Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Natural destruction and the Will of God…

The events in south Asia have dredged up discussions in the blogosphere regarding whether or not such natural disasters are linked to God’s judgment. Questions such as: Was God punishing those people?, Why would God do this to them?, What purpose could God have had in this act?, What did I do to offend God?, etc., all presuppose that God was directly orchestrating the death and destruction. Tangentially, if one argues that God was not directly involved in the catastrophe, that is, if the events were simply due to natural action, the critical question then asked is, Well, then why did He allow it to happen? You see, so the argument goes, if God knew that the destruction was about to occur, albeit through natural means, and allowed it to occur anyway, then He is just as guilty as if He had caused the destruction in the first place. So if God is truly omniscient and omnipotent, then He is ultimately responsible for whatever happens. This brings us back to the gist of the questions at hand… What is God’s purpose in allowing natural destruction to occur? Is the answer, We don’t know, too difficult for the Christian to utter? I believe the Bible indicates that God is the creator of the entire natural realm and is Sovereign over it. As such, nothing occurs that is not within His control, nor under His authority. However, unless specifically revealed, His Sovereign Will remains unknown to us. While we may certainly ask the question, What is God’s purpose in allowing natural destruction to occur?, the Biblical answer is, to put it crudely, None of your business! That such an answer may not sit well with a non-Christian (and, possibly, many Christians) is irrelevant. Note: as a point of clarification, this post is not intended to address how Christians should deal with the very real emotions of suffering and grief that such natural destruction brings. I'm simply addressing how I think we should approach the issue of God's Will.


CyclingRoo said...

What a great question! It goes along with the "how many angels can fit on the head of a pin" discussion. I my simple-minded way, your discussion provokes these thoughts:

- God is sovereign. Everything happens because he allows it to happen. If the situation were anything different, God would not be ominipotent.

- God's original intent was for his creation to stand in tribute and adoration to His Will and desires.

- God's orginal intent was thwarted by His creation. By vesting us with free will, He knew we would choose to "walk away" from his grace. He also knew that such action would result in the ruination of the entire creation. Simply put, our sins (original and personal) have resulted in a creation that operates outside God's original intent.

- The fact that the creation has been poisoned (by us) does not demean God's intent or Will. It speaks to our intent and will. And our will to "control" God's creation resulted in a broken system.

Think of it this way: I have a car that I bought. I allow my child to drive and operate the car. My child, trying to "improve" the car decides that a nitrous system would be cool. If the engine blows up, who's fault is it? Is it my child's fault? Of course. Is it my fault? Of course. After all, I allowed him to use the car and use my tools.

- But the causal link of dysfunction is _not_ the challenge to Christians. Let's assume that things are broken. So now what? We have to make our world better - in accordance with God's original intent. For the Christian, the practical imperative is to act not just intellectualize. We must ask ourselves and ask Him "what should be my part of helping the needy?" The only salient question to Christians is not "why" but "how much." Remember our mission. We are told to "Go forth." We must ask how we respond to each disaster. We must ask God how we can respond to the Great Commission in these times. Indeed, we should be asking God "how can I help in your mission to those in strife?"

Anonymous said...

I'am thinking you may have left out an important piece of the puzzle. Man's Freewill alongside Man's point of departure. There is nothing God will do to force people to accept him, so if people reject him, he cannot produce a miracle that might influence their decision. (After all, the missionaries have been everywhere in the world and there is no one who hasn't heard of Christ.) And as the Bible says, it rains on the just and the unjust, those who died while worshiping the creator, were just called home. It was their time. And after watching people slide back into animalistic ways here in US, it contains alot more justice, than our Rich Masters have given us. Judy. P.S. This country belonged to the rich and took alot of jobs away from the American people. Let the Rich pay for it out of their own pockets. Looks like their judgement, not mine.

DarkSyde said...

I've seen a few athiests take some cheap shots over this alojg the lines of "Look what big mean cruel YVWH did ... ". I even did short blurb like that myself... but I think that's fairly pointless. If you're an athist then you're an atheist usually because of the lack of evidence and/or inconsistentcies of the various theologies of religion[s]. So, it's kind of dumb to suddenly ascribe any event to God if ou don't believe in any God[s] to start with.
In Christian and thiestic theologies you have to pretty much trust the deity and assume it knows what it's doing, has good reasons for it, etc, and besides, if the dead get to go to paradise, then mass death is no more cruel than individual death. In deistic views the creator entity isn't around to configure and tweak every little event for our exclusive benefit.

Rusty said...

Didn't you read the "Note:" at the end of my post? The post was not about our free will but about God's Sovereign Will. (or am I missing a stealthy version of sarcasm?)

I completely agree with you that Christians should be responding with help rather than questions (regardless of the fact that my post wasn't about that either).

How are we certain that God will not use all means possible to carry out His Sovereign Will?

Thanks for being a consistent atheist (i.e., not questioning why God would do this... since you don't believe God exists). I wouldn't phrase the Christian's reliance on God quite the way you did though. It boils down to this, buddy, If there is a God and if He is the one the Bible reveals, then you're either for Him, or you're against Him.

Thor said...

I'd suggest that the distinction between Natural Law and God's Will are artificial. Since natural law is the physical basis for all creation, the very foundation for all subsequent inorganic and biological matter, and God is by definition omniscient, then His will is essentially "baked into the cake," as far as the physical world is concerned. The alternative is to believe the untenable notion that God is micromanaging every movement of every atom, a position that undermines Free Will.

(To be fair, another alternative is that God makes ad hoc supernatural interventions when He desires...but this is metaphysically messy, since any isolated intervention leads to a ripple of what can only be called unintended consequences. That is, unless His will is baked into the cake to begin with, which itself would preempt any need for physical intervention)

Thus, the question of why He "allows" tectonic plates to shift and ease geologic pressure (and subsequently lead to human calamity) is not a valid construction. Natural destruction occurs because it has to. It's the price we pay for natural creation.