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Friday, January 07, 2005

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Sharon Mollerus

Some try to confront such a terrible disaster with theological questions. Our reason is made for truth and we try to make sense of evil. In "Thoughts on Tsunamis and Physical Evil" by Carl Olson, some of the contradictions of simplistic answers are examined.

But the Church always offers prayer first in front of the mystery of death. No words are adequate to allay our horror, whether from the death of one or of so many as in this case. We recoil from death because our whole being cries for a destiny which does not end in the scandalous destruction of our flesh.

Teresa Polk

Carl, thank you for the work you put into this discussion, as you obviously took some time to think about it before posting this. As you mentioned that "it's evident that some people are saying that such a tragic, horrific event readily indicates that there is no God." It is important to look closely at the agnostic sounding headlines to see who, in fact, made such statements. In some cases, it was only a journalist who read something into a theologian's statements. That was the case in a recent Sunday Telegraph opinion authored by Rowan Williams. The newspaper put a caption on an essay he wrote for the newspaper, and the caption stated that the Tsunami made him question God's existence. In fact, his essay said nothing of the sort. His office complained, and the newspaper responded by criticizing his confusing writing style. Other news articles claiming that Christians are doubting the existence of God also seem to have been triggered by the journalists' doubts read into other people's words. Some of this reflects a "Christianophobic" bias. We all need to speak out clearly, as you have, to explain the Catholic view of suffering and not let the news media put words in our mouths that misconstrue our faith.

fr richard

Carl,

Very nicely thought out and written; a worthy contribution. Thanks!

Rita liebegott

Food for thought: The first thing that struck me when it was announced that 1/3 of the population was destroyed during this storm, was the " 7 Seals" that can only be opened by Christ. I looked it up and the fifth seal is a disaster that occurs taking 1/3 of the population with it. Another thought which occured to me when the news reported that this quake shook the earth on it's axis was what effect that would have on the earth on a later date. As I was reading the seals, the 7th, and last seal announcing that the last battle is about to begin, the earth, moon, and sky change to the point that we will no longer experience the earth as we know it. This is proof that these things are from God and we need to do some soul searching. The 6th seal, in between these two happenings indicates that the martyrs will approach the Lord and beg for Him to bring His Kingdom about. The reply is for them to wait a while longer until the designated amount of martyrs are with Him. Even if this is not occurring, I believe that all peoples need to prepare for His coming anyway; the end times started with His resurrection and He will return at anytime.

Mik

Carl, this was a "printer". What a wonderful blog!
To feebly quote Kreeft, when the world is bad, that is when God works the anvil hammering out saints. We are all being called for good in this terrible situation. If the world were perfect, we would have no need to work on being better people. Saint's come in hard times. I believe the world is answering the call. A good example of the outpouring of love is the NY office for Catholic Relief usually brings in $40,000 average a month. Since the tsunami, it averages $100,000 a day. Let us not look for signs of the end. Let us better spend our energy making the lives in our world a better place.
Was God there? You betcha! They all went in water, as if baptized by Him. He loves each and everyone of us. We are all His children.
When the Twin Towers went down, was God there? You betcha! Struck by evil intent, when the towers finally collapsed it was no less than a supernatural gift the way they went down. Had they gone the way they were designed, thousands more would have perished.
Saints are being made as you read this. Let us all strive to be one of them.

David Deavel

Carl, I believe Jacoby is Jewish. Can anyone else confirm this?

Carl Olson

David: You are correct; Jacoby is Jewish. Thanks for the correction. I'll update the post.

Mel

Carl,

Great though-provolking post. I am a little conflicted by this statement though.....

"Or, to say it yet another way, if there is no God, there is no evil."

If that statement is true then "if there is no God, there is no "good" either."

The one question is that by the tsunami's force, 150,000 people die, is that evil or just "the way it is" I am not sure one can classify or make an assumption that a natural disaster as "evil". Horrible yes, but evil is another and deliberate and separate force.

Interesting and thought provolking indeed.

Carl Olson

Thanks, Mel, for the comments. "Physical evil" does refer to the death of 150,000 (or even the death of one) due to a natural disaster, as the quote from the Catechism indicates, referring to the "destructive forces of nature." Evil is the absence or opposite of good. So a tsunami, of itself, is not evil; it is simply water hitting land at a tremendous rate of speed and with great power. But the death of 150,000 people because of a tsunami is indeed evil; it is surely the absence or opposite of good.

I am a little conflicted by this statement though: "Or, to say it yet another way, if there is no God, there is no evil." If that statement is true then "if there is no God, there is no "good" either." That's right. If there is no God, there is no good. Sure, if there is no God perhaps we could still say something is "good," but what does that mean? That I like it? That it makes me feel good? Ultimately, "good" has meaning because the Creator is good and what He creates is good.

Faith

As Chesterton said, "If there were no God, there would be no atheists." The ocean and all of nature was effected by our fall, making it capable of being an instrument of death. The tsunami is actually proof that the devil exists, as he is the one who wants man to suffer and perish, and is relishing that there are those who will either blame God, or use this as an excuse to deny God exists.

A J CASPER

THE BOOK OF GENESIS STATES THAT GOD CREATED THE EARTH,WATER,PLANT LIFE,ANIMAL LIFE AND EVERYTHING THAT IS HERE-HOW CAN WE SAY THAT GOD DOES NOT HAVE A HAND IN ALL THINGS LIFE, DEATH, MIRACLES, DISASTER, GOOD THINGS AND BAD THINGS --ALL ARE PART OF OUR INHERITANCE FROM ADAM AND EVE-GEE I WISH THEY HAD NOT SINNED-THIS PAIN IN MY BACK IS SUFFERED FOR THE SOULS IN PURGATORY--AH BUT WHO CAN SAY THERE IS A PURGATORY-I,M SURE SOMEONE HAS SEEN HELL AND PURGATORY

W. Pete Reckinger III

Without evil can there be good? I'm no theologian, just an ordinry heating and cooling contractor. This tragedy has perplexed me and moved me imotionally with seeing the massive destruction of human life and property followed by such heroric efforts by Christians, Jews, and others to bring relief and comfort to the mostly Muslim victims. At a time when radical Muslims preach hatred and call for the death of all infidels (non-muslims), there is such an overwhelming response of caring and love for our fellow man. We are living the gospel when we help the least among us! Again, "without evil, can there be good" ? "Whatsoever you do to the least of us, that you do unto Me"...AMEN!

Edward Kenna


I hope and pray that most of the Christians have the grace to offer their tribulations up to God and brings them closer to Him. It is difficult to have had the presence of mind to do that at the time of the tidal wave and now during the aftermath is the time, a great opportunity to gain great merit and it is not unreasonable address God and question God why He permitted this catastrophe? He will answer and eventually in time, perhaps months even years, that person will realise that what happenened was for the best for him; which will be God's answer. I hope and pray that such Faith exists among those people.

Janet Miner

I am not convinced that the results of the tsunami are evil at all. Yes, many people have died and the remaining touched by the quake are suffering - in our worldly, near-sighted view of the event. In God's eyes, perhaps it's just a blink of time, some thousands of souls called home? Look at the aftermath - a great out-pouring of international goodness - many, many people involved in relief and reconstruction. Even this discussion about God's role has turned attention to Him! Why do people "blame" God for this natural phenomenon when we perpetrate so much evil daily? How many babies are aborted in one day? How many dying of starvation go unnoticed? Or AIDS, which could be avoided? What about suicide bombers and war? Murder, rape, and child abuse? We can't blame God for these human acts. Not to mention hatred, in it's many forms, and families broken through divorce - the general selfishness, greed, pride, and hurtful words which seem to rule our daily existence. More suffering caused by people everyday then the results of many giant tsunami's -- and we focus on God's role in this disaster? God doesn't perpetrate evil.

Jack Grimes

Pete,

Yes there can be good without evil. God is good, and He is eternally existent. If He had not created free-willed beings (who introduced evil) He could have gone on forever as the only thing in existence.

In Heaven, there will also be good without evil.

Good can exist on its own, but evil is a parasite on good. Evil twists what is good. Or think of it another way: Light can exist on its own, but you can only get darkness by shutting out the light.

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