A Brief Theology Disaster: thinking biblically in the wake of tragedy


By nature a disaster indicates a world in which death and suffering are predominant. A world very different that the one described by God as “very good” in Genesis 1:31. A world in which disaster often occurs is a world in desperate need of a savior. When victims cannot alleviate their suffering, they must look beyond themselves to an outside source to deliver them from suffering and set the world right as it once was. This is actually the testimony of the Bible: Jesus Christ has come to save those who cannot save themselves.

disaster relief

A proper understanding of disaster will take into account the issue of sin. The Apostle Paul reminds readers in the book of Romans that, “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12, ESV). The Apostle Paul indicates in Romans eight that even all of creation groans under the curse of sin. The sin of Adam was so great because precisely through one sin the whole world fell to sin. Adam opened the door for disaster to come into the world and now those presently alive find that the world is not always “very good” as indicated by God in Genesis 1:31.

At this point many people blame God for the condition of the world and make charges that if God were good or loving that He would at the very least prevent disaster from happening. However, such allegations view to lightly the scandal of sin and the holiness of God. The scandal of sin places the trigger for disaster squarely in the hands Adam and through Adam all mankind. While some disasters may be seen as punishment for sin, not all disasters are. Indeed many disasters are the mere product of living in a fallen world. Directly or indirectly, the sin of Adam in particular and the sins of mankind in general have caused the current condition of the world. To levy the argument that the love of God ought to compel him to prevent disaster is an attempt to un-ring the bell of sin.[1]

Yet, this is the very thing that God promises! This is the very story of the Bible! Where man is unable to relieve the suffering introduced into the world through sin and death; Jesus Christ stepped out of heaven and in to space and time, lived a sinless life, embraced death through obedience to God and rose again from the dead conquering death and promising to return ushering a new heaven and a new earth. In essence God has promised to rid the world of sin and suffering.

This leaves Christians in an interesting place spreading the gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. This proclamation should not be silenced in the wake of disaster, but proclaimed all the more. In the wake of disaster Christians have the opportunity to act out on a small scale what Christ has done for us on a large scale.

Christians are called to regard the image of God in each individual, boldly declaring every individual to be of a special worth (Genesis 1:27). While domesticated animals may be of a specific worth to their owners, all human life is valuable to God. It was to man that God gave the right and privilege to subdue the world and rule over it (Genesis 1:28).

Christians should also call into account the calling of the church, noting that Christ has commissioned his church to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Indeed part of being a disciple is being a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19). Jesus often modeled a ministry of provision and preaching. That is while he was preaching he was also healing, multiplying loaves and fishes, etc. In essence Jesus was meeting physical needs as a way of demonstrating the authenticity of his message. This should challenge believers today to share the good news of Jesus in the midst of disaster while pointing to Christ as the ultimate means of salvation.

[1] Thought this isn’t a quote, I do owe my thoughts on this an article I read … John Garvey, “Is God Responsible,” Commonweal 132, no.2 (Jan 2005), 10-11.

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