October 19, 2017

OTD: Obsessed with Tornadoes Disorder

UPDATE: I am closing comments. I think we’ve talked enough at this time. In the meantime, please read the post by my friend John Armstrong that is much more sympathetic to John Piper, who is his friend, but nonetheless critical of his theological approach. Here is a key statement in John’s post:

‘What I believe Dr. Piper misses in his zeal for divine sovereignty, and in his excessive preoccupation with putting God at the center of storms and lightning strikes, is divine mystery. As Arnobius said, “We must answer that we do not know these things.”‘

Thanks for  a good discussion. I’m sure we’ll be dealing with these matters again.

• • •

Regular commenter Eagle received some chiding for bringing up John Piper in the discussion following my tornado post last night.

Perhaps we should praise him for his insight.

Turns out Brother John was thinking about those tornadoes after all. And in his self-appointed role as God’s Anointed Interpreter of Tornadoes, Piper has made his morose musings public once more in yesterday’s blog post, “Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God.”

“Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?

“…We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil. God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.”

After directly attributing these devastating, death-dealing storms to the sovereign, all-controlling God, Piper comments on what he might be trying to teach us. Despite his own warning — “We are not God’s counselors. Nor can we fathom all his judgments. That was the lesson of Job. Let us beware, therefore, of reading the hand of providence with too much certainty or specificity.” — Piper goes on to read three lessons in the storms:

  • Like Job, we should just submit and say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
  • We should heed Jesus’ words in Luke 13:4-5 and take every storm as a divine warning to repent.
  • We should not think that God’s people themselves are exempt from such judgments.

This is a pastor’s message in the immediate aftermath of a terrible disaster.

How comforting. How helpful. How sympathetic. How sensitive. How pastoral.

Not.

I don’t want to leave anyone in the dark here about what I think regarding Dr. Piper’s cogitations. This will be a full-blown rant, straightforward and to the point.

  • This is inappropriate.
  • This is not helpful, pastoral, or loving.
  • The timing is worse than awful; it’s inexcusable.
  • This disrespects God and the people whose lives were devastated by the storms.
  • This reinforces the false conception that it is the pastor’s job to be the all-wise interpreter of life’s mysteries, using his Bible as the Divine Answer Book. And so Pastor Piper affirms, if the Bible says “God sent a mighty wind,” then this means God is in immediate and direct control of all mighty winds — “If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.” Take it all literally: no room for nuance, no poetic license, no metaphorical language, no mystery.
  • As a matter of fact, if Dr. Piper wants to bring the book of Job into the equation, he should admit something — God never told Job that it was he who sent all those disasters that befell the man and his family. Rather, God simply demonstrated to Job that humans can’t conceive what’s going on in his unfathomably majestic and complex creation. He didn’t say, “Look Job, I did it. It’s as simple as that. Accept that, repent, and submit to the fact that I will do whatever I like.” Instead, he took Job on a magical mystery tour that raised a lot more questions than it answered. Isn’t it just possible that in God’s creation there are all kinds of freedoms and undetermined outcomes, levels of causation, and “laws” of nature about which we have no conception? Just because the Bible says, in story and poetry no less, that “God does” something, do we build an entire propositional theology of God’s involvement that we can apply unambiguously to the events we behold in this world? It seems to me that this was exactly the viewpoint the book of Job was written to counter.
  • And, speaking of Job’s friends, what did they do when they first came to the poor man in his sufferings? “…they raised their voices and wept aloud; they tore their robes and threw dust in the air upon their heads. They sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2.12-13). Dr. Piper, that’s what good pastors (and good friends) do when things like this happen. They sit down. They sympathize. They shut up.
  • Why do some preachers think everyone has this obsessive need for explanation and answers at times like this? There may come a time (usually much later) for gentle instruction and discussion about the theological issues, but a wise pastor understands that when people ask “Why?” in a time of trauma and grief, they are not crying out for intellectual satisfaction. They are expressing pain. They are lamenting. They are not asking someone wiser and more spiritual to unlock mysteries of meaning for them. They don’t need someone to “put it in perspective for them.” They need someone who will “weep with those who weep.”
  • Why do some preachers take opportunities like this to pile on? Instead of expressing sadness, extending condolences, or passionately urging love for one’s suffering brethren and neighbors (in his post Piper writes one brief line encouraging people to help), he says (1) just praise God, (2) be warned and repent, and (3) watch out, don’t think it can’t happen to you. Talk about a miserable comforter!
  • It is Islam that sets forth submission and unquestioning acceptance as the ultimate in piety — not Christianity nor our parent faith as expressed in the Hebrew Bible. The faith we follow is one of lively dialogue between the Creator and his creatures. We question, complain, express our anger, cry out in pain, and bargain with God. Sometimes, if you believe the Bible, God even changes his mind at our behest. Like Jacob, we refuse to let him go until he blesses us. Like Moses, we argue with God. Like the psalmists, we groan and hurl curses toward the heavens. On the other hand, preachers like John Piper want us to get in line and behave. They rebuke our messiness, our humanness. They use the sovereignty of God to shut us up.

• • •

The best response to any event in life, but especially tragic events, is love not words. Nobody in southern Indiana, Kentucky, or anywhere else the sky fell last week needs or wants our words. Our theological perspectives won’t help them or lead them to Jesus. Especially when those dogmas are proclaimed by insensitive preachers in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, when our neighbors still can’t sleep for the ringing in their ears.

The next time a tornado hits, I hope Rev. Piper takes it as a sign — a sign that he should go on a silent retreat to pray for the victims.

And learn to never speak of tornadoes again.

 

Comments

  1. THIS —-> “It is Islam that sets forth submission and unquestioning acceptance as the ultimate in piety — not Christianity nor our parent faith as expressed in the Hebrew Bible. The faith we follow is one of lively dialogue between the Creator and his creatures. We question, complain, express our anger, cry out in pain, and bargain with God. Sometimes, if you believe the Bible, God even changes his mind at our behest. Like Jacob, we refuse to let him go until he blesses us. Like Moses, we argue with God. Like the psalmists, we groan and hurl curses toward the heavens. On the other hand, preachers like John Piper want us to get in line and behave. They rebuke our messiness, our humanness. They use the sovereignty of God to shut us up.”

    Thank you!

    • Double thank you.

      • I’m going to include my thank you for that as well 🙂 thank you!!!!!

      • THIS—>”The best response to any event in life, but especially tragic events, is love not words. Nobody in southern Indiana, Kentucky, or anywhere else the sky fell last week needs or wants our words. Our theological perspectives won’t help them or lead them to Jesus.”

        less words, more love.

        I can appreciate that.
        Thanks!

    • Yes! God invites us to come and reason. I take great comfort that no matter what, I am free to be REAL and God never forsakes, abandons, or destroys me. It is repugnant that Pastor’s especially use tragedy to spew their anger and vitriol in God’s name.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I remember similar from Rabbi Boteach a year or two ago. Telling how in Jewish tradition, Abraham haggled God down to “ten righteous men” to spare Sodom & Gomorrah; Jacob broke his leg wrestling with God to give him a blessing; others argued with God; none just sat back and went “Thy Will Be Done”. And that that was the major difference in attitude between Judaism and the two other Faiths of the Book.

      • Danielle79 says:

        The image of Jacob as the man “wrestling with the angel” is completely fascinating! It makes dynamic and mysterious everything we try to make formulaic about religion.

    • Biblical writers seem to think God ultimately controlled everything. And I believe the Bible, but I don’t think God changes his mind like I do. Satan did what he did to Job with Gods’ permission. So is Satan or nature able to do harm while God sets by helplessly?

  2. Sadly…this is almost a regular occurance. First it was Pat Robetson…now it is John Piper. Tonight I went to a secular humanist (Center for Inquiry) event here in Washington, D.C. I heard Stephan Law present the “Evil God Challenge” It dealt with the subject of evil. After the presentation I told a close friend of mine how whenever I think of a tornado I think of what John Piper has taught about the tornadoes in the Twin Cities…. Here’s what I attended:

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/dc/events/voices_of_reason_-_stephen_law_the_evil_god_challenge/

    This is part of the reason why I am no longer a Christian. I can’t be one…not with this type of crap. Christians have the knack of being able to say the wrong things, at the wrong times for maximum impact. When my Mom was finished going through chemotheraphy and radition for pancreatic cancer I gave my Mom a tract by John Piper that talked about how cancer is a gift. With my Dad just having major surgery for a brain tumor…do you think I’ll do the same thing?

    No….I still am pissed that I gave my Mom the pamphlet. And after asking for forgiveness I still feel sick.

    I just can’t believe in God. Not with stuff like this… And when I have friends and others who admire, respect and talk about how John Piper is good. Yes I do know a few of his fan boys from Crusade and out here in the DC area. I gave one guy my John Piper books and I’ve spent some time thinking that it was probably better to give him pornograghy than John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life” and other material.

    Not to be difficult…but Christianity really makes me feel sick. Just sick. I’m disgusted to think that I used to consume his material. Well the damage is done, his fan boys shower him with praise, and I for one would rathor walk into hell boldly with my head held high than be a part of a faith where he teaches stuff like this.

    Why arn’t more Christians outraged?

    • joel hunter says:

      My reply to you, Eagle, showed up a couple of comments down the thread…

    • Eagle – thank you for speaking out against this “sermon” of Piper’s

      though I have one thought on this: his understanding of God is – at very best – incredibly frakked up.

      I can’t help thinking of what Jesus said about having a millstone put around one’s neck if one misleads or harms anyone in the name of God.

      • Eagle, you saw this drivel coming, and most decent human beings, not just Christians, are sickened and mortified by this sort of bull$h!te spewing from someone who claims to be a Chrisitan leader.

        You and I have had this discussion before, (as have lots of us)…….I totally understand how pi$$ed off and turned off you are by the fundies who lied to you and beat you up while you stood looking for answers. It is vile and inexusable.

        BUT….you have been exposed to a minority spin-off group of so-called Christians, and they do not speak for the millions and millions of humans who have quietly and faithfully followed Christ over the last 2000 years. You were locked in a room and force fed gruel and gristle, and of course got nauseated and eventually started to throw up and become malnourished. HOWEVER, it has now made you convinved that you hate ALL food and refuse to eat or be in the same room with a chef. And that can starve you to death inch by inch.

        Thank you for coming here and sharing your story and your struggle. Wish I had a magic wand that would let you see how very much you are loved…..but in the meantime, hang in there and try to belive that there is a tiny light, a speck of truth and sanity waiting for you.

        • And not only are they not RealChristians(tm), Pattie, but they’re not even real Scotsmen, either.

        • David L says:

          BUT….you have been exposed to a minority spin-off group of so-called Christians, and they do not speak for the millions and millions of humans who have quietly and faithfully followed Christ over the last 2000 years.

          I used to be with you on the minority of a minority but now I’m not so sure. At least in the US. There seems to be a growing movement to get rid of congregation led churches and replace them with elder led that are really more like a compliant board of directors reporting to the CEO/pastor.

          I suspect you and I and others here don’t see it so much because we just don’t go “there”.

        • Scratch says:

          Aww. If we only believed in YOUR brand of Christianity, it’d all be better. This John Piper guy is just not a Real Christian like you are. And no non-believer has ever tried your particular approach. Ever. The problem isn’t the message itself! All these people fleeing Christianity’s abuses are just upset at a few people!

          Except none of that’s true.

          The sheer arrogance and presumption in that statement are absolutely beyond the pale. In a way, Pattie, you are more offensive even than John Piper.

          • Beakerj says:

            Ooooh, did you read Pattie’s comment? I respectfully want to challenge your statement about Pattie’s arrogance in the strongest possible terms. Your conclusions about what she said are completely unwarranted, & disproportionate.

    • Eagle – John Piper represents only a small proportion of the Christian church and the wider Christian church itself doesn’t always represent God truthfully either. I am not a believer because of other people or the church but because of the Jesus I meet in the Bible and have known since I was a small child. Unlike people and churches He has never let me down or disappointed me. Please don’t judge Christianity on its followers but the Person we follow because all of us follow imperfectly. And keep pointing out the logs in our eyes – it’s good for us. Thank you.

    • As to why more Christians aren’t outraged, Eagle, it’s always easier to stand safely on the sidelines and point and holler about something than it is to actually wade into the mess and try to do something about it. Those who are actually in it up to their hips day in and day out just don’t have time to pay much attention to this kind of drivel.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And there’s always the Persecution Siege Mentality you get among Evangelicals.

        Where you have to circle the wagons against The Other.

        (Same dynamic as when Muslims circled the wagons against Brother Muslims after 9/11.)

      • When the storms hit our area in April of 2011, we were with all of the other Christian churches, right in the midst of it – providing food, shelter, medical assistance. Catholics were working alongside Baptists and Pentecostals, Methodists alongside Episcopalians – no one gave a rats patootie about our theological differences and no one blamed God. We knew where God was. God was in the midst of the sufferring.

        • “God was in the midst of the suffering.”

          Yes. Yes. Yes!

          • Scratch says:

            So you’re seriously totally okay with a God who is the midst of your suffering but doesn’t do more to help you out of it? And more to the point caused that suffering to begin with? What was he doing while in the middle of all that human suffering he’d caused and allowed to happen? Playing a GameBoy? Texting his girlfriend? Pointing and laughing?

            I’m so glad I’m out of church. I used to talk like that too, till the blinders came off. Y’all got yourselves out of that situation all by yourselves. You had to. And I applaud your strength in doing it.

          • Scratch you are putting words in my mouth. No one ever said God doesn’t help. The point of saying he is “in the midst” is that he cares.

    • Speaking of Stephen Law’s “Evil God Challenge”, here is my excerpt of one atheist’s reaction to it on logical grounds:

      “It’s hard to be sure, at these dizzying heights of abstraction and perfection, but it seems plausible the knowledge of moral law constrains your ability to transgress it. If you had perfect knowledge of the gravity of your choices and the harm you were doing, how could it be possible to freely choose evil. We make it easier by pushing away that knowledge. We kill from far away, where we can’t see faces, we want to make the poor and homeless invisible, we define other humans as lesser people than us.

      So if a god had perfect knowledge of the Good, regardless of zer power, how would it be logically possible to will evil? Law’s hypothetical fails before he gets up to resolving the contradiction of good in the world, because the very idea is rooted in a contradiction.”

      How crazy is it that we can have a self-confessed bisexual, transhumanist atheist (and Leah is well worth reading even for posts you don’t agree with) arguing on logical grounds against a god deliberately causing harm and suffering, and a conservative, strictly Biblical Christian pastor arguing for it?

    • Suzanne says:

      I understand Eagle. This type of mentality is why i, too, struggle with my beliefs every day. Where will it come out? No clue.
      I just know that I can’t be part of a system that believes God would come down and wipe a bunch of people out just for thrills or anger or whatever. So, I, as they say “wonder as I wander” and don’t worry much about which Christians have the real honest true Christianity and which are fake. I don’t have much regard for any of them any more.

  3. A tornado? Mass destruction? Loss of life?

    Holy Opportunity, Batman, let’s use it!

    As Rahm Emanuel (in)famously said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

    So John Piper plays Spin the Bible, Pin the Tail on the Gospel, or whatever he calls his game of stringing together Scriptural non sequiturs (Does he really get paid to do this kind of thing?), and, Voila! A SERMON that will have ’em all coming to Jesus!

    Gotta hand it to him, he’s brilliant.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Just like Sarah Brady every time there’s a school shooting.

      Blood and death and suffering —
      What An Opportunity To Advance Our Agenda!

    • I wonder what is in the man’s mind. I used to think this when Pat Robertson would go off…. It just makes me wonder. What I find amusing is the John Piper fan boys I know who sap up his every word. Then these same people expect to be taken seriously. John Piper…seriously?!? WTF?!?

      Is it possible for Christian to not get sexually excited when it comes to natural disasters? From previous tornadoes, hurricanes, eathquakes, etc.. I get the strange feeling that some fundys just pray for a disaster. Any disaster anywhere!!!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Is it possible for Christian to not get sexually excited when it comes to natural disasters?

        Might be a Church Lady-acceptable remapping of sexual kink. (Move over, Driscoll…)

        Or more likely a glee over The Unrighteous getting Smited (and God Getting Even for Us) given Church Lady-acceptable form.

        Then there’s always the End Time Prophecy reaction you saw after 9/11 — “This Is IT! I hope I’m in a skyscrapter so I won’t have as far to travel in The Rapture!” — where disaster is nothing more than another item on the End Time Prophecy checklist.

      • I think part of Pat Robertson’s issues are his advanced age. My Mom has been a regular viewer of The 700 Club for as long as I can remember and even she wishes Pat would retire already and turn the reigns over to someone else. She has noticed that he seems to be crankier and more dismissive of people’s concerns than he used to be. Even his co-hosts raise their eyebrows and challenge him from to time to time on some of the off-the-cuff remarks he makes. (Not that this justifies what he said, but it may help to explain it.)

        • Age is one part of it, but he has been “going off” like this for decades, really.i

      • Eagle; It is so hard to believe in God when those who purport to know him best are such arses. I’m sorry that’s been your experience of Christians. And frankly, I use the term “Christian” for brevity because the definition is a whole other conversation… I was seriously warped by my church experience and it was many years before I was able to separate God from church and human failures claiming God to justify their own agendas.

  4. This is completely disgusting. I am constantly amazed that this man is held in such esteem on the internet and elsewhere; and also amazed that so many people hold to this determinist nonsense. No wonder the world hates us so much.

    It’s truly incredible how so many manage to miss that SATAN inflicted suffering on Job; God merely allowed it to happen, and it is no more God’s fault when disasters happen than it is a parent’s fault when his blockheaded teenage son gets drunk at a party and crashes Dad’s car into a telephone pole. God allowing something to happen is not the same as CAUSING it.

    Our faith is the only way we can make sense of and deal tragedies like this: by remembering that it pains God, too, when his children die and when tragedies happen. We can know that God’s allowance for these things is temporary, and one day everything will be set right and our tears wiped away. We can know that God himself suffered as we do, rejected and hated by his own brethren and familiar with excruciating pain; he understands. Atheism offers no answers, only meaninglessness and risible absurdity toward the nerve reaction we call pain. Contrary to being evidence against God, evil is an argument for God, because only in him can we find relief, meaning, and rescue from the evil still present in our world.

  5. joel hunter says:

    I hope they are, Eagle. But even outrage, though certainly right in this case by any sane standard of Eternal Justice, isn’t as important as sharing in the pain and grief of our neighbors, of binding up the wounds where we can, and helping those who are newly helpless. I trust–but I cannot say that I know–that many good people, presumably many ordinary Christian folk among them, are too busy caring for and healing the hurting than bothering to pick up the cultural megaphone that Dr. Piper enjoys to respond in kind to him. In its proper time and place, to be sure. Perhaps this cry from the heart by Chaplain Mike will go some way toward that.

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Looks like Pat Robertson has handed off his mantle of Preacher Who Shoots Off His Mouth Whenever There’s A Disaster…

  7. Tired Flatfoot says:

    Eagle, I think Joel Hunter is right. Any person, Christian or not, that reads the garbage that spews out of Piper’s is probably outraged! The God I know is a God of Love,care,grace and compassion. He is a God that wants to know us intimately and be companion in our journey through life. He is a God worthy of our reverence and worshipped certainly still a God of mystery,BUT, mostly He w ants to be our friend an companion.. Witness Jesus time on earth and his friendship and companionship with both males and females. Witnes his miracles throughout the Bible of grace and love. Witness the work of the Cross and the love,grace,forgiveness,compassion and invitation that day.

    I get fired up and can go on and on about what an amazing God we have that has NOTHING to do with he idiocy that comes from folks like Piper. I believe that God weeps over that stupidity. The real measure of Gods love shown THROUGH His creation is on the nightly news each evening. Person after person being interviewed gives God credit for their safety and survival. Those that show up to help out inevitably give God the glory for them being able to help their fellow man. Many have wept and prayed for the suffering in the Midwest. I know I have.

    One last thing. You said that Christianity makes you feel sick. And discusted. Please don’t confuse the garbage from mens

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      But every “person after person being interviewed giving God credit for their safety and survival” has to answer the question “What about those who DIDN’T survive.” Too easy to slip into “God kept ME safe by killing YOU instead” without realizing it.

      And if the answer to that question is “They (not Me) had some Secret Sin/Didn’t Pray Enough/etc”, there’s this Japanese schoolyard thing called “Kancho” I’d like to demonstrate for you….

      • Agreed HUG… It’s like this in much of life. Is the person who survives blessed by God, and is the person who dies not blessed? Where do you draw the line? Think of this in reagrds to cancer, automoble crashes, diseases, etc… This is really hard stuff and there are no clear answers. The more I think about it the more I get confused.

  8. Tired Flatfoot says:

    Well, my comment got swept up before i could spell check it. My last point was/is that the bile of some arrogant men is not representative of who God really is. Our different theologies also have little bearing on things. ( how many Catholic and/or Protestant Denomonations are there………? ). “Stuff Happens”. I recently heared a great quote said at a funeral of a young man who had died. “. I refuse to indict God for that which I do not understand”. To that I would add, “God is good, All the time, No matter what”.

  9. In Job 42:7 when God’s anger burned against Job’s friends, it wasn’t because they spoke wrongly about Job; it was because they spoke wrongly about GOD. How did they wrong God and His reputation? By trying to convince Job to repent and sacrifice, because in their minds God will be compelled to reward this upright behavior.
    Contrast this with Jesus’ response to those who equate calamity with unconfessed sin: “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” (Matthew 12:7 ESV)

  10. Hmm…. every time I hear some celebrity religious leader say something like this, among several unprintable things that come to mind, these passages always come up, too….

    “1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”” – Luke 13:1-4

    “11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces 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; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” – 1 Kings 19:11-12

    The second is one is interesting in that is says God was not in the tornado, the earthquake or the fire – this is not how he talks to us….

    • JoanieD says:

      Jeannette, that 1 Kings passage is an excellent one to bring up in reference to this discussion. Thank you!

    • Pratico and Van Pelt have an essay from Niehaus in chapter 36.9 in their Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar in which Niehaus suggests the translation “a roaring, crushing, thunderous voice” instead of “a still, small voice.” In chapter 35.12 Niehaus similarly critiques “in the cool of the day” for Genesis 3:8.

  11. Damaris says:

    I don’t want to make a Piper-esque overinterpretation, but I think of the passage in John 9:1-7 where the disciples asked Jesus if a man had been born blind because of sin. No, Jesus said, but so that the work of God might be displayed in the man’s life. Then through compassion Jesus healed him. Applying the same principles to tornadoes, perhaps we can assume not that tornadoes are sent to us because of our sin, but that they are allowed to happen so that we can manifest the love of God to others when it really matters. If that is the case, then John Piper keeps failing the test, so far as I’m aware. Of course so do I . . .

  12. JoanieD says:

    “The next time a tornado hits, I hope Rev. Piper takes it as a sign — a sign that he should go on a silent retreat to pray for the victims.

    And learn to never speak of tornadoes again.”

    Amen to that, Chaplain Mike!

  13. Jacob Stump says:

    While Piper says “God gave the command,” Pat Robertson says it is the fault of those building in zones where tornadoes (or hurricanes or earthquakes) are likely to occur. Which is it? Or perhaps evangelicals pastors should not play meteorologist?

    Here is the link to Pat: http://christiannightmares.tumblr.com/post/18820271324/televangelist-meteorologist-pat-robertson-says

    • cermak_rd says:

      Although it seems like a good idea, the problem with tornadoes is they can potentially hit huge swaths of land. So unless we want to completely empty the great plains and part of the prairie states this is probably a non-starter. Plus where are you going to move them? If you can’t build in hurrican zones that empties the east coast and gulf and earthquake zones is going to empty the west coast and the states along the New Madrid (IL, TN, KY).

      A better idea might be to build our structures to withstand natural disasters better (San Fran’s earthquake code comes to mind). Of course, I’m not quite sure what kind of massive structure one would need to survive a F5 (or even an F4 like the one that hit Harrisburg, IL)

      • My thinking exactly. Otherwise we abandon Los Angeles & San Francisco (earthquakes), New Orleans (Katrina), and, as you stated, half the midwest. And that’s just for starters. Somehow I don’t think Pat thought this through.

        • David L says:

          Personally I don’t think he thinks much of anything through. Not for a very long time. Except for how best to market his energy potion that will allow you to bench press 2000 pounds.

      • I’m not quite sure what kind of massive structure one would need to survive a F5 (or even an F4 like the one that hit Harrisburg, IL)

        Not so much “massive”, rather build below ground level.

        Building stick-framed houses above ground is easier and less costly, but we all pay for it through insurance premiums.

        T

    • dumb ox says:

      Very insightful. And we wonder why universities don’t want Christians on their science staff.

  14. Father Rick says:

    I am reminded of the Lost Son parable in Luke. When the father sees the son afar off, he runs to him and says not a word, but hugs and kisses his new found son. And as well, the father turns a deaf ear to the younger son’s rehearsed plan to come under his father’s good graces. Instead he addresses the servants to make ready for a celebration.

  15. I don’t understand why Christians keep telling non-christians that some Christians are bad. We already know this. Go correct the bad Christians, because if a non-Christian tries to do it then we are just attacking their faith. So many of you have an opertunity to stand up for what you know is right but you direct it at the wrong people.

    • Many of us try, Chris. However, there isn’t anyone as blind as someone who thinks they have the monopoly on God and His Truth.

      Decent Christians like Ch. Mike and thousands of other try to rebuke these folks, but you cannot make someone listen when they already know it all.

      All we can do is try to heal the hurts and messes they cause in this world, to the best of our own abilities and gifts.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Nothing’s worse than a monster who thinks he’s right with God.”
        — Captain Mal Reynolds, Free Trader Serenity

        • HUG,

          Is that quote from Robert Heinlein?

          T

        • The Previous Dan says:

          Love the Firefly reference! What great characters that show had. I wish it had a chance to develop them further. Didn’t like the movie as much though. We never really go to find out what was in the Shepherd’s past that made him who he was. I would have liked to have seen more of that.

  16. Danielle79 says:

    It takes a forgetfulness of self to sympathize with disaster victims and be Christ to them.

    It’s self-glorifying to remind everyone that they should probably listen to your preaching in the future, lest God’s judgment fall on your community, sparing neither the godless or godly.

    That is all that need be said. The theological question of whether or how God acts in disasters is secondary to this one question.

    That said, I think it is worth noting that Piper is hardly alone in this sort of preaching; there’s quite a long tradition of it in American religion, including and especially among revivalist preachers and calvinist. (Check out puritan responses to natural disasters and wars.) So he’s not really acting too unusually, for his tradition. Just a reminder that there’s a strong thread of this in Christian thought… it’s not just an “Islamic” tendency.

    • So it used to be politically correct to describe acts of destruction as God’s judgments, but now political correctness insists that we not do so.

      I guess the “proper” response depends on which way the wind is blowing…

      • cermak_rd says:

        Well sure. Religion either moves with the zeitgeist or it gets forgotten, unless it is held by those living in closed enclaves.

        Meteorology is better understood now than it was then. Frankly this whole idea of the divine sending winds hither and thither sounds more like Animism than any sort of Judeo-Christio-Islamic type of religion.

      • I think this kind of response is a struggle with what Eagle’s seminar was addressing: the problem of evil and pain. If God can stop it and doesn’t, this either leaves us with (a) God would like to, but can’t, so is not omnipotent as we have understood Him or (b) God can intervene but does not, so is not a personal God as we have understood Him.

        Dr. Piper’s response is to “save the appearances” (that is, God is both omnipotent and is involved in His creation) by (c), which is that God sends disasters as rebukes. However, this doesn’t solve matters for unbelievers (and some believers) which is why the title of the seminar: Evil God. If God kills and destroys, then God is evil (and we should all give up and become Luciferians or atheists or Zen Buddhists).

        I think we do have to genuinely struggle with the question, and most of Christendom has come to a modified version of (b) – God can intervene, but permits these tribulations as part of the mystery of free will and the fallen creation, and as testing, not that He wishes the destruction of sinners but working through suffering and evil to bring us to better understanding of one another; that we should love our neighbours as ourselves and love God and trust in that love.

      • dumb ox says:

        Actually, I think Piper is leaning with the zeitgeist. Secularists or gaiaists will blame the tornadoes on environmental sinners for causing global warming. No one believes in grace anymore. Everything is punishment. As Alan Jones, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of San Francisco, said, “We live in an age in which everything is permitted and nothing is forgiven.”

        • dumb ox says:

          We already live in a world enthralled with the epic failure. As Don Henley sang, “people love it when you lose”. What does Piper think he is contributing? More of the same?

  17. Thanks, Mike. Definitely true. He’s acting more like Job’s friends than like Job. And he so consistently uses his view of God’s sovereignty to shut people up. I know this was a rant, but I think a very appropriate one.

  18. Chaplain Mike,

    I read John Piper’s post on the tornado tragedy, which The Gospel Coalition prominently featured on its website yesterday. I had the exact same reaction you have expressed.

    Thank you for speaking out against Piper’s highly inappropriate theological interpretation. Piper needs to keep his opinions to himself and pray for these poor souls whose lives have been devastated. Shame on him!

    • How do you know that Piper has, in fact, not prayed for the tornado victims?

      • As for me, I hope he has, Stephen. In fact, I consider it likely. What I am speaking out against is a public statement claiming to be the “Christian” or “biblical” view of disasters like this. He does not speak for me.

      • Clay Crouch says:

        Wouldn’t it be nice if he offered up a public prayer for the victims instead of or, in addition to his pronouncements about God’s supposed doings? But then what’s the use if, as Mr. Piper believes, God directs tornadoes where HE wills (Including into the homes of little children where they are sucked out of their beds and dumped into a field and left to die). All said, would a little compassion in midst of tragedy be too much to ask? For the life of me, I don’t understand why so many folks eagerly rush to Mr. Piper’s defense whenever he makes these observations.

  19. Len Knighton says:

    I may be called a heretic for what I’m about to write but if God is a loving God, as I believe, then this explanation, this theology works for me. The number 7 is considered to be a divine number. It represents completeness, perfection. In Genesis, we are told that God created “the heavens and the earth” in 6 days and rested the seventh day. God saw that Creation was good, but not perfect. Is it possible that because God stopped working after 6 days that some chaos remained in the world, places and/or forces that are beyond God’s power?

    • uhhh…no.

    • Len, you can go to this archived post and read about “Surd Evil” — http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/another-look-surd-evil-serpents-and-the-cosmic-battle

      Actually, I’ve decided to run that post again on Friday, so join the discussion then.

    • I would rather think that there is something broken about the world as we know it, perhaps due to the fall. It seems like the cross has a place in this, that even the Son of God faced death while visiting this absurd world. But rather than trying to avoid, escape, deny, or cheat death, Jesus faced it head-on and conquered it. I know that probably begs more questions than answers, such as is God impotent against the evil, chaos, and brokenness of this world. But God defeats evil through the weakness of death, rather than waging war against it, perhaps like Jack Sparrow facing the kracken.

  20. Clay Knick says:

    Piper’s theology leads him to this point. As Roger Olson has helpfully shown us it is the hyper-Calvinism of this sort that keeps him from being a Calvinist. It ends up being nothing more than fatalism and is ineffective when dealing with problem of evil. As a pastor, hospital chaplain, and fire/rescue chaplain & EMT I’ve seen my share of tragedies. I can’t imagine standing at the many scenes of accidents and house fires I’ve worked and saying the things he said. Or even thinking them.

    • Brianthedad says:

      Its easy for him from his study or parsonage or whatever place he sits to make these pronouncements. He would not dare stand in the street with the families of a destroyed neighborhood, with those mourning the missing, injured and dead, surveying the loss and destruction, and then, within arms reach of a grieving father, point out that this was a warning to repent, and that by the way, even if you are a christian, you’re not exempt. Here in Alabama he’d tote a butt-whupping, to put it politely.

  21. Robin Cranford says:

    This isn’t anything new. If you are of the particular calvinist bent of John Piper, this is the conclusion you have to end with. I am not referring to all Calvinist by the way. Some of the most poignant arguments for the faith come from people such as Michael Horton and I am eternally grateful for these Calvinist. IMHO Piper may not be properly distinguishing the law and the gospel. The Luke passage he sites, he seems to be aiming at the people who were devastated by the tragedy. But, isn’t Jesus talking to those who are assuming that this tragedy happened because of some sin those people committed over there?
    Why would Piper throw law at in this situation. Why wouldn’t he give them the gospel? At the point of despair, give them hope! If one is proud, haughty, and pleased with himself give him law but I am sorry. In this situation give them grace! BTW, Chap. Mike, there is a book out called Give them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick. It may be worth a read.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      This isn’t anything new. If you are of the particular calvinist bent of John Piper, this is the conclusion you have to end with.

      IN’SHAL’LAH…

  22. dumb ox says:

    Can you help me understand the difference between what Piper said and an article posted here a couple weeks ago regarding Luther’s view of the alien, destructive works of God?

    • The Previous Dan says:

      I would say timing of delivery at the very least. There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity.

      • dumb ox says:

        I’m a big fan of Luther, but even from him I struggle with this. The alternatives are equally unpleasant. Spinoza wouldn’t have blamed God; however, his view of God was both impersonal and deterministic.

  23. The spirit of these comments is surprising to me. I know that the comments are in the spirit of Chaplain Mike’s rant, which explains some of their attitudes, but at least his rant was somewhat restrained. Is it really productive to spend so much time and energy excoriating a fellow Christian? Arguing against Piper’s beliefs and their effects is one thing, and I’m all for it, but many of the comments so far do not limit themselves to that. Charity seems lacking in this discussion, and at any rate, Piper’s comments here are hardly on a Pat Robertson level.

    Now, I will address some of Chaplain Mike’s points specifically (leaving aside the obvious sarcasm):

    “Despite his own warning — ‘We are not God’s counselors. Nor can we fathom all his judgments. That was the lesson of Job. Let us beware, therefore, of reading the hand of providence with too much certainty or specificity.’ — Piper goes on to read three lessons in the storms.”

    The lessons, you’ll notice, are not very specific. Piper is not simply contradicting himself here.

    Piper’s lessons:

    Like Job, we should just submit and say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
    We should heed Jesus’ words in Luke 13:4-5 and take every storm as a divine warning to repent.
    We should not think that God’s people themselves are exempt from such judgments.

    Chaplain Mike finds these “inappropriate,” “not helpful,” “inexcusable,” and “disrespectful,” in large part because of their view of God. It is perhaps not quite fair to claim that Piper’s comments disrespect God when those comments flow directly from his Calvinism, with which Chaplain Mike disagrees. They are only disrespectful if you have already rejected Calvinism. (I am not a Calvinist, so I have no dog in this fight.)

    As for the first lesson, does anyone here think that this is an _inappropriate_ response to suffering?

    As for the second and third, does anyone here really think they are inaccurate? That we should not look at natural disasters and be reminded to repent, or be reminded that the the just are not exempt from them?

    Now, as for the lessons not being pastoral, perhaps not. Maybe the timing was poor. But notice that Piper did not claim that the tornado victims themselves were being judged for their sins (perhaps homosexuality; now THAT would be Pat Robertson-esque). His lessons were, in fact, very vague. And not particularly controversial given his theological suppositions.

    • I’ll stand by my rant. Piper’s points may not be as specific this time as his earlier claim that God was teaching the ELCA a lesson by sending storms to judge their vote on gays, but they are absolutely inappropriate, and the more I think about this, the more amazed I am that a pastor with Piper’s experience would go public with miserable comfort like this so soon after the devastation.

      It may not be inappropriate at some point to talk about blessing the Lord in suffering. It is appalling that a preacher would stand up in the immediate aftermath of a disaster and tell people this is what they should do.

      Same with the second and third points.

      This is time for silence, compassion, and service. Not theological speculation or homiletical piling on.

      And I haven’t even said a word about his sub-Christian theology.

      • August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina comes roaring ashore. Surge as high as 25-30 feet. Two days later I received confirmation of what I knew was coming. I’m sorry. Your house has been washed away. Contents gone. Nothing but a slab. City and region completely devastated. Neighbors dead. My world had been turned upside down. How could this happen to me? I attended church regularly. I led a small Bible study group. Prayed. Tithed. What was happening????

        Much pain and sadness. Many prayers of frustration. Lamenting I suppose. Attended my friend’s church that following Sunday. Southern Baptist. I told my wife I didn’t want to go. As I knew what the sermon would be about. The usual why do bad things happen to bit. As expected the preacher was right on cue, accompanied with a slide show of the destruction and damage, as “Blessed be His name” played in the background. I felt manipulated. And wept during church.

        Piper might mean well just as I suspect the preacher that day meant well. But as any good comedian knows, timing is everything. Sometimes words aren’t necessary. Sometimes a simple I’m so sorry this has happened accompanied with a good hug can do wonders for those in pain and despair.

        Is that too much to hope for?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Weren’t there a lot of Celebrity preachers shooting off their mouths like this after Katrina, too?

          Where the carcass is, the flies will gather…

        • Damaris says:

          I’m sorry for your loss, Don. That must have been devastating.

      • Adrienne says:

        Agreed Chaplain Mike ~ timing is everything. Love, compassion and practical help comes first and foremost. It is James saying, “”Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty,” and then don’t give him clothes or food, what good does that do?” What good does a sermon or a theological treatise do for someone who is in shock and has lost everything and has not even a roof over his head? It hurts my head and my heart.

      • Randy Thompson says:

        In the context of relationship, encouraging people to “bless the Lord” while standing with them in their pain is, in my judgment, on target. I would take it as a very powerful reminder and encouragement indeed. (Here’s hoping I won’t need that encouragement any time soon!) To encourage someone to love God when that may be the last thing they feel like doing is a powerful reminder of God’s grace, and a reminder that the God who (sometimes mysteriously) loves us is bigger than our disaster.

        However, to broadcast this message to all and sundry over the dis-embodied internet loses something significant, namely being personally present.

    • The Previous Dan says:

      Even if Piper is correct, something true that is said at the wrong time and to the wrong people is… WRONG. It reminds me of one of my daughters when she was younger. She tended to hurt people with the truth. She would tell women that they look fat in that dress, or their hair looked awful, etc. It may have been true but it was very insensitive, very unkind, and very wrong to say. We had to teach her that truthfulness did not require diarrhea of the mouth. There is a time, a place, and a way to say everything that needs to be said. At the very least, Piper got that part wrong and it causes a black-eye for the whole Church. Now is the time for love, comfort, and support. Maybe later after the acute pain has subsided, attempts at explanation may be in order.

      • Phil M. says:

        Well, I think the problem is, though, that if Piper is correct, there really isn’t anything you could say that could possibly comfort the victims of natural disasters. Anything you would be saying to them would essentially be lying to them from his perspective. Oddly enough, I think that’s one of the fatal flaws of Calvinism – it doesn’t take evil seriously enough.

        • The Previous Dan says:

          Personally, I don’t like Calvinism either. I think it is based too much on wrapping everything up in a nice neat package that can be logically understood. The God I worship is too big for that and the Scripture I am a student of speaks to my heart, energizes my mind, and yet is so deep it will always defy complete understanding. I’m comfortable with mystery, where Calvinists don’t seem to be. In my post I was just giving Piper the freedom to express his view in the right place and time.

          • Joseph (the original) says:

            it could be Calvinism, or a hyper Reformist view, not so callous? it is a logical intellectual attempt to define an unfathomable Deity using selected scriptural references translated by imperfect human minds…

            it becomes a sterile effort IMHO by backing the very God they insist is sovereign into a corner that neither reason nor compassion can escape; a dogmatic black hole of theological exactitude…

            it reduces God to a characterization that makes Him out to be incapable of being the very God they claim Him to be. His sovereignty simply an intellectual nod to the concept, but without really knowing God’s ways, thoughts, exercise of His will, purposes, intents…

            just as they dance around the issue of God not being the source/cause of sin or evil, they must still acknowledge His ultimate will in its existence. if it is obvious there are some very basic theological categories absolutely contrary to God’s heart running amok in our fallen world today, why ascribe natural disasters Him? Piper sounds like the proverbial Pharisee standing up in the Temple praying about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even those poor saps over there that got smacked by Your wake-up call tornadoes. I apply my bible to every situation without fully knowing Your will in all things…”

            Lord…have mercy on the victims suffering in the aftermath of those tornadoes.

            and on preachers that cannot express Your compassion to the hurting (2Cor 1:3-7)…

            amen.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            it becomes a sterile effort IMHO by backing the very God they insist is sovereign into a corner that neither reason nor compassion can escape; a dogmatic black hole of theological exactitude…

            The same corner with Mohammed and his successors. Did they back God into the corner or back themselves into it?.

  24. Phil M. says:

    Does anyone else see the irony of Piper putting up the link to the Samaritan’s Purse website at the end of his post. If the tornadoes were the work of God, isn’t contributing to a charity that goes and in helps the people affected get back on their feet actually contributing to something that is actually doing work that is contrary to God’s work in this case? This again is just one example of where Calvinism asks its adherents to check their brains at the door. I’m sorry, I know I’m harsh, but I can’t take this type of nonsense any more. There is a difference between a paradox or mystery and a flat out logical contradiction.

    This is Piper’s modus operandi in situations like these. I’m no longer shocked by anything the man says. He made the choice a long time ago that he would rather be faithful to a theological system than to the narrative of Scripture. Again, I know it sounds harsh, and it is, but I don’t see how what he’s saying jives with the way destruction and evil are talked about in Scripture. They are never things that we are told to embrace as simply God’s will. Even in the instance where they are put forth as some sort of warning, the implication is that the people can make choices that lead them down another path. Piper is just wrong.

    • The Previous Dan says:

      I agree with your criticism of Calvinism. But I don’t see an inconsistency in Piper putting a link to Samaritan’s Purse. In Piper’s understanding, one of the reasons God smacked them down was so that you could show them His love by helping them back up.

  25. The Previous Dan says:

    “but a wise pastor understands that when people ask “Why?’ in a time of trauma and grief, they are not crying out for intellectual satisfaction. They are expressing pain. They are lamenting. They are not asking someone wiser and more spiritual to unlock mysteries of meaning for them. They don’t need someone to ‘put it in perspective for them.’ They need someone who will ‘weep with those who weep.'”

    Amen. CM – You have wisdom that is, unfortunately, absent among much of the Church. May God grant you an even larger platform from which to speak His truth.

    • Job and his friends sat in the ashes together for seven days before any of them uttered a word.

      • Brianthedad says:

        I often think that the problems start when those who show up to mourn with you start talking.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “but a wise pastor understands that when people ask “Why?’ in a time of trauma and grief, they are not crying out for intellectual satisfaction. They are expressing pain. They are lamenting.

      Which segues directly into the recent post on how Always-Victorious Shiny Happy Evangelicals have forgotten how to Lament.

  26. I completely recognize that Piper’s comments on natural disasters are utterly ridiculous in a modern, American context. One of the commenters somewhere cited “meteorology” as the basis for understanding a tornado, as if there is no proper, theocentric, theological understanding of what has just taken place. Another commenter noted, with reference to the discussion focused on Job, that God “merely” allowed Satan to strike Job. Merely? How under-developed can our understanding of the sovereignty of God be in America, much less our anemic theology of suffering?

    Setting aside our musings on a proper theology of tornados (which by the way, when we’re done chiding Piper for having one, recognize that CM has one too, its just different from Piper’s) perhaps we would do well to understand that a healthy, robust theology of suffering is desperately needed in America, and we will not possess that gift until/unless we set aside our Sunday School opinions of God, and come to grips with God’s sovereignty (our generation hasn’t done this).

    We don’t serve a God who “merely” allows suffering, while never-not-once sinning or being the author of evil. You see, to say that God “merely” allows suffering allows us to keep our Romper Room theology in tact, along with our nursery room paintings of Noah’s Ark on the wall, a great display of God’s wrath and fury. Who brought that about? Apparently, it was our little (g)od in America who “merely” allowed it to happen.

    As for Piper’s comments, has anyone had the pastoral fortitude to recognize that 1) his comments weren’t necessarily “for” those picking up the pieces this morning, but for those of us at home who continue to cling to Sunday School answers for why seemingly “bad things happen to good people”, and 2) that to the extent his words were for those who are suffering, the most loving way to walk them through their trial isn’t with empty and meaningless pleasantries and platitudes, but with a robust theology of suffering, which actually and decisively conveys to the sufferer that their suffering isn’t in vain, that their God wasn’t asleep at the wheel when Satan “merely” ambushed them, but that someway, somehow, their suffering is intended and will bring about a display and proclamation of the glory of God? You won’t agree with this if you find that God is most glorified in your prosperity than in your suffering in this lifetime.

    I’m a cancer survivor. I hate cancer with a passion and I can’t wait for God to finally kick its tail to Hell. But, I also know that ultimately, behind the suffering I endured, is a God who meant for me my good, despite the wicked motivations of Satan. And thats why, at the end of this lifetime, I will be able to thank God for testing me in that fiery furnace.

    Our time for suffering will come. We do well to prepare for it.

    • cermak_rd says:

      “One of the commenters somewhere cited “meteorology” as the basis for understanding a tornado, as if there is no proper, theocentric, theological understanding of what has just taken place.”

      Yes. I was the one that mentioned meteorology. Because that is the science that deals with our observations and understanding of weather. It’s meteorology that is responsible for the NOAA radio warnings. I see no need for a theocentric or theological understanding of extreme weather. Any more than I see a need for a theological or theocentric explanation for why milk goes bad when it is left at room temperature for too long.

      Where religion can do good, as opposed to making people look foolish, is in helping those hit pick the pieces of their lives back up, in standing along side those who grieve, and in rebuking those who use the opportunity to broadcast their inadequate theology.

      • cermak_rd wrote, ” I see no need for a theocentric or theological understanding of extreme weather. Any more than I see a need for a theological or theocentric explanation for why milk goes bad when it is left at room temperature for too long.”

        I like that analogy, cermak_rd. Excellent point!

      • That Other Jean says:

        Yes, this. I can understand the role of religion in comforting and helping those afflicted by natural disasters, not in “explaining” them. “God did it, and it might be your fault.” is not helpful.

      • cermak_rd, don’t tell me you don’t believe in the demons of spoiled milk! Why, that’s just plain heresy and veering dangerously close to blasphemy! If I can’t leave my milk out at room teperature for three day and find it just as good as when I left it, why did God make cows?

        😉

        • To explicate further on the above point, and to rebuke the erring brother in a spirit of fraternal correction, cows are not refrigerated, yet the milk comes out of them perfectly potable. So why else would milk go bad at room temperature if not for the cheese- and yoghurt-loving demons? Don’t confuse me with your science!

          😀

          • cermak_rd says:

            The secret is in the construction of the cow’s udder. If we were to just use the same material to build our milk holding vessels, it would never go bad!

          • cermak_rd, if you just prayed right and enough, then your vessels would always be of the right construction 😉

          • David L says:

            Naw. We just need to keep the cows in our houses so we can have the milk fresh when needed. After all isn’t this what was done until the last 100 years. So it must be the right way compared to our modern way.

            (And yes I do understand that you don’t milk on demand.)

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            That’d be funnier, Martha, if I hadn’t heard of just-as-way-out explanations from Spiritual Warfare types.

            P.S. David L? Try that fresh milk idea with most city Americans and you’ll find them trying to milk a bull.

    • I completely agree. It is when we have a fuller understanding of God and who he is, it is then that we can come away worshiping him. This is why Piper brings up Job. God clearly shows Job, you are not the one in control and who are you to question me. God is quite clear in saying that he is greater than all and how could you possibly begin to comprehend that I can use all things, even what is evil, for good? Even in the Psalms after David questions, he comes back to praise (almost every time). It is his understanding of God’s sovereignty and GREATNESS that enables him to trust in the Lord and his plans. Piper comes back to the gospel in the end and says that in all things God is working to bring people to himself, he has made the way because he loves us. God loves us and cares for us and many times that means using the pain of this world to refine us and bring us to our knees in recognition of who he is and realize what HE HAS DONE ON THE CROSS FOR US. So I echo Joshua in saying that I will give up the Sunday School Jesus to swim in the deep abiding ocean of a God who is big enough to use holocausts for good. Amen that this is the God we serve!

      • The more I know God the less I know about him and the less eager I am to try and explain his ways. If a greater view of God doesn’t cause us to shut our mouths in stunned silence, I question whether we’ve really encountered God. This is the enigma of Calvinism — they claim to have the biggest God. They also do the most talking. For me, that does not add up.

        • Amen, Chap, I’d rather sit in silent awe of God instead of having to feel the need to explain every thing. Reformed churches are bad about that.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          The more I know God the less I know about him and the less eager I am to try and explain his ways. If a greater view of God doesn’t cause us to shut our mouths in stunned silence, I question whether we’ve really encountered God.

          Isn’t that the entire theme of The Book of Job?

          • Danielle says:

            Perhaps it is worth noting that God ultimately appears to Job as a whirlwind–a kind of chaotic, unexplainable force who defies explanation.

        • Randy Thompson says:

          Yes, I agree, although I’d say this a bit differently.

          The more I know about God the more I know I’m a sinner and the more I know that through Christ I’m dealing with a love that surpasses knowledge. The latter I want to talk about a great deal, even though I feel as though I barely know what I’m talking about.

          Calvin’s “Institutes” are based on the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves. The two are two sides of the same coin. I like that.

        • You act as if God has not revealed himself in Scripture. God shows us, in Scripture, over and over, using many things that we would say are horrible and terrible for his purposes. He uses wars and famines and plagues and disease and “natural disasters” for is purposes. So knowing that God is big enough and sovereign over all of that and able to use suffering and pain for good, makes me get on my knees and thank him that he is God and I am not. It brings me to worship and to repent; it brings me closer to him. Piper is trying to drive us to the Father; because when I know that God is big enough to care for me in the suffering of life then I can face tomorrow.

    • icecreamassassin says:

      Perhaps God can clarify all these things? Maybe then we wouldn’t have such an under-developed understanding of his sovereignty? Might that help us prepare?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Job asked the same thing. And any answer God gave went completely over his head.

    • But, I also know that ultimately, behind the suffering I endured, is a God who meant for me my good, despite the wicked motivations of Satan.

      Well, God can bring good from any situation, but whether or not he meant it for good is another question. I have a big problem with any theological system that makes God the author of evil. Scripture is clear on that point.

      And while your experience with cancer may have in fact brought you to a good place, I could probably go without much trouble and find people who have had similar experiences that caused them to totally lose any faith they may have had, tore their family apart, etc. It’s just not a simple answer.

      Yes, suffering will come. It’s part of life. But we have a savior who isn’t unaquainted with suffering, and we know will stand with us and for us as we go through these things.

      • Phil M writes, “I have a big problem with any theological system that makes God the author of evil. Scripture is clear on that point.”

        Me, too.

    • It is possible to say both that

      1) God “merely” allowed evil to happen, and

      2) That he is powerful enough to take the evil that “merely” happens and use it for good.

      I see no contradiction in this. There is no need to attribute evil acts to him for them to be usable by him. I see the cross as being diminished if God is the author of death and suffering, because the victory won by Jesus is against himself, and not evil forces acting outside of his kingdom.

      I guess I’m more Christus Victor than even I knew…hah…

      • Matt writes, “I guess I’m more Christus Victor than even I knew…hah…”

        Glad to hear it, Matt! This is much to be commended in the Christus Victor understanding of what Jesus did on the cross.

        • Thanks! I recently read “Simply Jesus” by NT Wright, he’s responsible for pushing me to that understanding of the cross. That’s a great book by the way, highly recommended to all…

          • Matt, I just finished reading Simply Jesus as well. I agree…great book!

          • I heard that Christus Victor was the nearly universal understanding of the early church and Penal Sub was developed later. Anyone know if this is true?

          • Danielle says:

            Similar experience here. I’ve been trying to get my western and Protestant mind around Christus Victor (and related aspects of Orthodox theology, among other things). Then I read Wright, and I thought, “Ah, there’s a way to put everything together…”

            @Miguel: My impression is that patristics scholars more or less agree that atonement models resembling the penal substitution view didn’t appear until around the 4th century. If a penal substitution view was discussed early on, it was a minor theme only — not the major preoccupation.

            I’m sure what I just wrote is a huge over-simplification, but I think that’s more or less the direction of most arguments.

    • Sorry. Totally disagree. Piper is the one with the simplistic theology here. And regardless of his intended audience his remarks amount to pastoral malpractice.

    • Yes suffering comes…

      My Father just had major surgery to remove a brain tumor. In a few weeks he’ll start chemotherapy and radiation. And we hope…I MEAN hope that the first MRI scan in 3 monthes is clear.

      My sister has dealt with schizophrenia since 1996. I can still remember those phone calls to me when she was in full psychosis. Talk about frightening…and my family is still trying to figure a way froward while I shower my sister with love.

      My Mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2005. Went through chemo and beat it. I remember that phone call and wepaing in a half empty apartment in Milwaukee afriad that I was going to lose my Mom and that she would suffer.

      My sister in Los Angeles spent 2 years unemployed trying to find a job. I remember those conversations with her when unemployment compensation was running out.

      And I’ve had my own issues…in which I was foolish enough to buy into fundagelicalism and get burned.

      Josh…in my expereicne those of the hyper-Calvinist persuassion and those who I know who love John Piper the most have the most affluent, and cushy lifestyles. I would venture to suggest that those who inhale whatever it is John Piper spews have seldom expereinced suffering. My Mom did not view pancreatic cancer was a gift. My Mom was frightened, scared, and trying to get through it while thinking of her husband, son and daughters.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Eagle, it’s always those who have NEVER experienced something that are the glib know-it-alls when counseling someone who has.

        That’s another theme of The Book of Job.

        • So true Unicorn!
          I used to be an expert on child rearing. That was until we started having kids.
          lol

  27. David Cornwell says:

    “The faith we follow is one of lively dialogue between the Creator and his creatures. We question, complain, express our anger, cry out in pain, and bargain with God. Sometimes, if you believe the Bible, God even changes his mind at our behest. Like Jacob, we refuse to let him go until he blesses us. Like Moses, we argue with God. Like the psalmists, we groan and hurl curses toward the heavens.”

    Very well said. We almost always miss the boat when we try to theologically explain tragedies such as this. Men (mostly men at least, I don’t know of any women) trying to elevate themselves to a position of knowledge, power, and importance make statements like Piper’s. God is inscrutable. Piper, and none of us here, can penetrate the whole meaning of that which remains in so many ways a mystery. Yet He sent to us Jesus to reveal that which He wants us to know.

  28. cermak_rd says:

    You didn’t even mention the comment that Robertson made about how prayer could have diverted the tornadoes. Sigh. I’m sorry but its things like this that makes him and those like him look really bad. Tornadoes are spawned by specific weather patterns that have specific indicators that can be observed. This is why there are storm chasers. They don’t just aimlessly drive around looking for storms, they observe the radar and trends and go to the places that are going to have extreme weather.

    There is no evidence that any deity can stop or divert a tornado. Even if one community could use their deity to divert one, does it then hit another town that has not prayed hard enough?

    This whole kind of thing makes Evangelicals look like undereducated rubes. Why hasn’t an evangelical meteorologist come out and rejected the wisdom of Pat?

    • Danielle says:

      Why is this making me think of Frank Peretti?

      When the prayer warriors get moving, the angels get stronger! Etc.

      Oh, and don’t forget to kick the demons out your car.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        From what I’ve heard, Peretti discontinued his Spiritual Warfare thriller novels because he was starting to attract fanboys who didn’t realize they were fiction. (Merceces Lackey had something similar happen to her several years ago regarding an “occult detective” urban fantasy series of hers.)

        And last time I experienced a Spiritual Warfare type (at least before Santorum’s primary speeches), the DEMONS weren’t in my car, they were in a picture on my wall.

    • Well, this evangelical meteorologist (and stormchaser) for one, does (reject that “wisdom”). We have come a long way in our understanding of tornadoes, to the point where we indeed can predict conditions favorable for them days ahead of time in many cases. I doubt sincerely that God would allow us to predict his own judgments!

  29. It occurs to me that Eagle is our early Tornado-Warning-Warning system.

    • No I am your friendly fundementalist warning system!! 😀 I give advanced notice to incoming statements that seem to allow fundys to draw perverse pleasure off of other people’s pain. My BS detector goes off a lot with this crowd.

      • The fact that you totally CALLED it says a lot. It would be one thing to spuriously accuse Piper of being, um, [fill in the blank]. But then he opens his mouth and proves it. I always try hard to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, especially people in ministry, but this guy is just making it too hard. I wish I could believe that you just got lucky with your prediction.

  30. On top of the comments being wholly inappropriate you know what also gets me? Greg Boyd says this also…80% of the world’s tornados happen in the Bible Belt or the very conservative religious areas of the United States. Why does God punish or go after these people for their “sin” or “warn them to repent” and then leave off the hook Nevada, Boston, New York City, Amsterdam, etc…In Nevada you have legalized prostitution and other legalized vices. There are parts of the country where gay marriage is performed and practiced daily. Massachusetts is leading the nation in gay marriage…why didn’t God have a tornado come down there to get them to “repent?” Where…or where I ask are critical thinking skills.

    • Eagle, here in LA, we get earthquakes, wildfires, flash floods, as well as our own manmade disasters of traffic and smog.
      And I don’t think God left Nevada off the hook – – not if you’ve been there in the summer. : )

  31. I have heard John Piper preach before. His style of ’emotional blackmail’ preaching really puts me off.

    If I had the choice of hearing him preach for an hour, or to have to undergo a root canal…I’d have to give it some serious thought.

    • As a man I’d rathor have a cathetor the size of a garden hose inserted then listen to another John Piper sermon. I’m still in detox mode for his previous material…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I had to pee through a Foley for three days after emergency surgery back in ’06. Once is enough for me.

    • cermak_rd says:

      If the root canal was needed, and you did not seek out the Steve Martin character in “Little Shop of Horrors”, at the end of your root canal, you would have a tooth that was still functional and no longer hurt. At the end of the period of Piper preaching you would have?

    • I must have been lucky, then. The only time I heard him preach was when he filled in for a local pastor. I didn’t go, but I later listened to it online. Most soporific and uninspiring sermon I’d heard in recent memory. It was painful just to listen to it all, but I did in order to better understand why he has so many fans. And when it was over, I was left even more baffled re: persons’ adulation of him.

      Zzzzzzzzz…….

    • Danielle says:

      Well, with the root canal they give you pain killer first. So I recommend the root canal.

      And at least the dentist won’t theorize as to the divine cause of the root canal, or pontificate about how root canals can help us to reflect on God’s absolute sovereignty. He’ll just fix the tooth and send you home.

  32. Life’s a bitch and then you die. But Jesus has changed that forever. Don’t put your faith in religeous ranting by so called spokesmen of God, ignore them. Don’t carry past hurts and disappointments with you forever. Let go and trust in The Lord.

  33. Clay Crouch says:

    To your post I reply: rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

    Or better, this:

    Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for thy love’s sake. Amen.

  34. Piper uses the passage from Luke 13:4-5 in his article and talked about the tower that fell and killed 18 people. Jesus said, “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5).

    What do you think Jesus means here? Most likely not everyone he talked to repented. But they didn’t all “likewise perish” in that a tower did not fall on all of them and kill them. You may say, “Well, he didn’t mean they would all die exactly the same way, but they would die.” But, even the people who repented DID die in some fashion and very likely they didn’t all die happy and peacefully in their sleep. (And I would rather have a building fall on me and kill me than die from a slow, painful cancer.) So, Jesus must mean something else. What? I don’t think most people will agree with me, but sometimes I think Jesus spoke to people who could only hear the message on a very superficial level and so he spoke to them very superficially, telling them that if they did not start behaving, really bad things would happen to them. He had to treat them like children sometimes: “If you don’t stop making that face, your face is going to freeze into that position forever.” I could be WAY off here, but it’s something for me to think about anyway.

    • In the context of the preceding chapter where Jesus is talking about interpreting the times, I think His words need to be seen in the context of the impending judgment on Jerusalem and Israel. Piper says that every wind (or every calamity) is a divine warning to the survivors, but it seems to me that Jesus is almost saying the opposite. He’s saying that people shouldn’t draw a strict cause and effect relationship between these things that happened and who they happened to. Don’t assume that those who died were sinners who were being punished. Instead worry about your own sin. In essence, don’t concern about that which you have no control over, but rather, concern yourself about that which you can control.

      • Amen. If death means eternity in Paradise with God, why do we Christians act like it is the worst thing that can happen to us?

        I, too, would opt for the buidling falling on me to a slow pain-filled death from disease. I ackowledge that it could be harder and bring suffering to those who love me, but I pray that they would be happy for me.

        In a multitude of ways, it is harder to be the survivor of tragedy and death than the one who got to go Home.

        • JoanieD says:

          “If death means eternity in Paradise with God, why do we Christians act like it is the worst thing that can happen to us?”

          Good question, Pattie.

      • As in Luke 23: “28 But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’”

        So yes, Jesus is telling His listeners “No, the Galileans and the people in Siloam were not dreadful sinners punished by God and they weren’t even examples used by God to scare you righteous; their fate is the fate awaiting Jerusalem, and the only way to transcend the suffering to come is to lay hold of the Kingdom right now, while I am here before you, while the day is here.”

  35. Richard S says:

    Hard to believe that for a lot of people here, time has not progressed from thousands of years ago – merely the agent. Greeks believe “Zeus sent his wrath”, now it is a loving Christan god who sends his wrath.

    I weep for my country and humanity.

    • Especially humanity… Some people haven’t moved beyond the Middle Ages. Hard to believe in the 21st century this is still on-going.

      • Damaris says:

        Hey, Eagle — Don’t dis the Middle Ages! It wasn’t so bad. Plus while time may progress, I don’t think that people do. We do wrong to look for a fundamental change in human nature. People just shuffle their favorite sins and blind spots from century to century.

  36. Michelle says:

    Is this the John Piper who has so much to say about the (non) role of women in the church? I specifically remember the names John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Just in case women need one more reason to leave the church…

  37. Randy Thompson says:

    I have no idea what Piper’s intentions were or weren’t, or what the larger context of his remarks is. But, as I’ve been following the comments here, one thing keeps going through my mind, with a respectful nod to Harry Truman:

    The buck stops here.
    -God-

    This is a pretty good commentary on the following:

    “Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?”
    (Amos 3:6)

    We human beings are way more screwed-up than we want to think we are, life is short, and anything that serves to remind us that repentance is a lifelong process is a blessing.

    If the cross teaches us nothing else, it teaches us that we can find and know God’s love even in deadly disaster.
    Too often, American Christians think of God as some sort of metaphysical Hallmark card, and that being a Christian is a “get out of disaster free” card in the game of life. We have lost sight of the fact that life can be “nasty, short and brutish,” as the philosopher Thomas Hobbes put it, and that Christ meets us on the cross in that kind of life.

    “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?”
    (Job, Job 2:10)

    If I was one of those who suffered through these terrible storms, I would want someone to remind me, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord,” especially if that someone had been through disaster and had learned to say that in the midst of it.

    Really, whether Piper is speaking out of personal experience or just book learning is, finally, not for us to judge. At the worst, he spoke the right thing for the wrong reason, something I’ve been known to do, too.

    .

  38. I have been a long time reader of IM and have learned much from the many comments of others who have been hurt in various churches. Churches would do well to take these valid criticisms to heart.

    I am concerned however by the lack of humility, charity and grace shown in some of the comments towards other believers who may disagree with them. I have felt this way for quite some time while reading this site and wanted to express my concern. I do not always agree with Dr. Piper but have benefited from some of his books. It is fair to critique his post about the tornadoes and question the wisdom and timing of the post, but some of the comments about him seem to me to be overly harsh and mean-spirited. The irony is that many on this site have probably been the victims of such speech by those within churches they have attended.

    Even if you completely disagree with everything he wrote, we do not know his motivations or his heart or how he would speak directly to someone who came to him brokenhearted over losses suffered during this tornado. I found many of the points that he made to be biblically valid and indeed have found great comfort myself in God’s sovereignty and love during times of tragedy in my own life.

    I love the church and hope that even in times of disagreement that we can still try to speak the truth in love and not assume the worst about each other.

    • Well I guess I could brown nose him. Throw more money at his material. I could be his lap dog, pant, and salivate at his every word. I’ve known a number of people who are like that . In the process I could also suspend critical thinking skills. But hey! I did that for a few years when I drank form the reformed and third wave kool-aide!!

      • There is a difference between brown-nosing Piper and salivating over his every word and still being able to read/listen to him and gain something from what he says. It doesn’t have to be the extreme of hanging on to his every word or not listening to him at all.

        That being said, I don’t read or listen to him primarily because I do get tired of the “fan-boy” attitude that comes across from those I know who do follow him. But, if I’m honest, I’ve done the same thing at times with teachers I listen to. And no one is exempt from it. Every religion and philosophy has its gurus that the people in those crowds follow after. I would even imagine there are agnostics/atheists who salivate over everything Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, etc., wrote.

      • Eagle, I have read with sorrow the hurt that you have suffered over the years from various people within the church. I am grieved over the lack of love that we often show others who are suffering and struggling with sin, as we all are. My post was not meant to be a defense of Dr. Piper but simply to acknowledge that we can disagree with someone without being overly negative about them personally. I read a great deal from authors with a wide variety of theological backgrounds, and though I may disagree with them in certain areas, I often benefit from insights that they have. I pray that God does help me to think critically about everything that I read.

    • Phil M. says:

      The thing I don’t understand is why Piper feels the need to write these types of posts at all. Really, anyone who’s been paying attention at all over the last few years to the Christian blogosphere or media knows his thoughts on this. This is essentially the same article he wrote when the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, and when other things happened. People who care know what he thinks. Saying it over and over isn’t changing anyone’s mind. That’s what I find annoying. It’s kind of like having a relative who’s a staunch supporter of some political agenda bring up the same argument at Thanksgiving every year. People quit listening years ago, but yet goes on and on…

    • Randy Thompson says:

      Janet, I agree.
      Piper’s “Desiring God” is one of the finest Christian books I’ve ever read.

    • Janet:

      Forget Piper’s motivations and reasons. The sermon itself, as I wrote, is like playing “Spin the Bible” or “Pin the Tail on the Gospel” – i.e., grabbing and misusing/misrepresenting Scriptures to create a salvation sermon. E.g.:

      “God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.”

      But the Book of Job in no wise blames the destructions on God’s actions (except His action to let The Adversary mess with Job).

      Then Piper puts Paul’s words from Romans and the words of Job’s friends into God’s mouth as God’s answer to Job:

      “God’s answer to Job is not that he was a worse sinner than the ‘wicked’ — or that Maryville had some dark secret. His answer was, ‘Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”’ (Romans 11:33–34; Job 15:8; 36:22f).”

      This is just plain poor exegesis and application, and beneath what a pastor/preacher/teacher of Piper’s skill and education should be setting forth.

      • This is a fair criticism. We cannot know why God allows terrible things to happen, but I thought that his three points were valid to consider in light of this tragedy. I would not have stated things the way that he did, but I think I understand what he was trying to get at. Though we may have said things differently, I hope that he would agree that this is a time to grieve with those who are grieving, pray and extend our love and aid to those in need.

    • David L says:

      Even if you completely disagree with everything he wrote, we do not know his motivations or his heart or how he would speak directly to someone who came to him brokenhearted over losses suffered during this tornado.

      I’m sure that he (Piper) has the greatest of motivations. That doesn’t mean he isn’t totally wrong in his tone and timing. And maybe in his message.

  39. Martha:

    The longer I am at this game the more I am beginning to believe that we protestants do not have a pope. In fact, we have many. It amazes me that there as so many protestant pied pipers.

    What do you think?

  40. I agree with Chaplain Mike’s assessment that Piper’s approach was not very pastoral. When I’ve read some of John Calvin’s work he’s feisty to be sure but I’m always struck by how pastoral he is. Calvin is always careful to not go beyond what is revealed in scripture, in fact he leaves much to the mysteries and secret council of God. Perhaps those who claim to represent Calvinism would do well to adopt the graciousness that John Calvin himself has shown.

    • Bridget says:

      Paul –

      Calvin was instrumental in having a man burned at the stake. Where was pastoral care then? The man burned, though a possible heretic, could have been declared an unbeliever and treated as such according to scripture.

      All men are capable of wrong, Piper and Calvin are not exceptions. Neither showed pastoral care when they could have.

      • Google “Horton Servetus”. The situation appears to be more nuanced than your assertion would indicate. I never claimed (or would) that Calvin was not capable of any wrong. Sadly many of the Reformers and Church Fathers have at times lost their way.

      • Danielle says:

        Not to let Calvin off the hook, but his actions were very typical for the time. Catholics were burning Protestants, Protestants were killing Catholics, and as far as everyone was concerned the Anabaptists were always free game. A fellow like Severtus could easily have gotten himself in trouble outside Geneva…

        So Calvin failed in this case, but his failings were the standard failings of his age.

  41. Dormant Barbarian says:

    How should one read the Good Shepherd’s words, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” when confronted with the tragic events of Luke 13:1-5?

    • Randy Thompson says:

      1. No one deserves suffering of this sort.
      2. Those who died were no worse (or better) than those who didn’t.
      3. Everybody dies, and no one knows when.
      4. Life is short and “stuff” happens (actually, it’s a lot worse than “stuff,” but you get the idea)
      5. We all end up dead.
      6. Seek the Lord while He may be found.

      And,

      7. Don’t ask dumb philosophical questions about suffering.

      • Dormant Barbarian says:

        Randy Thompson,
        I see point 2 in the text, but perhaps you could help me see the other six points in these five verses.

        • Randy Thompson says:

          I’ll try. (Whether I succeed or not is up to you!)

          1. No one deserves suffering of this sort: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered in this way?” In other words, these people didn’t die because they were worse than anyone else, and, therefore, deserved to die for that reason. Here, the “wages of sin is death” and that holds true for everyone. If no one is better than anyone else, no one is worse, either.

          3. Everyone dies: “You will all likewise perish” (verse 3). The Lord appears to refer to death here in a sense greater than physical death, but I think that physical death is included here.

          4. Life is short and “stuff” happens: It seems to me that the specific incidents the Lord refers to here reflect the disasters, accidents, and tragedies which are part of life as we know it in this age. As with Pilate, governments slaughter their own people (as in Syria), and towers fall and crush people. that’s not the main point of the story, I agree, but it seems to me that it’s there, in the background, as it were.

          5. We all end up dead: The phrase, “you will all likewise perish,” does seem to refer to something greater than physical death, but it certainly does include that, I think. If you do repent, you’ll still die, which seems to me to be a good reason to make repentance a life-long friend! Again, “the wages of sin.”

          6. Seek the Lord while he may be found: I read that out of the call to repentance here. Like the unfortunates described here, none of us knows when we’ll die. Implicit in the possible suddenness of our life’s end is the sense that we have the present with no guarantees for the future. In other words, those whom Pilate killed and those crushed under the Tower of Siloam went about their business that day not knowing that their life journey would end.

          7. Don’t ask dumb philosophical questions about suffering: The issue isn’t trying to figure out why some people are crushed by towers and some aren’t; there is no satisfying answer to that question. What matters, I think, is going deeper with God and learning grace in disasters, tragedies and other such things. It seems to me that it makes more senses to seek God and repent in the face of such things, than to come up with a philosophical explanation that doesn’t draw your heart closer to God and which, finally, doesn’t convince anyone (especially if they’ve been through disaster). I had a friend years ago lose his wife, mother and aunt in a car wreck; he and his children survived. When he regained consciousness, and his priest came and told him what happened, he said “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” That makes more sense to me than any (!) philosophical explanation.

          I don’t know if that helped or not. Thanks for asking for clarification.

          • Dormant Barbarian says:

            Randy Thompson,
            Thank you for your thorough reply. I appreciate your focus on God’s grace which ultimately does predominate in Scripture but not in these five verses. Where is the grace in our Lord’s harsh words, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”? If we take our Lord’s words at face value, He does not provide comfort in this particular confrontation with tragedy. God’s grace is found in the parable that follows (vv. 6-9) but not before speaking some very harsh words. Though there are many times that sinners broken by this fallen world need to hear the comfort of the pure Gospel (and only the pure Gospel), there are times when even tragedy becomes a call to repentance (followed by the salve of grace). What do you think?

          • Randy Thompson says:

            I think the “grace in his words,” to use your phrase, is in the call to repent. Isn’t it the “kindness of God” that leads us to repentance, according to Romans? Maybe the best way of paraphrasing what Jesus is saying here is like this: Don’t let news of other people’s tragedies distract you from your own. While others might have been crushed to death by falling towers, I’m dying of a spiritually diseased heart.

            To balance this, I’d like to note that I’m not talking here about spiritual narcissism and self-preoccupation in the presence of immediate disaster where compassionate assistance is needed. Rather, I’m talking about disaster as “news.” The nightly news is a parade of disasters of which we are only spectators. In the cases referred to in this Luke page, the disasters are “news”: information no one can do anything about. Jesus here rules out speculating why this disaster happened to these particular people, where we use these people as object lessons of Divine judgment. Rather, he tells us, pay attention to the disaster that’s your heart. The state of your own heart will kill you. The knowledge of this is what he illustrates in his parable of the pharisee and the tax collector, who prays, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

            I’d like to suggest that personal knowledge of one’s diseased heart is the seed-bed of compassion.

          • I appreciate your thoughts here.

    • Ties in with the lament over Jerusalem in Luke 13: “34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

      Ordinarily, I don’t limit the Gospel accounts to specific times and places, but in this instance, I think that Jesus was addressing the people of Jerusalem who asked him about the Galileans killed by Pilate (and if you consider that they were talking to a Galilean who was going to be executed by Pilate, the foreshadowing is ominous) and He addresses them – and here I think He is talking to the people of Jerusalem very much about what is going to befall them unless they avoid it; well, they denied the Messiah, and in A.D. 70 Titus besieged, sacked and destroyed the city, carried off the spoils of the Temple as depicted on the triumphal arch erected in Rome, and scattered the people so that the daughters of Jerusalem who had wept over Christ going to be crucified had good reason to weep for their children.

  42. My first thought when I read this was that this kind of thing, combined with the previous post on the lackof music (and theology) relating to lament in the evangelical church, means that the sheeple get a double-whammy. No resources for lament and mourning and the sorrow that inevitably comes from living int his broken world, and at the same time some uber-calvinist preacher telling you it’s all God’s will and you have to just suck it up.

    My second thought (even before I read the last couple of paragraphs) was how close Piper is to the fatalism of Islam, in which there is no real explanation for these things other than it is God’s will. Having grown up in a Muslim country, I can tell you that this leads to all sorts of heartache, as well as to social and psychological pathologies.

    Third, as one who knows a number of missiionaries who have lost their lives, and who has seen a lot of loss and heartache, I can’t accept this aspect of Piper’s theology for a second. Why can’t evangelicals just admit that this is a broken world in which things happen that are not God’s will? Why is that so difficult? Are they so tied to a narrow view of God’s sovereignty? Don’t they understand that a theology that fails when it encounters real people and real life is a failed theology? As my mother-in-law would say, someine needs a good smack upside the head.

  43. I agree fully CM. megachurch hear it town claimed that the tornadoes were God’s punishment upon president obama for his lack of support for Israel..

  44. You had me at, ‘regular commenter Eagle received some chiding’ ….ha ha ha!! I most certainly am not in a place to read all these 140+ comments,but wanted to drop in to say that those like Eagle have a corner on some truths that religious folk can’t stomach. Sounds kinda familiar.

    Oh and less words, more love! LOVE THAT!!!

  45. Chaplain Mike.

    1) You didn’t talk about how Piper’s comments were “disrespectful of God”

    2) If God did not ordain the tornadoes, then you are implying that there are things that take place on earth that He does not ordain, therefore he does not have control over all things. That would seem to contradict Colossians 1:15-17 would it not? “…in Him all things are held together” Not a good slope to go down.

    • As I said to another, I think the most informed theological position on the matter is, “I don’t know.” See the end of the book of Job.

      Piper’s comments were disrespectful of God because I believe God was weeping with the sufferers and Piper gave no indication that God even cares. This is the not the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      • Robin Cranford says:

        Chaplain Mike, does it seem that certain theologians that go to the length Piper does to explain why these things happen explain them from the point of God the Father? I think this because in Calvinism they begin with the sovereignty of God so they can’t help but start down this path. One thing that is drawing me to Lutheranism is as Dr. Rosenbladt says, they start with Christ and it is like a ripple effect. So, a confessional Lutheran would never deny God’s sovereignty, they just wouldn’t begin there. I guess what I am trying to say is, if Jesus never became incarnate wouldn’t Piper be correct? It seems like some people feel he goes too far but within this frame work I say he doesn’t go far enough because he never gets to “behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” So, if Christ is God and he took on our suffering, then those tornadoes victims are the ones that need to hear about Christ in his suffering. Am I am wrong?

    • Well, there are plenty of things that happen on earth that God doesn’t ordain. God isn’t in the business of micro-management. Actually, in Genesis, when he created humans, it was with the instructions that we manage the earth. We screwed that up to such a degree that all of creation is affected…

      There are sorts of way to respond to the notion of sovereignty you put forth, but this thread isn’t really about that. I’d say that if you start with the notion that “God is sovereign” as the center of your theology, it leads you to some weird places. It’s much better to start with the center of “God is love”. That is what historic, orthodox, and Trinitarian faith is based on.

      • It doesn’t seem that it is necessary to start with either/or but both/and. If we focus on only one of the attributes of God, our theology can also lead us to some weird places. God is sovereign, and He is love. The original blog post does end with the fact that Jesus identified with us in our sufferings and by His death on the cross offers us hope now and in the resurrection. Perhaps a better balance of sovereignty and love would have been more helpful (or no words at all – only prayer for those affected).

        • Phil M. says:

          Well, love is the essence of God, not simply an attribute, so that’s why I say that theology has to be centered on that. Sovereignty is something that God possesses, but it’s not some which necessarily describes the essence of His being, at least not in traditional Trinitarian understandings. In fact, you could say that the Cross demonstrates that God chose to set aside some amount of sovereignty because of His great love for his Creation.

          • I appreciate the dialogue and understand what you are saying here. I was not as precise in my statements about God’s love and sovereignty as I should have been. It is true that God is love. He is also truth and light. I guess what I was trying to say is that it is sometimes difficult to focus on all of these things when taking about God and His ways. Sometimes when we apply our popular notions about love to God, we can also become unbalanced in our theology because we have trouble reconciling this with His justice, holiness, sovereignty, etc. Thankfully, God chose to reveal Himself to us through His Son and that by Christ’s death and resurrection we can be reconciled to God. I am grateful that, in Christ, not only can we have eternal life but help and peace and comfort now even when we don’t understand all that God is doing. We can cast all our cares on Him because He cares for us.

  46. I go away for a little while and BAM!! I find this…

    I was going to post on how much I detest Piper (oh… I just did, oh well), but instead I’m just going to go pray for the victims, have a tall drink with alcohol and pretend I’m not part of this $#%^&U* race we call human.

    -Paul-

  47. Danielle says:

    +1

  48. Robin Cranford says:

    No liturgy? In order to be the pure Gospel, the church has to be void of liturgy? I would rethink that one. Even John Piper has liturgical men speaking at his conferences. I recently listened to Michael Horton and the guys from the White Horse Inn speaking at the Desiring God conference. (Piper’s flagship ministry) Horton would definitely hold to a liturgy in fact, so do reformed baptist!

    • Florian says:

      Is this for me? Liturgy technically refers to the kind of rote ritualism that the devil invented to put sinners to sleep so they won’t hear the gospel message. Churches with a liberal agenda like liturgy because it strips away all meaning.

      • Anonymous says:

        (corrected placement)
        DNFTT.

      • ‘Technically’? Who came up with that ‘technical’ definition of liturgy?

        I guess it was the devil who gave Moses explicitly detailed instructions about the ‘rote ritualism’ of the Yom Kippur sacrifices to ‘strip away all meaning’, in which, by the way, the author of Hebrews finds a great deal of meaning.

        While liturgy can become ‘rote ritualism’, so can prayer, or fasting, or Bible reading. I am amazed at how much of Old Testament worship (which, by the way, the devil didn’t invent) involves physical experiences to connect with God and his presence (like eating the Passover lamb, washings, sacrifices, visual experiences like watching the priests enter the holy place, etc.). Even Jesus implemented 2 sacraments/ordinances that are very physical or ritualistic – baptism and communion. Apparently he wasn’t as afraid of ‘rote rituals’ as are some today.

        My apologies for chasing this off-topic rabbit.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I am amazed at how much of Old Testament worship (which, by the way, the devil didn’t invent) involves physical experiences to connect with God and his presence (like eating the Passover lamb, washings, sacrifices, visual experiences like watching the priests enter the holy place, etc.).

          Isn’t that the textbook definition of Sacraments and Sacramentals?

      • Florian, with all due respect, that is in the running for the most ignorant and ill-informed comment ever posted on Internet Monk.

      • The Pope of the Never-Wrong church of Florian* has spoken. (*Membership~1)

        Trouble is, not only is he wrong, he doesn’t even make a LICK of sense. It is like reading Chinese signs badly translated into misspelled pigeon-English….only not funny. Not funny at all.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          The Pope of the Never-Wrong church of Florian* has spoken. (*Membership~1)

          That IS the theoretical end-stage of Protestantism. MILLIONS of One True Churches, each with only one member, constantly denouncing and condemning each other Ex Cathedra as heretics & apostates.

  49. NOTE:

    I deleted Florian’s evangelistic sermon and responses to it. We’re not going there.

    • Thank you….so glad that my blood pressure did not get subjected to that vitrol.

      Cannot figure out if Florian is a troll, or simply an ill-informed and spiteful bible-worshipper who loathes Catholics.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I can’t tell either — in my experience, True Believers can ramp it up farther than a troll ever can while being Dead Serious. Safest to err on the side of caution and assume he’s for real. There’s a lot of X-treme Evangelicals whose Sure Sign of Being Saved is Catholic-bashing.

        Though “deleting his Evangelistic sermon” DOES give him more justification for his shtick; he can claim it as Persecution for his Godliness. (Isn’t there some Classic IMonks in the archives on just that subject — American Evangelicals seeing Persecution when it’s just hostility to their own ass-holiness?)

  50. redbert says:

    Just say it (we know you are thinking it)

    “If I were God I would do it differently” Or “I can’t believe in a God that would…”

    • Not the point. The point is these kinds of things are beyond explanation. And that the attempt to explain in a time of devastation is meaningless to those suffering. And that followers of Jesus should know better.