“I Don’t Know” (Alternate Title: “We Don’t Know”)

Photo copyright CNN
Photo copyright CNN

A little introduction: Not a few followers of my blog have commented that I have been quiet for some time. Two reasons for my not writing anything recently: First is that I’ve been quite busy doing…other things. This does not mean that my blog will eventually die a natural, quiet death but it does mean that my time has been spent elsewhere on things which family and social responsibilities demanded I take care of.

Second is my way of responding (one of my responses, at least) to the recent catastrophes which have brought much death and destruction recently in the Philippines. Barely had the people of Bohol begun recuperating from the earthquake which hit the island and neighboring areas (October 15), the Visayas were hit by what is considered to be one of the worst storms to hit anyone anywhere. It is enough for the superstitious to wonder whether God or some other entity is mad at the Philippines.

I didn’t feel the storm that much, since the National Capital Region was spared the brunt of Typhoon Haiyan. At least that is what it felt like; my wife and I slept through the hour when the storm was scheduled to “hit” the capital. We were spared the full blast of Haiyan but that relatively happy bit of non-news paled in comparison to the horror that occurred where the typhoon did hit–Tacloban, Samar, and other places in the Visayas.

My silence for the past few days was a way of commiserating with those who were directly affected by this freak (yes, it’s a freak) of nature. No words can express how terrible this latest event really is. The silver lining is that the nations of the world have joined hands in coming to aid the Philippines. An unverified report I read somewhere claims the aid is somewhere in the several tens of billions in total already. Of course, every silver lining has a cloud and in this case the cloud comes in the form of bickering, finger-pointing, hand-washing, and all other evidences of human silliness.

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That is not what I am writing about now, why I am breaking my short silence. I am concerned by questions and statements from some quarters, statements which claim that the recent catastrophes are God’s punishment for the nation’s sins. The short answer my friends, is that we don’t know why the Philippines experienced what it experienced.

(Alright, there are explanations…the Philippines sits on the “Ring of Fire” and is therefore susceptible to earthquakes. The Philippines is right near the ocean [or should I say, on the ocean] and therefore we should expect typhoons. Also, don’t forget the harbingers of global warming and climate change…”All is well and good” from a materialistic and naturalistic viewpoint, since this world and how it works is all there is to it.)

But from a theistic or Christian point of view, these answers are not enough. If there is a God, why did he let these things happen? Or, where was God when these tragedies happened? (The honorable mayor of Davao City suggested, perhaps in jest, that God was elsewhere.) There has to be another answer out there. And people who ask are not limited to those who suffer. I can’t prove this but I think that questions like the ones I posed come more from those who were spared the destruction rather than those who lived through it–those who suffer don’t really have much of an answer–and I don’t think they have any strength left for metaphysical inquiries. They’re experiencing misery enough.

However, there are those who seem to think that they should act as God’s spokesmen whenever something bad happens. Think of Pat Robertson. This latest issue with Haiyan is no exception. Soon after the storm left our area of responsibility, we saw Facebook and other social media being used as platforms for “thunder and brimstone” kind of rhetoric–how we are being punished by God because we are a nation which promotes homosexuality and other sins.

Friends, I believe what the Bible says about homosexuality and other sins. But to say that God is punishing us with the storm and earthquake because of that is downright irresponsible. The reason is quite simple–God did not say that our recent national tragedies are due to any particular sins.

This is not like the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, or other instances in Scripture wherein God directly reveals both the destruction of a particular people and the reason behind that destruction (sin). However, the case of Sodom (and other Biblical cases) is not in the same category as what we recently experienced.

So the next time somebody asks why we experienced the devastation in Haiyan, why thousands were killed, or if God is doing this to us, just say you don’t know. Because, really, you don’t.

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Having said all that, I still stand by the traditional Christian perspective that God is sovereign and that he can (and will) use the events of the earth for his glory. Will he use the recent Bohol earthquake and the devastation by Haiyan to bring people to repentance and have them turn to Christ? I believe so.

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Blessings!

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