Apologetics: ə-pŏl'ə-jĕt'ĭks from the Greek απоλоγία Def: The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.

The Message of the Earthquake --

Ultimately Points to the Cross. . .

Written By Esthermay Bentley-Goossen on 19 January 2010

“Every happening, great or small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.”
~Malcolm Muggeridge

Rick Warren is wrong when he tweets that God does not judge the world through catastrophes. Here's what God says:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. . .
~Romans 1:18

Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?
~Amos 3:6

Pat Robertson is wrong when he claims to know why the Haitian earthquake happened. Deuteronomy 29:29 says,

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

Christian Apologist Malcolm Muggeridge does offer up some wisdom, however, when he says,

Every happening, great or small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us,
and the art of life is to get the message.

So what's the message? Is there a message in an earthquake? Is there a message in any natural disaster? And if the art of life is to "get the message," how do we go about deciphering that message?

Much bad theology inevitably surfaces when Christians confront human suffering and look for answers. However, as John Piper writes, "Wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians. And wimpy Christians won't survive the days ahead." It's the wimpy Christians who will question human suffering and remain confused and bewildered, asking "Why?"

If we have a solid biblical worldview, we will understand the message in a catastrophe like the recent earthquake in Haiti, for it is indeed found in God's Word . . .

Let's look at the principle players involved in the unfolding of a natural disaster as outlined in Scripture so we can "get the message."

. . . We've got GOD, Satan and -- of course -- Human Beings.

In His design for the world, God allows many events to run their course according to "time and chance" (see Ecclesiastes 9:11) and so -- for those affected --these many tragedies are seen as accidental and unforeseeable.

God has also told us in His Word that natural disasters would grow in frequency and intensity as the end of the age approaches. This is to happen so that people will be shaken out of their complacency and lead them to seek Him. (See Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:25-26; Revelation 6:12, 11:13, and 16:18.)

Even so, as Christians, we are given these verses of comfort:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
~ Romans 8:1

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.
~ Psalm 46:1-7

Ultimately, God controls everything either directly or indirectly by restraining His grace or allowing Satan a little longer leash. Either way, God is sovereign over everything and happily accepts responsibility for both "human suffering" and "blessings."

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things.

~Isaiah 45:7
Ephesians 2:2 does tell us that Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of the air and that his spirit is at work in those who are disobedient. We should never underestimate the power of Satan.

He does indeed rule in the hearts of many including some world leaders. It could be -- and has been -- argued that Satan therefore controls the nations. This would be a stretch! Satan does prowl about like a lion. . . but nowhere in God's Word can we construe that Satan has control of nations or natural disasters.

Satan does not control the weather or rule the nations. God alone is Sovereign.

Human Beings
There are only two groups of people on earth: pagans and Christians. Perhaps a over simplification? Yes. (i.e., natural man, carnal man, spiritual man. . .) But for purposes of this discussion, Scripture is clear when it comes to human suffering:

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
~Matthew 5:45

Jesus gave us a very definitive statement on human suffering by way of catastrophes in Luke 13:1-5:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that
these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans bec
ause they
suffered this way? I tell you, No! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them --
do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?
I tell you No! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

Both believers and non-believers are affected when God sends or allows a disaster.

When God sends or allows disaster to non-believers, it could be for one of two reasons: either as judgment or as a call to repentance.

Clearly a natural disaster such as an earthquake does not come close to the eternal punishment of hell, but it is a taste of God's wrath. How a non-believer responds to a disaster is far more important than the reality of the disaster in-and-of itself.

When God sends or allows disaster to believers, He does so -- again -- for one of two reasons: to prune/refine us or to take us home to heaven! Christians are never victims of collateral damage and we should never think such. While there may or may not be a primary reason God sends or allows a disaster (Remember: God is GOD!), He always orchestrates every single detail. As Christian onlookers to disaster, we can respond in one of two ways: apathy or kindness.

When God sends or allows disaster -- or judgment -- to come to an entire nation, each individual involved needs to determine why God caused or allowed him/herself to be harmed.

God gets the credit for the earthquake. Yet he is not to "blame" since God is never to "blame" for anything. He is sovereign and always does the exact right thing at precisely the correct time.

God sends a taste of His wrath to non-believers that they might look to the Cross and find Salvation. God prunes and refines Christians that we will live in greater gratitude for what Jesus did to rescue us from eternal destruction.

As Christians, we should use the tragedy of the recent earthquake in Haiti as a reminder of the brevity of life and the equality of death as it happens on this earth. More importantly, we should use it as a springboard in sharing the ultimate solution to this world's problems.

God seeks to glorify His Son in all He does. Including catastrophes. Catastrophes -- like everything else in life -- are about finding our way to the Cross of Jesus Christ!

~ Esthermay V. Bentley-Goossen
© 2010 The Heart of a Pastor's Wife


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This installment of InOtherWords is hosted by Kathryn
on her blog, Expectant Hearts


Anonymous said...

May the hearts of the just and the unjust be turned toward God. Thank you for a Godly perspective.

Barbara said...

You nailed it!
I'm re-posting this to my Facebook account! AMEN!

Kate said...

So much truth always here. To think Pat Robertson and Rick Warren got it wrong just blows my mind. I heard them both this past week and just shook my head. Where is the reliance upon God's Word?
That passage from Luke 13:1-5 is right on for our world today as so many disasters come.
Excellent post. I want to share it too. Blessings to you <;-)

Michelle said...


This post was very humbling and right on!

I never heard Rick Warren's statement but I sure did hear Pat's and have been writing a post on it for three days. (Still not quite finished, though)

Once again, you have covered a controversial subject thoroughly and didn't cater to those who might want to hear something different.

Accepting suffering as part of God's plan is a difficult thing for us to do.

Praise God that it is never in vain and that it gives us an opportunity to draw near to Him.

Michele Williams said...

Amen sister! Thank you so much for sharing this clearly! God bless you.

kalopoieo said...

I personally believe that mankind is in part responsible for weather-related catastrophes. Before the Fall of Man in Genesis Chapter 3, the entire earth including weather was PERFECT. It the same way sin entered the human race, it also entered the cycle of earth.

In any event, I like the conclusion that catastrophe should point us to the cross.

As always - agreeing with Michelle - you cover these delicate topics thoroughly and without leaving room for debate.

sara said...

great job, Esthermay, with is post.

"As Christians, we should use the tragedy of the recent earthquake in Haiti as a reminder of the brevity of life and the equality of death as it happens on this earth. More importantly, we should use it as a springboard in sharing the ultimate solution to this world's problems."....I hope we do this!

Tami said...

It seems strange to say God gets the credit for the earthquake, but I know what you're saying. He is all powerful, all knowing, completely in control.

May others see Him in this tragedy.

Nic said...

What an amazing and truthful perspective on how God is working in the world. This is incredibly well written. If you don't mind, I would like to re-post this to an online group of Believers I belong to. Thank you for sharing this today! Truly beautiful!

Kathryn @ Expectant Hearts said...

This is a beautiful post.. One of the things I was thinking after I saw your comment, also, was that we can't claim to get someone else's message.. I was thinking of the people specifically affected by the earthquake, Pat Robertson & Rick Warren can't claim to know what God's message is. You have done a beautiful job of illustrating scriptural references. I also think that each person specifically involved will get their own message from God..

Thank you SO much for sharing this and linking up today. (and not a week from now, ha ha)

Kathy Schwanke said...

I love how you are given the ability to see clearly and express truth profoundly.

Amen again!

Ben said...

Oh My Stars, Esthermay! Did you know your blog post is circulating on Facebook! This is amazing. Remarkably spot-on and I am going to re-post it too with the hopes that both Rick Warren and Pat Robertson see it.

A pure and full understanding of God's Word will always bring everything into perfect focus. Thanks for a great post.

Kim@Seasons of My Heart said...

Amen!!! Preach it Sista!!!

Thanks for being real...and honest!

Anonymous said...

WOW! That's great! Reposting this on my FB, but wish I had ink in the printer to print this out to keep in my bible!

It is SO important to know God's Word completely and not just pick and choose.

In times like this when people ask why, it helps to know completely why and not by men's determination, but through our Father's determination; Our testimony in grief, struggles, joy and forgiveness can make or break our testimony of our Heavenly Father.

Rick Lannoye said...

Wow! So you actually believe God was "sending a message" in Haiti by killing tens of thousands of people, and maiming and laming many more, men, women, children, and the pets too!

Well, that would be consistent with the belief that God made the universe with the thought that he'd wrap everything up by eventually torturing billions of people for eternity!

There's a problem here though--this even wilder idea that Jesus would agree with any of this! The fact is that you have to do away with everything Jesus originally taught in order to believe that God would ever hurt anyone, not in Haiti, and not in Hell.

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of my book at my website: www.thereisnohell.com), but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

If one is willing to look, there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

True, there are a few statements that made their way into the copies of copies of copies of the gospel texts which place “Hell” on Jesus’ lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

Bear in mind that the historical Protestant doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures applies only to the original autographs, not the copies. But sadly, the interpolations that made their way into those copies have provided a convenient excuse for a lot of people to get around following Jesus’ real, core message.

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

Great post, EstherMay!

Susan said...

This was great Esthermay!

Thanks for sharing your heart on the matter.

For me personally, when things like this happen I like to ask God to redeem good out of it all.

"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." I Peter 1:6-7

We'll all understand the why's later.

I pray all this pain and suffering will turn these people to God, not from Him.

Trials to gold sweet Jesus~

LittleWomen21 said...

I really appreciate all the scripture. It has made me look at this disaster in a new light. But its also making me really struggle with my faith.

Solace said...

This was hard for me to read although I agree with you entirely and this is very well-written. I grew up in a church that preached the "God is Love" gospel and I did believe that God was too loving to send ANYONE to hell. That is until I actually read the Bible and was saved. Praise Jesus!

I don’t like to think that God is responsible for the devestation and lost lives in Haiti, but ** That old song which title I don’t even know comes to my mind "We’ll understand it better by and by..."

In response to Mr. Rick (above): You need to read your Bible, sir. And I don’t think the regular followers of this blog are at all interested in the false doctrine of your book. Most of us believe in the authority of GOD’s WORD. I pray daily that false teachers like yourself will be eliminated by being humbled by the authority of Scripture. You are leading millions of people directly into the wrath of God. Remember John 3:16 does include the word "perish."

Thank you Esthermay for a beautiful explanation.

Petra said...

Suberb job of showing God's authority over all of creation. I would add: Romans 8:19-21; Colossians 1:16-17;
Deuteronomy 11:17; James 5:17; Numbers 16:30-34.
All is said bluntly in the bible! To reject all the passages of Scripture pointing to God's wrath and control over His own creation just picking out the verses we like is called bastardization of the WORD. I never want to be accused of that.

This was an EXCELLENT Post! I'm re-posting too!

Sean said...

I pray that those who don't yet see HIM will see HIM through the coming catastrophes.
I just read an article by John Piper entitled Was Katrina Intelligent Design . It goes right along with your post. The only word that should ever follow the phrase “God owes me …” is “hell.”

Joan said...

It is so very hard to wrap my mind around this and as a new Christian, my faith has far to go. Ours is not to know but to use the opportunity as a springboard like you said to lead others to the Cross. Those who do not agree with the final authority of God’s Word on this are denying God. It’s interesting, I always agree with your posts because they are true to the Bible but sometimes I learn more from your comments than from your post itself. I never want to be left questioning God’s authority on anything; even a disaster like the Haiti earthquake even though it does cause me to question my faith a bit. I don’t know how to respond to people like Mr. Lanoye. He’s a quack and a false prophet. Do not entertain them/2 Peter 2:1-3; Matthew 7:15-20. He looks like a fool in this discussion and I pray those who listen to his false teachings are driven to the Bible to see the truth for themselves.

tigermom said...

I know Pat is in some hot water over his statement, but he is right that we -- as human beings -- are cursed! We are all cursed. Sadly, Mr. Robertson has always had bad timing :-p

Liking what Sean said:
The only word that should ever follow the phrase "God owes me..." is "hell."

This is an excellent post!

Cathy said...

A very good post, Dear ~ One thing is for sure, God is in control and not "mother nature."

sharon said...

No room for argument when God's Word is your authority!

Carrie Cooper said...

Carrie @ comfortedbyGod.blogspot.com

Having suffered from a chronic illness for the past four years, I am well acquainted with Christian suffering and God's refining process. I absolutely LOVE your faithful rendering of God's Word because so many people are confused about this subject. You've given a concise (for such a deep subject) response to a question that plagues many.

Miriam Pauline said...

I somehow missed that you wrote on the quote last week. And that would have been a shame, because this is an excellent discussion of seeing the sovereignty of God in all things, whilst at the same time maintaining the balance (or art) of understanding what we can and trusting God for the rest. Bless you for always being willing to tackle the hard questions.

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