Friday, August 21, 2009

Ah, Mr. Piper has joined Pat Robertson, Dave Wilkerson, and Jerry Falwell

It's too bad because I don't disrespect Piper but he just did the tornado-is-a-sign-of-God's-warning thing.

It's unfortunate with Piper because he did such a good job gently correcting Wilkerson a year or two ago. Why turn around and interpret a tornado as a sign of warning against the ELCA for its stance on homosexuality? If the weather had been different would it have been so useful as a didactic illustration?

Now for where I am from it can be easy for some Christians to find Robertson an embarrassment. I've known some people at Mars Hill who find Robertson an embarrassment who do not realize that it is thanks to the legacy of Pat Robertson they can even have the kind of church experience they have. So, believe it or not I have a measured, perhaps grudging, respect for Pat Robertson's influence as a media broadcaster as it connects to Christianity in America. Every time Driscoll does video preaching he should thank Pat Robertson for paving the way.

Now Piper has been moving in a direction of using other peoples' catastrophes as a way to instruct us all on how to joyously accept the providence of God for some time. Of course, he has cancer, why wouldn't he? Would someone suggest that Piper's failure to properly emphasize the love of Christ and Christ earlier in his ministry as a reason God has providentially given Piper cance? The theology of Job's comforters is tooo easy for us to get into. Job's friends were not necessarily wrong in their theology in an abstract sense ... but they were assuredly wrong in their confident attempt to use that theology as the way to interpret Job's life. In the end God said Job's friends had not spoken the truth about Him as Job had. Job was, as God said, not being persecuted with cause due to anything he had done.

Job never seems to find out that all that he suffered was the result of a wager between Satan and God. In fact job never seems to consider Satan at all. If only Job had known about Satan's involvement, perhaps he could have bound the principalities and cut the soul ties and thus rebuked the devil! If only Job had considered what generational sins his family must have committed to open himself up for this kind of torment, perhaps he could have renounced those generational sins and retained his prosperity. Maybe ... and maybe all of that still amounts to sympatheitc magic, witchcraft by another name. We as Christians will not stop struggling with the temptation to have a view of the Lord that is tainted by sympathetic magic, that if we just do X, Y, and Z that God somehow has to do A, B, and C for us.

Conversely, the same principle works in reverse, that if we don't do 1, 2, and 3 that God will punish us with 7, 8, and 9. It's the confidence of one-to-one correspondence we need to be careful about. Any serious study of the narrative literature of the Bible will reveal that God delayed exile and destruction for a startlingly long period of time. Not all famines mentioned in scripture were actually described as a sign of God's judgment. In fact if they WERE what need would there have been for prophets? But I digress, this week was a week where I was disappointed that Piper is still plowing the same furrow of using someone else's troubles as a way to rejoice in God's sovereignty and warn of how we all deserve as much. If he thinks he deserves worse than cancer but for the grace of God then perhaps in appreciation of that mercy he can avoid saying that tornados are a sign of God's judgment when we have the scriptures. As a man in a parable said, if they do not heed Moses and the prophets they won't pay attention if someone comes back from the dead. Still less would they pay attention to a tornado.