But God was not in the whirlwind

Stephen Prothero at the CNN Belief blog writes:

Hurricanes and earthquakes are one arena, however, where the language of science has almost entirely routed the language of theology.


Psalms 107:25-33 reads: “For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. . . . He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground.”

Today, the overwhelming majority of Americans—including the overwhelming majority of American Christians—now believe that when God has something to say He speaks in less dramatic ways, including the still small voices in our hearts and the slightly louder voices of the preachers in our pulpits.

When it comes to earthquakes and hurricanes, however, our authorities are geologists and meteorologists. Most of us interpret these events not through the rumblings of the biblical prophet Jeremiah or the poetry of the Book of Revelation but through the scientific truths of air pressure and tectonic plates.

I agree with Prothero, partly I think God is a better craftsman than the director of your average disaster movie, partly because a just God would not do collateral damage, and partly for all the approved theological reasons. But I wonder what criteria Cafe readers use to discern when God is speaking through events? Or, if one doesn’t believe that God communicates through events–how does God communicate with us, and how do we know when it is happening?

Category : The Lead

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2 Comments
  1. Gregory Orloff

    I tend to think that God is not quite the micro-manager some imagine him to be and that he speaks less through events than through the reaction those events provoke. I see his inspiration in acts of selfless heroism, charity and compassion toward other human beings and living creatures in response to crises and disasters.

    The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a case in point: how many “religious folk” branded it a sign of “divine wrath” on “deserving sinners,” and how many Christians recognized it as an opportunity to tend the sick and weep with those who weep, a la Matthew 25:31-46 and Romans 12:15? (I’m impressed that many Episcopalians practice the second reaction.)

    Bad things happen, and we may never know or understand why. But God, in the gospel of Christ Jesus, gave us our marching orders as to how to respond to them: by being the mouths that console and the hands that help lift those who suffer out of their misery as much as we can.

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