Mar 18 2011

Mountains and the Way the Planet Works

SeeingCreation-1The terrible destruction and on-going problems in Japan are deservedly in the news. They need our prayers and support.

And it has made me think about God in all of this. Some of the things that photographers love about the natural world include mountains and oceans. Both of which are in abundance in Japan and in Southern California where I live. And those mountains only exist because of the way the earth works, including earthquakes and volcanoes. And part of the wonder of the ocean is also the nature of water which is susceptible to tsunamis.

SeeingCreation-2One reason people like living in places like Japan, Hawaii and California is because of the mountains and the ocean. The forces that made these things are also the same forces that made the volcanoes, earthquakes and so forth. I think it shows we live on a dynamic earth. This certainly argues against a static earth once formed by God and then nothing more happens.

I know that there are some fearful folks who feel that these forces show God’s wrath or that God originally made a perfect planet and now it is stressed by forces of evil (because of the fall of Eden). I find that hard to believe and there is nothing in the Bible that would have me believe that. I know that we all come back to the first part of Genesis, but it truly says that God made what we have and He saw it was good. There are others who would say that this is evidence that there either is no God or a God that doesn’t care. I think that is misreading the “two books of God”, the Bible and nature.

To “make” an earth, a solar system, etc., requires a great deal of energy, regardless of where that comes from. To me, God created the earth and endowed it with certain characteristics, the “laws of nature.” That explains much because the world continues to evolve based on what God started. There is a lot of energy built into our planet. You can’t have mountains and the wonderful variation of this earth without other things going on. Sure, God could arbitrarily change that, but would we want to live in a world that we could not count on? Mountains that appeared suddenly without reason, for example. I think God is smarter than that and sees a bigger picture of things than we can possibly know.

It reminds me of the movie, Bruce Almighty. Bruce thought he could do a better job than God but then he quickly understood that God cannot simply do one thing without affecting many other things. With an intricate system that is our planet, I believe there are things that happen because of the way it is so beautifully integrated, not because God is wrathful or benign. There are causes and effects that cannot be arbitrarily changed without affecting something else. Things like tsunamis and disease happen because of the intricate web of connections, connections so deep that we cannot fully understand them, connections that cannot be arbitrarily cut without changes that could be much, much worse.

That flows into many things we need to consider about our planet today. With a system so intricate that only God truly can understand all of its connections, we really cannot do just one thing without affecting other parts of that system. John Muir and the ecologist, Garret Hardin, said basically the same thing, “You can’t do just one thing.” People want to say, “but it is my right” or “but I own it”, yet those ideas truly do not sit in isolation from the rest of the world anymore. And concerning God’s world, who really owns it and do we have a right to do anything we want? Are we living a man-centered life with attitudes about what is right or wrong based on our limited point of view or do we live a God centered life that understands He is in control and probably knows a little more than we do about our planet?


The images here are from the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, the mountains in Zion National Park in Utah and the Pacific Ocean on the California Coast by Guadalupe Dunes.

— Rob

Jan 24 2010

Another View of Earthquakes

Haiti scenicThe 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 ) 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.)