John Piper was once my “theological hero.” In fact, if it were not for his book, Don’t Waste Your Life, I might not be married today. Indeed, it was after reading the chapter “Risk Is Right,” that I drummed up the courage to ask a beautiful girl — way outta my league — out on a date. That first date led to many more and eventually led to a wedding and now 15 awesome years of marriage.
Thank you John Piper!
With that said, although he gets a few things right — like, to “risk is right” — Piper is no longer on my list of theological heroes. In fact, I have written blogs and an academic journal article (Perichioresis 16.2) exposing problems with Piper’s views. More recently, in my book Human Freedom, Divine Knowledge, and Mere Molinism I offer four reasons explaining why his theology has gone off the deep end. Indeed, it is (borderline) heretical.
Consider an excerpt from my book:
[Piper’s] view, however, faces several difficulties. First, if it is true, then it seems that God’s glory is incompatible with maximal human flourishing. Even worse, creation then becomes necessary for God’s glory . . . If one affirms such things, one tacitly affirms that God is dependent upon the existence of mankind and the eternal punishment of the many.
A second difficulty is that it does not address the crucial issue of why God would even have a desire for something (such as universal salvation) that would detract from or negate his glory. Anything that does not bring glory to God is evil. It seems those holding this “competing desires” view inadvertently contend that God has a desire (albeit a lesser one) for evil.
Third, if God cannot have both of his desires, then it seems that he is not omnipotent, unless God’s glory and universal salvation are logically incompatible . . . Therefore, since these two desires are not logically incompatible, it seems the divine determinist inadvertently dethrones God from the status of being omnipotent.
Perhaps the most serious theological problem with [Piper’s] view is that, if it is logically impossible for God to have both his desire of glory and his desire of universal salvation, then the atonement of Christ was simply not enough. Piper’s position entails that Jesus merely picked up part of the check and left the unconditionally hated “non-elect” to pick up the rest of the tab and suffer the holocaust of hell into the infinite future so that those in heaven might “enjoy giving all credit to God” (Piper, 1995a). In other words, the cross of Christ—together with the damned in hell—is what it takes to secure salvation for a few . . . Piper argues that the Arminian claims that humans freely choosing to love God is more valuable to God than universal salvation. Unfortunately, he fails to recognize that the former is exactly what salvation is. There are no competing desires here but, rather, one desire, namely, for all people to freely choose to love God. Salvation is only found in a true love relationship with God.
Because of Piper’s flawed view of God, I cannot endorse Piper’s theology. After all, any view that rejects the maximal greatness of God is false and, dare I say, sinful. This “low view of God” (as A.W. Tozer puts it) — Piper’s false theological foundation — leads to many other mistakes in life. None more striking than the errors Piper committed in a recent article entitled Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin. In this article Piper attempts to take his theology to the arena of politics.
“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. But you need not be sinning if you weigh matters differently.”
It seems that Piper is wrong on this important matter. Indeed, if one misses the mark regarding how one ought to “weigh a matter,” then one has sinned (by definition).
“Actually, this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider [Trump’s] 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 [Democrat] policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.”
In my recent article entitled, Apologetics and Politics, I pointed out that Jesus constantly interacted with the Pharisees in the New Testament. The Pharisees were the religious and political rulers of Israel. Matthew 23: 23-24 provides a good example (note that Jesus was not always “nice”) as to why some sins [although each individual sin is enough to damn a person to eternal Hell and each individual sin requires the atonement of Christ to be forgiven] are actually worse than other sins:
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
Frank Turek points out the following in Does Abortion Trump Everything Else? (I encourage all to listen to this podcast in its entirety):
“Not all moral laws are of equal weight. Jesus spoke of weightier matters of the law in Matthew 23:23. And the least of these, Matthew 5:19. And the greatest commandment, Matthew 22:36. He told Pilot that Judas had committed the greater sin, John 19:11.”
Think about the weightier or “more important matters of the law” and modern-day America. Politicians today are more concerned about the consequences of using plastic drinking straws than placing restrictions on abortion (killing millions of innocent human beings) and actually advocate for it in many cases. What do you think Jesus would say to these politicians or those who vote for them? Based on His reaction to the political leaders of Israel, do you think Jesus would worry about hurting the feelings of modern-day politicians or those who vote for them (including pastors)?
I believe Jesus would say “facts don’t care about your (incorrect) feelings.” We must not disregard the “more important matters of the law.”
To demonstrate the more important and “weightier” matters of the law, I offered a logic-based thought experiment in an article entitled, Why Christians [Should] Vote for Trump. I noted that many Christians believe that loving policy “trumps” a loving character. One of several important matters of policy held by many Christians is that of abortion. This is because science supports the belief that the unborn is indeed human (See “Pro-Choice: The Wrong Side of History, Science, & Logic”). Abortion is the killing of an innocent human.
A Thought Experiment
With that in mind, consider a thought experiment designed to help bring understanding. Suppose Hitler was running against Trump. Further, suppose that Hitler was a really nice guy (remember this is a thought experiment), but simply had horrible policy. Further, suppose Hitler’s entire policy was exactly the same as Biden’s except his pro-abortion position was replaced by the holocaust of Jews (some six million Jews died at the hands of the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s).
Would it not be a moral travesty—a sin and failure—to not use one’s power to vote in an attempt to stop Hitler from gaining power (even if he was a really nice guy in every other aspect of his life and much “nicer” than Donald Trump)? Indeed, even voting for a third-party seems to be a moral failure when death is on the line. William Lane Craig clarifies:
… anyone who votes for a third-party candidate who has no realistic chance of winning is guilty of a dereliction of duty. He in effect leaves it up to others to determine who our public officials will be. There is too much at stake in our national elections to abdicate our responsibility to help choose our leaders.
I am definitely advocating that we prioritize policy over character.
Abortion has murdered 60 million (and counting) innocent humans (far worse than Hitler’s holocaust). As a result, many Christians choose to “plug their nose” and cast a vote for Trump who will continue to appoint pro-life judges to courts across the nation (this is exactly why the abortion industry is adamantly opposed to another four years of a Trump presidency).
Bottom line: if a Christian ought to oppose Hitler in this thought experiment, then Christ followers OUGHT to vote for Trump in 2020. Indeed, contra John Piper’s assertions, one is missing the mark — and sinning — if they do not think correctly, judge righteously, and weigh matters appropriately (which requires the libertarian freedom Piper rejects) based on the law of Christ.
As Paul says, “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5)!
Ironically, John Piper rejects libertarian freedom, and thus rejects his ability to take his thoughts captive. Shallow philosophy seems to have taken him captive instead (Col 2:8).
“My point so far is simply to raise the stakes of what is outwardly modeled in [Trump’s] leadership, so that Christians are given pause. It is not a small thing to treat lightly [Trump’s] pattern of public behaviors that lead to death.”
Although these are not the “weightier” matters of the law, suppose they were. What about Joe Biden’s moral flaws and past sins? What about Kamala Harris’s well-documented moral failures? I do not see any public remorse or repentance from them. In fact, of the four people on the two major party tickets, Mike Pence seems to be the only one who actively seeks to live a consistent Christian and Christ-honoring life. Thus, if this were the more important matter (which it is not), then one ought to vote for the Trump-Pence ticket anyway.
“In fact, I think it is a drastic mistake to think that the deadly influences of a leader come only through his policies and not also through his person.”
Indeed, character counts and ought to be weighed (again, Pence seems to have the best character on the ticket), but character does not “count” or “weigh” as much as the “weightier matters of the law” that Jesus describes. Piper is simply wrong and opposed to the teachings of Christ on this score. But Piper’s incorrect subjective opinion will surely bring comfort to the millions of babies who are being slaughtered across our land. Loving our “baby neighbors” is enough to make this a single issue election. Even if Trump struggles with the “sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai)” (and supposing that Biden and Harris are somehow immune to these sins or other character flaws), these sins are not nearly as bad as a holocaust of over 60 million and counting babies! Failing to weigh these matters correctly is a failure to love one’s neighbor.
Unfortunately, there’s more. Not only is the Biden, Harris, and DNC the Party of abortion (which is reason alone to vote for Trump), they are also the Party of Critical Race Theory (a weapon of lies meant to destroy western society based upon the Law of Christ, built by Marxists standing upon the worldview of atheism). Opening the door for Critical Theory/Critical Race Theory is not loving one’s neighbor.
Biden, Harris, and the DNC are also the Party of the LGBTQ agenda to silence Christians (not to mention “Transgender Bathrooms and Basketball“). Sending biological boys and girls to compete against each other in the same athletic arena is not loving one’s neighbor.
Moreover, the Democrat Party often finds itself opposed to the God-given rights of the freedom of speech and the freedom of self-defense. If Marxism wins the day, then Christians will lose the freedom to peacefully argue against the evil of abortion (not to mention a multitude of other evils). This is not loving one’s neighbor.
Moreover, if one brackets his Tweets, President Trump’s record of passing policy that does love his neighbor over the past four years has been remarkable. He has proposed judicial and prison reform (STEP act) that was applauded by minorities. He has nominated judges to multiple courts who make decisions based on established laws and the Constitution, rather than their own opinions. He has promoted foreign policy that has sought to reduce the hostility of some of Israel’s neighbors for which he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has focused on preserving our Constitutional religious freedom (not freedom from religion, but freedom OF religion). And up until the COVID-19 pandemic the American economy was growing rapidly, unemployment dipped to historic lows.
“Freedom and life are precious. We all want to live and be free to pursue happiness. But if our freedoms, and even our lives, are threatened or taken, the essence of our identity in Christ, the certainty of our everlasting joy with Christ, and the holiness and love for which we have been saved by Christ — none of these is lost with the loss of life and freedom.”
Sure, but we are commanded to love our neighbors in the here and now. Babies are John Piper’s neighbor. Thus, opening the door for abortion by not voting for the candidate who is actively trying to stop it is not loving Piper’s neighbor. Therefore, if Piper is not willing to vote in a manner that strives to save the life of his baby neighbor, he violates the second greatest commandment and thus, also violates the greatest commandment.
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. The church is paying dearly, and will continue to pay, for our communicating this falsehood year after year.
It is certainly understandable why non-Christians who do not understand the Law of Christ do not comprehend what the Law of Christ entails (such as the “weightier matter of the law”). This is to be expected. What is baffling is how some pastors (even John Piper) and “the elect can be deceived” (Matt 24:24). The “elect” should know better.
“I think Roe is an evil decision. I think Planned Parenthood is a code name for baby-killing and (historically at least) ethnic cleansing. And I think it is baffling and presumptuous to assume that pro-abortion policies kill more people than a culture-saturating, pro-self pride.”
Let me be clear: Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry love pastors like John Piper! It is “pastors” like Piper who allowed the Nazi holocaust to occur, and who continue to allow the destruction and mass-murder of millions of little humans today. Does Piper really think that a “culture of pro-self pride” has murdered over 60 million humans since 1973. Do statistics support Piper’s claim?
Piper offers an extremely selfish piece of advice to pastors:
“Imagine that America collapses. First anarchy, then tyranny — from the right or the left. Imagine that religious freedom is gone. What remains for Christians is fines, prison, exile, and martyrdom. Then ask yourself this: Has my preaching been developing real, radical Christians?”
It seems that a radical Christ-follower would strive to love his baby neighbors and not turn a blind eye to their mass-murder. Those who stand on this pharisaical “more holier than thou” moral high ground, pat themselves on the back because they stayed consistent with their pious moral values all while failing to to protect God’s precious gift of life.
I, for one, choose to use the power God has given me to protect life. In this case, that power is my vote against pro-abortion political candidates and for a pro-life candidate — Donald Trump — who is actively changing the judicial landscape across the nation.
Remember the words of Jesus and the “weightier matters of the law.”
The Higher Standard
“My calling is to lead people to see Jesus Christ, trust his forgiveness for sins, treasure him above everything in this world, live in a way that shows his all-satisfying value, and help them make it to heaven with love and holiness.”
A pastor’s calling should include helping people see God as a maximally great being, showing people how to follow the entire Law of Christ, and to not overlook those condemned by the current popular political culture.
“With a cheerful smile, I will explain to my unbelieving neighbor why my allegiance to Jesus set me at odds with death — death by abortion and death by arrogance.”
Pastors like Piper along with the “Church” will be held accountable for their lack of support for the innocent and their failure to use their power to protect life at all stages. In some respects, Piper’s missing of the mark (sin) is worse than any sins of President Trump. The president is not a pastor; John Piper is a pastor and will be judged by a higher standard (James 3:1).
John Piper’s flawed view of God and his baffling attempts at justifying his missing of the mark ring hollow. Indeed, ironically, Piper has become a “pied-Piper.”
Stay reasonable (Isaiah 1:18),
Dr. Tim Stratton
 Robert A.J. Gagnon of Houston Baptist University offered the following in response to Piper:
“What further evidence do you need for how absurd this view of voting is? Do you need Biden and Harris to stab a viable preborn in front of your very eyes on national television before you will wake up to realize what terrible advice you have given Christians? Or do they need to do it at your doorstep? Or how about if they do it at your church?
Do you need to see them come to your children’s school to impose on them Drag Queen Story Hour . . . what would it take to wake you up? . . . Is there no abuse on their part so great that would cause you to encourage believers to cast an effective vote against [Biden and Harris] that will prevent [Biden and Harris] from being elected?”
 Laurel Roberts noted: “The Bible is FULL of ‘not nice’ people God allowed to lead his people in one way or another. But when it came to the death of innocents, God was unequivocally horrified. ‘They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.'” (Jeremiah 32:35)