A matter of perspective

by Richard on December 28, 2004

I thought I might write a cheery reflection on my Christmas which has, it has to be said, been a prety good one. But somehow that doesn’t seem quite appropriate, with the news that the deathtoll from the earthquake is now known to be well over 20 000. How do you make any sense of such a tragedy?

It is certainly a reminder that though human beings are undoubtedly having an impact on the world’s environment, when nature herself releases her fury no power in human hands can stand against her. In insurance terms these events are called “Acts of God”, and some would conclude that the judgement of God can indeed be seen at work when the world is shaken. Some appear to take delight in seeing the hammer fall. Others will draw the conclusion that events like this prove that faith is vain, that God - if he exists at all - cannot be trusted.

I too recoil from a God whose aim is so poor that violence is poured out so capriciously. But I recall too from the prospect that these terrible events are merely the outworking of natural forces that ultimately have no meaning. Life against such a background would be futile and without ultimate purpose.

The only way I can reconcile these two is to see the dreadful and terrifying unleashing of the earth’s power in storm and earthquake as part of what St Paul described as the creation’s groaning as it waits to be released from death and decay, a creation that will be made perfect in Jesus Christ. In the meantime, the call which God makes on his people is to respond to those in need with compassion and generosity, to turn away from despair and embrace the hurting and broken of the world.

Pious pipedreams? Maybe.

But I’d swap that for futility and hopelessness anytime.

{ 1 trackback }

John Adams
01.03.05 at 6:43 am

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }


Joel Thomas 12.28.04 at 3:08 am

I’m reminded that theology is an attempt to understand God and God’s world. All too often we try to claim that our theology IS God. I’m humbled by my utter inability to fathom any or no purpose to this overwhelming event. “But I know whom I have believed, and persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.”


BD 12.28.04 at 6:22 am

This is a natural disaster, it is not God’s ‘fault.
He may have stayed His hand, there are possibly many, many miracles.
It is not ours to know.

It will not be God’s fault if His people don’t help either.


Joel Thomas 12.28.04 at 7:34 am

Bene D,

I agree. I try to avoid using the term “act of God.” It slips in now and then because it is a legal term often used in contracts.

It is provided that God doesn’t put on us more than we can handle or bear. I agree with that, too. God, however, certainly didn’t place this disaster upon the world and in fact must be weeping right now even as he urges us to respond.


BD 12.28.04 at 7:14 pm

I’m unable to grasp the scope of this disaster too.
I hadn’t thought of God’s sorrow in this Joel. Thanks.


Rob 12.29.04 at 3:09 am

It is provided that God doesn’t put on us more than we can handle or bear.

There are times when I wish I could memorize that Bible verse….


Joanna Im 02.03.05 at 6:28 am

Well, I’m a gr.7 doing a speech about this and I say yeah, disasters like volcanoes, earthquakes, and tsunami happen. It is not God’s responsibily to “stop” them. He gave us the intellegence, how to stop the tsunami and if the affected countries decided not to install tsunami warning system when they could have, it is not God to blame.

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