God versus the weather

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God is in control of the weather. God causes rain and drought (see Deut. 11:14-17; 1 Kings 8:35-36; Job 5:10; 37:6; Jer. 14:22; Amos 4:7 and Zech. 14:17 – there are many more examples). God controls the “storehouses” of rain, snow and even the lightning (see Deut. 28:12, 24; Ps. 42:7, 135:7; and Jer. 10:13). It is God who sends storms (see Jonah 1:4), sometimes to punish people (Job 37:13). And, of course, Jesus stopped a storm dead in its tracks (see Mark 4:37-41; also see Ps. 107:29).

So, why are conservative Christians comfortable watching the weather channel, which so clearly uses science to show weather systems and patterns and make predictions based on a Godless scientific view? And why are they comfortable with their children learning about the water cycle in school? This scientific vision of the world’s weather patterns presents a picture of a world in which there is no need for God or God’s agency – the weather just works because it is a complete, integrated system on its own.

Now, obviously, I am being deliberately facetious in asking these questions in this way. Most thinking Christians can quite easily accept that the weather works all on its own, without any miraculous intervention from the Creator (To be fair in my reporting, I must say that some don’t and claim that God does indeed control every weather event – see here for Donald de Young’s book, “Weather and the Bible”). And while they certainly believe that God is capable of intervening in any part of this world, thinking Christians don’t see God’s hand in every storm or lightning bolt or hurricane (or quiet sunset or peaceful afternoon breeze, for that matter). The weather just gets on with it, all on its own.

And we therefore understand the verses I quoted above as being clearly figurative, rather than literal (except, possibly, Jesus’ miracle).

So, why then, are some conservative Christians so uptight about evolution? And why can’t they apply the same logic and hermeneutical approach to the Biblical accounts of Creation as they do to God and the weather?

Yes, this blog post is really about evolution and not about the weather. But it struck me today to be a good analogy. Why aren’t more Creationist Christians uptight about the weather, how it’s presented on TV or taught to their children at school? I’m just interested, that’s all…

5 thoughts on “God versus the weather”

  1. I think the implications of the science of evolution is much more threatning to traditional Christian belief than the science of weather.

    I can’t think of any parts of the Bible that is difficult to reconcile with the idea that God created the basic rules of physics and tehn left the weather to do its thing according to these principles. Biblical examples where the weather doesn’t obey the rules of physics – Jesus calming the sea, for instance – are easily explained as exceptional situations where God has temporarily intervened in the system to manipulate it for specific reasons. Such miracles are easy to see as isolated and not of deep theological and existential significance.

    But the science of evolution poses much more serious challenges to reconciliation with traditional Christian belief. To start with; there is no Biblical account of how the weather is supposed to work that can contradict science in the way the Genesis 6-day creation story does. This was, and still is, a major first hurdle for people used to interpret at least the narritive sections of the Bible literally.

    But given that one is willing to drop such a literal interpretatation, it’s not that difficult argue that the creation “days” are ‘epochs’, God created the rules of natural selection and then left things to go on their own pace, but (in analogy to the weather miracles) every now and then God would nudge evolution in the right direction so it would culminate in us: humans. Already this is much more work than in the case of weather, but still doable.

    But then things start to get more difficult. The human-God relationship, as opposed to the animal-God relationship, is central to Christianity; it’s what the religion is about. The entire reason for God’s creation of humankind with the free will to obey His commandments or not, the Fall of Man because of choosing disobedience, Jesus’ sacrifice to restore the human-God relationship to secure (human) life after death – all these fundamental theological principles assume at a very deep level that humans are very special; created in the image of God.

    But the science of evolution bynatural selection challenges this; it states that there is no direction to the forming of new species, that humans arose by chance and, most importantly, that there is just no difference between human and animal. Did Jesus die for humans but not Neanderthals? That seemed an ok assumption until it was discovered recently that the two interbred.

    Now I know many Christians that have sorted out these issues to their own personal satisfaction, but the process is quite challenging – much more so than in the case of the weather.

    By the way, in case I’m misunderstood, I did not write this to argue against evolution; I just wanted to explain why I think people have more of a problem with evolution than with weather. Turned out a longer comment than what I intended 🙂

  2. Uptight Christian here (re evolution by the way not by micro evolution whereby animals adapt over time to their changing environments)

    Wow, how disturbing that you equate the weather to evolution? It seems pretty simple to me that if you Graeme came from an Ape, that it would shed a few problems on the Biblical account of Man being created in God’s image? I find much of your site most disturbing with your views on Biblical context/homosexuality/Islam/Women in the pulpit far from Biblical Christianity? You are clearly an ‘intelligent’ individual, but your views on Biblical Christianity are worrying. And that you have a platform to share them is even worse.

  3. Les, thanks for taking the time to comment. I try to be ‘intelligent’ (not sure why the need for inverted commas, and if ‘intelligent’ is different from intelligent). I also have three degrees in theology, so I suppose I can claim to have put in some hard yards in doing my homework.

    I fully accept that my views would be worrying to someone committed to a reformed reading of the Bible, and, I suppose that’s part of the point of this blog. However, the purpose of this blog, and its invitation too, is to engage in polite, civil, Biblically based conversations about life, the universe and everything.

    Maybe you could work out why my thoughts – which definitely have both current and historical support from many wonderful Christians – disturbs you so much and makes you uptight. If it’s because I am wrong, I’d happily hear from you. If it’s merely because I am different, then enjoy the journey of going back to your Bible to seek the truth.

  4. Judith, I get your point – thanks for making it. I am not equating the two issues. I am simply using one as an example of how we engage with science, and then asking us to engage consistently with science in the other issue too.

    I assume you know enough about history to know that when Copernicus and Galileo suggested the world was not in fact flat and that the sun did not revolved around the earth, that they were excommunicated (or at least threatened with such), and that there publications were suppressed for many years. I assume you also know that Galileo was then indeed excommunicated for this thought (by the way, the Roman Catholic church only said sorry about this just a few years ago. Literally!).

    So, to say that there is little difficulty reconciling most of science, climatology and geography with the Bible is simply a factor of historical distance from those scientific discoveries. A very embarrassing thing for Christians to have to own the fact that our religion was so badly wrong on this topic.

    And I think we’ll be embarrassed too in the future by our continued fight against multiple areas of science that have accurately aged the world, the universe, DNA evolution and can clearly show the development of one species to another.

    There are a thousand ways in which God’s image could become part of who we are today as humans that does not require a literal 6 day creation some 10,000 years ago. We don’t need to cling to outdated non-scientific views in order to understand, accept or value the words of the first eleven chapters of the Bible. And we can accept evolution as well as accepting humanity’s unique role and relationship to God within an evolving universe.

  5. Hi Graeme. Yes, I’m aware of the history re: Galileo et al that you refer to. Very valid point you have, about how historical distance tends to make it easier to resolve seemling conflicts between science and literal interpretations of the Bible. I happen to think evolutions poses particularly problematic issues, but yes, perhaps you’re right and it’s simply a question of time before it becomes totally accepted by all Christians.

    Interestingly, the self-same Roman Catholic Church has no problem accepting the theory of evolution.

    Les, it’s a pity that you consider it bad that Graeme has a platform to discuss issues such as these. People are thinking about things like reconsiling science and religion and women’s role in the church etc whether people like Graeme write blogs about it or not.

    Imagine a Christian boy conflicted between his church’s teaching of a 6000 year old earth and what he’s taught about geology at school. The scientists point out a *lot* of observations fit in very well with the an old-earth model. The explains why the continents’ shapes fit into each other like pieces of a puzzle. It explains global vulcano activity patterns. It explains the patterns of magnetism found in rocks in the oceans. It explains why both the sea and land-locked lakes are salty. I can go on. Biblical literalists can only offer that these things are what they are because God made it so.

    If that boy has no opportunity to see that there is a way to reconsile the old earth model with his faith, he may very well decide that his faith is wrong on the issue, as what he observes with his own eyes can simply not be ignored. And if he sees faith as an unwavering, rigid unity of teaching, he’s going to assume that the rest of it is wrong as well. And end up atheist.

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