The Erosion of Life

More than any other book of the bible, the book of Job dives into the world of physical science and how God has fixed laws of nature, a cycle of growth and decay, destruction and restoration. The book is filled with the answers to so many matters of science, the vast majority of which were not discovered by scientists until the previous century. This means that God told us things in the book of Job that prideful man did not discover until 4,000 years after God informed us of these things.

The book of Job recognizes the second law of thermodynamics, entropy, i.e. the law of decay imposed upon the physical world. Job said, “But the mountain falls and crumbles away, and the rock is removed from its place; the waters wear away the stones; the torrents wash away the soil of the earth; so you destroy the hope of man.” (Job 14:18-19). It is interesting that Job speaks of erosion when he lived in the early days of the earth. Job lived about 2,000 years from the creation of the earth and about 500 years after the worldwide flood. But Job recognized that it doesn’t take billions, millions, or even thousands of years for the earth’s terrain to change. Job recognized that the “torrents” of storms and calamities bring mountains low, remove the rocks from their places, and carve out new waterways and canyons. This does not take millions of years, the earth changes form constantly due to storms and natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanos, tornados, and hurricanes. But by all this decay, God has bigger purposes for the good of our existence.

Some people today still embrace the ever-enduring idea that God purposes disasters to punish certain people. Now, there is some good reason for this, just look at the flood of Noah’s day, which was certainly a judgment against the evildoer. Job’s friends held the position that God aims for disasters to punish people for their sins. Eliphaz said, “As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same. (9)  By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of his anger they are consumed.” (Job 4:8-9). And he explains his opinion in more detail in Job 15:20-35. Bildad also believed that suffering was dedicated to the wicked (Job 18:5-21). Zophar, as well, holds the same opinion, saying, “Do you not know this from of old, since man was placed on earth, that the exulting of the wicked is short, and the joy of the godless but for a moment? Though his height mount up to the heavens, and his head reach to the clouds, he will perish forever like his own dung” (Job 20:4-29).

In like manner also, Job’s friends believed that God protects those who are innocent from disasters. Eliphaz put it simply, saying, “Remember: who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off?” (Job 4:7). Job, who once possibly agreed with his friends on these matters, argued against it, contemptibly saying, “It is all one; therefore I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’ When disaster brings sudden death, he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.” (Job 9:22-23).

This cause-and-effect relationship can sometimes be true, and ultimately it is true in terms of eternity. Just as Paul said, “whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:17-18). But, as far as everyday life is concerned, the bible does not teach that daily circumstances are the result of a direct cause-effect response. In fact, Jesus provides more balance to this philosophy, saying, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? (3) No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (4) Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? (5) No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5). So it must not be supposed by us that bad things happen only to bad people and good things happen only to good people, nor is it within our understanding to determine whether a person’s sin caused their suffering (this is where Job’s friends missed the mark), we can only live our lives to the excellence of our abilities and know that we may not see good days until we are finished on this earth.

Disasters must happen, not because someone sinned, but because disasters are critical to the continued existence of mankind and all other life on earth. People tend to blame the devil for earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods, and droughts, but once again, there is more to all of this than just a cut-and-dry blaming of the devil or even blaming God. Let’s consider for a moment the goodness of God in situations of natural disasters. Plate tectonic activity, which causes volcanoes to erupt and the earth to quake, is crucial for ensuring that landmasses stay above the sea instead of underneath. These catastrophes even bring forth a recycling of nutrients that are vital for the abundance of life on land and sea. Hurricanes do not bring any smiles, but much life on earth and sea is maintained by hurricanes. These great storms bring a periodic concentration of nutrients to species that reside along the continental shelves. And the terrible winds lift salt aerosols from the oceans, ensuring the formation of clouds that will provide rainfall to support an immense amount of life on land. Hurricanes serve as critical thermostats for the oceans; if the waters get too hot, a hurricane serves to cool down the oceans. Lightning, by the way, is a major contributor to nitrogen fixation, a critical nutrient for plants (our food supply). All these things and more are fixed by our God, our designer. Too much or too little of these things and life would be unsustainable. So, we see then that nothing is cut-and-dry, and everything serves purposes known to our Creator and largely unknown to us, the creation.

Article by Tanner Campbell