move over pat robertson: john piper talks gay tornadoes

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Thursday, August 20th, 2009

move over pat robertson: john piper talks gay tornadoes

the internet was sucked into a swirling vortex of crazy today: john piper blogged. oh, john piper didn’t just blog about any ol’ thing. he blogged about tornadoes. wait, not just any tornado. piper blogged about the gay tornado. you know, the one god sent to wipe out the 2009 assembly of the evangelical lutheran church yesterday in minneapolis. duh.

ok, a quick background might be helpful. over the last several days, the elca (evangelical lutheran church in america) has been convening for their annual assembly in minneapolis. the assembly has been highly publicized (and scrutinized) due to the controversial 5th session with one of the primary items on the agenda being, “consideration: proposed social statement on human sexuality.” (if you care to read the newly adopted social statement, you can do so by clicking here.) in essence, it’s a proposal to allow individual congregations to hire gays and lesbians in committed relationships as clergy. it’s no surprise, of course, that this has been getting a lot of mainstream press and, even more so, widespread debate in the blogosphere.

enter john piper stage left.

first, if you don’t know who john piper is, let me give a very brief intro. he’s what i like to call the “godfather of neo-calvinism.” my good friend mark driscoll loves him and all the other good little calvinist boys and girls are eager to do his theological bidding if the boss calls. kidding (sorta) aside, piper is the pastor at bethlehem baptist church in minneapolis, the founder of desiring god ministries and a general hater of all things emergent. 🙂 he, as referenced, is an uber-calvinist and, needless to say, is in disagreement with many of the theologies that i think are in line with living in the way of jesus. don’t get me wrong, disagreeing with me doesn’t make you bad or necessarily even wrong. maybe i’m wrong. what i am saying, though, is that i just fundamentally disagree with many of his viewpoints and, from my study and understanding, don’t align well with the things that jesus advocated such as atonement theories, gender equality issues and election. what i’m getting at is that many of the things that, honestly, drive me nuts about the points-of-view piper advocates are merely theological disagreements that i put in the category of “interpretational disagreements.”

but then there’s this.

where i draw the line is when people paint very broad and fallacious pictures of god. that’s what piper has done with his latest blog post.

in the post—titled, the tornado, the lutherans, and homosexuality—piper asserts, simply, that a tornado that went through minneapolis yesterday at the time of the elca’s afternoon session was sent by god to be a warning that if they approve this statement, they are going against the will of god.

so, to summarize, piper asserts that god whipped up a lethal act of nature that kills people, destroys lives and ravages communities because they were considering whether or not dudes who like dudes should be able to work for a church. after proof-texting several pieces of scripture to back up his claim, here’s his actual conclusion:

Conclusion: 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.

so the tornado is a “gentle but firm warning”. hmm… you mean gentle and firm like a terrifying natural disaster? way to go, god. you really kept it real with that gentle but firm warning to those heathen lutherans. pardon my sarcasm, but this logic—much less the awful, terrible theology—is simply twisted. you know, i was going to enumerate the ways in which piper’s assertion is both logically and biblically fallacious, but i really believe that most people reading this are bright enough to connect the dots themselves.

pardon my thick sarcasm complete disdain, but this kind of stuff absolutely drives me nuts. i guess more and more, i’ve begun to be very self-critical when it comes to my criticism of these types of things. on one hand, i don’t want to be the guy who gripes about people like john piper constantly (or insert any name or any issue), but i also know that argumentation, so to speak, is a key mode in which i process things and communicate my point-of-view. call me a contrarian if you will. as i evaluate myself and my motives, i begin to understand more clearly that what i want to present in my life and, subsequently, on the blog is an alternative.

it’s an alternative to people speaking on behalf of god.
it’s an alternative to god-as-a-republican theology.
it’s an alternative to god hates gays.
it’s an alternative to judgmentalism and dogmatism.
it’s an alternative to the suggestion that god sends tornadoes to wipe out people who feel theologically compelled to include gay and lesbian people in serving the church—regardless of how i feel about the issue.

the point i’m making is that i’m honestly sick and tired of the likes of john piper and jerry falwell and pat robertson and mark driscoll (among others) being the predominant voices of christianity. there’s an alternative. there are voices of reason and there needs to be voices of alternative thought that speak out against mistruth. i hope to be one of those people.

ok, back to my storm shelter. god’s probably brewing up an earthquake or hurricane since i’ve disagreed with john piper christ.


  1. mudpuppy says:

    Don't think my first comment took.

    But I just wanted to say I really really like your blog!

    And "his logic is twisted" was a great line. 🙂

  2. RAAB TWALI says:

    I'm sorry that you're frustrated and still don't understand the true nature behind the Twister. We should get together and take a crack at those dinosaurs again, just so i know that YOU know how things really work. I'll be praying for you and your family.

  3. Jesse says:

    Rob's comment made me laugh 🙂

  4. Jesse says:

    BTW… Piper offered clarification on his tornado entry.

    • Matt says:

      “BTW… Piper offered clarification on his tornado entry.”

      I don’t think it is necessarily wrong to state that a tornado or any natural disaster can be God’s punishment for sin. Certainly Scripture does not disqualify this possibility. It also isn’t wrong to encourage people to make use of calamities by allowing them to turn their focus to God.

      However, I get nervous when someone claims with certainty that a specific event is God’s judgement. A reference in Luke to Jesus pointing out some examples of people perishing out of their lack of repentance is not an excuse to apply this principle with a broad stroke.

      Piper’s statement in his clarification that “My tornado was a call to repentance. Yours will be too,” seems too generalized to me. How can he know that? What about Job?

  5. Morgon77 says:

    The essential problem with "sign" theology is that once you've opened that door…you can't really shut it.

    So anything that happens in this fallen world can be a sign of something. "that lady got shot/hit by a car/crushed by a falling building? Well, that's a sign that…"

    Boyd did an excellent job at shooting the thing full of holes, but this is one more issue where the only people listening to either side are the choir…the rest of the world just sees that once again, we're weird.

    Warren Ellis was mentioning missionaries being killed in Africa the other day, and that maybe this was a hopeful sign that some day soon, the world would rise up and kill all of the Christians so that they could stop spreading hate and oppression. I don't see a really good argument against that line of thinking, sadly.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am curious about one question that came up as I read your post this morning. Actually several questions came up but one sticks out more than others.

    In your view of God and the way he interacts with humanity, is it possible he punishes sinful men? If I read Piper's statements correctly he proposed that the tornado may have been a call for repentance from behavior contrary to God's original design for sexuality.

    I am just confused as to why admission of sin and repentance from it would be wrong for someone who wants to live as Jesus did. In the story of the woman caught in adultery, while Jesus did not condemn her he did charge her to stop her behavior.

    John 8:11 – She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you, either Go From now on sin no more."

    I am honestly confused how we can live like Christ but also approve of behavior that is inconsistent with his call to sexual purity or why Dr. Piper's statement, while possibly hyperbolic, could not have some benefit.

  7. ryanByrd says:

    would love to respond to your questions, anonymous. please identify yourself and we can continue the conversation. thanks!

  8. Morgon77 says:

    I think that the problem with this is that we can state that any negative things that happens in the world could be because of sexual sin (there's certainly enough of it going on). So, are you saying that all of the bad things that happen in the world happen because people are having wrong sex? Where do you draw the line?

    The point, I think, is that if the ECLA is doing the incorrect thing, then Piper's job as a Christian is to talk to them, not identify weather patterns that somehow demand behaviour of them.

    Christ had a lot to say about how people need to quit looking for signs and come into the Kingdom. I don't see how not identifying tornados as the wrath of God somehow means we condone the sin of others.

  9. Jesse says:

    Speaking of Sexual Sin, Can I make a request…

    Byrd, can you make a post sometime on sexual sin and what's the deal with our emphasis on it?

    I heard it said once that it stems back to some old Catholic that pushed the idea of Mary being a virgin. And that this was a big deal because Jesus was born without sin because she was a virgin. Since we all are conceived from sex, it's a sin or has sinful roots, then all people are born from sin… except Jesus.

    (I hope that rambling makes sense.)

    Anyway because of that thought (that i don't fully ascribe to) sexual sin has since been viewed as more deplorable than other "sins".

    I'd also like to say that although i used the term "sin" in reference to single acts, I don't view sin that way. I view sin more as a continuum of imperfections in our lives as individuals and society, that we should seek to remedy.

    So for instance the "sin" isn't the act of murder, but rather the string of influences, thinking and events that lead to murder or gossip or lust or idol worship or bestiality, whatever take your pick.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Piper had some great things to say here:

    Check It Out (again)!

  11. Chris says:

    “it’s an alternative to people speaking on behalf of god.
    it’s an alternative to god-as-a-republican theology.
    it’s an alternative to god hates gays.
    it’s an alternative to judgmentalism and dogmatism.
    it’s an alternative to the suggestion that god sends tornadoes to wipe out people who feel theologically compelled to include gay and lesbian people in serving the church—regardless of how i feel about the issue.”

    This not representative of what John Piper preaches. To even mention his name in that context is bigoted enough that I think you should take down this post. Just my two cents. I’m not offended by it, but it is gross character assassination.

    When you look at your first alternative “people speaking on behalf of god”, are you talking about exegeting the Word of God? Do you not consider the Bible the word of God?

    If that’s the case, it’s no wonder you don’t counter Piper’s Scriptural process by which he comes to the conclusion, because if clear Scriptural teaching is all open to interpretation and God failed at preserving His truth — then, of course, you aren’t going to take anything in the Bible that may be unpopular seriously.

    The last alternative speaks of being “theologically compelled”. If this theology is a new decision on sin, contrary to one found in Scripture, how would it not be within God’s wrath to punish a church for doing this? “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” Luke 17:2

    If sin is being accepted and God’s Word and His authority over sin being distorted by ELCA, this is a grave mistake that could potentially help keep many sinners from being drawn to repentance because “well, I know the Bible SAYS homosexuality – heck, even just lusting – is a sin, but we’re saying THIS” or “I know the Bible SAYS homosexuality is a sin but a few of those verses may have been talking about sex slaves”.

    “enumerate the ways in which piper’s assertion is both logically and biblically fallacious”. My suggestion would be to enumerate next time. Any other attack rings hollow.

  12. sheri says:

    I really wish the blog included anything from scripture, and not just sarcasm (which is easy) and opinion. Kept reading…never found it…

  13. Alex says:

    This is old I know, but I just stumbled upon this… I like many of your postures, but your main argument here makes me think more that Piper is right. You say, as your conclusion of what Piper says:

    “to summarize, piper asserts that god whipped up a lethal act of nature that kills people, destroys lives and ravages communities because they were considering whether or not dudes who like dudes should be able to work for a church.”

    But then I see the actual case: a tornado, a force of nature–in some way, an expression of God as could be the raging sea, a peaceful body of water, a thunderstorm, or a sweet whisper–goes through a city and then stops right at a church where such a meeting is happening. The tornado does all this, amazingly, WITHOUT (paraphrasing:) killing people, destroying lives or ravaging communities. That’s actually pretty incredible .. that makes it sound more like a sign from the loving, saving, merciful God the Lutherans are supposed to teach, no?

    By the way, I don’t support Christian movements against legal gay marriage, nor do I in any way support the view that God hates gays or that being gay is a sin. Yet, maybe there was a certain attitude in that meeting that God didn’t like and maybe the tornado was a sign of almighty displeasure and concern that actually proved equally almight love and mercy?

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