Is Recent Extreme Weather Signaling God's Displeasure with America?


“In recent months, both floods and tornadoes have ripped through parts of the country’s Midwest and Southeast region, upending people’s lives and shattering their homes and businesses,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said on “Washington Watch” last week.

“According to the weather experts, we’re on track for a record in terms of tornadoes this year and anticipating a pretty rough hurricane season as well,” Perkins added.

While the left is sure to blame “climate change” for the natural disasters — both as obvious and non-explanatory as blaming a tornado’s damage on “wind” — how should Christians respond when our country experiences extreme weather events?

Our instant reaction should “be offering help to our neighbors and working through groups like Samaritan’s Purse,” Perkins said. Christian organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, named after the parable of the good Samaritan, are “on the ground in affected communities with their ministry of aid and relief, serving people in Jesus’s name,” he added.

But even full-time professionals can only do so much. “We’re even getting stretched kind of thin,” Samaritan’s Purse COO Edward Graham said. Graham explained that extreme weather events have followed one another so rapidly that Samaritan’s Purse has teams in five different locations at once, stretching their resources and scattering their staff far and wide.

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“We need volunteers,” Graham said. “We need people to come out and help serve and love on their neighbors and do it all in the name of Jesus Christ.”

Indeed, many volunteers have answered the call, traveling as far as New Jersey to Texas in order to help their countrymen in need. Graham said one neat benefit of working with Christian-based aid organizations is that people are “going to ask why you’re here, and that’s when you get the opportunity” for gospel witness. “We’re already seeing decisions for Christ,” he said.

In addition to helping those in need as far as we are able, Christians can also respond to the increasing incidence of extreme weather by looking for a deeper meaning behind it. “We need to ask this question, why?” Perkins told The Washington Stand. “What’s going on, God? What are you doing?”

Some believers may be skeptical about seeking answers to such questions, and that’s fine. At the very least, it’s healthy to proceed cautiously and recognize that any answer to that question will lack the certainty and trustworthiness of Scripture itself.

Is God judging America for its sins?

After all, America is not the chosen nation of Israel, the Mosaic blessings and curses do not apply to the New Covenant in Christ’s blood, and there is no established prophet of Yahweh walking among us to declare, “I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great” (1 Samuel 12:17).

But does this mean we should not seek God’s providential hand working in history, through both human and superhuman means? Not necessarily.

At the height of the COVID lockdowns, pastor and theologian John Piper wrote in “Coronavirus and Christ,” “If God has not been dethroned, if, indeed, he governs ‘all things according to the counsel of his will’ (Eph. 1:11), and if this coronavirus outbreak, with all its devastation, is in his holy, righteous, good, and wise hands, then what is he doing? What are his purposes?”

If Piper can ask this question about a pandemic, I’m comfortable with asking it about any other “act of God.”

In a brief 100 pages, Piper sets forth what feels like a complete accounting of God’s providence working itself out through calamity, and he proposes six possible reasons why God could have sent the coronavirus pandemic. I commend Piper’s entire book to your attention and reflection. Piper goes even deeper in his book, “Providence,” which, as it numbers over 900 pages, I have yet to finish.

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One reason Piper suggests for why God sends calamity is “as a specific judgment” for “sinful attitudes and actions.” Turning to the Bible, Piper notes that God sends judgment — illness, specifically — on those who exalt themselves (Acts 12:23) and on those who participate in homosexual intercourse (Romans 1:27).

We might compile a similar list for natural disasters. The Bible records that God sent a flood to punish sexual perversion and violence (Genesis 6:13), fire and brimstone to punish great wickedness and sexual immorality (Genesis 19:24), hail to punish self-exaltation and oppression (Exodus 9:17), and a storm to punish disobedience to His commands (Jonah 1:4).

This hermeneutic is not one invented in 2020 by John Piper. Nearly 150 years earlier, in his second inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln applied similar logic to suggest that the Civil War came as punishment for American slavery:

“The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses for it must needs be that offenses come but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh’ [Matthew 18:7]. If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which in the providence of God must needs come but which having continued through His appointed time He now wills to remove and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him. Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’ [Psalm 19:9].”

So, is America’s forecast stormy with a chance of divine wrath because of the nation’s sinful provocations? Without an authoritative “thus saith the Lord,” our answer to that question must be as hypothetical and conditional as those of Piper and Lincoln.

Here are a few things we can say for certain. God created the world (Genesis 1), and He governs it down to minute details like causing the grass to grow (Psalm 104:14). In particular, He commands the winds and the sea, and they obey Him (Matthew 8:27, Mark 4:41, Luke 8:25).

As recited above, He does send natural disasters as judgment for specific sins, even on people and nations without a direct covenantal relationship with Him.

And, heaven knows, America has accumulated plenty of sins worthy of provoking divine wrath; we have permitted the killing of millions of unborn babies, systematically dismantled God’s design for the family, and celebrated lies and liars while kicking God’s Word to the curb.

When we read of God’s holiness and hatred of sin, we can only wonder with Piper that God in His divine patience has not judged America more severely.

On the other hand, we also recognize that not every instance of suffering is the judgment of a specific sin (consider the suffering of Job, Joseph, or Jesus). Instead, we understand that the natural world lies under a curse (Genesis 3:17-19).

Paul describes the effects of this curse in emotionally evocate language, writing that creation is “subjected to futility,” in “bondage to corruption,” and “groaning together in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:20-22). Much of our suffering is from living in a fallen world with sinners, as sinners, and not always because of some specific sin we have committed.

So, are floods, tornados, hurricanes, and other natural disasters just the consequence of living in a fallen world? Yes. Yet it’s also hard to rule out the possibility that they are also God’s judgment on specific sins, either of individuals or the whole nation.

In any event, as Piper wrote of the COVID pandemic, they should serve as “a God-given wake-up call to be ready for the second coming of Christ.” Jesus warned His disciples that His second coming would be preceded not only by human strife in “wars and rumors of wars,” but also in acts of God such as “famines and earthquakes” (Matthew 24:6-7).

Because of these things, Jesus told His disciples — and us — that we keep ourselves ready for His return (Matthew 24:44).

This article appeared originally on The Washington Stand.

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