In one of his latest blog posts, John Piper interpreted last week’s string of devastating tornadoes in the midwest as an act of God. This is the logical conclusion of a theology that has at its center an absolutely sovereign God. All events in history must be read and interpreted as acts of God for nothing happens without his consent. Even tornadoes that kill people.
Sarcastic aside: Piper propagates such a theology out of faithfulness to scripture. If you don’t believe me, check his blog post. He quotes three passages from the Bible to prove his point!
I think you can make the Bible say a lot of things. As Piper has demonstrated, you can even make the Bible say that God kills people for his glory. This sort of thing is not a matter of remaining faithful to the Bible. Open Theists claim to be faithful to the scriptures. Process theologians take the Bible seriously. Hitler thought he was doing God a favor by attempting to exterminate the Jewish people.
So if this isn’t about the Bible then what is it about? I would argue that it’s about Piper’s philosophical presuppositions about the nature of God’s power. Power, in Piper’s framework, is understood coercively. God is powerful in the same way that Caesar is powerful. God does what he wants because he’s God even if it means that some people get shit on.
Is this the only way to understand power, though? What if we understood power as relational and persuasive rather than coercive. If God is relationally powerful then he accomplishes his will not by means of violence and force but by means of seduction and wooing. God is powerful in the same way that Rachel McAdams is powerful in The Notebook–wooing her onlookers by means of her grace and beauty.
And yes. I like The Notebook.
There are a lot of ways to read the Bible. There are also a lot of ways to understand God’s power. If your theological framework has you saying that God causes tornadoes to kill people then perhaps it’s time to go back to the drawing board.