By Derek Ouellette in response to John Piper’s Oklahoma debacle
By now you are probably aware of another tweet by John Piper which fired up an otherwise friendly Christian community (<– yes, facetious). For full disclosure, I don’t care much for Piper’s theology or for how he seems to view himself as the gatekeeper to evangelical orthodoxy. But with that confession aside, my challenge is this: are we on the look out for opportunities to dislove John Piper?
See, Piper’s insensitivity in the past has made him a volatile character in the present. So when he tweeted in light of the Oklahoma tornado that killed dozens of people including many children:
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that popular bloggers on the one side would swiftly lambast him, interpreting this tweet in light of more overt statements made by Piper in similar situations in the past.
But this spark an interesting back-and-forth from people who normally would be appalled by such a statement of Piper’s. Some, choosing to read the tweet more generously admit that Piper’s point seems vague at best. What is even meant by that tweet? While others think they see with perfect clarity since, after all, hindsight is 20/20 and Piper’s history speaks for itself.
“I’m no fan of Piper’s (sic) usually, but nothing in his Tweet even remotely suggested “judgment” or victim blaming. RHE did a disservice with this one, IMO”
And consider these two comments on Rachel Held Evans blog:
John Hundley writes:
“I think you may be missing Piper’s point entirely on this one, Rachel. I saw that tweet. I don’t think he meant judgment at all… I like your blog, but this post needs a bit of clarification.”
In response, someone named Coreyf_4 writes:
“John, I can’t speak for Rachel, but I interpreted it as such because Piper has a history of pronouncing God’s judgment after natural disasters. While you may be right, we had no previous evidence that would lead us to believe that he had other intentions this time.”
That’s true. But I wonder how many people are aware of the tweet that came after the tweet? See, Piper did attempt an explanation for what he was trying to get at. The morning after the tweet that gave so many people opportunity to go on attack, came this tweet:
That is, more or less, exactly what James writes. 5:11 reads: “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” NIV2011
It sounds like what Piper is saying is that those who suffered in the Oklahoma tornado – even those who lost their children, may they know that the scriptures introduce us to someone who suffered similarly and may they likewise be pointed to God in the midst of their grief because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
There is something very powerful in reading Piper’s statement in context. As a Wesleyan I would disagree with the cause of that suffering, of course (and yes, I know what Piper believes about that). But there’s nothing in what he says itself – what he actually said in the context of his own tweets and with the help of the text of James – that I can get upset about. In fact, I find myself praying with him that people will find relief in the compassionate and merciful arms of God just as, in the end, Job did.
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