“… if God cares for so much for all creatures, why didn’t God create a world in which there would be no natural disasters?”
That question, by Terence Fretheim, professor at Luther Seminary in Minneapolis in his fifth decade of teaching, is perhaps one of the best questions we could perhaps face. Yes, bad things happen, but why does God create a world in which bad things happen? This is one of the questions he addresses in his slender but profound new book: Creation Untamed: The Bible, God, and Natural Disasters (Theological Explorations for the Church Catholic).
The big one: Do you think God is at work in natural disasters? And, if so, do you think God is “judging” at some level? Or, if not, how do you explain a good God making a world where such bad things happen?
In his opening sketch of themes, including the interaction of human evil and cosmic disturbance, Fretheim quotes Hosea 4:1-3:
4:1 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites!
For the Lord has a covenant lawsuit against the people of Israel.
For there is neither faithfulness nor loyalty in the land,
nor do they acknowledge God.
4:2 There is only cursing, lying, murder, stealing, and adultery.
They resort to violence and bloodshed.
4:3 Therefore the land will mourn,
and all its inhabitants will perish.
The wild animals, the birds of the sky,
and even the fish in the sea will perish.
Acts do have consequences, he observes. Even cosmic consequences.
So he asks the big one: “Is there not at least a kernel of truth in the linkage of such natural developments to the judgmental activity of God?” (6).Sure, there are manifold ripple-like layers of consequences: and he mentions Katrina and inadequate human preparations and responses and and the possible effects of global warming … and how the poor and needy experienced these more than the wealthy…
How does one excuse God in all this? So, he says, “in considering such disasters, we cannot let God off the hook” (7). How so?
First, such natural disasters are part of God’s creational designs; second, some disasters are made more severe by human sins. If God is involved in healing, why not also in judgment?