“How could God do this?” “What is God doing?” “Why would God let this happen?” There are all easily conceived questions that have certainly been asked by many in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami, and ongoing nuclear peril in Japan. In this post I am not going to endeavor to answer them, but wish to address what such questions reveal about man and the existence of God.
Context is everything. In the mouth of an atheist or agnostic the above questions are meant as indictments. They are not so much questions as they are accusations. How can you believe in all-powerful, all-good deity with things like this going on? Such belief is foolish. Certainly this demonstrates no such “God” exists. But in the mouth of a believer, such questions can be honest inquiry into the purpose of tragedy in the divine providence.
But the ragings of an atheist and the questions of the pious both point to something all men have in common: an innate belief that things are not the way they should be. Such unease is latent in all at all times. Hence, the quiet desperation with which the lives of men are lead. But it swells up and reveals itself in times such as these. Why should this be so?
We understand when we see survivors in Japan distraught. We are not surprised at their grief, their questions, or their doubt. But why should others around the world have a similar reaction? Why should I care so much about an event that will likely have a very negligible impact upon me personally? What has happened in Japan has done nothing to measurably impact my life nor the life of the vast majority of the other 6 billion plus people on the globe. But we all share a common response-though certainly not as deep as those immediately affected-of grief and questioning. Why is this so?
I believe Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck is correct in asserting, “…whether people favor a Christian or a humanistic, a positivistic or a historical-materialistic view of history, they always proceed from the belief that history is not a product of fate or chance but guided by a firm hand toward a definite goal.” And again, “…it is noteworthy that belief in guidance and purpose in history is inerdicably implanted in the human heart and an indispensable component in the philosophy of history.”
The very notion of “tragedy” is a demonstration that things in the earth are not as they should be. This notion implies that all have a concept of the way things should be. Everyone knows innately that such things should not happen. Where would such knowledge come from? Would such knowledge come from a big explosion and billions of years of accidents, mutations, and extinctions? A reasoned evolutionist or materialist should never feel such angst. These things happen. It’s just the law of the jungle.
Such dissonance in the soul is best explained by the very existence of the all-powerful, all-good God these events cause us to question. If there is no such Being, these kinds of events should really cause us no bother at all. If there is no such God, the sudden violent death of thousands of people should not bother me at all, it just means more resources for my consumption and survival.
But when our soul cries out in pain with those who suffer we witness to the truth of God’s revelation. We witness to the truth of Genesis 1-3: that this world is not what it is meant to be. We witness to the truth of Romans 8: that the entire creation groans under the burden of sin. We witness to the hope of Revelation 21: that one day all things will be made new.
The fact that mankind grieves at tragedies like the one Japan has suffered is best explained by belief in what Scripture reveals about God and his creation. That men question God demonstrates he exists. That we mourn tragedy demonstrates its foreignness in God’s plan. This is not what God intended. And man knows it.