On Australia’s Bushfires

How are we to think about the horrific fires in Australia?

The attention of much of the world is now on the deadly firestorms ravaging so many parts of Australia. I was not planning on writing about this, and that for two reasons: plenty of good articles are already out there detailing our seemingly failed policies concerning the bush and fire management; and I have already penned a number of pieces looking at the spiritual and theological considerations of such things.

Indeed, just moments ago someone sent in a comment to my site, asking if I had written on these fires. I replied by saying what I just did above. However – and at the risk of repeating myself – it may be worth once again to look at these matters.

As I just told the fellow who asked me, I would respond by saying two things. One, I would criticise the various government policies – often promoted by the left and the Greens – that have been mainly responsible for this. Two, I would again address the biblical and theological concerns.

As to government failures in this area, such policies would include the refusal to take seriously the need to deal in proper fuel reduction, including the refusal to do prescribed-burning – or enough of it. Many have long complained about this, but it seems these concerns keep falling on deaf ears.

Plenty of experts can be drawn upon here. One group of specialists have plenty of important findings on their site: https://www.bushfirefront.org.au/

There is enough material there to keep you busy reading for quite a while. Let me refer to one article, penned back in 2008: “Bushfires, Prescribed Burning and Global Warming.” And just one snippet from the piece should encourage you to read the entire article:

Decades of research and experience has demonstrated that fuel reduction by prescribed burning under mild conditions is the only proven, practical method to enable safe and efficient control of high-intensity forest fires. Two myths have emerged about climate change and bushfire management and are beginning to circulate in the media and to be adopted as fact by some scientists:

-Because of global warming, Australia will be increasingly subject to uncontrollable holocaust-like “megafires”.

-Fuel reduction by prescribed burning must cease because it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thus exacerbating global warming and the occurrence of megafires.

Both statements are incorrect. However they represent the sort of plausible-sounding assertions which, if repeated often enough, can take on a life of their own and lead eventually to damaging policy change. https://www.bushfirefront.org.au/resources-2/further-reading/bushfires-and-global-warming/

Numerous commentators have also sought to share such truths, but they have too often been ignored – or vilified. For example, seven years ago Miranda Devine sought to make this case. Here is part of what she had to say:

Now is the time for people who understand the bush to tell the rest of Australia what fools we are. “Fuel reduction burns make it possible to fight and control a fire; what happened here was uncontrollable,” Dunalley farmer Leigh Arnold told The Australian.

Greenies who oppose such burnoffs, “care more about birds and wildlife than they do about people and farms,” he said. “But what’s the point of that now when the hills and trees they told me I couldn’t burn off, because there were protected eagles and swift parrots there, are now all burned and the fire it created was so hot we had dead swans dropping out of the sky?”

No, the only permissible comment on a bushfire catastrophe is to say it was caused by “climate change” – that convenient get-out-of-jail free card for greenies, governments and the obstructive bureaucracies they jointly create. But we’ve heard it all before, and we’re not buying it.

“It’s really simple,” says Brian Williams, captain of the Kurrajong Heights bushfire brigade, a veteran of 44 years of firefighting, in one of the most extreme fire risk areas of Australia, on a ridge surrounded by 0.75 million hectares of overgrown national park between the Blue Mountains and Wollemi. “Fires run on fuel. Limited fuel means limited fire.”

Green tape and heavy-handed bureaucracy has made his job harder today than in 28 years as captain. Rather than needing six people to perform a controlled burn in the cooler months, now 40 are involved, to oversee biodiversity and so on. https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/lets-tell-the-burning-truth/news-story/ae30e22c69a0a9a7fe4141bc4e9442a8

And late last year Alan Jones also had an important piece on this which is worth quoting from:

The propaganda in relation to climate change, from the classroom to the university to politicians and to most of the media, has to give cause for concern. As The Australian newspaper editorialised at the weekend, “It is time for a dose of icy water. Climate change did not cause the fires.

“Drought and even deadlier blazes have been part of Australian life for more than a century … even if Australians eliminated all of the nation’s greenhouse gases, about 1.3 per cent of the global total, and pandered to extremists who want meat consumption, grazing and flying reduced markedly, nothing, virtually nothing, would be achieved …”

He continues:

You can’t have a fire without fuel. Two factors above all else come into play here. In NSW, when Bob Carr was the minister, and later premier, he ratified moves to have fire trails abandoned. Carr’s moves prevented access to those fire trails by the Rural Fire Service, under the pretext he was keeping four 4WDs and campers out.

The government (and how many problems that we face today are created by government?) put locked gates on these national parks and planted big rocks at the entry to the fire trails. Understandably, the fire trails are now overgrown with regrowth forest, impenetrable to everybody except native and feral animals….

When you think there are seven million hectares of national parks in NSW alone, 200 of them in Sydney, and yet hazard reduction burns have occurred on less than 1 per cent of fire-prone land, then we are staring at a potential inferno. This has nothing to do with climate change.

Dr Paul Read, co-director of Australia’s National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson, puts the number of bushfires in Australia per year at, on average, “62,000 and increasing”. Of those, 13 per cent are started deliberately and 37 per cent are suspicious. That means 31,000 Australian bushfires are either the product of arson or suspected arson, every year. That means that up to 85 bushfires begin every day because someone leaves their home and decides to start one. https://volunteerfirefighters.org.au/it-is-high-time-bureaucrats-and-politicians-stopped-blaming-climate-change-for-a-bushfire-crisis-that-is-very-much-of-their-own-making-and-is-putting-lives-at-risk

While I do not claim to be an expert on such matters, there are those who are, and it seems we need to start listening to them – and real soon. It seems clear that many of our current policies are not helping matters, but actually making things worse.

Spiritual considerations

And for the Christian at least, there is of course a second way to look at these fires. That is to examine the biblical and theological angle: What does the Bible have to say about things like God and natural disasters? As mentioned, I have often written about these things, eg: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/09/10/hurricane-irma-god-natural-disasters/

Or here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/02/03/god-providence-and-natural-disaster/

And I did also speak about Israel Folau’s recent remarks about God and bush fires. See here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/11/18/israel-folau-ancient-israel-and-the-god-who-is-there/

So I will not now repeat all that I said earlier. I encourage you to have a look at those articles for much more information on this. But let me offer a bit of a summary on what was said there. First, Christians are not deists, who believe that God has no direct involvement in this present world. Instead, he is actively involved in it.

Second, the Bible throughout makes it clear that God can and does use natural means to get our attention, to bring about judgment, or to discipline a people. That is not to say that every flood or firestorm is the direct move of God. But certainly he can do such things if he so chooses.

While almost all Christians love to quote a passage like 2 Chronicles 7:14, not as many would be aware of what is said in the previous verse. There we read about what God himself does: “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people…” There are so many more similar passages like this found in Scripture.

God is sovereign, so his control also extends to the weather and to what we call natural disasters – or what insurance companies used to refer to as “acts of God.” Again, not everything that happens in the physical world around us is necessarily some judgment of God. But it can be. For more details on all this, refer to the articles above.

And for the Christian, prayer can be a big part of these things. We are not saying we can necessarily control the weather when we pray. But we are asking God for help and grace – and he does control the weather. God generally rules the physical world by the laws of nature that he has set up, but he can also act by means of special intervention in those laws.

To tie this in with our current round of fires, consider the place of prayer as mentioned in this short video. It comes from just a few days ago in NSW, and is linked to at the end of this article. In it a Mallacoota resident and Christian talks about the fires, miracles, and the power of prayer: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-50953591

In sum, it goes without saying that whatever your particular views are on these matters, we all should pray for those directly and indirectly impacted by these fires.

[1610 words]

32 Replies to “On Australia’s Bushfires”

  1. I read the book “Redemptive Reversals” you recommended. This sounds just like it. You want to worship nature then the irony is it will turn on you. Scripture provided over and over in the bible on this topic.

  2. Heartbreaking and traumatic, especially when family evacuate unexpectedly at 6.00, with no power, no battery life, no cash. Thankfully, they had a full tank of fuel and were allowed the next day to evacuate by travelling south and then Cooma, Canberra to home Campbelltown NSW.

  3. Praying with you, Bill. Simply it is immoral and unjust that so very many people are being lied to on and on, year after year by the leftist/green agenda (which is determined to lead us all into a communist ‘utopia’ = misery – for further insight refer ‘Agenda DVD’), while meantime so many are losing lives and homes, including much of God’s creation.
    God bless you and thank you for being a voice for sanity and wisdom.

  4. I had an interesting exchange with someone earlier today. After suggesting that there needs to be increased clearing of firebreaks, someone responded to me that trees are sacred because they create our oxygen and rain, and claimed that clearing is what has caused the problem. Of course she is wrong on all counts and I tried to correct her, but I also thought of the spiritual side, which I’m a bit struggling to put into words, but I’ll give it a go.

    Adam was commanded to “dress it and keep it” when he was placed in the garden (Gen 2:15). Likewise we need to tend to the earth, not just let it go wild. The other thought was that by claiming trees are sacred, she is worshipping the creation not the creator.

    I couldn’t help but think that many of our problems are indeed due to being a post-Christian society, that rejects God. Even if the fires aren’t a case of direct divine punishment, they are indeed the natural result of a failure to obey the command to “dress and keep” the earth.

    By worshipping trees and wildlife, people are also forgetting the command to “dress and keep” the earth, consequently catastrophe is able to break out. We of course need to find balance in our stewardship of the earth, and not destroy the earth unnecessarily, but by not clearing breaks, not clearing undergrowth etc, the long term environmental damage is far worse.

  5. Worship nature, & it will turn on you – Nature cannot save you – only Jesus can.
    To think that as mankind, we can control the weather is to play God.
    No amount of radical “climate-abating” government polices would have prevented these fires.
    Sensible land management, following the indigenous Australians for millenia before us would not have prevented them, but mitigated some of the effects.
    Reap what you sow (Galatians 6). 🙁

  6. Thanks, Bill, again.
    The only angle that I didn’t see you cover (unless you covered it in those previous articles, which I have not read) is that, God is sovereign, and in His sovereignty he gave us the responsibility to care for and manage this earth in every aspect. That care and management include keeping the earth protected from itself (clearing underbrush, backburning etc) as well as using those same resources for our good (fire wood etc., etc.). It goes for everything else: crop rotation (trees and all renewables), water management, polution management (not to be seen as some sort of CO2 tax), and so forth.

    I won’t go on,but this is just in case someone missed the whole idea of our responsibility as Christians, and, like me, have not had time to read the previous articles yet.

  7. Is it just possible that we are turning more and more against the apostolic teachings that all life is sacred, that we are supposed to be carers of the earth, that we should care for our infirm until “death do us part”. Instead we believe in abortion on demand, euthanasia, leaving the marginalised to fend for themselves, etc. Never did I think I would see so many “beggars” on the streets of Melbourne. Australia will reap as she has sown.
    Keep up your good work Bill. Money has become our god. People are to be disposed of. This country of ours can hardly be called a Christian country any more. Depressing. However, in the aftermath of our behaviour, thankfully God will still love us and give us leaders with courage and strength to sort out the mess we have brought upon ourselves. Lorraine Twentyman

  8. IMPORTANT – Calling out lies:

    Essential 7 minute viewing re hottest Australian day on record 111 years ago today: 3rd January, 1909.



    “BOM is making ‘the present seem warmer’ by ‘cooling the past’

    “Changes in technology and adjustments of historical temperatures by the Bureau of meteorology has made “the present seem warmer” says climate scientist and author Jennifer Marohasy.

    “The Bureau no longer uses mercury thermometers, instead opting for electronic probes which Dr Marohasy said are recording in places like Mildura “0.4 degrees hotter” than the mercury thermometer.

    “Dr Marohasy told Sky News the Bureau is “cooling the past” by adjusting historic temperatures or removing them altogether.

    “According to Dr Marohasy the hottest day on record was recorded in Bourke NSW on the third of January 1909 with a temperature of 51.6 degrees, but the Bureau has “deleted it from the record”.”

  9. To blame climate change is a total cop out; yes climate change has been at play since prehistoric times so I’m not going to suggest it is not happening now. When one considers the changes between the catastrophic Victorian fires of 1851, the previous record fire as measured by area, climate change is arguably the variable which has changed the least. Even the weather conditions on the peak days were identical, as with Ash Wednesday, Black Friday, Black Saturday etc. The most obvious variable is population change and the human habit of lighting fires whether malicious or accidental. It is interesting to note the people of 1851 blamed the cessation of Aboriginal burning. There will be many lessons learned when the fires are extinguished; hopefully a proper less alarmist view of climate change will be one of the lessons. In the meantime I would have far more confidence in the power of prayer than I would in political leaders trying to outdo the climate with economic levers.

  10. Thanks Bill. There have been a number of fire stories from around the world, including places like California, that have received full coverage here in the UK. In the past few days, the fires in Australia have been the top story in our news; and they seem to be on a different scale to anything previously, especially with the weather forecast for this weekend. Of course, the story may be knocked down the running order today, in the light of last night’s news from Baghdad. Is that the start of another conflagration of a different sort?

  11. Thank you Bill for your article and to those who have responded for their very wise comments. The first Australians used to burn off and although they had never heard of Jesus they believed in a Creator and were good stewards of the land. No one is saying that bushfires can be prevented altogether in this ”sunburnt country” but they can be managed better by reducing what will burn.

    When God created the world He commanded human beings to ”subdue” the earth but the godless ”Green left” have abandoned God so have ignored that command and because of their influence on politics in this country we are now reaping what they have sown with fires that are more ferocious than they have ever been.Climate change has become their mantra and convinced many people in post Christian Australia that it is fact.Scientists or ANYONE with another view point have been ridiculed or silenced. Hopefully, these tragic infernos may be the turning point and be the start of more sensible policies when it comes to managing the bush and national Parks.

  12. I agree with Suzanna Balfour & family

    I see a parallel between those who want to sexualise children in schools, whilst encouraging them to undertake abortions – all in the name of the Babylonian gods of fertility, Ishtar, Baal and Moloch. They too with their “safe schools” and are merely pouring petrol onto the flames.

    Likewise the greens and the Extinction Rebellion group are supportive or gay and abortion rights.
    What I find scary is the demise of morally and spiritually bankrupts governments and churches and the rise of popularists – those who claim to speak for the people. Popular opinion is driven by its own fire, Cultural Marxism. Public opinion is shifting dramatically on issues like homosexuality abortion, euthanasia, population control and ecology. Consensus of public opinion, manipulated and controlled by the UN and the EU, without biblical bearings is truly driving us towards extinction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmrFUVOOR14

    It seems that the same strategy used in the book ” After the Ball” is being used to promote extinction of all life: https://youtu.be/JgcPbOpWKwg?t=3120

    Without any fixed point of reference, like a ship without compass or captain, society drifts in a sea of relativity and changes its attitudes and values according to the political climate, or zeitgeist. The passengers and crew do not mind where the ship is going, just so long as everything is running smoothly and everyone has the feel- good factor. The only moral compass is a constantly changing political correctness- the average consensus at any particular moment. What might be shocking and completely unacceptable behaviour can almost overnight become respectable and what was previously considered to be decent and responsible behaviour can become criminalised. Without any fixed, absolute point of reference, human nature has a way of accommodating and becoming comfortable over a period of time with a state of hell. It can gradually sleep walk into becoming hardened, desensitised to cruelty, barbarism and evil, until what was considered abnormal or deviant becomes the acceptable norm.

    David Skinner UK

  13. From what i understand coronial inquests have recommended 8-10% of national and state parks be subject to hazard reduction. But how much have we seen? About 2%. What else do we need to know than that Labor and LNP governments have mismanaged our forests at the behest of green ideology and a bureaucratic mindset.

  14. Did you hear about all the untouchable forest locked-up in ‘carbon credits’ by companies in energy hungry industries? Green Left policies have actually created a strong financial incentive to *increase* the fuel load out there in those forests!

  15. And this from David – a Mallacoota B&B owner – broadcast on ABC radio:

    “I was praying. I was an atheist. I was praying to God, praying to Jesus, turn the wind. You wouldn’t believe it – but I’m going to tell you the honest-to-God truth. It pushed this thing back against itself.

    “Literally we felt the wind come from off the beach, it shouldn’t have, but it did, but it went back at it. I don’t care if anyone else doesn’t recognise it. It was unbelievable … I believe [it was] God’s intervention, absolutely, through prayer …”

    So there were at least two Mallacoota miracles that morning, praise God! – to the township in general and to this gentleman in particular. They say there are no atheists on the battle front, and it seems this is also true when the fires come. May David’s experience and witness of God’s power and grace lead him and many others to a genuine, total acceptance, love and appropriation of the truth, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

  16. What we need is for this nation to repent, humble itself and for Christian and/or political leaders to call for a national day of humility and prayer.

    In Sydney we had two days of very light rain. Christmas day and Christmas Eve – coincidentally the days many people were singing Carols.

    Obviously God does not change so what He has told us in the Old Testament is still pertinent but we should not forget that these sorts of things are also in the New Testament:-

    Rev 11:6 These have authority to shut up the heaven, that it may not rain in the days of their prophecy. And they have authority over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.

    God and those He gives authority to are in control and if we do not humble ourselves to Him we will be left to face the natural, brutal hostility of this natural existence without support. If we pridefully think we can face these things alone, without God, we will be left to demonstrate that we do not have that capability.

    Graham Fountain’s comments above are absolutely correct but we also need to remember that we need to do these things while simultaneously demonstrating humble respect to God. We are definitely meant to be caretakers of what He has given us to have authority over. Nature left to itself only demonstrates entropy (the second law of thermodynamics) – the naturalist theories of evolution are a demonstrable lie. The only way for things to advance is through intelligently motivated work, either through God or what we do, as His agents. While we think things just happen, and don’t give God the rightful respect for the work He has done and continues to do, we will inevitably fail.

  17. I just read a really interesting book about the first missions to the Aborigines in WA and when the first missionary arrived they were in their seventh year of drought and the natives were starving. There was no coal power, no grazing cattle and a very small population back then.
    Anyway, thank you for this article- to the ignorant and time-pressed who doesn’t know where to find out ‘the real story’, it is important. Your website is the only place at the moment where I feel like I can get trust-worthy information. The Salt Shakers retirement was a real loss to me and I have felt in the dark about a lot of things since. Is there anywhere else covering things biblically anymore?

  18. Oh- when I mentioned ‘the ignorant and time-pressed’ above- I meant me!! Sorry that wasn’t clear.

  19. You mentioned 2 Chronicles 7:14 and I was thinking how everyone wants to claim the blessings of a covenant relationship with God like the ones Israel received but always forget about the flip side the curses. Just as obedience brings something – blessings – DISobedience brings something too – we seem to forget about that. We want all the benefits without any requirements. If we obey blessings if we disobey blessings. That’s what we want. After all didn’t Jesus take all our punishment on himself??? So all that is left is blessings. Fathers chastise there children to raise them right, at least they used to, an the heavenly Father is no different we are so used to the “Jesus is my buddy” God that we can’t imagine a God that that scolds us for disobedience and chastises us to help us grow.

    I think too many Christians think God doesn’t judge nations anymore because that’s the old testament God we are now under the new covenant which is all about peace and love and blessings galore.

  20. Thanks. But even outside that verse it seems too many think God just blesses now no judgment no curse no chastising. God has been reduced to a genie or sugar daddy who just gives you whatever you want and Jesus is your buddy who is cool with everything you do.

    Christians seem to not have a basic understanding of the faith any more. Feelings guide many ‘this makes me feel good so it must be from God’. ‘this makes me feel bad so it must be from satan’. A dumbed down faith is no faith at all! Would be better if there had no faith than to have a fake Christianity and believe themselves saved. At least if they had no faith we would have a good chance to reach them being fake Christians they will feel no need to be saved they think they already are.

  21. We officially/legally (as a country), have turned our back on God (gay marriage – abortion), now, I suspect, he has officially turned his back on us. God doesn’t send these natural disasters to punish us but, without God, we are at the mercy of the elements. What we didn’t seem to realize was, that before we legislated God out of our lives, he was there protecting us. Things are different now. The Spirit of God has left the great South Land; I can understand why. We should have left things as they were.

  22. Hi Bill
    Blessings to you and your family for your wonderful work. I read with interest your article and the comments of your other correspondents. There seems to be a complete lack of knowledge or interest in another aspect of the whole one world government issue. I speak of the “chem trails” which are so prolific in our skies now.
    Chem trails have been mistakenly written off as contrails, that plume of water vapor that appears behind airplanes in certain weather conditions. Whereas the contrails are short-lived, disappearing in only a few seconds after the passage of the airplane, chem trails stay and spread out over the whole sky. They are often laid out in a checkerboard pattern, and are part of what is now known as geoengineering.
    The difference between these trails and contrails is that these chem trails are composed of nano particles of aluminum, boron and other toxic material. Understandably, the government is loathe to draw attention to their presence, and will concoct various stories to explain them away. Back in 2013, my wife, I and a friend noted a strange dark cloud over the town of Gympie, Qld. By the time we got to Noosa a half hour later, the cloud had completely filled the sky. I phoned The BOM in Brisbane to get their explanation of what it was. Their response a week later was that the smoke from the fires on Bribie Island had all converged in a giant cloud over Gympie. Really?
    The idea of this geoengineering is to deflect the sun’s rays from the surface of the earth to reduce the effects of global warming. The jury is till out on whether this is actually happening, but one thing is clear- the particles that were supposed to be suspended in the atmosphere are raining back down on the earth with catastrophic results. The forests on Mount Shasta in California were tested a good 10 years ago and it was found there were elevated aluminum, boron and strontium residue on the leaves. Being nano particles, they were very flammable and were a significant cause of the fires which destroyed the Mount Shasta area several years later. Many reports from firefighters say that the fires they are encountering now are significantly different than the fires of previous years. Can we attribute this to merely the reduction of back burning, or could other factors be in play?
    Regards, Vic

  23. Putting aside the question of whether climate change is responsible for intensification and frequency of Australian bushfires, I think one question that Christians and other people of faith most urgently need to contemplate in this context is pastoral care to those afflicted under such brutal exigencies. As a retired nurse, I would argue that every Australian (and New Zealand) Christian has an obligation to provide relief, solace and solidarity for those who have lost their homes and counselling support for those who have been bereaved. If current government policy proves an obstacle to this, regardless of the political provenance of federal or state governments, I hope that we can all agree that any obstacles to government assistance for its victims and survivors, and for the brave firefighters who risk their safety and very lives fighting this carnage, need to be shoved aside. Whatever our political differences on other issues, can we agree on that?

  24. Thanks Rhona. It of course all depends on what you mean by the “Christian has an obligation to provide relief, solace and solidarity for those who have lost their homes”. If it means we believers should seek to show the love of Christ, to pray, and to do what we can to help others in need, that goes without saying. That is basic Christianity 101, and plenty of Christians are already doing that. But if you mean the state should coerce people to “share” their wealth or homes, or be forced to take in people, etc, then no, we do not have such an obligation.

  25. Prayer is an excellent start, but good works are equally important. And I’m sorry, but yes we do have an obligation to provide assistance and support for those in need, particularly families with children or people with disabilities who have been left destitute through no fault of their own. That needs to involve government financial assistance, administered through the institutions of the Australian welfare state as well as access to public health care for those who need it. I suspect that this is one of the philosophical differences between us, but I would implore you to change your mind. Surely it is a gospel imperative to provide immediate practical assistance to those who in this horrific situation? Given that some of the survivors of this tragedy might be driven to suicide through their personal tragedies otherwise, surely that is commensurate with the Christian obligation to preserve the sancitity of human life?

  26. I of course already said that prayer AND action are needed Rhona. And I nowhere said there is no role for government. But unlike you, I believe there are many non-government organisations that can and should be helping here, including the churches. Gospel imperatives are NOT about calling on all-powerful states to act. They are always about calling on Christians and Christian communities to act. Jesus was NOT a socialist, and when he told us to help the poor and needy, he never spoke of governments confiscating the wealth of others, but of individuals and groups voluntarily doing what they can out of love for God and others. Hopefully one day you might allow biblical truths to trump your commitment to socialist ideology. See more here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2018/08/14/actually-no-jesus-was-not-a-socialist/

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