Did God Destroy Port-Au-Prince?

Christian websites are buzzing with bloggers answering questions about the extent to which God caused last week’s deadly earthquake in Haiti. The bloggers offer a wide variety of answers, almost all of which are based on Biblical interpretation, and many of which are contradictory. No definitive answer exists because, if one did, well-versed Christians would presumably recognize and embrace it without dispute.

Few religious bloggers dispute the geological explanation that Haiti was struck by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake caused by a violent shift between tectonic plates moving in opposite directions. Those same bloggers, however, augment the geological facts with theological speculation. The theological explanations for the earthquake fall neatly into four broad categories. They are listed here without the supporting Biblical references because dozens of Bible verses (mostly from the Old Testament) are quoted to support the same broad explanations. The list:

  • God controls the universe in real time. He created the tectonic fault and caused the earthquake. Mankind, being flawed, cannot understand why God did these things.
  • Ditto, except that God caused the earthquake to punish Haiti for its sins, one of which may be the practice of voodoo.
  • God has the power to cause or prevent anything, but He did neither in this case.
  • God is a loving God. He plays little or no role in human suffering. The earthquake was a natural geological event.

As might be expected, any discussion about God’s role in major disasters and human suffering will draw comments from crackpots, bullies, atheists and others. Bloggers tend to ignore the crackpots and bullies; polite atheists are tolerated (quite well, in fact) because they are a common adversary for Christian bloggers who might otherwise disagree. Also, atheists stir the pot and pot-stirring is good for most blogs because it prompts debate.

One theological mindset is noticeably absent on most religious blogs: It’s okay for man to be utterly clueless — or even wrong — about God’s intentions for some Earthly events. The earthquake in Haiti might be such an event.