tsunami perspectives

January 2, 2005 | 7 Comments

NT Wright wrote a commentary a few days ago on the tsunamis, and the perspective, or perhaps lack of, that the Bible seems to offer on such things. I find his response to be much warmer, empathetic and reasonable than the cold and calloused response that John Piper wrote a few days ago.

We can best understand who God is not by answering the questions of why such things happen, but by experiencing them as God does — by feeling a great sense of sorrow and pain for those involved. I sat and watched the news reports on this several evenings this past week, and was overwhelmed with awe and sorrow. Being able to give a solid explanation of God’s role in this isn’t enough. Wright says this well: we need to “embrace the same sense of helpless involvement in the sorrow of the world, as the means by which the world is to be healed. Those who work for justice, reconciliation and peace will know that sense, and perhaps, occasionally, that healing.”

  • thanks for the link .. I resonate with this “warm” Wright too!

  • Douglas Humphreys

    I resonated with both Write and Piper. Yet, I did not find Piper to be calloused at all. Speaking as someone who has suffered from life threatening illnesss, I relate to the quote by Spurgeon, who suffered greatly and said: “it would be a very sharp and trying experience to me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity.”

    We will never understand, nor could we begin to say to those directly effected that we do. Yet what a sweet comfort to know that their is a providential hand at work.

  • Fair enough. I re-read Piper’s article, perhaps cold and calloused isn’t quite the right description to use. I think I was in a stupor after watching a few hours of CNN when I read it, for I somehow missed statements like: “No, it is right to weep with those who suffer. Pain is pain, no matter who causes it. We are all sinners. Empathy flows not from the causes of pain, but the company of pain. And we are all in it together.”

    I think ultimately what I appreciated from Wright’s response was that he didn’t simply try to boil the it down to “four things we can know to be true about God in light of this crisis.”

  • davidkw

    well, let’s be honest here, master wright might never reach the high-caliber bullet point teaching methods of master piper. One has to meet one’s audience and communicate accordingly and master wright lives with a bunch of stuffy old erudites in a castle, while piper lives betwixt average scandanavian weirdos in the burbs. 🙂 But, they both point to the fact that life is always much bigger than it seems, especially in the myopia of pain.
    Im resonating too, but i think my cell phone is just on vibrate.

  • jonwren

    I guess I wanted both Piper and Wright to come out and say that a disaster like this brings out questions. And the questions that they bring out aren’t the type that a 4 point sermonette on God’s sovereignty answer. I liked Wright’s better because I like Wright. But I do think they both missed an opportunity to talk and really delve into the problem.

  • Gary

    First of all, I have to confess that I didn’t read all of Piper’s article. I tried a couple times, but lost interest. Maybe due to the fact that I have become (as apparetly others already are…)list-ophobic. I did skim it however, and here is why I prefer Wright to Piper (other than the fact that Nick Tom is the man).

    Their proposed courses of action in response to this tragedy reminded me strikingly of James 2. Piper’s solution was simply to feel compassion for those devastated in the tsunami. “Go keep warm and well fed.” Wright on the other hand talks about seeing the pain and suffering in the world and becoming involved in the healing efforts.

  • Doug Humphreys

    Not to beat a dead horse on this thing, or to feel like I need to be an apologist for Piper, but if you have read any of his stuff – or gave this piece a second read – you would not see that. Piper has been preaching and living out the ideal and call to incarnate Christ through living lives of rubber meets the road mercy to the poor, loving our neighbors irrespective of where they are in thier journey towards Christ (including living in gang infested inner city Minneapolis – not the suberbs as another poster commented) for 20 years or more. I did not see any “Go keep warm and well fed,” attidude in anything Piper said. But, if that’s what you read in it, that’s cool, we all, me most of all, need to be reminded that each of has some of that in us, and anything that gets us off that spot and into living out mercy, then thank God for that.

    God bless