sovereign over disease

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God's in Charge

Puritan Board Freshman
Please help me understand God's power.
Not sure why this ? nags at me but reading of George Washington I was struck that the infant & childhood mortality rates are radically lower here in the USA than when the Puritan's roamed here 200 years ago. Vaccinations etc...

God is surely not more pleased with us today.
Since a sparrow cannot fall without him, what is proper theology of why so many more died young then?

(I'm sure there's a perfect article already, but I can't find it)

Thanks for your help
Brian
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Human mortality is an effect of the fall. All are destined to die, or at the very least leave this body (attached to this world) behind for attaining the world to come.

The Puritans, or the European settlers on this continent generally, were not more pleasing or less pleasing to God than is our generation, hence their strength or blessing or sorrows or losses. That is a bit too much of a "prosperity gospel" reading of history and providence.

We should regard the progress of medical science and hygiene and health care and infant mortality as, possibly, some of the long-term blessings of a certain way of looking at the world and of humanity in general which the Christian faith has promoted in the past 2Kyrs. Given the state of technology and the rough condition of life, both on the NorthAmerican frontier and even the relatively more civilized regions of NorthernEurope, perhaps we should wonder instead why there weren't more childhood deaths than there were?

Peace and safety, combined with the shared knowledge and experience of generations--the older to the younger, having between them a shared sense of dependence and unity--are the conditions that allow for the weakest to survive the longest, and perhaps at length also to thrive. Then, the land gives its produce and the whole society rises. Additional money is available to train people in the sciences and medicine, the division of labor goes up, and more is accomplished under a given civilization.

These are natural blessings, which we expect in this generally cause-and-effect world which God made. What happens when God and his law-like order is tossed over in favor of concepts such as human-directed evolution? Eventually both the thrifty and the moral capital is wasted, and society experiences a decline. In our time, it appears as if maybe the investments of earlier generations is nearly squandered, along with the mortgage of the children's future.

The church--believers in the society--are, now as ever, salt and light. God is looking after them, regardless of the overall effect they seem to be having at any given time. All the same, God often allows his people as a whole to go through difficult times caught within the culture around them. He may encourage them by evidently sparing them some ills that befall the majority; but he specifically promises to bring them safely to himself, to heaven, and to restore to them whatever losses they have endured which they should have again. He doesn't promise to spare them every loss, particularly when trials are one of his valuable means of growing individuals and the whole church.

Some things, and even some children, we must let go of; and allow God to have his own with him instead of us having them here. Believers said more often in bygone days, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Is it better for us spiritually, or worse, that we are unexercised in that kind of submission to his absolute authority (united to his perfect wisdom and love)? Nor is our western habitude the same as what the rest of the world still endures to this day, despite the time and energy and money expended to export it. (Meanwhile, those elite eugenicist types cry crocodile tears over what success there's been in Africa and elsewhere.)

We should be thankful to have lived in a time (in the West) when we fretted less over the lives of our children. We should pray for the days to come, when they may not have it as good as we have for several generations. Declines have happened before; the glories and comforts and relative life expectancy in the high days of secular Rome's power gave way to shortened lives and privations in the Middle Ages. We can only guess, once again, that the presence of true faith in the earth (faint if it was) prevented greater declension and made eventual recovery more likely; than if believers were not present.

So, let's not interpret any historical moment through the lens of some "faithfulness" filter, as if that would give us perfect clarity on how "righteous" a given time and place was. For that, we have to look back to the record of the faith practiced in the midst of times whether good or bad (as man measures such things). What was their doctrinal confession, and did it sustain them in a walk close to God, or drive them into superstition and fatalism?
 
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