Other Articles on Why God Permits Evil
What's This World Coming To?
Must Remember the Holocaust!
Where Was God?
The Katrina and Rita
Calamities Challenge Our Thinking
Why Does God
Ch 2-Why God
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
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
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.
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
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?