Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Natural Disasters and the Will of God

  • Hurricanes in the US Southeast
  • Tsunami in the East
  • Cyclones in Southeast Asia
  • Earthquakes in China
  • Tornadoes and floods in the Midwest USA
  • Drought in Africa
  • Global warming everywhere

There can be no doubt that there are natural disasters all around us. In fact, it seems that there are more such events now than ever. It seems that you cannot turn on the evening news or open the morning paper without being assaulted with some new tragedy somewhere in the world. Hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people are suffering and dying because of some catastrophic event.

Before we get too carried away with how terrible things are, let's temper our panic. It is probably not as bad as we think. The modern news media excels at reporting dramatic (which often means terrible) news. And if it is something that they can show on television through a video, that makes it even better. It could be that there are no more catastrophic disasters now than ever before. Our sensitivity could just be increased because of the nature of the news media.

This proved to be true a few years ago in the USA. During that summer we were hearing reports of shark attacks every few days. There were dramatic pictures and interviews with survivors and warnings about sharks every day. However, it turns out that there were actually fewer shark attacks that summer than in the average summer. It was just that there was no other news to report, so the sharks became a menace. As much as they like to deny it, we cannot underestimate the importance of the media in shaping the news.

But, let's assume that there are more natural disasters today. Let us assume that more people are killed, injured or displaced than ever before. Let us suppose that the news media is accurately representing the problems that we see. Where does that leave a loving God? Shouldn't we expect God to protect people from such catastrophes? Does this mean that he does not care? That he cannot do anything about it?

First of all, I do not believe that as a general rule God punishes people through natural disasters. Earthquakes in San Francisco and hurricanes in New Orleans have been labeled as God's punishment on homosexuals. What an outrage! If this were the case, we would have to believe that God was so full of wrath against one particular sin that he devastated thousands who were completely innocent of that sin. In fact, there were people killed, people lost everything, who were adamant in their personal stance against that very same sin. I do not know this for sure, but it would not surprise me to learn that Hurricane Katrina was more destructive to the church than it was to those who support a homosexual lifestyle. Be careful when you lay the blame of these disasters on God's doorstep.

So, are these natural disasters the will of God? No. I believe that these disasters come because of the Fall of man. If there were no sin in the world, there would be no disaster. I do not believe that sin is the cause of disaster, but without people sinning, God would be in complete control. As it stands now, we have tried to take control from God. As a consequence, disasters are inevitable.

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