On January 12, 2010, an earthquake struck Haiti, resulting in the deaths of about 170,000 people. Televangelist Pat Robertson implied that the earthquake was God’s judgment on the people of Haiti for a pact with the Devil that their ancestors made in order to gain their independence from the French. Robertson’s comment was condemned by both Christians and non-Christians.
Writing in the Washington Post, atheist Richard Dawkins calls the Christians who condemned Robertson hypocrites. He believes that Robertson is acting in accord with Christian theology and that Christians who condemn him are denying the very theology they claim to believe in. The claims by Dawkins are no more based in fact than the claims of Robertson.
Dawkins begins by pointing out that the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are said to be punishments from God for human sin. He goes on to mention that Jesus is said to have exorcised demons and to have died on the cross to make atonement for human sin.
What he conveniently leaves out is that the Bible does not state that all disasters are the result of divine punishment for sin. The book of Job tells of the suffering of a righteous man. In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus states that the victims of a couple of disasters were not more sinful than others. In John 9:3, Jesus denies that a man was born blind due to his own or his parents’ sin. Then there are the verses, such as Matthew 5:10-12, that state people may be persecuted because of their righteousness. The point is that Christian theology does not hold that all suffering is the result of divine judgment for some sin the sufferer committed.
Only God Himself, and those to whom He reveals His will, know whether a particular event occurred because God decided to punish sinners. There is no reason to believe that Robertson received a revelation from God. In fact, the historical inaccuracies in his statement indicate that he did not receive the message from an omniscient deity (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).
Therefore, Christians who condemn Robertson are in no way contradicting Christian theology. Both Robertson and Dawkins would do well to keep quiet about subjects they are ignorant of.