Seeking God’s Wrath?

Do some desire God’s wrathful judgment? It seems like it. Let me give you a case study and then discuss a few possibilities.

Amazing Lightning

Back in 2013, a devastating storm (Typhoon Yolanda— aka, Haiyan) struck the Visayas region of the Philippines, and across to Palawan. Thousands died. Shortly after, the “prophecies” of a Christian “prophet” (I apologize for the quotation marks… but I don’t like to use terms such as this for people who I feel don’t deserve them) were brought up as demonstration that:

  1.  This particular person, named Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj, had apparently predicted the storm as well as the Bohol earthquake, and thus must be a legitimate messenger of God’s revelation.
  2. The typhoon was not simply a meteorological event, but an act of God’s wrath— and there is more to come against the Philippines, and the world in general.

Anyway, a whole industry sprang up here in the Philippines, attempting to promote the prophecy as being true, as well as trying to argue that the other prophecies of this man were also true and will occur.

I did a post before that attempted to come up with a Score for the accuracy of his predictions. You can Click on it Here. I gave him a score of about 35%. Truthfully, that was a bit generous,  since I was giving him positive scores for predicting storms and earthquakes in the Philippines (you can hardly go wrong with that, especially since he gave no timeframe). Two years later, the prophecies appear to be no better than before.

But what I found strange, and still am challenged to accept, was the wild, and yes a bit gullible, acceptance of these prophecies by Filipinos, in particular. That is not to say that I expect Filipino Christians to be less than gullible than, say, American Christians (who certainly have a proven track record to be gullible at times). But since the prophecies were done to say that the Philippines is being uniquely judged by God, and then from there to the world, one might suspect that Filipinos, a great seemingly less deserving of God’s vengeance than many other groups worldwide, might be offended. 

Point of fact, though, was that there were so many who really wanted it to be true. This desire for these prophecies to be true grew to where people were spreading false reports on the Internet of more fulfillment of this prophecy. This was especially seen in reports of fulfillment of a prophecy that a flesh eating disease would spring up in Pangasinan (a province in the Northern Philippines, just down the mountain from where I live) and then spread throughout the world. These false reports grew and grew until finally a major news carrier put out a short report on TV that the disease was, indeed, happening in Pangasinan.

Within minutes of the report, the Internet was swarming with people looking up this event.  I got thousands of hits in one day from people trying to figure out what is going on (I consider myself blessed if I get dozens of hits in one day). The report was false. Even though flesh eating bacteria is a real thing, there was no epidemic in Pangasinan, and it hasn’t spread to the rest of the world. Presumably, the prediction that a disease will spring up in Cebu and turn people black, is likewise erroneous.

BUT WHY WOULD PEOPLE WANT TO BELIEVE A HATEFUL JUDGMENT FROM GOD?

I don’t really know— I have more interest in God’s mercy than His judgment myself— but I can try to make a few guesses. Perhaps some are true.

  1.  Evangelicals (and I am lumping most Pentecostals and Charismatics as well into this poorly defined conglomerate) are commonly taught to, almost desperately, desire the return of Christ. I cannot relate to this. I am in Mission work, and there is so much to do that I can hardly see the desire to have even less time to get things done. If your neighbor is not a follower of Christ, do you really desire that Christ come back before he has responded? Really? Some might say that it is simply a desire to be with God… but all of us are only a couple of heartbeats away from being with God… so why desperately seek for others to be before God before they are ready? Regardless, for many, this is taught as a doctrinal truth— “Christ is returning any day, and the sooner the better.” By the way, as an Evangelical, I do believe in the return of Christ, but I would prefer the statement— “Christ is returning any day, and may I be found faithful when He comes for me” regardless if He comes to me in life or in death.
  2. Some Christians are addicted to Signs and Wonders. I believe that God can do and does miracles, and may still at times do them as a sign (particularly, I believe, in places that first gain access to the gospel). However, miracles have always been rare. Even Jesus often did not do miracles. Luke 5 notes that for Jesus on a certain day the power of the Lord was upon Him to heal, suggesting that on some days it was not. That suggestion was reinforced by the extent certain men went to to bring a paralytic man to Jesus on that particular day despite the fact that other days would probably be less difficult. Later in the Gospels, Jesus refused to do any more miraculous signs to convince the skeptics. But some have an addiction to signs and wonders. Some, like Charles Kraft, even try to argue that the challenge to follow Christ should (must?) start with an encounter of God’s power (typically miraculously). Others seem to have no interest in what God normally does (in Nature), or can do through his faithful servants acting according to God’s will to act with faithful compassion. For some, the interest is in miraculous acts. Sadly, this has tended to create an industry of chicanery with a Christian label slapped on. It has also devolved into people going away from praying worshipfully to God asking for His mercy, to people “declaring” to God what He must do and thanking Him that he “already” has done it.
  3. Some are More Comfortable with God’s Judgment than His Mercy. It has become a cliche’ to say that “Christians are mean-spirited, judgmental, hypocrites” But sometimes it is true. It doesn’t take much looking around social media to discover a lot of really man, nasty, judgmental Christians. They may mouth “the Love of Christ” but they find more resonance in a envisioning “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Some of the responses to Typhoon Yolanda from self-styled “prophets of God” was that the typhoon came because of homosexuality in the Philippines. Apparently, if Christians (over 90% of Filipinos would describe themselves as Christian) mistreated LGBTQ folk more, than God would be pleased and not have dumped all that wind and rain on the Philippines. Is that possible? I suppose it is— but I really suspect that pronouncements such as this dig deeper into the psyche of these “prophets” than into the mind of God. Schadenfreude (feeling good about the misfortunes of others) can affect Christians as much as anyone else.
  4. For some, perhaps bad news is better than no news. We live life walking backwards. We can see the past, and the present, but we can’t see the future. Curiously, We can’t change the past, but can only (potentially at least) change the future. Only perceiving the past but only being able to affect the future, not surprisingly, gives us a fair amount of angst. No wonder people spend so much money on books about the future, horoscopes, personal readings from various types of fortunetellers. Christians are not immune from this— books, radio and TV programming, and sermons are filled with end-time prophecies. When I was young, the Antichrist headed the European Common Market, and the Kingdom of the North was the Soviet Union. Since bother of these have gone, these “prophets” of today, change their stories. Today, the mark of the beast is a blacklight tatoo identifer, or perhaps an RFID. Next year? Who knows? Some Christian groups even put apocalyptic language into their names. What does this mean? I am not sure, but I wonder if for some the fear of the unknown is greater than the fear of a bad things ahead. In the movie White Noise, the three mysterious beings in the movie became less scary, to me at least, once we discovered what they really were— even though what they really were was pretty nasty. Of course, many Christians believe in the Rapture (I am holding to a “wait and see” position on that doctrine) so perhaps the bad news becomes interpreted as good news for themselves and a bit of schadenfreude (as I noted before) regarding others.

For me, at least, I would rather focus on hope and God’s mercy. I am not advocating a “pollyanna” denial of hurt and suffering, but there is certainly enough bad things in this world, without hoping and praying for more. I also feel that God has given us enough information to live by without knowing very much about the future.

  • Reason for ultimate hope
  • Warning to endure
  • Call to faithful service— regardless of what happens.

We have no control over God’s wrath since we have no control over God. But we can pray for His mercy— for all.

 

 

Prophecies and Typhoons and Plagues (in no particular order), Part I

<I did a fuller grading of a longer version of the predictions in a follow-up post. Recommend looking at it. Click Here: Fuller Version.>

Had an acquaintance of mine asking about the prophecy by some Indian self-described prophet. He had apparently prophecied Typhoon Yolanda’s (Haiyan) destruction in Tacloban and Samar. Then I noticed a lot of search engine requests to my blogsite about prophecies for the Philippines.

Map of the Philippines with Pangasinan highlighted
Map of the Philippines with Pangasinan highlighted (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In truth, prophecies for the Philippines is a major industry, both local manufacture and foreign import. There is a strong market for it. One guy keeps running for president because a “prophet” said that he would be president one day (if he doesn’t give up). Another acquaintance of mine was planning to bring back a bunch of prophecies from Tennessee to give out upon his return here. Some American ministers I never heard of in my many years in the US are quite well-known over here because a major part of their labor is giving out prophecies here. <Note: When I am using the “prophecy” here, I am not using the Biblical concept of sharing God’s Word to inspire change, but in the common usage of divinely empowered (hopefully) future prediction.>

I am not one who likes to make judgments on these things. These “prophets” generally have a theology that is not particularly compatible with my own… and there is a tendency to overemphasize God’s abnormal behavior (the the miraculous) while underemphasizing God’s normal behavior (God’s creation and sacred history). I don’t like to judge because I don’t really want someone of a different flavor of Christianity trying to judge me or my faith. If I don’t seek such judgment, I should be cautious in making judgments.

Still, there is room for a skeptic in these things. A skeptic is one who does not believe (at the least, Descartian Doubt), but is open to having one’s mind changed. This is a very reasonable description of the term skeptic, but commonly not so used. Many seem to use it the way the magazine “American Skeptic” uses it… unwavering doubt of one paradigm and unwavering acceptance of another. It is tempting to go in that direction… and I suppose I am unlikely to buy into the prophetic movement that feeds on Christians here in the Philippines. But, while acknowledging my clear bias, I will try to be cautious in my assessments.

Still, let’s look at the prophecy:

This prophecy came from Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj. He is a former Hindu who had a dramatic conversion to Christianity. His ministry’s website is http://www.jesusministries.org/

A portion of the prophecy in question can be seen on this webpage:

http://www.gods-kingdom-ministries.net/daily-weblogs/2013/11-2013/prophecy-about-the-philippines/

Let’s look at the prophecy. The exposition of the prophecy in the blogpost linked above was done, to say the least, uncritically, so let’s dig in a bit deeper. A portion of the prophecy (at a speaking engagement in the Philippines in April 2013) said to the effect:

God is going to pour out His anointings in 7 cities of this nation like never done before anywhere else in the world. You will be the first nation and the first people in the world to receive that kind of an anointing.

 If you remember clearly… [another prophet] saw a huge menorah, and from the menorah the seven spirits of the Lord came forth, and the seven spirits of the Lord will be poured upon the Philippines, the first of its kind in the world. Because you receive like the firstfruits anointing, the punishment will also be the first of its kind in the world. Blessings first of its kind, and the punishment the first of its kind. So the plagues that will strike Pangasinan will be nothing that the world has ever seen. The skin, the flesh, and the bones will be corrupted. They melt and will rot away.

 Next, Cebu. Another peculiar disease, a plague will arise from Cebu and will spread all over the land and then spread all over the world. And Bohol. From Bohol another plague another disease will arise and spread all over the land and all over the world.

So the first is the destruction through winds. The second is the destruction through diseases. The third destruction through floods. You have experienced many floods in the history of your nation, but that which is to come has no precedent in the past… Specifically, the areas that will experience this flooding: Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Cebu.

And some hundreds of places, small places, will experience flooding. These are destructions that will come upon your land….

Let’s take it bit by bit. In the first paragraph, there are three basic predictions
Paragraph #1 Item 1: God will bless the Philippines with a special anointing (again using a term being used differently) of Spirit of God that is unlike anything before and will be a blessing to the Philippines… and presumably to the world. <No evidence of this prophecy so far, as far as I can tell… have to wait on that one.>
Paragraph #1 Item 2: God will curse the Philippines with a special set of curses (perhaps because they don’t embrace the blessing that is allegedly promised). <Seems strange. If there is meant to be causation here… rejecting the gift of the “anointing” seems to imply a prior receiving of the anointing. Hard to see why punishment would be given for rejecting something that hasn’t been given yet. Perhaps someone else can give a better explanation. Perhaps they would argue such an anointing has already occurred and the vast vast majority of the people have rejected it. But I can say there is no APPARENT anointing that is a first in an clear way. (Of course, since I would be considered a doubter and I live in the Philippines, presumably this prophecy would be against me. Thus I have a strong bias to reject this prophecy. Still, if  there should be some visible evidence of such an “anointing”. (Sorry, but I  hate the butchering of the Biblical concept of “anointing” as well… adding to my rejection).>
Paragraph #1 Item 3: There would be a plague in Pangasinan like has never been seen before. Some call it a “zombie plague” but the description given is not really consistent with that. It sounds more like flesh-eating bacteria or perhaps gangrene. <Not much one can say about this. I have heard a few people and a few websites trying to talk about such a disease already evident in Pangasinan. However, these sources tend to be ones with a vested interest to support the prophecy. I live just over an hour away from Northern Pangasinan and have lots of friends there. We drive through there periodically and our medical doctor has his office there. If the disease is true… it certainly hasn’t become anything remotely like a vast plague. There are some cases worldwide and to some extent in Southeast Asia of flesh-eating bacteria. I have an acquaintance in Central Asia that contracted that disease. I don’t know anyone in Pangasinan with it. I believe I read of a minor epidemic of an animal disease in Pangasinan and La Union that has drawn the attention of some, but this is completely unrelated to the prophecy, unless it jumps species and changes symptoms.  At best we should withhold judgment. We will just have to wait on that one.>
Paragraph #2 Item 1 and 2. Plagues from Cebu and Bohol will also spread all over the world. <No evidence of this so far. Perhaps these “plagues” are metaphoric or figurative. Unfortunately, if they are figurative, they are unprovable both positively and negatively.>
Paragraph #3 Item 1. Flooding all over Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Cebu unlike ever seen before. <Okay, this is the one that keeps being referenced, but it is actually the weakest one. One characteristic of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) was its relative LACK of flooding. That was because the issue was wind not rain. (Careful now, the reference to winds in the third paragraph appears to be tied to the anointing in the first paragraph, not to the typhoon). Only a few places had major flooding… most noticeably Tacloban, due to storm surge. Even there, this sort of flooding is not unique, but has happened in Tacloban before on more than one occasion. Flooding in general did not happen in the VAST majority of places listed. It seems to me that the best one could say about this part of this prophecy is “not yet fulfilled.”>
Okay, pretty much everything in this prophecy is either not fulfilled or unproven. Can someone look at it and find meaning and usefulness in it? Perhaps… but I believe there are two things you can’t honestly  draw from the prophecy:
A.  You can’t determine if Sadhu is a true or false prophet. Basically nothing in the prophecy has exactly been fulfilled, and almost nothing can be said to be fulfilled even in general terms. If one prophecy is proved false even if all the others are shown true, he is a false prophet (a good reason not to call yourself a prophet, really). Since there is no real timeframes given, and no good standards for testing the prophecies, it is hard to use them to show that Sadhu is a charlatan. But the same vagueness prevents us from identifying him as a true prophet. Unless things change, can’t say much.
B. It really can’t be used evangelistically. Anyone who takes the time to look at the prophecy will see its basic lack of fulfillment in either detail or in general. Perhaps it could be used to convince people who don’t bother to check your sources. To me, that is unethical (Like a mission group that was using the move “2012”, to convince Filipinos to convert to their version of Christianity because it showed that Jesus was about to come). Beyond unethical, those who take the time to check things out are likely to be more firmly rejecting of Christianity because of the use of false marketing. That may more than negate gains with the uncritical.
Okay, personally, I feel comfortable with rejecting this prophecy. The first NT indwelling of the Holy Spirit (in the disciples before Jesus ascended) was not marked with curses on others. The second indwelling (or at least empowering) of the Holy Spirit (at Pentecost) was not typified by curses on others. I am not a Pentecostal, Charismatic, or a “Third-Waver,” so I don’t take seriously these other so-called “anointings.” But for those that do accept them, it is pretty evident that curses were not associated with such an alleged arrival. It seems fair to question whether this “new” anointing being associated with curses on the people that it was meant to bless is Biblical. I apparently am one who would be under such a curse since I reject the message of this anointing. Perhaps that makes me a bad judge… but it does make me an interested party.
When the chaos settles, I just really have to suggest that people go back to the words of Jesus as their guidance. Jesus said that we are not to know the times, but are to be faithful in what we know we are supposed to do (worshiping God, loving our neighbor, and disciplining the world) until He comes. Why waste one’s time on the rest of this… trivia.?
Addendum:  There is another blogsite that has a “hardcopy” of the prophecy. It is quite different. Not sure what to make of the differences. The site is: http://kristelgarciano.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/terrible-judgments-over-the-philippines-if-the-nation-does-not-repent-and-turn-to-god/
Some of the ones in this one sound more accurate while others seem to be even more fanciful. Still most of it is vague… or else inaccurate. Why don’t you look it over yourself and go over them step by step and decide for yourself. This second one does, in my view, look a bit more contrived… a bit redacted (edited). It seems a bit broken up like bits and pieces were shoved together. However, it is possible that is how this particular “prophet” writes. Second, and continuing on the style thing, it has the style of someone who is trying to sound “prophetic” like mixing a bit of Daniel with Nostradamus. It happens. Joseph Smith, whose normal writings were pretty down-home vernacular English wrote the “Book of Mormon” in quasi-King James. Why? I suppose because it sounds more holy, prophetic, and authoritative. I don’t know. You decide for yourself.
Second Addendum: If you are interested, you could also look up Cindy Jacobs “prophecy” back in 2009, that essentially said that the Philippines would either get better or worse. Can’t argue with that. You can look that one up yourself and decide for yourself. Again, because the Bible also says that things will either get better or worse, I don’t see how this prediction adds to what we already know.