Should We Blame God for Natural Disasters?

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Within weeks, nine western states have battled forest fires while two record-breaking hurricanes have inundated our southern and eastern coastlines with water. On August 25, Hurricane Harvey struck Houston, Texas in what the Washington Post called an unprecedented “1,000-year flood event”, dropping more than 50 inches of rain within a few days.[1][2] One week later, the largest forest fire in the history of Los Angeles was ignited on September 1.[3] And two weeks later, Hurricane Irma traveled directly up the entire state of Florida. Boasting wind speeds of up to 185 mph, this 400-mile-wide, category 5, super-hurricane is the second most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record.[4][5] Although it was lowered to a category 4 storm by the time it made landfall in Florida, 650,000 Florida residents were ordered to evacuate their homes in anticipation of up to 15-foot storm surges.[6][7]

As we stand in the wake of catastrophic devastation, it is natural that we question God’s role in natural disasters. In a conversation on the Jim Bakker Show, Founder of Morning Star Ministries Rick Joyner and televangelist Jim Bakker agreed that Hurricane Harvey is a judgment from God. Jim Bakker admitted, “I have felt – and I was afraid to share with anybody – that this flood is from God. It’s a judgment on America somehow.”[8] Likewise, anti-LGBT activist Pastor Kevin Swanson argued that Hurricane Harvey is God’s judgment upon Houston for its recent aggressively pro-LGBT mayor, its persecution of churches and pastors, and its refusal to politically stand against transgenderism.[9]

It is common, in the aftermath of any severe natural disaster, for some to boldly declare it to be God’s judgment upon evil deeds. Like Elijah, it is easy to assume that God must be communicating through major events. However, Elijah failed to find God in the whirlwind, the earthquake, or the fire, finding Him instead in the sound of a low whisper (1 Kings 19:11–12). Bad things happen because we live in a fallen world that is subject to the effects of sin, and it is unfair to blame God for them all (Rom. 8:19–22). Nevertheless, there are times when God does choose to use calamity to accomplish His will.

This article is excerpted from the paper “Does God Use Natural Disasters to Judge People and Nations?

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. Samenow, Jason. “Harvey is a 1,000-Year Flood Event Unprecedented in Scale.” The Washington Post, August 31, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2017/08/31/harvey-is-a-1000-year-flood-event-unprecedented-in-scale/?utm_term=.fbc16ecc49da.

2. Rocheleau, Matt. “What Would Happen If Boston Got 50 Inches of Rain?” The Boston Globe, August 30, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/08/30/boston-got-inches-rain-all-swimming/TvGqCtjiKRDCtFJQ2DsJtO/story.html.

3. “Los Angeles Wildfires: City Battles ‘Largest Fire in History’.” BBC, September 4, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41143987.

4. Berkowitz, Bonnie, Laris Karkilis, Reuben Fischer-Baum and Chiqui Esteban. “Hurricane Irma: How Big is It?” The Washington Post, n.d. Last updated September 8, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/national/how-big-is-hurricane-irma/?utm_term=.ec430025b682.

5. Etehad, Melissa. “How Hurricane Irma became the Second-Strongest Atlantic Hurricane on Record.” Los Angeles Times, September 6, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-hurricane-irma-explained-20170906-htmlstory.html.

6. Regan, Adam. “Hurricane Irma Could Create One of the Largest Mass Evacuations in U.S. History.” USA Today, September 7, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/09/07/hurricane-irma-evacuations-florida/643045001/.

7. Danner, Chas. “Irma’s Path Shifts to Florida’s Southwest Coast, Catastrophic Storm Surge Expected.” New York Magazine, n.d. Last Updated September 9, 2017. Accessed September 12, 2017. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/09/hurricane-irmas-path-shifts-to-floridas-southwest-coast.html.

8. Taylor, Sarah. “Televangelist Jim Bakker on Hurricane Harvey: ‘Flood is from God,’ a ‘Judgment on America’.” The Blaze, September 7, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017. http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/09/07/televangelist-jim-bakker-on-hurricane-harvey-flood-is-from-god-a-judgment-on-america/.

9. Mantyla, Kyle. “Kevin Swanson: Hurricane Harvey is God’s Judgment on Houston for Having a ‘Very Aggressively Pro-Homosexual Mayor.” Right Wing Watch, August 31, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2017. http://www.rightwingwatch.org/post/kevin-swanson-hurricane-harvey-is-gods-judgment-on-houston-for-having-a-very-aggressively-pro-homosexual-mayor/.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.