Thursday, 15 August 2013

Theology in a zoo

We came to Berlin yesterday and already I would say that it is an interesting city to visit. There are many sites to choose from and no doubt we will go to some of them soon. Nevertheless we spent our first day at the zoo, an experience we often do when we go to a city that has one. Berlin has a world famous zoo, but we had other reasons for going to it.

One is that going to a zoo is the closest we can get to experiencing something similar to what God gave to Job as a remedy for his distress. Not that we had the depth of distress he went through. In fact, we had no obvious distress when we went to it. Yet going round the zoo and looking at all the different animals gave fresh insight once more into the capabilities of the Creator, of his wisdom and delight in what he has made. We recalled how Genesis One reveals his pleasure in what he did as Creator.

I suppose a zoo is also an attempt by humans to recreate a kind of paradise in which features of Eden can be copied. This particular zoo includes garden in its name and there are beautiful gardens and fountains. 

Moreover flesh-eating and grass-eating animals living in proximity to one another. While the tigers we saw did not quite lie down with the kid in the zoo, they were close enough for visitors to see them one after the other. Of course, things would not be so peaceful if all the ditches round each compound were filled in and the tiger could get within a paw's reach of the goat. (One of them kept coming back to see us.) Like all human attempts to recreate paradise, a zoo falls very far short short of the ideal. Still, wandering round it can create longings for the perfect world that is yet to be.

Moreover a zoo reminds us of James' comment that humans have managed to tame all kinds of animals. The day we were there it was the sea lions' turn to reveal that they had been tamed to perform tricks for the amusement (and applause!) of the onlookers. Yet several of the onlookers also revealed James' main point that we often find it hard to control our tongues - they could be overheard having verbal disagreements, even arguments.

Can we not forget theology for a couple of hours? Not really, because why would we want to forget about God. We have not yet planned what we will do tomorrow, but we will try and bring God into it.

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