Question and Answer

God's Judgment and Hurricane Katrina

Question:

Does God send judgment now or is there only judgment in heaven? And can hurricane Katrina be considered a judgment? What is the OPC position on judgment and disasters, if any?

Answer:

The OPC does not have an official position on such things. But I can give you what I believe is the view of the majority of ministers in the OPC, as we understand the Bible and what it says concerning such disasters.

Of course, the judgment does await the end. The day of judgment will come, and those who are outside of Christ will be eternally condemned and those in Christ will be saved forever.

Now, before that time, things happen in this life which are terrible disasters (like earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, etc.). These things occur because of the fall. The sin of Adam in the garden not only brought a curse upon him and his descendants, but upon all of creation itself (Gen. 3). Things are not the way they ought to be after the fall. Thus, things like hurricanes and other natural disasters occur in this life (although such will not always be the case; see Romans 8:19-21).

Of course, in all this God is sovereign. So God did ordain and even providentially superintended hurricane Katrina. He did not ordain it to "judge" a particular people (America in general or the people of Louisiana in particular). Or, at least, if he did, we do not know that. Why not? Consider the words of Jesus in the incident described in Luke 13:1-3 (English Standard Version):

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

In addition, there were many faithful Christians who were affected by the hurricane as well as evildoers. So, we can't just give a blanket explanation and say "it was God's judgment."

Now, to be sure, the hurricane was ordained by God for his purposes and for his glory. And that manifests itself in different ways in different people. The hurricane may be used by God in the life of the Christian to strengthen his faith in him. (For example, it may be to encourage the Christian by showing him how God cares for his people in the middle of crises.) Or, perhaps that Christian was becoming too comfortable with his material possessions and God did this to draw his child closer to himself and away from the transient things of this life. Or it may be to give the Christian an opportunity to show the love of Christ in a practical way by helping the victims of the hurricane.

For the unbeliever, God may have used the hurricane in his life to place him on a path of seeking God. Or, he may use the hurricane to harden the heart of the unbeliever. God's ways are multifaceted; who can comprehend them?

But whatever the case, it was for the good of his people (Rom. 8:28) and for his glory. And that is where we must rest.


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