Wednesday, January 12, 2011

false prophets and natural disasters

Catch the Fire ministries recently blogged about the QLD floods here. Pastor Daniel is not controversy shy, and featured in a case some years back where he was accused of villifying muslims. He is pro-Israel and this recent blog suggests there is a link between Kevin Rudd's comments on Israel and the QLD floods. He suggests a past pattern of such events in the USA. His view is wrong on so many levels. Here's a brief discussion on a few.

The state of Israel
How does God relate to Israel today? One thing to keep in mind that equating the modern nation state of Israel with the Jewish people as a whole is a mistake, for it means that any criticism of the state of Israel or Zionism is interpreted automatically as anti-Semitism. One can support the existence of the state of Israel in principle, not be anti-Semitic and still critique what the nation does (by which I mean its policies and actions of its military, etc). After all, this is what the prophets did.

The Jewish people are an ongoing concern to God. A close reading of the book of Romans shows that for Paul, God can hardly be righteous is he is not true to his promises to Israel, starting with his promises to Abraham (Rm 4). He has been faithful to his covenant promises through his Messiah Jesus, and it is Gentiles (most of us) who have been included into this covenant, renewed in the Messiah. Israel too will be saved as part of one family. One cannot marginalise Rm 9-11 and its discussion of God's (and Paul's) love of Israel.

However, a close reading of Galatians will show that ethnic divisions have ended (3:27) and that the Law itself has had its day since it was designed to divide Jew from Gentile - no circumcision, no food laws so that we are identified by our faith (justified - 3:23-25). There is roomm for Jews in God's plan but not for Jewish exceptionalism. This is not to deny them a right to a national or protecting of its citizens, but neither are they free from criticism.

God has used disasters, but how do we know now?
In saying that this tragedy is a result of human sin, it is hardly a theological innovation. The biblical flood tells the story of the judgement of sin by flood. A 3 year drought occurs in Israel due to the people turning to the pagan god Baal (1 Kings 17-18), and Deuteronomy contains curses for breaking the covenant that have a weather component. Yet we know from the book of Job or Jesus' comment on the man born blind (John 9) or those killed by the tower of Siloam (Luke 13) that there is not always a direct connection between sin and disaster. So how does Pastor Danny know? Given the weakness of his theology of Israel I'd say he has no idea.

Our theology has to include 'natural disasters'
We simply have to live with the fact that there are some things that happen that are 'part of nature', or more accurately, part of the way creation is allowed to work, at least for now. La Nina/El Nino is part of a natural oscillation in ocean temperatures and wind patterns that can produce droughts and flooding rains. A nice article by climatologist Neville Nicholls is found here. The flora and fauna have evolved to deal with this variation. It does of course affect human society massively, but it is part of the way things work.

We are not told that the drought that occured during Joseph's time was due to sin, simply that it was going to happen and Joseph should help Egypt prepare so that his family might take refuge. The bible acknowledges that it rains on the righteous and unrighteous and that rain is sent in its seasons. This event is 'natural' in this sense. We need to take care when attributing it to climate change since 1974 was a similar event, thought certainly such events are more probably in a warmer and wetter atmosphere, even if on average QLD will receive less rainfall as climate projections suggest.

Instead of blaming Rudd for mildly chastising Israel over its misstreatment of Palestinians, Pastor Danny should be praying for those affected and encouraging his flock to do the same and dig deep for those in need. Didn't Christ come because God loved the world?

In claiming that this disaster is an act of judgement, Pastor Danny is making God out to be an unloving, immoral monster. He is slandering God and his people. Such is the act one might say of a false prophet, for he falsely interprets an event, and because he is misrepresenting Christ who loved humanity enough to die to reconcile us to God, that he is an anti-Christ!

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