For us, the very similar question arises. How can the idea of a God of Love remain true in the face of natural destruction and devastation as we have seen in Japan this week? The earthquake and subsequent tsunami there have left at least 17,000 people either dead or missing. Live and livelihoods destroyed; families devastated; children, young and old, losing their parents; parents losing their children, young and old. It will take months, years, perhaps decades to recover the area. A scene from Hell itself.
Why do these things happen? Unitarianism is a movement that commends itself on valuing the goodness of the world around us, of the way in which we can all work together to make a better world. And yet there is nothing we can do to stop such destruction and devastation.
How can we explain natural evil, for that is surely the best description for an event that wrecks so many lives? Do we need to? Surely it is our response to tragedy that is of far greater importance than any theological tussle.
The work of national and international rescue teams, and the willing donations of millions around the globe are an indication of the positive ways in which we might react to tragedy. This does not mean the earthquake was caused by a God looking to test our goodness or, even worse, to punish the victims. The Earth is a volatile and at times unpredictable entity; things happen. We should not focus on the possibility of any supernatural causation; rather we should focus on the need for love and support to those that suffered. That is how we might express our values of compassion, and how we might act as a good neighbour.
Might the Japanese earthquake lead us to consider afresh the role, or even the definition, of a good God?
These are the issues we considered in our sermon this Sunday, available to hear by clicking the link above.