Natural Disasters PROBABLY Aren’t From God

Not that God couldn’t ever cause a natural disaster. He could. Not that He hasn’t ever done it before. He has. See Numbers 16:30–34 as an example:

30 But if the Lord creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the Lord.”

31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!”

So are 4 in 10 Americans off base?

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When Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara called the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan tembatsu — or “divine judgment” — he expressed a kind of theological cause and effect shared by nearly 40 percent of Americans.

Ishihara later apologized for his remarks. But a recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Survey shows some support for his original sentiment: 16 percent of Americans agree that natural disasters are a sign from God, while 22 percent mostly agree.

A slight majority — 51 percent — disagreed natural disasters are a sign from the Almighty. Yet a slightly larger majority, 56 percent, said they believe God is in control of everything that happens in the world.

Here’s the thing; COULD God conceivably render his judgement or settle a score via natural disaster? Yes. However, the problem with that is that to human beings, it looks like killing a fly by carpet bombing.

Take the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Let’s say God caused that to occur as a “sign.” Well, what the heck would it mean? He’s mad at Japan? He’s mad at someone in Japan? Five generations ago someone in Japan offended him? Japan needs to be more Christian? He doesn’t like anime?

Who knows? So, why would an omnipotent being send a “sign” no one could possibly interpret? It seems unlikely that He would. Moreover, let me add that God may be “in control of everything that happens in the world,” but He certainly doesn’t exercise that control. If God wanted a planet full of slaves or robots, that’s what we’d be. If God wanted this world to be a paradise, that’s what it would be. But, if God wants to refine us through conflict and test our faith, He’d set things in motion, give us free will, and interfere very subtly lest He make what he’s doing so obvious that it would make faith meaningless. If there’s no randomness to life, there’s no choice, and then faith, which is the cornerstone of the Christian religion, would become meaningless.

Imagine what would happen if bad things DIDN’T happen to good people. What if when an airline crashed, only the non-Christians died while all the believers walked away unscathed? What if the moment someone became an atheist, he was immediately struck by lightning and killed? What if every rape, murder, robbery, and painful illness only happened to non-believers? If that were the case, then no faith would be required to be a Christian.

Additionally, if God wanted automatons who bowed to His will mechanically, He could have made us that way. Instead He chose to give us free will and the ability to choose our own path — but, without real options, there can’t be a real choice. Put another way, a “choice” isn’t much of a choice when you have a gun to your head. So again, if bad things DIDN’T happen to good people, there would be very little real choice. If you wanted to live and prosper, you’d have to be a Christian because non-Christians would spend their short, unhappy lives wandering from one disaster to the next.

Of course, knowing that God wants to allow us to have faith and a choice is often a cold comfort when something terrible happens in the world, to us, or someone we love — but, it’s worth remembering that we Christians believe, “Our days on earth are as transient as a shadow,” while what comes afterwards is eternal. Sometimes on this side of eternity, all we can do is realize that we are going to see our share of sorrow, accept that, “God moves in mysterious ways,” and keep on keeping on, secure in the knowledge that there is something better to come when this life is over.

Earthquakes happen. Tsunamis happen. Tornados happen. Floods happen. Volcanic eruptions happen. It doesn’t mean God pulled the string and caused it.

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