Why did God allow this to happen...
First I would just like to say thank you for the books of yours I have read so far: Anew Kind of Christian, The story we find ourselves in and Generous orthodoxy (I'm up to Ch 11)...
I find it refreshing to read stuff that seems to be both Biblical and sensible that I personally have believed for many years but have struggled with the problem of not being totally in line with what has been termed 'Sound doctrine'.
I am writing this email not long after the disaster of the Tsunami and I guess, I, along with many others, are asking the question: "Why did God allow this to happen?"
Unlike 9/11, where it is possible to link the terrible disaster with the actions of mis-guided and/or wicked people (But even there you can still ask the question), the Tsunami raises questions about this 'ongoing creation' that we are a part off.
I used to argue that because of the 'fall' creation is corrupted and is in a state of decay because God has removed his life sustaining power from it and such events as the Tsunami and other natural disasters are a symptom of that decay. (I never really liked this explanation much; it seems to deny that the planet is still in a state of flux as you would expect any thing that has active energy in it).
So if these shifts in the tectonic plates that caused the Tsunami are part of 'creation' and thus the unfortunate death and destruction that followed are also then part of that 'creation', how do we put all this in the context of a loving and creative God? Or to put it more simply; how would you answer the question "Why did God allow this to happen"?
Answer: As you suggest, the last thing we need is a simple answer to a complex question. And the best short answer I could give would likely cause so much confusion that it would be problematic.
So let me just offer this: the universe must contain a mixture of chance/chaos/randomness along with enough order/regularity/consistency. If it had all of either one, it would either be a mechanistic robotic simulation in which there could be no virtue (love, courage, generosity, mercy, justice) and not a “real” or “good” universe at all, or else it would be so chaotic that nothing would happen. So there has to be a balance.
The tsunami represents, as you suggest, the predictable result of plate tectonics, but its timing was unpredictable and as a result, so many died. Part of our job as creatures in a universe like ours is to understand both the predictabilities and the unpredictabilities and learn to live wisely within those parameters.
We were unprepared for this catastrophe, but hopefully, we will become better prepared for future ones. What of the loss of life? It is my belief that all who leave this life – rather at the end of a protracted illness at an old age, or unexpectedly in an accident or tragedy – are welcomed into the arms of a merciful God, so death is not the end for them. Beyond this life, I am confident that God will compensate those who seemed to be cheated of life here, and until then, I seek to trust God that the outcome will be good, beautiful, just, merciful and satisfying for all.