Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are just a couple of the recent natural disasters in the news. It seems nature has “gone mad”. Why the increase in natural disasters?
17 And then the Lord‘s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.
~ Dt 11:17
Has nature lost its mind? There are actual commentators comparing the current simultaneous natural disasters is like a type of insanity. This has been a record year for natural disasters, which leads one to ask, “Why the increase in natural disasters?”
It used to be that when natural disasters seemed unusual, many were able to compare the number and magnitude of storms and such to history and conclude that there have always been storms but they are more noticeable because populations are more dense than before. Prior to modern times, a disaster may have occurred, but it wasn’t news because few if any people actually lived there. A growing population, then, makes the perception that these events have increased when the reality is that more people are in the way of them.
However, this year has definitely turned this on its head. Consider:
- Unprecedented simultaneous four hurricanes of category 3 or higher. In fact, Irma would have been a category 6, except that the categories are capped at 5. The general thought is that after category 5, the amount of damage is so catastrophic as any additional categories are meaningless.
- Four earthquakes in Mexico of 4.5 or higher. While aftershocks are quite common in earthquakes, these are four actual earthquakes. The first one was 8.1. That does not mean it is roughly double of the lowest of 4.5. The actual scale is not linear, but logarithmic. The Richter scale is not used very often any more except for local small quakes. The difference between whole numbers on the new scale are about 32 times the amount of energy. So, the difference between the 4.5 magnitude quake and the 8.1 magnitude quake is over 524,288 times in the amount of released energy.
- If Harvey, Irma and Jose weren’t dominating the news, the number and intensity of fires would be, particularly here in Colorado. The smoke hung in the air like a fog for well over a week north of Denver so that you could not even see the mountains some days. True, 2015 was a much worse year in terms of total damage, but this year fires seem to be striking some well-loved areas. In Oregon alone, 1903 fires have burned “9 iconic places”. Ironically, I am listening to Coder Radio while writing this, and Chris Fischer of Washington is talking about how the smoke was blocking the sun making it orange and the moon is “blood red”.
- In four days in early September, there were six solar flares. This is highly unusual, but what makes this particularly unusual is that this is normally the time when the sun should be quieting down in its flare cycle. Scientists are apparently at a loss as to why it is being so active instead. One of the flares was “the Strongest Solar Flare in a Decade“, knocking out radio communications for about one hour in some places.
So, what is the cause?
Is God Punishing the Wicked?
Often, God gets the blame whenever things go wrong, but rarely is He acknowledged when things go well. We even have the term “acts of God” in many insurance policies to cover natural disasters.
In the Book of Job, the main character Job is subjected to a number of disastrous events at the same time. His three friends try to convince him it is because he sinned and that God caused all the calamities to punish him. To Job’s credit, he dismisses their charges, but even he seemingly blames God for his predicament. He and his three friends are chastised for this in the end.
Various “Christian” personalities over the years have stated that thus-and-such weather phenomenon was the result of some type of sin. Anything from blaming the waving of the gay pride flag to the Democratic convention was used as the justification for bad weather. Somehow, though, whenever something negative happens to them or someone they approve of, then it is Satan’s fault.
The Devil Did It?
Others will claim that God is love, to the extent that He could not have possibly caused any of these calamities.
The Old Testament story of Job is a classic example of how God sometimes allows Satan to bring calamities. Job lost his cattle, his crops, and his family to vicious attacks, a killer hurricane, and firestorm. Job’s friends said these disasters came from God, but a careful reading of the book of Job reveals that it was Satan who brought these evils (see Job 1:1-12).
~Bibleinfo.com, “Does God send hurricanes and earthquakes?“
Yet, that same article glosses over the fact that God actively caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Somehow, “God allowed His judgment to fall on” those cities so that others could mercifully learn from it. Even the language used tries to deflect from the fact that God actively destroyed those cities. They do not even mention the Flood or any other active past examples of God rendering His judgment upon rebellious people.
What they, and perhaps most, fail to realize is that the Book of Job is sandwiched in between two tornadoes. A whirlwind blew down the house where Job’s children were in the beginning. In the end, God appears in a whirlwind to chastise Job and his three friends.
Both beings are capable of manipulating the weather. The main difference is that God needs no permission to do so, whereas Satan’s hand is limited in how much havoc he can wreak. That is the real lesson in the Book of Job: Satan is powerful, but even he is limited by the boundaries God sets for him.
Time and Chance
The Bible speaks of time and chance. This directly contradicts most people’s religious beliefs. Pagan religions are invariably fatalistic. In particular, Greco-Roman religion, much of which eventually became incorporated into mainstream Christianity and polluted it, viewed life as a drama acted out by hapless and helpless humans manipulated by the gods, sometimes even without their direct knowledge. Much of Hindu literature is similarly fatalistic. The message is clear that humans can do what they wish, but in the end their fates are predetermined.
Predestination is a “Christian” doctrine which comes from this same line of thought. It carries with it fatalistic baggage, but added to it is the evil Calvinistic idea that God would condemn two-thirds of humanity because He is too weak to irresistibly draw people to Him in this life.
19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
How can anyone “choose” if life is already determined? How can God be just if He punishes people for that which is not their fault?
Whenever you deviate from what the Bible says, the result is inevitable: It paints God as an unjust, incompetent and evil being.
Adam and Eve made a choice. They chose to disobey God. They chose to reject a way of life where God actively cared for them, placing them in a safe place that provided all their needs. They chose to listen to Satan, and thus became under his control and authority, albeit limited by what God allows Satan to do. They inherited a dysfunctional world as a result.
11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that 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 favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
~ Ecc 9:11
This verse is in the Bible. It cannot be explained away. God allows things to happen because chaos is the result of a broken world.
Compare this to the many promises God made to Israel, such as rain in due season. HWA often remarked how this is a world cut off from God. Yet, in Israel’s case, God offered to be an active partner in their success. God offered to give them blessing upon blessing in exchange for their obedience.
What all this should tell us is that time and chance are the rule rather than the exception. The exception is when God steps in, for blessing or for judgment. To say that God caused a specific tragedy is dangerous because it is blaming God for something He may or may not have actively caused. Unless God actively says He caused this or that, the person blaming God is giving a false testimony.
25 I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed.
26 How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
~ Jer 23:25-26
A prophet supposedly is one who speaks for God. There are many false prophets out there, sadly. Many would directly or indirectly blame God for all of these tragedies.
In reality, this world is physical. It will break down. Things will go wrong. We humans are physical. Our bodies and even our minds will break down. Our lives will in one way or another go wrong.
HWA understood something that many who claim to follow in his footsteps do not. God created us as temporary mortals who can die so that He does not wind up with billions of devils running around. Traditional Christianity assumes the opposite, since only one-third of humanity even claims to be Christian, and those who follow darkness far outweigh those who follow light. No, that is not how God designed it. He designed it so that those who choose to go another way don’t have to. They simply will not exist in a world where they will never find happiness. They will die and be gone.
Yet, without the lessons of calamity and even death, how can we know the severity of our choices? God created a world that requires upkeep, requires regular maintenance and requires a hands-on approach. However, a world cut off from God will have disrepair, calamities and injustice. Sin touches all, and even those who are innocent, such as babies, can and often are harmed. Sin itself is a form of corruption and decay.
Of course, the refrain, “If God is so powerful, why doesn’t He do something?” is also easily disputed. It assumes that there is nothing to learn from all this temporary dysfunction. It assumes that God won’t do something simply because He is doing nothing now.
19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children.
~ Ro 8:19-21 (HCSB)
God did not create the world in “futility”, “void” or “vain” (Isa 45:18). However, He willingly allowed it to be subject to corruption and decay in order to teach His children to not fall into corruption and decay in a spiritual sense. The consequences of a world that sins and is cut off from God should sober anyone up and change their thinking. Logically, God will not keep it in such a state of affairs, but this is something that escapes traditional Christianity.
Does it escape your understanding?