Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Typhoons & the Creator Spirit

Creation is not a one-time event at the beginning of time but a process that the Creator began and which the Creator Spirit continues up to our own times. In Psalm 104:30, the psalmist praises God, and proclaims: "When You send your Spirit, creatures are created, and You renew the face of the earth." Through a process view of creation, Christians can welcome the scientific theory of the evolution of species.

What is the involvement of the Creator Spirit in calamities like those brought about by Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) since Saturday last week and Typhoon Frank last year and by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991? Were these disasters willed by God as punishments for the sins of our people or of our leaders (like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today and Cory Aquino in 1991)? Or to be accurate, were they not ecological-social disasters?

The Creator Spirit nurtures life and creation by freely opting to respect not only human freedom but also physical laws, which have evolved sometimes gradually, sometimes radically in deep time or millions and billions of years. The Spirit nurtures creation by making room for created creativity (and possible destructiveness) on the part of creatures and natural forces.

God has endowed human beings, animals, plants, and natural forces with significant autonomy from divine control. In this sense, the process of continuing creation is also the Spirit's free exercise of self-restraint in abstaining from a heavy-handed regulation of the natural world and history. The Creator Spirit freely abstains from gross intervention in the created creativity and destructiveness of nature and humanity, while at the same time this selfsame Spirit actively accompanies nature and humanity throughout their gradual and radical evolution. In this view, the Spirit's great and unequaled power is more persuasive than coercive.

The formation and movement of typhoons are part of the created creativity and destructiveness of the earth, its atmosphere, and its geo-physics, which are autonomous from the Spirit's control. Definitely the Creator Spirit did not want the loss of lives, livelihood, and homes and the displacement of people in the wake of the rains and floods initiated by Typhoon Ondoy, yet the Spirit respected the complex atmospheric and geo-physical laws that caused the sustained heavy downpour and the complex social forces and personal decisions that rendered individuals and communities ill-prepared for or maladapted to nature's ways.

Does this view offer adequate hope and compassion to the many people who are suffering from the calamity? What has to be added and expressed, not just in words, is the belief that, in the wake of the extensive suffering caused by natural, man-made, and eco-social calamities, God suffers with those who suffer, and grieves with those who grieve. God's Spirit groans with those who groan, and thus a true believer cannot be indifferent in the face of such suffering.

1 comment:

  1. The article has raised a question in my mind, which I believe is worth pondering for.

    The involvement of the Creator Spirit in calamities like those brought about by Typhoons Ondoy and Frank; and the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo last year comes in the aftermath of these tragedies. It is He who knocks in the hearts of those who got lucky to help those who aren’t. The true helper has let the Creator Spirit into his heart and embrace His teachings of compassion by giving, without expecting anything, to the ones who lost… almost everything. It is the Creator Spirit that whispers to the unfortunate that there is hope and that they are not alone in these trying times. In fact, it is the Creator Spirit who sees us all through in these calamities.

    I believe the Creator Spirit’s involvement is limited only to typhoon Ondoy’s after effects. It is not the Creator Spirit, who created the floods, but among others, it is due to the clogged drainage system because of the mismanagement of waste; or due to the wear and tear, if not poor construction of pavements. On a wider perspective, flooding is caused by global warming. 1 Pollution and the denudation of our forests largely contribute to global warming.2 Obviously; the Creator Spirit has nothing to do with global warming and floods. Rather, it is the creativity of man, however distractive, that is involved. Man is largely the culprit.

    Why then do we call these calamities acts of God?
    1 http://library.thinkquest.org/C003603/english/flooding/causesoffloods.shtml
    2 http://www.causesofglobalwarming.net/the_causes.html

    Agnes Villarivera
    M26 Ethics
    Ateneo Graduate School of Business