Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
April 21, 2011
Why does God allow disasters?
A year ago yesterday, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing 11 people and dumping 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. For many residents in the area, life is still not back to normal. They are suffering the consequences of choices they did not make.
Yesterday we considered a reader’s very hard and honest question: why would an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God allow us to be victimized by circumstances which are not our fault? We began by exploring the suffering which results from misused human freedom. I suggested that freedom by definition requires consequences, so that even God could not create a universe which permits free will but prevents the innocent suffering which often results from its abuse.
But what of innocent suffering which results from natural disasters? If the wildfires just 70 miles west of Fort Worth were caused by arson, they would fit into the previous paragraph. But if they were caused by lightning strikes, whose misused freedom are we to blame?
When the Creator finished his creation, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). He then warned Adam and Eve: “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). After the Fall, God punished Eve’s sin: “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children” (Genesis 3:16). And he punished Adam’s sin as well: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17).
I take these statements to mean that natural disasters, disease and distress are a result of the Fall, with the consequence that “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). But why would God allow our sin to corrupt his perfect creation?
As we have seen, our Father redeems what he allows. Natural disasters prove our mortality and expose our need for God. They can be a catalyst for deeper faith; Charles Spurgeon testified that he “never grew half so much as upon a bed of pain.” Physical death is the gateway for believers to eternal life in paradise. In the meantime, when we help those who are victimized by tragedy, we demonstrate the reality of God’s love in ours.
What are your thoughts on this hard issue? Tomorrow we’ll focus on the greatest tragedy and redemption of all: Good Friday. In the meanwhile, remember: God deals with us as gently as he can or as harshly as he must. Will your choices today make this statement a warning or a promise?