Many people will be aware of the comments by Pastor Danny Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries concerning the Victorian bushfires. He had a dream back in November in which he saw Victoria on fire and that God told him that Victoria would be judged for the Government’s decision to de-criminalise abortion. Pastor Danny sees Black Saturday as that judgment being fulfilled.
As with many others, I see Danny’s comments as offensive in the extreme, arrogant, and based on very poor theology. His comments are far from biblical. Two well-thought-through responses have come from Barney Zwartz at The Age and Mark Conner of City Life Church in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.
Danny Nalliah’s comments are simply wrong for the following reasons:
- They contradict the very nature of God. God is a God of grace and love. It could be said that at least Nalliah’s comments are based on the Old Testament. But even this falls down. If you take Sodom and Gomorrah, perhaps the most famous subject of judgment in the Old Testament, even there God was willing to save the town if even a handful of people were found to be following the right way. Do we really believe that God does not find anyone good in Victoria? That thought is a blight on the amazing good being done by so many in the name of Christ here.
- Following on from the above point, the idea of God judging a whole lot of innocent people for the sins of some is the same ideology that guides al-Qaeda. They believe in murdering as many innocent Westerners as possible because of mainly American foreign policy.
- Jesus said that the rain falls on the good and the bad alike. When 18 people were killed at the tower of Siloam, as told in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus was asked who sinned that this happened. Jesus’ response was that no one sinned.
- The thinking of many leaders in the Pentecostal tradition is that of being ‘anointed and appointed’, and that any questioning of their authority is akin to being of the devil. Therefore they have an aura of a kind of papal infallibility about pronouncements they make. As a result of this attitude, you have people like Danny Nalliah making these outlandish statements based on a dream they had, rather than basing it on the character of God. This is where I much prefer the evangelical idea of the Bible being seen as an authority (though not necessarily the only one – as Fuzz Kitto says, we need to be careful that we worship God and not the Bible), as it shows clearly who Jesus is, and is, I believe, inspired by God.
- I think Barney Zwartz is spot on when he says that at times like these, the role of religion is consolation. It’s interesting how many people have talked about prayer. John Brumby, television reporters and others have all talked about offering their thoughts and prayers. In my mind, God weeps at a time like this.
- In the story of the feeding of the 5,000, there is no record of Jesus saying that they were hungry because of the judgment of God. On the contrary, Jesus looked on them with compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he proceeded to feed them and there was plenty of food left over, a sign of God’s outlandish generosity.
I have no problem with the idea of God speaking through dreams, but I also recall something that Rowland Croucher has said about prophecy. In his dealings with thousands of counselling clients over many years, he says that an overwhelming amount of them have had their lives destroyed because someone told them they had had a prophecy about them and they trusted them and went along with it. Croucher also says that if someone claims to have a word from the Lord and they have not heard it in a period of extended solitude, then they are not in the biblical tradition.
What I know is that the fullest revelation of God we have is Jesus, the crucified God who wept over Jerusalem and showed grace and love to all.
I also see God at work in the aftermath of the fires, in the amazing outpouring of generosity of Australians in giving money, clothes and time to total strangers. I also see it in the picture of the firefighter bottle-feeding a heat-stressed koala. This is the image of God in humanity.
These thoughts above are from my knowledge of God in my life, in the lives of others, and from the Bible. The comments of Danny Nalliah have no place in the kingdom of God.