John Piper on the Calamity in Minneapolis

John Piper has just written on the Desiring God blog about the tragedy in Minneapolis: “Putting My Daughter to Bed Two Hours After the Bridge Collapsed.” He reports:

“At about 6 PM tonight the bridge of Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. I am writing this about three hours after the bridge fell. The bridge is located within sight of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Most of us who minister at the church cross this bridge several times a week. At this point I don’t know if any staff was on the bridge. Desiring God offices are about a mile from the bridge.”

You’ll want to read the rest of this piece. It’s a meditation on Luke 13 and God’s purposes in the midst of calamity. Pray for the injured and for those grieving the loss of loved ones.

24 Responses to John Piper on the Calamity in Minneapolis

  1. Bryan L August 2, 2007 at 9:20 am #

    I think Piper misreads Luke 13 and also misapplies it to this tragedy. I grieve for those people who died and were injured and find it hard to believe that people want to look for the purposes of God in such calamity and then use the Bible to support their beliefs.

    Piper’s interpretation of these events really saddens me and is one more reminder why I don’t follow his ministry (even though I think he is a great man of God).

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  2. Benjamin A August 2, 2007 at 10:22 am #

    Piper has such discernment in drawing application from Luke 13 and doing as Jesus did by lifting his eyes from the temporal and onto the eternal. Would that we all could live with the big picture of God’s redemptive plan in mind.

    Ben

  3. Matthew August 2, 2007 at 11:03 am #

    Truly, God’s mercies are new every morning. It is only by God’s mercies that we live and breath.

    But man, something about his discussion with his daughter really bothers me. I don’t think he means it this way, but here is how it sounds to me: ‘well, God could have held it up if he wanted to but he didn’t so all those people suffered and died oh well good night.’ Jesus cried when his friend died. He showed compassion for the hurting. This is a present tragedy that is currently unfolding; it is not a historical fact that occurred in the past.

    I don’t mean to speak out of turn, but I wish Piper would simply weep with those who are weeping instead of preaching judgement to those who remain. I think it encourages Christians to turn off their natural human feelings of compassion and disorientation, while at the same time presenting, at the very least, an emotionally distant God to those who don’t know Him. The Psalms contain much disorientation, hurt, frustration, anger, etc. encased in liturgy, of all things. Perhaps I am wrong, but I don’t believe that piece is written with grace and seasoned with salt.

  4. Matthew August 2, 2007 at 11:20 am #

    Sorry – please forgive an addition note. Denny, something I like about your blog (in addition to the current events and the equal oppportunity humor) is your choice of pictures. You always have a great picture that complements the story. It gives your blog a great look.

    The problem with this post is that your picture for this story is once again perfect. It shows Piper, arms raised (incidentally, fists closed), making a point. Unfortunately, I think it is a fitting metaphor for his response to the tragedy.

  5. mike August 2, 2007 at 12:20 pm #

    I didn’t think he was discompasionate at all, in fact, it was really good to read another man’s sincere trust in a God who is represented as both Just and Merciful. It is a true and precise representations of God that allows man to wrestle with Him as a concept and finally accept or reject Him.

    True Piper’s explination might be blunt but it’s acurate and it avoids blaming Satan and thus picturing God as an impotent diety, while admitting that God could have prevented it but allowed it for the time and purpose, eternal purpose.

    I think his message was more to the person questioning the goodness of God, ie: “how can God be good if He lets things like this happen?” Pipers answer is acurate, “that is with the true worth of man, nothing.”

    We as Christians hope to hear things like Paul writes in Romans, “I do not consider this present suffering worthy to be compared to the Glory that is to be revealed.”

    That is a really encouraging message, but it is only to believers. Piper’s message is directed to the most common question of non-believers, that is….. “why?!”

    I thank God for great and godly men like JP, who’s writings are both comforting and scary just like our God.

  6. Walter Whitehurst August 2, 2007 at 1:49 pm #

    Mike,

    All I can say is “Amen”. John really speaks to the “why” of why these things happen.

    If it wasn’t for our suffering, pain, heartaches, etc. most of us would never pay any attention to God.

    God uses these things to get our attention, brings people into our lives to comfort us with His Word, His Holy Spirit to convict us of our sinful nature, and then to “escort” us into the Kingdom of God.

    Praise God for His mercy and grace,

    Walter

  7. Rick Garner August 2, 2007 at 5:37 pm #

    Mike,

    Luke 13 does not answer the question of “why” the Gailileans were slain or “why” the tower of Siloam fell on the eighteen. It answers the question of “what” to do “when” things happen, like falling bridges.

    Its confusing to me that you don’t want to blame Satan (whose purpose is to kill, steal and destroy) but seem okay with a God that “could have prevented it but allowed it for the time and purpose, eternal purpose.” Did God really kill those people?

    Piper, as many other Calvinist do, tends to read into the text their casual presuppositions.

    BTW I agree that some of the writings of JP are scary. But God is not scary. He’s the Father of compassion and the God or all comfort.

  8. Jeff August 3, 2007 at 12:18 pm #

    Rick,

    Maybe some of Piper’s writings are scary, but, in all honesty, so is a lot of the Bible. And it is that scariness that makes the gospel such good news.

    Just a thought,
    Jeff

  9. Ben August 3, 2007 at 3:30 pm #

    Rick –

    I agree with all you’ve said up until the last sentence:
    “BTW I agree that some of the writings of JP are scary. But God is not scary. He’s the Father of compassion and the God or (sic) all comfort.”

    Is God truly not scary? Is not the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom? Is not Fear of the Lord a Biblical theme, especially in Old Testament writings?

    Yet, fear is tempered with the idea that we are called to Love God in a radical way such that perfect love casts out all fear. Does that mean we cease fearing the Lord because now we love him?

    Being the mystic mudblood that I am, I find that we must strive to hold in tension the true relationship between love and fear so that we can keep the scriptural intuition of “Fear of the Lord”, and yet still love Him with all our “heart, soul, mind, and strength”. This has been a most fascinating and spiritually revealing challenge.

    Nevertheless, I live about 5 miles from that bridge, and travel over it at least 4 times weekly. I drive by Bethlehem Baptist on my way to a different baptist church. The bridge collapse is not only an economic and traffic headache, but also a hermeneutical one. I wonder how many Christians are debating God’s will over this thing rather than feeding the hungry and caring for the sick.

  10. Andre August 3, 2007 at 3:37 pm #

    I read all of the responses before going to read the article, so I was almost biased because of the negative responses here. But when I read the article I did not see the overwhelming insensitivity that many have brought forthin these responses. I believe it to be a timely and accurate message that is consistent with the particular text used and also scripture as a whole. I wish more people would share this message! I also see loads of compassion in this especially what Piper brought forth from the text and from himself. So I think maybe if we would step back from our presuppositions about John Piper than maybe we will be able to hear the words of warning but also of love and compassion.

  11. Benjamin A. August 3, 2007 at 4:44 pm #

    Albert Mohler’s web sight also is dealing with this issue. It’s worth your reading.

  12. mike August 3, 2007 at 5:29 pm #

    Rick, you’re right He is a God of compasion but you must remember he is also to be feared.

    We are saved and as John writes, Perfect love casts out all fear. That fear is fear of judgement, GOd’s perfect love for us, his people, should cast out all fear of judgement in our lives. I am not terrified of eternal death because of God’s tremendous love for me. BUT… God is, or at least should be, scary to an unconverted person. They are awaiting eternal death, that is scary!

    It is such intricate balances as these that make me marvel at God…

    He is Just and Merciful, also He is to be loved and feared.

    Finally I am WAY more comforted by remembering that God had perfect control over even tradgedy, rather than thinking somehow God lost that control or didn’t know how to stop Satan. Our God is the Almighty, true, and living God, the fact is that He could have stoped that bridge from falling, (with only his pinky) and it is only my trust in His eternal plan and purposes that make sense of things like this. That is where I find the comfoting power of God…. in trusting Him and His power, even when my earthly perspective limits my understanding.

  13. Rick Garner August 3, 2007 at 9:40 pm #

    #9 Ben,
    Fear ≠ scary, at least not the biblical kind. Otherwise I agree.

    #10 Andre
    Yes, your point is well taken with my presuppostions of JP. Thank you.

    #12 Mike,
    There are other fears beside the fear of judgement.
    Thanks for helping my point. A theology like this, forces one to say that God killed those people (either directly or indirectly). Do you not believe that Satan is actively destroying lives today? Must every disease, turmoil, and death be turned into a narcissistic expression of an all powerful being. I am comforted by the God who sent his Son into our world, suffered with us, for us, and gave his life in us. I most fear disappointing my Jesus who loves me so much. It’s not a scary thing.

  14. Bryan L August 4, 2007 at 7:29 am #

    Great points Rick!

    My favorite line: “Must every disease, turmoil, and death be turned into a narcissistic expression of an all powerful being.”

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  15. Benjamin A. August 4, 2007 at 2:03 pm #

    If Job’s experience of suffering (disease, turmoil, and death [of his kids]) does nothing more than open up our eyes to the reality that God takes responsibility for how Satan is allowed to inflict suffering, than it has served us well. But, just maybe Job spoke out of hand in saying “the LORD gives and the LORD takes away, blessed be the name of the LORD.” Should it have been ‘the LORD gives and Satan takes away’?
    The only degree to which Satan can “steal, kill, and destroy” anything in my life (as a Christian; from my understanding), is to the degree that I willfully choose to walk in disobedience to God’s will. Sin leads to death. Sin steals. Sin destroys.
    Didn’t the Father send His only Son to be rejected by man, to suffer at the hands of men, and to die. Or was that Satan’s plan?
    Joseph (Genesis 50:20) “What you meant for evil, God intended for good”. Did Joseph really think God allowed all that suffering in his life for “good”? Last I thought about it, Joseph probably wasn’t one of those misguided Calvinist. Or maybe Joseph spoke out of hand and really it was Satan trying to ‘kill, steal, and destroy” his life?
    If I’m missing it here, please help. Until then my God is in heaven and He does what so ever He pleases.
    Isaish 45:6-7 “That man may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other. The One forming light and creating darkness. Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.”
    Sounds a bit narcissistic to me.

  16. joe August 6, 2007 at 11:55 am #

    Rick-“A theology like this, forces one to say that God killed those people.”

    Who was responsible for the crucifixtion of our LORD?

    Rick-“Do you not believe that Satan is actively destroying lives today?”

    Of course Calvinist believe this. Do you believe that Satan is running loose and is able to do all the he pleases? Or do you believe that he is on a leash and is only able to go as far as God allows?

    Rick-“I am comforted by the God who sent his Son into our world, suffered with us, for us, and gave his life in us.”

    This is a statement that we all agree with. It is not a statement that just our Arminian brothers believe. I would like to ask if it is possible that you are placing a greater emphasis on God’s attribute of love and not enough empahasis on other attributes such as His mercy, justice, sovereignty etc . . .?

  17. Luke Britt August 6, 2007 at 3:57 pm #

    First,

    I doubt Rick and others who are not Calvinists are Arminians, because they would then be heretics. Let’s be kind to those who are not like us. Some of us need to read or re-read Schaeffer’s “The Mark of the Christian”, including myself.

    Second,

    These issues are hard to engage and even harder to counsel. The most comfort we can have is in the fact that God is in control of his creation. He does as he wills and what he does is good.

    I am Reformed in my soteriology and believe God is in control of everything in his earth; I also hope that I do not read any false presuppositions into the Bible. We must all be wary of doing false exegesis no matter what theological traditions we hold to and must also be confident in our Lord that he has all power and all authority just as he has claimed.

  18. Bryan L August 6, 2007 at 5:31 pm #

    “I doubt Rick and others who are not Calvinists are Arminians, because they would then be heretics.”

    I’m I reading you right? Did you just say Arminians are heretics?

  19. Bryan L August 6, 2007 at 5:39 pm #

    Sorry that was supposed to read “Am” not “I’m”.

  20. mlm August 11, 2007 at 8:16 pm #

    I’ve read all the comments under your first Piper post and some under each post thereafter. It doesn’t make sense to me that so many of us quote the Bible yet totally forget to look at the life of Jesus, who was God in the flesh and the will of God in action. We never see Jesus suffering in order to learn lessons or become more holy. Seems He lived a sinless life and still had communion with the Father. We also never see Jesus placing suffering upon others, to teach them a lesson or draw them closer to God. He heals the sick, raises the dead, and sets at liberty those who are bound. When accused by the relgious folk of being the cause of the torment “just so he could set them free,” Jesus rebukes the religious leaders and says that a house divided against itself cannot stand. So apparently God doesn’t cause evil in order to work good. Why quote Job when we can quote Jesus?

  21. Walter August 12, 2007 at 5:16 am #

    mlm,
    First, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
    2 Tim 3:16

    Second, God always used evil and bad things to further His purposes and bring glory to His name. Adam & Eve in the garden, Joseph, Job, David & Bathsheba, prophets, Paul & his trials, his thorn in the flesh, etc.

    Third, you are confusing causing with allowing – God allowed Satan to kill his relatives, his livestock, anything but take Job’s life. God allowed Jesus to be beaten and crucified for His glory and Our salvation, God allows hard times and bad times to mold us into His image and for His glory.

    Otherwise, we have a pathetic God, who is not able to control Satan, evil, etc. If God desired He could stop all evil and bad things from happening, but we would not be able to see the consequences of our sin and our need for a Savior.

    You have to balance everything out – that is why the Bible shows the good and the evil and how God uses both for His glory.

    Walter

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Denny Burk » To Change It Would Make It Worse - August 8, 2007

    […] There have been a lot of comments under my post about John Piper’s remarks concerning the collapse of the I-35 bridge. The controversy has centered on how God can be sovereign given that the world is filled with suffering. […]

  2. Denny Burk » God the “Narcissist”? - August 8, 2007

    […] There has been something of a debate unfolding in the comments of my previous post, “John Piper on the Calamity in Minneapolis.” The lines of the debate are fairly neatly drawn between those who are determinists and those who are not. The determinists are arguing that God was in control of the collapse of the bridge, and the non-determinists attribute the tragedy to the activity of Satan or some other non-divine source. […]

  3. God the “Narcissist”? « Already Not Yet - August 26, 2007

    […] There has been something of a debate unfolding in the comments of my previous post, “John Piper on the Calamity in Minneapolis.” The lines of the debate are fairly neatly drawn between those who are determinists and those who are not. The determinists are arguing that God was in control of the collapse of the bridge, and the non-determinists attribute the tragedy to the activity of Satan or some other non-divine source. […]

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