Monday, May 30, 2011

Did God cause the Joplin Tornado?

Some people think the tornado in Joplin, the fire in Slave Lake, Alberta, the Earthquake in Japan, etc. are all caused by God to show his displeasure in humanity or that particular community. I would like to state my objection to such notions and my belief that they are contrary to our Catholic faith.

God IS the initial cause of all things on Earth, so in a sense he is responsible for hurricanes. But it is important to distinguish between God's permissive will, which are things God allows to happen but does not cause, and his ordained will, which are things God specifically wills and acts to create.

I think these natural disasters easily fall under the category of God's permissive will. He set into motion the laws of physics which govern how to world works. These include volcanoes, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, floods, etc. They may seem to cause a lot of destruction, but they are necessary for the Earth to function properly. Without these natural occurrences, the Earth simply would not exist at all.

It may seem bad to us, but ultimately it's a good thing. For another example, let's look at nature. Sometimes things look messy or unpleasant, like when a lion kills an antelope. There's lots of blood and the antelope dies. But in the long run this is a good thing because it allows the food chain to continue.

Also, although these deaths are tragic, we must remember that no one lives forever on this Earth. We must always be prepared to meet God. So far in Joplin, there have been 142 confirmed deaths. These people died in an unexpected way. However, many people die in other ways each year in the United States. For example, in 2009, 33,808 people were killed in car crashes in the country. Obviously, it's crucial that people are always ready.

If God caused the Joplin tornado, did he also cause the deadly traffic accidents? Does he cause the deaths of people who die of old age? Unless one says God steps in to cause each of these deaths, I do not think it is reasonable to attribute to God only certain deaths which come in the form of natural disasters.

The Catholic understanding is that the fall of Adam and Eve is what brought death into the world. This is because of the stain of original sin. But there's good news! Jesus Christ came to pay the price for our sins so that we can enter into heaven.

People sometimes also try to look for signs for the end of the world. But this seems to me to be a pointless activity. First of all, the end of the world doesn't matter in one sense because when a person dies, that's the end of "their" world. Also, the Bible clearly states, in the words coming from Jesus himself, that no one knows the day or the hour of the end of time. So my suggestion is to stop guessing. :)

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