Act of God?

A friend of mine posted this link in a Facebook message to a group of us and it sure got the few of us talking.  I post the link here to see what you link of it.

The Tornado, The Lutherans and Homosexuality

It is John Piper’s interpretation of the tornado that struck during the ELCA CWA in Minneapolis last Wednesday.  Was God sending the ELCA a message?  Check the link out and see what Piper has to say and then let me know here.  I am curios what your thoughts are.

I will let you know what my thoughts are later.

-edh-

24 thoughts on “Act of God?

  1. PSanafterthought

    I read that article, posted comments twice, and also got a bevy (more than 350) of comments emailed to my in-box. I read them all. I posted to my blog
    here .

    My reaction to the article: I don’t believe that God sometimes sends weather that has a message and other times is just random. So I would pity that parishioner who had a weather event hit his/her house getting some pastoral comfort from that writer. I also wonder how he interprets the fact that the same storm hit a number of homes a few miles south of the convention center. And isn’t it possible to argue that God spared the Convention center?

    I also have problems with pastors who seem to suggest that they have a direct insight into God’s mind.

    The comments were from one end of the spectrum to the other. One pastor called Piper to account on a number of theological points. Others had a lot to say about specific verses of the Bible which are much clearer in prohibiting specific behavior that are largely ignored in the teachings of modern American Christianity, including, presumably almost all pastors and church members.

    We do pick and choose, don’t we? But none of the above is to say that the votes were either “right” or “wrong.”

    1. heartofapastor Post author

      When I first read Piper’s post I immediately thought about those who tried to say that 9/11 was God’s judgment on the U.S. — Wow.

      Your right…no one knows the mind of God. I don’t doubt that God can send messages like this because God is indeed in control, but to say “this is what God is think and thus this is the message of THIS storm…” is very arrogant. Sometimes…tornadoes, hurricanes, bad weather just happens.

  2. Sara Moe

    I hate political-theological debates. When it comes down to it, we have to do the best we can to live in the Love of Christ and with the Love of Christ, knowing that the only true judge is God.

    My questions with this article are this: 1) when did “homosexual” first appear in that passage (1 Cor. 6:9-10) because in the KJV (both original and 21st century) it’s not there. I didn’t check every translation, but I’m curious when that was added (just from a timeline perspective.)

    Second, maybe more of a devil’s advocate moment here, but the author states, “Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction.” Well, in that, should be we allowing ANYONE in our churches? We welcome sinners into our church every day. We allow sinners to lead our churches. Aren’t we, by welcoming, accepting, and allowing to lead, approving sing?

    Third, Statement: “Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture.” What parts of scripture do we count as truth and authority? Do we follow all the laws set down in Leviticus? Do we sell our daughters to slavery? Do we actually live eye for an eye, etc.? So many times I heard in Seminary – “Well God didn’t mean that literally,” when it came to something we were uncomfortable with. But now, we’re saying it’s the absolute truth? This one verse is absolute truth that says that those “sinners” aren’t fit to lead other sinners to Christ? What about John 13:34, John 15:12, John 15:17, Romans 12:10, Romans 13:8, etc.

    We need to realize that we are all sinners, all human, all crap. But we are ALL loved by God and in that Love we can help others to see the Love God gives us.

    Of course this is coming from an MDiv drop-out so what do I know. 🙂

    1. heartofapastor Post author

      (1)That is a good question. Does anyone know this?

      (2)Good point.

      (3)Love of neighbor needs to reign. Too often during the CWA I heard people speak with words towards those who differ from their belief in words other than love. We are all sinners.

      And…I think you do know a lot…and I bet you did awesome in summer Greek.

    2. Mike

      We allow sinners to lead our churches. Aren’t we, by welcoming, accepting, and allowing to lead, approving [sin]?

      With all due respect, and I do mean that sincerely, I disagree (with reservations). First of all, what do the Scriptures say about us all? "For ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23, emphasis mine). If you wish to exclude all who have sinned from leading our churches, then our churches will have *no* leadership. When I was still in high school, I heard someone say, "I don’t care where you’ve been; I care where you are going." That’s where my reservation lies. Our leadership, I believe, should be composed of those who are aware that they have sinned, but who are actively trying to root the sin out of their lives. If you have someone who is unapologetically engaged in sin, that is a whole other story (and may very well be what you were trying to say). In that case, the proper response is found in Matthew 18:15-17:

      If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

      Also, if 1 Corinthians 5, Paul instructs the church in Corinth to expel the brother who is (actively) engaged in immorality. In verse 11, "But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat." However, in 2nd Corinthians, Paul tells the church to welcome this man back into their congregation after he has repented of his sin: "The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him." (2 Corinthians 2:6-8).

      Taking these verses together, the picture seems very clear to me. We have all sinned; only Jesus was without blemish. However, when we are deliberately, willfully engaged in sin, our congregations are to confront us, and if necessary, refuse to associate with us…until we repent, at which time, our congregations are to welcome us back with brotherly love that we may be encourage to continue in righteousness.

      Also, please forgive me, but I have to quibble with a detail in your next to last paragraph, as well: "We need to realize that we are all sinners, all human, all crap." No, no, a thousand times, NO! I see where you are coming from, and you are not entirely wrong. But the conclusion, I believe is mistaken! As I said above, yes, ALL have sinned. But we most certainly are NOT crap! One of the most well-known verses in the Bible contradicts that sentiment: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but would have everlasting life." YOU were purchased with the blood of the Son of God! Would God purchase crap with His son’s life? I think not! If He did, then He is not a very shrewd bargainer, and I do not believe that is the case. God loves each and every one of us with every ounce of His being. We are valuable beyond words, and precious to Him! If you look at the world He created for us to live in, the degree of detail, the wonders of His creation speak of a wealth of love for us. The beauty of a sunset, the glory of the mountains, the peace and serenity of a wooded glade…His love painted our world with beauty. The Scriptures also separate between us and our sin. In Romans 7:7-25, Paul debunks the belief that we are worthless. Pay particular attention to verses 17 and 22-23: "So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me…For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members." (emphasis mine). We are good! But we are engaged in a spiritual battle for our wills, and sometimes, we stumble and fall. Praise God, there is hope for us when that happens, because Jesus’ shed blood will cleanse us of all sin and restore that holiness in our hearts when we repent and turn back to Him.

  3. Aaron

    I have been talking about this post with friends on and offline ever since he originally posted it. It makes no sense to me that we can interpret some weather as being a judgment of God and other weather to be random. If God controls all weather, does he make such uses of it? Granted there are examples from Scripture, but I think that if a perfect God were to make such a statement with this storm, then it would have been more precise. Besides, it did not even stop the measure from passing!

    The other side is why would God chose to use weather when he has so many other tools at his disposal? Why not make one of the supporters sick? Why not speak to them in a dream? Both of these have biblical president as well. Or if he did use the storm, why not strike down some of the supporters so that the measure would not have passed?

    If we concede the point and say that God does speak that way and that he did in this case, how do we know when weather should be interpreted as a judgment and when is it not? Where is the standard? I believe that when God speaks, he does so clearly. In this case he apparently was not clear with those voting for the measure!

    Finally, and for me this has special significance, this particular post on the Desiring God blog (John Piper et al) was picked up by a prominent atheist/scientist/professor in the same city. He used it as ammunition against Christians, listing at just one more foolish and superstitious interpretation of natural phenomena. How can Christians be taken seriously when some are so vocal about events that carry such controversy within the Christian community?

    1. heartofapastor Post author

      Good points, Aaron, thank you. I echo what you say…what about Hurricane Katrina, what was the message there? What about the tornado that wiped out Greensburg, KS? There are so many other weather events, but I write this after you had already posted the link to Piper’s explanation.

      Thank you again.

    1. heartofapastor Post author

      Maybe I am just being cynical but it sounds like Piper is trying to dig himself out of a hole. I know he got a lot of flack for writing what he wrote. But I do appreciate that you let us this link. What do others think?

  4. Chris

    What a load of cr*p. I’d use some pretty colorful language, but I might offend the piety of some of your readers.

    I don’t know why tornadoes ripped through the Twin Cities the other day. But I’d guess that the meteorlogical conditions were ripe for such a storm … nothing else.

    If God busies his holy self by sending tornadoes to warn a convention of a 4.7 million member denomination, I wonder … wouldn’t he do better to spend his time and energy eradicating poverty, knocking unjust leaders from their thrones, or crushing pedophiles under his holy foot? Truly, I don’t believe in a God who sends tornadoes … I believe in a God who sends his Son.

    1. heartofapastor Post author

      I think you pretty much echoed the feelings of all of us here…you just did it in a more feisty way.

  5. Mike

    I’ve already written a sermon above (sorry! I didn’t mean to spend so long on a soapbox!), but I would like to add my $0.02 to the discussion about tornadoes being God’s message to ELCA. James tells us that "all good and perfect gifts come from God." Somehow, I see tornadoes as being neither good nor perfect. The church I attend teaches that when, through sin, we remove our selves from God’s protection and covering, bad things often follow (the principle of sowing and reaping, which is taught throughout the Bible). However, we are entirely mistaken to say that "God did xyz (tornado, Katrina, 9/11, etc.) to us to punish us for our sins." No. We stepped out from under God’s protection, and therefore, we became vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. What does the Bible say Satan does? He is a thief who comes to "kill, steal and destroy." I would recommend for a more detailed analysis of this point of view.

    1. heartofapastor Post author

      Thank you, Mike, for this link.

      The Hebrew idiom of permission…I don’t think I have heard of that, but it is an interesting way to look at scripture. What do others think about this?

      So Mike, let me see if I am understanding you correctly here (and please correct me if I am wrong): You see the tornado at the ELCA cwa09 as a case where the ELCA stepped outside of God’s protection by taking up this vote on homosexuality. So God did not cause the tornado to strike but allowed it to happen. Am I reading you correctly?

      Thanks again for the link. I printed it off so I can study it some more.

    2. heartofapastor Post author

      I am still processing what you wrote, Mike.

      You wrote: However, we are entirely mistaken to say that “God did xyz (tornado, Katrina, 9/11, etc.) to us to punish us for our sins.” No. We stepped out from under God’s protection, and therefore, we became vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

      So Satan is responsible for the tornado, Katrina, 9/11, etc, because God withdrew his hand of protection (or gave permission/allowed it to happen)? So God is punishing sin; not through direct involvement, but through indirect involvement…the punishment is our fault because we exercised free will and turned away from God and therefore put ourselves under the dominion of Satan.

      This is just me processing. I would love to read more conversation on this.

      1. Mike

        I’ll reply to both of your responses together.

        First, let me say that the topic of God punishing us vs. us stepping out from under God’s protection is something I am still studying and trying to understand. I don’t pretend to understand all of God’s will; I am still working hard to see the big picture God has painted in his Word, and I have a very long way to go. If I say something insightful, it is by God’s grace; if I say something mistaken…well, I am still learning 🙂 I do hope that those who have more knowledge than I will point my mistakes out to me so that we can come to the truth together.

        I start with the premise that God is good, that He desires what is good for us, and that He does not desire that any should perish but that all should come to repentance in Him (2 Peter 3:9). Given that He does not desire that any should perish, would it make sense that God sits on His throne of judgment waiting for us to slip up so that He can destroy us? Luke 11 (and Matthew 7) describe how God wants to give good gifts to us: "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" I am taking this passage slightly out of context. It is speaking of God answering our prayers and lavishing blessings upon us, but I believe it paints a picture of who God is: a loving father who wants to give good things to His children. Would you send a tornado to kill your children if they don’t measure up to your expectations? Of course not! Then, if we wouldn’t do that to our children, why would God inflict it upon us?

        The big problem with my viewpoint is that bad things *do* happen to us, even those who serve God faithfully. The history of the church is filled with martyrs — good men and women of God who suffered despite remaining under God’s protection. If the Hebrew idiom of permission that I referenced above is correct, how then could these people have suffered? Why was Paul beaten, stoned, thrown into prison, shipwrecked, bitten by a viper, and so on? Why was Stephen stoned? Why was John the Baptist beheaded? It would appear that there is a contradiction here.

        The answer to this contradiction, I believe, is that there is more going on in the world than meets the eye. Since Adam and Eve, the world has been at war — Satan is literally throwing Hell at us to convince us that God is not good, that He is holding back on us, and that He is not someone worth worshipping and loving. What did he say to Eve in the garden? "’Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden`?…You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’" In other words, God is holding out on you, Eve. He doesn’t want you to be like Him. There is something good here that He is holding back. Of course, this was a lie, and we know that when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, death entered the world and a battle for our salvation has been raging ever since. And it’s not just a metaphorical battle, either. There are real casualties. There are real victims. We get hit in the crossfire sometimes.

        Were Katrina and 9/11 and the tornadoes in Minnesota the result of stepping out under sin? Were they merely crossfire? Were they the punishment of God for sins? I don’t know. I believe God may allow hardship to fall on us so that we can learn and grow. However, I would say we would have to look at the fruits of any event to know whether it was of God or of Satan. Was it something that appeared bad, but turned out to be good? It was probably from God, then. For example, a ministry I was involved in last year shut down, but lead to me becoming involved in even an greater ministry this year. This new ministry led to me growing spiritually far more than I could ever have imagined last year. That was clearly God closing a door to lead me to something better. However, if an occurrence leads to death, discouragement or suffering, I simply cannot believe it was of God (Katrina, 9/11, etc.).

        1. heartofapastor Post author

          I appreciate your response and your humility. I too am growing and keeping an open mind.

          God indeed wants to give us good things…that I firmly believe. God doesn’t like to see us suffer. The Hebrew Idiom of Permission does bother me for some of the same reason you listed above. Actually I emailed my Hebrew prof from seminary to help shed some light on this.

          For me, the mind of God is a mystery. If someone claims to have God figured out then they are far from it. That is why we can not judge people; we truly don’t know what God would do. Can God send a tornado to send a message? Sure…God is in control. Does God do that kind of a thing? That is a whole different question.

          A friend of mine said that some of his colleagues mock the notion that God sent the tornado; and never even considered it was a possibly. Even though I don’t believe God sent the tornado as a message, to completely mock it denies God sovereignty; denies that God could do it if God wanted to. Once again…we don’t know the mind of God. But then I return to the notion that God desires to give good gifts to his children. This is the amazing thing about God…God always keeps us wondering and keeps us talking. And this is where we grow to know more about God.

          Thank you for your thoughts. I am curious and what others think here.

          God bless

          1. Mike

            Out of curiosity, did you hear back from your Hebrew prof? I would be very interested in hearing his thoughts on the Hebrew idiom of permission.

            Thanks, and as always, God bless!

            1. heartofapastor Post author

              Not yet, but as soon as I do I will either post her response here or in a separate post.

  6. Randy Schatz

    God has yet to make clear to me about sending weather messages. Being a trained storm spotter, I have to go with science over religion on this one, at least until he\she make his\her intentions known to me.

    However (and offered mostly in jest) IF God was in the business of arranging storms as a message, and IF this was such a storm, what is the message???

    1,000+ Voting Members about to have a major vote on what some say is a move away from God’s teaching…others say is a vote about God’s love for all. A tornado topples a nearby church cross and damaged the roof of the assembly building….Yet not a single hair on a single head is damaged of any voting member on either side of the fracas. Was it a warning to the liberals? OR: Perhaps a warning to the conservatives??

    IF I was to believe that God was sending weather messages, and IF I was to believe that he was sending a conservative message against the vote….wouldn’t we have 1,000 dead Voting Members? Sodom, Gomorrah, and Minneapolis?

    Now, on to something that we can certainly all agree on: Since God smoted the Pub Tent, clearly God wants pastors evangelizing in brick pubs across the city, and not congregating with each other in large numbers.

    1. heartofapastor Post author

      Thank you for your thoughts. You are echoing the feelings of many people I have talked to and read throughout the blogosphere. But it is sure interesting to see people come out and share their faith on this.

      P.S. I like your comment about the pubs 🙂

    1. heartofapastor Post author

      I don’t think fire and brimstone raining down was a common weather occurrence…so yes…that “weather incident” definitely had a message attached to it.

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