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Through the scriptures we know that God created the world and the species and saw that it was good.

He also created us and we were good in the beginning. Before Adam and Eve ate from the tree, we were not capable of doing evil. We were in some way, perfect beings as well.

Was the world (and I guess therefore the universe as well) perfect in the beginning? Didn't it suffer from any natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, storms...?

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Who said that angels are perfect beings? What about Lucifer? Also, why do you think that natural disasters are evil? –  Mawia Jun 19 at 12:38
    
@Mawia I edited the question. –  Steve Jun 19 at 12:41
    
I'd say that the fact that natural disasters cause pain, both physical and emotional, is enough to suggest that natural disasters are evil. Maybe I would add "from a human view", but the destruction and maiming of human life is an intrinsic evil, no? –  theodoulos Jun 20 at 16:20

4 Answers 4

"Was the world (and I guess therefore the universe as well) perfect in the beginning? Didn't it suffer from any natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, storms...?".

Let's unpack your sentence, above, before we attempt to answer your question.

First, biblically speaking the world and the universe were never perfect. The word perfection is reserved for a thrice-holy God. Perfection in this sense is not only the absence of imperfection; it is also the presence of impossible-to-perfect attributes, such as holiness, for example. God can never get better (the comparative of good!) than He is, was, or ever will be.

"'I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,' says the LORD Almighty" (Malachi 3:6 NIV).

In other words, when God created the material universe, He declared it to be only good, not perfect. Big difference!

Second, as to "natural disasters," I have to disagree with LCIII, above, when he suggests that tornadoes and storms are "just . . . weather." I'm almost fully convinced that natural disasters (from a human perspective, particularly when lives are lost and property is destroyed) were not a part of God's original plan for Planet Earth.

While the creation, Paul reminds us in Romans 8, was "subjected to futility" (v.20), this futility did not appear instantly the moment our first parents sinned. I suggest the whole gamut of natural disasters may have taken centuries to appear on our favored planet. In fact, I suggest that the disasters we call natural (which are in a sense unnatural because of the fall of humankind) did not appear until after the worldwide flood with which God punished all the inhabitants of the world, save the eight people of Noah's family.

Is there biblical proof for what I have just suggested? Probably not. I'll venture to guess, however, that natural conditions in the antediluvian world compared to the post-diluvian world, were radically changed. To this day, we cannot imagine how radical those changes may have been, given the world was completed deluged with water. The Bible tells us plainly,

"the waters . . . increased greatly . . . and the mountains were covered" (Genesis 7:18-20).

It also tells us,

"In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up , and the windows of heaven were opened" (Genesis 7:11 KJV).

This suggests to me that with that amount of water covering the entire earth, the entire "balance" (for want of a better word) in nature was changed forever (well, until God creates a "new heaven and a new earth," Revelation 21:1 KJV). In short, the flood, I suggest, was responsible for natural disasters. Is it possible that even the axis of the earth was changed because of the worldwide flood? Perhaps. The Bible does tell us that

"The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (2 Peter 3:6).

Dr. John Morris suggests

"[The pre-flood earth was] gone forever. The earth of today was radically altered by that global event."

Dr. Morris goes on to say (and forgive me for the extensive quotation, but I think it serves to underscore the radical changes which occurred in the post-diluvian world),

That Flood accomplished abundant geologic work. Eroding sediments here, redepositing them there, pushing up continents, elevating plateaus, denuding terrains, etc., so that the earth today is quite different from before. Today even mountain ranges rise high above the sea.

Mt. Everest and the Himalayan range, along with the Alps, the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Andes, and most of the world's other mountains are composed of ocean-bottom sediments, full of marine fossils laid down by the Flood. Mt. Everest itself has clam fossils at its summit. These rock layers cover an extensive area, including much of Asia. They give every indication of resulting from cataclysmic water processes. These are the kinds of deposits we would expect to result from the worldwide, world-destroying Flood of Noah's day.

At the end of the Flood, after thick sequences of sediments had accumulated, the Indian subcontinent evidently collided with Asia, crumpling the sediments into mountains. Today they stand as giants—folded and fractured layers of ocean-bottom sediments at high elevations. No, Noah's Flood didn't cover the Himalayas, it formed them!

While God did indeed punish the hopelessly corrupt peoples of the earth in Noah's day (see, for example, Genesis 6:5-8), His judgment radically affected the planet on which the flood was visited. Furthermore, I believe that God is not going to reverse those effects, which we experience today as tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and more, until He brings history to a close and usher in a new heaven and a new earth.

Does God "make" natural disasters occur? Perhaps a better expression would be "God allows natural disasters to take place" for His own purposes. To attempt to "figure out" what those purposes might be is indeed a futile undertaking. Each disaster in which human life is lost is a tragedy. To think that God is unconcerned with the effect of these disasters on us who were created in His image is ludicrous.

Are these disasters, therefore, always punishments from God on those whose lives are lost and homes and property destroyed? I don't think so. Occasionally they may in fact be a severe form of divine discipline and punishment, but even in the perhaps rare instances in which they are divine punishment, God's design is always with the overall purpose of turning people's eyes from the material world, which is in the process of decay and destruction, to spiritual verities and realities which cannot be corrupted or destroyed (see Matthew 6:20).

That is one reason why the church universal should be "first responders" to natural disasters. Local churches in the vicinity of the disaster should be the first to offer help, hope, and healing in Jesus' name. They should be among the first to demonstrate the love of God in practical ways, to the end that people will come to know the only truly secure possession which can never be destroyed, and that is eternal life through Christ our Lord.

Put differently, and in conclusion, there is something more important and significant than temporal life, and that is eternal life. Moreover, we have the assurance of God's word that

". . . the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And . . . also we ourselves . . . [wait] eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it" (Romans 8:21-25, excerpts, NASB, UV).

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+1 seems a reasonable take –  Mike Jun 20 at 12:26
    
@Mike: Thanks, Mike. I appreciate it. Don –  rhetorician Jun 20 at 12:49

The earth was indeed perfect at creation. In fact, the Hebrew word for good (towb) used to describe God's creation pre-sin is the same word used to describe the goodness of God in the Psalms:

  • Gen 1:31 ESV And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

  • Psalm 25:8 NIV Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way

The first creation was perfect, but when Adam sinned, everything died. The ground became cursed:

  • Gen 3: 17-18 ESV And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.

Thorns and thistles came when there were none. Pain and death came. Before sin there was no death, but climate and storms are another matter. Is a tornado or storm that causes no pain still a natural disaster? I'd think it'd just be weather.

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The universe and other things without free will cannot be imperfect in the eyes of God because they can't make a choice to not be perfect, they can only do what they were created, designed or trained to do.

The cursing of the ground is from a perspective of the Man, the ground still does what it was designed to do, grow things and be walked upon, it is perfect in that way.

The thorns and thistles that were brought forth are also a part of this picture that we are examining. they too serve a purpose in the Grand Scheme of things.

Man was the only thing that became imperfect as a result of our actions, everything else does what it was meant to do with no choice one way or the other.


I see the point the LCIII is making, and that could be a different point of view on what "perfect" means in context to this question.

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So do you believe Adam and Eve could have suffer from a tsunami and died, for example? –  Steve Jun 19 at 15:31
    
could animals have died so that Adam and Eve could eat? or perhaps the plants, to give sustenance? let's look at it this way as well, perfect location of the garden of Eden. Perfect location to provide protection against what was elsewhere in the world, that didn't mean the rest of the world was imperfect. The garden of Eden had a purpose, and it fulfilled that purpose perfectly, as does the rest of the world. God was talking of spiritual death and not physical death, when he said that death entered into the world –  Malachi Jun 19 at 15:44
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So the answer to my question is "yes"? –  Steve Jun 19 at 17:14

When the earth was cursed for Adam's sin death not only entered into humanity but death (decay) also fell upon all plants and animals. In Romans the death that exists in nature as well as the imbalanced forces that cause destruction are identified with the sin of Adam:

19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of Godt to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it in hope 21 thath the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:19-22, NIV)

Note: Some expositors believe the earth 'groaning' is a personification of literal earthquakes and natural disasters.

The traditional church has therefore always imagined the earth prior to the sin of Adam to be flawless and without any kind of decay or natural destruction. Also the restoration of the universe to a flawless state is understood to occur upon the second coming of Christ.

In the last couple hundred years the biblical idea has fallen under some attack by atheistical geologists and astronomers because it appears that death has existed in fossil records for billions of years. Therefore old-age creationists are forced to believe that death appeared long before the creation of Adam and Eve and the essential 'grave-yard' of sedimentary history is beautiful and 'good'. Young-earth creationists maintain the historical beliefs of the church and understand Genesis to be a straightforward historical account that children are able to understand quite easily. Young-earth scientists tend to explain the sedimentary grave-yard as largely being a result of a literal global flood which old-earth Christians oppose in order to align with a view that subtle gradual changes can explain everything that exists.

A really good debate on the different sides can be found here. This video shows the long-earth argument, a excellent intelligent design argument from a Catholic biologists as well as a young-earth presentation.

5Hour Genesis Debate by Scientists

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