A Response to John Piper.
On October 22nd, 2020, prominent Christian pastor, John Piper wrote an article titled “Policies, persons and paths to ruin. Pondering the implications of the 2020 election.” (Link below)
He’s wrong. His article is at best, naive, and at worst, a manipulative intentional lie.
If you want a response from someone who knows him personally, check the article also linked at the bottom of this, by Michael Brown, I don’t completely agree with his assessment, mainly related to the fact that I disagree with Piper on more points than Brown does, but Brown does a great assessment. (Note: Brown was against Trump in 2016, but has since changed his views, I felt Trump was the worst out of the Republicans in 2016, and only the viable vote due to being not as bad at Hillary.)
As for my personal view of Piper; I’ve never given him much thought. Aside from a few short quotes I’ve seen shared, I’ve never heard anything he says. His non-essential doctrine is apparently different from the doctrine of the teachers I listen to, and as such, his messages don’t get much play in my circles. I’d previously respected that he was a well considered teacher and had never heard anything condemning or heretical about his teaching previously. Basically, I had no real opinion of him positive or negative prior to this.
As for why Piper is wrong, here we go.
I’m not going to quote every word of his article, only the parts I am specifically responding to, if you feel that I am missing any context from the article, it’s linked below, feel free to add that context.
Near the beginning of the article, Piper states: “Nothing I say here is intended to dictate how anyone else should vote, but rather to point to a perspective that seems to be neglected. Yes, this perspective sways my vote.”
This is the first lie.
This man is one of the most prominent, respected and listened to teachers in American Christendom. By holding such a position, every statement he makes is intended to tell others how they should behave, act, believe and much more. If he doesn’t realize that his words will influence a great number of people, then he is not prepared to be a public speaker and is quite ignorant of reality. This is literally the reason people get so annoyed and/or excited by “celebrity opinions.” People with a megaphone have great influence over people who do not have one, and they KNOW it. I do not believe he is ignorant of this fact, I believe he is being intentionally manipulative by trying to pretend like he’s just one man with an opinion.
If you are a prominent individual with a megaphone, and genuinely don’t want to dictate what people should do, you remain silent. If you feel that others can say things better than you can, or have more knowledge, you can point them in their direction, you can even point people to two opposing positions and say something like “here are two good speakers on both sides of the issue, I’ll let you decide between them yourself.”
On to the next point.
Piper states: “Actually, this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.”
This is the second major bit of dishonesty, it also happens to be the next section of his article, and the first major “point” he attempts to make. There are actually several issues within this section to unpack. This is the first time he uses a word indicating confusion, in this case he claims to be “baffled”, more on that later.
1st; the most simple unpacking is that he sets up a straw-man view of Trump. (note: nowhere in the article does he mention Trump by name, and he only says “president” in any variation once, in the opening statement, referring to “presidential election.”) You may not be familiar with the term “straw-man” as it relates to arguments and rhetoric, but you have definitely experienced it if you are on the interwebs, or just a human who has ever interacted with another human for more than 5 minutes. It’s the practice of misrepresenting the views, actions or positions of your opponent in order to easily tear them down. So instead of attacking the very valid point that was made, you end up attacking this shadow, fake version of the point that you made up in your own mind, a man made of straw.
For example, Person A: “I think the NBA is entertaining, but I just love the pure passion of the NCAA tournament, it’s just amazing!”
Person B: “Why do you hate the NBA? They’re literally the best basketball players in the world!”
in that example, person A never said what person B claimed, refuting what person A said requires a lot more thought, time and effort than just pretending he said what person B said he said, and so person B goes with the lazy choice. We’ve all done it, we’ve all had it done to us. The only one of these 4 charges against Trump that could stick is the one about boastfulness, which is probably why Piper never really expands on the other 3, and why he uses the SAT word to describe the 4th one. Piper lacks sufficient personal knowledge of Trump to know of his state of repentance or not on the issues. Regarding the accusation of dichostasiai specifically, Trump isn’t the one saying that he won’t meet with people who disagree with him. That is coming from the left. Need I remind everyone about the way the rapper “Ice Cube” or comedian Steve Harvey were treated for reaching across the aisle?
2nd; he not only set up the straw-man of what Trump is, he simultaneously set up a second straw-man of what the Christians that support him think. In the 4 years since Trump won the presidency, I have never heard any Christian make the argument he set forth here.
3rd; an additional point about the sin he calls factiousness, the most common usage of that in biblical teaching is regarding not causing division within the church, which is precisely what Piper himself is engaging in here with his dissenting opinion.
in the next paragraph, Piper says: “The reason I put those Greek words in parentheses is to give a graphic reminder that these are sins mentioned in the New Testament. To be more specific, they are sins that destroy people. They are not just deadly. They are deadly forever. They lead to eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9)”
To this statement, I posit that Piper is lying by omission. He says here that he put the Greek words for the sinful actions of his straw-man to remind us that these are sins in the New Testament. Ok, fine, but why not put the Greek words for the sins of the left? Again, for someone so knowledgeable about scripture, I find this omission to be blatant and obvious. Note also, he chose to word the sins he attributes to Trump, in common sin language, while the sins of the left, except for abortion, are using language that doesn’t make it easy to cross-check his writing and seemingly soft-balls their severity. You have to know the Bible quite well to recognize these terms by the sins they are more commonly known as, another bit of manipulative writing. The further evidence of this intent to manipulate is that he has no prior history of being soft on these sins, he does not have a liberal theology, but appears to soften his language specifically to make this one point.
Going back to the list of “sins” of the left that he lists, this time I will place the common English term for the sin along with the Greek or Hebrew words if applicable, labeled as either G for Greek or H for Hebrew along with a number for how many times each word appears in scripture, if the sin is described by a whole sentence, instead of a single word, then the scripture references are given. In some cases I’m referencing the same words and passages as Piper, because that’s how egregious his omission was.
English sin: Murder
G: phoneuo 12
H: ratsach 47
English sin: sexual immorality
G: porneia 26
Verses describe this sin: Gen 5:2, Mat 19:4-6, Deu 22:5, Rom 1:18-32, 1 Cor 6:9-11
English sin: Bondage, slavery, captivity
G: douleia 5, and variants of this word, and 16 other Greek words for this term.
H: Kabash 15, Abad, Abadan, Abduth, Qasheh, Gaal, Michyah, Zaaq, Ebed, Akish, and 10 more Hebrew words for this term.
socialistic overreach (these are just the most obvious sins of socialism, an astute observer will notice these are 5 of the 10 commandments, at minimum)
English sin: Covetousness
G: epithymeo 16
H: chamad 21
Idolatry/Idol; having other gods than God.
G: eidololatria 4
H: cemel 5
G: phoneuo 12
H: ratsach 47
G: klepto 13
H: ganab 39
G: pseudos 9, pseudomartyreo 6
H: sheqer 113, kazab 16
So again, I would ask, why did you not list these? And are you REALLY baffled as to why Christians view these sins as worse than the perceived sins of Trump? Really?
Additionally, all this presumes that the left is not ALSO guilty of the first set of sins that he determines Trump to be guilty of. I would argue they’re guilty of BOTH sets. Sexual immorality? One of the main bases of the left is that. Vulgarity? Are we really claiming the left isn’t vulgar? Really? Pride? They literally have a month dedicated to pride. Factiousness? Aka, causing division, covered that above.
Next he says: “They destroy persons (Acts 12:20–23). And through persons, they destroy nations (Jeremiah 48:29–31, 42).”
So I read acts 12:20-23. Wow. This is why, when a “pastor” cites a bible verse they say is related to the thing they’re saying, you should be like the Bereans and see if the things that he is saying is true. The passage he cites here is the death of Herod. Herod didn’t just die because he was proud, he died because he was worshipped as a god. Last I checked, Trump absolutely does not get worshipped as a god by his Christian followers, and he himself points to Christ. In recent rally, he said someone told him he was the most famous person in the world. Herod would have accepted that praise. Trump said “no I’m not.” when pressed for who is more famous, he said “Jesus Christ”. After a deafening cheer, he added “and it’s not even close.”
Does that sound even remotely like the cited passage of the Bible which states the crowd shouted: “The voice of a god, and not of a man!”? Does it?
But then he goes and cites Jeremiah 48, but only a couple of verses. Again, why? This is the prophesy of the fall of Moab, the whole chapter, a large chapter, 47 verses, is about the various sins of Moab. But even verse 42, the last verse Piper cites, talks about Moab exalting itself against God, much the same as the Herod verse. Again, how can this be what is happening when we’re specifically campaigning FOR the freedom to tell people about God, while the other side is removing God from their oaths, their placard, their websites, and everything else that they can scrub? It’s like he’s just throwing bible verses onto his statement and hoping you don’t read them, or don’t read them in context. A great bible teacher I listen to a lot, Don Stewart (his site linked below) says something like “when you take the TEXT out of the conTEXT, all you’re left with is a CON.”
Furthermore, the premise that the sins of a leader, translates to the sins of the people is precisely backwards from biblical context. Throughout the Bible, the sins of the people gather up in great number until they become “normalized” and then they end up with leaders like the people. For reference, the entirety of Jeremiah 48, the book of Judges, and for a direct reference to this, 1 Sam 8. This chapter is literally God warning people through Samuel about what kind of leader they will have, because they didn’t want Israel to be different, they wanted to be like the nations around them. Sound familiar?
Next Piper quote: “My point so far is simply to raise the stakes of what is outwardly modeled in leadership, so that Christians are given pause.”
Not going to spend much time here, just want to highlight this because it directly contradicts his earlier statement about not wanting to tell people what to do. Here he states that he DOES want you to “give pause”.
Next Piper quote: “The last five years bear vivid witness to this infection at almost every level of society.”
Trump has only been president for 3.75 years. Yes it was 5 year ago when he came down the escalator and announced his candidacy, but he wasn’t taken seriously by anyone for at least 6 months after that. The fact is, the moral decay in our nation has been ongoing for a LOT longer than the last few years of Trump’s presidency, it has accelerated multiple times, during the 60’s, the 90’s and the period from 2008-2016.
Next: “There is a character connection between rulers and subjects. When the Bible describes a king by saying, “He sinned and made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 14:16), it does not mean he twisted their arm. It means his influence shaped the people. That’s the calling of a leader. Take the lead in giving shape to the character of your people.”
First of all, under the constitution, we are not subjects, and politicians are not rulers. Every time I see someone speak like this, I know they’re ignorant of the American political structure. The elected officials of the United States of America are servants of the people. WE THE PEOPLE are the rulers of this nation.
Now that that is out of the way. Piper AGAIN twists scriptural context to fit his point. For the full context you need to read starting in 1 Kings 12 through chapter 14. This is talking about the split between the 2 southern tribes of Israel and the 10 northern tribes, and the first king of the northern tribes, Jeroboam.
Jeroboam did more than “influence” and “shape” the people. As a King in a total monarchy, he had direct control over every aspect of their lives. “He sinned and made Israel to sin”, great quote, what was the sin? After all, David sinned with Bathsheba, but that didn’t make Israel to sin, Solomon sinned many times, but that didn’t make Israel to sin. What did Jeroboam do that was so bad, that God smote him? He forced people to worship false idols. The exact same sin as Herod, the exact same sin as Moab, the exact same sin as socialism, the exact same sin of the left.
Again, I ask, who wants you to have religious liberty? Who wants to force you to only worship in state-approved ways?
Next Piper quote: “Therefore, Christians communicate a falsehood to unbelievers (who are also baffled!) when we act as if policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person.”
More admission of confusion, again, more on that near the end.
Honestly, this just makes no sense. We want to save lives and bring freedom, and this somehow makes us bad people? “Being a certain kind of person” means what exactly? If you are accusing me of fighting for life, and liberty. Guilty as charged.
You shall not murder. Exodus 20:13
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
It also sounds a bit like he is advocating a term called “work’s righteousness” which is a commonly held unbiblical teaching.
Next quote: “The justifications for ranking the destructive effects of persons below the destructive effects of policies ring hollow.”
It was the policies of Herod, Moab’s kings and Jeroboam that lead to the destruction of their people. Policies kill people. Why don’t you check on the state of the church in the USSR? Yeah, it was a great tragedy how many people died, but even greater was how many died without Christ because of the enforced policy against Christianity. Listen to Jack Hibbs talk about preaching in Moscow after the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. About how an old woman grabbed him and wept openly on his chest because they were forbidden from sharing the gospel since she was a little girl. Read the stories of Brother Andrew smuggling Bibles into the Soviet Union (see reference below), and then come back here and try to tell me that policy doesn’t matter.
Policies have allowed YouTube to ban videos, including, briefly, one of John piper’s own videos. (Iink below)
What happens when policy says that it’s illegal to declare that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life? If you think that’s crazy, that could easily be construed as “hate speech” to anyone who is not a Christian.
I’m skipping a few paragraphs here cause I’m saving that response for the end.
Next Piper says: “Where does the wickedness of defending child-killing come from? It comes from hearts of self-absorbed arrogance and boasting (James 4:1–2). It comes from hearts that are insubordinate to God.”
Very odd choice of Bible reference, again. He’s talking about abortion, this passage is mostly talking about wars and fights and the murder that arises from those wars and fights. A much better reference would be 2 Tim 3:1-9. I can only surmise why he didn’t choose this passage as reference, but my guess is because 2 Tim 3 lays out the policies and activities of the left perfectly, while James 4, in this context, leaves things ambiguous as to the reasoning.
He chooses to highlight the next quote in larger text: “It is baffling to assume that pro-abortion policies kill more people than a culture-saturating, pro-self pride.”
62,000,000 is a pretty high score to try and beat. That’s how many abortions since Roe v Wade. 98 worldwide while I was typing this paragraph.
Next he says: “Imagine that religious freedom is gone. What remains for Christians is fines, prison, exile, and martyrdom.”
Yes, imagine this. Or better yet, go where it has happened, and ask, did one man’s sin cause this, or did a national policy lead to this? Was freedom of worship allowed in late 30’s Germany? Cuba? The USSR, North Korea, China, Iran, and many others?
He then goes on to basically insinuate that anyone who disagrees with him isn’t a real Christian. But remember, “Nothing I say here is intended to dictate how anyone else should vote,” but apparently you’re not really a Christian if you disagree.
Which leads to my final point.
6 times in this article he said he was confused in some way, either baffled, baffling, or bewildered. He sums it up in the following section:
“I find it bewildering that Christians can be so sure that greater damage will be done by bad judges, bad laws, and bad policies than is being done by the culture-infecting spread of the gangrene of sinful self-exaltation, and boasting, and strife-stirring (eristikos).
How do they know this? Seriously! Where do they get the sure knowledge that judges, laws, and policies are less destructive than boastful factiousness in high places?”
Putting aside the straw-man, that was covered earlier. “Where do they get the sure knowledge”, “I find it bewildering that Christians can be so sure”.
It reminds me of when Nicodemus came to Jesus, and Jesus asked “are you the teacher of Israel and do not know these things?”
Additionally: “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
I Corinthians 14:33
This all boils down to one simple fact. If you’re confused on this matter, then you’re not hearing from God. You’re hearing from yourself, or from the other team.
Piper speaks a lot about pride, he even stepped down several years ago to deal with pride in his life (link below). It appears from his willful twisting of scripture to try and prove his own stance, that he is being prideful yet again.
He also goes to great lengths to make it clear that, if he doesn’t understand the issue, it must be an issue that nobody can be sure of. Either that, or he is using the term “baffle” and similar terms to manipulate the reader. After all, he’s the great and wise John Piper, and if it baffles him, how on Earth could a simple lay-person like yourself even come close to the knowledge?
But then he has the temerity to ask where we get our assurance of being correct, really? If a non-believer was asking this question, I would understand, they know nothing of the Holy Spirit. Either he’s not hearing from God and speaking in ignorance, or he’s being intentionally deceitful. The latter would be far worse than the former. I’ll finish this under the presumption it’s the former.
I’ve long taught a message to various groups about the importance of “staying in your lane.” Quite frankly, John Piper got out of his lane. As a result of that lane deviation, he has crashed into the sins of tearing the scripture completely out of context and then eventually questioning the salvation of fellow believers who disagree with his point of view.
I teach the Bible, and I listen to bible teachers, and each of them has a great gift that they are excellent in, and some areas where they lack. My favorite teacher, Jack Hibbs, for example, is excellent at being able to see the winds of politics as they relate to the scripture. However, by his own admission, he is not a great evangelist, as he often says, people come to the Lord during his preaching despite his teaching, not because of it. Similarly, his good friend, Greg Laurie, could read the genealogy in numbers and get a stadium full of people weeping and ready to repent of their sins and come to Christ, but is lacking when it comes to politics. Greg stays in his lane, and Jack stays in his. When Jack needs to evangelize, he doesn’t try to come up with his own technique, or work on his own reasoning, he talks to Greg and gets advise from the man who is a leader in that lane. Likewise, when Greg needs to talk politics, he calls up Jack. Each man is staying in their lane, using the gifting that God has called them to have, and following the lead of the others when they need to speak outside their gifting.
This is what we ALL must do. If you are confused, baffled, bewildered by the assuredness with which others are speaking on an issue, don’t speak, listen. Let those who are receiving clear direction from the Holy Spirit speak on the matter, and stay silent, and like I said near the beginning of this, point others to them. This goes beyond politics, this goes to every aspect of spiritual gifting and life.
I am a pilot, my wife is a nurse. If I break my leg, I’m not going to ask her why she is doing whatever it is she is doing, I’m going to scream out in pain and let her work. Likewise, if I break my plane, and need to make an emergency landing, she’s not going to question why I’m pulling the levers i’m pulling or pushing the buttons I’m pushing, she’s going to pray for a safe landing and let me do my thing. My pride, if I try and stop her from doing whatever it is she would do to my leg to stabilize it immediately, would lead me to a leg that never is right again, her pride could lead to a crash, if she tries to interfere with my operating emergency procedures.
God is not the author of confusion, stop reading the enemy’s book.
Don Stewart, just for reference, because there are 2 Don Stewarts: http://www.educatingourworld.com
Piper’s article: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/policies-persons-and-paths-to-ruin
Michael Brown’s Response to piper: https://stream.org/pastor-john-piper-and-the-2020-elections-a-respectful-response/
Article on piper’s video being YouTube banned: https://disrn.com/news/youtube-removes-john-piper-coronavirus-and-christ-audiobook-for-violating-community-guidelines
Piper stepping down in 2010: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/john-pipers-upcoming-leave
Brother Andrew’s Ministry: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/about-us/history/brother-andrews-story/