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Disaster and Judgment

John Piper has suggested that the tornado that struck Minneapolis was a judgment on the ELCA for the recent change in their statement on human sexuality. Piper is a great preacher, and despite some disagreements, I love to hear him present a good gospel message, but I find this, and other similar statements, quite disturbing.

I think it is biblical to hold that God can send judgment. But I also think it is Biblical, with Job as the showcase example, to think that disaster need not be judgment. Much damage can be done when Christians are told that all setbacks and hardships are somehow a sign of punishment from God. Suffering may come so that we can learn, it may come despite our best efforts, it may come to the best of us, it may come to the worst of us, and finally, it may come because that’s how things work.

After Hurricane Ivan I was very glad that our double wide trailer was undamaged. As I drove from the home where we had been guests to our home, I saw many similar structures completely gutted. In fact, I had little hope in my mind after the drive that I would find anything where we lived, but there was no damage at all.

So did God love us more than those other people? Was this salvation because we are praying people who put our trust in God? Even in normal circumstances, I would hardly think so. But in this case our 17 year old son was dying, and within a week of the storm he had gone on to be with the Lord. If we could have lost our home and kept our son, what might I have chosen?

So to reverse it, were we much more wicked than all those folks who did not lose children to cancer that day or that week?

It’s simply a dangerous game. If you feel strongly about what the ELCA has done, expressing that belief is appropriate, even expressing it vigorously. But I think it would be better to leave the tornadoes out of it.

I found the Internet Monk’s comments on this very helpful and well stated, though his were in response to a different post.

Update: I had intended to provide links here to my Hand of God series of three essays: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, as well as a story I wrote some time ago for the God-Talk Club series on my Jevlir Caravansary fiction blog, The God-Talk Club: Tornadoes.

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