John Piper is, by all accounts, an intelligent person, so I remain mystified by the lapses in logic he displays when blogging about natural disasters like the recent fury of storms in the Midwest United States. As a theologian he’s certainly more legitimate than a Pat Robertson-type figure so I’m forced to take him seriously, and I can appreciate his particular view of divine sovereignty even though it strongly repels me. Personal disagreements with his theology notwithstanding, the sheer failure of rational thinking on this particular subject is what I really find offensive.
Now, Piper doesn’t shy away from the tough questions that his brand of Calvinism raises. This week he admirably took on the question of “Why”: Why, if God executes meticulous and total control over all states of affairs, did he choose to lay the hammer on the Midwest and not somewhere else? From the blog post:
God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.
- “The wind of the Lord, shall come, rising from the wilderness, and it shall strip Ephraim’s treasury of every precious thing” (Hosea 13:15).
- “The Lord turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea” (Exodus 10:19).
- “God appointed a scorching east wind” (Jonah 4:8).
- “God commanded and raised the stormy wind” (Psalm 107:25).
- “Even winds and sea obey Jesus” (Matthew 8:27).
Via Desiring God
And two years ago, when a tornado ran through downtown Minneapolis:
Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados.
Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? (Mark 4:41)
Via Desiring God
The obvious point to make here is that none of these scriptures really support the idea that God is the one directing these natural disasters to occur. If it’s supposed to be a deductive argument then Piper is missing some key premises that he doesn’t really explain. Clearly, moving from
1: God caused disaster X to happen in the past
Conclusion: God causes all disasters that ever happen anywhere
requires some logical maneuvering. On the face of it its ridiculous, like arguing that, since I started my car this morning, I am therefore responsible at all times for any car in the world starting.
Alternatively these verses may be meant to provide evidence for the idea that God controls all events that occur in the world, as a type of inductive argument. This really isn’t much better, and probably worse. If these verses attest to occurrences of God’s specific intervention in the world then they constitute exceedingly weak evidence to the idea that God’s control is total and absolute. As another example, pointing out that I know my multiplication tables up to the fours is very weak evidence for the idea that I can calculate any conceivable mathematical problem on the fly.
I know elsewhere that John Piper has explicated and defended his view of divine sovereignty, so perhaps it is a principle assumed for the purposes of his writing. On the other hand, its pretty clear he thinks these verses support his view, since he clearly presents them in this fashion. But any reader, Calvinist, Open Theist or atheist, should find the logical reasoning wanting at best.