Please note: I have edited this from its original form for a couple of reasons. One, John Piper released a follow up tweet that brings more clarity to what he was trying to communicate. It is included in the body of the post. I think his point was muddled in trying to communicate a large idea in 140 characters. Two, I want to be gracious. I think the fire in my bones led me to be more indignant than necessary. Three, I do not want to miss-characterize Piper’s position and argue a strawman.
We pray for Oklahoma and those affected by the tornadoes of May 20, 2013. We mourn with those parents who didn’t get to put their kids to bed that night. We unite with a community of people whose lives have been laid to rubble. We even marvel at the swift compassion humanity is capable of as individuals and organizations began mobilizing efforts of compassion.
And we pray.
This makes it absolutely incomprehensible that, just hours after the images began rolling across my computer screen, I saw this tweet from John Piper.
I’m not sure what bothers me more about this. That in the face of loss and tragedy Piper callously quotes a random scripture to make a point I cannot fathom, or that 50 (since I imported this picture I saw another that had 65!) people retweeted it.
Granted, Piper did take the quote down rather quickly. But I cannot for the life of me figure out what he was trying to communicate. Was he trying to say that this stuff happens because God ordains it to happen? Was he trying to make a cause and effect connection between people’s sin and God’s judgement as he has in the past? Or did he find a verse that reminded him of the days events and so just tweeted it out? I can’t figure it out.
It doesn’t matter. It should never have been there.
Now, I never meant for this blog to be about horrendous tweets coming out of the neo-Reformed circles of Evangelical Christianity, but my goodness. The pastor/theologian/disciple of Jesus in me feels like Paul calling out Peter for not eating with Gentiles. Please, stop the insensitive espousing of theology. There is no glory in it! Christ is not glorified in this use of scripture any more than he is glorified by a church sign in summer asking, “You think it is hot here?” This use of scripture is reminiscent of those who “studied the scripture in vain” for they missed Jesus. God is not glorified by how well we can quote the Bible and then forget grace. Dogma devoid of love is useless. Christ is glorified when we love well. When we sit with those who mourn and are burdened with grief.
I want to believe Piper isn’t really that insensitive. I really hope it was a case of a thought getting muddled by trying to communicate it in under 140 characters. His follow up tweet shows a desire for the compassion and mercy of God to be seen (My hope and prayer for Oklahoma is that the raw realism of Job’s losses will point us all to his God “compassionate and merciful.” Jam.5:11 Desiring God has further explained HERE). It wouldn’t be the first time a person has been misunderstood while communicating via social media. In fact, the story of Job and the powerful losses he experienced is a source of comfort for those experiencing pain. It is likely this is what Piper was trying to point to. However, this tweet falls short.
Admittedly, part of the reason I get so inflamed by the seeming insensitivity of neo-Reformed pastors is because I am Reformed. I hold to the beliefs of the sovereignty of God in all things. But I also hold to mystery, meaning I don’t know why God chooses to allow somethings. Like storms. Like violence. I believe that the one who spoke the world into being has so much authority over creation that “even the wind and the waves obey him,” but I also know that at the fall, all things broke. All things. Creation included. Tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunami’s are evidence of the futility that creation has been subjected to. These beliefs are all held in tension with one another. Sadly, too many people who align themselves with Reformed theology take the idea of God’s providence to its theological extreme of hyper-Calvinism (just to be clear, I am not saying Piper is a hyper-Calvinist). This results in theological self-righteousness, and as we know, it is very difficult for self-righteousness to be compassionate. Sovereignty, mystery, brokenness are all truths balancing and nuancing each other such that I cannot make a definitive statement about whether destruction is God’s judgement or wrath or even a part of his plan. To do so would be saying that I know the mind of God – which I do not.
So I live in the tension understanding that specific revelation about what is and what is not the wrath, judgement, or plan of God.
I simply know he is sovereign.
And I know that people are hurting and needing the compassion of Jesus and his followers. So if you are going to quote scripture after a tragedy maybe just use this one.
As those in whom the spirit of Christ dwells, let us humbly weep with those who weep and cry out, “Even so, Come, Lord Jesus.”