Where Is God’s Wrath Burning Now?

In the past couple years, John Piper has been outspoken about any number of tragedies, from earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes to the collapse of a freeway bridge. However, he’s been conspicuously quiet this summer, even as Colorado burns.

Aerial photograph of the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, Colorado between June 24, 2012 and June 27, 2012 show the destructive path of the fire. Photo by John Wark, www.johnwark.com 

Meanwhile, just a few hundred miles away, we in Minnesota got enough rain to destroy parts of Duluth and to raise Lake Superior 3 inches — that’s estimated to be 17 trillion gallons of water.

Vermilion Road in Duluth after flooding within Tischer Creek drainage. (Photo by John Goodge/MPR)

The problem with Piper’s outbursts — theologically speaking — is that he portrays a God who is entirely arbitrary. God’s wrath burns against our sin, always and unremittingly — that’s Piper’s argument. God’s grace usually holds back God’s wrath, thus protecting us from tragedies of all sorts. But on occasion, God allows his wrath to burst through, and then people die horribly.

This is a very primitive view of God. To think that God uses weather to punish people for sin is right up there with thinking that a man was born blind because of his parents’ sin. (While Jesus rejected this kind of thinking, I don’t find his response — “this happened to that the works of God might be displayed in him” — much more palatable.)

The Greeks and Romans feared a built temples to appease the gods of Mt. Olympus, gods who were known to be arbitrary. They fought each other, fell in love with humans, and otherwise behaved like teenagers — and humans paid the price.

I’d like to think that the God of Israel is a good deal better than that — that YHWH/Abba is a God who is reasonable and understandable. That the true God is worshipped by us because we love him, and because he’s made himself understandable to us.

I don’t think God uses the weather to punish us.

Nor — with all due respect to my Colorado friends who are praying for rain — do I think that God sends rain as a result of prayers. Because you can’t have one without the other. If you believe that God sends rain in mercy, you’ve also got to believe that God sends wildfires in his wrath.

  • http://www.terrylinhart.com Terry Linhart (@TerryLinhart)

    Tony, I wonder if you could develop the argument on your last statement a bit more? “If you believe that God sends rain in mercy, you’ve also got to believe that God sends wildfires in his wrath.” I’m not sure it’s clear that the second part follows.

    If God is a merciful God, as he states often in scripture, then why would his wrath be automatic in tragedy? Is it possible that God could send rain (or sunshine) in mercy … and even as a response to prayer? Why couldn’t that be so? (One would have to have a presupposition of God’s ability to do the miraculous, of course, to hold such a view)

    Now, ‘weather’ and faith is an interesting intersection, for sure. It’s something more to believe that every time something happens that God’s divine response to our living/obedience is somehow involved. And perhaps that’s what you intend here. I agree we do tend to over-interpret meaning in nature. We have an obstructed view of what’s happening … for now.

    Love your writing, as usual, Dr. Jones. Thanks for keeping at it.

    TL

  • http://www.ravenfoundation.org/blogs/in-the-beginning Adam Ericksen

    Interesting. I hadn’t thought of Piper’s silence on this month’s tragedies in Colorado and Minnesota. Arbitrary indeed. I love the story of the blind man. That story seems to be saying that the works of God are to heal mind/body/soul/relationships, rather than to destroy. Blaming people for “sins” seems to be a way of justifying ourselves as “righteous.” I dangerous way of forming an identity of goodness.

    • Michael Dixon

      Almost as dangerous as an identity “of really knowing.”

  • Carl

    “While Jesus rejected this kind of thinking, I don’t find his response — “this happened to that the works of God might be displayed in him” — much more palatable.”

    So you finally admit that not only do you not believe what Paul wrote, you also disagree with Jesus. Stop calling yourself a CHRISTian, and we’ll all be the better.

    • http://www.jesusandjaxyworld.com Jax

      Fortunately Jesus is big enough for a few doubts, even of His own pronouncements. The disciples themselves didn’t understand him a lot of the time, so maybe He is OK with it if we say His remarks aren’t all that palatable to us … Remember it was Jesus who said, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” (Luke 9:50 KJV). Probably He thinks the same about Tony Jones’ musings. And mine. :)

    • http://xjm716.wordpress.com/ John Mulholland

      Well, a few months ago, Tony did say that Jesus “had has cosmology wrong”…so you figure it out.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2011/02/03/christian-universalism-cosmology/

  • http://www.thoughtsofagyrovague.com Carl Holmes

    Then, how shall I pray for my city. My house is 1 mile from the latest fire line. How shall I pray? I am deeply curious Tony…

    • Paul D.

      Pray whatever you want, but it won’t change the weather any more than Rick Perry’s rain dance did.

  • Ivy Beckwith

    Tony,
    I, too, have thought about the silence re: God’s wrath being responsible for the fires, too. But my take is that Colorado Springs is thought of as being so “christian” that the argument wouldn’t hold any water, so to speak, in this case. If Colorado Springs can’t cut it with God, who can?

    • Michael Dixon

      God is actually going to reduce the Focus on the Family facility to ashes for forcing prophet Dobson out.

  • Rich

    “The problem with Piper’s outbursts — theologically speaking — is that he portrays a God who is entirely arbitrary.”

    Well, to be fair, that’s how the Bible also portrays God. And, to be fair, Piper didn’t so much say that the natural disasters were definitely God’s punishment (though he said they could be) but rather that they reminded him (and should remind us all) that as Jesus said, we shouldn’t wonder why they died, but instead we should ask why we still live considering we all deserve to die. We should be humbled and grateful.

    “If you believe that God sends rain in mercy, you’ve also got to believe that God sends wildfires in his wrath.”

    Exactly, and that is backed up by Scripture.

    • John McCauslin

      God, who created me and my neighbor, and who breathed life into both of us, and who was incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth, and who Scriptures says over and over again loves me and my neighbor, has rendered, by that very act of divine love, both me and my neighbor, worthy of that love …God loves us and that alone renders worthy and that alone renders not worthy death.

      Yes, we should be humble and grateful that God chooses to love us and thus render us worthy of such love. But to say that one, or another, or all, are unworthy of anything but punishment and death is to deny the good gifts of God, including God’s grace and love and their power to transform us from beast into the beloved. And in our transformation we should be drawn to reach out to our neighbors in their distress rather than concluding that they (and we) justly deserve what has befallen them.

  • Travis Jones

    Tony – it would be helpful for me if you would reference some of your statements. I often feel that when I read your stuff you make broad statements especially towards the Reformed community and Piper specifically but seldom reference it. All of Piper’s sermons and books are available and I would like to look into your statements further. I read Piper and simply have not landed in your camp. NOW – I am not a reformed lawyer with intent to debate and defend Piper. I simply need more help coming to an understanding of your positions. Brother – hope you are well and have a great weekend.

  • Terry

    Is Piper’s god arbitrary? It seems that Piper’s god hates exactly those person who Piper hates, punishes exactly who Piper thinks should be punished, and sends his mercy and grace upon those that Piper thinks should be blessed. Actually, Piper’s god seems much more like a puppet with Piper being the puppet-master.

  • http://facebook.com/thepriesthood tyler priest

    @ Rich, you wrote:

    ‘“If you believe that God sends rain in mercy, you’ve also got to believe that God sends wildfires in his wrath.”

    Exactly, and that is backed up by Scripture.’

    What do you do with these words from the Sermon on the Mount? “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

    • Rich

      Tyler, that doesn’t contradict what I said. The Bible is full of complex “paradoxes,” neither of which can be denied by faithful Christians. God is BOTH seemingly arbitrary (for lack of a better word) and also very intentional in the Scriptures. He DOES send rain on the bad and good, when he really should send wrath on everyone. He was willing to spare Sodom if He could find a mere ten righteous people. He turned His wrath (which would have likely taken the form of natural disaster) from Nineveh because they prayed and repented. God controls it all, as opposed to the impotent god Tony seems to worship who controls nothing. God even says he controls the roll of the dice.

  • Bert Saraco

    ‘“If you believe that God sends rain in mercy, you’ve also got to believe that God sends wildfires in his wrath.”
    I believe that God might sometimes move in response to our prayers. I think it’s a reasonable response – from anyone that believes in God – to ask Him to intervene in a situation. I tend to think that things happen because they happen. But I believe in petitioning our Father for help in times of trouble.

  • Tom Schwolert

    Re: “If you believe that God sends rain in mercy, you’ve also got to believe that God sends wildfires in his wrath.”
    Well, I don’t have to believe this. I believe God is a God of mercy, not of wrath. I believe God takes the evil, sin, “fires” and makes all things new and heals. That is God’s primary attribute. God doesn’t just wield out mercy and wrath on some balanced continuum. While these CO fires are horrible, God will reign down God’s mercy in the aftermath. If I’m honest, I don’t really know how God works. Does God throw down some proverbial “zap” to the clouds so it will rain? I doubt that. But rain will remind people of God’s mercy and begin the process of healing for these people. And God will be in the midst of that.

  • http://www.jrife..net J. Rife

    You know, I kind of get annoyed with people bagging on folks like Robertson, Piper, etc. I say this respectfully, not directed at you personally its just my take.   It seems like in by investing so much time in the witch hunt, they’re doing the same things that folks like that are.  To me, Robertson is way way off in many ways.  But this article, doesn’t even have one mention of scripture.  It’s not an intelligent discussion, it’s one man’s crusade.  And you know, Robertson falls under the example of “the broken clock”. You know, the thing that doesn’t work but get’s something right twice a day.  But any way, here’s what this blogger conveniently left out and should check out these passages

    Flood: Genesis 7:24

    Sentence/Punishment on Earth: Romans 9:28 (notice this pass does not say “inhabitants”, its says “earth”

    Various example of his power over the earth: Psalm 95:4, Psalm 97:4

    The devastation of our world based on God’s judgement: Isaiah 24:3-5

    Earthquake punishment/death: Psalm 106:17

    In Luke 12:49 Jesus talks about He came to bring DIVISION, NOT PEACE and said “I have come to bring fire on the earth – and how I wish it were already kindled.” (this is the cost of discipleship of which he used a term of destruction).

    Read the Prophetic passages of Joel 2 to know more about the Day of the Lord and what the earth will endure.

     

    I could go on and on discussing things such as Sodom & Gomorrah’s destruction, the Earth opening up to devour (Numbers 16:30-33, Proverbs 1:12), the weather related events corresponding with the crucifixion, Jesus power over the wind and waves, basically from start to finish, Scriptures shows over and over who is in control of His Creation, even something as simple as the Wind that breaths life in the Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel’s vision).

     

    Finally… know that the earth and every part of it including the weather belong to God (Exodus 9 starting in verse 28)

     

    P.S.  No matter what you believe, I’m still tired of hearing spiritual leaders blame catastrophe’s on actions, and I’m tired of hearing people attack them even when they’re silent.  Now that’s my feeling.
      JR

  • ash

    Every time I hear people saying that disasters/miracles are punishments/blessings from God because of our actions, in my head I’m going “Matthew5:45Matthew5:45Matthew5:45Matthew5:45Matthew5:45Matthew5:45″

  • Steven

    God is NOT in the fire, wind, rain, or other weather events. His Kingdom is within us and we have to think like Jesus and rediscover WHERE God really is.

  • http://www.JanetOberholtzer.com Janet Oberholtzer

    The past few days, I was wondering if anyone would claim these fires are from God for some reason, but I thought maybe we’ll be safe from that bs because the fires are in an area with a lot of Christians and Christian organizations, not in a sinful, awful city somewhere… but then someone posted this link…
    http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/epic-fires-in-colorado-is-god-using-natural-disasters-to-get-our-attention/

    Also, I totally agree with your thoughts about praying for rain… so I’m never sure how to respond when someone mentions it.

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  • Luke Allison

    I don’t know about praying for rain either.

    This is where the very common American view of “faith” makes more sense: “Believing something even though it’s not true but still choosing to believe it because that’s what makes me a human, etc.” (See also: Prometheus)

    But if that’s what we’re doing, count me out. I’d rather have, like, group sex for the next thirty years or so.

    Now, on the other hand, I can’t help but notice that the Hebrew Scripture portrays people in the midst of horrific tragedy calling out to God over and over again.

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  • http://www.blackcoffeereflections.com Tim

    I appreciate significant parts of this post and respectfully disagree with others.
    I loathed Piper’s statements that made the case for God punishing through weather. It’s a terrible vision of God and out of some respect for him, I find it remarkable that he would express such a thought.

    Jesus’ response after healing the blind man in John 9 – I find it unpalatable as well, but I want to submit to the idea that this was this man’s calling in life (I use calling language for lack of better descriptors). Go through a difficult life of blindness so that one random day, Jesus could come through and heal him and that’s glorifying God?? The “calling” of God is the only it could work for me. The flip side of all that is that this man lives out the rest of his days resolved that God exists has heard his prayers and that Jesus is Lord. Would I want that? I don’t have faith to say yes (hence “calling” seems to work better).

    Regarding the fires of CS, I don’t think they were of God even after writing that last paragraph. And my simple reason is that God has not proclaimed this (just like I don’t believe that God has taken sight from everyone born blind).

    I do think you can have one without the other, so long as we do not actually act as if we can demand God’s action through our sincere prayers for rain. Otherwise, none of this is faith at all. So, we must believe that God can intervene. Further though, I also believe that this is an opportunity for others to show care, compassion, and serve those affected and it’s my hope that the Church would lead in this way. Goodness and justice in the mist of pain and evil is the way of Jesus and an opportunity to allow God to work through us.

    Great post Tony, thanks for forcing me to think through this.

  • http://mpzrd.blogspot.com Marshall

    Extreme weather events like drought => fires in Colorado and floods in Minnesota are likely contributed to by human sin … begotten in ignorance, but continued in willful sin … in not paying the right kind of attention to having dominion over the Earth. We can raise the Powers, but we can’t control them. We throw ourselves off the roof of the temple expecting God to send an angel to catch us.

    Here’s John’s response to another disaster, this one with clear roots in human over-reaching: And you and I know that God could have held up that bridge with one hand.” … Talitha said, “Maybe he let it fall because he wanted all the people of Minneapolis to fear him.” “Yes, Talitha,” I said, “I am sure that is one of the reasons God let the bridge fall.”

    Better we should fear ourselves. All the same, praying for mercy is good to do.

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  • http://www.tabledallas.org/ Nathan Hill

    I had a friend tell me that it was God’s protection that I was at church one evening while a few blocks over Texas-sized hail demolished a bunch of church members’ homes in the neighborhood. Why would God protect me and not my church members? I can’t believe in that God, although I know there are stories throughout the Bible that seem to line up with it. In the end, it’s just hail. In the end, it’s just fire, which occur naturally from time to time as an important part of nature’s process of renewal. We just happen to be caught in the midst of it.

  • Jonathan

    Goodness gracious, people. If you’re going to start criticizing a person, you probably ought to read and understand what they are actually saying. I can’t find anywhere that Piper says weather or catastrophe is a punishment for sin. He calls it a warning to repentance, as Jesus does in Luke 13, but nowhere (so far as I have read and listened) does he call it punishment (though death, as the wages for sin, is surely deserved).

    And to those accusing him of selective interpretation of events, he made the same case about his own cancer, as a warning to repentance. Not as punishment for sin, obviously, because the penalty for a Christian’s sin is born by Christ.

    In short, it’s probably worth acquainting yourself with your opponent’s views before attacking them.

  • Keith Rowley

    Tony, do you believe God “does” anything at all these days?

    I tend to agree with your overall argument but think you take it too far.

  • http://www.knightopia.com/blog Steve Knight

    I’m still going to pray for rain in Colorado. Just sayin’ …

  • Evelyn

    At the risk of sounding like a polytheist, I think the problem here is that the “God” of nature is different from the “God” of human community. The “God” of human community is a personified power that reigns over our human interactions whereas the “God” of nature is a name for the natural forces in which we are immersed.

    From the following quote, I deduce that some of the (post-biblical) ancients actually personified natural phenomena (which today we have scientific terms for) as Gods: “Theopompus records that the people who live toward the west believe that the winter is Cronus, the summer Aphrodite, and the spring Persephone, and that they call them by these names and believe that from Cronus and Aphrodite all things have their origin.” Plutarch, Isis and Osiris 378E-379E trans. Frank Cole Babbitt in “Paganism and Christianity 100-425 C.E., a sourcebook” by Macmullen and Lane. Thus natural phenomena, i.e. the seasons, were personified in god-forms and ruled over by these gods. In Greek mythology, the realm of natural disasters and natural beautification is usually presided over by Gaea, mother earth, and her direct spawn even though Poseidon has been known to shake the ground and Zeus throws thunderbolts.

    So, if you want to take a primitive view of natural forces and put them under the purview of God then you have to realize that the sins addressed by the wrath of natural forces are different than the sins addressed by the wrath of the God of human community. Assuming that your concept of sin is that it is a result of human alienation from God or misunderstanding of God, the sins punished by the God of nature pertain to our pomposity to think that we can actually control nature and that we have some dominion over nature. When you build a house in a flood plain, you can expect it to be flooded every x number of years. When you build a house in an area of high earthquake hazard, you’d better be ready to suck it up when the earthquake strikes. If you build on the Gulf Coast, you’d better be ready for a hurricane. If you smell smoke and know that there is a forest fire near your house, be prepared to lose your belongings and run for your life. If you can’t bear this risk, don’t live in these areas and don’t identify with your accumulated “stuff” since nothing is permanent. On the flip side, believing that God sent natural forces to demolish New Orleans because of man-on-man sins is just silly. The only sins addressed by the hurricane that demolished New Orleans were failure to maintain the performance of the floodgates and the building of homes in low-lying areas in a region prone to hurricane damage. These sins are related to either laziness or greed in direct relation to protecting the city from a hurricane and ignorance of the potential of the hurricane hazard.

    It’s quite possible that the people who are willing to take environmental risks or who are ignorant of environmental hazards are the same people who are willing to sin against their fellow man in the sense that we normally think of sin so there may be a strong correlation in punishment for the two groups but I don’t think there is any obvious cause and effect between man-on-man sins and punishment by natural forces.

  • Jeff Kursonis

    Now Tony, I rarely disagree with you, and love you immensely, and I appreciate the overall gist in criticism of Piper. But you’re ending is a wee bit weak for me. God is not mechanistically/logically riven to a behavioral path. God, like women, is a mystery. Why do we all do the crazy things that make no sense that we do? We are person like God and we have whims, and longings and hopes and sudden impulses. I agree that God has put us into earth nature and has not promised to save us from all of it’s wild furies. I’ve almost died in nature, many other have died.

    But just as the workers who showed up at the final hour, got paid a whole days wage, who are we to question God’s generosity if he does decide to spare one Colorado families home? (so pray people, pray!) I lived in Hawaii when the lava was flowing through residential neighborhoods on the Big Island of Hawaii in the 80′s, and literally one home was consumed and another saved. Now I know some of that can be explained away just by randomness, but it doesn’t require a ying/yang 50/50 split to believe that just as God doesn’t send nature furies because of wrath that he then can’t spare because of mercy. God breaks out of that box. That sounds like some logical enlightenment thinking residue still trapped in your brain from the 80′s Tony. Don’t forget that in our emergence thing we are pro-mystery. That sounds like someone upset about the workers who got paid a whole day’s wage for an hour of work. This is what happens when you miss the Wild Goose, your thinking goes all off.

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  • Thomas

    John Piper saying that fires, earthquakes, floods, and or whatever is a sin of God’s wrath on the sinner, is no different than Joel Osteen saying that God rewards the faithful with riches. Both have a view of God that says bad things happen? Must be God being mad at you for not being a good enough believer. Which means the inverse is true, God must allow good things to happen, because you are not that bad of a sinner and he is extending his grace to you.

    But that ignores the scripture of “Rain falls on the just and unjust alike”. Surely God wouldn’t pour wrath out on true Christians, right? If yes, then why should we expect Christ’s death to be atoning for our sins? And we have to be certain that in both the flooding and fires, Christians are losing their property. If weather is judgement, then God is being cruel towards his own people.

    OR, we can believe that weather is naturally occurring events, and our world being in a sinful state, bad things happen to both good and bad people, just as good things happen to good and bad people.

  • toddh

    God would never send his fiery wrath against the mecca of evangelicalism. Just Catholic New Orleans, Buddhist Japan, and Lutheran Minneapolis…

  • Evelyn

    So, I’m coming to the conclusion that sin and punishment for sin is more about how we respond to things that happen to us rather than us doing sinful things (which, because of our inevitable ignorance, we don’t really know are sinful) and getting punished for them. If Piper thinks people are being punished or if he thinks that people need to repent, then Piper really needs to examine his ungodly response to the occurrences in his life.

  • Mojo

    I’m just spitballing here, but isn’t it just possible that — if we assume Divine Intervention as a given — the purpose was not so much to punish, but to teach? Maybe things like empathy and humility for starters. To me, it makes more sense than the idea of seemingly arbitrary “punishement” for some misdeed.
    Too bad any lessons that might have been learned will be lost in the roar of political blamestorming that seems to always follow something like this.

  • http://www.rickmcopy.com Rick

    When I saw that Colorado Springs was on fire, I could only think about how certain people suggested New Orleans’ spiritual shortcomings were being punished by Hurricane Katrina. The fact that the home of the Religious Right is literally burning in an election year is either something, or just an interesting thing to think about.

  • jerry lynch

    Prospertarians and Grimmarians make Christianity laughable; they cannot even follow the implications of their decrees and views to their illogical and unbilical conclusions. One has a santa clause god and the other in a halloween costume.

  • Jeff

    The problem with Piper’s outbursts — theologically speaking — is that he portrays a God who is entirely arbitrary… This is a very primitive view of God.

    From an old article of Piper’s:

    I have three sons. Every night after they are asleep I turn on the hall light, open their bedroom door, and walk from bed to bed, laying my hands on them and praying. Often I am moved to tears of joy and longing. I pray that Karsten Luke become a great physician of the soul, that Benjamin John become the beloved son of my right hand in the gospel, and that Abraham Christian give glory to God as he grows strong in his faith.

    But I am not ignorant that God may not have chosen my sons for his sons. And-, though I think I would give my life for their salvation, if they should be lost to me, I would not rail against the Almighty. He is God. I am but a man. The potter has absolute rights over the clay. Mine is to bow before his unimpeachable character and believe that the Judge of all the earth has ever and always will do right.

    In other words, “If God created my kids for the purpose of torturing them for eternity, I’m just fine with it.”

    Primitive outbursts from a man operating at a primitive level of cognitive and emotional development. Nothing unexpected there.

    • Jason

      Jeff,

      First, the ad hominem attack only makes you look mean, petty, and juvenile. I don’t know if you’re actually like that in real life, but let’s just say this comment of yours was not flattering.

      Second, the Reformed person who believes in election does not believe God creates people for the purpose of torturing them for eternity. That is a misunderstanding and a gross oversimplification. Rather, they believe God does everything for his own glory. It’s the difference between means and end.

      And it should be noted that the doctrine of election does not preclude human will. On the contrary, it says that everyone who ends up in hell is sent there because of their own voluntary choice to reject God. They do not get anything more or less than what they deserve. And since we all deserve hell, salvation is entirely an act of grace on God’s part. Of the entire “pool” of humanity — none of whom deserve to be saved — God chose some to be saved.

      You can respectfully disagree with that position, but there’s no need to stoop to name-calling.

      -Jason

      • Melody

        Um…where does he call names in this post? I guess your definition of name-calling differs from mine. Anyway, based on the quotes he referenced, it’s perfectly logical to infer that meaning. Don’t call a reasonable disdain for cruelty an ad hominem attack. I agree with him 100%.

        • Jason

          “…a man operating at a primitive level of cognitive and emotional development.” That’s ad hominem.

          RE cruelty: The Reformed person who believes in election does not believe God creates people for the purpose of torturing them for eternity. In their view, everyone who ends up in hell does so because their own voluntary choice to sin; they do not get anything more or less than they deserve.

          Indeed, salvation is entirely an act of grace — meaning no one deserves it — so, far from being cruel, God shows himself incredibly merciful throughout the redemptive process, culminating, of course, in the death of his own son in our place.

          That he would allow even one person to spend eternity with him is, in to the Reformed view, an inexpressible act of love that far outweighs the horror of hell.

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  • JHH

    I’ve not met John Piper and likely will not this side of heaven, but I think those who read his words as they are written can’t avoid this conclusion about what he is saying: In God’s sovereign understanding, God sees himself as anything but arbitrary; God acts according to God’s ideas and God’s plans. The blind man was not born blind because of anyone’s specific sin, but David’s child died because of David’s sin, and Ananias and Sapphira died because of theirs. My mind may not be able to comprehend this nor my gut to stomach it, but my faith had better cling to the God who ordains it, lest the only God I have left is the one who is “arbitrary” or “primitive” or even “evil” according to my own definition of him.

  • Shaun

    Using Piper’s infantile logic, God is sure pissed off at the people of Colorado Springs and Waldo Canyon, isn’t He?

    What was it that set Piper’s God off? The misogyny of the fundies? The homophobia? Was it the cafeteria selection of Scripture proof texts for their assertions? The global warming denials? Or maybe it was the mixture of Christianity and Merkin Nationalism?

    Now we need to see what kind of sacrifice will be necessary to appease Piper’s God and get Him to shut off the fire and brimstone.

    • Jason

      But as Jonathan pointed out above, John Piper nowhere argues that specific weather-related catastrophes in our time are clearly divine punishment. So you (and Tony Jones) are tilting against windmills.

      Read the post which started it all, and to which Jones is (I think) responding: http://bit.ly/LU92Zq

      You’ll note that Piper does not ascribe any particular purpose or intention behind the bridge collapse. In his own words: “The meaning of the collapse of this bridge is that John Piper is a sinner and should repent or forfeit his life forever.” That is all.

      Jesus taught that, while such tragedies are not divine punishment, we should view them as reminders of our mortality, and consequently of our urgent need to get right with God, since we too could die at any moment (see Luke 13:1-5). I don’t see Piper saying any more than this.

  • Jason

    Dr. Jones,

    I think you mischaracterize John Piper’s theology, and are consequently attacking a straw man. Piper nowhere says that such-and-such a catastrophe in our day is a direct punishment from God against sin. He just doesn’t. I don’t know where you get that.

    Using someone’s nonexistent statements as a prop for your own, less “primitive” view of God is a low blow.

    Second, God has, in fact, manipulated the weather for various ends, one of them being punishment or discipline of sin. He has also used other instruments, such as foreign armies, plague, etc.

    I don’t presume to know the mind of God in these matters, and neither does Piper. But when you say, “I don’t think God uses the weather to punish us,” be aware that you’re contradicting the biblical record, and imposing arbitrary (and thus insupportable) limits on when and where God may exercise judgment.

    -Jason

  • http://christianlythinkings.wordpress.com/ Stephen J. Higgins

    I fully agree with Tony being in Colorado Springs and about 5 miles from the fire but plenty of smoke. It is interesting he does seem to be really quick with the wrath of God syndrome but silent on biblical marriage (along with NAE) in Minnesota. It is to political… excuse me WHAT!
    So, Piper has to learn the difference of speaking truth rather than selling book deals. For we are, accordingly, faced with the following quandary: when assaulted by real evil (not NATURAL DISASTERS!) , we must oppose it directly. We have no other option. The failure to act is simply to condone evil. I do not and nor can Government, expect people of real faith to leave faith at their door otherwise it wouldn’t be faith (life). Walk out that door and shout “NOT AFRAID ANYMORE! … NOT ASHAMED OF MY LORD! … NOT…!” No matter what Politian’s or “popular iconic” preach, there isn’t such a world of utopian possibilities it always leads to dystopian evil the facts of history scream with the billions terrorized by such desire for utopian dreams. “Unless we have the courage to fight for a revival of wholesome reserve between man and man, we shall perish in an anarchy of human values…. Socially it means the renunciation of all place-hunting (positional power!), a break with the cult of the “star,” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer ).
    Piper and Anderson might be right on “some” things but they are condoning evil hiding behind the veil of self-righteousness to sell books or their speaking engagement at holy conventions/pep rallies.

  • http://www.timothyburns.com Tim Burns

    The best comment on God, weather and other “acts of God” I’ve heard came from pastor Rick Warren, interestingly enough, in a conversation with Pastor Piper. Quite simply, Warren said, “The world is broken. Since sin entered the picture, the world isn’t what God intended, and that includes the weather.” Can weather be a direct act of God in response to a peoples’ actions? Yes it can. God specifically used un-timely weather patterns to judge Isreal’s hardening heart throughout the OT. I believe He can and does sovereignly use difficulty, even tragedy in that same way today. Because God’s goal is to turn hearts back to him, sometimes suffering is the only thing that will break through our self-focused paradigm. Nevertheless, we better be sure we heard from God about a specific event at a specific time before we go ascribing the consequences of all of our sins to some kind of vengeful act of an uncaring God against someone we don’t happen to like.

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