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

The Sins of Our Youth


Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O God! Psalm 25:7

This was the daily verse that appeared in my Twitter feed this morning. Thinking on some things I knew were coming up today, I was reflecting on the past a bit, and I was in a regretful frame of mind. My knee-jerk reaction to reading it was, “‘Remember not the sins of my youth.’ That must be nice. I can’t seem to get away from them.” Not exactly a heart of thankfulness to a loving and forgiving God, but I’ll blame it on the fact that I hadn’t had my coffee yet, and being awake definitely helps my spiritual well-being.

There are times in which it would be nice to be able to forget the sins of our youth. Some choices we make really do stay with us for a lifetime, even when we want to shake them off, be free from them and literally move on. But what we must remember is that Christ, by remembering not our sins, does allow us to move on. Those choices cannot be changed, and the consequences remain, but there is freedom from the condemnation of those sins. The word remember here isn’t the opposite of “forget” but means “don’t hold it against me”. The psalmist is saying, “I’m not that person anymore, please don’t hold my past over my head anymore.” And he makes a case to God for why God should not hold his sin against him.

First, the psalmist says that God’s love is everlasting. A loving God forgives sins, never to bring them up again. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Isaiah says that in God’s love he took our sins upon His back, delivering us from a pit of destriction (Is. 38:17). Love doesn’t throw us back in the pit.

Second, the psalmist tells God that no longer holding our sin against us is for the sake of His goodness. How is forgiving our sin good for God? One way is that it enables us to join Him in His work. Now, does God really need us to do His work? No, but in His plan, He asks us to join Him in His Kingdom work. Makes sense to me; work is always easier when you’re doing it with people you love. But what the psalmist is saying is that, when our sins are forgiven and we are able to stand up from underneath their oppressive load, we can then take upon ourselves His easy load of service for the Kingdom. We can’t carry our sin and His Kingdom simultaneously. When we allow Him to take the sin, and the accompanying secrecy, shame, guilt, condemnation, it frees us up to serve Him like He has called us to serve Him.

A prime example of this is found in the life of Peter. I relate more to Peter than to any other person in Scripture, and he is a great testimony of being set free from the sins of his youth for the ultimate goodness of God. In Luke 22, Jesus tells Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,  but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus knows that Peter is about to fail Him miserably. He says, “I’m praying that you won’t. But when you do…” Have you ever had a conversation with someone like that? Has anyone had that conversation with you? “I’m warning you. I know where this is headed, and it’s going to be bad. I don’t want you to, but I know you’re going to anyway.” That’s pretty much what Jesus tells Peter.

But He adds something to the end of the statement. He adds hope and purpose to the failure. He tells Peter, “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

So why does God forget our sins but not allow us to? One reason is because we can’t use past failure to connect with and strengthen others if we act as if it never happened. God trades in our beauty for ashes, He restores the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25), and He works all things together for our good and for His glory (Romans 8:28). And for Him to be able to make the worst decisions of our life beneficial, they must be exposed to the light and applied to the lives of others.

My ashes couldn’t have been traded for beauty if there hadn’t been people who had previously been sifted by Satan like wheat and then obediently strengthened this sister. Same goes for me. When I want to forget my times of sifting and “move on” with life, I remember that those times are a waste if they are not used to strengthen those behind me who are still spinning from their own sifting.

So I am thankful that God remembers not the sins of my youth. But today I am equally thankful that He makes sure I never forget them.

A Word of Caution from the Facebook Status Killjoy


Much like the “bra color” forward that swept Facebook over the winter, a new forward has begun circulating:

Ok ladies here’s another game, like the bra color game was a total success and we had men wondering for days what was with the colors and it made it to the News. Well this game has to do with your handbag, where we put our handbag the moment we get home for example “on the couch”, “the kitchen counter”, “the dresser” well u get the idea. Just put your answer as your Status with nothing more than that and cut n paste this message and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let’s see how powerful we women really are!”

When I post blogs like this, I tend to get accused of needing to lighten up and not be so serious because stuff like this is “just for fun”, but take a moment and ask yourself, “What kind of power does this show we have?” The power to make people’s minds end up in the gutter? Is that the sort of power we want to exert over people? What is the intention of posting a status like this?

We can claim it’s all innocent fun, but in the sex-saturated world in which we live, anything can be turned into a sexual innuendo; why would you want to post something that will only encourage such saturation?

I take very seriously my responsibility to do everything within my power to not be a stumbling block for my brothers and sisters in Christ. While I cannot hold myself personally responsible for the thought life of others, I can be held responsible for doing things that do not encourage pure and holy thoughts.

Scripture tells us that, as believers, we have access to unimaginable power– the same Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells within us and gives us victory over sin (Romans 8:11)! If we have the power to overcome sin, why would we want to show our power by leading others into strongholds of sin?

Imagine for a moment that your son or daughter or husband or cousin or best friend struggles with sexual sin. He or she signs on to Facebook and is overwhelmed with lists of random surfaces found in the common home. What do you think their first thought is going to be? I can assure you that they aren’t thinking, “I bet this is a list of places the women in my life put their purses.” No, they are going to think exactly what this type of status intends for them to think. And they’re going to think about that woman doing it. Then your son or daughter or husband or cousin or best friend gets to go to church tomorrow and see that woman and be bombarded with that image again. And then that woman may be confused when your loved one can no longer look her in the eye or speak to her comfortably. She may wonder, “What’s his problem?” without ever considering that she may be the problem.

Doesn’t it just make sense that we should do everything we can to protect each other’s minds from such stumbling blocks instead of being the stumbling block? We cannot set ourselves up to be sexual objects and then be angry when we are treated as such.

Erin Davis blogged about the Bra Color game on the True Woman blog in January, and I believe her wise words apply here as well. You can read her edifying post here.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that whatever we do, we should do it to the glory of God, and yes, sister, this even includes what you post as your Facebook status. There is no part of the life of the Christian that is exempt from the “whatever” clause.

Just think about it…

UPDATE: As Douglas B. Brill stated in his secular article concerning the cheapening of the fight against cancer with the use of sex, clicking here will “help you become even more constructive in the fight against breast cancer.”