‘This is a response to a very bad piece by Dr. John Piper. The whole piece can be located at the link below. Piper”s article is entitled, “Making Room for Atheism.” The blockquote segments are from Piper. My responses follow.
Our church exists “to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ.” That is our mission. “All things” means business, industry, education, media, sports, arts, leisure, government, and all the details of our lives. Ideally this means God should be recognized and trusted as supreme by every person he has made. But the Bible teaches plainly that there will never be a time before Jesus comes back when all people will honor him as supreme (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
The passage in Thessalonians does not teach (plainly or otherwise) that there will never be a time before Jesus comes back when all people will honor Him as supreme. A careful reading of the text reveals that what Paul is teaching is that it is those at that time who are troubling the Thessalonians who God will repay with tribulation. The same Greek word “tribulation” is also used by Paul in Romans 2:9. In both cases what is being taught is that tribulation will be brought upon evildoers at the last judgment. The passage is dealing with ultimate bliss and woe connected with the Day of the Lord. Everyone agrees that all evildoers will suffer tribulation at the last day but that does not necessarily mean that there will never be a time before Jesus comes back when all people will honor him as supreme. Certainly B. B. Warfield, with his teaching on “Eschatological Universalism,” would take umbrage with Piper”s “exegesis.”
Piper is reading this passage through his premillennial lenses and arriving at premillennial conclusions.
So how do we express a passion for God”s supremacy in a pluralistic world where most people do not recognize God as an important part of their lives, let alone an important part of government or education or business or industry or art or recreation or entertainment?
Answer: We express a passion for the supremacy of God…
Piper’s first 4 ways of expressing a passion for the supremacy of God are excellent. Should the reader desire to note these he can access the link provided above. It is Piper”s fifth way of expressing a passion for the supremacy of God that leaves us in a train wreck.
5) by making clear that God himself is the foundation for our commitment to a pluralistic democratic order-not because pluralism is his ultimate ideal, but because in a fallen world, legal coercion will not produce the kingdom of God. Christians agree to make room for non-Christian faiths (including naturalistic, materialistic faiths), not because commitment to God”s supremacy is unimportant, but because it must be voluntary, or it is worthless. We have a God-centered ground for making room for atheism. “If my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight” (John 18:36). The fact that God establishes his kingdom through the supernatural miracle of faith, not firearms, means that Christians in this age will not endorse coercive governments-Christian or secular.
1.) In that first sentence above Piper wrote that a pluralistic democratic order is not God”s ultimate ideal but because it is the best God can do in a fallen world Christians should be supporters of a pluralistic democratic order.
First, this again assumes Piper”s eschatology. Piper assumes that where grace abounds sin abounds all the more, thus Christians must settle for a social order (pluralistic democratic) where the Lordship of Jesus Christ is challenged by the Lordship of the other gods. In other words, because God will never have visible and recognized hegemony in this fallen world, therefore we have to support a social order committed to making sure that every knee will not bow, nor every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Piper”s eschatology creates and insures the success of his defeatism.
2.) Christians can believe that God can conquer democratic pluralism without supporting the idea that such total victory of the already victorious Christ will come about through legal coercion. Piper marries his faulty eschatology to a faulty conclusion thus implying that anybody who is against democratic pluralism is for building God”s Kingdom through legal coercion. This is a logical fallacy. All postmillennialists believe that God will build His Kingdom here so that the knowledge of God covers the earth as the water covers the sea. No postmillennialist believes that will be done by the means of legal coercion.
3.) The second sentence in the blockquote above is likewise confused. Piper has gone from writing about social orders (the institutional framework upon which cultures hang and through which a people”s belief system is expressed) to writing about individuals. Certainly in a Christian social order that recognizes the Lordship of Jesus Christ there would be room for non-Christian faiths on a individual or personal basis. However such room for non-Christian faiths on a individual or personal basis would not be allowed to overthrow the Christian public square as informed by a Christian social order. The traditional Protestant view is that while Christ is the Lord of the conscience, non-believers cannot in any way openly practice nor promote false religion in order to overturn a Christian social order.
Second on this point, Piper”s observation is far far too broad. Would Piper contend that a Christian social order must make room for the non-Christian faith of Hinduism which requires widows to be burned alive with their dead husband? Would Piper contend that a Christian social order must make room for the non-Christian faith of Muslims which allow for Muslim male family representatives to kill female members of family for fraternizing with a male not in their family? Would Piper contend that a Christian social order must make room for a faith that requires smoking peyote as part of the worship service? Would Piper contend that a Christian social order must make room for a faith that requires temple prostitutes or ritual murder? Where does Piper”s tolerance end in terms of making room for non-Christian faiths? Why should these other faiths that Piper wants to make room for in his democratic pluralistic social order be constrained to give up their faith practice? By what standard will Piper appeal to in order to determine which other faiths must be made room for and which will not?
It is simply the case that all social orders are coercive to one degree or another. Would Piper suggest that those who disagree with his view of the proper social order be coerced to accept his vision of a Christian social order, or would he allow other visions of Christian social order that find democratic pluralism to be un-biblical the opportunity to overthrow his vision of Christian social order excellence?
4.) I find Piper, on this point, giving up on the Supremacy of God in order to pursue the relegation of God to one who is a option. All because it is true that individual conversion ought to be voluntary that does not mean that we should build a social order designed to make all the gods equal in the private realm but subservient to the God of the social order (the State) in the public square. Piper fails to realize that in his democratic pluralism social order that all the gods are ruled by the State god because Piper is empowering the state to make sure that the God of the Bible (as well as the other gods) do not have absolute supremacy. Piper can write all he wants on his desire for the supremacy of God but as long as he holds this democratic pluralism he is advocating for the supremacy of gods that are no gods.
5.) I wonder if, according to Piper, Christians should not endorse governments — Christian or secular –that coerce people to accept his democratic-pluralism as the ideal social order. (On Piper”s misuse of John 18:36 see the many articles written on Iron Ink on that abused passage.)
6.) All should keep in mind that what Piper is advocating here is the overthrow of historic Christendom for a Christendom that culture is most Christian when it does not hold absolute sway.
Dr. Piper writes,
“This is why we resist the coercive secularization implied in some laws that repress Christian activity in public places. It is not that we want to establish Christianity as the law of the land. That is intrinsically impossible, because of the spiritual nature of the kingdom. It is rather because repression of free exercise of religion and persuasion is as wrong against Christians as it is against secularists. We believe this tolerance is rooted in the very nature of the gospel of Christ. In one sense, tolerance is pragmatic: freedom and democracy seem to be the best political order humans have conceived. But for Christians it is not purely pragmatic: the spiritual, relational nature of God”s kingdom is the ground of our endorsement of pluralism, until Christ comes with rights and authority that we do not have.”
1.) In the first sentence above we see that Piper is fighting the idea of not allowing Christianity in the public square (his lament on secularization) by advocating that all religions should be allowed into the public square. But the result of all gods being let into the public square is the same as not letting any of the gods into the public square since the consequence of both no gods in the public square and all gods in the public square is that the State is the god of the gods since it referees how far the gods can walk in the public square. What Piper is advocating is the destruction of Christendom (as noted earlier) in favor of Statist(dom). Piper would defeat the religiously sanitized public square with the polytheistic public square. However, in both cases the state ends up being the monotheistic god. Where now God”s supremacy John?
The fight against secularization is not won by enthroning the state. The fight against secularization is won by Christian (ministers and otherwise) tearing down every stronghold that raises itself up in defiance of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Christian ministers should not be arguing that the public square should be filled with all the gods, but rather they should be arguing that Christ is Lord over all, including the State. Let the ministers of the State who desire for the public square to be “neutral” argue for a neutral public square.
2.) Why should Christian not want to establish Christianity as the law of the land? Who says that Christianity being the law of the land is intrinsically impossible? In Piper”s world is not Piper saying that we establish Christianity as the law of the land by making sure Christianity is not the law of the land?
3.) Why does Piper think that because the Kingdom of God is spiritual therefore it cannot incarnate itself in every increasing degrees into a social order? Where in scripture does it teach that the spiritualKingdom of God does not instantiate itself in cultures and social orders? If the Kingdom of God is spiritual and yet can effect individuals so that we have an expectation of what a Christian looks like why can the spiritual Kingdom of God not be spiritual and still effect social orders to the point that we have an expectation of what a Christian social order looks like? (It sure isn”t Democratic Pluralism!) It looks to me as if Piper is drinking from some kind of dualism well.
4.) Piper complains about repressions of Christians in the secularization process and yet what he advocates is certain to bring about the very thing he laments. The fact is that Piper is wrong about what he terms as “secularization.” What is going on is the advance of humanism in the public square and naturally humanists are, following their religious tenets, not going to allow for another faith system to challenge them. There is no secularization going on here. There is only the advanced de-Christianization of the West. \r\n\r\n5.) Piper talks about Christ coming with rights and authority we do not have. Is not Christ ruling now? Are not the Kings instructed to “Kiss the Son.” If Christ has authority now why should His people insist that His authority and rights are only future as if Christ isn”t exercising His regal rights now?
On this point Piper surrenders his quest for the Supremacy of God in all things and becomes someone who is advocating for a toothless god who must wait in line with all the rest of the gods.