Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Pastor John, you were moving to Tennessee the week of the Moore Oklahoma tornado. In the last podcast we talk about the pastoral side of why you address natural disasters. In this episode I want to address those who agree with your theology—God ordains all that comes to pass, even category-5 tornadoes, for the millions of good and glorious ripple effects that will ultimately result because of the tragedy—but they disagree with your timing when you write blogs or Twitter up-dates in the midst of the destruction. What would you say to these individuals?

Right. That is a good question. So let me give just a bigger picture and then I will be very specific in the way to answer that question about how I feel about those couple of tweets and that timing.

There are at least four reasons, as I have thought about this, why people might oppose saying something about the sovereignty and goodness of God in the midst of calamity. Number one, they just don’t agree with it. And you are not addressing that person, but I am going to mention that person anyway. They don’t agree with it. They don’t think God is sovereign in the sense that he is ruling the wind and govern-ing nature so that who is killed and who is not killed is decided ultimately by God. They just don’t be-lieve that.

I heard a sermon recently that said that explicitly, that this world is cursed, the pastor said—which, of course, is true. It is has replaced the created world with a cursed world and all those bad things are {?} to the curse. Well, my answer to that is yes they are and God is the one who subjected the world to futili-ty. And not only that, he didn’t just do it like a clock maker who said, “Ok, I am going to make this clock go bad now,” and then steps back and watches the clock go bad. He is involved in nature. As the Bible says everywhere repeatedly governing the natural processes like Jesus stopping the storm so that the disciples say, “Well, who then is this who rules, who commands the winds and the waves and they obey him,” which he does in Oklahoma as well as Israel. So that is first. They might just disagree entire-ly with my view of God’s sovereignty.

Number two, they might think that the way you say it is helpful or unhelpful. So you might say... you might choose language like, God killed your children. That is really harsh. Or you might say God took your children. That is a little softer. Or you might say your children are gone and God is still sovereign. You hear the different flavors and nuances in each of those and how you say things really matters. So that what I said... the two tweets that I tweeted were, number one, I quoted Job 1:19, “Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house and it fell upon them and they are dead.” And what I meant and hoped by that would be that the raw biblical statement that it happened to Job who was blameless and upright and feared God and turned away from evil and was not a bad man, that it hap-pened to him is that we would all say it is again, again, again, they are dead, they are dead. It happened to Job. It happened to us. Oh, God, how long? You know, just the raw factuality was expressed.

And then, secondly, five minutes later I tweeted. “Then Job rose,” this is Job 1:20. “Then Job rose, tore his robes, shaved his head, fell on the ground and worshipped.” And my heart in this was: This is what parents are doing in More, Oklahoma. They are not discussing. They are not preaching. They are not reading books. They are tearing their hair out. They are pulling on their clothes. They are falling on the ground and weeping their eyes out. And by grace many of them are worshipping as they weep. That was the gist. That was the point of trying to just say what I believed was happening for many.

And I know, Tony, beyond the shadow of doubt that weeping and worshiping go together. I have experi-enced it. I have watched people experience it. Job experienced it. So that is number two. A person might simply say, “You didn’t say it helpfully.”

Third, the timing might be off. And that is the one you mentioned. And surely that is a crucial considera-tion. I mean, that is why Ecclesiastes three is written, right? For everything there is a season, a time to be born, a time to die, a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, a time to dance. And if you get it wrong, you can really be hurtful. And the last one is a person might disagree or disapprove of what you say because the medium is just not the right place. Another ... Twitter is not just a good medium that can bear the weight of such serious issues. I think some people would say that.

So looking back, here is my answer to your question. Looking back, especially on those last three that the way you say it, the time you say it, the medium you say it... I wish that those three had been per-ceived by me differently than I perceived them in the moment. I think the way I said it was fairly raw and I get help from that, but not everybody does. The timing was immediate. It was 11 o'clock that night and the medium was risky, Twitter, because you can’t hear any tone of voice, you can’t get a broader explanation. It finds people in situations that are all over the map.

So while I love the truth that I spoke and I believe it with all my heart and it gets me help in the midst of my calamity and gives many people help, I wish... I think that was a misjudgment on my part. And I am sorry that I did it. I pulled them down, but I pulled them down way too late and so it caused all the ruck-us that it did. And I just hope the Lord will take all that and turn it for good.

I am sure that this will happen again. That is, I hope that I won’t judge and then misjudge... I mean mis-judge and then pull things down again. I hope I can avoid that.

Oh, by the way... here is another lesson I learned. I mean, I knew it, but this taught me it. I don’t think Twitter is ever designed to do tweets back to back. That is just a bad idea. I blew it when I said, “Ok, I will get the people to understand tweet number one by reading tweet number two.” The medium is not designed for that. I think the reason I tweet is because I think God himself is a tweeter in the book of Proverbs and that he means for those proverbs to be self standing. And if you can’t make yourself rela-tively clearly understood or appropriately provocative in one tweet, you better just not tweet. You better use a blog or something else. So I think I made a big mistake in trying to put two back to back and hop-ing they would be coherent and, of course, people can separate them out and then that doesn’t work an-ymore.

Thank you Pastor John, for addressing these topics. And thank you for listening to this podcast. And if you have questions, please email those to us at askpastorjohn AT desiringgod DOT org. At desiringgod DOT org you will find thousands of other free resources from John Piper. … I’m your host, Tony Reinke. Thanks for listening.