Earth Science - Other

The Mythology of Natural Disasters

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"The Mythology of Natural Disasters"
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It must be asked whether or not the entire concept of natural disasters is actually founded on myth. For a disaster to be natural, it must be a product of nature only, not caused by any divine or human events and/or actions. Natural disasters can only occur within the world of a naturalist - or, perhaps a Deist who believes that God has created the universe with its own "natural" laws and does nothing whatsoever at all to intervene in the world. If one, however, subscribes to a theistic world view, then there are no natural disasters, but only disasters which are allowed and/or guided by God in order to achieve His ends and His purposes.

This is where natural disasters dip into mythology. For it cannot be proved that a disaster is actually natural in its origin. To accept that only nature is involved in any and/or all events which seem to affect the non-human, non-animal aspect of the universe is actually a faith position, not a scientific evaluation. Science does not do well with examining origins of actions that have already taken place. According to the scientific method, an event has to be observable in order to be evaluated scientifically. While science can observe effects of causes, it cannot evaluate causes except on those few occasions when it is actually able to observe the causing event.

To explain: take the current Red River flood. I find myself in the middle of such and would like to have a natural explanation. Of course, the standard explanation is that the flood is the result of Mother Nature and her effects upon the planet. Or, blame may be placed upon global warming with its weather shifts - or possibly (and I heard this on the radio) on the effects of El Nino or El Nina. To be sure, weather patterns were involved. Some places in our valley did receive a significant amount of snow. But we could have handled the snow if the run-off pattern had been a bit different.

So, what caused the snow to come when it did, what caused it to be spread about the valley and the surrounding areas as it was? What caused the melt off to happen as it did - oh, and what caused the cold weather to come which stopped the flow of the runoff and added a bit more water due to a couple of storms? And then what - dare I ask who? - caused the warm weather to come - and who or what caused it to warm faster at the start of the river than what it was melting at the end?

You see that the answers to these questions have to be met with a mythology, with a probable cause and explanation, with a power or a person who did it, unless we are to ascribe it all to mere fate. But then, even if we choose this route, fate becomes its own power. It now is responsible - in the same way that people will argue that nature must take the blame. So, what entity is it? Is it pure luck, or chance? Is it fate? Or, is it the effect of one of the gods (I would argue that it is the result of God the Father Himself!)?

You see, nature is not a cause, it is actually an effect. Whether you are a big-banger evolutionist, or whether you are a scientific creationist, nature is only a result of whatever caused this world in the first place. And thus nature cannot ultimately take responsibility for the "natural disasters" that we see. It was either pure chance prompted by the convening of otherwise remote elements - in which case the fate that brought them together would have to be the cause; or it is the work of a Creator, a Creator who works out His will and His purposes in His creation.

I think it is time to return to a mindset that allows us to take a Creator's perspective in view. The old word for "natural disaster" was Providence. It was the Sovereign Will of God which cares for and superintends every element and every event which takes place in His creation. This view actually assigned to natural disasters a purpose, which is something that you do not have if everything is a chance event, or if everything is guided by fate. Providence allows for a purpose - as it supplies us with a God who is in control of every "natural" event which transpires on earth. We are scared to do this, though, for whether or not we are amenable to Providence depends greatly on the nature of that Creator.

For example, what if God is a malevolent God who created this world in order to abuse and misuse it? Then, perhaps, natural disasters are meant for our ill. However, if we accept the prevailing concept of God, that He is the God of the Bible, and is thus just and good, then Providence is a good thing - and it is the means by which God demonstrates His love and care for His Order. That does not mean that every event feels good, or that it is good according to our estimation. But it does mean that it all works out for the good, that is the ultimate good, God's good - which means, it fits the very purpose for which He designs it.

But how does that square with the many events that we view as evil? How could Hurricane Katrina be good, when it decimated an entire community. It altered lives beyond imagination. People lost many things that were dear to them. Many lost their lives. Where is the good in that?

When one considers, however, ultimate goodness and ultimate justice - not just goodness and justice as what appears to be good and just for me - then perhaps one can find a solution. For justice and goodness exist on a higher plane than simply the actions that benefit me at this time. For if all goes well with me all the time, when will I deal with my sin? When will I deal with those behaviors which might be hurtful and unjust to others?

Do I commit these? Certainly I do, though most times I do not actually attempt to. (Quite often this is because I am so self-focused that I do not realize what I am doing!) Should there be justice for me? Should I not be confronted with my need for forgiveness by being brought face-to-face with my limitedness by some sort of catastrophic event?

And what about justice if I am the one who is wronged? Is not God obligated to bring the offender to justice?

But we say, "What about the innocent?" To which I respond, "Are there any who are actually innocent, who are actually unstained with sin?" "Well," you will respond, "What about babies? They are certainly good!" And yet, I have had six of those charming creatures come into my life, and you know what? I have never had to teach a one of them how to be bad. But I have had to work my buns off teaching them how to be good, and teaching them how to do right!

"Well," you may argue, "That is a societal problem." And now you have stepped into the naturalist camp. For the naturalist believes that it is impersonal forces which control our world, impersonal elements which masquerade under the guise of nature. And poof! You have stepped over the edge into mythology again; for you have created a power greater than man - and a power greater than God - to which all of humanity is enslaved.

Thus, this is the mythology behind natural disasters. It is the mythology that states that man and the universe is in the control of this wretched thing called nature and that it is guided chaotically along its uncharted course at the whim of immaterial and impersonal forces. This is mythology of the highest degree - as it creates an unknown, unknowable, and unnamed FORCE which holds sway over all. I prefer to call that thing God, and to recognize that He is knowable, nameable and personal. After all, He tells us about Himself in His Word, the Bible. And He tells us that He became human so that we could come to know Him. It was that human that created and who rules over the entirety of His creation - so that natural disasters are not actually disasters at all, but the Benevolent Workings of a Great and Glorious Providence.

More about this author: Keith Needham

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