A Tornado, Lutherans, and Homosexuality: Greg Boyd vs John Piper

So what happened to engage both John Piper and Greg Boyd? (HT: Brian Leport)

The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.

John Piper’s interpretation of what happened:

The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin [practicing homosexuals in pastoral ministry]. 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. Piper’s full post…

Greg Boyd takes issue with John Piper, especially his use of Luke 13:4-5:

Far from supporting John’s speculation about why a tornado broke a church steeple, it seems to me this passage directly assails it! It makes me want to ask John, “do you think that the folks at Central Lutheran church are more guilty than you or any others living in the Twin Cities?” And the only answer this passage allows us to give is an unequivocal “no!” In the fallen world in which we live, towers sometimes randomly fall; bridges sometimes randomly collapse; and tornadoes sometimes randomly do property damage – even to churches. That’s all there is to be said about it.  Greg Boyd’s full post…

My response:

John Piper has engaged in recklessness.  Of course the practice of homosexuality is against God, but we can’t interpret this tornado as a direct judgment from God, anymore than the man who walked into a Baptist church and shot a pastor to death.  What was the evil of this Baptist church?

I can’t remember John Piper writing on that incident.

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83 Responses to A Tornado, Lutherans, and Homosexuality: Greg Boyd vs John Piper

  1. Brian LePort says:

    Or a few hundred other incidents every day across the globe that can be seen as the wrath of God if one wants to interpret it as such!

  2. TC Robinson says:

    As you said on your blog, Piper is Robertson and Falwell like on this one.

    That’s the real danger of the position he has taken.

  3. Scott W says:

    TC-
    My first reflex was to think while I agree with Greg Boyd, there is biblical warrant for the type of interpretation John Piper put on the tornado. I then read the whole post by Boyd, and it did encapsulate the stance Christian believers should take for their spiritual and theological health; discernment and humility.

    Prophetic judgments in the Old and New Testaments were more than just an application of some biblical principle or precept to a vexing sociocultural situation. They were a response to the word of YHWH which captured the person who was put into an unenviable position by YHWH as the embodiment for prophesy: to be confronted with their own sin (Isaiah, Paul), weakness (Ezekiel, Jeremiah), failure (Moses), in their identification with the people (also,e.g., Jesus’ baptism) as the potential objects of YHWH’s judgment. And, at the same time, there were to speak YHWH’s word of woe and weal, experientially knowing their painful, conflicted and almost unbearable existence of being caught between a Rock (YHWH) and a hard place (being a part of the community YHWH is addressing also).

    We see this pathos in Jesus; but rarely do we see this (in my estimation) sentiment and struggle amongst our would be “prophets”. They seem to be cut from the cloth of Christian culture warriors rather than YHWH’s prophets.

  4. ElShaddai Edwards says:

    Since that tornado touched down three (holy number!) blocks from my office building, perhaps the correct interpretation is that God is angry that I stopped blogging!?

    I support Boyd 100% on this one…

  5. Peter Kirk says:

    ElShaddai, I’m sure that God is as unhappy that you stopped blogging as we your faithful readers are. So can we expect to see your blog again soon?

    I thought for a minute that the Church Times had taken up this story. But no, the clergy twister they are writing about is a corkscrew! – a rather special one invented by a clergyman. But the attached cartoon could illustrate the tornado story.

  6. TC Robinson says:

    Scott: there’s an obvious difference between what we read in the biblical text and what happens in our world today: YHWH assigned interpreters (prophets and so on).

    Did God assign Piper to interpret the tornado? What about all the other evils, both natural and human generated?

    EE: I knew there had to be another reason besides Piper’s.

    Yeah, I’m with Boyd too.

  7. Everybody take a step back.

    I think Boyd has misrepresented Piper here. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional as I can see where people can get overly sensitive when storms are mentioned in the same sentence with God’s providence. Pat Robertson comes to mind.

    1. The unrepentant practice of homosexual behavior (like other sins) will exclude a person from the kingdom of God.

    Check.

    2. The church has always embraced those who forsake sexual sin but who still struggle with homosexual desires, rejoicing with them that all our fallen, sinful, disordered lives (all of us, no exceptions) are forgiven if we turn to Christ in faith.

    Check.

    3. Therefore, official church pronouncements that condone the very sins that keep people out of the kingdom of God, are evil. They dishonor God, contradict Scripture, and implicitly promote damnation where salvation is freely offered.

    Check.

    4. Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.

    Check.

    5. When asked about a seemingly random calamity near Jerusalem where 18 people were killed, Jesus answered in general terms—an answer that would cover calamities in Minneapolis, Taiwan, or Baghdad. God’s message is repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment.

    Check.

    6. Conclusion: 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.

    Check.

    Piper’s point was not that God singled out the tornado as God’s special judgment against the ELCA, although he would be perfectly justified in wiping that Bible trashing denomination from the face of the earth.

    Piper’s point was that we should ALL repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment.

  8. Matt says:

    You know, with that kind of interpretation, the ECLA could come back in the same strain with, “the Lord was not in the wind” (1 Kings 19:11).

  9. TC Robinson says:

    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.

    Stan: Piper singled them out. How else to interpret the quote I extracted?

  10. Jerry B says:

    Another preacher gets into the “Meteorology According to God” business and ends up looking like a fool. I don’t doubt that God could use the weather as a form of warning/ judgment, but I am confident that if God wanted to do something like that, we wouldn’t be sitting around wondering if it was random or of God, I’m sure God would leave no doubt in anyones mind.

    Boyd does a fine God in pointing out the holes in Pipers weather report.

  11. Sue says:

    What about the 11 year old boy who was killed by a tornado yesterday?

  12. Brian LePort says:

    I think Piper did single out the ELCA. The warning he attached in essence says, “Neither should any of the rest of us think we can behave like the ELCA”. I do not think he was just speaking in general terms. I think he was calling the ELCA out.

  13. Sue says:

    I think the ELCA made a bad decision, but I do not think Piper is justified in saying the tornado proves that.

    I am not sure if Piper is saying this or not. In general terms, all loss of life reminds us that our life is short and we need to do what is right today and not tomorrow. This is valid.

    However, I think it can be very hurtful to ever suggest that God is using this means to send someone a special message about their lifestyle – and not our own.

    Maybe this tornado was sent because John Piper preached against the TNIV. 😉 I wrote this open letter to Piper and he has not acknowledged it.

  14. Pingback: Let me repent « Crypto-theology

  15. TC Robinson says:

    It seems to me that Piper is suggesting we use the tornado as a call for us all to repent. Nothing more.

    Then leave ECLA out! By calling out ECLA Piper has open a can of worms for more speculations here and then. Who is really qualified for what Piper did?

  16. Pingback: John Piper and the Question of Meterological Retribution « confessions of a bible junkie

  17. Kevin Sam says:

    Sue said:What about the 11 year old boy who was killed by a tornado yesterday?….Why has no tornado blown away the episcopal church until now?

    Stan said: Piper’s point was that we should ALL repent, because none of us will otherwise escape God’s judgment.

    @ Sue: My exact same thoughts today.
    @ Stan: Good point. It sure sounded like Piper singled out the ELCA, which also served as a warning to all of us. Me included. I need a good scare once in a while.
    @TC: being Lutheran, this post sure is relevant to my church today. It sure was eerie. Both occurred at 2PM!

    But I don’t have an answer…just my rambling here:

    It makes me wonder what can God use to shake us up out of our moral slumber. God might use the weather and God knows that it was on a close call of lightning flashes that scared Martin Luther into answering the call into ministry. If Luther had never believed that it was God sending him a message through lightning, we would never have had a Martin Luther. So who is to say? But just to be safe, and not sound like a discredited fool, one would agree with Greg Boyd. But if one’s a prophet-wanna-be, which I’m not, I’d be like Piper and do the Pat Robertson thing.

  18. TC Robinson says:

    Kevin: you invoked Luther. Just last week I viewed that great film. According to the film, Luther’s father mocked, but Luther was convinced that it was God.

    But it was Luther himself who interpreted thus, not someone else, as Matthew Malcolm pointed out in his post here.

    Piper, on the other hand, is interpreting the incident for the Lutherans, Minnesota, and all of us.

    Quite different!

  19. Peter Kirk says:

    why only the lutheran church and not the episcopalians with a far longer liberal history on this subject?

    Some would say that we Anglicans at least in England have already had our “warning”, in 1984. Perhaps that was directed at US Episcopalians as well. 😉 Remember the story of the consecration in York Minster of the controversial David Jenkins as Bishop of Durham, followed three days later by a lightning strike on that historic cathedral? At the time all the same questions were being asked. But if God meant to punish Jenkins, why was he three days late?

  20. I agree that God can use natural disasters to communitcate with his creation – for example this is how the prophet Joel interpreted a particular invasion of locusts (even though locust invasions happened all the time then and still do even today) – how did he know this one was a message from God? I’ll need to re-read the prophecy of Joel to determine that.

    All that said, I think I side with Boyd.

  21. Observation: It seems that some who wanted to give Todd Bentley the benefit of the doubt have thrown John Piper under the bus for something that, in my opinion, has been misinterpreted.

  22. TC Robinson says:

    Brian: I agree, but were are Piper’s Joel-like credentials?

    Stan: How have we misinterpreted Piper? Even you have seemingly concluded that he singled out ELCA.

    I’m willing to see what you’re seeing.

  23. I firmly believe Piper was issuing a reminder to all of us that disasters should be considered a call to repentance.

    He singled out the ELCA, appropriately in my opinion, because it was as the church they were using, at the exact time of their vote that the tornado struck. Why would he not single out the ELCA?

    Disasters strike us all to be sure. We should, like Piper wrote and Jesus stated, remember that unless we repent, we will all likewise perish. Why are Piper’s words not at least considered possibly prophetic by those who claim that all spiritual gifts are for today?

    What happened to the charity given to nutcases like Todd Bentley? At least in Piper’s case the Bible allows for the possibility of his being correct.

    For the record, I don’t think Piper necessarily had some inside track to God regarding God’s rationale for the tornado. A tornado certainly does not indicate God’s blessing of the ELCA’s demonic decision. The tornado does not demonstrably prove that God’s wrath was being poured out on the ELCA. I would expect God’s wrath to involve bodies of the supporters of sexual perversion within the ELCA to be strewn about the church lawn.

    However, to consider the tornado as a warning to us all, and to the ELCA in particular, does not stretch credulity at all.

    A few related questions:
    -Does not God control the wind?
    -Do random events outside of God’s control happen?
    -Is God obligated to send a storm to every group that supports wickedness?
    -Can he not be slow to anger when he chooses?

  24. so I guess, now, it’s better to be with the Lutheran Church Missiouri Synod?

  25. Brad says:

    I’m sure Piper’s thoughts are warranted, but I’m not sure he should’ve shared them with the blogosphere….

    But out of many people to agree with, Boyd is definitely not the one. Instead of saying Piper shouldn’t have said what he said, Boyd insists on denying the sovereignty of God in his post and even questions whether or not God is in control. So why pick him to agree with…there has to be another perspective?!?

  26. TC Robinson says:

    Brad,

    I’m with you on what Piper should have done.

    Boyd’s open theism is not the issue. I believe that’s another matter.

  27. TC Robinson says:

    For the record, I don’t think Piper necessarily had some inside track to God regarding God’s rationale for the tornado. A tornado certainly does not indicate God’s blessing of the ELCA’s demonic decision. The tornado does not demonstrably prove that God’s wrath was being poured out on the ELCA. I would expect God’s wrath to involve bodies of the supporters of sexual perversion within the ELCA to be strewn about the church lawn.

    Stan, that’s all that we saying too, at least me. But Piper’s comments seems to imply some inside track to God.

  28. Blake says:

    A genuine question:

    Why must “random” events be synonymous with events “outside God’s control?” I’ve never been comfortable with the implication that total sovereignty necessitates active, meticulous control of literally every event which takes place in the cosmos. Why do some insist that God’s sovereignty demands such a thing, rather than simply enables it, should he so choose?

  29. TC Robinson says:

    Why do some insist that God’s sovereignty demands such a thing, rather than simply enables it, should he so choose?

    Blake,

    I’m having some trouble understanding your question. But this much I got from it that we should not interpret the tornado incident as a judgment from God, right?

  30. Blake says:

    TC,

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear. It just seems to me that a lot of people think, or maybe unintentionally imply, that if God didn’t directly cause an event to happen (i.e. it’s “random”), then this means it was “out of his control.” Such a charge is one often leveled against Open Theists, such as Boyd, and I just don’t understand the reasoning behind it. Why can’t God’s total sovereignty include Him sovereignly allowing random events? Then again, maybe I’m just misunderstanding what some people are saying. Ha! Hope that helps some.

    Needless to say, no, I do not think the tornado should have been interpreted as divine judgment.

  31. TC Robinson says:

    Why can’t God’s total sovereignty include Him sovereignly allowing random events?

    Blake, I’m having trouble now reconciling your “God’s total sovereignty include Him sovereignly allowing random events.” I don’t think the events would be “random” if God sovereignly allows them.

    I believe if God allows something that means there’s a purpose for such.

    However, from a human perspective, we deem some events as random. That’s fine for us mortals, unless divine insight has been granted us, as in the case of the biblical prophets.

  32. alutheran says:

    “A tornado certainly does not indicate God’s blessing of the ELCA’s demonic decision. The tornado does not demonstrably prove that God’s wrath was being poured out on the ELCA. I would expect God’s wrath to involve bodies of the supporters of sexual perversion within the ELCA to be strewn about the church lawn.”

    “demonic decision/”
    “bodies of the supporters of sexual perversion within the ELCA to be strewn about the church lawn.”

    Stan: I don’t know who you are. I don’t know you from Adam. I don’t know your background or your context or your learning or authority. However, I think you should be rebuked for using this kind of rhetoric. This is reckless. This sounds like you are actually desiring some kind of wrathful retribution, verging on a curse (Luke 9:54-56). That, to me, is demonic. This isn’t a call to repentance. Your words sounds like giving free reign to hate. Let us remember that “murder, evil thoughts, slander, arrogance, and folly” are included with Jesus’ condemnation of sexual immorality (Mark 7:24). Woe. We are neglecting the more important matters of the law- justice, mercy, and faithfulness. (Matt 23:23)

  33. Blake says:

    TC,

    So, you believe that God did have a purpose for this particular tornado, but not that the purpose was a sign of judgment or warning?

  34. Peter Kirk says:

    Blake, I want to try to understand your question about randomness and sovereignty.

    Suppose I am totally in control of what happens in my house (where, in the illustration, I live alone and isolated). Nevertheless I can for my own amusement play games of chance, throwing (truly random) dice etc. I can even decide on some things I do e.g. what I wear or eat based on the throw of a dice. Does that mean I am out of control? Of course not! I can stop playing the game whenever I like. I don’t even have to follow its rules – if the dice tells me I should eat something that I don’t fancy that day I don’t have to eat it. Nevertheless there is a real element of randomness in the details of what happens in the house.

    Similarly, God can be in total control of the universe but also choose to allow random things to happen, in inconsequential matters. And if they have unexpected consequences affecting his wider purposes, he can intervene (subtly) to put things right. This is not my position, but it is surely a logically tenable one which does not compromise God’s complete sovereignty.

  35. TRex says:

    Jenell Paris has a creative take on Piper’s interpretation.

    http://jenellparis.blogspot.com/

  36. Blake says:

    Peter,

    Thanks for trying (and succeeding) to understand my inquiry; the position you described is essentially my own. Included in God’s total sovereignty is His choice to allow random events. But, I’m still interested in why people other than yourself do not find such a position logically tenable. I simply have not heard many arguments to the contrary; much less convincing ones.

  37. Juan Sarmiento says:

    Without agreeing with the decision of the ELCA, I believe that Boyd is more on target.

  38. William says:

    It seems to me that those who are attacking Piper are falling off the horse on the other side. If Piper cannot be sure that God sent the tornado as a warning to the ELCA, then how can some of the smug commenters here be sure that God did not send it?

  39. Pingback: central lutheran church eugene review | susan goodloe san diego

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