Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Does God cause all natural disasters and sicknesses?

Does God cause all natural disasters and sicknesses?

Question: Does God cause all natural disasters and sicknesses? Or is nature just on autopilot since Creation? I have a hard time believing there is a middle ground. If all natural disasters are caused by Him, what about all weather patterns (each drop of rain, each period of drought, every temperature level in every location which indirectly affects our ecosystem indefinitely)? This question hinges significantly on the sovereignty of God issue - God can, of course, cause a tornado in Oklahoma that kills people, but does He? Everyone wants to say that God would never purposefully send a person to Hell, but in those scenarios He does, because those people could accept Him at some point in the future.

I will answer this question by simply listing some verses in an order that makes sense. Then I will give a brief description at the end. Hopefully this will prompt you to study these passages further. The one that helps make the most sense, if you look at it in detail, is the first couple chapters of Job.

God is in control

Colossians 1:17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

Hebrews 1:3 Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 

Mat 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

Summary: Every ounce of our being is held together by God's power. That doesn't sound like autopilot to me.

Natural Laws

Genesis 1:14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

Genesis 8:22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

Psalm 74:16-17 The day [is] thine, the night also [is] thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.

Psalm 104:19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.

Psalm 119:91 (see context of verse 90) They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all [are] thy servants.

Psalm 148:6 (see context) He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.

Jeremiah 31:35 Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, [and] the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts [is] his name:

Jeremiah 33:25 Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant [be] not with day and night, [and if] I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth;

Examples: laws of life (biogenesis; Genesis 1), chemistry, planetary motion, physics, mathematics, logic, uniformity of nature.

Summary: God has setup natural laws that govern the universe. Might seem like the universe is running on autopilot, but remember Colossians 1:17.

Cause of suffering and natural disasters

Romans 8:22 (see context) For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

Summary: The ultimate reason for all death and suffering in the world is Adam's sin, passed down to us (Romans 5:12). Since I already know that God is in control, He obviously allowed it to happen.

God creates evil vs time and chance

Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].   (compare evil in Isaiah 47:11)

Psalm 148:8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:

Ecc. 9:11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race [is] not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Summary: In this case, evil is bad storms and the like. God clearly creates those things. Ecclesiastes is not saying that time and chance means that God is not in control, but that good things and bad things happen to everyone.

Hand of the Lord vs hand of the Devil (Job)

Job 1:11-12 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath [is] in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

Job 1:16 While he [was] yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.

Job 1:21-22 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.

Job 2:3-6 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that [there is] none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he [is] in thine hand; but save his life.

** Was it God or Satan afflicting Job????

Summary: Satan did it, but Job said it was the Lord and Job 1:22 says Job spoke correctly. Therefore, saying that God afflicted Job when it was actually the Devil is a very accurate statement. But how can this be? See next point ...

The Devil as a tool in God’s hand

Isaiah 10:5 O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. (see context, and verse 15)

God using others -- Jeremiah 51:15-23

Zechariah 14:2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

Romans 13 - the powers that be are ordained of God

Summary: Even the Devil is just a tool in the Master's hand. God is working all things, even our sin, even the Devil's evil plans, for God's own purposes and glory. That's how wonderfully powerful and glorious God really is.

End Summary: Sickness, death, and disasters are ultimately caused by man’s sin.  But God is in control and every ounce of our being exists by His power.  Even though the Devil or the laws of nature are working in our world, the Bible attributes it to God.  Even the Devil is just a tool in the Master’s plan.  The laws of nature, the Devil, and others are really just “powers that … are ordained of God”.  So yes, God sends the hurricane and tornado that kills people because the “powers that be are ordained of God”.  God has allowed certain powers (the Devil, the laws of nature, etc.) to be in control, but it is still God on the throne and in charge.  If this seems unfair, remember that the original cause of all death and suffering is our sin, but Christ took the curse for us on the cross (Galatians 3:13).  If God is to blame for allowing/making these bad things happen (and I’m not saying that He is), remember that it is because of our sin but God took care of it all on the cross when He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins, something planned by God before the foundation of the world.

In short, it is a bit more complex than a simple yes or no God causes suffering. But in the Biblical answer, I see the wonderful message of the gospel of Christ - who died on the cross for our sins (the cause of all the world's problems) and rose from the dead - that we might have the promise of eternal life.

Short Answers To Tricky Verses On Election, Predestination, and Foreknowledge

The following verses supposedly support Calvinism on election, predestination, and foreknowledge

Purpose: To quickly show you that not one of the controversial verses in the Bible says or hints that God chose who would believe in Jesus Christ. The purpose is NOT to give you a detailed explanation of each verse or cover all the difficulties of each passage.

John 1:12-13
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
  • Verse 13 is the controversial one, but it does not prove Calvinism at all.  When it says “nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man” it is talking about the new birth, NOT believing in Jesus.
  • Verse 13 is saying that you can’t will the new birth.  You can believe on Jesus (verse 12), but you can’t will the new birth.
  • After you believe on his name, God makes you born again, something you can’t force.  If believing in Jesus didn't cause the new birth, then you couldn't force the new birth to happen no matter how hard you tried.  This is not Calvinism and this is the first verse to really understand because it lays the foundation for the rest. John 1:13 is NOT saying you can't willingly believe on his name, but you can't will the new birth. Very plain.

Acts 2:23
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
  • In this verse those who crucified Jesus fulfilled the “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”.  But this has little to do with who would or would not believe in Jesus.
  • Very similar to what Joseph said in Genesis 50:20, which see.
  • This doesn't prove anything about Calvinism's irresistible grace where God forces you to believe on Jesus, just that God who knows the future can work all things according to His own purposes and glory.

Romans 8:29-30
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
  • The verse does NOT say he predestinated us to believe in Jesus.  It says He predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son (total fulfillment still future - see verse 23).  There is nothing in the verse that says God chose who would believe in Jesus.
  • Calvinists will try to use verse 30 to say the order of events is:  regeneration → faith → justification / new birth / salvation.  They switch faith and regeneration to prove their point of irresistible grace.
  • But the order of the verse is foreknowledge → predestination → called → etc.  Foreknowledge precedes predestination, which weakens the Calvinist argument considerably.
  • Also, a Calvinist will define “called” as “effectual calling” (irresistible grace), given the wording in this verse “who he called, them he also justified”.  But what in the verse says that “called” means God chose who would believe in Jesus?  Called could easily mean “called to be saints” Romans 1:7.  In other words …
  • Nathan Ham Summary: God pre-determined that those who believe in Jesus would be conformed to the image of His Sons, called saints/holy, justified, glorified. A Calvinist would have to very clearly prove that "called" means his idea of irresistible grace, which definitely does NOT fit all the times that "called" is used in the New Testament.
    Once again, there is nothing in the passage that clearly says God chose who would believe in Jesus.

Ephesians 1:4-5
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
  • Chosen us when?  Before the foundation of the world.
  • Chosen us where?  In Him (Christ).
  • Chosen us to what?  Believing on Jesus?  No!!!  Chosen us to be Holy and without blame and to be adopted as His children.
  • In other words, before He made the world God chose that those in Christ would be holy, without blame, His children, etc.
  • The key is how to get in Christ so you get those things.  That’s where the new birth comes in (remember John 1 above).
  • Again, this verse says nothing about God choosing who would or would not believe in Jesus, but God choosing what would happen to those in Christ.

Ephesians 1:11
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
  • Once again, there is nothing in the verse that says God predestinated us to believing in Jesus.  He predestinated us to obtain an inheritance.

2 Thessalonians 2:13
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
  • Oh no, doesn’t this prove calvinism??!!!!  No, silly.
  • Chosen to believe?  No.  Chosen to salvation.
  • How?
  • Chosen through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth.
  • So God chose you to be saved through sanctifiction of the spirit and belief of the truth.  It doesn’t say God chose you to believe.  It says God chose "you" to salvation ("you" meaning the brethren he is writing to, who have already believed on the Lord).  That is not calvinism.  Very similar meaning to the John 1 passage above.

1 Peter 1:2
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
  • Elect to believing in Christ?  No.
  • It says we are elect to OBEDIENCE and sprinkling of the blood of Christ.

Then we are left with the “difficult” passage in Romans 9.  But notice that NOT ONE TIME does Romans 9 say that God, in every single case, chose who would believe in Jesus.  All Romans 9 says is that God can do what He wants because He is God.  But it doesn’t prove calvinism at all.  Actually, the context of Romans 9 is Jews vs Gentiles. A Calvinist would probably try to poke many holes in what I just said, but my purpose isn't to give a complete argument. I simply want you to show me a clear verse where God said that He chose, in every single case, who would believe in Jesus. You can't find the verse because it doesn't exist.

Remember, my purpose is not to tackle every difficulty of every controversial verse on the topic of Calvinism. Go back and read those verses listed above. Not a single time in any of those passages does God clearly say He would always choose who would believe in Jesus. Every single time it is clearly God choosing the BENEFITS of those who believe in Christ. This point significantly weakens the Calvinist argument.

More importantly, don't believe me. Don't believe any author. Believe the words of God in context. Next time someone tells you the passage says something that fits his doctrinal views, just read the words and see if it does.