It looks like John Piper recently gave his interpretation of a tornado in Minneapolis as “a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin.” (The ELCA was discussing whether or not practicing homosexuals ought to be banned from pastoral ministry).
Now, in many ways I respect Piper. But I think he got this one wrong. Leaving aside the issue of homosexuality or sin generally for a moment, Piper’s “biblical justification” for viewing the tornado as specifically caused by God was frighteningly shoddy and taken way out of context, and it begs so many other questions (what about tornadoes that destroy the property of Christians who aren’t sinning?) that it just ends up making him look silly. It’s one thing to affirm that God acts in human history, it’s another to assume that every weather event that happens was somehow specifically orchestrated by God to send us some kind of message.
To put it bluntly: Doesn’t the announcement of the gospel assume that things are not as they should be? When Jesus announced that the kingdom of God was breaking in, doesn’t that assume there is some kind of “not-kingdom” sphere to break into? Doesn’t Jesus teaching us to pray “your kingdom come” assume that it’s not here all the way yet? Doesn’t Jesus teaching us to pray “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” assume that not everything that happens on earth is God’s will?
To get a feel for what I believe about these kinds of things, the following authors have done a fantastic job of laying out a theology of the kingdom of God that responds to events like tornadoes in Minneapolis or tsunamis in Indonesia:
- Greg Boyd on why the I35 bridge collapsed
- Jason Coker on the I35 bridge collapse
- Jason Coker on what God’s sovereignty means
UPDATE: Boyd responds to Piper’s blog post on the tornado, “if only to remind non-Christians that not all Christians think like this.”
UPDATE 2: Satire from Kim Roth: The Tornado, The Baptists, and The Old People.