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March 8, 2012 / Derik Hamby

Farewell, John Piper

When Rob Bell released his new book Love Wins John Piper sent out a tweet that simply read “Farewell Rob Bell.”  Piper felt that Bell had gone too far regarding the topic of the afterlife and that simple statement seemed to be Piper’s way of dismissing Bell as a heretic.

After reading the blog published from John Piper about the recent tornadoes I thought, “Farewell, John Piper.”

I know this is going to anger some of his fans.  John Piper is loved like a rock star by many young Calvinists who seem to gush over his every word.  He sells many books and along with some prominent Southern Baptists (Piper is Baptist but not in the SBC) seems to be the leader in the new reformed movement.

While I am not a Calvinist those facts are not what cause my strong rejection of John Piper.  Nor  it is his complete lack of pastoral grace and love that floors me.

Piper wrote, Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?”

His blog was titled, “Fierce Tornadoes and the Fingers of God.” And the above question he poses is very alarming.  Piper views a God that would “reach down his hand” and dragging “his fierce fingers” across Indiana and other communities.

Piper also states, “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.”

In Piper’s view God killed those folks last week.  Would he say these words at the funeral of the 14-month-old toddler who lost her parents and siblings and survived only to die in the hospital?   What would he say to the extended family who is now burying this entire family?  What would Piper say to the dozens of families grieving this day?   What would he say at the hospital bed to the mother who lost both her legs while she covered her children with her own body?

I can’t imagine Piper’s funeral messages, considering what he writes in his blog.  Just listen to more quotes from Piper, Therefore, God’s will for America under his mighty hand, is that every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every person of every religion or non-religion, turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus rules the wind. The tornadoes were his.  But before Jesus took any life in rural America, he gave his own on the rugged cross. Come to me, he says to America — to the devastated and to the smugly self-sufficient. Come to me, and I will give you hope and help now, and in the resurrection, more than you have ever lost.”

Listen to that phrase, “But before Jesus took any life ….”  Consider that Piper’s view of God is a God that will kill small children or crush the legs of young mothers.

I’m sorry but this doesn’t work for me.  Theologically there are many who will and are giving great responses to Piper’s narrow and rigid view of God.  And that is well and good.  But how pastoral is it to say such things while families are still burying their loved ones?  Standing before a grieving family the pastor should never say, “God took your family.  He killed them.  He did this but remember he also died for you and wants you to be saved.”  Imagine how many people will walk away from such harsh words to never darken the doors of a church again!

I am bothered by much of this rebirth of Calvinism.  I don’t buy much of what I hear, but this is a clear example for me that this more than just theological disagreements for the academy to wrestle over.  This is where theology hits reality.  If one believes in God in this way then this does impact how we counsel and care for those who are grieving and hurting in our churches.

I don’t tell people why things happen.  I don’t know why these disasters happen.  I will not pretend to pontificate about that.  No way.  I don’t know why. I do know that the more important road to take is what.  What will we do now?  The next question is who.  Who will go and help and love and share?

But as we go and love and help those rebuild their lives we can’t walk into their world and tell them that God raked his fingers across their communities and destroyed their homes, schools and churches, and killed their children.  We could point to a God that grieves with them and a God who loves them and a God who wants to help them in this dark hour.  And if they are mad at God and want to wrestle that’s normal.  God will not zap them for being angry.  We have questions that we can’t answer.  But we have a God that loves us through the pain.

In the end we can toss Bible verses back and forth.  We can argue fine points of theology.  But what folks need is not explanations.  They need love and they need us.  And they need the God of love that will carry them through this horrible tragedy.

“Farewell, John Piper!”

One Comment

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  1. Theophilus / Mar 17 2012 8:52 am

    “Shall there be evil in a city and the LORD not have done it?” (Amos 3:6).

    Have you ever thought that your problem might not be with Piper (who I’m not all that craze about either–he’s too liberal and experience-driven in my book) but with Scripture?

    Theophilus

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