Could these tornadoes have been a message from God? Via Drew Tatusko I see that John Piper, pastor of preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, has said God sent these tornadoes as a warning to the Lutherans. A gentle warning, thankfully:
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.It is worth noting that the tornado did not hit the convention center where the Lutherans are meeting. It did do some damage to a Lutheran Church steeple but most of the damage was done to homes in the area of the church. Thankfully no one was seriously injured.
Unless the homeowners were all ELCA members apparently God saw fit to punish innocent neighbors and homeowners. Or else God missed.
I am wrapping up a message series this week on the biblical view of suffering. There is certainly plenty of evidence from the scriptures, particularly the prophets, that one view of why suffering comes to us is that God is angry and sends armies and storms as punishment or warning. In this view God sometimes wipes out entire populations including lots of innocent people. So Piper isn't saying anything that can't be supported by biblical passages.
That doesn't make him right, though. For one thing there are other biblical responses to the question of why suffering happens, including some that suggest that bad things sometimes happen to good or innocent people and it isn't God's fault or their fault or anyone's fault. For another, we don't live inside that biblical worldview anymore. We know too much about storms and weather and how it works. It isn't a mystery left to be explained by God. This doesn't mean there aren't weather surprises; the tornadoes yesterday were quite surprising considering the relatively cool temperatures. But God isn't behind the surprises. The explainable forces of nature are.
Pastors who say the kinds of things Piper said about this storm are using a fear-based form of religion to maintain their authority with their congregation. If they can keep their people just scared enough to worry that God might be coming after them next if they don't behave then they can also keep them in the pews.
I know that many people are raised in this kind of fear-based religious environment and it works for them. I understand. But I do not have the same kind of understanding for educated pastors like John Piper who feed and nourish this kind of thinking. It is just wrong.