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"Does God cause earthquakes?"


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#1 Evan

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 06:27 PM

Dear friends,

As one who has made no secret of my faith in an extremely secular environment, I have, over the last couple days, been besieged (in a friendly but earnest way) with questions about the devestation and carnage in Haiti. Without dwelling on what answers I have already provided, I would ask those more knowledgable than I as to the proper way in which to engage people who do expect me to provide a "Christian" answer to the question at hand.

I should say in advance that I have come to regard natural disasters the same way I regard individual acts of violence perpetrated by men-- they are the consequences of the entrance of sin and death into the world. They would not take place-- or, more precisely, they would not affect us, had our forebears not sinned and wrought corruption. We were supposed to have control over the cosmos, but we lost that by pursuing our own desires rather than glorifying God for all things we were given. If that's not a proper way of looking at them, I would appreciate corrrection.

Lord have mercy on all those who suffer from the groans of creation.

In Christ,
Evan

#2 Ilaria

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 07:09 PM

Luke 13
2And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
4Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
5I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

#3 Evan

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 07:54 PM

Ilaria,

Thank you for the Scripture. I've tried to steer clear of implying that anybody in particular "deserves" earthly suffering.

That said, such events as the destruction of Jerusalem are plainly upheld by the Fathers as expressions of divine wrath, intended to chastise and correct (I know that's a loaded term, but I don't know how else to describe it). Those of us in the states are likely aware that statements to this effect have been made regarding the situation in Haiti, and that many view them as scandalous because they do imply that such suffering is "deserved."

Is this chastisement-correction approach to be rejected utterly? Was it uniquely tailored to the Jews and the need to humble them in preparation for the coming of the Word in the flesh?

In Christ,
Evan

#4 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 08:45 PM

The Commemoration of the Great Earthquake of Constantinople
In the year 740, during the reign of Emperor Leo the Isaurian, there was a terrifying and prolonged earthquake in Constantinople. The people considered this a punishment from God for their sins, and prayed with great repentance to the Most‐holy Theotokos and St. Demetrius, until God showed mercy and the earthquake ceased. This event is commemorated in the Orthodox Calendar on November 8th.

TROPAR (Tone 8)
O Christ our God, You look upon the earth and it trembles;
Deliver us from the terrible threat of earthquakes;
And through the prayers of the Theotokos,
Send down upon us Your abundant mercy and save us!

KONTAK (Tone 6)
Deliver us from upheavals and from terrible afflictions caused by our sins, O Lord, and spare
Your people whom You have purchased with Your blood, O Master. Do not deliver Your city
to destruction by terrible earthquakes, for we know no other God than You; and to those
who cry out You respond: “I am with you and no one will be against you.”



#5 Evan

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 09:32 PM

Herman,

Maybe I should have described the tenor of the questions differently.

"Did God cause THIS earthquake?"

In Christ,
Evan

#6 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 09:50 PM

We have no way of knowing. God certainly can cause earthquakes and may have at times, but a better way to understand most "natural disasters" is that they are the unnatural result of a fallen world deprived of its priestly connection to God by man's abandonment of his priestly office. Had man not fallen, his priestly service would keep the natural material world in order.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 15 January 2010 - 10:15 PM.


#7 Eric Peterson

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 09:55 PM

I think it would be important to ask, if God causes other earthquakes to happen, and not this latest one, then who did? To ascribe causality to Satan would seem to me to be against the teaching of the Fathers and Scripture. Satan does not rule the world or, as the Psalm says, shake the earth about like a garment. God Who made the earth appoints seasons, life, life's end, earthquakes, etc. Unpleasant things happen, and we want to leave God out of the equation. But this makes, I think, a vacuum of causality. We do not believe that anything happens without God. The earthquake happened because God allowed it to happen. WHY the earthquake happened is a completely different matter. We say disaster happens because of our own sins out of repentance and humility. It's another matter to ascribe God's wrath as the reason why disasters happen to other people. It's like anything else in life, like riches and poverty. Why are the rich rich and the poor poor? So that the rich might share what they have with the poor and the poor might thank God and pray for the rich. Why did this earthquake happen? Generically, the same reason why this and other disasters strike, so that people may repent and show compassion, so that they might remember eternal life, and for various other reasons known only to God.

#8 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 10:21 PM

Let me put it another way: People drown; does that mean that God causes drownings? But if people had faith, they could walk on water and therefore wouldn't drown. Caught in tempest at sea, they could command the wind and the seas to be still, as Christ did. It is therefore our lack of faith that leads to the disorders we unfortunately call "acts of God."

In Christ, Dn. Christ

#9 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 10:30 PM

I find it hard to believe that God would cause an earthquake in a place where the condition of the people was already of the utmost wretchedness in the hope of inducing a sense of repentence and compassion in rich westerners who are already indicted by their failure to provide appropriate assistance to such a people before this disaster.

#10 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 10:34 PM

For a larger context perhaps:

http://www.orthocuba...-pat-robertson/

#11 Eric Peterson

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 10:46 PM

I wasn't trying to provide Pat Robertson statements. I think it's important, however, to look at this situation, if one chooses to look at it (prying into mysteries isn't always a great idea), in as broad a scope as possible. There appears to be a great disconnect between patristic Orthodox explanation of tragedy and that offered by others, like Pat Robertson--who should, anyway, be ignored. There are many reasons why suffering occurs, of course it's all because of sin. I don't ascribe guilt or judgment to Haitians or the victims of the tsunami any more than to rich Americans. I just find explanations of such events without reference to God to be disturbing, theologically, as if God were standing by, powerless to do anything.

#12 Evan

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 10:51 PM

I wasn't trying to provide Pat Robertson statements. I think it's important, however, to look at this situation, if one chooses to look at it (prying into mysteries isn't always a great idea), in as broad a scope as possible. There appears to be a great disconnect between patristic Orthodox explanation of tragedy and that offered by others, like Pat Robertson--who should, anyway, be ignored. There are many reasons why suffering occurs, of course it's all because of sin. I don't ascribe guilt or judgment to Haitians or the victims of the tsunami any more than to rich Americans. I just find explanations of such events without reference to God to be disturbing, theologically, as if God were standing by, powerless to do anything.



Eric,

If I may: God "allowed" Satan to scourge Job, but I wouldn't say that He was standing by, powerless! Indeed, it strikes me that His power was evident in the very fact that Satan only was able to touch Job because he was allowed to do so.

In Christ,
Evan

#13 Cyprian (Humphrey)

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 10:57 PM

Oh, Eric (and others mayhap)! My apologies! I wasn't trying to say that you supported anything that Pat Robertson ever said at all! I apologize if it read like that's what I was trying to say.

I found that link earlier today, and then saw this thread, and thought "what if some of the Orthodox folks were faced with this kind of argument from their acquaintances?" It was just to point out that this "pact with the Devil" nonsense has no basis in reality at all. It was not intended as a commentary on the reflections and insights already given.

Maybe I didn't emphasize the "perhaps" enough!

My apologies for not expressing myself more clearly.

Please forgive me.

#14 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 11:27 PM

As with our discussion on the existence of a real hell, so here also with catastrophes we are very hesitant to ascribe to God's actions what was commonly admitted up until recent times.

Here then I want to admit that what the tropar & kondak say & imply are literally correct when it comes to such catastrophes.

KONTAK (Tone 6)
Deliver us from upheavals and from terrible afflictions caused by our sins, O Lord, and spare
Your people whom You have purchased with Your blood, O Master. Do not deliver Your city
to destruction by terrible earthquakes, for we know no other God than You; and to those
who cry out You respond: “I am with you and no one will be against you.


Thus at root of all such catastrophe as the kondak says is our sin; what else could account for death? Certainly to say that nature is the cause just ends up begging the question. This ends up being a circular presentation with no real Christian answer given.

Purpose though is something else. Death is already the effect of sin. It plays a redemptive role to those who approach it in this manner. Catastrophe however is when death confronts man on a massive and unavoidable scale. It allows for little or none of that mental escape act which we all like to indulge in when death approaches. Catastrophe then can be a real judgment. But it also can be a wake up call. Here I think that in the case of the earthquake in Haiti we see such a thing. Catastrophe is a judgment that we are like sleep walkers addicted to our dreams of increasing material prosperity at any cost and to anyone.

Here it is instructive that in modern times it is mostly those whose life is already a daily struggle who are allowed to suffer the direct effects of catastrophe. At first sight this could seem most unjust or unmerciful and thus raise the deepest questions concerning catastrophe. But perhaps the reason that such people are allowed to suffer is because they suffer better than we do whereas we who live in comfort would utterly crumble. (there are plenty of examples of what amounts to a basically hysterical fear of death on our part but they are rarely noticed). Thus the fact that although we all sin but others suffer should give us pause and serve as a wake up call. For it could well be that why others suffer catastrophe while we do not is not because we are 'more fortunate in a socio-economic way' while they are not. Rather it is so that we may come to recognize that due to our own critical sinfulness that we are not really better off or 'more advantaged'. Perhaps then from this perspective a doorway could open up that would allow us to live in a more real way in the presence of God and amidst the life and struggles that He allows.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#15 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 01:32 AM

We have the luxury of speculating and theologising about this whilst unknown thousands of Haitians suffer. Why should suffering be visited upon them just because they are already so miserable that a bit more misery won't matter so much? I'm sure any Haitian would rather be cogitating about suffering and disasters in a comfortable home in Tunbridge Wells than delving with his bare hands through the rubble of his former hut to find the corpse of his wife.

Frankly, I don't think we should have this thread at all. It is typical of western thinking, infected as it is by the so-called 'Enlightenment', that we search for explanations of the inexplicable. This is why faith was lost in the west - murdering to dissect. In the Gospel quotations we have had above and in the Book of Job, we find no explanations. Why focus on this disaster? What sufferings and disasters have there been since the Massacre of the Innocents? Whose intellect will explain these things? We should close the mouth and keep silent before God.

Edited by Andreas Moran, 16 January 2010 - 02:17 AM.


#16 Father David Moser

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 03:27 AM

Throughout history, man has used religion as a means by which he can become "powerless" and thereby without responsibility. It is the fault of the gods that suffering is in the world; natural disasters are caused by the gods because they are displeased or wish to punish; our own inability to get what we want when we want it is the fault of the gods. It is a good thing to be without power for without power we cannot be blamed for anything and thus we don't have to do anything when bad things happen. In our modern society this kind of thinking has found a home in disease (I can't help my sin, I suffer from some psychological disorder/addiction/disability/etc. or perhaps it was some trauma in my youth, or some genetic coding - and of course then we are back full cicle to the gods who made me this way). But the "terrible" thing about Christianity is that we are not powerless. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Our Lord, Who is all-powerful empowers us. We are not powerless - we are filled with the power of God.

This then opens the door to what Fr Dcn Patrick mentioned above:

Let me put it another way: People drown; does that mean that God causes drownings? But if people had faith, they could walk on water and therefore wouldn't drown. Caught in tempest at sea, they could command the wind and the seas to be still, as Christ did. It is therefore our lack of faith that leads to the disorders we unfortunately call "acts of God."

I would say not so much that it's our "lack of faith" but rather our own sinfulness and negligence that cause the earthquakes, and storms and other natural disasters. By our disobedience and subsequent abandonment of our priestly place in creation, we are the cause of all these disruptions and because we are empowered by God, wherever we are, if we were as in communion with God as we should be, we could prevent the tragedy or render it harmless. How many saints have averted floods, turned storms, preserved the faithful by their prayers. It is our lack of prayer, our lack of communion with God that causes the pain and suffering of our innocent brethren in this world.

Christianity is a "terrible" religion for it does not strip us of our power and abrogate us of our responsibility - but it empowers us and gives us the means by which these disasters could be averted or at least the human suffering could be eliminated. So now, when you see an earthquake, or a hurricane or tornado, or wildfire, or plague or any other natural cause of human suffering, think this is my fault for I am the chief of sinners and it is sin that brought such suffering into the world.

Fr David Moser

#17 Paul Cowan

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 04:02 AM

John 9:1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.

Matthew 24:6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all[a]these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences,[b] and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

#18 Nina

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 05:47 AM

God does not cause earthquakes. God is perfect and He does not cause imperfections. God creates harmony and love.
Also having talked to many people in the Caribbean area I have seen personally that they face the issue of hurricanes with much simplicity. It happens, yes, and things are destroyed, yes, and poor people suffer *however* much help arrives from US and then we rebuild and life goes on. This is what they have told me. They are poor in those islands, but they are very happy people, and they take pride their little homes are made of stone/brick :) They know how to have quality of life even with that little they have, although they are richly blessed by God with the natural beauty and their beautiful souls.

#19 Father David Moser

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 06:50 AM

But the "terrible" thing about Christianity is that we are not powerless.
...
Christianity is a "terrible" religion for it does not strip us of our power and abrogate us of our responsibility - but it empowers us


After some more thought I finally came up with the right word here - where ever you see "terrible" in this post - please substitute the word "terrifying". It is a much better word for getting across the meaning of what I was trying to say.

Fr David Moser

#20 Evan

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 01:31 PM

We have the luxury of speculating and theologising about this whilst unknown thousands of Haitians suffer. Why should suffering be visited upon them just because they are already so miserable that a bit more misery won't matter so much? I'm sure any Haitian would rather be cogitating about suffering and disasters in a comfortable home in Tunbridge Wells than delving with his bare hands through the rubble of his former hut to find the corpse of his wife.

Frankly, I don't think we should have this thread at all. It is typical of western thinking, infected as it is by the so-called 'Enlightenment', that we search for explanations of the inexplicable. This is why faith was lost in the west - murdering to dissect. In the Gospel quotations we have had above and in the Book of Job, we find no explanations. Why focus on this disaster? What sufferings and disasters have there been since the Massacre of the Innocents? Whose intellect will explain these things? We should close the mouth and keep silent before God.


Andreas,

I put quotes around the initial question for a reason-- it is not my question. It is a question with which I have been confronted, with the expectation that I can "answer" it. I am seeking the proper way to engage people who are perhaps, as you put it, "infected" by Enlightenment thinking and are scandalized by the notion that God would allow such evils to take place, because it just doesn't seem "fair." To that end, I am grateful for the contributions people have made to this thread.

Are you suggesting that those who ask such questions shouldn't be engaged? Perhaps I have misunderstood you.

In any case, forgive me if I have inadvertantly caused any scandal myself.

In Christ,
Evan

Edited by Evan, 16 January 2010 - 01:49 PM.





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