1.07.2005

God and the tsunami

On a forum I'm a part of, the Tsunami of course came up in discussion. Some people mentioned that they were curious how one could believe in an omnipotent and benevolent God in the face of such an event as this, where over 150,000 people are confirmed dead by now. Here was my answer, since it took me a while to type it today while I was at school I figured I'd share it here...

I have a hard time understanding how God could allow the Tsunami to happen. When it comes to things like rape/murder/etc you can say that those are a result of somebody's choice. When it comes to a tidal wave brought about by an earthquake...well, nobody sinfully chose for there to be an earthquake. Unless it was some secret evil genius in the depths of the earth that finally got his earthquake machine working, but let's assume that's not the case.

I have no idea how or why this sort of thing could happen but it does not, for me, contradict the concept of an omnipotent and benevolent God.

There are conflicting views within Christendom when it comes to what "God's Will" is and just how much God "ordains" to happen and how much He allows to happen. For example, many Calvinists believe that God has predestined certain people to salvation and others to His wrath, and that God controls everything that happens. I am not Calvinist and don't claim to speak for them, but I'm sure there are some people who would say "God caused the Tsunami but we can't know why."

I fall into the camp that says God "allowed" it to happen, but we can't know why. I don't think He caused the earthquake, but He could have prevented it and chose not to. I don't know why, and it's a question I asked myself as my wife and I watched the weeping survivors and stories on CNN last week. She cried and I admit I had a bit of the teary-eyes going; the human suffering is staggering.

If I were to try to explain why I think God didn't stop the earthquake I would say that perhaps He set the earth's forces in motion (plate tectonics in this case) and just lets it go. Who knows, maybe God made the earthquake smaller so the wave would kill less people? The bottom line for me here is that I have no idea and any explanation will fall short. Does that bug me? Yes it does. I want to know how God could allow such a thing. For that matter I want to know why He would allow a tornado that kills 1 person, or a rapist to commit his act. These are questions I would love to have answered. Unfortunately at present they cannot be.

That being said - the God I believe in is infinite and beyond my full understanding. I believe that He is loving, all-powerful (except for logically inconsistent things which I think we've gone over before), and all-knowing. I am willing to admit that I don't understand how a God with these qualities could allow certain things to happen - but I'm also willing to admit that my lack of understanding does not mean God is not those things. It means I don't understand, which is to be expected for some things God-related.

The best I can do is pray, ask God for some kind of understanding (contrary to popular misconception God encourages us to be honest with our questions and feelings, so it's okay to ask him "what the crap?"), and see what I can do to try to show His love to others. My faith in a good, loving God isn't based on nothing wrong happening in the world; rather it helps me to make sense of a world where bad things happen.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

If it's a fact that God is all-powerful, all-wise and all-merciful, why is it also a fact that bad things happen to saints and sinners alike? Clergymen have *always* side-stepped this question; although it's a child's question, it's a good one.

For believers, suffering is a test our submission to the will of God. All hardships are an opportunity to gain rewards in heaven for our patience in matters that are beyond our control. Believers can rest easy knowing that not even a leaf can fall from a tree without God's permission, and that we will never be tested beyond what we can endure.

For unbelievers, suffering has a two-fold purpose. It is both chastisement and mercy — a mercy because some will heed the wake-up call and be spared a far greater punishment, in hell. (Earth itself serves as proof of the existence of heaven and hell, because life on earth can lean either way.)

It is only our extremely limited knowledge and understanding that makes events appear random and without purpose. A tsunami may flood a village, or an earthquake rumble and destroy a city. Those who die with acceptance of God's will in their hearts (and praise for Him on their lips) will be rewarded with something far greater than days without floods or earthquakes. Heaven is not only the absence of those things.