Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and hurricanes have plagued the earth throughout history. What is God’s role in natural disasters and the human suffering they cause? This is a vexing perennial question. When destruction occurs due to “forces of nature,” is the hand of God visiting judgment on a particularly sinful people, or has God simply left humanity to fend for itself?
The Bible often speaks of natural disasters, but its insights have been insufficiently explored. In Creation Untamed, leading Old Testament theologian Terence Fretheim offers fresh readings of familiar Old Testament passages—creation, the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt, the suffering of Job, and the biblical laments—to provide biblical resources for working through this topic. He presents an understanding of creation as good, but not perfect; examines the human experience of suffering; and explores the role of humans in the creative process. Fretheim shows the God of the Bible to be a compassionate, suffering, relational God, one we can turn to in prayer in times of disaster.
Rich in biblical insight, theological nuance, and pastoral wisdom, this accessibly written volume will benefit anyone thinking about the God of the Bible in relation to human suffering. It will appeal to students in courses on the Bible, theology, or pastoral care as well as to pastors and thoughtful lay readers.
Fretheim dives headfirst into the swirling storm of practical biblical and theological questions that we all ask about God, tragedy, and suffering. Highly recommended!
—Dennis Olson, Princeton Theological Seminary
There is no issue in contemporary faith more vexing than how we are to understand God’s will and action in the event of natural disasters like tsunamis and hurricanes, wildfires and floods. Fortunately for readers, there is no more reliable guide for thinking biblically about these issues than Terence Fretheim. In this thoughtful and compact volume, Fretheim helps us not only to see clearly our own created vulnerability but also to encounter biblical testimony to a God who becomes vulnerable with us.
—Bruce C. Birch, professor of Old Testament emeritus, Wesley Theological Seminary
Who better than Fretheim to take up the hard contemporary question concerning the destructive forces on exhibit in creation! The author has spent his life thinking about these issues and reading these old texts forward toward our time and place. He begins with the conviction of the goodness of God’s creation, and from there he launches into the dangers of reality and takes us with him.
—Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary
Terence Fretheim explores the biblical materials to grapple with the devastation of natural disasters. He encourages readers to reconsider their traditional understanding of the relationship between God and suffering. I enthusiastically recommend Creation Untamed to all who want to be honest with the Bible and with life.
—Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College
This is vintage Fretheim: provocative theological reflection combined with a careful reading of the biblical text. What does human suffering say about God? At a time when hard questions lead some to turn away from the Old Testament, Fretheim finds rich resources for probing the depths of the person of God and for rethinking the relationship of the divine to the world.
—M. Daniel Carroll R., distinguished professor of Old Testament, Denver Seminary
With characteristic erudition, theological depth, and lively engagement, Terence Fretheim illuminates one of the most perplexing issues of faith: why natural disasters? Fretheim brings together a wide range of biblical texts and ably mines them for their wisdom about God’s ways in the world. Such wisdom is critically needed when so much misunderstanding characterizes religious discourse today.
—William P. Brown, professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary
Throughout history and yet today people have tended to view natural disasters as vengeful ‘acts of God.’ Fretheim has done us a great service by masterfully exposing how thoroughly this traditional perspective conflicts with a careful reading of the Bible’s creation texts. Not all readers will agree with all of Fretheim’s proposals, but all will benefit from the fresh perspective he brings to the biblical texts, the unsettling questions he invites us to consider, and the magnificent portrait of a loving, power-sharing, relational God who brings into being a dynamic creation full of beauty and risk.
— Greg Boyd, senior pastor, Woodland Hills Church, St. Paul, MN
Terence E. Fretheim is Elva B. Lovell Professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he has taught for more than 50 years. He is the author of more than 20 books, including commentaries on Genesis, Exodus, First and Second Kings, and Jeremiah and God and World in the Old Testament, The Suffering of God, and The Pentateuch.