Are natural disasters caused, or is their occurrence totally random and uncontrollable? If caused, are they due to actions/inactions of God or those of Man? These again are the hotly debated issues this season of unprecedented natural disasters around the globe. The answers we give will be extremely important as they would inevitably lead into directions and actions that might be very expensive in socioeconomic and spiritual terms as we endeavour to either prevent or at least mitigate the impacts of these natural disasters. An alternative title for this article might have been Role of Man in “Acts of God,” as natural disasters are often labelled.
The Scriptures state, matter-of-factly, that natural disasters would be major features of the end times. Eg Lk 10:27-30. But this does not necessarily mean they would be as form of judgement - as some have suggested that Hurricane Harvey in Texas was divine judgement upon people who voted Donald Trump!
But of course, God might indeed use natural disasters as judgement – as is evident in the plagues preceding Israel’s exodus from Egypt. From the revealed nature of God, natural disasters meant as judgement could be averted or reversed if people would take the response God is demanding – as happened in Nineveh. But how would people repent (see Amos 4:9-12 ) if the Supernatural is a priori ruled out, and momentous natural upheavals (disasters) are never to be discussed in terms of anything beyond the natural?
This not only shuts out explanations in terms of the supernatural, also preclude seeking divine intervention. All attention is thereafter diverted to some poorly defined “climate change” as the culprit. Of course such change is adduced to man’s lifestyle choices. The real problem with this perspective is when it dogmatically limits the culpability of Man in such disruptions of the ecosystems only to his physical activities alone.
The Bible is very clear that God made the planet earth “very good” at inception, and designed sustainability into it. Man was supposed to ensure sustainable development of the planet, by wisely exercising his God-given dominion and generally “tending and keeping the garden” (Gen 2:15). By this fact alone, Man cannot be absolved from blame (if not due to outright commission, then due to omission) from the earth going so wildly out of balance. But it goes much farther than that.
Man’s culpability would extend to other dimensions including significantly in the issue of SIN. Ten years ago, we noted how in discussing pollution of ground water in serious academic fora for instance, the overwhelming contribution of oestrogen used indiscriminately in contraceptive pills is never to be mentioned because, as one expert puts it, “"I'm not going there….This involves people's personal lives, child bearing issues, sex lives and personal choices” In another article, years ago, we referenced a study that showed the significant negative contribution of divorce to the energy use on the planet – for instance two apartments with their utilities are used by separated couples rather than the single they would use if living together. All these issues that are being pushed under the carpet are indeed major determinants in the occurrence of “natural disasters”. And not just that they could on their own throw the ecosystem out of balance and frustrate the sustainability measures designed into our world by the Almighty, the sin issue could indeed provoke God into afflicting the world with such “acts of God” Himself.
Few people would argue that God cannot control the elements – either to cause disasters or avert them. In modern times, the parting of the red sea as recorded in Exodus has been simulated and shown to be perfectly feasible. The fact however here is that the 63 mph East wind that blew for 12 hours leading to the parting of waters at a very strategic geographical location did not happen randomly. God purposely brought it into action to deliver His people. And as one awe-striken Israeli commander was to confess during the 50 day Hamas rocket war of 2014, the winds that suddenly developed sweeping off Hamas rockets away from populated regions into the sea, making the Hamas scientists appear as bungling idiots, certainly had in it the fingers of the God of Israel!
Other people would insist that even Man now has the capability to deliberately cause massive upheavals in the environment through some weather engineering technology such as HAARP (see for instance here, and here). If that is possible, it is still limited to the realm of secret military applications. But clearly even if that were possible, severe limitations in prediction of consequences. Despite all the impressive progress being made in the development of Chaos theory in theoretical physics, attempting to predict the path of a hurricane is not in the same league as the rather elementary task of predicting the path of a solar eclipse. Many obviously don’t know the difference as shown in this article from the incorrigibly irreverent Punch correspondent.
By way of conclusion, we concur that man is centrally culpable in the disruptions in the balance of ecosystem which is now manifesting as natural disasters. However it is simplistic limiting this only to man’s physical lifestyle, such as extensive use of fossil fuel. The significant impacts of his other activities, particularly moral and spiritual issues, must be recognized and factored in.
In sponsoring the LivingScience Foundation, Church Arise! intends that sustainability issues on earth be seriously discussed in holistic, comprehensive and realistic rigorous manner - in the best of scientific tradition.
The bottom-line: one of the incontrovertible clear facts in all this flurry of unprecedented natural disasters is that this is exactly what the Bible says would happen in the end times. They are therefore, irrespective of the underlying causes, a clear pointer that we are in the end times. And when the sum total is taken together, soci-economic, moral, etc. we can literally hear the footsteps of the Lord at the door. The Lord has asked we continue to occupy and manage the planet earth till He finally shows up. The way to do this is to adopt a holistic, comprehensive perspective, keeping the physical, social, and the spiritual dimensions constantly in view and in healthy balance.
Ultimately, we look forward to God’s promise for a brand new planet in the future holy and righteous kingdom to be unfolded soon at Christ’s coming. Will you be a partaker?
And, behold, I come quickly; anreward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. Rev 22:12