Friday, January 15, 2010

Acts of Nature and Acts of the Human Will

Phenomenologically, the death and destruction in Haiti (right photo, January 2010), which was caused by an earthquake, is similar in appearance to the death and destruction in Gaza (left photo, January 2009), caused by the Israeli military.

The death and destruction in Haiti is a tragedy. The death and destruction in Gaza is a crime.

The first is a natural disaster; the second is a moral evil.

Why does God "allow" these things? Indeed, why does God cause these things? In Christian theology, theologians use distinctions between primary and secondary causes regarding all acts, whether natural acts or moral acts. (Just think of the difference between an act of nature and a criminal act). God is the primary cause of all action because he is the creator and sustainer of the world (cosmos). But the world is filled with secondary causes: people, animals, rocks, water, cars, you name it.

An earthquake is the secondary cause of Haiti's destruction, and it is an act of nature. The destruction of Gaza was caused by people and people are responsible moral agents (unlike earthquakes) who, although responsible for their actions, could not have taken them unless God was the (primary) causal agent behind their own free-will (secondary) actions. This is the way theologians split the hair anyway. As the Creator, God is the primary cause of all actions, whether good or evil, yet the moral evil of an evil act cannot be attributed to God; because God cannot be the author of evil. God, above all things, is righteous and just, good and holy.

Anyway……that's the way theologians explain it. In other words, God didn't directly cause the earth to shake and destroy Haiti; the world that God created and sustains is a living world. Literally: the earth moves. Haiti is located in a region of the world where the earth is known to be very active. Israel caused the destruction of Gaza. Israel exploits, oppresses and brutalizes the Palestinians, and yet most of us westerners wonder what all the fuss is about

Where were the U. S. news networks when innocent people were being buried by the Israelis beneath the rubble of their homes in Gaza? Where were the images of the dead children killed by the Israelis?

Where? Al Jazeera.

These two events, as the photos above illustrate, may look (i.e., appear) the same, but one of these acts is a tragedy whereas the other act is a crime.

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