Turns Out It Was the Gusset Plates…

…which were improperly designed that led to the Minnesota bridge collapse, not God withdrawing his divine hand of blessing.  Interesting.

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  • Justin


    You’re a smart guy. Smart enough to know that the insufficiency of the gusset plates has nothing to do with bringing conclusion to the theological argument that has surrounded this tragedy. Knowing this, I can’t figure out why you would make this statement. It seems to me that your time and energy would have been better spent encouraging prayer for the families of the tragedy and those who designed these faulty plates, than in taking an arrogant swing at a theological opponent.


  • Dan

    Even in the failure of the gusset plates…does that not still mean that God did not stop it from happening? That He allowed it? That maybe He could have planned it?

  • jcmusings

    And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.

  • Scott

    Hey Tony:

    I’ve never commented here before and have just recently started reading, but I find it interesting that Justin and Dan are upset by your comments.

    It seems more arrogant to me to blame God for the work of humans who improperly designed gusset plates.

    Why can’t we just accept that stuff happens? The tsunami just happened. Hurricane Katrina just happened. The bridge collaspe just happened. Why does God have to be behind it all? Can’t stuff just happen?

    All of this “stuff happening” seems expected in a world awaiting redemption. Tsunami, hurricanes and collasping bridges will just happen. The world and its inhabits are fallen and await redemption; and until that great day – stuff will happen.

    Why does God’s great name need dragged through the mud because of it?

  • Justin,

    Smart or not, I do see this as supremely important in the theological debate. It’s pure fideism to believe that God has his pinky finger under every bridge, and to argue that the absence of the word “bridge” in scripture has some kind of theological import. Those kind of theological statements have far-reaching implications.

    And, in fact, I have prayed for the victims and their families, both privately and publicly:

    Arrogant? Please.

  • Justin


    I have no problem letting you know that I disagree with your theological position. That, however, is not my issue here. I believe that if you reread my comment you will notice that I did not even come close to pursuing any argument with your position. My issue was with your arrogant tone. If you disagree that’s fine, but as one who is attempting to give Emergent a hearing I found this simply unappealing.


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  • Max

    “It’s pure fideism to believe that God has his pinky finger under every bridge, and to argue that the absence of the word “bridge” in scripture has some kind of theological import. ”

    Zoinks, Scoob! God is sovereign and all creation is held together by the word of His power. God uses His natural law as a means of engaging or permitting events to occur.

    Do we think He was caught off-guard or surprised by this? By no means. He fore-ordained it to be so in all ways.

  • “Even in the failure of the gusset plates…does that not still mean that God did not stop it from happening? That He allowed it? That maybe He could have planned it?”

    What would we say about about a human being who knew this would happen and did not stop it? Or allowed it? Or, even worse, planned it?

    Is asking such questions holding God to human standards? Or is it just that we are comfortable anthropomorphizing God up until the point it disturbs a cherished theological doctrine such as omnipotence?

    I think this kind of healthy conversation reveals the limited nature of many theological propositions. When we read the Bible honestly, especially the Old Testament, we see that those who preceded us on this journey also wrestled with these paradoxes and seemed quite comfortable in not nailing them down into hard and fast propositions about God.

  • Dan and Max,

    Plantinga’s definition of fideism: “the exclusive or basic reliance upon faith alone, accompanied by a consequent disparagement of reason and utilized especially in the pursuit of philosophical or religious truth.”

    To say that God’s fore-ordination “did not stop it,” “allowed it,” or “planned it” seems to me to be a negation of his sovereignty rather than a claim for it. Aren’t our understandings of all these things and how they work (for an infinite being, nevertheless) coming from our own understanding of how ordaining, planning, willing, and destining happen? Our understanding of how God’s presence, in and through all of reality, is impossibly limited, is it not?

    It seems to me that Tony’s point is a good one. Sure, God’s presence was in the falling. His presence would have been in the non-falling as well. But to say that the falling of the bridge has nothing to do with the bridge and its faulty gusset plates, is indeed curious. And to say that God let it fall to make a point… well, I, for one, am not going to claim to know that.

    Max, I can say, “of course!!” to all you said above… but I think you are insinuating something with the word fore-ordained that I am interested in. Do you mean that God set everything in motion at one point in time and it is playing out according to what he determined in the past. Doesn’t sound very infinite to me…

  • Nate, I’ve never thought of fore-ordained/predestined in that way before. That’s fantastic! Like God wound up a small racecar and now is watching it as it unwinds according to his pre-windings. It does seem to imply that God is now simply an observer and all his interaction with us was in the past.. at that moment.. when he wound us up. Thanks for that.

  • Max


    Thanks for the invite. I appreciate it.

    I settle on the understanding that ALL things glorify God regardless of my ability to make sense of it or wrestle with perceived contradictions about who I think God is supposed to be. Creation and providence are the means by which He carries this out.

    Yes, I think that God has set everything in motion and it is unfolding as such and one day we will come to understand how He is glorified by it.

    May I respectfully say that it is very infinite by virtue that this event resided in His mind before the foundation of the world was laid and that He stands outside of “time” seeing the beginning and the end.

    That said I can sympathize with you as to why it may not sound very infinite.

  • Justin, my post may be smartassy, but it’s not arrogant. I have no God’s-eye view of the world. I don’t claim to know how God is involved with the tragedies that befall humanity. So, in that sense, I’m not arrogant. I do, however, take issue with human beings who do certainly claim such things. Sorry you found it unappealing (and I’m NOT saying that sarcastically).

  • muahahahahaha! snap.

  • benlamb

    Why is everyone talking about how God let that bridge fall? We all know it was George W’s fault.

  • Wasn’t Jesus’ work on the cross enough to appease God’s wrath? Why does He need to bring down the bridge too?

  • Dan


    I’m not upset my Tony’s comment at all. I was just throwing something out there. Nothing arrogant about it, neither is there throwing “blame” at God….if that is even the right word to use towards God.

    I guess my response was a sort of a disagreement that there should be a problem with the original remarks that Tony was responding to.

  • Dan

    Edit: I’m not upset BY Tony’s comment

  • Scott

    Hey Dan –

    Fair enough.

  • zoecarnate

    I have to say: The more I hear the words and defenses that come out of the mouths of Greek/static theology proponents, the more I appreciate God’s omnipresence and sovereignty as integral rather than mechanistic-interventionist. Tony, I think you hit the nail on the head in your God’s Politics piece: the spiritual lesson to be gleaned from this tragedy is “Who is my neighbor?” and not “God is still pissed.” (Even if that’s not my atonement model, thank you Trent!)

  • Tony Arens

    I wonder if the gusset plates that held up the Walls of Jericho were faulty…?

  • zoecarnate –

    Yeah, it’s not really my atonement model either. It just seems like the biggest fans of penal substitution also see God’s hand in all sorts of tragedies.

    Jesus satisfied God’s wrath, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t still really mad at you!!

    I always think that’s funny.