Pastor’s tornado tweets stir up a theological debate

Oklahoma’s devastating tornado stirred up a theological debate that was set off from a series of deleted tweets referencing the … Continued

Oklahoma’s devastating tornado stirred up a theological debate that was set off from a series of deleted tweets referencing the Book of Job.

Popular evangelical author and speaker John Piper regularly tweets Bible verses, but two verses tweeted after the tornado struck some as at best insensitive and at worst bad theology:

“Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead.” Job 1:19

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.” Job 1:20

In the Book of Job, God allows Satan to afflict “blameless” Job, killing his 10 children, livestock and servants. While Piper’s tweets didn’t mention the tornado by name, critics said it was too close, and inappropriate.

Piper, who recently retired from the pulpit of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, is a leading theologian of the neo-Calvinist movement that’s sweeping many evangelical churches. In essence, Desiring God staffer Tony Reinke wrote, Piper was highlighting God’s sovereignty and that he is still worthy of worship in the midst of suffering and tragedy.

In response, popular evangelical writer Rachel Held Evans blasted Piper’s “abusive theology of?? ‘deserved’ tragedy,” and said Christians have to stop the idea of responding to tragedy by suggesting God is inflicting his judgment.

“The only thing we need to tell them is, ‘I don’t know why this happened but God is good and God loves us,’” she said in an interview.

However, she apologized in a follow-up post. “Piper’s tweet was vague enough that I don’t know that he was necessarily saying this point this time. Maybe it wasn’t the best time to call him out.”

Piper, who has nearly a half a million followers,??was unavailable for comment but he tweeted a brief explanation, saying in part: “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.’”

“John realized last night pretty quickly that what gives him comfort in the wake of tragedy is not what resonates with everyone,” David Mathis, executive director of Piper’s Desiring God ministry, wrote in an email on Tuesday (May 21).

Idaho pastor and blogger Doug Wilson came to Piper’s defense, saying that the theological issues are logically simple but emotionally complex.

“The Christian church has to return to a robust understanding of who God is,” Wilson said in an interview. “If we do, we won’t have to hash through this with every tragedy.”

Author Philip Yancey said that the worst thing Christians could do is to be like Job’s friends, who tried to explain why God allowed tragedy to strike Job’s family.

“God endorses the confusion and even outrage that we feel when mysterious things happen,” Yancey said. “When suffering happens, it forces us to confront life in a different way than we normally do.”

Megachurch pastor Rick Warren tweeted a few days after the tornado, “In deep pain, people don’t need logic, advice, encouragement, or even Scripture. They just need you to show up and shut up.‥Love.”

This is not the first time Piper has generated theological debate through Twitter. After blogger Justin Taylor suggested Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” book was universalist, Piper tweeted “Farewell Rob Bell” with a link to the post.

Piper also came under fire after suggesting in a blog post that a small tornado during a conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America was a “gentle but firm warning” as it debated its position on homosexuality.

KRE/AMB END BAILEY

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Religion News Service LLC.

About

Sarah Pulliam Bailey | Religion News Service Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for Religion News Service.
  • leibowde84

    The book of Job makes God seem like a jerk. I don’t believe that there is any truth/relevance to the story, and it takes a pretty stupid/insensitive priest to quote from it during a natural disaster.

  • gimpi1

    I believe he has also said abused women should endure their husband’s abuse “for a season” before going to church elders for help. He never mentioned calling 911 – or just leaving – and has implied that he does not regard abuse as a reason for divorce.

    II’m pretty sure he has also said that women need to be totally submissive to their husbands, and that being abused is no excuse not to submit. If your husband hurts you, you need to be more submissive, in his view.

    In other words, consider the source. The guy’s a bubble off plumb.

  • wfmills007

    Your god isn’t good, or bad. Your god doesn’t love, or hate you.

    Do you ask yourself if zeus or posideon approves of your life?

    Will the great sky spirit punish you for your sins?

    Turn away from silly mythology.

    The universe that surrounds us is wonderous, and we are tasked to learn it’s secrets.

    Reason will guide you, not a magic god.

Read More Articles

shutterstock_53190298
Fundamentalist Arguments Against Fundamentalism

The all-or-nothing approach to the Bible used by skeptics and fundamentalists alike is flawed.

shutterstock_186795503
The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

shutterstock_185995553
How to Debate Christians: Five Ways to Behave and Ten Questions to Answer

Advice for atheists taking on Christian critics.

HIFR
Heaven Hits the Big Screen

How “Heaven is for Real” went from being an unsellable idea to a bestselling book and the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

shutterstock_186364295
This God’s For You: Jesus and the Good News of Beer

How Jesus partied with a purpose.

emptytomb
God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

noplaceonearth
An Untold Story of Bondage to Freedom: Passover 1943

How a foxhole that led to a 77-mile cave system saved the lives of 38 Ukrainian Jews during the Holocaust.

shutterstock_148333673
Friend or Foe? Learning from Judas About Friendship with Jesus

We call Judas a betrayer. Jesus called him “friend.”

egg.jpg
Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.

SONY DSC
Dear Evangelicals, Please Reconsider Your Fight Against Gay Rights

A journalist and longtime observer of American religious culture offers some advice to his evangelical friends.