Saturday, April 30, 2011

God's Higher Purpose

Television, newspapers, and internet pages are filled with images of the tragic tornado super outbreak of April 28, 2011 in America’s deep south. This event now ranks second only to the famous tri-state tornado super outbreak of 1925 in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana which killed 747. At this writing, 343 people are known dead. Americans who were not personally impacted suffer in empathy for the victims and their families. We commit them to God’s care.

Of my own personal, first-hand ordeals with many severe natural phenomena of Planet Earth, none has resulted in serious personal tragedy. But I claim close-up experience with a tornado, hurricanes, blizzards, heat waves, cold waves, floods, droughts, volcanoes, and earthquakes. In 1973, several days after a small tornado passed within several hundred feet of the northern New Jersey school where I taught earth science, a half-dozen students joined me during lunch hour, pedaling a mile to view a spot in the nearby woods where the twister touchdown made it appear as though a giant rotary lawnmower had passed through. The current Alabama disaster makes that experience insignificant as I soberly contemplate the horrific power of weather’s forces.

Each occurrence of events such as the recent major Japan earthquake and tsunami or the Midwest flooding episodes of recent years brings with it many questions about “what God may be saying to us.” I do not question that God can control weather and send deadly storms. Psalm 148:8 references natural disasters accomplished at God’s bidding. Various translations state these events do His bidding, fulfill His Word, or obey His orders. Neither do I question that God’s omniscient foreknowledge may include every natural event happening now or yet to happen.

Since God has a higher purpose in mind for pain and suffering, premature, tragic, or mature-age death, and certainly, on a more cheerful note, the many joyful experiences we are blessed with most of the time, we must humbly endeavor to submit to the Creator’s plans and purposes. Those plans and purposes are far beyond human understanding. Man’s pronouncements about what we think God is doing, what we think God wouldn’t do if He were loving and benevolent, or what He ought to do according to our judgment, become impertinent, trivial, and foolish. However, we must not depreciate the grief which attends the human tragedy of this tornado outbreak.

We need frequent reminders of the ubiquitous severe events on earth throughout its history. The account of the creation of the heavens and earth in Genesis 1 recalls several events which were followed by the pronouncement that “God saw that it was good.” In the eons before and after God’s spirit moved on the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2) there were many manifestations of fierce and turbulent events as the earth acquired its features and characteristics. From the Big Bang until this very moment in earth history, the Second Law of Thermodynamics has operated as a God-ordained overlay of this universe. In brief, this means energy dissipates; things run down from a higher to a lower state of organization. Most of these events ultimately benefit humanity. Some, however, are violent, destructive, or fatally tragic.

The Alabama tornado outbreak is a tragic natural disaster almost beyond comprehension. A web search of historic natural disasters brings the broader picture of life on earth into clearer focus. We are reminded of many similar past tragedies both prior to man’s advent and since the creation of man on this planet over many millennia. Human discovery of the fixed laws of nature and how to apply them has enriched our lives. Modern society is the product of technology powered by energy sources birthed in many wild geological events of the distant past. Those events would be considered violent and tragic by today’s standards. The Book of Job and other scriptures refer to many natural disasters over thousands of years.

April 28, 2011 must be perceived within the context of the universe God created—a “Second Law” universe where things are running down. God’s “very good” creation operates under the umbrella of this law. It is not a “bad” law. The outworking of God’s imposed laws is manifest in God’s higher purpose to be experienced in the future. The New Creation described in Revelation 21-22 is in view for the redeemed people of God. In the New Creation God’s higher purpose will be fully revealed.