Rachel Held Evans Denies the Cat

In the aftermath of the Oklahoma tragedy, Rachel Held Evans took John Piper to task for claiming, right in line with the Bible, that if disaster befalls a city, it is from the hand of God (Amos 3:6). Not only is it from the hand of God, but it is from the hand of a holy God. But to know — as insurance companies do — that such things are classified as acts of God, is not to say that God is abusive.

This stance of Piper’s upsets Evans, and she went on at length about it, maintaining that this creates abusive church environments, etc. I don’t want to go point-by-point through her post here — I simply want to make one observation, in line with the great Chesterton:

“If it be true (as it certainly is) that a man can feel exquisite happiness in skinning a cat, then the religious philosopher can only draw one of two deductions. He must either deny the existence of God, as all atheists do; or he must deny the present union between God and man, as all Christians do. The new theologians seem to think it a highly rationalistic solution to deny the cat.”

Here is the problem. Rachel Held Evans rebukes John Piper for answering the problem of evil as all orthodox Christians must, but then cops out herself. “We don’t know exactly why suffering happens in every situation . . .” Now of course this is quite right if we are maintaining that Henry got cancer because he cheated on his taxes three years ago. We don’t know that. But it is staggeringly wrong if we are talking about why our world is broken the way it is. We do know that. We have been told.

Evans goes on at length to tell victims of these and other disasters that they don’t deserve to have these things happen to them. But she does so while serenely neglecting her follow-up responsibility to explain why they are happening then. She says to victims everywhere, “You do not deserve to be abused.” Isn’t the next question obvious? “Why then am I abused?” Is God just or not? Is God in control or not?

John Piper lives in a universe where terrible things happen, but he knows that when we come to know the whole story, we will stop our mouths, and bow before a holy God in order to worship Him — and all manner of things shall be well. To acknowledge God’s sovereignty in such things does not keep our hearts from breaking in the midst of such devastation. The sovereignty of God is a hard shell case that carries and protects the tender heart.

Rachel Held Evans lives in a world where innocent people just get caught in the machinery, and God is terribly sorry about it.

Piper lives in a place where every apparent injustice will ultimately be revealed as part of a rich tapestry of means and ends, all culminating in that glorious Christlikeness that the “all things” in Romans 8:28 is yearning for. Evans lives in a place where our lives can be completely hosed, but at least God felt bad for us while He was making a hash of our little lives. “Don’t worry!” this kosmic klutz king says to us. “You didn’t deserve any of that!” These tornadoes are slippery.

But then, taking back with one hand what she just gave with the other, only a few lines later, Rachel Held Evans says that “God never fails.” Really? He protects the innocent from tornadoes, and tsunamis, and volcanoes, predatory ministers, and He never fails? Why, then, do they still happen?

That, in a nutshell, is how you deny the cat.

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97 thoughts on “Rachel Held Evans Denies the Cat

  1. This is one of the great and wonderful things about the Reformed faith. God is in control. We need fear nothing because God rules all. Even in the face of death, we can trust in God.

    RHE worships a scary God. One that doesn’t really have much control over anything. If that tornado is coming, don’t pray about it because God is not particularly good at stopping tornadoes.

  2. Thank you for this intelligent rebuttal. I was hoping someone with theological chops would take this on. Her critical tone was so unjustified, and made my heart weep.
    The Chesterton quote was new to me, and I just spent some time researching its meaning. (I was hesitant to believe he was referring to a literal skinning of a cat–do people really feel happiness in that? Perhaps young boys do). We cannot deny that we are sinful, no matter how old-fashioned that may seem. Either God is soverign in all, or he is not God.

  3. I’m with the millions of Christians who believe bad things sometimes just happen. Suggesting that they are either punishment deserved or divine plans of destruction that the devil implements–make up a theology I find incompatible with the love and grace of God as revealed by God in Jesus Christ.

  4. Karl, the risk is that you end up worshiping yourself, or more to the point, your own flawed vision of yourself. Sure, you’d never send forth wild, intense destruction on humans to warn them about sin if you were God, but you don’t have the necessary qualifications to be God, nor do you truly know yourself. It’s easy to edit out our anger out of our memory, to act like it’s an aberration rather than a real part of our personality.

    Jesus was a harsh guy at times; he preached destruction while preaching righteousness while preaching love. That was the character he revealed in His actual speech as recorded by the 4 Gospels. The Jesus-designed-by-evangelical-committee wouldn’t have said half of the stuff the Jesus of the Gospels said, but the Jesus of the Gospels is Lord. He was angry and did not sin. He still is angry, and He’s still not sinning.

  5. I can relate to RHE’s rant. She expressed exactly how I sometimes feel. But I am not proud of those feelings because they are rooted in anger, bitterness and a shallow knowledge of God. John Piper, and many others, are so much farther along in their maturity as Christians than I am. Even that can add to my bitterness because of envy. Who will save me from this body of sin and death? Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus!

  6. Thanks for bringing your comments and some clarity to the RHE post, Doug. You’re spot on, and I’ll only add that I found it interesting her entire rant was set off by Piper’s one tweet, a single verse from Job. She was primed and prepared to bring an entire case she’d [apparently] been building against Piper and unleash it in the courtroom of public opinion based on the Job verse, without realizing the entire book of Job is not about God punishing people who “deserve it”, nor does the verse Piper tweeted allude to that in any way. She jumped the gun bigtime, and exposed her deep seated bias and resentment towards Piper and reformed Christians. Which is odd, considering she’s from that clan that promotes the “inclusiveness” diverse theological thinking, no matter how unbiblical or unorthodox it sounds. Well, apparently that inclusiveness doesn’t include everyone, and she’s now on a mission to “stand for truth”. Her truth. And others, like Piper, apparently don’t get that luxury. Interesting.

  7. Thank you for this article. I get the idea that Rachel Held Evans is angry with Piper and wants to destroy his reputation and ministry. What did Piper do to deserve that level of abuse and destruction?

  8. Doug,

    Did you notice how she demoted God to a minor deity, “god” when speaking of Piper’s theology? I’ve not seen her do that before and I’m sure it was deliberate. Such rich grace coming from the 30-something woman who resorts to her pouting chair everytime someone questions her Evangelical bona fides and has a penchant for posting origami pictures with the vile names she gets called clearly visible.

    The woman is a shameless manipulator.

  9. Pastor Wilson

    I do hope you and your family are well, thank you for your insightful post. If I may ask a question, do you think it a “sin” or in someway wrong to continue to develop technology that helps us detect such events and offer warning or even mitigate such weather phenomena in the future? Thanks

  10. I don’t understand why any human capable of rational and compassionate thought would care what a misogynistic racist like you would think…

  11. Donna, it’s that Piper boldly, happily, and pretty much unapologetically embraces and proclaims the teachings of Scripture that Evans hates. He doesn’t leave Evans with a wee little god who says “Yes, dear” every time she throws a fit.

  12. Ah, yes, Doug Wilson quotes a Roman Catholic to defend a Calvinist. What fun! As usual, rationalism on both sides of this issue fails miserably. It has been the enemy’s sole task from the Garden until now to impugn the character of the Father.

  13. Donna,

    I run into that same attitude among some friends of mine, and it really has nothing to do with Piper at all, although he is a target.

    It seems to me to be simply, as Doug mentioned in his post, a reaction against a God who controls the whole world, but who controls it in a way that I wouldn’t. Somehow that makes people angry and, I suppose, it’s easier and somehow more holy to call John Piper “a reproach upon the body of Christ” than it is to call Jesus “a reproach upon the all-encompassing, never ending, same for everybody, never do anything I might think is unkind or difficult, love of God.”

    That’s what I run into at least.

  14. Brian, I believe it is our charge and responsibility to fight evil — both moral evils and such natural evils. We do not see all things subject to man yet . . . but we see Jesus.

  15. The “alleged child abuse” you mean…

    Everything happens at either the hand of God or with the permission of God, however you want to say it.

    Perhaps you are suggesting that God didn’t know about it? Or couldn’t stop it? Or or or…?

  16. That was another issue I didn’t have space to pursue. In RHE’s world of victimization, an accusation is the basis for as much indignation as a just and honest conviction would be — because justice and honesty have nothing to do with it.

    But take another instance, where due process was actually followed, and a true conviction was obtained. There are tragically many of those. Yes, God freely and unalterably ordains whatsoever comes to pass. But never forget that this includes His righteous and holy judgments, and He will put all such travesties to right by the end.

  17. I can even do better than that! I can quote the Anglican Lewis praising the Puritans for being much more Chestertonian than their adversaries — a goal toward which we should all aspire.

  18. We live in a dynamic world where lots of stuff happens – tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. We now understand that it is this very dynamism that raises land out of the sea, and that drives the various cycles (water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus) that make life on earth possible. Seen in this broader context, this dynamism and its consequences are actually a blessing. Without them, we wouldn’t even be here. At least as far as natural disasters are concerned, then, I suspect that understanding this is lifting the edge of the curtain just a little bit to have a peek when it comes to understanding the bit about “all things working for good”, ultimately.

    Unfortunately, all too often people get in the way, and get hurt or killed. It is a mystery why God allows that to happen; of course, it is also a mystery why God didn’t create a world in which we are just robots or puppets, always doing exactly what we should at every moment. Wishing that natural disasters wouldn’t happen is wrong-headed, for that ultimately means wishing that we were not alive. Wishing that they wouldn’t hit us is just wishing that they would hit someone else, and that is hardly a commendable sentiment. What we really need to be hoping and praying for is that people would be less foolish. All too many people make foolish choices that needlessly put themselves in harm’s way – building on coastal barrier islands in hurricane country, for example, or building in a flood zone, or living on the slopes of a volcano. In other cases, the natural hazard is so ubiquitous (tornadoes, for example) that the best one can do is to assume that sooner or later one will hit, and to take prudent measures to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your most valuable possessions as best as one can – and then pray.

  19. Matt. 5:45 “that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

    Matt. 24:6 “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come”

    The only thing we can say for certain is that western society is sick with sin and that the Bible is filled with warnings of our downfall as a result. Tornadoes have been occurring in Ok and other parts of the country since before folks have lived there. Weather happens. Bombers and massacres are another story. Before Bill Ayers in the ’60′s those things didn’t happen here. The Greg Boyd style theologians have a very difficult time accepting a God of love and mercy who is also a God of judgement just as some folks have a difficult time accepting a God of judgement who is also a God of love and mercy. I find it very comforting to know two things: 1. I don’t have to have an answer for everything under the sun because I have put my faith and trust in the One who does. 2. The more I desire to know my Savior and choose to be obedient to his laws, the more of Himself He reveals to me through His Word.

  20. I agree completely with this evaluation of Rachel’s post (though it is a touch snarky when presenting her view). However, her first motivation for making the comments is valid even though she botched the response. Though I love Piper and consider him to be pivotal in my becoming a Reformed Baptist, I cringed when I saw that tweet. Rick Warren’s tweet on this issue – In deep pain,people don’t need logic,advice, encouragement,or even Scripture.They just need you to show up and shut up. – is on the other end of the spectrum. While I have respect for both of these men, I think a balance is needed. No scripture is just as harmful as the wrong scripture. I think Piper is right to have taken down the tweet.

  21. Would that all men…oops, I mean humans…oops, I mean hupersons…oops, I mean huperoffspring*…were as misogynistic and racist as Pastor Wilson. Which is, of course, to say, not at all.

    *Ten points for anybody who can name the source I stole this from.

  22. Is Piper correct in his theology? I am not sure that is the question. I know that he is quite learned and I respect his thoughts. But, there is a time and place for everything according to Ecclesiastes 3.

    IMO, the first response to a painful event, like a man being diagnosed with a terminal cancer, should not be to lecture him on the finer points of pain and suffering. A simple “i’m sorry and I am here for you” is appropriate. The shock of such an event like losing your child in a tornado or an accident is overwhelming. It is a gut punch to your emotions which overwhelms your capability to “think it through.” I can speak from experience to this.

    After a few weeks, the acute pain subsides a bit and then the person might be more receptive to discuss, and understand, the complex issues surrounding God and pain. Empathetic timing is perhaps the best approach.

  23. One of the things I’m mildly curious about is how the people who are lashing out at Piper would react if God started to pour out His wrath, and perhaps He will in our lifetimes, ala Revelation. That seems to me, at least, to be the natural progression of this whole argument taking to its conclusion.

  24. RHE is an enemy to our rich Christian faith. She somehow snuck onto the Christian sceen and is effectively poisoning the well with her feminism and false god. In short, RHE should be shunned by all godly women. The Puritans and Reformers wouldn’t let their wives go to coffee with The RHE.

  25. It seems to me that the problem with Piper’s response is not a theological one, so much as a question of timing and compassion. And this IS a problem with his, and your, response, which misses this point. It is insensitive and unkind to preach the sovereignty of God in the moment of disaster. You are right. We do not know God’s plan or motives, and He is in control. But to evoke theology at this time rather than to “weep with those who weep” seems wrong to me, even if it is good theology. A more loving response would be to join in the suffering of those whose lives have just been devastated, to just sit in the ashes with them and mourn. True religion, says James, looks after those in distress. I don’t think it includes preaching to them about theology in the very moment of their loss.

  26. It seems to me that the problem with Piper’s response is not a theological one, so much as a question of timing and compassion. It is insensitive and unkind to preach the sovereignty of God in the moment of disaster. You are right. We do not know God’s plan or motives, and He is in control. But to evoke theology at this time rather than to “weep with those who weep” seems wrong to me, even if it is good theology. A more loving response would be to join in the suffering of those whose lives have just been devastated, to just sit in the ashes with them and mourn. True religion, says James, looks after those in distress. I don’t think it includes preaching to them about theology in the very moment of their loss.

  27. Doug,

    Looks like Piper was right here. And Rachel responded to Piper wrongly – he was trying to identify the victims with Job, a blameless victim who responded to suffering with worship. But Piper’s responses through the years have seemed to move us toward the response of Job’s friends: disaster as caused by some sin on our part. Yes, death is the result of sin and we all deserve death as the result of our sin, but Rachel is right to say that God doesn’t blame the victim in any specific case (Christ, Job, Paul). And Christ’s example (along with so many other examples in Scripture) show that God’s response to suffering is to be present with the sufferer, and even to take on suffering for Himself.

    And, you elide too much when you say you don’t want to go point by point through Rachel’s post. Mahaney may make her case pretty well. There has been some closing ranks here among some Reformed folks. What about her argument that this kind of theology further victimizes victims, similar to the way that RCC theology around the hierarchy protects child molesters?

  28. I’ve always been struck by the fact that God knew in advance of the massacre of the innocents under King Herod and alluded to it beforehand in scripture. It didn’t take Him by surprise and He certainly could have stopped it from happening, but it was part of His story. And interestingly enough, when the Christmas story is recounted most people don’t seem to have a problem seeing it that way. So it’s just a matter of applying the same principle across the board.

  29. Out of the 11 plantiffs in the SGM lawsuit, 6 I believe involved situations where the abuser was actually convicted, so no I don’t mean “alleged”

  30. I do agree to a point with Piper that God is in total control and with Ms. Evans that God is not sitting on a throne saying, well Moore, OK take that! The problem with all of it is this, neither fully know the truth of scripture from its full meaning, for if they did they could both see the truth. If you want to know the truth of both the Job scripture and the truth of all these disasters, you must first ask a Rabbi! His answer might just astonish you all!

  31. I have no problem with John pulling down the tweets. I agree with that. I was interacting with RHE. In short, I agree with you about timing.

  32. Surely you see the irony in this statement placed at the end of an article you just read. That was a quick kiss goodbye to your own compassion and rationality.

  33. What a helpful response! On this subject I think that Bavinck expressed the right convictions about the Fatherly love and sovereign dominion of God in the right way with these words:

    “It is above all by faith in Christ that believers are enabled — in spite of the riddles that perplex them — to cling to the conviction that the God who rules the world is the same loving and compassionate Father who in Christ forgave them all their sins, accepted them as his children, and will bequeath to them eternal blessedness.

    In that case faith in God’s providence is no illusion, but secure and certain; it rests on the revelation of God in Christ and carries within it the conviction that nature is subordinate and serviceable to grace, and the world [is likewise subject] to the kingdom of God.

    Thus, through all its tears and suffering, it looks forward with joy to the future. Although the riddles are not resolved, faith in God’s fatherly hand always again arises from the depths and even enables us to boast in afflictions.”

  34. Moore, OK has been hit by two tornadoes since 1999 before this one, including one in which the highest wind speeds on Earth were recorded.

    People decided to stay there despite knowing this.

    Ergo, God sucker-punched them with a tornado that NO ONE could have possibly predicted would arrive.

  35. But Piper’s responses through the years have seemed to move us toward the response of Job’s friends: disaster as caused by some sin on our part. Yes, death is the result of sin and we all deserve death as the result of our sin . . .

    The statement in your last sentence happens to be about as far as Piper has gone. In only one of RHE’s linked posts (the one about the tornado that hit downtown Minneapolis a few years ago — which, for anyone concerned about possible tone-deafness, did not injure a single person) did Piper come close to venturing beyond the general principle.

    As for Doug’s decision to skip the Sovereign Grace allegations here, I think that’s appropriate. I’ll go one further: RHE should have skipped them in her post. Neither guilt by association, nor judgment upon a theology by its abuses, furthers clarity in controversy.

  36. Sorry, but this is not what happened. In the aftermath of the tornado, Piper made a biblical point about the general human condition. In the aftermath of the tornado, RHE made it an opportunity to attack a bunch of people by name — and her attack was no less an expression of a particular theology for being tangled and inconsistent. As you put it, people won’t care that you know until they know you care. What does Piper care about? The answer is repentance, which is to say, he cares about people.

  37. I agree with you, Dan. Piper merely quoted a Scripture that would have deep meaning for God’s children suffering in the middle of the disaster in OK. The dear lady is the one who is being abusive, trying to cut God’s people off from the Source of comfort, it seems to me. There is no comfort in a god who is not in control of the wind and the waves. Her god is not the God of all comfort.

  38. Hi, Daryl,
    I agree with you 100%. I don’t know Dr. Piper personally, but I do know some of what he does for the poor, the abused, and the suffering around the world. He cares deeply, and proves it by his actions. But this attack is not primarily about Piper, as you point out.

    I have heard people in OK give praise and glory to God even after they have lost everything. It is not all that strange for Christians to have that kind of reaction in the Spirit.

    Take care,
    Donna

  39. Hey, Stefan,
    I like your response. Our culture is not fatalistic, so most of us think that God has given us ways to see the possibility of danger and avoid it wherever possible. We expect nature to be violent at times, and we can take appropriate action.

    Thanks,
    Donna

  40. Just one more comment. I spent a lot of time worshiping a sort of scary God – one that was in control, mostly. Before anyone says that I must not have suffered much, or known what abuse is let me assure you that I am very well acquainted personally with abuse, natural disasters, terrorism, family tragedies, and lots of other very scary things. I think that the older one gets, the less satisfying it is to believe in the scary god who is not God all the time, in every situation. That is the God who in Christ, loved me and gave Himself for me. Anyway…

  41. Love John Piper on many, many things. However, regardless of the right and wrong of the deeper theological nature of what Piper said, is Twitter the appropriate vehicle to make these comments? Anyone who has to delete a tweet is skating on thin ice. Once you’re a tweet deleter it’s only a matter of time before you end up having to delete your account because you are losing the ability to discern how you come across in that medium. It’s not exactly the must nuanced medium, as Piper’s longer explanation demonstrated. Leave the soundbites to those who have nothing else to say. Piper is better than Twitter, and shouldn’t need Douglas Wilson to explain or excuse him.

  42. Superb Doug. Penetrating, wise, articulate and faithful to Scripture.

    RHE seemed to assume the worst about John Piper. She assumed that he was coldly sending out tweets on the day of disaster with a “that’ll teach ‘em” attitude. Anyone who has read or heard the man will know that the opposite is true. Like Paul in Romans 9:1-5, John writes these things with anguish and sorrow.

    Furthermore, for her to invoke cases of child abuse to damn the classical view of God was shameless opportunism and made a mockery of real, hurting victims. The comments on her “Forgive Me” post exposed her loving, Jesus community followers as capable of worse bile and all round jerk-ery than I’ve ever seen on Reformed blogs.

    It was good to come across this sane rebuttal and read comments from folk who love the God of Scripture.

  43. To defend, at least, the emotion behind RHE’s response – certainly not the logic – she’s expressing something that myself and several others have felt for years, and the reason why I at last left the faith. And that is that all attempts to rationally deal with evil and with an all-powerful, loving God at the same time ultimately fail, at least if we accept that God does not act because he won’t act, not because he can’t. I’m left with two options – believe that God is evil, or believe that God is good, but that I don’t understand good, or evil, or certainly not God. And calling God “good” when I’ve written off understanding what Good is in the first place is hardly complimentary to God.

    I mean no offense.

  44. “John Piper lives in a universe where terrible things happen, but he knows that when we come to know the whole story, we will stop our mouths, and bow before a holy God in order to worship Him — and all manner of things shall be well. ” Please don’t quote Julian of Norwich like that. It really twists her words to mean something very different than what she meant.

  45. Pastor Wilson,

    This comment has nothing to do with the merits of your argument; I just love the new design for your blog. Kudos for making the leap to WordPress.

  46. About 2 years ago my 4 year old son died very suddenly. While he lay lifeless on my living room floor as I tried to breath life back into him, my 10 year old son stood next to us crying frantically. In between breathes I looked at him and said “no matter how this turns out God is in control.” In that moment of sheer terror that was the truth that held me together.

    I loved both the message and the timing of Pipers response. Some were offended, but I’m sure to others they were words of life.

  47. Pastor Wilson I think this is an interesting twist on the subject, great post. To Karl, Thanks for what you said. The outcome of believing that bad things just sometimes happen is definitely not self worship (Hey Matt, check out a fantastic book called Play the Ball Where the Monkey Drop It to test out that mentality). Christians come up with all sorts of round about arguments to justify such beliefs. I am geologist and will speak with some authority here: One thing we can say for sure about natural disasters is that they are part of the perfect order and chaos this is the stuff of this earth. Every “disaster” brings about renewal (how Calvin College of me) when it is said and done, this would happen whether we humans are here or not. Rachel is correct in saying that we don’t *really* know why humans are sometimes so devastated by these events, but we do know they were not made explicitly for *us*

  48. I didn’t always agree with Hitch, but I liked him. And I don’t know how many times I heard him rebuke this very argument in his debates with you. God ordained child abuse = God is a monster. And our suffering should be meaningful to us in the hear and now, rather than having to wait for justice in the afterlife. Frankly, your God (in the way you conceive of him) is too big.

    You’re a smart guy, and I like a lot of things you say. But I guess I don’t understand the Reformed guys.

    I can hear him now: “Really Douglas, you can do much better than this.”

  49. I know that God is, and that He is The Author of all creation, and as such has all authority for all definitions, including that of good and evil. Blaming God for His actions or omissions is an old habit of fallen creation, when the proper response is quite Jobian in both acknowledging that God as God gives and takes as is His right, and that there is much beyond our comprehension. (“Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…Therefore I abhor myself,
    And repent in dust and ashes.”) Man in his desire for autonomy does not want to submit by acknowledging that there is One much greater than we can imagine in view. An accurate view is not stoic but recognizes that our vision is so limited that we cannot assign ultimate value in an accurate fashion.

    Jesus was faced with the similar type of accusation, “Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died”. It is both a confession of belief in His power to intervene, and blame for His failure to do so. His purpose ( “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.”) was not in view to those whose view was limited.

    We weep with those who weep, but we do not deny that His ways are not ours. If we do so, we make the same mistake as quoted by the Psalmist: “You thought that I was altogether like you.”

  50. God demonstrated that his love and grace often don’t look the way we expect when he planned and allowed the worst punishment to happen on the cross. There is a lot of mystery in this, yes, but we either believe that God was in control when Jesus died or that He wasn’t. What one believes about that extreme event will inform these other daily examples.

  51. Rachel is right. His comment was highly insensitive; even absurd. If Dr. Piper has the need to attribute Natural disasters and the agony they inflict to God’s judgment, then he should do it at later times and never mention places. It served no purpose other than to hurt even more. And trying to make some sense out of his mistake is doubly absurd-what a disgrace!

  52. Dear Greg,

    Timing is very important when speaking to the down-trodden (words in due season), but when you say that the concept of God ordaining whatever comes to pass is ridiculous, this is a major theological concession on your part. Is God not all powerful? Is He not good? Is He neither?

    You saying that we cannot make sense out of this is not avoiding giving a reason to the event. You simply give a different answer than the Bible does, and in doing so, you remove any purpose from it, so that those who died just….died, for no reason. Yet, God is supposed to be praised in all things, and we are to trust someone like that? Or do you think that telling someone who that you may not know the reason God did something, but He can be trusted to have a good reason, is somehow more comforting than saying, essentially, life is a crap shoot, or explaining how hot and cold atmospheric air just sort of randomly collided one fine day, and God was not involved.

    You and I and the other commenters won’t be able to hammer out all the details of theodicy in the comments section on someone else’s blog. I doubt that Piper was trying to hurt people. Further, regardless of his motive, there is a reason that the Scriptures tell us to rejoice in all seasons, and to trust in the Lord in all things, and it is not because we are giving God a pep talk after he accidentally misses a tornado, or after He was outfoxed by the devil. We may not know what His reasons are, and we should not presume to speak any more specifically than His revealed Word would warrant. But, as a general statement, Piper is correct – even nature groans in its current out-of-tilt, sin marred state according to Paul, and this situation is judicially inflicted on the world and its inhabitants by…..God. Not nature, not the devil, but God, according to His curse on the earth and mankind at the beginning of Scripture.

    I do not believe the Bible indicates that rejoicing in the midst of hardship means pretending that something which is unpleasant is actually pleasant. But we can rejoice in God knowing that the cup we drink was given to us by Him, and not the devil, and not unrestrained people acting outside of His sovereignty, and not by random eventuation. And if that is not the case, then there is NO purpose in the sufferings in this world, and therefore there is no moral high-ground on your part for taking issue with Piper. If their woes just kind of happened, then what does it matter that you think Piper was being insensitive? You want a purpose driven sensitivity in a purposeless world of purposeless suffering? So you want irrationality? God is either absent, or incompetent, or weak in this scenario you argue for.

    God has a morally sufficient reason for the calamity which He plans or allows; you and I do not know what that is, but we are to trust the goodness of the One who would not spare His own Son.

    If God ordaining the tornado in Oklahoma bothers you, then what you have inadvertently done is removed any purpose to it at all. And as for God not allowing us to be tempted and tried beyond what we can bear – out the window goes that promise, since for all you and I know, maybe things happen that God has no responsibility for, but which might very well be beyond our ability to bear. And as for trusting in God for my salvation – maybe He will botch that up to, if He cannot even regulate the weather. Maybe one of us will be snatched from His hand after all, like the ones who died in Oklahoma, apparently for no reason and not by God’s sovereign decision.

    No, this issue is very important, and what Piper strikes at is the issue of authority more than anything else. The dressing down God gave Job in the last several chapters of that book would apply to those critics of Biblical theology who want to “save” God from the credit He readily, unashamedly takes as our Lord (Exodus 4:11).

  53. I agree with you, Ian. Some folks are wired like you or like me, and Piper’s tweeting of Job scratches the itch at its precise center. 2 years ago we went through a sudden trauma with our son – who did not end up dying – but had friends speaking “no matter how this turns out God is in control” in our ears along the way. I needed it. I welcomed it. I love that they loved me enough to do that for me.

    RHE has already made a semi-apology and tried to soften her stance on Piper, but the cat – if there is one, Doug – is out of the bag. It’s too bad that so many people soak up her words.

    Another point I keep thinking is this – Piper is tweeting to a global audience. I assume his response were he standing face-to-face with a citizen of Moore, OK, on the lawn of a destroyed home would have been much more tender, though based in the same theology. I think we need to keep context in mind, and if we did on these tweets, there wouldn’t be such a rush to outcry.

  54. Jesus said things that could be construed as insensitive. Is that the standard for hearing something? Good grief, man.

  55. Greg, to what are you responding? Piper mentioned nothing specific, mentioned no natural disaster, and mentioned no place.

    He quote a passage from Job without commentary or context. Whatever might be said about the timing of his tweet or the presumed thought behind it, he did none of what you said should never be done.

  56. I’ve always found it interesting that God never condemns Job’s friends for remaining quiet for awhile. It’s when they start to speak their opinions about God that they start to get into trouble. I’ve come to see the wisdom of sitting quietly for a season and mourning with those who suffer a tragedy, but when it comes time to speak, I try to be sure it’s the truth about God from his own revealed word instead of just my opinions.

    And having been through several tragedies myself, I can assure you that truth from God is a comfort far beyond the best the world can provide of, “Stuff happens.”

  57. OFF SUBJECT:

    You have got to fix how the comments post. I can tell that some respondents are commenting on another comment, I just can’t tell which.

    And what is that apparently random black line between some comments?

  58. The black box is evidently a marker for site owner comments.

    I agree, either remove the ability to reply directly to a comment so that people are forced to specify what they’re responding to, or add something to make the “threading” more obvious.

  59. I love how you focused on what I called you instead of addressing your obvious racism and misogyny. Nice deflection. In any case, I’d like to see you defend your obviously backwards views. But I doubt you will. Because you know that it won’t fly with most civilized humans in the 21st century, and rightfully so.

  60. The more I read about Piper and the so called “New Calvinists” as well as all the mean spirited and hateful rhetoric coming out of the mouths of most of the “Religious Right” the more terrified I become that we are indeed in the last days and that these “leaders” are the false prophets spoken of by Jesus himself. Sure, it’s easy pickings to label lunatics like Benny Hinn and the name-it-and-claim-it crowd as “false prophets” but perhaps it goes deeper and darker than the obvious. There is something about these “New Calvinists” that gives me the creeps. The only thing to do is pray that the Lord will give me the wisdom to see them for what they truly are.

  61. What bothers me about John Piper’s quote of Amos 3:6, is that he conveniently disregards the next verse – v. 7 “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets.”
    THe question that RAGES in my mind and, I believe, should make any Bible believing Christian stop and pray just the same, is NOT “Why are there indeed calamities in our cities?” but, “Why does the Lord allow these things to fall upon us “WITHOUT REVEALING HIS SECRET COUNSEL TO HIS PROPHETS beforehand?” as Amos 3:7 says He does. Having Christians stand up after a calamity and cry out ” This is a judgment from the Hand of God…” for this reason or that, (as many of us have heard Pat Robertson do in the past) helps no one. Christians should be wondering, and seeking God in prayer so as to discover why we are not hearing His secret counsel. And don’t tell me the gift of prophecy is not for today. Ha! If Amos 3:6 applies to us today, then so does Amos 3:7. Period. They go together.

  62. sounds like alot of hate going on here……when are Christians going to stop persecuting each other? Love, Love, Love

  63. > I don’t understand why any human capable of rational and compassionate thought would care what a misogynistic racist like you would think…

    By contrast, I don’t even understand why any human capable of rational thought believes that compassion is a product of rationality.

    Or why someone who values rationality would have to resort to question-begging epithets to make a point.

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