Tsunami: God’s Anger Revealed
By Martyn S. Carless
A cowering Church is failing to come to terms with God’s absence in the Tsunami; while an enquiring world encroaches us as it begins to find chinks in the armour of organised religions” response to the disaster. What answer can we possibly give to those who are now questioning God’s love? And does the Church”s response to the situation reflect its failings to deliver an accurate portrayal of God’s true nature?
Since the tragic sequence of events resulting from the Tsunami disaster in South-Eastern Asia, the media, ever the opportunists, have not relinquished from asking that all important question as to where God was during the catastrophe. It has become customary, whenever tragedy on this scale ensues, for God ” “ and more often the Christian God ” “ to take full responsibility for such things.
Yet, the media is not alone in enquiring of the whereabouts of God in the midst of these perilous times. Even God’s own people the Church are beginning to question His absence at such a critical juncture.
On Monday January 3, 2005, in an editorial published in The Guardian newspaper, a question was posed, the article entitled: ” ˜”Where Is God in All This?” ” “ The Problem for Religions’. The article concerned itself primarily with words spoken by the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Archbishop Williams was purported to have said that due to the recent devastation in South-Eastern Asia he had come to question the very existence of God. This wasn’t the first time the Archbishop had provoked controversy; only four months previously, and again in an article published by The Guardian, he had voiced similar dissent when having questioned God’s absence in the Beslan School massacre. Only Archbishop Williams, this great ” ˜man of faith’, did not stand alone in displaying such deeply-held reservations concerning God’s permitting such tragedy to ensue; for not far behind a consortium of other like-minded religious ” “ and dissenting ” “ individuals similarly deliberated over this same all-important theological question. World faith, it seemed, as the Tsunami itself, had hit crisis point. Nevertheless, what Archbishop Williams words clearly demonstrated ” “ and the same words resounded from pulpits all around the world ” “ was the dearth of knowledge in present-day Christendom and its complete disregard for the Word of God.
Then again ” ˜dearth of knowledge’ is probably the wrong term here: ” ˜willful ignorance’ to the Word of God would be better suited. For Archbishop Williams leads a Church that has long dispelled of the concept of a dual-natured deity. Rather, this truth has been exchanged in place of a lame and feeble God that has only one nature ” “ love, and not vengeance. But there is a problem with this rationale: if that were the case, what answer do we Christians give to those the unbelieving that enquire of us as to why such a ” ˜loving’ God would allow such events to occur? The answer is (if the like of Rowan Williams is anything to go by): we don’t have an answer. Archbishop Williams, the consortium of dissenting religious individuals that followed, and a huge percentage of mainstream Christianity at large, were speechless in the face of such things.
So the problem remains ” “ a problem for religion ” “ a problem that we ourselves have created by taking the true, dual-natured God of the Bible out of all contexts and applying to Him a character devoid of His core attributes. We have totally de-radicalised true, biblical Christianity and have made of it something a lot more congenial and a lot less threatening to the hearer. The inevitable result is that by the Church attempting to make Christianity more credible to the unsaved, in fact the opposite has happened, and we have lost all credibility and standing. Now all that remains is doubt ” “ doubt in a God which many believed in essence was all about love and not judgment. The Church has sustained itself a double whammy by appealing to an unbelieving generation with an ill-considered message of compromise.
Understanding These Tragic Events in Light of God’s Word
The Church has found itself in a very tight corner due to a complete de-radicalising of Scripture and a lessening of the degree of the vengeful side of God’s nature ” “ and the vultures are gathering around. How can we possibly reconcile these tragic events with a God we claim to be all loving and non-judgmental?
Of course, the word judgment is a no-no in contemporary Christian circles; better not go down that road in case we might offend. But is it plausible to keep this side of God’s real nature from unbelievers ” “ and even ourselves ” “ when just a cursory glance at the Bible betrays this lie for what it truly is? Yes, God is love; but He is also judgment. Because of His judgment He sent His Son into the world that through Him ” “ through His love ” “ we might be reconciled unto Himself. And so we see the dual natures of God ” “ both anger and compassion ” “ not one minus the other. Yet, this is far from the God that is being preached from most churches today. And so it is no doubt confusion abounds.
But some would say there is a contrast between the God of the Old Testament and what we read of in the New Testament concerning the life of Christ. The God of the Old Testament appears angry and hostile, whereas Jesus, meek and mild. Are the two really the same? ‚ Well, let us just take a look at the events surrounding the crucifixion: do they indicate a God that is not vengeful? What Jesus is suffering is for the world, you and me, and God’s wrath against it. It is hardly a pleasant picture of a non-threatening deity who wishes only the good for a sinful humanity. The pain, the anguish and separation Jesus is made to endure ” “ if God would allow His own Son to experience such things, when it should really be us, what does this tell us of His true exacting nature? Such is God’s anger against sin that the sufferings of His own beloved Son are hidden from His sight; hidden until a complete reconciliation is made for sinners, preparing a way for full atonement with God to all that might believe. But another illustration of God’s wrathful anger against sin is evident in the history of His own chosen people, the Jews.
Jewish history is a testimony to the fact that God is not One to be bargained with. For millennia the Jewish people have wandered, without a land and persecuted, killed off wherever they have settled. The Holocaust is a sobering reminder as to just what the Jewish people have had to endure. Many have questioned God’s existence due to the terrible events that befell the Jews in Hitler’s Germany: six million perishing without a cause but for their race and religion ” “ children, the elderly and the infirm. Where was God in the Holocaust? Yet, the Old Testament is awash with forebodings from the prophets forewarning the children of Israel to amend their ways due to God’s wrathful anger against sin. Only as the Jewish Diaspora shows, more often than not the prophets’ words went wholly unheeded. And so God’s own people’s suffering went hidden from His sight.
If just a cursory glance at The Bible reveals to us the truth of God’s allowing His own Son to suffer and die because of the world’s sin. If it demonstrates the reality of God’s allowing His own people to perish as a consequence of not walking in His Law. Then surely the question must be, if God allows all these calamities to befall His own, how much more then will He permit the sufferings of those who have rejected His Son, who have slaughtered His people and who have persecuted His Church down throughout the annals of world history? The Tsunami disaster, which only recently struck South-Eastern Asia, is only a beginning of sorrows for a world hastening towards judgment. Yet, what the professing Church through men like Archbishop Williams is failing to tell the world is that, instead of questioning God’s existence, the reason for God’s absence in the face of such calamities is that, He has warned us, we have not heeded, and now, as with His own people, and even His own Son, He has hidden His face from us.
The Jewish people have drunk from the wine cup; God’s own beloved Son has drunk of the cup; now finally has come the world’s turn to likewise drink of the cup of God’s anger.
“Thus saith thy Lord the LORD, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again: But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over.” (Isaiah 51 v. 22-23)
“For thus saith the LORD God of Israel unto me; Take the wine cup of this fury at my hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send thee, to drink it. And they shall drink, and be moved, and be mad, because of the sword that I will send among them. Then took I the cup at the LORD’S hand, and made all the nations to drink, unto whom the LORD had sent me.” (Jeremiah 25 v. 15-17)
Tsunami and God’s Retributive Judgment
“Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.” (Revelation 18 v. 21)
It would appear that more than half of the victims of the recent Tsunami disaster were in fact children. Though the loss of just one child to such tragic circumstances is bad enough, obviously we know that they are now safe in the loving arms of Jesus for all eternity. Nonetheless, they still perished in the calamity. Does God not care for the fate of children? Yet, it might likewise be said of the 1.5 million Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust. Where might God have been then? Did the sufferings of the innocents so much as cause God to rend the heavens in wrathful retribution? We know that circumstances such as these have happened and will continue to happen as long as this evil world remains (as was the case only four months ago when a great many children perished during the Beslan siege). However, the children are often the unfortunate victims of the sins of the parents and a fallen world.
The children of God have been persecuted and marked out for slaughter at the hands of this world ever since the time of the Hebrew bondage in Egypt. Jewish history is a testimony to this fact; as is Church history. Though these events have come and gone with the generations, and these great injustices appear to have gone wholly unpunished, God has never forgotten the sufferings of His own people. And so, as God punished Pharaoh for his slaughtering of the children of Israel, by taking the lives of the firstborn of Egypt, the Bible forewarns that God, for the sake of His people, will likewise, at a time appointed, avenge Himself on this world by returning the same evil back into her hands. In the book of Revelation we are reminded of this truth when in chapter eighteen we read of this great identity, given the mystery name of Babylon, boasting to the heavens that, though she may have slaughtered God’s people down throughout the ages, she sits a queen, and is no widow, and will never see the loss of children (Rev.18 v. 7; Isaiah 47 v. 8-9). Yet, what is God’s answer to her: “Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.” (Rev. 18 v. 8).
Many of the nations afflicted by the recent Tsunami were predominantly of the idolatrous Islamic religion. It is without question that Islam will be a driving force behind the final persecution of the Jewish people. Indonesia, the nation worst hit by the Tsunami, had an increasingly extremist Islamic influence. The other countries also affected have likewise in large measure departed from true biblical Christianity and are now embracing radical Islam in its stead. There is no doubt that this is a judgment from God upon such idolatrous practices. Yet, these were by no means extremes for many of the nations affected. Likewise there was the sin of rampant child sexual exploitation, where paedophilia, especially from western countries, had been an escalating problem for some time now. Just to what extent this proved to be the case was illustrated when, within no time of the Tsunami actually devastating a certain number of those countries, incredible reports were emerging of criminal gangs marauding around seeking vulnerable children bereaved of families in order to traffic them off into the ever-burgeoning sex trade. For the Church to be aghast at the possibility of God judging such wickedness just goes to show how far we have departed from core, biblical Christianity.
The fact that many of these nations had a diabolical track record where it concerned their stance towards the environment is also very significant. In this regard the Tsunami might be considered as nature avenging itself. Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Sumatra; Thailand, Burma; India, Bangladesh; Kenya, Tanzania ” “ all these countries were notorious for their corrupt illegal logging practices. (Widespread deforestation had been a huge factor behind many of these nations having witnessed a number of catastrophic flooding events over recent years.) Likewise, as these were predominantly developing nations which relied solely upon dirty fossil fuels to keep up their economies, regardless of the effect this was having on the global climate; environmental pollution in these regions over the years had risen exponentially, becoming a mammoth problem, and next to nothing was being done to counter it. In light of these things, it is without question that these countries had no regard for the creation of God but rather destroyed and plundered the earth at will. The book of Revelation explicitly forewarns that God will destroy those which destroy the earth (Rev. 11 v. 18).
Where these sort of corrupt practices thrive there is no doubt judgment is at the door. Yet, at some point the question needs to be asked as to how sinful these nations really were in comparison to other nations of the world, and therefore worthy of God’s judgment.
Were the Victims of the Tsunami Sinners Above All People?
“There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem ? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13 v. 1-5)
That the nations affected by the Tsunami were indeed sinful does not take away from the fact that so could be said the same for our own. Were their sins any greater than the rest of ours? Were their idolatries more abominable; their hatred of God’s people more intense; their sexual sins more repugnant; their indifference to a dying planet by continuing with lifestyles which are destructive to the earth any more nonchalant than our own? (Let he that is without sin cast the first stone.) Only the countries, which were destroyed by the Tsunami disaster, may well have come under God’s judgement first; yet, we can be assured that the same fate awaits the rest of the planet likewise guilty of these offences.
The earth is undergoing some serious and major ecological changes, which scientists are warning has not happened for many thousands of years. Ten of the warmest years on record have occurred since the 1990s; the world’s seasonal variations, which have been constant for millennia, have been severely disrupted much to the detriment of the natural world; the Arctic and Antarctic are seeing their ice melt at an alarming rate, adding significantly to global sea-level rise; glaciers are retreating at a rapid pace all around the world; and ongoing climate change could well contribute to the swift elimination of more than a million of the Earth’s species within 50 years.
The year 2004 witnessed, as did the years preceding it, a string of environmental disasters culminating in one of the worst Tsunamis ever to have besieged this planet. The earthquake which caused it, measuring 9.0 on the Richter Scale, was said to have altered the angle of the Earth on its axis, while moving the North Pole, pushing walls of water throughout all the world’s oceans and shifting the soil as far away as Newark. Whereas other major Tsunamis have been mainly localised events in contrast, the recent Tsunami was said to have been exceptional in having been a ” ˜multi-national’ disaster. Nothing like it has ever happened before. What is worse is that these same events were predicted in the Bible many thousands of years ago by men having spoken under inspiration of the Holy Ghost warning of things to come.
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.” (Jeremiah 25 v. 32-33)
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (Luke 21 v. 25-26)
“And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.” (Rev. 16 v.17-18)
“The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.” (Isaiah 24 v. 19-20)
All of these things are occurring in the same world we all inhabit.
The Church’s Only Response
The world has finally woken up to the intensity of nature; yet not, it would seem, to the intensity of its sin before the eyes of a Holy God. By no means should we be complacent; what has only recently happened in South-Eastern Asia is an ominous portent as to what is in store for the rest of the planet in the days ahead. As a Church, rather than wavering in unbelief, we must rise up at this opportunity and take these events as a sure sign that the coming of our Lord is at hand. Rather than entertaining doubts as to the existence of God at such a time as this, on the contrary our confidence in Him should abound; for Jesus said that when these events begin to take place: “” ¦then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21 v. 28).
Though we will continue to pray for those who have been affected by these events, and provide aid in helping them to rebuild their lives, surely is not the most pressing need right now for those who have survived this ordeal to receive the true and unadulterated gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Indeed, could this not be said for the whole world?