Matthew Kettle poses the question How can religious people explain something like this? which to some degree I anticipated in my posts Jesus’ reply to a disaster of his day and Tsunami’s and the sovreignty of God- where is God when it hurts?
These are very important questions. We could of course quite simply dispense with the idea of a sovereign God altogether and re-make God in our own image as the neo-liberals no doubt would. God would become no longer all-knowing and as surprised by the events of boxing day as we were, and no longer all-powerful and incapable of preventing the earthquake. The trouble is to quote a common phrase of the neo-liberals back at them “that is not the kind of God I want to believe in”. Why? Because then God is no longer God and no longer provides any comfort to me to believe in? Yes, that is the case, but the main reason I do not want to believe in such a God un-almighty is that it is not the kind of God the bible teaches me about.
Mat 10:29-31 (NIV) states “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
The notion of a God in heaven controlling (or at least at times restraining and at others allowing) natural disasters whilst not using them to actively punish people quite simply cannot make sense without a biblical view of the afterlife. You have to believe that wrongs allowed to go unchecked on earth will somehow be righted in heaven or you cannot believe that this all-powerful God is really all-loving.
But perhaps the question we should all be asking is not, why did God allow this to happen, but rather why does he stop so many other disasters both natural and man-made?
Jesus’ words which I cited in my previous post on the subject seem to imply that God intends us to wake up to our mortal state and consider as the Puritans used to our own impending death. An event like the boxing day tsunami shows us how foolish man is to think he is somehow immortal and not take precautions. This tragedy was both predictable and avoidable with modern communications networks and early warning systems. Should we blame God for man’s incompetent neglect? There is much folly these days in our approach to risk- for example we spend millions to prevent rail deaths and do nothing about the lethal nature of our roads.
We need to recognise we are all going to die, and do what we can to delay this and lower the risk of an early demise. But more importantly we should ask ourselves the far more important question-
After I die, then what?
Is there an afterlife? Can I know if I will fair well in that afterlife? Is there anything I need to do or believe on earth that will make a difference to what happens to me when it is my turn to die? It is to seek answers to these questions, whilst acknowledging the fact that the world does not seem as it should be that should be the focus of all people, not just the religious.