May 25, 2011

God and Human Catastrophe

By definition God is superlative in His knowledge, presence, and power. He knows all things past, present, and future. He is everywhere. He is all-powerful. He can do anything that does not contradict His nature (for example, He cannot lie and cannot die).
Following recent mega catastrophes such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, people ask why God does not prevent such things. Why does He permit suffering and death? Why do the “good” suffer and die along with the “bad”? In light of these events, how can we call Him a loving God?
We live in a universe that obeys certain physical laws, such as the second law of thermodynamics. This says that in any closed system things tend toward chaos. The molecules of a gas trapped in a glass jar will move randomly in all directions with multitudes of collisions.
It may be questioned whether our vast universe, usually described as infinite, can be said to be a closed system. It’s known that the universe is constantly expanding—which is to say, space and matter are continuously expanding into nonspace. Some argue that this means the universe is not a closed system. Others say that the phenomenon of its expansion means it has boundaries, even if these are constantly moving. Such boundaries, although on a scale that defies human measurement, may predicate a closed system. Whatever our conclusion, the wonder is not that we have catastrophes but that we have so few. This is evidence of design and control by a superior intelligence.
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It’s also a law of nature that effect follows cause. Sometimes God interrupts the cause-effect sequence and miraculously heals a sick person. If He were to do so always, He could be subject to the satanic charge that He is not a just God, because justice is a corollary of righteousness.
The sin of the first created beings and the gross wickedness of their offspring led to a worldwide deluge that is thought to have resulted in the shifting of tectonic plates that cause earthquakes today. It’s likely that the Flood displaced the axis of the earth and that this resulted in the four seasons in the temperate zones (see Gen. 8:22).
People living today stand in the backwash of the lawlessness that led to the major misalignments in the earth’s crust. The question is whether we should blame God when He was bound by His own holiness to reward the rebellion of the world before the Flood.
Perhaps it would have been better if God had not created humans, or at least not given us the freedom to choose. But a loving God would be expected to create beings upon whom He could lavish His love. While He must have been aware before He created humans that they would sin, the thought of creating them was logically prior to the awareness that they would sin. For God to change His mind upon this realization would have been to allow Himself to be constrained by future possibilities.
God elected to go ahead with His plan, but He also showed that He is not remote in His holiness by immediately creating a plan to rescue the human race from the predicament chosen by the first pair.
When He sent His own Son to die at the hands of His peers, God made a statement for time and eternity: He cares, even though He may not always interrupt the cause-effect sequence. He cares, even if we do not always understand. Our justification of God, then, is His own justification of Himself in the suffering and death of God the Son. His holiness dictated that the just reward for sin is death. He came and paid the penalty Himself in order to create a means of escape for all who accept His way out. He is giving eternal life to all who accept this escape plan, including those who unfortunately die in cataclysms.
Thankfully, those who accepted His sacrifice will live again.
Clifford Pitt writes from West Africa. This article was published May 26, 2011.