The Problem of Natural Disasters

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mattrose
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The Problem of Natural Disasters

Post by mattrose » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:12 pm

The 'problem of pain' is generally agreed to be the best argument against the existence of God. The 'Free Will' defense is the typical response of Christianity. But 'natural disasters' don't seem to fit very easily into this defense. Why does a world created by God include things like natural disasters?

Theory #1 God causes natural disasters as a way of punishing human sin (natural disasters are a display of God's righteous wrath)
Theory #2 God causes natural disasters as a way of waking people up (a cursed creation wakes us up to the reality that something went wrong)
Theory #3 God causes natural disasters as a way to build human character (no pain, no gain)

Sometimes these theories are softened by switching the word ‘causes’ to the word ‘allows’: God allows natural disasters because through them sin is punished, people wake up, and character is developed…

But who receives this allowance? Greg Boyd argues that God allows powerful evil creatures to bring about natural disasters 1) because they have been granted a certain amount of irrevocable freedom and 2) because through them sin is punished, people wake up, and character is developed.

Does anyone on this forum have any thoughts on these matters?

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TheEditor
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Re: The Problem of Natural Disasters

Post by TheEditor » Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:13 pm

Hi Matt,

Only my own thoughts. God does not "cause" any of these things. He only "causes" them in the same sense that the Hebrew midvives "caused" the male Israelites to be born, ie. they refrained from putting them to death. To quote Rotherham on this, "even positive commands are occasionally to be accepted as meaning no more than permission." Thus at Exodus 1:17 the original Hebrew text literally says that the midwives "caused the male children to live," whereas in reality they permitted them to live by refraining from putting them to death.

As for the literal "cause" of disasters, well, I tend to be a bit more Pelagian on that. I think things happen. The reaction to these things gives us opportunity to demonstrate of what spirit we are, but I don't personally imagine demons running around in the 5th dimension pushing over trees and causing hurricanes. But what do I know? :?

Regards, Brenden.
[color=#0000FF][b]"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."[/b][/color]

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jarrod
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Re: The Problem of Natural Disasters

Post by jarrod » Thu Sep 04, 2014 3:56 pm

This is just a thought, but I wonder if these "natural disasters" actually benefit the Earth and the ecosystems. We obviously consider them a disaster because of the loss of life and/or damage to property, and rightfully so, but I imagine God designed the tectonic plates, the atmosphere, and other natural occurrences that cause tsunamis, erupting volcanos, hurricanes, tornados, etc.

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robbyyoung
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Re: The Problem of Natural Disasters

Post by robbyyoung » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:36 pm

Hi Matt,

Here's a comparison from two translations concerning "God's Hand" in these matters.

YLT: Isa 45:6-7

So that they know from the rising of the sun, And from the west, that there is none besides Me, I am Jehovah, and there is none else, Forming light, and preparing darkness, Making peace, and preparing evil, I am Jehovah, doing all these things.

NASB: The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.

We also know and have evidence from scripture that God uses extreme weather or disasters to engage the human race. The short answer to why, IMHO, is found in the summation of Job. Notice what God said in answer to Job’s demand for an explanation of what was happening to him. God made no attempt to defend Himself. He simply said that He could do what He wants. So what was God relaying? He meant that He could do what He wants because He has reasons for doing it, in pure love for the good of all things—even if we cannot comprehend those reasons.

These are just my quick thoughts, God Bless :)

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mattrose
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Re: The Problem of Natural Disasters

Post by mattrose » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:49 pm

TheEditor wrote:Hi Matt,

Only my own thoughts. God does not "cause" any of these things. He only "causes" them in the same sense that the Hebrew midvives "caused" the male Israelites to be born, ie. they refrained from putting them to death. To quote Rotherham on this, "even positive commands are occasionally to be accepted as meaning no more than permission." Thus at Exodus 1:17 the original Hebrew text literally says that the midwives "caused the male children to live," whereas in reality they permitted them to live by refraining from putting them to death.


My first post is actually some notes I jotted down for a Sunday School class (so it's more neutral than my actual statements will be). But I am in agreement with this paragraph of yours.

As for the literal "cause" of disasters, well, I tend to be a bit more Pelagian on that. I think things happen.


By "I think things happen" are you suggesting that random chance is built into the fabric of creation? Just curious.

The reaction to these things gives us opportunity to demonstrate of what spirit we are, but I don't personally imagine demons running around in the 5th dimension pushing over trees and causing hurricanes. But what do I know? :?


My first instinct would be the same as yours, I think. But I did just finish reading Greg Boyd's "Satan and the Problem of Evil" and he made a pretty strong case. If bad people can use the natural realm in tragic ways... why wouldn't bad angels be able to do some of the thing on, perhaps, an even bigger scale? It seems Jesus sometimes talked to storms like they were demonic. I think Boyd makes a strong argument that the devil has too often been left on the fringes of discussion of the problem of pain.

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mattrose
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Re: The Problem of Natural Disasters

Post by mattrose » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:52 pm

jarrod wrote:This is just a thought, but I wonder if these "natural disasters" actually benefit the Earth and the ecosystems. We obviously consider them a disaster because of the loss of life and/or damage to property, and rightfully so, but I imagine God designed the tectonic plates, the atmosphere, and other natural occurrences that cause tsunamis, erupting volcanos, hurricanes, tornados, etc.
Personally, I have a hard time thinking that God purposefully built a system that includes tsunamis, erupting volcanos, hurricanes, and tornados while simultaneously knowing that this planet would be inhabited by people who would be killed by such events. They seem like a disruption to a very good creation to me.

But there is a piece of what your saying that I think makes a strong point. Water can be a beautiful thing, but you can also drown in it. Fire serves a purpose, but you can be burned by it. Wind can be wonderful, but it can knock something on top of you. Etc.

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mattrose
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Re: The Problem of Natural Disasters

Post by mattrose » Thu Sep 04, 2014 4:58 pm

robbyyoung wrote: The short answer to why, IMHO, is found in the summation of Job. Notice what God said in answer to Job’s demand for an explanation of what was happening to him. God made no attempt to defend Himself. He simply said that He could do what He wants. So what was God relaying? He meant that He could do what He wants because He has reasons for doing it, in pure love for the good of all things—even if we cannot comprehend those reasons.

These are just my quick thoughts, God Bless :)
Thanks for the thoughts. I read the book of Job quite differently. I don't interpret it as God saying "Hey, I'm God... I can do whatever I want." I take it as God saying "Hey, there's a lot of factors you don't understand... so don't jump to conclusions." The prologue makes clear that a MAJOR factor Job was not aware of was the role of Satan in disasters. I see Satan as the cause of natural disasters, generally.

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jarrod
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Re: The Problem of Natural Disasters

Post by jarrod » Thu Sep 04, 2014 5:24 pm

mattrose wrote:Personally, I have a hard time thinking that God purposefully built a system that includes tsunamis, erupting volcanos, hurricanes, and tornados while simultaneously knowing that this planet would be inhabited by people who would be killed by such events. They seem like a disruption to a very good creation to me.
I wonder if the entrance of sin/curse that effects whole creation could be the explanation of the disruption, but I would definitely agree with you that I doubt Adam and Eve would have had to worry about those things. If the "no rain before the flood" theory is true, then its possible that the atmosphere changed along with other factors that could explain the disasters.

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TheEditor
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Re: The Problem of Natural Disasters

Post by TheEditor » Thu Sep 04, 2014 5:50 pm

By "I think things happen" are you suggesting that random chance is built into the fabric of creation? Just curious.


This is an interesing question. I suppose it depends on whether someone is going to draw the line with a Magic Marker as opposed to a dull pencil. If I trip and fall, was that built into the fabric of my creation? If wind knocks a house over that was poorly constructed, was that built into the fabric of the house's construction? Some may feel so, in both cases. I'm not so sure. Maybe there were unpreventable factors to my fall, or maybe the house was not expected to withstand high winds due to it's location. I just extend my doubt of God's involvement a little further than the average Evangelical I guess.

I believe that God created the earth and the heavens. The "hows" are left out, as the Bible is a history of faith, and not a science textbook. So, therefore, I don't know what factors the Almighty took into consideration before He delared that it was "good". Did He allow angels to take part in creation? (cf. 2 Chronicles 18:18-22 where God appears to be open to suggestions, and actually approves of one.) If so, what coould we make of that? I may be rambling a bit, but I sometimes wonder if we don't try to make sense of the chaos because we feel helpless and are loathe to accept that God doesn't always intervene where He could, and so we sometimes lay the blame on the other side--the side of darkness--to make sense of it.

Regards, Brenden.
[color=#0000FF][b]"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery."[/b][/color]

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mattrose
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Re: The Problem of Natural Disasters

Post by mattrose » Thu Sep 04, 2014 6:08 pm

jarrod wrote:I wonder if the entrance of sin/curse that effects whole creation could be the explanation of the disruption, but I would definitely agree with you that I doubt Adam and Eve would have had to worry about those things. If the "no rain before the flood" theory is true, then its possible that the atmosphere changed along with other factors that could explain the disasters.
2 Things...

1) I'd say the entrance of sin definitely played a part. Perhaps we can extend the curse on the ground to be more than just thorns and thistles and to include things like natural disasters. My question is, are these events directly caused by God's wrath OR are they caused by God's withdrawal and allowance of Satan to do evil?

2) I'd say that the flood itself (assuming a global flood) caused massive devastation to the earth, perhaps natural disasters are the earth's ongoing attempts to re-find equilibrium from the flood. I personally like this theory, as it makes natural disasters near-constant reminders of the fact that judgment has happened before (and will therefore happen again).

But again, was the flood directly caused by God or the result of God's withdrawal. No doubt, the language of the passage points toward the former. But I think one of the biggest debates of the next 10 years will be on the subject of how to interpret these sorts of texts. The OT attributes to God a lot of things, perhaps, that are only under His general sovereignty and not from direct contribution.

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