Saturday, August 11, 2007

Piper’s Response to Interview with Rabbi on the Bridge Collapse.

John Piper gives his response to an interview on public radio with Rabbi Kushner concerning the collapse of the 35 W bridge in Minneapolis. Apparently the Rabbi merely expressed his own opinions rather than anything based on Scripture, which included the notion that God is really not all-powerful. Unfortunately, many in the evangelical community are embracing this viewpoint as well. This is clearly in contrast to Scripture which teaches that God is indeed all-powerful in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

From the article:

"3. Less astonishing for our day, but more outrageous is the claim of the Rabbi that God is not “all-powerful.” Specifically, he does not “control the laws of nature.” On the contrary, both the Rabbi’s Bible and the New Testament teach that he is all-powerful and does control the laws of nature."

Piper points out the short-sighted approach by the Rabbi, who claimed that “People need consolation, not explanation.” From the perspective of the Rabbi, God really did not have any control over the circumstances of the bridge collapse, so it was merely a random occurrence that God could not control. This is out of step with what Scripture teaches. So the so-called counsel of the Rabbi is not helpful at all.

"4. Finally, the Rabbi is pastorally short-sighted in saying, “People need consolation, not explanation.” He does not mean, “Hug and cry first, give God-centered explanations later.” That would be wise counsel. He means, “All our attempts at answering ‘Why?’ will be wrong. So don’t try.” The reason for this is that God did not “intend” anything by the collapse of the bridge. You can’t intend something by what you have no power to control. So God did not exercise any wisdom or love in causing or permitting the bridge to collapse. It was strictly random. So one should only give consolation, not explanation. There is not explanation.

There are two reasons why this is pastorally short-sighted and unsatisfying. One is that it is built on a falsehood. God does not need to be “all-powerful” to keep people from being hurt in the collapse of a bridge. He doesn’t even need to be as powerful as a man. He only needs to show up and use a little bit of his power (say, on the level of Spiderman, or Jason Bourne)—he did create the universe, the Rabbi concedes—and (for example) cause some tremor a half-hour early to cause the workers to leave the bridge, and the traffic to be halted. This intervention would be something less spectacular than a world-wide flood, or a burning bush, or plague of frogs, or a divided Red Sea, or manna in the wilderness, or the walls of a city falling down—just a little tremor to get everybody off the bridge before it fell.

So the Rabbi is not pastorally helpful to build his counsel on the fact that God is not “all-powerful.” Bereaved wives know in their heart that this is a copout. A human could have cleared the bridge. If God is just a little bit powerful, he could have figured out a way to save her husband.

The other reason why the Rabbi’s pastoral approach is shortsighted is that sooner or later the anguished human heart does need some answers about the power, wisdom, and love of God. The Rabbi’s Bible (and my Bible)—the only authority he or I have for making any pronouncements about God at all—gives more comfort than the Rabbi is willing to offer."

Sadly, the viewpoint of Rabbi Kushner is not unlike many so-called evangelicals today. You can read the article in its entirety here at DesiringGod.

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