The eastern half of the United States was smitten a few weeks ago by a fierce storm from the hand of God. She is called Sandy, an ironic name for such a terrible storm. The storm named Sandy, defender of men, was the destroyer of men. She destroyed over one hundred lives and billions of dollars in property. She destroyed land, fields, houses, cars, businesses, boats, and build­ings. She was a destroyer from God.

To the unbeliever the statement that such an event is from God is absurd and offensive. Believing it to be absurd, the unbelieving press, unbelieving commenta­tors, and unbelievers in general mock the statement that Sandy was from God. When the unbeliever mocks, he also brings up the so-called problem of evil, that is, if God is good, how can He control evil? This question in the mouth of the wicked is unbelief. That it is unbelief is clear from their answer to the question. If they do not deny God altogether, they assert that God had nothing to do with such evil—He was not in the storm—and ascribe her to mere natural causes. To unbelief God is not sovereign over evil.

This reaction of modern, sophisticated, intellectual society is nothing new; it is the reappearance of the old, false doctrine of dualism, which is the teaching that two sovereign forces, good and evil, are at war with one another in the world. God is in control of good, and Satan is in control of evil. The outcome of these bat­tling forces is always in doubt.

Denial of God’s sovereignty over evil, such as Sandy, is dualism. This means that evil is a sovereign power or principle outside of God that He does not control and that is contrary to His good and wise plan for all things. His plan is the glory of Jesus Christ in the salvation of the elect church for God’s own glory. Dualism would have us believe that the devil, his demons, wicked men, and all evil forces are sovereign and that God is not sovereign. The confession of God as God is at stake here.

Right along with dualism’s denial of God’s sover­eignty over the storm is the teaching of Arminian universalism that God loves all men without exception and its denial that there was any judgment of God in Sandy. Mark Galli wrote in Christianity Today,

As usual, great weather events bring out the Christian crazies, like those proclaiming that Hurricane Sandy is God’s judgment…against (pick one) homosexuals, pornography, materialism, secularism, Darwinism, and so on and so forth. But I’m not linking to these state­ments because, well, you’ve got better things to do with your time than read sub-Christian, one might even say non-Christian, theology.

Rather than recognizing God’s judgment, Galli wants his readers to think that “no one need be afraid, because God will rescue one and all.” What “seems horrible, destructive, and pointless is embraced by the holiness of God and redeemed by the cross.” Galli also incongruously refers to “Jesus stilling the storm” as teaching that “a different calculus is at work” in the New Testament as over against the Old Testament when “storms…are often seen as God’s act of judgment.”¹

His message is unmistakable: God loves everyone; Christ’s cross redeemed everybody; Sandy is threaten­ing to no one.

Attempting to make sense of Sandy, James White, professor of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, wrote that “God [is] longing to hold us” and “he gave [the choice] to each one of us,” so that “we might use our free-will and choose again” to love God after we in Adam “radi­cally altered” God’s original plan. White speaks dis­paragingly of those who say that Sandy is “just another example of the sovereignty of God.”²

The deist, too, denies God’s sovereignty over evil. Deism is the Enlightenment philosophy that God made everything and runs it by certain fixed laws. De­ism denies that God’s providence controls fruitful and barren years, sickness and health, storm and no storm. Deism appears in its modern form when evil occur­rences are ascribed merely to natural causes. Storms are ascribed merely to climate change or nature.

In their opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, Gernot Wagner and Martin Weitzman, climate-change author and economist from the University of Harvard, asked whether or not Sandy was “the fat-tail of climate change.” Fat-tails are statistical oddities—bizarre events—that do not fit with accepted ways of thinking and about which the standard models can make no sense. The authors’ conclusion is typical: “It seems that climate change may have made things worse.”³

Equally emphatically the naysayers chimed in. E. Calvin Beisner wrote an article in World in which he quoted various scientists to refute the climate-change theory, but he said nothing about God’s hand in the storm:

To call Sandy a harbinger of a “new normal,” in which unprecedented weather events cause unprecedented de­struction, would be wrong. This historic storm should remind us that planet Earth is a dangerous place, where extreme events are commonplace and disasters are to be expected.4

Most news reports referred to “nature” as the cause of the storm. President Obama agnostically referred to being “shocked by the force of mother nature.”5

Whether or not climate change was involved in the historic storm Sandy is immaterial for the truth of God’s sovereignty and evil. The crucial question is, was God active in that huge storm as she slammed into the eastern coast of the United States? A denial of God’s activity in and control of the storm and ascribing her merely to natural causes is deism.

Over against the world’s scoffing, the outright denial of, or the agnostic silence about, God’s sovereignty by the false and apostatizing church, the Reformed faith says, “Sandy was God’s hand.” The Reformed faith confesses God’s sovereignty over evil. The rock bottom, basic confession of the church in the face of evil—all evil—is that God is good and God is sovereign. The so-called problem of evil starts wrongly with if: “If God is good….” The confession of the believer starts with the assertion, “God is good; His will is only good; this good God in His good will is sovereign over evil.”

By the sovereignty of God, including evil, we mean that God decreed all things and that He providentially controls their occurrence. The Reformed creeds teach this and also reject both dualism’s and deism’s understandings of evil in relationship to God. Article 13 of the Belgic Confession rejects dualism: “nothing happens in this world without His appointment…for His power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible, that He orders and executes His work in the most excellent and just manner.” The same article says regarding de­ism, “We reject that damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing, but leaves all things to chance.” The Reformed faith rejects the error that God regards nothing in His creation, and this means the teaching, too, that He leaves everything to run by fixed laws. The Reformed faith says that, regardless of whether Sandy was the fat-tail of climate change, she was the hand of God beating upon the eastern coast of the United States. And Jesus Christ, who has ascended on high in might to reign and who holds and opens the book with seven seals, was in control of God’s hand. Jesus did not say to Sandy, “Peace, be still.” He told her, as a powerful part of His hosts, to go, how far to go, and to the places He directed.

The destructive storm—evil—is not outside of God’s decree or of His providential govern­ment of the world, but is included in it. This was true of the fall of Adam. Contrary to James White, the fall of Adam did not “radically alter” God’s plan for human beings, but was included in God’s plan. This being true of the fall, it was also true of the cross (Acts 4:28). Being true of the fall and of the cross, it is also true of every evil event in this world.

This teaching does not at all mitigate the truth that sin and the subsequent misery that fell upon the whole human race and the entire creation is man’s fault, and that terrible storms are the evidence of a groaning creation subjected to the curse (Rom. 8:22). But it teaches that God controls all things, including evil events, for His purpose, at the heart of which stands His covenant, Jesus Christ, and the eternal blessedness of His church in a new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells. All things—evil as well as good—must serve His purpose.

We are not at a loss to know the purpose of God in Sandy.

She was judgment.

Mark Galli, to his credit, is better than some when he says that God “was in the storm” and speaks about those who are “anxious to distance God” from the storm and from any natural weather patterns. But that a professing Christian would say that Sandy was not judg­ment indicates that he does not know the Scriptures, which say: “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it” (Amos 3:6)? About all the evil of the Assyrian horde that descended upon Judah God said, “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation,” against a “hypocritical nation” (Is. 10:5, 6). And this is not merely an Old Tes­tament phenomenon. The book of Revelation speaks loudly of God’s judgments. God is sovereign over evil events; He decrees them and providentially controls their carrying out for judgment. The problem of many with God’s sovereignty over evil is not due to a lack in Scripture’s clarity about this truth.

Whether or not Sandy was the “fat-tail” of climate change is open to debate, but that it is the “fat-tail” of an Arminian theology of the universal love of God is clear. That theology simply cannot make sense of and has nothing sensible to say about Sandy. It ought to be clear to everyone that what happened on the eastern coast was not what happened on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus Christ did not say to Sandy, “Peace, be still.” Still more, if God loves all and desires to “hold” everyone again, then in light of all the human suffering caused by Sandy, she is less like an urgent plea and more akin to the temper tantrum of a spurned suitor.

Rather, the Belgic Confession teaches us of God’s “righteous judgments” in His government of the world. God’s judgments on wickedness are not always visible. Often the wicked prosper and are at ease in the world. But when we do see God’s righteous judgments, in the language of Calvin, it “affords us a refreshing display of his justice.”6

Note that: “refreshing”!

That a professing Christian would be squeamish or offended about speaking of God’s judgment on wicked­ness such as “homosexual[ity], pornography, material­ism, secularism, Darwinism,” as Galli is, indicates that he either does not regard these things as wickedness or that he has so eviscerated the justice of God by a false doctrine of God’s universal love that nothing of it remains.

On the contrary, for the Reformed Christian such a storm as Sandy refreshes. She is a clear and comfort­ing reminder that our God sits in the heavens. The believer has no difficulty with God’s judgments upon the wicked in this life, because he knows the justice and severity of God; he knows that God loves only His elect, not all men; he knows God’s hatred of sin; and he knows the truth of eternal punishment.

Sandy was refreshing to the people of God who see all around them the abounding lawlessness of society and read in the papers about the triumph of wicked­ness. For example, recently U.S. News columnist Miranda Leitsinger wrote in an article entitled “Gay Rights Movement Ends Dismal Record” about the “red letter day” for the homosexual movement.

It was among the worst performances in American po­litical history, and yesterday it came to a screeching halt. Supporters of same-sex marriage had lost 30 statewide votes on the issue…before Tuesday’s victories in Minne­sota, Maryland and Maine…. “I would expect that when people are writing [high school civics books] 50 years from now…Nov. 6, 2012 will be listed as a red letter day for the gay rights movement,” said Michael Klarman, a Harvard Law School professor and author of “From the Closet to the Altar….” “I think it will be seen as the date that marriage equality turned an important corner,” he added…. The big day for gay rights advocates went beyond the four states holding ballot initiatives: In Wisconsin…Tammy Baldwin defeated her Republican opponent…to become the first openly gay member of the U.S. Senate. The replacement for her House seat is also gay. “I think this is a sea-change moment…the real mainstreaming of gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender people…” said Bishop Gene Robinson…the Episcopal church’s first openly gay bishop.7

Evil is not limited to the victories of sexual perver­sion at the ballot box, but it is a powerful evidence of the spirit of the times in which the church lives. It is anti-God, anti-Christ, and anti-church, as it always has been. The prominence and successes of the movement demonstrate that the spirit of antichrist moves power­fully in the world and will soon culminate in his com­ing and his kingdom. Besides, the prominence of the homosexual movement, as well as its general acceptance within society, is itself an evidence of the judgment of God upon man, according to Romans 1:26-27:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

This evil, too, is under the sovereign control of God. When He is finished with it, He will wipe it off the earth like a flood.

There was also a pointed word from Christ in Sandy, as He also spoke regarding reports of calamity during His ministry and the thinking of reporters that those who per­ished were sinners above all: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).

While insisting that the storm was judgment, the believer likewise insists that for the people and church of God—the elect and them only—whatever evil comes upon the world is for the good of His church. In the language of Psalter 20: “The children of men He be­holds from on high, the wicked to punish, the righteous to try.” In the lovely words of Article 13 of the Belgic Confession: “This doctrine affords us unspeakable consolation, since we are taught thereby that nothing can befall us by chance, but by the direction of the most gracious and heavenly Father, who watches over us with a paternal care that not a hair of our head…can fall to the ground without the will of our Father.”

The storm was also an indication of what is coming. Christ spoke loudly in Sandy that He is personally coming with a swift and terrifying judgment to shake the heavens and the earth and to make all things new. The storm for all its power was just heavy breathing in comparison to what will be happening in the world when the wicked say, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:16, 17).

Sandy belongs to what Reformed theology calls pre­cursory signs. These signs in society, nature, and the church clearly indicate that Christ is coming. The signs belong to the coming of Christ; in them Christ comes constantly throughout New Testament history. Christ strode up and down the eastern coast a few weeks ago. Those signs are also clear and unmistakable indications of Christ’s personal, visible, and bodily coming at the end of this age to conduct the final judgment.

As a sign Sandy made us lift up our heads, because our redemption draws nigh. And she taught us again to labor “while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4).

¹ http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/october-web-only/what-jesus-might-say-about-sandy/.

² http://www.religiontoday.com/columnists/dr-james-emery-white/god-and-sandy.html/.

³ http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2012/11/01/was-hurricane-sandy-the-fat-tail-of-climate-change/.

4 http://www.worldmag.com/2012/11/is_superstorm_sandy_a_harbinger_of_the_new_normal/.

5 http://www.christianpost.com/news/max-lucado-where-was-god-when-hurricane-sandy-hit-84204/.

6 John Calvin, commenting on Psalm 37:12 in his Com­mentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999).

7 http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/07/14998618-1-for-31-no-more-gay-rights-movement.