Why You Should be Upset with John Piper

ORIGINAL POST: Last week in Minneapolis, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) made waves with their new progressive policies concerning homosexuals and now allow:

  1. Non-celibate gays to become clergy
  2. congregations to choose to do to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships.
  3. people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church

The ELCA is not the first mainline denomination to change their policies on such controversial issues.  The United Christ of Christ and Episcopal Church have made similar policies.  Every mainline denomination is struggling with how to take a stand for or against homosexuality in the church.

What should have made just as much news was well known Reform Baptist pastor and author, John Piper‘s statement concerning the tornado that hit during the ECLA’s meeting:

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.

This type of statement, which implies that God sent the tornado, reminds us of Jerry Fallwell’s and Pat Robertson’s statements in which they claimed that the sins of homosexuals and other “sinners” were the cause of  the attacks on 9/11/01.  Fallwell and Robertson took major heat for their comments.  Even President Bush denounced their comments.  The two preachers later  apologized and retracted their comments.

This type of thinking confuses us because a storm hits the ELCA conference during a controversial vote and it is God who is responsible, but my basement floods from a storm and nobody tells me that God is sending me a message.  You can see the obvious problems with this thinking: people claim God is sending messages through selective natural disasters.  Other bloggers have called out Piper on his statements and logic.

What is so troubling about John Piper’s statements is not that God is responsible for natural calamities (insurers use statements like “an act of God” to describe natural disasters), but that Piper, by his words, is implying that he is speaking for God or God’s motives.  It is simply dangerous to speak for God in such ways.   Whether you imply or explicitly make such statements, you are putting yourself out on a limb… a very short, thin, and unstable limb because there is no way to know if Piper is right or wrong.  In addition, it is insulting for someone to position themselves on the level of God and God’s omniscience power.  Lastly, this type of “calling out” of the ELCA does not improve relations with other Christians and homosexuals.

I may agree with Piper’s objection to the ELCA vote, but I do not approve of his strategy to criticize the ELCA.  Our compassion to all people should be evident.  We Christians need to think of better ways to remain faithful to our convictions, but should follow Paul’s advice to James: “Be quick to listen and slow to speak…”  (James 1)

UPDATE: 9:38 pm John Piper tried to clarify his statements with another blog post, but I fear he has dug a deeper hole:

Three years ago God sent the tornado of cancer into my life. It split the steeple of my health and shredded the tents of my sexual life. I wrote an article to myself: Don’t Waste Your Cancer. It could have been titled: Don’t waste your tornado. God’s message to me in my tornado was essentially the same as to the ELCA in theirs…

I said to myself three years ago: God’s design in the tornado of this cancer is “to deepen my love for Christ…and to wean me off the breast of the world.” It aims to make my besetting sins look less attractive than they ever have.

This tornado “is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack.” In other words, the cancer-tornado was a merciful rebuke to my worldliness and a timely thrust toward holiness.

Wow, where do I start?  Instead, I think one person ( Jthom ) summed Piper’s clarification best on Piper’s discussion page:

This is supposed to be a clarification? So, now tornados are metaphorical? But, this is still the ELCA’s tornado? (“God’s message to me in my tornado was essentially the same as to the ELCA in theirs.”) Now, calamities and sunny days are equated? Both are for repentance? (This sounds like backpedaling.)

Frankly, I’m not buying any of this, especially not the “me and all of us” stuff that has been conveniently added in. The title of the previous post was “The Tornado, The Lutherans, and homosexuality.” Titles should indicate focus. And, the focus of the previous post seems to have been to single one group out on one issue. I leave this “clarification” with at least as many questions as before. And, I don’t think this clarification will stand.

 


  • Elizabeth Hagan

    I agree- I don’t think religious leaders should be known so much for what the say in sound bites, but how the graciousness for how they live in harmony with all people of God.

  • http://www.anglobaptist.org/blog Tripp Hudgins

    What Elizabeth said and then some. You know, I’m reading up for SUnday and the lectionary passage from James took me to Bonhoeffer. In “Ethics” he says that the James passage assumes that the believer is too busy doing to be concerned what others believe. Judgment about belief is something that those who are not doing the work of the Kingdom have time for. Thus, their belief is false since it has not led them to working for the Kingdom.

    Of course, is speaking working? Widows and orphans…I just don’t know what to do with this thing. It’s so obvious, but it’s not. Dern dichotomies.

  • http://milesvincentgrimes.wordpress.com/ Miles Vincent Grimes

    You completely misunderstood and misinterpreted what John Piper meant by that statement. And you don’t have any concept of the idea of God’s wrath against mankind – against us all.

  • Alan Rudnick

    Miles,

    I respect your opinion, however Piper obviously back tracked after his first remarks about ELCA. If what he said wasn’t wrong, why does Piper feel the need to keep explaining himself? Jesus had sharp words for those who “speak” for God’s judgment (e.g. pharisees and scribes). There is a lot of judgment in Piper’s words. God is the judge. We are called not to judge. We are called to make disciples. Matthew 28.

  • http://milesvincentgrimes.wordpress.com/ Miles Vincent Grimes

    Alan,

    What is the role of a pastor? I have no problem with my pastor calling me out on my sin problems. In fact, I get a little upset when I go to church and am not challenged. Milk-toast pastors that are afraid to “offend” people offend me! I see no judgement in Piper’s former statement at all. He was being bombarded by thousands of emails and phone calls asking him for a statement. So, he addressed it.

    And guess what. He didn’t address just the ELCA or the homosexual community, but everyone, including you, Alan.

    Read it again:
    “The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to… 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.”

    Now, with the exclusion of “ELCA,” that sounds pretty unbiased. That sounds like a bold message right from the pulpit. That sounds like the Gospel confronting an uncomfortable Alan Rudnick. Well, that’s what God’s word does. It confronts us and meets us and our hearts where we’re at.

    This statement and all these negative reactions paint a portrait of John Piper that perfectly portrays what it means to be the salt of the earth (and unfortunately, is paints a negative picture of the church in America, if you think about the implications of what this says):

    “Our Lord’s illustration of a Christian is salt, and salt is the most concentrated thing known. Salt preserves wholesomeness and prevents decay. It is a disadvantage to be salt. Think of the action of salt on a wound, and you will realize this. If you get salt into a wound, it hurts, and when God’s children are amongst those who are ‘raw’ towards God, their presence hurts. The man who is wrong with God is like an open wound, and when ‘salt’ gets in, it causes annoyance and distress and he is spiteful and bitter. The disciples of Jesus in the present dispensation preserve society from corruption; the ‘salt’ causes excessive irritation which spells persecution for the saint” -Oswald Chambers

    You can’t argue with Oswald Chambers.

  • http://milesvincentgrimes.wordpress.com/ Miles Vincent Grimes

    2 more issues I think need to be addressed as well.

    Alan, are you not passing judgement on John Piper? It seems as though you’re passing judgement on Piper for judging. I’m not sure it’s your place.

    Also, I think that John Piper does a most excellent job with the whole concept behind Matthew 28. Any church-planting missionary will tell you the same. Here are some links to back that up (by the way, you can find John Piper’s mission statement in the second link… it’s very missions oriented):

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Biographies/1528_How_Few_There_Are_Who_Die_So_Hard/

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/1996/1813_Doing_Missions_When_Dying_Is_Gain/

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2006/1790_Holy_Ambition_To_Preach_Where_Christ_Has_Not_Been_Named/

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByDate/2009/4460_Holy_Ambition_Pauls_and_Yours/

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2008/3361_Proclaiming_the_Excellencies_of_Christ_Not_Prosperity_Among_the_Nations/

    http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1993/853_Let_the_Nations_Be_Glad/

    I encourage you to listen to or read all of them. Some of the things he says are a little hard to swallow, but I don’t think this is heard enough in the church.

  • http://milesvincentgrimes.wordpress.com/ Miles Vincent Grimes
  • Alan Rudnick

    Miles,

    I really don’t understand why you are making this so personal. Why do you feel the need to call me out? I have nothing against you, Piper, or your friend Chambers. I really wish you would show some maturity and stick to the conversation. My question has not be answered:

    If what he said wasn’t wrong, why does Piper feel the need to keep explaining himself? First Piper said it was a warning to ELCA, then it was a warning to all of us. Sounds like back tracking.

    What is the role of the pastor? As a shepherd, to feed the sheep. To walk with them. Giving love, support, guidance. Making disciples. Welcoming people to Christ. I think Piper would do well in spending more making disciples than putting theology on meteorological events. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of great stuff that Piper does, but this was not his shining moment.

    Agree about being bold and challenging people, but that has nothing to do with speaking for God. My whole point about the article is that we “need to think of better ways to remain faithful to our convictions, but should follow Paul’s advice to James: “Be quick to listen and slow to speak…” What about the floods in Iowa two years ago? What about the snow in the Mid-Atlantic? Is God sending those people messages too with natural disasters? Where do we draw the line?

    As for “judgement”, I said: “It is simply dangerous to speak for God in such ways. Whether you imply or explicitly make such statements, you are putting yourself out on a limb… a very short, thin, and unstable limb because there is no way to know if Piper is right or wrong.”

    As for Chambers, it would do you well spending more time in first century history. Salt was used to flavor food… it was also valuable. Chambers is using an allegorical interpretation of Jesus words (which is his most utilized form of interpretation). Jesus wants us to be the salt, the thing that gives flavor to the Christian life. To give value to being a disciple. Jesus had no intention of using salt as way of directing his disciples in any kind of “annoyance and distress… spiteful and bitter.” -Chambers.

  • http://milesvincentgrimes.wordpress.com/ Miles Vincent Grimes

    My apologies. I’m sorry that you feel I made it personal. I also did not realize you were a pastor OR the author of this site before I commented. My bad.

    I’ll try to speak to everything you brought up, if I can. To begin with, I am unsatisfied with how you addressed Piper:

    “I think Piper would do well in spending more [time?] making disciples than putting theology on meteorological events. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of great stuff that Piper does, but this was not his shining moment.”

    I am sorry, but if you knew anything about Piper, you’d know that his life goal and church goal is to raise up believers to “fulfill what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” -Colossians 1:27

    Half of his sermons are about the great commission. You fail to acknowledge that up against his, “putting theology on meteorological events.” People were asking for answers, and he gave the best answer he could. I wonder, did anyone send you an email about the coincidence? (That is not an attack, but a valid question. I’m not interested in how you’d respond either, that’s off topic. My question is did you receive any queries about the event.) It doesn’t seem like you took the time to look at any of the links, so I’ll post some information from them:

    His church’s mission statement: We exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.

    This mission statement is more “mission-minded” than any other mission statement I have come across. And, it cannot fail -> Matthew 24:14

    As for what John Piper thinks about natural and unnatural disasters, I’d ask you as a scholar to read this: http://tinyurl.com/rxo3w2

    “If what he said wasn’t wrong, why does Piper feel the need to keep explaining himself?” Piper doesn’t feel the need to keep explaining himself. He was at a conference, they asked him a question, and he answered the same way he always does. As for his thoughts on the tornado, if you read back in your blog to your first John Piper quote, he in fact does say, “firm warning to the ELCA and all of us.” There is no back tracking there. He addresses the ELCA and all of us. Plain and simple. My question for you is, did you watch the video I posted? “First Piper said it was a warning to ELCA, then it was a warning to all of us.” Wrong, first Piper said is was a warning to the ELCA AND all of us. Go back and read it.

    Also, Piper did nothing Jesus did not do in Luke 13:1-5. “Do you think they were worse sinners than you? NO! But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” In my estimation, John Piper proclaimed the Gospel to thousands of people that heard God’s pleading for repentance. More good came out of him speaking up than did silence.

    Where does he say he is speaking for God? As for the people of Iowa and the Mid-Atlantic, yes. God is sending those people and “all people,” a warning. “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” What Piper is trying to accomplish here is this: You have NO idea when you will die. God controls the world and all that is in it. He controls the sea, the clouds, the storms and the sun. He controls your very breath and heartbeat. If you’d like to shake your fist at God, then by all means, do. But God allows the sun to shine on the righteous and unrighteous. And the message is, you have no idea when you will leave this earth. When God decides, “Your time is up.” Therefore, REPENT before you perish and don’t have the opportunity anymore! That is the inference Piper is making. It is clear. Watch the video.

    Also, you take James out of context. Read the whole passage: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”

    John Piper is not angry and he is trying to “get rid of all moral filth,” (no, not just the ELCA), and trying to “humbly accept the word” that is planted in him.

    As for judgement, you are judging him. “Why you should be upset with John Piper.” You are writing a post that is supposed to tell your readers why they should be upset with someone. That is not Christ-like, sir, nor does it sound Christ-like. “Love your enemies,” if John Piper can in fact be called your enemy.

    Salt was predominantly NOT used to flavor food. They didn’t have refrigerators. Any Biblical scholar would tell you that salt was predominantly used to “savor” food. Not flavor it. They would salt their meat which would keep the meat for several days. “Jesus wants us to be the salt, the thing that gives flavor to the Christian life.” Jesus actually says “You are the salt of the world,” not “You are the salt of the Christian life.” Meaning, “You are the preservative of the world.” Preserve the good, live a bold life. Jesus also gave other conspicuous analogies such as a city on a hill. These are things that are to be seen, not unseen. We are not supposed to blend in. Jesus was the most counter-cultural being in the first century. So obscure and yet popular that the Jews killed him because he wouldn’t be their King. Chambers makes a good point. And he begs the question, should we be experiencing persecution if we are living right Christian lives. ARE we experiencing persecution? Why?

    Again, my apologies for making my previous comments so personal. It was immature.

  • Alan Rudnick

    Miles,

    Dear friend, you feel the need to defend John Piper. You obviously spend a lot of time proving his worth. I’m going to end this conversation, for I feel it is not getting anywhere. You have placed yourself the expert on all matters because you use the phase “If you knew anything…” many times and have placed me as ignorant.

    For some reason, you feel I have it out for Piper and I don’t. You have an agenda and that’s fine. You decide to view the world through a specific lens and are unwilling to view the world through any other. Your thoughts are legalistic and dogmatic.

    I pray that as your continue in your ministry and education that you will consider not to be quick to be “right.” It really comes through in your writing and you take a very hostile stance. In ministry, as Jesus said, we must be “wise like serpents, but harmless as doves.”

    Blessings.

  • http://milesvincentgrimes.wordpress.com/ Miles Vincent Grimes

    Alan,

    I’m really really sorry you’ve taken my response the wrong way. Perhaps I use language to strongly. I was enjoying this conversation and was actually looking forward to hear how I may have misunderstood where you were coming from or how I seemed to have made a mistake in what I wrote. I don’t read your site (I actually found this article due to a google search) so I’m not sure whether or not you get confrontational conversations on here or not, but I’m sorry for all this mess if it is infrequent.

    I take your last response personally. It was a bit offensive. I feel you misrepresented Piper so I represented him. I did represent him as a crazy-piper-fan, and I acknowledge that, so again, I must apologize. I only said “if you knew anything” once, and it was concerning Piper, because of your language “Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of great stuff that Piper does, but this was not his shining moment.” You sound as if you’re very familiar with Piper when in other flippant statements seem to contradict that fact.

    Hear me out: I’m really honestly not sure how my thoughts are legalistic and dogmatic and how I view the world through a specific lens. All I’m saying is that it doesn’t help me or push me on to maturity. I can’t practically take what you said and be a better person. Sincerely, can you explain so I can work on it? I’m really asking you as a brother here.

    Let me encourage you the same way. I would be very careful with your word and language choices when it comes to “facts.” You didn’t recount every detail accurately or fairly, in my estimation, and when we are talking about the critique of a person’s actions and who they are as a brother in Christ, I think it is very important.

    I’d like to use my good friend Chambers again, if you don’t mind =] . This is something that I have been attempting to work on, and obviously have failed miserably at via your last response, but I think it’s very crucial to how we evaluate others:

    “The temper of mind that makes us lynx-eyed in seeing where others are wrong does not do them any good, because the effect of our criticism is to paralyse their powers, which proves that the criticism was not of the Holy Ghost; we have put ourselves into the posiition of a superior person. Jesus says a disciple can never stand away from another life and criticise it, therefore He advocates an uncritical temper, “Judge not.” Beware of anything that puts you in the place of the superior person… The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual, there is nothing of the likeness of Jesus Christ about him. A critical temper is a contradiction to all our Lord’s teaching. Jesus says of criticism, ‘Apply it to yourself, never to anyone else.’ “Why dost thou judge thy brother? . . . for we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ.” Whenever you are in a critical temper, it is impossible to enter into communion with God. Criticism makes you hard and vindictive and cruel, and leaves you with the flattering unction that you are a superior person. It is impossible to develop the characteristics of a saint and maintain a critical attitude. The first thing the Holy Spirit does is to give us a spring-cleaning, and there is no possibility of pride being left in a man after that. I never met a man I could despair of after having discerned all that lies in me apart from the grace of God. Stop having a measuring rod for others. Jesus says regarding judging, ‘Don’t; be uncritical in your temper, because in the spiritual domain you can accomplish nothing by criticism.’”

    When I read this, I realized my folly in pointing the finger at the “American” church. I have a tremendous problem with the road my generation is taking and where we are heading and it’s so easy for me to point the finger at every little grievance I have a problem with. If you read back some in my blog, you’ll know what I’m talking about (I just BARELY glaze the surface in there, though). But yeah, so that’s me. I’m really sorry if I have offended you in any way shape or form or if I’ve misrepresented myself, frustrated you, or just made you laugh at how silly you think this all is. I have respect for you and your work, as I have read some of your postings.

    Please do pray for me! I don’t want to make the promise that I will for you, but I know the Spirit will, if he sees fit to, bring you to mind. Blessings on you and your ministry at First Baptist. =]
    -Miles

  • http://milesvincentgrimes.wordpress.com/ Miles Vincent Grimes

    Sorry about the long response. And if you don’t want to respond, I totally get it. No worries. Have a splendid week, sir!

  • Alan Rudnick

    When it comes to conversation, spending less time in the pejorative, and more time in the approbative would help. That’s all.

  • Cheryl

    I read these blogs with great interest and at the end, my Oxford Complete Wordfinder. Bottom line, God is in control; Lord of heaven and earth. He is unchanging in His Word. Glory to the Father for his righteousness and judgement. In it we we sinners find our joy through repentence and as disciples we are called to share that broken and contrite spirit, newly filled with God’s mercy and grace with a blind and disbelieving world.

  • Milton Kliesch

    Great blog Alan and you handled the conversation with respondents in a fair, honest, and charitable manner….I grew up hearing this idea that god sends sickness and tornadoes! I just don’t see things that way…never did! Milton kliesch

    • http://alanrudnick.org Alan Rudnick

      Milton, thank you.

  • Joe Rainone

    Sorry I know I am getting into the conversation a little late, but if I read carefully, God did send brimstone down on Sodom and Gomorrah, To think He only sent a heavy wind upon that church is not a far stretch, there is presidence on God’s behavior toward that sin is there not? I can see where one might think it may be God’s anger once again or do we believe God does not get angry with wickedness?