The question of how God’s sovereignty interacts with natural disasters and human free will is one we should not pretend to have completely mastered. We are not God. I’m looking at you, John Piper
The fullest biblical explanation we get of what’s going on in the suffering that is tied to nature is in Romans 8, which completely wipes out Piper’s Fingers of God viewpoint on the weather. No one passage can define the issue, however. Neither can a fired-off list of disconnected verses citing individual situations where God brought judgment through nature. Just because God has done it on certain occasions, by no means even implies that this is the source or purpose of all storms and disasters.
The crown jewel of Piper’s miscalculation is where he takes Jesus’ words out of context. In Luke 13:4-5, Jesus is specifically challenging views like Pipers’. Jesus seems more likely to be saying it is not an act of judgment on God’s part, warning that natural and architectural disasters happen, and that those who haven’t repented are eternally, not just physically, devastated when they hit. He’s using the tragic deaths of others as an opportunity to speak of spiritual death to his hearers. At first glance, this might seem similar to Piper’s view, but if you reflect deeply, I think you’ll see the differences are huge.
I’ll take what seems to be to be Jesus’ approach and if you sift through Pipers’ post you can find this amidst the rubble. All of us must repent before we meet God in the fullness of eternity if we want to avoid judgment there. Natural and architectural disasters are a reminder that we don’t control our lives, nor the moment of our deaths. So, living soberly is called for. But living in fear that the God of love who created this world might just decide to kill us with a storm is unnecessary. If you want to see where fingers of God are at work in disasters, see the hands and feet of his followers rushing in to bring aid and comfort to the afflicted.
Instead of reflecting on the fingers and sending a check, let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus whenever possible right where we live.