Tornado as God’s Judgment?

Minnesota is the land of Lutherans. I think there are more Lutheran (or in Minnesotan accent, Looteren) churches here than any other state of the Union.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) gathered here this past Sunday to vote on whether to allow homosexual ministers to practice as working ministers in the Lutheran Church. The vote passed in favor of homosexual ministers, with tears of joy on one side, and tears of grieving on the other.

Interestingly, as the ELCA was scheduled to vote at 2pm on Sunday, a tornado ripped through the Twin Cities at that same time; the first to hit downtown Minneapolis in 90 years, I’m told.


Curiously, it hit the the the central meeting place of the ELCA convention: the Central Lutheran Church of Minneapolis. Even more curiously, while the Church went mostly unharmed, there was one part that was damaged: the steeple itself was toppled, while the rest of the church stood:



My family suggested the tornado was no coincidence; that God was involved and deliberately sent it as a sign. I wasn’t so sure; I think religious people are all too quick to attribute to God what is easily explained by coincidence.

Now I see popular Protestant minister John Piper posted on his blog that he, too, believes this to be a “gentle but firm warning to the ELCA”, an instance of God intervening to show his displeasure.

Now I’ve blogged before about homosexuality in Christianity. As Messianic apologist John McKee has stated, it’s an issue ripping apart Christianity (and Judaism, for that matter); it will undoubtedly be an issue in the Messianic movement as we enter a new decade.

The issue of homosexuality is not going away anytime soon, especially with the homosexual agenda and political bloc for gay rights that have emerged on the world scene. Today, many Christian denominations are dividing over this issue. Many evangelicals are greatly concerned that a firm Biblical ethic is being tossed out the window in favor of extreme compromise with sin. As many evangelicals leave their denominations, this is where only the emerging Messianic movement in the future can offer a valid and more consistent theological perspective given our high view of the Torah. In the future, we could actually see ourselves significantly swell in numbers. Yet in order to do this, we must become a more stable and mature spiritual movement, and engage more with the world as God’s Word does indeed have answers for those in bondage!

-John McKee

It’s worth discussing, then: was the tornado in Minneapolis at the same day and hour of the ELCA vote, the tornado that toppled the steeple of the Lutheran Church, was it a sign from God? Or was it just a coincidence? What do you fine blog readers think?


  1. I don't like to pronounce natural disasters as God's judgment. But this "coincidence" seems rather specific, doesn't it? Hmmm...

  2. Indeed, Robyn. None of us like to assume the God-judgement thing with natural disasters (especially ones which kill people). I ask myself whether I am uncomfortable because it doesn't seem scripturally sound, or because it is socially unpopular?

    Let's face it, the OT makes it quite clear that God judges nations. Usually he fires a warning shot before doing anything drastic, as seen from the northern tribes' apostasy in 2 Kings (I think), before they get wasted by the Assyrians.

    There is a VERY interesting piece in the US somewhere about some "signs" surrounding 9/11 and the same verses in 2 Kings. I'll try to find the links.

    I also fondly remember when an Arch-Bish of Canterbury was inaugurated some years ago- he was a liberal goon who suggested the resurrection didn't really happen, it was all allegorical etc. In fact I think he was ambivalent as to whether Jesus even existed or not.

    Anyhoo, eyewitnesses report that on a perfectly clear Canterbury day, a massive black cloud rocked up and a huge bolt of lightening destroyed the belltower. Firefighters who put out the blaze said they had never seen anything like it.

    Makes you wonder. With the US (and west in general) acquiescing on homosexuality in the church, if God doesn't judge them, will He need to apologise to Sodom and Gommorrah?

  3. (Isaiah 26:9 NASB) At night my soul longs for Thee, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks Thee diligently; For when the earth experiences Thy judgments The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.

    nuff said.

  4. @robyn,

    I hear you. I'm none too quick to pronounce disasters as God's judgment. If a tornado hit, say, a Messianic synagogue here, would I still be saying, "It's God's displeasure"? Probably not.

  5. @PH,

    That's very interesting about the Archbishop of Canterbury. I've heard him mentioned in the news, usually for saying foolish things like "we ought to adopt Islamic Shari'a law.

    Makes you wonder. With the US (and west in general) acquiescing on homosexuality in the church, if God doesn't judge them, will He need to apologise to Sodom and Gommorrah?

    Heh. That's a good point.

  6. @Lou,

    Interesting verse. Now, I wonder if the inhabitants of the ELCA will learn righteousness. :-)

    In all seriousness, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see a future split among Lutherans over this issue.

  7. It is an interesting topic, but one that I think is hard to decide since we are trying to figure out the intentions of God. It brings me back to a speaker that came to our congregation a few years ago and spoke about how Katrina and the storms of that year were all related to US government decisions and statements about Israel and Israeli policy. He spoke (and has a book) all about how the same day a US government representative said this that a storm increased in intensity or turned towards the US and so forth.

    While it sounds compelling alone in its own little bubble, it struck me that each time a storm that year hit the coast of Mexico or some other place and caused all types of damage, that all this was left out of that analysis. Did the government of Guatemala make some pronouncement against Israel to cause the damage and loss of life it received, or was that damage random and the damage and loss of life in the US intentional?

    I think the same thing goes here. Unless every tornado has something we can consistently point it to, I think it is really hard to tell so, while I think it is possible that it might be what God is doing, it is also possible that it is not and I, for once would hate to make any assumptions for the intentions of God.

  8. I agree Bryan. As I said to Robyn, if a tornado hit, say, a Messianic synagogue here in the US, would I still be saying, "It's God's displeasure"? Probably not.

    If it isn't God's doing, it's quite ironic that the Lutheran church steeple was toppled the same day of the ELCA vote, at the same church.

  9. Romans 1 gets a lot of traction on this issue, specifically because Paul uses Jewish stock lanuage describing the utter God-lessness of the Gentiles--much of which was focused on their idolatry and sexual immorality.

    Let us not forget, though, the equally provocative 1 Timothy 1:9-10. When we get into our Pastoral Epistles study, either at the end of this year or in early 2010, it'll be a hot item.

  10. Mr. McKee,

    Where do you get that Romans 1 is referring specifically to Gentiles? To me it just as easily describes the Jews I read about in the Old Testament. Romans 2 makes it clear that it is talking about everyone, Jews and Gentiles.

    To answer Judah's question, I have the definitive answer. It is the same answer I had to the question, "was Katrina God's judgment against New Orleans?" The answer is...Maybe! Only God knows.


  11. Gary,

    Thanks for your question. First of all, Romans chs. 1-3 read together does talk about all of humanity being subject to sin. I think we are both in agreement there.

    The issue is first how Romans 1 lays out the sinfulness of the nations, which to a Jew of the First Century was categorically marked by the sins of idolatry and sexual immorality. Any good Romans commentary today (Cranfield, Dunn, Moo, Wright) is going to acknowledge how Paul is first speaking of the sinfulness of the pagans. The parallels with some of the ancient Jewish literature on this are quite noticeable.

    The crux of the Romans 1-3 argument builds in chs. 2-3, where Jewish privilege of owning the Torah is shown to really not be a privilege at all, as though the Jews will be able to merit special favors before God. The same law that condemns homosexuals, for example, also condemns the people who know the Torah of a list of other sins.

    I hope this clarifies things. You can read my article "The Message of Romans" for more info. I took two Romans exegesis classes in my seminary studies--so believe me when I say that we went "overkill" on the homosexual issue (3 weeks for one class, in what is supposed to only be a 14-week semester).

  12. Mr. McKee,

    I must admit I don't spend a lot of time reading commentaries. Reading the text didn't turn up anything explicit, so I thought I would ask. If you look at v25 and v32. How can you exchange what you don't have and how can you know what you've never been told?


  13. I point you to Romans 1:18 preceding, which clearly has humanity at large--but specifically the pagan Gentiles--in view.

    This pertains to a variety of sins that are impressed to be sins on the human conscience, people made in God's image. V. 27 makes an explicit appeal to nature, supporting this premise.

  14. Mr Mckee,

    I guess we will just have to disagree :) I really don't see why it is important to make a distinction. Every sin I see listed there has been committed by all men, Jews and Gentiles throughout history. We all stand guilty before God.