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A Plane Crashes and So Many Are Gone - But One Survives ... God's Will?
What if the Unthinkable Happened?
The safest way to travel
It is true. Commercial airlines are the world's safest means of travel. In fact if you are traveling on one of the top 39 world major airlines, your chance of dying one a flight is 1 in 19,800,000. In comparison, around 30,000 people die in car accidents annually - the equivalent of 188 Boeing 373 going down.
But when the unthinkable does happen, the loss is catestrophic. Unlike the car with just a few passengers, when large aircraft go down many are killed. Entire families can be wiped out in an instant. Those of us that do travel must think about it on occasion. A funny bump on take-off or rough turbulence that sends the wings flapping can give even the most seasoned travelers a quick second thought. Even though the chances are so small of an accident, there is at least for me a tiny reservation. It is, after all, a skinny metal tube flying through the air at 600 mph at 35,000 feet.
Lucky? or Blessed?
And One Walks Away...
So the unthinkable becomes reality. For most of us it is chilling but also fascinating. We are glued to the TV screen as details and pictures begin to come in. My experience is that the closer to home the accident, the more concern there is on the part of those watching. Do I know someone on board? I was going to fly to Chicago this week? etc. I crash halfway across the world is still terrible but there is a sort of detachment that realizes that I was not in danger and will not be personally affected. And then ...
The news announces that inspite of the horrific crash, the flames, the force of impact, the utter devestation that is so easy to see ... a young lady has survived. Over 200 passengers and crew were confirmed dead, and one young lady was found very much alive in the wreckage. She is hurt, but not badly. She is scared and has lost her mother, father and little brother, but she will survive. It is a miracle. Surely, amongst all this death and destruction, it could only have been God's hand that reached down and saved the life of this little girl.
Even if the flight is thousands of miles away - everyone is now personally touched by the story. It is no longer about personal interests. One little girl has walked away from the unsurvivable. She has certainly been picked by God. There is just no other way to explain it. The forces involved, the mass of the jet, the amount of fuel, and yet there she is. Proof that nothing is impossible. Prayers are said around the world. The watchers have additional feelings now - first it was the horror of the crash, but now it is more about the girl and the miracle that we were allowed to see.
Was it a Miracle?
Reason One - Did It Have to be a Miracle?
Was it a miracle? The faithful would say yes, without a moment's hesitation. Even the skeptical would agree that one being saved out of a crash that killed so many would seem very unlikely. The death of the others was empirical proof that the crash was devestating and capabale of taking hundreds of lives. But is that proof that the one saved was only saved by intervention by God?
Surely this has never happened before. I can't think off the top of my head something less common than an airliner crashing and only one person survives. Not one section of passengers, which seems to support some structural basis for survival, but just one person. The rareness of the event itself combined with the uniqueness of her survival has to lean towards devine intervention.
Being the statistics nut that I am I deceided to find some valid trustworthy numbers to show just how rare it is that a commercial airliner goes down and a single survivor is found. But that did not go as planned. Not even close. It turns out that although rare (as are aircraft accidents themselves) it is not as rare as I expected. I had only heard of it once and could only pull vague facts from my memory. I figured it has happened maybe one other time....
55 times before!! Hard to believe isn't it. Check out Wikipedia. They have the details of the dates, the plane names, the background, and the death toll of each crash. And in all but 2 or 3 they list the name of the sole survivor. I was truly shocked. This has happened at least 55 times before. Amazing. It has happened 12 times since the year 2000!! Almost all were outside the United States so they did not get massive coverage here, but still that is amazing. Just 1 year ago an Algerian Air Force C-130 went down killing 77 and leaving only Nimer Djelloul alive.
But statistics are no basis on which to base your faith entirely. It takes more. Like ...
In God's Hand?
In Order to Believe in a Miracle ...
First we have to agree on a definition or two. By a "miracle" I mean an event that occurred that would not have happened but for the intervention of a supernatural force (ie: God). And I do not limit in any way the manner in which the intervention can take place. So with that settled (at least to my satisfaction) let's move on.
I tried to boil this down to the minimum number of issues we have to address in order to reach an agreement on what is involved in our scenario. In order to believe that a miracle occurred when the one sole survivor walked away from the otherwise catestrophic plane crash, one must believe in, at least, the following:
- there is a God
- God does involve himself/herself with the lives of mankind
- that God intentionally interferred with the plane or crash by some action, and
- the action by God, and only that, saved the sole survivor.
I could address each of these one by one, but I won't. I won't for a very good reason. I think I can address points 3 and 4 together and make my point very clear.
A Loving God?
Reason Two - So God intervened ...
Points 3 and 4 mean that God reached out in some manner and saved the survivor from certain death. In order to believe that I also have to believe that God, with all the ability at his disposal, chose to let the other 200 people die a horrible death. While God was reaching out through whatever mechanism he chose, he purpposefully decided to intervene and save but one life. I am afraid that is a God I can not believe in. Instead of praising God for saving the one - I must condemn him for killing the others. It is a judgment we would place upon any man in the exact same situation. If a person had the ability to save 200, and was there and active in the situation and instead chose to save one and allow the others to die a horrible death ... would we praise that person? Would we look at the one saved as a miracle? "Good thing Bob got there and saved that little girl." No! we would be horrified by the calousness of a person that could save one and then sit by and allow the others to die in agony - And, so why do we look at God differently? Surely, God is more loving than any man, right? So how can he act in a way that would not be tolerated for a minute here on earth? Many a man has died trying to save the life of one. Firemen and soldiers deal with this constantly. Putting their live on the line to save just one person. And God, through omission saves one and allows 200 to die.
I also have to take into consideration of the 1000's that die everyday. If God can save that one girl, surely he could save others. Lots of planes go down with NO survivors, why? And why limit it so narrowly? Why doesn't God end hunger. Every year over 3,100,000 children die of malnutrition and related diseases. There are over 17,000,000 children under 5 that are considered "severely wasted" based on their level of malnutrition, and another 51,000,000 that are considered "wasted." There are 229,000,000 children under 5 that are considered malnurished to the point that they are label as "stunted," "wasted," or "severely wasted." Closer to home, In 2013, in the United States alone, some 41,149 people committed suicide. I bet between the hunger and the despair in just those two groups, there were some very good people that could have used a miracle. So when I hear that saving the one was a miracle of God, all I can think is that either you are wrong, or God does a very poor job of saving people.
The usual response is that we do not know God's plan or that he works in mysterious ways. Well, for years that worked for me. It worked because I just accepted it. But then I started thinking about just such things. Bottom line, I am not really interested in his plan anymore. If it entails people losing their lives, families being destroyed, perishing in flames, watching others starve to death ... that is not the plan for me. I know the story and it has this great happy ending, we all get to meet God and live forever in heaven (or some similar happy ending) but for me that is not enough.
If we are God's greatest achievement, made in his image as I was taught, and he can just randomly (or so it seems to me) allow horrible and preventable things to happen to us, well, it seems like I misunderstood the deal when I signed on with Jesus as my Savior. I looked at a number of horrible disasters and found that very many good and wonderful people have been tragically taken from us. Taken while doing God's work in many cases. Preaching the Gospel, handing out aid in areas torn by war or by natural disasters. Doing good things for people. And many bad people live to a ripe old age. Stealing or just hating for decades after the good have been laid to rest. Makes no sense to me.
For God to make sense to me, he would have to act a bit more like he expects us to act. The good people should be blessed and the evil should be cursed. But since Job's time until today, that is not the way it works. Believing in God does not improve your life. Just ask the other 200 people on that plane. I would bet, believer and pagan alike, were all praying as they died.