Tragedy, Judgment, Grace

Whenever a major disaster or national tragedy breaks forth, a heated debate tends to arise within Christian circles. Opinions tend to be polarised, with two sets of extremes on offer. On the one hand are those who claim this is all the judgment of God, and people need to repent. On the other hand are those who argue that God would never do such things, and it is ridiculous to drag God into any of this.

From a biblical point of view, I tend to find both perspectives unhelpful. The truth is, we often simply do not know – and are not told – why a particular event happens. Are the floods in Queensland the direct and specific work of God, whether in judgment or for some other reason?

Who knows? I can’t say that it is or it is not. We simply cannot know for certain. So we need to be careful about rushing to judgment here. The truth is, when God acted in the Old Testament, he generally revealed his purposes in his actions. He would communicate his purposes to man, often through his prophets. Thus divine actions were explained by divine speech.

We now refer to this as speech acts. God acts, but he utters his intentions along with it. There are countless examples of this found in the Old Testament. For example, Yahweh says to Jeremiah, “When you tell these people all this and they ask you, ‘Why has the LORD decreed such a great disaster against us? What wrong have we done? What sin have we committed against the LORD our God?’ then say to them, ‘It is because your ancestors forsook me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and followed other gods and served and worshiped them. They forsook me and did not keep my law’” (Jer. 16:10-11).

Thus divine commentary accompanies divine actions. But today things are not so clear cut, so we need to proceed with caution. The problem is, we do not have that same prophetic word today. We do not now have a clear word from God every time some tragedy or disaster takes place.

But it seems the other extreme is just as bad, if not worse. These people argue that God could in no way be behind such tragedies. They think any form of divine judgment is simply not on today. As one believer put it on another site: “thats not true christianity … love love love”.

To be honest, these people are far less biblical than the first group. The first group at least has plenty of biblical precedent for their claims, while the second group is simply unbiblical. Indeed, they are little more than modern day Marcionites.

Marcion was an early church heretic who rejected the God of the Old Testament, and demanded a radical discontinuity between the Testaments. Marcionites said that Yahweh has nothing to do with Jesus and the gospel. The early church fathers rightly condemned this as unbiblical heresy.

The God we serve is the unchanging, eternal God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is just as full of grace in the OT as he is of judgment in the NT. I have written about this frequently on this site. See for example:

billmuehlenberg.com/2010/05/27/on-divine-love-and-wrath/

Just as judgment from God broke forth against a sinful and rebellious people in the OT, so too we find it in the NT. Consider just a few of the episodes recorded there, such as that of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, or the judgment on Herod in Acts 12.

Jesus spoke clearly about this in many places. Consider his remarks in Luke 13:1-5. He mentions two tragedies, including a fallen tower which killed 18 people. He simply notes these cases, then twice says this: “unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Our Christian commentator who said “thats not true christianity … love love love” has obviously not read this passage, nor so many others like it. She would be the first to rebuke Jesus for his lack of compassion, and this heartless utterance of unloving words at such a difficult time.

It is amazing how some Christians think they are more loving than Jesus was. But Jesus – who was too wise to make a mistake and too loving to be unkind – knew exactly what needed to be said. He knew that judgment was imminent, and that the most loving thing he could do was to warn people to flee the wrath to come.

The truth is, a black cloud of judgment hangs over all of us. Very often God indeed does use natural and human tragedies to get our attention, to realign our priorities, and to get us right with him before it is too late. And even the Jesus of the Gospels – who we want to tame, domesticate and transform into our image – makes this clear.

Then there is the book of Revelation. Hopefully these Christians who say God would never judge us still believe that Revelation is God’s word to us, that it is still part of our inspired Scriptures. One Toowoomba resident said of the flood carnage, “The destruction is like from the Armageddon”.

Yes, believers do – or should – believe in Armageddon, and the divine wrath unleashed as recorded in Revelation. Thus if believers can accept the judgment of God there, why is it not possible that he continues to judge according to his own plans and purposes?

Indeed, it can be argued that grace and judgments are inseparably linked with God, and we can no more speak only of his love than we can speak only of his anger and wrath against sin. Both go together and both describe who God is. His love is a holy love, and his judgments are always linked to grace.

We see that throughout Scripture. When God judged Adam and Eve by excluding them from the Garden, that was an act of grace. To live forever in a sinful, rebellious condition would have been horrible. And in that expulsion from Eden, he also provided a covering for the pair. Judgement and grace always go together.

Image of God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology
God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology by James M. Hamilton Jr. (Author) Amazon logo

We find this running all through the Bible. Indeed, it is such an important theme that a brand new book devotes 650 pages to this topic. I refer to James Hamilton’s God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2010).

In it he rightly argues that God’s grace is always accompanied by God’s judgment. God cannot save without also judging. When Yahweh saved Israel, he simultaneously judged Egypt. When God delivered David and Israel, he judged Goliath and the Philistines. We find this time and again in Scripture.

And the ultimate work of grace and salvation – the death and resurrection of Christ – was also the supreme work of judgment. Jesus was judged and took upon himself the wrath of God in order that we might escape it. God’s glory is made manifest in both his salvation and his judgment.

As Hamilton says, “This glory of God is a saving and judging glory – an aroma of life to those being saved and death to those perishing (2 Cor. 2:15-16), and this saving and judging glory is at the center of biblical theology.” The holiness of God and the love of God must always be kept together.

“While God’s steadfast love is seen in salvation, it is also seen in judgment. When God judges, he enforces standards he himself has set, showing steadfast love to himself and the demands of his character. Further, when God judges, he shows steadfast love to his people. They are saved from their enemies when he judges those enemies. They are saved from their sins when God judges their sins (e.g., Isa. 40:2; Rom. 8:3).”

But getting back to the floods, we are simply faced with mega-questions, such as: what is the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility? Thus in this case, can we simply say it was an act of God, or largely due to human irresponsibility (not building enough dams, etc.), or other factors, or a combination thereof?

In our fallen and finite state, we just will not have perfectly clear answers on all this, at least on this side of eternity. But if it is foolhardy to argue that every disaster is an act of God’s judgment, it is just as foolhardy to believe that God does not or cannot judge as he freely chooses.

Whatever is the actual cause of all this, as always, believers can pray for those affected, and offer tangible expressions of help and encouragement. Already believers are praying, giving and acting to help those involved. That much we can always do.

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53 Replies to “Tragedy, Judgment, Grace”

  1. There are many theological topics where people like to try and create God in their own image. They think God would only act like that person would act. This subject is one of those that suffers most from this problem I think.

    I think you are right Bill in that we can’t be sure whether judgment is involved or not, but that’s God’s issue, not ours I believe. I am more inclined (in the face of lack of evidence to the contrary such as a clear divine opinion on the matter) that natural disasters around us are a result of a fallen world “groaning” – we live with the consequences of sin. Our place is to respond with compassion.

    John Symons

  2. I’m stunned. Words can’t quiet communicate how good it is to read this. Last week at church I made a seemingly simple statement whilst chatting to a couple of elders. I said, our God is a just God. I went on to say oh you know, like in the OT, this God people are promoting as Mr love love love, its just not true.
    Bill, they called in the cavalry, the big guns and got stuck into me. We hooked in there for about 1/2 an hour. At the end of it all they said I’m welcome back next week and if the glove fits. Not sure what they meant by that. I would love some feed back?
    Daniel Kempton

  3. Hi Bill,
    I am oft troubled when I see folk making pronouncements about God’s judgement, including recent statements about the QLD floods. Perhaps they are just making general statements and haven’t truly thought through what it is they are saying. But by ascribing actions and intentions to God, in effect they claim to speak for Him … and I don’t think that’s something one ought to take lightly, because if they get it wrong, then “taking His name in vain” springs to mind.
    Steve Frost

  4. The floods are the result of massive amounts of rain. The rain is extensive because of warm seas (probably due to climate change) resulting in high evaporation rates, and a La Niña event in the Pacific. Its called nature.

    Joe Arnold, Rockhampton

  5. Thanks Joe

    Yes that is the immediate physical explanation of how this is occurring, just as daubs of coloured paint applied to a canvas may offer the immediate physical explanation as to how of the Mona Lisa came to be. But most people are not mere materialists, so they also ask for more, including the ‘why’ questions. I am not sure where you are coming from, but if your point is this is simply a material world in which only material things happen, then you are offering very little to this discussion. Most people, except for die-hard secularists, accept that there is much more to life than mere nature.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  6. Bill,

    The Mona Lisa obviously required an intelligent mind to create it. A massive rainstorm causing widespread floods requires only mindless physics. Once we start invoking God as either cause or as potential intervener we create all sorts of problems for ourselves, some of which you have alluded to.

    I wish any fellow Australians who are reading this and suffering from the floods, grace and strength to recover your situation.

    We can all help out by donating to the flood appeal.

    Joe Arnold, Rockhampton

  7. Early in the week I was told by someone who should know that a well known long-range Brisbane based weather forecaster, named Inigo Jones (I remember him from my childhood) forecast fifty years ago, that in the early part of the 21st century there would be a drought, however by the end of 2010, there would be severe floods. I remember he was usually spot on with his forecasts. So God didn’t really spring this one on us. In contrast with the so called Global warming “experts” how many of them, barely nine months ago, could predict this weather for 2011?
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Q

  8. Thanks Bill…

    You are a gifted and compassionate man.

    Like you, I have tears flowing down my cheeks as I write this….

    Your Godly balance is MUCH appreciated.

    Paul Evans

  9. Thanks Joe.
    Yes, the floods are due to massive amounts of rain. That’s the bleedingly obvious. Thanks for the big revelation!
    As to them being due to “climate change”, let me remind you that according to the Tim Flannerys of this world, the Ross Garnauts etc., and their political acolytes, the rains which we have been used to in the past we cannot expect again because of global warming. I had that solemnly assured to me in 2008 by the then Water Minister Tim Holding in response to a letter I wrote demanding that more dams be constructed to alleviate the destruction caused by the Gippsland floods in 2007. That same year we had the ridiculous spectacle of Kevin Rudd standing at the bottom of a dry river bed proclaiming that this was proof of global warming! (And how dare anyone deny it) As if that sort of thing has never happened before in our country’s history!!
    On the contrary, this present scenario has nothing, repeat nothing, to do with alleged global warming/aka “climate change”. As any farmer with years of experience and hindsight will tell you, these things go in cycles, and the bigger the dry, the bigger the floods which will inevitably follow. It has everything to do with oscillations in the ocean: the Pacific Decadal Oscillation [PDO], and the Southern Ocean Oscillation [SOI] to name a couple. El Nino and La Nina are examples of this oscillation pattern. Another factor, although the left hates to hear it raised – they go ballistic, is sunspot cycles and cosmic ray flux. Presently the sun is going through a lengthy sunspot minimum, entailing global cooling, as can be seen in recent graphs. Cosmic ray flux determines cloud levels and extent, a major but still little understood factor in the climate equations.
    So let us hear no more of the furphy of “climate change” driven by CO2. The pseudo-scientists have fed us with this utter claptrap for too long, and the Greens and leftist politicians have swallowed it wholesale. As a result they have refused to build any dams, which could have saved much (not all) of the devastation in Gippsland in 2007, and in Queensland at present. We have paid a high price indeed for this monumental stupidity.
    Murray R. Adamthwaite

  10. Thanks again Joe

    But seeking to think biblically about the world we find ourselves in is part of our Christian calling. The fact that we may not get all the answers does not mean that we can’t ask the questions. Since we are still guessing as to where you are coming from, all we can speculate at this point is that at best you are a deist. But biblical Christians know that this is not just mere physics – end of story. They know that the Bible from cover to cover affirms God’s personal presence and dealings with the affairs of men. Again, this calls for seeking to think God’s thoughts after him, as we seek to find some biblical guidance in these difficult days. Such theological speculation of course does not preclude engaging in practical help here as well.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  11. Congratulations Murray – well said. I agree with everything you wrote. We have paid and are paying an enormous price on the altar of this phoney religion of climate change / nee Global warming. This phoney religion, which has absorbed the thinking of every bone headed politician in this country has a lot to answer for, including loss of life and property in the Victorian bushfires, when an opportunity for property owners to protect their person and their property would not be denied because of a raft of satanic like regulations.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  12. Bill,

    Yes, you could probably consider me a deist. There is no evidence of God playing any part in everyday life, and faith has nothing to offer in a time of crisis like this, as exhibited in your wishy-washy piece. What use are prayers? The things that help are human compassion, charity, empathy, goodwill and human effort, and those very human characteristics don’t depend on one’s religious beliefs. Just compare the vast difference between “Christian” America’s inertia in response to Katrina and the incredible mateship, rapid emergency response and stoicism that secular Australia is demonstrating in the current situation.

    Murray,

    I don’t think you understand the science. Read the climate science predictions and you’ll see that more extreme weather of all kinds, including flood and famine cycles have been predicted for decades.

    As for “perhaps it’s the sun” speculation, that’s not science. Show me some measurable physical data that points to solar activity being a major contributor. The science has already extensively examined solar forcings and found the effects to be very minor. Historians should stay in their comfy armchairs and leave climate science to those who actually work in the field and know something about it.

    Joe Arnold

  13. Joe Arnold, you said:

    Bill,
    The Mona Lisa obviously required an intelligent mind to create it. A massive rainstorm causing widespread floods requires only mindless physics. Once we start invoking God as either cause or as potential intervener we create all sorts of problems for ourselves, some of which you have alluded to.”

    If you wish to ascribe “mindless physics” as the totally random cause, then your logic fails. Mindlessness means (by implication from the contrast with the painting of the Mona Lisa) there is no intelligence, no order, and no logic.

    If you use “mindless physics” as a handle for “there must be some logic to this but we mere humans can’t understand it (at present)”, then I’m with Bill – the best you are managing to present is a kind of deist worldview – God sort of wound up a clockwork mechanism, set it going and left it alone.

    A most unsatisfying picture, that doesn’t accord with the way the world functions, and which doesn’t help in understanding the broader implications of great tragedies like this or the Black Saturday bushfiires.

    But you betray a non-Biblical mode of thinking in your next sentence by the expression “Once we start invoking God …”

    In a Biblical world-view, God has already declared Himself to be the Prime Mover. We do not have the option to invoke or not invoke God as the First Cause of all things.

    God sometimes intervenes directly, sometimes operates by intermediate means, and sometimes allows us to suffer the natural consequences of our own foolish and selfish human ways (like failing to build flood mitigating dams) – although never too much, never beyond our capacity to cope.

    God responds to our prayers, but always on His terms, and always to further His goal/s, not necessarily ours.

    John Angelico

  14. Thanks Joe

    But a practicing deist is really no better than an ideological atheist, certainly from a biblical Christian point of view. Since it appears that your mind is already made up, and you are not all that interested in hearing anything other than what you want to believe, we may apply the ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule here – as my commenting rules imply. So we will let you push your agenda elsewhere from now on, thanks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  15. As I understand it the whole of creation was subject to sin and corruption, including the physical world as Romans 8:19ff explains.
    Ian Brinkworth

  16. My heart goes out to the people of Queensland caught up in this flooding disaster. We see footage of flash floods coursing through Toowoomba and Brisbane like an inland tsunami while people flee from the area with the danger of the dam bursting under the weight of water which is topped up by incessant rainfall. This is the stuff of my worst nightmare. Some locals have described the devastation as biblical. The Australians are renowned for their resilience and my thoughts and prayers are with all those caught up in this terrifying adversity.

    As to whether this is a judgment or a geological occurrence, I suspend an opinion as current events play out. I have heard that sun spot activity is at a minimum entailing global cooling and I am grateful to Murray for filling in more information on this subject. Also there have been some strange and unexplained occurrence in the news recently which bring to mind the NT Revelations, namely the 85,000 carnivorous drum fish washed up dead in Arkansas in a 17 mile area and then a day later, at a minute before New Year’s Eve, 5,000 redwing blackbirds fell dead out of the sky in Beebe, Arkansas, in an area no more than 800 yards wide. Again recently doves have fallen dead from the sky in Italy. What is going on? There are various geographical possible answers – a shift of the Earth’s magnetic core, the New Madrid Fault which is opening up in the US midwest, Arkansas and Louisiana where these occurrences have taken place, or alternatively military activity. Another unusual event was the first total lunar eclipse in 400 years when Earth’s shadow moved across the surface of the full moon coinciding with the Winter solstice causing the moon to go “blood red” – an event which has happened before and fortunately life went on.

    These may be purely geographical occurrences or they may be signs of an end time scenario. The Mayan calender runs out next year. We don’t know but we must be vigilant. Whatever unfolds I will still pray for these poor people in Queensland as at present it’s all I can do and it’s from my heart.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1344913/Animal-death-mystery-8k-turtle-doves-fall-dead-Italy-blue-stain-beaks.html
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1340144/First-total-lunar-eclipse-coincide-Winter-Solstice-400-years.html

    Rachel Smith

  17. Bill,

    The reason people in this country are increasingly turning away from religion is that it offers NO ANSWERS to questions about the way the world works, especially in relation to natural disasters. Censoring me may save you the embarrassment of having to deal with very basic criticisms of your position, but it just makes you look like a propaganda merchant. All spin, lies, and irrational fantasies. You are a sadly deluded man Bill.

    Joe Arnold

  18. John,

    You wrote:
    God …. sometimes allows us to suffer the natural consequences of our own foolish and selfish human ways (like failing to build flood mitigating dams).

    Brisbane built a second massive flood-mitigating dam after Somerset Dam proved inadequate in the ’74 floods. The new one (Wivenhoe) has now proved inadequate also in the face of unprecedented volumes of water. I think you may be misinformed about the magnitude of the situation here.

    Margaret Robinson, Brisbane

  19. Thanks Joe.
    You imagine that you give me food for thought, but what you serve up I have heard before, ad nauseam.
    There are many scientists now who openly insist that “extreme” weather events are just par for the course in the cycles of weather, and nothing to do with CO2-driven “climate change” (AGW). As to the Queensland floods, it now appears that they will only match those of 1974, if that. Meanwhile, it is worth noting that there were far worse floods in Queensland in the 1840s, and again in the 1890s, which of course had nothing to with AGW.
    As to the solar “speculation”: no it is NOT speculation, much as the left would like to imagine it is. It is solid science, and there are quite a few highly reputable scientists who have pursued this line, and their results are quite interesting: Nir Shaviv of the Hebrew Uni in Jerusalem for one; Sami Solanki of the Max Planck Institute for another; and Henrik Svensmark of the Danish National Space Centre. I can’t show you the data they have come up with; I merely refer you to their research, which you can get by a Google search, or spending half a day in a university science library. Suffice it to say I will match their expertise against yours any day; I follow quiet and patient research into all possible lines of inquiry, not the hysterical shrieking of the warmist zealots and their politicised science; and no amount of strident smackdowns from warmist zealots like yourself is going to change that.
    You tell me to stick to history in my comfy armchair and leave science to the scientists. Well, I may not be a scientist, but I do have a science background, and know more about the subject than you give me credit for. Moreover, I do have a major in Philosophy of Science, and from that perspective when I look at the global warming rhetoric I am frankly appalled at the frequent (surreptitious) use of the post hoc fallacy (e.g. “ice melting in the Arctic; therefore global CO2-induced warming”), the personal attacks on “deniers” – name-calling, “guilt-by-association” smears etc., and more to the point, the violation of Popper’s “falsification principle”. AGW has got to the point now of being unfalsifiable by any conceivable sort of evidence, e.g. the extreme cold of the current winter in the Northern Hemisphere – and warmists trying to tell us that because it is warmer at the Pole it is therefore colder at lower latitudes. Yes, that is the meme now getting around in warmist circles! What utter balderdash!
    As to history, I can say categorically that “warm periods” go in cycles of roughly 1000 years apart. Thus there was a Mediaeval warm period (which the left has tried to airbrush out, hence the bogus “hockey-stick” graph). Before that there was a Roman warm period, and before that a Late Bronze warm period, and prior to that an Old Kingdom warm period, and so on back. Needless to say, none of these periods had anything to do with AGW. History has its voice, and you would do well to heed it, rather than sneer at it as something from a “comfy armchair”.
    Murray R. Adamthwaite

  20. Thanks Joe

    I will let you on this one final time simply because you nicely demonstrate to the whole world my very point. You and your side are not in the least bit interested in actually pursuing truth. Your minds are made up, and all you want to do is push your agenda here, and as usual, resort to a lot of ugly name-calling and mud-slinging in the process. But as my rules state, if that is your only desire, then you will have to do it elsewhere.

    Atheist and secularist objections to the faith have been around for centuries, and you offer nothing new here. All your comments confirm is how close-minded your side is to any contrary points of view. In which case, as I have said so many times before, I am not in the slightest bit interested in wasting my time. This site is especially designed for those with honest questions who are looking for honest answers. I will always spend time with genuine inquirers, but not with militant ideologues who simply want to use my site to promote their particular agendas.

    And of course one has to laugh at your complaint that theists have nothing to say about natural disasters. And your side does? All your reductionistic worldview can offer people is the barren belief that crap happens, that is the way it is, so just get used to it. Sorry, I will take my theism any day, including its belief in a loving, personal God who is concerned about what happens to us, and is able to work things out for good, despite our rebellion and defiance of him. I also much prefer theism’s room for mystery and questions, over your arid and icy cold rationalism which offers nothing to suffering individuals and questioning human beings.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  21. Daniel, a well known teacher Greg Koukl from USA asked at one of his seminars ”how many times is the word LOVE mentioned in the book of Acts?” The answer is zero. Very surprising to his audience including me yet that was when the early church began and thousands were added to it in a day.
    Murray Buzza

  22. Just a thought, I’m not claiming it as absolute truth but something interesting I read recently was speaking about Gods’ Grace as a giant umbrella over the world, protecting us from satan and his works. When we sin, we put holes in the umbrella, this allows satan to enter and work his evil on earth. The sin of abortion is such an abomination that when countries legislate to allow abortion it is like renting huge holes in the umbrella, satan then can wreak havoc. Regardless of whether or not this is correct, it is a good reminder to us to keep working tirelessly to end abortion in Australia.
    Catherine Dodd

  23. Dear Bill, Thank you for the brilliant article. Like you I don’t know why God allows such natural disasters to happen but that does not stop me wondering. Since I believe that God watches over and controls all things including nature this abundance of rainfall must follow the Divine Plan so if we are wise we will learn from it. The floods must serve to teach Australians something like every other Cross individuals have to bear. God would not act out of spite since He is a God of Love and bounty but He does expect Australia to learn from its mistakes and one of its mistakes is listening to the Green Gurus whose pride and arrogance is breathtaking. They said there would never again be rainfall like this. They dared to make such a prediction because they are controlled by the Evil One. I notice they have been pretty quiet about the floods. Australia should have trusted in God’s Goodness. We should have been preparing to harness such abundance for the times of drought when they came because that is the nature of this huge continent which is God’s creation. It could have been done in spite of what some have said because human beings can do anything if they put their minds down to it. Instead Australians for the most part have turned their backs on God. We have killed off our future generations and their brains and intelligence with them. Anna Bligh has made it clear she wanted the same abortion laws as Victoria’s. Added to that our young people have been encouraged to fall into nihilism by those who had the power in society. They should have been supporting the family and Christianity but they haven’t and now we are seeing the fruits of that neglect and ingratitude.
    Patricia Halligan

  24. Bill,
    Agree with you. Even Christians are not exempted from the consequences of a fallen world, be it sickness, sufferings, accidents, natural disasters etc. Can’t find an answer to these difficult questions this side of life. But still be rest assured that though He judges, His love and mercy still endures forever.
    Barry Koh

  25. Thanks Bill, at least there is one Christian leader who is presenting a balanced Biblical view. I cringed when I heard man’s resent claims of God’s intentions (Catch the Fire). Don’t overlook that natural disasters are a part of our fallen status and we often make wrong or bad decisions as a result of this.

    In relation to these recent floods being a possible result of climate change, it is interesting to note that in 1890 a similar disaster happened in Brisbane with houses becoming splinters and damming up the bridge to the point that the bridge collapsed (refer to interview of an Australian historian on Melb ABC Radio 774, 11/1/11, around 10:45am). Unfortunately there seems to be nothing new under the sun.

    Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water by attributing blame, no matter how tempting this may be. As Christians, we are meant to show God to others. Sometimes this calls for rebuke but more often this calls for compassion and love. Floods, like bushfires, are a call for compassion and love being extended by the Church to those in need. Retribution is not part of our job spec.

    Joy Bryant

  26. I resonate with what you have said in your article, it is a question I have wrestled with for many years. The Old Testament prophets were never popular when they spoke out God’s pending judgement many even lost their lives for daring to speak out judgements doom and gloom. To listen to judgement requires a response either to reject God call for us to repent and change our ways, or to get on our knees and humble ourselves before almighty God with repentant hearts.
    One of the major problems is that when people are suffering the compassion within us doesn’t want to look at issues of judgement. Yes we want to reach out with the love of God, and when people are suffering that is what we need to do right now.
    The problem is the church has lost its prophetic voice in calling people to repentance before things go wrong. If we think things a good in our country, what about the multiples of unborn whose lives that get terminated each year; what about the drunken debauchery that fills our public house nightly and the unwanted violence and vandalism that fills our streets. Old people bashed and robbed in their homes; drive by shootings once never heard of. Do I need go on?
    The truth is that a society that allows and even embraces such behaviour is bound to fall under God’s judgement eventually. The question is do we say these things during a disaster when people suffer (maybe it is the only time some will listen) or is our task to bring people to repentance beforehand.
    I read with interest the comments on long range forecasts predicting the event, on global warm science etc. We however over look Jesus words in predicting the last days and the events that surround the last days, Jesus said there WILL be natural disasters. Isn’t Jesus the ultimate long range forecaster? Maybe it is time we looked afresh at Matthew 24-25! Maybe we need to hear the call of Scripture and take it seriously before it is too late.
    Psalm 81:11-12 NIV: “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. They will however pay the consequences.”
    Do we need to say more?
    Grahame Abrahams

  27. Bill everything that you have written senses truth.
    However as an aside we as Christians all hope that we will be found good or pure enough to enter the kingdom of heaven.
    In years gone by and in simplistic terms, Australia was (for many in more persecuted areas) regarded as heaven, A place of freedom in which to live their lives. Nevertheless many simply could not leave their bigotries or hatreds behind and ultimately added to the contamination of their new “heavenly Home”
    In this regard whether we like it or not people need to understand that the gate we must enter is very narrow.

    Rev 21:27 Is quite a fearful judgement when it says that in no way shall anything thing that defiles or works abomination or maketh a lie enter therein but only them that are written in the Lambs Book of Life.

    Rev 22:14-15 Is also very clear: Blessed are they that do his commandments that they may have a right to the tree of life and may enter into the Gates of his city. For without are dogs and sorcerers and whoremongers, murderers and idolaters and those who love lies and make lies.

    This is cut and dried judgement tempered only By Gods Grace and yes it is a little scary. However whether this has any bearing on the floods I wouldn’t deem to judge. But in general if we continue to blithely ignore Gods expectations of us then we may well suffer many such catastrophies and perhaps more so than our predecessors in what I believe are the final years.

    Dennis Newland

  28. Well put article Bill and I share your point of view, I think that people forget also that the creation is subject to decay and corruption through the effects of sin:
    Rom 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
    Rom 8:21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
    Rom 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

    So then until a Prophet steps up with evidence of prior knowledge and a clear mandate for why and if God has brought this judgment (Acts 12:21-24, Acts 5:1-5 etc), or the enemy has wrought a work (Job 1:12-19, Acts 27:14-44 etc), to settle the minds of people it may be simply understood as the effects of the bondage of decay. It should also be taken that there is also much that we may not know of intimate details of the work of the Lord in such areas to judge the area if indeed it was so. Our Ministry has three churches in areas which were threatened and a number of us had to attempt evacuation, (my wife and 5 young children were told to evacuate our town but were blocked in by the roads and had to make provision to be ready to climb onto our house roof without myself as i was out of State, but the Lord was faithful!!)

    I must say I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that Kevin Rudd’s dealings with Israel as foreign minister in asking them to join the UN’s nuclear non proliferation treaty is cause for God’s judgment. It is far from Zechariah’s warning to those who would ‘attack’ Israel,such is a ridiculous notion and wreaks of fear, Australia stands by Israel but Israel is also a secular state and God does not endorse all of their political decisions, nor would God bring the floods into QLD because of a simple comment made by Kevin Rudd, such is fear and overbalance of the scriptures.

    The Church needs to be sensitive in this time helping people recover and doing what it does best, proclaim Christ to the lost as the time is short! We shall undoubtedly see many more of these things in time to come and a little discernment is needed with balance of the scriptures as well as the awareness that we may not have all of the information, we should continue to pray and assist the people affected to recover as well as turn to the Lord in these times.
    Thanks for your article to settle the Saints and bring the balance.

    Dorian Ballard

  29. I agree climate change is another religion! The agenda being self preservation and encouragement of ungodly lifestyles. I note too that many commentators say we are praying for you, only our prime minister cannot utter those words. If Australians want an atheistic ruler why would God bless this nation which once had a christian heritage. I have spent time in India and it is country that is godless. The result abject misery and placing the value of a cow above human life.
    Ilona Sturla

  30. I’m so glad that I am able to watch and hear about what’s going on from the comfort of my house – I can’t imagine what it’s like for people living it.
    Something that Peter Cosgrove said in an interview today when talking about states sending SES volunteers: “It’s charity with its sleeves rolled up”. I was reminded of this, Bill, because I think that’s what Jesus was doing. The religious leaders of the time were happy for charity to happen at arms length, and usually only the surface problems, but Jesus met people were their deepest needs were (“Your sins are forgiven”) and changed lives.
    Christie Ewens

  31. Wow, Joe! What an outrageous statement:

    The reason people in this country are increasingly turning away from religion is that it offers NO ANSWERS to questions about the way the world works, especially in relation to natural disasters.

    And what, in contrast, would atheism offer? “Blind, pitiless indifference” I think was how Richard Dawkins put it. Floods just happen. People just die. What sort of answer is that?

    Followers of Christ on the other hand do have answers, both for the immediate situation and the longer term.

    Another stupendous statement:

    faith has nothing to offer in a time of crisis like this

    Quite to the contrary, I would say faith is the only thing which has anything to offer at a time like this. Why did this happen? I don’t know, but I do know that God is good and will never leave or forsake us and Christians can have joy in all circumstances. And faith offers a very clear motive for helping others: Jesus said the whole Old Testament could be summed up as “Love God and love your neighbour as yourself”. Indeed it is only if each person is valuable (as the Bible attests) that there is a reason to help our fellow man.

    Last quote:

    There is no evidence of God playing any part in everyday life

    Only for those who refuse to see the evidence, Joe.

    David Keen

  32. Margaret, you said:

    Brisbane built a second massive flood-mitigating dam after Somerset Dam proved inadequate in the ‘74 floods. The new one (Wivenhoe) has now proved inadequate also in the face of unprecedented volumes of water. I think you may be misinformed about the magnitude of the situation here.

    You may be right – I have only read reports and seen some videos online.

    But I was making a general comment, actually more in relation to the situation we have in Victoria, where the Mitchell River has flooded a number of times whilst our previous State Government changed the Mitchell River dam reservation into the “Mitchell River National Park”.

    I wasn’t trying to apply the comment to the specific situation faced by Qld today, although I read somewhere that another planned dam on a different river was knocked back because of some endangered species of birds. Such decisions are now exposed as moving priorities in the wrong direction: away from people and towards “mother nature” or “gaia”.

    Ultimately flood mitigation is never going to cope with every conceivable level of rain – it’s called “mitigation” not “prevention” and, as we are now hearing, the Wivenhoe has to release water in order to continue doing its job.

    I saw a YouTube video of the massive and rapid flooding in Toowoomba – really noisy, amazingly powerful, and another demonstration of just how puny our efforts at “controlling the climate” really are.

    John Angelico

  33. As devastating as this whole situation is for the Queenslanders affected (and the family and friends in other areas who grieve in this time), we must acknowledge the predicted weather patterns of the El Nino and La Nina cycle and note that this is not the first time such disasters have occurred. In summary: after the drought comes the flood.

    Whether God is “allowing” this, causing this, or it is all part and parcel of the world we live in, we are called to be people of love and mercy. I agree with you Bill, like in any situation, we can pray, give, and show mercy on those who are going through such a hard time right now.

    Jess Hagen

  34. Hi Bill I agree with all you have said but there have been some comments blaming climate change etc. If you take a look at aerial shots of the Kakadu national park and other water areas you will see meandering rivers that from time to time flood surrounding areas. In the scheme of things and in the vastness of such areas they are small natural occurrences. In this instance I think that people who originally built alongside the Brisbane river area (often in sensible stilted housing) tended to camouflage what the area really was. Hence once the surrounding areas had been lightly urbanised everyone including business office blocks and cafe’s wanted to build alongside this river, but that was never the original river bank simply the remnant of predomonately drier seasons obscured by concrete. If you build on a flood plain or the drainage channel for such a massive flood outsource then calamities will occur. In essence it is our own stupidity and sometimes greed to build alongside water areas be it sea or rivers expecting them to remain calm and this planet simply doesn’t behave that way. Whether it is a village swamped by an avalanche, a mud slide due to deforestation or a loss of coastal areas it really is our own fault for letting developers override simple geographical information and consequences in what is perceived as prime real estate areas.
    However that said the really necessity is to be prepared to meet our maker at any time, for tomorrow he may require your soul.
    Dennis Newland

  35. Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, made a significant comment near the end of a press conference yesterday, ….“ find a friend in higher places”.
    Never was a truer word spoken, of course she was speaking of dry locations, let’s pray many will indeed find a spiritual home and be reminded of their need for a Saviour during this tragic event.

    Dallas James

  36. Thanks Bill. The idea of a God Who exercises judgement has gone out of favour in this current milieu where educational theorists like Piaget allow their three year olds to rip up expensive towels in the bathroom to exercise their ‘creative’ instincts. Whether or not we can get our oh-so-wise 21st century minds around it, God will be God and His judgements are righteous. Whether or not this is one of them, I’m with you and can’t say…only God knows.

    Re: the manmade global warming issue that has crept into this debate, I love Murray’s first comment above and others’ contributions. Just to add my two cents worth Joe said: “I don’t think you understand the science. Read the climate science predictions and you’ll see that more extreme weather of all kinds, including flood and famine cycles have been predicted for decades.”

    Firstly, why would you assume that Murray doesn’t ‘understand the science’? Murray has read and debated this issue for some time now, based on examining the evidences available to him, and has come to a different opinion to yours. Why is his considered opinion inferior to yours? His is much like the many scientists that are well familiar with the ‘science’ and dispute the myth that human can with our miniscule contribution to the carbon in the earth’s atmosphere, change the weather patterns of the planet.

    Secondly, how wonderful that science has predicted changes in the weather patterns of the planet. As Damien points out, the Bible predicted the same thing long before today’s scientists did.

    You seem to feel the need to diss Christians for our beliefs which are based upon an all-wise Creator Who brought this planet into existence(rather than on a universe that simply popped itself into existence). Your comments show that you are a blind follower of the brand of science you have chosen (there are many) and have based your own belief system on that particular set of theories. That’s fine because you are a creature with a free will. You demonstrate an arrogant rejection of God by your comments. I hope you are prepared for the consequence. I pray that God will forgive you and give you a revelation of His love AND His judgements. Amen.

    Dee Graf

  37. I’m an American but when I think of these things what comes to my mind is the teaching of a great Australian whom I was privileged to know – the late Canon Jim Glennon – who would attribute such things to the “sin of the world” – corporate sin. Our job, he would say, is to react by affirming our dependence on Him and by living lives of repentance, faith and obedience.
    John Hughes

  38. Hi Bill, thanks for a great article.
    You are right, God is both a God of Judgement and of Love, and does not fit into any box made by man. The one who holds the world in the palm of His hand but yet knows how many hairs are on our head.
    All I know is that with the floods, not just in Qld but also in NSW and now Vic. God is really getting my attention.
    I wish I lived closer so that I could go and help those who are hurting and need to clean up the mess – Demonstrating Gods Love. Love is not feeling, it means getting your hands Dirty.
    Graham Warren

  39. Hi Bill, thank you for your insight and your balanced view. I agree with most of what you are saying, except with the part that says we did not have any word from God regarding these floods. There are a number of prophecies going back a many years, for those who want to hear, that there will be major disasters happening in Australia if there was no repentance, the latest of which I came across only a few days ago: http://www.ettmi.org/prophecies.html
    Jason Westerfield has been warning about the Pacific rim and quite a number of his warnings have already taken place.
    If you are aware of a book by John McTernan called “As America has done to Israel”? John keeps his website up to date as things happen and it is uncanny that every time America demands something from Israel or snubs their Prime Minister, a major disaster happens.
    Keep a watch to what is happening in the South American countries who are befriending Iran and going against Israel. God will not be mocked and His Word still stand:
    Genesis 12:3 And I will bless those that bless you (Israel) and curse the one who curses you. And in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.
    Gerredina Kovac

  40. “Who knows? I can’t say that it is or it is not. We simply cannot know for certain. So we need to be careful about rushing to judgment here. The truth is, when God acted in the Old Testament, he generally revealed his purposes in his actions. He would communicate his purposes to man, often through his prophets. Thus divine actions were explained by divine speech.”

    If we cannot know for certain do we place suspicion on those who spoke before time of this event? Father may not have revealed it to you in advance and for you, you are a spectator, but he DID reveal it in advance, not only through me (4 years ago), but many others have prophesied these events, sometime many more years in advance.

    Haven’t you heard? I would encourage you to ask Father. If not then do a search of it on google. You wont find what I said (I sent it directly to the PM and most members of parliament this time 2007), but there are many others who have spoken of these events, and the events which will soon follow.

    Bill Muehlenberg’s article though interesting doesn’t answer questions, it gives supposition. The author does not know what Father is doing, and assume’s that nobody else does either.

    Chris Jeffrey

  41. Bill,

    It’s probably worth making the distinction between the general claim that natural disasters are a symptom of a world under God’s judgement and attempting to link specific disasters to specific moral sins.

    In my circles here in Sydney, the consistent message about the moral “why” of disasters (both big and little) is “look at the big picture; this is a broken world under judgement”. This avoids both errors you mention: neither “If society hadn’t done X, this wouldn’t have happened” and “God’s not really in control” (which is what the latter position you describe boils down to).

    Of course, we should remember that there are disasters that are directly attributable to human agency and human response and policy can worsen or limit the extent of disaster. However, even disasters initiated by humans – whether drunk drivers or massacres – generally impact on those who would be viewed as “innocent” of them, bring back the general question of why God would let such things happen.

    Which is why a “full” answer needs to also remind us that death isn’t the last word. God’s dealings with creation extend beyond death, and so we need to evaluate disaster (and everything else) from an eternal rather than temporal reckoning. The really important question is whether your death signals arriving home or God’s patience running out.

    Andrew White

  42. You raised some good points here.

    I remember some fringe groups who, after the Black Saturday bush fires, said that this was God’s judgment on Australia for its toleration of certain sinful behaviors.

    Scott McPhee

  43. Thanks guys

    There have been various views expressed here, many having to do with prophecy, and so on. I need to write an entire article on all this, but my short answer is this: I do believe God can speak today, and that there is such a thing as prophecy. But all such prophetic words need to be tested – primarily against the existing word of God.

    Prophetic words seem to come far too readily today, and often in a far too broad and ambiguous fashion. Anyone can say that God is judging a country and a flood will come. I can say that right now, and it will probably come true – sometime. We always have floods – and droughts, etc. But it seems a genuine prophetic word would be far more specific, so that no doubt remains.

    But as I say, I need to tease this out a lot further and with more Scripture in an article sometime soon.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  44. I read your well balanced article on the judgements of God, but a third view is emerging on the judgement of God, based on Hosea 4:1-3 (as outlined recently by Cindy Jacobs). It suggests that the physical land and animals responds to the state of the spiritual state of the nation – both on the positive side (as filmed in the transformations videos based on 2 Chronocles 7:14) and then on the negative so as a nation drifts into all forms of ungodliness, paganism and rebellion as outlined in the scriptures. If God can heal the land, (which the transformations videos demonstrate) so can the land be go the other way. In a way it seems that the spiritual order in Christ is synchronous with the created physical order in Christ, and that when authentic God given spiritual order is tipped on its edge, so also follows the natural order. It places our actions (mankind and nations) in the middle of the issue for the negative global events Without going too far there seems to be a strong connection bionically between people who live in the land and natural phenomenon. What is your comment?
    Robert Lillington

  45. “Prophetic words seem to come far too readily today, and often in a far too broad and ambiguous fashion. Anyone can say that God is judging a country and a flood will come. I can say that right now, and it will probably come true – sometime. We always have floods – and droughts, etc. But it seems a genuine prophetic word would be far more specific, so that no doubt remains.”

    I can think of a few prophecies in the Bible that would not fit the idea of being specific enough.

    In Habakkuk God just said “I am bringing the Babylonians”.

    In Jonah God just said “Go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it”.

    Then in Acts a prophet named Agabus signified that there was to be a famine over the habitable world. The famine came later and was “proof” that Agabus was a true prophet.

    When prophecy is given the “test” cannot always be scripture. How can you test the scripture about America or Australia, when neither country is mentioned. Nor can you say that just because it isn’t specific doesn’t mean that it is erroneous, it could just be a warning of events to come, much the same as Agabus’ famine.

    The most famous words of Jesus which we all adhere to and profoundly believe are the words “I’m coming soon” far from specific, but none the less true.

    Chris Jeffrey

  46. Thanks Chris

    This post is not on all the fine points of how Scripture understands prophetic utterances, so I don’t want to spend too much more time on all this. Two things are clear from the OT in regards to prophetic foretelling. One, if the predicted event does not come to pass, the person who made the prophecy is a false prophet, deserving capital punishment. Two, even if the word does come to pass, if it leads people away from God and into idolatry, that person is also a false prophet.

    Scripture of course contains quite precise and specific prophetic words, as well as some which are a bit more general and ill-defined. Indeed, some words may have multiple fulfilments, as in the life-time of the prophet, and in a future period as well. But all this deserves at least an article to spell out more fully.

    But my point remains: I, or anyone else, can say a flood (or drought) is coming to Australia as divine judgment. There is almost a 100% likelihood of that taking place, since we always have floods and droughts. Anyone can make such a vague and open-ended prediction, and one can almost always be seen as a genuine prophet in that sense – even unbelievers. It can never be fully disproved.

    But where God clearly is behind such words is when clear specificity is involved, whether it is 3 days for Jesus in the grave, seven years of famine, or 15 years of life added to Hezekiah. In these cases mere coincidence is greatly lessened. And the numerous predictions about the Messiah were quite specific and detailed, the accumulation of which makes it impossible to have occurred by chance.

    And it is exactly because Scripture cannot often be used to test a contemporary prophetic word that we must be even far more careful and diligent. Anyone can make a word about anything, and all sorts of cults and false teachers and prophets do it all the time. Discernment, care and humility are all very much needed in this area.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  47. Whether a disaster is a specific judgement of God or simply the consequence of living in a sinful world I can not say. But this I know, all things work for good for those who love him and live according to His purpose.

    Our good, as Christians is becoming more like Christ. This path often involves suffering of many types. For those who don’t know God disaster is one of the ways he draws people to him. This may seem strange but humans seem to seek God when they are brought to their knees not showered with blessing.

    We are also to remember that when Christian die in a disaster that they have gone home. God has given them the gift of ushering them into eternity with him, they do not grieve their fate even if we do.

    Kylie Anderson

  48. I have not read all above, however I have read much of it and I would like to make a few remarks: 1. While God works at doing what God does, we as His creations from time to time will see some amazing things happen and because we have ask of God something and events that are unexplainable from our stand point will see these things as an act of God for us. I will not try to second guess God here but in my view if I see the floods in QLD as Gods judgement I need to be asking God to Judge QLD. Remember we can read God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. 2. The floods were caused by excessive rain, bad dam management, building on the flood plain and restricting the rivers. Some suggest to build new dams could prevent this and if they are off river dams I would say yes. We could call these Billabong dams. 3. Global warming has been dropped since the data was showing there was just changes, so we now have climate change and we can thank Barry Jones for this in a political way. 4. God would want his people to serve Him by showing compassion to all who are suffering including those we do not like, in that way we can prove we are the children of God by displaying his heart to all.
    Milton Caine

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