Just about 11 months ago John Piper’s lack of support for anti-sodomite legislation was reported here,
However the Piper ministry was convinced that the Newspaper got it wrong. So, instead of trusting the Newspaper’s reporting and just going with that I am going to fisk Piper to show how the Newspaper got the essence of the story correct.
Piper said in his sermon,
Don’t press the organization of the church or her pastors into political activism. Pray that the church and her ministers would feed the flock of God with the word of God centered on the gospel of Christ crucified and risen. Expect from your shepherds not that they would rally you behind political candidates or legislative initiatives, but they would point you over and over again to God and to his word, and to the cross.
First, Piper reveals that he has compartmentalized his thinking. Somehow for Piper the Christian faith has nothing to say to Politics when Political agendas are impinging on the clear revelation of Scripture. Scripture forbids sodomy but Piper refuses to concretely support legislation that would forbid sodomite marriage. One of the uses of the law (usus politicus) reminds us that one of the purposes of the law is to be used by our magistrates in order to govern society. That is, the law serves the commonwealth or body politic as a force to restrain sin. And yet Piper would have ministers seemingly ignore this use of God’s law.
Second, Piper fails to realize that Politics is just theology by another means. Politics is not a free floating category unrelated to theology. Politics is instead the outward manifestation of a people’s inward beliefs. So, when Piper refuses to tell his people that they should support what God’s law proscribes and prohibits in their social order he is suggesting that the Church can not speak God’s voice on these matters.
Now some may offer up, as Piper does, that the Church cannot speak on these issues while individual Christians should. That sounds nice and tidy but it is really just a guarantee of the Church’s effeminacy. Consider, that if the Church refuses to speak God’s voice on these matters and its membership forms Christian associations on these matters the consequence is that you could get all kinds of advocacy groups all going under the banner of “Christian.” You could have a Christian group for man boy love. You could have a Christian Sodomy group. You could have a Christian pro-Sodomite marriage group as well as Christian groups supporting Christian morality. But in Piper’s anti-politics theology what voice will speak a “thus saith the Lord” to the advocacy groups that are potentially coming out of Piper’s church that support anti-Christ behavior? Not Piper … for he has said that isn’t his business.
Others can say what they want, but I still contend that this smells of cowardice to me on Piper’s part and on all the part of those who advocate this retreat-ism.
It should be the expectation of every Christian that their laws should be informed by Biblical categories. St. Paul reminds us,
9Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for murderers, 10For fornicators, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for enslavers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;
Here Paul insists that the law is for the lawless. This is clearly support the usus politicus and ministers should, when necessary, be able to point to legislation and candidates and say, “based on the fact that this legislation or this candidate supports God’s usus politicus we need to get behind them.
Third, Piper introduces a false dichotomy in order to justify his cowardice. The Shepherds can, at the same time, point you over and over again to God and to His word while saying, “We need to support this candidate or legislative mandate, because he is and the legislation is also supporting God and His Word.”
What if the pending legislation was proposing forcing Jews to wear yellows stars of David in order to be identified as Jews? Would Piper sill counsel that pulpits be quiet about political activism? I think not. I think Piper’s reluctance to be politically active is one where he picks and chooses what to be active on and what not to be active on.
“Please try to understand this concluding point. When I warn you against politicizing me, or politicizing the institution called Bethlehem, or the church in general, I do so not to diminish her power but to increase it. The impact of the church for the glory of Christ and the good of the world does not increase when she shifts her priorities from the worship of God and the winning of souls and the nurturing of faith and raising up of new generations of disciples. It doesn’t. It feels in the moment that it does. “Look at how many people showed up for the rally!” Or “Look how many signatures in that church they got!” Or “Look how that committee is functioning!” It feels powerful, but give it a generation. And little by little, that vaunted power bleeds away the very nature of the church and its power.”
1.) Raising up new generations of disciples? Piper is raising up new generations of disciples by refusing to give them God’s counsel on concrete actions they can take to support God’s legislating word? Piper is going to make disciples by modeling before them the necessity to hold truth in the abstract while evading truth in the concrete. Piper is going to make disciple by going all Platonic and Pietistic from the pulpit?
Allow me to suggest that the Church has too many of those disciples (and Pastors) already.
2.) Again, note how Piper is compartmentalizing his thinking. Discipleship happens in the Church. Instructing disciples on what discipleship looks like outside the Church is a no no. This is ecclesiastical schizophrenia.
3.) Certainly we can agree that it is possible for the Church to make the good the enemy of the best but to suggest that the Best (Preaching Christ and Him Crucified) necessitates that we give up the good (speaking clearly God’s voice on social issues where God has clearly spoken) is utter nonsense. It is like saying that since feeding my children was so important and such a priority while they were in my home that I could not also instruct them. Such thinking is utter idiocy. So, let us avoid hobby horses to the neglect of preaching up Christ but lets us also avoid the hobby horse that says that we can’t give concrete instructions to God’s people from God’s Word when the State intrudes itself upon God’s authority.
4.) Of course it is my position that it is Piper who is seeking, in all this, a theology of glory, despite his implicit accusation that that is what the putative “political activist” preachers do. When Piper avoids this kind of concrete instruction he can be sure he will offend no one. In offending no one he can build his big cash filled church because no one is offended by his supporting people and legislation who align with God’s authoritative Word that certain people may not approve of. People can sit in a church where they are offended in the abstract and blow it off but when they are offended in the concrete by knowing the Pastor is going to advocate defeating concrete positions by supporting concrete legislation or candidates then they are prone to leave.
If the whole counsel of God is preached with power week in and week out, Christians who are citizens of heaven and citizens of this democratic order will be energized as they ought to speak and act for the common good. It’s your job, not mine. Don’t look to me to wave the flag for your vote. Or wave the flag for your candidate.
Why is it their job and not Pipers? Why is it the flock must act without the Shepherd? This is Pietism once again. The minister dare not get his hands dirty in concrete affairs. The minister must remain dealing with all these things in the abstract.
And if a candidate is advocating a position that is consistent with God’s Law how is it that the Minister is waving the flag for his parishioner’s candidate? What makes that candidate uniquely the parishioner’s candidate? Why is it wrong for the Minister to “wave the flag” against candidates that are advocating sodomy or tagging Jews with yellow Stars of David?
Second, America is not, nor has ever been, a Democratic order. We are founded as a Constitutional Republic. Piper might want to investigate the difference.
Let me read you from this week’s WORLD magazine the editorial by Marvin Olasky. Many of you are familiar with WORLD. WORLD is a very political magazine, and it ought to be. I just love the Marvin Olasky and the team at WORLD. I’m glad they’re doing what they’re doing. This is what he said in the article, pleading with churches not to be politicized:
Wise pastors prompt [Christians] to form associations outside the church, and leave the church to its central task from which so many blessings flow. That pattern in the 18th and 19th centuries worked exceptionally well. New England pastors in colonial times preached and taught what the Bible said about liberty, and the Sons of Liberty — not a subset of any particular church — eventually sponsored a tea party in Boston harbor. Pastors through America during those centuries preached about biblical poverty-fighting, and in city after city Christians formed organizations such as (in New York) the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor. (WORLD, June 16, 2012, 108)
My job is to feed the saints with such meals that they go out strengthened and robust and able to do the study and do the courage and do the action needed as salt and light in this world. And that will go away if you insist on the church and the ministry being the political leaders. It will and we can point to many where it has.
1.) WORLD has long been recognized as a neon-conservative magazine. It seldom represents political or theological orthodoxy.
2.) Piper goes on earlier about how he can’t wave the flag for certain causes and yet by supporting Olasky and WORLD magazine he waves the flag for Neo-conservative pagan politics.
3.) We no longer live in the 18th and 19th centuries. The leaven of humanism has worked its leaven far more through the institutional structures of our culture. What might have worked during a time that remained much more Christian will not apply during a time that is doing all it can to tear Christianity up, root, branch and twig.