Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters
Terence E. Fretheim,
Baker Academic, US$19.99
“If God did this to so many (innocent) people (and animals) he must be a bloody ba#+*rd and a tyrant.”
“They deserved it, worshipping those other gods/voting for homosexual marriage/whatever … It’s God’s righteous punishment.”
“God? If there is a good god this wouldn’t happen. So there is no god. Or he’s not good, or not interested, or powerless.”
We’ve all heard it before, probably said it before. After every disaster someone will say it again and the media will happily circulate it.
Fretheim works through the creation, the flood, Job, and other disaster stories in the scriptures to explore the mind and nature of God as expressed in these events.
We are happy to see God revealed in the wonder and majestic sights of nature — and St Paul would agree — but, as Fretheim points out, many of those majestic sights were caused by disasters.
Great mountains by tectonic plate shift and volcanic activity. Grand valleys by rain, floods and erosion.
Egypt as a nation was a result of a fertile valley created by regular flooding.
Natural disasters are in integral component of God’s ongoing creative acts. So does this mean that it is just something we must endure; that some benefit will come that possibly we can’t foresee?
The biblical texts clearly associate human sin with disasters — so how does the scriptural testimony fit into our understanding? Particularly when it can be contradictory: the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah of Genesis 10 or Jesus’ answer about those who were killed when the tower fell on them — they are no more or less guilty than the survivors (Luke 13:4).
This is the world God has given us — with benefits and their associated risks. Would (or could) we have it any other way?
Fretheim suggests this is the charge God has given us: to continue as human agents co-creating in relationship with God from the materials we have been given.
That involves great joy and potential, as well as heartache and risk. And God is there in the messy chaotic middle with us.
“It is good.”
Fretheim explores the nature of nature, God, life and behaviour.
I was challenged, inspired and scared by many aspects of this investigation — theologically and pastorally.
Fretheim doesn’t have all the answers. In fact I think he raises far more questions that he gives conclusions, certainly given contemporary events.
If you are prepared to take the risk, it’s a good read. But be challenged by his final line, “What you do and say and pray counts!”