The Message From the Victorian fires

Pastor Danny Dalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries has drawn considerable flak this week over his interpretation of God’s will in the Victorian fires.

He’s claimed to have received a special word from God in a dream telling him that the recent fires represent God’s condemnation against Australia generally and Victoria in particular for having recently decriminalized Abortion.

He suggests we can stop the fires by responding to God’s command found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14).

We should have no problems with the idea of wanting people to repent and pray, God allows disasters like this for that very reason, but I am deeply troubled by the way Pastor Danny has gone about this:

Firstly, Australia in 2009 is not equivalent to Israel in 960 BC. Australia is not God’s nation nor are we living in the promised land. Therefore the words found in the above passage, given to Solomon at the inauguration of the Temple, cannot be applied directly to Australians without some qualification.

There are members of God’s kingdom here but no land will not be allocated to them until Jesus returns. In the meantime, Christians are to see themselves as ambassadors and strangers in a foreign country in the same way as Daniel and his friends did during their time as servants in the Babylonian palace.

Encouraging Christians to return to God is one thing, but telling Australians generally to turn back to God with the promise of the renewal of their land, makes no sense unless they were once God’s chosen people, living on God’s chosen land to start with.

In any case there is no suggestion in the New Testament that God has any plans for renewing the earth until the arrival of the New Jerusalem from heaven. If anything, we are to expect further death and destruction. Our hope is not to be found in this world but in the new heavens and the new earth being prepared for God’s elect when Jesus returns as King.

Many who lived in that part of Victoria did so because, in their own words, “It was as close as you could get to Heaven”. The one clear message from God in these fires has to be that Heaven is not available here. To promise people that God would heal their land if they repent is a very unhelpful distortion of the truth.

Secondly, it was incredibly insensitive to suggest that those who lost their homes, lives and loved ones were being singled out by God for what the Victorian Government did. Furthermore, there is no evidence suggesting the communities who suffered were heavily into aborting their unborn children.

Suffering and tragedy is allowed by God so that people might turn to his church to find salvation. When they turn up you hope they’ll find people of understanding and compassion rather than arbitrary condemnation for laws they did not pass, nor crimes they may not have committed. I recognise that Danny and his church has supported the victims in practical ways but compassion should come from our mouths as well.

Thirdly, to demonstrate the absurdity of his position: if the worst natural disaster we have ever experienced has killed less than 300 people, Pastor Danny would have to conclude, when comparing our record in natural disasters, to the rest of the world, that we are one of the most godly nations on earth.

Fourthly, Jesus in Luke 13:1-5 indicates very clearly how we are to interpret such events in these last days. When disasters occur we are not to make the dangerous assumption that the victims were any more guilty than anyone else.

Rather, such tragedies should be powerful reminders that none of us can predict the day of our death. Since everyone is in danger of judgment and condemnation, it’s essential that all people repent immediately and avail themselves of the offer of forgiveness provided by Jesus in his dying on the cross for sin.

We can have no idea how soon we’ll be standing in the courthouse of God, so it’s vital we all go for an out of court settlement while we can. (Lk 12:57-59)

Finally, we need to be very wary of people who claim to hear God speak in dreams. Not one preacher or evangelist in the New Testament received messages destined for others this way and only rarely did God speak to people while they were asleep in the Old Testament.

None of the books of prophecy were the product of dreams. On the rare occasions God communicated this way in the Old Testament it was invariably to increase the credibility and authority of his messengers in the eyes of gentiles in a world that once placed great store in such things. God’s preference was to commicate to his people while they were well and truly awake.

When a high profile pastor claims to hear God in dreams he inadvertently gives license to every self appointed prophet and spiritual crackpot to claim authenticity for all kinds of spiritual experiences, allowing them to make it up as they go. This kind of thing also increases the level of incredulity among non-chritians in Australia who are already very cynical about the church today.

If the content of a dream seems to disagree with the Word of God as this one does, we should avoid taking the dreamer seriously in anything he says.

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