Southeast Asia Earthquake and Tsunami: Where was God?
by Rich Deem


Where was God?

Atheists claim that if God existed that He would not allow evil things to happen. A God of love would have prevented the terrible tsunami that killed over 150,000 people in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. It sounds like a reasonable argument, but ultimately assumes that God would have preferred fish over humans...

Rich Deem

Where was God during the terrible tsunami of 2004 that killed over 150,000 people in Southeast Asia? People like Martin Kettle say that religious people cannot explain this tragedy.1 Kettle asks the question, "What God sanctions an earthquake?" He seems baffled to find an answer based upon a religious worldview, in which a God of love is said to preside over the universe. The answer is surprising simple, but lost to those whose worldview precludes integration of earth sciences principles taught in elementary school with the existence of God.

"Natural Evil"

Atheists tend to classify natural disasters that kill people as being "natural evil." Since theists classify God as the Creator of the universe, God must be responsible for "natural evil." I don't want to make light of the tragic deaths of people around the world due to natural disasters, but there is something missing in the atheists' equation. Do all these kinds of events represent the random acts of impersonal nature or is there something behind the natural events that occur on the earth?

Elementary earth sciences

Surprisingly, the answers to at least some of the problems of natural evil are taught to our children in elementary school (at least they were taught to me in the 1960's and my children in the 2000's in elementary school). During this time, elementary students are taught about the water cycle. Children learn that water is necessary for all life forms. Water from the oceans evaporates, becoming gaseous and forming clouds. The clouds move over continental land masses, become saturated, and precipitate onto the land. The water is necessary for the survival of the animals and plants. Most of the water runs off the land and back into the ocean. This water also carries the significant amounts of land materials into the ocean. After billions of years, all the land ends up in the ocean and earth becomes a waterworld. The problem is that the earth has not become a waterworld. Why is that?

More earth sciences

The missing factor that prevents the earth from becoming a waterworld are the two processes that actually build land masses. These geologic processes are tectonic activity (which cause earthquakes) and volcanism.2 Prominent examples of land building through these processes can be found in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim. If one examines Southeast Asia, one can see the results of the Indian plate colliding with the Asian plate. This collision has resulted in the formation of the Himalayan Mountains. Volcanism is responsible for the formation of the Hawaiian Islands. Both of these processes are intertwined, since volcanism results from the great continental plates colliding with each other. So, without plate tectonics and the accompanying earthquakes, there would be no land masses on planet earth, since all the land would eventually end up in the ocean.

Earth at its creation

Actually, the information presented thus far is overly simplistic, and assumes (incorrectly) that land masses existed from long ago at the earth's creation, 4.5 billion years ago. At that time, the earth existed in a molten state for at least several hundred million years, ending with the late heavy bombardment at 3.9 billion years ago. When the earth was molten, there were no mountains (obviously). Once the earth cooled, water condensed and the earth became covered with a world-wide ocean. This process is described in the Bible, which claims in several passages that God created the earth completely covered by water before the land was formed3 (pretty good "guess" by a bunch of unscientific people!). The Bible describes how God caused the mountains to rise and form the dry land.3 So, without tectonic activity and earthquakes, the earth would have begun as a waterworld and would still be a waterworld at this point.

The "D" word

According to atheists, the presence of earthquakes and other forms of natural "evil" is an indication that a loving God was not involved in the design of the earth. However, if atheists were involved in the design of the earth, there would be no land, since there would have been no tectonic activity to produce it. The geologic column shows that tectonic and volcanic activity was much higher (at least four-fold) in the past (due to higher radioactive decay, which produced greater internal heat in the earth4). So, God in His love has spared us unnecessary suffering by waiting 4.5 billion years before creating humans on the earth.

Let there be fish???

Ultimately, the design of atheism would preclude the existence of humans altogether. Without earthquakes, the earth would be a waterworld, and the most advanced life form would be fish. God's purpose for the creation of the earth was to provide a place for human beings to live.5 Without land, human beings would never be possible.

Conclusion Top of page

The "natural evil" described by atheists actually represents the design of an intelligent Creator. Without earthquakes and volcanoes, there would be no land masses on planet earth, and human life would be impossible. Atheists have missed some pretty fundamental principles from earth sciences in condemning God for allowing earthquakes. God's creation of "natural evil" is actually necessary design.

References Top of page

  1. How can religious people explain something like this? by Martin Kettle (Guardian Unlimited, Tuesday December 28, 2004)
  2. See Tectonic Plates for a nice overview with lots of great illustrations.
  3. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters... Then God said, "Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. (Genesis 1:2, 9)
    Thou didst cover it with the deep as with a garment; The waters were standing above the mountains... The mountains rose; the valleys sank down To the place which Thou didst establish for them. Thou didst set a boundary that they may not pass over; That they may not return to cover the earth. (Psalm 104:6-9)
    The LORD by wisdom founded the Earth; By understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up... (Proverbs 3:19)
    "When He established the heavens, I [wisdom] was there, When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, When He made firm the skies above, When the springs of the deep became fixed, When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the land; (Proverbs 8:27-29)
    "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding... Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; (Job 38:4, 8)
    For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the land was formed out of water and by water, (2 Peter 3:5)
  4. Lecture 14 - Driving Forces of Plate Tectonics from Earth Sciences 10 course, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego (see bottom of page).
  5. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
Last Modified January 1, 2005


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