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Other Articles on Why God Permits Evil

And God Cried

What's This World Coming To?

 Christians Must Remember the Holocaust!

Where Was God?

The Katrina and Rita Calamities Challenge Our Thinking

Why Does God Permit Calamities?

Ch 1-Where Was God?

Ch 2-Why God Permits Calamities

Ch 3-A Suffering Savior and Suffering Christians

Ch 4-God Is Not Trying to Convert the World Now

Ch 5-God's Kingdom

Ch 6-Supposed Objections

Why Does God
Permit Calamities?

Chapter 1

Where Was God?

The role of divine judgment in calamities has long been a controversy. The tragic death toll of 60,000 in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and tidal wave—actually, tsunami—triggered an international debate. Advocates of divine punishment of the victims were pitted against intellectuals, ranging from atheists to skeptics of the Bible. Voltaire, the piercing 18th century satirist, had been a Roman Catholic. The Lisbon tragedy shattered that. In his book The Lisbon Disaster, Voltaire’s siding with the intellectuals—though he remained a Deist—propelled the Age of Skepticism forward. By the 20th century the “wrathful God” scenario lost its popularity. But now in the 21st century, it has returned with vengeance in the shadow of the Tsunami of December 26, 2004, when the Indian Ocean rose to swallow up the lives of over 250,000 in eleven nations.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach observed in the Jerusalem Post, January 12, 2005, “A shockingly large number of Christian and Islamic leaders agree that the tsunami was a punishment from God for human sin. The sins in question are the subject of some dispute. But all agree that homosexuality tops the list.”

Then he quotes the influential Saudi cleric Sheik Fawzan Al-Fawzan, “These great tragedies and collective punishments that are wiping out villages, towns, cities and even entire countries, are Allah’s punishment…. We know that at these resorts, which unfortunately exist in Islamic and other countries in South Asia, and especially at Christmas, fornication and sexual perversion of all kinds are rampant. We must fight fornication and homosexuality.”

The same point was emphasized by Catholic spokeswoman Jennifer Geroux in two debates that Boteach had with her on MSNBC. She said that “the tsunami was a result of abortion and homosexuality in the United States.” Pat Robertson, who was in the TV debate with them, concurred. He predicted that the tsunami would soon be eclipsed by an even bigger disaster in the form of a giant asteroid plunging into the oceans of the earth.

Of course, this is not the first time homosexuals have been blamed for mass deaths. Immediately following 9/11, Jerry Falwell blamed gays, lesbians, and abortion advocates for the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Speaking on Pat Robertson’s 700 Club TV program, Falwell said, “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked…. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make an alternate lifestyle—I point the finger in their face and say, ‘you helped this happen.’”

With Katrina and Rita, we again saw the “blame game.” Moslems boasted that Allah was punishing the U.S. for supporting Israel. Many Christians also felt God was punishing the U.S. because President Bush forced Sharon to compromise on land. Also, Evangelicals claimed Katrina’s havoc on New Orleans was God’s judgment for the tolerance of immorality that pervaded that city. We will not be drawn into the debate of God’s targeted judgments, but we will probe the basic scriptural reasons for calamities.

In addition to Evangelicals who emphasize the vengeance of God in calamities, the reaction of other Christians is mixed. Both “nominal” and even some “sincere” Christians ask, “Where was God?” Nevertheless, Christians listening to the news flashes of the incredible mounting disasters are overwhelmed with grief and better understand why Jesus wept with Mary and Martha, sorrowing over the death of their brother Lazarus.

Some Predestinationist-Calvinists are smugly content with their “sovereign justice” of God concept. After all, the victims were mainly Hindus, Buddhists and Moslems, along with a few thousand vacationing Jews, all of whom before birth were doomed to an endless existence of woe anyway. Of course, if any of the vacationing Christians were indeed God’s elect, divine fate ushered them into their eternal joys.

This begs the question—Why does anyone, Calvinist or not, who considers unbelievers worthy of eternal torment, grieve over this massive loss of unbelievers in death? After all, they assert, God plans to imprison the vast majority of His creatures in “a calamity,” to which all the horrors of earth’s tragedies by comparison are nothing but a mere prelude to the most awful indescribable torment that God with fiendish cruelty will perpetuate for eternity.
And why is God supposed to impose this punishment of eternal torture? Simply because, when told by Christians that such was God’s character and purpose, these unbelievers could not love Him nor praise His “good and just” (actually, diabolical) plan. Yet, other millions have died never even hearing the name of Jesus, through whom alone is salvation. How can anyone believe that tens of thousands in the Indian Ocean’s indiscriminate killing went straight to hell, never having had an opportunity to believe in the Lord Jesus?

Where Was God?

The massive response of people around the world—their outpouring of love and concern manifested in the monumental relief effort—was overwhelming. All this love and sympathy in humankind is only the remnant of the original divine likeness in which Father Adam was created. This divine likeness was not wholly effaced during thousands of years of mankind’s degradation in sin. God is represented in every act of kindness, whether by Christians or by others in the world. Certainly this outpouring of love did not come from blind evolutionary development. Impossible! These actions of love reflect a measure of God’s character.

Tragedies Every Day

Headline tragedies such as the 9/11 Twin Towers and the December 26 Asian Tsunami are dwarfed by the personal tragedies of loved ones endured daily by hundreds of thousands—death or mutilation on the highways, babies born physically deformed or mentally deficient, and victims of senseless crime. Hurricanes, floods, tornados, earthquakes, and other disasters steal the lives of millions in their onslaughts of destruction and deprivation. Psychological tragedies of dysfunctional families, drug addiction, and the multitudes of lonely, neurotic, homeless people, in turn, have left tens of thousands of families emotionally scarred.

Yes, these statistics fill the daily news, but only when they strike us or our loved ones are we overwhelmed with the pain of tragedy. Every day these statistics have faces—millions of faces of real people shattered emotionally and mentally. The cries of sickness, sorrow, suffering and death encircle the globe. Not one of us can comprehend the enormity of the total sufferings of all humankind. Only God can and does see this immense picture of human misery. And God is deeply grieved (Isaiah 63:9).

If God is grieved by the enormity of human suffering, why does He permit it?