Apologetics Australia Bible Creation Theology

Australia is Burning – Here Are Some Possible Explanations.

This weeks article in Christian Today – you can read the original here – 

I find it fascinating and sad that today my social media feed has been filled with angry atheists stirred up by the Australian journalist, Peter Fitzsimmons, denouncing not just Israel Folau – and his latest comments – but any bible believing Christian.   It’s been a depressing experience to have such hatred, ignorance and prejudice poured out.

For a more biblical and balanced view read this brilliant article from my colleague Steve MacAlpine…

Here is the Christian Today one.

Australia is burning: here are some possible explanations

australia bushfires
Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in the fires(Photo: Sky News)

Walking out of Brisbane airport last Monday it seemed to be unusually misty. Then the smell hit me. This wasn’t mist, it was smoke – smoke from several bushfires miles away from the city centre.

Much of Queensland, like New South Wales was on ‘catastrophic’ fire alert. What this means is that there is a real danger to life and property through bushfires that can start up and spread incredibly quickly. For those of us who think of fire as slow moving, it takes time to readjust and realize that when the fire service say it’s too late to leave, you just have to find shelter, then it’s time to do so.

I once had the wonderful job of bringing in straw in farmers fields.  One thing we had to be aware of was the speed with which the flames jumped from row to row, especially in windy conditions. It could be deadly.

So far more than 250 homes have been destroyed and four people killed. I now have an app on my phone which tells me about the bushfires, and immediately another one flares up. At the time of writing, there are 81 in NSW and 52 in Queensland. A red exclamation mark means that the fire is out of control, a blue symbol that it is ‘being controlled’.

Last Tuesday I stood on our apartment balcony and watched the smoke rising over the city from fires within 6km. My daughter and family had to evacuate from the Blue Mountains and come to stay with us, leaving their home and most of their possessions behind. Another friend wrote of several hundred acres of their land being destroyed and many cattle killed. Thankfully my family were able to return, but the reality of the situation hit home. This was not something happening on a TV screen; this is real life.

Why is this happening?

In the simplistic world in which we live, every incident is reduced to the simple solutions which confirm the bias of those who are making them. And these bushfires are no exception.

Are these bushfires the result of climate change? Is Scott Morrison directly responsible because his government allegedly does not take climate change seriously? Australia produces about 1.3% of the world’s emissions (compared with China at 30%). Reducing that even by 50% would make little difference. Besides which there are other factors.

ABC news explains that these factors include the wind, a long dry period (there was one day this week when for the first time in recorded history there was no rainfall anywhere over this vast continent), El Nino as well as climate change.

It’s not just weather patterns. Human error has not helped the situation. Ironically one of the groups being blamed are the Greens who have objected to preemptive burning. This normally occurs during the winter months when ground is deliberately burned so that the loose brush is not available as fuel for the bushfire season. But the Greens objected and residents of urban Sydney did not like the smoke coming over their houses, so this year a lot of the bush was left. Combined with the dryness and the wind, its created perfect conditions for a firestorm.

The Aboriginal people had a much better understanding that Australia is a continent made to burn. I read of one farmer who used to deliberately burn one seventh of his land every year.  The ash helped fertilise the soil and when bad conditions came, there was limited fuel for fires to spread.

Another factor is human evil. The fire nearest my home was one of several deliberately started by an arsonist. What kind of perverse evil exists in human beings that for a thrill they are prepared to risk the death and destruction of others?!

Is this the judgement of God? One correspondent suggested that these fires are not a coincidence. Within a month of NSW passing a law making abortion legal, the judgement of God has hit the nation. It’s easy to mock this view and it is somewhat limited and simplistic, but just as we should not dismiss the extremist Green view that this is Mother Earth getting her revenge, so we should not dismiss the judgement of God as a factor. What if God just simply says to us ‘have it your way, you want to control and use my creation without me? Go ahead and see what happens?”

What can be done?

Humans have to learn to adapt to conditions. Money needs to be spent on firefighters.  There is a legitimate criticism of the Morrison government because of a reduction in funding. We need to be careful where we build houses, how we use water and how we use the land. And while Australia reducing its greenhouse gases will not stop bushfires, as a part of a collective human effort it can help to make a difference.

Our atheist friends may mock and question the efficacy of prayer, but nonetheless we can pray.

Some biblical lessons about fire

Fire in the Bible is used to describe the second coming of the Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:7), the Judgement Day (1 Corinthians 3:13), the presence of God (Exodus 19:18), the human tongue (James 3:6); the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16); the wrath of God (Psalm 89:46) and even the eyes of Christ (Revelation 1:14). But the verse that strikes me most in this situation is that of 1 Peter 1:7 which speaks of being refined by fire.

Fire does many things. In Australia it is necessary for the bush to be renewed. For some plants and trees the fire breaks upon the seedpods, and the ash nurtures the new seeds so that the old is replaced with the new. This is a reminder of the great promise in 2 Peter 3 that the heavens and earth will be destroyed by fire, but ultimately renewed out of God’s grace. Out of the ashes comes new life. Let it be.

David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at www.theweeflea.com

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6 comments

  1. Well said, David! One thought you might add: state governments bear the responsibility of keeping state forests free from burnable scrub, along with federal government-run national parks. But because of the ‘Greenies’, state forests have suffered from lesser fuel reduction than in the past.

  2. Very well written Rev David. Luke 13 with the story of the Galileans killed as well as the eighteen when the tower of Siloam fell on them is a direct plea for everyone to repent and turn to God. Disasters may not be a cause and effect of a particular sin or a moral indiscretion on a small or societal scale but they are in God’s eyes frequent warnings to trust in Him, whilst not negating that in love we do all we can to help and prevent them a future occasion. This is what I think Israel Folau may have clumsily tried to say and was magnified by the media reporting it.

  3. Much of Australia’s pastoral land is leased from the Government , so when one reads about the “world’s biggest ranches” in which rankings Australia outguns Texas et al , we are aware that in the private property – focused US it is not an apples v apples comparison.

    Of course, leaseholders have property rights within Australia but we may suspect that Govt could lean on recalcitrants who are dependent upon a future lease – renewal.

  4. Natural or human causes and the righteous judgement of God are not necessarily in conflict. You can pick up a good history book and read about the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD70. At the same time it was a fundamental part of Christian teaching right up to the nineteenth century that the destruction of Jerusalem was the fulfilment of prophecy and a declaration to the world of the New Covenant as expressed in the suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Maybe you can blame the Greens for some things in Australia, or California. I certainly wouldn’t blame them for the forest fires that have struck large stretches of Siberia in recent years. Many of the areas on fire in Russia have likely never had an environmentalist near them. What you can point to is the thawing of permafrost and the fact that the very soil has been on fire due to increasing temperatures in that country. The same increase in temperatures as you will find in Australia, in fact.

    Humans think they know better than the God who created them. That goes for many of those who follow Him. We have an out-of-control climate caused by increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We also have other things going on, such as the dramatic decline in insects. I don’t care much for the insects, especially the ones I read can be found in Australia. An atheist biologist by the name of Haldane once noted that “God has an inordinate fondness for insects.” I presume he was being sarcastic. Whatever his intentions, he hit on a point worthy of note, namely that there were an awful lot of such creatures on this globe a century ago. We now know that many species are in dramatic decline and we also know that they play a key role in the ecology of the globe. Little creatures in fact pollinate, keep the soil oxidated, clean up water, digest excrement and generally perform a whole range of tasks.

    You don’t have to believe in Gaia or any such nonsense to realise that God made us from the dust of the earth, the same as His other creatures. We rely on them for food. They often bring beauty to the world (even if you’re not keen on many legged creatures). We wreck the ecosystem at our own peril.

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