Earlier today, John Piper posted a blog in which he asserted that the recent tornadoes that killed at least 38 people in 12 states were the work of God. Now, I don’t see eye to eye with Piper on a lot of things, but most days I want to give him the benefit of the doubt concerning his heart. I know too many people that I love and respect that respect him to write him off completely.
But why do this? This is a situation where there is a lot of pain and a lot of hurt. I understand that the absolute sovereignty of God is a pillar of Piper’s theology, but he could have easily said, “I don’t know why this happened, but I am sorry. I am sorry for your hurt and your pain. I want you to know that we are praying for you and want to help you.” He could have said that and he would have still been sticking to his theological guns.
But he felt compelled to publicly tell these people that God did this to them. The toddler that was tossed from her home, found ten miles away, and died along with the rest of her family? God’s handiwork. Piper did not put it in those stark terms, but when you draw out his response that is where the line ends. And again, I understand that is part of his theology and he has his reasons. I understand that he believes people are looking for answers. But at the bottom, his answer is still “I don’t know why this happened (but God did this, bless Him, and repent).”
The more I think about it, it just fills me with anxiety. Again, compassion and spiritual guidance could have still been provided without putting this strain of theology front and center. I know that I’m one person and this could have been comforting to some people. If you already believe this way, the words could have been full of comfort.
But if my niece, cousin, or neighbor was picked up, brutally flung by a tornado, and died, this response is not going to bring me any closer to God. It would honestly make me wonder if I could call that God good. Could I worship a God that is so indiscriminately destructive? Why do you push that question on people that are grieving and shattered? It just seems like the desire to make a dogmatic statement was shoehorned into what should have been a compassionate word. And I don’t think that is the kind of comfort that a pastor should provide. In fact, it makes me quite angry.
But that is just me and I am finite. I am fallible. So my prayers go out to the people affected by this disaster. If they come across Piper’s words, I hope they do not find them as disheartening as I did. Even if I don’t understand it, I hope they can find hope.