[The tsunami photographed in Thailand by Xeni Jardin]

Tsunami; a message from above?


Some of the best photographs of the tsunami have come from the hands of amateur photographers. This photo, taken in Thailand by Xeni Jardin, shows a group of people standing by a breakwater, watching the strange behavior of the sea. The tide was rushing out and then surging back in again. Then, of course, the inevitable, a massive surge came rushing in. The onlookers were unaware of the danger, since the surge was not really a wave, just a bulge of water, but it came with massive power. Hitting the breakwater, the tsunami pounded inland, carrying all before.

The response of the world community is very moving. We are witnessing wonderful generosity by those who are far away from this disaster. Yet, as is always the case, the aftermath brings with it the inevitable question, why?

Amjad Mehboob, an Islamic theologian, observed that everything is from the hand of God, is God's will. "Islam teaches that when we do suffer some misfortune, it is what our own hands have wrought, and we must seek the forgiveness of God." The point he makes is that human evil prompts divine retribution and so, rather than blame God for the disaster, we should look to our own evil as the cause.

Some Christians have taken a similar line, arguing that the tsunami is an act of divine retribution upon a sinful world, even a particular people. The Bible certainly records such acts, but they are always accompanied by a word and a way of escape.

No, this disaster is like so many others, it's part of the "groaning" of creation, the "frustration" of creation as it waits to be "liberated from its bondage to decay", Romans 8:19-21. We are reminded again that this world, our universe, this unforgiving and unpredictable natural environment that we so foolishly think we have tamed, is a permanently damaged system. Not only has human selfishness directly impacted upon the natural environment with pollution and the like, but it has disturbed the divine order in creation - bent natural creative forces toward destruction. So, the creation groans, awaiting the day of its liberation, the recreation of "a new heaven and a new earth", and sadly there are times when we get caught up in the "groaning".