Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti Earthquake – Why?

When terrible disasters occur such as the earthquake in Haiti, the question comes up: “Why does God allow such things to happen?” People will then view God is “bad” or “evil” in some way because he allows such tragedies to occur. What answer does the believer in God have for such a question, especially in light of the magnitude of the destruction and human loss in Haiti?

One answer is that God isn’t involved in his creation. He got things started but now just lets events play out without any divine input. Deists believe in the “Divine Watchmaker” concept of God. It explains why bad things happen, but isn’t consistent with the Bible.

A related answer is that God purposely limits himself and is generally uninvolved in the world. God will intervene on occasion, and these divine suspensions of natural laws are called miracles. This might be a little closer to a partial explanation.

Let me give you a summary of what I understand, which are only partial answers but makes some progress in trying to grasp why these things happen.

a. First of all, we are on earth, subject to the laws of nature. This is not heaven, but the earth, with all of its flaws, sin, and other problems. Heaven will be much better.

b. Second, many natural disasters are made much worse by human corruption, selfishness, or incompetence. Think of Hurricane Katrina with inferior levees. Think of Haiti with poor construction. We shouldn’t blame God when disaster results from humankind’s shortcomings.

c. Third, some disasters are completely man-made. Think of China’s Great Leap Forward which resulted in a famine that killed millions. Think of Stalin’s disastrous farm and other policies that killed millions. Think of all the wars, buried land mines, repressive regimes, etc.

d. Fourth, we tend to blame God for all the bad things that happen, but don’t give him credit for the good things. While natural disasters do occur (interestingly referred to as “Acts of God” in legal documents, although they are getting away from that and are now using the term “force majeure”), devastating ones are relatively rare. Like plane crashes, they are terrible when they happen and get a lot of publicity.

e. Lastly, God did create a perfect world and we messed it up, as illustrated by the Adam and Eve story. Even if you don’t take that story literally, it does tell us that humanity did something to rebel against God, thus plunging the world into it current state.

While this is only a brief overview of my incomplete understanding of this ongoing question, I hope it has been helpful to you. The main thing we should remember is that God can use tragedy for good. So be open to God’s leading so that your own trials and hardships can be used for human good and God’s glory.

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