SODOM & GOMORRAH: In modern life, it is atypical to credit the divine with any kind of direct intervention in our lives. In particular, we term events as “natural disasters” because they just happen; we view them as random, ordinary events, though tragic in their destruction.
Yet the Book of Matthew states “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” (24.7)
Our society hates the idea of a God that intervenes in nature.
In 1755, a massive earthquake practically destroyed the City of Lisbon. The great minds of Europe had several heated debates over the nature of the quake. Immanuel Kant published three essays on earthquakes, Voltaire and Rousseau had arguments over it, and people later said that the six year old poet Goethe was first brought to skepticism by Lisbon. Lisbon, an Enlightenment stronghold, was blamed for the quake by some religious authorities. Had the people not been as sinful, they wouldn’t have been struck with such a quake. The pro-Enlightenment thinkers, in what they claimed was a defense of God, said that God didn’t intervene in nature.
This argument, which grew up in 1755, is the basis for the kind of reaction most thinkers have to people grafting a theological meaning on natural disasters. God does not intervene in nature. It is a statement full of implications for our political standing. If God does not intervene in nature, then only human beings do. This places the responsibility for all evil in human hands. However, if all that is bad is our fault, then we get credit for all that is good. Particular interventions by the divine become an impossibility in a world of universal principles since, by their nature, particulars are exceptions. Given enough particulars (or even just one) and the universal rule stops looking so universal.
In short, the idea of an interventionist God destroys the foundation of liberal thought. Human progress goes out the window in a world where God tries to communicate to the faithful. Total states crumble before a transcendental authority that means enough to believers to sacrifice for. When God starts allowing plagues of Biblical proportion, the story of humanity begins to look more Biblical – i.e. a story of corruption ending in apostasy. The only solution, the only real progress comes only after Christ has punished the infidels. The role of humans is pushed aside when the main actor is the Lord of Hosts.
Assuming a God that talks to the faithful assumes a God that’s keeping score. That scares some people.
If we were, just for the sake of argument, to assume that God communicates through the faithful through various signs and wonders and that earthquakes are one of the signs we’re told would come, would it make sense to believe that something strange is afoot when two large earthquakes can strike the city of Christchurch in New Zealand in just six months?