As an Evangelical blog of record, I suppose someone must say it here:
Pat Robertson’s statements on Haiti are bad theology, bad philosophy, bad history, and bad pastorally.
It is tempting not to pile on in the case of a fellow believer who is older, does a great deal of good through charity, and has a long habit of saying this sort of thing. Robertson, however, remains a public figure and there is some chance that ill-informed Christians might take his view seriously.
Robertson has proposed a bad theology, because he too easily equates any natural or man made disaster with Gods’ will. The Lord Jesus points out that God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. As Saint Augustine points out when some Roman era pagan Pat Robertson’s blamed Christians for the fall of Rome, God’s providence and will are not easy to see.
Even some seeming blessings can be curses.
He specifically addressed the issue of whether natural disaster are because the victims are somehow worse than others when he said (Luke 13):
1There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
All of us are broken and will die. Nobody is safe and nobody should take their righteousness for granted.
Even if we grant that sometimes a prophet in the Bible (Amos) could, by divine revelation, equate a natural disaster with God’s judgment this should be done carefully. This kind of insight is available to few of us and Robertson has not demonstrated a track record (prophetic accuracy) that meets the Biblical standard for accuracy (Deuteronomy 18):
21And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
All of this ignores the philosophical questions revolving around whether one government leader two hundred years ago could actually sell a country to Satan. (Assuming such a thing could happen.) Who gave him that right? On what was that right based? Was he an anointed king in the Biblical sense? Did the thousands of believers in Haiti at that time consent? Does Satan really have the power to own an entire nation, containing millions of believers in an out of government, for centuries based on one man’s deal?
This is dubious philosophy of religion and bad theology.
Even if we grant that Robertson was merely speculating on the causes of the disaster, he would do well to base his arguments on better history. The tale he recounts is likely false.
Robertson has been inhuman in two ways.
First, even if he were right, he has picked a horrid time to pontificate. When my friend is suffering from cancer, even if it is his fault, it is the wrong time to remind him that I told him he should have stopped smoking. It is ugly and useless.
Heal the sick, bury the dead, feed the hungry and then deal with root spiritual causes. Safe to say every nation, and Haiti is surely one, has made philosophical and practical decisions that help cause tragedy. We can talk about that when the people of Haiti have been helped by the Church.
Second, even if his theology were sound, he has stated it in such a way and at such a time that it will be misunderstood and will be mocked. He has pronounced a “truth” that (he must concede) would be hard for our culture to hear in a way and at a time that brings that “truth” into derision.
If Robertson were right in his theology and philosophy, his timing has fed his pearls to swine on a silver platter.
Recently Robertson faced major health problems and rightly asked for our prayers. It would have been wrong to be facile and associate his problems with sin. Robertson should grant the people of Haiti the same treatment that he demanded in the case of his illness.
Compassion, prayer, help, and charity.
(*I have a follow up post on the issue of torture responding to critics, but thought this an inappropriate time for that topic. I will do so later.)