The Monstrous God of John Piper



For the past several days I have been writing on the problems with evangelicalism. I will continue that series later, but after reading John Piper’s latest statements about God, I wanted to take a moment to address them. Since my last post on evangelicalism discussed the epidemic of celebrity pastors, I think it seems fitting to take this brief detour.

As you are probably already aware, during the recent Desiring God Conference John Piper declared his belief that God intended Christianity to have a masculine feel to it. Several others have already written great responses to this absolutely absurd claim. So, I won’t add to what is already out there, except to point out that without women who were brave enough to visit the empty tomb on Easter Sunday and then return to preach the gospel to a bunch of cowardly men, there would be no church for Piper to exclude them from.

Instead, I want to address Piper’s latest remarks which I find to be profoundly disturbing. In The Christian Post, John Piper responded to the question “What made it OK for God to kill women and children in the Old Testament?” with the following….

“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.”

Did you catch that?!

John Piper literally said that God gives people cancer and has others shot to death. But not just that….according to Piper, God’s callous and remorseless executions are good things!

As ridiculous as his views are about masculinity and Christianity, this is beyond the pale. Simply put, the God that John Piper worships, the God that he proclaims to his congregation, the God he would have us all believe in is nothing more than a monster.

Piper calls it grace that God allows us to live, which is true. But when God is allowing us to live so that at a moment of God’s choosing God can strike us down with cancer or send someone to shoot us in the head, then that isn’t grace. It’s sadomasochism.

So just to refresh, according to Piper, when that father in Washington hacked his sons to death before setting his house on fire this week, that was a God thing. When a woman is abducted, brutally raped, and then murdered, it’s a God thing. And of course, when Hitler had over 6 million people butchered during the Holocaust, it was also the will of God. That’s not the crazy, hyperbolic ranting of a blogger. That is literally what John Piper is saying.

There is absolutely no getting around the fact that this sort of God is in no way worthy of worship. This is a God to be terrified by, to be repulsed by, a God to be condemned. This God is a monster more evil than anything humanity could ever imagine.

But Piper wasn’t finished…..

‘”The part that makes it harder is that he commands people to do it. He commanded Joshua to slaughter people, okay? You’ve got human beings killing humans, and therefore a moral question of what is right to do. The Bible says, “Thou shalt not murder,” yet God says to Joshua, “Go in and clean house, and don’t leave anything breathing! Don’t leave a donkey, child, woman, old man or old woman breathing. Wipe out Jericho.” My answer to that is that there is a point in history, a season in history, where God is the immediate king of a people, Israel, different than the way he is the king over the church, which is from all the peoples of Israel and does not have a political, ethnic dimension to it. With Joshua there was a political, ethnic dimension, God was immediate king, and he uses this people as his instrument to accomplish his judgment in the world at that time.”

If that last part of the paragraph, the part about people being God’s instruments of judgment, if that part sounds familiar it’s because it should. Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the 9/11 hijackers all said the same thing before they flew airplanes into the World Trade Center. Every time a jihadist straps a bomb to his or her chest and blows up innocent people, they do so with the belief that they are God’s instrument of judgment in the world. Once again, there is no hyperbole here: this is exactly the sort of thing John Piper is justifying.

Worse still, if we are made in the image of God and this is how God behaves, then this sort of violent, vengeful, murderous behavior is how we should be living.

What I think we see in Piper’s statements is the only destination of biblical inerrancy, fundamentalism, and a refusal to allow the Bible to be anything other than a list of normative behaviors. Like any other fundamentalist, Piper seems to assume that if the words “thou shall not” don’t precede the sentence, any subsequent behavior which is described in the Bible should be emulated. However, the Bible is filled with stories of how not to behave. Abraham slept with a female slave. Jacob stole his brother’s birthright.  Gideon tested God even though God said “do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Solomon married hundreds of women the Law specifically forbade him to marry. The Bible is a book of stories and like many of the stories we learn as children, sometimes those stories are used to teach us how not to behave.

Likewise, when citing moments like the flood or the conquest of Canaan, I think that Piper fails to make a critical distinction between judgement and cold-hearted murder. Certainly God has the right to exact judgment, and as a just God, God should exact judgment. When God chooses not to, we call that grace and forgiveness. However, judgment and evil are two very different things. While there is not space enough here to get into a detailed discussion about theodicy, we can at least state that just because God’s judgement may be destructive, that in no way makes God also the force behind evil. The two are not intrinsically connected. Neither will it do to pretend as if evil is not evil, but simply the “will of God.”

Ultimately, if God wills all evil, then God is the source of evil and the author of sin. If that is true, then God is not love, God is evil. In that case, the writers of the New Testament, as well as Jesus himself, were all either liars or incredibly deceived when they talked about God’s love and grace. Piper’s only defense to this is that God apparently suffers from split personality disorder. During some “seasons” God chooses to be “loving” and let people live.” In other “seasons” God arbitrarily decides to kill people. This just leaves us with a God who is equally hateful as God is supposed to be loving, an irreconcilable contradiction in nature.

Perhaps the most confusing and ironic part of all this is the title of Piper’s most famous work, his blog, and his annual conference: “Desiring God”. Why would anyone desire such a God? Because they fear that God will send them to hell? If God’s behavior is as erratic and contradictory as Piper describes, then what confidence could anyone have that even if allowed into heaven, God wouldn’t one day change God’s mind, arbitrarily cast everyone into hell, and start over? Piper’s God is the source of all evil, so there’s no reason to believe that in eternity that evil would not rear it’s head again.

Worst of all, there is no room for hope in Piper’s gospel, no space to allow for the comforting of the dying or console families who have lost their loved ones. According to Piper’s gospel, the correct response to a mother whose baby dies tragically in a car accident is “God killed your baby because God wanted your baby to die. I don’t know why God wanted your baby to die, but you should love God anyway.” Is it any surprise then that so many people in Piper’s tradition end up leaving the church and abandoning their faith? Who would want to serve such a God? How could you ever love such a God? Why would you ever think such a God is worthy of worship?”

Personally, I can’t blame anyone for hating such a God.

I know that my plea will go unheeded, but nonetheless I have to ask, “Can we please stop giving celebrity pastors like John Piper a platform to spread their gospel of hate?” Likewise, what will it take for the church to realize just how truly awful the theology of the neo-reformed movement can be? I guess if comments like Piper’s don’t sway the neo-reformed faithful, or worse, these comments only reinforce their ideology (which usually seems to be the case), then I guess nothing ever will.


Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

  • Mark

    Yeah he’s off-base with his statements. But I do think there is a point that we have to come to where we become ok with God and not call Him evil even though he doesn’t sheild us from all evil. It’s tough because on one hand, if I as a dad, opened the door to my house and let a murderer in, I’d be responsible for everything that happened and we often think of God in those terms.

    Anyway, I do think his is just a failed attempt to reconcile his worldviews about evil.

    • Zack

      I completely agree that what God allows and why is an incredibly difficult issue. Even when we take into account free will, I almost have to ask, “Is it worth it?”

      My problem with Piper’s statement is that he goes a step further and says that God wills these evil things. I find that incredibly troubling, particularly coming from someone who is pastoring people.

      • Mark

        I do like how C.S. Lewis handles this in The Problem With Pain. But it’s a dificult path and not one that I think we’re meant to follow without the Spirit’s guidance and Piper’s teaching here smacks of a lack of Holy Spirit influence.

    • Daniel

      It’s insane to think that anyone who has read the bible at least once in their lifetime would disagree with John’s standpoint. Honestly, point out one passage in the bible where you could claim (making sure to keep in mind the context of the passage) that God would not be just to kill us all and you will single handedly dismiss Christianity as a whole. The whole purpose in Jesus coming to die was to satisfy the wrath of God, which he did fully. Romans 1:18-32, if one of you can claim perfection then you don’t deserve death…but you can’t. So if we flip the standpoint, the Biblical standpoint would be that we don’t deserve life…though God has so graciously given it to us. Therefore, it is God’s decision when we take our last breath.

  • Adrian W.

    Having a reformed theology requires attributing terrible travesties to God. We talk about this frequently in our Apologetics class (which contains a few Reformed thinkers) and it’s puzzling to me, to say the least. However, those of us who don’t fall under the Reformed umbrella have our own glaring problems (similar to this), but since we’re the “majority,” those problems don’t seem as weird or out-there.

  • Arleen

    Fabulous post, Zack!

    In my experience, people (usually nonbelievers) see or experience murders and cancer and other tragedy and ask, “Why did your God let this happen?” or “How could a God be good who allows this?”

    To quote something I posted on my blog awhile ago:

    “My response is rough around the edges.

    ‘You think this is His fault? You leave Him out of this!’ …

    We ask why God allows sickness, but we don’t take care of ourselves.

    We ask God why there’s poverty, but we avoid eye contact with the homeless guy when he stands next to our car at red lights.

    We ask God why there’s murder, but we don’t love our neighbor.”

    Bad things don’t happen to people because of God. Bad things happen to people because of people. I can empathize when nonbelievers ask these questions, but I am INFURIATED when believers perpetuate ideas that really ought to be figuratively decimated.

    • Zack

      “Bad things happen to people because of people.”

      Amen and amen.

      • Keith Brenton

        But not just bad people. Nobody gave my wife cancer. Even if Satan did, God permitted it. Does that make God evil? No. Can I still trust Him?

        Well, as Zach Mayo paraphrased Simon Peter, “I got nowhere else to go.”

        • Bernard Shuford

          Frustratingly enough, I’m convinced more and more that cancer IS caused by people. Exposure to carcinogens, even unknown, is a huge contributor. So, there’s a huge human element. I’m convinced that MANY people I personally know that have had cancer in one form or another were exposed to asbestos, second hand smoke, and even agricultural chemicals that contributed or even directly caused. As well, more and more, I see God as much more “uninvolved” in evil, which leaves with the unfortunate problem of not being a big promoter of the idea of “absolute sovereignty”.

  • Miles

    Great read. Piper’s response seems so heartless. I really appreciate your honest thoughts and willingness to be bold – we need more of that. We need more people who will stand up and say “no” to certain things (like this issue) and continually question.

    Recently I wrote on whether or not death is God’s will. Thought I would leave it for you to take look at. Not advertising, just thought you might be interested since its relevant!

    Continue the discussion and blogs. Loving them, brother!

    • Zack


  • Scott

    After an IED killed a truckload of soldiers in Iraq, a fellow army chaplain told a Bible study group made up of these soldiers’ friends, “We all deserve to die in an IED. It’s only God’s grace that keeps us alive.” That was supposed to bring comfort and hope, but only heightened the despair and anger. What kind of monster God kills young men and women like that?

    • Zack

      Having family in the military, that story both infuriates me and breaks my heart.

      • brian

        Evidently, you know very little of God’s holiness or man’s sinfulness because Jesus essentially said the same thing as that chaplain said: “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4,5)

        • Descriptive Grace

          Why don’t the Calvinist ninnys ever notice the “unless you repent” part? Oh, I forgot, they pretend that “repent” means “repent of not believing that I, a man like you, am God; and begin to believe that I am God” rather than what it really means, “repent of your sins.”

          • Tyler

            You just described the same thing, James. The “Calvinist ninnys” are repenting of idolatry (beginning to believe that I am God), which is the same as repenting of your sins. Idolatry is a sin. The Bible encourages us to be specific in our repentance of sins.

  • Greg D

    Although I could never get into his books or his theology, I never really had any issues with John Piper personally. I also have many friends who really like Piper and some seem to venerate him as if he were a Catholic saint. But when Piper Tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell” last year I knew his popularity and power had gotten to him. I have found quite often that the churches that teach grace (like those from the Reformed variety) are actually the ones who least live it out. And, I think the John Pipers, the Mark Driscolls, and the John MacArthurs have all been great examples of how I never want my Christianity to look like to an unbelieving world.

  • Josh

    This is one of the results of fundamentalist Christianity; when you read the Old Testament as word-for-word literally true and God-breathed instead of a culture writing its own history down and telling why they think they are better than other cultures and their God is better than other cultures’ gods. Most of the time in the Old Testament the writers don’t even say that their God is the only God that exists, it’s almost always “ours is more powerful than yours,” and that’s a pretty common theme in ancient cultures’ histories. But if you read it as Piper and a large part of Christianity does, the end result has to be that God commands people to kill and wills people to be killed. But then they also try to say that God is loving, and we get a world that recognizes that schizophrenia and laughs at Christianity.

    • Zack

      Liberal hippie :)

    • marlo

      Hey Josh.. The Bible in its entirety, every word and every story is about God, not about people.

      • Descriptive Grace

        There are no people in the Bible? What the hell kind of Bible are you reading? Must be that damn NIV.

  • Karen

    In his brilliant little book, The Doors of the Sea, Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart explores and critiques the human responses to suffering and evil, both atheist indictments of faith in God and well-intentioned, but boneheaded (my word, not his), Christians “solicitous of [defending] God’s perfect righteousness.” Please feel free to delete this if it is too long, but I can’t resist quoting him.

    Hart writes:

    “It is strange enough that the skeptic demands of Christians that they account for evil–physical and moral–in a way that draws a perfectly immediate connection between the will of God for his creatures and the conditions of earthly life; it is stranger still when Christians attempt to oblige. For the scriptural understanding of evil has always been more radical and ‘fantastic’ than anything that can be fitted either within a deistic theodicy or, for that matter, within any philosophical indictment of such a theodicy. Christian thought, from the outset, denies that (in themselves) suffering, death, and evil have any ultimate value or spiritual meaning at all. It claims that they are cosmic contingencies, ontological shadows, intrinsically devoid of substance or purpose, however much God may–under the conditions of a fallen order–make them occasions for accomplishing his good ends. . . .

    “[Referring to the various responses from Christians of differing theological traditions to a column he wrote for the Washington Post following the Indian Tsunami] As incongruent as the various positions were with one another, one common element was impossible to overlook: each man, solicitous as he was of God’s perfect righteousness, clearly seemed to wish to believe that there is a divine plan in all the seeming randomness of nature’s violence that accounts for *every* instance of suffering, privation, and loss in a sort of total sum. This is an understandable impulse. That there is a transcendent providence that will bring God’s good ends out of the darkness of history–in spite of every evil–no Christian can fail to affirm. But providence . . . is not simply a ‘total sum’ or ‘infinite equation’ that leaves nothing behind.

    “. . . there is a point at which an explanation becomes so comprehensive that it ceases to explain anything at all, because it has become a mere tautology. In the case of a pure determinism, this is always so. To assert that every finite contingency is solely and unambiguously the effect of a single will working all things–without any deeper mystery of created freedom–is to assert nothing but that the world is what it is, for any meaningful distinction between the will of God and the totality of cosmic eventuality has collapsed. If all that occurs, in the minutest detail and in the entirety of its design, is only the expression of one infinite volition that makes no real room within its transcendent determination for other, secondary, subsidiary but free agencies (and so for some element of chance and absurdity), then the world is both meaningful in every part and meaningless in its totality, an expression of pure power and nothing else.”

  • Karen


    Hart continues:

    “Even if the purpose of such a world is to prepare creatures to know the majesty and justice of its God, that majesty and justice are, in a very real sense, fictions of his will, impressed upon creatures by means both good and evil, merciful and cruel, radiant and monstrous–some are created for eternal bliss and others for eternal torment, and all for the sake of the divine drama of perfect and irresistible might. Such a God, at the end of the day, is nothing but will, and so nothing but an infinite brute event; and the only adoration that such a God can evoke is an almost perfect coincidence of faith and nihilism.”

    If any of this resonates, you owe it to yourselves to obtain a copy of this book and read it in its entirety. You will not regret it. What I have shared is only the tip of the iceberg. Hart’s thought is profound, and his comprehension of the teaching of Christian tradition on the subject of the nature of God and of evil is considerably greater than that of Piper and company.

    • Zack

      I love me some David Bentley Hart. Used some of his stuff in my graduate thesis. Along with another Eastern theologian, John Zizioulas. Maybe I am Eastern Orthodox and just don’t know it. :)

  • Rafael

    Wonderful post! truly enjoyed it.

    • Zack

      Thanks! Although, honestly I wish this sort of thing was never said so that I wouldn’t even “have” to write about it.

      • Andy Hall

        Thanks for the post Zack

  • Andrew

    The primary difference between Calvinists and HP Lovecraft is that the latter admits that the gods he invented are evil, whereas the former do not.

  • Karen

    If you’ve got “The Problem of Pain” and “The Doors of the Sea,” you will have a pretty complete and very Orthodox/orthodox Christian understanding of the nature of suffering and evil and God’s attitude toward it. I credit my childhood love affair with Narnia and later many other of C.S. Lewis’ writings with ruining me for Evangelicalism and readying me to become Orthodox. Although he never joined the Orthodox Church (Anglicans weren’t really given the opportunity in those days), he is about as Orthodox a thinker you will find and has the added benefit of putting it in everyday terms western minds can understand. David Bentley Hart’s writing is razor sharp and lyrical, and he has an impressive command of the English language. I had to read his book with a dictionary by my side (and I’m a college grad.). It’s probably the first book since college I marked up and annotated as I was reading, both because I needed to define some words and because of the beauty and keen insight of so much of what he was saying.

    I read Being As Communion before I became Orthodox and it was too profound for me, but what I understood I loved.

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  • Drew

    Hey Zack, I really enjoy your blog. Have you ever read Disturbing Divine Behavior by Eric Seibert? Helped me tremendously! Very honest book. Piper is unintentionally smearing God’s good name. Im glad you responded to him.

  • marlo

    I think your first problem is you think YOUR in charge… Although we humans like to think we are, we are not!!

    Psalm 115:3
    Romans 8:28
    Proverbs 19:21
    Jeremiah 29:11
    Jeremiah 10:6-10
    Isaiah 46:7
    Proverbs 16:4
    John 14:6
    Hebrews 1:3, to name a few

    I highly recommend you read THE WHOLE BIBLE and not take out the parts you don’t like!

    • Daniel

      Amen bro, Amen!

  • Matt Richards

    Hi Zack,
    Thank you for your post. I know I’m late to the party but I just feel the need as a Reformed believer and a big John Piper fan to offer a defense.
    First, I’ll touch briefly on the masculinity comment. It’s not really as ridiculous a comment as everyone makes it out to be. God is God the Father, Jesus is the Son. The Trinity itself has a masculine feel and if you want to reject that claim, well then I really wouldn’t have anything else to say. You can’t claim that’s not true. Yes, Jesus talks about being a mother hen, but the overwhelming feel is masculine. The church leaders are males. All the old testament kings are males. God is the God of “Abraham, Issac, and Jacob” not “Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel/Leah.”
    I’ll leave that there. I want to address the greater issue of Piper’s comments. What John is arguing is that God is SOVEREIGN and that everything happens within God’s will. On top of that, he’s arguing God’s JUST WRATH can be poured out at any time on anyone. Why did Jesus die? To appease God’s wrath. Why? Because we are more sinful than we can imagine and WE deserve God’s wrath. If we deserve eternal punishment in hell and we believe in a God who eternally damns people to eternal punishment and everlasting fire (which I do. Matthew 25), it’s seems incredible trite to argue that God is horribly inhumane by giving someone cancer. If that’s inhumane and evil and disgusting, what does that make hell? And how monstrous does that make God?
    In the first part you quote from Piper, John is focusing on God’s sovereignty and His will. God is taking life every day because God is author and finisher of life. Additionally, reformed theology sees God as Sovereign over everything. So if someone dies, “God wills that they die.” Nothing happens outside of God allowing it to happen. It’s in His will. This is why “God decides when…and whether it ends through cancer or a bullet wound.” Notice that you imply that “God gives people cancer and has shot others to death.” When you reread what Piper says, that’s NOT what he is saying. He is saying that nothing happens outside of God’s will because God is Sovereign. God governs and His governance allows these things to happen. God doesn’t shoot others to death. People do. Death and sickness and pain and suffering and evil are all a result of sin, not God. Yet God, in His perfect Sovereignty, allows these things to happen and still manages to execute perfect justice and goodness despite the ugliness and evil of our fallen world. Our standards and views of justice and goodness are far different than God’s. You can call that “evil” or “monstrous” or whatever, but it’s the simple truth. The real question is why, in my sinfulness do I NOT deserve to be killed by cancer or from a bullet wound? What makes me so good and right that I deserve God’s goodness rather than His wrath? Why should I live to be 80 and old and happy and live a middle class life in the United States and never face persecution for my faith? Piper’s point is that we don’t deserve these things or anything but death. We deserve pure evil because we humans ARE evil. And sometimes, because we are evil and our world is evil, we get evil in this life. God allows it and that’s tough to swallow, but it takes us back to Isaiah 55:8-9. Look at Job: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21b) Job recognized in the destruction and evil that just overtook him in Job 1 that God was still God and that He still deserved blessing. That’s a hard biblical model to follow…
    To address your claims about the father in Washington or the raped and murdered woman or the Holocaust, yes they were within the will of God. Because God is Sovereign and all-knowing, he pre-knew that those events would happen and allowed them to happen. This doesn’t make it a “God thing” that it happened. Otherwise, if you claim that, then all is evil is from God, thus making God evil, which we both know and would agree is completely false. But then, how do you explain God’s Sovereignty? Does this mean God didn’t know those things would happen or that He had no control over them? Because if you claim that He at all pre-knew those events, then you would have to say that God would have stopped them so that they never happened. If you claim he didn’t foreknow these events, then how is He God? He seems like a pretty limited and powerless God if He does not have the scope to either know beforehand or to have control to stop such events. The only conclusion from this is that if God is a limitless, all powerful, all-knowing God, then for some reason He must allow these things to happen by His will. This does not make him terrifying or repulsive. He is not acting out the evil. He is merely allowing the evil to happen in His perfect will. At this point, I think it’s important to remember that these were your examples, not Piper’s. Piper is not claiming anything that you claimed (and I have discussed in this paragraph). With all due respect, I do believe your paragraph was the “crazy, hyperbolic ranting of a blogger” rather than Piper’s literal words.
    I will now address the comments regarding Piper’s second quote regarding God killing the women and children in Canaan. Quite frankly, I believe you take this argument way beyond what Piper is saying. WAY beyond. Personally, I think your extrapolation is not only unfair but completely wrong. Piper is saying that in the context of the Old Testament God commanded Joshua and the Israelites to kill the people of Jericho and other cities. Piper uses the words “a point in history, a season in history,” and “at that time” to describe the situation where God is commanding the Israelites to be God’s instruments of judgment. This is clearly a specific instance of God’s wrath on a particular set of people at a particular time in history by a particular group of people commissioned by God under a theocratic rule. So I’m struggling to understand how you took that comment and extrapolated that into a “if this is how God behaves…[this] is how we should be living.” Where did you get that from?!? That’s not what he’s arguing AT ALL! Nowhere does Piper insinuate that this is an acceptable modern day practice or that we should emulate this. I would argue that he would quote Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19 where God says, “Vengeance is mine. I will repay,” for exactly why we should NOT be living a vengeful, murderous lifestyle. This topic has nothing to do with how we should behave but everything to do with God’s character and actions.
    Also, to touch on the topic of judgment vs. murder, Piper is purposely pointing to the tension in the text between murder and judgment. He recognizes that Joshua and the Israelites are carrying out God’s specific judgment, but it’s still hard not to look at it as murder. The Israelites are marching into cities and just completely slaughtering people. It sounds like murder to me. It reminds me of the U.S. soldier in Afghanistan who went on a killing spree, killing 17 Afghans, mostly women and children. He’s currently on trial for murder. But what if God told him to do it? We would still all view it as murder. Same idea with Joshua and killing the women and children. Yes, it’s God’s judgment but it also looks like murder. So that’s why it’s a tough subject. But clearly there is a purpose to God’s judgment on the people of Canaan and it’s not evil. Piper isn’t calling it evil or associating it with evil. He’s merely highlighting the tension of the two issues. So while you say he doesn’t make the distinction, I think his distinction is actually fairly clear.
    Lastly, you do go on a very nice rant about fundamentalism, God’s justice vs. love, Desiring God, the gospel of Piper, and hating God. I do not have time to detail all of those issues but I think they are summed up in the fact that God has a balance of justice, wrath, love, and grace. We have to be careful to understand that they all intermingle in ways that are complicated, above our understanding, and not easily coped by our finite brains. There’s a point where you say, “During some ‘seasons’ God chooses to be ‘loving’ and let people live. In other ‘seasons’ God arbitrarily decides to kill people. This just leaves us with a God who is equally hateful as God is supposed to be loving, an irreconcilable contradiction in nature.” I have a couple of issues with this statement. First, God sent Jesus Christ to the cross to bear the punishment for our wretched sinfulness. Clearly, God hates (and hated) sin. He killed His own Son for us. Why couldn’t He just say, “I forgive you,” and then everything is ok? God needed atonement, something to take His eternal wrath that was stored up for us. Why? Because His wrath stems from our sin and His hatred of sin. Second, God isn’t bound by the natural realm, so His love and hate isn’t a contradiction. Additionally, you can hate something and love something else and not be a contradiction. Lastly, the book of Revelation makes a very strong case for God’s hatred and wrath being very real. The book clearly chronicles a season where God arbitrarily decides to kill A LOT of people.
    I appreciate your post and I very much see your opinion and where you are coming from. I know the initial knee jerk reaction is to claim Piper’s view of God is monstrous, abhorrent, evil, etc. but it’s important to really understand where he’s coming from. Piper doesn’t worship a God who is monstrous. He worships a God who is infinite in His love, mercy, justice, power, sovereignty, and perfection. Sometimes we can’t understand all of that and sometimes it goes against what we think is right. But it’s important to remember that we are never right. God is always right. He is everything and we are nothing. And that’s how Piper paints God in everything he writes and says. And that makes God great and us not. And that’s how we see the majesty and glory of God.

    • fran

      Amen Matt Richards…

    • Barry Cooper

      Thanks for taking the time to offer the defense, Matt. I would agree.

      Piper has a way of stating biblical truth that is sometimes provocative (eg “Christian Hedonism”), but I really don’t think he’s saying anything that isn’t clearly taught in Scripture.

      We have to handle these truths with care, because they can be easily misheard and as a result misrepresented. I have to say, I think that has happened here.

    • Descriptive Grace

      “First, I’ll touch briefly on the masculinity comment. It’s not really as
      ridiculous a comment as everyone makes it out to be. God is God the
      Father, Jesus is the Son. The Trinity itself has a masculine feel and if
      you want to reject that claim, well then I really wouldn’t have
      anything else to say.”

      I’d shy away from pointing out that orthodox Christianity has a multiperonal God where each and every person is male: that’s just giving ammunition to the homosexuals. Of course, being a Socinian, I don’t have to worry too much about it since I only believe the Father is God. Nothing gay about a one-person male God: it takes two to tango.

    • Chase

      What I find odd is this guy(not you Matt) is he seems to disregard one Acts 2:23 “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” and might I say Job(idk lets just through in umm say half of scripture and God pouring out Judgment on who were they? Oh yeah his own people.

      I find it odd how we just talk about an all loving God who doesn’t judge(Israel thought this is why Jesus came the first time, it wasn’t it) yet he will return again to judge yet scripture even tells us John 3:18(people never quote this one) “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”

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  • Teo Constantinescu

    Are metal molders masochistic when they use fire and hammer to shape metal? Why would God be masochistic when he does the same with people? And who can ask him “why do you cast away this vessel” when he does it? Are we better than Job? Wasn’t it God’s intention to pour suffering over Job? Isn’t scripture mentioning that the best of life will be experienced in the heavens and not here on this sin laden earth? Why would we judge God for allowing suffering here if the later rewards are far more valuable than the momentary comfort?

    Romans 9:18-2418 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

  • carlyr

    What you fail to recognize is that Piper is quoting directly from the
    Bible. It is not his opinion. Your argument isn’t with Piper, it is with

    • Cris D Putnam

      Exactly… Zack has created a god from his own imagined image.

    • Descriptive Grace

      The Bible doesn’t say that God controls everything…and if it does, its only in “Paul” who doesn’t get to count as “the Bible” but only as “Paul.”

      • ryan

        Paul is in the bible and ” all scripture is God breathed”. Your point is invalid.

  • zac

    “Is it any surprise then that so many people in Piper’s tradition end up leaving the church and abandoning their faith?” Mentioning unwarranted and completely incorrect facts/statements is not how you should go around writing your blog posts. Could you please point me to where you got your premise for that question?

    • Nick

      A conservative, calvinistic Baptist here. We certainly have an issue with our churches getting smaller. the Barna group and a number of other statistic sites estimate church closings at ~3000-4000 per year. Naturally they don’t distinguish between denominations or causes of the closing, but those aren’t healthy numbers. I myself have been a regular attender of three churches akin to Piper’s teachings that have closed their doors just in the past two years.

      I will, however, agree that the premise of the author’s question isn’t quite relevant. We aren’t loosing people through doctrine–people choose a church for that. Rather, we fail to disciple people, preferring to satiate biblical commands by replacing discipling with pastors and biblical parenthood with youth pastors. We don’t give the next generation a reason to believe what we believe, and I’m not afraid to suggest that it might be because most regular church goers don’t even know why they believe what they believe. This post is a classic example.

      When you look at the Bible in regards to the predestination issue, only three conclusions can be made:
      1.The Bible isn’t literal
      2. Logic is flawed/can’t comprehend the combination of predestination and free will
      3. We don’t have free will.
      Obviously we run into issues with the first two, but the third one is–for some unknown reason–to ghastly to consider. Imagine God being sovereign !? No way!!

  • zac

    Totally agree with Carlyr. Will pray for you Zack

  • billy

    zack, your a fool your not quoting any scripture and the god that john piper worships isnt a “monster” as you said he’s a all powerful god and what your saying is that our god isnt all powerful look again zack your the one who is blaspheming god. and god has power over life and death not you not me but god so before you ridicule john piper my pastor get your facts from the bible.

    • Andy Hall

      You’re an idiot and need to learn to spell.

  • Cris D Putnam

    Zack, you sound not much different than the typical atheist. Remember the flood? Given the sinfulness of mankind, it would be perfectly just for God to wipe out the entire human race. God does not cause cancer of shootings but he allows it. Given Jesus standard of righteousness what makes you think you any better than the terrorist? “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”(Lk 13:5) John Piper is clearly teaching about the sovereign God of the Bible. What god is that you believe in?

  • plstepp

    Actually, CarlyR & Cris, Piper is quoting from PARTS of the Bible, and ignoring others. As if quoting a passage without interpreting it in its contexts settled anything. “Your argument isn’t with Piper, it is with God,” is sophistry.

  • moonscore

    I can empathize with your response… I thought the same thing when I first watched Piper’s videos. However, I agree with Piper here. This question helped me: what is the absolute standard that determines whether something is good or bad?

  • Zach G.

    I’m not a Calvinist either, but I’m trying to figure out what the bad theology is in what he said.

    If God is God, then what he chooses is right, regardless of our opinion of it. I didn’t take Piper’s words as words of hate, but rather acknowledgement of the extreme judgment that we are deserving of as humans. Anything other than death is mercy from what we truly deserve. The fact that I’m alive makes me grateful for not having my sins judged immediately and justly.

    I think that people are much too given to the idea of death being evil. Death itself isn’t evil, it’s a reality of life after the fall of mankind. In fact the whole message of the Gospel is life after death. So how you die really has no bearing on the morality or goodness of death itself, nor when you die. Whether he takes a person with cancer or whether it’s like Elijah or Enoch, the result is the same. Each person goes on to face judgment.

    Does God will the evil actions of people that kill others, no. But he allows us to perish when he deems the right time for his purpose. There are many people that survive deadly events miraculously that isn’t justified by their inherent goodness as humans. Scripture is clear that our heart is wicked beyond all measure. So it’s by God’s grace and mercy that we survive the wickedness of man, not his cruelty that we die because of it. Our days are like grass that one day is here and the next dries up and withers. Perhaps the perspective should be off the life we live now and on the life we will live for eternity.

  • Nate

    Neo-reformed???? H’mmm have you ever read Jonathan Edwards or anything Reformed within the last 500 years? Do you have any humility in giving deference to an issue the church has grappled with since the writings of Paul, and certainly the hundreds of years the church has wrestled with God’s power versus his will. Just how ‘neo’ is John Piper? Would love to hear your wisdom….NOT. We have too much of this demagoguery masquerading as authority figures. First learn BEFORE you attempt to enlighten.

  • Spencer

    I know I am late to the party and many people have given very reasonable and thorough responses to this blog post.

    So I will just leave you with a few comments.

    Please learn quickly the definition of ‘literally’. John Piper LITERALLY did not say anything that you asserted he said outside of quotation marks. It was simply your extremist interpretation of his comments.

    Secondly, your response to Piper was incredibly inadequate. You did not give any sound Bible-based answer to the questions Piper was working with. You criticized and yet did not even offer a hint of a solution.

    Lastly, you fail to recognize the fact that we all deserve death immediately as we are. God withholding that judgment (which would lead to our death) is entirely grace. It is not sadomasochism, it is justice.

    That is all. Thank you.

  • jhaller

    The problem of evil is understatedly hard. As it pertains to God’s will, what does it mean to “will” something. It is a conscious decision to do something. Even if that something is to not intervene knowing the circumstances. And there are two categories of will, Active and Passive. It’s supported under both that God actively wills the death of people (Acts 5) and other times he passively condones it (Exodus 2). We overstep our bounds when we make a judgment call for God on if the death was right or wrong. Nothing dies without God’s willing (Matt 10:29). I believe, by my own thinking, that this was at the heart of John’s comment regarding how someone dies.

  • Descriptive Grace

    Interestingly enough, this was one of the differences between the Pharisees and Sadducees according to Josephus. In The War of the Jews he says the Pharisees believe that Fate and God rule the world, while the Sadducees believe God is not involved in our good or our evil but both flow from freewill. We keep rehashing the same disagreements from Judaism to Christianity. Another rehashed disagreement is between the Priests who thought sacrifices were the most important thing and the Prophets who said no its morality: that’s the Augustinians (Jesus’ sacrifice is the be all end all) versus the Pelagians (morality is the most important). Same old disagreements never die.

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  • Fadziso Hannah Choto

    Thank you Zack for calling out this aweful, pervasive teaching!

  • Joe Henners

    Let’s just all believe what we want to believe. Who needs the Bible anyway! It’s only God’s word that Jesus believed and trusted

  • Rett Copple

    I’m glad others here have the time to deal with people who think themselves Christians while at the same time working to undermine the only authority by which “Christian” can be objectively defined. Because I for one don’t. Silly liberal theologians… Your “churches” are empty, your children are atheists, and Christ has removed your lampstand. Hey, at least you still have your autonomous religious authority! That is for another generation or two until your congregation withers away to complete secularism as your children realize your just playing pretend and worship nothing of real substance.

    • Andy Hall


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  • Crissy

    I believed John Piper did good in his explanation. God is God. Period. He controls everything and we can not put our mind where His mind is. No one can decipher what God thinks. We cant. We are only his creation. If God gives a you cancer, he might be teaching you something very important, like He wants to tell you, your hope should not lie on this world alone. Our hope should be what comes after this life. That is what Paul is saying, ” I consider everything rubbish”. because it really does. The only way to protect your life in this World only shows you dont trust God. You trust your own self and afraid to lose it.

  • Jon

    Zach Hunt,
    I stumbled upon this post from a Google search. I’m unfamiliar with your other writings on here, but based on this article, I believe your God is too small and unbiblical. Every single phrase from your first Piper quote about God governing everything, including when and how we die, can be backed by scripture. You, on the other hand, give no biblical basis for why you believe it is wrong. If you’re going to argue against someone’s theological views, you MUST use scripture to back up your reasoning. You only use worldly reasoning and personal opinion to dispute Piper’s quote. I’d love to see biblical support of how you believe God doesn’t govern and rule everything.

  • Taylor

    I’m obviously very late to the party, but this post is so profoundly uncharitable that it requires considerable effort to plough all the way through! Understanding that the relationship between human freedom/ responsibility and the sovereignty of the almighty and limitless God is one of the most complicated and mysterious subjects in all of existence should bring forth far more grace and patience among christians than is seen here. And to maliciously attack Piper’s answer to that SPECIFIC situation in scripture and then not even touch on the same passage yourself is laughable! Condemning is always easy. It’s in having a consistent counter answer that the difficulty lies. Not to mention the emotion based snipes at Piper’s character when he, a pastor of a large church for over 30 years, has doubtlessly had to deal with such difficult situations (like the mother whose baby has died) in real life. I doubt His church would grow as steadily as it did if his answers to his parishioners were so calloused.

  • Angela

    Can you please give bible scripture references to back up your opinion? John Piper declares a God that the bible declares and he uses scripture. Read all of what he says- not just bits and pieces.

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  • Anonymous

    “The American Jesus is a satirical take on how we in America tend to remake Jesus in our own image.” You literally just did that, made up your own Jesus.

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