It’s been a tough week for those in the south pacific and south Asia. Let’s review:
: MANILA, Oct 2 (Reuters) - The Philippines ordered the evacuation of people living in low-lying coastal areas on Friday as a "super typhoon" threatened devastation a week after flash floods killed nearly 300 people in and around Manila. The Asia-Pacific region has been hit by a series of natural disasters in recent days, including Typhoon Ketsana which killed more than 400 in the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia.
: SIUMU, Samoa, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Rescuers fished bloated corpses from the South Pacific off Samoa and pulled bodies from the mud and twisted rubble of devastated islands as the death toll from a series of tsunamis neared 200 on Thursday.
: A powerful 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the Indonesian city of Padang on Sept. 30, trapping thousands under debris. A second quake, initially put at magnitude 6.8 but later revised down to 6.6, hit another part of Sumatra Island on Oct. 1, causing fresh panic. As of tonight the death toll is over 1,100. It is still climbing as search and rescue teams begin to break through the rubble looking for the hundreds of unaccounted for individuals.
If I were in the South Pacific at this very moment I might be thinking the world was coming to an end. Disaster after disaster has struck this region of our Earth just this week. There have been earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and monsoons. And, there have been people. These people had families and jobs. These people had stories.
Check out the island of Indonesia
for just a moment. I started to count the number of casualties and the number of displaced and was quickly too overwhelmed to continue.
Disasters like what the south pacific and south Asian countries have experienced this week raise many questions among both followers of Christ and those who practice other faiths. The most prominent question that arises is to do with the problem of evil.
I was in graduate school north of Boston when the tsunami of 2004 hit Sumatra. I was taking a class called World Mission of the Church. My professor, Dr. Timothy Tennent (Dr. T, not to be mistaken with Mr. T) gave a sermon to a local church regarding the devastation. He shared his sermon notes with our class to help us make sense of that horrific event. It felt fitting to read it again in light of this weeks happenings. The following are pieces taken from his sermon.
Christians ask questions like:
Q. Were the people who died this week more sinful that people other parts of the world?
A. Of course not.
Q. Could God have stopped it?
A. Of course, He is sovereign over the whole universe. If even a sparrow does not fall… Matthew 10:29
Q. Why didn’t God prevent it?
A. “Why is there any death and suffering at all?” And it has to be faced squarely by Christians, since we claim to have the answers to the true meaning of life, the universe and everything. God does not put a hedge around the world - book of Job… Satan says, no wonder Job loves you, look how you have blessed and protected him… and God says, no, even if he loses everything… land his children, his health…he will still love me, because Job realizes, despite his wealth, that his hope is in God….
The disasters this week have all taken place in the heart of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. Tsunami occurred in the heart of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism….(Indonesia is the largest Islamic country on the earth, Sri Lanka is the heart of Theravada Buddhism, Thailand is a Buddhist country, India is 85% Hindu……
Explore how other religions in the area would respond to the problem of evil….
Hindus say… All is karma, impersonal law of cause and effect, due to bad karma in previous lifetimes…
Buddhists say… life itself is an illusion
Muslims say… it is the active direct will of Allah… Allah is sovereign and you cannot question why? He could have done it for pure sport if he choose to….
No one has said, “why did Krishna allow this?” “Why did Allah allow this?”
The Christian answer to this is unique. A mystery really. First, this life is fleeting. We are fragile beings. We live in a world with a shelf life. Matt. 24:7, Ps. 102:25,26. Second, it puts life in perspective. Each day is a gift from God. Third, it reveals the hearts of men and women. Odd testimony to God’s sovereignty… no one has pointed a finger at me and said, why did you let this happen? They point to God because they know he is an all powerful, sovereign God…. Fourth, it points us to the mystery of the crucified savior. God in Jesus Christ has entered into the world of suffering through the incarnation….. the problem of evil can only be met at the foot of the cross.
God does not give us an “answer” to the problem of evil. He takes the mystery of the problem of evil and it is swallowed up by an even greater mystery… the suffering of his Son on the cross of Calvary, the only truly innocent sufferer.