Piper tells orphans to stop whining

John Meunier, in a post Ruthless Calvinist tells orphans to stop whining, paraphrases John Piper’s “response to children who lost their fathers on Sept. 11” as:

Yes, God killed your daddy. And he’s your only ticket out of hell, so you better not get too lippy about it.

Is Meunier being fair to Piper? Read his post and make up your own mind. Don’t miss this comment in which John M adds some nuances to his own position, and links it to the issue of whether Hurricane Katrina was a punishment from God – although surprisingly he doesn’t bring in Piper’s other recent controversial comments about the Minneapolis tornado.

Would John Piper endorse anti-abortion Osama bin Laden?

In my post about Sarah Palin I suggested that it would be hypocritical for John Piper to endorse Sarah Palin as candidate for Vice-President, given his clearly expressed views that women should not be in secular authority over men.

I can still find no comment from Piper about Palin. But I can see the direction in which his thinking may be going from the latest post at the Desiring God blog, from Joe Rigney who is one of Piper’s staff members. The post title is “Abortion Is About God”. There is no specific mention of Palin, but there is the following quote which immediately follows an extract from a 1998 sermon by Piper:

During this election season, as politicians court the evangelical vote, it is vital that Christians remind themselves why abortion is the transcendent moral issue of our time.

So, it seems, to Piper and friends abortion transcends all other matters of morality, and should be the deciding issue as Christians decide how to vote. Presumably it would be OK to elect a woman President to be in authority over men, even a militant feminist, as long as she is anti-abortion and a Feminist for Life.

But how far would Piper go with this one? If Rigney’s statement is taken literally, a right stand on abortion must be taken as transcending even matters of basic morality, and not just when it comes to elections. Is it OK to be an adulterer if one is pro-life? How about a murderer or a paedophile? Probably Osama bin Laden, as a fundamentalist Muslim, is strongly opposed to abortion. So, if this were the contest, would Piper endorse Osama rather than Obama?

Sarah Palin, my kind of Republican

I don’t often comment on American politics. I suppose I tend to leave that to Americans, but that doesn’t stop Canadians like Kevin Sam giving their opinions. But I have made some exceptions for Obama, here and here, so partly for the sake of balance I will give some initial reactions to the surprise nomination of Sarah Palin as Republican candidate for Vice-President. In fact it was such a surprise that it seems Jim West confused her with Michael Palin!

From what I have read, including this BBC report and some others and this Wikipedia profile, Sarah Palin sounds like the kind of person I could support, if I could stomach Republican policies in general, especially on social issues like health care and on Iraq.

One piece of information which may be new: in 2002 Palin was defeated in the race for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska by Loren Leman who is the brother of Better Bibles blogger Wayne Leman.

It seems that Palin is a good Christian. At least this is how she is portrayed by the conservative World Magazine. This article says that she attends Wasilla Bible Church, which is non-denominational and evangelical. David Ker among others suggests that her denomination is Assemblies of God, but the evidence for this in fact suggests only that when she was a junior high student (so perhaps before the Bible Church opened in 1977 when she was 13) she attended Wasilla Assembly of God, and that when in the state capital Juneau she attends Juneau Christian Center which appears to be Assemblies of God. This all seems consistent with what was written at the Christianity Today politics blog. So, while she has not rejected her Pentecostal upbringing, her current preference is slightly different.

Palin is not at all the stereotypical conservative Christian woman. She has not stayed at home to manage her home and home school her five children (well spaced over 19 years), but has built her own career. Yet she chose to give birth to her Down’s Syndrome son earlier this year, rather than have an abortion because of his condition. She likes hunting and fishing, not typical feminine pursuits. Given her background in small town Alaska, where guns may be necessary protection from marauding moose and polar bears, I can almost forgive her membership of the National Rifle Association; but she will need to realise that policies which work in Wasilla (population under 6,000 when she was mayor, homicide rate zero in 2005) are not necessarily appropriate in Washington DC (population 588,000, homicide rate 169 in 2006 even after dropping by half since the early 1990s).

The interesting issue is why 72-year-old John McCain picked 44-year-old Palin as his running mate. The consensus seems to be that this was political expediency, picking a young and unusual outsider to balance an old Washington insider, to mirror the Obama-Biden ticket. That certainly makes a lot of sense for McCain, and explains his surprising choice. However, I think it is a good choice – or perhaps not, because it increases the chance of a Republican victory which could have all sorts of other serious repercussions for world peace, and for the health and welfare of poor Americans.

But anyone who votes for the McCain-Palin ticket has to reckon with the real chance that Palin will become President and Commander-in-Chief of US forces, a chance that is enhanced by McCain’s age. So they should not vote this way unless they think that Palin could be an appropriate President.

So this brings me back to the question which I first raised in comments on John Hobbins’ blog (note that there is already more than one page of comments on this post including at least three by me) and then again at Complegalitarian: is a woman Vice-President acceptable to conservative Christians, who are mostly at least in theory complementarian? If not, McCain might find himself losing a substantial number of votes just because he has a woman on his ticket.

Now some complementarians limit women to submissive roles only in the church and in the family. But others teach that women should never be in positions of authority over men even in the secular realm, and so would certainly not accept a woman as President or Commander-in-Chief. Among these is the well-known Bible teacher John Piper, who, in the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which he co-authored with Wayne Grudem, on pp.17-19 of this PDF file, wrote:

Mature femininity does not express itself in the same way toward every man. A mature woman who is married, for example, does not welcome the same kind of strength and leadership from other men that she welcomes from her husband. But she will affirm and receive and nurture the strength and leadership of men in some form in all her relationships with men. This is true even though she may find herself in roles that put some men in a subordinate role to her. Without passing any judgment on the appropriateness of any of these roles one thinks of the following possible instances:

  • Prime Minister and her counsellors and advisors.
  • Principal and the teachers in her school.
  • College teacher and her students.
  • Bus driver and her passengers.
  • Bookstore manager and her clerks and stock help.
  • Staff doctor and her interns.
  • Lawyer and her aides.
  • Judge and the court personnel.
  • Police officer and citizens in her precinct.
  • Legislator and her assistants.
  • T.V. newscaster and her editors.
  • Counsellor and her clients.

One or more of these roles might stretch appropriate expressions of femininity beyond the breaking point. …

But as I said earlier, there are roles that strain the personhood of man and woman too far to be appropriate, productive and healthy for the overall structure of home and society. Some roles would involve kinds of leadership and expectations of authority and forms of strength as to make it unfitting for a woman to fill the role. …

The God-given sense of responsibility for leadership in a mature man will not generally allow him to flourish long under personal, directive leadership of a female superior. J. I. Packer suggested that “a situation in which a female boss has a male secretary” puts strain on the humanity of both (see note 18). I think this would be true in other situations as well. Some of the more obvious ones would be in military combat settings if women were positioned so as to deploy and command men; or in professional baseball if a woman is made the umpire to call balls and strikes and frequently to settle heated disputes among men. And I would stress that this is not necessarily owing to male egotism, but to a natural and good penchant given by God.

It will be fascinating to see what John Piper and other complementarian leaders have to say about Palin as a candidate Vice-President. Interestingly Al Mohler, who doesn’t allow women to teach in his seminary, predicted Palin’s nomination back in May in an article about her Down’s Syndrome baby, but with no comment on whether she would be suitable. The only specific clearly negative comment I have seen is from Carmon Friedrich, called a “mover-and-shaker in patriarchy” by Molly Aley who quoted him:

Does God not ordain the means as well as the end? Why does she get a pass on the leadership issue and career mother problem just because she has the right views on abortion and helps make McCain more electable? If Christian complementarians/patriarchalists get behind this choice, then they undermine all their arguments for the creation order as the reason for opposing women in other areas of ministry. The Word of God calls the civil magistrate a “minister of God.”

Well, now we can look forward to more mothers telling their daughters, “You can be anything you want to be…even vice president!” How is this woman able to be her husband’s helpmeet and be a proper mother to her little ones with such huge responsibilities in her job?

On the other hand, the World Magazine article I mentioned earlier, despite the magazine’s generally complementarian position, comes close to endorsing Palin. And James Dobson is reportedly elated at the news. So how can these complementarians have this attitude? Perhaps it is that these people have a one track mind about politics: the only thing they care about is a candidate’s position on abortion. But then McCain who is not pro-life will not force through anti-abortion legislation for the sake of his VP, so anyone who votes for these two because she is pro-life is voting irresponsibly. Or perhaps John Hobbins is right on the facts, although wrong on the morality of them, when he writes the following astonishing endorsement of hypocrisy:

Consistency is the hobglobin of small minds. Ordinary people tend to get this instinctively. Eggheads like Piper and Grudem, maybe not.

It’s obvious that many people read P & G’s books without coming to agree with the notion that a woman by definition is unfit to be President of the United States, or drive bus, for goodness’ sake.

Well, let’s wait and see. If leaders like Piper come out against Palin, at least they are being consistent, and they may convince enough of their supporters to make a significant dent in McCain’s vote. If they don’t, they will be shown up as hypocrites. It will be interesting to watch!

According to Piper, does God love anyone at all?

Yesterday I posted “God hates sinners”: John Piper does believe this. In a comment Jeff, “Scripture Zealot”, noted that I had taken this from a sermon 23 years old and wondered if Piper might have changed his mind. Well, that is possible, but I have been offered no evidence for it.

However, we do have up-to-date evidence for something almost as shocking which Piper explicitly states today, or at least he did yesterday. If we can trust Adrian Warnock’s report (which is not certain; thanks to Henry Neufeld for the tip), Piper, speaking yesterday at the New Word Alive conference in Wales, said:

Someone might argue, “Sin was condemned, but not Christ.” Piper then explained: Imagine I got you on stage and said, “I’m going to hit you in the face, but it’s not you I’m hitting, it’s just your attitude.” NO! It was the will of the Lord to bruise him. God made him to be sin who knew no sin so that we could become the righteousness of God. He was wounded for us. His punishment set us free. The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He struck him. It was God the Father who killed Jesus. It is considered today to be appalling to teach or sing this. Piper said it is not appalling to him, it is his very life!

To this, I will simply say that “bruise” (Adrian’s double emphasis) is not the same as “kill”, and where in this is the united will of the Trinity? But this quotation should really be checked from the audio and video expected soon.

To return to Piper’s 1985 sermon, on the same chapter, Romans 8, as last night’s, I noticed something strange here.

When I have objected in the past to statements like “God hates sinners” and its apparent contradiction with John 3:16, Calvinist commenters have claimed that in this verse “the world” in fact means “the elect”. There is in fact no exegetical justification for this at all, but it does make for a consistent, although unbiblical, system of doctrine, according to which God loves those whom he has elected to eternal life, and hates those whom he has not elected.

But the strange thing which Piper said in 1985 was with regard to himself before he was a Christian:

But it wasn’t always so for John Piper. … God hated me in my sin.

Now I am sure that Piper considers himself one of the elect. But here he seems to teach that God hated him before he repented and became a Christian. In fact, if we read on, it would appear that, according to Piper, God still hated him as he

contemplate[d] me in Jesus Christ—chosen, loved, and destined for glory … [and] fulfil[led] his predestined purpose for me by appeasing his own wrath and acquitting me of all my sin and conquering the depravity of my heart.

In other words, Piper’s view seems to be that God continues to hate humans, except for the only one he actually loves, Jesus Christ. And if he does love Jesus, he showed that in a very strange way, by killing him. Also, in this case, as Polycarp asked in a comment here,

If God hates sinners, then why Christ?

If God loved Jesus and hated Piper, why did he kill Jesus and save Piper? This just doesn’t make sense!

Now maybe Piper has some way of making this into a consistent system, but it is different from the Calvinist system I described before, and even more different from the truth revealed in the Bible:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8 (TNIV)

Note the first “for us”: it is not just Jesus, but us sinners, whom God loves, and he loves us before we repent.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (TNIV)

I shouldn’t really have to quote this, but it seems that at least in 1985 Piper was not aware of it. For these words make it clear that God did not love just the Son, nor even just the elect, but he loved the world, that is everyone.

"God hates sinners": John Piper does believe this

Pam BG has brought up again an issue which was discussed here several months ago, that some Christians are preaching that “God hates sinners”. She has mentioned this initially, I think, in some comments on John Meunier’s blog, and has also brought it up in a comment on her own blog and in several comments on mine. I will dignify this important issue by giving it a post of its own.

This is what Pam originally wrote on John’s blog:

I’ve recently done some research into atonement theory and there is definitely a divide in the current on-going debates.

It’s a divide between those who say that God’s primary characteristic is love and those who say that God’s primary characteristic is holiness. The former is, in my view, much more biblical.

Those who think that God’s primary characteristic is love believe that God hates sin and loves sinners (e.g. Steve Chalke and Tom Wright). Those who think that God’s primary characteristic is his holiness believe that God hates sin and hates sinners too (e.g. John Piper and books written by various individuals at Oak Hill College in the UK).

Those who think that God’s primary characteristic is love see the Gospel message as ‘The Kingdom of God is coming. God’s justice will reign in his kingdom.’ Those who think that God’s primary characteristic is holiness think that the Gospel message is ‘The sins of individual people are expiated through the propitiating work of Christ.’

I think that these views are almost irreconcilably different. I also think that ‘God loves sinners and hates sin and calls his disciples to a life of justice in the Kingdom’ is both a biblical message and a message that is historically in line with Methodism.

Here is my reply, edited with my later clarification:

Pam, is it possible to believe that both holiness and love are God’s primary characteristics? In fact holiness is certainly primary in the sense of having been revealed first, in the Hebrew Bible, and repeated in the New Testament.

But I certainly believe that God loves sinners. Anyone who denies that is denying John 3:16 and, I would judge, denying an essential point of the Christian faith. So basically I agree with you here – although we may not fully agree on which particular types of activity count as sin, i.e. what God hates.

Pam also made a claim that

Piper and the authors of ‘Pierced for Our Transgressions’ – as examples – do explicitly state that God hates sinners. ‘PFOT’ also states that it is God who damns people and who creates their punishment. These concepts were stated in so many words in their books, but you do have to dig for them!

I questioned, in comments my own blog, whether Piper has in fact stated this explicitly. An anonymous commenter on Pam’s blog took this further:

I have read John Pipers books and he has NEVER said God hates sinners as well as sin.

Has this person in fact read every word Piper has ever written, and listened to every one of his sermons? Clearly not – see below. The only person who could say such a dogmatic “NEVER” is Piper himself. But I think that when Pam actually did the digging she referred to she could not find evidence for her claim, as later she largely withdrew it, on her own blog and on mine, although not as yet on John Meunier’s. On her own blog she wrote:

To be transparent, Piper said that the work of the cross is to change God’s attitude from ‘completely against us’ to ‘completely for us’. On p. 184 [which book, Pam?], Piper writes that the purpose of the atonement is that God, as our Father, might be completely for us and not against us forever.

In reply to this I wrote that, even if Piper may not say “God hates sinners”, his friend Mark Driscoll certainly did, as I discussed here a few months ago. As reported by Alastair Roberts (see also Adrian Warnock’s report of the same sermon), Driscoll said

Here is what propitiation is: GOD HATES SINNERS. You’ve been told that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. No he doesn’t: Ghandi says that, just so you know, he’s on a totally different team than us.

What would Piper say to that, I wonder? Would he still “not have .001 seconds hesitation in having Mark Driscoll come back tomorrow to our church or our conference”?

But in fact if Pam digs a bit deeper she will find what she is looking for. Michael Bräutigam from Germany, commenting on Justin Taylor’s blog, offered this quote from John Piper, which in fact comes from a 1985 sermon on Piper’s own website:

Yes, I think we need to go the full Biblical length and say that God hates unrepentant sinners. If I were to soften it, as we so often do, and say that God hates sin, most of you would immediately translate that to mean: he hates sin but loves the sinner. But Psalm 5:5 says, “The boastful may not stand before thy eyes; thou hatest all evildoers.” And Psalm 11:5 says, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates him that loves violence.

Michael also quotes Calvin, but finds in him a much more carefully nuanced message:

Before we were reconciled to God, he both hated and loved us.

Maybe that is a better way to say it. But better still, in my opinion, is the way it is put in words misattributed to Gandhi, who apparently did not use the word “love”:

Hate the sin, and love the sinner.

Driscoll may have been unaware of this, but in fact these words apparently come from the great Christian writer Augustine, centuries earlier, who, according to Wikipedia with a citation from Migne’s authoritative Patrilogiae Latinae, wrote:

“Love the sinner and hate the sin” (Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum) (Opera Omnia, vol II. col. 962, letter 211.), literally “With love for mankind and hatred of sins “

Yes, “love the sinner and hate the sin” should be our attitude because it is also God’s attitude as demonstrated to us by Jesus.

Complementarianism according to John Piper

I happened to come across some comments which I myself originally wrote in July 2006, on this post on Better Bibles Blog. I repeat them here to preserve them and bring them to a wider audience.

The context is a discussion of John Piper’s Vision of Biblical complementarity, chapter 1 of the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which he wrote with Wayne Grudem. In the post Suzanne McCarthy had highlighted some of Piper’s practical teaching on which roles in the church and in the workplace were not suitable for women, such as this:

There are ways for a woman to interact even with a male subordinate that signal to him and others her endorsement of his mature manhood in relationship to her as a woman. I do not have in mind anything like sexual suggestiveness or innuendo. Rather, I have in mind culturally appropriate expressions of respect for his kind of strength, and glad acceptance of his gentlemanly courtesies. Her demeanor-the tone and style and disposition and discourse of her ranking position-can signal clearly her affirmation of the unique role that men should play in relationship to women owing to their sense of responsibility to protect and lead.

In response to these words I made this comment:

Are these rules supposed to be Christian and derived from the Bible? It sounds to me as if they come from a 19th century manual of etiquette. That doesn’t make them necessarily wrong, but nor does it make them right. Piper, Grudem and friends need to distinguish between Christian values and old-fashioned conservative cultural ones. A good course in cross-cultural evangelism, or some in depth first hand experience of a very different culture, would do them a world of good.

I took the matter a bit further in this comment (reformatted):

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Justification: metaphor or the real thing?

Henry Neufeld, at his Participatory Bible Study Blog, has entered the fray about John Piper’s criticism of N.T. Wright’s approach to justification. I cannot claim to understand the whole post because I have not read the chapter by Piper which it refers to (although I have read the Wright article in question). But Henry makes this interesting point in the first part of his post:

There is a fundamental assumption that Piper makes, that there is one, and only one way to understand justification. For him, justification is a fact, not a metaphor. It is the core reality. Metaphors can be used to describe it, but it is the real thing. I emphasize this repeatedly, because it underlies many of the arguments that Piper makes. For him, it would be quite inadequate to suggest that a different metaphor was in play in a different verse, and thus perhaps it might be understood differently.

This is a significant point because it brings out what I see as one of the major weaknesses in Reformed theology, alongside the reliance on tradition which I have also criticised recently.

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Piper has answered Adrian's question: Wright is not preaching another gospel

A few weeks ago I wrote about what is wrong with John Piper’s theology. But in fact it turns out that in at least one respect his beliefs have been misinterpreted by Adrian Warnock.

I mentioned in my post a post of Adrian’s entitled John Piper: Is N. T. Wright Preaching Another Gospel? (See also the 31 comments on this post, now deleted from Adrian’s blog but saved here.) This was part of Adrian’s series on Piper’s book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, available online free of charge (PDF format).

Adrian’s title suggests that Piper is claiming that Wright is “preaching another gospel”, and the content of the post seems to confirm this suggestion. But in fact, as I will show here, this suggestion is incorrect: Piper does not consider Wright’s teaching to be “another gospel”.

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Complementarianism: Sola Scriptura or Sola Traditio?

I don’t often read materials from the so-called “Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” (CBMW). They promote a complementarian position, that is (to put it rather tendentiously), that whereas men and women are supposedly equal in status, all of the roles in the church and the family which are generally considered to be of high status are reserved for men only. As my regular readers know, this is not my position. Authors associated with CBMW, such as Wayne Grudem, often try to justify their position from Scripture, but in my opinion, explained further below, their arguments are generally seriously deficient.

But my attention was drawn to a series of posts on the CBMW blog in which David Kotter, Executive Director of CBMW, responds to my blogger friend Molly Aley. See also the discussion here, and Molly’s response to the series (which includes an excellent account by Elijah McKnight of how he moved from complementarianism to egalitarianism when he learned a proper approach to the Scriptures).

In part 2 of the series Kotter seeks to root CBMW’s complementarian position in the doctrine of Sola Scriptura:

The complementary nature of manhood and womanhood and its implications for the home and church can only be defended from the Scripture alone.

But in fact neither his logic nor CBMW’s arguments for complementarianism support this conclusion.

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The root of John Piper's wrong theology

I may have got myself into trouble with some comments I made on Adrian Warnock’s blog, on his post 2 Corinthians 5 and Romans 5 – Two Critical Passages on Justification. This post is part of Adrian’s series on John Piper’s new book The Future of Justification. I was commenting mainly on these words which Adrian quoted from Piper:

Justification . . . happens to all who are connected to Christ the same way condemnation happened to those who were connected to Adam. How is that? Adam acted sinfully, and because we were connected to him, we were condemned in him. Christ acted righteously, and because we are connected to Christ we are justified in Christ. Adam’s sin is counted as ours. Christ’s “act of righteousness” is counted as ours.

In my first comment I argued that Piper is here basing his theology of justification on an analogy with Augustine’s understanding of original sin, an understanding which is faulty because, as widely recognised and as I explained in a previous post here, Augustine misunderstood Paul’s meaning in Romans 5:12 based on a poor Latin translation.

I went on to begin to sketch out some alternative views of my own. Continue reading