Monday, October 03, 2005


God is His own interpreter

Several weeks ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I wrote:

In this kind of situation, it's inevitable that people will start to ask, "Why? Why New Orleans and the Gulf Coast?" Only God knows the full reason for His mighty act of destruction, but one thing is safe to say: He didn't unleash this storm where He did because the people who live there are any worse than the people who live anywhere else. The Scriptures are clear: all men bear the sinful nature and do the sinful deeds of their father Adam. By nature, those of us who are enjoying peace, prosperity, and sunshine in, say, the Midwestern US are just as evil as those who lived in the area of the recent disaster. Given the nature of mankind's rebellion against His rule, God would be perfectly just to wipe every one of us out. Thus, the question ought not be, "Why was God so severe against the Gulf Coast?" but rather "Why is God so merciful to those whom He spared such calamity?"

One reason why I wrote that article was in response to what I knew was coming from other voices: that Katrina was God's judgement against the sins of the people in the New Orleans area: gambling, drunkenness, and all-around debauchery. Well, here's a columnist in one of my local papers with her comments on one such voice:

Global warming is too logical an explanation for some people. Attributing such a catastrophe to atmospheric trends is unsatisfying to some hardcore religious cause-and-effect types. There are other reasons, they say, why New Orleans inherited the big wind.

An Alabama state senator, Republican Hank Erwin, wrote in a column he distributes to media outlets: "New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness. It is the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God."


As for the good people who got hurt or killed, they were just in the way of the real targets, Erwin said.

It's not as if New Orleans hadn't been warned, he explained in his column, according to wire reports: "Warnings year after year by godly evangelists and preachers went unheeded."

In reply to Mr. Erwin's comments, I offer several of my own:

  • Are the sins of the people of New Orleans really so much worse than those of anyone else? True, not all cities are as notorious for certain sins as New Orleans, but does that make, say, Chicago more holy than New Orleans? As Scripture says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and all means every person who lives in New Orleans, Chicago, or anywhere else on this fallen world.
  • If God's reason for singling out New Orleans for destruction was anger at gambling, drunkenness, etc., then why did He cause Katrina to spare the French Quarter? Surely there's few neighborhoods in the US that symbolize debauchery more famously than the French Quarter, yet it rode out Katrina with little or no damage. If you're right about God's purposes, Mr. Erwin, wouldn't He have made certain to wipe out the French Quarter?
  • "Good people"? Where? The Bible tells us that "No one is good but God alone." (Matthew 19:17) If God spares a man calamity, it is never because of the man's goodness, but only because of His mercy.
  • God speaks through those means which He chooses: His Word, the Bible. Before the Bible was completed, He spoke through various prophets. These prophets were expected to be 100% accurate whenever they spoke in the name of God. If a prophet slipped up even once, he was to be stoned. Although capital punishment against false prophets was rescinded when the Mosaic judicial law was abolished, the principle behind the law still stands: God takes it very seriously when men claim to speak for Him or interpret His works of Providence.

    With all due respect to Mr. Erwin and his "godly evangelists and preachers", they ought to stop all talk of God's purpose behind Katrina, Rita, or any other natural disaster. It is for God and God alone to interpret His works of Providence. The fact remains: all men, not just those harmed by Katrina, stand equal as sinners before a Holy God. Rather than vainly speculate as to God's reasons for unleashing such an awesome storm, we would do better to thank God that He has not (yet) chosen to unleash similar devastation on the rest of this judgment-deserving race which we call mankind?

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