Piper, the tornado, and the aftermath

Last week a tornado struck downtown Minneapolis. John Piper wrote an article about it on the Desiring God blog, with specific reference to a meeting the same day of the ELCA, a Lutheran denomination, in which they approved a document that spoke approvingly of homosexual relationships.

At that point, all hell broke loose. The post now has over 700 comments, which might have the DG staff regretting their recent decision to have a commenting feature in the first place. I saw several references to it on Facebook, often with disapproving comments. A guy on Twitter said “It’s official: John Piper is bat-shit crazy.”

What Piper did not say, and what seemingly most of the people who read it thought he said, was that the tornado was definitively God’s judgment on the Lutherans. What he did say is this: in Luke 13:4-5, Jesus is asked about a seemingly random catastrophe that killed 18 people, and his response is that all people should repent. This means, says Piper (and I think he’s right), that catastrophes in general are a reminder of God’s sovereignty, his coming judgment, and a call to repent and believe. He then applies that warning to the specific situation of the Lutherans.

I know it’s controversial, but it’s really only as controversial as the Bible. Seriously, the Bible casually talks about storms and other natural phenomena as being sent by God all the time. And the parallel with the Luke 13 passage is pretty much a 1:1. Seemingly random event –> application: people should repent.

I thought it was a good, pastoral article. Here’s something that happened in the world, here’s what the Bible says, here’s what we should do. He includes himself in the warning too: “The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin.”

The most you could say, I think, is that Piper should have had a paragraph that started “Here’s what I’m not saying.” Or that a blog post that’s going to be quickly skimmed is not a good format for making a closely-nuanced argument. But it’s not Piper’s fault if people skim him and get the wrong idea, and if we always qualify everything to make sure we’re not misunderstood, we’ll end up never really saying anything. (Link via Abraham Piper.)

It does seem mean, and insensitive, and pompous to our culture’s ears. But, and this is my big point, so does the Bible. I don’t think Piper went anywhere the Bible doesn’t.

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