Does God Control Natural Events?
What does God have to do with natural evil such as disasters and disease? We’ve seen that natural evil is a result of moral evil, but that answers only part of the question. Is God a passive observer? Or does he control all of creation, even in its fallenness, so that everything that happens (including disasters) falls under his control?
I can’t list all the passages that speak to this issue, but here are a few that are worth considering.
- God controls the events of the natural world, including the weather (Psalm 65:9-11; Psalm 135:6-7; Psalm 147:15-18; Jeremiah 5:22; Nahum 1:3; Acts 14:17). God governs the events of nature.
- God sometimes favors one group over another through natural events (Genesis 41:32; Exodus 9:13-26; Amos 4:7).
- According to Jesus, this divine control extends over even the smallest details (Matthew 5:45; Matthew 6:26-30; Luke 12:4-7).
- Jesus, as God, calmed the sea at his command (Matthew 8:23-27).
These are only a few of the passages that teach that God controls natural events. John Frame comments on these passages:
The biblical view of the natural world is intensely personalistic. Natural events come from God, the personal Lord…Obviously there are such things as natural forces, like gravity and electricity. Scripture indeed mentions the natural forces of the weather. But it is plain that in the view of the biblical writers any impersonal objects of forces are only secondary causes of the course of nature. Behind them, as behind the rain and the hail, behind even the apparent randomness of events, stands the personal God, who controls all things by his powerful word. (The Doctrine of God)
The passages I’ve listed are related to other passages that teach that God controls all things. For instance:
Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?
These passages appear to say that God’s control extends over all natural events, including calamities. It’s hard for me to escape that the Bible teaches that God controls all natural events.
This is hardly a balanced post. I want to present the other side, but it’s hard for me to see many credible options when it comes to God’s control over nature. Deism is an option, but not a credible one from a biblical perspective. God didn’t set this world in motion and walk away to let things run on their own. He created and sustains this world and his control extends over all of nature, even though it isn’t what he created it to be.
I suppose you could say that the curse is something outside of God’s control, but it’s hard to argue this with the biblical data. If you argue that the curse leads to natural events that are outside of God’s control, you end up struggling with some of the passages I’ve mentioned, and end up with a modified form of deism. You could argue that Satan has some control over nature, but I don’t see this supported by Scripture. It credits Satan with more power than he actually has.
I could be wrong in my conclusions, and if so I welcome your comments. I should note that I think there is a far more credible opposing view when it comes to God’s control over human action. Credible, but not necessarily convincing – but we’ll get to that.
Of course, this raises all kinds of other questions. If God controls nature, why does he allow tsunamis, earthquakes, and other disasters? This is not only an academic question. It’s a personal and a pastoral question as well.
We’ll get there, but tomorrow I want to look at some of what the Bible says about God’s control over human action. I should warn you that I find the passages on this very challenging – maybe even troubling.
Update: Greg Boyd comments on Jesus calming a storm. “The implication is that, far from suggesting that Jesus controls all storms, the passage actually suggests that at least some life-threatening storms have a demonic power behind them that resists God’s good purposes”