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Does God Still Use Natural Disasters as a Means of Judgment?

Why is it that politicians, celebrities and televangelists are always blaming natural disasters on “higher” causes? Several years ago, actress Sharon Stone suggested that the devastating Chinese earthquake was “karma” for their government’s treatment of Tibet. And Katrina was cited either as a sign of global warming or the judgment of God. So, after the devastating Haitian earthquake, it was only a matter of time before someone used it as an opportunity to invoke God.

Enter Pat Robertson on the 700 Club:

“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. Napoleon the Third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil…But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other.”

By suggesting that the earthquake was part of  God’s “curse” on Haiti — only days after the devastation — Robertson sets himself up for reams of ridicule. And deservedly so. Of course, the televangelist was using this as an opportunity to encourage relief assistance. And, what also shouldn’t be missed, is that his organization has been involved in significant relief efforts worldwide. But his statements were, nevertheless, all too predictable. And worthy of criticism.

Underneath all this is a question many Christians seem reluctant to face: Does God still use natural disasters as a means of judgment? And, if so, could the Haitian earthquake be one of them?

One cannot read the Bible and not come to the conclusion that God is the God of nature, and can use it to do His bidding. Earthquakes, floods, and famines are clearly at God’s disposal. So the issue is not whether God can and does use natural disasters, but knowing when said catastrophes are direct judgments from God. I mean, is every fire, every volcanic eruption, every typhoon a heavenly rebuke?

Complicating the issue is this — if the Chinese earthquake or Katrina were judgments from God, why were so many Christians affected? In the Old Testament, God spared His people from wrath (the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.). Likewise, many Christian organizations exist in Haiti. Yet they were not unaffected by the earthquake. So why would God judge Haiti and allow so many of His children to be injured, even killed? Were they just collateral damage?

The danger in attributing natural calamities to the judgment of God is not in associating God’s judgment with said calamities, but in claiming to know what specific calamities are or are not part of that judgment. This, I think, is Robertson’s problem. Who gave him a heavenly Bat-phone? How can he possibly know if this was God’s doing or just part of living in a fallen world? The truth is, none of us can perfectly know these things. At the least, events like this should humble us, remind us of our own frailty, and reawaken our need for God. Not force us into judgments and predictions.

But this begs the question: Does God still use natural disasters as a means of judgment? I think there’s three reasons why Christians are reluctant to answer that in the affirmative.

First — We fear that if we concede an event might be part of God’s judgment, we relinquish having to help the victims. The Bible clearly speaks about helping orphans, refugees, the homeless and hurting. But what if their suffering is due, in part, to the judgment of God? And does conceding that judgment let us off the hook? It’s a bit of a conundrum for believers, so we avoid answering in the affirmative.

Second — If we concede that an event might be part of God’s judgment, we fear that bringing assistance would be meddling. This was what prompted Sharon Stone’s “karma comment.” By helping victims of bad karma, we short-circuit their cycle. Frankly, it’s also one of the things that has made American evangelicals so slow to respond to the AIDS crisis. However, Scripture does not put stipulations on when we should show kindness and mercy, and when we should withhold it.

Third — Christians are afraid to concede God’s use of natural disaster because of what it potentially makes God look like. I think many Christians are on a mission to rehabilitate God’s “Old Testament” image. They dislike having to concede divine judgment of any kind. It’s led to a lot of theological hogwash, like those who conclude God is a recovering practitioner of violence. But either God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), or He isn’t. As such, we must believe that the “Judge of all the earth” (Gen. 18:25) shall do right.

Any literate, Bible-believing Christian would have to conclude that God can still use natural disasters as a means of judgment. The important thing is where we go with that conclusion once we make it.

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Suzan January 14, 2010, 4:44 PM

    I think God can use anything He wants, but how can I possibly know the mind of God? I can't speak for Him, and I don't think that it is necessary to speculate on whether the Haiti earthquake is God's punishment or not. I think that we should just be Jesus to those poor people and help them, and let God deal with judging people without our supposed insight into God's mind.

    About Robertson's statement that the Haitians under Napoleon swore a pact with the devil. Well, who actually did participated in that supposed oath? The entire country? Is it historically accurate? Are all of the descendants of those who presumably swore that oath currently Satan worshippers? Are they being judged for the sins of their ancestors?

    Robertson really needs to stop being God's mouthpiece. It is insulting to followers of Christ. What he needs to do is shut up and send some aid to those poor suffering people.

  • Nicole January 15, 2010, 2:44 AM

    "So why would God judge Haiti and allow so many of His children to be injured, even killed? Were they just collateral damage?"
    Why not? His people were brought into captivity after His judgments. His people die everyday from natural causes, being murdered, suffering from diseases. The upside is they go to be with Him. Eternally. They're rewarded for their suffering.
    Who knows the whys, but it's interesting to note the spiritual darkness of Haiti, the corruption, the voodoo, the intense poverty which results from this darkness. Praise the Lord for His people who've been there delivering the message of hope through Jesus Christ. If they lost their lives through their choice to minister there, their reward will be significant.
    I've heard far more inane declarations from the goofballs in government. Far more.

  • Mike Duran January 15, 2010, 2:30 PM

    This just in: Actor <a href ="http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/timblair/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/pact_with_gaia/">Danny Glover believes the Haitian earthquake was the result of global warming. Quote: “When we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I’m sayin’?” Sigh. Will it ever end?

  • Mark H. January 15, 2010, 11:33 PM

    I think the only thing we can do as Christians is look at these disasters as opportunities to help our fellow man. If it happened to me, I might pause and ask myself if God was sending judgment my way, and if I needed to repent of anything. But it's not for us to point fingers at another country and declare it so. Our job is to bring food and water, and pick up those who have fallen.

  • Bernard January 18, 2010, 4:27 AM

    God's judgements recorded in the Bible were generally preceded by a prophetic message foretelling the event and urging repentence. I don't think a prophet walked the streets of Haiti declaring, "In forty days, Port au Prince will be destroyed."

    "…Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (Job 2:10b)

  • rybaxs January 19, 2010, 9:57 AM

    Why people think of God when disaster strikes??
    God didn't give blessings only for the righteous.
    God didn't shower rain to the fields of the righteous.
    God gave everything to the righteous and unrighteous,
    that's how He love us. He let the devil do anything,
    imagine the book of Job. The devil kills job's son and
    everything does God wasn't there???

    Remember God loves us so much… that's why you
    need to love the unlove, give hope to the hopeless..
    natural tragedy are natural God knows all about.
    and the only thing God want is… you to love God.

  • gpdc June 13, 2011, 2:28 AM

    Please view “judgement gpdc” on youtube and kindly leave your comment thk

  • gpdc June 13, 2011, 2:32 AM

    ease view “judgement gpdc” on youtube and kindly leave your comment thk

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