Sunday Quote

Sunday Quote!- Is God in Control of Disasters?

Chance_comps.inddEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Is God in Control of Disasters?

I’ve been reading through Chance and the Sovereignty of God by Vern Poythress recently and I’m really interested in the topic. It’s one I have considered for a PhD thesis so I was really interested to dig in and see what Poythress had to say (I have reviewed the book here). One interesting part was Poythress’ comments on disasters and sovereignty:

The main alternative is to say that God is not thoroughly in control. It says that some disasters “just happen,” apart from God’s control. This alternative is superficially attractive, because it appears to protect the goodness of God… further reflection shows that it is not satisfying–in fact it is spiritually devastating… If God is in control… we have a consolation such as the Bible provides… that God is able to bring good out of evil.

…[W]hat if we say that God is not in control of the disaster? God might still do something good in the response. But the disaster itself is still out of control, and inherently unredeemable. There is no comfort to be had for it. We are left with fear for the future. (Kindle location 738, cited below)

What do you think? When a disaster strikes, like Hurricane Katrina, it is inevitable that some will stand up and say it was God’s judgment on a town. Others quote Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-5 and say that these disasters come seemingly at random. Are these mutually exclusive claims? What are your thoughts on Poythress’ comments: do they show that it is better to say God is in control than not?


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Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Book Review: “Chance and the Sovereignty of God” by Vern Poythress– Check out my review of this interesting book about chance and God’s control over all events.


Vern Poythress, Chance and the Sovereignty of God: A God-Centered Approach to Probability and Random Events (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).


About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


5 thoughts on “Sunday Quote!- Is God in Control of Disasters?

  1. We know that God has a superordinate responsibility for absolutely EVERYTHING that occurs. My lawn may be overgrown, and my neighbor’s perfectly trimmed, but God owns both, and could have used a miracle to mow my lawn, and deliberately chose not to. This superordinate responsibility proceeds directly from his attributes of omnipotence, omniscience (even if only exhaustively about the present), having a will, and having a willingness to intervene (even if infrequent).

    The only question that remains is how to square this doctrine with the fact that bad things happen, like natural disasters and sins. I believe the solution is “Circumstantial incommensurability between two or more interests within God’s interest set,” with the follow-up of, “It’s probable that one of his interests is to be mostly hands-off as his creation develops mostly-naturally.”

    I have an essay on the nitty-gritty, with some diagrams. Google search for “stanrock semantics” and click on “Is God the Author of Evil?”

    The answer it would provide to your question above, in brief, is: “God is always in superordinate control. But there are lots of things ‘outside’ of God’s direct, intervening control: They are the ‘weeds,’ expected by God, in the chaotic bloom of his mostly-natural garden (a garden quality which he appreciates), which are not universally devastating enough to justify miraculous extraction. If they’re future-facing instrumental, that’s a huge bonus.”

    Posted by stanrock | July 28, 2014, 10:26 AM
  2. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:19-23, RSV)

    Yes, God is in control of disasters. They are all tied up in the great work God is doing that will culminate in “the revealing of the sons of God.” They are part and parcel of the birth process that is occurring. Disasters are truly horrible and still part of God’s work. Sometimes we see a hint of that revelation: good coming from evil. That’s a foretaste of the great revelation we’ve been promised and for which we hope in faith.

    Drusilla Barron (

    Posted by helldoesntownme | July 28, 2014, 12:04 PM
  3. Great topic and question. I like Drusilla response in referencing Romans 8:19-23.

    Something I heard recently came to mind. In a very real sense we know that the Father is Sovereign over all and that nothing can happen without it being His will. Yet on the other hand there are a multitude of things that happen everyday that are not His will.

    In regards to what inevitably comes out when a disaster strikes (in regards to it being judgement) I am reminded of Jesus words, ‘And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

    Final thought is that I also see the Glory of God in the natural disasters. The power of thunderstorm, or hurricane, the awesomeness of it is declaring His fierceness and power.

    Posted by Luis Serrano | July 29, 2014, 3:45 PM
  4. But the disaster itself is still out of control, and inherently unredeemable.

    This is very standard Reformed doctrine. I also don’t find it plausible, subject to discussing what it means for God to be in control of something but not culpable for it. I prefer to say that God ensures the redeemability of all evil. That is, he prevents gratuitous evils from being possible. Poythress claims that God must be “in control” of a disaster for this to be the case; I am not convinced.

    Posted by labreuer | August 6, 2014, 3:17 PM


  1. Pingback: Is God In Control Of Disaters | Loved As If - July 28, 2014

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