What Causes Natural Disasters?

Yesterday evening Leonora and I attended the weekly meeting of the Life group hosted by Roland and Sherry Loder. Eight attended, and we worked through the following discussion sheet on the section of Randy Alcorn’s If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? booklet called “What Causes Natural Disasters?”. The discussion was preceded and followed by singing and prayer. Everyone seemed to enjoy both the discussion and the singing.

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Life Group — If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? (pages 22-24) — December 12, 2013

Our Life group is currently studying the problem of evil and suffering guided by a booklet by Randy Alcorn called If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? and based on his book If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Multnomah Books, 2009). Here is how the booklet defines the problem of evil and suffering:

If God is good and all-knowing and all-powerful, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? Surely he wants to prevent it, knows how to prevent it, and has the ability to prevent it. So why hasn’t he? (booklet, page 13)

This week we’re going to read and discuss a section in the booklet called “What Causes Natural Disasters?” (booklet, pages 22-24). Below is an outline of what we’ll do in the study.

Opening
I’ll read page 84 of the book and we’ll discuss this question, which is adapted from a question asked in the first paragraph of the section in the booklet:
? – How could God allow the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines?

God’s and People’s Roles in Natural Disasters
I’ll read from “Natural disasters…” on page 22 to “…against God” on page 24 of the booklet.
I’ll read what Alcorn says in the book (pages 86-89) about these aspects of the topic:
– God is sovereign over all nature.
– <i>Sometimes</i> God uses natural disasters to punish evil.
– Even when Satan is behind natural disasters and diseases, God hasn’t relinquished his world-governing power.
– Some disasters fall on the blameless.
We’ll discuss this question:
? – What are God’s and people’s roles in natural disasters?

Transformations Resulting from Natural Disasters
I’ll read the paragraph beginning “Still” on page 24 of the booklet and, if time permits, pages 89-90 of the book.
I’ll read the paragraph beginning “We” on page 24 of the booklet and, if time permits, page 91 of the book.
We’ll discuss this question:
? – How should we respond to natural disasters?

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Opening

Reports on the devastation and deaths caused by such natural disasters as earthquakes, floods, forest fires, and hurricanes are regular features of the news. A common reaction to them is, “Why did God let it happen?” — a question which suggests that if God is as loving and powerful as the Bible pictures Him to be He would prevent or at least limit the effect of such disasters.

“How could God allow the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines?” – Our discussion of this question brought out most of the ideas expressed by Alcorn in the section. The discussion was personal because those present included my wife, whose family lives in the Philippines, and a lady whose husband and son had recently died in a car accident brought about by slippery roads.

God’s and People’s Roles in Natural Disasters

In my July 26 post, “How Evil and Suffering Are Related,” I noted that Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden resulted in suffering by them (and us) and a curse on the natural world. God announced these when He spoke to Adam and Eve on meeting with them after they ate of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:16-19). Alcorn observes that the curse on the natural world will remain until the day when “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Romans 8:20-21; quoted on page 22 of the booklet). The passage’s context identifies that day as when God’s people are glorified (Romans 8:18-23). Note that all quotations of Bible passages in this post are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Alcorn goes on to observe that our sinful actions and misuse of land sometimes make things worse (booklet, page 23).

He makes these additional observations about God’s and others’ roles in natural disasters in his book (pages 86-89):

– God is sovereign over all nature. For example, Jesus said of Him, “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Thus, although nature may ordinarily follow natural laws and Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31), God is over them.

– Although God sometimes uses natural disasters to punish evil (Alcock gives several examples on pages 86-87 of the book), usually they are general results of the curse on the natural world and not linked to the sins of those who suffer from them. For example, Jesus said, “Those eighteen on whom the tower of 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” (Luke 13:4-5a).

– Satan may sometimes bring about natural disasters. For example, Job 1:13-19 indicates that he was behind the fire from heaven and great wind that brought destruction to Job’s family and livestock. However the preceding verses (Job 1:6-12) bring out that Satan was allowed to do these things only with God’s permission, showing that God remained sovereign.

– Disasters can affect the blameless. Again, this is illustrated by what happened to Job, whom the Bible describes as “blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1).

“What are God’s and people’s roles in natural disasters?” – Although I hadn’t read to the group what Alcorn said about the topic on pages 86-89 of his book, our discussion brought out most of the ideas contained in them.

Transformations Resulting from Natural Disasters

Next Alcorn observes that transformations may occur in the aftermath of natural disasters–initiating self-examination, bringing out the best in people, and leading to spiritual examination (booklet, page 24).

Alcorn concludes by observing that a world without personal tragedies and natural disasters would produce no heroes and by encouraging readers to help those affected by them (booklet, page 24).

“How should we respond to natural disasters?” – I didn’t read from pages 89-91 of the book and we didn’t discuss the question, our feeling that the two paragraphs on page 24 of the booklet provided a good conclusion to our study.

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