Six Questions for John Piper

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

As much as I disagree with John Piper’s theology, I was sad to see the popular Reformed theologian and pastor join the ranks of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson by claiming that a natural disaster was the result of God’s wrath regarding homosexuality.

In a blog post entitled, “The Tornado, The Lutherans, and Homosexuality,” Piper confidently proclaims that the tornado that hit downtown Minneapolis yesterday was a result of divine judgment on a group of Lutherans meeting in a local church to discuss, among other things, a “social statement” that could make it easier for the church to accept homosexual unions. The tornado did significant damage to the church’s steeple.

I’m sure that the blogosphere will erupt with responses to Piper’s extraordinary claim, so I’ll try keep mine simple, with six questions to correspond with his six points.

Dr. Piper:

1. Citing the Apostle Paul, you argue that the unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior will exclude a person from the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Jesus said that greed will exclude a person from the kingdom of God (Luke 14:33;  Luke 18:24-25). Were inclement weather conditions to flood or destroy the Christian bookstore at the downtown campus of your mega-church, should we interpret that to be an act of God in judgment of materialism?  

2. You say that “the church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires.” Do you think that blaming a tornado on homosexuality is the best way to reach out to the gay community and show them the love of Jesus Christ?

3. You argue that “official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil” and then conclude that the tornado must have been God’s response to such evil. And yet Jesus said that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  (Matthew 5:45) Do you believe that homosexuality is so extraordinarily evil that it warrants special divine intervention while little children dying of famine and lack of water do not?

4. You claim that Jesus “controls the wind, including all tornadoes.” While the Bible includes stories in which God does alter weather conditions, such things are not always linked to divine intervention. In fact, the book of Job indicates that Satan was behind the storm that killed Job’s family…and the Gospel of Mark never states that God started the storm that Jesus calmed.  Do you believe that God orchestrates every natural disaster, and that the death and suffering that occurs is always a result of God’s wrath upon the people involved?

5. Your example of Jesus’ perspective on the tower in Siloam is a curious one, seeing as Jesus was responding to the hypocrisy of those who assumed that disasters happen to people who are “greater sinners” than they.  I am reminded of the incident in which the disciples, having been rejected by the people of a Samaritan village, asked Jesus, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”Jesus rebuked them and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:51-56)  And so I will ask you the question that Jesus asked—Do you suppose that the Lutherans meeting in that church were greater sinners than you?  Perhaps the point of Jesus’ question was not to make a general statement about natural disasters, but rather to evoke a response similar to that of the Pharisees, who after being asked a similar question, turned and dropped their stones.

6.  In  your last point, you speak on behalf of God, confidently concluding that “the tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin.” A wise man once said, “There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve, and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve…No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all his efforts to search it out, man cannot discover its meaning. Even if a wise man claims he knows, he cannot really comprehend it.” (Ecclesiastes 8:14) What makes you the exception? How can you be so certain that you know exactly what God is up to in extra-biblical circumstances such as these?

Okay, so maybe I asked seven questions.

I could ask a hundred more.

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