Monday, September 30, 2013

Does God Kill Those Who Kill Christians? A Christian’s Thought to the Recent Church Bombing and Earthquake in Pakistan

On 22nd September 2013, militants killed many Christians at a Church in Peshawar, Pakistan.1 On 25th September 2013, a powerful 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit the Baluchistan region of Pakistan killing more.2 Are these two events connected? Was this earthquake God’s response to the killing of HIS people?

Whenever Christian persecution is followed by a natural disaster, many Christians may think, “Is God punishing the persecutors of Christians?” We do not know God’s mind in any specific situation (unless HE reveals), but let us think if God punishes persecution. Only temporal punishment - punishment in this time and age - will be considered.  

The best starting place is the Bible; does the Bible contain narratives of God’s punishment of persecutors? Christ’s crucifixion is often considered the greatest crime in human history. Pontius Pilate released Barabbas the thief, and ordered Christ’s crucifixion. The Bible doesn’t mention any punishment upon Pilate by God for his gory crime. The soldiers mocked and abused Christ, yet the Bible doesn’t state God’s punishment upon these evil soldiers. Similarly, God didn’t punish those who persecuted Apostle Paul. The New Testament seems not to focus on God’s punishment on the perpetrators of evil. “Why are the evil unpunished?” seems to be the bewildered cry of the persecuted. In fact, the New Testament glorifies the persecuted (Matthew 5: 10-12), but the fate of the persecutors in God’s hands is not the focal point.

Is it then wrong for a Christian to ponder if natural disasters are God’s punishment of the wicked? A closer look at the Bible reveals certain pointers. The Lord ordained Queen Jezebel to a horrendous death for her propensity to evil (1 Kings 21: 23; 2 Kings 9: 30-33). Verses such as Proverbs 3: 33 could prompt anyone to contemplate that natural disasters are an entailment of evil perpetrated against Christians. A diligent Christian should however observe the ways of the immutable God. Cain, the first man to be born of humans, committed the first ever murder in human history and was cursed by God. Graciously, God protected him against murder (Genesis 4: 15). Therefore, while there is legitimacy in musing over the ‘persecution-punishment’ conundrum, one should not impetuously arrive at concrete notions without contextually adequate evidences.

Let’s retreat to the Holocaust. Hitler massacred millions of Jews - God’s chosen race. But he committed suicide when he was about to be captured.3 There is no evidence that Hitler’s suicide is God’s punishment. History does not indicate God’s punishment upon the murderous dictators – Pol Pot and Joseph Stalin. Just as the Bible does not unanimously declare God’s immediate punishment upon the perpetrators of evil against HIS people, history is silent about God’s punishment upon murderous dictators, who massacred millions. A pattern is established; evil seems to prosper, God’s children suffer, and God seems to be deafeningly silent amidst HIS children’s trials and tribulations.

Let us consider other natural disasters to observe if there were any antecedent Christian persecution(s) that prompted God to act through natural disasters. I don’t recollect any major Christian persecution in Japan before the tsunami in 2011. Thousands were killed in the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. This disaster adversely impacted Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. Once again, no significant Christian persecution can be identified as a probable cause for this disaster.

Some Christians could assert that God punished Japan since the Japanese did not seek God (Shinto and Buddhism are Japan’s major religions). One can employ the same principle in the case of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. If this was factual, one should posit the reason behind selective punishment of evil or reasons behind God’s permission of greater evils. Permit me to elaborate.

Why were Stalin, Pol Pot and the likes allowed to live and kill many? Why did God not punish Nietzsche early enough to prevent the holocaust? Since Hitler was impacted by Nietzsche’s ideologies, one can reasonably posit a Nietzschean fingerprint on the horrendous holocaust. Presently, why is the bulldog of Atheism, Richard Dawkins, allowed by God to malign HIM and in the process lead others? Please read Dawkins’ view of God in his book ‘God Delusion,’ “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Isn’t this quote sufficient for God to purge Dawkins? If we proclaim that God punishes the perpetrators of evil, such as in Pakistan, we should also be able to proclaim the reasons behind selective punishment of God and the wisdom behind God allowing the Dawkins’ of today. Theodicy offers reasonable answers. But the scope of this blog is limited to ‘persecution-punishment’ conundrum.

If the persecution (Church bombing) occurred in Peshawar, shouldn’t the punishment also have occurred at Peshawar? What’s the merit in punishing the residents of Baluchistan for the persecution at Peshawar? Or did the dead in Baluchistan play a role in the church bombing at Peshawar? In the absence of concrete evidence that convicts the affected people in Baluchistan of architecting the church bombing, we would be wise in not proclaiming even a thought analogous to punishment.

But people mutate as puzzling prophets! A case in point is the proclamation of Congresswoman Michele Bachman that God brought about the earthquake to intervene in Pakistan.4 (I have nothing for or against this lady, but permit me to use her as a tool for thought.) Is her verdict a subjective conviction or a definite revelation of God?

The Bible portrays prophets under two categories: True and False. A case in point was that of Jeremiah and Hananiah, the former bowing under the yoke symbolizing servitude, and the latter breaking the yoke symbolizing liberation (Jeremiah 28). Thankfully, the Bible affirmed Jeremiah as the true prophet. Today we struggle to distinguish the truth from false, especially when a dubious prophet proclaims that God brought about a natural disaster in response to a moral failure.

God who created life and all that is, is sovereign to eliminate anything from existence. Nothing occurs without God’s knowledge, and the sovereign God can prevent anything from occurring. Thus, the earthquake in Pakistan or any natural disaster is brought about or allowed by God (cf. Isaiah 45: 7; Daniel 9: 14; Matthew 24: 7b). But did God unleash an earthquake as a punishment to the church bombing? There are no valid answers, other than a proclamation from a subjective perspective.

Is Congresswoman Michele Bachman a credible prophet whose prophecies have been fulfilled in the past? Unless we observe evidences we need not consider her seriously.

Prophecy should either predict the future or expose the sinfully dark past with a view to bring about a transformation. Deuteronomy 18: 21-22 is outside our context, since Congresswoman Michele Bachman didn’t predict the earthquake, but spoke after the devastation. The mould of Prophet Nathan’s prophecy to King David is also outside our context, since he exposed the true sinful intent behind the murder of Uriah, which was a cover-up to the adultery between David and Bathsheba. Unaware of the incident before it occurred, Prophet Nathan challenged King David with truth from God. David recognized God in Nathan. In our context, a similar prophecy could be to expose the intricate details about the masterminds of the church bombing (reason, names, clues leading to their arrest etc.). This would not only authenticate the prophet but also help the investigators to nail the criminals. Such is not the case with Congresswoman Michele Bachman. She has simply uttered that God is teaching Pakistan a lesson through the earthquake. This may or may not be true.

As sinners, we can cognize every positive and negative occurrence as God’s intervention. But this should apply to all, not a select few! So any broadcast of God contextual intervention in Pakistan without any objective evidence should be relegated to the realm of a presumptuous utterance. It’s ok for her to speak (freedom of speech), and it’s ok for us to hear her thoughts. But let us place her thoughts in the backburner of our minds and move forward.

In conclusion, deficiency of evidences of God’s wrath upon Pakistan should motivate Christians towards a godly and a legitimate reaction. First, pray for those affected whose lives are changed rather irreparably. Second, if we are able, we should offer material assistance, for we are mandated to love our neighbor. Third, if we cannot corroborate our inner convictions with objective evidences, we should refrain from uttering derogatory statements that adds more pain to a burning wound. Many lives need our moral and physical support, so let us be agents of love and comfort in this situation. May God bless us all. Amen.

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1 comment:

Sam Carr said...

Great stuff! For US 'prophets' one could also point out that the US (arguably the most 'Christian' nation on earth) itself has suffered terrible disasters, especially hurricanes like Sandy and Katrina, yet while a few kooks saw God's punishing hand in these incidences, generally common sense prevailed.