May  2011 03
A Theological Reflection

When first God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and void. Darkness was upon the face of the deep, and the breath of God hovered over the surface of the waters.  (Gen 1:1, author’s translation) 

Like other people living in the Ancient Near East, the storytellers who told and preserved the creation parable found in Gen 1:1-2:4 understood the act of creation as being a controlling of the chaos of the natural world. In a Babylonian creation myth, the world emerges from a cosmic battle between godsrepresentative of chaos and order. The common flood stories of the area portrayed the human fear of what happened when the primordial chaos overpowered what seemed to be a rather tenuous state of control. In the Hebrew Bible, God is understood as the Creator and Controller of the cosmos. It was God who had spoken order into the watery mess of Gen 1:1, and it was God who brought a flood upon the earth and caused the dry land to appear once again. Famine, drought, plague, or any other “disaster” could cause the faithful to wonder if the divinely established order was losing its control over the destructive chaos of nature. Where was God in those experiences of complete disaster? 

In the 21st century, with Doppler radar and scientific explanations for “natural disasters” (e.g., earthquakes, tornados, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc.), we still stand in fearful awe of the destruction that these corrective forces of nature can wreak upon human lives. Such powerlessness in the face of the uncontrollable chaos of weather was seen most recently in the tornado outbreak that tore across the U.S. this past week, with the southern states taking the brunt of the devastation, nowhere more fully so than Alabama. With a death toll sure to climb beyond the current count of 342, many people injured, homes obliterated, and belongings swept away by the powerful vortexes, those who have been affected by these storms may wonder if the primordial chaos is overpowering Divine order. Where is God in the midst of their shattered lives?   

Many will try to interpret these events for their own self-assurance, and others may offer “Little Annie” platitudes that ring hollow in the face of such loss. However, for those of us who can only observe the sufferings of our neighbors, our best response is compassionate silence and a willingness to respond to calls for help from those who must sift through the rubble of their lost security and build new places to call “home”. Perhaps our sisters and brothers facing an unknown future might find some hope in these words of an ancient prayer:

1God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; 3though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.  (Ps 46:1-3, NRSV)


Browse more posts by: Lisa Wilson Davison, Phillips Faculty
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