Hurricane Irma:  Existence of God & Natural Evil


Welcome back to Defender’s Voice. This is Paul Kattupalli. As we speak, the terrible hurricane Irma is ravaging through southern United States. For millions of people, this is a very painful time. Homes flooded, streets submerged, standing room only shelters, no electricity, no hot food, no clean water. Their world turned upside down.

I went to college in central Florida. I remember one summer we went through 4 hurricanes in five weeks. I remember going to Walmart, finding empty shelves, looking around for some water bottles and dry food, asking for a generator, getting plywood to cover the windows. In the middle of the night we lost electricity, the walls around our campus crumbled down, police going around the streets announcing the curfew. In the middle of the night, I wondered whether my dorm room would collapse. Going through those hurricanes was one of the most frightening experiences I ever had.

Our hearts go out for the people who are going through the direct impact of this hurricane. If you see the breaking news, just the news scrolings give you goosebumps.

65 percent of Florida has no electricity

South Florida is in crosshairs of a nuclear hurricane.

Police going to each home and telling them, you must leave now.

Mass exodus from Florida as hurricane near

Florida Governor: We’re running out of time, leave now

This storm is wider than the entire state.

A woman delivering her own baby because 911 is not responding

Criminals going around and looting abandoned homes and businesses

Just a few days ago we had the largest wildfires in California, a monstrous earthquake in Mexico and now killer hurricanes wreaking havoc in every direction. It looks like a dress rehearsal for coming tribulation years. Needless to say, these are painful times for many people.  

When we see so much devastation around us, we spontaneously ask, ‘where is God?’. Philosophers talk about evil under two headings: Natural evil and Human evil. Natural evil covers natural suffering like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, superbugs, plagues etc. Human evil covers suffering caused by human beings like violence, corruption, murders, rapes, terrorism, child abuse etc.

Today is September 11. This morning, President Trump gave a speech on terrorism and later talked about rescue efforts for the hurricane victims. Natural evil and human evil both follow us through our lives. These calamities expose our worldviews. At no other time will our worldviews come into collision more than during disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes.

Some atheists are angry. They taunt us, ‘Hurricanes are ransacking the land. Where is the loving God you talk about? If there is a loving God, why is there so much suffering?’ It’s interesting that they only complain about inactions of a loving God, not actions of a holy God.

They only ask, How can a loving God allow so much suffering? They never ask, ‘How can a holy God tolerate so much sin?’ Miami has highest HIV rates, more than any other city in the United States. The rampant promiscuity, sexual immorality, homosexuality, drug traffickers in our streets destroying lives of young people, shedding innocent blood in our abortion clinics, the violence in our streets, euthanasia, and child abuse. How can a holy God tolerate this much sin and lawlessness?

Miami area became a major hub of pornography production. This pornography is corrupting so many lives in our time. Take the top three songs that won this summer. Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Shape of You’, Justin Bieber’s Despacito, and Bruno Mars’ ‘That’s What I like’. Together these three songs had over 5 billion views just on Youtube. What is the major theme of these three songs? Sexuality: boundless, explicit, pornographic sexuality. In Shape of You, Ed Sheeran sings,

‘I’m in love with the shape of you

I’m in love with your body

I’m in love with your body

I’m in love with your body.

A culture that completely discarded the Creator God,

a culture that has no trace of fear of God in their lives

a culture that descended into worship of nature

a culture that descended into worship of sexuality than the worship of Creator God…….

Everyone is asking, ‘Where is the loving God you talk about?

No one is asking, ‘How can a Holy God tolerate our sins and abominations?’

Like a grandfather, God must hand us candy after candy, cookie after cookie to make sure we are happy 24/7.

The Bible says, God is love, but it also says, ‘God is holy’

1 John 4:8: God is love

1 Peter 1:16: God is holy

So, we should remember both love of God and holiness of God when we discuss the problem of evil, because both love and holiness are intrinsic to the character of God. First see the contradiction of our society. It removed God from all public displays. God is never mentioned in a positive sense. Every reference to God has been suppressed in the name of separation of church and state. God’s holy name is used in vain 24/7, His name is cursed without remorse…..but when disasters happen, they complain… it seems God does not care.

Our culture reminds me of Menendez brothers. Back in 1989 two brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez killed their wealthy parents in Beverly Hills, California. For a while, they were not suspects. They went around with sad faces, ‘We are orphans now, lost both parents in a single night, who will comfort us?’ Our culture takes the same approach. After declaring the death of God, it is complaining about His absence. Its unbelief hinders them from seeing the inconsistencies and contradictions in their worldview.

Charles Darwin, after many years of research, declared there is no special Creator apart from nature. He opined ‘in the struggle for existence only the fittest will survive’. Darwin admired his daughter Annie so much. Sadly, Annie died shortly after her tenth birthday. Darwin was so overwhelmed with grief he could not even go to her funeral.. ‘I am done with this Christian God. How can I believe in a God who kills children?’ His agnosticism became atheism from that day onward. He could not see the contradiction. On one hand, he told the world, ‘this is nature red in tooth and claw, only the fittest will survive and evolve in this struggle for existence’. On the other hand, he complained, ‘How can a loving God take away my little daughter’. Well, Darwin, your little girl had little chance of survival in the big, brutal nature you envisioned.

Atheists in our time follow Darwin’s thinking. In a recent New York Times article, Jerry Coyne wrote about the purposelessness of cosmos. On one hand they say, universe has no purpose, no meaning, no direction, we just evolving, dinosaurs were not lucky to survive. We may go extinct like dinosaurs, no guarantee. On the other hand they say, there is so much evil in this world there cannot be God. You see, in their worldview, evil makes no sense. They have to steal a moral framework from a theistic worldview. Without a moral framework, talking about evil is sheer nonsense. Evil according to who? Evil according to whose standards?

Let me read from this essay Jerry Coyne wrote in New York Times.

“Cosmology doesn’t give one iota of evidence for a purpose (it could!) or for God. Most of the universe is cold, bleak, airless, and uninhabitable. In fact, such a cosmology harmonizes far better with a secular moral picture than a religious one. Secularists see a universe without apparent purpose and realize that we must forge our own purposes and ethics, not derive them from a God for which there’s no evidence.

Yes, secularism does propose a physical and purposeless universe, and many (but not all) of us accept the notion that our sense of self is a neuronal illusion. But although the universe is purposeless, our lives aren’t. This conflation of a purposeless universe (i.e., one not created by a transcendent being for a specific reason) with purposeless human lives is a trick that the faithful use to make atheism seem dark and nihilistic. But we make our own purposes, and they’re real. Right now my purpose is to write this piece, and then I’ll work on a book I’m writing, and later I’ll have dinner with a friend. Soon I’ll go to Poland to visit more friends. Maybe later I’ll read a nice book and learn something. Soon I’ll be teaching biology to graduate students. Those are real purposes, not the illusory purposes to which Douthat wants us to devote our only life.”

Let us see atheist and evolutionist Jerry Coyne’s argument:

Universe has no purpose

Our sense of self is a neuronal illusion

Even though universe has no purpose, I can put purposes on my life.

On the surface it sounds cool.

But let us go to back to 1945. If someone says,

“Universe has no purpose

Our sense of self is a neuronal illusion

Even though universe has no purpose, I can put purposes on my life. Right now my purpose is to write this piece, and then I’ll work on a book I’m writing, and later I’ll have dinner with a friend. Soon I’ll go to Poland and burn a few people in gas chambers. Maybe later I’ll read a nice book by Hitler. Soon I’ll be teaching anti-semitism to graduate students. Those are real purposes, not the illusory purposes to which Douthat wants us to devote our only life.”

The Nazis think eliminating every Jew from this world is a great purpose. Sorry to bring Hitler and Nazis into this discussion. But the point is, if the universe has no Creator, if the universe has no moral law giver, if the only purposes are the purposes we give to our acts, then we create cultural and moral relativism.

Some people find purpose in writing books, others find purpose in burning books

Some people find purpose in monogamy, others find purpose in polygamy

Some people find purpose in nonviolence, others find purpose in violence

Some people find purpose in gentleness, others find purpose in rape and pillage

Some people find purpose in tolerance, others find purpose in discrimination.

In such a world everyone follows their own instincts,

and turn their instincts into purposes

In such a world evil cannot even exist.

When you say, there is so much evil, you are saying there is such a thing as good. If certain things are good and certain things are evil, there must be a system of moral values, there must be a system of moral laws to differentiate between good and evil. Without a moral law giver, where can you get moral laws? Without some one who established values, where can you get moral values? So when our society calls certain things evil, it has to run back to God, who is the moral law giver. Without God, talking about evil makes no sense.

Let me illustrate. You are in a dark room. You said, it is so dark here, I don’t believe in sun. How do you know it is dark unless you have an idea of light? How can you differentiate between darkness and light unless there is a source of light? So, when you say it is dark, you are affirming the existence of sun. In the same way, when you say something is evil, you are affirming the existence of God. Famous atheist Nietzsche used powerful metaphors to express his ideas. In his book Gay Science he says once we leave God it is like ‘unchained from sun’.

When Adam violated God’s commandments, the Bible says, his eyes were opened, he realized his nakedness and hid himself from God. When God called, ‘Adam, where are you?’Adam said, ‘When I heard your voice, I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself’. Then God asked him very profound and insightful question: ‘Who told you you are naked?’ Unless God has spoken, there can not be a sense of nakedness. Unless God has spoken, there can not be a sense of shame. Unless God has spoken, we can be like any other animal in the nature, naked and no sense of shame.

Unless God has spoken, there is no basis for moral values. Without moral values, we cannot have a standard to differentiate between good and evil. God is like sun. Without sun, there is no basis to differentiate between darkness and light.

Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides wrote a book entitled Guide for the Perplexed. In this book Maimonides explored via negativa or negative theology. He said evil is not a thing that exists or was created. Evil is simply the absence of good. Imagine a home with a roof. Then one day, a part of the roof fell off. When the storm came, the home has no protection. Evil is like that. It is absence of good.

Elie Wiesel was a Nobel Prize winner and a survivor of the Holocaust. He was in a concentration camp and along with few others, one day he was forced to watch the hanging of two Jewish men and one Jewish boy. It was painful to watch this little boy struggling for half an hour on the gallows. They were moaning in their hearts, ‘if he is going to die, let me die quickly’.

As the boy was struggling on the gallows, some one behind Wiesel cried out, ‘Where is God? Where is he? Wiesel also groaned, ‘Where is God? Where is he?’ Then he heard a voice within him saying, ‘He is hanging there on the gallows’.

People ask, ‘Where is God during the Holocaust?’

Where is God on September 11?

Where is God today during the hurricane? 

God is there where He has always been. There is no change in his position.

Sun is always there. Our view of sun changes because we are moving, not the sun.

Recently we had a solar eclipse across the United States. Sun was eclipsed by moon, but Sun was there right in the center of our planetary system. In the same way, God can be eclipsed by evil, whether natural or human, but there is no change in God’s position or His nature.

During solar eclipse, people wore special glasses. Why? looking at the sun with our naked eyes will permanently damage our eyesight. Looking at God with our own opinions will permanently damage our worldview. We must look at God through Christ. We must look at God through the cross of Christ.

The cross of Christ is at the center of Christian theodicy. Theodicy is a fancy word for discussions about God and evil. Famous German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz coined that word. Christianity answers all questions of evil through the cross. Please join me next time, we will see how God answers the question of evil through the cross of Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray, ‘Lord Jesus, we pray for your grace upon the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. We pray that you comfort people who lost their homes and other belongings. We pray that you comfort those who lost their loved ones.  Let them see the cross where you paid for the penalty of our sins. Let them ask you for forgiveness of their sins and get saved. In your precious and loving name we pray, Amen’

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