Jewish Journal


March 11, 2011

God and tsunamis


If you’re like me, you went to bed watching cable news last night and woke up to more images of the devastation in Japan. The scenes are evocative of the Sumatra tsunami six years ago, though, thankfully, the death toll is currently much, much lower.

I live a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, so the tsunami watch for Southern California caught my attention. But I think that when disasters of this magnitude strike it’s difficult not to think about much bigger issues. Like, why if God is good does He let such awful things happen to His people?

I wrote a story about this back in 2005. As I’ve seen fit before, I think it’s relevant to excerpt it again here:

A natural disaster is, for many, the ultimate test of faith. For others, it is dramatic validation that either God doesn’t exist or that he is a sadistic supreme being.

In the past year, humanity has been rocked by a tsunami-spawning earthquake, two monster hurricanes in the U.S. Gulf Coast and the massive quake in Pakistan. In 2003, Southern Californians fell into their own hell when wildfires raged from Ventura County to eastern San Diego County, including the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains.

“If there was a God, how come he let all that happen?’ Tom Cotton, 51, of Pinion Hills asked while finishing a burger at a Carl’s Jr. in San Bernardino.

“If it’s his plan,’ Cotton said, scanning the restaurant as if he was going to curse, “he’s sure got a messed-up plan.’

God only knows what that plan might be.

“If God is wiser than we, His judgment must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil,’ C.S. Lewis, the Christian philosopher and children’s author, wrote in “The Problem of Pain.’ “What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His Eyes, and what seems to us to be evil may not be evil.’

Lewis begins the book by stating that when he was an atheist, he, too, believed God was either cruel or a farce.

“If you ask me to believe that this is the work of a benevolent and omnipotent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction.’

Tsunamis, more than any other “act of God” raise questions about the Genesis story of the flood and God’s first covenant with all of mankind: that he would never flood the entire Earth again. So what to make of such destruction?

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