An op-ed in today’s New York Times by, of all people, our old friend James Wood, discusses the problems with using natural disasters as a springboard for ruminating about God’s nature. It’s pretty sensible, even flirting with atheism:
Terrible catastrophes inevitably encourage appeals to God. We who are, at present, unfairly luckier, whether believers or not, might reflect on the almost invariably uncharitable history of theodicy, and on the reality that in this context no invocation of God beyond a desperate appeal for help makes much theological sense. For either God is punitive and interventionist (the Robertson view), or as capricious as nature and so absent as to be effectively nonexistent (the Obama view). Unfortunately, the Bible, which frequently uses God’s power over earth and seas as the sign of his majesty and intervening power, supports the first view; and the history of humanity’s lonely suffering decisively suggests the second.
One plaint: why does Wood think that an appeal to God makes “theological sense” if He is so uncaring/malevolent to allow an earthquake to occur in the first place? (Note that earlier in the piece he also says that “The only people who would seem to have the right to invoke God at the moment are the Haitians themselves, who beseech his help amidst dreadful pain.”)