Dr. Piper, You Are Wrong on this one.


Yesterday, Rachel Held Evans posted a blog on “The Abusive Theology of ‘Deserved’ Tragedy.” Due to some personal tragedies, general life struggles, and the end of another school year, I’ve neglected the blogosphere lately, but a friend alerted me to Rachel’s post yesterday.

I read it with anger and frustration.

Not directed toward Rachel, though.

Directed toward the men about whom she wrote.

Men whose sermons I have soaked in for countless hours. Whose books I have read by the dozens. Who I have met personally, though briefly, at conferences and seminaries over the years. Men who have blessed me and challenged me and grown me and my understanding of the great God we worship.

Men who led me to declare myself a member of the Reformed, Complementarian camp many years ago. Today, I believe my tent is pitched much farther from them than I once believed. Right now, I’m not sure I’m in a camp, and to perceive you are alone is a scary place to be, especially theologically.

Dr. Piper’s first Tweet after the Oklahoma tornadoes was this:

piper-tweet-screen-shot-2013-05-20-at-11-58-46-pm

Public outcry was apparently swift, and by the time I checked his Twitter feed this morning, the tweet had been removed and replaced with an explanatory tweet that was even more inflammatory to me:

I am amazed with how the increasingly militant Reformed camp proclaims covenant theology, that we’re under a New Covenant in Christ, but in tragedy, but how many cite the works of God in the Old Testament, under an Old Covenant full of wrath, to swiftly and absolutely explain tragic events to a watching world.

Last I checked, Jesus endured the cross and despised the shame of it for us (Heb. 12:2). Scripture proclaims the earth is groaning in birth pains for His Second Coming (Romans 8:22); He wept when His people suffered tragedy (John 11) even though He KNEW He was about to perform a work of Sovereign, glory-filled goodness; it’s His KINDNESS, not His wrath, that brings us to repentance (Acts 2).

What’s wrong, in a time of tragedy, of just saying, “Jesus wept“?

Or, if you want to quote Job, instruct people in how to respond to tragedy, not how to evaluate it:
11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was (Job 2).

Dr. Piper sounds more like Job’s friends later in the book, when they grow weary of comforting his grief and begin demanding to know the sin that caused the calamity rather than continuing to point him to the God who comforts in calamity.

Let me add that this is not a personal attack on Dr. Piper from me. His teachings have had a PROFOUND impact on my spiritual growth and understanding of the greatness of our God and the intensity with which He loves His children.

But this is a case of reminding all of us of the fallibility of all men and that no one person should be blindly followed or agreed with 100% of the time.

In this case, I wholeheartedly agree with Rachel’s assessment of the timing of these men’s proclamations of judgment concerning natural disasters. Who, after all, can claim to know the mind of God?

If this is Reformed theology, I’m starting a new camp.

Liberal Reformed: The Bible is infallible, God is Sovereign, and He is LOVE. He said so Himself (1 John 4:8).

Anyone care to join me?

FYI: For a view of grace-filled Reformed theology in the face of tragedy, check out this post over at A Cry for Justice: “How Reformed theology brings me freedom, and how I respond to unfair accusations

UPDATE: Desiring God Ministries has published a response to those speaking out against Dr. Piper’s recent Tweets. For the sake of full disclosure and to help readers find full info, here is the link to their statement:

http://dsr.gd/10QCxCm

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Beholding and Rejecting the Suffering Splendor of the Savior


John Piper, Plenary Session Three

Isaiah 6 reveals the splendor of the Majestic King.

Isaiah 53 reveals the suffering of the Sacrificial Servant.

Both are rejected by a mankind who seeks the glory of one another more than the glory of God. Our sinful nature desires neither picture of God, and Jesus was BOTH.

http://kd316.com/2012/06/23/john-piper-plenary-session-three/

Freedom in Christ or Boredom in Christ?


The assumption is this: One of the main reasons that the world and the church are awash in lust and pornography (by men and women—30% of internet pornography is now viewed by women), fornication, adultery, masturbation, exhibitionism, homosexuality, bestiality, rape, and endless sexual innuendo in all media—one of the reasons we are awash in all this is that our lives are intellectually and emotionally disconnected from infinite, soul-staggering grandeur. Inside and outside the church we are drowning in a sea of triviality, pettiness, banality, and silliness. Television is trivial. Radio is trivial. Conversation is trivial. Education is trivial. Christian books are trivial. Worship styles are trivial. It is inevitable that the human heart, which was made to be staggered with terrifyingly joyous dread and peace by an infinitely untouchable, embracing God—it is inevitable that such a heart, drowning in the all-pervasive, blurry boredom of banal entertainment, will reach for the best buzz that life can give: sex.

The deepest cure to our pitiful addictions is not any mental strategies—and I believe in them and have my own. The deepest cure is to be intellectually and emotionally staggered by the infinite, everlasting, unchanging sovereignty, holiness, wrath, justice, wisdom, truth, and mercy of God. And sex is just one of the hundreds of day-to-day issues you face that will overwhelm you and debase your life without this kind of encounter with the living God.

http://www.desiringgod.org/resourcelibrary/sermons/bydate/2004/166_Gods_Design_for_History_The_Glory_of_His_Mercy/

The above quote is from John Piper, and is along the same line as Beth Moore’s teachings in “When Godly People do Ungodly Things,” which I know several of us have read and greatly appreciated.

So often we fall into sin simply out of boredom—we have forgotten the amazing adventure to which we are called when we become children of the King! Instead of searching for ways to “make it through the day,” let’s find new ways to forsake the trivial and dig into the unsearchable riches of Christ. Reading this short quote challenged and reminded me that our walk with the Lord is not a journey set on auto-pilot or even cruise control—it takes work on our part to not be bored. When I read Piper’s take on boredom, I was reminded of one my kids in my After School Program. One afternoon Sarah and I were blessed to witness a living illustration of the culture in which we live: As this young girl spun in circles in the middle of the room, she declared, “I’m bored! Someone entertain me!”

How many times do we make similar declarations to the God of the Universe? I know I am guilty of desiring to be cosmically entertained on a regular basis. Our culture has become one of passive entertainment; and this notion is sneaking into our spiritual lives. The emphasis on emotion and experience in worship has led to a generation of God worshipers who think they are not getting from God all that is theirs if they are not “feelin’ it.” Many more have given up completely on a life of freedom through Christ because they are in such bondage to the sins of this world. So many have bought into Satan’s lie that sex is the ultimate pleasure and fulfillment. When they indulge in any of the above mentioned sexual sins and experience nothing but shame and heartache, they think, “if this is the best there is, what hope do I have for happiness in this life?” What we do not understand is that the Creator of the experience is so much more fulfilling than the experience itself! This applies to anything, not just sex. As much as I love hiking and enjoying creation, that experience is not to be worshiped in and of itself. Rather, any experience we enjoy should direct our attention to the Creator of that experience and draw us into a deeper amazement and appreciation of Him.

Just like I sat down with my little friend at After School and explained that it’s more valuable to learn how to entertain yourself instead of waiting to be passively entertained by another, God desires that we learn to grow and be amazed by Him through our own work and not just through the spoon feeding of others. Maturity means moving past passivity and taking an active role in your growth and “entertainment.”

I have learned the last couple of years that the cure for the common bore is not more television or music or internet. In fact, I have become culturally illiterate (I failed my friend Salida last week in a moment of urgent need when I couldn’t tell her who was voted off of American Idol the previous night!). But while I couldn’t tell you the winners of American Idol or Survivor or Dancing with the Stars, I am certainly far from bored. And my lack of boredom comes mainly from ridding myself of the trivial entertainment of this world and devoting my time to the infinitely endless task of growing in the knowledge of my infinitely endless Saviour. In fact, boredom usually occurs when I am in a rut spiritually and I find myself watching more TV or spending more time surfing the internet. We are bored when we turn our brains off and demand that someone entertain us. This quote reminded me that I am accountable for my own boredom—and my own enjoyment of the Saviour. It challenged me to find ways this week to be staggered and overwhelmed by a new understanding of our heavenly Father.