Saturday, August 22, 2009

Is Piper Right About the Tornado?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) recently had their general assembly in Minneapolis and the gathering was certainly not without controversy. What has received the most attention was an official statement on sexuality that was passed and the eventual successful vote to allow gay clergy.

Another interesting occurrence took place during the convention when a powerful tornado ripped through downtown Minneapolis, right near where the Lutherans were meeting. Although Rev. Steven Loy, a leader in the ELCA, quipped, "We trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work," well-known Minneapolis pastor, John Piper, doesn't think what happened at the convention is a laughing matter.

Piper, who is a popular Christian author and leading proponent of Reformed theology, wrote about the tornado and its possible meaning on his blog, Desiring God. The complete article can be read here, but Piper concluded his comments this way:
"The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners."
Let me first say that I respect John Piper deeply and appreciate his heart for Jesus and passion for world missions. However, on this matter, I have to disagree with him. Although I solidly believe that God can (and does) bring judgment to sinful people through means such as natural disaster, I don't think we can be certain about the reasons why hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes happen to some people and not to others.

In this case Dr. Piper seems to be claiming to know the mind of God (i.e. God disapproves of homosexuality and, therefore, sent a tornado to get the Lutherans' attention). The real reason I have a problem with Piper's assertion is not because I don't think he could be right (God very well could have done what Piper claimed) but rather because the circumstances in which he chose to make this proclamation seem quite arbitrary to me.

Let me explain... He quotes from a passage in I Corinthians 6 in which homosexuals are deemed unrighteous, but so are heterosexuals that engage in sex outside of marriage, those who steal, the greedy, drunkards and thieves. In a nation that is full of individuals that commit all of these sins (most of them a lot more than homosexuality), why is it that the only time many Christian pastors believe God sends judgment is because of homosexuality? When formulating my thoughts on this post, when of my favorite bloggers also wrote about it. The Internet Monk puts it this way:
"Evangelical Christians are amazing for wanting it both ways. They want to be able to say when a tornado is warning liberal Lutherans, but they don’t want to say the light fixture that fell and killed a baby in some church is a sign of anything. They will probably sue the electrician. They want to say that God sends signs of repentance in the tornado that just skirted their town, and then want to say God is teaching us to depend on him when the tornado destroys the building the church meets in."
Anywhere a disaster happens we can find the sins mentioned in I Corinthians 6 practiced but it seems to be the gay issue that most frequently brings out statements from Christian leaders. For example, the late Jerry Falwell famously blamed the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. on "abortionists... feminists... gays... lesbians... the ACLU..." Why didn't his blame extend to the immense greed in America or adultery in the Church? Why didn't he blame the multi-million dollar corporate executives that stole the retirement packages of their employees and got off without even a slap on the wrist?

My point here is not to defend the decisions that the ELCA made this week. I believe they caved into cultural pressures and deviated from the clear teaching of Scripture. But I was disappointed with Dr. Piper's comments since they have the potential to lead to a greater insensitivity from Christians to those struggling with same-sex attraction.

To be fair, Piper published a follow-up article on this issue in order to clarify his initial statements by identifying his own personal tornado, cancer, and how God used that to bring Him to personal repentance. I appreciate his call for all people to turn from their sin and turn to Jesus. I just wish he would have chosen another way to do it in this particular instance.

1 comment:

Nidicka said...

My name is Nidicka Frederick and I was searching the internet for popular Christian blog sites and stumbled across this situation. The very question of whether Piper was right or wrong saddens me because it shows how far removed we as "religious leaders" have fallen from hearing God's call into our hearts regarding His ministry and relating God's Word to His people.

Whether the tornado was a sign is far less relevent than the idea that sin, regardless of if committed by homo or heterosexuals is being widely accepted and even encouraged by the church. I applaud Piper's willingness to outwardly speak out against the sin of homosexuality. And yes, we are to equally and as fervently speak out against infidelity, murder, crime and other acts against God.

Let us remember that none of us are impervious to sin, we are, as believers in Christ as prone to "a tornado" as anyone else. And since we are all capable of sin, we need to focus on what seperates us-which is the knowledge we have that the price was paid for us to be forgiven with the blood of Jesus. This is what we should be sharing and declaring as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lets try to live more like ambassadors and less like finger pointers and/or religious politicians attempting to fill pews with promises of acceptance that will send our patrons to hell.

In His Service
Nidicka Frederick