Lutherans Approve Statement… What Does God Think?

August 20th, 2009 by

Lutheran leaders have approved a statement that has been described as being a move “toward a more welcoming view of homosexuality.”  According to the AP:

Delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Minneapolis, approved a “social statement on human sexuality” that acknowledges differing views on homosexuality. It says the ELCA is strong enough to accommodate such differences.

The session discussing this statement was set to commence at 2pm on August 19th.  Just at this time, a tornado touched down in Minneapolis and hit the convention center and church at which the ELCA was meeting. According to Fox9:

The Minneapolis Convention Center has sustained approximately 1,800 square feet of roof damage and has some water damage. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was holding its national convention at the center at the time of the storm. About 2,200 people were registered for the convention. People inside the Convention Center were taken to a safe location, and there were no reports of injury.

Pastor John Piper, who lives in Minneapolis, shared some controversial thoughts concerning the tornado in his blog entry from August 20th.  He starts by setting the stage for the meeting of these two seemingly unrelated entities (the tornado and the convention):

A friend who drove down to see the damage wrote,

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.

The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.

According to the ELCA’s printed convention schedule, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 19, the 5th session of the convention was to begin. The main item of the session: “Consideration: Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality.” The issue is whether practicing homosexuality is a behavior that should disqualify a person from the pastoral ministry.

The eyewitness of the damage continues:

This curious tornado touches down just south of downtown and follows 35W straight towards the city center. It crosses I94. It is now downtown.

The time: 2PM.

The first buildings on the downtown side of I94 are the Minneapolis Convention Center and Central Lutheran. The tornado severely damages the convention center roof, shreds the tents, breaks off the steeple of Central Lutheran, splits what’s left of the steeple in two…and then lifts.

After then laying out the scriptural case for the importance of the issue the convention was discussing and God’s sovereignty over nature and seemingly random events, he concludes:

The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners.

How remarkable! John Piper, one of the preeminent voices in Evangelicalism today, soberly pronounces a natural event to be a warning from God concerning the goings-on at the convention!  Could this be true?

A speaker at the convention joked concerning the tornado’s timing, “we trust that the weather is not a commentary on our work.” Rather than joking about it, perhaps time should be spent in prayer to the God who actually listens and actually (in reality) acts in our current time and space, seeking His divine will and voice.

The larger question here is worth pondering.  While the scriptures clearly portray God as sovereign over His creation, speaking through natural means, modern day thought both in and out of the church has relegated God to the sidelines.  Reggie Kelly said it well when he stated concerning the Tsunami Disaster from a few years ago:

The ready explanations of modern geological science seem more plausible than the biblical view of nature as an agent of moral judgment under an unlimited divine sovereignty. After all, it is well known that seismic activity of this kind is a commonplace in the greater history of the planet, and is especially predictable in the area around the Pacific Rim known as ‘the ring of fire’. So is the recent tsunami disaster of the Indian Ocean simply another instance of blind brute nature ‘acting up’ according to well known natural laws? Such naturalistic explanation may appear to exonerate God from implication in the seemingly undistinguishing carnage of ‘nature’s fury’; but it would be a loss far greater than the tsunami disaster if the world-view of ‘scientific naturalism’ should prevail to rob the modern world, and particularly the church, of the significance and impact of such a costly judgment and prophetic statement of greater judgments to come.

What does God have to say about these and other issues? Have we as a church “graduated” from seeking His counsel and expecting Him to speak through some means, to going our own way, confident in our own understanding? Have things so substantially changed in the last three thousand years, that God no longer controls the weather, nor does He speak through it?

Whether or not the sovereign Lord was speaking through this particular natural occurrence, let’s hope Mr. Piper’s words serve as a gut-check to all of us that God is in fact in charge even of the wind and the sea, and his message to all is (as it always has been) … repent.

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