I like John Piper. I really do. Both his books and his preaching have been great helps to me in the past. That is part of why I was horrified to read this article he posted today interpreting a Minneapolis tornado as God’s judgment on the ELCA Lutheran church to consider a proposal allowing homosexuals to be ordained as clergymen.
His conclusion is as follows: “The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners”
Now, I agree with Dr. Piper that homosexual intercourse is declared biblically to be a sin, and while Jesus loves sinners, it is not something Christians can condone in their clergy, any more than I can excuse a pastor who cheats on his wife because God loves sinners.
That said, this article was deeply troubling to me. I know that Dr. Piper loves the Puritans, and there are many exemplary things I too have treasured in Puritan writings. However, one of their (several) deep failings was to presume upon knowing God’s secret will. Whether this manifested in a presumption about who was and wasn’t elect or a willingness to draw a line from particular natural disasters to particular moral evils (one thinks of the “earthquake sermons” common in 1727 and 1755, which often make this link), it was always problematic.
To give a counter-example: a church in the town where I used to live, faithful to Scripture and attended by several dear friends, burned down a couple years ago. Am I to assign this calamnity to some specific judgment of God? Of course not.
Indeed, this is the very point of the Tower of Siloam discussion in Luke 13. Dr. Piper cites it in his argument, but Christ’s whole point here was that, while the general brokenness of the world should point us to all of our general states of sin, we cannot link any specific disaster with some specific sin.
God is the creator and sustainer of the world, and as such his ways are beyond our knowing or finding out. While his providential rule over the world certainly must extend to things like natural disasters, it is utter presumption to think from this fact that we can discover the “why” behind it. We may never know – to suppose that we can makes God a little less holy and a little more in our own images.