Spirit Daily


Denial Of Disasters And Punishment Part Of Perilous Trend That Also Denies Bible

By Michael H. Brown

In the wake of Vatican II came a modernist movement that among other things has sought to relieve us of the notion that God punishes sin and especially the notion that He would punish us through natural calamities.

This trend of thought has pervaded not only Sunday Catholicism (where preaching about sin is an endangered species) but also some conservative branches of the Church, especially in the West. Last week, a major newspaper affiliated with the Church in Rome expressed such an inclination.

The newspaper, CiviltÓ Cattolica, carried an editorial on disasters in which the writer made no bones about his position. "First of all," said the article, "it must be said that to see Divine punishment in natural disasters, because of men's sins, is an error, which puts God, as revealed by Jesus in the Gospel, into question."

Others have likewise dismissed the notion that God is a judging God.

One can do that -- one can take that position -- but one cannot do that and believe in Scripture.

Take Malachi 3: the Lord there promises protection from the locust to those who obey His rules -- and warns of a curse upon those who are "sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers." Take Haggai 2:17: "I struck you in all the works of your hands with blight, searing wind, and hail." Take Zephaniah 3:6-8: "I have destroyed nations, their battlements are laid waste; their cities are devastated" (this for corruption). Take Nahum 1:3-8: "The Lord is slow to anger, yet great in power, and the Lord never leaves the guilty unpunished. In hurricane and tempest is His path."

A tsunami?

"Because of this will not the land quake, and everyone who dwells in it mourn?" Amos 8:8. asks. "Indeed, all of it will rise up like the Nile, and it will be tossed about, and subside like the Nile of Egypt."

A storm?

"Behold, the Lord has a strong and mighty agent," says Isaiah 28:2. "As a storm of hail, a tempest of destruction, like a storm of mighty overflowing waters, He has cast it down to the earth with His hand."


"Behold, the storm of the Lord has gone forth in wrath, even a whirling tempest," states Jeremiah 23:19. "It will swirl down on the head of the wicked."

In Jonah 1:4 there is wind (the Lord "hurled" it upon the sea) and in Hosea 4 we see it spelled out clearly that punishments were sent to Israel because of its disobedience.

It goes on, and on -- with references to such punishments in half or more books of the Old Testament. Don't those who dismiss chastisement remember when, for its sin, Israel was handed over to Babylon?

Woe, in our times; how wondrous; that suddenly God has changed the way He is!

Of course, He has not; He never changes. There is Exodus 9:23: "Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, and the Lord sent thunder and  hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt."

And if that's not enough, what about the Flood, what about Nineveh, what about Sodom?

To deny that natural events are tied to chastisement is to deny huge chunks of New Testament passages in Matthew, Luke, and of course Revelation.

Back to the Old for a second: "From the Lord of hosts you will be punished with thunder and earthquake and loud noise, with whirlwind and tempest and the flame of a consuming fire," says Isaiah 29:6.

In Revelation, there are the trumpets that follow the seal broken by the Lamb. Those trumpets announce "hail," something like a "mountain" cast into the sea, and "plagues" (which are also a natural event).

"So the four angels were released; this was precisely the hour, day, the month, and the year for which they had been prepared to kill a third of mankind" (Revelation 9:15).

Later, that same famous book details how angels administer "bowl judgments" that have to do with disease, "lightning flashes, peals of thunder, and then a violent earthquake" (Revelation 16:18).

These are angels, agents of God, tending to judgment! Is it not an angel who deals with Babylon? "A powerful angel picked up a stone like a huge millstone and hurled it into the sea and said: 'Babylon the great city shall be cast down like this," my Bible says.

And this ties into countless private revelations that span the spectrum of saints during the past 2,000 years -- from St. Gregory the Great and  St. Alphonsus Liguori to St. Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, and St. Faustina of Poland -- all of whom linked disasters to the accumulation of sinfulness.

Pope Gregory blamed the plagues of ancient Rome on sin. St. Padre Pio warned of a coming "fire." St. Faustina heard an angel come in a violent storm (one sent as judgment). And then there is the third secret of Fatima -- which portrays an angel ready to torch the earth specifically for its transgressions.

I don't know exactly how God's earthly judgment works (no one on earth does), but perhaps when calamities like the Asian tsunami occur it is not so much that God whips us around as "allows" natural events with greater frequency. You could say that sin and moral imbalance cause a dark tension that encircles the world and finds an outlet in war, famine, and other disasters.

This is one way of viewing it. It's a nice way. I like to think of it this way.

But it is only a manner of viewing it, and to deny that there is a connection natural events and moral darkness seems at best curious.

There are those who seem to dismiss the Old Testament, or simply are not familiar with it, so let's go to the New Testament. In Matthew Jesus Himself talks about storms and roaring seas, of earthquakes, of "signs of the time."

Are we really ready to toss all that out? Can we really disregard chunks of both testaments? Can we really turn what Jesus and Revelation say into mere metaphors?

A day after carrying the CiviltÓ Cattolica article, Zenit News Agency, which reports from Rome, and is the foremost Catholic wire service, followed with a precisely opposite view from a priest named Father Joseph Lionel -- a chancellor who, ministering in tsunami-ravaged Tanjore Diocese in India (one of the worst-hit areas), said that "perhaps we can also view matters not so much as God punishing those victims specifically, as the fact that when sin builds in the world, it puts the world out of order. It causes an actual darkness that can physically -- and geologically -- manifest.

"Events come almost as a release of that dark tension," this astute priest went on. "God allows it. The good suffer with the evil. There are victim souls and always have been. ... Perhaps they serve as victim souls to warn the entire world of the global darkness or perhaps they are the victims of evil that opened the door to disaster that caused the region to be susceptible." 

Well said, father. Thank God for orthodoxy. As for the view of modernism: it's time to turn back to the Bible, lest we flirt with heresy.


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