Thursday, March 17, 2011

Did God Cause The Disaster in Japan?

When I was an active insurance agent nearly all of the company contracts contained the phrase 'Acts of God' as a disclaimer for disasters and large unforeseen events such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and other destruction caused by nature. That it is in the mind of man that such events are triggered by a vengeful God is an interesting observation in of itself.

Most ancient civilizations postured, rightfully so, a hostile relationship with God. Their acts of worship were meant to appease their God(s) and to keep his wrath at bay.* Even modern day religious beliefs try to reconcile large scale suffering with a punishing God as evident with the Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, blaming the disaster as punishment because Japanese politics were tainted with egoism (selfishness). Sadly even those who should know better, as in Evangelical Christians, tried to associate the Indonesia resistance to the Gospel with the horrific tsunami that killed over 230,000 people.

So what is the truth?

The tendency for man to account horrific events to God is partly based upon truth. Our relationship with God under the old contract (Old Testament) was tenuous at best. Man in his fully fallen state was and is not pretty. At one point God was so disgusted with our behavior he hit the reset button and with the exception of one family (Noah) wiped mankind from the face of the Earth. He then established a covenant with one race of people (the Hebrews) and minus a very few exceptions everyone else was pretty much screwed. God instructed the Israelis to wipe out entire cities and even commit acts of genocide, ordering them to kill even the women and children. The God of the Old Testament was not the nice genteel old grandfather figure that is so often portrayed in movies and sadly even in the Church.

You can make the case that before the birth of the Christ there are natural catastrophic events (such as the Flood) whose direct cause can be linked God. But not all. I would be hesitate to blame every natural disaster that has occurred to God in Heaven as their is no evidence that he initiated every one of them and the ones crediting God in the Bible are few and infrequent; Sodom and Gomorrah, the Flood, etc. Many of the prophecies of destruction listed in the Old and the New Testament have more to do with what humans do to each other as opposed to what nature does to man.

Secondly, anything that occurs after the Cross is not from God. Through Jesus, God has made peace with man. He declares this from the birth of Christ which is declared by Angels to be 'Good News' to all people and that 'God has made peace to all man'. It is inconsistent that God would send his only Son to pay for our sins and then still be in the business of the wholesale slaughter of man. The old contract (Old Testament) has been replaced with a new contract (New Testament). The Gospel is indeed 'good news'.

So if God has made peace with man then why did the earthquake in Japan happen?

The problem lies within our understanding of two words; salvation and redemption. We intertwine them until their differences are no longer discernible. In fact, you will hear Christians say something like 'God has saved us and redeemed us.' God has saved us but redemption will not be complete until Jesus returns.

God has saved us from the law of sin and death. Those who believe upon Jesus are no longer going to hell for their sins. It is nothing we do, it is the free gift of God. "You are saved by works and not by faith lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) In fact if you want a quick way to separate Christianity from the rest of the religions of the world, that verse alone will just about do the job. However Christians still sin and sometimes spectacularly. Unfortunately there are still consequences for that sin. Christians are saved, but true redemption is completely fulfilled with the death of our flesh. 

The results of sin is the equivalent of dropping a rock in a pond and watching the ripples spread out; where and when the impact stops no one really knows. If you have ever been on the receiving end of the consequences of what someone else did then you know what I am talking about. To make matters more difficult God seems reluctant to intervene. He has allowed the Hitler's, Stalin's and Husein's of this world to prosper with horrific results. We have made our proverbial bed and he seems content for us to lay in it. He may be redeeming us but it is the redemption of the Cross; through pain and suffering.

Nature is in the same boat. When we sinned entropy enter the world and the Universe has been falling apart ever since. Not only does God rarely intervene but Jesus promises in Matthew 24:8 that the end times will be like labor pains; the disasters will get closer and closer together and more and more violent. Does that sound eerily familiar? It should, there is growing evidence that is actually occurring. Whether this is because the human population covers much more of the Earth or whether the frequency is really increasing seems moot. Jesus predicted it two thousand plus years ago.

Revelations hints that there will be huge, global catastrophic events that will take place and some argue they have already occurred (WWI, WWII, The Bubonic Plague, Spanish Influenza, etc). Again, it is not clear in Revelations that God actually triggers every one them but whatever position you want to argue it cannot be argued that he allows them to proceed.

Which puts God in a really bad light and I think really brings out the real question that people are asking about the Japanese Earthquake and other natural disasters.

God, why did you allow these terrible things to happen?

Which is actually a very good question. But it is the wrong one. God did not allow these things to happen. You did. I did. Everyone who has sinned (which is everyone and if you exempt yourself you just lied). God created the Earth and the Universe and when he did it was perfect. It was good. When we decided to choose the Knowledge of Good and Evil over Life (i.e. 'I will live my own way God thank you very much') sin entered the Universe and when it did it brought death or as scientists refer to it; entropy. (Romans 5:12). Earth and nature have been a wreck ever since.

Jesus will return one day and when he does he will set the Earth back to its original glory and redeem those who believe with incorruptible bodies. It will be a sight to behold. But when you hear of the next earthquake or natural disaster that kills don't look to the heavens for answers as to why, look in the mirror.

*Civilizations that endorsed religious philosophies such as Pantheism (i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism) worship a more benevolent force but their belief systems struggle with reconciling pain and suffering and events like what happened in Japan.


  1. *Civilizations that endorsed religious philosophies such as Pantheism (i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism) worship a more benevolent force but their belief systems struggle with reconciling pain and suffering and events like what happened in Japan.

    Look at all the plagues during the dark ages under a Christian empire, your sophomoric attempt to reconcile Christian faith with the problem of evil have so many contradictions and defeaters.

  2. "A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell — mouths mercy, and invented hell — mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!"

    -Mark Twain, "The Mysterious Stranger"

  3. "The most preposterous notion that Homo sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history. The second most preposterous notion is that copulation is inherently sinful."

    — Robert A. Heinlein