American actor Kirk Cameron said this week that hurricanes, which God sends for a reason, are ‘a spectacular display of God’s immense power’ and are a call for repentance. Obviously many disagreed with such a claim, and they have made their views known. Actress Jennifer Lawrence attributed the hurricanes to another being: ‘You know you’re watching these hurricanes now, and it’s really hard especially while promoting this movie, not to feel Mother Nature’s rage and wrath.’
Plainly in this debate there are two contradictory explanations of how the world works.
The most common view
The most common view is that the entire universe operates according to ‘natural’ laws of physics, although as Lawrence shows, the secularist finds it very difficult not to personify ‘nature’ as the moral being ‘mother nature’. Nonetheless, the common view holds that the atoms which make up matter interact with other physical bodies and processes in an entirely natural way. Sometimes those interactions send a hurricane onto an inhabited area, devastating a landmass and its occupants, and sometimes they do not.
For this reason the common view links weather events like hurricanes to ‘global warming’ which, we are told, is man-made due to man’s polluting practices. And if asked why can the formation of these hurricanes and other weather events not be predicted and prepared for far earlier, the common view will answer that we cannot know, with our present limitations, every physical event that is occurring on land, air and sea. They would add, but that if we did we would be able to predict any event. The common view, therefore, rejects any notion that a Creator could possibly be behind any weather events, using them to enforce a divine moral will over mankind. They claim other beings, namely humans, do cause weather events as a result of their pollution, but God is excluded from any influence over the weather or any ‘natural’ event on earth or anywhere in the universe.
How did the common view arise? It is only in the last two hundred or so years that the common view has come to dominate, at least in the secular west. The enlightenment world began to separate ‘science’ from any supernatural ideas, as mankind began to reject the notion that God could have any influence over physical ‘laws’. Although there are billions of people who hold to a variety of religions who do believe that the world cannot be defined in purely material and physical terms, in the west, God’s possible influence has been successfully excluded from political and scientific life, and therefore from the education of children.
Why do the secularists, the holders of the common view, react so angrily towards the Kirk Camerons of this world, who claim that God is involved?
When Christians bring God into the equation the secularists become very angry and denounce such an idea that God may be involved in ‘natural’ disasters. But why is that? One would think that if the secularist was secure in his view, then he would merely want to prove from science that God could not possibly be involved. However, he cannot do that for a number of reasons, and I bring only two of them:
1. Firstly, to hold to a view which excludes God’s involvement in the world (which is described by the term providence) is not a purely rational position. Several assumptions underpin the common view – assumptions which cannot be proved, revealing the uncertainty the secularist suppresses. People often respond to criticisms of their unproven assumptions with anger, because their irrational bias has been exposed.
A. Science totally excludes the possibility that God controls the physical processes in the universe.
This assumption stands on very shaky ground. Physicists acknowledge that they cannot explain everything about the physical world with their theories on how it functions. The New Scientist, for example, produces articles like ‘10 mysteries that physics can’t answer… yet’. The ‘yet’ is pure speculation. The Scientific American admits that there is much physicists do not know:
‘And yet we have no clue how any of the fundamental facts of quantum mechanics including wave-particle duality, entanglement, quantum tunnelling or the double-slit experiment – that disarmingly simple setup which, in Feynman’s words, contains “the only mystery of quantum mechanics” – actually work. The quantum world continues to be a fairyland that defies common sense and where anything can happen. For decades most physicists have used quantum mechanics, but nobody has convincingly shown us where it comes from. Einstein may have gone against the grain of experiment but he was right in feeling a decided sense of unease regarding the reality which the weird quantum universe encapsulates. Narrate the parable of Schrodinger’s cat and you will be met with laughs and smirks, but the laughter cannot obliterate the deep anguish of physicists, a feeling that their most successful theory of nature is, at its deepest level, a hazy ball of mist.’
The common man, with the ‘common view’ is not aware of the limits of science and yet buys into the false notion that science does not need God to explain how the world functions.
B. ‘Natural’ phenomena cannot have a moral cause.
Based on the first assumption which excludes God from the equation, the common view leaves no room for God’s moral use of ‘nature’ for either blessing, or for judgement. And yet the common view, as we have already noted, does claim that ‘bad’ ideas can influence the weather. The chief ‘bad’ idea they have in mind is that man-made pollution creates global warming, which makes the weather destructive for life. Conversely, if mankind can reduce carbon emissions and other pollution, he can do a ‘good’ thing for the earth and make the weather kinder and gentler again, and enhance life. Moral choices can, therefore, affect the weather according to the common view. This contradicts the assumption that natural events cannot have a moral cause. For if a responsible being, namely man, can alter the weather through his moral choices, why could a Creator and Sustainer of the universe not do the same? Since physics cannot exclude God from its understanding of how things work, it cannot exclude God from involving Himself in physical processes.
C. The Bible is untrue and is not the Word of God. God has not given man an explanation of why disasters happen.
The Bible is an anvil that has worn out many a hammer. Hundreds of millions of people, including many highly educated men and women who hold high office in the world, including the scientific and academic world, believe that the Bible is true and that it is God’s revelation to man. In spite of a myriad of attempts to undermine it, the Bible remains for many what it claims to be ‘the word of God’.
Since the common view cannot successfully discredit the Bible and demonstrate to hundreds of millions of intelligent people that it is not the Word of God, their assumption is really a matter of faith. The secularist has a belief that the Bible is not the word of God, but he cannot prove he is right.
The common view, therefore, is not a rational position. Its assumptions can be questioned and be demonstrated to be not ‘scientific’. When the secularist has his viewpoint attacked, he can only respond in an emotional way, because he lacks the rational argument to disprove the Christian point of view, which is, as one summary of the Bible teaches, that:
‘God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.’
2. The second reason the secularist, and holder of the common view, cannot consider rationally the arguments presented by Christians from the Bible for God’s hand behind all events, is because he is unwilling to give up his own immorality, or to have his moral choices criticised.
As human beings, we are good at rationalising our own badness. And the Bible makes it clear that we are all sinners. When we are challenged by others who claim our values are immoral or sinful, we are being confronted at the very core of our being and self-worth. It is a natural human response to act with indignation in such circumstances. Yet the Bible teaches that God does bring judgements upon a sinful world. Indeed the prophet Amos asks rhetorically ‘shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?’ – ‘evil’ from the point of view of those on the receiving end of war or some other disaster.
The Bible makes it plain that God does bring judgements or punishments as well as blessings in history. These judgements are responses to the immorality men and even whole societies justify. Judgement for immorality does not just happen because of things like homosexuality, abortion, blasphemy and the like, but also for religious hypocrisy. Yes ‘Christian’ societies can all be ripe for judgement when they live unfaithfully, and contrary to God’s will. Indeed all of us can be guilty in God’s eyes. While the Bible teaches that God does judge, as Jesus taught from the example of a local disaster that killed many in his day, because some suffer God’s judgement, it does not mean that those judged were any guiltier than those who did not suffer. Yes we can be sure that the immorality prevalent in our modern liberal societies does invite God’s judgement, we can also be sure that religious hypocrisy does also. After all, Jesus was speaking to the religious in his own day, when he spoke of judgement for their sin.
Jesus also teaches that such judgement events, such as the tower killing eighteen in Siloam, are a call from God for repentance: ‘I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’
When we see and experience any disaster we should all examine ourselves in light of God’s revealed will, and see where we need to repent of our sins.
So who is right? Is ‘mother nature’ getting angry because of Donald Trump, as Jennifer Lawrence claims, or is God calling us to repentance as Kirk Cameron has stated? Only the Christian has a completely rational and watertight argument, and so we must say that Cameron correctly expresses the biblical view. The secularist common view, that God is not involved is an unproven hypothesis even for the atheist or deist. The biblical view comes from the highest authority.
Dr. Garnet Milne