Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Problem With John Piper...

John Piper is obviously a smart guy. He's much smarter than me, to say the least. He's a good writer and a passionate speaker. I have no doubt that he sincerely believes that the things he says, does, and teaches are Biblically correct. Because he thinks his view on Christianity is the correct view and all other views are wrong, then (in his mind and following that logic) the most loving thing he can do is to try and convince others to believe the same as he does.

I don't buy it.

I don't have an issue with Piper because he's Reformed or Baptist. I know that may shock some of you, but I really don't have an issue with someone choosing to label themselves one of those things. My issue with Piper really are "issues" in that they are two-fold.

Problem with Piper #1:
On August 19th, 2009, a tornado hit downtown Minneapolis. On that day, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was meeting there to vote on a proposal that would allow members in homosexual relationships to serve as clergy. On August 20th, 2009, John Piper wrote on his blog about this event (the tornado hitting the city at the same time as the ELCA meeting to discuss making a public stand on their denomination's approach to homosexual clergy). He wrote the following: "Conclusion: The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture. Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality. Rejoice in the pardon of the cross of Christ and its power to transform left and right wing sinners."

I, and millions of other Christians, don't have a problem with a person acknowledging their homosexual nature. I've written many times about my views on homosexuality. You can search my blog for those posts. I think people take verses from the Bible and use them as ammunition to prove their perspective. Being gay isn't a sin any more than having blonde hair or liking hamburgers. People can't help what they are. I've also made it clear that I think homosexual eroticism is outside of what God wants for us--but that's coming from a middle-class, white, male blogger in south central Kentucky, so take it for what you will. But I digress...

So, John Piper made the claim that God sent a tornado on downtown Minneapolis as a warning sign to the Lutherans and that Biblically it was clear what was happening. Apparently, according to John Piper, the Lutherans were endorsing sin and God was telling them not to. My problem is this: millions and millions of people will die this year because of preventable disease, lack of clean water, and starvation... and God doesn't intervene on their behalf; but, according to John Piper, God will send a tornado to warn a group of denominational leaders to keep homosexuals from being clergy.

As the French say: "WTF?"

Listen, I don't understand how God interacts with humanity. I wrestle with it daily. I want to understand. I want to better comprehend how God works and what I can do to better impact our planet. But I can promise you this: if God isn't actively intervening on behalf on the sick, hungry, and dying, then he isn't sending tornadoes on midwestern US cities to warn people about the dangers of gay church leaders.

Problem with Piper #2:
Piper has a huge audience with college students. Not only does he greatly appeal to the young, restless and reformed crowd, but he also appeals to the typical college student who is trying to figure out what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Though his books are wordy and complicated, people keep reading them. Though his sermons are harsh, blunt, and present a very narrow perspective on the Christian faith, people keep listening to them. I can glean the good and skip over the bad stuff. But I would venture to say that many people devour every word from the mouth of John Piper as pure Biblical truth.

So, my second problem is this: Piper has a huge audience of people that he can greatly affect with his words. People take what he says as truth--people who like him tend not to question a guy like him. So when someone reads John Piper's blog and he's saying that God sends tornadoes on midwestern cities to warn a denomination about accepting gay clergy and he drops a few verses from the Bible in, then they take that as truth. They take that as Biblical truth. They agree with him in accepting this view of God. And what kind of God is this that he's telling people about? A God who is willing to let millions of innocent children die annually because of nothing they've done, yet sends tornadoes when people start talking about homosexuality. To me, that's such a hate-filled perspective on God.

When I read about the life of Jesus (when I see the things he did, the people he spent time with, the words he shared), I don't come away with anything but a view of a God that loves humanity and wants the best for all of them. But when I read the things Piper writes and the listen to some of the things he says, I come away with a view of an angry God that is clouded by guilt and shame for being human.

I'll end this post with a question:

With the world in the state its in, what is more important to God? :

A- Saving people from the hell they're caught in all over the world? (ie, ending sex trafficking, providing clean water, feeding the starving, making international trade fair, protecting against preventable disease, stopping genocide, etc.)


B- Barring homosexuals from church leadership and maintaining their second class citizenship in most churches?

You decide.


Jeremiah said...

"Who knows the mind of our God" It is a bit presumptuous to assume that we know what God did or did not intend by something, unless he tells us.

I don't think that things like these are messages to one specific action or people. They are typically messages for all of us. Like Jesus in Luke 13 says, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Matthew Paul Turner said...

Fantastic post.

I wrote a post about Piper, too... :)

I think yours is better.

Keep telling it like it is.

Sheffield said...

Oh no you didn't! John Piper....Dude, John Piper. You better have a storm cellar brother, cause it just hit the fan.

Saintdoc said...

Questioning what another man believes is good but always use Scripture as your guide. Leave the French out of it, if you want to be taken seriously.

JD said...

Mike-Do you feel like someone can't be taken seriously if they swear? (or in this case, swear in a abbreviated way)

Jeremiah-I'm not saying what God "did or did not INTEND." I'm saying that God had nothing to do with that tornado happening at that time hitting that area of town for that purpose (the purpose Piper says). Nothing.

MPT-Totally stoked you stopped by my blog, man. Though I must admit, your posts involving Piper are much funnier than mine.

Sheffy-Oh yes I did, girlfriend! Next thing you know, I'll be talking about Al Mohler and really bringing the heat!

Saintdoc said...

No, lots of people are taken seriously when they swear. However, as a representative of Jesus it is "my opinion" that he would want us to communicate on a higher level. Also, if I give someone the finger and do not say it out loud the same message gets communicated. If we abbreviate or give a sign it still communicates the same message.

Anonymous said...

I dont mind anyone questioning John Piper, however, I do feel that if there is a question involving christianity, there is a need to use the bible as a reference. I would suggest you stop by 1 corinthians and read for a bit.

JD said...

I've stated very clearly my views on the issue at hand. I've also been very clear on my feelings concerning homosexuality--that discussion involved a lot of biblical citation. But I've always said that I don't want to go around quoting the bible every other sentence. Not only does it tend to turn lots of people off to the conversation, it can make the " scripture quoter" sound like a pompous a-hole.

My worldview is thoroughly shaped and influenced by the bible as a whole. It is integrated into who and what I am. There is no sacred and secular.

That make sense?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Im just gonna leave it for us to agree to disagree. i do not see your logic or where you get the scripture that you supposedly used in your post, but im not gonna argue with you and i most definitely wont argue with you on a blog. I love ya JD, but i disagree with you. however, i would love to see the scripture that you used on this topic. i have not read any of your past blogs so maybe i will look back on those but still.
Also, your comment about quoting scripture can make someone a "pompous a-hole", constantly in the New Testament Jesus quotes what is said in the old testament and the scripture says to be constantly be in the word and quoting scripture. I realize that there might be the occasion where quoting scripture might not be the best thing to do (sharing our faith with someone who does not believe that the bible is the word of God, situations like that) but in a religious talk about what is right or wrong in Christianity, the bible needs to be quoted and in its true context and what it is truely saying.

JD said...

So, Nathan, are you saying that God DOES send tornadoes on denominational councils that are voting on whether or not to allow homosexual clergy while millions of innocent children die annually because God chooses to not intervene?

That's the heart of my issue with Piper. That's a terribly hateful view of God to me. That certainly doesn't line up with triune God of scripture to me.

Like I said: I don't feel the need to quote specific scripture in this conversation. I think someone can read the whole of scripture and come away with a view of a loving God who desires humanity to love him and love people the same.

Jeremiah said...

(not Nathan, but..)
It is pretty evident in the Bible that God does control the weather. And also, I think its a reasonable to conclude that the reason for the weather disasters that happen is to encourage repentance wherever repentance is due, even amongst denominations if they're doing something they shoulden't.

JD said...

That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

Not that God could control the weather, but that he would cause disasters so as to encourage repentance. Who is this God you speak of?

Because I know not of it/him/her.

Anonymous said...

I don’t want to know why God does the things he does. I do agree with you that God is a God of love, however, we do serve a powerful God. Look at the story of Noah and the Ark, God kills the entire world because of sin that they are in, and only saves 1 family. He is an angry God, however, just look at the 10 commandments: "You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments. - Exodus 20:5-6.

The God of the New Testament is the same God as the God of the Old Testament.

This is going to be my last comment because I do not feel that we are truly showing the love of God by arguing and fights. I believe that if Christianity as a whole began to take half the energy that they put into arguing about this topic, and began to show the love of Christ with them, and TELL them about how Jesus loves them, we would begin to see a revolution. But I will leave you saying this, simply having the temptation of the engaging in Homosexual activities is not a sin, but giving into the temptations and acting on it, is a sin. This is the same thing as when someone is tempted with lust, but when he or she gives in to those lustful desires that is when it becomes a sin. And living a lifestyle with those desires is a sin, just as a pastor who lives a lifestyle of adultery

Jeremiah said...

I was referring back to the Luke 13 reference "but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." What conclusion are you coming to on that verse?

So for what reason do you think that God allows or causes disasters to happen?

BfH said...

So God creates floods, drought, tsunamis, et al, sends them against illiterate third world tribes (example), who have little-to-no access to Westernized religion, to force them to repent to a God that they don't recognize and all-to-often have not even heard of?

That's just not fair.

You'd figure if that was God's reason for sending natural disasters, perhaps he would have made himself known to said tribes as he has to the Jews and all of us wonderfully illuminated Western Christians in lieu of destroying them for not even realizing he was God.

How can you justify saying such a thing when Christianity didn't even exist in the Americas until European Christians showed up to "teach" them?

Were there no natural disasters outside of Christendom before the Gospel arrived to give the natives someone to repent to? Did they not sin?

Jeremiah said...

I was simply saying that when we see natural or even just freak accidents happen, our response should be one of repentance (at least that seems to be what Jesus wants our responses to be). I don't think thats out there, odd, or ultraconservative or something.

To Bfh's comment:
-Christianity certainly is not a 'westernized religion' or at least it shouldn't be.
-God doesn't 'force' anyone to repent
-You're really right though. It's not fair. It's not fair that God picked the Jewish people (and now all people who repent and believe) and not everyone else. The Jewish (and us) are just really lucky to have been blessed with being able to hear gospel.
-I think the call to repentance is universal to all people (even people who haven't heard the gospel). Whenever we see death or suffering we should all be reminded of our own inability to save ourselves and our sin (which brought these things into being). You could probably its preparatio evangelica.
-God has always been there for people to repent to, even before Jesus was born and Colombus came along

But even if you disagree you still have to ask why did(does) God a. do this? b.let this happen? or c.let himself not know about it so as to let it happen?