1) True Christian theology understands this as divine retribution for sin, not the blind action of geology, and this is typified by Rev Pat Robertson who has declared that this is punishment for the actions of the people in 1791
2) Mild-mannered faith-heads who dispute Rev Robertson's analysis are being hypocritical to their religion
The new and improved Richard Dawkins may have been through the PR machine since The God Delusion but he is still pointed enough to be thought provoking.
Here’s where Dawkins is right: Robertson’s views are loathsome. He puts himself in a position of authority, knowing the mind of God, and apparently revealing it to the world. (As an aside these public declarations of God’s decision-making process often closely resemble the political motivations of the one bringing the revelation).
In a general sense it is true that the suffering in all our lives is a result of our wrongdoings, but Dawkins proclaims:
Educated apologist, how dare you weep Christian tears, when your entire theology is one long celebration of suffering: suffering as payback for “sin” — or suffering as “atonement” for it
Christian theology is not a celebration of suffering. There is a seed of truth in what Dawkins says but as ever, by design or ignorance, he is mis-representative. What the Bible does do is expose suffering as the natural consequence of our selfishness. When we do something wrong it hurts people. The sacrifices of the Old Testament, like the scape-goat, were simply a lesson in consequences. The crucifixion of Jesus is the pinnacle of that teaching.
So how do natural disasters fit into this picture? Here are some points to consider
- Natural disasters are part of the fabric of creation. The earth’s history has been violent and tumultuous for the entire 4 billion years of it existence
- They are indiscriminatory, except in the few occasions where God has told us otherwise
- They illustrate how the whole framework of creation is built around our mortality
- There is a cost involved in creation, where beauty contrasts with horror, good contrasts with evil, light contrasts with dark
- It therefore seems logical that the universe was created in anticipation of human sin – which is the conscious decision to do wrong.
Part 2 will see how the mild-mannered faith-heads, rather than being hypocritical, are living out their calling.