Tuesday, May 21, 2013

If God is good, why didn't He stop the tornado?

It is admittedly hard to read of news where children are killed or harmed. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newton CT this past December 2012 was surely horrific. Reading about the 20 children who died in the Plaza Tower Elementary school yesterday in Moore OK via a EF-5 tornado is also heart-rending.

At times like these, people often ask, “Where is God?” “How could He allow this to happen?” “Is God good?”

I can put it this way. When a serial killer is placed on death row and eventually executed, we say that justice was done. If a person breaking and entering a home is shot by the homeowner, we often say ‘good! He got what he deserved.’

When Korah rebelled against Moses and Aaron, he was rebelling against God. (Numbers 16:3). The LORD told Moses to tell the congregation to separate from Korah, and Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their household and the goods in the household were swallowed up as the earth opened up and took them alive to Sheol. When this happened, we say “God is just and right to do this thing. Korah was performing a moral evil in rebelling against God trough Moses and Aaron.”

When the tornado came and the earth swallowed the children in the bottom of the Plaza Towers Elementary School,” do we say, “God is unjust and bad to do this thing?” No! God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8).

What we cannot fathom, we must trust that the Lord is good and His purposes are good. On the one hand, He directly put down a rebellion by performing a supernatural disaster as He did in the Old Testament.

On the other hand, what of the children in the elementary schools which were razed by the tornado? If they are declared innocent by a righteous God, as Deuteronomy 1:39 and Isaiah 7:16 and also explained here, then why did they have to die? Why did God allow a natural disaster to take them?

And that is where I stopped my essay, many hours ago. I was stuck on the answer myself because I was unsatisfied with saying that sin is a blanket cause for all evil, including natural disasters. Though the sin done n the Garden of Eden was indirectly the cause of the weather patterns turning deadly, how and what are we to think of a deadly tornado such as the one yesterday, more specifically? My theology brought me to an understanding of sin as a reason for the general evil in the world, including disasters such as the Oklahoma tornado. But it wasn't a deep enough answer.

But later today, Dr. Al Mohler wrote today of this exact subject. He said, "But Jesus rejected this as a blanket explanation for suffering, instructing His disciples in John 9 and Luke 13 that they could not always trace suffering back to sin."

What are we to think, then? As I read the rest of Dr. Mohler's essay, that more thorough explanation became clear through his precise and mature understanding of theology. He wrote,
However as Dr. Mohler explains that passages in Luke 13 and John 9 show us that "the problem of evil and suffering, the theological issue of theodicy, is customarily divided into evil of two kinds, moral and natural." [emphasis mine]
The moral problem of evil was exemplified in Korah. Korah's pride and ambition was his undoing. He committed a moral sin and ended up rebelling against God. Suffering ensued for him and his family.

He says that a discussion of both kinds of evil are included in the Luke 13 passage.
"In Luke 13, the murder of the Galileans is clearly moral evil, a premeditated crime–just like the terrorist acts in New York and Washington. In John 9, a man is blind from birth, and Jesus tells the Twelve that this blindness cannot be traced back to this man’s sin, or that of his parents. Natural evil comes without a moral agent. A tower falls, an earthquake shakes, a tornado destroys, a hurricane ravages, a spider bites, a disease debilitates and kills. The world is filled with wonders mixed with dangers. Gravity can save you or gravity can kill you. When a tower falls, it kills."
Further, Mohler wrote,
A venerable confession of faith states it rightly: “God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any way to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.”
But if God is sovereign, doesn't He allow the tornado to occur? How do we reconcile God's sovereignty and our responsibility? We can't really. Not with our finite minds. Mohler answers,
God is God, and God is good. As Paul affirms for the church, God’s sovereignty is the ground of our hope, the assurance of God’s justice as the last word, and God’s loving rule in the very events of our lives: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to His purpose.” [Romans 8:28]

We dare not speak on God’s behalf to explain why He allowed these particular acts of evil to happen at this time to these persons and in this manner. Yet, at the same time, we dare not be silent when we should testify to the God of righteousness and love and justice who rules over all in omnipotence. Humility requires that we affirm all that the Bible teaches, and go no further. There is much we do not understand. As Charles Spurgeon explained, when we cannot trace God’s hand, we must simply trust His heart.
What we do understand is that God is good in having sent His son to die for us. Jesus took upon Himself all sin and exhausted God's wrath for it, and then died, to be accepted by God as the eternal sacrifice for that sin and raised on the third day. He now imputes His righteousness to His saints who believe this Gospel by faith, and it is by that vehicle we declare His righteousness to those who are afflicted and suffering.

He allows us to be His witnesses, the indwelling Holy Spirit glowing and bringing God glory. If we were to see a visible manifestation of His Goodness, would it be in Christians' Spirit lovingly racing TO the place of terror, danger, and devastation, to help their neighbor? Like this photo from the Baltimore Sun, with the lens flares I inserted?


As my friend Pastor Phil wrote yesterday, "May our suffering Oklahoma neighbors and friends see the manifest presence of God in the midst of their suffering, especially through the ministries of Christians."

This is where God is good, and all that Goodness stems back to the only One who is Good, God, who sent His Son. (Mark 10:18).

If we could part the curtain and see His goodness visibly, would it be that we'd see the myriads of ministering angels? Especially at the flattened school? As I try to show with this photo from the Chicago Tribune containing lens flares I put in? (Those aren't floodlights)


Dr. Mohler said,
"The second great error is to ascribe evil to God. But the Bible does not allow this argument. God is absolute righteousness, love, goodness, and justice. Most errors related to this issue occur because of our human tendency to impose an external standard–a human construction of goodness–upon God. But good does not so much define God as God defines good."
Yes, we mourn and we cry when we see the terrible calamity of children killed, neighbors dead, homes lost, and businesses smashed. The heart of the matter is not whether God is good or God is bad, the heart of the matter is repentance. A calamity could happen any day. Like in Luke 13, the tower of Siloam fell on 18 workers constructing it and they died. Jesus said, "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.”" (Luke 13:4-5). Your eternal destiny awaits, are you ready? A tornado could take your life, it is a natural evil that is blind and thoughtless, taking with it into its deadly vortex a child or a sinner or a repented one. Any day, any time. If you do not repent, you shall likewise perish, not just body, but soul

God's goodness is that He made a way for you to escape eternal destruction, no matter the manner of death. That way is Jesus. (John 14:6). Talk about good! It doesn't get any better than the Savior.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further reading or listening

God's Sovereignty and Personal Compassion in Public Tragedy, John Piper
Supernatural Lessons from a Natural Disaster, John MacArthur
Does God control everything? free ebook or free kindle, RC Sproul
Why does God allow bad things to happen? SJ Tuohy
Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? GotQuestions
Why does God allow good things to happen to bad people? GotQuestions

15 comments:

  1. fyi - paraphrase from PPSimmons site..."Gay Pride Week in Oklamhoma" started at 4pm on Sunday May 19 Pentecost...then, the tornado.

    In Jesus,
    Todd

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    1. Hi Todd,

      I understand where you're coming from...but I'm reluctant to ascribe a specific event as the cause to this disaster. I used to as well, but I decided to stop. If we do that, then we should be consistent and expect such a disaster when *every* gay pride event happens. We know God will judge sin but I think it's better to leave His thoughts to Himself as to what He does and why.

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  2. This nation is under judgement because of it's sin's. EVERYBODY will pay, that is the saddest part. Homosexual marriage rebellion and abortion are at the front of the line as to why. Not just this one event Todd, all of it culminated.

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    1. Hi Jeff,

      I agree, God does judge sin. I wonder where we are in the progression of events that's described in Romans 1:18-32. God gives them over...and He pours out His wrath on unrighteousness.I personally think we're pretty far along. But that's the general sense of it. Specifically, I can't say one way or the other.

      But I think it is dangerous to say we know the mind of God and that THIS event is a judgment and THAT event was not, and THE OTHER event was sin and THIS ONE is not....that's just me.

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    2. I agree Elizabeth, but I do believe it safe to say, God hates sin and will judge it, at the appointed time. We do not know when but we can know what.
      I think we are (IMHO) fairly progressed on the timeline given the fact that the "church" in America has given itself over to accommodating the three main sin's above.

      Revelation 2
      To the Church in Thyatira

      18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

      19 “‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. 20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants[c] to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. 24 But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

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  3. Hi again Elizabeth,

    I'm not sure if you have seen this image yet from a movie theater in Moore, Oklahoma…

    http://imgur.com/7ZS9wIC

    Amazing, how literally each of the names of movies (films of ”entertainment”) resemble the situation in Moore.

    In Jesus,
    Todd

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    1. Yikes Todd, that is spooky. Satan is definitely trying to accustom us to his brand of darkness, isn't he!!

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  4. As a believer and having endured severe personal loss myself I have often pondered the Why's and the Where's. My thoughts, like those of others are that answers at most times are elusive or impossible to comprehend. Studying Job brings me to tears at most times, because each time I read it I inch closer and closer to the greatness of our Savior and I understand that all I really have to do is trust. Trust that the Creator, our Father, The Great I AM is sovereign. What He approves to touch my life while here prepares me for eternity in His house. I have decided not to ask "where is God" but Where am I? Where am I in relationship to the Almighty. Will I believe while In the dark, when I don't understand why and I don't know where He is.....Mark 11:22 begins with Have Faith in God.....that's what I must decide to do. John 14:27 Jesus said He gives us His peace, not as the world gives does He give.......In Him we have Peace despite not having the answer as to why, how, or where.

    Amen

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  5. Whose to say what is fair, just or right but God. Man is not perfect, we are a fallen race living in a fallen world with most seeking to please only themselves and not the one that has given us the very breathe of life.
    If God stood back and never intervened at all man would still destroy the world we live in…. But God will intervene else there would not be anyone to survive the disasters that are slated for the coming days.
    It is always hard for some to understand the death of the innocent children but we as human can’t see the whole picture. We know that the destruction that awaits us as shown to us in the Book of Revelation will be horrendous and during this time many will seek death but they will fail in their attempts of suicide; therefore
    I firmly believe that those not of the age of accountability will enter heaven by God’s Grace…They, having been blessed not to hath to live through the Seven Year Tribulation period….
    I believe we are standing at the threshing floor today and I see America destruction as the beginning of the Tribulation period.

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  6. Now that's the answer! Amen, anonymous.

    Pam

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  7. Romans 11:33b: ...How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

    -jared

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  8. In addition to the goodness of God, which is absolutely foundational, one of the 'uber-doctrines' I find useful to rest in, regarding events like these, is the BIGNESS of God. One might call it His 'Alpha-Omega-ness', e.g., His omnipotence, omnipresence and sovereignty, and His role as Creator, completely outside of our space-time bounds.

    Why is that important? Because when I was young, and I got a splinter in my finger (or dropped my pacifier, or some other such thing which sets infants to wailing), it was the WORST THING in my little world. THE WORST.

    As I grew older, and became a parent, I could still empathize when my kids got splinters or dropped their pacifiers, but I KNEW it was NOT the worst thing -- not even close.

    It's important to be careful here, because in our world, there's nothing worse than the death of a child -- a reflection of God's heart on the matter as well.

    But to the degree that we appreciate that our God is NOT of this world, and that He has promised to wipe away every tear in the fullness of time, we can wait just a little more patiently, in faith, knowing that He has in mind much MUCH greater things as a result of our slogging through this broken, groaning creation. He's already defined the worst thing: separation from Him. As a 9-11 Christian, I can mourn for those dead even as I can rejoice at how God used those events in one life: mine.

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  9. My brethren, Please remember that the ruler of this world is and will be until the Second Coming - Satan.

    It frustrates me when people blame God for natural disasters. Or muddy the water with lengthy explanations of sin and God's intervention. No man can know the mind or will of God.

    Until the earth passes away and a curse free earth is delivered, I'm going to continue to place the blame where is belongs - the Great Deceiver.

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    1. Hi Julie,

      Satan certainly does have some power that was given to him by God but he in no way controls weather. You can read the scriptures here that support the concept. http://www.gotquestions.org/weather-Satan.html

      God is ultimately in control. These scriptures and the ones in the essay I linked to above show us this fact.

      "He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed." Psalm 107:29.

      "Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:" Psalms 148:8.

      "But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up." Jonah 1:4

      Here is the explanation of what it means to say satan is god of this age. http://www.gotquestions.org/Satan-god-world.html

      Please do not ascribe satan more power than he has, or deserves. God is in control. And sin does have consequences. Neither of those facts muddy any waters, unless you are looking in the wrong direction. God is not confusion. Satan IS.

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  10. I just wanted to add, as a mother of loss, to both a child before birth, and after birth, though my second born is still alive, that losing a child to death actually isn't the worst thing in this world, so long as the child is under the age of accountability. In my opinion, the two worst losses are either a child stolen, that you know is alive, but that you are denied seeing, denied a relationship with, and you know your child either isn't even told you exist, or is told you're dead, or is told horrible things about you to hate you or not want anything to do with you; and that child rejects you when you finally get the chance to reach out, in love; or the other of what I considered to be of the two worst losses, is that of a loved one missing, that you don't know where they are, what happened to them, if they were kidnapped, or disappeared on their own, and if they're still here, or passed on, if they died by their own hands, or another's or if they died in a tragic accident, that unknowing, is a living hell of torment that just doesn't compare to the loss of a child under the age of accountability, thus you have the guarantee they are safe, in heaven, with The Lord, and knowing they are safe with the Lord, offers the peaceful closure, that makes the grieving easier, and shorter.

    When I hear of young children whom I figure are considered innocent by the Lord, thus are with Him, I don't have as much sorrow because I know they are in a better place. I grieve more for people who are older, who would likely be considered past the age of accountability, and thus, believe it highly likely they aren't with the Lord and aren't going to be. The knowledge of people whose fate is existence without God, pain and suffering, for eternity, that grieves me more than anything, especially because I believe it doesn't have to be that way, that people through their willful rejection of Christ, choose such a fate. :( J.L.

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