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Thursday, March 08, 2012
Tornadoes and Reformed Theology

Here we go again. It seems like every time there is a natural disaster or tragedy we have a Christian leader/pastor or two speak out and tell us that this was the act of God and he is trying to bring attention to himself. This time it is reformed thinker and pastor John Piper who spoke up on his blog about the recent tornadoes that ravaged the southern part of Indiana. I want to deal with Piper’s thoughts and share why I disagree and how it is important to see these events correctly.
I believe this issue highlights a key problems with reformed theology around the concept of God’s sovereignty. Piper, a reformed thinker, lands on the side of God’s sovereignty in a that he eliminates God’s freedom. Thinkers like Piper when faced with tragedy, natural disasters, and crisis, are hemmed in with their view of God to believe that in His sovereignty he must have been the author of these things. I.E. because God is God and he knows all things and is in control of all things, he created these things for his “unknowable” purposes. As Piper said, “The tornadoes were his”.
            There are significant problems with this view in my opinion. First, I agree with Lawson Stone, that many times reformed thinkers hold to God’s sovereignty in a way that enslaves God to his sovereignty and eliminates his freedom. Just because he has the ability to do something, or something has been done, doesn’t mean that he did it. God is sovereign but he is free…and freely chooses. Which brings us to the second point, focused on the character of God. If God is free to choose, as we all agree that he does, what do we know of him and his character to know what types of things he would choose? I recently read a blog from Ben Witherington III in which he was talking about the recent  and unexpected death of his daughter and thinking through why it happened. He mentions that understanding and grieving tragedy begins with “the premise of a good God”. He goes on to say that if God is the type to out of malevolence or even indifference create pain than “all bets are off”.  Witherington goes further by saying,
“If God is almighty and malevolent, then there is no solace to be found in God.   If God is the author of sin, evil, suffering, the fall, and death, then the Bible makes no sense when it tells us that (1) God tempts no one, that (2) God’s will is that none should perish but have everlasting life, and that (3) death is the very enemy of God and humankind that Jesus, who is life, came to abolish and destroy”
What is probably the biggest issue with Piper’s and other reformed thinkers view of a God that uses “his tornadoes” to wipe out towns full of people is that it just doesn’t jive with the God we see in the NT, a God of love, a God that has given his very son to destroy the death of this world.
            So lastly, if God is free to act, and knowing his character we know he is not the author of pain and evil, than why does allow things like this to happen. We have to understand that allowing something to happen is not the same thing as making it happen. For some reformed thinkers it is, but there is a difference. God allows things to happen because he doesn’t want to interfere in a freedom eliminating way.
Things like tornadoes, cancer, war, etc, are not the result of God who is dragging his fingers across the earth, rather, they are the result of sin in this world. Sin that entered God’s good creation because he created humans, the stewards of his creation, with free will and freedom to choose him. In creating in this way he didn’t give up his sovereignty, but gave freedom. He gave of himself, so that his creation could truly love him. Because this freedom was abused and humanity thought themselves to be like God, sin twisted his creation. God has not been using his creation to force people to pay attention to him, he has been working to restore his creation through his Son Jesus Christ.
Tornadoes like the ones last week are signs that the world is still not what it should be, not that God is trying to get the attention of southern Indiana. The hope is this, that we know because of the life death and resurrection of Jesus, that one day creation will be what God originally intended for it. This is not the end of the story, but resurrection is the end of the story. No doubt that even though God did not send the tornadoes, he will use this tragedy for his good, to bring others to him and to show his love.  
posted by Ben Thomas @ 2:09 PM  
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