Of all the questions being asked in the wake of the Japanese tsunami, one was entirely predictable. But it’s the wrong one to ask.
Several days after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, we are just now beginning to understand the scope of the devastation -- the loss of life, the annihilation of entire communities, and even more ominously, the threat of meltdowns at Japanese nuclear facilities. Predictably, seismologists and nuclear engineers are all over the airwaves explaining what happened and what might happen next -- and we should be grateful for their input.
And just as predictably, but far less welcome, the chattering atheist class is once again mocking those of us who believe in God. Why would our so-called good God permit such a catastrophe? Sigh. It’s amazing how much time some people spend railing against a God they don’t believe exists.
Well, for those of us who assume He exists, let’s take a look at what happened. The biblical worldview teaches that God created the heavens and the earth and that the physical creation, reflecting its rational creator, behaves according to observable laws. As a result of observing these laws and principles, we know much about plate tectonics and how earthquakes occur. And we know that they are a result of natural processes. We also know that we human beings are made in God’s image, blessed with reason and with certain creative gifts which we can use in this world we’ve been placed in.
Now, will we be able one day to stop earthquakes? No. That’s the ultimate hubris to think that we humans can rearrange the God-created order on such a scale. But as rational beings made in God’s image, we can learn how to better detect earthquakes, how to respond to them, and how to build buildings better able to withstand them.
We know as well that as rational beings created in God’s image, we enjoy free will. It’s essential to our being human. With that free will we knowingly build cities on already-known fault lines. We also build homes in hurricane zones. I live in one. Lots of farmers farm in the Midwest, knowing it is tornado alley. But that’s their livelihood, and that’s what they do. They take that risk.
When a hurricane wreaks havoc in my community, do I complain that God allowed this to happen? No. I know that hurricanes are a natural phenomenon that occurs because of climactic changes and shifting winds and temperature gradients -- all of those things which can now be clearly demonstrated to be physical laws of the universe. So I can’t blame anybody.
But as a Christian, what do I do when disaster strikes? I pray for the victims, console the grieving, and love my neighbor created in God’s image. That is, I get to work and help those in need. And I have no doubt that Christians -- those who follow a God whom the atheists call cruel and inhumane -- will be in the vanguard of helping the hurting in Japan because He has taught us to love one another on this beautifully created, intricately complex, and even sometimes dangerous planet on which we live, and because humans are, after all, the crown of creation.
As the Psalmist writes, “When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established; what is man that thou art mindful of him? Yet thou hast made him a little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor.”