On his blog, Desiring God, John Piper answered the “why” question regarding the tragedy in Japan. You can read it here. I take issue with pretty much every damn thing he says. So I am going to call him names and make fun of his poor theology in front of everyone. Internal Holy Spirit filter just convicted me that I shouldn’t do that. But I already wrote lamewad in the title, so that stays. Sorry HS. But I am still going to respond to what I see as heresy. (you will note that Piper is totally orthodox, which goes back to my thoughts on why orthodoxy is over-rated).
The whole premise of Piper’s response is that “after empathy and aid, people want answers.” Piper goes on to give many answers. I assume that this is because in his mind, he has already moved beyond empathy and aid. Even if not, why do we need to move beyond empathy and aid? Further, on what does he base this triune desire of victims? Is it possible that after empathy and aid, victims want running water? What if victims want their loved ones back? What if victims want talking heads to stop talking? What if they don’t want answers? What if the answers you are giving aren’t the ones they want? When did you start caring about what people want?
Piper goes on to say that Satan causes no earthquakes in the Bible, only God does. When did this become a central concern to the Japanese? Are there a number of Japanese commentators blaming Satan for this mess? Piper is using Satan as a straw man here, and blaming God. Which he then uses scripture to do.
He asserts that God causes all Earthquakes using the basest form of proof texting imaginable, simply listing the following verses:
- He commands even winds and water, and they obey him (Luke 8:25);
- He sends forth His command to the earth. . . . He gives snow like wool; He scatters hoarfrost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before His cold? . . . He makes his wind blow and the waters flow (Psalm 147:15-18);
- He looks on the earth and it trembles . . . touches the mountains and they smoke! (Psalm 104:32);
Is it even responsible to make a claim like “God causes every earthquake” from the above verses? Two of the above are from Psalms (in which dashing children’s heads against rocks is also promoted) and the other in Luke is clearly about Jesus subverting the natural order of things, not controlling every part of it.
The proof-texting continues when Piper makes the claim, “God does nothing without an infinitely wise and good purpose.” The following verses are cited with no context:
- He is wise and brings disaster (Isaiah 31:2)
- The Lord is good (Psalm 100:5)
- All his works are right and his ways are just (Daniel 4:37)
Of course, Isaiah has nothing to do with a particular context of judgement. The Lord being good of course automatically means that God causes every bad thing to happen. And the Daniel verse of course places responsibility squarely on God for everything. Wait.. it really doesn’t, does it?
He sums the above up in relation to the Japan situation as follows: “Therefore, God has a good and all-wise purpose for the heart-rending calamity in Japan on March 11, 2011 that appears to have cost tens of thousands of lives.”
I have a problem with Piper trying to save God here. Piper has created (or more accurately, validated) an image of God in which there is nothing remotely “good” to be found there, but yet he continues to call God “good.” In what respect can you say that causing a “heart-rending calamity” that “cost tens of thousands of lives” is good? Piper’s God ends up sounding much like Hitler, who, for his greater good was surely grieving on the inside as he slaughtered millions. Remeber Piper, that “good” is a human word. We made that up. And with it comes a certain understanding about what “good” is and is not. It tells me a great deal about what Piper thinks of as “good,” that he can put God’s blessing on this. I wonder what narrative Piper would place on an earthquake that decimated thousands of his parishioners.
Piper goes on to quote Revelation and name the earthquakes as a “call to repentance” in light of the end times. He quotes the passage that people will beg the mountains to “fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb,” implying that it was a blessing for the earthquake to have happened to the Japanese so save them from a worse fate which would be leveled by Jesus himself.
Piper uses the phrase, “God’s unilateral taking of thousands of lives” as a sort of mantra, which on a political level can be used to validate the “unilateral taking of thousands of lives” by governments since it can obviously be a good thing if we can only see the bigger picture.
It is at this point, and many others along the way, that I wonder why Piper has chosen to pick verses out of context instead of focusing on other verse, indeed other entire books of scripture, which focus not on God’s destruction of lives as good, but on the way God suffers with us, God loves us, God rescues us, God frees us, God rejects such pat answers?
The continued use of Job as a proof-text for answering God’s reason behind everything, flies in the face of the point of the book of Job, which ultimately concludes that answers are not to be found.
Piper goes on to say that the earthquake reveals the magnificence of God. In the words of Cee Lo Green, “F you,” Piper. How did you ever become a pastor? I can’t find Jesus ever finding a connection like this in tragedy unless he was the one fixing it. Again, when this type of tragedy strikes home for you, I sorely hope none of us will see God’s magnificence as a primary lesson in it, as much as your comments have made it tempting for others to do so.
Piper concludes that we need to pray more. Pray for what? That people repent, or “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”. In using this verse without it’s context , isn’t Piper proclaiming the very theology that Jesus thwarts when he healed the blind man in John 9? Piper concludes that bad people get punished with Earthquakes. Good people like Piper get wealthy and secure.
To his credit, Piper does encourage Christians to give and love those who are going through this time. But my overall question is even more poignant given this encouragement. Why bother? God controls everything, right? So why would God change his mind about who repents or who doesn’t? Why should we help those who God has judged? To what end? It won’t ultimately help them turn to God, since God has already decided who is in and out, right? And why should I serve anyone but myself, since I am already saved, what benefit would it be for me? Since the Bible encourages us to be “perfect like our father in heaven is perfect,” shouldn’t we start judging who is bad and good and meting out violent justice on everyone who disagrees? I rather get the idea that this would be ok with Johnny boy.
If that is orthodoxy, then like America’s freedom and democracy, I want no part of it.