Clouds of Unknowing

Tal HowardIn a short article published in the June 17th issue of Commonweal magazine, associate professor of history Tal Howard reflected upon the recent succession of tornadoes in the South and Midwest, chasing answers to the questions of theodicy that these devastating storms often leave in their paths. An excerpt is included below; to read the entire article, follow this link to the Commonweal website.

“Those hit by the recent tornadoes in Tuscaloosa and across the South and Midwest will not have the luxury of remembering only close calls. They have to reckon with the thing itself: in places, a more-than-half-mile-wide path of complete destruction. “I’ve never seen devastation like this,” President Barack Obama said during his visit to my hometown. Looking at the magnitude of the devastation in Tuscaloosa or in Joplin, Missouri, one senses what it must have felt like to emerge from the rubble of a bombed German city at the end of World War II.

Unlike last year’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (where Tuscaloosans like to vacation), this tragedy comes not from the stupidity of man, but from the hand of nature. And unlike hurricanes, which arrive gradually and affect a wide area, tornadoes are localized, sudden, and furious. For that reason, I’ve often thought they raise questions of theodicy in a particularly acute manner. Why was my house leveled, while my neighbor’s stands? Why did the tornado’s path come down Fifteenth Street and not Lurleen Wallace Boulevard? Why did the Angel of Death visit here and not there, now and not then?”

Asia Meets Abraham

Marv WilsonOn June 14th and 15th, Ockenga professor of biblical and theological studies Marv Wilson offered a presentation on “Zionistic Ideologies” at the 3rd Annual National Evangelical-Jewish Conversation in Washington DC at B’nai Brith International. The conference brings together various evangelical and Jewish leaders committed to building deeper understanding between evangelicals and Jews and to furthering mutual cooperation between both communities.

This summer, Marv also published a large study and discussion guide for a new two hour television documentary entitled “The Asian & Abrahamic Religions.” The documentary is currently playing on numerous public television stations across America, with several PBS stations here in New England among the first to carry it. The documentary introduces and explores the Asian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism), their emergence and influence on American society, and how their beliefs and practices find both similarities and differences when viewed in relation to the Abrahamic faiths, namely Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Using the thirty thematic segments of the documentary, Marv created hundreds of discussion questions within the Study Guide that tie directly to the scenes and scholarly commentary of the production. In this work he also included a lengthy rationale for the importance of interreligious understanding to the broad disciplines of social studies and the humanities. Marv was assisted in this project by biblical studies major and recent Gordon graduate, Kevin Capel ‘11. Production of this Asian and Abrahamic religions project was supported in part by the Henry R. Luce Foundation, which also graciously gifted copies of the documentary and the Study Guide to every theological seminary in America.