Recently there was a major earthquake in New Zealand where I live. My New Zealand-based readers will be well aware of this, but for those of you overseas I will provide a little information. We experienced an earthquake registering 7.8 on the Richter scale in the small town of Kaikoura. It has caused a massive amount of damage to properties, roads and farmlands and a couple of people died as a result of it. In Wellington, 153 km away, we experienced the largest shake that I have been witness to in my lifetime. Even though no lives were lost in Wellington the earthquake has caused significant damage to buildings and numerous businesses have abandoned the buildings due to structural warnings. One of the most interesting things, from my perspective, that has come to light in the aftermath of the earthquake is a statement, or sermon, that was made by a Christian leader who is a popular media target. Brian Tamaki is a fundamentalist Christian who spoke out saying that the earthquake which we experienced was God’s punishment on New Zealand for gays, sinners and murderers. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world you can always come across some nutcase who will say these sorts of things. Tamaki has received quite a backlash for his comments, and in particular numerous Christian spokespeople have distanced themselves from his views. I don’t want to pick on any one person but Youth for Christ NZ chairman and itinerant minister Doug Allington is case in point. He said that Tamaki’s views “cannot be justified from scripture”. This is the part that really sparked my interest. I’m not picking on Mr Allington specifically, but he is typical of the Christian response. So, is he correct, are Brian Tamaki’s views unscriptural? Let’s have a look:
1 Kings 19:11 says the following:
So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
We read here that the Lord was not in the earthquake, however it is pretty clear from the context of the passage that God had to send the earthquake for the purposes of proving his point. So from the biblical perspective God can and does send earthquakes.
Isaiah 29:6 says:
From the LORD of hosts you will be punished with thunder and earthquake and loud noise,With whirlwind and tempest and the flame of a consuming fire.
This one is the real coup de grace. Not only does the Bible confirm that God sends earthquakes, it also clarifies that he sends them as a form of punishment.
Ezekiel 38:19 says:
“In My zeal and in My blazing wrath I declare that on that day there will surely be a great earthquake in the land of Israel.
There is another passage which confirms that God uses earthquakes as a form of punishment because of his “blazing wrath.”
Acts 16:26 says:
…and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.
This earthquake was not a form of punishment but I’ve included it to demonstrate that God sends earthquakes even in the New Testament.
In Revelation 6:12 we can also find mention of earthquakes:
I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood;
Revelation 11:13 says:
And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
This demonstrates that the New Testament also includes illustrations of God using earthquakes as a means of punishment.
It seems pretty clear to me that the Bible does confirm Brian Tamaki’s view that God sends natural disasters as a form of punishment on the people of the earth. So what does this mean? One of the consistent messages that I keep repeating is that most modern Christians do not practice biblical Christianity. And the reason that they don’t is because the Bible is an archaic monstrosity with no more relevance in the modern world than the philosophies of Dr Seuss. Most contemporary, non-fundamentalist Christians would like to think that they are biblically oriented, but the truth is that after the Enlightenment most reasonable theologians moved away from the message of the Bible by “interpreting” it in more readily acceptable ways. I think that there is a subconscious realisation within the minds of theologians that the biblical message is too barbaric for a civilized, modern audience. After the Enlightenment people were encouraged to think for themselves and to discover new philosophies, and in many instances revisit ancient ones. In doing so society has become far more civilized than it was pre-Industrial Revolution. This fact, along with the proliferation of education, makes it even harder for people to accept the archaic messages that the Bible frequently vomits forth. So the way that the modern Christian thinks about God is often quite disassociated from the Bible. From my experience most Christians don’t know the Bible very well anyway, but the modern interpretation of the Bible attempts to align it with modern, humanist morality in order to make it more palatable for a contemporary audience. When they hear someone like Tamaki talk about God in the actual biblical context it rattles them. I hear people saying things like “that’s not the God that I worship!” Indeed, it is not. And that is because you are not worshipping the biblical God, you are worshipping a God who is the construct of a post-Enlightenment evolution of theology. Many Christians don’t even do this, they simply worship a God who is a construct of their own mind, and the Chinese whispers heard throughout the church.
One could look at this in a positive light, suggesting that Christianity is moving with the times. But if Christianity is evolving away from the biblical God, and the explicit message contained inside Scripture what is the point of practising it anyway? If a religion is so bereft of relevance that it needs to modernise, surely it means that the original message was incorrect. Either God’s message is eternal, or it isn’t. Either God uses natural disasters like earthquakes as a means of punishing people or he doesn’t. The Bible explicitly says that God does use these forms of punishment. So, if you don’t believe that he does then you are not a biblical Christian. But I also have a message for those people, like Tamaki, who do believe that God uses these terrifying methods. If God does punish people by causing earthquakes then he is a moral monster. He is a heartless, unloving, wrathful bully. If you follow a God who does these things then you join with him in his heartless lack of morality and his utter contempt for the value of human life. You too are a monster. In fact I could liken you to the kid who stands behind the bully in the schoolyard egging him on. The reality is that we live on a cooling planet with tectonic plates that move causing earthquakes. When we experience an earthquake it is unfortunate but not ill intended. Mother nature might be a bitch, but at least she is not driven by an intelligence that is motivated to do harm. I summarise in the following fashion: if you don’t believe that God causes earthquakes, get a new book. If you do believe that God causes earthquakes, get a life. If you don’t believe in God, stock up on food and water and continue on with your life.
 See also Revelation 8:5 and 16:18 for more examples of God using earthquakes as punishment.