Siloam’s tower & Oklahoma’s tornado


I’ve read a great deal of pastoral theologizing on the Internet since the news about the tornado in Oklahoma. The themes are all familiar. And they are ancient, of course. As long as people have died in ways we cannot understand, we have turned to God and asked for or demanded answers.

I can never escape a passage from the Gospel of Luke when I hear such news.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:1-9, NIV)

Jesus did not withhold tears when Lazarus died, and he certainly knew anguish over suffering. There is a time to mourn and ask questions, but I don’t think we can demand answers of God. Or rather, the biblical witness appears to be that making such demands is not going to get us the answers we seek.

There is a man in the ditch over there, beaten by robbers. Ours is not ask why God allowed the beating. It is to get down in the ditch and tend to his wounds.


4 thoughts on “Siloam’s tower & Oklahoma’s tornado

  1. Strong southern winds and scripture bring back memories. Jeremiah 16 come to mind.
    Partly true as I still wipe the clay of a fresh grave from my feet leaving a different place and a different time. Now two,side- by- side, rest eternally…one foresaw the fruit in the trees-it was bitter. The other had partaken at an earlier time.

    Ask why God allows the beating? Or ask why fight back?

    Two…side by side for eternity.

  2. The Tower of Siloam passage is one of my favorites, but you omitted the previous verse–Jesus and the Apostles are walking along, and the Apostles are discussing the collapse of the tower, speculating that those people who died in the collapse must have been really bad sinners. Jesus overhears this and basically says, “That’s silly. The collapse had nothing to do with them being sinners….” Jesus makes the same point throughout the Gospels: that sickness, etc. has nothing to do with the person being a sinner.

    I imagine some of the poor people struck by tornadoes are haunted by guilt, assuming that God is smiting them (they would probably phrase it as “testing” them) because of some imagined misdeed. But is it really more comforting to believe that God is micro-managing the earth’s climate by directing tornadoes 50 ft. this way or that, or to believe the tornado hit your house because of pure chance? Pure chance has my vote.

    Read my review of Bart Ehrman’s “Problem of God” on Amazon (under the name “mamlukman.” Ehrman sees God as “an active God.” Why is that necessarily so? What Ehrman calls “an active God” I would call a “tinkering God.” Do you REALLY think God intervenes millions of times daily in the earth’s affairs to steer tornadoes away from my house (and into yours), or cure Nancy’s cancer (but lets Betty die a horrible death), or buy Janis Joplin a new Mercedes? Nonsense. Why can’t God act indirectly, through natural laws? If you deny God the power to act indirectly, you are—by limiting the power of God—a heretic. So, ironically, the people who perceive themselves as the most “Christian” are, in fact, the opposite. Ultimately, we don’t know why the world works the way it does. Why are there so many natural disasters that cause so much grief? Couldn’t God have created a world without them? Sure, but we have no idea why He didn’t, and we have no way to explain it. So let it go.

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