Category Archives: John Piper

Thoughts on John Piper and Rachel Held Evans

John Piper is at it again. Shortly after the OKC tornado, he made the following tweet (which was later deleted):

Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead. -Job 1:19

Just as night follows day, Rachel Evans promptly called him on it.

First, some thoughts on Piper.

This is not the first time he has done something like this.  He’s developing a pattern.  I really wish he would think ahead of time before speaking when people are hurting.  It damages the witness of all believers.  Pat Robertson does this thing too often as well.  They remind me a tiny bit of those folks from Westboro Baptist who hold out their “God hates gays” signs any time someone dies. I do think Piper and Robertson are genuine believers, I’m not so sure the Westboro folks are (no one knows but God).  However, they have similar attitudes towards suffering and their understanding of the wrath of God.  I bet the Westboro crew is on their way down to Oklahoma right now.

As Christians, our job is to mourn with those who mourn.  We are to help and comfort those in need, even when we don’t think they deserve it.  It is not for us to assign blame.

Now on to Rachel Evans.

She takes things things too far.  Although her post made some good points,  she too damaged her Christian witness, placing her criticism of Piper in front of the fact that he’s a fellow believer.

She wrote:

Piper’s god is like an abusive father, filled with unpredictable rage. His family must walk on eggshells, afraid of suddenly enraging him. Should he be provoked, this god will lash out with deadly, earthquakes, tsunamis, violence and war.

Two things here:

First, this is not a quote Piper would agree with.  Evans should not attribute a belief to Piper that he would reject, or to which he would at the very least give a nuanced explanation of.  The most that can be fairly said is that from Evan’s view, Piper’s theology inadvertently leads to a misunderstanding of God’s character, and this misunderstanding leads to an inaccurate picture of God who is abusive, full of rage, etc.

The second thing is that she refers to Piper’s “god” in the lower case.  She does this throughout the post.   This implies that Piper worships a false god.  Despite our differences, all Christians worship the same God.

Just like Piper, Evans needs to think ahead of time before speaking.

And I suppose I do too.

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Filed under Calvinism, disaster, John Piper, Rachel Held Evans

What is the Nature of God’s Morality? Good Critique of John Piper’s Theology

The Christian Post recently had a post by John Piper, entitled: What Made It OK for God to Kill Women, Children in Old Testament?.  Here’s a snippet:

It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.

God is taking life every day. He will take 50,000 lives today. Life is in God’s hand. God decides when your last heartbeat will be, and whether it ends through cancer or a bullet wound. God governs.

So God is God! He rules and governs everything. And everything he does is just and right and good. God owes us nothing.

If you are troubled by Piper’s concept of God’s morality, you’re not alone!  Bob Anderson from the Society of Evangelical Arminians has written up an excellent response.  It can be found here.  Anderson writes that:

What is at stake is the morality and righteousness of God with the random killing of individuals or groups. The deterministic paradigm, which reduces the very concept of the “good” is manifest in Piper’s statement below:

“It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he
pleases.”

That is an appalling statement, because it contradicts the righteousness of God that we seek to affirm – the righteousness of the God who pleads with sinners to repent so as not to die. It certainly is an expression of sovereignty, but not righteous sovereignty. “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:4 NRS). By definition, Christians define God as the good and the good is for all. Evil, in and of itself cannot be the good. The good can only be derived when God labors within an evil situation to bring it about. Perhaps that is what we should see as the miracle of the transcendent God. God is not part of the evil that exists because of human sin. Rather he brings about good because he is not part of the sin.

Piper believes that God can do whatever he wants on the basis of power.  That is wrong.  There are certain things God won’t do because of his good character, even though he has the power to do so. God is moral and his morality is intrinsic to his character.  He does not arbitrarily kill people.

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Filed under Calvinism, John Piper, Society of Evangelical Arminians

Witherington Critiques “Masculine Christianity”

Lately among some Calvinists there has been promotion of “Masculine Christianity”. Not all of their ideas and observations are off mark. God is referred to as male in scripture, and there is a place for exhorting men to keep their responsibilities. However, it sometimes becomes evident that Piper, Driscoll and others are not as interested in encouraging men as they are in keeping women “in their place”. And that is sinful. It is wrong to prevent women from leading when they are gifted and have been called by the Holy Spirit to do so. And it’s also misguided to present God in such a way that focuses only on His “masculine” qualities. Women are made in God’s image too. Every quality a woman has also comes from God.

Ben Witherington gives a good critique here: John Piper on Men in Ministry, and the Masculinity of Christianity. From the post:

Well let’s start with the orthodox Christian point that GOD IS NEITHER MALE NOR FEMALE IN THE DIVINE NATURE. The Bible is clear enough that God is ‘spirit’, not flesh and gender is always a manifestation of flesh….Just as it is wrong to say that the father language in the Bible is just a bad outcropping of the thinking of those who lived in an overwhelmingly patriarchal culture and couldn’t help themselves, so it is also equally bad theology to suggest that the reason for the Father and King language in the Bible is because this tells us something about the divine nature or even the divine will that ‘Christianity’ have a masculine feel.

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Filed under Ben Witherington, John Piper, women in leadership

Can my ministry flourish in a Reformed environment even though I hold to Arminian theology?

This post was inspired by something John Piper wrote, which you can read here.

Can my ministry flourish in a Reformed environment even though I hold to Arminian theology?

I don’t want to encourage a pastor, whether a worship pastor or senior pastor or associate pastor, to act in a knee-jerk way about being out of sync with his church. It may have happened because he came into the church unaware of where they were. It may have happened because her theology changed after she got there.

There are different reasons why you might wind up in this situation. And once you do, what I want to say first is, Don’t assume it can’t happen. Don’t assume flourishing can’t happen. And by “flourishing” I mean that over time the people would grow with you into greater truth about the love of God. And it can happen in ways that are not dramatic.

In other words, an Arminian position mainly means, God is holy, good, just, moral, loving, and always does what is right. You can trust Him. We’re going to ask God to change lives here. We’re going to tell individuals that God loves them. There are a lot of born-again Calvinist people who like that. It’s because they don’t see the implications of their theology.

And if you get a congregation liking that over time—”God is good, and we’re going to celebrate his character and his nature and his love” (just leave it undefined for the time being. Everybody believes in the love of God, one way or the other)—what happens is that when God works on your heart, you begin to trust him and seek first his kingdom. So even if you initially have a distorted view of God, when you get to specifics in John 3, Romans 10, 1 John 4, about love and whatnot, your heart is more ready for it.

So the flourishing could be that you’re taking people where you know you want them to go, just because you know that God genuinely cares about them. And your Arminain orientation makes you keenly aware of that. Their Calvinistic orientation doesn’t naturally make them as aware of that. And you’re going to take them there. And when the whole spirit of the place changes, then the theology might grow. And that’s what I mean by flourishing.

Now that might not happen, because as you begin to go there you might encounter opposition. People might say, “I’m tired of this God shows no favoritism nonsense. We need more exclusivity. It’s not my responsibility to preach the gospel, God loves me but he hates you”—though they wouldn’t use those words necessarily. They think that God values them more than others. They’re showing pride. This is just too serious.

And so over time, your effort to simply make much of God in Christ would encounter opposition. And then, yes, you would probably have to find another place.

So the general point there is, Pray toward a process that is open and above board. If you are a worship leader, then you should be totally candid with your senior pastor or the pastoral team and say, “Here’s where I am. Do you want me here? If you don’t want me here, I should go.” If they say, “We want you here, just don’t push your peripheral distinctives,” then you may respond, “Well, we’ll make a go of it, and I’ll try to design services that I think honor God. And you’ll have to tell me in the long run whether you think I’m pushing my distinctives.”

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Filed under Arminianism, Calvinism, John Piper