|By: Jim Virkler; ©2011|
In 1874, Mary A. Baker (1831-1921) penned a hymn which remained popular into my childhood years. The dramatic hymn “Master, the Tempest is Raging (Peace! Be Still)” posed a sharp contrast between a raging tempest and its peaceful aftermath. Even though the hymn’s imagery is that of a tempest at sea, one line refers to “The Master of oceans, and earth, and skies.” All of them, according to Baker, “shall sweetly obey Thy will…” The hymn refers to parallel New Testament passages in Matt. 8:27, Mark 4:41, and Luke 8:25. On one occasion the disciples feared for their lives while sailing on the Sea of Galilee. Christ rebuked the winds and the sea became calm. The amazed disciples wondered what kind of man could perform such a miracle.
The Old Testament relates stories of God-sent hail, fire, and windstorms. God, therefore, is able to act both as initiator and mitigator of natural disasters if He wills to do so. God possesses mastery over the natural world because He created it. But this does not mean we are free to judge a particular event in nature to be a transcendent miracle superseding the many established physical laws, or even an event carrying with it a unique message for man. Physical laws, governed by underlying physical constants, were set in place by God to provide an ordered and predictable universe at the initial creation event described in Genesis 1:1. Transcendent miracles such as the physical creation of man in God’s image, the plagues which devastated Egypt, healing the withered hand, or Christ’s bodily resurrection are unusual and infrequent events.
Most “miracles” are transformational miracles. Reasons to Believe founder and scholar Hugh Ross explains that transformational miracles occur frequently. Ross uses the term “transformational” miracles to describe geological and meteorological processes which refashion earth to make it ultimately more habitable and beneficial to man. Availability of energy resources and our climate’s ability to sustain agriculture by distributing fresh water resources are only two of many possible examples.
Transformational miracles provide some intense events understandably unwelcome. The Alabama tornadoes of April 2011 provide a poignant example. Floods, strong winds, extreme temperatures, and seismic events related to plate tectonics cause temporary grief and even loss of life. An effort to understand the broader picture surrounding these events proves productive. For example, our earth’s equator receives a great deal of solar energy compared with Polar Regions. Heated air rises and flows toward the poles. Polar air flows back toward the equator, twisted and turned by a rotating earth. This brief account describes a complex interaction of warm, cold, moist and dry air. Most of the time, our weather is placid and mild, or changeably interesting. But on occasion, such interactions result in violence and tragedy. Nature obeys God’s changeless physical laws.
To suggest that God sends natural tragedies to reward us for sin may be tantamount to pronouncing that God’s blesses the practices of a pagan society’s farmers when rain waters their crops. Both statements may be regarded as non sequiturs. We would be remiss, however, not to acknowledge that God is ultimately in control of our world. The truth of this statement is manifest in multiple ways each day if we make the effort to study in depth and appreciate the processes of the physical world God has created. Mankind is gifted with the scientific ability to understand the characteristics of the world we inhabit, to avoid the dangers it poses, and to wisely harness God’s ordained laws for our benefit and enjoyment.
Within this context we may understand the deeper meaning of Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.”