October 24, 2020

Open Mic At The iMonk Cafe: The Falwell/Robertson Room Has A New Act

radiomicUPDATE: Greg Boyd on Piper’s tornado. BTW, my commendations on excellent behavior by all in the comment thread.

UPDATE: From long, but right on point: The Islamization of Christianty by Udo Middleman.

UPDATE: Some of my own thoughts on the ’04 Tsunami. Also, Halden Doerge: Why John Piper is Dangerous. I first caught the attention of the Reformation Police when I blogged about Paul Proctor’s announcement that God killed emerging pastor Kyle Lake. This was repeated by some bloggers that would surprise you.

UPDATE: Baptist Press takes a break from vilifying Piper’s association with Mark Driscoll to reprint his tornado theology.

Jerry Falwell said that 9-11 was God’s judgment on gays, feminists, abortionists and other sinners. (He later apologized.)

Pat Robertson has repeatedly told us that hurricanes are God’s judgments on the east coast.

More than a few preachers have said that Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment on New Orleans. Which is apparently why it almost destroyed New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and left the French Quarter in place.

John Piper has chimed in before on what was going on when the Interstate bridge in Minneapolis collapsed.

Now Piper has written that a tornado in Minneapolis was a warning to liberal Lutherans about to vote on issues related to gay clergy. Here’s Pastor Piper’s original post.

When I was 13, I fell off my bicycle and busted a tooth. I won’t tell you what I was doing back in those days, but I got the message.

After you read 1 Kings 19:9-13 and David Sessions at Patrol Magazine, you can comment.

The open mic question of the day: How would you characterize this kind of comment? A bit excessive, but harmless? Arrogantly outside the lines of what any Christian ought to say in the aftermath of a serious or tragic event? Confused, but sincere? Proof that Job’s friends (“I know why it happened! I know!! Call on me!! I know!!) and not Job’s repentance (Job 42:1-6 “I’m shutting up”) are really the model for theology in the reformed camp?

Comments

  1. How about the other side of the prosperity gospel coin? God as an ATM machine — punch in the right code and you get wealth. Punch in the wrong code and your card is confiscated and the police are called.

    • Piper is no purveyor of the prosperity Gospel. He wouldn’t say that there’s a way to avoid tornadoes.

      • If that’s true, then how would it be a warning? I can’t say I know enough about Piper to know whether this is a “stray remark,” something he said in the heat of the moment, or something he doesn’t regret saying. I always get a little nervous when people try to interpret what God is doing with regard to the tragedies and successes in life. Since our earthly lives are so short when compared to eternity, I tend to see what happens now as just a blip and not a trend or God’s approval / disapproval.

      • “He wouldn’t say that there’s a way to avoid tornadoes.”

        Well, by default, logically speaking, he actually does – to avoid the “approval of sin.” Seems like that’s pretty clear. But that’s not really the point.

        My comment is from someone who doesn’t keep up with Piper. The only reason I know about this is because you’re talking about it here. So, not having any pre-connection to him, I say it’s ridiculous to say such things. It seriously makes me shake my head and just turn away. There’s no sense in defending it or anything like it – just makes anyone who does sound goofy by association. Of course, we’re all goofy in our own special ways, so there you go. And yes, if the Pope said something like that, I’d say the same thing.

  2. There was a clip a while ago of a discussion between Tim Keller, DA Carson and John Piper in the aftermath of one of their Gospel Coalition Conferences – Pastor Piper admitted that if there was one thing he could change in his earlier writings it would be to emphasize Christ more.

    I think he has a fine appreciation for the sovereignty of God – but when he makes statements like the ones you quote – I think he comes dangerously close to a theology of glory. God chooses to reveal himself through Christ, whose command is that we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. We aren’t supposed to spend our time trying to reason out the secret things of a God who dwells in unapproachable light.

  3. I saw this post earlier today (through Challis) and was pretty taken aback. I don’t see eye to eye with Piper on some important issues, but nevertheless always saw him as at least reasonable and thoughtful.
    To see him make statements that instantly bring flashbacks of the “9-11 was because of homosexuals” incidents is disappointing.
    Though the situations are by no means comparable, the logic seems the same.

  4. aaron arledge says

    I am a huge Piper fan boy who is really disappointed. We can think something without saying it out loud. Our church was hit by a tornado back in 1994. Should i get up this week and tell them it was God’s judgment on them?

  5. I respect John Piper immensely, and still do, but this seemed off base. What sins does God send natural disasters for? Who among us gets to make that call?

    My city has had a recent plague of grasshoppers. Is it a gentle yet firm warning to turn from my idolatry, pride, and self-worship? (Which I should do).

  6. Do I believe God can use natural disasters as a message? Yes. Do I believe that means we should try to interpret natural disasters? No. Simple enough. Especially when “interpreting” such things is likely to do more damage to the cause of Christ than good.

  7. In Pipers defense, this tornado is disturbingly ominous. You couldn’t make something like this up and put it in a story, people would say it was ridiculous. Hurricanes in Florida are a little less remarkable, usually, precisely because they lack the character of an omen.

    • Tornados have been a fixture in Minn and the rest of the mid-west since long before Europeans settled there. Oklahoma has more but not that much more. It is EXACTLY like hurricanes in Florida.

      There are hundreds of tornados each year in the US. We’ve had 5 to 10 near me in the last 6 months.

      Statistically they will hit most everywhere east of the Rockies at some point. And if you know statistics you’ll understand that they will strike a group of church sinners every now and then along with a church of the most dedicated faithful Christians also. We just don’t read as much into it when they tear up the local soup kitchen vs a group doing what some feel is great sin.

  8. I have devoured Piper’s writings for years, but a major turn happened in my experience of him during the Romans exposition years. There was a turn towards a constant emphasis on the sovereignty of God expressed in ways that go over the line of what we should be saying. It is almost as if every event becomes a challenge to see how can the sovereignty of God be inserted here?

    My readers know that when I heard a Piper clip talking about rejoicing in God while holding the dead body of an accident victim, it deeply affected me. There is a reason we have lamenting, grieving, questioning Psalms and books like Ecclesiastes and Job.

    There’s a place that our confidence in God’s sovereignty is expressed in silence. It’s nowhere to be found in this kind of theologizing.

    • How would you explain joy in suffering?

    • Gary Foster says

      I once (in the 70’s) watched in horror when during a local religious broadcast in Springfield Mo. a late middle aged couple was trotted out and prompted to testify how they praised God for the death of their son in a tragic car wreck. Yikes. I was just appalled that some theological numbskull apparently coached them to do this. This is a kind of islamic fatalism that runs counter to what you see in the Bible.
      This example, as well as that of Piper just highlights the impression those of us on the outside of the Church get that there is a pervasive disconnect with reality with these folks. It seems that they are lost in a theological fog that so distorts their interpretation of life events that it borders on a kind if delusion. I know this statement is a strong challenge to the outlook of many here but I feel it must be said. (I am speaking as a believer in God)
      I admire your bravery in challenging this.

      • “so distorts their interpretation of life events”

        I knew a couple that spent a huge amount of time agonizing over the meaning of every event and God’s will in every decision. Their lives seemed dominated by fear of making a wrong step rather than filled with any sort of joy.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          In my old D&D group, that was referred to as “The Purple Thumb of God”. As in “You’re scared to do anything because if you do, The Purple Thumb of God (TM) will come down on you.”

          (In early-period D&D, Dungeonmasters were often nicknamed “God” because they created the background campaign universe the players entered and were in control of the “reality “of the game. Actually a pretty good argument for monotheism, as I have seen what happens when multiple game masters get at loggerheads. And for God’s benevolence, as I have also seen what happens when a game master becomes actively malevolent towards his players.)

  9. Ok, having read Piper’s post, David Sessions’ short article and the Kings passage, I’ll categorize it as harmless. To my knowledge, no one was hurt or killed in that particular tornadic event. The steeple was split in two and the cross bent downward from it. Had people been injured or killed from it, I’d say that it would come off as inappropriate to say such things without certain knowledge in the wake of people’s grief.

    Plus, I think Piper handled it in a fairly humble manner. This wasn’t a “thus saith the Lord” moment and he wasn’t insisting his interpretation was Gospel Truth (TM).

  10. Was this not (an albeit unfortunate) an exhortation for all of us to repent? That is, every event like this where calamity happens of one sort or another is a reminder for all of us, regardless of what sins we practice, to repent? Judging from Piper’s body of work, I would say that this would be it (Calamity happens; therefore, we are all sinners & must repent). While he came dangerously close, I don’t think he was commenting ex post facto, i.e., that the Lutheran convention brought on the tornado.

    • Uh….he was drawing the line right to it. Otherwise he wouldn’t have even mentioned the subject. He can’t be given a break for “coming close but not quite.”

      • The point still stands. I need to repent & this particular calamity is a good reminder that I need to do so. I don’t agree w/ the connection, however strong one finds it to be. However, I do agree that the larger point concerning necessary repentance is valid.

  11. Does anyone realize that atheists catalog things like Kyle Lake being executed in his own baptistery and church lights falling on people during worship for just this sort of reason?

    • I don’t know any atheist who catalog this kind of stuff (maybe some do..but that’s sad) but I do find Piper’s use of this event to push his agenda manipulative at best. When I realized I was an atheist, one of the great reliefs to me was the fact I no longer had to stress out trying to figure out what ‘sin’ was the cause of what ‘bad’ thing in my life, or what I had done to deserve God’s ‘chastisement’. Piper seems to be encouraging this kind of thinking with his comments, and that is something i would not wish on anyone.

    • They do catalog this stuff and should use it against us. I think this is some version of the prosperity gospel. Instead of accepting this:
      ” for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. ”
      Folks want the world to be fair and good and evil “tidy”. They (we) want the God to reward the righteous (us) and punish the wicked (them), here and now. The unfortunate consequence of this thinking – that God selectively rains down evil on Lutherans who don’t ordain the right people – is that it invents a God with terrible aim, or selective hearing.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Or a hair-trigger god always ready to sling thunderbolts or curses like most all of those on Mount Olympus. Have you ever read the ORIGINAL Greek Myths?

        (The only two of them I’d ever want to deal with would be Athena/Minerva or Sylvanus. The former personified Wisdom and always seemed to act the most “grown-up” of them all; the latter was a minor Roman deity of civilized and tamed nature whose reputation was free from the usual sleaziness of that pantheon.)

    • The only way I would categorize these kinds of events, after reflecting on the tragedy, is to comment to myself that the seemingly random nature of these events does nothing to support the concept of God as we find Him in the Bible – the distribution of pain and pleasure is exactly what I would expect if it were the result of impersonal forces.

  12. Apart from the revelation being given by God to John Piper it is spiritual guess work at best and spiritual manipulation at worst.

  13. Every time I read a quote like Piper’s, all I can think of is Matthew 5:45b –

    “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

  14. It reminded me of reading some of the “earthquake sermons” puritans like Cotton Mather preached surrounding the quakes of 1727 and ’55. Jumping on a natural disaster as a chance to address some specific sin. In addition, I was disturbed by the way Piper read the Tower of Siloam incident in his post. Seems to me that Jesus is there addressing just this propensity to move too easily from a tragedy to a moral lesson. I’d agree with Ragamuffin in saying it was mostly harmless, but it certainly borders on a certain knowledge of God’s providence which can end one in a whole world of trouble.
    Also, I can’t help thinking of the way a church I loved very much and taught the gospel clearly had its building burned down a couple years ago. Hate to think what sort of sin they must have been covering up…

  15. I’m surprised no one has ventured the theory that this is Piper’s next step in his development as a charismatic. 😉

    • actually, that is what I was thinking.

      Pronouncements like that are basically extra biblical pronouncements – While he did not proclaim it was “from the Lord”, exactly how else are you supposed to take it? How does he know this?

  16. Chad Rushing says

    Whenever someone in this day and age claims to know the exact reason on God’s mind for some event to have occurred, they are claiming the biblical role of a prophet (ex., “I know for certain that God did this because of this reason He told me.”). And if the person is actually a prophet, then it would not be extreme to say that what they are stating should be considered a legitimate addition to the cannon of Scripture.

    Of course, if these guys really are prophets in the biblical sense, then there should occasionally be a precognitive element to their statements (vs. only assessing past events), and they should have a 100% accuracy rate in those predictions. Otherwise, they are acting as false prophets, and we know how those were looked upon back in the day.

    Personally, I ignore such declarations. By all means, one is free to engage in pure speculation based on what they know of God’s attitude towards sin (ex., “It would not surprise me if these two events were linked somehow …”), but I doubt that practically anyone today can claim to speak with authoritative certainty on such matters.

    As for what should be the Christian response when tragedy strikes, I would suggest Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I recently told my teenage niece this verse after she was in a severe vehicular accident; as a believer, this was of great comfort to her during her recovery.

    While driving on the tollway, I once saw a bumper sticker that simply stated, “GOD IS IN CONTROL.” God is not merely a fellow participant in history; He is the author of history. No matter what happens to me, my loved ones, or even total strangers, I can know that God in His infinite wisdom is always going to do what is best in the grand scheme of things and what ultimately brings the most glory to Him, both through acts of His love and acts of His justice. Trusting God to know what He is doing through both the good times and the bad should be a primary characteristic of every Christian believer.

  17. Jeremiah Lawson says

    I’m trying to get my head around the idea that a Baptist is addressing Lutherans. Now I don’t think Piper has gone into Falwell/Robertson territory in terms of depth and he certainly hasn’t done a Wilkerson-style predition of pending destruction … but couldn’t he at least have left it to Lutherans to argue about the provenance or providence of weather?

  18. I’d say that when things like this happen, the people involved (“in the path” of the storm, etc.) should reflect and see if there is a message in it for them. When things happen in my life, I stop and ask if God is trying to get my attention.

    I don’t think someone “on the outside” should necessairly make the call.

    All natural disasters, which fall on the just and the unjust, should remind us that they occur because we live in a fallen world, fallen because of sin. While the specific event may not be a judgment from God, it reminds us that this world will be judged, and the only way of escape is to be in Christ.

  19. joel hunter says

    Oh, he just misinterpreted the sign. The cross on the steeple is dangling upside-down. Tradition has it that St. Peter was martyred on an upside-cross. Clearly, St. Peter now thinks that Central Lutheran Church of Minneapolis is the new seat of Christendom and the home of the One True Church.

  20. Call me a hater if you wish, but this drops JP’s already low credibility to less than zero in my mind. Statements like this push me farther still from the faith of my youth, from any faith at all. Craziness.

  21. Um – if storms and floods and such like are the judgement of God, then seeing as how practically all of the United States has some form of extreme environmental conditions – droughts, heatwaves, forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, boiling hot summers, winters up to your neck in snow – it would seem that youse guys are doing a *lot* of offending 🙂

    • Precisely. When does one hurricane become God’s judgement while 30 others are simply natural occurences? When it afflicts folks I don’t like.

      You asked if it was arrogant? Yes. Didn’t the Lord in the OT always announce judgment, give folks time to repent, then when they did not, bring it on? Judgement matters when it is understood as judgment. I have no reason to think God throws lightening bolts (or hurricanes) at people then expects them to figure out who did it and why.

  22. Trying not to beat the ole dead horse, I see such statements as another symptom of the Dualistic influence in some brands of Christianity. Nothing in this physical world (warm air masses meeting cold air masses, up drafts, super cells etc) have any meaning unless they are tied to the puppeteer’s strings (capital “P”) in Heaven . . . something done for a specific cause. Then we can ad-lib as to what that cause is . . . to fulfill any personal agenda.

    These statements are not benign! For every one made, who knows how many more people will become disillusioned with the Christian faith.

    When a plane crashes and 200 die but one survives, the one may write a book on how God saved them (and it will be a Christian Booksellers Association best seller) because of their faith, prayer (fill in the blanks) but 200 families will still hurt and become disillusioned.

    The worst case I ever heard was in a previous church. After a toddler in our congregation had his little head cut to bits by his dad’s riding lawn mower (and died in my ER), the most senior deacon announced from the podium that “God did this for a specific reason, to teach us all to trust him more.” To which loud Amens poured out like some brainless mantra from a trance. The adults, who have already been mesmerized, by this convoluted thinking may not have been affected, however, the kids . . . those with still open minds . . . would start to think (in their secret places) that this Christian God is a freaking lunatic . . . or at least a sadist.

    I am so glad that most of the commenters here are on the same page. It gives me great hope in the Church.

  23. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned Luke 13:1-5 yet (which Piper invoked)…so I will.

    In that passage, Jesus is asked about a group of people killed by Pilate, if they were worse sinners than others. Jesus answers that they weren’t worse sinners, but this was a call to repentance for them. Jesus then Himself brings up the case of 18 people who died when the tower in Siloam fell, and repeats his call for repentance.

    I’m hard pressed to see Piper doing much different here. The issues with Falwell and Robertson were that they were calling the others worse sinners (the same mistake that the disciples made) who deserved death more than they did. Piper is calling the Lutherans to repent for a particular sin, but I don’t see him making the judgment that they’re any worse than the rest of us.

    • Except that Piper totally misinterpreted the passage! Jesus was calling the DISCIPLES to repent, not saying the falling of the tower was a call to repentance for those who experienced it! The point is, such lessons are a call to me to repent lest I face God’s judgment, not point my fingers at anyone else.

  24. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? (Luke 13:4)

  25. I think Piper’s quote contributes to the attitudes that allow for these concerns to be ignored. It’s valuable discussion.

    The slippery slope is clear to me: If God sent the Minneapolis tornado as judgment, couldn’t He just as easily send all those things in the post above? And if so, who are we to get in God’s way?

    We have to be about the business God gives us, feeding the widows and orphans as well as questioning false prophets. Feeding the hungry so they can be fed horse hockey is self-defeating in the long run.

  26. John Piper and I see eye to eye on very few issues. While I didn’t expect it, this statement fits his continuing theological development. He is teaching dangerous theology here. He needs our prayers.

  27. Well, I guess an alternative interpretation would be that God diverted the tornado in order to destroy a building instead of killing the people in the convention hall. I think God is warning us about focusing too much on building programs.

    And….did anyone see a rainbow after the storm? 🙂

  28. The problem here is that God control everything, no doubt about it, but we also live in a sinful world and everything, including nature, is effected by the fall. So when something bad happens was it God who caused it, or was it the fallen world being fallen? Thats not a call I would like to make in this case, or in almost every case, because if you can make it in one case how do you stop from making it in every case? And how do you stop it from becoming “God’s judgment” when it happens to someone you disagree with, but the “fallen world” when it happens to someone you agree with?

    Piper, I think, would be better here to go with “everything to the glory of God” knowing He control everything in the end and leave it at that. Even if he wants to go and pull out a sermon about death and destruction being close to everyone without warning, I’d be happy with that. But lets stick with the “more sure word” in this case and not try to understand God’s will though storms.

  29. It seems that many Roman Catholics gleefully agree with Piper too!
    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2009/08/winds-of-change/

  30. this retrospective prophecy by John piper is in the same camp as the hindsight prophecy that a pastor over here in Australia did regarding the BLACK SATURDAY bushfires in February in which 173 people lost their lives. this Pastor Danny Nalliah said he had a dream in October last year in which he saw fires everywhere and believed it was judgement upn our State-Victoria-for the decriminalising of abortion. Instead of being a headline grabber and showing spiritual and cultural arrogance after the event,he should have ,if it truly was a Prophecy from God ,spoken earlier ,and not after the event.

  31. I think this whole issue needs to be approached with caution. We can’t say we know for certain that this is God’s judgment, but if this is a warning and call to repent (as Piper says), can we ignore it flippantly? That was often the problem in the Old Testament; everyone was ignoring the calls to repentance. Then armies came in killing, destroying, and sending into exile. I am not saying America is Israel (just in case that crosses your minds), but the Church is. We as a church are still being called to repent. God is still calling us to repent. Whether we see a storm or a sunny day, we should recognize God’s call to repentance; it shouldn’t be just the big things that point us to God, but the little things as well.

    Some have said this is Piper acting as though he knows the mind of God. Of course it is! God has made part of his mind very clear in Scripture: the part that says Repent and Believe. That is what Piper is calling us to.

    While Piper is pointing out the connection to homosexual ordination, he doesn’t limit it to that. He isn’t saying that only those Lutherans should repent, we all should repent of a sin we all commit: accepting sin within the Church.

    We really should be careful calling something a judgment, however. The way we know that the Babylonians and the Assyrians were judgments is because God told us so in the Bible. We cannot say anything else is a judgment til the final judgment. We can, however, look at things and be pointed to God, which should always lead to repentance.

    • We need to preach the Gospel, not offer explanations of events so we all know how much we should believe we can understand about God’s sovereignty.

      Only seeing the general repentance application here is selective reading. Piper is connecting the dots: tornado-Liberal Lutherans approving gay clergy.

      The constant need to specifically explain mystery and to apply it to certain sins is a hopeless effort. Those who believe the Gospel point to Christ, not to tornadoes, as God’s Word to the world.

      • He does connect the dots specifically, but then he generalizes it. He says: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. “All of us” is key. Also he doesn’t just say, “Turn from the approval of homosexuality,” but “Turn from the approval of sin” in general.

        I do, however, agree that we should not analyze every little thing for messages from God, but I guess I think there is something to the idea of general, natural revelation. God speaks through nature though not in a particular way. So….I would say Piper’s very final conclusion of the general repentance is correct, but anything more specific is going too far.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Only seeing the general repentance application here is selective reading. Piper is connecting the dots: tornado-Liberal Lutherans approving gay clergy. — IMonk

        How does such “connecting the dots” differ from reading the omens in a sheep’s liver or what is written in the stars? And notice how the reason for these “God Punishing You” connected dots is ALWAYS one of the three Evangelical Obsessions (1 – Evolution, 2 – Homosexuality, 3 – Abortion)?

        From preaching like this, does God ever do anything other than punish punish punish?

        tornado = Liberal Lutherans approving gay clergy.

        Why doesn’t he just join with Fred Phelps and drink the kool-aid straight on the rocks instead of watered down?

    • So what would have been God’s message if ELCA had voted the “right” way, and the tornado had still hit?

      There was a lot of this kind of attitude about in the Famine; there were perfectly nice people who felt that it was the judgement of God on the Irish for being rebels and Papists (and marrying too young, having too many kids, and not modernising their agriculture and industry, but now thanks to the workings of Providence, society could be improved, progress would flourish, and maybe even the people could be peeled away from the priests). Like Sir Charles Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary to the Treasury:

      ‘The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated. …The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people’.

      From the Irish side, we said God sent the blight, but the English made the famine.

      Before we start confidently pronouncing on signs and wonders, we should look around a bit first. Everyone who’s ever had their town flooded or a tornado hit is a sinner worthy of such rebuke?

      • “So what would have been God’s message if ELCA had voted the “right” way, and the tornado had still hit?”

        Piper is a Calvinist isn’t he? If so then this had to happen so other outcomes were not possible.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          As in it was all predestined by God’s Will.
          The ELCA’s fate written on their foreheads before the creation of the world.
          Al’lah’u Akbar Al’lah’u Akbar Al’lah’u Akbar…

      • The tornado hit before the vote–this has been distorted or stretched by the press, including by Ted Olsen at Christianity Today, just to make a better story.

  32. ProdigalSarah says

    There was nothing peculiar about the low pressure system that spawned the tornadoes, and is now moving east.

    This same system well keep Hurricane Bill offshore of the Eastern Coast of the US. No conclusions about that?

    I watched video of the tornado and it knocked down a bunch of mature trees and damaged roofs. Was God also angry at the trees and the people that lived in the house, or were they merely collateral damage.

  33. Didn’t the Hebrew prophets in the OT often link natural events to the judgment of God? I’m not saying Piper is Amos, Joel, or Jeremiah, but people in the days those prophets lived must have thought they were crazy, and maybe a little dangerous, too.

    To say that God sends rain on the just and the unjust is not to say that God never judges individuals/nations for their sins (although if Piper is correct in his judgment, this would not be so much a judgment as a warning). He does. There are countless examples in Scripture of God doing just such a thing (Herod being eaten up with worms for self-exaltation, Israel’s captivity because of their idolatry, prophecies against pagan nation in Isaiah, etc.).

    As far as I know, Piper isn’t claiming the same kind of inspiration as Amos, Joel, or Jeremiah, so I think he should have phrased his post in the language of possibility rather than declaration. Still, it isn’t off-base theologically to say that God could do precisely the sort of thing that Piper thinks He did.

    My only problem with Piper is that if he’s going to post something like this, he should phrase it as “look at the coincidence, this may be what is going on,” instead of declaring that that is indeed what is going on, unless he is going to go ahead and claim that he is prophesying in God’s name.

    • “Didn’t the Hebrew prophets in the OT often link natural events to the judgment of God?”

      To many people today, me at times also, it’s hard to wrap our heads around the fact that the OT covers about 4000 years. Give or take a few. What seems to us like a constant “God imposes his judgment” is really a series of events separated by and average of 50 years or so each. With really some very long gaps. (I have no idea how many judgments there were but if there are 80 that translates to 50 years. We seem to have these judgments every few months according to the list of prophets at the beginning of this blog entry.

    • God’s prophets in Scripture had a unique role. They were raised up to speak truth to Israel’s kings and religious leaders in a theocracy, and occasionally to speak to the surrounding nations about their sins in dealing with God’s chosen nation. They called people back to the covenant and foretold what God would do in bringing a new covenant. The judgments they spoke about were always in this context.

      We are under the New Covenant. Our duty is to announce the Good News that God has inaugurated his reign in the world through our crucified, risen, and ascended Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our commission is to make disciples, to continue the mission of Jesus, who said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through him.”

      I can’t for the life of me see how trying to connect the dots between some tornado and a discussion about how we should treat the homosexuals among us contributes to fulfilling our mission.

      • Chaplain Mike, I agree with your general point, but I also believe that prophecy continues under the New Covenant. I don’t believe those gifts ceased with the end of the apostolic age. The New Covenant era isn’t only about preaching grace in Christ (though it is that) — there is still a judgment ahead of us and human beings are still accountable for their actions before the Lord.

        In this context, Piper’s call to the church to heed what may have been a divine warning and move away from tolerating unrepented sin in their midst makes perfect sense. My only problem with what he said was that unless he wants to say he’s prophesying (in which case, his prophecy would become subject to the judgment of the church), then he should not claim to know the mind of God in this instance, but should phrase what he said in a way that allows for him to be wrong.

        • I am not just saying that the difference between the Old and New Covenant mission is preaching judgment vs. preaching grace. I’m saying that the entire context is different. First Testament prophets were speaking to the theocracy and making reference to specific warnings of judgment written in the Law covenant that were given with regard to weather, invasion, famine, exile, etc. Yes, the pre-Abrahamic judgments of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Flood came upon the world as a whole, and are used as warnings in the NT, but they are used to point to the final judgment, not to an isolated tornado that happened to knock down a steeple at an interesting moment (from the viewpoint of one who already had an opinion about what was going on at the church). I can’t recall an instance in the NT when the kind of “prophecy” of judgment you are speaking about occurs. Agabus predicted a famine (Acts 11) but this was not interpreted as judgment on the evil Roman empire (why not?). Instead, it was seen as an opportunity for the believers to marshal their resources in order to care for those hurt by it.

          Piper is no better “prophet” than the Dispensationalists who interpret every new turn in world events as a sign of God working to bring his prophetic plans to pass. Like them, he has Scripture. Like them, he can make a case. Like them, he ultimately sounds crazy.

    • And still God spared Nineveh, even though Jonah would have liked to see them go down.

  34. MOD Note: I deleted Sonja’s comment.

    I agree about the importance of caring for the poor … but wasn’t that was a little overheated, sonja? Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisees was “these things you should have done without neglecting the others.” He didn’t say the first was wrong but that it was wrong to pursue the first at the expense of the second. Every Christian (if I extrapolate from my own struggle and that of people I know) is tempted to simplify what Christ calls a person to be by doing “the one” and neglecting “the other”. Part of why I don’t think what Piper said is helpful is because it is a statement that will get sucked into the vortext of American either/or spirituality.

  35. ProdigalSarah says

    There are tornado warning in Northeast Ohio right now thanks to that same system, which has moved east. Maybe John Piper will let us know who God is angry with today.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Maybe John Piper will let us know who God is angry with today.

      Or maybe Piper’s Theos IS really Zeus, casting around thunderbolts (and tornadoes) in a hissy-fit after Hera henpecked him one time too many…

  36. What troubles me most about pronouncements like this, beyond the very serious theological problems with them, is the fact that while they may generate some controversy among believers, the real damage they do is to seekers and observers of Christianity, who might otherwise be drawn to it. To those folks, silliness like this pronouncement reduce the faith once for all delivered to the saints, and the good news of Jesus Christ, to silly superstition and paranoia. And they do this mightily because they tend to get more publicity than, for instance, a solid expository and teaching sermon on Sunday. In this case, a little PR savvy might serve the cause of Christ very well.

    • ProdigalSarah says

      Back in my agnostic days I would have merely ridiculed it.

      …Today, I still ridicule it.

      I read Piper’s post and I have no idea what it has to do with The Good News of Christ Our Savior.

  37. I can’t say I’ve ever been a major fan of Piper’s, but I always regarded him as a level-headed fellow and not one to say something so outlandish as this.

    I’ve posted more complete thoughts on my blog, but I’d like to clarify for those who regard Piper as a spokesperson for Reformed Christianity (which he certainly is not): this is not the historic Reformed doctrine of divine sovereignty. This is tea leaf reading, nothing more.

  38. What’s to stop someone from interpreting the tornado as a sign from God that the ELCA had better not fail to stop oppressing and discriminating against homosexuals? Maybe it was a shot across the bow. Twister hermeneutics!

  39. On the one hand, Piper’s comment is typical of Reformed-types. He references Providence and throws in some proof-texts and Puritanical weather theology for good measure. On the other hand, his comment was probably a lapse in judgment. Piper would admit that it is uncalled for to presume to know the mind of the Lord regarding meteorological divine retribution.

    I hope Piper offers a clarification or apology of some sort. If he does, I will chalk it up to the fact that he is a national leader who is called upon to comment about every significant national event (atmospheric or otherwise) and so he is bound to, on occasion, make a bone-headed comment. It’s the law of averages and it happens to everyone. I’m willing to give him a mulligan on this one if he admits a mistake.

    • joel hunter says

      he is a national leader who is called upon to comment about every significant national event (atmospheric or otherwise)

      What? How did he acquire that leadership role? Where is it in a pastor’s job description? What does a minister of the Gospel care about “significant national events?” Even if that is part of his calling, who tunes the filter for what counts as “significant?”

      • It’s not part of his job description, but it is the reality of who he is. He’s a big deal. People know him–and they care what he thinks. If I wrote that on my blog, five or six people might see it. But Piper’s different. By “called upon,” I didn’t mean by God. I meant that people ask his opinion about stuff, and he responds. The sheer volume of solicitations he gets for comments, etc. increases the likeliness that he’ll say something like this.

  40. Has Piper lost it?

    finitum non capax infiniti
    http://aboulet.com/2009/08/20/has-john-piper-lost-it/

  41. I haven’t read all of the back info here, but I do have one question.

    Does anyone deny that God is able to and has in times past used disasters and natural calamities to bring punishment to the unrepentant and reproof to his own?

    I’m not saying that is what has happened in every situation, but it is possible.

    • “Does anyone deny that God is able to and has in times past used disasters and natural calamities to bring punishment to the unrepentant and reproof to his own?”

      yeah, I deny it. I don’t need to beleive that God did stuff like that; it isn’t required for salvation to believe in those calamities or that God did them. To be Christian you have to believe Jesus is the son of God, you dont’ need to beleive that God makes disasters.

  42. I hate to say that everyone does it, but I think it’s true. A few years ago, John Michael Talbot asociated mid-west tornadoes with the invasion of Iraq.

    I think it’s also an outward expression of the angst that most evangelicals live under: my hidden sin will find me out. We live under the constant fear of God’s wrathful reprisals attacking us when we least expect it. Of course an evangelical will lash out at someone who openly lives “in sin”, because we find some divine injustice in why we wallow in our guilt while others don’t feel that same knife hanging over them. This is why we need Luther – particularly his commentary on Galatians. If Christ can free Christians from the curse of the law, he may also free the world from the curse of cranky Christians.

    It’s also a lot of superstition that has crept into the church. Blame bad things on the stranger among us. He turned me into a neut! Well, I got better.

  43. As a former devotee of Pastor Piper’s teaching, I’m thankful for all that I learned from him (especially his love of Scripture, his passion for justice, and his emphasis on finding our joy in God). While I did my best for years to defend him when he made these types of comments, I can no longer do so. I know that Trinitarian doctrine and a very high Christology are key components of his teaching, but comments like these (among other things) cause me to wonder just how much of his image of God comes from the Incarnation and how much of it is imported from somewhere else. To me, his theology always felt a lot more like a version of Islam at its core combined with a desperate attempt to tie in the doctrines of the Trinity and the deity of Christ. It just seemed terribly difficult for me to see a resemblance between the incarnate Christ and his image of God. Granted, I’ve never discussed this with him personally, so he might be able to correct my understanding of what he believes. But that’s an honest characterization of my experience during the time that I studied him most deeply. It’s also the reason why I moved away from Pastor Piper’s teaching and moved towards theologians who place much more emphasis on the Father/Son/Spirit relationship rather than God’s sovereignty or passion for his own glory. My prayers are with Pastor Piper and with the ELCA.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      To me, his theology always felt a lot more like a version of Islam at its core combined with a desperate attempt to tie in the doctrines of the Trinity and the deity of Christ. It just seemed terribly difficult for me to see a resemblance between the incarnate Christ and his image of God.

      I have long maintained that when Christianity goes sour, it curdles into something closely resembling Islam.

      And the Udo Middleman essay link at the top explains it in detail.

  44. Let me inform those of you who wonder where your comment is….

    “So God doesn’t control the weather” is better translated “So….a bunch of unbelievers!” Go read my piece on the Tsunami, esp the sermon outline linked in it. Tell me that I don’t believe God is sovereign.

    Everytime a discussion of Piper’s pronouncements appears, we get this tactic: “So, if you don’t agree, you must reject sovereignty itself.”

    That’s a tactic and it is an insult to everyone involved in the discussion.

    And those of you claiming this is prophetic have no more evidence for that claim than Kim Clement.

    BTW, I am waiting for the cessationist response squad to decide if they want to accuse Piper of being charismatic or defend him for being reformed. Should be fun.

    • I don’t think so. If God controls everything, then he controls the weather. If there is a tornado, he caused it. We can debate what the point of that tornado was, and of course we can’t say with God-like certainty, but I don’t see why it is so impossible to believe that God punishes (gasp) people anymore.

    • Fine. If you think someone here is denying God’s sovereignty, then I can’t be of any real assistance. You and I both know that’s neither the issue with any objection nor is it the contention of any commenter.

      • Well, if we all agree that God is sovereign, then we should be arguing *what* the point was, not *if* there was a point, right?

        Wilson covered this after 9/11:

        http://www.credenda.org/issues/13-4basicissues.php

      • No, we shouldn’t, because we aren’t privy to “what” the point was unless you believe you have special prophetic insight a la Mr. Falwell and Mr. Robertson.

        I’ll say it again: No one is denying God’s sovereignty and you know it. If you don’t like it that some people are less certain than Dr Piper is of the specific intentions of God in letting the wind blow then I’m sorry, but that’s seems to be the majority report in Christianity as I understand it.

        • I once heard a wise preacher say that wisdom is seeing God’s hand in every circumstance in your life – that still doesn’t give you the meaning of the event, but you look for it. I think the same goes for epic events. Wilson says this in the piece I linked:

          his does not yet tell us why God has done this—that has to be discussed on other grounds—but we have to begin by acknowledging that He has done it, and that He has a reason for it. This is inescapable. When we say that this happened as a judgment, we are chided or rebuked for pretending to peer into the mind of God. But no one is rebuked for saying that God did all this to “bring us together.” We all assign meaning to events, and if we believe in God, the meaning we assign is assumed to be His doing. But when we assign meaning, we have to be careful to do so in accordance with the teaching of Scripture. Where in Scripture does God visit disaster upon a people to “bring them together”? And how many countless times does He visit judgment to bring them to repentance?

    • The TR will not be commenting because Piper has been determined to be “ok” and close enough to the club to not attack.

  45. Just the other day I was sure the MSM had found its “right-wing Christian wacko” replacement for Jerry Falwell by tapping Sarah Palin as the new go-to. John Piper would have been my least likely candidate. Though a quasi-national presence, Piper doesn’t have quite the cachet, but it will be interesting if the MSM starts scrutinizing him more often for off-the-wall statements (even if they aren’t necessarily off the wall).

    And BTW, I was glad that Falwell said what he did about 9/11. Even if it was not truly the case, it needed to be said if for no other reason than to sober us up. I was never a full-on supporter of his, but he disappointed me by backing down from his statement. Say it if you must and go down in flames, but don’t retract unless you’re clearly sinning.

  46. I don’t think Piper’s use of Luke 13 is wrong. God is always telling everybody to repent and anytime we are reminded of that is good.

    What the ELCA, and other mainline liberal churches are doing is denying that anybody deserves to die for their sin, or in fact, that there are any sins (other than being conservative). So, they are in special need of a reminder that they too need to repent.

    God knocking down the cross on the sinning church while they meet to approve sin is a rather remarkable reminder to repent.

  47. ProdigalSarah says

    As a veteran of several hurricanes I can say that it is pretty common for churches to be damaged during violent storms. Many lose crosses and steeples. Crosses are flung down and pierce roofs. If you think about the placement and shape, this should not come as a surprise.

    Could God do this, deliberately?

    I am certain that I am incapable of comprehending all that is God. I am certainly not qualified to speculate on the motives of God. If anyone thinks they understand everything about God, they are talking about a god of their own invention.

    I have experienced things that could have a natural explanation or could be God’s intervention. I can’t claim to know the answers. But I find it arrogant to think that God has some special interest in condemning the same people we condemn.

    Piper also attempts to make the tornado sound unnatural. I see nothing unusual in the system that generated the tornadoes. So this puts me off from the start.

  48. Ah, the clarity and simple justice of Buddhism. If you are killed by a tornado, it’s your karma. Might not be a bad way to go, all things considered. I’ll take a tornado over brain cancer any day.