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Bible Q

Why are there natural disasters in a world created by God?

Many people wonder how a loving God could have created a world in which natural disasters occur. What most people do not realize is that such disasters are typically the product of natural systems which most of the time operate for our benefit. To put it one way, natural disasters are the ‘cost’ we ‘pay’ for systems which promote, protect life, and maintain. They should not be interpreted simplistically as a punishment for sin. Disasters happen to everyone,[1] and God provides environmental benefits to both the just and the unjust.[2]

Earth’s outer core & the magnetosphere

Movement of the Earth’s liquid interior cause earthquakes and volcanoes as lava is forced to the surface and the plates of the earth shift.  However, movement of the Earth’s liquid core also creates the magnetosphere, a magnetic field shielding the Earth from cosmic rays.[3] [4]

Volcanoes & carbon balance

Volcanoes are feared for their destruction. What possible benefits could they have? Volcanoes are part of the Earth’s carbon cycle, regulating temperature and carbon balance so that life can survive and flourish.[5] [6]

Plate movement & life on earth

Movement of the Earth’s surface plates creates deadly earthquakes and tsunamis. However, movement of these plates is also essential to life on Earth.[7] [8] The weathering of rocks it causes, removes CO2 from the atmosphere.[9]

Tropical storms & earthquakes

Tropical storms cause massive destruction and loss of life every year. They also bring significant environmental benefits,[10] [11] and prevent large earthquakes by releasing plate tension in slow quakes.[12]

On a 2005 British TV programme,[13] former Dominican friar Mark Dowd asked Christian theologians to explain why God permits natural disasters.[14] The answers used the same kind of arguments from the ‘cost of creation’ as have been used in this article.[15] [16] [17]


[1] Luke 13:1 Now there were some present on that occasion who told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 He answered them, “Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners4 than all the other Galileans, because they suffered these things? 3 No, I tell you! But unless you repent, you will all perish as well! 4 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower in Siloam fell on them, do you think they were worse offenders than all the others who live in Jerusalem?5 No, I tell you! But unless you repent you will all perish as well!”.

[2] Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemy and53 pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

[3]Were it not for the two natural barriers that stand between the Sun and the surface of the earth, life itself would soon disappear. These essential shields – the magnetosphere and just beneath it, the gaseous atmosphere of the Earth – protect us from the full fury of the highly variable star with which we live’, Eddy, ‘The Sun, the Earth, and Near-Earth Space: A Guide to the Sun-Earth System’, p. 71 (2009).

[4] ‘Without the protection of the magnetosphere, ionizing radiation would destroy all life exposed at the earth’s surface.’, Strahler & Strahler, ‘Modern Physical Geography’, p. 28 (1992).

[5] ‘”It is remarkable how exact the balance is between the carbon input from volcanoes and the output from rock weathering,” said Dr Zeebe. “This suggests a natural thermostat which helps maintain climate stability.” The delicately balanced carbon thermostat has been a key factor in allowing liquid water, and life, to remain on Earth, he said.’, BBC, ‘Nature’s carbon balance confirmed’, April 28 (2008).

[6]Volcanoes play a critical role in biogeochemical cycling. It is fair to say, in fact, that Earth’s life as we know it might not exist without volcanic activity.’ , Lockwood & Hazlett, ‘Volcanoes: Global Perspectives’, p. 399 (2010).

[7]It is not the mountains as such that are so important to life on Earth, but the process that creates them: plate tectonics.’, Ward & Brownlee, ‘Rare earth: why complex life is uncommon in the universe’, p. 194 (2000).

[8] ‘Thus, plate tectonics seems to be a crucial requirement for any planet on which life can thrive and evolve over billions of years.’, Bennett, ‘The Cosmic Perspective’, p. 414 (2008).

[9] ‘Weathering of silicate minerals also removes CO2 from the atmosphere. Hence, carbon dioxide is “scrubbed” from the system.”, Lockwood & Hazlett, ‘Volcanoes: Global Perspectives’, p. 399 (2010).

[10]Increased rainfall in coastal areas from tropical cyclones, fixing of atmospheric nitrogen by thunderstorms, the germination of many native plant species resulting from bushfires and the maintenance of the fertility of the basin soils due to river flooding are some of the positive impact [sic] of extreme meterological events.’, Datta, Singh, & Daschaudhuri, ‘Climate Change & Food Security’, p. 38 (2008).

[11] ‘Like other hazards, tropical cyclones bring benefits as well as losses. For example, there is a tendency for tropical cyclones to end drought in Australia and elsewhere.’, Smith & Petley, ‘Environmental Hazards: assessing risk and reducing disaster’, p. 182 (2009).

[12] ‘The researchers speculate that the reason devastating earthquakes rarely occur in eastern Taiwan is because the slow quakes act as valves, frequently releasing the stress along small sections of the fault, eliminating the situation where a long segment sustains continuous high stresses until it ruptures in a single great earthquake.’, Academia Sinica, ‘Earth Scientists show Slow Earthquakes Triggered by Typhoons, Publish in Nature’, June 11 (2006).

[13]‘Tsunami: Where Was God?’, Channel 4, originally aired January 25 (2005).

[14] Isaiah 45:7 I am the one who forms light and creates darkness; the one who brings about peace and creates calamity.

[15] ‘If we didn’t have a crust that moved, ultimately, with erosion, the whole surface of the planet would be basically smooth. … And so you could have simple forms of life, but you certainly couldn’t have complex animals like us. …if there were no recycling of the crust, basically the whole planet would become infertile after a certain period of time.’, Nancey Murphy (Fuller Theological Seminary).

[16] ‘The hurricane that happened in New Orleans was absolutely necessary in order to have heat exchange … from one part of the continent to the other, otherwise the earth would not be habitable.’, Friar George Coyne (Vatican Observatory).

[17] ‘[Dowd: ‘But couldn’t a supreme intelligence have fashioned things according to entirely different laws of nature which would still allow for the evolution of complex human creatures with free will, like ourselves?‘] Even Dawkins, who is no friend of Christianity, would say there’s probably no other way by natural processes to have evolved creatures who have these capabilities’, Robert Russell (Center for Theology and Natural Sciences).

2 Replies to “Why are there natural disasters in a world created by God?”

  1. Look you’re answer is partially correct. Why don’t you complete it by saying the following 1 John 5:19 states: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” The wicked one being Satan, whom Jesus Christ called “the ruler of the world.” (John 14:30) That way you let people know that Jehovah God would never be party to the harmful lie that Satan’s world can succeed, that it has found the key to happiness.

  2. When John talks about the world, I don’t think he is talking about the physical world as you describe. For example, consider John 15:18 – 25. This talks about the world hating Jesus and his disciples, and persecuting them because they were not of the world. If this were talking about the physical world, that would mean that it hated the disciples, and that it persecuted them (perhaps by sending special earthquakes to get them?). It would also mean that they were not part of the world or in it, even though they were still standing on earth like we do. This doesn’t seem to make much sense.

    I think it makes more sense when we realise that he is actually talking about people outside of Christ living a “normal”, sinful life, particularly those actively opposed to Christ and his followers. These people (in particular the high priests and Pharisees in the time of Jesus and the early disciples) did conspire to have Jesus crucified and to persecute the disciples. What’s more, we can see from this that the disciples were not in this world because they were not part of the group who rejected the teachings of Jesus and planned to kill him.

    As for the idea that there is a Satan in charge of the world, this seems to contradict God’s declaration in Isaiah 45:5 – 7 that God is the only powerful one, and that he is in complete control and creates both well-being and calamity. Yes, the world of humans is full of sin and of people who are astray from God, but that is as a result of us following our natural desires, which often lead us away from Godly things and into sin (James 1:13 – 15). See also answers like