When tornadoes, storms, floods, or other natural disasters and accidents happen, lots of questions get raised. John Piper, a man I greatly respect and have been blessed by, hasn’t been afraid to address the big questions that arise when they happen. In 2009 a tornado struck downtown Minneapolis and Piper addressed it. When the recent tornadoes went through the Midwest, again, Piper addressed it.
Theologically speaking, I agree with Piper’s assessment of God’s sovereignty over these issues. I simply take issue with how Piper discusses this subject as I don’t find his methods as helpful as others do. And of course, I’m not alone in being critical of his point, though that’s not the point of this post.
Hank wrote An Open Letter to John Piper that raised some great issues and pointed out some of the inconsistency found within Piper’s theology (for the record, I’m sure we’re all inconsistent). I really appreciated Hank’s post.
But I have to say that the best post I have read is by William W. Birch – Chasing John Piper’s Tornadoes. Birch is an Arminian… *gasp!*… but still doesn’t seen how we can deny that God is in control of the world (the *gasp* was a joke, folks… lighten up!). In fact, Arminius seems to agree with Calvin on this matter (see this post)!He writes,
“As far as weather and God is concerned, I believe that He is in control of all things. Notice that Jesus had power and authority over storms (Matt. 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:25). God was capable of calming that outbreak of storms recently but He did not do so. Any view to the contrary is a converse perspective to scriptural truth and is nothing shy of constructing God in one’s own image.”
See, Arminians aren’t so bad. You should really read the whole post because Birch also acknowledges that “suggesting God permitted but did not decree the tornadoes [is] not a helpful answer.” Why? He goes on:
“First, the notion of God merely permitting any act appears deistic and contrary to Scripture. (God must at least concur with any given action.) Second, God must have at least decreed to permit via divine concurrence the storms, since weather does not have a mind or will of its own. So I do not find the “mere permission” answer sufficient. The mere fact that God could have prevented those storms (or any other geological event) from happening informs us all that God is in control of every minutiae in His universe, which includes tornadoes.”
Birch helpfully raises the right questions and the right answers to this issue. I really appreciated it. And I’m not an Arminian!
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.