My response to John Piper’s Recent Statements about God and Tornadoes

My Response to John Piper’s Recent Statements about God and Tornadoes

During the last week or two I have received numerous e-mails, some from journalists, asking my opinion about John Piper’s explanation of the recent rash of deadly tornadoes across the South. Apparently, he has at least implied that God sent them as judgments on particular communities and reminders of their need to repent.

My first response is that this is nothing new. John has been saying things like this for a long time. This reminds me of Oral Roberts’ claim that God told him he would die if he failed to raise eight million dollars to save his City of Faith in Tulsa. I had just left ORU a year or two before the media had a heyday with that claim. People who knew I taught at ORU asked me about it on a daily basis for weeks. All I could tell them was that this was nothing new. I had heard Oral say things like that (and even stranger things) long before the media discovered that one and made a circus out of it. I don’t know why that particular claim went viral, so to speak.

The same is true here. If I’m not mistaken, Piper has been saying things like this for a long time now. Why is everyone suddenly so worked up about it? Also, Piper is certainly not the first Calvinist to say such things. Are people really so unfamiliar with Calvinism that they don’t expect a Calvinist to say such things? Well, most Calvinists don’t say them so publicly. But many Calvinists have believed them and said them more quietly and discretely for a long time. For example, R. C. Sproul has long said that there is no maverick molecule in the universe, that God controls every thought and twist and turn of every molecule in the universe.

John Calvin himself said it. If you doubt it, read Chapter XVI of Book I of Institutes of the Christian Religion. See especially part 2: “There is no such thing as fortune or chance.” Then see part 7: “God’s providence also regulates ‘natural’ occurrences.” There Calvin says “…no wind ever arises or increases except by God’s express command.” Then, in section 9: “The true causes of events are hidden to us,” Calvin offers an illustration of God’s special, meticulous providence that rules over everything. He asks his readers to imagine a merchant who enters a wood (forest) with a company of companions and unwisely wanders away from them and is slain by thieves. He concludes “His death was not only foreseen by God’s eye, but also determined by his decree.”

I could give similar examples from later Calvinists including Edwards, Boettner and Sproul. And I do give them in Against Calvinism. So when Piper says that God did not merely foresee or permit the terrorist attacks of 9/11 but designed and governed them and when he says that a tornado was not merely permitted by God but sent by God, he is simply saying what conservative Calvinists (not necessarily all Reformed people) have always said.

What may be new in Piper’s statements is his apparent certainty that these events are judgments of God. Most Calvinists have been content to say they are from God without drawing that conclusion. Perhaps it’s what they meant and perhaps they said it, but I haven’t found where they assigned a particular reason to specific catastrophes.

What I would like to know is how Piper can be so sure a tornado outbreak was not only foreordained by God but also that it was foreordained as judgment. Judgment on whom? Why? Why that particular region of the country? Of course, he’s not obligated to answer those questions, but he shouldn’t be surprised if people ask and expect some kind of answer.

It seems to me the better part of wisdom not to say immediately after a calamity that it was God’s judgment UNLESS you are prepared to explain why it was sent by God then and there. Even more, it would seem to me cruel to say it was God’s judgment, while people are still burying their children, AT ALL. AND it might have the unintended (?) consequence of inhibiting people from rendering aid to victims. After all, if God sent this as judgment….? It’s an inevitable question for some people.

But let’s take this further. If Piper (or anyone else) believes ALL calamities and catastrophes are sent by God (as Calvin apparently did), I would suggest he/they bite the bullet, so to speak, and go the rest of the way. It’s fairly easy to speak from a distance about God’s judgment on a whole region of the country far away from where you are. But wouldn’t an Old Testament prophet go to that region and stand in the middle of the destruction and proclaim it and call for repentance? That would take courage and it would demonstrate how seriously you take what you are saying.

But even more: I’d like to hear one of them (Calvinists or anyone who believes God foreordains and designs and renders certain everything that happens) say publicly that it was God who caused a predator to kidnap, torture, rape and murder a child. I seldom hear or read them saying so. And yet, it would seem that, too, must be included in God’s meticulous providence AS IT IS BELIEVED BY THEM.

I once heard then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop speak on “God Killed My Son.” He spoke for almost an hour on how the only comfort he received after his son’s tragic mountain climbing accident was that it was not really an accident. It was planned and rendered certain by God. God killed his son is what he said several times. Then he went into great detail about how his son’s death was sudden and painless. But what if it wasn’t? What if his son was instead tortured to death by a psychopath? It happens. Would that also be God? Because then it involves moral evil and hideous, innocent suffering.

I am not willing to rule out the possibility that God might send judgment on a city with a seemingly natural disaster. Who knows? (But I don’t believe God causes people to do evil as in the case of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.) God is God. He may very well have reasons I can’t even fathom. And, of course, in the end, we are told God will intervene in history and defeat his enemies. I’m sure that won’t be pretty. However, EVEN IF GOD TOLD ME a natural disaster that caused untold suffering was his judgment I would not announce it publicly. Unless, of course, he told me to. Does Piper claim God has told him to proclaim these things? Or is he just speaking out of his theological convictions? I’m not sure about that.

Like most Christians, I suspect, when I hear about a natural disaster that kills people I tend to think it’s simply evidence of the world’s fallenness and the not-yetness of the new world God has in store for those us. In other words, it’s evidence of God’s absence caused by our forgetfulness of God rather than something planned and brought about by God. And I see it as evidence of the not-yetness of God’s plan to free creation from its bondage to decay (Romans 8).

I think it is the height of insensitivity to target calamities in which husbands, fathers, mothers, children have died horrible deaths and pronounce them “God’s judgment.” I would urge Christians not to do that unless they are certain God has called them to do it and given them the reason that particular disaster was his judgment. And I would urge people like Piper not to do it unless they are also willing publicly to proclaim that a kidnapped, tortured, raped and murdered child was also targeted by God and why. It’s all part of a package deal in his and their case (i.e., Calvinists). So, my challenge to them is to bite the bullet and not just proclaim natural disasters or even man-made disasters “God’s judgment” but also to explain that they believe every child murdered, tortured, raped is also suffering because God willed it.

  • David Rogers

    This seems to be the Calvinist perspective:

    Before the Fall, everything that happened was decreed to happen for the glory of God.

    After the Fall, everything that happens is decreed to happen for the glory of God.

    So my question is why is it appropriate to use the terms “Fall, curse, creation groaning”?

  • http://www.seekingfaithfulnessblog.blogspot.com Holly

    I live 30 minutes from Harrisburg, Illinois, where 6 people died in last week’s horrible tornado. My husband’s work is just a few minutes from there, and I huddled in our cellar with my children, too, praying for all who were in the path of the storm. When I’m in a crisis like that I always do think to repent of all known sin, try to pray intercessionally, in a corporate fashion for my community and my country; I pray that God’s people would reflect him through any crisis which might be coming due to natural causes. (When you live in Tornado Alley and also sit smack dab on the New Madrid Fault Line, you sort of develop crisis protocol.) :)

    So yes, I think we must always acknowledge that God might be judging us via a natural disaster, but I don’t think it has to be our default assumption. As you say, He could. He can do whatever He wants.

    If so, I wonder what he was saying to this church 15 miles from me, in a little dinky town of about 800 people? The church had stood since the late 1800s, what particularly egregious sin was the congregation now committing that it had never committed before? Why did God zap IT, rather than, say, the Crystal Cathedral?

    http://www.courierpress.com/photos/2012/feb/29/108793/

    And yet, I can see so much good that God is doing and may do through this horrible time. (Turning something natural and destructive into something redemptive….He’s so good at that! Why can’t we see that?) Churches (which WEREN’T apparently judged like the Ridgeway church) have truly risen to the situation – offering shelter and food and clean up and soon, I’m sure, construction help. Christians have been mobilized. Stories are emerging of great self-sacrifice for the sake of others. For those who were “judged” and destroyed, there were SO MANY MORE who were saved and spared, who are thanking God for His protection.

    I never appreciate Piper’s pronouncements – I believe they are ill-spoken. I’d rather be on the side of proclaiming God’s mercy and the possibilities and opportunities for our communities and churches than on the side of speaking of how He is bent on destroying us.

    And as usual, I appreciate your willingness to offer a rebuttal/response to a popular (but incorrect) statement.

    • Jon

      Well put: to you, Holly, and to Roger.

    • gently reformed

      Amen sister! I was raised one half hour drive north of Ridgeway and I can’t think of a populace that is more God fearing than the good people in southern Illinois. Tomorrow, I will lend a hand with the God fearing people of northern Kentucky to begin helping our brothers and sisters rebuild their shattered lives. I choose to believe God can bring disciples together to deliver the helping hand of Christ to His children in need, and therefore deliver the kingdom to the whole world watching Love in action.

  • Chris

    I have played with Calvinism along my journey but I put it aside because it just didn’t perform any better than a theological plaything. I know this isn’t a data-based, philosophically-developed approach to the subject matter of God and tornadoes. I also know that good people who believe the tenets of Calvinism will try to defend their position so I mean this in the kindest way possible (under the circumstances) but if it looks like nonsense and if it sounds like nonsense, more than likely it is nonsense. To believe in this worldview is nothing but fatalism by any other name.

    • rogereolson

      I wouldn’t call it fatalism in the sense of an impersonal destiny (such as the Stoics believed in) but it is determinism which, when taken to its logical end, results in ridiculousness (such as God punishes in eternal hell those he caused to rebel).

      • Chris

        I definitely agree with the distinction between Stoic fatalism and Reformed determinism. The big questions for me about this notion is whether we actually live our lives like that and whether the creative order functions like that. How does one hold onto determinism with any belief in any present cause and effect at all? I’ve never encountered any satisfactory response to that dilemma.

        I watched a very recent online video of a dear woman praying in tongues as a tornado was coming right over her home. It appeared that she was standing right out in the open with a camera on her as she was praying. My prayer was that God would protect her silliness because of how “free will” secularists would go to town on her if she and her family got blown away. Every millisecond of every moment is fraught with unpredictable changes based on behavioral choices.

        I can’t see how any reasonable person can really be satisfied with a deterministic outlook simply by declaring that God ordains it all. That kind of fatalism I simply doesn’t work and it isn’t how anything works in a real world.

    • Dean

      Oh Chris, but where’s your exegesis on that! :)

  • JoeyS

    And by the same logic, God is unjust if he punishes rebellion that He Himself caused.

    • rogereolson

      Exactly.

    • Beakerj

      So short, so clear. Very nice.

    • Scotty

      Have you guys not ever read the same questions raised and answered in Romans 9?

      • rogereolson

        I’m sure the answer is yes, but, again, Romans 9 is open to various interpretations.

  • Dkester

    I agree that the tragic things that happen in this world are a result of the fallen state in which we are in due to sin entering in. God does not send these things, but He is aware of them and somehow because of the book of Job it would seem that there are some things that God has to give permission for before they can be rendered to a child of God…but then I also believe there are things that we simply cannot understand and the mysteries of God belong to Him alone! We simply must trust Him in every situation.

    • rogereolson

      Every Arminian believes that nothing can happen without God’s permission. That’s different, of course, than saying God willed it as part of some great plan to glorify himself or that every incident of innocent suffering is foreordained by God.

      • Chris

        Dr. Olson, how does this relate to Simple Foreknowledge you discussed w/ Dr. Horton. Does God know it’s going to happen before it does or simply know something could happen? I got confused by your comments there. It seems like you advocated that God didn’t know it would happen until there was a creation/created being making it happen. Sorry I’m confused on this one!

        • rogereolson

          God’s simple foreknowledge has been discussed here a lot. Please look back at the archives for those posts and comments.

  • Brent J. Nordquist

    In the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake/tsunami, Piper was interviewed and wrote about this subject. He grounds his belief in this passage in Luke: “Every deadly calamity is a merciful call from God for the living to repent. That was Jesus’ stunning statement to those who brought him news of calamity. The tower of Siloam had fallen, and 18 people were crushed. What about this, Jesus? they asked. He answered, “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).”

    Tsunami and Repentance (desiringGod.org)

    • rogereolson

      Did Piper mean that every deadly calamity is OCCASION for a merciful call from God to repent or that every deadly calamity is itself GOD’S JUDGMENT? This most recent post of his certainly sounds like the latter to me. Besides, Piper is a divine determinist–like Calvin and Edwards and Boettner–so he has to believe that every event, without exception, is foreordained and (in his words) “designed and governed” by God for a purpose.

  • John

    Asbury Seminary posted these comments from some of their faculty on the question of God’s involvement in natural disasters: http://seedbed.com/feed/are-natural-disasters-the-will-of-god-

  • Brian

    I would read his article again if I were you and he has other similar ones on the website. Piper’s is using the tornado and other similar instances as a modern day example of the tower of Siloam in Luke 13. In Luke 13 Jesus is asked to give an account for the death of the Galileans at the hands of Pilate (Human Evil) and Jesus also comments on the falling of the tower of Siloam (Natural Evil). Jesus says to them “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or 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.” In other words don’t be surprised that these people perished, and don’t think it happened because they were especially sinful, but be surprised that you were not under the tower and repent for your sins deserve death. This is what Piper is getting at, I think. This is why Piper ask over and over why Henryville and not Hollywood, certainly there is more sin in Hollywood. Therefore all horrific natural events are seen as the penalty of sin (death) and whenever they don’t happen to us, they give us another opportunity to repent.

    • rogereolson

      That’s an overly generous interpretation of what he wrote, IMHO. I read it in light of other things he has said and written such as that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were designed and governed by God. He also said at a Passion conference that if a dirty bomb hit downtown Minneapolis it would be “from God.” Jesus’ words about the tower of Siloam do not give warrant for attributing every calamity to God. The natural interpretation of Piper’s words is that every catastrophe is from God. Calvin certainly said so.

      • Brian

        well yeah that’s biblically obvious, I was just talking about the judgement idea.

      • charles

        “Jesus’ words about the tower of Siloam do not give warrant for attributing every calamity to God. ”

        What if Jesus was just borrowing from the OT?

        Isa45:7 I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.

        Amos3:6 When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?

        Lam3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

        Isa46:10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’

        If you admit that God “permitted” the disaster, then how could it fail to have been “governed” by Him. He was free to turn it aside, right? He did not “permit” it out of helplessness?

        If God “intentionally” permitted the disaster, then for whatever reason, He intended the disaster.

        • rogereolson

          My problem is not with “permitted” or even “governed.” Piper says God “designs” these disasters and governs them. That’s my problem. I disagree that God intended them if he permitted them. Some of my students fail and I allow it without ever intending it. There are many analogies in human experience.

  • Aaron

    I have found your blog to be an enjoyable read over the last 10 months or so (as that is when I first found it).

    It would seem people who declare a natural disaster as God’s judgement are also those that would tell a sick man or woman that they are sick because they did something wrong and are experiencing God’s wrath or judgement. It reminds me of a sermon a few years ago by Dr. Ed Dobson in which he discussed some of the reactions by people after he learned he had ALS. People he thought were close friends telling him that God is angry with him and gave him ALS as punishment and he should repent. As if everything bad that ever happens in the world or in our lives is because we fell out of favor with God. This makes me think of all the pagan religions in which their gods were in no way attributed with grace, forgiveness, and love. Or, perhaps I am reading too far into it…

    • rogereolson

      Most Calvinists I know (not all Reformed folks) would say that all the bad that happens is because of humanity’s sinfulness. The problem is that they go further than that and often, if not always, say that each and every individual catastrophe, whether for an individual or a community, is from God as if it were not just a result of our forgetfulness of God but of God’s direct judgment. What makes it especially problematic is that they also believe it all, each event and the whole of the fallen world, is foreordained by God for his glory.

    • The_L

      “This makes me think of all the pagan religions in which their gods were in no way attributed with grace, forgiveness, and love.”

      Depends on which Pagan religion you’re talking about. ;) Wicca, for example, has a rather overly-flowery piece called the “Charge of the Goddess” in which the Wiccan Goddess explicitly says that any act of joy and love is sacred. Granted, “love” in the Charge refers to sex as well as to charity, but charity is still implied and included according to most Wiccans I’ve met.

      This doesn’t really undermine your point–the world isn’t a perfect place, and we humans lack the power and understanding to make it one.

      • rogereolson

        I thought the “Wiccan Wrede” (moral maxim) was “An ye harm none, do as ye shalt.” I have met many Wiccans and read many classics of Wiccan literature (e.g., Starhawk). Whenever I’ve asked them about Wiccan ethics that’s what they say. Never anything about loving everybody.

  • Rob

    I have been waiting for this one every since I saw the article about Piper on the Christian Post the other day.

    Clearly Piper thinks the tornadoes were intended by God, do you think Calvin understood it that way? Or could Calvin have understood it as double-effect?

    • rogereolson

      Clearly Calvin understood everything as foreordained and rendered certain by God which, for him, probably also for Piper, does not rule out secondary causes. But secondary cause (which is what I assume you mean by “double effect”) doesn’t get God off the hook. Ultimate responsibility lies with ultimate cause.

      • Rob

        By double-effect, I mean foreseen and even determined but unintended.

        So an example is choosing not to execute a prisoner even though your choice determines that someone else will execute 20 prisoners. You foresee their executions as a consequence of your choice and when you act you make it happen but in spite of this you do not intend their deaths and the doctrine of double-effect says that you are not morally responsible for their deaths.

        • rogereolson

          Okay, apply that to Piper’s statements.

  • http://twitter.com/ti_faucz Tiago

    Hello Mr. Olson,

    First, thanks for this blog, it helped me understand arminianism a lot better than in my previous “mostly calvinist” background.
    Although it didnt make me any more arminian, I can say it helped me set free of calvinism. That said, unless there is an “One Point Calvinism”, Im no more one, haha.
    Please read below as my opinion, and my opinion includes that each one should be freely develop what to believe and express that.
    Just want to express my ideas of what i see so far from the Lord and the Scriptures. Mind that some may be under-developed and as human I can be wrong.

    This post gets an interesting point. As I see it, its mostly a lack of worldview and understanding of God’s omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence from both sides.
    First, I dont see how God could not know any of these disasters. I find it interesting how people discuss if He could foreknow, or foresee things,
    as if God was subject to time as a constant. I see this in both calvinists ad arminians.
    When I look at the universe, I can see no place for a god that is bound to time, or any less sovereign of all creation.
    As well when I look at the scriptures, I see constant reminders of His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, His sovereign on the creation, and His eternal existence.
    That said, i really dont understand this whole “predestination versus free-will” thing. It doesnt makes sense to me.
    First problem is the understanding that free will is a choice of A and B. You see, all choices are a result of all inputs passed on our state of mind at a given time.
    So, our choices are static. If I could go back to bad choices I made in my life, but had the exact same mind with the exact same variables(which includes sin) to consider, I would have made the exact same choice.
    My view of free-will is this, to be free to do exactly as we judge.
    Now on predestination, its interesting that calvinists only think it matters to salvation, for election. Even if some say its not only that, their conclusions and applications indicate it most of time.
    You see, if something happened outside God’s will, he could just “go back” and adjust it before it happens. But he dont even need to do this, because he already calculated everything perfectly.
    In resume, I dont see any space left for conflict between predestination and free-will. Quite the contrary, i see they complement each other with exact perfection.

    I understand God’s will as one, from since the beginning of time. God had a plan since the eternity for all of this, for all humanity and the rest of creation, and He will not fail on that, as He is perfect(omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence).
    This includes our free will, which, as a result, included sin also. Or else He could have just made a bunch of obedient robots.
    This explains why i also disagree with Piper on this. He tries to find a particular solo reason for each of these calamities without considering much as a part of the reason for all existence.
    We must not forget that these people dont simply go to hell, but our faith is that they will be rightfully judged on all what they did, what they suffered, what they were.
    Or that the this world does not compare to the upcoming. Neither how much Solomon says that these things just happen without apparent reason in this world.
    Now I could quote Luke 13:4 and end here.

    We will never be able to know all, but in the case of why all bad happens around us, Im certain that one of the reasons is to prove our hearts. The same could be said to how can sinner do good, or why us christians disagree so much on theology.
    As Paul warn us in 1 Co 13, this discussion may not even matter. If calvinists and arminians need separated churches, it doesnt matter who is right, both are already wrong.
    Imagine if Calvin and Arminus kept unity despite their disagreements, if they humbly seek understanding from the Lord in communion, instead of each trying to fit God in their own box of understanding.
    Imagine the impact this would have on the unbelievers, and the difference it could have made on the church today.
    Contrast it with today’s tones in ‘conversations’ between christians and atheists or in our own theological infighting.
    These people could have been saved. If there is anyone to blame on all of this, its us Mr Olson. The shame is ours.

    • rogereolson

      I’m glad you’re thinking, but some of these thoughts seem confused to me. You need to sort out things like free will (compatibilist or noncompatibilist–it makes a huge difference) and God’s perfection (not just his attributes of power and glory but also his goodness). Also, God’s relationship to time. Classical Arminians and Calvinists have traditionally agreed that all times are simultaneous to God. Some Calvinists and some Arminians have changed to thinking of God as temporal. (After all, there’s nothing in Scripture about a “timeless God.”) Anyway, read a lot more on both sides.

      • http://twitter.com/ti_faucz Tiago

        Thanks for pointing out this on free will. So far i think im compatibilist.
        On the rest, im still reading a lot, there is so much, and trying to get time to digest it all. I often get stuck on calvinists that combat an stereotyped arminianism and vice-versa, so its frustating sometimes.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Roger,

    This is so sad. You have handled it well and it is very important to say what you have said. But, oh so sad that it has to be said! Fortunately, just before reading your piece, I happened on Cathleen Falsani’s  piece today on Sojourner’s – see http://sojo.net/print/blogs/2012/03/08/doing-nothing-lent
    She speaks beautifully of her recent attendance at a session for pastors held by Eugene Peterson in NYC. Not directly related to the point of your piece, yet it precisely adresses one of the big problems underlying the angst of Calvinists who feel they need to speak and think like Dr. Piper.  I hope you and your readers have time to read her short essay – it’s a guaranteed blessing. I just read it out loud to my wife and it was even better that way.

    Blessings,
    Bev

  • http://www.ironstrikes.com drwayman

    Why is it the Calvinist God always sends natural disasters to places where one would expect them (for example, hurricanes to Florida)? If God really wanted to make a statement, I would think he would send a blizzard to Florida or a hurricane to Minnesota.

    • Joe Canner

      Well, God did send a hurricane to Vermont last August…

      • http://www.ironstrikes.com drwayman

        Probably as punishment for approving same sex marriages.

    • http://ehyde.wordpress.com eric

      Haha, and isn’t it interesting that the Bible-Belt South and Midwest is always suffering natural catastrophes from God’s judgement while places like Las Vegas keep on truckin. Perhaps God is incapable of pouring judgement on land-locked, cities. If you’re going to build a city of sin, make sure its far, far, far away from large bodies of water and/or within the arctic and tropic climate system crossroads.

  • Josiah

    Did you read his article? He explains why God would possibly judge such locations and not larger cities. Also Piper from my understanding holds to the doctrine of concurrence when it comes to acts of evil like the 9/11 attacks.

    • rogereolson

      Arminius held to the doctrine of concurrence. Concurrence simply means God allows whatever happens. I think Piper (and Calvin and Edwards) goes far beyond that. The real issue is whether a calamity or a sin is God’s active and perfect will or only God’s permissive will. Piper is a follower of Edwards. Edwards did not believe in secondary causes. I assume neither does Piper. But even if he does, ultimate responsibility lies with ultimate cause.

  • http://highroadkokko.blogspot.com Bruce Kokko

    Thank you, Prof. Olson, sometimes I just cannot believe what has come over certain elements of the church; alas, as you pointed out, it isn’t new, though. Calvin’s best friend, Sebastian Castillo, abandoned Calvin after Calvin held the fire tenders’ coats (so to speak) while they burned Servetus (the father of Unitarianism) at the stake. Castillo saw this in direct contradiction of Jesus’ teaching (and he’d be right), and wrote a treatise arguing for pursuing Jesus’ moral teachings when dealing with heretics, instead of standing on the vanity of theology. We Christians, all of us –whether Roman, Eastern Orthodox, or Orthodox Protestant, are to be united in shining the light of God’s kingdom on a world already cloaked by the darkness of hell, to woo them in (I’m sorry, I’m pontificating, again).

    I do have a question related to the general issue of Calvinism. The apologists of the mid and after 2nd Century worked overtime to dispel accusations from outside the church that Christianity was just another form of fatalism. The apologists preached basically “Arminianism” as nicely articulated by John of Damascus in Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (Book 2; Chap. XXX); even Augustine held this view until lapsing into particularism. Why was Early Christianity perceived as determinism by the pagans if the Apostles and the early apostolic Fathers hadn’t preached it as such?

    • rogereolson

      Good points, and I don’t mean to be overly pedantic, but it was actually Guillame Farel (Calvin’s right hand man in Geneva) who stood by while Servetus burned most of a day (because the wind kept blowing out the fire and they had to keep rekindling it) calling for him to repent as he slowly roasted to death. Calvin stayed in Geneva. But he did take responsibility for the execution of Servetus when Castillo and others challenged him on it. (Technically as most Calvinists will say it was the city council that condemned Servetus, but no doubt Calvin could have stopped it. Why else would he have taken responsibility for it?) Anyway, as to your second question, I don’t know. Can you give me an example of pagan accusations that Christians were fatalists?

      • http://highroadkokko.blogspot.com Bruce Kokko

        Alas, I don’t have specifics. I was hoping you might. All I’ve had through my reading has been general statements to the effect of the Manicheans and the Gnostics accused the Christians of fatalism, which prompted a backlash from the Christian theologians of an unbiblical emphasis on free will. I have not made it through book 4 of Irenaeus’ Against Heresies; perhaps he will provide the missing Gnostic accusations, there.

        • The_L

          The Manicheans were Christians. A heretical form of Christianity, perhaps, but the core belief in the divinity and resurrection of Jesus was still there.

          As for the Gnostics, that is a rather ambiguous term. There were both pagan and Christian Gnostics.

          • rogereolson

            Excuse me. The Manicheans were not Christians and did not claim to be. I won’t be able to let you use my blog to spread disinformation (even if unintentionally). The Gnostics, on the other hand, all claimed to be Christian so far as anyone has yet been able to discover. There is some evidence of “Jewish Gnosticism,” but no proof (that I have yet read about). Many “modern Gnostics” might not claim to be Christian, but that’s beside the point. You used the past tense.

  • Jeremy

    “Apparently, he has at least implied that God sent them as judgments on particular communities and reminders of their need to repent.”

    No. Everyone should actually READ what he said. People seem to be confusing what Piper said with what Pat Robertson usually says.

    Instead, Piper explicitly follows Jesus himself as presented by Luke 13: such disasters are a reminder, not just to those particular communities affected, but to EVERYONE of God’s impending judgement and our common need to repent.

    • rogereolson

      What’s that about God’s fingers sweeping across the land (referring to the tornadoes)?

      • Jeremy

        What about it, exactly? Piper did say that God was directly resposible for the tornadoes. But what he most certainly did not say is that “God sent them as judgments on particular communities and reminders of their need to repent.” He explicitly said, following Jesus in Luke 13, that, “Every deadly wind in any town is a divine warning to every town.”

        Perhaps you didn’t actually read his blog post before writing yours, basing it instead on hearsay (you did begin by saying “Apparently”). Even so I think you should apologise for misrepresenting his view in this very important respect. Piper did not even come to close to implying that the particular people affected were more deserving of judgement than anyone else. But anyone would think from your response that he did.

        • rogereolson

          He did by calling God’s fingers (the tornadoes) “fierce.” Did you miss that?

          • Jeremy

            I didn’t miss it at all. It just obviously doesn’t imply what you claim it does.

            Why does calling God’s fingers “fierce” imply that the particular people affected were more deserving of judgement than anyone else? Obviously it doesn’t imply that at all. It just means that when God picks out particular people (on Piper’s Calvinist understanding) to serve as reminders of everyone’s coming judgement, as Piper explicitly said, then God does so in way which is “fierce.” That’s all.

            Furthermore, even if you mistakely thought this did imply something more, you should have then noticed and given full acknowledgement (heck, even some acknowledgement) that he explicitly spelled out: “Every deadly wind in any town is a divine warning to every town.” Yet you continue to misrepresent him as if he didn’t say that at all.

            How can you think your behaviour is OK?

          • rogereolson

            Please answer this. Do you think Piper believes God’s choice of those particular towns as a warning to every town was arbitrary? I can’t imagine it. Can you?

  • http://www.thedailybleat.com Joshua

    Equating Piper’s statements about God’s sovereignty over tornadoes to Oral Roberts’ statement that “he would die if he failed to raise eight million dollars to save his City of Faith in Tulsa” is a low blow Dr. Olson. This serves well to “poison the well,” but Roberts’ special revelation and Piper’s biblical understanding of sovereignty are not worthy of comparison or association.

    • rogereolson

      From my point of view, Piper’s is worse (than Roberts’) and, in essence, the same as Robertson’s. Go back and read what Piper wrote about the 9/11 terrorist attacks a few days afterwards. He said that God did not merely permit them but designed and governed them. It think it is Piper who has poisoned the well with his outlandish statements about a variety of subjects including his misrepresentations of Arminianism which we have discussed here before.

  • J.E. Edwards

    There seems to be a misrepresentation of Piper’s words here. Not that what you said was unkind, just didn’t represent Piper’s words well. A comparison to Oral Roberts?….Seriously? You definitely didn’t address what he said with any Scripture. His article is full of Scripture. Here’s the link to the original article from March 5.
    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/fierce-tornadoes-and-the-fingers-of-god
    There is no mention of the judgment of God at all. I would like to think we would take others thoughts more seriously, not using a “straw man” tactic as you did. As Christian brothers this is not helpful. Defending John Piper isn’t my goal. I hope I would address any brother who would misrepresent another brother’s words….even yours:)

    • rogereolson

      Excuse me? Here is what Piper said: “Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?”

      • J.E. Edwards

        If you ignore all the Scripture listed you can make that comment. Piper isn’t resting on mere human logic. He let’s plain passages relay the plain reality. Just because fallen human nature doesn’t like it, does not mean it isn’t true. If Jehovah isn’t controlling all these things, where will people turn? The reality is one view humbles itself before Jehovah in tragedy, the other puts its fist in Jehovah’s face and says He can’t do what He will with His own. Doesn’t Scripture itself tell US what is logical?

        • rogereolson

          That kind of either-or thinking is typical of fundamentalism, but it’s false. There are many other options. See today’s post.

        • Val

          Matthew 8: 24 – 26: 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
          26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

          In 26 he REBUKED the winds. So, would God rebuke God? No.

          So, now you have an example of a non-God-ordained wind.

          Back to Piper – he is making a claim these particular tornados are sent by God for his divine plan (judgment, one would assume). He is handing out verses that create an impression that all winds are from God (some are, obviously) and he is using this half-truth (winds from God, but not mentioning when they aren’t from Him) to convince people he knows what those Tornados meant.

          A better reading of the Bible is to take all the instances of winds and see if it is ever 100 percent due to God. Oops! He forgot the storm Jesus encountered, Jesus didn’t seem very impressed with that storm.

          • rogereolson

            I am almost certain of what Piper would say. He would probably say that the wind Jesus calmed was from God–to give Jesus opportunity to demonstrate his great power. Okay, I think that’s silly, but it’s not absolutely logically contradictory. My argument is that IF he is going to say that, then he must also say that it’s at least possible that the holocaust was from God–to give the Jews opportunity to finally have their homeland in Palestine (or something like that). I have actually heard some Calvinists say that. I would like to see (yes, “see!”) one tell that to a holocaust survivor who lost every family member in the gas chambers.

      • Mark

        Roger, with all due respect, perhaps you should have read beyond the first paragraph.

        • rogereolson

          The first paragraph was horrible enough! :) See today’s post.

  • http://www.fether.net Paula

    Well said. People rarely think through to the logical conclusions or implications of their beliefs, and skip happily through life believing contradictory things. They typically react to being shown these contradictions or implications with indignation, because the conclusion is something they never would agree to, had they considered such things before. But for teachers such as Piper, there is no excuse, no appeal to ignorance.

    I think a better answer is to teach that this world has been under the temporary jurisdiction of Satan, “the god of this age”. When we understand this, we not only stop asking why bad things happen to good people (rather than the Calvinists’ “there are no good people”), but we are grateful to God that anything good ever happens. What Jesus bought for us has been “on layaway”, for which we who believed have been given the Spirit “as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance”. So in the meantime we suffer in the kind of world we’d expect from Satan, limited though he is by the grace of God.

    • rogereolson

      Thank you. That expresses my view very well.

  • Allen Nelson

    Similar to the things you said in “Against Calvinism”. I understand where you are coming from and thankful for your ministry. But I thought Horton handles the arguments better from a biblical perspective about this. Piper too in “Spectacular Sins”.

  • Curtis

    Just a thought for future reference…it might be a good idea to actually read the article you are responding to. Seems like a good rule of thumb.

    • rogereolson

      You mean like this: “Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?” Those are Piper’s own words.

      • Landon

        But then he proceeds to explain his position – wrestling with Biblical texts and seeking to understand them. If the article is completely read he even looks at Jesus’ words about the tower of Siloam and how it did not fall on the people for judgment but for surrounding people to repent. Piper’s point is not that the tornadoes came for judgment but to point people to Jesus…which is how Piper closes his article. It seems that if the article is taken as a whole rather than just by the first line (which is a question people are asking and so Piper addresses it) one cannot leave with the conclusion that Piper is saying the people of the towns hit by the tornado were more evil than anybody else. He is using the tragedy as an opportunity to call people to Jesus.

        • rogereolson

          See today’s post.

  • Chad

    Hi Dr. Olson,

    After reading your article, I went to the Desiring God website and found a blog posted by John Piper posted March 5 and titled, “Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God.” Is this the statement of Piper that you are referring to?

    If this is the article you are referring to, I don’t think Piper is necessarily saying that God sent the tornadoes in judgment against specific individuals. He gives three possibilities. In the first example of Job, he says that “Job’s loss was not a measure of his immorality.” In the second example, he quotes Jesus saying that those who died when the tower of Siloam fell were not worse sinners than others. Piper says that “every deadly wind in ANY town is a divine warning to EVERY town.” I guess I don’t see specific judgment here.

    While I know that many others would disagree with me, I don’t think that non-Calvinist (Arminian, Molinist, Open Theist) views of God’s sovereignty are significantly different from the Calvinist view. Let me explain. Most Christians believe that God has the power to stop bad things (i.e.: tornadoes, rape, murder, etc.) from happening, but that for some inscrutable reason he does not. At the very least, most people believe that God “permits” bad things to happen that he could have stopped. This is less “forceful” than the view of some Calvinists, but I don’t think it gets non-Calvinists off the hook, so to speak. Is “permission” really so much better?

    I do believe that God has the power to stop these terrible tragedies but that for whatever reason he chooses not to. I don’t know why. I wish it wasn’t so. But Scripture does seem to teach that God has the power to stop these things.

    Sincerely,

    Chad

    • rogereolson

      My main objection was to Piper’s rhetorical question: “Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?” He has said many times before that whatever happens is God’s doing. At a Passion conference he declared that if a dirty bomb hit Minneapolis it would be from God. As for the difference between foreordaining and rendering certain and permitting–we have discussed that difference here a lot and not very long ago. Go back in the archives. I explained that there is a huge difference between me, as a teacher, causing students to fail and permitting them to fail. Everyone recognizes that difference.

      • Allen Nelson

        I haven’t checked the archives but in your anaolgy you are simply the professor you don’t have the ability to actually make your students succeed you are limited. In permisson God actually has the ability to do create the opposite effect but He doesnt. So “direct action” and “permission” aren’t really different. Of course God uses secondary causes whereby He is cleary not guilty of sin in the least bit. But He is the ultimate cause behind all other causes.

        • rogereolson

          Wrong. As the professor I can make sure all my students pass the class. Or I can grade on a curve guaranteeing that some will fail no matter how well they do. The difference between permitting and causing is something we take for granted on a daily basis.

      • Chad

        Hi Dr. Olson,

        Thank you for responding to my comment. I agree with your objection to Piper’s rhetorical “fierce fingers” question. I think at the very least his statement was pastorally insensitive. I admit that I have not seen the discussion about the difference between foreordaining, rendering certain, and permitting, etc. I definitely have an objection to the view that says that God directly causes evil. What I was trying to say was that even in permitting a permitting someone to commit an evil act, there is at least *some* sense in which God wills it to happen. I say this with caution because I do NOT intend to say that God ever delights in evil – he absolutely does not. What I mean is that if God absolutely did not want that evil action to take place he could have stopped it and for a good reason that I cannot understand, he allowed it to happen. Furthermore, I believe that God can have conflicting emotions just as humans do. He can at the same time despise an evil act and in some sense NOT want it to happen but in another sense decide to allow it for some good reason unknown to us – a bad analogy would be how I don’t like going to the dentist but I know that I must.

        I am a former Calvinist and my views have been changing over the last few years. However, even in my most Calvinistic days, I did not hold to such a deterministic view that some Calvinists seem to have – at least as described in your blog. Perhaps I am representative of a more moderate or ?liberal strain of Calvinism. At present, I have some sympathies for Molinism but I am still in process.

        Sincerely,

        Chad

        • rogereolson

          You are on the right path. Keep going. :)

    • Robert

      Chad wrote:

      “While I know that many others would disagree with me, I don’t think that non-Calvinist (Arminian, Molinist, Open Theist) views of God’s sovereignty are significantly different from the Calvinist view. “

      If sovereignty is properly and biblically defined as: God does as He pleases in any and all circumstances. Then genuine Christians will agree with this defintion whether they be Catholics, Protestants or Eastern Orthodox. We all believe in sovereignty in this sense. But the new Calvinists are not promoting this defintion. What they do is to redefine sovereignty so that instead it means that: God is not sovereign unless He has predecided how every detail of history is to occur. In this definition which is rejected by most Christians, sovereignty is equated with exhaustive determinism.

      “Let me explain. Most Christians believe that God has the power to stop bad things (i.e.: tornadoes, rape, murder, etc.) from happening, but that for some inscrutable reason he does not.”

      Not sure what you mean by “some inscrutable reason”. Various Christian apologists and others have thuoght about the many reasons that God may have for not preventing bad things from occurring. To mention just a few.

      First, there is the slippery slope nature of this claim about: why doesn’t God prevent this evil ( X ) from happening? One person will put rape in that slot. Another person will put child molestation in that slot. And we could easily bring up one after another evil actions to put in that slot.What it turns into is the real claim behind this claim: why doesn’t God prevent all evils from occurring? Or why didn’t God create beings incapable of doing evil? One reason is that God desires for beings to have the capacity to freely worship and love God. But if they are genuinely free then they can make that choice and also choose not to make that choice. Likewise, a person having genuine free will can choose to do the right thing and also choose to do the wrong thing. If God were to swoop in and prevent every freely made evil choice from occurring, that would prevent evil but eliminate free will.

      It is also true that the nature of making our own choices involves that the world must be orderly and predictable. So If I choose to raise my arm and ask a question in class, if the world is orderly and rational and predictable, and my body is working properly as God designed it to function, and God designed the world to function, then my arm will go up.

      And this brings up yet another important consideration: God designed the world to be a certain way and designed human persons with certain capacities. What this means is that if God is a competent designer and designs us to be a certain way. He is not later going to go against his own design. Say part of his design plan is that we have minds, wills, consciousness, and so the capacity to have and make our own choices. Is God hundreds of years down the line from the original creation event, going to start “taking back” his own design plan in order to prevent evil? Should he eliminate our minds, take away or control our wills, make us unconscious in order to prevent us from having the evil thoughts that then sometimes lead to evil actions? And what kind of world would that be like? It would be like Alice and Wonderland. You lift up your arm to strike someone and you lose control of your arm. Or you attempt to say some unkind word and God scrambles the sound waves to make the utterance into meaningless noise. God did not make that kind of whimsical and disorderly and chaotic world. Instead he created a rational, orderly, predictable world. In such a world people have and make choices and those choices have real consequences in the world.

      “At the very least, most people believe that God “permits” bad things to happen that he could have stopped.”

      Again, do you really expect him to go against his own design plan? God is supposed to go against his own purposes and intervene everytime our capacities to think, choose, use our bodies could possibly eventuate in evil? It may sound nice to say that God could and should prevent all evils from occurring. But what exactly does that entail? What would the world be like if that were the case?

      “This is less “forceful” than the view of some Calvinists, but I don’t think it gets non-Calvinists off the hook, so to speak. Is “permission” really so much better?”

      I see no need to get God “off the hook” if he creates the world that he wants with the features/design plans and purposes that he wants. And if in such a world people freely choose to use their capacities (for thinking, language, physical actions in the wrong manner: are they not responsible for their own actions?

      People seem to forget that God creates humans with certain capacities. But those capacities in and of themselves are neither good nor evil: it depends upon how you choose to use them. I can choose to use my car and its capacties to take somone to the hospital or run them over and send them to the hospital. The problem is not in the car’s capacities, or my capacities to drive a car, the problem is in how I choose to use my own capacities and the capacities of the car. God made us with a mind and expects us to use it. But the same mind that can design a hospital can also design a concentration camp. Is the problem with the capacity or with how the capacity is used? Is God evil for creating us with the capacities to think, choose, move our bodies? Or are we responsible when we use these capacities to actualize evil?

      “I do believe that God has the power to stop these terrible tragedies but that for whatever reason he chooses not to. I don’t know why. I wish it wasn’t so.”

      And again, what kind of world do you expect? A World where bullets turn into foam as they leave the chamber of the gun that fired them? A world where we lose control of our bodies everytime we attempt to do something wrong?

      “But Scripture does seem to teach that God has the power to stop these things.”

      Where does it say that? It is true that God can (and does) intervene in situations. But where are we told that God will stop or prevent evil from occurring? It is true there are isolated cases of where this appears to be the case, but these cases are more analogous to how the laws of nature ordinarly are operating with occasional miracles occurring. But just as these mirales are isolated cases, the exception and not the rule. Likewise, we have no evidence that God could or would prevent all evils from occurring.

      The problem with theological determinism/fatalism/calvinism is of course that in that scheme God actively preplans and ensures that all evils occur exactly as they do. In that scheme he wants every evil to occur exactly as it occurs and simultaneously holds us responsible for the evil things he controls us to do. God controlling us like puppets to make sure we do evil is much different than allowing various evils to occur for various reasons.

      Robert

      • Chad

        Hi Robert,

        Thanks for taking the time to read my post and respond to it. You said (a few quotes put together):

        “Or why didn’t God create beings incapable of doing evil? One reason is that God desires for beings to have the capacity to freely worship and love God. But if they are genuinely free then they can make that choice and also choose not to make that choice. Likewise, a person having genuine free will can choose to do the right thing and also choose to do the wrong thing. If God were to swoop in and prevent every freely made evil choice from occurring, that would prevent evil but eliminate free will. It is also true that the nature of making our own choices involves that the world must be orderly and predictable. Should he eliminate our minds, take away or control our wills, make us unconscious in order to prevent us from having the evil thoughts that then sometimes lead to evil actions? And what kind of world would that be like?”

        I understand the God-allows-evil-in-order-to-preserve-free-will argument. But it begs the question, “Is free will worth it?” Our possession of free will carries an immense responsibility. With the power of free will, we are capable of hurting others and rendering ourselves deserving of the wrath of God. Are the potential consequences of misusing the power of free will (experiencing God’s wrath, hurting others) really worth it? Sometimes I wish that I did not have free will. Sometimes I think it would make life easier. The questions I ask are rhetorical. On this side of heaven I don’t think there is an adequate explanation for them and I do not think God is obligated to give answers to every question we have. God is good and we are called to trust in his goodness and follow him, even when we don’t have the answers we might want.

        In response to my statement, “But Scripture does seem to teach that God has the power to stop these things.”, you asked, “Where does it say that?”

        Here is one example from Scripture where God does stop someone from sinning: “The God said to him, ‘…it was I who kept you from sinning against me.’” (Genesis 20:6) I agree with you that there are cases in Scripture where God does prevent people from sinning. Why God does this sometimes and not all the time is a mystery. But God is good.

        You may also want to read my response to Dr. Olson’s response if you have time. Thanks again.

        Sincerely,

        Chad

        • Robert

          Hello Chad,

          You wrote:

          “I understand the God-allows-evil-in-order-to-preserve-free-will argument. But it begs the question, “Is free will worth it?””

          Of course it is. Let’s explore this a bit. It may also be better to see it not as “Is free will worth it?” But “is free will a necessary condition to what God wants?”

          God prior to the creation of the world exists as a triune being. As such, he experienced perfect love and personal relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This means that he had no need to create. He did not have to create in order to fulfill any needs. This means that He did not create for his own sake. Instead he created for the sake of other beings. And these other beings, both men and angels, were created with the capacity to have personal relationship and love and worship of God the perfect moral being. In order to genuinely and freely love and worship God these creatures must have the capacity for free will. Free will is the precondition that makes genuine love, worship and personal relationship possible.

          So we could rephrase your question as:

          If God desired to create beings capable of relating to him in a personal way and being capable of worshipping him and loving him, what capacities would they have to have?

          They would need consciousness, self-consciousness, minds, wills, the capacity to have and make one’s own choices (i.e. free will) the capacity to freely love and worship. In a word, all the preconditions that make free will as ordinarily understood possible.

          “Our possession of free will carries an immense responsibility.”

          True, which is part of the reason that every person will stand before God for judgment.

          This also partly explains why Jesus would die for the sins of men because part of that “immense responsibility” is connected with personal responsibility for sin.

          “With the power of free will, we are capable of hurting others and rendering ourselves deserving of the wrath of God. Are the potential consequences of misusing the power of free will (experiencing God’s wrath, hurting others) really worth it?”

          Yes, because you cannot have genuine personal relationship and love and worship of God without free will.

          “Sometimes I wish that I did not have free will. Sometimes I think it would make life easier.”

          Sure it would make things easier, however, do you prefer to be an unconscious rock that has no mind or will and cannot have and make choices? :-)

          “The questions I ask are rhetorical. On this side of heaven I don’t think there is an adequate explanation for them and I do not think God is obligated to give answers to every question we have.”

          True we cannot answer every question, but some we can. We can understand why God created beings like us with our capacities if we see it as the preconditions that make personal relationship and love and worship of God possible. God is the greatest good, he wanted to create creatures capable of understanding that and experiencing Him as their greatest good. Makes total sense to me. This goes quite well with the famous statement that “we are to worship and enjoy Him forever.”

          “God is good and we are called to trust in his goodness and follow him, even when we don’t have the answers we might want.”

          Absolutely true. One of the reasons that faith is so important throughout scripture to God is that trusting Him is part of having a deep and personal relationship with Him. Job modeled this important truth when despite and in the midst of his afflictions he said: “though he slay me yet will I trust Him.”

          “But God is good.”

          Absolutely, He is the greatest good, and I am thankful that he created us with the capacity to know and experience him and his goodness in a personal way.

          Robert

        • http://trinitariantheodicy.wordpress.com Trin

          I think even the question of ‘why God evil’ is wrong, which takes us down the wrong track from the get go.

          We must remember to view this in a Trinitarian context, and we must remember that God is love. Given the kenotic, perichoretic nature of the triune God of love, whether or not he would “allow” evil was never even on the table. The only decision was whether to create or not. Given his , that creation to be free – it had to have the space to respond to Love.

          So, rather than asking why does God allow evil, the bigger question is, why does God evil! What does tell us of his nature, his plans and purposes?

          I think we struggle to answer ‘why God allows evil’ because we’re not asking the right question. Let’s start with ‘why God redeems evil’ instead.

        • http://trinitariantheodicy.wordpress.com Trin

          Typos above:
          I was trying to stress/italicize some words. It didn’t work; they were omitted. :-(

          para 1 = ‘why God allows evil’

          para2 = Given his decision to create…

          para3 = So, rather than asking why does God allow evil, the bigger question is, why does God redeem evil! What does tell us of his nature, his plans and purposes?

          apologies (and if anyone can tell me how to italicize, well, thanks in advance!).

  • David Hess

    Roger,

    Again, your ability to articulate what many of us free-will theists feel when the Augustinian/Calvinist voices say such insensitive things, is extremely helpful. I wanted to post something about Piper’s twisted commentary on these events, but felt I couldn’t say it in a way that wouldn’t end up being unloving. You’ve done it in an appropriate way and once again helped the determinists see the logical consequences of their theology.

    David

  • http://twitter.com/ti_faucz Tiago

    Ok, I wrote a lot, but my main point is: despite different worldviews, both you and Piper are reaching the same conclusion: these people died because they were sinners. Be it because of their sin God was not there, or be it because God was there and became furious with their sin.
    But the book of Job, Ecclesiastes and Luke 13:4-5 refute that for me.

    • rogereolson

      If it were not for the fall Satan would not be able to cause evil and innocent suffering in the world. That’s all I’m sayin’. I certainly have not said and do not believe that every calamity or event of suffering is directly due to sin. It’s due to the fallenness of creation. That’s clear in Romans 8.

  • Steve Rogers

    Would it not also be true, if one believes as Piper, that if one was spared the tornadoes and continued to enjoy unusually mild weather in prosperous comfort, it can only be because God ordained it? Piper should have also declared that he and his non-tornado suffering chosen ones obviously weren’t guilty of the things those tornado victims were.

    • rogereolson

      Good point. Even though Piper did not specifically say that the towns hit by the tornadoes were more guilty than others, the implication of what he said is that
      “God’s finger” was tracing out judgment. I haven’t heard or read him explaining why the wicked prosper, but given his deterministic world view, it would have to be due to God.

      • Robert

        Hello Roger,

        I don’t like or appreciate Piper’s comments about the tornadoes at all. They were irresponsible and he should not have stated them. As you note, they are no surprise however, he is merely voicing what theological determinist/fatalists actually believe. While they do not intend to do so, they bring reproach on the character of God. And that is one of the major problems with their theology. If their theology is true, then God does not really have the character that he reveals Himself to have in the bible.

        You wrote:

        “My main objection was to Piper’s rhetorical question: “Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?” He has said many times before that whatever happens is God’s doing.”

        Some trying to defend Piper want to distance him from Oral Roberts’ pronouncements. But this is merely trying to rationalize and defend Piper. Roberts was wrong because he claimed to have knowledge of the mind of God which he did not have. Piper is doing the same thing. God neither revealed personally and directly to Piper about his mind on the tornadoes, nor does scripture reveal God’s mind about those particular tornadoes.

        A major problem that I have with his rhetorical question is that say that God was in fact judging people for their sins through these tornadoes. If that were true, the tornadoes would be much more discriminate (i.e. they would destroy the evil doers and by pass the righteous). But that is not the case at all. In reality those tornadoes went through everything and touched everyone regardless of whether they were evil doers or righteous people. It reminds me of how Jesus says that God sends rain on the just and the unjust, it is indiscriminate. In contrast when God is bringing judgment upon people, He is quite capable of being highly selective and bringing direct judgment on specific individuals and not others (there are plenty of examples of this, anybody remember the angel of death and the first borns in the Exodus story?).

        Another thing that bothers me about Piper’s “approach” is that it seems to me that instead of speaking for God and declaring God’s mind regarding those tornadoes and declaring God was judging the people through the tornadoes. The Christian approach is instead of trying to discern the mind of God ****when it cannot be done regardign a particular situation****: instead focus on what can be done constructively in the situation. How can people be helped? How can people be comforted and how can suffering be decreased. In doing those things we manifest the character of God and avoid trying to figure out God’s mind when we have no way to do so.

        Robert

  • J.E. Edwards

    This blog post misrepresents what Piper said. He spoke nothing of judgment nor implied it. The comparison to Oral Roberts?…. Seriously?? Maybe if people read what HE said they would understand the misrepresentation you have given. Here’s the link to the original article.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/fierce-tornadoes-and-the-fingers-of-god

    This isn’t a defense of Piper or Calvinism. You didn’t even address the Scripture he used, nor did you post any (ok one reference to Romans 8). You just took off on a line of predetermined thinking and failed to make any effort to address what Scripture was used and the heart of what he was trying to say. As Christian brothers this kind of rhetoric is not helpful. I would hope, as a brother in Christ, if someone misrepresented YOUR words, that I would respond in the same way.

    • rogereolson

      First of all, I did not compare Piper with Oral Roberts. That you thought so demonstrates that you didn’t read carefully. The comparison only about the media’s handling of them (and others). See today’s post that will answer some of your objections. Other commenters here have well answered Piper’s appeals to scripture.

  • Dave Mitchell

    I used to believe that when severe and terrible weather struck, it was God’s judgment and I am sure it has been the case at times, but if that be the norm then I have a problem. I lived in one of the most liberal states for many years . I loved the people and there are faithful Christians, but on the other side there are cults, there are blatant acts of sin that would repulse the hardest of people. I don’t have to go further. The fact is, it is one of the most beautiful places on earth and aside a hurricane or typhoon every decade or more, the weather has to be some of the best in the world as well. People from all over vacation there and many live there simply because of the beauitful weather. My point being is if God is going to “punish” people with severe weather, why hasn’t He “wiped” that beautiful place out ?

  • Phil Miller

    I’ll never understand why so many people are so willing to grant Piper such slack on these statements. I continually see people respond in ways like, “well, that’s not really what he meant…” But it is what he meant. And he’s only being faithful to his systematic theology, so why are people surprised?

    As far as the Tower of Siloam, it seems to me that Jesus’ statements there are almost the exact opposite of what Piper is trying to say. Jesus doesn’t say the people who died in that incident died because they were sinners. They died because a tower fell on them! We can’t draw these cause and effect relationships. We can’t assume that those who experience calamity were sinners and that those who don’t aren’t. Indeed we’re all sinners, and what need to be concerned about is our own repentance. And in the specific passage in Luke, what the Jews need to be concerned about is not being ignorant about the upcoming judgment about to befall the Jews. It’s not simply a coincidence that Jesus is talking about being able to discern the times in the previous chapter.

  • Jason Follis

    What about Luke 13:1-5 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or 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 13:1-5 ESV)
    Not every calamity is the result of God’s judgement on sinful people we are all sinful and all men need to repent if Piper were right we would all have died in an outbreak of tornados

    • rogereolson

      What’s interesting to me is that people can interpret the same passages so differently. I agree with your interpretation. But my point is that simply appealing to a passage doesn’t settle this issue.

  • Mark

    Since some people seem to be dancing around what Piper said…

    To re-iterate something that Roger said about following something to it’s logical conclusion…if Piper is willing to say: (quoted from the article many have mentioned…)

    “If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.”

    Then is he willing to stand up and say:

    “If your daughter is raped and tortured by a gang of escaped convicts, God gave the command.”

    I pray for those who are burdened by this doctrine.

  • Ivan A. Rogers

    I don’t see much difference between John Piper, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson and Harold Camping. To read one, you’ve read all. Their message is ‘doom and gloom’ for all those bad sinners. Good Christian sinners are exempt, of course.

  • Ryan

    Dr. Olson,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this blog. They have been very helpful to me. My wife and I have been wrestling anew with the “problem of evil” and I read her your paragraph on how you tend to think when you hear about natural disasters. I was hoping you could clarify one sentence that caused us a little confusion:

    “In other words, it’s evidence of God’s absence caused by our forgetfulness of God rather than something planned and brought about by God.”

    We weren’t sure how to take this idea of natural disasters being (even indirectly) “caused by our forgetfulness of God” in a way that doesn’t also imply the tornadoes were a kind of judgment against sin. Do you mean that the tornadoes might have been avoided if the local communities had fostered God’s presence by actively remembering Him?

    Peace in Christ,
    -Ryan

    • rogereolson

      I mean that if paradise had not been left due to the fall tornadoes and such would not kill. The world is a dangerous place for innocents (children) as well as guilty because of its fallenness, the curse that has come upon nature and our relationship with it. I believe, with N. T. Wright and the New Testament (Romans 8) and most Christian theologians that the “scene” of God’s future reign (“heaven”) will be this world renewed (liberated from bondage to decay). Presumably there will still be tornadoes then, but they will not harm.

  • Bob Brown

    We hear the same thing in regard to Israel. There are those who believe that bad things happens to America if they go against Israel in the littlest way.

    The wrath of God is being revealed against all unrighteousness and ungodliness as God gives them over to their sin. What that tells me is that He will not protect them against wars, natural disasters etc. But that doesn’t mean He sends wars and natural disasters. He simply gives them over to face the consequences of living in a fallen world without Him, His angels or hope of eternal life.

    He also judges and disciplines His own children as five of Christ’s messages to the 7 Churches reveal. Henry Blackaby offers good council:

    Methods God may use to discipline His people:
    1-Refuse to hear your prayers – Isaiah 59:1-3
    2-May hide His Presence from us – Ps. 13:1; Revelation 3:20.
    3-He may withhold speaking to us. Amos 8:11, 12.
    4-God may remove a wall of protection from us and/or loved ones. Isa. 5:5,6
    5-He may give us over to the power of sin. Romans 1:18-31.
    6-May choose to destroy. Luke 19:43, 44; Heb. 10:31; 1Cor. 11:29-32.

    God’s discipline and judgments are progressive when we don’t listen. Lev. 26:14-33.

    When a hardship comes we need to ask:
    Is this an ordinary life experience from living in a fallen world?
    Is God disciplining me to prune me?
    Is this an attack from Satan to keep me from glorifying God?

    Discernment comes through prayer, God’s Word and counsel.

    The failure to present God in His beauty is so sad. Thank you Roger for proclaiming the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness. Calvinism makes me ill. And Paul’s words come to mind regarding Piper’s Calvinism: “THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written.

  • James Swift

    Dr. Olson,

    Thank you very much for this post. You bring out some great points as you do in Against Calvinism and your lectures defending classical Arminianism.

    I have a question: what is your opinion on the judgment in Habakkuk where God “raises up” the Chaldeans for the purpose of judging His people? I’m not challenging you. This is just a difficulty I’m trying to think through myself and was wondering your thoughts.

    Thank you very much

    • rogereolson

      I think I said that I cannot rule out God judging people. I just think it’s very risky and even presumptuous to say that all catastrophes are from God.

  • Joe Canner

    To all those who are defending Piper here on the grounds that the tornadoes were meant to be a general warning for everyone (a la the Tower of Siloam), not just specific judgment on the tornado victims:

    1. There is no evidence in Luke 13 that Jesus was using the Tower of Siloam story to bring about repentance. He was responding (vs. 1) to those who brought up a case where Galileans had been murdered and desecrated by Pilate. Based on Jesus’ response, it appears the questioners were under the impression that the Galileans were worse sinners. Jesus takes the opportunity (bolstered by the Tower of Siloam story) to remind them that everyone needs to repent. So, Jesus is responding to their smugness, not using the Tower of Siloam to motivate repentance. Piper is quite entitled to call for repentance, but it is not necessary to make the victims relive the terror by using them as an object lesson.

    2. Based on my human logic (and I’m quite willing to admit that God has a better handle on the situation than I do), it seems quite inefficient to use very localized disasters as general calls for repentance. Some parts of the country regularly suffer from tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, etc., and have learned to deal with them. The rest of us can look on them with pity, but it doesn’t prompt much fear since we aren’t in imminent danger from such things. As a previous commenter noted, if God really wanted to get our attention, He would need to do a lot more surprise attacks.

    All in all, it seems there are plenty enough “random” occurrences of fatal illness, accident, natural disaster, etc., to make most people realize the fragility of life and their own mortality, without people like Piper and Robertson having to go out of their way to point it out.

    • rogereolson

      Excellent points!

  • Nathanial Sullivan

    I have a quick question. How do you reconcile…

    …And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
    (Colossians 1:17 ESV)

    I understand the difficulty of not wanting to say “God did this” or “God did that” in terms of disasters and horrific things like the rape and murder of children or a tornado…I really do. Its really hard for me. But if Christ is truly holding all things together both on the earth and in Heaven then….doesnt that mean that every iota of matter and energy required for things both bad and good thing to happen come from Him? How would you reconcile that idea?

    And what role do you think God plays in a tsunami, tornado, or murder (like the crucifixion) if any?

    Thanks for your helping to aid in thinking about difficult things.

    • rogereolson

      I don’t see anything in that passage that requires one to believe God specifically wills and causes every event. Without Christ, Paul (or the author of Colossians is saying) the universe would spin completely out of control and cease to exist. It’s a leap from there to every event is specifically willed by God.

  • Dean

    This is great blog by the way Dr. Olson, I’m relatively new to this debate, what actually prompted my interest was the book Love Wins by Rob Bell, which is not really primarily about this subject matter, but did get me thinking about a whole host of things. I also just finished the Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns, which was really interesting, not because of any earth shattering ideas in particular, but more in terms of the framework he suggests for how to (and how NOT to) read the Bible and what to really expect from ancient texts in general. I’m still digesting the book, but what dawned on me is that this “New Calvinism” is at it’s core tied to the desire to systematize the Bible. I’m an attorney by trade, and I don’t have any formal training in theology (although I would like to some day), so I can certainly appreciate the desire for a coherent system by which to read the Bible and understand what it says, but it just seems to me from a layman’s perspective that the entire concept of systematic theology is an oxymoron, at least as applied to Christianity (maybe there is some other religion out there where it is possible). If the Bible was really meant to be a textbook, well then to take a line from NT Wright, God gave us precisely the wrong kind of book because it’s definitely not that.

    Watching James White and John MacArthur videos on youtube the other day really hit this home for me, all of their arguments always hinge on reconciling this verse with that verse, it’s almost like balancing a physics equation. If you just carry the remainder and cancel out these infinities then you’ll get your answer, how can you not see that, it’s so obvious! It doesn’t surprise me that Calvinists are so focused on systematic theology, so obsessed with inerrancy and literalism, and so frightened by anything that might look like “post-modernity”, they are all interrelated. The God that emerges from this framework is going to be more like the God of Newton, certainly not the Hebrews. He might be “sovereign” in the literal sense, but he’s flattened out, ironically boxed in by an ancient middle eastern text. He’s lost his humanity so to speak. I think that’s how you end up a with a God that kills people with tornadoes once in a while just to get our attention. I would love to read up more on why people believe what they believe, Christians in particular, I just feel like there is so much to unpack here. Any suggestions would be welcome.

    • rogereolson

      The Pietist/Moravian leader Zinzendorf (a big influence on Wesley) said “Anyone who puts Christianity into a system kills it.” Much of what you describe, I judge, comes from what a poet called “the blessed rage for order”–especially modern man’s desire for scientific consistency in everything. I think much of this among conservative evangelicals today comes from the overwhelming influence of Charles Hodge who was clearly trying to make theology a science alongside of and equal to the other modern sciences. If you would like to read a non-systematic account of Christian doctrine you can’t do better than Donald Bloesch. He wrote two “systematic theologies” that aren’t really systematic. You’ll find them at amazon.com.

  • John Inglis

    Piper does attribute physical movements of atoms to the direct and ultimate causation by God: “We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil. God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.”

    For Piper God is, literally, moving the atoms by his very will, the way the atoms in our fingers directly do our will. Hence, for Piper God is the direct, immediate, and ultimate cause of each and every death. Not only that, but the direct cause of the very painful ways in which they died. God moved the atoms of air as they hurled pieces of debris into people’s bodies and God directly flung those bodies about and dashed them against the ground until they died.

    But how does God get off morally scot-free? By being inscrutable, i.e., if you humans did such a thing you would be morally evil and could justifiably be killed, but when I do such things I’m not guilty because it’s me doing them and my reasons are “inscrutable” rather than “morally evil”.

    Hmmm, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The way I see it, inscrutable = morally evil. That is, simnply calling something “inscrutable” does not actually make it less evil. All it does it change the name; the substance of the action remains the same.

    Of course, Piper likely would not have a problem with that either as he seems to be a divine command moralist. That is, things are good or bad simply and only because God declares that they are good or bad. They could be otherwise if God so declared it.

    John Inglis

    • rogereolson

      I often suspect that lurking somewhere in the background of most Calvinism (not all Reformed theology) is nominalism/voluntarism like Luther’s.

  • http://www.contendingforthefaith.com John Metz

    Roger,
    At least two replies above mention the passage in Luke about the tower of Siloam, etc. and that in that passage, the victims were not more or less sinful than those that did not suffer the calamities, or, indeed any of us. Therefore, we should all be warned by such events, not that innocents died, but that all of us are sinners and should repent. Would you comment on those verses apart from how Piper may or may not have used them?

    When these sorts of things happen, whether natural disasters or evil deeds, people naturally wonder about the reasons and, it seems, there is a rush to apply theology to the matter, whether rightly or wrongly, when we all should admit that we simply do not have all the answers. I am firmly convinced of the goodness and severity of God Himself and find this to be the most comfort in any situation with apparent uncertainty.

    I am always alarmed by overly-simplified interpretations of natural disasters, even by those who are sure of their interpretations. This is true regardless of the theological positions of the person making the interpretation. Perhaps the surety of the interpreter alarms me more than the over-simplification.

    Thanks, Roger.

    • rogereolson

      See today’s post. I don’t know if it answers all your questions, but it points out why the divine determinist answer is literally impossible.

    • Robert

      Hello John,

      “At least two replies above mention the passage in Luke about the tower of Siloam, etc. and that in that passage, the victims were not more or less sinful than those that did not suffer the calamities, or, indeed any of us. Therefore, we should all be warned by such events, not that innocents died, but that all of us are sinners and should repent. Would you comment on those verses apart from how Piper may or may not have used them?”

      I know you asked Roger to comment on those verses, but since I will be preaching on that passage in about 10 days. I thought I would share some observations on that text that may be helpful for you (you can let me know if they are, after you read this).

      First of all, we need to know and understand that in many cultures a very commonly held belief is this: if bad things happen to a person, they occur because the person has done something bad and so those bad things are happening to them for that reason. We see this mentality for example in the book of Job. After the awful stuff happens to Job his “friends” point out that perhaps he had done something wrong and these wrongs that he had done brought these things upon him. This belief in very common in many places. Note that in Luke 13 it says that some things were reported to Jesus and he then answered. Normally we answer a question asked of us when in fact a question has been asked of us. The text does not explicitly state that someone asked Jesus a question, but the text presents Jesus as nevertheless answering a question. And one of the questions had to include: these people who died in the natural disaster of the falling tower or died when great moral evil was perpetrated on them, did these things happen to them because of their sins (cf. Note Jesus says explicitly that they were not greater sinners than others).

      Second, note Jesus’ answer to the unstated though present question(s). Jesus says that those who died were not more sinful than others. So Jesus is refuting that common belief that bad things happen to people for bad things they have done. Beside the mistaken belief that bad things happen to people because of bad things they have done (i.e. “they had it comin!). Another common belief when tragedies occur is the: how sad that these awful things happened to these **innocent** people. Jesus also refutes this error when he speaks of people needing to repent or they will likewise perish.

      Third, Jesus when speaking of people repenting lest they perish is not speaking of merely physical death. When he speaks of perishing in that Luke 13 passage he is speaking of what today we would call “going to hell.” So he is saying to those living and present that they need to be right with God (i.e. they need to repent/turn from their sinful lifestyle and instead follow Jesus, if they do not they will end up going to hell). Now this reference to going to hell/”perishing” only makes sense if all have sinned and deserve hell. If all are not innocent. We could add to this the thought that if we instantly got strict justice for our sin, what we deserved for our sin, we would all get hell. But God provides a way of covering our sin through the atonement of Christ which was provided for the world. So it is true that if we received strict justice, those of us who have sinned (which is all of us) would get hell. But Jesus says if we repent of our sinful lifestyle of living on our own independent of God. Then we will not perish/go to hell.

      So if we look at the Luke 13 passage carefully it is a direct attack on the two common but false ideas that (1) when bad things happen to someone those things had to have happened because of some evil they had done (“they had it comin!”) and (2) that isn’t it sad when tragedies happen to innocent people (when in reality all have sinned and are not innocent and deserve hell unless they repent). What Luke 13 is also saying, and many really, really do not want to hear this is that there is something worse than suffering a natural disaster (the tower falling and killing eighteen people) or a great moral evil (the Galilean worshippers being murdered in the temple area while they worshipped God). That something is hell, eternal separation from God. Natural disasters and great moral evils then are reminders that what is most important during our brief lifetime is to get right with God while we can do so. What Luke 13 also suggests is that none of us is immune from either natural disasters or great moral evils being done to us. God never promises that if we are righteous we will never suffer from natural disasters or have great moral evils perpetuated against us. Instead Jesus reminded them and also us, what is most important is that we get right with God while we have the opportunity.

      Robert

      • rogereolson

        I endorse that explanation of the Luke passages. It seems common sensical to me and I have never been able to understand how people get from them that “God did it.”

  • https://twitter.com/#!/fergbreen Ferg Breen

    I particularly appreciate your blog (I’m the usual long time reader, first time poster).
    I grew up in a church which provided an armenian/open theist foundation to my relationship with the Lord. I then spent two years in a baptist church (my soon to be wife went there) which is particularly reformed. I developed a great relationship with the senior pastor (he’s a good man) and would meet him every Monday to chat theology (I think he was slightly worried for my soul!). During that season I read a lot of Piper, Carson, Ware etc to try and understand where they were coming from and to help me in the essays my pastor made me write for him!
    I tried so hard to understand where he was coming from in relation to predestination and the outworking of God’s sovereignty etc but I never did quite understand. It made no sense to me. I guess it boiled down to one day when I was talking to the pastor I said that; whatever about me, I would find it so hard to trust the Lord with my wife to be if I thought he may find it in his great and glorious will to have her raped and kidnapped and tortured to death (it happens). I would cling on to her with all I had and while I’d say I trusted God, in the back of my mind I’d be petrified at what lesson he may think I had to learn next for the greater purpose of WHAT?!
    He waffled on about his goodness is above us and his will is always good and for a greater purpose. I then asked him how would he feel if the Lord thought it would be a great idea (considering all things the Lord does are great ideas and he takes delight in) if his daughter (she was 14) was kidnapped and sold into sex slavery only to be found 10 years later and she then lived the rest of her days as a drug addict living on the streets and cursing God, ultimately ending up in hell. He said he would have to trust that the Lord was good and it was part of his perfect plan.
    In a way I admired his radical faith, while at the same time I didn’t believe a word he said. To think that a man may actually think that about his precious 14 year daughter? He’s a good man and he loves his daughter and it seemed like he was so bent on sticking to his knowledge about the ‘word’ while not allowing a heart connection to have a part to play in it. I know we can be told so much not to allow our emotions to get in the way of theology but I don’t buy that. The Lord wants us to question him. Myself and my wife had significant losses last year and in the depths of my despair I know the Lord met me and revealed his compassionate father heart to me and I know that despite my circumstances I can fully trust him because there is no shadow in him. Actually no shadow in him. He doesn’t trip us up and then hug us and comfort us. Who does that?? His loves dictates a world with choice and risk and unfortunately that can have painful results. We are tripped up by this broken and fallen world and sometimes at the direct hand of the enemy but above all that God is actually a good Father. The standards we have for a Father, he surpasses (that’s an understatement!) and he always has our best intentions at heart.

    Sorry I typed a bit much. I hope it makes sense. I guess my point is that intellectually I can kind of see where Piper is coming from but as a child of a Father I can’t. I’ve tried to, but I just can’t. If God says he’s good, he’s good. And while I used to read so much to try to ‘balance’ my views, I now am just determined to love God and let him love me. I enjoy reading and learning but my pursuit is of a relationship, not just knowledge.
    Thanks again for your blog and your willingness to dialogue with people.

    • rogereolson

      Thank you for this.

  • MJA

    I’ve begun to wonder if Piper and others feel the need to make these comments so soon after a disaster in order to stop folks within their camp from wavering on their (i.e. Piper’s) views of God’s sovereignty. Certainly seeing such suffering and destruction might cause a Calvinist / determinist in the Piper camp to start to question things – could such things really be the direct intent of God, predestined from eternity? Piper’s comments don’t seem to serve any other real purpose.

    • rogereolson

      I wonder, too.

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  • The_L

    I don’t know which kind of sermon gives Christianity a worse reputation–the “fire and brimstone” sermon, or the “That horrible thing that happened to those innocent people was God’s punishment” sermon.

    The former makes Christians look a lot more sadistic and judgmental than the vast majority of them actually are. The latter is so disturbingly callous as to make me physically ill whenever I hear it.

    I guess you could call me a “friend of Jesus.” I like his teachings and would probably enjoy talking with him over a few drinks, but I don’t feel spiritually called to Christianity, and I have the feeling Jesus and his current crop of followers wouldn’t necessarily get along so well as a lot of them think.

    • The_L

      It occurs to me that the above post could be construed as implying that I believe Christians, in general, to be cruel. This is not the case. The vast majority of Christians are wonderful, generous, loving people. Most of my family is Christian, and are genuinely wonderful people.

      It’s that vocal minority that wrecks everything for the rest of us–Christian and otherwise.

  • Barry

    Why do real Christians even tolerate Calvinism? It’s a foul thing dreamed up at a time when mass murder was considered Christian, and was tailored to support the idea that the rich and well-off were that way because of God’s Will.

    • rogereolson

      Of course, assuming that’s even true, it would have nothing to do with its truth. That’s the genetic fallacy at work.

  • Garry

    I Corinthians 1:18,19. I Peter 3:10, I John 4:8 (KJV).

    I pray for Piper and those that may have been influenced by him.

  • Karen

    Thanks for this post. If you have never read David Bentley Hart’s little book, The Doors of the Sea, it is a must-read on this issue providing a devastating critique of unbiblical explanations by Christians to the problem of evil (written in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean) from an Eastern Orthodox theologian.

  • Prathab

    I was a former former. Hinduism has similar conflict – karma and fate. The moral arguments against karma is never ending. For instance, karma says, what you get is a result what you did in your previous life. If you are born as a beggar, you deserve it…and other should not really help you…because you are being punished.

    On the other hand, fate says, it has all been determined you will be born as a beggar. There is nothing anyone can do about it.

    The big problem here is that of motive: Who decided it? And what is the motive to do so?
    In some parts of India, people do not help those who are suffering. They just quip saying “He is going through the cycle of karma. Do not intervene.”

    To me Calvinism is so very inconsistent. Using scriptures out of context and making a theology as if ONLY the Calvinuists have perfectly understood the mind of God is errorneous.

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