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,