Monday, January 10, 2005

Raw sewage from some respected names

For years, I have heard the name John Piper - mostly for a book which I've never read, but has influenced a number of my friends, called When I Don't Desire God. But I'd never read any of his stuff personally...I just knew of him.

Then I stumbled over to Adam Cleaveland's blog (one that I really respect), and caught the tail-end of this post, concerning a blog entry by John Piper about the tsunami disaster. I clicked on the link to see what had stirred Adam's ire, and was completely appalled by what I read. You can check it out here - if you dare. A few summary lines to give you a flavor for my anger (these are the main headings of Piper's article) and my responses:
1. Satan is not ultimate, God is. No argument from me. I pretty much pin my hope on that.
2. Even if Satan caused the earthquake in the Indian Ocean the day after Christmas, he is not the decisive cause of 100,000+ deaths, God is. If the only card in your theological deck reads, "God is omnipotent and omniscient" - all powerful and all-knowing - then I could see how you could get here. But that's an image of God I'd hope I'd never encounter.
3. Destructive calamities in this world mingle judgment and mercy. Ah, I wondered when we'd find someone who'd climb on the "this is God's judgement on the region" line of reasoning. This is a variation on the party line that reads, in part, "God hates homosexuals; that's why He sent AIDS into the world. If innocents babies and kids like Ryan White die, it's just that much more blood on their heads." (Just in case you're wondering, this line of reasoning is crap.)
But here's the real kicker:
Finally, Christ calls us to show mercy to those who suffer, even if they do not deserve it. (And then Piper has the nerve to end with, "In the merciful hands of Almighty God...Pastor John")

As I read the Gospels, there was this fellow Jesus who gave some very specific instructions to some very righteous men who were going to stone a woman to death for adultery. He said, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her" (John 8:7, NIV). I have never understood "any one on of you" to mean just those people gathered around the woman. To quote most Biblical literalists, "What part of 'any one of you' don't you understand?"

There was this other guy - Paul, as I remember - who was pretty clear about what he thought of his own righteousness: "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God' " (Romans 3:10-11, NIV, emphasis added).

My blogging buddy Rick recently asked the question, "What is it about Christians that is so repulsive even to other Christians?" I posted one answer on his blog...but the answer I wish I'd written really was this: what is so repulsive about some very vocal Christians is that they believe that somehow, because they have "the answer" in Jesus, they have somehow been struck "holy" and "wonderful," and believe that their sewage doesn't stink. The simple fact is that just because I have accepted Jesus as my Savior does not mean that I am without sin (or propensity to sin). In fact, to do so is (to me) the very essence of the sin of pride - Lucifer's sin.

Bottom line? The folks in Asia don't deserve God's mercy. Not the Muslims or the Buddhists who died. Not the Christians that died. None of them deserve God's mercy.

And neither, thank God, do I. Nor am I likely to deserve it any time soon. But that mercy is available to me, nonetheless. That's why it's called grace; it's an undeserved gift.

I've said it on other people's site - but let me say it loud and clear here: My understanding is always going to be that God's love and compassion will trump any human understanding, theology or dogma. Always. God is always going to be more than anything (even the Bible) would indicate.

No, it doesn't say that in the Bible. Of course, it doesn't say that tomorrow morning, the sun isn't going to turn into a bran muffin, either...but I have faith that it won't, nonetheless. I have to believe that the God of restoration and transformation that I see working in lives every day in the community of recovery is not also in the habit of randomly snuffing out life, as well. Thinking that the One who sent a Son into the world to redeem it would sweep 150,000 people out of existence - and leave another 150,000 to die of disease and deprivation - seems like insanity to me.

My hope and prayer is that maybe, by exposing raw sewage to the Light and to the open air, it can decompose into something less toxic to faith.


Rick said...

Preach it brother! Wow. That is quite sad. It is simply amazing how one could think that God would "kill" those people. Sick stuff. It is sad, for this guy really is a broken soul. I don't care how 'famous'he is. He has an extremely distorted image of God. That hate that comes out of him is self-hatred.

Great post!


Poor Mad Peter said...

From Poor Mad Peter's Laws of Spirituality and Humanity:

3/ All religions/spiritual stances are capable of being and have been co-opted by human perspectives, prejudices and beliefs, into supporting personal and/or tribal prejudices, etc.

Commentary: Judeo-Christianity/Islam is especially vulnerable to the 3rd Law because of the tendency to attach moral significance to every event, coupled with a belief in an omnipotent God.

NB: I am not really being facetious here. And I am as guilty as anyone.

dave p said...

Nice summary Steve :)

See also Steve Collins at small ritual:

Really short and to the point...

Steve F. said...

Yeah, well, if you were looking for "to the point" you never would have come to THIS blog-site... :-)

Dave said...

This reminds me of the flood here and in Missouri in 1993. Pat Roberston covered it on his show (700 Club) which I was watching at the time (you know, the way scientists watch cancer).
Anyway, he said the explanation for the flood and the horrific damage it did was that "God has lifted his hand of protection" because of the immoral things going on in the nation. This is right after Clinton got in the White House and the social climate started to change.

Nick said...

Physical evil is much more troubling than moral evil.

How could God not be omniscient, omnipotent, and benificent?

I think this should encourage people to study geophysics to better predict this kind of event.