Worshiping a God-of-the-Gaps

Worshiping a God-of-the-GapsIn ancient times, people created gods to explain what they did not understand. They were worshiping a god-of-the-gaps. When the volcano blew up with power and awesomeness that exceeded their understanding, they created a volcano god to explain it. When powerful weather systems impacted their world, they invented wind gods and rain gods to explain what they experienced. We smile at their ignorance, but their attempts to appease these created deities sometimes resulted in human sacrifice and a massive waste of resources.

In modem times, we have made similar arguments when trying to explain the power of the Sun, or the majesty of everything from the cosmos to life itself by saying, “God did it.” There have even been those who have explained tragic natural events like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, lightning strikes, cancer, leukemia, and manic depression by attributing them to “acts of God.” The first problem that this produces is that it makes God an evil, vindictive being deliberately bringing pain and tragedy to his creation. That is not the nature of God, and it is totally inconsistent with His image.

James 1:13-14 tells us, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man: but every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and desires.” If God caused the tornado that destroyed your home and killed your family, then your love for God and your trust in His care for you are going to be severely eroded. Atheists, and the media in general, tend to blame every natural disaster on God in one way or another. Then after creating a false concept of God, they reject the idea of worshiping a god-of-the-gaps based on the assumptions they made.

Humans or human stupidity cause most natural disasters. We are only beginning to understand how we bring disasters on ourselves. Cancer and leukemia are largely related to human-made carcinogens in the environment. Our injudicious use of the land surface and mismanagement of water resources are primary causes of floods. Even weather problems can be related to the way humans have used the land and what they have released into the atmosphere. Environmental extremists have caused many of us to resistant suggestions that we must address human mismanagement of resources. But there is an ever-increasing body of data that shows that many so-called “acts of God” are the products of human mismanagement. Even natural events like hurricanes and earthquakes which have beneficial effects are catastrophic because of human foolishness. Building tall structures where earthquakes are a regular event is a foolish enterprise, and constructing human habitats where hurricanes regularly strike, causes exaggerated damage.

Worshiping a god-of-the-gaps who caused all the bad things in life is going to be a worship of fear and dread. Trying to appease a god so that he will not zap people with tragedy is what caused human sacrifice and all kinds of pagan rituals in the past. In modern times, such a concept promotes fear and an exaggerated attempt to find a way to please the god for the wrong reasons. There can never be a loving father/child relationship that breeds confidence, peace, and love of life.

Atheists reading this discussion are likely to say that apologists attempting to argue for the existence of God based on design are also worshiping a god-of-the-gaps. If we point to a fantastic property of an animal that allows that animal to survive in a given environment, are we not making the same mistake? Will not someone in the future explain a natural way in which that attribute came about, thus debunking any claim that God designed it? That challenge is a good one, and in some cases, it might be valid. But the fact that we know how someone built a computer does not change the fact that it took intelligence to do it. I have frequently heard people define science as man’s attempt to figure out how God did something.

It is also important to realize that we can approach many design questions mathematically. If we can calculate the probability of an event accurately, then we can get an indication of whether chance is a valid mechanism to explain what we see. The question of design is part of a more general argument. Did the subject at hand have a beginning, or has it always been? If it had a beginning, was it caused or not caused? If it was caused, is chance a viable explanation for the cause, or is there evidence of intelligence? This logical series of choices is not worshiping a god-of-the-gaps, but following a series of logical steps leading to a reasonable conclusion.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Natural Disaster and God

Natural Disaster and God Every time natural disaster strikes anywhere in the world, people tend to blame God for what happened. The current examples are the hurricane in the panhandle of Florida, and the catastrophic earthquake in Indonesia. What atheists and skeptics fail to realize about natural disasters is that the vast majority of catastrophes are due to human ignorance and mismanagement. Both of the current crises demonstrate that point.

The major loss of life and devastation in Indonesia is in an area that was built on a restored landfill. Gravel, sand, and dirt were brought in to make living space for what were mostly poor workers and laborers. Engineers have warned for a very long time that the land under the highly populated area was unstable, and the earthquake was enough to cause that land to move in a significant way. You could call this a human-designed natural disaster.

In America, we have the same situation in New Orleans and Los Angeles. New Orleans is built on an area that is soft and prone to flooding, and part of the city is even below sea level. Los Angeles is built in an earthquake active area riddled with faults. It isn’t a question of whether a severe earthquake will happen in the Los Angeles area, it is just a question of when. There will be a catastrophe when that happens, and God will be blamed for causing it.

Hurricane Michael is a demonstration of another human-caused natural disaster. One of the designs of our planet is the method which brings water to areas that would otherwise be a desert. At the equator, the direct sunlight evaporates ocean water which falls as rain causing tropical rain forests. The remaining dry air moves north or south in what is called the “Hadley Cells.” When that dry air cools and returns Earth’s surface at 30 degrees latitude, it produces desert conditions. Most of the world’s great deserts are found at 30 degrees north or south latitude–the Sahara, the Australian Outback, the Mohave, etc.

In the southeastern United States, 30 degrees north latitude runs through northern Florida. That area would be a desert were it not for hurricanes. The heating of the ocean in the summer is sufficient to lift massive amounts of water which are then carried to the land restoring lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers. Without that large water supply system, that area would be a desert like the Sahara. The land area around the Gulf of Mexico in its pristine state had barrier beaches and mangrove forests that moderated the wind and storm surge. When I was a child living in Alabama, we looked forward to “hurricane parties” when we would “button down” and enjoy not having to work. The storm’s damage was limited, and even the storm surge was never a problem. That was 80 years ago.

Since that time, we have modified the shoreline stripping the barrier beaches of vegetation, and building houses where they are easily destroyed by water or wind. Even the vast mangrove swamps that were a buffer to storms have been removed, and channels have been built lined with aluminum houses, golf courses, and boat facilities. It was an invitation for a natural disaster.

We are sympathetic to those who have suffered because of the greed and foolishness of city planners and real estate salespeople. But don’t blame God for the foolishness of human actions.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Blessings from Natural Disaster

Blessings from Natural Disaster
Yesterday I began to tell about lessons from a flood. In February our area experienced what has been called a 500-year flood. We have lived in our home on the St. Joseph River for 20 years without a problem—until now. You can read more about it here. I want to continue to explain how it is possible to receive blessings from natural disaster.

Natural disasters are not an evil act of God. Skeptics often say something like, “How can you believe in a God who…?” They are demonstrating a failure to understand some key characteristics of God’s nature and how God functions. James 1:13 tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted ‘I am being tempted by God’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.” I personally have a hard time understanding man’s inhumanity to man. I will never understand the holocaust. I can’t comprehend the atrocities by ISIS that I have seen in recent years. These are not vindictive acts of God, but they are the evil actions of humans. What do we expect God to do? Should God strike every Hitler-like leader dead when they decide to do some evil act? Should He afflict every politician with a fatal disease when they vote for something that hurts innocent people? The history shown in the Bible is that God allows natural consequences to come about, but He does not threaten us with physical punishment as an immediate reaction.

We are learning more and more every day about the consequences of our own actions. Is the flooding I have suffered a result of human failure to take care of the “garden”- planet Earth (Genesis 2:15)? That is likely but unproven. The failure to follow God’s plan for sex, marriage, and family has caused more suffering than any “natural disaster.” Abuse is not caused by God, but by humans who fail to follow the instructions of God in Ephesians 5:28-33.

What appears to be a disaster always has some beneficial aspects to it. For Christians, good always comes from these events. Romans 8:28 may be one of the most important passages in the New Testament–“For those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” First of all, we are called to understand that God’s purposes are different from ours. Job and his friends struggled with this issue. Solomon tried everything and came to understand God’s purposes were what gave satisfaction and meaning to life (Ecclesiastes 1-5). One of our friends has a line on this. I call it “Ethyl Louise Knight’s gospel of life”–“If it isn’t of eternal significance, I don’t want to hear about it.”

Someone might ask, “Well what possible benefit could come from your 500-year flood?” The answer to that comes in many forms. A neighbor and I were looking at the river whizzing by our houses with uprooted trees, hundreds of Styrofoam cups, plastic wrappers, and tubs of all kinds and shapes carried to the next dam where they would accumulate. We have been working for years to clean up the trash in the river, and it will be gone with this flood. Remember that the Nile River flooding every year for centuries made Egypt the breadbasket of the ancient world.

In addition to these physical blessings, there can be huge spiritual blessings from natural disaster. Our neighborhood has been drawn together on a spiritual level as we face the challenges of flooding. I celebrated my birthday on the day when the river reached its peak, and as friends and family made February 22 special, I was able to focus on what really matters in life. There truly are blessings from natual disaster.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Hurricanes and God’s Design

Hurricanes and God's Design
Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected by the recent storms in Texas and Louisiana. Our family has members who were flooded and have sustained a terrible loss. The total damage to innocent humans is so massive it is hard to comprehend. Please do not interpret this discussion as being callous, unfeeling, or minimizing the loss that so many have suffered. However, we need to consider the cause of hurricanes and God’s design for life on Earth.

When something like this happens, we receive communications either blaming God or wanting to know why God has allowed it to happen. We would not pretend to have all the answers to the questions that a disaster like this raises. However, this is not a vindictive act of God or retaliation for some human sin. It is a natural product of the design of our planet.

The design is a very good. Spreading water around the Earth in such a way that all latitudes and longitudes have enough water for humans to survive is a difficult challenge. When the Sun is directly overhead at the Equator, it generates heat energy on the surface of the Earth at that locale. The heated air rises and cools. Moisture condenses, and precipitation occurs.

The now dry air moves north and south away from the tropical rain forests. Eventually, it falls back to the Earth at about 30 degrees latitude north and south of the equator. That means there will be a desert at 30 degrees latitude. If you look at a globe, you will see that most of Earth’s deserts are at 30 degrees latitude. This effect is called “The Hadley Cell” and is well understood.

In the United States, 30 degrees north runs through Houston, the gulf coast, and northern Florida. Those areas would be deserts except for hurricanes and God’s design. Low-pressure cells generate over the South Atlantic and move toward the Gulf of Mexico. If these cells pick up enough water due to extra heat, a hurricane can result. Hurricanes bring large amounts of water to what would otherwise be parched, dry areas. When these areas go a long time with no significant water-bearing storms, drought is the result.

When I was a child in the middle of the twentieth century, hurricanes were a time for celebration. Hurricane parties were the rage, and people knew how to “batten down” for the “big blow.” The barrier islands were covered with mangroves which would break up the storm surge. Recharging the aquifers in the area was a good thing for everyone.

Since those days, people have cut down the mangroves and built resorts and beach houses on those barrier islands. Without the mangroves, the storm surges are massive. People have built huge housing developments on land poorly protected from the sea. Even farther inland, massive numbers of people have been put in harm’s way by the changes.

Hurricanes are not an evil, vindictive act of God. In this very incomplete and sketchy review of the cause of storm damage along the coast, we want to say that these storms have a positive effect. They are part of a system designed to make an area that otherwise would be a desert into a good place to live.

Like all the things God has given us, in the use of our land we need to apply wisdom. We have not had a good track record on stewardship of God’s gifts. We should think carefully about the future and use our knowledge and our ability to design and engineer things in a way that will minimize future catastrophes. Meanwhile, we need to join hands, clean up the mess, and help those in need.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Where Is God When Natural Disaster Strikes?

Where Is God?
Many times atheists and skeptics use natural disasters as proof that God doesn’t exist. The argument is that an almighty and loving God would not allow these things to happen, so therefore God doesn’t exist. That is a faulty argument that assumes we know more than an omniscient God could know. When faced with the current disaster of flooding from Hurricane Harvey on the United States Gulf Coast, even those who believe in God often ask, “Where is God?” They want to know why the God they believe in would allow such things to happen.

So where is God? Why doesn’t He do something about the suffering? God is there, and He is doing something. God is working through His people. We are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). When tragedy strikes, even those who don’t have a good relationship with God begin to show a little bit of that image as they reach out to help. Those of us who are Christians should be the most willing and eager to show God’s love. We not only bear the image of God, but we also remember what Jesus did and what He said about helping “the least of these” (Matthew 25:34-40).

Rick Stedman posted an opinion essay on the Fox News website that answers the question about where is God when a natural disaster strikes. We recommend that you read it. We could not have said it better.

We also encourage you to help those in need in any way you can. If you can donate to help the flood victims in Texas and Louisiana, please do so. But make sure you are giving your support through a trustworthy organization. You want your money to go toward helping the people in need and churches and Christian relief funds are the best a doing that.

Where is God when natural disasters strike? He is working through His people who are demonstrating God’s love to those who need it the most. There is no better time for you to witness to those who need to know that God loves them.

If you have questions about why God allows pain and suffering, we invite you to visit our website www.whypain.org.
–Roland Earnst © 2017