Another View of Earthquakes
The images coming out of Haiti the last couple of weeks have been horrifying. I spent some time in that country a few years ago on a mission trip and I find it difficult to comprehend how people who were already suffering greatly can deal with this tragedy. I find the whole situation most distressing.
What I also find distressing is the response that has come from a number of “religious” voices. Some are claiming that the earthquake was God’s judgment on Haiti, that the quake was an agent of God’s wrath. I do not believe such thinking is consistent with the Christian understanding of God nor with good science.
I came across an article on Christianity Today’s website this past week that addresses the issue of why we need earthquakes. (You can find this article at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/may/12.58.html?start=2. ) Here you can read how earthquakes, seaquakes and tsunamis are the consequences of plate tectonics and that without plate tectonics we would have no large mountain ranges or continents. The author makes the claim that “our planet needs plate tectonics to produce the biodiversity that enables complex life to flourish on earth. Without plate tectonics, earth’s land would be submerged to a depth of several thousand feet. Fish might survive in such an environment, but not humans.”
Obviously, earthquakes can be powerful and have the potential to do massive damage to improperly built structures like those you find throughout Haiti. Inadequate infrastructure and building codes has been the real culprit behind Haiti’s loss of life. According to this week’s issue of Newsweek, authorities in Haiti knew a huge earthquake would one day hit their country, but little was done to prepare for it.
Looking at another natural force of consequence, hurricanes for millennia have helped form and shape the beautiful beaches people flock to and want to live near. Those living there often become distressed when hurricanes come their way and cause death and destruction. Some even point angry fingers at God. Such folks remind me of those who smoke and then get angry at God when they get cancer. What did they really expect?
I stand with the Scriptures in affirming that Creation is good and that God is love. In His love He made us the best possible world. We may not fully understand why God has arranged some things the way that He did but how could we; He’s God and we’re not! I hope we can learn to see the goodness inherent in all of God’s Creation and to realize that the apostle Paul was right when he declared that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present or the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
I reject any theology that says God caused this earthquake to punish Haiti. The God Jesus showed us loves those people. As Emmanuel, I even believe that Christ is there in the midst of them now, suffering with them. I also believe that God is calling on folks like you and me to respond to this crisis by praying for those affected by this natural disaster and to make contributions to reputable organizations that are there trying to help out. I, too, want to encourage you to give.
(The image above was taken in Haiti on my visit there. Unfortunately, 98% of their forests have been denuded and in additional to human healing, Haiti needs environmental healing as well.)