Tamaki, the Christian, and quakes

Brian Tamaki and earthquakes

It is difficult to discuss Brian Tamaki and his discourses without making a few basic points.

The first is this: As Christians we do not accept every word of the bible as being the literal “word of God” addressed to us at this time, directing our lives.

We do know that the Bible contains writings of various kinds: history, poetry, myth, legend, story, law, parable, song to name a few.

So let us be quite certain what we are dealing with in the book of Leviticus, the bible book that Tamaki gets his “teachings” from.

This third book of the Old Testament is basically a set of things that, Israelites and Judeans were forbidden from doing.

It accounts for the bulk of the 636 Biblical laws and regulations designed to make the Jewish nation distinct from those among whom they lived.

Leviticus contains two types of laws: rules that are concerned with moral sin and rules related to ritual cleanliness.

Uncleanliness for Hebrews was caused by touching something forbidden or doing something forbidden (such as eating pork); though generally less important, some “unclean acts” were also major enough to involve the death penalty.

As such Leviticus contains the “rule book” for the Jewish people of that time.

  • Leviticus begins with instructions to the Israelites on how to use the Tabernacle, which they had just built (Lev 1 – 10).
  • Leviticus 11 – 15 contains the rules for clean and unclean, which includes the laws of slaughter and animals permissible to eat.
  • The Day of Atonement is covered in Leviticus 16 and various moral and ritual laws sometimes called the Holiness Code in Leviticus 17 – 25.
  • Leviticus 26 provides a detailed list of rewards for following God’s commandments and a detailed list of punishments for not following them.

So returning to our list of what the bible contains Leviticus is a historical record of the laws that the Jewish people at that time followed.

That time was around the year 600BC give or take a few centuries, and it took quite a time to write.

How much did the people of that time know of the physics of seismic events? I’d suggest almost nothing.

I will not analyze the text other than to say that in the 16th chapter of Leviticus dealing with atonement for sin, the priest is to sacrifice a bull for the sins of the priests, and a goat for the sins of the laypeople.

A second goat is to be sent into the desert bearing the sins of the whole people. (Hence our word scapegoat).

I am not holding this up for ridicule but I am trying to give a feel for the era, the law and their ways of dealing with sin and atoning for it.

Leviticus and seismic events

How much did the people of that time know of the physics of seismic events? I’d suggest almost nothing.

Can we say that there are bad things that happen in the world because of sin? Definitely yes!

Selfishness, greed, inequality, injustice, war, racism, sexism, and many other personal, societal and global sins cause great harm in our world.

Can we say that if we treat the earth badly that the earth will treat us badly? Well yes, we can even say that.

Certainly if we continue to pollute, deforest and overuse the world’s resources as if there are no consequences then we and our children will soon discover that such recklessness and selfishness has seriously negative outcomes.

But what is important to note is that we use the word “earth” in two different ways.

The first is literal… the ground on which we live, the planet, the ecosphere even. But when we say that the earth will treat us badly we are using a metaphor, meaning there are consequences to damaging our ecosphere.

An earthquake is not an act of God in the sense that God actually causes it to happen by command or button push.

God does not punish sin through earthquakes.

  • Tim Duckworth is a Marist priest, science graduate from Victoria University, theology graduate from the Angelicum University in Rome. He currently serves as and full-time Society of Mary provincial councillor.
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