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Published On: Thu, Mar 17th, 2011

Disasters and God

By: Pastor Sandy Huntsman

No question has evoked more discussion or arguments than the problem of evil in the world.  The very fact that there are earthquakes, wars, floods, babies born blind or maimed, innocent people suffering or why a promising life is snuffed out when it is on the rise has baffled men and women for centuries.

Any attempt to make sense of such enigmas is doomed to failure unless we steer clear of three dead-end thoughts: trying to assign blame for them; imagining that people should have known before what we know now, and presupposing that life is or ought to be fair.

No matter what the tragedy, it can cause many people to question God’s goodness. It is very “interesting” that natural disasters are often termed “acts of God” while no “credit” is given to God for years, decades, or even centuries of peaceful weather. God created the whole universe and the laws of nature that govern it (Genesis 1:1). Most natural disasters are a result of these laws at work. Hurricanes, typhoons, and tornados are the results of divergent weather patterns colliding. Earthquakes are the result of the earth’s plate structure shifting. A tsunami is caused by an underwater earthquake.

It should be noted first that natural laws are universal. If a man, any man, steps off the roof of a five-story building, gravity will pull him to the pavement beneath. If a boy steps in front of a moving freight train, since two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, the train will strike the child and likely kill him. The same laws that govern gravity, matter in motion, or similar phenomena also govern weather patterns, water movement, and other geological/meteorological conditions. All of nature is regulated by these laws, not just the parts that we find convenient.

Secondly, natural laws are indiscriminate.  In addressing this point, Norman Geisler has noted: “In a physical world where there is water for boating and swimming, some will drown. If there are mountains to climb, there must also be valleys into which one may fall. If there are cars to drive, collisions can also occur. It may be said that tornadoes, lightning, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are likewise by-products of a good physical world. For instance, the purpose of rain is not to flood or drown, but the result of rain may include these disasters. Likewise, hot and cold air are an essential and purposeful part of the physical world, but under certain conditions they may combine to form tornadoes” (Geisler, Norman L., The Roots of Evil,1978, p. 72).

Sometimes people ask, “But why can’t God ‘selectively intervene’ to prevent disasters?” Bruce Reichenbach has addressed this question:

“Thus, in a world which operates according to divine miraculous intervention, there would be no necessary relation between phenomena, and in particular between cause and effect. In some instances one event would follow from a certain set of conditions, another time a different event, and so on, such that ultimately an uncountable variety of events would follow a given set of conditions. There would be no regularity of consequence, no natural production of effects…. Hence, we could not know or even suppose what course of action to take to accomplish a certain rationally conceived goal. Thus, we could neither propose action nor act ourselves” (Reichenbach, Bruce, “Natural Evils and Natural Laws,” International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 16.1976, p. 187).

All of us naively and with obvious biases wish God would stop some evil, but not all (my) evil, forgetting that our whole concept about what is good is distorted.  Too many people, “good” is anything I want that brings me pleasure and “evil” is anything I don’t like or disagree with.  Again Geisler has remarked: “…evil men do not really want God to intercept every evil act or thought. No one wants to get a headache every time he thinks against God. One does not want God to fill his mouth with cotton when he speaks evil of God, nor does he really desire God to explode his pen as he writes against God or destroy his books before they come off the press. At best, people really want God to intercept some evil actions…. it is probable that chaos would result from continued miraculous intervention. Imagine children throwing knives at parents because they know they will be turned to rubber, and parents driving through stop signs, knowing God will create crash-protection air shields to avert any ensuing collisions. The necessary intervention would finally grow in proportions that would effectively remove human freedom and responsibility’”(Geisler, Norman L., The Roots of Evil,1978, p. 75)

The story of the Bible is that God made the world good, and man by His own choice messed it up.  The story of the Bible is that God the Creator will fix it again… but not by fantasy, but reality… the cross.  A skeptic once challenged a minister “Where was your God when my son was dying?  He said, Exactly were he was when His Son was dying.”

Our minds cannot comprehend the ways of God, for “the secret things belong to the Lord our God (Deut. 29.29), but our hearts and prayers go out to those who have suffered during the recent tragedies…

Pastor Sandy Huntsman

Boca Glades Baptist Church

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