Natural Disasters - why does God allow them?
The world shaken by devastating hurricanes
Sunday, September 10, 2017
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This week has been full of news of hurricanes and earthquakes. We have been presented with the terrible suffering of mankind in the wake of the devastating power of these catastrophic events. In this week's Bible in the news, we ask - why does God allow such things to happen?
In this last
In unprecedented events, closely following Irma is Hurricane Jose. Jose is also affecting the same part of the world. At the time of writing this report, it was reported to be a Category 4 storm with gusts of winds of around 175mph or 280kmph and it's thought it may reach category 5 shortly.
Another hurricane in that part of the world made landfall in Mexico called Hurricane Katia. Although this was only a category 2, it caused mudslides which killed two people. Mexico has also been affected by other natural disasters in this last week, suffering an earthquake which measured 8.1 on the Richter Scale. Ninety people have been confirmed dead in the quake that struck off Mexico's southern coast. The earthquake was reported to be the most powerful to hit Mexico in a century.
Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and millions are without power and water in the aftermath of these devastating events. It is hard not to be sympathetic to the terrible struggle thousands of people now face to try and recover and rebuild their livelihoods.
In times like this it is often asked - why does God allow such events to happen. If there is an all loving God why is it these terrible things take place? To answer this question from a Biblical perspective it is helpful to briefly establish a few key principles.
The Bible teaches that all men deserve to die because they are mortal. Suffering is a part of this mortal existence which we bear. This condition of things was brought into play by Adam who disobeyed God's law in the garden of Eden as testified in Genesis and in the other parts of the Bible which back this account up. Romans is such
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…” Romans 5:12
The consequence of Adam's sin (the “one man”) was that of the spreading of mortality into the human race. This principle of mortality passed down from Adam to the next generation and so on up until today. This was the righteous judgment of God who had clearly told
Therefore as a species, we are all unfortunate to inherit the mortal nature with all of its sufferings which we are born into. In Ecclesiastes we read of the sad predicament of man:
“For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 3:19
We should not, therefore, think of God as some sort of benevolent "grandfather figure" - who is there to serve our every whim to make us happy. We are the ones in the wrong. Because of our relationship with sin and death we have no right to demand anything of God. Instead of asking why God is not serving us, we would be better to diligently enquire what we might be able to do to serve Him.
The Bible tells us that God created all things that are in heaven and earth. He did this through his spirit power (Genesis 1:1-2, Job 33:4, Psalm 104:30). He determined the laws of nature and has power over them. Often in the Bible when we see those natural laws being manipulated by God we read that this is done by the Holy Spirit. A special power which is used to perform miracles.
Typically then the natural order of things is simply running on automatic within the laws that God's spirit has determined. These laws produce things like tides, wind, heat, summer and winter and such like. Left to their own devices these laws can cause devastation to man. This could just be 'chance'. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. As we read in Ecclesiastes 9:11 “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet
Is everything left to chance then? Is God not interested in His creation? Far from it.
Sometimes God does manipulate the laws of nature for his own purposes. The Bible is full of accounts of such things. For example, we read in Genesis 7 that God caused a flood which destroyed all of the earth apart from those on Noah’s ark. This was a natural disaster caused by God to meet His purposes. Sometimes God does then use seemingly natural powers to punish the wicked.
Other times we read that accidents occur which are not determined to punish anyone. For
In this case, a tower had fallen, perhaps in an earthquake, and eighteen people had lost their lives. Unlike the flood, this was not a direct punishment because these people were more sinful than anyone else. However, Jesus’ message is clear. We must repent else we will suffer the same fate as these did. What fate did they suffer? Eternal death.
So is this our lot then? To simply live and die, generation after generation with no hope? For the vast majority of
We read this in Psalm 49:
“Man that is in
Presenting a select few with a knowledge and understanding of Him and His purpose throughout the ages is the mechanism that God uses to call His people from the masses of mankind. The Bible tells us that if these few respond in the way God wishes for them to then He is willing to save them. God uses the Gospel - the “good news” as the knowledge by which a person should respond. Consider these passages:
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”. Romans 1:16
Therefore it is essential to seek out and try to understand God’s gospel message. To look into God’s word to appreciate it, believe it and then act upon it. It is an amazing privilege to be called to the hope contained therein, the hope of Israel as it is called. It contains “the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ” as we read of in Acts 8:12 and Christadelphians have summarised our understanding of this in our statement of faith.
However, not everyone is given this opportunity by God but only those who are called - that is to say caused to come into contact with and understand the gospel message. Universal salvation is not something which God has offered. Here are three verses which tell us this:
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;” Ephesians 4:4
“God at the first did visit the Gentiles (non-Jews), to take out of them a people for his name.” Acts 15:14