At the beginning of this month the American South was devastated by 65 confirmed tornado touchdowns in less than 72 hours. The storms resulted in 41 fatalities and countless injuries. Immediately following the horrific storms many in the Christian community began to weigh in, as often we do. We aim, with our words to bring comfort, perhaps hope and, at times, to help make sense of what has happened from a biblical point of view. Following nearly every such event, one well known American Evangelical can be counted on to give his perspective.

Within 48 hours of the last tornado touchdown, Pastor John Piper had posted “Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God” to his Desiring God blog. In his article, Piper wrote…

“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.”

Piper went on to identify five verses that seem to lend support to his view that God, by His sovereign power, directed the awesome power of these storms to bring about the death and destruction that ensued.

Several well known evangelicals have weighed in on Piper’s words, some uttering their own words in agreement with “amens,” while others challenged his theology. Although I’m not in full agreement with Pastor Piper and have several contentions with the passages he chose to support his view, I do agree with his three concluding points, (1) that we can (and should) bless God in the midst of such tragedy, (2) that events such as these should soberingly inspire repentance, and that (3) Christians are not exempt from such suffering. My purpose here is not necessarily to challenge or question Piper’s theology or position, rather to pose a question that came to my mind as I read his blog earlier this month.

When I visited the Desiring God blog mid-month I found it interesting that this featured article sat right next to another Piper article entitled “Tell Your Children What Hitler Did.” Upon seeing that title, I was immediately struck with a thought, “If I’m to believe that tragedies such as these terrible storms, which took the lives of 41 Americans were the act of God’s sovereign direction and plan, then why not entitle the second featured article, “Tell Your Children What God Did [to the Jews]?”

Just a thought…

4 replies
  1. Trip Kimball
    Trip Kimball says:

    Miles, glad to see someone questioning these things. I’ve long had a difficult time with some of the over-arching statements and conclusions Piper makes and how they often get accepted for who he is (his status, etc.). I remember, as a young believer, hearing Chuck S say, “don’t just take my word on it, check it out in the Word.” I took that to heart.

    My real issue with all of this is the categorical statements (not unlike Pat Robertson) that, imho, overemphasize God’s sovereignty, as if even evil is part of God’s will (hence your notice of the seeming contradictory posts). I find myself in a no-man’s-land between the Calvinist and Arminianist. Why do we (as believers or pastors/teachers) feel the need to make sweeping, categorical statements explaining natural phenomena and God’s actions and will. I mean, who do “we” think we are?!

    I know I don’t possess that kind of insight or knowledge. It would be nice to see some type of happy medium between the Piper/Robertson comments and the Joel O style of waffling, non-opinions.

    If anything, as you pointed out, the 3 observations are fine. But, what if… we just worshipped God, feared Him (as in being truly awesome) and once again humble ourselves before Him while being compassionate towards those who experience tragedy? Does the world around us really need our commentary on everything “God”?

  2. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Hi, Miles – I navigated to and read Piper’s article on Hitler. There does seem to be a double standard, especially in light of the Biblical teaching that the governments that are, are established by the Lord.

    His is a short article, the majority taken up with quotes from Metaxas’ “Bonhoeffer” on the evil Hitler did inspired by Nietzschean philosophy. He then concludes with this:

    Tell these stories to your children. Tell them with passion. Tell them with tears. Send your children into the world with their eyes sharpened with the bright light of history. Send them ready to name the academic Nietzsches for what they are. Send them with an unflinching Nie wieder! (Never again!) in their hearts.

    I am in agreement with his concluding exhortation, but it seems to be in contradiction to his overall theological presupposition that God is ultimately responsible for all things. Does God hold the winds, but not the heart of kings? The Calvinistic presupposition of sovereignty seems to be out of whack with their moral imperative.

  3. Jim Vander Spek
    Jim Vander Spek says:

    The premise and strength of Calvinism and Reformed theology is that it provides certainty and order. By creating a finely crafted, internally logical system of theology, the Protestant dilemma of how to identify and refute false and cultic teaching (all of which claim Biblical authority) is solved. Reformed theology serves the purpose that hierarchy and tradition have served in Catholicism and, frankly, saves its proponents the trouble of trying to refute all the hair-brained ideas that the Protestant movement gives birth to. It is difficult and seldom attempted to apply the tenets of Calvinism into practical Christian living—prayer, evangelism, etc— or to explain real world application but its proponents can live with that ambiguity. I have written more about this:

  4. Bill Walden
    Bill Walden says:

    In Calvinism, God is sovereign over all things, including bringing about evil.
    It would not be a reach to re-title the article, “What God Did TO The Jews”.
    That is the sad conclusion of this erroneous theological system.

    Miles, glad you tackled this.

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