Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Act of God or Act of Man?

Discussions of normal, everyday weather events have retreated to obscurity in the past several weeks. Instead, we have had enough tragic cyclones, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes to provoke gasps. The usual questions about whether God is “telling us something” have dominated our discussions. We do not think with the infinite mind of God. However, I will confess I am not convinced that natural disasters are rewards for man’s evil or disobedience. I am persuaded that the Creator wants us to learn how our various Earth systems should function. In gaining this understanding, we are better able to avoid injury, prevent disasters, benefit our environment, and enrich our own lives.

The midwestern floods provide a good example of man’s departure from sound natural management practices. Residents would rather attribute this disaster to an Act of God--the proverbial 500-year flood. The last 500-year flood swamped the area in 1993. The current tragedy is, in fact, an Act of Man. Joel Achenbach, Washington Post staff writer, reviewed many of the points we’ve heard before in his June 19 article. Plowed fields have replaced tall grass prairies. Fields have been drained with underground pipes to lower the water table, causing water to move quickly toward streams and rivers. Vanished wetlands no longer act to absorb water. Flood plains are filled and developed with farms and residences crowding the rivers. The most profitable crops, without deep roots, are planted year after year. Sediment chokes streams, some of which have been artificially straightened.

During the height of the Iowa floods, our son called to report that his home church had flood water nearly up to its roof. Having worshiped many times in that church, I found the news incredible. But sadly, it was true. In the days since then, many downstream levees channeling water through lower elevation villages and farmland have burst, with tragic consequences.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1 KJV). God created man to enjoy and benefit from the resources of our earth. Our management of the earth and its resources must transpire with loving care and applied knowledge, not mere exploitation. We are partners with the Creator in this grand venture.