Why does God allow NATURAL DISASTERS? Why coronavirus? by Fr. Gabriel Wissa

May 19, 2020

Our beloved Father Anthony Mourad explained in a previous video why God allows pain and suffering (link in the comments below) but why does God allow natural disasters? What about the current pandemic of the coronavirus? Are these distressful natural disasters an act of God as they are often attributed? Are they the outcome of God’s wrath? Let us examine this question together. 


To properly comprehend this difficult apologetical and theological questionwe will need to carefully examine together five comprehensive pointsEvery point is essential for building up to our conclusion. The first one is understanding who is a human being in relation to the remainder of the creationIn Genesis 2:19 God forms the animals from the ground; but, in Genesis 2:7 God forms Adam of the dust of the ground and breathes into his nostrils the breath of lifeHere, Scripture is deliberately contrasting humanto animals. An animal is only made of the ground. So an animal is merely an earthly creation. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the angels, they are purely spiritual beings and are not mentioned in the first chapters of Genesis because they are not part of this created earthly realmHumans, on the other hand, are neither purely earthly like animals nor purely spiritual like angels. They are both spiritual and earthly at the same time. They are made of dust, but God breathes into them the spiritual element. Human beingoccupy a special position within the creationHumans can connect with the spiritual and invisible realm through prayer to God, and even communicating with the angelic beings as well as with the saints that passed on to the other realm. Yet, simultaneouslyhumans can also participate in the physical and visible creationWe eat, work, sleep, etc. It is in this light that St. Isaac the Syrian could say: “Be at peace with your own soul; then heaven and earth will be at peace with you…” By being at peace with ourselves, we can be at peace with both heaven and earth as we interact with both. 


The second point is that a human is created in the image of God. The literal understanding of the image of God is made apparent in the following verse: Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Humanity is the crown of the creation and has been given a crucial responsibility over the cosmos. Created in the image of God, humanity received from God a share of His attribute to have dominion over the entire creationThis is emphasized by God asking Adam to name the animalsWe name whatever we have authority over. My wife and I named our children for example as God gave us authority over them to love, teach and protect them, etc. God gave all humans dominion over the physical creation. So, God created us in His image to be able to exercise dominion on earth on His behalf. 


The Third Point is the spiritual priesthood. In addition to the literal priesthood given to certain menGod has given a spiritual priesthood to all humans both in the Old and New Testaments. Now, the main function of a priest, generally speaking, is to offer a sacrificeBoth the Jewish and pagan priests offered sacrifices. Ithe mystery of the Christian priesthoodthe priest makes Christ present and Christ within him offers Himself as a bloodless sacrifice on the altarSo, in Christianity, Christ is both the priest and the sacrifice. Similarly, the spiritual priesthood’s function is to also offer a sacrifice. St. Peter says in his epistle the following: “you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Therefore, in addition to offering our prayers and contemplations to God as spiritual sacrificeshuman beings are asked to exercise proper dominion on the creation and to offer this dominion as a spiritual sacrifice to GodIn other words, every work we do, here, on earth should be done with the purpose of God’s gloryI study to glorify God. I work to glorify God. think, design, create to glorify God. Even our use of the earthly materials like wood, stonebrick should be done for the glory of GodWe ought to use our minds and free wills to offer back the world to GodWe sacrifice it to God. It is an offering. Humans, who are a part of the creation, stand also as the crown of the creation offering up praises on our own behalf and on behalf of the remainder of the creation. This offering up on behalf of the creation is seen in the Coptic Orthodox Church’s midnight praises as we pray the following“… O sun and moon and all the stars, praise Him and exalt Him above all… And also you rain and dew, sing praises unto our Savior…  Glorify the Lord O clouds and winds… O you cold and fire and heat, praise Him and exalt Him above all… You also nights and days, light and darkness and lightning, glorify the Lover of Mankind…” How can these lifeless things offer up praises to God? Through us. As human beings who have dominion over the physical creationwe offer it up to GodAnd, woffer praises on behalf of the entire creation.  



The fourth point is the fall and salvation. Genesis 3:17 saysThen to Adam He said, Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.’” Notice the connection, here, between the sin of Adam and the cursing of the ground. Adam’s sin naturally leads to the cursing. At the same time, this is a punishment from God. But again, not a punishment out of retribution. God is not angry in the literal sense of the word. It is a punishment that leads to repentance. We have already discussed how God punishes to lead someone to repentance or to put an end to a non-repentant person’s life when sin has become irreversible. Back to the ground being cursed. What is a curse? A curse is the opposite of a blessing. In the same way darkness is lack of light and cold is lack of heat, a curse is the lack of blessing. And, God is obviously the source of blessing. So, unity with Him naturally leads to blessing. Similarly, sin or separation from God leads to cursingGod uses the natural consequence of separation from Himself, who is the Source of Life and blessing, as a punishment. So, humanity, through a wrong exercise of its dominionseparated themselves from God and separated the entirety of the creation in the processThis idea is reflected in Romans 8, St. Paul says: “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” It is clear from this verse that the creation is sufferingin corruption and eagerly waiting for the revealing of the sons of GodThe implication, here, is that the creation will be freed from bondage through the sons of God. There is a correlation between humans and the creation.  


So we can see the result of the fall on the creation in the verse we just read in Romans 8. In 2nd Corinthians, St. Paul discusses the same issue but from a salvific perspective. He says: “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Here, the message is that humanity was reconciled through the Messiah and humanity has been given the ministry of reconciliation to reunite the world back to God. The word rendered here as world is ‘kosmos’ in Greek. So this ministry aims at reconciling the entire cosmos to God—not only humans. Christ, who is the first fruits of humanity, the first real human as per the original pre-fall design, exercised this proper dominion over the creation while He was on earth. This sinless God-man, exercised His dominion over raging waters, over evil spirits, over sickness, etc. He had true and full dominion. Notice also how it is not uncommon amongst Christian saints who attained high levels of spirituality to have a special relationship with animals. Thesometimes even tame ferocious animals.  Many also have authority over evil spirits. These saints are actively taking part in the ministry of reconciliation between God and the cosmos which will ultimately be fully accomplished in Heaven.  


The fifth and last point is the correlation between the ongoing corruption and the signs which will take place at the end of the world. Perhaps because of the already mentioned points and the increasing corruption which we expect at the end of the world, Scripture expresses an escalation in terms of natural disasters. Mark 17 says: there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.” Luke 21 says: “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring…” 2nd Peter says: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” Then, he discusses how all these things will be dissolved. So, in summary, humanity, the only creation who is both spiritual and earthly, whis created in God’s imageand is the crown of creation, is given the responsibility of exercising proper dominion over the creation and offering it back to God. That creation has fallen and caused the cosmos to be cursed through its separation from God. After Christ’s salvific work, God has given to humanity the ministry of reconciliation to reconcile the world back to Him once more. But, unfortunately, humanity, generally speaking, has continued to stray further away from God; which will lead to a greater lack of unity with God, which will, in turn, lead to an increased number of natural disasters at the end of times. However, since salvation did take place through the incarnation, cross and resurrection and so on, the creation will be restored in the afterlife. 

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