Natural disaster pose tremendous public challenges to the Christian faith. Right now religious people are being mocked on social media by people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the one of the newest champions of secularism, Muslim atheist, Ali Rizvi, because we are calling for prayer in response to Hurricane Harvey. I’m sure they will turn up the volume even more over the destruction of Hurricane Irma.
We need to differentiate between easy answers and accurate ones, comfortable answer and comforting ones. To say, “well people are suffering, so there is no God is an easy answer.” To respond with, “hurricanes, floods, hunger and disease are the judgment of God is also an easy answer. ” I believe for those of us, who have seen the powerful evidence of God, in spite of pain the mocking could serve to sharpen our spirituality.
I think the best illustration of a natural disaster and the complexity of a right response is found in the ancient story of Job & his family recorded in the book named after him. All of Job’s 10 children died in a natural disaster. There was a windstorm that blew down the house. Job was confronted with the fact that because of a natural disaster, there are 10 fresh graves on the hilltop. So now what is he going to do?
Here’s Job’s response, in Job 1:20-22, “At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Here’s Job’s wife’s response, “Job 2:9-10 “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
By the way, calamity, human suffering and devastation, should send us down the path of soul searching. The world needs the community of faith to engage in the conversation of the meaning of life more than ever when everything is blowing up. Here’s a few realities that may have helped Job to worship when a tornado killed all his children and disease wracked his body; they are the thoughts that steady me in a storm.
- Our faith in the existence of God was never based on prosperity, tranquility and human flourishing in the first place.
The Christian faith in particular was borne out of the disaster of the cross, when corrupt politics and irrational public hysteria converged to kill the one, that even atheists agree was, at least a very good man. We don’t doubt that a child has parents if we see them get struck by an automobile, instead we go looking for them. Over and over again the Bible records God acting redemptively after the crisis. My church is filled with people who came to faith because something bad happened and they turned to God.
- The Bible actually prophesize disasters alongside promises of comfort and commands for us to be comforters.
I often say, “when the Bible says, God is near the broken hearted it is warning you that hearts will be broken.” It is a perversion of the Christian faith that says well developed faith makes people immune from suffering. Jesus actually established his credibility by accurately foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Titus in 70 AD. The Bible even foretells that the a new age for planet earth will be preceded by an event called, “the great tribulation.” Just because we don’t like something, doesn’t make it less true.
- I think the Judeo/Christian belief story is the most humane and compassionate of all belief stories.
I find it interesting that in my social media back and forth with atheist and secularist right now I cannot interest them in a discussion about Darwinism. Can you guess why? I think it’s simply because they know Darwinism is a belief story with less actual evidence than intelligent design. So while they accuse us of believing in myths they don’t want to have defend the biggest myth of all, that humans simply evolved from lower life forms.
The secular atheist narrative actually teaches (though none will admit it right now) that disasters serve to eliminate the weak and less intelligent for the ultimate creation of a super race that will eventually achieve utopian dreams. It’s no accident that the pervasive doctrine of evolution has resulted in the attempted deconstruction of all societal norms. The Christian belief story says that the pain and destruction in our planet is caused by the rebellion of mankind and the presence of sin. But that’s only half the story. The better half of the Christian belief story is that Jesus Christ and his servants come alongside suffering humanity to offer love, redemption and hope; which is why I think big Christian organizations like “Convoy of Hope,” “Samaritan’s Purse,” and “World Vision,” show up for natural disasters while the big atheist groups like “People for the American Way,” and the “Freedom From Religion Foundation,” are strangely absent.
In all of human history, Godlessness has yet to produce goodness, which is one of the main reasons I’m sticking with God, even when I don’t understand him and even when he really frustrates me.