I’m from Indonesia, which have been hit by many natural disasters. I have friends who knows victims, asking or implying this notion, that God doesn’t care. Maybe in my country, believing that God exist is widely accepted, but does this God actually care?
We can understand when bad people do bad things to others, we can blame the bad person for his fallen state making a fallen decision. But what about a natural disaster that seems to mercilessly consume souls, however and whomever it likes…
Since we can’t blame nature doing what nature does, what about the passivity of God in all this?
I know there are many stories where a group or individual survivors claimed their escape due to miraculous divine intervention. What about those that didn’t?
Thanks in advance for anyone’s input. Looking to learn.
@RoySujanto That is a great question. I’ll provide a short list of thoughts that have helped me personally and then some additional resources that I hope you’ll find useful in processing the question of natural evil. The short answer is that Christ is proof that God does not only care for us, He loves us more than we could ever imagine. We can trust God’s heart even when we cannot trace His hand.
Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus told us to expect suffering, but to remember that He had conquered the world. John 16:33 - In this world you will suffer, but fear not, for I have conquered the world.
while death from natural disasters is shocking, the reality is that we all die. Death itself is the result of the intrusion of evil into God’s good world. The question is not really “How can God allow natural disasters?”, but “How is God going to deal with the problem of death?” While some may be happy living 90 years and dying, that falls far short of God’s plan for us - eternal glory. But thank God through Christ Jesus He has dealt with death and given us life eternal! Death is dead!
God may have reasons of which we are not aware (see St. Bernards and No-seeums below)
death is not the end - we have not seen how God will deal with each person in eternity. If we think of death as the end, we are not adopting a Biblical perspective.
some theologians believe that nature itself has been tainted by evil - that natural disasters are the result of a distortion of nature - or at least that death from them is a distortion (no natural disasters in the Garden of Eden)
Flaw: If suffering/evil appears pointless to me, it must be pointless.
“Tucked away within the assertion that the world is filled with pointless evil is a hidden premise, namely, that if evil appears pointless to me, then it must be pointless. …Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one. Again we see lurking within supposedly hard-nosed skepticism an enormous faith in one’s own cognitive faculties. If our minds can’t plumb the depths of the universe for good answers to suffering, well, then, there can’t be any! This is blind faith of a high order.”
St. Bernards and No-seeums
Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga provides an illustration to address the above flaw in reasoning. “If you look into your pup-tent for a St. Bernard, and you don’t see one, it is reasonable to assume that there is no St. Bernard in your tent. But if you look into your pup tent for a ‘no-see-um’ (an extremely small insect with a bite out of all proportion to its size) and you don’t see any, it is not reasonable to assume that they are not there. Because, after all, no one can see 'em. Many assume that if there were good reasons for the existence of evil, they would be accessible to our minds, more like St. Bernards than like no-see-ums, but why should that be the case?”
Job and his friends believed in some form of the retribution principle - that those who suffer have sinned and that God blesses the obedient.
Because they believed in this principle, when they dealt with the problem of suffering they automatically debated God’s justice - putting God in the dock, so to speak.
But God’s answer is not an explanation at all. He does not defend the justness of His actions. Instead, God uses images from the boundaries of the ancient’s understanding of nature in order to help them grasp at a heart level that God alone is wise and that none can contend with Him.
These images - of leviathan and behemoth and the stars singing for God in the very beginning of creation - allowed Job to grasp at a heart level a truth about God’s very deity that He had not grasped through argument. That God’s goodness, greatness and wisdom are root realities of the universe and that He is not a tame God.
Jesus addressed this question indirectly when they asked Him about the natural disaster at the tower of Siloam, where some 18 souls were lost. Were they any worse sinners than those who didn’t die? Did God love them less? No, for unless the survivors repent, they, too, would perish. We are all alike under the judgment of God for our sin. No one is more deserving of death than any other person. Nor is there anyone whom God loves so little that they could not be saved, if only they asked.
Hi @SeanO, thank you for the myriad of resources to tackle this issue from multiple angles. One thing that stand out to me from your point is to focus on the more important thing that God is more concerned about, that is our eternal destiny after death, instead of the temporal suffering we faced on earth. So what if one lives peacefully for 90yrs but have no Christ in them? that is worst than one who has Christ in them, but lived a short life or die a martyr’s death even. Dr Craig’s explanation is also very cogent, and thank you for pointing it out. I want to look at the last link you gave by Vince Vitale, but I think it’s a video by Vimeo, which is blocked in my country. No worries, it’s a book I will eventually get to anyway.
Hi @manbooks, thank you, I think you meant Luke 13. Yes, that context adds such a depth to the answers that Sean already presented above.
Naturally from here, most ppl will follow it up with “What abt those who never heard the gospel? They didn’t get a chance to receive God or repent before they die so tragically.” But I heard a good answer to that before by Frank Turek, "It could be that God has so ordered the world so that those who never hear the Gospel wouldn’t have believed it anyway. (Acts 17:26-27)
Being from Canada where natural disasters are relatively rare, I can not imagine what it is like to live in a country like Indonesia where they occur frequently. Your country’s resilience has my admiration and respect.
But I have thought about the common practice of calling such disasters
“Acts of God”. Job and his friends thought his troubles were “acts of God” when in fact they were acts of Satan, for which God does take ultimate responsibility (Job 2:3). Is Satan powerful enough to cause natural disasters such as strike Indonesia? I do not know, but I do see him as being delighted in a sadistic way to do so if he can, and then seeing God blamed.
In the same vein, many in the rich western countries think we have what we have because of God’s blessing. This idea started, I propose, when Emperor Constantine was successful after seeing a vision of a cross with the words “In this sign, conquer”. Christians have been conquering ever since in Jesus’ name but is it really with His blessing? I do not know, but Jesus’ command to preach and teach does not square with the word “conquer” in my mind.
What happens in this troubled world is often difficult to understand, and I think we need to be careful to whom we impute cause.
But “Does God Care?”. Jesus’ sacrifice is the answer to that…a resounding YES.
Thank you for the empathy. thx also to @WinstonJones. Yes, Jesus and His sacrifice is the definite and empirical proof of God’s care. It is easier to convince and comfort a victim suffering loss of loved ones, who is a fellow believer, but to a non-believer who views death as the ultimate suffering, would have difficulty coming to terms with these kinda tragedies, let alone God and the Son He sent to the cross for our salvation.
However, I remember personally asking Ravi a different question in the recent RZIM Asia Founders in HK, but I can apply the similar-natured paraphrased answer here. That is the unbeliever has no right to blame God, only mourn and move on, it’s just another blob of matter disintegrating back to nature. But if they believe, or want to believe God by holding Him accountable, then they also have to buy into the fact that God has a much better alternative to this sin-ridden temporal life, and death, even by disaster, is but a sweet release. Otherwise, outside of God, a human has no such hope, nor any rights to claim even a glimmer of it.
Anyway, that’s just me playing a mental ping-pong, asking and trying to answer my own questions and challenging it back and forth as the devil’s and angel’s advocate.
Thanks once again everyone for chipping in. Love these discussions and this platform as well for the opportunities to engage one another intellectually, and hopefully, emotionally as well.