Category Archives: Problem of evil

Connection between spiritual condition of the nation and disasters

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie

Category 4 severe tropical cyclone (Aus scale)

Category 4 tropical cyclone (SSHWS)

Debbie 2017-03-28 0010Z.jpg

(Debbie shortly after peak intensity approaching Queensland, Australia on 28 March 2017, image courtesy Wikipedia)

“I kept the rain from falling when your crops needed it the most.

I sent rain on one town but withheld it from another. Rain fell on one field, while another field withered away.

People staggered from town to town looking for water, but there was never enough.

But still you would not return to me, says the Lord”.

Could there be a link between a nation’s disasters and its spiritual condition before the Lord God Almighty?

Here are a few examples from Scripture that demonstrate the pattern:

1. Amos 4:6-9, 12 (NLT)

“I [the Sovereign Lord] brought hunger to every city
and famine to every town.
But still you would not return to me,”
says the LORD.

7 “I kept the rain from falling
when your crops needed it the most.
I sent rain on one town
but withheld it from another.
Rain fell on one field,
while another field withered away.
8 People staggered from town to town looking for water,
but there was never enough.
But still you would not return to me,”

says the Lord.

9 “I struck your farms and vineyards with blight and mildew.
Locusts devoured all your fig and olive trees.
But still you would not return to me,”

says the Lord
….

12 “Therefore, I will bring upon you all the disasters I have announced.
Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel!”

That was an instance from another nation of the core of the problem – the link between a nation’s spiritual condition and God’s sending drought. There IS A SOLUTION. Repent of our sins against God, Australia, and return to Him in confession and repentance.

The prophet Joel provided another case in point:

2. Joel 2:11-13

There is ‘a time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance’ (Eccl 3:4). I hope you have been doing lots of crying and grieving over the state of Australia and for God to open the heavens and send rain. Please grieve with the farming families in drought.

But here is another statement about the core problem …

… The day of the LORD is an awesome, terrible thing.
Who can possibly survive?

12 That is why the LORD says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.

Originally, this was a warning to Israel, but the same principle applies to Australia. The day of the Lord’s punishment is terrible. Droughts, cyclones, bush fires, earthquakes (remember Newcastle NSW, 28 December1989 and the earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale)[1] and tsunamis are devastating in their impacts.

Through Joel the prophet, the message to Israel and by inference to Australia to stop this drought is that no human being can break it by causing the rain to fall. Only the Lord God Almighty can do that. He shouts to all Aussies:

TURN TO ME NOW WHILE THERE IS TIME. GIVE ME YOUR HEARTS. COME WITH FASTING, WEEPING, AND MOURNING.… RETURN TO THE LORD YOUR GOD FOR HE IS MERCIFUL AND COMPASSIONATE’.

3. We have the same kind of message from Jesus

Every catastrophe is the Holy God’s merciful call to people to repent of their sinful ways. The Gospel of Luke records:

About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God (Luke 13:1-3 NLT).

In verses 4-5 of Luke 13 we read: ‘And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that UNLESS YOU REPENT, YOU WILL PERISH TOO’.

4. Does this sound like Australia in the twenty-first century?

The Scriptures are adamant:

You should know … that in the last days there will be very difficult times. 2 For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred.

3 They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. 4 They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God.

5 They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT).

There is a direct connection between Australia’s moral and spiritual condition and disasters – the drought, floods, fires and other catastrophes. I do NOT equate one disaster with one type of moral disaster from God. That’s God’s business to do the connecting. I know clearly from Scripture that there is an association between the nation’s spiritual conditions and disasters that come (see the above examples.

5. More disasters

(a) The Townsville floods 2019

clip_image002

A general view of the flooded Townsville suburb of Idalia. Photograph: Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images[2]

clip_image004

GOOD CAUSE: Sunshine Coast residents have donated to Townsville flood victims in the throes of cleaning up. AAP/DAN PELED[3]

clip_image006(1) How much rain was received?

According to Higgins’ Storm Chasing, ‘Townsville has broken its 6 day, 7 day, 8 day, 9 day, 10 day, 11 day and 12 day accumulative records from this event. A final 12 day total of 1391.4mm has been observed [in February 2019]’.[4]

The Bureau of Meteorology made this statement about the Townsville flood on 15 February 2019 (reported by ABC News, Brisbane, Qld):

It is difficult to oversell the amount of rain that has fallen in north Queensland. Places like Paluma, Woolshed, and Upper Bluewater got over two metres of rain in 12 days.[5]

clip_image008

(2) Estimated cost of Townsville flood damage.

Qld Premier, Ms Annastasia Palaszczuk,  said … ‘the state budget is estimated to take a hit of at least $1.5 billion after catastrophic bushfires and floods ravaged Queensland over the last three months’.[6]

(b) North-West Queensland: From drought to flooding and cattle disaster

clip_image010

Rachael Anderson of Eddington station[7] says she has lost about 2,000 cattle, roughly half the herd. Photograph: Rachael Anderson[8]

clip_image012

Grazier David Batt and volunteer Ash Travers line up carcasses for a mass burial. Supplied: Max Batt.[9]

(1) According to ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, ‘An estimate is that the floods have ‘killed as many as 500,000 animals across Queensland’s north and central-west’.[10]

(c) Fires in Victoria

In February 2019, Victorian fire authorities were bracing for hot and windy weather on Sunday [10 Feb] as they continue to fight fires which are threatening lives and properties in parts of the state.

ABC News, Brisbane, Qld provided this Victorian fire photo on 1 and 2 February 2019:

clip_image014

Photo: The bushfire was burning in a westerly direction towards Moe-Walhalla Road. Photo supplied: Jimmy Lia, 1 February 2019[11]

6. I must give two warnings.

6.1 First warning

Don’t bother coming to the Trinitarian, Lord God Almighty in prayer if you don’t believe He exists. If you are an atheist, agnostic, humanist, sceptic, or secular person, you are wasting your time seeking help from the God in whom you do not believe.

How do I know? Scripture says: ‘It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him’ (Hebrews 11:6).

If you don’t believe in the existence of God, it would be like going to McDonald’s to buy a hammer and shovel. Don’t waste your time in praying to the God you don’t believe in.

If you are struggling with knowing if God exists, see these articles online:

clip_image016 Evidence for the existence of God

clip_image016[1] God reveals Himself in nature to everyone

clip_image016[2] Does God send cyclones?

6.2 Second warning

Forget about praying for rain if you want what God does not want for you. Scripture places this boundary around our praying: ‘Here is what we can be sure of when we come to God in prayer. If we ask anything in keeping with what he wants, he hears us. If we know that God hears what we ask for, we know that we have it (1 John 5:14-15).

If it is God’s will to send rain to the outback NOW, He will send it when we pray. He may have a greater lesson to teach us. Have Australian people repented of the sins of the nation and changed its immoral laws to agree with God’s laws? Have individuals repented and sought God’s forgiveness.

If God doesn’t send rain, what could be other blockages in Australia that are causing God to say, ‘No, not yet’?

If God sends a deluge of rain that we rightly label as disaster, God’s ways are the same. He will not tolerate Australia’s wicked ways. What I’m saying applies across this sinful world and to all countries. I’m focussing on Australia because we live here.

Note: This is a 5-part series of which this is the 4th part. It is connected to the next article: The path Australia treads to ruin

7.  Notes


[1] See Emily Verdouw 2013. On this day: Newcastle earthquake strikes. Australian Geographic (online), 7 November. Available at: https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/blogs/on-this-day/2013/11/on-this-day-newcastle-earthquake-strikes/ (Accessed 7 January 2019).

[2] The Guardian Australia 2019. Flood waters inundate Townsville homes as army called in – in pictures (online), 5 February. Photograph: Andrew Rankin/AAP. .Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2019/feb/05/floodwaters-inundate-townsville-homes-as-army-called-in-in-pictures (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[3] Chloe Lyons 2019. Donations pile up for Townsville flood appeal. Sunshine Coast Daily (online), 11 February. Available at: https://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/donations-pile-up-for-townsville-flood-appeal/3644239/ (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[4] Higgins Storm Chasing 2019. Ridiculous Rainfall Accumulations Up To Day 12 Of The Townsville Floods (online). Available at: https://higginsstormchasing.com/ridiculous-rainfall-accumulations-up-to-day-12-of-the-townsville-floods/ (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[5] ABC Weather by Kate Doyle 2019. North Queensland rains trigger BOM special climate statement (online), 15 February 2019. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-15/queensland-floods-special-climate-statement/10816184 (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[6] Talissa Siganto and staff 2019. ABC News, Brisbane, Qld. ‘Summer of disasters’ reveals the cost of climate change for Queensland taxpayers (online), 19 February. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-19/climate-change-and-the-cost-of-qlds-summer-of-disasters/10826122 (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[7] Eddington station is located 20km west of Julia Creek in outback NW Qld, Australia. See: https://www.jimpolamarketing.com.au/blog/eddington-station-20km-west-of-julia-creek (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[8] Ben Smee 2019. Up to 500,000 drought-stressed cattle killed in Queensland floods. The Guardian Australia(online), 11 February. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/feb/11/up-to-500000-drought-stressed-cattle-killed-in-queensland-floods (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[9] ABC News, Brisbane, Qld 2019. Burying cattle killed in the Queensland floods (online), 21 February. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-21/burying-cattle-killed-in-the-queensland-floods/10834282 (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[10] Steven Schubert and Ben Deacon 2019. ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, (online), Drought-hit Channel Country cattle producers welcome floodwater from weather system that devastated neighbours, 23 February. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-23/cattle-producers-welcome-floodwater-that-devastated-neighbours/10843080 (Accessed 23 February 2019).

[11] ABC News, Brisbane Qld 2019. Tanjil South bushfire, 1 February. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-01/tanjil-south-bushfire-1/10772776 (Accessed 27 March 2019). The entry on 2 February 2019 was from ABC News, Brisbane. Watch and Act warning issued for Grantville fire as authorities prepare for worsening conditions (online). Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-02/fires-continue-to-burn-in-victoria-as-conditions-set-to-worsen/10773678 (Accessed 27 March 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 May 2019.

clip_image017clip_image017

Can human beings know good from bad?

clip_image002

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Is it possible for human beings to discern good versus evil moral actions? What is the standard by which a person or nation decides if behaviour is pleasing or evil?

The Christian is clear as to what is evil because Scripture declares it:

‘If there is no resurrection, “Let’s feast and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character”’ (I Cor 15:32-33 NLT).

They know the deeper problem: ‘

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?

“I, the LORD, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give to each man according to his ways,
According to the results of his deeds (Jer 17:9-10 NLT).

As for the godless, secularist, I’d like you to meet Allan. This is my online interchange with him. He pursued a few different topics.

Allan: He agreed with Dan: ‘We [human beings] are indeed fallen angels’.[1]

Spencer: Instead of believing Dan, why don’t you obtain your understanding from Scripture? We are human beings, created in the image of God. Adam corrupted that and we would have done the same (Gen 1-3; Rom 5).[2]

See: What does it mean that humanity is made in the image of God (imago dei)? [Got Questions Ministries]

Allan: ‘Personally, I believe it [heaven] is some sort of reunification with a larger whole that is one unified field of energy, but still many individual conscious self-aware personalities. Experiencing unbelievable all consuming euphoria and overwhelming pure love’.

Spencer: When you invent ‘I believe’ personally, you are off into presupposition land.

Allan: ‘Heaven, therefore, is probably not a place, but rather a state of being?’

Spencer:

clip_image004(image courtesy pinterest.com)

Even though your statement ends with a question mark, there is no need to hypothesise like this. Jesus was clear: ‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2 NIV). Heaven is definitely a place, so says the Messiah.

Allan: ‘But instead, quote chapter and verse to justify any position however awful, inherently evil, depraved indefensible or untenable?’

Spencer: I agree Allan that some horrible things have been done with a label of Christianity or Christ. I do not endorse any of these. I’m thinking of the slaughter during the Crusades, and sexual abuse in churches and church institutions.

The apostle Paul could call himself ‘the worst of sinners’. In spite of the sinful actions of many within the church, this I know; ‘”Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I (the apostle Paul) am the worst of them all’ (1 Tim 1:15). I apply Paul’s description to me, the chief of sinners, but God’s grace reaches beyond our sin through repentance, forgiveness and faith.

Allan: ‘Even as Herr Goebbels and co turned up at their church each Sunday morning and sang Christian hymns and recited Christian prayers from a Christian prayer book.
‘Without question, they were hypocrites pure and simple as are those who protect, forgive and succour paedophilia and paedophiles’.
clip_image006

(photo Joseph Goebbels, Chancellor of Germany, propaganda minister, World War 2, courtesy Wikipedia)

Spencer: We can point fingers at Hitler, Goebbels, church child abuse, etc (and we should), but when God examines me, His conclusion is, ‘The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve’ (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
We are all not fallen angels but wicked human beings, from the inside out. That’s God’s assessment, not my invention.

Allan: ‘I think we know good from evil if never ever having read a bible or holy scripture’.

Spencer: Without God’s moral absolutes in Scripture (e.g. 10 commandments, the Sermon on the Mount – Matt 5-7), each person does what he/she believes is right. Lenin chose the Gulag, Hitler’s Holocaust wiped out about 6 million Jews – 1 million being children – some men rape women and children, others commit terrorist acts, while some in the banking industry cheat customers.

Allan: ‘Good as we know and understand it has its foundations on love’.

Spencer: Yep, sexual love of children, erotic love of porn and prostitution, promiscuous love of many leading to HIV (AIDS), syphilis, gonorrhoea and other STDs. ‘Love’, however it has been defined, has led to much damage and illness children and adults.

Allan: ‘The Christian Bible and the lessons as espoused by the Rabbi Jesus, was very-very different from the one reinvented, revised and massively edited by the cronies of Constantine … at the first synod, around 350 AD?’

Spencer: Are you an historical theologian and professor of Bibliology (the doctrine of the written Word) who knows the development of the Bible to write that kind of postmodern deconstruction?

Allan: ‘And relied on mainly four, non-eyewitness, plagiarised and systematically embellished gospels, for its Alleged authority?’

Spencer: Are you talking about the 4 Gospels? Luke’s Gospel differs from your deconstruction where he obtained his information from those who handed down eye-witness accounts (Luke 1:1-4).

You don’t like the idea of the sacramental confessional. Neither do I. However, Jesus’ exhorted us to seek Him for forgiveness: ‘Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us’ (Matt 6:11). This is not an appeal to father confessor but to Jesus himself.

Allan: ‘Then do something real inside your political organisations to clean out the evil at its very heart. The time for covering it up/excusing/justifying it? Is well and truly over!’

Spencer: Do you really mean that? It was you who stated: ‘Evil produced at all levels by similar if converse levels of hate?’

What is your cure for getting rid of the evil in the human person, political establishment and terrorists?

Notes

[1] The following quotes by Allan B are from his comments to the article by Peter Sellick, ‘The knowledge of good and evil’, On Line Opinion (online), 13 November 2018. Posted by Alan B., Tuesday, 13 November 2018 10:42:41 AM. Available at: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20027&page=1 (Accessed 14 November 2018).

[2] The following is from ibid., Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 14 November 2018 2:12:51 PM.

 

clip_image008

(pinterest)

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 November 2018.

clip_image010


Should Christians love their enemies by using guns?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

[The shooters’ Ford Expedition SUV, involved in the shootout. Released by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, photo courtesy Wikipedia]

How do you think the USA or any other country can prevent or stop mass shootings? Is it possible to live peacefully with others, without having guns for defence?

What provoked this kind of discussion was the horrible massacre of people at San Bernardino CA, USA. Fourteen people were shot dead and 21 were wounded on December 2, 2015, according to the Los Angeles Times article, ‘San Bernardino shooting victims: Who they were’ (17 December 2015). Those who shot the victims were a Sunni Muslim couple who lost their lives in the massacre, shot by police. See ‘They met online, built a life in San Bernardino — and silently planned a massacre’ (Los Angeles Times, 5 December 2015).

It should not be surprising that someone would start a thread on a Christian forum with this title, ‘How Can The U.S.A. Reduce Mass Shootings?’[1]

Standard pro-guns responses

Related imageSince my family and I have lived in USA and Canada for 7 years, we learned how much some Americans love their guns. Some of our Christian friends had guns and would not live without them.

Here are some of the pro-gun responses on that Christian forum:

clip_image002 ‘Gun control will take guns from those who abide by the law. Do you really think bad guys, felons, creeps will say “o i cant (sic) have a gun it is against the law” do you really?’[2]

clip_image002[1] ‘Well I see it like this; If there are 20 people in a place and 10 have a concealed weapon on them and three or four terrorist come in the terrorist are going to lose. if one wont stand and fight they do not deserve liberty and freedom’.[3]

clip_image002[2] ‘While I do agree that we should “fight” it, in some ways, spiritually – we can’t win this without fighting back, in a few ways, that are not spiritual but physical’.[4]

clip_image002[3] ‘Remove legally owned guns from law-abiding citizens, and the criminals still have the guns, with access to more. The same goes for ammo’.[5]

clip_image002[4] ‘It’s all about power. The powerful prey upon the weak. If you have a gun then one type of predator will avoid you but another one will seek to destroy you.
In America 4.5 out of 10 (at a minimum) have a firearm. (There are some that do but refuse to admit that they have one.)
So about half the citizens are armed’.[6]

Massacre at San Bernardino

What happened at San Bernardino CA in the late morning of 2 December 2015? The Los Angeles Times reported on 2 December that a male and a female who were dressed in black masks and tactical gear – armed with long guns and pistols – ‘entered a holiday party for county health workers in San Bernardino as it was in full swing. Before they fled, they had killed 14 people and wounded 17[7] others’.

Four hours later, as fearful residents were ordered to stay home and scores of officers swarmed the streets, authorities chased a black SUV carrying two suspects from a home in the nearby city of Redlands. As TV news stations broadcast live overhead, the chase spilled back onto San Bernardino’s streets, where authorities and the suspects traded gunfire.

When it was over, a man and woman connected to the assault were dead. One body lay in the street, blood pooling. Another was recovered from the vehicle. A police officer also was wounded in the firefight but is expected to survive (Serrano 2015).

The New York Times reported that the perpetrators of the terrorist act, ‘Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik met online and married two years ago, after he presented himself on a Muslim dating site as a devout young man who liked to fix cars and memorize the Quran’ (Nagourney et al 2015).

After the shooting, the couple escaped in a rented vehicle but four hours later police located them and they were killed in a shootout. ‘They died in a crush of bullets in a brutal face-off with the police’ The husband (Farook) was born in Illinois and raised in Southern California. His wife (Malik) was born in Pakistan and recently was living in Saudi Arabia’ (Nagourney et al 2015).

This slaughter and injuries have reignited the USA debate over guns.

Enter an Aussie with the Port Arthur solution

Tasmanian town locator PortArthur.gif(location of Port Arthur where majority of killings occurred, map courtesy Wikipedia)

 

It was on 28-29 April 1996 that there was a massacre of 35 people at Port Arthur, a former prison colony, and now centre for tourism on the south-eastern coast of Tasmania, Australia. Also, 23 other people were wounded. A 28-year-old, Martin Bryant from the Hobart suburb of New Town, was found guilty and received 35 life sentences. There is no possibility that he will be paroled (Hester 1996; CNN 1996).

 

 

 

Image result for photo of gun buyback Australia public domain

(photo of guns bought back, courtesy news.com.au)

As a result of this massacre, the Australian government led by Prime Minister John Howard at that time implemented a buyback of guns. ‘A  national firearm buyback scheme was progressively implemented from September 1996 and ran for 12 months. This was supported by a national firearm amnesty in which people in possession of illegal firearms could hand them in without penalty’ (Ozanne-Smith et al 2004). This buyback took in 660,959 firearms (Hope 2014).

As many USA folks on the forum were discussing the need to obtain and use guns, I dared to raise another perspective that was not much appreciated.[8]

Why don’t you take a read of this article in The New York Times from 4 December 2015, ‘How a Conservative-Led Australia Ended Mass Killings‘.

There is a way to fix most of it, but the sinful human heart will constantly challenge it.

A biblical answer is found in Romans 13:1-7 (ESV):

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed.?

If the USA government had the will like the Australian government has, it could implement anti-gun laws like we have. But the gun lobby will resist like they did in Australia. But we’ve had no massacres since we implemented these laws.

Nevertheless, ISIL could change that with its suicide bombs.

Predictably, someone came back with a view that

1. Gun control is a flawed policy

He linked to the article, ‘Australia: More violent crime despite gun ban’ (Nemerov 2009). This article claims:

It is a common fantasy that gun bans make society safer…. In 2002–five years after enacting its gun ban–the Australian Bureau of Criminology acknowledged there is no correlation between gun control and the use of firearms in violent crime: “The percentage of homicides committed with a firearm continued its declining trend since 1969.”

Even the head of Australia’s Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Don Weatherburn, acknowledged that the gun ban had no significant impact on the amount of gun-involved crime: There has been a drop in firearm-related crime, particularly in homicide, but it began long before the new laws and has continued on afterwards. I don’t think anyone really understands why…. gun control is a flawed policy.

Will Oremus (2012) has responded to this kind of reaction:

What happened next has been the subject of several academic studies. Violent crime and gun-related deaths did not come to an end in Australia, of course. But as the Washington Post’s Wonkblog pointed out in August [2012?], homicides by firearm plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides. The drop in suicides by gun was even steeper: 65 percent. Studies found a close correlation between the sharp declines and the gun buybacks. Robberies involving a firearm also dropped significantly. Meanwhile, home invasions did not increase, contrary to fears that firearm ownership is needed to deter such crimes. But here’s the most stunning statistic. In the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings in the country. There hasn’t been a single one in Australia since.

There have been some contrarian studies about the decrease in gun violence in Australia, including a 2006 paper that argued the decline in gun-related homicides after Port Arthur was simply a continuation of trends already under way. But that paper’s methodology has been discredited, which is not surprising when you consider that its authors were affiliated with pro-gun groups.

Live peacefully with everyone

Let’s examine Rom 12:18 (ESV) in context: ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all’.[9]

In Rom 12 we are dealing with living life in presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2), how to demonstrate gifts of grace (Rom 12:3-7) and how to live out the Christian life (Rom 12:8-21). Rom 12:18 is in this latter section that includes ‘bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse’ (Rom 12:14) and ‘repay no one evil for evil’ (Rom 12:17). Romans 12:18 (ESV) states, ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all’.

The close connection of Rom 12:17, Rom 12:18 and Rom 12:19 should be self evident. These verses exhort believers not to engage in behaviour that has a negative impact on them. From v. 17 we learn that ‘no one’ should be paid evil by us for evil done by them. In v. 18, we are to live peaceably ‘with all’. What did Jesus urge upon us according to Matt 5:9, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’?

Image result for peace public domainFrom the context of Rom 12:18, we don’t know the specifics of whether there was a situation in the church of Rome that caused the kind of teaching of Rom 12:18, but Rom 12:14 is clear enough that we should be blessing those who persecute us. Could these Roman believers have been experiencing persecution and needed this instruction? Could be!

Jesus made it clear that ‘I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). Paul in Rom 12:18 is acknowledging that for the Christian, conflict is not possible to avoid, but he adds this double qualification, ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you’ – leave peaceably. I, as a believer, have a responsibility to live at peace with those who oppose me.

The application is that Paul is saying that persecution is inevitable but he doesn’t want Christians to use this certainty of opposition to them and their faith to be an opportunity for them to engage in behaviour that needlessly inflames the conflict. He doesn’t want us to see the unavoidable persecution and opposition as a reason for giving up on a positive witness to those who are opposing us.

It may be impossible for the Christian to live peacefully with all people. Christians may be attacked by evil people for their proclamation of the Gospel, truth and the good. In those circumstances, ‘if possible’ the Christian is to be a pacifist while he or she may be an activist for Christ and the truth. The Christian is to start no strife or hostility. It is the sinful flesh that initiates discord. Yes, the Christian will become involved when another initiates a brawl.

I cannot see Rom 12:18 being used as justification for opposing a gun wielding person by using your own gun. The context in Rom 12:14 indicates that the Christian is to ‘bless those who persecute you’.

Surely the next verse is a stunning answer to the issues some raise with regard to v. 18, ‘ Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord”’ (Rom 12:19).

Using guns amounts to avenging ourselves. God’s instruction to us (my paraphrase) is: Don’t do it with a gun. Leave vengeance to the Lord. The Lord will repay with his own retribution.

Works consulted

CNN World News 1996. Australian gunman laughs as he admits killing 35 (online), November 7. Available at: http://archive.is/WAYM3 (Accessed 12 April 2016).

Hester, J 1996. Aftermath of horror death toll climbs to 35; Tasmaniac is charged. New York Daily News (online), 30 April. Available at: http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/aftermath-horror-death-toll-climbs-35-tasmaniac-charged-article-1.724745 (Accessed 12 April 2016).

Hope, E 2014. Kaechele tunes in to help old home with massive gun buyback. The Mercury (online), October 12. Available at: http://www.themercury.com.au/news/tasmania/kaechele-tunes-in-to-help-old-home-with-massive-gun-buyback/news-story/f9d774827cbb5da6d3bd26294f941efd?nk=447736ec10caab2ce01813e7aaf44ad7-1460416786 (Accessed 12 April 2016).

Lenski, R C H 1936. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (this was originally published by Lutheran Book Concern, assigned in 1961 to Augsburg Publishing House. This is a limited edition assigned to Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, second printing 2001).

Moo, D J 1996. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle to the Romans. N B Stonehouse, F F Bruce & G D Fee (gen eds, each over various years). Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Nagourney, A; Lovett, I; Turkewitz, J; and Muellerdec, B 2015. Couple Kept Tight Lid on Plans for San Bernardino Shooting. The New York Times, December 3. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/us/san-bernardino-shooting-syed-rizwan-farook.html (Accessed 19 December 2015).

Nemerov, H 2009. Australia experiencing more violent crime despite gun ban. Free Republic (online), 8 April. Available at: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2225517/posts (Accessed 19 December 2015).

Oremus, W 2012. After a 1996 Mass Shooting, Australia Enacted Strict Gun Laws. It Hasn’t Had a Similar Massacre Since. Florida Sportsman (online), December 16. Available at: http://forums.floridasportsman.com/showthread.php?89618-After-a-1996-Mass-Shooting-Australia-Enacted-Strict-Gun-Laws-It-Hasn-t-Had-a-Simila&s=cca9dffd2606b6f1e87d455f8e3d0d21 (Accessed 19 December 2015).

Ozanne-Smith, J; Ashby, K; Newstead, S; Stathakis, V Z & Clapperton, A 2004. Firearm related deaths: the impact of regulatory reform. Injury Prevention 10(5), 280-286 (online). Available at: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/10/5/280.full (Accessed 12 April 2016).

Serrano, R A 2015. Authorities identify couple who they believe killed 14 at San Bernardino holiday party. Los Angeles Times (online), December 2. Available at: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-up-to-20-shot-in-san-bernardino-active-shooter-sought-20151202-story.html (Accessed 19 December 2015).

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net, December 6, 2015. iLOVE#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/how-can-the-u-s-a-reduse-mass-shootings.62365/ (Accessed 19 December 2015).

[2] Ibid., reba#5.

[3] Ibid., Roro1972#9.

[4] Ibid., Pizza#18.

[5] Ibid., AirDancer#25.

[6] Ibid., JohnDB#55.

[7] This has been updated to 21 others (Nagourney et al 2015).

[8] This content is at Christian Forums.net, OzSpen#43.

[9] I posted this to Christian Forums.net, OzSpen#238. I gained some assistance from Moo (1996) and Lenski (1936).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 11 April 2016.

 

Do bad things happen to good people?

Image result for "Do bad things happen to good people" Truth Challenge

(courtesy theheadandtheheart.edublogs.org)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This is a familiar topic in secular and Christian discussions. It’s the classic objection to Christianity. I sometimes encounter non-Christians on Christian forums who engage in bashing of Christian values and pooh-poohing ideas of an authoritative Scripture.

Michael Cohen explains it in his Christianity Today article, ‘Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

I met one such person in Jim with this approach on a Christian forum.

God’s sovereignty and free will

The topic was God’s absolute sovereignty and I made this statement:[1]

The sovereign Lord God has given human beings free will and in that free will they choose good and evil actions.

The consequences of those actions are worked out in history but there will be an ultimate accounting at the Final Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).

Sadly, those evil actions have resulted in September 11, Hitler and the Holocaust, what is happening in Iraq and Syria today, and the Ebola outbreak.

If God were to step in to stop the ISIL slaughter and Ebola, he may have to do it for all free will decisions. Would you like all free will choices taken out of your life? I wouldn’t like it to happen to me. I enjoy my occasional barramundi or whiting fish fried and cold salad (especially coleslaw).

Jim’s response was thoughtful:

And that option makes some sense when you’re talking about human evil.

But where’s the human evil in the Ebola outbreak?

Where’s the human evil that specifically determined who died in the World Trade Center and who survived?

How is "human evil" relevant when you’re talking about a seemingly impersonal tragedy such as someone being killed in an earthquake?

You asked a simple question:  how does one deal with God’s sovereignty in the face of various atrocities, and I can certainly accept that human free will plays a big part.  But the bigger question isn’t simply about human-caused evil, but why Bad Things Happen to Good People, which was the question posed by a wonderful book in the 1980’s, and I agree with the author’s conclusion that it’s because God is not absolutely sovereign.[2]

Are there any ‘good’ people?

My response[3] was that this is the error of considering that ‘bad things happen to good people’. There are no such people who before God are able to be called ‘good people’. Don’t you understand the horrible infection of sin that has contaminated all human beings and all nations since sin entered the human race by an act of a person’s free will (Genesis 3)?

The fact is that God is absolutely sovereign but that sovereignty includes, (1) The actions of sinful human beings, and (2) the consequences of the Fall into sin.

Evil will be eliminated at Jesus’ second coming. Are you ready to meet him and bow in humble submission to him?

This person’s reaction as a non-Christian was predictable:[4]

clip_image002 Spencer: ‘This is the error of considering that “bad things happen to good people”. There are no such people who before God are able to be called “good people”’

clip_image004 Jim: ‘Spare me. I’ve heard that nauseating nonsense too many times:  bad things happen to good people, because "there are NO good people". So a child today in the ghetto is struck and killed by a stray bullet because HE is sinful, or because Adam and Eve sinned against God?  How precisely does it work?

clip_image002[1] Spencer: ‘Don’t you understand the horrible infection of sin that has contaminated all human beings and all nations since sin entered the human race by an act of a person’s free will’.

clip_image004[1] Jim: ‘I understand that many people have believed that throughout the ages, and I thoroughly, utterly reject it’. 

My response was:[5] I’m sure glad that I don’t seek your advice for accuracy on the human condition – from conception to old age.

Your worldview is diametrically opposed to that of God’s. How do I know? He has told us in Scripture, but you don’t seem to have any time for God’s view on the condition of all human beings. None of us is God. This is the God’s eye view:

Psalm 51:5, ‘Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me’.
Mark 10:18, ‘"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good – except God alone’.
Romans 3:23, ‘For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (NIV).
Romans 6:23, ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’.

Mark 2:17, ‘On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners"’.

If you don’t accept God’s diagnosis while you have breath in your body, you’ll come face to face with God’s diagnosis one second after your last breath. I urge you to interact with me or any other Christian here, before it’s too late.

Predictably, Jim did not like this reply. To my statement that I’m pleased I don’t seek his advice on the accuracy of the human condition, his reply was,[6] ‘I guess it’s just as well from my standpoint, too, since I’m not particularly interested in giving any advice on that subject.  That said, I’m just as capable as you or anyone else to comment on the ‘human condition’.

As for my saying that he has no time for God’s view on the condition of all human beings, he said, ‘Wrong.  I simply don’t consider Scripture to be the final word on "God’s view"’.

He seemed to act dumb when I asked about his rejection of God’s diagnosis when he takes his last breath and comes face to face with God at death. His evasive word was, ‘Meaning……?’

My further response was[7] that he was as capable as I in commenting on the human condition, but up to this point I have not seen him being sympathetic to God’s view of the sinful human condition. Is that true or not?

To his statement, ‘I simply don’t consider Scripture to be the final word on "God’s view"’, I asked: What is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition? Where do I go to find it?

He asked about the ‘meaning’ of my statement about coming face to face with God’s diagnosis of the human condition at death (one second after his last breath).

My meaning was this: Up to this point on this forum, I’ve read your hostility and rejection of God’s diagnosis and solution for the human condition that is revealed in Scripture.

This is what he and I will face at death: ‘Just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people’ (Hebrews 9:27-28 NLT).

I called on him to dialogue with us on this forum about what will prevent him from experiencing God’s judgment one second after his last breath.

This is a serious business.

Mother nature

Blue Swirl. Artistic Texture...

(courtesy shutterstock)

To another poster, Jim made the comment: ‘And we’ve come a long way in that department [to predict and know what to do with natural disasters], but Mother Nature will always be inherently unpredictable to a degree’.[8]

My reply[9] was that he wants to place the blame on ‘Mother Nature’ and its ‘inherently unpredictable’ degree is a L-O-N-G way from the subject of the original post that I started, ‘Is God absolutely sovereign?’

The sovereign Lord God is not ‘inherently unpredictable’, based on his nature of perfection, it is ‘inherently unpredictable’ to you because you place the blame on a nebulous cause, ‘Mother Nature’.

The all-knowing, omnipotent, omniscient Lord God Almighty acts according to his just nature. Second Chronicle 19:7 exposes God’s nature: ‘Let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the LORD our God, or partiality or taking bribes’ (ESV).

He’s the One who is sovereign LORD of the universe. You and I have to answer to Him and not to ‘Mother Nature’.

Do human beings create suffering?

Jim asked at another point,[10] ‘Does Man create ALL of his suffering?  Are people responsible for the deaths that result from natural disasters?’ My reply was, ‘Who caused the universal flood in Noah’s day? Why did it happen? Was it a ‘natural disaster’ according to your definition?’

So is that a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ was Jim’s request?

This is my view.[11] I have attempted to provide and answer these two questions in a more detailed way in my article, ‘Does God send cyclones?

There are basic answers to these 2 questions, but he doesn’t like it when I present Bible answers. In my article I provide the biblical material with practical ramifications, but the basic answers are:

1.  There is much suffering that is caused by human beings and their sinful condition. I’m thinking of domestic and child abuse (including paedophilia), corruption in governments, murder, lying, stealing, and even those who build houses in cyclone and flood prone regions of my country.

The Fall into sin by Adam & Eve (Genesis 3) explains how this began and infected the entire human race. But he doesn’t like that explanation.

We can face consequences of this in the here and now with abuse in families, corrupt govts, break and enters, murder, earthquakes, tornadoes, typhoons, cyclones, floods, wars, etc.

2. God can cause disaster for His reasons. He doesn’t always tell us the whys. Isaiah 45:7 provides this statement from the Lord, ‘I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD who does all these things’ (ESV).

Why did God cause the calamity at the time of Noah? He told us: ‘The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart’ (Gen 6:5-6).

As a result, God wiped out the entire human race, except 8 people, through the flood at Noah’s time. Therefore, the evil of people caused God to act in judgement.

Resistance to God’s view

At last this person began to respond to my statement: ‘Up to this point I have not seen you being sympathetic to God’s view of the sinful human condition. Is that true or not?’ His reply was that this is[12]

impossible to answer, since I don’t accept the premise on which the question is based.

There really is no point in continuing this so long as you persist in framing questions in such a way that presumes I accept the underlying premises.  I don’t.

Reasonable people can disagree about most things, including questions of faith.  But to persist in asking questions in this manner conveys an utter lack of respect and regard for the person with whom you’re corresponding.

As for my question, ‘So what is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition?’ he was at least to give his view that ‘There is none’. As for my statement about his hostility and rejection of God’s diagnosis and solution of the human condition revealed in Scripture, he was prepared to admit:[13]

Rejection, yes.  Hostility, no.  I’d challenge you to find a single word of mine that conveys ‘hostility’.

As for my citing, Hebrews 9:27-28 (NLT), he said,[14]

This is a good example of what I mentioned above.

If you’ve understood any of what I’d written, you’d know that I don’t believe something is "God’s word" simply because it appears in the Bible.  Obviously, you strongly disagree, and I respect that.  But to persist in writing as if it’s simply ‘understood’ that the Bible IS God’s word is to convey a simple lack of respect in return for me.

My request for him ‘to dialogue with us on this forum about what will prevent you from experiencing God’s judgment’, met with this response:[15]

Please elaborate as to what you think will happen to me as a result of this judgement.  (Now, before you respond, try to keep in mind that a simple verse from Scripture isn’t going to cut it with me.) 

We[16] have a difficulty with obtaining common ground about that nature of God’s judgment, because I don’t know his position on the existence of God. Can we start there?

Do you believe in God? If so, what is his/her nature?

Are you an atheist or agnostic? If so, what causes you to accept that position?

I explained further:[17] You don’t have to accept the perspective I’m espousing that God’s view of the human condition is contained in Scripture, but would you please tell me what Scripture teaches about the human condition? You are the one talking about ‘reasonable people’ who can disagree. Please demonstrate to me that you are a reasonable person who demonstrates the evidence of God’s view of the human condition as stated in Scripture.

Since you don’t accept the underlying Christian world and life view that I espouse, please provide the evidence to me (and us) why you don’t accept such. Let’s start with the subject of the human condition.

You claim that ‘to persist in asking questions in this manner conveys an utter lack of respect and regard for the person with whom you’re corresponding’. No it doesn’t Jim. You have come to this Christian Forum and you DON’T want to deal with the Christian issues I raise. Who is the one showing disrespect for the Christian values espoused by me on this forum? You are the one who is guilty of this. Over and over on this forum you have ‘bashed’ Christian values. Who is the disrespectful one who comes to a Christian forum to castigate Christian values?

The human condition

Related image

(courtesy www.buddycom.com)

 

There are many Scriptures that teach about the common human condition. This one summarises it: ‘When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned’ (Romans 5:12 NLT).

clip_image004[2] Jim had stated:

‘Maybe NO scripture teaches about the human condition.  More fundamentally, maybe God doesn’t HAVE a view of the human condition.

OTOH (On the other hand), maybe there are multiple views of the human condition from literally hundreds of sources.  How are we to know which is the true view?[18]

Yes, there are multiple explanations of the human condition – humans explaining what they THINK caused it. How do we know the true view? That’s why I’d like to introduce you to the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life – God himself in Jesus Christ (John 14:6). But you won’t be able to consider that option until you are open to examining the trustworthiness of Scripture. At this stage I haven’t seen that you are open to such.

When you are, you might like to consider some of the sound reasons for accepting the Bible as a trustworthy, reliable book. At the popular level, I have attempted to address these in:

clip_image002[2] Spencer: ‘Please demonstrate to me that you are a reasonable person who demonstrates the evidence of God’s view of the human condition as stated in Scripture’.

clip_image004[3] Jim: ‘I’m not at all certain what you’re asking’.

clip_image002[3] Spencer: Simply, if you want to know God’s view of the human condition, a reasonable person will go to Scripture to discover it. I ask you to go to the Bible to discern God’s view on why human beings act the way they do in some horrible actions of evil from lying and stealing to Hitler’s Holocaust and what ISIS is doing today. I’m happy to provide some biblical guidance if you don’t know where to start in searching the Bible for God’s explanation of the origin of evil.

clip_image004[4] Jim: ‘The burden of proof is not on me to disprove Scripture; it’s on YOU to prove it, or explain why it’s authoritative.  This is something you can’t do, of course; nobody can.  It has to be accepted or rejected on faith’.

clip_image002[4] Spencer: This statement is laden with his presuppositions:

(1) The burden of proof is on me as a Christian to PROVE Scripture.

This is not so when you make a statement against Scripture and you provide no evidence to prove your statement.

(2) Evidence needs to be presented by only one side – the Christian.

This again is not the case. The evidence needs to be examined by both of us – you the non-Christian and me the non-Christian.

(3) Nobody can prove Scripture as authoritative.

This is false and the links to my articles above should provide ample evidence to disprove your claim. The essence is that I demonstrate that the Bible is a reliable historical document and then I go to that reliable document to discover what it states about its own authority. We use the same mechanism to discover how reliable the writings are of Julius Caesar and what he says about himself and what he wrote.

(4) The Scripture has to be accepted as authoritative, based on faith.

This is false again, based on the information I’ve already demonstrated in the 4 articles for which I’ve provided links: ‘Can you trust the Bible?’

clip_image004[5] Jim:

And the fact that this is a Christian Fellowship Forum is beside the point.  There are constantly disagreements here among Christians over matters of faith, doctrine and politics.   Some of the language gets quite heated and vitriolic; more than any language I use.

But to continue to invoke Scripture as a source for your statements even after I’ve said repeatedly that I don’t consider Scripture authoritative is either:  1) intentionally disrespectful;  or, 2) evidence that this is only a one-way conversation on your part and you really aren’t reading or considering what I’m saying.

Disagreement over faith, doctrine, politics, etc. is to be expected in any kind of interpretation by sinful human beings (as you and I are discovering in our conversation).

I hope that my providing you with links to ‘Can you trust the Bible?‘ will demonstrate that there are sound, rational reasons for regarding the Bible as authoritative. Citing from the authoritative Bible (in spite of your objections) should encourage you to investigate the reasons for regarding the Bible as trustworthy. To continue to quote the Bible is not disrespectful by me; it is quoting a reliable source.

Bashing Christians

Image result for clipart hammer public domain

(courtesy www.clipartlord.com)

 

I responded: I am open to hearing what you are saying and responding accordingly, but you do have a bad habit of putting people down who have good reasons for regarding the Bible as trustworthy and authoritative.

Jim: ‘Which specific Christian values have I bashed? Again, Spencer, there is far more ‘bashing’ that goes on here directed from one Christian to another than anything I’m ever involved in’.

clip_image006 I am dealing here with the way you oppose (bash) Christian values. You have done it here with me when you slam dunk the fact that I support the authoritative Christian Scriptures. Take your statement, ‘Nobody can prove Scripture as authoritative’. That’s a deliberate slamming of a Christian value – the authoritative Scripture. ‘Nobody can prove’ is Jim’s absolutistic statement against a Christian value of the trustworthy Scripture. You surely have not investigated every attempt to demonstrate the authoritative Scripture for you to say emphatically, ‘Nobody can prove’. Here in this post you give an example of how you engage in bashing a Christian value.

clip_image006[1] Here is another example in your post of slamming a Christian value.

clip_image002[5] Spencer: ‘So what is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition?’
clip_image004[6] Jim: ‘There is none’.

clip_image002[6]Spencer: ‘Who said? Jim?’

clip_image004[7] Jim: ‘Of course.  I’m the one you’re talking to.  Who else would it be?’

The topic is ‘Who has the final word on God’s view of the human condition?’ Jim’s slamming of this value was, ‘There is none’. My come back was: ‘Who said? Jim?’ and your response was that you’re the one I’m walking to. ‘Who else would it be?’

But you seem to have forgotten the question: ‘So what is the final word on ‘God’s view’ of the human condition?

I didn’t ask for Jim’s view of the human condition but God’s view. Do you understand how you slam Christian values and you don’t seem to realise what you are doing?

clip_image006[2] Another example of Jim’s ‘bashing’ Christian values was his response to my statement,[19] ‘This is the error of considering that ‘bad things happen to good people’. There are no such people who before God are able to be called ‘good people’.

His reply was, ‘Spare me. I’ve heard that nauseating nonsense too many times: bad things happen to good people, because "there are NO good people”. So a child today in the ghetto is struck and killed by a stray bullet because HE is sinful, or because Adam and Eve sinned against God?  How precisely does it work?’. ‘Nauseating nonsense’ is clearly Christian bashing.

clip_image006[3] An additional example of his put down of Christianity is his response to my question, ‘Don’t you understand the horrible infection of sin that has contaminated all human beings and all nations since sin entered the human race by an act of a person’s free will?’[20] His reply was: ‘I understand that many people have believed that throughout the ages, and I thoroughly, utterly reject it’.

clip_image006[4] Another put down of Christianity by Jim:[21] ‘But the bigger question isn’t simply about human-caused evil, but why Bad Things Happen to Good People, which was the question posed by a wonderful book in the 1980’s, and I agree with the author’s conclusion that it’s because God is not absolutely sovereign’.

For a refutation of this, see my article, Is God absolutely sovereign?

 

Notes


[1] Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Is God absolutely sovereign?’ ozspen#18. Available at: http://forums.compuserve.com/discussions/Christian_Fellowship_Forum/_/_/ws-fellowship/123619.11 (Accessed 19 October 2014).

[2] Ibid., Jim Odom#21.

[3] Ibid., ozspen#23.

[4] Ibid., Jim Odom#24.

[5] Ibid., ozspen#38.

[6] Ibid., Jim Odom#43.

[7] Ibid., ozspen#46.

[8] Ibid., Jim Odom#30.

[9] Ibid., ozspen#42.

[10] Ibid., Jim Odom#44.

[11] Ibid., ozspen#64.

[12] Ibid., Jim Odom#48.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] This is my response at ibid., ozspen#65.

[17] Ibid., ozspen#53.

[18] Ibid., Jim Odom#55.

[19] Ibid., Jim Odom#24.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., Jim Odom#21.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 November 2015.

Does God create all of the evil in the world?

(courtesy BibleGatewayBlog, 14 November 2015)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Let’s put it another way: Did God know human beings would create evil or did He decree that evil would take place according to God’s will?

With the slaughter of about 129 people in Paris on 13 November 2015, this causes Christians to ask further questions about evil and the manifestation of evil in our world. It was on the evening of 13 November that there was a series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks across Paris with mass shootings, suicide bomb and hostages taken. For details of where the Paris killings took place, see The Telegraph [UK] article, ‘Paris terror attack: Everything we know on Wednesday evening’ (18 November 2015). This report states that there were seven co-ordinated attacks in Paris.

Andy Rau asked this series of solemn questions:

One of the oldest and toughest challenges for Christians is finding a way to understand the existence of terrible evil in a world that is ruled by a loving, all-powerful God. It’s not an easy question to answer—if it were, we wouldn’t be struggling with it thousands of years after Christ—but the Bible does offer hope in the face of violence and evil.

We’ve talked about terror and the question of evil here in relation to terror attacks in past years. Most of those reflections are still relevant today in the wake of the Paris attacks; if these latest terror attacks have you wondering why a loving God could let this happen, take a few minutes to read through these reflections:

The terrorist group, Islamic State, has claimed responsibility for the slaughter in Paris.

(Islamic states (dark green), states where Islam is the official religion (light green), secular states (blue) and other (orange), among countries with a Muslim majority, courtesy Wikipedia)

Australia’s ABC News reported:

’Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people, saying its fighters carried out the operation in various locations which were carefully studied.

In a statement posted online, IS said the attacks were a response to France’s campaign against its fighters and insults against Islam’s prophet.

It said “eight brothers wearing explosive belts and carrying assault rifles” conducted a “blessed attack on … Crusader France”’ (‘Paris attacks: Islamic State claims responsibility, French president Francois Hollande calls it “act of war”‘, ABC News, Brisbane Qld, 15 November 2015).

I ask, “Doesn’t God’s sovereignty include human beings’ genuine, free choices? If not, they are forced to act and they do not have genuinely free choices’.[1]

One response I received was: ‘“The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1 NASB). How free is the king’s will?’[2]

This Paris attack raises a number of issues regarding the allowance or cause of evil in our world.

 

(In front of restaurants Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge on 16 November 2015 after terrorist attack, Paris, courtesy Wikipedia)

A. How free are governments under God’s decrees?[3]

Let’s check out some examples from our recent history and in the contemporary world.

If the government leader’s (king’s heart) is turned wherever God wishes, how does that account for the following?

I asked: Are you saying that Adolph Hitler, the leader of Germany, according to your theology, was turned by God himself to slaughter 6 million Jews during the Holocaust? Is that your practical application of Prov. 21:1 in your theology? Did God know or did God cause this to happen by his decretive will?
‘Seventy years too late: Russia finally admits slaughter of 20,000 Polish officers at Katyn was on Stalin’s orders’ (Daily Mail, 26 November 2010). So was Stalin’s slaughter according to God’s decree?

To whom do we attribute this evil, God or sinful, free will human beings? ‘Was the London killing of a British soldier “terrorism”’ (The Guardian, 24 May 2013)? This article begins:

Two men yesterday engaged in a horrific act of violence on the streets of London by using what appeared to be a meat cleaver to hack to death a British soldier. In the wake of claims that the assailants shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the killing, and a video showing one of the assailants citing Islam as well as a desire to avenge and stop continuous UK violence against Muslims, media outlets (including the Guardian) and British politicians instantly characterized the attack as “terrorism”.

That this was a barbaric and horrendous act goes without saying, but given the legal, military, cultural and political significance of the term “terrorism”, it is vital to ask: is that term really applicable to this act of violence?

See also,

If God decreed (foreordained) all evil, what are the implications? Are Calvinistic Christians going to state that this is according to God’s ‘decretive will’? That was the language used on Christian Forums for God’s relationship to evil as applied to Proverbs 21:1: ‘Free to do God’s decretive will’.[4]

What about the many perpetrators of sexual abuse including the rape of children? Were their criminal and sinful acts decreed by God?
How free were Hitler’s and Stalin’s free wills? That is determined by the living God and he has given us teaching on this that is not in accordance with the Calvinistic imposition on the text (see below).

I affirm the view that God’s decrees are not inconsistent with freedom of choice, which could be called free agency. They do not eliminate human responsibility and do not make God the author of sin. God’s decrees involve His eternal purposes that are based on His holy, wise and righteous (just) nature. So God, to promote His own glory, decreed or foreordained everything that happens in our world. He does this effectively either by absolute decree (as in creation) or by permission (as in the moral evils I have raised).[5]

Biblically, we see these examples (not comprehensive) in Gen 1-2; Isa 14:24; Rom 8:28; Eph 1:9, 11; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Pet 1:20; Rev 13:8.

We have it revealed in Scripture that God permitted sin in the world and did not necessitate it when we have the revelation of the threats of punishment for sin (Gen. 2:17; Ex 34:7; Eccl 11:9; Ezek 18:20; 2 Thess 1:7-8).

  • What do we read in Psalm 78:29? ‘And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved‘ (ESV).[6]
  • Again from the Psalms: ‘He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them’ (Ps 106:15 ESV).[7]
  • In Acts 14:16, Paul taught, ‘In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways‘ (ESV).[8]
  • Acts 17:29, ‘The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent’ (ESV).[9]

B. Free will and God’s decrees

This is my understanding of free will (volition) in ‘Did God know?’ Yes, God did know (his foreknowledge), and it is authentic free will because God,

  • ‘gave them what they craved’;
  • ‘gave them what they asked’;
  • ‘allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways’;

All these dimensions are included in God’s wonderful gift of free will. He decreed the free will that all human beings received and this means that some will do horrific evil in the choices they make, including:

(Hungarian Jews are selected by Nazis to be sent to the gas chamber at Auschwitz concentration camp, May/June 1944, courtesy Wikipedia).

  • Kill 6 million Jews;
  • Slaughter people;
  • Rape children,
  • Kill 129 people in 7 co-ordinated attacks in Paris, 13 November 2015, etc.

Let’s get it very clear! God did not cause all of these sinful choices. He permitted them because he gave all human beings genuine free will that allows them to make authentic volitional decisions about a whole range of issues, including Adam and Eve’s choice to sin and inflict sinful natures on the whole human race, and for people to serve the Lord or not:

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15 ESV).

Romans 8:28-30 confirms this:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good[10] for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (ESV).

C. Conclusion

I praise God for giving all people the risky gift of free will. This does not make God into an evil tyrant who decrees horrific moral evil such as the Holocaust and the rape of children by paedophiles. The almighty, living God, revealed in holy Scripture, does not decree this evil to take place through dictatorial imposition. He permitted it as demonstrated by the scriptural statements that some people ‘crave’ certain things and how God permitted some nations to live ‘in their own ways’.

For a refutation of how some Calvinists see God being responsible for decreeing all evil in the world, see my article, ‘Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

(Skulls of Khmer Rouge victims, Cambodia, courtesy Wikipedia)

Notes


[1] I asked this question on Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Did God know…’, OzSpen #73. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7743521-8/ (Accessed 25 May 2013).

[2] Ibid., Hammster #79.

[3] The following is from my response at ibid., #93.

[4] Ibid Skala #80. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7743521-8/ (Accessed 25 May 2013).

[5] Some of this information is from H C Thiessen 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 153-154.

[6] Emphasis added.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The footnote at this point in the ESV stated, ‘Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good’.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1o April 2017.

Did God create evil?


Indonesian tsunami (image, public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

If God created everything, does that mean that He created all the evil in the world, including the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed about 230,000 people in a number of countries? What about the Joplin, Missouri, twister that killed over 120 people? Can God be seen as the cause of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on New York City and Washington DC? If God created everything, where do these disasters fit in God’s agenda?

Down through the centuries, people have blamed God for creating evil, supposing that because God allows evil to continue, that God is responsible for all of the evil in the world. If God created evil, then it is He who is responsible for the murders, world wars, adultery, rape of children, abortion, etc, etc.

This is a blasphemous statement to blame God for all of the evil in the world.

How do we respond, biblically? Perhaps it will be helpful to examine Isa. 45:7 to try to gain some light on this challenging topic.

The KJV translates as, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things”.

The ESV reads, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things”.

According to the KJV, God creates good (light, peace) and evil (see also Jer. 18:11; Lam. 3:38; Amos 3:6). But there are other Scriptures that state that there is no darkness in God (e.g. 1 John 1:5). Hab. 1:13 states that “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil” (ESV). James 1:13 confirms that “God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one”. So where does this leave us?

We know that God is morally perfect (see Deut. 32:4; Matt. 5:48). God cannot sin (Heb. 6:18). But there is more to the attributes of God, including his absolute justice that requires that sin be punished by Him. So, there will be judgment by God in this life and eternally (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:11-15). So, in this life, when God executes justice we sometimes call this “evil” because from our human perspective, God seems to be committing evil against these people and nations. Were the Indonesian tsunami and the Joplin MO twister examples of God’s “evil” actions?

However, the Hebrew ra, evil/calamity in Isa 45:7, does not always mean moral evil. In the Isa 45 context, the ESV demonstrates that it should be translated as “calamity”, which is how the NKJV also translates it. The context supports this translation. So God is seen as the creator of “evil”, not in the moral sense directly, but as the one who brings judgment/calamity. [1]

God can be seen indirectly as the author of moral evil, but only in the sense that he created moral human beings who had the power of free choice and it is this free choice by us that brought moral evil into the universe. We see the beginning of this in Genesis 3. God created moral beings who had the ability to perform moral evil – and they did. God created free human beings and it is they who made evil real.

God’s making human beings with the possibility of free choice is a good thing. Surely we agree with the idea that human beings can choose one kind of clothing over another, one type of food over another, is a good action by God. Living in a world without choice would seem strange indeed. But the power of choice or free will comes with other consequences – the power for human beings to perform evil actions such as murder, rape, theft and many other evil things.

Thus, we can say that God created only good things and one of those good things was free choice. Moral, but free, human beings produced the evil in our world. Yes, God made the moral universe and indirectly created the possibility of evil in our universe. So, evil is permitted by God, but God does not produce or promote this evil. We know that ultimately a greater good is coming (see Gen. 50:20; Rev. 21-22).

Some want to promote the use of the Hebrew, ra, in Micah 2:3 as meaning God created evil against the family [clan, extended family or nation]. Yes, God allowed for the tempter, Satan, to enter the world, but the tempter does nothing that God hasn’t approved of as the Book of Job shows.

This is not congruent with that demonstrated by the Hebrew scholars involved in these translations:

1.  Therefore thus says the LORD:behold, against this family I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster (ESV).

2.  Therefore the Lord says this: “Look, I am devising disaster for this nation! It will be like a yoke from which you cannot free your neck. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of catastrophe (NET).

3.  So Yahweh says this: Look, I am now plotting a disaster for this breed from which you will not extricate your necks; you will not hold your heads up then, for the times will be disastrous indeed (New Jerusalem Bible).

4.  Therefore, the LORD says:  “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves. You will no longer walk proudly, for it will be a time of calamity (NIV).

For what purpose did God create the world? This is a summary from www.bible.org:

The Bible teaches us God created both the angels and man with volition, or the freedom of choice. He created both as holy and without sin that they might not only serve Him as the Creator, but bring Him glory. In particular, man, being created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26f), was created to have fellowship with God through the exercise of that image. Man was created to glorify God through the exercise of his personality—mind, heart, and will. With his mind he was to know God, with his heart he was to love God, and with his will, in response to his understanding and love of God, he was to choose for God in obedience. But God did not create robots. That would have brought very little glory to God. Because His creatures were not robots, there was the risk of a negative choice. But God, by His sovereign will, purpose, and foreknowledge, determined to allow this, indeed, He ordained it by His own eternal wisdom without Himself being the cause.

Many struggle with this, but in the process of all that has occurred, God’s glory is supremely revealed in all His Holy attributes—His holiness, righteousness, justice, mercy, grace, and love, veracity, truth, etc. God did not cause the creature to sin. If the creature was to really have the freedom to know, love, and choose for God and respond in worship and obedience as a free and independent agent, he had to have true freedom of choice. Thus, compare the temptation of Eve by the devil. He attacked her knowledge and understanding of God to get her to doubt God’s love, etc. The race fell because of Adam and Eve’s negative response to the grace of God. But in the process, God’s character and glory is [sic] revealed in a more total or complete way. So, through the cross, man’s sin, like diamonds reflecting the light against the backdrop of black velvet, reflects God’s love, mercy, grace, holiness and justice in infinite ways.

It is an heretical doctrine of Gnosticism that claimed that God created evil. It was refuted over and over by the apologists in the early centuries of the Christian church.

I have been helped in providing the above information by Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe 1992. When Critics Ask. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, pp. 271-272 (the new title is, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties). Geisler & Howe summarised:

GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF EVIL:

  • In the sense of sin
  • Moral evil
  • Perversity
  • Directly
  • Actuality of evil

GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF EVIL:

  • In the sense of calamity
  • Non-moral evil
  • Plagues
  • Indirectly
  • Possibility of evil (Geisler & Howe 1992:271)

Footnotes:

[1]  Micah 2:3 The same Hebrew word can mean evil or disaster, depending on the context

Evil Chases

(image courtesy ChristArt)

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 September 2019.

designBlue-smadesignBlue-smadesignBlue-smadesignBlue-smadesignBlue-smadesignBlue-smadesignBlue-sma

Why does God allow floods to devastate Australia?

Marcia 2015-02-19 2032Z.png

Severe Tropical Cyclone Marcia at peak intensity on 19 February, 2015 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Why does God allow such devastation as we are seeing in Queensland with Cyclone Marcia through central Queensland (ABC News, 23 February 2015) and the floods of December 2010 – January 2011? Here are some photos of the flood devastation in Queensland from the Bundaberg News-Mail.

image

Bundaberg, Qld. floods, December 2010

The secular media blame it on “mother nature”. The Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 8 January 2011 (NSW’s towns bracing for floods), stated:

MOTHER nature has unleashed its fury in the state’s north with 18 rivers expected to break their banks by tomorrow night as the Queensland floodwaters run south.

ABC News, Australia, 5 January 2011, “Qld floods damage Australia’s economic performance”, reported:

The Queensland floods are hurting the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by wiping as much as $9 billion off export revenues.

Operations at at least 40 coal mines in central Queensland’s Bowen Basin have been disrupted because of the floods, crops have been damaged and grazing lands are under water.

The state is responsible for more than half of Australia’s coal exports, 45 per cent of meat and a quarter of fresh food exports.

Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) senior strategist Sue Trinh says the economic impact of the floods could be the biggest of all the natural disasters Australia has experienced.

But who’s to blame for this? Federal politician, Joe Hockey, opposition treasury spokesman, told  ABC news that

“Australia is a rich-enough nation to be able to handle the worst of mother nature – floods, droughts, you name it, all the horrible events that occur on a regular basis at this time of year.”

Some pointed things have been stated about “mother nature” and disasters around the world, but especially amidst the Queensland floods of early 2011:

Who sends the rains? Is it “mother nature” or God Himself? God is very clear about telling us in the Christian Scriptures.

This raises the theological issue of theodicy – a defence of the goodness and omnipotence of God in the midst of evil.

Here are some of my thoughts to point towards a conclusion:

  1. God sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).
  2. There is the problem of evil and disaster that originated in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve and the fall into sin. All of creation is suffering from this disobedience. Are flood disasters the outcome of evil in our world? Does God send the cyclones, tornadoes and typhoons to remind us of judgment to come?
  3. God sends the rain, but human beings in their desire for prosperity (or greed), cluster around rivers and build houses in low-lying areas. Could it be that God sends the rain and human beings create the human conditions  so that floods devastate?

I posted comment #3 on Christian Fellowship Forum and Richard W. responded (#37):

Though not theologically satisfying, I think this is a huge part of the problem.

When you build on a flood plain you can expect to be flooded out from time to time. Smart people don’t build in flood plains. Smart insurance companies charge a mighty premium to insure anything in a flood plain. Smart governments do not zone flood plains for residential or commercial industrial purposes. But people still build there, and insurance is cheap backed by the government, and the snow melts and the rain comes.

Floods are often classified as hundred year floods, or five hundred year floods, or thousand year floods. Somehow the hundred year floods are now commonplace and I’ve seen some five hundred year floods and a thousand year flood. Pretty good for being only a little over half a century old myself.

I’m pretty sure the cause of these ‘rare’ floods is that marshes have been drained, farms have been turned into malls with massive parking lots, and every house has a paved driveway and a sidewalk. The water has to go somewhere. The marsh that once held the surplus is no longer there. The water flows downstream. Each upstream city or town or hamlet puts up a levee to protect itself from the flood, pushing the water downstream faster. Who’s to blame? Farmers want higher yield on more acres, so they install drainage ditches. Not so much now as this unsustainable practice now has legal roadblocks that restrict drainage a bit. But almost everything built in the past 100 years has been done at the expense of natural habitat that would soak up considerable water. We have inadvertently engineered floods to be worse than ever.

A flood from 100 years ago could still be quite an event. But now it’s a human made problem. New Orleans was an inevitability. Big floods down the Mississippi this spring are another inevitability. Fargo, on the Red River (which runs North into Canada) looks like it will also an inevitability. At least Fargo is looking at a solution of diverting the river into areas where it has more space to spread out. And they have forbidden rebuilding in many parts of the city. Fargo downtown flooded out a few years back and most of it burned when electrical fires started and spread uncontrollably. Crazy city, but at least they are looking for higher ground AND looking to let the river expand as it wants to, and the government is trying to force the reversal of many old drainage ditches. This are is vital because it is prime wheat growing land that feeds hundreds of millions of people.

The wake up calls have been given. Some people are actually waking up. Rain needs to soak in, and the little bits of excess need to go downstream. We screwed that up and it’s time to fix that before we see too many more thousand year floods. Theologically, God makes the rain to fall on the good and the evil, but the evil have not been good stewards of the land, causing misery and pain and death. Had we been good, we would have farmed with nature, not against nature, and we would not be blaming God for terrible floods.

Another respondent to Christian Fellowship Forum, Jim Parker (#50) also made some interesting, but similar, points to Richard. Jim was responding to my question, “Why does God allow such devastation as we are seeing in Queensland with the floods of December 2010 – January 2011?”

Perhaps it would be more to the point to ask why people insist on building cities on flood plains.

San Francisco was destroyed by a massive earthquake because it is built on a major earthquake fault. So they rebuilt it on the major earthquake fault.

People build homes along the Russian River north of San Francisco. About every 5-7 years their homes are destroyed by floods. They rebuild.

I have a friend who lives in the Florida Keys. The houses there have no ground floor because when huricanes come through they would be flooded. The first floor is 12 feet in the air resting on stilts.

People know the dangers of the places where they build cities and they choose to rebuild them after they are destroyed by “natural disasters” which, having happened once, should be sufficient data to decide to move somewhere else.

But when they don’t and another flood or earthquake just like the last one happened they ask, “Why did God allow this?”

“Watermark” in New Farm Park is red steel sculpture commemorating the 1974 Brisbane flood (courtesy Wikipedia)

I remember when my wife and I lost all that we owned in the Brisbane flood of 1974. I was in theological college and we were living in our caravan (called a trailer in North American lingo), 20 feet long on the banks of the Brisbane River at Graceville, a western Brisbane suburb, where the College was located. The entire college was located in a very low-lying area on the river bank and was devastated. As a result, we lost car and caravan which were parked alongside the College. But it was because of our stupidity of having a caravan and car in a flood-prone zone that we lost it. Never again have we built or located near a flood zone.

4.  We do know that there will be an increase in disasters as we approach the second coming of Christ (we don’t know when that will be). Luke 21:23-30 (NLT) states:

“How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. For there will be disaster in the land and great anger against this people. They will be killed by the sword or sent away as captives to all the nations of the world. And Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the period of the Gentiles comes to an end.

“And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.  People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”

Then he gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near” (New Living Translation).

5.  Does God send judgment to people and nations in this life because of the sinfulness of humanity in those nations?

What happened in Noah’s day? The description was that “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11 ESV). When God saw this corruption, he told Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Gen. 6:13).

God’s judgment happened in this life because of the corruption of humanity in Noah’s time. Why should God think any differently of Haiti’s earthquake or Australia’s floods? What have these countries done to promote sinfulness and corruption?
I think there is enough biblical evidence to support God’s judgment of people and nations.

6.  Tragedy may cause us to re-evaluate priorities.

Tragedy, whether through cyclones, floods, earthquakes or other devastation, may jolt us to rethink and change priorities. If we build in flood-prone zones near a river, losing many possessions may cause us to see the damage that a materialistic philosophy can do. I’m reminded of that Jesus said about wealth on earth:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:19-21 NIV).

7.  There are reasons why God allows Christians to suffer.

To understand this biblical teaching, I recommend the article, “Ten reasons for suffering in the Christian life”. I’m not convinced that all suffering is caused by sin or disobedience. The Christians who have suffered persecution, whether in the southern Sudan, under Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc., did not commit sin but suffered for being Christian believers. What happened to them is what Jesus predicted:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you (John 15:18-19 NIV).

As a personal example, when I was a child at age 6, 10 and 12, I suffered 3 bouts of rheumatic fever that left me with a leaking mitral heart valve. Since 1983 I have had five open-heart surgeries (1983, 1987, 1988, 2003, 2013) to insert mechanical valves to correct this abnormality. To my knowledge, the rheumatic fever was not caused by my personal sin, but is a consequence for my being born in sin as a result of Adam & Eve’s fall into sin (Genesis 3).

8. Does the Book of Job shed some light?

On Christian Fellowship Forum, I shared some information about the Queensland floods of 2010-11 and received this reply on the topic, “Why does God allow floods to devastate?” from lrschrs (Chris) at #5 (I have corrected his spelling errors):

I think that the book of Job gives us the best answer to the question, that is, We Do Not Know, but God does know what He is going on about, and we should be silent before Him in worship, wonder, and praise.

That God has ordained the weather to be what it is is true, there are no things outside His loving providence and thus we can be confident even when all around us fails, as Habakkuk noted, no mad molecule, no runaway nature, He does have the whole world in His hands, and He holds us, and holds us dear. [Hab. 3:17-19].

That sin has entered the world is true, though how it effects such things I think is more indirect, for while all nature groans in an effect of sin how this is so is not revealed to us, Rom. 8:18-22.

One aspect of sin in the world is the lack of wisdom that builds things on flood plains or in denial of the common droughts of an area, and then wonders why we have wet or dry weather as usual. We build below sea level and wonder why things get wet at times.

Another reason can be divine judgment and blessing on a society, though here we are told not to be hasty and judge by appearances, for we don’t know all in any case, Luke 13:4. Here we need to avoid the twin errors or naturalism, an impersonal cosmos, on one hand, and moralism, or a world of simplistic this for that, on the other. The world is not a mechanical system but a system of mechanisms that is open to the personal providence of God and directed toward the ends He has appointed for all things.

I think all talk of ‘mother nature’ is foolish, for nature does not do anything, that is, act on choices it makes, but it only happens in accord with its construction and direction.

But in the end I think we have to rest in God and in what can be called the ‘mystery of providence’, we simply do not know why some things go as they do and others as they do, Maybe we can see some hints at times, like buildings in foolish places leave us good grounds to consider human folly at work, but in the end we must be silent before His works, adore the Lord even in hard times, for He knows what He is doing, and get on with our calling to comfort the afflicted and help the neighbor

I responded to Chris (I’m ozspen #12):

I agree that the Book of Job causes us who believe in the sovereign Lord to say that we do not know the answers for the Haiti earthquake, the Pike River mine disaster in New Zealand and the floods in Australia.

You and I can understand this as believers and accept this from the sovereign hand of the Lord. However, unbelievers see this as a God who is an evil so-and-so who would bring such devastation.

How do you respond to unbelievers? To say, “We do not know the answers”, could be cause for them to not believe in this kind of God – become agnostic or atheistic towards him.

What is your response to Aussies who say, “Your God doesn’t give a damn about ordinary people. Look what he has done with the floods at Chinchilla, Dalby, Theodore, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Maryborough and Gympie. He’s a monster”.

To say, “Go to the Book of Job and you will see that we do not know”, is hardly a satisfactory answer to questioning Aussies who want to know the nature of this horrific God who would do this to people.

How would you reply?

 

Trapped woman on a car roof during flash flooding in Toowoomba 2.jpg

A woman trapped on the roof of her car awaits rescue during the Toowoomba flash flood (Dec 2010-Jan 2011, courtesy Wikipedia)

What if Mother Nature’s fury is the curse?

If there is no God and the devastating floods that are happening in Queensland are due to the inanimate Mother Nature, why are we bad-mouthing Mother Nature? Qld premier, Anna Bligh, has stated that “Mother Nature is unleashing something shocking” in the Toowoomba disaster.

If this devastation is to be blamed on Mother Nature, whatever he, she or it might be, if there is no God then why is she and others griping about these things? If God is not in charge of these things, then he must be just as frustrated as we are.

Surely, the floods in Qld should be pointing us to a higher purpose in life than what we are acknowledging. I haven’t heard or read this kind of response: “We have been ignoring God, kicking Him out of our lives for so long. It’s about time He got our attention to focus on ultimate issues in life”.

God has promised that he will not strike the earth again like he did in Noah’s day (see Genesis 8:21). Jesus Christ warned us that before Christ’s second coming  there would be strange signs in the sun, moon and stars, along with roaring seas and strange tides. People would be terrified by what they see on the earth (see Luke 21:25-28).

If there is no God who sends the rain on the just and the unjust, why are we kicking up such a stink about the actions of Mother Nature?

These  floods should be a wake-up call about ultimate issues for all, not just Queenslanders. This kind of a response to a “Mother Nature” cause, will not be appreciated by those who interpret life emotionally.

Disasters and God’s judgment

I received an email with the content of this blog (below) under the heading, “Japan denounced Israel exactly 1 year before earthquake and tsunami”. This blog appeared at Armageddononline.com #257:

Ron Reese from 5 Doves has discovered that ON MARCH 11TH, EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO, JAPAN DENOUNCES ISRAEL!!! http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/annou…3/0311_01.html

Exactly 1 year ago March 11, 2010…The exact day of the 9.0 earthquake in Japan hit a year later in 2011.
Genesis 12:3 “I will Bless those who Bless (Israel), and Curse Those Who Curse you.”

Remember, America forced Israel to remove 8,000 Israeli’s from their homes in Gaza, then came Katrina where America lost 800,000 houses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama.

Japan demanded that Israel not build 1,600 housing units in east Jerusalem. After the 9.0 earthquake Japan may have to rebuild 1.6 million homes.

God is not mocked! Pay attention America!

A more detailed comment by Ron Reese is in, ‘Ron Reese (15 March 2011) “On March 11th, exactly one year ago, Japan denounces Israel!!!

What are we to make of those who want to link Japan’s actions (sins?) against Israel with the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11th March 2011?

Jesus will not allow us to draw the conclusion that the Japanese, because of their response to Israel, are any more sinful than we are. This is clearly stated in Luke 13:1-5:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them,  “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (ESV).

To paraphrase Jesus for Aussies today, based on Luke 13:1-5: There are people present today who speak about the Japanese who denounced Israel one year before the tsunami. Jesus answers these who see this as judgment against Japan: “Do you think that these Japanese are worse sinners than all Australians because they acted in this way? No, says Jesus. I tell you: but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”.

We do not have the right to pronounce that the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear meltdown are God’s judgment on Japan – based on Luke 13:1-5. Providing judgment is God’s job and he will do it in our time. God has told us (Luke 14) that we all are sinners who need to repent and the Japanese crisis should be a reminder that all sinners need to repent.

One of the ways of responding to doubters of the biblical text and its teaching is to use …

The Judo Technique

I learned this when I was studying Jim Kennedy’s gospel presentation in Evangelism Explosion.

Often as you begin presenting the gospel, the person will say something like, “I don’t believe the Bible.  You’ll have to convince me some other way than referring to the Scriptures.”  Many people are devastated by this objection.  What happens to them?  Their attempt to share Christ fizzles.

This need not be the case.  I want to encourage you to use this objection as a springboard into the gospel itself.  The Apostle Paul, when he preached in Greek cities that had no background in the Bible, appealed to the Scriptures even though the people who listened to him did not believe the Bible.

He proclaimed to them and the Holy Spirit used the proclamation to save some who then came to believe the Bible to be true.  When we witness, our primary function is to proclaim the gospel, not defence of the Bible.  BUT when people object to the Bible, we DO NEED good answers to respond.  And there ARE EXCELLENT answers.

The judo technique works like this.  The objection, “I don’t believe the Bible,” is quite an easy one to deal with.  Don’t use the approach of a boxer who meets the blow head on and tries to overwhelm the opponent with counter punches.  Instead use the technique of the judo expert. The force of the opponent’s blow is used to throw the opponent.

Here’s how it works in presenting the gospel.  The person who objects, “I don’t believe the Bible,” usually has some university education, or has been exposed to some course in the Bible, or biblical criticism or something like that.

There is often some intellectual pride that says or infers something like this: “I used to believe those fairy tales when I was in kindy, but now I am an educated person and am far above believing those things.”  It is this intellectual pride that can be used to turn this objection into an opportunity for presenting the gospel.  I suggest this kind of dialogue with the person who objects.

“You don’t believe the Bible, John?  That’s very interesting and it certainly is your privilege not to believe it, and I would fight for that right on your part.  However, if the Bible is true then obviously you must accept the consequences.

“But I would like to ask you a question.  The main message of the Bible, which has been unquestionably the most important literary work in human history, is how a person may have eternal life.  So what I would like to know is: What do you understand that the Bible teaches about how a person may have eternal life and go to heaven?”

He may say that he does not believe in eternal life.  To this you might say, “I’m not asking you what you believe, but I am asking you what you understand.  It would be a rather unintellectual approach to reject the world’s most important book without understanding even its main message, would it not?  What do you understand that the Bible teaches as to how a person may have eternal life?  What is your understanding about what the Bible teaches on this subject?”

My experience is that over 90% will respond by saying that it is by keeping the Ten Commandments or following the Golden Rule or imitating the example of Christ, doing good, or something like that.

You might respond something like this: “That is just what I was afraid of, John.  You have rejected the Bible without even understanding its main message, for your answer is not only incorrect, but it is diametrically opposite to what the Bible teaches.  Now, don’t you think that the more intellectual approach would be to let me share with you what the Scriptures teach on this subject and then you can make an intelligent decision whether to reject or accept it?”

Now the tables have been completely turned.  Instead of being superior to the Scripture and even above listening to it, he now finds himself ignorant of even its basic message.  Now he must decide whether to listen to the message of the Scriptures or be found to be not only ignorant but also some obscure person who opposes intellectual advancement — and wants to remain in his ignorance.

This is the last thing in the world that his intellectual pride will allow him to be.  So, very often he will give you permission to tell him the gospel.  It is at this point that you pray with vigour that the Holy Spirit will take the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, and use it to awaken him from the deadness because of sin.

Bundaberg, Qld. floods, December 2010

image

 

God is sovereign. As the Creator of all things visible and invisible, He is the owner of all, has an absolute right to rule over all, and He exercises this authority in the universe (Henry C. Thiessen 1949:173).

See: 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 45:9; Ezekiel 18:4; Daniel 4:35;  Matthew 20:15; Romans 9:14-24; 11:36; Ephesians 1;11; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 4:11.

Works consulted

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 20 June 2016.
.

Why does God allow pain and suffering?

File:Ebola virus virion.jpg

Ebola virus virion (image courtesy commons.wikimedia)

By Spencer D Gear

If you are suffering from heart disease, cancer, epilepsy, or the beginning stages of dementia, perhaps you have questions like I have. Why is there so much suffering and evil in the world? During 2014 we have seen around the world some horrific evil and suffering. I’m thinking of:

clip_image001The Peshawar school slaughter in Pakistan

In this slaughter by the Taliban, 145 people were killed in this military-run school on 16 December 2014. NBC News in the USA reported in ‘Death “All Around Me”: Victims Relive Pakistan School Massacre’:

Pakistan was plunged into mourning Tuesday after Taliban militants in suicide vests laid siege to a school, massacring 132 children and 10 teachers during eight hours of sheer terror. In total, 145 people were killed, including three soldiers, officials said.

Peshawar government high school (photo courtesy Commons.wikimedia)

clip_image001[1] The Ebola outbreak in West Africa

BBC News Africa reported on 23 December 2014, ‘Ebola: Mapping the outbreak’:

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was first reported in March 2014, and has rapidly become the deadliest occurrence of the disease since its discovery in 1976.

In fact, the current epidemic sweeping across the region has now killed more than all other known Ebola outbreaks combined.

Up to 21 December, 7,580 people had been reported as having died from the disease in six countries; Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali.

(image courtesy commons.wikimedia)

clip_image001[2] Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared off the face of the earth on 8 March 2014 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. BBC News reported on ‘Missing Malaysia plane MH370: What we know’.

File:Malaysia Airlines MH370 origin destination atc radar water bodies.png

Malaysia Airlines MH370 original destination (image courtesy commons.wikimedia)

clip_image001[3] Then terrorism came to my home country of Australia with the siege and deaths at the Lindt Chocolatw Café, Martin Place, Sydney. See: ‘As it happened: Tributes flow for Sydney siege victims killed in Martin Place Lindt cafe shootout’ (ABC News, 16 December 2014).

File:(1)Lindt Cafe siege two days later 008a.jpg

Lindt Cafe siege two days later (photo courtesy commons.wikimedia)

But we could tell of much more evil and suffering in our world.

Does suffering have a purpose?

A Christian medical doctor wrote this on a Christian forum in the UK to which I once was contributing:

Suffering teaches us what it feels like to suffer so that we are better able to understand and help others when they are suffering (II Corinthians 1:3,4).

As a doctor, I have theoretical knowledge about many illnesses; but actually being ill gives you a completely different kind of knowledge. Instead of being a spectator, you become a patient and suddenly you can see and understand things that were previously invisible or incomprehensible to the professionals trying to help you. And so for almost every significant medical condition there exists a patient support group, through which people can share their experiences and give each other practical and emotional help.

In the UK, many charities have been started as the result of an individual going through a period of suffering, and thus becoming aware of a need. When it comes to motivation, there is nothing like personal experience!

Dr Mary Verghese (1925-1986) was training to be an obstetrician in India when a road accident left her paralysed from the waist down. As a result of this, she became acutely aware of the lack of help for the many disabled people in India, and she went on to become one of the country’s first specialists in disability and rehabilitation. (You can read her story in the book Take my hands by Dorothy Clarke Wilson).[1]

My personal encounter with pain

My response was:[2]

Sometimes the reason for pain and suffering is not always readily discernible. I suffered 3 bouts of rheumatic fever when I was aged 6, 10 and 12 – the most excruciating pain of the knees and ankle joints I have ever encountered. The memory remains today and I’m approaching older age. It was so severe that the hospital had to put a metal hoop over my legs so that not even a sheet could touch my legs as that would exacerbate the pain. I was not allowed to sit up. Now that was a challenge for a child.

As a result I have had leaking mitral and aortic valves of my heart all my life. I now have had 5 open heart surgeries since 1983 (the last in March 2013) to insert mechanical mitral and aortic valves, and repair the tricuspid valve. I’ve had to deal with multiple medications, including warfarin, and regular INR blood tests since 1983.

The primary biblical help I can get for this suffering is in James 1:2-4,

Count it all joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (ESV).

It is designed to bring me as a Christian to maturity and faithfulness in my Christian faith. It is not designed to make me angry with God, but I sure understand the consequences of original sin. Oh, how I long for that sweet relief that ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’ will bring.

I know the purpose is maturity. But I do have moments when the going gets so tough with breathlessness as I walk.

File:Mitral Karboniks-1 bileafter prosthetic heart valve.jpg

Mitral artificial (prosthetic) heart valve

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

It’s a tough call

What is the origin of evil? If God is sovereign, does He cause it or allow it? You may have a loved one who suffered or is suffering. You may be suffering personally. These are important questions to you and to me. I don’t find a lot of churches addressing them as there are some tough issues here.

God did not create the world the way it is today. His original world was perfect (Gen. 1:31; Eccl. 7:29). The repulsive evil in our world came about by the fall of Adam into sin (Gen. 3). We cannot blame God for the ugly sin in our world. God gave Adam the free will to choose: ‘You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die’ (Gen 2:17 NIV). He chose evil. See Genesis 3:4-7:

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves (NIV).

I’ve written elsewhere on the issue of pain and suffering. Why don’t you take a read?

clip_image003 God sovereign but not author of evil

clip_image003[1] Did God create evil?

clip_image003[2] Is God responsible for all the evil in the world?

clip_image003[3] Isaiah 45:7: Who or what is the origin of evil?

clip_image003[4] September 11 & other tragedies: Why doesn’t God stop it?

clip_image003[5] Can God do anything and everything?

clip_image003[6] Turning trash into treasure (James 1:2-4)

Ukraine 1922 (image ‘Human suffering’,courtesy  commons.wikimedia)

Notes


[1] Deborah#15, September 23, 2014, UK Christian Web, ‘Reasons why Christians suffer’. Available at: http://www.christian-forum.co.uk/index.php?topic=12674.15 (Accessed 2 October 2014).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#17, 2 October 2014.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 May 2016.

Does God send cyclones?

Satellite image of Cyclone Yasi (off north Queensland intensifying on 1 February 2011 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

On the evening of 3 February 2011, I sat and watched the extended TV news coverage of the devastation caused by cyclone Yasi as it crossed the North Queensland (Australia) coast in the very early morning of 3rd Feb, and devastated that region.

Tears came to my eyes as as I saw on film how house roofs were ripped off like rubble. Large trees were torn up by their roots and thrust across houses, cars, streets and whatever else was in its path by the force of the 300km per hour winds at the core of the cyclone. The main streets of Mission Beach (where the cyclone first reached land), Tully, Tully Heads, Cardwell and Innisfail looked like a napalm bomb had hit them. It was like a war zone. Only one person was reported as dying from generator fumes and not directly from the cyclonic destruction. Three babies were born to mothers who were affected by Yasi.

Why, oh why, Lord do you send or allow such horrendous winds, torrential rain to cause such destruction were among the thoughts that came to my mind? A better question would be: Do you, Lord God, send cyclones like this? It is you who sends the rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). Therefore, is it You, God, who creates and delivers cyclones?

A Christian friend said that my statement is a non sequitur (it does not logically follow) to state that God sends the rain, therefore God sends the cyclone. I agree with his judgment. However, is there other evidence that it is the Lord Almighty who creates disasters like cyclones?

What happened in North Queensland looked like a very angry God unleashing his wrath on that region. I ask of you, Lord: Please help me to understand it. I know of the link between the fall into sin and the devastation unleashed on human beings (sin) and the curse on nature that followed (see Genesis 3; Romans 5, 8).

But I’m finding it hard to comprehend the horrific nature of what has happened in north Qld. How does the goodness of God integrate with what looks like such evil? I’m not being blasphemous, Lord, but this horror is beyond my feeble mind to understand.

1.  This was the projected path of cyclone Yasi, as indicated by the US Navy.

2. Here is some film of the destruction: (a) Tully residents reveal horror of cyclone’s wrath; (b) Cyclone Yasi; (c ) Record disaster strikes Queensland; (d)  Devastated by cyclone Yasi.

Christian friends, how do you understand and justify the horrors of cyclones, hurricanes and tornadoes? About ninety percent of Australia’s banana crop was annihilated by this cataclysm near Tully.

(Houses after the destruction caused by Cyclone Tracy in Darwin NT, Australia, in 1974. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

When we think of the horrific tsunami in the Indian Ocean at the end of 2004, Australia’s Yasi cyclone caused a pittance of damage. This tsunami was precipitated by a gigantic earthquake under the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004.  The United States Geological Survey stated that

“in total, 227,898 people were killed or were missing and presumed dead and about 1.7 million people were displaced by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 14 countries in South Asia and East Africa”.

Cyclone Yasi’s devastation is only a glitch when compared with this catastrophic destruction of the tsunami.

There were devastating floods in Pakistan in 2010. One report stated that there were 1700 people dead. This same report indicated that the damage was estimated as US$43 billion. Australian ABC radio reported that the number who died in the floods was about 1500. The floods affected 20 million people and damaged 1.7 million houses. This item stated that 6 months after the floods there were still 170,000 people living in makeshift camps. Here are some pictures of these Pakistani floods.

Cyclone Yasi is small in comparison with the devastation of these other two major events. But it still requires an answer to the question: Does God cause or allow this?

The Christian view of Providence

For an explanation, we need to go to the Christian view of God as creating the universe with all of the powers accompanying the running of that universe. God is preserving his creation with his holy, benevolent (wanting to help others), wise and powerful Person. Over this universe, God exercises sovereign control through what is known as His Providence. The basic etymology of “providence” is foresight and from this understanding we know that God provides for the future.

“Providence means that continuous activity of God whereby He makes all the events of the physical, mental, and moral phenomena work out His purposes;  and that this purpose is nothing short of the original design of God in creation. To be sure, evil has entered the universe: but it is not allowed to thwart God’s original, benevolent, wise, and holy purpose” (Thiessen 1949:177).

When we look at the horrors of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Pakistani floods, and the Queensland cyclone, Yasi, how are we to understand the providence of the good and benevolent God and the presence of such devastation? Let’s look to the insight provided by God’s revelation in the Scripture.

God did not create the world the way it is today. His original world was perfect (Gen. 1:31; Eccl. 7:29). The repulsive evil in our world came about by the fall of Adam into sin (Gen. 3). We cannot blame God for the ugly sin in our world. That is the outcome of Adam’s disobedience (see Romans, chs. 5 and 8). Other Scriptures provide further insight:

Job 1:12, ’The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD” (NIV).[1]

Job 9:5-7, “He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger. He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble. He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars”.

Psalm 22:28, “For dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations”.

Psalm 103:19, “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all”.

“Proverbs 16:1, “To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue”.

Matthew 5:45, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”.

Acts 14:17, “Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy”.

2 Thessalonians 2:7, “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way”.

Please also note what Jesus said about the Galileans and the people who died when the tower of Siloam fell:

“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:1-5).

These verses indicate that the Lord God is in sovereign control of what is happening in our world, at the human level (e.g. Job), the nations (Ps. 22:8), providence over all people (Acts 14:17), and the end of the world (2 Thess. 2:7).

These disasters, whether they be the tsunami, floods, cyclones, tornadoes and earthquakes, are all designed to get the attention of the people of the world so that they will repent (Luke 13:1-5). They should be asking, “Am I ready to meet God when I die? I need to repent or I will perish”. Is that what will happen as a result of cyclone Yasi? It should.

When we examine these verses, we conclude that the good, benevolent, holy Lord God Almighty has all of the evil acts of creatures under his control and that nothing can occur without His permission and sovereign superintendency. Thus, God overrules the evil acts of human beings to for His ultimate good purpose.

God works all things in the universe, whether they be designated as disasters or good acts, for his ultimate good outcome. Remember these Old Testament events: the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers towards Joseph, the resistance of Pharaoh, the action of the heathen nations in invasion of Israel, and then there was the sinless Christ’s death on the cross. Since then, there has been horrific persecution of the church, wars and rumours of wars.

For the people of God, we know God’s purpose is achieved this way: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). God’s ultimate aim is for His glory through whatever he does in our world: “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11).

What else can God do to get our attention, if it doesn’t happen through floods, tsunamis, cyclones, earthquakes, etc?

I consider that evangelical systematic theologian, Wayne Grudem, made a sound, concluding assessment:

“Every believer who meditates on God’s providence will sooner or later come to a point where he or she will have to say, ‘I cannot understand this doctrine fully.’ In some ways that must be said about every doctrine, since our understanding is finite, and God is infinite. But particularly is this so with the doctrine of providence: we should believe it because Scripture teaches it, even when we do not understand fully how it fits in with other teachings of Scripture (1994:336).

Does God create evil?

When we examine the damage done by the cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes and earthquakes, some are tempted to refer to God as an evil being for doing or allowing these things. Is it possible for God to create moral evil?

How do we respond to what God said in Isaiah 45:7? “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (KJV, emphasis added). So, God does create evil according to the KJV translation. How do we explain this when God is said to be good and righteous?

The Hebrew word for “create” is bara, the same word used in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (NIV). The Hebrew ra, translated as “evil” (Isa. 45:7 KJV), can have a breadth of meaning as demonstrated by these various Bible translations:

Evangelical theologian, Wayne Grudem, wrote concerning ra:

“The word can be used to apply to natural disasters such as these words imply. But there is no compelling reason to restrict it to natural disasters, for the word is an extremely common word used of evil generally: It is used of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9), of the evil among mankind that brought the judgment of the flood (Gen. 6:5), and of the evil of the men of Sodom (Gen. 13:13). It is used to say, ‘Depart from evil and do good’ (Ps. 34:14), and to speak of the wrong of those who call evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20), and of the sin of those whose ‘feet run to evil’ (Isa. 59:7; see also Isa. 47:10, 11; 56:2; 57:1; 59:15; 65:12; 66:4). Dozens of other times throughout the Old Testament it refers to moral evil or sin. The contrast with “peace” (shãlôm) in the same phrase in Isa. 45:7 might argue that only “calamity” is in view, but not necessarily so, for moral evil and wickedness is (sic) certainly also the opposite of the wholeness of God’s “shalom” or peace. (In Amos 3:6, rã’ ãh is a different but related word and has a similar range of meanings.) But Isa. 45:7 does not say that God does evil (Grudem 1994:326 n7, emphasis added).

There are a couple of parallel verses to Isa. 45:7. Amos 3:6 states:

When a trumpet sounds in a city,
do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
has not the LORD caused it?

Lamentations 3:38 reads:

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

The Hebrew for “calamities” in these latter two verse is rã’ ãh and it has similar meanings to ra. The NIV has translated rã’ ãh in these two verses as “disaster” and “calamity”. So, God creates disasters and calamities! Can this be applied to cyclones Yasi, Larry and Tracy in Australia, the Indian Ocean tsunami, hurricane Katrina and other disasters? Isa. 45:7, Amos 3:6 and Lam. 3:38 confirm this.

We know that God performed one massive disaster in sending the flood in Noah’s day that wiped out the entire human race except Noah and his family (Genesis 6) because of the earth was corrupt before God and filled with violence (Gen. 6:11). God did it again by destroying Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). God has demonstrated that He can bring disaster through judgment.

But is God responsible for creating sin – moral evil? We turn to the Scriptures and hear from James 1:13-14:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.

It is clear from these two verses in James that God never causes evil temptation. Human beings are personal agents who are responsible for yielding to temptation. But how do we apply this to Isa. 45:7? The KJV translation could send a wrong message about the Lord God: “I make peace and create evil”. “Evil” is a legitimate translation but there are other options. We cannot assign what is morally evil to God. H. C. Leupold notes on Isa. 45:7:

“It is not the morally good and the morally evil that are being attributed to Yahweh, but things good and bad are said to lie totally in his power, as far as their physical aspects and consequences are concerned. The RSV version does full justice to the issues involved when it says: ‘I make weal and create woe.’ Note similar statements in Amos 3:6b; and Isa. 14:24-27. ‘I am the Lord who does all these things’ aptly sums it all up” (1971:122).

We cannot conclude that God does evil because that would mitigate against who God is – the good, righteous God. To say that God does evil would be to create another kind of god. Of Yahweh, the only true God, we know:

The goodness of God is revealed in Scripture: “No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:19); the Psalms proclaim “He [the Lord] is good” (Ps. 100:5; 106:1; 107:1). David exhorts us: “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Ps. 34:8).

The righteousness or justice of God is made clear in passages such as Deut. 32:4, “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he”. Even King Nebuchadnezzar got it correct: “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just” (Daniel 4:37).

When we say that God is righteous or just, we mean that God’s actions are always right and His nature is the final standard of what is right and just. Wayne Grudem explains from the life of Job and God’s bringing calamity to Job:

In answer to Job’s questioning about whether God has been righteous in his dealings with him, God answers Job, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?…Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:2, 8). Then God answers not in terms of an explanation that would allow Job to understand why God’s actions were right, but rather in terms of a statement of God’s own majesty and power! God does not need to explain the rightness of his actions to Job, for God is the Creator and Job is the creature. “Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:9). “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place…?” (Job 38:12). “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, “Here we are’?” (Job 38:34–35). “Do you give the horse his might?” (Job 39:19). “Is it by your wisdom that the hawk soars, and spreads his wings toward the south?” (Job 39:26). Job answers, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth” (Job 40:4).

Nevertheless, it should be a cause for thanksgiving and gratitude when we realize that righteousness and omnipotence are both possessed by God. If he were a God of perfect righteousness without power to carry out that righteousness, he would not be worthy of worship and we would have no guarantee that justice will ultimately prevail in the universe. But if he were a God of unlimited power, yet without righteousness in his character, how unthinkably horrible the universe would be! There would be unrighteousness at the center of all existence and there would be nothing anyone could do to change it. Existence would become meaningless, and we would be driven to the most utter despair. We ought therefore continually to thank and praise God for who he is, “for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut. 32:4) [Grudem 1994:204-205].

Disasters and God’s judgment

I received an email with the content of this blog (below) under the heading, “Japan denounced Israel exactly 1 year before earthquake and tsunami”. This blog appeared at Armageddononline.com #257:

Ron Reese from 5 Doves has discovered that ON MARCH 11TH, EXACTLY ONE YEAR AGO, JAPAN DENOUNCES ISRAEL!!! http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/annou…3/0311_01.html

Exactly 1 year ago March 11, 2010…The exact day of the 9.0 earthquake in Japan hit a year later in 2011.
Genesis 12:3 “I will Bless those who Bless (Israel), and Curse Those Who Curse you.”

Remember, America forced Israel to remove 8,000 Israeli’s from their homes in Gaza, then came Katrina where America lost 800,000 houses in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama.

Japan demanded that Israel not build 1,600 housing units in east Jerusalem. After the 9.0 earthquake Japan may have to rebuild 1.6 million homes.

God is not mocked! Pay attention America!

A more detailed comment by Ron Reese is in, ‘Ron Reese (15 March 2011) “On March 11th, exactly one year ago, Japan denounces Israel!!!

What are we to make of those who want to link Japan’s actions (sins?) against Israel with the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on 11th March 2011?

Jesus will not allow us to draw the conclusion that the Japanese, because of their response to Israel, are any more sinful than we are. This is clearly stated in Luke 13:1-5:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them,  “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (ESV).

To paraphrase Jesus for Aussies today, based on Luke 13:1-5: There are people present today who speak about the Japanese who denounced Israel one year before the tsunami. Jesus answers these who see this as judgment against Japan: “Do you think that these Japanese are worse sinners than all Australians because they acted in this way? No, says Jesus. I tell you: but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”.

We do not have the right to pronounce that the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear meltdown are God’s judgment on Japan – based on Luke 13:1-5. Providing judgment is God’s job and he will do it in our time. God has told us (Luke 14) that we all are sinners who need to repent and the Japanese crisis should be a reminder that all sinners need to repent.

Use your mind in discerning where to live.

To understand the impact of floods and cyclones, God has given us minds to discern which areas of Australia are the most prone to floods and cyclones. If we want to avoid being victims of floods and cyclones, we can choose to avoid living in those areas.

The Australian government’s, Attorney-General’s Department, Emergency Management for Schools, has compiled this graph of the most cyclone prone areas in Australia as Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland.

www.crikey.com.au has located this range of maps to show the flood prone areas of Brisbane and District after the January 2011 floods.

May the Lord help us to be wise in making decisions about where we live in Australia.

Conclusion

  • Does God send cyclones, tsunamis and tornadoes? Yes, he does create disasters and these acts of “mother Nature” must be put down as acts of God.
  • We cannot state that certain acts of God – calamities – are specific judgments against certain sins in contemporary society. God does not reveal that to us so Christians dare not pronounce such judgments when disasters happen.
  • God, by his very nature (good, just, righteous), cannot create moral evil.
  • Human beings cannot make the judgment of associating catastrophe with God’s judgment (see Luke 13:1-5).
  • God’s actions in sending woes should be a wake-up call to the world of sinners to repent or perish. Human life is temporal.

For further consideration, see my articles:

Also see John Piper’s articles: “Don’t waste your cancer”; “Where is God? The supremacy of God in an age of terror“.

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Leupold, H. C. 1971. Exposition of Isaiah (vol 1, chapters 1-39). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

The first edition of this article was on Friday, February 4, 2011.

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 July 2019.