Archive for September, 2009

Followup: God’s Corrective Action

It’s been two weeks since the events of my previous post. In that time I have had the opportunity to discuss it more with others. I have found some people that whose opinions I greatly respect, and often influence my own, take exception to my view as expressed on August 21. I would like to address it and reflect upon it.

The most compelling argument against viewing weather-related events the way I did in my previous post is that we have no reliable and consistent way to exposit the weather. It has also been noted that it falls under the logical fallacy known as Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc. This fallacy states that because A follows B, B must have caused A. This is an excellent point to be made about events such as a tornado hitting a church denominational meeting in which the members are about to vote to endorse sinful acts and lifestyles as acceptable. However, one cannot just assume that this fallacy is in play here.

The same person that suggested Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc has taught for years that truth can be gleaned from General Revelation, that is revelation through nature. In fact, he received a college degree in Chemical Engineering, which depends on consistent scientific principles learned through general revelation. A follows B observations are at the heart of scientific observation, and the hypotheses that lead to established norms within the scientific realm. Thus, it is not unreasonable to ask questions based on consistent observations that when people do X, God seems to react by sending natural or otherwise uncontrollable disaster (it could be something like a stock market crash, which is certainly not an act of nature). Ironically enough, such disasters are often referred to as Acts of God. In other words, were this an isolated incident, accusations of Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc would be justifiable. Even is such ‘A follows B’ observations are consistent and repetitious, Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc may be at play, but we will never know if we refuse to ask the questions.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not claiming that Acts of God are something that can necessarily be investigated through scientific (naturalistic) inquiry. However, the principles of scientific inquiry, in conjunction with theological examination could lead to a proper conclusion. While I cannot exposit the weather, the proper response to curious weather events, from a Christian perspective, would be to look to the Bible for answers. A tornado hit Central Lutheran Church and broke the cross off from the roof – at the very hour the ELCA (of which the church was a member, and which was using the church) was to deliberate the ordination of openly practicing homosexuals. The questions to ask are:

  1. What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
  2. What does the Bible say about church leadership
  3. Is what the ELCA did consistent with what the Bible said about both homosexuality and church leadership?
  4. If the answer to (3) was ‘Yes’, then this is a clear case of the Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc fallacy
  5. If the answer to (3) is ‘No’, then it is safe to ask further questions, such as: If the ELCA acted inconsistently with the Word of God in regards to homosexuality and church leadership, is it possible that the tornado that hit their church at the very hour that they discussed the issue was God’s way of encouraging the ELCA to reconsider their view?

This same friend that exhorted not to try to exposit the weather pointed out that after the tornado broke the cross off the top of the Central Lutheran church steeple, it lifted, the clouds broke, and the sun shined on downtown Minneapolis. If we were to try to glean special revelation from the weather, the ELCA may have reason to believe that the sun shining so quickly after the tornado hit was God’s way of saying that judgment is over and He is instituting a “new beginning” in regard to the issue at hand. Fair enough, but if both sides use the event as a reminder to look to the whole of scripture, what will be the lesson learned? Is there scriptural precedent for God changing His moral Law? (Of course not, He has changed His ceremonial law, but never His moral law.)

When I see such events, I see two different views of scripture rushing to judgment. The Liberals, who are quick to diminish the significance of scripture by allegorizing everything, will cast off such events as this as irrelevant to the issue they are facing, or will reinterpret the allegory to fit the occasion. On the other hand, in an attempt to be true to the scripture (reading with authorial intent in mind), many conservatives are afraid to even ask the questions. While I certainly respect their allegiance to the scripture, and find their view much more convincing than that of the Liberals, I would hate to miss the lesson in front of us. I think even the conservatives that disregard weather events like this one will agree that we should all heed the command of the scripture to examine ourselves to see that we are in the Faith. Are we doing anything that is inconsistent with scripture? Is there any reason to avoid the question based on the nature of the reminder to do so?

Piper clarified a few days after writing his piece on the tornado:

Three years ago God sent the tornado of cancer into my life. It split the steeple of my health and shredded the tents of my sexual life. I wrote an article to myself: Don’t Waste Your Cancer. It could have been titled: Don’t waste your tornado. God’s message to me in my tornado was essentially the same as to the ELCA in theirs…

My tornado was a call to repentance. Yours will be too. But that is not Satan’s design. Only God’s. Satan’s design is that you approve your sin. God’s is that you let him forgive it and overcome it.

Regardless of whether God actually sent the tornado, or if it merely happened as an act of nature, using it as a call to repentance will not get anyone in trouble.