Hurricanes, Earthquakes, and Wild Fires

I’ve read up to 1 King 19. Elijah feared for his life and complained about being the lone follower of YHWH. God revealed himself to him not through a great and strong wind that “tore into the mountain and broke the rocks in pieces” (v.11), nor in an earthquake, nor in a fire. “After the fire a small voice,” and YHWH spoke to him (v.12).

Major hurricanes tore through the Caribbean and devastated islands, small nations, Puerto Rico, and parts of Texas and Florida. Earthquakes shook Mexico, killing hundreds. Wild fire is making infernos out of towns in northern California, razing thousands of buildings and homes, dozens have died, and hundreds are missing, and the worse is yet to come, according to officials. God is not in any of these destructive forces, as fearsome as they are.

God is in the bravery of the first responders, the sacrifice of those who guard others’ lives at risk to their own, the generosity of the donors of time, energy, and money to help those who have been hurt, and in the organizers and workers who work day and night to bring relief. God is in the love and compassion of friends and families and even strangers who bring comfort to the victims.

The instinctive fleshly reaction is to think that God is using these disasters to show those who don’t believe in the impact of global warming. Another thought is that evil is scorning the global warming skeptics by a show of force. In any case, God uses natural disasters to show his glory but God does not cause them. God allows the consequences of sin to play out and intervenes here and there for his noble and righteous purposes, which God will “bring into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ” (Ephesians 1:10).

The more I think about it, the more I find Clark Pinnock’s open theology understandable. God makes a choice to not know in advance what our free will decisions are. If God has infinite knowledge and wisdom, then he can anticipate any decision we can make. A chess master or a well written program can anticipate all moves on the chessboard. It’s not beyond the capability or capacity of the infinite Maker to anticipate all decisions and consequences of every human being without having to control everything in advance.

God may decide to do certain things. We can make decisions that affect God’s will and God can change his plans. In that sense, God regrets what he has done because he expects the best and we sin, making it necessary for God to put into place another plan. Since God knows all combinations and permutations of the outcomes of our decisions, nothing surprises him. He simply activates plan “B”, “C”, “Z”, or “Infinity”. Nothing thwarts God’s purpose of reconciliation and healing in due time, bringing unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

If anything, this shows the great power of God more so than the power of one who predetermines all outcomes and events past, present, and future like a great dictator. God can and will bring justice and healing to every human and all creation in due time regardless of what we do in our free will. A chess master who wins a chess game over a robot with no choice but preprogrammed moves is not as great as one who wins a game against one with well-designed artificial intelligence which can make unpredictable moves.

When God redeems all creation, we will find the answers to a few questions: Will there be dogs in heaven? Will there be mosquitoes and will they sting?


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