Friday, October 26, 2007

What Does God Have To Do With Disaster?

By Chad V @

So, what do you think of when a major natural disaster strikes, when thousands are killed, homes destroyed, and crime and looting run rampant. What about when epidemics of deadly disease strike? What do you say to people who ask you, "What kind of a god would do such a thing?". What do you say to people who ask such things of you? Do you believe that God is behind such things or do you believe that these things are somehow happening outside the will of God? Do you believe that God simply allows these things to happen or do you believe there's more to it than that? If you were to ask a Christian from centuries ago these questions, you'd probably get a different answer than you would from today's Christians. So who is right?

Scripture reveals God as being intimately involved in the direction of the happenings of the world, both in matters of prosperity and calamity (Isaiah 45:7). The Bible tells us that God causes disaster in the city (Amos 3:6). In Isaiah 10 we learn the Assyrians were the rod of God's anger against the Israelites for their wickedness and arrogance. In 1 Samuel 15 God commanded the utter destruction of the Amalekites. How do these things differ from the tragedies of 9/11, hurricane Katrina or the tsunami in Southeast Asia which killed hundreds of thousands, sweeping them into eternal judgment? How are these things different than the equally tragic Virginia Tech shootings, or when someone is killed by a drunk driver, or when a coal mine collapses trapping the miners in a dark tomb? Is God behind these things, or does he simply allow them to happen? Are these things God's judgment of the wicked and the calling home of his elect? Does not God have the right to judge sinful people as he sees fit? People are often quick to give credit to God when circumstances are favorable, but when events are contrary suddenly God is forgotten. Is not the giving of prosperity just as much the prerogative of God as the giving of catastrophe? The testimony of scripture is clear, God is intimately involved with his creation and directs even the minutest happenings. Every good thing and every tragedy is from the hand of the Lord.

Psalm 14 speaks of the state of those who would deny the providence of God. In his masterful work on the doctrine of God, "The Existence and Attributes of God", the 17th century Puritan pastor Steven Charnock begins with an exposition of the first verse of the 14th psalm. Charnock shows us that the testimony of scripture is such that those who deny the providence of God in all things deny God's nature and his rights, and that they deny God himself and substitute an idol in place of the one true God as revealed in scripture. Furthermore, the result of such a denial is an abominable conversation. Here's a brief excerpt from the first chapter.

Puritan Steven Charnock on Psalm 14

Psalm 14:1 - The fool hath said in his heart,
"There is no God." They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

There is no God. It is not Jehovah, which name signifies the essence of God, as the prime supreme being; but Elohahia, which name signifies the providence of God, God as a rector and judge. Not that he denies the existence of a Supreme Being, that created the world, but his regarding the creatures, his government of the world, and consequently his reward of the righteous or punishments of the wicked.

There is a threefold denial of God,
1. Quoad existentiam; This is absolute atheism.
2. Quoad Provedentium; or his inspection into or care of the
. . .things of the world, bounding him in the heavens.
3. Quad naturam; in regard of one or other of the perfections
. . . due to his nature.

Of the denial of the providence of God most understand this, not excluding the absolute atheist, as Diagoras is reported to be, nor the skeptical atheist, as Protagoras, who doubted whether there were a God. Those that deny the providence of God, do in effect deny the being of God; for they strip him of that wisdom, goodness, tenderness, mercy, justice, righteousness, which are the glory of the Deity. And the principle of a greedy desire to be uncontrolled in their lusts, which induceth men to a denial of providence, that thereby they might stifle those seeds of fear which infect and embitter their sinful pleasures, may as well lead them to deny that there is any such being as God. That at one blow, their fears may be dashed all in pieces, and dissolved by the removal of the foundation: as men who desire liberty to commit works of darkness, would not have the lights dimmed, but extinguished. What men say against providence, because they would no check in their lusts, they may say in their hearts against the existence of God upon the same account; little difference between dissenting from the one and disowning the other.

They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. He speaks of the atheist in the singular, "the fool;" of the corruption issuing in the life in the plural; intimating that though some few may choke in their hearts the sentiments of God and his providence, and positively deny them, yet there is something of a secret atheism in all, which is the fountain of the evil practices in their lives, not an utter disowning of the being of the being of a God, but a denial of or doubting of some of the rights of his nature. When men deny the God of purity, they must needs be polluted in soul and body, and grow brutish in their actions. When the sense of religion is shaken off, all kinds of wickedness is eagerly rushed into, whereby they become loathsome to God as putrefied carcasses are to men. Not one or two evil actions is the product of such a principle, but the whole scene of a man's life is corrupted and becomes execrable.

So we see in Charnock's exposition the folly of denying Divine providence in all that comes to pass. We must understand that God is intimately involved with the governing of the creation. There is no event which transpires that is outside of his will. Even the wickedness of men is so governed and ordained by God that though men may intend evil the Lord intends it for good (Gen 50:20). Often the acts of the wicked, or great natural disaster are the rod of God's anger towards those who have rebelled or despised him (Isaiah 10, 1 Kings 17:1, Hag. 1:11). Those who would deny such a doctrine are called fools in the scripture, a forgetfulness of this causes us to be carried away by our lusts. Though a man may be moral in a civil sense, if he denies the hand of the Lord in all things his works are regarded as abominable. Such a person is unable to reflect Christ in all his fullness.

Great disaster is a visible sign of God's wrath against sin and should afford us an opportunity to warn people to flee to Christ for salvation. If we say, "God would not cause harm to us", or "not everything that happens in the world is God's will" then we rob God of his glory. What shall we answer to those who ask a reason of the hope that is within us if we do not understand such a doctrine? How shall we answer the question;

No comments: