Q & R: literary dualism?

Here’s the Q:

As I am reading New Kind of Christianity, you ascribe the “good” events (redemptive, reconciling, freeing, delivering) works to Elohim & all of the “bad” that happens to “nature” (the Nile River, tides, the land, etc). This seems to reinforce a kind of dualism that you speak of as being Greco/Roman. How can you ascribe the source of all of the “good” that happens to the “hand of God” and all of the “bad” to “natural forces”? Seems like a convenient way to save-face for Elohim.
I have read nearly all of your other books and works, you have been a helpful spiritual mentor from a distance. So, I ask as an advocate rather than a protagonist.

R after the jump …

R: Great question.
In the ancient world, there seems to have been virtually no concept of intermediate causes. If something happens, the gods or god made it happen. Thunder, lightning, floods, wars, diseases … these are all acts of god/the gods, because there is little or no understanding of weather patterns, atmospheric physics, political science, bacteria and viruses, and so on.
We see the world quite differently today. Against the backdrop of billions of things we don’t have a clue about, we have some understanding of processes like plate tectonics, weather, disease, etc. These are part of the structure of things. They aren’t good or evil. There is no intent behind them. They happen. We either wisely learn to adapt to them, or we suffer the consequences. So in my view, it’s not God’s fault if I am killed in an earthquake. God didn’t decide to shake the earth just when I was standing in a poorly-built apartment building. No – the reasons for casualties in an earthquake have to do with plate tectonics (outside our control).
But – and this is important – there are dimensions of a human tragedy that are within our control and responsibility – things like poverty (people can’t afford well-built structures), shoddy engineering and building standards (people thought they were getting better structures than they got) migration patterns (recent arrivals from the countryside crowded in a slum), poor agricultural methods (people leaving the countryside because the soils were eroded due to bad farming methods), etc.
Now this could be seen as trying to save face for God, but it could also be seen as trying to make the best integration of two sets of working hypotheses:
a) hypotheses about the character of God – that God is good not cruel, consistent not capricious, just not wicked, etc.
a) hypotheses about the structure of the world – from plate tectonics to economics to politics to atmospheric science, etc.
When a tragedy happens, I see God working in the hearts of people who rush to help, in the minds of engineers who study and seek to learn from the earthquake how to build better structures, in the minds of politicians who mobilize help and seek to encode better engineering in zoning laws, in agricultural workers who try to make rural life better and more sustainable, etc. I hope that helps a little anyway …