Evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson says Haiti has been "cursed" because of what he called a "pact with the devil" in its...
The older view of things that God still judges our world has become quite politically incorrect. The modern world has no place for a God who judges, and I think that Christians are sometimes influenced by this to the point that we can be reluctant to assert that God still engages in temporal judgment.
Does not every severe providence serve as an example of Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and injustice of men, who are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness" (My attempt to bring out the present participle)?
Our Lord certainly points in that direction with the natural and political atrocities mentioned in Luke 13:1-5. But his words profoundly caution us to steer clear of self-righteous finger pointing at others. However, they do remind us that finger pointing may be appropriate when it comes to ourselves. In the face of the disasters he mentions, the Lord Jesus presses us to confess that we stand in need of repentance. I believe that daily repentance is one element in the essence of the true Christian life, which is summed up in self-denial. When I reflect on that in light of Philippians 2, I find myself daily indicted.
Every severe providence points beyond itself to the coming judgment on our world, so Katrina and Haiti are signposts pointing to that Dreadful Day and they press us to examine ourselves.
One danger in the theology of Mr. Robertson, and indeed of most people associated with his kind of thinking, is the enigma of history. "Then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it" (Ecclesiastes 8:17). The book of Job also serves as a profound rebuttal of the so-called Prosperity Gospel.
However, there is an opposite danger, and that is the reluctance ever to look at severe providence as a judgment for sin. When we become ill or have financial setbacks or face some other painful situation, our first response should be to ask God whether there is something amiss in our lives. Of course, as the story of Job cautions with the Lord's rebutting the glib self-righteous analyses of Job's friends, there is no absolute connection between specific painful circumstances and specific acts of human sin, even though all these things flow out of the sin of Adam. Yet, that being said, when we experience adversity, the first place we should turn is to our heavenly Father, reminding ourselves of his benevolence and love for us as we go, but also going seeking for wisdom, as James instructs in the face of trials (James 1:5 in context). But, again, we must remind ourselves of the love of God: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son" (Hebrews 12:5, 6, quoting Proverbs 3:11, 12).
That is why instead of first calling the doctor, we should first pray and then, possibly, call the elders of the church, as James goes on to remind us: "Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:14-16).
That does not mean that I am against calling the doctor -- I was with three of them last night in our session meeting and am on my way to the pharmacist to pick up a cream to treat potential skin cancers on my old hands this morning. But it does mean that James connects sin with sickness above, even though, as I have said, Scripture does not connect the two things absolutely.
I will go back to the earlier issue. Is there a connection between what is happening now in Haiti and Voodoo, not simply the ceremony that preceded the Haitian revolt from the French, but what is the present practice?
Forgetting for a moment this question of God's temporal judgment on nations, does Scripture teach that God still judges people who profess to belong to him? Do not baptism and the Supper also function as curse-signs for those who externally take the signs and seals of the covenant while repudiating its terms?
What then is Voodoo? Voodoo is the melding of Roman Catholicism with demonic, African spiritism.
Voodoo finds an analogy in the practices of the people the Assyrians placed in Israel: "They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought" (2 Kings 17:33). This religious syncretism came about as a result of these pagan's failure to worship Yahweh and after he inflicted severe temporal judgment on them: "When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people" (2 Kings 17:25).
Again, one does not have to embrace the idea that God judges nations today, but surely no Bible-believing Christian would deny that God judges those who take up his name and then live in defiance of his commandments. However, when we witness such likely judgments on others, our response must always be humility and self-examination in the face of these things, coupled with reaching out and giving that "cup of cold water" for Jesus' sake (Matthew 10:42; Mark 9:41).
When I witness the horrors of Haiti, I am reminded of when Sandy and I drove one of our church vans down into New Orleans and helped haul people out of the Super Dome in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It was one of the profoundest things we have ever experienced, realizing that our family, congregation and ourselves were no more deserving of God's temporal, conserving grace than were those wretched souls. The people's clothing was soaked with excrement, and one of our passengers told us of the silent, almost catatonic woman sitting there on our back seat: "She came into the Dome Monday night with five children, and she doesn't know what happened to them." It was hellishly terrible, but the situation in Haiti is vastly more dreadful.
Vastly more dreadful still is the coming judgment on our own nation and all nations as precursors to the Trumpet sound and shout of the Archangel. Is it soon or a few days off (see 2 Peter 3:8-10 where we are told that a thousand years and a day are the same to God)? Only the Lord knows. "The clarion call of New Testament eschatology is to steadfastness until the end within a deceptive and antagonistic environment" (G. C. Berkouwer, The Return of Christ, ed. Marlin J. Van Elderen, trans. James Van Oosterom, Studies in Dogmatics, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972, p. 250).
May God bless the people of Haiti; it is a land where people have been paid for generations to curse others.