Browsing around the blogosphere earlier today I noticed there was quite a bit of controversy and discussion going on among Christian bloggers, concerning Pastor John Piper’s latest post at Desiring God, The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality.
Below is the message by John Piper followed up by a few comments and/or observations posted by those who questioned his claim of this being a warning from God.
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts…
The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality
By: John Piper
I saw the fast-moving, misshapen, unusually-wide funnel over downtown Minneapolis from Seven Corners. I said to Kevin Dau, “That looks serious.”
It was. Serious in more ways than one. A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,
On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.
The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.
According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.
The eyewitness of the damage continues:
This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.
The time: 2PM.
The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.
Let me venture an interpretation of this Providence with some biblical warrant.
1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.
The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
2. The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith.
Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
3. Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.
4. Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.
Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41)
5. When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms—an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment.
Jesus: “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5)
6. 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.
Observations from one blog;
“That was not his (Piper’s) finest moment…”
“Someone I respect and love as a father in the faith has said something really stupid..”
“Didn’t Piper and the rest of us learn anything from the idiotic similar past pronouncements of the Jerry Falwells and Pat “Word of Knowledge” Robertsons?”
“I certainly sympathize with Piper’s position regarding homosexuality, but I think his theology is off here”
“So, God did not control the tornado? Where it touched down He did not intend? The steeple was a mere victim of chance and circumstance? Weather is chaos? Bridge collapses in Minneapolis are purposeless? God must use exactly the same means of judgment with every house of sin? Isn’t it true that the judgment upon some is immediate, while the judgment of others is delayed for sovereign purposes? Does this make one judgment less justified and righteous than another?”
“What I see here: Piper claims these Lutherans are greater sinners than the rest.”
“Whenever the forces of nature seem to be running amok on planet Earth- storms, earthquakes, viruses, droughts- we should be reminded of the Fall and feel chastised for our own sinfulness. Don’t be looking to the sins of the homosexual down the street. Be looking to one’s own sins.”
Last, a list of questions posted at one online ministry:
– Why does John discern a divine motive behind a damaged church steeple but not behind any other damage this tornado caused? For example, the roof of the Minneapolis Convention Center was damaged by this same tornado. Was God sending a warning by having his judging tornado damage this building? Or what about the damage cause by the other four tornadoes that struck the Twin Cities area around the same time? A middle school in North Branch was badly damaged, for example. Was this school more affirming toward gays than other schools in the area?
-According to the National Weather Service, the United States is hit by about 1300 tornados each year, on average. Does John discern a pattern that these tornados tend to strike places that are more pro-gay, or even just generally more sinful, than others?
-Why God would single out the ELCA’s discussion of homosexuality as worthy of a tornado hit while by-passing so many other serious issues.
– John justifies his interpretation by claiming “Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.” He supports this claim by quoting Mark 4:41 in which Jesus’ disciples ask; “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” What’s interesting to me is that the disciples make this remark in response to Jesus having just rebuked a threatening storm. If Jesus was already controlling all storms, as John claims, why on earth would he need to rebuke this one? Even more interesting, Jesus “rebukes” the storm by commanding it to be “quiet.” The Greek term used here literally means “to muzzle” or “strangle,” and its the same word he sometimes used when confronting demons. The implication is that, far from suggesting that Jesus controls all storms, the passage actually suggests that at least some life-threatening storms have a demonic power behind them…
As you can see, most disagree with John Piper’s assessment of the purpose behind the tornado.
I actually expected to see more agree with him; but the above quotes, though from only one blog, are a fair example of what I also read elsewhere.