The God-tornado storm

church_tornado.jpg A Baptist preacher in Minneapolis is causing a stir today by claiming the tornado that took part of a steeple off a Lutheran church near the Minneapolis Convention Center (near where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was holdings its Assembly) was God’s message to the Lutherans who were about to take up the issue of gays in the pulpit.

Said John Piper:

The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

As part of his proof, Piper noted the significance of the occurrence…

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts–most saying they’ve never seen anything like it.

True, perhaps, that there was no expectation that a tornado — a pretty darned small one — would hit Minneapolis, but severe weather was not surprising. Here’s Paul Huttner’s note from his Updraft blog on Wednesday morning:

The overnight rain was just round one of a slow-moving weather system that will bring waves of showers and thunderstorms through Thursday. The system will set up shop over the state, bringing more rainfall to some of the drought parched areas. It will not rain all the time, but expect periods of rain into Friday morning before the system pulls out.

That said, I’m not qualified to say what God’s message is based on the weather provided on the day such an issue is discussed. When the Northwest Minnesota Synod discussed this last spring, the weather was clear and seasonable, high of 68. Low of 34.

Pastor Piper pointed out that the tornado struck as the Assembly began discussions on the issue, according to its published agenda. But, technically, they hadn’t started yet and one attendee “tweeted” that the biggest groan at the Convention Center came when it was announced the tornado had forced the closure of the pub.

But Piper wasn’t the first to tie the two events together. Lutherans were.

“We trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work,” said Steven Loy, chairman of the committee overseeing the pastoral statement being considered.

Some thought it was, according to Christianity Today:

But WordAlone, a renewal group within the ELCA, reported that both sides sought to find commentary in the weather: “A supporter of the social statement typified the storm as a mighty wind of the Holy Spirit and as a positive message. Some WordAlone Network members heard a different message, a warning of God’s anger at the ELCA in the wind.”

Far above my pay grade is the answer to another question: Why do we think God speaks only through the weather?

  • MNguy

    I happen to have a cat that controls the weather. He’s a lot more approachable after a major snowfall and dislikes being out in the rain which is why we’ve had drought most of the summer. I know it’s not much to go on but I have faith.

  • bsimon

    What about those poor folks in Cottage Grove – did they do something to alienate the almighty as well?

  • Kim V

    The tornado also destroyed a lot of trees in south Mpls. This must mean God hates old trees!! And it damaged the Electric Fetus! No way, God hates vinyl and indie music!

  • Bob Moffitt

    Because of a lack of bushes near the Convention Center to set ablaze, the Allmighty may have been forced to summon a mighty wind to do the talking for him.

    I blame the damage to the Electric Fetus on the forthcoming Christmas album by Minnesota native Bob Dylan. We should feel fortunate that we did not get all 10 plagues of Eygpt for that sin!

  • Eiolg

    Given that the tornado was near the convention center, but the building and the people were spared, perhaps that shows God’s blessing. And what does a whole summer of thick clouds day after day have to say about God’s view of Northern Minnesota?

  • Kim V: It’s obvious that god loves indie and vinyls. Perhaps destroying the Electric Fetus was an anti-abortion statement…? Haha 😛

  • BJ

    This is proof that preachers are nuts.

    Weather IS. QED

  • bsimon

    Thinking further on the issue, don’t most tornados strike in the thick of the bible belt? Therefore, isn’t it not only possible but quite likely that John Piper has it exactly backwards? i.e. the tornado was sent to warn those who are trying to limit the rights of homosexuals, not those who are promoting equality. Clearly the people of Kansas, Oklahoma and the rest of Tornado Alley should take note and repent before they are levelled by the howling winds.

  • Tyler

    God got the timing wrong. He was going to hit the convention center during the car show.

  • phil

    Quick minor correction, Bob: the second quote you give isn’t from Piper, it’s from an unnamed friend of his.

  • Jim!!!

    PZ Myers blogs –

    And a Word from the Man himSelf –

    People like Piper who pipe up such nonsense will continue to be marginalized, hopefully to the point of vanishing.

  • nick

    Seriously, did you censor my non-offensive comment ? Wow, that really discredits this whole comments section. What’s the point of having it?

  • J Smith

    besides, unless a religious group follows all of the tenets of the same book(s) of the bible that they use to justify anti-homosexual claims, can we really give them credence?

  • Jim!!!

    nick – did you comment have links? if so, they’re held for moderation (as was mine).

    phil – I think the part Bob quotes is by Piper.

  • Bob Collins

    /Seriously, did you censor my non-offensive comment ?

    Seriously, yes, I don’t allow obscenities or abbreviations for obscenities. Complain if you want, but News Cut is never going to be the Strib or Pioneer Press comments section. Never.

    Make your point again w/o that.

  • Jon

    The most troubling aspect of this “theory” to me is that it requires a belief in a rather sloppy almighty who accidentally dropped the tornado early in S. Minneapolis and then again further north. Is it not equally significant that the sun came out after the vote was taken?

  • Bob Collins

    Phil’s right. The second quote was a friend of Piper’s. I missed that. My fault.

  • kates

    hmm… yesterday when the storm hit the church and convention center in downtown minneapolis, i thought of the storm, the location where it hit, the events taking place in those facilities and wondered how God would be dragged into the discussion.

  • Heather

    Thank you, everyone, for not making this the Strib or Pioneer Press comments section. Truly, I’m grateful!

  • kennedy

    … or is the broken symbol a divine message that the church is broken as long as it excudes those who wish to serve? Is the twister a suggestion that Christ’s message of love has been twisted?

    We see what we want to see when looking for symbolism.

  • Momkat

    I keep hoping people like this Piper creature are becoming fewer but that doesn’t seem like it’s happening. Such a dim-bulb bunch of beliefs.

  • Charlie

    All sorts of theological, metaphysical, moral issues and questions here. One wants God to speak for himself. Weather is so hard to interpret. However, God does still speak through the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. It would be very wise to listen.

  • Jennifer

    It’s interesting where people choose to see God’s handiwork. For me, it was all the photos I saw of the people in South Minneapolis venturing out to check and make sure their neighbors were okay.

    I think it’s far more telling to look not at the damage a natural disaster causes, but how people choose to respond to it.

  • I imagine a day when well known pastors of large churches will see weather damage to another neighboring church and offer their help in repairing it.

    I imagine a day when pastors who respond to others’ hardship with a “you had it coming.” will be out of a job.

    I wish that we all could simply pin this spate of rough weather on the gays. That would be so easy! But in this case it was a “considerate discussion that resolved to agree to disagree about the issue of same-sex couples.” Who or what do we blame? Lutherans? Civility? Open-mindedness? Oh how I long for the days of easy judgment.

  • BJB

    I’d like to ask the preacher some questions:

    If god really wanted to smite gays, why didn’t the tornado hit the Gay 90’s bar a few blocks away? Did god miss? Doesn’t that question god’s omnipotence? What about all of the innocent people put into peril by the tornado? Were the damaged trees gay?

    I could go on…

  • So I will be the lone voice that sees a providential hand of God moving. Keep in mind…the disciples did tremble when Jesus controlled the weather (Mark 4:41) and the Jewish Bible or the Christian Old Testament also agrees that only God has control over all things including the weather (Ps 107:23-32)

  • BJB

    Keep in mind that sacred texts were written thousands of years ago, when people had no concept of thermo- and fluid dynamics, and they needed to explain things that affected their lives. If you choose to believe old explanations, that’s fine. However we (collectively) now understand the fundamentals of weather, which is an improvement upon using scripture to forecast nasty weather. There is room for yet more improvement, and it doesn’t involve sacred texts.

    What bothers me most about the preacher(s) statement is that it blatantly violates the golden rule – “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me”. So does that preacher think that Jesus should be visited by a tornado while in the temple? If you feel you are commanded to go tell it on the mountain, at least make sure you aren’t misrepresenting god when you do.

    2 Thessalonians 2:11-12

    Besides, how can you be sure that the tornado was sent to punish: 2 Kings 11

  • Bob Collins

    When the Assembly voted on Friday, two days of rain ended and the sun came out.

    How do we know that’s not a message? Or that it is?

  • Tony

    BJB: First, “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me” is not the Golden rule. The Golden rule is ‘treat others as you want to be treated’, and that isn’t in the Bible.

    Second, 2 Kings 11 is about a king being anointed…what does that have to do with the comments?

    Third, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 comes in the context of the ‘man of lawlessness’ who opposes the truth, it actually works well for an argument against the Lutheran convention but not against ‘the preacher’. Using that verse is attempting to do something that you feel is so appalling with ‘the preacher’. Text with context is pretext for a prooftext my friend.

    Regarding all posts: It appears that the comments made by John Piper are being measured against a view of Christianity that is sadly mis-informed at best.

  • Tony

    Bob: “How do we know that’s not a message? Or that it is?”

    Thank you for the question, I feel that is more helpful. To truly understand the comments made by John Piper, requires that someone understand that he is not just predicting weather patterns. He is making a very careful logical argument (as he lays it out in numbered points).

    The theological tradition that Pastor Piper comes from is one that believes in the Doctrines of Grace. One of those doctrines is ‘sola scriptura’: Scripture alone. Part of this this doctrine believes in the sole sufficiency of the word of God because it is just that, the Revealed Word of a Creator God. Pastor Piper is not just making a comment about weather patterns. He is making a comment on weather patterns that is deeply informed by his knowledge of scripture. That is why he is commenting on the Lutheran convention and not on what happened in South Minneapolis.

    John Piper knows that no where in scripture does it even imply that homosexual behavior is acceptable. He knows that Jesus Christ is the Great Overseer, Over-Shephard and that pastors are to be his teachers and under-shephards whose lives accord with scripture in word and deed. He sees a bunch of these under-shepherds living lives that are an antithesis in word and deed to scripture on the point of homosexuality.

    John Piper also knows that God is intimately working in His creation and that God ‘decrees’ all things that come to pass, according to the counsel of his will, through creation and providence (God’s governing all creatures and their actions).

    Logically then, he sees these under-shepherds explicitly going against the Laws of God, and he knows that God works through creation and providence. He sees where this tornado strikes and he places the two together to come up with his commentary on the events.

    I don’t think this makes him a thoughtless preacher, but one who has a deep reverence for God and for his powerful workings in and through His Word, His Church, and His Creation.

    That is a long way to say, that if we hold to the sufficiency of scripture, God’s sun would never shine on pastors who are living in direct contradiction to his word.

  • Bob Collins

    Piper made roughly the same argument when the I-35W bridge collapsed.

    And it may be true that Piper’s knowledge of Scripture allowed him to connect the weather with what was going o inside. That’s why I ask why the weather on Wednesday was connected, but not the weather on Friday?

    And why ‘would it be connected to what was going on inside the Convention Center, which was relatively unscathed, and not what was going on in some building on the other side of the church?

    and I said in my original post, why is there not a connection to when the Northwest MN Synod was discussing this in May and the weather that day?

    Maybe he’s right; maybe he’s not. But you don’t need a deep knowledge of Scripture to see the opportunity to see the inconsistency of the application of the logical argument. There’s really no other way to conclude that the answer to the question is: Because it would lead to a different message.

  • BJB

    Amen Bob. There is no way to objectively tell if he’s right or not.

    I’m betting on not, for a number of reasons.

    The bottom line is that one’s spirituality should be a private relationship between an individual and their beliefs. Claims that god is on one side of an issue or another is inappropriate, because the other side will make the same claim (except atheists, who don’t believe in the first place). In WW2 the official SS belt buckles were inscribed with “Gott mit Uns” (God with Us). Would you believe that? They did. Or was it true because they committed genocide against primarily jews, communists, and gays?

    I find it astonishing that a google search for bible quotes, the results of which I posted as bait, produced such a counterargument as above. All the talk of context in the argument, but you fail to mention that adapting a thousand year old translation of a thousand year old text to a specific situation is taking the original (which we might not actually have) out of its context. I have respect for the faithful who acknowledge this simple fact. Those who don’t are making some broad assumptions, and shouldn’t be speaking with such certainty.

  • Bob Collins

    The Scripture is different from the meaning of the weather; that’s all I’m saying. One cannot tie the two together until other questions about the possible meaning of the weather can be answered. That’s a separate issue from whether the Lutherans should be allowing gay clergy.

  • Eiolg

    One can believe that the scriptures are the Word of God, but still hold that interpretation of scripture is fallible because it is done by humans, and also because we don’t have any original texts in the original languages.

    I believe that if God gives messages in the weather, then God would be consistent in these messages and we shouldn’t pick and choose which weather events hold God’s messages. But when we only look at certain storms that hit certain buildings or people, then we can say what ever we want. Then when a storm hits our own home, we can ignore the “message.” Or if the sun is shinning when we want to rob somebody, it must be OK.

  • catamount69

    I start each day with a clean slate with a desire to live as sinless as my creator. With that said I know I will prob. fall short and be disappointed at the end of my day and pray for forgiveness before bed. I DONT start my. day knowing I am going to do as I please I know I am wrong day and night and oh well let me justify this way and that way and argue with my self rightious intellect . Thats all been done before and the outcome was not good to say the least. LORD forgive us all

  • catamount69

    (Edited out. Insults to other posters is not productive. Post to the issue, please – BC)

  • Salomon Maniraguha

    That storm is a wake-up call to all these churches and their so-called leaders who are misleading God’s people by not teaching the Bible as it is. They just select knowingly information they want to pass and ignore many more messages which do not fit with their personal interests. The wort for them is still to come. Watch!

  • whoa21

    Please do not use scripture out of context. Thinking in the same way I would not take something that you said out of context, and use it in a conversation with someone else. Therefore I ask that you do the same with God’s words, because that is misrepresenting and manipulating words to form an argument in which you can not. God’s words are holy, and he is the creator therefore he can use his creation to show us truth. Why do we always need God to hold a megaphone and to scream the truth into our ears? He wrote us a book for goodness sakes! I do not know why you try so hard to disregard him when in fact everything around us proves his existence. Here is my simple question for you all… How did life begin? and What is the purpose of life? Why are we here to live and to die? My opinion is that we try so hard to disprove God’s existence, but in reality it takes more faith to believe that he does not.