A Second Tornado in Minneapolis

You have probably heard the news of what happened this week with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). At the denomination’s national meeting in Minneapolis, delegates voted to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as members of the clergy. Just before delegates were to debate the measure, a tornado touched-down and damaged the church in which they were meeting (as well as some other buildings nearby).

Pastor John Piper witnessed the storm and later offered his reflections on the message that God might have for us in a storm such as this one. He used Luke 13:4-5 to argue that God uses seemingly random calamities to remind all of us of our need for repentance. He then applied that message to the ELCA who had just voted to approve sin rather than repent from it.

Piper has been hit by a tornado of criticism since posting his short blog, and some of the sharpest critiques have been from fellow “evangelicals” (Tony Jones, Jenell Williams Paris, iMonk, pomomusings.com, and ad infinitum from the Emergent wing of the evangelical blogosphere). Christianity Today, the Associated Baptist Press, a local news station, and a host of others have also publicized Piper’s remarks.

A common theme from the critics has been this: Now everyone can see what we Emergents have suspected for a long time. John Piper is a fundamentalist crackpot with a retrograde theology that offends unbelievers. Beware! Tony Jones has even called on Piper’s friends to shun him to the margins. Jones writes:

“Where is Christianity Today? Where is Tim Keller? Where are the presidents of Dallas Seminary or Wheaton College? Where is J.I. Packer, Collin Hansen, or Darrell Bock? . . . Will they, or anyone in the Evangelical intelligentsia, finally say that John Piper is outside of mainstream evangelicalism? I doubt it.”

To Piper’s credit, he has not responded in kind. In fact, his rejoinders have been self-critical. Piper has quoted Psalm 141:5 (“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let me not refuse it.”) and has talked about how he viewed his own prostate cancer three years ago as a Providential invitation to repent of his own sin (read here).

What are we to make of all this? What concerns me most about Piper’s “evangelical” critics is that the direction of their outrage indicates that something is askew in their priorities. There appears to be little concern about the fact that an entire denomination has just taken a public stand against the Bible and 2,000 years of unanimous Christian teaching. There is scarcely a cross word about the fact that the ELCA Lutherans are walking away from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, the critics are offended by Piper. Moreover, the offended have responded with what amounts to a lot of ugly mud-slinging—the very kind of stumbling-block to unbelievers that Emergents say they wish to avoid.

I have to say that I think Tony Jones and company and even Greg Boyd have not read Piper’s original article very charitably. Piper never claimed to account for all of God’s motives in this calamity, nor has Piper claimed the punishment of unfaithful Lutherans to be God’s singular motive in the Minneapolis storm. Those who read Piper in this way have missed the point.

Piper is merely applying Jesus’ words about calamities to a current calamity. Jesus did in fact teach that God uses seemingly random calamities to remind all of us of our need for repentance. That truth applies to John Piper’s cancer three years ago, it applies to Denny Burk’s car accident last November, and it applies to Lutherans meeting in Minneapolis this week. As Piper said in the original article, the warning applies to “all of us.” That truth should not be controversial among evangelicals. God help us that it is.

65 Responses to A Second Tornado in Minneapolis

  1. Deek Dubberly August 22, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. You voiced perfectly what I’d been thinking about all of this.

  2. Sue August 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm #

    Yes, I believe calamity can teach all of us a lesson. And this is why I noted that the day the tornado hit Minneapolis, was the same day that Piper’s sermon against the TNIV was uploaded onto the internet.

  3. stephen lee cavness August 22, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    sue,

    i may be misreading your intention in your comment. if so, i apologize. but in case i am not, i want to address your assertion that piper “preached a sermon against the tniv”.

    john piper did not preach a sermon against the t.n.i.v.

    john piper *did* make a less than 2 minute aside in a 45 minute long sermon on john 4:43-54 that explained how the niv and the tniv (both, not just the “t”) did not translate the original text with precision.

    less than 2 minutes of explanation in a sermon over 45 minutes.

    of course, you may have posted in jest, and if that is the case, my apologies for not catching the proper tone.

  4. Adam August 22, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    Amen!

  5. Scott August 22, 2009 at 2:14 pm #

    Is there a reason you continue to put “evangelicals” in parentheses whenever you disagree with another perspective?

  6. Ken Cook August 22, 2009 at 2:15 pm #

    What can you expect from the Emergents? I mean really, Do You think that Tony Jones can actually read things in there context, with there intended meaning? He can’t or won’t do it with the biblical text, why would he do it with John Piper?

  7. Mason Beecroft August 22, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    Denny,
    A clarification would be appreciated on this statement, “the Lutherans are walking away from the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    Unfortunately, many do not know that there are different kinds of Lutherans. The ELCA stopped being Lutheran some time ago so this decision of theirs is not really that shocking. Fr. Neuhaus once said the ELCA was not Evangelical, Lutheran, or a Church.

    Anyway, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), of which I am a member, is a far cry from what we are witnessing the ELCA. We have our own set of problems, but they are not issues of Scriptural authority, confusions about gender and sexuality, or the other problems of mainline liberalism.

    For the sake of your readership, which I imagine knows very little about Lutheranism, a clarification would me helpful for the sake of their own charity toward those who bear the name Lutheran and still confess the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Thank you for the post.
    +Mason

  8. Sue August 22, 2009 at 3:04 pm #

    Its true that I am a Garrison Keillor fan, having been brought up in the same denomination as him – however …

    While it was a two minute aside, it was exactly this “aside” that was uploaded onto the internet on Aug. 19. It was by far the most visible and noticed part of the sermon.

    The critique that Piper made of the TNIV is not backed by any commentary. He is spreading inaccurate information about his own brothers in the Lord. To set straight the record on the TNIV was my first intent in posting in the bibliosphere.

    At first, I interviewed Dr. Packer and wrote to CBMW, convinced that there was a misunderstanding somewhere and that with patient explanation and the help of lexicons entries, this rancour could be reconciled. But now I see that many men are going into old age with this disgrace still being perpetrated. It is such a shame to the Christian community, such a sad shame.

  9. stephen lee cavness August 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    right, an aside- not “a sermon against the tniv as you initially posted.”

    i suppose i still prefer more literal translations-even in web conversations!

    i truly hope you have a blessed weekend!

    -stephen

  10. Darius T August 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    Scott, the people Denny mentioned are lucky that they even got called evangelicals, quotation marks or not. Tony Jones is hardly anything close to a Christian, much less an evangelical one.

  11. stephen lee cavness August 22, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

    sue,
    i wanted to make clear that my last post was completely tongue in cheek. i have read your blog post re; “oun” and i understand the position you are coming from. i was not trying to provoke you or make further commentary on your beliefs.

    peace,
    -stephen

  12. Sue August 22, 2009 at 3:49 pm #

    Yes, that’s it. When I posted ” a sermon” that was tongue in cheek. Of course, it was meant to be funny.

    Thanks for reading my post on “oun” and I do have to say that one benefit for me from Piper’s “sermon” is that I now have a much better understanding of the idiosyncracies of Greek connectives in the gospel of John. I now know why tne TNIV is more accurate in this respect. So it has been a good thing for me.

  13. Drew Tatusko August 22, 2009 at 4:00 pm #

    i was not actually aware that i was part of a “wing” of evangelicalism called “emergent.” i am actually a liberal presbyterian who happens to have been baptized catholic. in fact i had a lovely conversation with one of the many amazing nuns i get to speak with regularly who said, well, once baptized catholic always catholic :-) amazing woman she is.

    i don’t think context matters with piper’s post. what matters is that he uses a very irresponsible doctrine of god to support a pre-existing ideological condition. for piper, god needs disaster and evil to reveal god’s self. in other words, we cannot know god apart from evil or sin. not only is that patently unbiblical, it is theologically incoherent. unless of course augustine’s position on evil, for which calvin luther and others assumed, which is a privation of good not a vessel to mediate good is also wrong. piper misses the mark on both counts. (i actually think weil’s understanding of affliction is far better).

    his post also made a poorly constructed post hoc error assuming that coincidence is god’s revelation. he founds this believe on a calvinistic determinism. kierkagaard made strides to show how such determinism is not only not how we do not live, but not how god reveals god’s self among us. to points like this i have actually been accused of not being a christian since they are not biblical sources. to suggest that kierkegaard or weil were not basing any of these ideas with an understanding of god that is derived from scripture is simple ignorance.

    the assertion that somehow those of us who support the ELCA’s position stand against the bible is also misleading and wrong. after all at the time of the reformation with only a few scattered exceptions, the church had very consistent teaching. to them, the reformation in effect blasted 1500 years of teaching. yet, a good calvinist will hold up the reformation as the true church and catholicism as apostate. this just picks and chooses traditions that support one’s own ideology at the time.

    the church adapts progressively no matter what some want to assert. fundamentalism is a rather new phenomenon which roots a biblical hermeneutic in a baconian worldview which had founded scientific thinking at the time of darwin. lest we get trapped in the myth that this movement is a sudden break with everything, a closer look at doctrinal history reveals a far more fluid and changing set of structures within the church. or, we can simply ignore all of this and stick to our mythical ideological guns. that’s what i argue piper has done and i think that is more damaging than helpful to upbuilding the kingdom.

  14. John Holmberg August 22, 2009 at 4:02 pm #

    I’m not surprised to see Denny stand up for his idol. I’m also not surprised to see him put “evangelicals” in quotes for everybody that thinks Piper was wrong to say what he did. The only thing that qualifies as an “evangelical” for Denny is a white, middle-class southern Baptist 5-point Calvinist who votes down the line for Republicans.

    Thanks for continuing to show how narrow-minded you are and your inability to think critically about people you like. Piper’s remarks are consistent with Allah, but not the God of Jesus Christ. That he would even have the audacity to say something like this astounds me.

  15. Denny Burk August 22, 2009 at 4:26 pm #

    Mason, I hope I didn’t cause any confusion. I was hoping that readers would interpret “Lutherans” as “ELCA” per my initial mention of them in the first paragraph. You are right, however, that some may have missed that. For all who are reading this, I meant ELCA.

  16. Matthew R. St. John August 22, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    Absolutely right on. Piper’s critics need to back off. The greater tragedy is not anything Piper said, which, I would concur, was totally appropriate, but the fact that an entire denomination just ran a still further away from Truth.

  17. Jeremy August 22, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    Piper’s reading of scripture was very selective. He fails to deal with several other streams of thought in the Bible. Here is just one other thing that he could have said:

    The same weather affects the just and the unjust (Matthew 5.45-46). Piper could have said, “As God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, so too with a tornado. It strikes the just and the unjust. This is no one’s fault. Regardless of differences of opinion on matters such as homosexuality – God was not singling out the ELCA or anyone else for that matter. Let us reach out to those in our community who have been affected.”

    He could have maintained his stance on homosexuality (which I do not share) without saying this tornado was a warning to the ELCA. The fact of the matter is he very selectively chose his texts and ignored others that are pertinent because they didn’t fit. If his post is being read selectively, others are only following his lead.

  18. andy August 22, 2009 at 5:33 pm #

    Are the criticisms coming because Piper suggested that we “turn from the approval of sin”?

  19. Tony August 22, 2009 at 5:47 pm #

    Denny: Thanks for a thoughtful post. I disagree with Piper – and I don’t think I read him uncharitably. I don’t think Piper argued that calamities may remind us of sin’s devastating results. He is arguing that God is behind said terrors – and sends said terrors so as to punish sin. I could be wrong – I often am. Just as a rock falling on you may kill you – God did not send the rock b.c. you are a sinner s/he wishes to punish – but sin, like the rock, does terrible harm.

  20. Denny Burk August 22, 2009 at 8:01 pm #

    Drew (#14), Sorry about lumping you in with the others with whom you do not identify. I went ahead and edited your name out of the post.

  21. David Rogers August 23, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    Is Piper a cessationist with regard to the gifts of the Spirit?

    The interpretation of calamities in Scripture as judicial acts seems to come from those who have received a prophetic word of revelation to pronounce that indeed these calamities were wrought for judgment.

    Is Piper claiming to have received a specific word of revelation that he is compelled to communicate that indeed God intended this tornado to be a parable?

    If he isn’t making that claim, is it problematic that he is givng a supposed clear prophetic interpretation of an event?

    Do all calamities have such direct specific messages and should we be compelled to go to the “prophet” who will then tell us what they mean?

  22. Denny Burk August 23, 2009 at 1:21 pm #

    David,

    The critics have misrepresented Piper on this point. Read his article closely, and you will see that he makes no such claim.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  23. David Rogers August 23, 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    Denny,

    With all due respect and with all appreciation for providing this forum, his article may not explicitly (verbally) make the claim of having received a revelation, but his act of “interpretation” assumes that he is speaking with a divine authority. (That is, unless he regulary doesn’t intend for any of his comments to have any divine tone of authority.)

    I read his article. I haven’t even read his critics. My exposure to the issue was from your website.

    He says, “Let me venture an interpretation of this Providence with some biblical warrant.” This statement is his introduction of an exegesis of the EVENT. Not an exegesis of Scripture, mind you, but an interpretation of “this Providence” (i.e. a non-Scriptural event occuring this past week). I also, find his collection of “biblical warrant” not quite convincing, and honestly, a little embarassing for someone of his scholarly caliber.

    He concludes with “Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin.”
    The EVENT means this: it was a warning. Jesus did not interpret the fall of the tower of Siloam as meaning something. He used it as a prompting to remind his listeners that all are sinners. Piper’s explicit statement communicates implicitly that his interpretation is an alleged divine insight into the meaning of the event. That is what the plain meaning of his words communicate. As a pastor, he should realize that his pronouncements in the pastoral role do carry an air of divine authority in the minds of his congregants.

    I think he should have proceeded a bit more circumspectly.

    Actually, I find “cessasionists” to be rather inconsistent, when they believe the Lord “leads” a congregation to do whatever, building a building, starting a ministry, etc. but believe also that the revelatory gifts of the Spirit have definitively ceased.

    I don’t know if Piper is a cessasionist or not, but if he is, I think if he wants to be consistent, he should proceed rather cautiously before he interprets any non-biblical event, that is, any event not occurring in the Scriptures.

    Thanks for the opportunity to give two cents worth.

    Blessings,

    David H. Rogers

  24. Adam Omelianchuk August 23, 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    One thing that requires some clarity here is the point of Piper’s post. He seems to want to say that every calamity (and kindness) contains a call from God to repent. Fair enough. So, in particular, this incident with the tornado doing some damage to a building where the ELCA is meeting to change its views on homosexuality is such an instance. This, in of and itself, isn’t a very interesting point. If any event can be considered a call to repentance then nothing is particularly significant about the tornado damaging the building. But Piper sees it as significant and wants to attach a particular meaning to the large and extensive change to the teaching of the church. At this point Piper makes it much more significant and much more specific–God is warning/judging the ELCA in particular. That certainly is a claim about God’s motives and providence, and it is no misrepresentation to say so.

    Such claims are not automatically invalid as some of the critics like to think. But in this case I don’t think Piper has been very helpful in figuring out what God is doing. I used to live in the neighborhood that got damaged the most, and it is known for its drug dealing. Could we not infer just as readily that God’s judgment was against that? If I was still living there, perhaps I would have thought that, because that is what I was concerned about.

    Piper reveals what he is concerned about when he makes his claim, and that reveals more about him that it does about God’s ways. After all, EVERY instance can be interpreted as kindness or calamity that calls us to repentance. How we interpret what those things are reveals what we are concerned about.

    Therefore, the conversation boils down to whether it is proper to be more concerned about homosexuality among other things. The critics don’t think so and Piper does.

  25. David Rogers August 23, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    “cessationists”

  26. andy August 23, 2009 at 2:58 pm #

    Is the alternative, then, to view this tornado as a random act of mother nature that occured outside the control of God? In other words, is there no purpose in calamity?

  27. David Rogers August 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    There may very well be purpose in calamity.

    But if I am going to make the pronouncement of what that purpose is, then I should make it clear that I am either making an opinionative statement or that I have received what I sincerely believe to be a divine word of revelation.

    I should clearly be willing to be judged by God himself for speaking for Him in interpreting and speaking for his post-Scriptural actions or I should make it clear that I am only rendering my opinion which could be wrong.

    I don’t think Piper made that clarification, unless you want to read a whole lot into his use of the phrase “let me venture”. More clarification here would have been nice.

    If he had said “I have to wonder whether the weather has a wherefore . . . ” then I would critique his critics for criticizing his right to critique the climate consequences.

  28. Matthew Staton August 23, 2009 at 5:51 pm #

    andy #27 false dichotomy. Perhaps God has thousands of purposes, all intertwined, many of them a mystery to us.

    copy-paste of my comment at JesusCreed:

    I heard a good sermon on the radio by Jack Hayford some years ago in response to an earthquake in California. Some people felt that this was God’s judgment on porn studios in that area while others openly mocked the idea. Hayford said that on the one hand, it was reckless to pretend to know the mind of God. God allows many things that don’t seem to add up and we are often confused. Yet, those who mocked and ruled out the possibility that God might have at least in part been trying to get their attention through the natural disaster put themselves in a dangerous position of pride before God. Important to be willing to consider ones heart and be open to God, allow him to convict and change. Be humble and ready to repent. But it is also important not to pretend that we know more than we do about the mind of God.

    Some said that 9-11 was God’s response to gays in America (although that was not a natural disaster), I was told that perhaps Katrina hit Louisiana because there were a lot of abortions performed there. When I pointed out that abortions are performed all over, so the storm should have hit the entire US if this were the case, the person gave a “you can’t handle the truth” cold shoulder. I don’t recall hearing any such logic about the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka. This starts to sound like the old covenant system where we obey God and he blesses our crops and opens wombs, etc. But even under that covenant there were questions. Job’s friends, as has been mentioned, were sure they could read God’s mind concerning disasters. Psalm 73 deals with questions resulting from the wicked prospering and the righteous suffering, so there were difficult questions even then, such that one could not even then pretend to read God’s mind.

    It is important that those in the ELCA be humble, ready for God to convict and change them, even allow God to convict them of sin if he chooses to do so. It is important that we do not over-reach and explain more about God’s motives than we can possibly know. Maybe the visual of the downed steeple could be a side-effect that God would choose to use, regardless of whether he specifically sent the storm.

  29. Sue August 23, 2009 at 6:09 pm #

    This seems to match very closely with his desire to have a text for John 4:45 with a “therefore” in it. It appears that his internal paradigm of cause and effect have lead him to mentally insert words into the scripture text.

  30. Matthew Staton August 23, 2009 at 6:16 pm #

    hmm, I submitted a comment (twice, actually) that was eaten by the ether.

  31. Denny Burk August 23, 2009 at 9:44 pm #

    Matthew,

    I’ll see if I can find them.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  32. Denny Burk August 23, 2009 at 11:49 pm #

    Matthew,

    Found it. It was in my SPAM folder for some inexplicable reason. It’s now appearing as comment #29.

    Denny

  33. Derek Taylor August 24, 2009 at 12:31 am #

    Adam,
    The tie-in with drug dealing was interesting. However, there are two problems with this line of thought:
    1. Timing
    Everyone who attended the ELCA meeting understood that this was the big showdown at OK Corral. To say it was a historic meeting would be an understatement, because the future of the ELCA was bound to be affected one way or another, based on the vote.

    2. Location
    Did the tornado strike a well known street corner for drug peddling? No. This was a surgical and very precise strike.

    Take these two important facts and circumstances out of the equation and I’m tracking with you.

  34. Andrew Cowan August 24, 2009 at 11:15 am #

    David Rogers,

    Two quick points:

    1) John Piper is not a cessationist.

    2) I don’t think that he is attempting to cast this statement as a prophecy, but rather as a ventured interpretation of Providential action that he considers to have some biblical warrant. Although you are right that he is offering interpretation of an event, he includes the texts that he feels justify his interpretation in four of the following six points. The primary warrant, in Piper’s mind, is what Jesus said in response to the falling of the tower in Siloam (Luke 13:4-5). If you don’t agree with Piper that the implication of that passage is that every natural disaster is intended by God as a call to repent, fair enough. Piper’s claim, however, is that every natural disaster is a call to repent and thus the present disaster may be interpreted that way, for both the ELCA and the members of Bethlehem Baptist Church (included in “all of us” under point 6). Piper made very similar comments about the tsunami a few years ago, and I doubt that there would be such an uproar now if he hadn’t named the ELCA as a party addressed by God’s call to repent with respect to their decision on homosexuality. Nevertheless, his statement is consistent with his regular theology of natural disasters, and does not sound like a prophecy to one who is familiar with his previous statements on such events.

    (Whoops, the second statement wasn’t so quick. Oh well; I hope it was helpful.)

  35. David Rogers August 24, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    Andrew,

    Thank you for the response. I appreciate your explication and it does make some helpful sense. However . . .

    Piper’s “ventured interpretation of Providential action” is not presented in his article as a mere generic principle that all Providential actions, which I would assume is everything that ever happens, is a call to repentance.

    Piper gets very specific in his descriptions and the tonal direction of his article could easily move his congregants toward believing that every disaster has a specific message to be delivered. He has interpreted this event and its details specifically as a divine warning to the ELCA and all others. His practice here can set up a principle that all disasters should be specifically examined for specific messages and thus part of his pastoral ministry should be the developement of hermeneutical principles for doing such.

    Why stop with this disaster? Why not begin a ministry of calamity hermeneutics?

    My concern is that his article sets up a pastoral precedent.

    I don’t believe that Piper had some kind of revelatory experience that he felt compelled/commanded to relate to the congregation (like Agabus in Acts). I think he began thinking about the ironies of the storm and the meeting and his pastoral writing impulses moved him to post his thoughts. I had the same thoughts when I read about the event myself. However, should I have commented on it to my congregation, I would have made it explicitly clear that I am proceeding in the realm of the speculation not having received what I would consider a “word of revelation”.

    In my opinion, Piper’s article implies that he has assumed a role of revealing God’s intentions in specific historical events that I think from a pastoral perspective could be problematic.

    He could have instead gone medieval on the theological, ethical and pastoral implications of the ELCA’s decision based on the clear teachings of Scripture. He still would have been castigated from the Left but he would have the higher theological ground have founded his comments on demonstrable Scriptural grounds.

    Although I don’t think my congregation will even be aware of this issue (they probably don’t even know who Piper is and there aren’t any Lutherans of any denomination around here), I hope I don’t have to interpret calamities with such confidence based on “Well, John Piper interpreted that calamity, why don’t you give your specific proclamation on this local disaster?”

  36. David Rogers August 24, 2009 at 12:10 pm #

    Re-reading my post I noted several grammatical errors. I apologize and wish there was an edit button.

  37. Adam Omelianchuk August 24, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    This was a surgical and very precise strike.

    Derek, I am not sure I can agree with this. It caused damage to about 20 blocks of the city from Downtown to South Minneapolis. It basically went up and down Park Avenue!

  38. Matthew Staton August 24, 2009 at 4:02 pm #

    In line with my earlier comment (#29) I will not declare that God was not using this to get someone’s attention. Perhaps God was doing lots of things at once. I would point out that the way Piper reports the event seems somewhat stilted. His article linked above quotes someone else as saying the weather experts were baffled and that it formed, hit the church and its parking lot, then lifted. This would lead one to believe that it was a surgical strike that left weather experts scratching their heads.I don’t like it when preachers spin events such that when you trust their version you get egg on your face. Perhaps that description was accurate, but a quick google of the news for tornadoes and Minnesota seems to suggest that the weather is fairly active right now.

    One news link here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32483070/ns/weather/
    A meteorologist is quoted “These sort-lived ones form very quickly and dissipate very fast. They are very hard to predict.” This does not seem to correspond too closely to “baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it.”

    Perhaps it was a unique weather event that baffled seasoned meteorologists. But this idea is not easily supported with external links. It would have been nice to have a source for that quote on the blog to support baffled “weather experts” (same thing as meteorologists?). And if it truly was not a unique weather event, just a hard-to-predict one that is not unexpected at this time of year, then Piper’s piece should be fair to that reality.

  39. Darius T August 24, 2009 at 7:10 pm #

    Matthew, the local weathermen took two days to classify the tornado, and never did quite know where it came from. Piper was more than fair in saying that it baffled the experts. It hit, and then 15 minutes later the sirens started going off. Everyone in my office building was caught off guard since it was supposed to just be a gentle rainy day.

  40. Trent August 24, 2009 at 7:36 pm #

    Funny, I saw the heading of this post and I said to my wife, “Look, some person named John will say something demeaning about Denny and John Piper and someone named Sue will say something demeaning about complementarianism.” My wife says, “But wait, that stuff really has nothing to do with the post.” I said, “I know, but just you wait.” I said that as a joke a few days ago and guess what…

  41. Joshua August 24, 2009 at 8:06 pm #

    “Piper never claimed to account for all of God’s motives in this calamity, nor has Piper claimed the punishment of unfaithful Lutherans to be God’s singular motive in the Minneapolis storm. Those who read Piper in this way have missed the point.”

    I will cite Piper’s statement from his blog:

    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.

    I take the same position as internet monk did on this. Here is what he said:

    An event has an application, and God has a Word, but making the various aspects of weather in a particular place a clear word from God is raising a human pastoral application up to the level where all the problems we’ve discussed become real problems for many people. Such connections will cause many to stumble in their faith as they wonder “what was God’s Word to me in taking my child? Why did he have to speak that way instead of another way?” Piper clearly, WILL answer that question for suffering people out of his high views of God ordering all that comes to pass. Many other Christians will not. It’s the difference between a pastor saying, “in the tornado, I see a lesson” and saying “in the tornado, God is saying to you.” There’s a significance difference between these two expressions. I, and many others, frequently call to mind the lessons of providence, but they are the connections we see, not the connections God has made absolute. “The tornado caused me to think about God” and “God sent the tornado to Minneapolis so I would think about God” are simply two pastorally different statements.

    It is true that God uses nature. But is Piper God? Is Piper the one who can say which forces are signs from God and which ones are not?

    Have weather events taken place during reformed conventions? There was a microburst which destroyed a part of a local reformed church who has hosted Piper and MacArthur before, are they in sin? There is a difference between saying, “God works in nature” and saying “God works in nature, and here’s that what that event in nature means.”

  42. Derek Taylor August 24, 2009 at 10:43 pm #

    OK, Adam – you can split hairs if you want. I suppose you also have a plausible explanation as to why the two buildings that received any damage of significance were a) the convention center where they were meeting and b) the Lutheran church.

  43. Darius T August 24, 2009 at 10:52 pm #

    Derek, they were taller than the rest of the buildings? :)

  44. Derek Taylor August 25, 2009 at 12:23 am #

    I stand corrected, Darius. You’re right, it was a statistical anomaly and coincidence. Good catch. :)

  45. Sue August 25, 2009 at 12:59 am #

    Sue will say something demeaning about complementarianism

    Okay, that was pretty funny. I don’t mind, but …

    In fact, I said nothing about complementarianism. I am trying to point out that on Aug. 18 John Piper sarcastically mocked the NIV and TNIV for not translating the Greek word oun as “therefore” which is a cause and effect connective.

    However, the commentaries all agree that ouv in the gospel of John tends to simply indicate that the narrative continues.

    I am trying to point out that in both cases John Piper overreads the cause and effect, in the first place in John 4:45 and in the second place in Minneapolis on Aug. 19.

    The really sad thing is that I have been watching for 12 years now as Jim Packer, John Piper, Gordon Fee, Bruce Waltke and others enter old age, and I am distressed in my heart for the sin that some of these men intend to die in, the sin of calling down your brother and not repenting. Its a tragedy.

    And, in fact, for the translators of the TNIV, it is not about the gender debate, because they are a well balanced group. So, in fact, this is not, in their mind – or in mine, about the gender debate, but about being morally responsible adults.

  46. Sue August 25, 2009 at 1:11 am #

    Sorry. I apologize – John Piper is not that old. I goofed there. But the thing is, shouldn’t we be ready to enter eternity at any time. Any of these men could die with this whole thing still the acrimonious mess that it is now since some people want to keep it going.

  47. Derek Taylor August 25, 2009 at 1:21 am #

    Sue-
    Do you also feel pity for John the Baptist? You know, constantly telling people to repent and the whole brood of vipers thing?

  48. Sue August 25, 2009 at 1:42 am #

    You bet.

  49. Sue August 25, 2009 at 2:05 am #

    I labour under the silly delusion that Denny has some pull with the CBMW. I keep hoping he’ll see that having Piper, (and all the others) rant on youtube against Waltke and all those others, is not much of an advert for biblical manhood. Looks like a sandbox from here.

    I am torn because, on the one hand, the statement against the TNIV demythologized all of complementarianianism for me in one feel swoop when I discovered what had happened, but, on the other hand, the translators of the TNIV are real people who deserve better.

  50. Russ August 25, 2009 at 3:11 am #

    I think what’s critical for understanding Piper is to understand his Calvinistic perspective. Reading his critics, it sounds as if they believe God is mostly absent from human events, and that Piper claims (they think) God was suddenly provoked to action and blew a tornado to punish a very specific group of people. Rather, for Piper, God is intimately involved in every happening of the world (even the falling sparrows), and every evidence of God’s wrath is to be a sign calling us to repentance.

  51. Nick Mackison August 25, 2009 at 5:19 am #

    Denny, superb post. It’s not surprising to see Jones having a go at Piper, given his penchant for calling good evil and evil good.

    On the same note, which emergent leader is going to call out Jones for his embrace of monogomous LGBT relationships as valid expressions of biblical morality?

  52. D.J. Williams August 25, 2009 at 8:11 am #

    Trent (#41),

    That is hilarious.

  53. joshua August 25, 2009 at 9:14 am #

    Darius,

    Apparently you don’t get tornados all that often. Inaccurate reporting of tornados and the lack of early warnings is in no way a sign, it’s a reality. Early warning systems are not always activated before the tornado hits, and it’s impossible to accurately predict when and where one will develop.

  54. Matthew Staton August 25, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    That’s the thing – tornadoes can hit without much warning. They can be big, little, long-lived or short-lived. So the fact that a tornado came out of nowhere and took two days to classify as a tornado is part of life for those who live in tornado-prone areas.

    However, I did find some information suggests that this was not a normal event.

    This page http://climate.umn.edu/doc/journal/severe090819.htm
    links to http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/updraft/archive/2009/08/wedensday_tornadoes_oddball_we.shtml and http://www.crh.noaa.gov/news/display_cmsstory.php?wfo=mpx&storyid=30471&source=0%22

    The map of damage is here: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/images/mpx/2009Aug19/MinneapolisTrack.jpg The noaa page says the damage was 4.5 miles long, with perhaps a gap in the middle somewhere. Damage was mostly in a 250-yard-wide path.

    A quote from the NPR weather page:
    iThey don’t teach you this stuff in meteorology school.

    Wednesday’s severe weather and tornado event was highly unusual. This was far from your classic textbook severe weather day.

    Buildings and trees were damaged along a 4.5 mile x 500 yard (heaviest damage within 250 yards) path, so it was not a completely surgical strike on say, one block. There were other weather events in the day as well. But it does turn out to be fair to say that this was a unique weather event that did raise meteorological eyebrows.

    (I bet the links cause this one to hit the spam filter…)

  55. Matthew Staton August 25, 2009 at 10:08 am #

    Denny, I have a comment (#53) waiting moderation. I would guess the spam filter gets all excited about any comment with links in it.

  56. Derek Taylor August 25, 2009 at 10:08 am #

    Joshua,
    Usually a warning can be provided. I can’t say this is always the case, but rogue tornadoes, at least in my area of the midwest, are not all that common (I live in Illinois). We have tornado warnings fairly often. Often, we have warnings and tornado sirens, warning us to take cover. Sometimes we’ll be warned to stay off the roads unless necessary.

    It is interesting to me that despite the amazing precision and timing of this strike, so many people want to make this all about John Piper, and they want to ignore all of his qualifying statements, which he made in anticipation of the kneejerk responses we’re seeing all over the place.

    Indulge me for a moment, Piper critics: imagine that just ONE delegate at the ELCA conference prayed for a sign as to how they should vote at this historically significant meeting. Can you imagine a way that God might have provided a more gracious, symbolic and clear sign? If so, what would that sign look like?

  57. Matthew Staton August 25, 2009 at 10:26 am #

    nice, I goofed up the quote in #53, currently waiting for moderation. It does seem that this was an unusual weather event.

    The quote is:

    They don’t teach you this stuff in meteorology school.

    Wednesday’s severe weather and tornado event was highly unusual. This was far from your classic textbook severe weather day.

  58. Darius T August 25, 2009 at 11:11 am #

    Joshua, what Derek said above.

  59. Steve Hayes August 25, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    I got tired of reading all of these responses, but I just had to chime in on this one. I just think it’s odd that every time someone makes the claim that calamity is God’s way of dealing with sin, they do so when God is dealing with someone else’s sin. They say things like, “Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans because of Bourbon St. This is God’s way of cleaning that city up.” Or, “AIDS is God’s way of judging the sins of homosexuals.” But they never seem to say, “It’s clear to me that lightening struck my house because God is trying to rid me of my porn addiction.” Or “I just got into a car wreck because I am very judgmental, and God wants to cure me of that sin.”

    Why does God only use calamity to point out the sins of “them”, and not the sins of “us”? Now, I know Piper said God used his cancer to point out his own sin, but that’s very different than me going into Piper’s hospital room during chemotherapy and saying, “Listen, John, I think this cancer is God’s judgment upon you.” If God is using this calamity to show this denomination their sin, why don’t we trust Him to make that clear? I just can’t understand Piper’s lack of tact or basic wisdom. Why would he say this?

  60. Adam Omelianchuk August 25, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

    Derek, you don’t live here, and your fact gathering is based off of blog posts and websites. I’m sorry, but your claims to the facts just aren’t true. A lot of buildings and houses got damaged. I work at a Christian drug rehab center here in the neighborhood that got hit. We had to run to the basement just like the Lutherans did. But somehow THEY are the ones that need to take heed and repent and not US. Why is that? I thought, according to Piper, that all calamities are calls to repentance to everyone? That is the point of his qualifications is it not?

    You can talk about “precision” all you like, but you really haven’t taken into account all of the data. The same factors that contributed to the “precision” you talk about with regard to the ELCA also were in play that creamed a small school miles away from the Metro area. Since I live here and saw the damage done to a large part of the city, I don’t think it was very precise at all.

    And I think you should know better that “praying for signs” is not how you seek guidance from God. You read and apply his word in obedience and faith.

  61. Adam Omelianchuk August 25, 2009 at 3:54 pm #

    Here is a news story that covers where most the main damaged occured.

    http://www.myfoxtwincities.com/dpp/news/Tornado_Downtown_Minneapolis_Aug_19_2009#

  62. Derek Taylor August 25, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

    Adam,
    You live in MN, so I take your word for it. I was basing what I said not on a blog entry, but on this specific local news report, where the two buildings noted were the Convention Center and the church:
    http://wcco.com/weathernewsstories/tornado.twin.cities.2.1135360.html

    I still don’t think this makes a material difference. The timing and circumstances have to be a remarkable “coincidence”, happening with the backdrop of this meeting that would have historic impact on the ELCA.

    RE: signs – of course, you’re right in the sense that “an evil generation asks for a sign”, especially when people ask for a sign when God has been so unambiguous in His word. Maybe God’s mercy is so great that He decided to give someone(s) a sign. I don’t presume to know for certain and neither did John Piper. But if He did, it would certainly demonstrate his power, authority and patience. And either way, it can be taken as an affirmation of truths we already know from Scripture and serve as a tangible reminder that He *may* indulge our rebellion (and make no mistake, this was a dramatic and arrogant step of disobedience) for a season, but a day is coming in which no more warnings will be issued.

  63. Derek Taylor August 25, 2009 at 4:50 pm #

    By the way, I happened to watch all of the debate at the ELCA last Friday. One of the things that piqued my interest was that some of the delegates did express genuine puzzlement as to God’s will. Obviously they didn’t think the Scriptures provided sufficient guidance. Make of that what you will. I find it fully plausible that a number of people were praying for guidance right up to the time of the voting.

  64. Matthew Staton August 25, 2009 at 4:58 pm #

    Denny my comment disappeared. If you get a chance to approve it, that would be great.

    The comment links to 3 sites with data and commentary about the weather that day. Based on those pages I believe the weather was unique, not normal.

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