other tragedies in the wake of the tornadoes

other tragedies in the wake of the tornadoes May 22, 2013
tornado devastation cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
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It’s one thing to experience tragedy. It’s another to have it followed by a sermon.

Why is everyone so smart? Why are there so many answers to such a deep, unspeakable mystery?

It didn’t take long for John Piper to tweet his answer:

“Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead (Job 1:19)”

Or for Westboro Baptist Church’s Fred Phelps, Jr. to tweet his:

“OK Thunder’s Durant flips God by praising fag Collins. God smashes OK. You do the math.”

We may try to dismiss these guys as marginal minimal voices. But they’re not. They have lots of followers. More than that, they focus on the fears people already harbor about their own worth, God and punishment. That we get what we deserve has a long and successful theological history. Read Rachel Held Evans’ thoughtful post, “The Abusive Theology of ‘Deserved’ Tragedy”.

In the dark corners of many hearts terrified people are wondering, “But what if it’s true?”

That fear is added terror in the wake of tragedy that I think is unnecessary and harmful.

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  • Chester

    Skeptical Cynic OR Cynical Skeptic ? I oft ask myself that question concerning me.

    Conclusion is that I do not place all confidence in the phrases, sayings, or quotes of people who have become famous through their philosophical mutterings.

    Could be said this is a lack of FAITH which so many proclaim is necessary without human proof.

    Mayhap ’tis true, depending on what is a full comprehension of what FAITH really means. Seems to me it is different meanings for different people. Therein lies the confusion. I see a danger in subscribing to any unbalanced reliance on so many of the cliched wordings of so many “leaders “. Many will say they had a conversation with God, and were given the wisdom to quote such. Mayhap’ tis true !

    Skeptical Cynicc OR Cynical Skeptic ??

    Your comments, DAVID, are understood to be YOUR comments, and accompanied with the possibility that you are not the absolute authority on meanings, thereby leaving any issue open for sensible debate.

  • The complaints often heard — “They aren’t talking about the real God (or about MY God);” “They can’t read the Bible;” etc. — are simply statements about where the speaker stands in relationship to shifts in theology and the interpretation of the Bible. People often refer to some personal experience, but this is always mediated by their existing beliefs or the rejection of them, in extreme cases.

    The debate about the relationship between omnipotence and penal evil is a long one. In the early 17th century, divine providence was seen as having three forms.
    1. General providence — the laws of Nature, regarded as “God’s Second Book”
    2. Special providence — God’s care for nations or churches
    3.) Particular providence — God’s care for individuals

    In the first case, fire would burn and objects would fall, under all circumstances. Moral lessons could be drawn from Nature, as God had made breasts for nursing one’s own children, for example, and this could be seen even in the tiger. The existence of bubonic plague was just a feature of Nature.

    In the second case, reward or protection, warning or punishment might be doled out. God’s wind blew, and the mighty Spanish Armada was scattered in 1588. The English rang their church bells, but Phillip II of Spain agonized over God’s purpose. A persecuted body of faithful Christians might see their sufferings as an opportunity to be cleansed by affliction, or to show to their persecutors that they could be firm in their faith.

    An outbreak of plague was probably a punishment on a community, but social and medical action should be taken. Catholics might drive out the Jews from the city, Protestants would close the brothels and try to dispel the miasma created by slaughterhouses and sewage. Catholics might process around the city, elevating the Host, Protestants would declare days of prayer and fasting.

    In the third case, individuals or families might experience blessings and sufferings, for a variety of reasons. It was not generally considered appropriate by the godly to assume that one knew what God intended for another, unless the aptness of the circumstances seemed to make the message clear to all. God might allow the hardened sinner to flourish, as being beyond repentance, while the godly were tried in the fire.

    Individuals or households might catch plague by infection or contagion. God’s hand would be involved, but only the individuals could discern what was meant, by consulting their consciences, their spiritual advisers, and the Bible. Groups such as the early Quakers, who proclaimed that they would be immune, were usually taken by surprise. Natural means should be employed, such as quarantine and medicine, as well as prayer.

    As the intellectuals of first England, led by Bishop John Wilkins and Archbishop John Tillotson, and then other countries increasingly turned to the expression of general providence in Nature, as a non-partisan source of morality, God’s benevolence and mercy were emphasized more by Protestants, followed by deists and Unitarians, than they had been in the days of plague, famine and religious wars. The works of Leibniz and Linnaeus provide examples. Thus, God would not overturn the laws of Nature in order to save one person from disease or one city from flooding. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake was a key example.

    The long debate about God’s freedom versus God’s power, about God’s mercy versus God’s punishment, dwindled and was marginalized, among intellectuals and the major Protestant denominations. Just as Newton’s solar system had been imperceptibly adjusted by God from time to time, so Adam Smith’s God was the invisible hand that adjusted the markets.

    Yet a strong view of providentialism still lurks among some Christian communities. Few expect gravity to be suspended, so that Padre Pio could fly around a church, but many more trust in prayer and some even reject medicine, historically regarded as a means provided by God.

    Strong providentialism can be a heavy cross to bear, if child after child dies, for example, but it does provide a structure to the seemingly random or impersonal forces that affect us all. “Why my child?” asks the parent. “Why cancer?” “Why New Orleans?”

    However, along with this persistence of particular and special providentialism, we see distorted forms of general providentialism, combined with the Manifest Destiny version of special providence. “God has provided all that we in America need until the Second Coming.” “God would not allow man-made global warming to destroy America.”

  • M Poodle

    I can’t believe that in 2013 we are actually debating about whether or not God caused a tornado. Ask a meteorologist if you must. This is insanity.

  • Nate Smith

    Dude, I just read your background story and looking through everything. You are legit. I get you. It’s awesome. Cheers.

  • Gary Hendricks

    Crazy isn’t it, how all the deep philosophical interpretations come out attempting to make the ridiculous sound somehow rational.

  • MadSciKat

    “It didn’t take long for John Piper to tweet his answer: ‘Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead (Job 1:19)’ ”

    Hah, Piper, miss the point much? So did Job’s “friends.” Irony meter BUSTED.

  • MadSciKat

    “Manifest Destiny version of special providence” FTW – gotta remember that one!

  • Al Cruise

    Tornadoes have been happening in that area for thousands of years, the only thing that has changed is people started living in that area in the last few hundred years in dwellings that are susceptible to high winds. Tornadoes occurred on regular basis throughout history right up to this day, nothing to do with present day morality, just weather science occurring like it always has.

  • nice to meet you nate. thanks 🙂

  • Stephen D

    Piper tweeted Job 1:19 AND 1:20. Shows how quickly we all jump to conclusions

  • Christian Gittings

    you have taken john pipers words out of context read this http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/those-deleted-tweets

  • And some liberals are saying it’s because were using the wrong kinds of light bulbs (global warming).

    Too bad some people just have to blame someone or something when bad things happen. Sometimes bad stuff just happens.

  • dapowellii

    Maybe, just maybe, there doesn’t have to be a reason for suffering in this world.