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Are Tornadoes God’s Judgment on Individual Houses?

February 22, 2009

n158100077_30402341_8203Recently my hometown was the object of a viscous tornado— one of the many that swept through South Georgia recently.  This picture here on the left is the destroyed house of a family that I know back home.  They go to Trinity Anglican Church (a congregation that I served at for two years when they were known as St. Thomas Episcopal Church).  I found this picture on Facebook, so I hope  they are okay!

This may be an inappropriate time to philosophize about the nature of such natural disasters.  Honestly, there’s plenty of that on the internet already.  However, with the recent disaster, I figured I would post my two cents.  Most basically, this issue has to do with the problem of evil, or that problem that evil (moral, but especially natural!) exists in a world that was supposedly made by an all good and all powerful God!  I will not address the issue from an apologetical point of view today, but there are many places to find great answers for those seeking.  Start with Glenn Miller’s site; it addresses almost every conceivable question a seeker could ask.  This post will be theological in nature; so if your not up for reading a slightly lengthy theological “soap box” session, feel free to pass this by.

Often, when disaster strikes, some Christians are quick to claim that this or that disaster was from the hand of God as a judgment on the “world.”  The two clearest examples I can think of are the tsunami that devastated Asia and Hurricane Katrina that wreaked havoc in New Orleans a couple of years back.  The latter disaster is especially noteworthy, because New Orleans is typically considered a hotbed of sin and debauchery.  So, in this instance, the weight of these Christians’ claim is heavier.  One of the clearest examples of this line of thinking is from a well known pastor, who writes concerning God using natural disasters as judgment:

But God commits no crimes when he brings famine, flood, and pestilence on the earth. “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” (Amos 3:6). The answer of the prophet is no. God’s own testimony is the same: “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). And if we ask, is there intelligent design in it all, the Bible answers: “You meant evil . . . but God meant it [designed it] for good” (Genesis 50:20).

(http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee/ByDate/2005/1304_Was_Katrina_Intelligent_Design/)

Now, personally I sympathize with the spirit behind this quote and post (see link).  The author is basically saying that God causes disaster to call humanity to repentance.  Jesus did a similar thing in the gospels.  A group of disciples asked Him about two recent tragedies that had taken place (see Luke 13).  They asked him if these men were worse sinners because of the tragedy.  Now, interestingly enough, Jesus does not say what the ultimate cause of these events are.  He simply says, “I tell you no, but unless you repent, you too will likewise perish.”  Jesus uses the tragedy as a means of shaking up his listeners, calling them to repent.

So, in one sense, people who claim that God causes these events (and they even have scripture to back it up!), use this as an evangelism tool.  Unfortunately, and here is the crux of the matter, if this view is correct, then the people who were destroyed because of it, obviously did come under God’s judgment!  When we go from the general to the specific, we realize that if God causes it (and everything for that matter), then he wanted them dead, or their lives devastated.

Now, this is a problem.  I can only think of two reasons why God would bring that kind of judgment:  if their sin deserved it (and time was up so to speak), or if God felt like teaching a lesson in suffering.  In case one, Jesus refutes that idea clearly.  In case two, the lesson obviously does not work all that well, because most people don’t get it, and secondly, this is an obvious case of negative reinforcement–something that rarely works.  Certainly the God of the universe would know better!

Enter the most recent tornado.  This tornado when on a destructive path, and as most tornadoes do, destroys one house and leaves another completely intact.

n158100077_30402345_3976Now, here is the logic in this claim that God causes all natural disasters:  God must cause them for good reason.  It would be pretty malicious to just fling tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and the like for no reason at all.  (In fairness, let me say that the pastor of the above quote does offer a reason why God does these things; I just think it’s unbiblical and insufficient.)  If God has a good reason, then the people who’s lives are affected, must be the object of God’s causation.   If this house is spared and the above house is destroyed, then God must design that it be so.  There must be a reason that God causes certain people to die and others to be spared (thankfully the family above was not hurt!).  If this is a judgment, then those people who are hit must be an object of judgment for their sinfulness. Yet,  Jesus would disagree with this sentiment.

So, the question is, when this random tornado hits, is God judging those whose houses were obliterated?  I would answer no.  If they are “no worse sinners” then those whose houses survived (in fact they are faithful Christians), then I would argue that God’s judgment has not fallen in the case of this tornado.  It just happened.  And therefore, if this much smaller natural disaster is not God’s judgment on sin, then I would argue (from the lesser to the greater) that neither is the tsunami or Hurricane Katrina.

That does not answer the question of if these disasters could be God’s divine “object lessons” for humanity, and because “trials and tribulations” do often strengthen our faith this question is harder to answer.  I would like to address this issue in a future post (hopefully soon).  However, I would boldly say, that these disasters are NOT God’s judgments on sin.  God did that already (next post).

In my opinion, the above verses from the Old Testament must be qualified (they are being used as proof texts), and so next post, I will share my thoughts (remember, it is only two cents worth!), and what I think about natural disasters and these verses.

So, in answer to the question, are tornadoes God’s judgment on individual houses?  I believe the answer is no.  More to come.

 

 

(These are actually from a friend that lives in my neighborhood, and the bottom one is a school bus at my old school.  No one was in it!)

“Lord, may your presence be with all who were affected.  Bring good out of evil, for that is how You work!”

Be safe.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2009 10:41

    surprisingly, I finished reading it and looking forward to the next one..that these are not God’s judgments on sin. God did that already??!!

    very interesting, but I’m not your big fan yet. I guess it depends on the topic and because of my limitation but I like the thoughts:)

    • jonathangroover permalink*
      February 24, 2009 6:27

      Thanks Ja for making it through this “long” post! 🙂

  2. chrismart28 permalink
    March 2, 2009 11:35

    It is said that the majority of individuals who reject Christianity do so on the basis that they cannot come to terms with a loving, all-encompassing God and a world brimming with evil of every conceivable sort. Your post, I felt, was an admirable summary on a subject which could easily fill endless volumes- keep writing!

    • jonathangroover permalink*
      March 2, 2009 3:39

      Thanks man! I’m starting the second and I realize why there are volumes written on it. It can keep going forever. But it’s always worth it to raise a few issues. 🙂

  3. bella permalink
    April 3, 2009 4:00

    There are tornado watches going through my town right now. I am terrified but I know God is with me. All I can do is pray but I don’t want to die at such a young age. I have never been in a tornado and I hope God will protect me. Please pray for me and my family.

  4. Kyle From Silverton permalink
    May 5, 2011 6:49

    I always wondered that too since I am into studying natural disasters and I feel there are forces we cannot yet see and someday that will someday get recognized if we do not go into an electronics dark age.

    We are all taught or drilled into our thick skills that cause and effect do not have an effect on our lives but that is not only complete BS but is actually not biblical.

    Ask real Jesus.com has a very good article on how karma or *You reap what you sow* can effect the balance of our planet earth depending on your thoughts and intentions like the middle east has stored lots of negative karma from allowing themselves to feel their battle is an *Us vs Them* and the energy cannot magically remove itself unless a higher being is willing to *borrow* the karmic debt for us.

    I am surprised yet not surprised that many of Jesus’s original teachings have been banned from most churches because it contains too much knowledge for common folk to handle so we now have the canonized version of the bible which only contains the minimum amount of information to have faith on Jesus.

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  1. Old Testament Prophecy and Tornadoes « You can take everything I have..

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