Saturday, March 19, 2011

Does God move rocks or not?
We've all seen the horrific pictures. In the age of the internet and social media we get to see nature at its worst in real time.None of us can watch the pictures coming out of Japan without feeling a profound sense of sadness at the instant loss of so many people. Loss of lives and livelihoods as everything people worked for for decades was washed away in seconds. My heart goes out to all who have suffered loss in any way as a result of this tragedy.

Inevitably we have been subjected to the arguments used by persons on the two sides of the theistic divide. There is the " Where was God?" question that the atheist likes to ask and there is every manner of apologetic being used by the believer to excuse God for not preventing the tragedy. There is one argument that Christians tend to use that I have noticed once again come to the fore in the wake of this disaster. It is the position that such tragedies are Acts of Nature and not Acts of  God. I have seen Christians on online forums going into details in explaining faults and the slippage of tectonic plates, at pains to show that all of the processes in the generation of an earthquake or tsunami can  be explained in completely naturalistic terms. Excuse me? Isn't anyone else's irony meter exploding right now? Are these the same people that tell us that everything on this planet must have a creator?  I thought naturalistic assumptions were a sign of atheistic close mindedness.

God or nature?

These same earthquake apologists are the ones that scoff at us daily when we tell them that nature is in control . They are the ones that say since we don't know everything  about science we can't rule out God's involvement. We clearly don't know everything there is to know about plate tectonics since we can't predict when and where earthquakes will occur with certainty. Why is it justified to reject the idea of  a God to fill the gaps on this occasion? They think we are just trying to be cheeky when we answer the question " How did you get here?" by explaining how our mother and father got together and had something known as sexual intercourse. They emphasise that don't matter how far you go back they had to be "someone" who started it all. All of creation needs a creator, even the big bang needed a banger, but curiously an earthquake does not need an earthquaker. It is indeed strange because  the quake actually shifted a coastline of Japan by eight feet and shortened the days on the planet by 1.8 micro seconds. Are they trying to tell us that all this happened by chance?  The length of a day and the size and position of an island is not determined by God? Very interesting.

Yes,  according to many Christians when it comes to earthquakes, God just doesn't touch those tectonic plates. They seem to be implying he can create universes but he just doesn't move rocks. Unlike biological evolution, plate tectonics can occur without the hand of God.  I was trying to put all this together in my mind when I realised that the " God doesn't move rocks" theory seems to have some glaring fault lines in it. From here in Calgary we can see the majestic Rocky Mountains, which so many Christians have declared is testimony to God's handiwork. The islands of the Caribbean, including my homeland  Barbados affectionately called "The Rock" by many of us, are seen as paradises created by the Lord. Strangely, according to what the physical geologists tell us, mountains and islands are all created through plate tectonic activity, presumably the same  plate tectonics that we saw on display a week ago in Japan.  So God can be involved in plate tectonics, at least he has been in the past. Maybe, God does move rocks sometimes after all.

This fact makes plate tectonics one of the most interesting pieces of science you can find, because it seems to have two branches. I would like someone to tell me what are the difference in characteristics between "divine plate tectonics" which are responsible for mountains, islands and continent formation and the natural " Non-God plate tectonics" that were responsible for thousands of deaths in Japan, Haiti and South East Asia. On the surface it seems that the mechanisms in both cases are the same but there  must be some fundamental difference observed in the process in order for Christians to be able to classify the two types of land movements with such certainty. I wait earnestly for someone in the church hierarchy to give me a resolution of this earthly mystery.

The thing that complicates matters even more for me is that the two types of tectonic plate activities don't appear to be mutually exclusive. For example, this week a girl with a now infamous youtube video, was roundly criticised for the insensitivity of suggesting that God caused the earthquake to punish and warn people. Glen Beck later in the week received a similar rebuke for comments along the same line and we can all remember the horror of Pat Robertson's," pact with the devil" comment last year after Haiti's quake. Lest we forget it is not only atheists who condemned these comments. Christians were the ones in the forefront lambasting the persons in question for being such poor representatives of the faith. It's early days yet but we know that given time these earthquakes can one day be transformed to be seen by the masses as at least partial Acts of God.

Something new is bound to spring from the rubble left after these disasters. New communities, better infrastructure, perhaps a relook into the use and development of nuclear energy in the world. Maybe the shifted coastline in Japan will produce a coast with greater beauty than before. In millennia to come there may be new lands formed from the depth of the oceans as a result of the quakes we are getting today. And yes, unless we are successful in getting religion out of the mainstream, the future earth inhabitants will be thanking God for the tectonic activity that made their planet what it is.  I have seen it before many times, the fundamentalists will in time chide the atheists for saying that the earthquake proved that God was not there or did not care. They will  point out things that happened as a consequence of the earthquake and say that although the disaster seemed  horrible at the time it was all part of God's plan to give us something better in the long run.They will of course conveniently forget it was believers not atheists that were leading the cry at the time of the tragedy, screaming " It's nature NOT God !" Surely time cannot turn an ungodly plate tectonic shift into a divine one. Maybe I am just naive, but my position on the subject is that either God moves rocks or he doesn't. It just can't be both.

The Bible rocks

This regular practice of Christians today to exclude God from rock moving phenomena seems to be especially strange when one looks at the bible. In  both the old and new testaments, God moved a lot of rocks and stones and some of these actions changed the course of history. Most famously he was the one who supposedly "rolled the stone away" so that Jesus could leave behind an empty tomb on the day of resurrection. He, we are led to believe was right there to help David when he slew Goliath with those few little stones in a sling.

Spinning the planets in orbit

On the  other side of the size spectrum we have our own planet earth, the third rock from the sun. In fact according to the gospel song " My Redeemer Lives" made popular by Nicole C Mullen our god is " the Very same God that spins things in orbit." This implies that all the planets' movements are in God's hands and presumably other rocks such as comets and asteroids are as well. Speaking of asteroids, I have heard in many "Does God Exist ?" debates that God specifically put Jupiter in the position it is, in order to deflect asteroids that would pummel the earth if the giant planet was not there.

Unlike the average kid trying to spin a toy gyro, we know God's eternal hand must be very strong indeed, because we are told he is responsible for every  day. " This is the day that the Lord hath made." This means he not only spins things in orbit he also spins planets like ours around their axes, for that's how we move from night to day to night again. God may be a little fickle in getting involved in rocks within our planet's crust but when it comes to the rocks of the cosmos there is no pesky thing call nature that seems to get in the way of his plans. 

Rock of Salvation

Still, we find times when God likes to leave rocks alone where they are. He set one aside for Peter so  he could build the Church on it. He left the stones in the condition they were in when tempted by the devil in the wilderness to turn them into bread.  What adds to the  confusion is that he describes himself as the corner stone and the rock of our salvation. So he himself is a rock. Well, the Christians say he is unchanging and we atheists certainly don't see him moving in the world today. So, I guess we could say that God is another example of a rock that cannot be moved. I am still trying to understand as well whether God wants us to move rocks or stones on his behalf. In the old testament he certainly seems to be all for stoning whether it be disobedient children,  homosexuals or women who are not virgins on their wedding night. However, in the new testament he says to us that "he that is without sin" should cast the first stone. If we are all sinners, that should mean nobody should be throwing stones. All very confusing.

So, there seems to be no rock solid conclusion on where God stands on rocks. Indeed, as we have seen even the bible and Christians themselves rock back and forth on the question. What is apparent is that they leave no stone unturned in trying to find new persons to introduce to the foundation of their faith. However, I am glad to see that once again in the wake of the latest tragedy they are working with people from all faiths and those of no faith in removing stumbling blocks to get aid to the people who need it. To me this is clearly moving the earth without God.

Atheists are fond of asking Christians whether God could create a rock so heavy he couldn't lift it. I am not at the moment interested in such philosophical or hypothetical musings. My question to the Christians remains a very simple and practical one. Does God move rocks or not?

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