Commentary: God's Glory in a Volcano
Seeing the Beauty and Power of God
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 01-May-21; 11 minutes
Over the last six weeks or so, I have turned into a bit of a volcanophile. On March 19, a volcanic vent opened in the Geldingadalir valley not far from Reykjavík, Iceland, and began spewing molten lava. This vent was affectionately named “Bob” by fans online, and they subsequently named the five new north-south vents that opened over the next month: Flo, Sif, Ulf, Rag-Nar, and Hel. (You have to remember, this is a Nordic country, so they threw in a few of the Norse gods.) At this moment, after more than a month—it's actually about six weeks now—all the vents have subsided except Nar, which is fountaining lava at a rate of about 5 cubic meters per second. There is a nice fountain going there, all in orange, and you can watch the lava come down. As it comes down, it cools into grey and black. It is really quite a shows. By the way, I said it is close to Reykjavík; it is about 25 kilometers from Reykjavík. The closest town is Grindavik (8 km away), and the closest house is 5 km away. So there is no danger to anything except the grass in the valley.
By the way, I mentioned the name of the valley—it is "Geldingadalir." Do you see the word gelding in it? Well, it is actually named after the fact that a previous owner at some point in the past had a herd of horses there. The valley became known as the valley of gelded horses. Just thought you would like to know that.
This volcano is quite a spectacle, especially at night. It is even more mesmerizing to watch when the aurora borealis shimmers in the background. One viewer called it “the world’s biggest and best lava lamp.” Tens of thousands of Icelanders have made the hike to witness the eruption and flows firsthand. I have been able to watch it pretty consistently over the past six weeks on two YouTube livestreams called “BOBcam” and “FLOcam.” Both "BOB" and "FLO"—these cams—are pointed at Nar right now, because Nar is the only one doing anything. But I think you would get a kick out of watching it, at least for a little while. It is really neat to see Nar at night. You don't even have to stay up very late because Iceland is 5-6 hours east of us. So, early evening, go and see what Nar is doing. It is really nice to watch the flow there, watch Nar trying to fill up the valley with lava.
Most people on the livestream chats are in awe of what is happening—it really is a neat event—and they ask all kinds of questions. A few geologists and vulcanologists have joined the chats and answer their questions, and it is really good to have the information to really know what you are looking at and why it is working the way it does. But it became obvious that every scientist that appeared on the chat considered the volcano from very naturalistic and evolutionary points of view. None of them said anything close to ascribing what they were seeing, this wonder of nature (as it were) as being part of God’s creation. They spoke in terms of millions of years and purely material, natural forces that had gone on for many, many years.
I am not saying that God caused this Icelandic volcano to erupt when and how it did. Maybe He did, maybe He didn't. It is likely a built-in mechanism for the planet to let off some interior pressure—and it has been a mostly harmless and beautiful way to do it. The scientists that are on the chat do talk about the creation of new land and the alteration of earth’s features via volcanic activity, but they attribute it all to "Mother Nature" or they personify the Earth as if it is a rational being of its own. I haven't heard the name "Gaia" yet, but we are about this close from that from these scientists.
But there has been no acknowledgement of God’s part in creating and setting in motion all the massive forces that sustain the earth and make it habitable and productive. I look at what these scientists are doing as a current example of what the apostle Paul writes in Romans 1:18-21, where he says that men ignore God’s obvious attributes displayed in creation and deliberately suppress the truth about His involvement in these wonders. I also think of the opening of Hebrews, where the author speaks of the Son, Jesus Christ, sustaining all things by the word of His power.
It also brings to mind God’s castigation of Job in Job 38, where He gives the man a tongue-lashing, letting him know just how puny he is in comparison to the awesome and terrifying Creator God:
Job 38:1-11 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind [out of a tornado], and said: “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; when I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; when I said, ‘This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!’
It is incredible. These are the great forces that God has at His beck and call, and these forces obey. As chapter 42 relates, Job was thoroughly humbled. He had not truly understood God and His power before this, and after this he realized he was less than a worm in comparison to God and deserving only of death.
This volcano in Iceland, as weak as it is in comparison to Krakatoa or Vesuvius or Mount St. Helens or Kilauea, gives us a glimpse of the beauty and power of God in creation. Every once in a while, it is good to consider God’s greatness and say with Job, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).