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Mother Nature or Father God?

In a recent Bible study group, a participant was reflecting on the volcano in Iceland that not long ago spewed ash and debris high into the atmosphere, disrupting air traffic flow and causing concern around the globe. He said he had been struck by all the comments in the media attributing the event to “Mother Nature acting up.”

Whatever happened, he wondered, to asking rather about God the Father? He lamented how so many associated the volcanic activity—and most “natural disasters” like it—to the pagan notion of Mother Nature rather than seeking to understand it in the providence of God accomplishing His aims through His creation.

Mother Nature or Father God? It’s a critical question, for the answer indicates our basic worldview of reality. But it’s not merely a 21st century debate. From the beginning, people have been drawn to worship the creation rather than the Creator. It’s the essence of all pagan religions, and Paul cites it as the fundamental basis of God’s judgment against humanity—“because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (Romans 1:25).

It’s a very big deal, then, whether we look at a volcano and think, “There goes Mother Nature again!” or pray instead, “Dear Father, what are you teaching us in this event, how shall we respond, and what do we need to know about our lives before you?”

In a thoughtful article on this matter in Touchstone magazine, author Barton Swaim calls to mind several past great thinkers who did not dismiss the “natural” explanations of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and the like. Indeed, we understand much about the mechanisms of superheated substrata and plate tectonics. But these learned believers reasoned that “God inhabited these contributing components to effect his purposes, almost as if he could be glimpsed behind or among them.”

Swaim illustrates his point with an excerpt from a sermon by John Chrysostom, considered by many the greatest preacher in early Christianity. Chrysostom says, “Behold the sea abounding with waves, and fierce winds…when it comes to the shores, and beholds the sand, it breaks up, and returns back again…teaching you, by both these things, that it is not the work of nature that keeps it within its boundaries, but the work of him whose power restrains it.”

Do we believe that an apple falls to the ground not simply because gravity pulls it down but because at that moment, God is satisfied that the apple should follow the usual course? Ultimately, we must choose. Either every event is an act of God from which we learn both His grace and judgment or it is simply the way of nature.

When I view the volcano (or any such occurrence) through the lens of Scripture’s revelation of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I begin to see it as a means to teach me my utter dependence upon God, my inability to mend the brokenness of my sin, and a wonderful opportunity to help others in the name of Christ.

Mother Nature or Father God? Our answer says so much.

Mark Graham is the Senior Pastor at St, John’s Lutheran Church located at 4608 Brambleton Ave. Visit them on the web at:

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