observation I made while wandering the area was a noticeable lack of Americans of African descent interested in the museum which honored their glorious past. I expected to see more Negroes exploring their history; one can only conjecture why the library and exhibits teemed with only Caucasians. I purchased A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther Kings, Jr. I still enjoy reading his Christmas sermons.
I later arrived at Five Points and located a small bookstore. Here I purchased a work that continues to provide enjoyment, learning, and insights to this day. I am certain I’ve read it a dozen times from beginning to end, and there is not scintilla of hyperbole in this claim. Its pages are dog-eared, marked up, packed with sticky-notes, and worn from almost two decades of use. Intellectuals is Paul Johnson’s finest work in my opinion. I recommend this book for anyone interested in philosophy, the influence of art on culture, or exploring the effect Rousseau, Shelley, Marx, Brecht, Hellman, Russell, et al. made on society.
I recall it was approaching dark when I left the bookstore. I heard a crowd nearby and went to see what the fuss was all about. To my surprise I discovered a mixture of males and females fully unclothed – their only covering: a layer of mud smeared over their naked bodies and hair. My impulse was to take action by summoning the police and have these perverts arrested for indecent exposure; instead I questioned a bystander what was the nature of this GrungeFest. Before he could answer along came a group of Korean missionaries, one of whom spoke perfect English.
The Korean missionary was member of a group sent overseas by their Seoul church to evangelize Americans. I was stunned and remained speechless for the moment by the notion that foreigners would find it necessary to evangelize Christian America, the greatest missionary-sending country in history. In lieu of the perverse situation standing before us, who could argue the need to evangelize what has apparently become a pagan and sinful America? I therefore abandoned my national pride and went along with the Korean missionaries.
After a brief meeting among themselves the Koreans formed a circle around the GrungeFest. As they orbited the naked men and women the missionaries chanted in unison a prayer of sorts. I asked a nearby man who seemed to be associated with the Koreans what they were saying. He indicated they were praying for these wicked people and that the circle was an idea they gleaned from Hebrews 11:30:
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days
This verse from Hebrews references the book of Joshua. In the latter we are told the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho once every day for six days with the priests and the Ark of the Covenant. On the seventh day they marched seven times around the walls, then the priests blew their ram’s horns, the Israelites raised a great shout, and the walls of the city fell.
I wasn’t keen on their application of the cited Scripture but not having a better idea I watched with great interest. I did not count the number of times the Koreans circumnavigated the GrungeFest but I recollect that roughly twenty minutes passed and then the winds began to blow. Next along came the crackling of thunder. So far this did not deter the GrungeFest from laughing at the Koreans. They continued to mock the missionaries from inside the circle. The missionaries persisted and marched on.
Eventually it began to rain. The downpour washed the mud from their bodies and now they were fully exposed. The women, now embarrassed, were the first to flee. They scurried away shamed and under the heavy weight of guilt. Moments later the men followed. The Korean missionaries cheered and gave glory to God.
I do not feel it’s necessary to comment further except to add these Scriptures …
For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.
For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
When He utters his voice there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and He makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and He brings forth the wind from His storehouses.
Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?
Or can the heavens give showers?
Are you not He, O LORD our God?
We set our hope on You,
for You do all these things.
He it is Who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
Who makes lightnings for the rain
and brings forth the wind from His storehouses.
Excerpted from Lorraine Boettner’s The Providence of God:
Every raindrop and every snowflake which falls from the cloud, every insect which moves, every plant which grows, every grain of dust which floats in the air has had certain definite causes and will have certain definite effects. Each is a link in the chain of events and many of the great events of history have turned on these apparently insignificant things.
Dr. Warfield has well written: “It was not accident that brought Rebecca to the well to welcome Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24), or that sent Joseph into Egypt (Genesis 45:8; 50:20: ‘God meant it for good’), or guided Pharaoh’s daughter to find Moses (Exodus 2), or that, later, directed the millstone that crushed Abimelech’s head (Judges 9:53), or winged the arrow shot at a venture to smite the king in the joints of the armor (I Kings 22:34). Every historical event in the Bible is treated as an item in the orderly carrying out of an underlying Divine purpose; and the historian is continually aware of the presence in history of Him who gives even to the lightning bolt a charge to strike the mark (Job 36:32).”
Definition of “Special Providence” by Charles Hodge:
The providence of God is thus seen to be universal and extending to all his creatures and all their actions. The distinction usually and properly made between the general, special, and extraordinary providence of God, has reference to the effects produced, and not to his agency in their production; for this is the same in all cases. But if the object to be accomplished be a general one, such as the orderly motion of the heavenly bodies, or the support and regular operation of the laws of nature, then the providence of God is spoken of as general. Many men are willing to admit of this general superintendence of the world on the part of God, who deny his intervention in the production of definite effects. The Bible, however, clearly teaches, and all men instinctively believe in a special providence. That is, that God uses his control over the laws of nature, to bring about special effects. Men in sickness, in danger, or in any distress, pray to God for help. This is not irrational. It supposes God’s relation to the world to be precisely what it is declared to be in the Bible. It does not suppose that God sets aside or counteracts the laws of nature; but simply that He controls them and causes them to produce whatever effects He sees fit. The Scriptures and the history of the world, and almost every man’s experience, bear abundant evidence to such divine interpositions. We should be as helpless orphans were it not for this constant oversight and protection of our heavenly Father. Sometimes the circumstances attending these divine interventions are so unusual, and the evidences which they afford of divine control are so clear, that men cannot refuse to recognize the hand of God. There is, however, nothing extraordinary in the agency of God. It is only that we witness on these occasions more impressive manifestations of the absolute control, which He constantly exercises over the laws which He has ordained.