God and Earthquakes

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.  Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13)

It’s been another tough week for the country with earthquakes and wet weather. Everyone is focused on supporting and helping the communities affected.

The only good thing about it was that it took the US election off the front pages, for a while.

Not such a good week for Christians, however.  Someone noticed that Brian Tamaki from Destiny Church had preached last Sunday (13/11/2017) about earthquakes and sin. He said, “Leviticus says that the earth convulses under the weight of certain human sin,” “And it says it spews itself up after a while. That’s natural disasters. Massive earthquakes have already hit in Christchurch. You could have just about predicted that one. It had the highest murder rates. It was a haven for those who were absolutely anti-Christ.”

Bob Parker, former mayor of Christchurch, is pretty upset, and others have written opinion pieces condemning Brian. Some of those are thoughtful and measured, others are remarkably hateful.

Some people are so upset that they have started an online petition to have Destiny Church’s charitable status removed. I’m not sure how online petitions work.

The truth?

But, what about the stuff that Tamaki says in that clip? As a Christian I can say that he is half right and half wrong. I know that sounds like fence-sitting, so let me explain.

He is absolutely correct to say that creation ‘groans’ under human sinfulness. The Apostle Paul wrote that creation has been ‘subjected to futility’ because of human sin. He’s right on that score.

However, to say that Christchurch or Kaikoura were hit by earthquakes because they are especially sinful is wrong.  The idea is not sustained by what the Bible says.

In a perfect world, bad things would only happen to bad people. Job’s friend Eliphaz believed that, and told poor suffering Job as much (Job.4:7-8). Jesus’ own disciples even believed that people who had physical disabilities were being punished (John.9:2), as they pondered whether it was the man or his parents who were responsible for his blindness. Jesus was adamant, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned”, he said.

In Jesus’ day plenty of bad things happened too, like some Galilean villagers getting slaughtered by Roman soldiers at a Passover festival, or the folks being crushed by a falling tower at Siloam in Jerusalem (Luke 13).

Jesus’ view

Jesus was asked if this happen because they were they exceptionally bad people or worse than others. Which brings us back to Brian Tamaki’s idea, that, the people in Christchurch, or, Kaikoura, or Wellington, have suffered earthquakes because they are worse than the rest of us.

Jesus answer is an emphatic, ‘No!’ That doesn’t mean that they were innocent little cherubs, but neither were they somehow worse or guiltier than anyone else in New Zealand. So, Tamaki is out of step with what the Bible teaches.

If there is anything that Jesus would want us to learn from the sad events of the last week, is that, we – all of us – should examine our relationship with God, with our neighbours, and with creation to see if we need to change.


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