John Piper And The Meaning Of Tornadoes

Here we go again:

“We do not ascribe such independent power to Mother Nature or to the devil. God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.”

With this affirmation of God’s sovereignty, John Piper launches into another round of attempting to explain disasters and why God would do/allow such things. This in turn reminds me of a quote I posted here a while ago:

“After Job is hit by calamities, his theological friends come, offering interpretations which render these calamities meaningful. The greatness of Job is not so much to protest his innocence as to insist on the meaninglessness of his calamities. When God finally appears, he affirms Job’s position against the theological defenders of the faith.”

Piper, as well as some of critics who offer alternate explanations, is playing the role of the “theological friend” trying to find meaning in this cruel and seemingly random event. At least one observer points out that Piper is trying to offer completely contradictory reasons at the same time.

There’s a great temptation to go into all kinds of abstract discussion about why disasters befall us – especially in the YouTube age where we all have front row seats to every awful event. Is this type of thing profitable? Should we look at a massive impersonal event as divine punishment and/or testing when it chews up hundreds or thousands of lives in an indifferent fashion?

What happened when Jesus was asked questions along these lines? Asked about a blind man and whether he or his parents sinned, we all know Jesus said,

“[T]his happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me.”

That’s all the “meaning” there is in disaster. If Job says suffering is meaningless, and Ecclesiastes says pretty much everything short of obeying God is meaningless, here Jesus ascribes meaning only in the sense that suffering is an opportunity to do good – i.e.: it has no meaning in the category that most people want it to have meaning (ethical behaviour of victim).

To John Piper’s credit, the end of his tornado post does have a link to a Christian relief organization and suggestion that readers could help out, the problem is that almost everything he wrote before that was superfluous.